About George Bryson

Dear George As you might know, Alistair Begg posted that he was going to be speaking at the CCCPM/CCA senior pastor’s in July of 2014. I also received an email from CCA saying the same thing. From reading his website, Alistair is openly Reformed but not as hardcore as a James White and perhaps not even as serious as R.C. Sproul Sr. Do you think that Begg should be speaking at a major Calvary Chapel conference?

Dear CC pastor

As you might know, I am not in CCA, much less on the CCA council where I assume CCA conference speakers are picked to be speakers at CCA conferences. I agree that Alistair is not as hardcore as White when it comes to the Reformed doctrine of salvation and damnation. However, when it comes to their respective doctrines of salvation and damnation I think Sproul and Begg are on the same theological page. I have written several brief articles about Begg and CC conferences and I will attach one of them to my response to your note and questions. In Christ, George

CALVARY CHRONICLE

ALISTAIR BEGG AND THE DEATH CHRIST THAT DIED

Who is Alistair Begg and what does he believe about the death that Christ died on the cross of Calvary? Alistair Begg is an interesting, articulate, engaging Bible teacher as well as very popular Evangelical pastor, originally from Scotland. Alistair is Reformed in his doctrine concerning the death that Christ died (i.e., promoting the third point of Calvinism or limited atonement). His views are fairly easy to understand and relatively simple to articulate. It is equally easy to understand and articulate what he does not believe about the death that Christ died on Calvary, which is precisely one of the more important doctrines with which he clearly disagrees with Calvary Chapel as well all other non-Reformed Orthodox Evangelicals.

While I strongly suspect that Begg is a good and godly man, his doctrine of the death Christ died on Calvary should be known and explained when and if he is invited to speak at a Calvary Chapel church or conference, even if his doctrine of the death that Christ died is not the topic of his message. If the doctrine of the death that Christ died is central and essential to a biblical doctrine of salvation (and it is) and if the biblical doctrine of salvation is crucially important to biblical Christianity (and it is) then it follows that knowing Begg’s views of the death that Christ died is need to know information.

The death that Christ died is not a non-essential, minor or secondary issue as many have suggested. The question as to who Christ savingly died for is an essential, major and primary doctrinal and practical issues. So how can we know what Begg believes about the death that Christ died on Calvary? There are a couple of ways to find this out. It is not a secret and I do not believe that Begg is trying to hide it. One way is to consult the website for The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals of which Begg is a Council Member. Council Members are the leaders of the Alliance. On their website the Council Members of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals asked Rev. Richard Phillips…the chair of the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology and senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church Coral Springs, Margate, Florida, to represent them on this matter. What follows is an incomplete but fair and accurate representation that represents Begg on the death that Christ died:


Limited vs. Unlimited Atonement

Why is it important to define the Atonement as limited or unlimited?

You asked why we should make a fuss over limited/unlimited atonement, in light of the greater issues around the doctrine of the atonement. In answer, let me agree that there are more important issues regarding the atonement of Christ than its extent (limited or unlimited)…To deny that the atonement accomplishes satisfaction for our sin is to be anti-Christian. In short, the most important issue by far in regards to the atonement is that we vigorously affirm Christ's death as a vicarious, substitutionary atonement to make satisfaction for our sin before God. It is because of this priority that one does not hear much about limited vs. unlimited atonement today: we are now fighting over evangelical essentials, so a doctrinal battle that is de facto between evangelicals is not going to be as important.

3) General atonement robs Christ of his glory, [the view of Pastor Chuck, Calvary Chapel as a whole and all non-Reformed Evangelicals] by asserting that he needs us to complete his work. Notice how the Scriptures refer to Christ's saving work in definite and wholly effectual categories. It is Jesus who saves us utterly; not Jesus who did his part but now looks to us to complete it, lest he died in vain. See (Rom 5:10; 2 Cor. 5:18-19; Gal. 3:13; Gal. 4:4; Heb. 9:27).

4) General atonement assaults the doctrine of election. Indeed, unconditional election and limited atonement are tethered together inseparably. To deny that Christ died for a particular people is to deny that God has an [unconditionally and arbitrarily] elect people for whom he sent Christ to die and rise again. To say that limited atonement is not an important doctrine to defend is to say the same of sovereign election. And to say that is to redefine the gospel in a man-centered direction. 5) General atonement wrongly asserts that limited atonement speaks to the world with an in genuine offer of salvation. "After all, if Christ only died for the elect, then how can the Bible say, "Whoever will, let them come?"…If only the elect are saved -- as the Bible teaches -- and if the Triune God knew these from before the creation of the world -- as the Bible teaches -- and if the precious blood of Jesus cleanses us from all our sins - - as the Bible teaches -- then it is only applied to those elect persons who reveal their election through their faith in Jesus, which is itself the gift of God. This limited number of persons receives an unlimited atonement. Everyone else dies in their sins…

Again, the great issue of our time dealing with the doctrine of atonement is simply its basic definition -- vicarious, substitutionary atonement. We must zealously preach and defend this core doctrine without relenting…We must not shrink from this doctrine, and we must teach it in appropriate settings with all zeal and diligence.

Rev. Richard Phillips is the chair of the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology and senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church Coral Springs, Margate, Florida.


I am not suggesting that because Begg does not believe that Christ died redemptively, savingly or propitiously for all the sins of all sinners he should not be allowed to speak in a church or conference of churches that believe that Christ did die redemptively, savingly and propitiously for all the sins of all sinners. I am saying that the pastors and people invited to hear him teach at a CC church or conference should be aware of his position on such an important issue. If you promise not to tell anyone I will let you in on a little secret. I have heard Alistair Begg speak and teach many times. Much (if not most) of what I have heard him teach I agree with. I would find it difficult to believe that most CC pastors would not agree with much or most of what Begg says and teaches.

Nevertheless, because this and similar issues related to what the Bible teaches about who can be saved and why is so important, what harm could come from knowing what Begg believes and teaches (and what he does not believe and teach) on the death that Christ died on Calvary? After all, if what Begg and The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals believes is true about who Christ propitiously died for on Mt. Calvary, what Calvary Chapel believes Scripture teaches about who our Lord savingly died for on Mt. Calvary, is false and robs Christ of his glory. I do not take Begg’s views as a personal attack on Pastor Chuck, myself or the hundreds of Calvary Chapel pastors who truly and substantially disagree with Begg and The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.

I do not think they are trying to be mean, unkind or insulting to us. But I cannot avoid their view as less than a positional challenge to Calvary Chapel and what we believe the Bible teaches on such an essential and central doctrine of Biblical Christianity. This is a challenge we dare not ignore if we care about the doctrine and direction of our movement and what the people in our churches believe about the death that Christ died on Mt. Calvary, specifically as Christ’s death relates to who can be saved and why. While I do not personally know Begg, those who I know who know Begg assure me that he is a really good and godly man.

I believe them. My guess is that Begg also really likes the pastors and people of Calvary Chapel. If however, we believe that Christ died redemptively, savingly and propitiously for all the sins of all sinners I also believe it is a good idea that we know that Begg believes that Christ only died savingly, redemptively or propitiously for the sins of the elect. In Christ, George

Limited vs. Unlimited Atonement

(With My Commentary in Brackets)

Why is it important to define the Atonement as limited or unlimited?

You asked why we should make a fuss over limited/unlimited atonement, in light of the greater issues around the doctrine of the atonement. In answer, let me agree that there are more important issues regarding the atonement of Christ than its extent (limited or unlimited)…To deny that the atonement accomplishes satisfaction for our sin is to be anti-Christian. In short, the most important issue by far in regards to the atonement is that we vigorously affirm Christ's death as a vicarious, substitutionary atonement to make satisfaction for our sin before God. It is because of this priority that one does not hear much about limited vs. unlimited atonement today: we are now fighting over evangelical essentials [i.e. Christ died as a substitute for sinners], so a doctrinal battle [over who Christ died for] that is de facto between evangelicals is not going to be as important.

3) General atonement [i.e., that Christ died redemptively, savingly or propitiously for all the sins of all sinners] robs Christ of his glory, by asserting that he needs us to complete his work [seriously?]. Notice how the Scriptures refer to Christ's saving work in definite and wholly effectual categories. It is Jesus who saves us utterly; not Jesus who did his part but now looks to us to complete it, lest he died in vain [talk about your caricature!]. See (Rom 5:10; 2 Cor. 5:18-19; Gal. 3:13; Gal. 4:4; Heb. 9:27).

4) General atonement assaults the doctrine of [unconditional and arbitrary] election [to this I agree]. Indeed, unconditional election and limited atonement are tethered together inseparably [to this I agree]. To deny that Christ died for a particular people is to deny that God has an [unconditionally and arbitrarily] elect people for whom he sent Christ to die and rise again [to this I agree]. To say that limited atonement is not an important doctrine to defend is to say the same of sovereign election. And to say that is to redefine the gospel in a man-centered direction [this is nonsense].

5) General atonement wrongly asserts that limited atonement speaks to the world with an in genuine offer of salvation [replace the word wrongly with the word rightly and the sentence is accurate]. "After all, if Christ only died for the elect, then how can the Bible say, "Whoever will, let them come?" [good question]…If only the elect are saved -- as the Bible teaches -- and if the Triune God knew these from before the creation of the world -- as the Bible teaches -- and if the precious blood of Jesus cleanses us from all our sins -- as the Bible teaches -- then it is only applied to those elect persons who reveal their [unconditional and arbitrary] election through their faith in Jesus, which is itself the gift of God [which assumes what the Calvinist does not and cannot prove]. This limited number of [unconditionally and arbitrarily elect] persons receives an unlimited atonement. Everyone else dies in their sins…

Again, the great issue of our time dealing with the doctrine of atonement is simply its basic definition -- vicarious, substitutionary atonement. We must zealously preach and defend this core doctrine without relenting…We must not shrink from this doctrine, and we must teach it in appropriate settings with all zeal and diligence. [We should also teach that when Christ died He did so propitiously for all the sins of all sinners].


The problem with this final exhortation is that neither the Calvinist nor the non- Calvinist has figured out a way to preach and defend a basic definition of the atonement that is vicarious and substitutionary without also preaching that it is either limited or unlimited (or general or definite). When all the theological dust has settled we either preach that Christ died for all the sins of all sinners or we preach that He only died savingly for all the sins of some sinners. If the general atonement is true we can sincerely preach to everyone that they can be saved because Christ died for everyone’s sins. If the atonement is limited, there are some people we can honestly and accurately say they cannot be saved because Christ did not savingly die for them. This is a substantial and important difference in our message I think everyone should agree. Some Calvinists pretend to have resolved this dilemma by claiming that a vicarious and substitutional atonement is a limited by definition.

Am I suggesting that Begg and the Council and membership of The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is attacking Calvary Chapel and all other Evangelicals who believe Christ died for all the sins of all sinners? Not at all! Conversely it would be just as unreasonable to say that I am attacking Begg and the Counsel and membership of The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals because they believe that Christ only died redemptively for all the sins of all the elect. Remember, my email article is a positional response to a positional challenge. No need to interpret it as a personal attack from either side. In Christ, George (10/22/12)