Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Two reasons I question the Traditional Statement and attendant counter-Calvinistic reactionary movement

A niche in Southern Baptist life is now comfortably occupied by Connect 316, a group with a modest public following who seem to unite mainly as a counter-reactionary movement to the revival of Calvinism, New Calvinism, in the SBC.

The group acquired a popular website, the peripatetic SBC Today that has wandered through a number of different owners and controllers. I find some of the articles and some of the authors on SBCToday informative and helpful.

The outfit has a well-attended meeting, some 200 or so, at the SBC annual meeting, and now gives an award named for a leading SBC figure. The first "Jerry Vines Award for the Promotion of the Whosoever Will Doctrine in Southern Baptist Life" was awarded to...Jerry Vines. Nothing wrong with that other than the rather long and unwieldy name. Must be a large award to squeeze that mouthful in.

Perhaps the Calvinists will take a cue and award a "Johannes Calvinus Award for 'You're-going to Hell-and-there's-not-a-doggone-thing-you-can-do-about-it." Maybe not.

I more closely identify with the theology of the 316 folks and like many of their goals, though I haven't signed and do not intend to affix my cyber-signature to the Traditional Statement, as have about 1,000 others.

I have interacted for years with Rick Patrick who is the Executive Director of the 316 group. I have a lot of respect for him.

All that said, I have a couple of reasons to question the group and the Statement. One is serious. One is quirky. In reverse order...

1. I dislike the group's hijacking of Adrian Roger's a a foil to popularity and acceptance.

Here's how the Connect 316's website puts it:
Connect 316 is a ministry fellowship rooted in the Hobbs-Rogers theological tradition. 
Elsewhere, and incessantly by some 316 leadership, one finds "Hobbesian-Rogerian" as a descriptor or identifier of a theological strain in SBC life.

Adrian Rogers was in my view head and shoulders above all leaders of the Conservative Resurgence. No one else came close. The CR would have failed without him. He has been dead almost a decade. I'm not sure if he would approve of his name being used so casually by those who would define sub-groups in SBC life.

Maybe the 316 folks have approval from his family. I don't know. Perhaps they feel that Rogers being a leader on the Baptist Faith and Message Statement revision and adoption of 2000 is sufficient historical connection to use his name.

Maybe it just looks to me like the 316 folks are capitalizing on the name recognition and Roger's popularity to promote their orgainzation in SBC life.

2. I dislike the idea that SBC leaders and trustees may be chosen on the basis of whether or not they have signed, not the Baptist Faith and Message but the Traditional Statement.

I would object, for example, a state convention is in a mode where a new Executive Director is to be hired and the search committee and trustees agree among themselves that unless a man has signed the Traditional Statement, he will not be considered for the job. I would have the same objection for other theological sub-groups in Southern Baptist life. I am unaware of any sub-group other than the 316 group that has a formal, approved theological statement to be signed.

I can visualize this happening, not in public where we can all see it but in private among the controlling oligarchy of a certain state or among a sub-group of influential trustees of a given SBC or state entity.

If the BFM is insufficient, then state conventions, associations, and entity trustee boards that have formally adopted it as their doctrinal statement ought to adopt one they like. If they like the Traditional Statement or one of the historic confessions, then publicly say so. Don't do in secret what ought to be the most public thing we do: say what we believe.

A healthy, public exchange among us is a good thing. I like the 316 group for that. I am comfortable with differing opinions on various secondary theological issues in SBC life. We've always had them. I recognize that there is always tension among us over who's people get the top jobs and who wields power and influence at a given time. That's the SBC today and every other day.

I don't like the idea of a bright line that divides us. Connect 316 is looking more and more like a bright line group.

Whether or not that or similar groups endure or shrivel up and disappear, I doubt I will live long enough to see.

A traditionalist friend said to me last year that he thought I was on board against the strain of Calvinism that is rife in the SBC these days. Well, I am on board against rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth Calvinists that blow up churches, act more Presbyterian than Baptist, and that live as if certain Calvinistic writers are more inspired than Scripture. Other Calvinists, the most of them, I like.

It may be that a formal organization like the 316 group is a necessary route to achieving a modicum of balance and unity in the SBC. I don't see that it is necessary at this stage, maybe never. If we start to see people proposed for office and/or leadership positions in the SBC on the basis of their signing the Traditional Statement, and I already see some of this, then I think our declining denomination is in for some additional grief.


dr. james willingham said...

Very good, William, very good. I think you achieved what the original Sovereign Grace Southern Baptists intended, when they drew up the statement which resulted in their name change to United Baptists. Interestingly enough, the chairman of the committee was, if memory serves correctly, Ambrose Dudley (I write this without my books before me). Our problem is that we want folks to conform to every bit of our theology, not allowing them the freedom to think the matter through, reflecting on the evidence nor allowing ourselves the freedom to change our minds, when a different perspective puts the original theology in a vastly different light. The original doctrine is that of persuasion by the facts of the case, and that is why the early Baptists like Roger Williams and Dr. John Clarke put religious liberty into precept and practice, following the view that had been set forth by the General Baptists. Dr. George W. Truett in his address at the Spurgeon Centennial in 1934 stated that Calvinism (his term) presses down on the brow of man the crown of responsibility, an interesting, if paradoxical, observation. In any case, I commend you even though your inclinations are to the other side, but your observations show your ability to think. Some folks, even in the Sovereign Grace camp are just as blind as their numbers in the opposite camp.

Christiane said...

Posted at SBCvoices:

after reading all the comments, I think that the title of 'pastor' as 'job' needs reconsideration:

the office of a God-called 'pastor' more rightly needs to be seen as a gift of personal service to God and to those within the pastoral care of the minister . . . it is a sacrificial giving of self, in imitation of the Good Shepherd who set the model for all pastoral care . . .
anything less in intent may lead to unsatisfaction, to depression, and to despair when the hard times come . . .

but for those who understand what it is they have undertaken, politics and manipulation and controlling behavior and wrangling don't exist within their lives: they have entered freely into the Kingdom of God on another plane and they are offering their service in an effort to bring others into that Kingdom and into its peace . . .

does it cost them? yes
does it impact their wives and children? yes, if they are married

there is an unselfishness and meekness among those who pastor a Christian flock and in that humility lies the strength that a manipulative, controlling 'pastor' could never have, because that humility brings God's grace on to the pastor and his work . . . it is that grace that the Church so values for its people because that is the grace that draws men to Christ