Bad Doctrine May Poison Good Doctrine

During my visit to Southern it was impossible to miss the emphasis placed upon the Southern Baptist Convention. I don’t think this is a bad thing, as it is rooted in a care and concern to see the SBC be saturated with an understanding of the person and work of Christ, but it is very different from the non-denominational church culture I’m used to. Like any traveller wanting to prepare himself for a new cultural context, I’ve been reading up on the distinctives and history of the SBC. I found this quote in Tom Nettles’ The Baptists: Key People Involved in Forming a Baptist Identity (Vol. 2):

The anti-Calvinist context of Helwys’ arguments indicates that he believed Calvinism fostered the assumed prerogatives of persecution. He even applied his central idea of the ‘Mistery (Mystery) of Iniquity’ to the distinctive doctrines of the Calvinists. ‘We are not able to the full desire of our souls to discover the depth fo the mystery of iniquity in this opinion of Particular Election and Reprobation and of so Particular redemption, nor to show forth the great mystery of godliness in the true and holy understanding of Universal or the General Redemption of all by Christ.’ That persecution and Calvinism did not share the same soul soon would appear by the arguments of many Particular Baptists for liberty of conscience. (28)

Early in their history, Baptists in England found themselves persecuted by their brothers who held to a covenant-theology Puritan understanding of ecclesiology. Some, like Helwys, reacted against the whole of Puritan doctrine. It is a caution to us in two directions. First, we must take care that our actions do not poison our good doctrine. By persecuting fellow believers for their beliefs about the ordinances, many Puritans drove their brothers further from the Lord, not closer to him. And second, we must take care that we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater like Helwys and take care to separate clear biblical exegesis from misapplied biblical truth.

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