Monday, June 4, 2012

The SBC Counter-Reformation

Fred Luter will be the next president of the Southern Baptist Convention and the convention's first black president, a highly notable event. Unfortunately, this isn't looking like the biggest story of the 2012 Annual Meeting...

...and, after some degree of study, rancor, reaction, approval and disgust, the SBC will adopt a non-new name, a "descriptor," in New Orleans this month. This isn't looking like the biggest story of the 2012 Annual Meeting.

It is looking like John Calvin, not elected to anything in the SBC, will be the biggest story out of New Orleans. Or rather, the reaction to what is perceived to be John Calvin's excessive influence in the Southern Baptist Convention is looking like the biggest story.

 I recall a decade or so ago seeing Tom Ascol all over the discussion boards, later the blogs, promoting the Calvinists in SBC history and vigorously defending the theology and the historical contributions of SBC Calvinists. He no longer does this and hasn't in some time. Why should he? Calvinism and Calvinists are doing reasonably well in the SBC for a minority group.

So, is it a measure of having arrived when important SBCers define an SBC sub-group, Calvinists, as non-traditional in their view of soteriology and gather important people in the SBC to affix their names to a document that was produced to counter this form of "aggressive" Calvinism in the SBC?

Guess so.

Is it a measure of having not only arrived but to have exceeded the bounds of influence informally allotted to theological sub-groups in the SBC if the SBC's Chief-Executive-Officer, Frank Page, indicates that he feels it necessary "to assemble a representative group of Southern Baptists" to work on a "consensus 'accord'" to head off further fracturing over Calvinism?

Looks like it. 

Frank Page will propose such a representative group in New Orleans this month at the Annual Meeting and this will be the biggest story out of New Orleans.

So, now our Calvinist SBC colleagues will be the center of attention for yet another Blue Ribbon SBC committee. It was bound to happen sooner or later.
This is indeed the SBC Counter-Reformation, formerly nestled among certain bloggers (yours truly has a modest offering of a few articles on Calvinism) but now about to be the focus of their very own SBC examination committee. This is as mainstream as it gets in SBC life.

I'm just not sure where this should go or what should or can be done. 

Do we ghettoize Calvinists at Southern and Southeastern seminaries? 

Do we require Calvinist clergy to wear some scarlet letter or do we set up a Calvinist registry website churches can check?
I have mixed feelings about it all. 

I like some things about Calvinists. I am wary about some Calvinists but I admit to no strongly negative feelings about any of the Calvinist SBCers that I personally know. 

Oh, and speaking of our Annual Meeting - Eric Hankins, whose released the statement by the "traditionalists" is to be nominated for one of the VP positions at the Annual Meeting? 

Quick! When was the last time the election of a second VP was a news item?

It's not looking like I will swelter in New Orleans with the rest of my SBC colleagues but were I to be there, I would apologize to Fred Luter for this stuff overshadowing his election as SBC president. 


Blake said...

It's all a waste of time. Calvinism vs. non-Calvinism is just two different visions of a status quo. I wish we'd have a radical reformation of piety and discipleship.

Anonymous said...


What I find interesting is the few Calvinist I know and love who have been uprooted from the church God called them to has little to do with the Calvinist leanings and mindset they hold. The ones I am familiar with who were ousted or stayed to fight and were left with little are ones who were soul winners and theological conservatives.

Calvinism is a buzz word many in the pew, I fear, have no clue about. I have a man in my church who is adamant that Calvinist are not interested in witnessing. Even when I share with him my Calvinist leanings, he says I am the one who doesn't know Calvinism. Who knows, maybe he is right but I have no problem being labeled a Calvinist and I have no problem sharing Jesus, as I go.

The SBC loves to use words people don't fully understand to cause fear for the furtherance of their cause. As an inerrantist, I see how this word was used in like manner.

Here we go again, infighting when a world is dying and going to hell. I'll skip this fight and keep knocking doors.

Jon Estes