Saturday, February 03, 2007

Sam Storms Meets Ern Baxter ... a few bits and pieces.

I was interested to note that Sam Storms book on divine election is now available - entitled "Chosen for Life". Originally published in the 1980's it has been out of print for a while but is now ready for purchase. It's a small-ish book (240 pages) with a hideous front cover. Don't let that put you off however -the material within it is excellent and has receieved endorsements from a multitude of evangelical Christian theologians and pastors. John Piper is probably the most succint and persuasive; "I can’t know and love and serve God if I don’t know truth about God. This book describes God the way he really is".

Storms takes time at the beginning of the book to sketch out the controversy and I think he is fair to both Calvinists and Arminianists as to why they believe what they do. D A Carson is quite right in commending Storms for being; "clear and courteous" particularly when dealing with something he doesn't agree with. Most importantly Storms gets into the Word of God and works through the Gospels and Acts showing why the issue of divine election is of such encouragement to the believer. He also doesn't shy away from the Romans 9 text. Some will probably disagree with his understanding of the "Order of Salvation" - I know I did, but myriads of theologians can't agree on that, so there's nothing to panic about.

Like me, those who have the 1980's edition have the right to ask why we should go out and add this one to our libraries. Storms has added three appendices which are interesting and persuasive - dealing with;

Appendix A: Three Problem Passages,

Appendix B: Who Can and Who Cannot Pray for God to Save the Lost?,

Appendix C: The Divine Decrees

So, all in all I am pleased that this book has been re-published, I like Storms writing - it is easy to follow and understand but on this topic I must confess I found I Howard Marshall's, "Kept by the Power of God" more useful and challenging. Finally I suppose it is appropriate that Storms dedicates the book to C J Mahaney of Sovereign Grace Ministries who it seems has been bugging Storms to make get the book re-printed.

So enough of book reviews and onto Ern Baxter ...

Some may remember that around Christmas I posted an interview with Dr Ern Baxter about his friendship with William Branham. I have been able to make this interview available in text format but with grateful thanks to my friend I can now provide the actual PDF file of the interview so that anyone interested can see some photos and sketches that may add interest to the interview. That is available through Google Reader here.

Also from the same generous technological friend (!), here is a book that Ern Baxter published on the first 5 chapters of the book of Romans. Ern did extensive study in the book of Romans and the year after he had spoken at our Anglia Bible Week on "The Priestly Clothing", he spoke on this very subject from Romans. Each session was about an hour and a half long - far longer than he normally spoke! I do hope that it provides insight and revelation into this most important of books from the New Testament!

And finally ... I like to let you know what I am currently transcribing and hoping to make available sometimes. There has been much talk about revival, much hope and anticipation. I was tremendously stirred to hear that the dream I had about the tidal wave speeding towards the Brighton seafront is not the only dream - at least two or three others within Newfrontiers have had similar dreams and visions!

But John Piper asked a good question at the Bethlehem Conference for Pastors once; "So revival does come ... what then?". It's a point worth considering. Why do we want revival? Do we really know what we're praying for? Ern Baxter provided a powerful answer to that question in a sermon that I am transcribing called; "What On Earth is God Saying to Us About Discipling the Nations?". Its one of the most powerful Biblical defences I've ever read to holding a positive eschatology. Coming soon!


Anonymous said...

I too have read Storm's book - the 1984 edition! I must confess to finding him something of an enigma as a theologian. His credentials are in no doubt obviously but I find myself being less than persuaded by some of his arguments. I appreciate his passion for what he addresses but often find myself wondering why he wrote what he wrote.

I think I would agree I too prefer Howard Marshall's argument re: divine election.

I look forward to your thesis on Ern Baxter's view of discipling the nations! I am amazed at the output that you manage in transcribing. Incredible that you also hold down a full time extremely stressful job!

Thank you dear brother.

Dr S A J B.

Peter Day said...

I am excited this book has been reprinted. I never read the original! So I am looking forward to getting it - hopefully from Life in the Spirit!!!

I was interested in your comment that you didn't agree with his understanding of the "order of salvation". It's a difficult issue, I must admit, but it might be useful for you to elaborate a little (although maybe we don't want to get into a big calvinistic debate!!!).

However, I think the most important thing is your mention of how Storms shows why the doctrine is such an encouragement to the believer. It is such good news that He chose us, because we would never respond if He didn't. And it is such good news that He keeps us because, of myself, I would wander far, far away without His keeping power.

Thank you for your though-provoking and challenging posts!

Baxter's Boy said...

Well my disagreement isn't so much with the exact order that Storms lays down - but more a concern with the need for an order of salvation. Storms makes reference to the concern so obviously realises that there is a danger that as soon as we begin talking about an order of salvation then we begin to take away from the mystery of the glory of salvation. God surely deals with each and everyone of us differently and individually. We all may respond to the irresistable call of grace differently and individually.

Now to be sure there will be factors present (or should be) in each testimony of regeneration and salvation. But does there need to be a set order? I'm not sure. The Acts of the Apostles is clearly the only New Testament narrative that we have and is therefore key to any understanding of this. And as you will know - each account differs! For example the apostles had one testimony culminating in their baptism with the Spirit at Pentecost, the Samaritans differed again, Cornelius differed again. What worries me is the way that someone like Sinclair Ferguson tries to explain each account in Acts away as symbolic and unique. This takes away from us the benefit of being able to read narrative in Acts and see it as inheritance available for us!

To make any further points would as you say get into a Calvinistic debate and maybe that's for another time! I think far more beneficial is to absorb the awesome blessing that we were chosen before time and if we were chosen before time then He who has begun a good work will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.

James said...

I think an important point to bear in mind is that Storms is writing from a Third Wave point of view - i.e that the baptism of the Spirit is synonymous with conversion and therefore ?non-experiential.

That's going to colour any understanding of the order of salvation surely?

Baxter's Boy said...

Yes indeed - v important I think. I've been trying to trace back the roots of the Third Wave view of reception of the Spirit. Obviously a great deal of influence came from John Wimber and he had an interesting interpretation that Terry Virgo called the "time-bomb" theory. Namely that they received the Spirit but He didn't experientially move in power in the person till some point in the future.

Disagree or agree with Wimber, this may seem to tie up odd ends for those who dislike the subsequent impact of baptism in the Spirit but it does of course affect how you view the order of salvation.

I still find Dr Lloyd-Jones the most persuasive in tying up the baptism of the Spirit with the matter of assurance of salvation. His writings in Romans 8 are key on this.

James said...

Yes your comments would seem to be backed up on Storms' website. I've been reading his paper on the baptism of the Holy Spirit and here are a few quotes:

(Re disciples experience of HS at Pentecost): "It is unwise to argue that their experience is a pattern for ours when we realize that their experience could not have been otherwise than it was".

(Re the day of Pentecost): "The Spirit “came” on that day in a way that could occur but once. The Spirit, therefore, is now “here” in a way that prior to Pentecost he was not".

(Re the Samaritans): "I have to be honest in admitting that this incident poses questions about the reception and experience of the Holy Spirit that may have to remain unanswered. For even the explanation that I have given as to why God suspended the gift of the Spirit in the case of the Samaritans does not explain theologically how they could have been regenerated, converted, and believing Christians, members of the body of Christ, without yet having received the Holy Spirit".

And here's the key where Storms lays his colours on the mast. Re. The Third Wave view:

"John Wimber is an articulate advocate of this view:

“How do we experience Spirit baptism? It comes at conversion. . . .Conversion and Holy Spirit baptism are simultaneous experiences. The born-again experience is the consummate charismatic experience” (Power Points, 136).

This is the view that I believe is biblical and that I will defend".

PS: Those quotes are all from his paper on the Holy Spirit from his website. Ref:

Baxter's Boy said...

Yes exactly. Thanks for those quotes - helpful in clarification. But you see the problem I have is that not all conversions are experiences! Romans 10 says that a man is saved if he believes in his heart that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead and confesses with his mouth. I did that at a crusade our church was running in Dunstable. It was a head decision. I heard the call and knew I wasn't saved so got up and walked to the front. I believed and confessed by walking to the front I guess. But it wasn't a "consumate charismatic experience" by any measure! I was more scared at walking up in front of all my friends and a huge marquee!

It was 10 years later when I was at university in Birmingham that the "love of God was shed abroad in my heart" and the "Spirit cried with my spirit, Abba!".

So if we apply the Wimber/Storms theory then was I not a Christian until that 10 years later in Birmingham? Or did the whole order of salvation for me take 10 years? It raises some questions as you see! Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones called the James D G Dunn theory that a person isn't a Christian unless they have had a dynamic Pentecostal experience, "extremely cruel".

Anonymous said...

Yes I'm beginning to see that the "subsequence" theory on the baptism of the Holy Spirit actually carries less questions than the "synonymous" theory. Because when you argue that the baptism of the HS is distinct from conversion it still can be virtually at the same time! (Cornelius). To argue that it must of necessity be AT conversion is actually more dogmatic than the traditional Lloyd-Jonesian view that you are arguing for.

Now the problematic area is of course that if it is distinct then do we have to do something to come into that inheritance? If so then there is a possibility that some may be missing out through unbelief etc etc. I think that's what Wimber/Storms etc drew the line at.

Interesting. Got me thinking.

Dr S A J B

Peter Day said...

It seems my question has sparked a little discussion! Praise the Lord.

In terms of the "order of salvation", I agree with you, Dan, about the need to avoid getting stuck in detail - rather to be amazed at what the Lord has done for us. The only reason I think it is important is the point Storms himself makes in his comparison chart in the book, that that regeneration comes before conversion. I was dead and now I am alive!! Praise the Lord. And now I am alive I am, by His irrestible grace, given(because I am now alive)the gifts of repentance and faith, and be baptised, and - yes - receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In terms of receiving the Holy Spirit, I of course agree with you totally - receiving the Spirit is not synonymous with conversion (although it can be). It is a distinct experience. I believe the example of Acts 19 shows this clearly. Even if you accept the argument (which I don't) that they weren't born again before Paul started to speak to them, they were still baptised and THEN Paul laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

Dr S A J B says "the problematic area is of course that if it is distinct then do we have to do something to come into that inheritance?" It's a helpful question and it helps me understand where the Third Wave people are coming from.

Yet some the Biblical accounts suggest that they had to respond in some way in order to receive the Holy Spirit. Gal 3v5 tells us He supplies the Spirit through the hearing of faith. In Acts 2 the disciples, who were already born again, had to "tarry in Jerusalem." The Samaritans had to submit themselves to be prayed for. Cornelius received a sovereign enduement without asking (and God can - and does - still do that today). Paul could have told Ananias to go away but allowed Ananias to lay hands on him. In Acts 19 they had to respond and be baptised.

When we are born again we receive the gifts of faith and repentance. We are then responsible for exercising these. We exercise faith when we obey Him are baptised in water. We continue to exercise faith as we seek Him for power from on high for the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the ongoing infilling of the Spirit (Eph 5v18).

So, Dan, you were born again by His grace back in Dunstable, and then responded, some 10 years later, with that same faith given to you at conversion, to seek Him for the gift of the Holy Spirit. And the glory of heaven fell upon you and you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. And, by that same faith, you know that He will continue to supply the Spirit to you as you continue to seek Him - more and more glory!

Baxter's Boy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Baxter's Boy said...

Thanks Peter for the summing up as to where this discussion has been going! Yes your question was timely and important. It did made me think how important it is not to allow our experience to shape and mould our theology. I am concerned that simply because my experience was that I first received the Holy Spirit in dynamic 10 years after my conversion then I shouldn't cement that doctrine in my mind but always allow the Word of God to reign supreme.

I think that's why Dr SB is right - (or whoever said it) that I think I would be absolutely happy if I met someone who said well I got converted and received the Holy Spirit THEN and THERE. The Word of God backs that up! So it happened to Cornelius. And of course that is a very important part of life in Hong Kong with Jackie Pullinger isn't it. She knows that the only thing that can free her drug addict converts from their cravings is the dynamic of the Holy Spirit again.

I'm just not quite sure what those who claim that the BHS MUST of necessity happen at conversion (Storms, Wimber, Grudem etc) would make of my and many others testimony that there was a significant time gap between my conversion when I put my faith in Jesus Christ and when I received the Spirit as life and power. Would they claim I wasn't a Christian?

The interesting thing is that at that time my home church in Dunstable was well on the way to becoming cessationist in name and deed so in Birmingham I could truly answer "I haven't even heard that there is a Holy Spirit". At the time of my conversion I didn't hear anything of "Repent, believe, be baptised and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit". The emphasis was repent and believe and then go on a year long course before you are eligble for baptism!! :)

That's another emoticon by the way. Who's calling me a wimp?! ;)

James said...

Thanks for that comment Peter that really helps to sum things up and clarify as to where we are going and thinking. Yes surely the challenge is that we don't simply put Storm's new book on our library bookshelves under "Divine Election" or "Calvinism" or wherever and let it gather dust. If that's the case then surely it has failed in it's task. It should drive us to worship and praise and wonder at what God has done in breaking out into time and history and sending His Son to die and be raised gloriously and exalted to the highest place!!!

Dan and I have emailed often about this - our dislike of dry theological seminaries and bible colleges that make it all about head knowledge and getting your degrees. I think that's why I love Wordplus run by Newfrontires so much. The whole object is to bring "worshippers from every race!" (Piper).

Baxter's Boy said...

Ooh yes the problem of theological training. You see here I do stand completely with my former pastor in that I think theological training should be done in a church alongside a pastor with practical on the job training. Now that of course presents a problem in that one must presume that the pastor is "apt to teach" and not all are. Certainly not all that I have encountered. And also some sort of long distance theological training is useful. I know they used the American ICI system in my old church but I looked through it a few years ago when I was considering doing some work towards a theological degree while I was nursing and I didn't like it at all.

I have been very tempted by the Wordplus I must admit. The Bristol Newfrontiers churches have started a new course recently and it looks ever so good but I just didn't have the time what with work. I'd be interested to hear more about that.

As to the Bible Colleges themselves again I just find that most of them look rather dry and dusty. London Theological Seminary looks the best - led by Philip Eveson but I somehow imagine that I wouldn't be very welcome there with my charismatic stream!! I do like to dream of someday being able to go to the USA and train under a professor like Gordon Fee or D A Carson but that is just a dream.

It's a tricky situation and I just think that if pastors were trained to understand that training younger men is part of their vocation then maybe the deficit would start to be corrected.

Anonymous said...

I'd really love to know more about the others who had the similar tidal wave dream to you!! This is key and extremely exciting. The New Testament hints strongly that if a prophetic word or dream is backed up by 2 or 3 then it is a sign of validity - subject to the tests of the Word obviously.

Please tell us more!

DR S A J Burgess

Peter Day said...

It is an interesting point you make, Dan, about pastors seeing training younger men as part of their vocation. Many would claim to be too busy - there is the pressure of preaching, leading worship visitation and their own personal walk with the Lord.

However, training younger men is essential. My friend, Dennis Greenidge, almost always has a younger man with him when he ministers. He has those he is committed to meet and pray with once a week. There are those he will take away with him while he preaches.

The result, I'm told by those who attend the church, is that you don't really miss Dennis when he is away - there are many mighty preachers that he has nurtured.

That, surely, is a good model to follow!

James B said...

That story reminded me of Terry Virgo's account when he was becoming more mobile from the church at Seaford. Do you remember? I think it was Alex Buchanan or Dave Mansell who prophesied that there were men behind him pushing and straining and as soon as Terry released himself and went to the nations then they would come up from behind and take his place leading the church.

That's a sobering thought isn't it. The longer and more tightly a pastor keeps a control on his pulpit then maybe he is squashing and restraining and quenching young men who are desperate to flourish into any kind of ministry.

Praise God for the prophetic word that released Terry to go! Maybe if he hadn't then Newfrontiers wouldn't be today.