I'm a hacker and a plodder so maybe I don't have this straight. If not, perhaps one of the dozen or so folks who read my witty and insightful blog will enlighten me.
Calvinism in the SBC is recognized as somewhat of a problem.
I have anecdotes personal to me of aggressive, insistent Calvinists coming into churches and implementing, rather bulldogishly and clumsily, a plan to personally correct a century or more of 'heresy.' I have no doubt that this strain of my reformed colleagues is a decided minority.
Some churches have defunded two of our seminaries on the basis of their excessive Calvinistic leanings.
Some Southern Baptists in leadership positions have written contra-Calvinistic books.
Some Southern Baptists advise churches to eschew declared Calvinists, especially graduates of the two seminaries.
Some state convention presidents take gratuitous shots at the Calvinists.
In response, some SBCers, some prominent, some not, put out a document claiming the high ground of traditional Baptist beliefs on soteriology.
The document is aimed at "agressive" Calvinists in the SBC and makes concise affirmations and denials about soteriology.
Al Mohler is the SBC's most prominent theologian and also our denomination's most visible and prominent Calvinist. He writes a rather irenic blog article in which he agrees that it is time to talk.
He also reacts to the traditionalist's theological statement thusly:
Some portions of the statement actually go beyond Arminianism and appear to affirm semi-Pelagian understandings of sin, human nature, and the human will — understandings that virtually all Southern Baptists have denied.
Note the term "appear". Note the lack of the term "heresy".
In response, Eric Hankins, the individual most prominently mentioned as authoring the contra-calvinist document (and a candidate for one of the SBC vice president slots this month), reacts in a disappointingly combative blog with what in my view looks like excessive indignance, perfectly common for bloggers but not terribly useful here.
If Dr. Mohler intends for his words to engender an irenic but honest debate of these issues, opening with a charge of apparent heresy and chiding its signers for being too ignorant to know it is a strange way to begin. It is important for him to understand that, though he would certainly reject this characterization, he is often considered a principal force behind the very tribalism he is seeking to disavow. Charging us with being heterodox and obtuse doesn’t help. We will hope for his better instincts to prevail as our conversation continues.Note the word "heresy". Note the word "obtuse".
Mohler might consider allowing for imperfection in what looks like a hastily formulated theological document. Hankins might consider that it is not helpful to claim victimhood just yet on this.
If necessary, we can have this conversation without Hankins. We cannot have it without the SBC's primo Calvinist, Mohler.
Jerry Vines has the far better approach. He states only a "general" agreement with the document.
Age, gray hair, and wisdom anyone?
I'm thinking that we need people involved who have the temperament to actually have a conversation. I get the feeling that Vines and Mohler know how to talk to each other.
Frank Page, author of a contra-Calvinist book rather than a short blog, has said that he will offer an initiative in New Orleans on this whole sordid matter.
He has lots of gray hair and a healthy modicum of wisdom. I have confidence that he is savvy enough to do better than has been done so far.
Would someone please push the reset button on this whole thing.