Where Frank Page's Calvinist Team Missed the Mark

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Where Frank Page's Calvinist Team Missed the Mark

Postby William Thornton » Thu Jun 06, 2013 7:49 pm

While I do not disagree with the report of the Calvinist Study Team and while there are things in it that are helpful, after reading and reflecting on it I feel like I've eaten a mayonnaise and lettuce sandwich - it did not taste bad and it was a meal but it just didn't satisfy my appetite. Having some bacon and tomato would have made it much more substantial.

I commend Frank Page, our Executive Committee CEO, for the effort but here are some ways that I think the team missed the mark.

There is no strategy.

My goal is to develop a strategy whereby people of various theological persuasions can purposely work together in missions and evangelism... most likely there will be the crafting of a statement regarding the strategy on how we can work together." - Frank Page


The Calvinist group's statement has no strategy. It does state areas of agreement, cooperation, common goals, as well as call on SBC individuals and entities to affirm and respect each other but there is no strategy. The group does not ask SBC seminary trustees, for example, to formally affirm that their institution does not and will not discriminate in hiring of faculty on the basis of Calvinism or non-Calvinism.

The group has a consensus statement, not insignificant but not a strategy.

The group failed to show that honest conversation among us can be helpful and beneficial.

We affirm the responsibility of all Southern Baptists to guard our conversation so that we do not speak untruthfully, irresponsibly, harshly, or unkindly to or about any other Southern Baptist. This negativity is especially prevalent in the use of social media, and we encourage the exercise of much greater care in that context.

We deny that our cooperation can be long sustained if our conversation becomes untruthful, uncharitable, or irresponsible.


While the group took time to assail the untoward conversations "especially prevalent" in social media, a shot at SBC bloggers who have been discussing the problems with Calvinists and Calvinism in the SBC for years, they were not willing to have their discussion in public where they could demonstrate how SBCers should have these conversations.

Ordinary SBCers regularly receive from their leaders magisterial pronouncements about how prominent SBCers need privacy in order to have honest discussions about matters that cause tension among us.

Hogwash.

The private meetings of leaders who are unwilling to discuss things where others can witness and hear their conversations about common problems is self-serving, unhelpful, and destructive. And to assail those who are willing to publicly discuss these matters, even if the discussion is sometimes negative, while having their conversations kept secret, is hypocrisy.

I am not unaware of the dynamics here. I suspect that there are people on this Calvinism group who have ambitions for SBC offices and leadership positions and they would rather not have their words on record where such might harm their career path. I do not assign this to any specific individual but only the naive among us would deny that this is one motive for private meetings.

Brethren, if you think it important to call out bloggers and twitterers for untruthful, uncharitable, and irresponsible conversations then act like Christian men and have your conversations where the rest of us can learn from your example.

Let's be honest here. The only arena where one can find routine conversations on Calvinism and Traditionalism in the SBC is among the blogs. Those may be imperfect but there are preferable to a group that meet and discusses in secret and then grandly pronounces how the rest of us should act and what we should do.

The instructions to ministry candidates and search committees was weak and ignored the obvious.

In order to prevent the rising incidence of theological conflict in the churches, we should expect all candidates for ministry positions in the local church to be fully candid and forthcoming about all matters of faith and doctrine, even as we call upon pulpit and staff search committees to be fully candid and forthcoming about their congregation and its expectations.


Many SBC churches have had difficulty when staff candidates have not been forthcoming about their theological convictions and any call foropenness and transparency is a good move.

The problem is that the reason for this paragraph being included is not that there have been vast numbers of SBC ministry candidates who were not candid and forthcoming about their Traditionalist beliefs. The problem is that there have been numbers of Calvinist ministry candidates who deliberately and deceitfully conceal their Calvinistic beliefs and goals in order to be more appealing to a church search committee.

Tom Ascol, Al Mohler, and other Calvinistic members of the group know this. Frank Page knows this. Ordinary SBCers like myself know this. Why not be plain and straightforward and say what needs to be said here

The report makes no mention whatsoever of some of the most significant realities about the Calvinist/Traditionalist conflict.

These are, (1) Some churches are now negatively designating their Cooperative Program giving so as not to have any of their money going to Southern and Southeastern seminaries because they are considered to be too Calvinistic, (2) Graduates of these same two seminaries are being blackballed in some quarters because of the perception of excessive institutional Calvinism, (3) Many in the SBC are calling for some quota on the proportions of Calvinistic and Traditionalistic SBC leaders.

Did you guys even talk about these?

The report makes no mention of two looming problems caused by Calvinists in churches: Elder rule and destructive church discipline.

Perhaps it was felt that the group should avoid unpleasant thoughts and discussions but some SBC congregations have been ripped apart by Calvinists who implemented a polity whereby the church was owned and ruled by a small cabal of elders. Is such consistent with or contrary to the Baptist Faith and Message? Did you guys even talk about this?

Calvinistic leaders Al Mohler and Tom Ascol have been vocal in calling for the reintroduction of church discipline in SBC churches. Unfortunately, not a few churches who have heeded their call have created a nightmarish system by which a church is controlled by a coterie of paid staff and cronies to the harm of the congregation and individual members. Did you guys have a conversation on this? Did any names come up as examples of how church discipline can go terribly awry?

Were I to be present in Houston, I would vote in favor the group's report, but they could have done better.
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Re: Where Frank Page's Calvinist Team Missed the Mark

Postby Dave Roberts » Thu Jun 06, 2013 8:21 pm

Reading your comments about candid conversations being done in secret reminds me of the SBC Peace Committee--fifteen years before the candid discussions could be seen. By then, the discussions were irrelevant.
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Re: Where Frank Page's Calvinist Team Missed the Mark

Postby Timothy Bonney » Thu Jun 06, 2013 8:52 pm

William,

Those are very insightful comments about the report. I think I understand a lot more about what is going on in the SBC with Calvinism and "non-calvinism" reading your writing than I would have just reading the Team's report.

My best guess as to why they'd not want to mention Calvinist pastors not being forth coming is that it would point out the obvious problem that Traditionalist (non-calvinist) pastors were MORE forthcoming than Calvinist pastors and that wouldn't sit well with some Calvinist leaders.

I don't know about SBC search committees now because I've not talked to one in more than twenty years. But the one little SBC church I pastored in Illinois was far from forthcoming about their conflicts, who really ran the church, and the size of the church's building debt. I was young and naive and didn't find out until I was there several weeks just how dire their financial condition was.

Over the years I did meet with a number of ABC search committees and frankly it was a real mixed bag. Some were truthful. The church in Rushville had the best search committee I ever worked with and part of the consequence of that is that I was there over seven years because we both were honest with each other. But I had two occasions were I broke off talks with a search committee because I figured out they weren't being honest with me.

All that being said, I think it would be good for those in power in denominations with a search/call system to tell local churches what a horrible mess is made if the search committee isn't straight with their candidates about the church, its needs, its strengths and its weaknesses. That is hard to do but in the long run everyone is happier and ministry is more fruitful.
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Re: Where Frank Page's Calvinist Team Missed the Mark

Postby TrudyU » Thu Jun 06, 2013 11:41 pm

Ed: And Tim in other than the SBC, which Baptist Denominational leaders have any real power?
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Re: Where Frank Page's Calvinist Team Missed the Mark

Postby Dave Roberts » Fri Jun 07, 2013 7:20 am

I have to agree, William, that your analysis is excellent. You got to the heart of what is going on in the SBC. I have my doubts that the "smile and be nice" approach will suffice, but it sounds good on the surface.

The dishonesty that I'm seeing in my part of the country isn't just from churches whose search committees don't tell the whole truth. It also is from graduates from SEBTS and SBTS who are Calvinists who do not tell the churches and then get into conflict when they try to identify the elect. Several churches have been through real difficulties from those who did not tell the whole truth.
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Re: Where Frank Page's Calvinist Team Missed the Mark

Postby William Thornton » Fri Jun 07, 2013 9:35 am

Dave Roberts wrote:I have to agree, William, that your analysis is excellent. You got to the heart of what is going on in the SBC. I have my doubts that the "smile and be nice" approach will suffice, but it sounds good on the surface.

The dishonesty that I'm seeing in my part of the country isn't just from churches whose search committees don't tell the whole truth. It also is from graduates from SEBTS and SBTS who are Calvinists who do not tell the churches and then get into conflict when they try to identify the elect. Several churches have been through real difficulties from those who did not tell the whole truth.


Dave, I would be interested to hear details and know how recent these are. You can email me.
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Re: Where Frank Page's Calvinist Team Missed the Mark

Postby KeithE » Fri Jun 07, 2013 9:55 am

It would have hit the mark better if it had explicitly included Open View enthusiasts in it’s web of acceptable beliefs worthy of joint missions. But the Open View does not yet have a large enough body of believers as say Calvinists, so it will remain a target of scorn with Bruce Ware being the theological watch/attack dog.
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Re: Where Frank Page's Calvinist Team Missed the Mark

Postby Haruo » Fri Jun 07, 2013 10:00 am

Will wonders never cease? Calvinists who act like Jesuits!? ;-)

Seriously, if you are fundamentally convinced that
a) Calvinism is Truth and Arminianism is Error,
and that
b) local churches need to be brought out of Error into Truth
and that
c) God has not only elected you to salvation but called you to the task
and that
d) there's no way this lapsed church would hire you if you told them the Truth up front

then how on earth are you supposed to act? Didn't God bless Jacob (and diss Esau) for tricking his dad?
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Re: Where Frank Page's Calvinist Team Missed the Mark

Postby Timothy Bonney » Fri Jun 07, 2013 1:25 pm

TrudyU wrote:Ed: And Tim in other than the SBC, which Baptist Denominational leaders have any real power?


None that I know of Ed. That is part of the problem. The search committees I dealt with that were a problem were largely untrained and uncoached often by their own choice. The one's that did the best had a good Area Minister and had allowed that AM to coach them in good search proceeder. So you never know what you are walking into in a Baptist church interview.

At least one poor search committee was a poor committee because, while the committee was a nice group of people, it wasn't a very representative committee so I only got information from one faction in the church.

One search committee had members that secretly contacted me to try to make me secret offers/deals if I'd agree to do certain things when I got to the church, one committee had the chair of the committee and the chair of the board of deacons get into a heated argument in front of me and my wife right in the middle of the interview.
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Re: Where Frank Page's Calvinist Team Missed the Mark

Postby Timothy Bonney » Fri Jun 07, 2013 3:02 pm

Maybe this is an off the wall question. But why do you think (anyone?) that the SBC does not have a position on Calvinist theology in the BFM now or in any of its previous versions?

I am guessing the Free Will Baptists or General Baptists had Arminian statements in their confessions. I'm know the UMC makes clear its theology is Arminian and the Presbyterians are clear that they follow a form of Calvinist/Reformed theology.

So why previously no official position on such a huge theological question in the SBC? What do you think?
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Re: Where Frank Page's Calvinist Team Missed the Mark

Postby TrudyU » Fri Jun 07, 2013 4:26 pm

Timothy Bonney wrote:Maybe this is an off the wall question. But why do you think (anyone?) that the SBC does not have a position on Calvinist theology in the BFM now or in any of its previous versions?

I am guessing the Free Will Baptists or General Baptists had Arminian statements in their confessions. I'm know the UMC makes clear its theology is Arminian and the Presbyterians are clear that they follow a form of Calvinist/Reformed theology.

So why previously no official position on such a huge theological question in the SBC? What do you think?


Ed Pettibone: Tim, I am quite sure that it is because both Calvinist and non Calvinist (often Arminian) pragmatist have coexisted in varied degrees all across the Baptists landscape from somewhere around 1630. Indeed in some times and places the differences have caused great rancor.

See Page I9 of A CAPSULE HISTORY OF BAPTISTS by Bruce T. Gourley and the article titled Arminianism, Baptist Views by Bill J. Leonard and Calvinism Among Baptists by Leon McBeth. Both of the latter are found in Leonard's Dictionary of Baptists in America .

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Re: Where Frank Page's Calvinist Team Missed the Mark

Postby Sandy » Fri Jun 07, 2013 10:09 pm

Calvinism is an influence in the SBC, though most Southern Baptists are not Calvinist. There are some churches that could probably be described as "Calvinist" though I think what you would find is that there are a few Calvinists scattered among the membership of some churches in some parts of the country. Since it has pretty much always been there, and Calvinists have been a part of SBC leadership, they've worked together.
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Re: Where Frank Page's Calvinist Team Missed the Mark

Postby Timothy Bonney » Fri Jun 07, 2013 11:10 pm

I was thinking about the course in Baptist history I took at SBTS. It was an elective course in summer term. I remember the different strains of Baptist thought including General and Particular Baptists.

What I wonder is what is the impetus for setting off a Calvinist controversy since, as several of you've said, Calvinist, non-calvinists, etc. have worked together for many generations. What caused the banner of calvinism to be flown again so distinctively?
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Re: Where Frank Page's Calvinist Team Missed the Mark

Postby William Thornton » Sat Jun 08, 2013 6:55 am

Timothy Bonney wrote:I was thinking about the course in Baptist history I took at SBTS. It was an elective course in summer term. I remember the different strains of Baptist thought including General and Particular Baptists.

What I wonder is what is the impetus for setting off a Calvinist controversy since, as several of you've said, Calvinist, non-calvinists, etc. have worked together for many generations. What caused the banner of calvinism to be flown again so distinctively?


Here are some reasons for the controversy:
1. Some are concerned that Calvinism has too much influence (Mohler, SBTS; allegedly SEBTS)
2. Observations that agressive Calvinistic pastors have torn up many, many churches trying to implement their theology and practice.
3. Concerns about elders replacing or deacons and elder rule displacing congregational rule.
4. Concerns about lax evangelism and the eschewing of altar calls.
5. Concerns about the SBC becoming too "Presbyterian".
6. The growing influence of The Founder's Conference, a private organization dedicated to recalling the SBC to its Calvinistic roots.

There are more.

I have dozens of blog articles. You could educate yourself by checking my labels under "calvinism".
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Re: Where Frank Page's Calvinist Team Missed the Mark

Postby Dave Roberts » Sat Jun 08, 2013 6:57 am

Timothy Bonney wrote:
What I wonder is what is the impetus for setting off a Calvinist controversy since, as several of you've said, Calvinist, non-calvinists, etc. have worked together for many generations. What caused the banner of calvinism to be flown again so distinctively?


I suspect that some of those who are reading 19th century Baptist history found strains of it in Boyce and others whom they wanted to claim as inerrantists. It seems they became enamored of the Calvinist strains they have identified.
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Re: Where Frank Page's Calvinist Team Missed the Mark

Postby Sandy » Sat Jun 08, 2013 8:49 am

William Thornton wrote:
Timothy Bonney wrote:I was thinking about the course in Baptist history I took at SBTS. It was an elective course in summer term. I remember the different strains of Baptist thought including General and Particular Baptists.

What I wonder is what is the impetus for setting off a Calvinist controversy since, as several of you've said, Calvinist, non-calvinists, etc. have worked together for many generations. What caused the banner of calvinism to be flown again so distinctively?


Here are some reasons for the controversy:
1. Some are concerned that Calvinism has too much influence (Mohler, SBTS; allegedly SEBTS)
2. Observations that agressive Calvinistic pastors have torn up many, many churches trying to implement their theology and practice.
3. Concerns about elders replacing or deacons and elder rule displacing congregational rule.
4. Concerns about lax evangelism and the eschewing of altar calls.
5. Concerns about the SBC becoming too "Presbyterian".
6. The growing influence of The Founder's Conference, a private organization dedicated to recalling the SBC to its Calvinistic roots.

There are more.

I have dozens of blog articles. You could educate yourself by checking my labels under "calvinism".

I think the biggest concerns would relate to numbers 2 and 4. It seems that pastoral candidates deceiving church search committees about their theological views and their intentions has caused some problems. I don't understand why a candidate would lie to a committee, or what that motivation would be. Wouldn't you want to serve in a church that is compatible with your theological views? And how long would it be before problems began to develop if you weren't? What kind of pastor would you be getting if he were willing to lie when asked directly "Are you a Calvinist?"

The SBC's growth, especially the dramatic increase in membership in the 50's and 60's, was directly related to evangelism. It's been a concern for a while now. The baptism numbers dropped off, and now basically count the children of those already in the church. There's been a lot of soul searching, and analyzing the convention for things that are known to hinder evangelistic activity and church growth, liberal theology being one, and Calvinism being another.
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Re: Where Frank Page's Calvinist Team Missed the Mark

Postby William Thornton » Sat Jun 08, 2013 9:43 am

Sandy,

The concern about evangelism may be misplaced. The only data available shows that calvinistic pastors baptize more than non-C. This is counterintuitive for many non-Cs who think Calvinists eschew evangelism. I have not found the latter to be the case.

The concern about blowing up churches is the key to this because so many SBC pastors have observed agressive Calvinistic pastors come into an established church and destroy it in order to correct the "heresy" they see (this was the term used by one Calvinist concerning his church) or to implement elder led or elder ruled polity.

There is much more awareness now and committees are more savvy concering such things. Calvinistic pastor candidates do not so much lie, I have never know of one to outright lie to a committee, as they finesse theology. Most seminary educated pastors can talk around theological things pretty good.

My adivce to committees is to ask and insist on answers. If the candidate is not fully forthcoming, move on to the next guy. If the candidate prefers not to use the terminology "Calvinist" then be sure things are defined and explained. Some enterprising Traditionalists have published a guide for committees with a title something like, "How to smoke out Calvinistic pastor candidates."
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Re: Where Frank Page's Calvinist Team Missed the Mark

Postby TrudyU » Sat Jun 08, 2013 12:45 pm

Ed: "... move on to the next guy." Come on William! What if not all worthy candidates are guys. But I know old manners of speech and writing can be hard to break. :wink: Thanks for your list.
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Re: Where Frank Page's Calvinist Team Missed the Mark

Postby Sandy » Sat Jun 08, 2013 11:39 pm

TrudyU wrote:Ed: "... move on to the next guy." Come on William! What if not all worthy candidates are guys. But I know old manners of speech and writing can be hard to break. :wink: Thanks for your list.


"Guy" is a generic, Southern term for "y'all."
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Re: Where Frank Page's Calvinist Team Missed the Mark

Postby Haruo » Sat Jun 08, 2013 11:59 pm

Sandy wrote:
TrudyU wrote:Ed: "... move on to the next guy." Come on William! What if not all worthy candidates are guys. But I know old manners of speech and writing can be hard to break. :wink: Thanks for your list.


"Guy" is a generic, Southern term for "y'all."

Except when the Apostle Paul used the term. ;-)
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Re: Where Frank Page's Calvinist Team Missed the Mark

Postby KeithE » Sun Jun 09, 2013 12:29 am

William Thornton wrote:Sandy,

The concern about evangelism may be misplaced. The only data available shows that calvinistic pastors baptize more than non-C. This is counterintuitive for many non-Cs who think Calvinists eschew evangelism. I have not found the latter to be the case.



I agree with you William. The Calvinists I know are every bit as evangelistic. Where’s the “data available” about C’s baptizing more?
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Re: Where Frank Page's Calvinist Team Missed the Mark

Postby William Thornton » Sun Jun 09, 2013 6:31 am

Let me correct that. Calvinistic pastors baptize at the same rate.

http://www.bpnews.net/printerfriendly.asp?ID=26914
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Re: Where Frank Page's Calvinist Team Missed the Mark

Postby KeithE » Sun Jun 09, 2013 6:50 am

William Thornton wrote:Let me correct that. Calvinistic pastors baptize at the same rate.

http://www.bpnews.net/printerfriendly.asp?ID=26914

Interesting. Calvinism is taking root in the SBC. Founders’s efforts are working - not a good thing ,imo.

With regard to Calvinism and the SBC, Stetzer said NAMB's research also demonstrated that:

-- Churches pastored by Calvinists tend to have smaller attendance and typically baptize fewer persons each year. Stetzer cautioned the attendees to be careful in their speculations, explaining that this study did not look at "why." However, he pointed out that recent graduates who are Calvinists do pastor smaller churches that baptize fewer people.

-- Calvinistic churches, though they baptize fewer persons each year, have a "baptism rate" virtually identical to that of non-Calvinistic churches. Baptism rate is the number of annual baptisms relative to total membership, a statistic used to measure evangelistic vitality.

-- Both Calvinistic and non-Calvinistic churches believe that local congregations should be involved in sponsoring missions and planting new churches. The study showed 95 percent of both types of Southern Baptists affirmed the necessity of missions and church planting.

-- Calvinistic recent graduates report that they conduct personal evangelism at a slightly higher rate than their non-Calvinistic peers.

The bottom line, Stetzer said, is that Calvinistic churches compose a minority of congregations in the SBC, but their numbers are steadily growing, particularly as recent seminary graduates take the reins of leadership.


Note however, the above is from a 2007 poll of SBC members. Here is a 2012 poll of SBC Pastors

It is a confusing set of results and the conclusion is:

Stetzer summarized that, "Most Baptists are not Calvinists, though many are, and most Baptists are not Arminians, though many are comfortable with that distinction. However, there is a sizeable minority that see themselves as Calvinist and holds to such doctrines, and a sizeable majority that is concerned about their presence. That points to challenging days to come."


The Convention this week with a report from the Page TTTTT Committee “Truth,Trust and Testimony in a Time of Tension” might prove to be interesting. Last year there were cries of heresy. So it bodes of some improvement; but I really wish the TTTTT would have explicitly brought Open Theists into their acceptable-to-work-together fold. Same goes for non-inerrantists.
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Re: Where Frank Page's Calvinist Team Missed the Mark

Postby William Thornton » Sun Jun 09, 2013 7:44 am

You will not see much open theism in the SBC, at least not out on the open.

Some SBCers would like to root out Calvinists. Some think Calvinism can save the SBC. Some recognize that we have always had strong Calvinist influence.
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Re: Where Frank Page's Calvinist Team Missed the Mark

Postby KeithE » Sun Jun 09, 2013 8:49 am

William Thornton wrote:You will not see much open theism in the SBC, at least not out on the open.

Hopefully in my lifetime things will “open” up, but maybe not. Fisher Humphreys, Roger Olson, Philip Wise, and Frank Tupper are among respected SBC theologians/pastors who have at least recognized Open Theism as a legitimate option and not cause for cries of heresy. Olsen and Tupper have spoken to our church advocating OT (Olsen has backpeddled somewhat but still “runs hot and cold” on OT). Humphreys was our interim pastor (what a blessing). So we saw OT in the “open” but I recognize our church as “special” :D . The broader Baptist world includes Greg Boyd, Clark Pinnock (once SBC) both outright advocates of Open Theism.

Judge for yourself at:
Open Theism Info Site
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