Sunday, June 17, 2012

What some important SBCers say about Calvinism

In their own words:

Frank Page, President and CEO of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention; October 18, 2011:
I think one of the issues which is a tremendous challenge for us is the theological divide of Calvinism and non-Calvinism.  Everyone is aware of this, but few want to talk about this in public.  The reason is obvious.  It is deeply divisive in many situations and is disconcerting in others.  At some point we are going to see the challenges which are ensuing from this divide become even more problematic for us.  I regularly receive communications from churches who are struggling over this issue.
Jerry Vines, former SBC president, June 11, 2012:
To deny the strong influence of New Calvinism at Southern or Southeastern is to try to hide the Elephant. I sent a number of young people to both seminaries. Some, not all, returned with unkind, critical attitudes toward their childhood pastor. I am not the only pastor who has experienced this. Even some pastors’ biological sons have caused them personal sorrow because of their conversion to New Calvinism. Perhaps some would have turned out that way regardless. But there is too much of this kind of thing going on to overlook it.
 Ed Stetzer, LifeWay Research, June 14, 2012
If we truly believe the Baptist Faith and Message is our doctrinal standard, then we cannot say that Calvinism, within a Baptist theological system, is itself a problem. Baptist Calvinism fits within our confession; therefore it is reasonable that some in our convention of churches hold to both the Baptist Faith and Message and to a Calvinistic interpretation of Scripture. We can (and should) cooperate in pursuit of the Great Commission. But we also can (and should) differentiate those who are within our confession and passion about cooperation, and those who have let Calvinism define their ministry and culture—an often elitist and agenda-driven Calvinism that is not fitting well in our convention.
Al Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, June 6, 2012:

...the last thing Southern Baptists need, now or ever, is the development of theological tribalism among us. We must all repent of the sin of building a tribe when we are called to serve the Kingdom of Christ. The more Calvinistic Southern Baptists, and here I include myself, are deeply theological and passionately concerned to get the Gospel right. The Calvinists I know are transforming their beliefs into an absolute renaissance of missionary commissionings and Gospel church planting. At times, however, Calvinists can be tribal and elitist, more concerned with counting points of doctrine and less concerned with pointing us all to the mission of the Gospel. Such a tribalism is inconsistent with the very beliefs we cherish. This goes to show that we, too, can be inconsistent in faith and practice. Of such tribalism we must all repent.

Bill Harrell, former chairman of trustees, Executive Committee of the SBC, October 26, 2006:

“...we must deal with Calvinism. I have solid Christian friends, some of them pastors who are Calvinists, but I think they are wrong about the tenets of five point Calvinism. In my opinion too much of the New Testament must be ignored or radically interpreted to embrace the five points of Calvinism.”
Harrell further explained, “I think the problem of Calvinism in the SBC could be solved if we establish one ground rule. If a man wants to start a Calvinistic church, let him have at it. If a man wants to answer a call to a Calvinistic church he should have the freedom to do that, but that man should not answer a call to a church that is not Calvinistic, neglect to tell them his leanings, and then surreptitiously lead them to become a Calvinistic church. That is not to suggest that all of our Calvinistic friends do that, but when it is done it is divisive and hurtful.

Gerald Harris, editor of The Christian Index, February 12, 2012:
There is a growing perception that Southern Seminary has become a seedbed for a brand of Calvinism that is quite different from the Reformed theology of its founder, James Petigru Boyce, and also a training ground for Reformed church planters. Therefore, it appears that some of our institutions and agencies are giving, at the least, tacit approval to Reformed theology or are, at the most, actively on a path to honor, if not implement Reformed theology and methodology in their institutions.
While most of the Reformed pastors and churchmen I know are gracious and godly people with a profound devotion to the Word of God, Southern Baptists must decide if they are satisfied with what I would call the presumable encroachment of Calvinism in SBC life.

Eric Hankins, preamble to the Calvinist/Traditionalist Statement, May 30,2012:
For the most part, Southern Baptists have been glad to relegate disagreements over Calvinism to secondary status along with other important but “non-essential” theological matters. The Southern Baptist majority has fellowshipped happily with its Calvinist brethren while kindly resisting Calvinism itself. And, to their credit, most Southern Baptist Calvinists have not demanded the adoption of their view as the standard. We would be fine if this consensus continued, but some New Calvinists seem to be pushing for a radical alteration of this long-standing arrangement.

 Frank Page, May 31, 2012:
"Given the depth of the fracture lines around the issue of soteriology across the Convention," Page said, "I sense a need to assemble a representative group of Southern Baptists who can hammer out such a consensus 'accord' that will enable the majority of Southern Baptists to work together for the Kingdom purposes which initially bound us together, an initiative I plan to announce at this year's annual meeting."
I am hopeful that Page's initiative can avoid a protracted, bloody denominational conflict.


Charles Page said...

A couple of times I have stood outside the SBC Executive offices in Nashville carrying a sign that called for repentance of semi-Pelagianism, Frank Page saw me and also drove past me without saying a word. Does he know what semi-Pelagianism is? A couple of his subordinate office workers came out to talk and offered me a starbucks coffee.

Anonymous said...

Doctrine matters (Romans 16:17, 18; I Timothy 1:3). Splitting from those with contrary doctrines is a very good thing.

Steve Martin said...

I really admire those in your denomination who will speak out in defense of the gospel and God's right to be God.

Calvinists get a lot right...and a lot wrong.

That God has to make us alive when we are dead in our sins and trespasses is one area that they have right.

It'd take too much time to go into all the areas where they get it wrong.

Jonathan said...

Back in the 80s, I remember hearing from the moderates (primarily those who wanted to avoid the CR) that the "fundys" who wanted a "hostile takeover" of the SBC were going to forever damage both the unity and mission of the SBC.

During the same era, I often heard that the CR was largely a "preachers' fight" and that laypeople were just not going to be interested or engaged in the struggle.

While objective data analysis does not support the claim that the CR was responsible for a decline in SBC numbers (the SBC's high water mark in terms of percentage reach of population took place decades prior to the beginning of the CR), it is true that the CR was very disruptive to the institutions of the SBC. Conservative leaders (including at least a few of those William quotes) would (and did) argue that the theological questions at stake were more than worth the pain of disruption.

Here we are, more than 2 decades after the last major battle in the CR, and some of the same voices who said that disruption was necessary during the CR are warning against disruption by fellow conservatives who have a different reading of how the Scriptures describe the mechanics of salvation.

The difference is that rather than seeking a hostile takeover, "the Calvinists" have only argued that history shows that they have a place at the same table as non-Calvinist SBCers.

Another difference: the data does not support the assertions and alarms offered by the non(anti?)calvinists. The SBC is in decline by nearly every meaningful metric (and barely holding on in each of the others). The leadership of most of the SBC institutionally are working to maintain their hold on power rather than seeking to make our denomination more lean and flexible and able to more rapidly and efficiently meet a very rapidly changing world. While this decline has occured, how many churches have been damaged by Calvinists? Surely this number is so massive (and increasing) that we must confront this head on, right? Surely this issue is so grave that we must redirect our focus away from the increasingly dangerous global mission and toward this intrusion of a dangerous theology, right?

Empires decline and ultimately fall into ruin due to a loss of mission focus and leadership mediocrity.

Anonymous said...

One of the greatest and most loving pastors of all time, Adrian Rogers, a Southern Baptist pastor, of Bellevue Baptist Church for many years and one of the presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention absolutely believed in the sovereignty of God and the free will that God also gave man. This is a must read for any Christian. He nails the truth on the wall.

This was never a big problem. Southern Baptists always believed in the security of the true believer, election, predestination, foreknowledge and calling which are all Biblical, and in alignment with most if not all of what the real John Calvin taught, which you can see here:

However, this new Calvinism that they are saying is old, but isn't, parts company in a few important areas. One is the Biblical definition of those aforementioned words understood in all their contexts (that Adrian Rogers fully clears) and the teaching that Jesus does not love the whole world (which causes a distance from and lack of love for others, which hurts the gospel).

Also going along with the limited atonement is they believe also that God's call is something you can't do anything about and that a dead or unregenerate person can't hear anything, which he also shows from Scripture in this wonderful lesson, isn't true. Please read this and you can at least show the truth to anybody.