BONUS EPISODE: Leighton Flowers: The Bible Verses That Made Me Leave Calvinism DMW#212


In this bonus episode, Greg sat down with Dr. Leighton Flowers. Leighton is a Pastor, Professor, and Apologist. He is the creator of @Soteriology101 . In this episode, Leighton explains the reasons why he left Calvinism after 10 years, and what bible verses led him to that decision. It was an interesting episode. Enjoy!


Exploring Theology, Doctrine, and all of the fascinating subjects in between. Broadcasting from an undisclosed location.
Dead Men Walking starts now. Well hello everyone, welcome back to another episode of Dead Men Walking Podcast.
I'm your host Greg Moore. Not quite undisclosed this week. We're still coming from Tullahoma, Tennessee, the
Y -Calvinism Conference. As always, you can check us out at dmwpodcast .com. Go there and learn a little bit more about us.
Check out the merch store, support the show. Well, a special guest we're going to get right into. We don't have a whole lot of time right now.
We're going to do a short segment. I have Mr. Leighton Flowers. How are you, sir? Doing very well, thank you. Showed up to the
Y -Calvinism Conference. Why not? Why not? I absolutely love it.
We got to have dinner, I think was, I don't know, the days are running together. Maybe it was yesterday, day before, and it was just a good time of fellowship.
Now, I have a special relationship to where I was watching some of the stuff you were doing, debating like with James White years ago before you were cool and hip.
I've never been cool and hip. Okay, well thank you. That's my four kids, trust me. I'm in the same boat, okay?
I got teenagers. So it's been really interesting, and I'm not going to do most of the talking, but it's really interesting to kind of see what you've kind of crafted online in your ministry and things like that.
But I just wanted to have you on to quickly talk about, well, first let's, for those who don't know you, give us a little one -minute intro, who you are and what you do.
And then we want to talk a little bit about your journey from Calvinism into Provisionalism and kind of how that went.
Yeah, well, my name is Leighton Flowers. I'm the Director of Evangelism and Apologetics for Texas Baptist. That's my real job, my nine -to -fiver.
That's what I've been doing for years prior to ever starting the podcast. I didn't just come into existence in 2014.
That's just when people began to hear about me because I started the podcast. I had left Calvinism and felt that there was kind of a void online on this subject.
And so I started to produce this material in order to kind of fill that void. What I felt like was a void of scholarly, robust answers to Calvinism's interpretation of Scripture, as well as more of a positive presentation for what we believe about the love and provision of God.
And so most people know me online, especially in your broadcast, your audience would know me from Sociology 101, that I created really separately to keep it from overrunning my
Evangelism and Apologetics page and the things that I do in my real world because this is an in -house debate. It's among brothers and sisters, and it can be contentious.
It can overrun a page if it's kept all together. And so, you know, Dr. White's ministry has a ton of different, you know, apologetic works that he does, but Sociology 101 is different because I'm an
Evangelist and an Apologist on this separately. Okay. And a denominational worker, teaching pastor, those kinds of things,
Trinity Seminary professor. And so that's what I do most of the time. Right. On the Sociology 101 podcast, that's my debate page and the
Calvinism discussions and all the things that we do there, if that makes sense. Yeah, and isn't it kind of crazy how you can do these kind of big important things, like you said, my real job, but then sometimes if you get online, you have a podcast, you have kind of this ministry going, and it really touches a nerve, it just kind of takes off.
It looks like it's really taken off in the last few years, even. Yeah, well, Keith Foskey, you had him on earlier and talking to him, same kind of thing.
People know him for his funny skit videos and stuff like that. They think, well, that's all he does. No, he's a pastor. I mean, he's—
And a really good one. Yeah, a very great pastor, and he does a lot of other things. So you can get well -known for a particular niche or a particular thing you do, and that's kind of what's happened with Sociology 101.
But I try to emphasize when I'm on the broadcast and other things that this shouldn't be such a myopic thing that this is all you ever talk about or ever do.
One, it would be really boring. I mean, you have to be pretty obsessed to only talk about this particular topic.
But at the same time, it also is not a good balance. I mean, if you're not doing your spiritual disciplines, sharing your faith, studying other topics and other doctrines and other things, then it can get where you're imbalanced in your approach.
And so I have to feel like I have to say that when I go places because I don't want people to misinterpret my goal and my heart in doing what
I do with Sociology 101. So what was that journey like? Because mine's a little bit different to where I grew up non -Calvinist and was told, hey, those are weirdos and heretics and was a closeted
Calvinist for eight or nine years where I understood the theology, I agreed with it, but I didn't want to tell anyone. I didn't want, you know, and kind of was afraid of it to where you, for close to 10 years, correct?
Identified with that theology. Yeah. And then how'd you come out of that? Well, I was raised in a Southern Baptist, typical
Southern Baptist, whosoever will, kind of. Yeah, and that's what I always believed growing up, but I didn't know really what
I believed about predestination, election, the deeper doctrines. I just had a general understanding of belief that God loved everybody and everybody could be saved.
I went off to college and was introduced to a mentor who's still a good friend of mine, by the way.
Still have a huge amount of respect for him, but he introduced me to John MacArthur and R .C. Sproul and the
Ligonier tapes and I got at the table talk, you know, and all that kind of stuff. I got a couple hundred of those in my house. Oh, yeah. And it took me forever.
My wife was trying to get rid of this box of Ligonier tapes and table talks. I was like, still to this day, I'm like, no, I don't need those.
Attachment, yeah. Yeah, you have that. And I cut my teeth with Sproul and then later Piper. And Matt Chandler came a year after me at Hardin -Simmons, where I was.
And I helped convince him of limited atonement. You're welcome. And so. Well, what happened now? Now we don't claim him anymore.
He's a little too. Yeah, whatever. Well, everybody has a reason. Him and Mark Driscoll, what happened? So anyway, so all of that to say is that, yeah,
I adopted at least a form of Calvinism. Some, like Dr. White, don't think I was really reformed enough.
Okay. And maybe he has. That's our go -to. He has a fair point. If you left it, you never were really. Right. Exactly.
Once a Calvinist, always a Calvinist. Yeah, right, right. Well, and I probably wasn't the kind of Calvinist that he is, to be fair.
I was probably more of a kind of softer, moderate kind of a Calvinist. Okay. And granted,
I was in my 20s when I was a Calvinist. So there probably was a lot of cognitive dissonance with some of the harder issues that, you know, that we grapple with now.
And the program that I hadn't ever really dealt with as a Calvinist. So it was one of those things like, yeah, this sounds plausible and good.
And there's smarter men who have an explanation of it. And I'll go with it. Right. Kinda. Yeah. It's kind of like the surrendering your sensemaking to MacArthur or Sproul.
I didn't know how to answer some of those hard questions, but I figured they would. And so I didn't feel like I needed to provide answers for the hard questions.
And, but I'm one of those kind of guys. I'm a theology geek. I like knowing answers to questions. So I'm not satisfied with that spot.
And so I'm always looking for more answers. And I found myself getting close to my 30s as I was studying.
I was actually reading a book by Tozer. Okay. And I assumed he was a Calvinist because he's smart. And all Calvinists were smart in my mind.
I was like, oh, he's smart. And Piper quoted him all the time. And so I just assumed... Yeah, who needs a theology degree? Just ask a Calvinist a theological question, right?
Exactly. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Exactly. Two hours on it. You'll be an expert. I just assumed that Tozer was a
Calvinist. And I'm reading the Knowledge of the Holy. And it begins very clearly to realize he's not a
Calvinist and even begin to study on that and begin to find out actually he spoke out against Calvinism quite vehemently.
In fact, same with C .S. Lewis. Another guy I had a huge amount of respect for and I just assumed he was one of us, you know. Yeah, but two, still two great guys.
Yeah, exactly. And so there was a part of me behind the scenes. It was kind of like going, why would these guys, as smart as they are, reject
Calvinism? Are they just too emotional? Are they just not biblical? What's wrong with them? And I had debated when
I was in college, in high school, and you had to learn to take on the other side of any issue.
Sure. And it was something I learned was a really great way to get real deep into your view.
And I really started that process trying to firm up my Calvinism to become a better Calvinist.
And that process actually led to the other direction where I was introduced to some thoughts and ideas and concepts that I had never dealt with before and that I couldn't answer from a
Calvinistic vantage point very well. And so I became more and more disillusioned with the Calvinistic structure and systematic where I would appeal to mystery before I was not willing to do that anymore and some of the issues and some of the quandaries that were created on the negative side of the
Calvinistic side because the positive side of Calvinism is fun. You know, God elects and loves you and he's chosen you.
You can talk about that all day long and it sounds great, but it's when you begin to talk about reprobation, double predestination, the non -elect, the blameworthiness of those not elected, being born unable to willingly believe because of a nature they were born with.
They can't control it. All these things are going. That didn't seem right. You know, there's something that doesn't sit well.
It's a hard pill to swallow. Even Piper says he wept three days when first introduced to it and Sproul talks about being drug into the system kicking and screaming because they're acknowledging
I think what most Calvinists recognize. It's a hard pill to swallow. It's not real easy. There's some difficulty.
And if they say it isn't, I think they're just in a club at that point. Yeah, that is. And honest
Calvinist, intellectually honest Calvinist will come out and right out and admit this is difficult, but you've got to be willing to take truth even if it's hard.
And so some Calvinists wear it almost even as a badge of honor because they'll even, you know, argue that because it's so hard proves in their mind it must be right because the
Bible's offensive. Right. And Calvinism is offensive. So maybe the Bible is actually teaching Calvinism and that's kind of where I was for a long time.
Okay, I found it offensive. But at the same time I figured you know what hell's offensive too. And there's by golly
God talked Jesus talked more about hell than he did about heaven. And so sometimes things are offensive. And so I had I really held on to my
Calvinism despite some of my problems underlying the surface with it because of those justifications and it wasn't until I went to a deep study and really found some of the other side of Calvinism and begin to see the exegetical reasons that people would would read
Romans 9 for example differently. Okay, because I didn't know how you get around Romans 9. I mean good night right just looked like Calvinism all over it.
How in the world is that not Calvinism? Yeah, I mean like like what is it Keith Hayes preached? Yeah. Yeah the more
I mean when you hear Kevin sorry Kevin Hayes when you hear somebody that articulate
I mean he is a great great communicator and he just walks through Romans the way that he did from a
Calvinist perspective that that's like MacArthur for me when I was going through it. I mean, I just hook line and sinker. I'm right there.
How in the world can you argue with that? Yeah, but it wasn't until I really begin to understand the other side of how a non -Calvinist scholar not just the surfacy guys that say let's skip
Romans 9 today because it's too hard, right? But the guys that are willing to go through it once I understood where they were coming from I go.
It was like for me. It was kind of like the same thing going into Calvinism coming back out. It was like a light came on like oh, yeah.
Who are some of those guys did it you remember like reading anyone in particular going? Yeah, this is the on the opposite side of me.
But this is well, you know, there's the Adrian Rogers. Okay, it's traditional Southern Baptist perspective
Herschel Hobbes. Okay, a lot of these kinds of guys that weren't real well known, you know in the average circles unless you were
Southern Baptist, you know, you don't know those names but but there's there and there are many others matter of fact what's really crazy.
Is that there are some even in the reformed ranks that in other words that would still be claimed under more of a reformed tradition that still had interpretations that sided more with the more provisionistic for lack of better word traditional
Southern Baptist perspective, but they would still say well, we still believe in Calvinism, but this interpretation of this text better fits this right and so that would make me kind of go how in the world but how would he why does he how can you possibly still remain reformed
Calvinistic and not see Romans 9 right because it's the apologetic for Calvinism.
I mean, it's the it's the linchpin of Calvinism and how can you is side with our interpretation but still the t -shirt right behind you wine.
I'm dying. I'm Romans 9. I'm exactly right. So that's what we love going to if you lose Romans 9 in my estimation, right
Calvinism is lost. And so at least at least okay. So how long so how long was this process of like wrestling with this?
It was probably a good two and a half to three years. So it wasn't something overnight. It was like I was a closet non -Calvinist same thing.
All right. So when I came back out of it, I didn't I liked being a part of the Calvinistic Brotherhood.
I mean, yeah, Matt Chandler. I can send a friend devotee. Baucom came to speak at our events. My Piper came to speak at some of our events and I felt like I was a part of the crowd.
Sure. Charles Spurgeon, you know the heroes of the faith and yeah, I was a card carrying member of the founders of ministry for the
Southern Baptist Convention and I was a part of a reformed Baptist Church. And I knew
I remember how I used to think about Armenians and I didn't want people to think of me like that because I saw
Armenians as surfacy, you know, or even like even the Rick Warren's sure all the cliches world like the
Bill Heibel's Rick Warren's Joel Stein. All of those those folks are seen as like real surfacy kind of topical.
Yeah, and and I knew how they were viewed by my Calvinistic circles and that turned me off to the point.
I didn't want to come out and admit that I wasn't a Calvinist anymore. And so I kind of that's just that's being real.
I mean, that's a yeah, that's a pride thing or kind of like a you know, yeah, and I know guys in this group that would probably they look to their peers and want to appear a certain way instead of pleasing
God, right? Because I knew I knew if I came right out and said what I was struggling with or what I believed I knew how some of my buddies and some of my friends now.
I mean we contend over these issues, but I have some very strong Calvinistic friends. Yeah, and and they do they did tease me, you know, and made all the jokes about the things that we used to joke with Armenians about and and I begin to realize it's not so monolithic as to have either this camp or that camp.
There's a lot of in -between. There's a lot of nuance and and once I begin to recognize those spaces and I eventually went back and got my doctorate degree and I ended up writing on the subject which outed me so to speak as a as a non -Calvinist, but I did want to be called an
Armenian because I'm a Southern Baptist and Armenians those are Methodist, you know, that's not my that's not my crowd and I did still affirm eternal security and still do and so there was aspects of my my particular views that did not align really with Calvinism or Arminianism.
Okay, and I was more aligned with what was referred to it by the scholars of that that time anyway was more of the traditional
Southern Baptist perspective is which is where I want to go. So where have you landed for the listeners? Where are you at now? Because you're in a unique position to where you've kind of coined provisionism and I'm like man us all
Millennials. We've been trying to get that renamed for 500 years. It only happens every so often. It's kind of picked up to where you're now associated with that word and you've created that and you say well, it's you know, there's traditionalism there and stuff like that.
But but now we're in this thing where we're talking about this P word now because of you and I'm not trying to puff you up or say, you know,
I'm just saying it's it's really rare to go. Oh here. We have a guy defining something clearly kind of rebranding renaming it and people going.
Yeah, I find myself there too, right? So where are you at for the listeners? Yeah, and provisionism wasn't something
I wasn't like trying to start provisionism. I mean, it's not the way you go by the domain. I was like, no, I still don't own it.
Yeah. Somebody came up to me one of those young men that just walked by I said, I'll sell to you provisionism .com because I guess he went out and bought them all and so I guess we're an entrepreneurial bunch.
Calvinist are buying a provisionism .com somebody bought for sociology 101 .net
or .org or one of the I got .com and they have it redirected to James White's website.
Okay, well, that's a little game and ship. All right, so but anyway, so I really
I was just more of a focus on God provides. Okay, so you can talk about how dead men are how sinful worm like Viper and diapers whatever you want to say about men and I'll just reply by going.
Okay, but God provides for those people and God provides for all people. And so I don't think anybody perishes for a lack of atonement or a lack of God's desire in the process.
I don't think God creates people for destruction or predestines them to that end. I think if somebody perishes they perish because they refuse to love the truth so as to be saved as Paul put it and so that the only reason anybody ends up separated from God for eternity is because of their choice their rejection.
So it's really more about for me at least the blameworthiness of the sinner and I think they're more blameworthy if they're rejecting a
God who loves and provides for them than if they're rejecting a God who first rejected them or a God that didn't really provide for them.
So I think they're more blameworthy on provisionism than they are in Calvinism. Now, I understand there are answers to that.
I'm sure you're wanting to give them but I'm just giving you kind of a over flyover. Well, I really didn't want to get into that.
I wanted to kind of introduce you to the listeners with a different perspective. Look at I've had guys on that came in and said anyone associated with Christian nationalism is a
Nazi and I've had Sam Storms coming on defending, you know Bethel and so this isn't a gotcha podcast.
I'm truly interested in this. So what would and we won't go too much longer here. But what so for someone listening who might know these terms what they would go.
Well, there's there's Calvinist and there's Arminians. I mean, what is this third thing that he's introducing?
How are you different? We know how you're different maybe from the Calvinistic view. How would you be different from in a purely
Arminian view? And that's hard because just like Calvinism is not monolithic as we well -learned when we had our coffee and all the different foods around the table you
Calvinist and if you ever want to get off the hot seat just insert dispensationalism or eschatology.
That's a good trick that you did at the coffee. Yeah, you can get off the hot seat real quick. We're stuck on that for 50 minutes. But what
I'm saying is Arminianism is not monolithic either. There are different kinds of Arminians, Wesleyan Arminians, classical
Arminians, modern day Arminians, all different perspectives. But generally the
Augustinian grid is the grid that adopted the concept and idea of original sin also including original guilt and inability.
Okay. Meaning that we inherit the guilt of Adam and because of that we're also unable to respond positively to the gospel appeal or to the light of the goodness of God's revelation.
We don't stay on that Augustinian grid. We believe that was introduced by Augustine and we don't believe that that's the proper grid.
Now we're accused of Pelagianism and all kinds of stuff which we discuss on our broadcast because of some of those views and we defend why we don't land there and various reasons.
But basically what we're saying is we're not born guilty for what Adam did. That doesn't mean there's not results of the fall.
We're cast out of the garden. We're separated due to our rebellion. We're in a corrupt environment with corrupt desires, but we're still able to respond, responsible.
We're able to respond to the light and revelation calling us to repentance from that fallen condition.
And we're not guilty for what Adam did. We're guilty for what we do. We're held accountable for how we deal with the words of God as John 12 talks about that he didn't come to judge the world, but what will judge you on the final day are the very words that I've spoken to you.
And so we're going to be judged and held accountable not by how many sins we commit or what Adam did. We're going to be held accountable for what we do with the words of Christ.
And so that's the ultimate kind of overview of our view. We don't have an Augustinian grid so we don't have to deal with original guilt causing inability by inserting this thing called prevenient grace into the mix going.
Okay that fixed our inability. And so I don't have to have that what what might be called an inherited an inherited guilt.
Okay, so that would be a difference between our perspective if that makes sense. So as we finish up here, who do you see your core audience?
Are they rehabilitated Calvinists? Are they Arminians wondering on the spectrum? Are they you know, because I feel like is there anyone who's non
Calvinistic even coming to you and going? Oh, I think I feel like they would mostly agree with everything that you're saying.
So who do you see your demographic as that in on this sociology 101 channel?
There's a lot of ex -Calvinists. Okay, and there's a lot of people traditional Southern Baptists that don't like what
Calvinism is done in their churches. Okay, you know the rise of Calvinism among Southern Baptists has been, you know, a big controversy.
So some of them are looking for answers and a lot of them don't know what to do with Romans 9 for example, or they get some very good teacher like like we heard from Kevin and they come into the church and begin to teach this and they sound real convincing, but they're not
Calvinist themselves. And so they don't know how to deal with it. So they come to the program and you get some, you know, get you get all types. Obviously when you're on a broadcast, you're going to get some we've got a lot of regular
Calvinist listeners that just like to be challenged. They like to contend with us and they'll contend in the side chat and they'll banter with us.
There's some Armenians who agree with us on a lot of points, but maybe differ with us on a point or two. So we have of all kinds that join the podcast and I get messages all the time from people who are convinced and have left
Calvinism because of what we said and then others that think that my theology is heresy and that I'm going to hell.
So I mean, I get all types. All right. Okay, let's let's put bookends on this. Dr. Leighton Flowers.
Thank you so much for being here. Throw out to everyone where they can find you, see you, follow you, all that good stuff.
And if you're a listener and you go to that stuff, make sure you be nice, even if you disagree with them. So trueology101 .com,
if you just typed in my name, Leighton Flowers, it'll all come up. Yeah, it'll link all of a sudden. And you can also learn about my ministry with Texas Baptist as well, if you do that.
So there you go. All right. Thank you so much for being here and taking time. Guys, thanks so much for listening to another episode of Deadman Walking Podcast.
DMWpodcast .com is where you can find us. And remember, the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. God bless.
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