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Saxon Interview

Posted: March 1st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Theology | 4 Comments »

Well, its not quite dealing with tech, this is a fascinating article. One of my Favorite teachers at Maranatha was Dr. Saxon and one of my friends, Joel Joseph interviewed him. (The interview was originally from his blog, but the link is no longer working).

Interview with Dr. Saxon

This week I had the opportunity to ask, in my opinion, the wisest man I know, Dr. Saxon, a few (by few I mean 20) questions that I thought he could shed some of his profound wisdom on. Dr. Saxon has a B.S. in Mathematics, and a M.A. and Ph.D. in Church History. He is currently an undergrad Bible professor at Maranatha Baptist Bible College. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.
1) Why are you a Calvinist?
This question is a little bit like “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” I don’t call myself a Calvinist, because I think the word “Calvinist” means too many things to too many people. My brand of particularism would not have met with Calvin’s approval, and it is quite different from the Five-Point Calvinism of Dort and the Confessions. I am “Calvinistic” in the sense that I hold to unconditional election and those corollaries of it that I find supported in Scripture. But I do not want to get a reputation for seeing Calvinist implications in every doctrine or passage. Certainly, one’s view of divine sovereignty impacts how one reads the biblical text everywhere, but I want to have an impact on people who do not share my presuppositions, and that won’t happen if I become known as a teacher who plays the same note all the time.
I became Calvinistic during my undergrad and early grad training. I’m not sure what the particular influences were, but I was studying church history and reading systematic theologians like Strong, Hodge, Berkhof, and Buswell. By 1986 or so, I was convinced of unconditional election. I then sat under an outstanding expositor for 11 years who held a similarly Calvinistic position.
2) Is it essential to understand and believe the five points? Why?
I hope not, because I do not affirm limited atonement as it is defined by Dort and Westminster. Understanding them is important, and I will believe them only so far as I see them demonstrated in Scripture. I really do strive to resist the temptation to read texts through the grid of a fixed systematic theology. As a result, all the labels that define me theologically—Calvinistic, dispensational—have some leaks where I find them in tension with biblical texts.
3) Are any of the points more essential to believe than any of the others?
The foundation for all of them is God’s right to save whom He will, i.e., unconditional election. That really is the rub for most people, and that is what I think Scripture teaches in hundreds of places. The other really crucial one is total depravity. A right view of man’s utter helplessness starts one down a path that inevitably leads to unconditional election and efficacious calling. I hate theologies that give man credit for things only God can do.
4) How has your belief in the five points affected your life?
Again, my belief in four of the points has helped me to keep God at the center of my theology and exegesis. It has given me hope regarding lost loved ones who seem impossible to reach. It has obviously informed my teaching for 20 years now. It has also caused me to have numerous intellectual struggles with students and others who regard my views as unbiblical or even heretical. I do not enjoy debating these issues with people who are committed philosophically to self-determination. It’s difficult for me not to show my true feelings, namely, that their position is blasphemous humanism. But I try to constantly remind myself that good men have differed on these issues since the early church.
5) How has it affected your evangelism (the reason why I ask this is because of the myth that Calvinists don’t care about missions)?
I don’t know how evangelistic I would be or feel if I did not believe in unconditional election. That is a pragmatic question that I don’t concern myself with. I know the burden I feel for lost neighbors, loved ones, and the world, and I constantly strive to do better at getting the gospel out. I agree with Dr. Packer that the doctrine of election gives us our only real hope when we share the gospel with dead people.
6) What is the biggest worry you have for this next generation of Christians?
The Western church is terribly materialistic and worldly, at least, I am. Each generation seems to move further down the road of cultural embrace, and as we do so, we lose the ability to even see how our culture is shaping our values and perspectives. Reading church history, I occasionally get a glance at what the older saints might have thought if they experienced the modern church, with all our conveniences, recreation, and distractions. My fear is that the next generation will continue down that path, and that my failure to live counter-culturally will contribute to their failure. Can a church impact the world if it loses the ability to suffer?
7) What are the strengths and weaknesses of fundamentalists?
It is interesting that you say, “Fundamentalists,” rather than “Fundamentalism.” Fundamentalists have the same strengths and weaknesses as all other Christians. I doubt we are any more judgmental or any less worldly than our evangelical counterparts. Those are stereotypes that break down when you meet individuals or consider your own heart.
Fundamentalism, as a movement, has the strength that it truly desires to maintain purity in the face of increasing worldliness in the church. It has, I believe, a biblical view of separation that honors Christ by rejecting what He would reject. On the other hand, Fundamentalism has a hard time critiquing itself, and it tends to major on minors and minor on majors.
8) If you could say one thing to the next generation of church leaders, what would it be?
Exposit the Word no matter what problem you are trying to solve. Don’t trust programs, techniques, strategies,  or anything else other than the Word. Patiently, systematically, carefully, and prayerfully preach books of the Bible, and trust the Lord to do whatever He wants to do in your church.
9) What is your favorite attribute of God? Why?
Love. God loves me, despite everything.
10) Any goals/ aspiration for the future (that you’re willing to share)?
To continue to influence young people for Christ in the classroom and outside of it for many years to come, if the Lord tarries. I don’t like or desire change, unless it is absolutely necessary.
11) Is the Holy Spirit underemphasized in evangelical circles?
The Charismatics are probably the largest subset of evangelicals, so I don’t think He is underemphasized. Among non-Charismatics, it seems to me that the Spirit has received substantial and significant attention over the last 30 years. All sound sanctification teaching, for instance, rests in the Spirit’s work, as discussed in 2 Cor. 3:18 or Gal. 5:16-25.
12) What is more upsetting to you? Division in the church or bad theology?
Bad theology. Truth is the foundation for unity, and there is no unity without agreement in the truth for the simple reason that unity implies an object about which one is unifying. We cannot unify for a task unless we agree in our understanding of the task.
Another way to look at it is: bad theology is always bad. Division is bad when it is a result of sin; sometimes it is a result of fidelity to the truth.
13) What is the most essential thing for sanctification in our lives?
Faith. God the Spirit is doing the work; therefore, every day we should express our dependence on Him to make us a little more like Christ today. The disciplines have their role—I would not minimize them at all. But the disciplines will not effect sanctification unless they are actuated by the Spirit. Therefore, we must daily trust Him.
14) Who are your favorite theologians/authors?
Philip Schaff, John Calvin, John Piper, D. A. Carson, Douglas Moo, Jonathan Edwards (in no particular order)
15) What are the top two or three lessons you have learned in marriage?
A good wife covers a multitude of sins.
Marry someone who loves God, and she will love you the way she should.
16) In being a parent?
Show your kids how much you love your wife so that they will be secure and happy in the home.
Be consistent in loving discipline. We are trying to model God.
17) How does one discern God’s will?
Prayer, reading the Scripture and meditating on them, and stepping out in faith. God’s will is often clear when one looks back but murky as one moves ahead. He wants us to walk by faith, not by sight.
18) Does God like to save families?
This is an odd question. I think God likes to save everybody. In His mysterious will, not everyone is saved, but it is not a question of whom God likes to save. Providentially, God does often work through saved parents to “sanctify” the children, i.e., set them apart for a special work of the Spirit.
19) Why do you think that almost all the great men in the Bible are bad fathers?
Hard to say. Being a good father doesn’t always get publicity. Two of Noah’s three sons did okay; was he a bad father? Certainly, as sinners men do not find it easy to be Christ-like in the home. Perhaps, God thought we needed a number of examples of what not to do.
20) Any random things you would like to say?
It is impossible to actually say a random thing because the process of deciding what to write and then typing it renders it non-random.
On the other hand, it is hard to tell in Job whether the Leviathan is a crocodile or a dinosaur, like a Plesiosaurus. There, don’t know where that came from.



4 Comments on “Saxon Interview”

  1. 1 MC said at 2:51 am on March 2nd, 2011:

    Thanks so much for the article. Dr. Saxon was always my favorite prof, although it is hard to choose because they are all great, I always appreciated in particular how Saxon and Trainer never shied away from or demonized Calvanism, but at the same time, they let you draw your own conclusions from Scripture. Maranatha is a great school, I just wished people understood more how non-old-school-fundy our professors, especially the Bible guys are.

    I hear from so many people who think Maranatha is KJV only and anti-Calvinism, when most of the Bible profs use NASB and ESV and teach and preach a God that is sovereign over all things.

  2. 2 Dr. Saxon – The Wisest Man I Know « Maranatha Voice said at 3:03 pm on March 2nd, 2011:

    […] Great interview with Dr. Saxon that all MBBC Alumni will enjoy. […]

  3. 3 Jim Peet said at 6:48 pm on March 2nd, 2011:

    Thanks for posting this

  4. 4 Mike said at 12:05 pm on March 18th, 2011:

    Never have met or heard of this man before, but I really really appreciated his comments. Thank you. To God be the glory.

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