Thursday, June 20, 2013

What can be done and what cannot be done on the Calvinist/Traditionalist issue

Most Southern Baptists are pleased with the outbreak of harmony, unity, and comity between convention Calvinists and Traditionalists. Only those brethren who in a screwball sort of way, think that a lack of conflict somehow signals a lack of denominational health are displeased with the Calvinist/Traditionalist convention actions and post-convention results.

I'm pleased.  I like peace and harmony.

I'm optimistic. I like for the brethren and sistren to get along and join together in pooling our considerable resources in the important tasks of reaching North America and the word for Christ.

But I'm also realistic. There are those among us who make up both tails of the SBC C/T Bell Curve. These would be the militant Calvinists who believe that anything less than the fully formed five points is not just wrong but heretical and who seek to correct such heresy in churches or anywhere else it is found. These would also be the hard-nosed and hard headed Traditionalists who think that we are in a death struggle against Calvinists in our churches and entities and that Traditionalists need to fight and win every battle. 

What can be done:

1. SBC entity leaders like Frank Page, Al Mohler, Danny Akin, Paige Patterson et al as well as leaders who are not SBC employees like Tom Ascol and Eric Hankins need to maintain a cooperative, irenic posture toward each other and also to be conscious of the reality that Southern Baptists will be watching very closely both their words and actions. After all, we are on the same side.

2.  Calvinistic entity heads should watch their employment structure. It is not helpful to give the perception that we are dividing up the seminaries into those that are Calvinistic and those that are Traditionalistic. I offer Danny Akin's recent words that Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary will be a Calvinist seminary "over [his] dead body" and his invitation for any who think it is to come to the campus, at SEBTS' expense, and see for themselves.

3. Those who have influence, especially among the Calvinists at the seminaries, should publicly and frequently be heard counseling the young Calvinistic theologs to be open and transparent in their conversations with churches where they are potential staff candidates.

What cannot be done:

1. The extremists will not be silenced, especially on the blogs, but they can be isolated and ignored.

2. Some churches have, and will likely continue, to negatively designate their Cooperative Program giving in order to defund some entities, namely Southern and Southeaster seminaries. While there is nothing new about designating giving and while it is a legitimate option for any local church, sensible voices can respond that this is neither helpful nor necessary.

3. We will not be able to prevent future candidates for SBC offices and entity CEO positions from being seen, and judged by some, as Calvinist or Traditionalist.

I still like some things about Calvinists and think that in various ways they are helpful in the SBC and I am still wary about some things concerning Calvinists, but I am more optimistic about the future than I have been.

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