Friday, February 13, 2009

Dr. Dagg vs Wade Burleson


My attention was called to an amusing item on Pastor Wade Burleson's blog in which he attempts to utilize the late Dr. John L. Dagg in Wade's ongoing discreditation of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Wade's bringing up Dr. Dagg served to remind me that Dr. Dagg was not of the same faith and order as that of Burleson and similar Hybrid Calvinists, and I don't believe Dr. Dagg would appreciate being identified with those who adhere to the "Hardshell" doctrine of "born again before faith."

Dr. Dagg lived during the century (1800s) when Hardshellism arose and split the Baptists, and he rejected their "born again before faith" doctrine. Despite the fact that Dr. John L. Dagg (1794-1884) was not an advocate of "Reformed" or Hardshell "born again before faith" heresy on regeneration, Hybrid Calvinists such as Wade Burleson and the Flounders try to vainly identify Dr. Dagg as a Hybrid Calvinist -- or what Wade calls a "Classic Calvinist."

The Flounders, for example, by using Dr. Dagg's picture on their website, would have you believe the implication that they agree with and represent the views held by Dr. Dagg. Also, they have other information about Dr. Dagg on their website as if to indicate that Dr. Dagg held the same views on "Calvinism" as advocated by the Flounders. In fact, the Flounders even have Dr. Dagg's Manual of Theology book available on their website, although this very book itself contradicts Flounders' Hybrid Calvinism on the new birth.

The Flounders' website carries this statement by Tom Nettles about Dr. Dagg -- "For clarity, cogency, and sincerity of expression, no theological writer of the 19th century surpasses John L. Dagg."

The Flounders' website has an article on Dagg by Mark Dever, who says: "Dagg served at Mercer University, in Georgia, as President (1844-1854), and as professor of theology (1844-1855). There he labored to build the theological department until, in the early 1850's, it was perhaps the most celebrated theological school in the south. . . . Evidence of enduring appreciation for Dagg's work can be seen by the fact that almost forty years after his retirement, when a new theology professor was to be appointed at Mercer in 1893, he was recommended by the simple statement that if this person 'needed any endorsement, it would be sufficient to say that he was a student under that incomparable theological teacher, Rev. J. L. Dagg, D. D., and that he uses his Systematic Theology, as a text book.'"

But contrary to the Flounders' Hybrid Calvinism view on the new birth, here is what Dr. Dagg says about --
(1) THE SPIRIT'S USE OF THE WORD OF GOD AS THE MEANS in regeneration, and about --


We know, from the Holy Scriptures, that God employs his truth in the regeneration of the soul. "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth." Love to God necessarily implies knowledge of God, and this knowledge it is the province of truth to impart. . . . What accompanying influence the Holy Spirit uses, to render the word effectual, we cannot explain: but Paul refers to it, when he says, "Our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost."--"but in the demonstration of the Spirit, and with power."

The term regeneration is sometimes used in a comprehensive sense, as including the whole formation of the Christian character. At other times it is used for the first production of divine love in the heart. In the latter sense, the work is instantaneous. There is a moment known only to God, when the first holy affection exists in the soul. Truth may enter gradually, and may excite strong affections in the mind, and may for a time increase the hatred of God which naturally reigns in the heart. So Paul says, "Sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence." But, in his own time and manner, God, the Holy Spirit, makes the word effectual in producing a new affection in the soul: and, when the first movement of love to God exists, the first throb of spiritual life commences.

Faith is necessary to the Christian character; and must therefore precede regeneration, when this is understood in its widest sense. Even in the restricted sense, in which it denotes the beginning of the spiritual life, faith, in the sense in which James uses the term, may precede.

Dr. Dagg then goes on to discuss the difference between that "spiritual" faith and the "faith" which exists beforehand, which is sometimes called "natural" or "historical faith." Later on, he says --

This change, by which true love to God is produced, results from the direct influence of the Holy Spirit, accompanying his word, and making it effectual. It was this direct influence which rendered the word so effectual on the day of Pentecost, which opened Lydia's heart, so that she attended to the things that were spoken by Paul; -- which gave the increase when Paul planted, and Apollos watered,--and which has ever brought the word to the heart, in demonstration of the Spirit, and with power. . . . By the will of God, the truth has its regenerating and sanctifying power; for he works in us to will and to do, according to his pleasure. It belongs to the Holy Spirit, in the economy of grace, to produce divine life in the soul, as he brooded over the face of the waters, at creation, reducing the chaotic mass to order, and filling it with life. He is pleased to work with means; and he employs the truth as his instrument of operation. This instrument he wields at his pleasure, and he renders it effectual by his divine power: "My word shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."

It is clear that Dr. Dagg taught that spiritual faith actually "precedes" in the so-called "ordo salutis." It is also clear that Dr. Dagg taught that the Word is the "instrument" the Spirit uses in regeneration.

I believe the Flounders probably realize that Dr. Dagg contradicts their theology, and they apparently are careful not to quote him when he does. For example --In a Flounders' article on "Regeneration" by Founders Board of Directors member, Bill Ascol, he quotes from Dr. Dagg but fails to quote Dagg's statement that faith "precedes regeneration."

In fact, Bill Ascol's quotation appears to carefully and, I think, perhaps very deliberately, stops just short of where Dagg makes that statement that faith "precedes regeneration." (See here for Bill Ascol's quote and see here for Dr. Dagg's presentation).

Dr. Dagg's view is clearly contrary to the "pre-faith regeneration," "born again before faith" heresy advocated by the Reformed Pedobaptists and their disciples among the Flounders -- as well as by Wade Burleson. So Dr. Dagg was not a Reformed theologian, nor a Flounders' type, and not a Burleson "Classic Calvinist" on the new birth. He taught the Creedal view. He was of the same mind as B. H. Carroll who contended that "regeneration is not complete without faith."

Since the Flounders flounderously continue to try to exploit both Dr. Dagg and Dr. Carroll, we will continue to expose their misrepresentation as well as their Hybrid Calvinism heresy on what they call "regeneration," and we will expose Wade Burleson's vain attempt to utilize Dr. Dagg.

We notice that Wade Burleson makes no mention whatsoever of Dr. Dagg's view on regeneration. If it is left up to Wade, his readers would perhaps never know that Dr. Dagg was opposed to the "Hardshell" view of regeneration as advocated by Wade Burleson.


  1. Bob, keep up the good work of opposing this false doctrine.

    Bruce Oyen

  2. Bob:

    Mr. Burleson recently confirmed in the comments section to the article you quote that he believes regeneration precedes conversion and that this is chronological in most cases:

    "I believe regeneration and conversion can be simultaneous as well, as in your example.

    In fact, I have no problem saying that regeneration and conversation are the majority of the time so close in time that it is indistinguishable for most Christians.

    But, for some, the change of heart occurs first and they learn to hate their sins, they feel a sense of dread over impending judgment from God, but they have not heard the good news. When they do hear the good news, they fall in love with Christ and are converted through faith in Christ.

    I just don't think we can put everybody into the same box" (italics mine).

    The italicized words betray time sequence: in the first, that these do not necessarily occur simultaneously; in the second, "so close" indicates chronological separation. This demonstrates that in Reformed theology regeneration precedes conversion (repentance and faith) chronologically and not simply logically as many Reformed persons protest. Logical priority entails chronological priority. Wayne Grudem who holds that regeneration logically precedes faith (conversion) revealed that this meant chronological precedence (see Stephen Garrett's "Grudem on Regeneration", "More on Grudem"(including Comments) and Bob Ross's comments in his article "Grudem: Born again before faith?").

    We hold, rather, that regeneration includes repentance and faith ("constituent elements" of regeneration -- B. H. Carroll) and, therefore, that regeneration and conversion are simultaneous or coexistent: at the moment one is born of God one repents and believers and when one repents and believers that one is born of God. Regeneration and conversion occur together. This is classical Calvinism, the Calvinism of B. H. Carroll which you have pointed out with the quote, "regeneration is not complete without faith."

  3. Burleson's resorting to Dagg here is absurd in light of the fact that to be consistent with his redefinition of the term Landmark to practically include all who oppose open communion, that he would have to regard Dagg as a Landmarker.