Sermon Illustrations


Ligon Duncan, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, MS, tells the following story:

I well remember as a fifteen year-old boy at my grandparents’ house, reading through Ephesians 1 with grandmother and granddad and my aunt and the family for our morning devotions. And at the end of those devotions, knowing that my grandmother did not share my same love for Calvinistic doctrine, even though the word "predestination" had popped up a couple of times in that passage, I knew that I should keep quiet.

After about thirty seconds of awkward silence my grandmother could resist it no longer, and she said to me, "Now Ligon, we’re Southern Baptist and we don’t believe in predestination."

Now with all the tact of a fifteen year-old, I restrained myself from engaging in a theological dialogue and said, very diplomatically, "Grandmother, you do believe in predestination. It’s just that you think it means something different than what we as Presbyterians believe that it means."

She immediately responded, "Son, you don’t understand. We’re Southern Baptist and we don’t believe in predestination."

And I quickly responded again, "But, Grandmother, you do believe in predestination. The word is there in Ephesians 1. It’s just that you think it means something like, ’God foresees that we are going to choose him,’ and I believe it means that ’God ordains that we are going to choose him.’"

And she quickly responded, "Son, you don’t understand. We’re Southern Baptist and we don’t believe in predestination!"

Ligon Duncan concludes by saying, "I realized about fifteen years later that my grandmother had two controlling beliefs: The Bible is true and predestination is not true. And therefore there is no place in the Bible that teaches predestination. It doesn’t matter if the Bible uses the word or not."

Let me quickly say that I am not bashing Southern Baptists. Actually, there was a time when the Southern Baptists used to believe exactly what Presbyterians believe regarding predestination and election. In fact, many Southern Baptists today believe what we believe about God’s sovereignty, predestination and election.

Furthermore, election is still in all the Baptist confessions. Look at the Philadelphia Confession, the New Hampshire Baptist Confession, and the abstract principles of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Southern Baptists and Presbyterians used to agree on this entirely. There has just been a collective amnesia among some Baptists for the last hundred years or so on this topic.

The point is that we sometimes have a hard time swallowing God’s election. It makes us uncomfortable.

I once read a story in The Atlanta Journal Constitution about a Presbyterian minister (not in the Presbyterian Church in America) who said to his 475-member congregation right after his 49-year-old wife had died in an automobile accident, "This was not a preordained part of God’s plan. It was an accident, and luckily no one has yet said to me that it was God’s will, or there would have been two tragedies. It was an accident, pure and simple."

(From a sermon by Freddy Fritz, "Is God Unjust?" 1/16/2009)

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