Nathan Finn to the Non-Calvinists in the SBC

On the heels of Alvin Reid’s open letter to the Calvinists in the SBC, Nathan Finn has also written an open letter to the non-Calvinists in the SBC.  Nathan is a good friend with a great mind who, in my humble estimation, will continue to have a great influence in the SBC through his scholarship as well as statesmanship.

After giving a brief biographical overview of his pilgrimage as a Southern Baptist, Nathan offers three suggestions to his non-Calvinist friends in the SBC.  They are:

1.  Articulate the gospel unambiguously in your preaching and evangelism.

Many of you have an obvious burden for seeing the lost come to faith in Christ, which I truly appreciate. But sometimes when I hear some non-Calvinists trying to evangelize, they confuse slogans or shibboleths with the gospel. The gospel is not “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” or “Jesus can straighted out your messed-up life.” This is just lingo. The gospel is also not “pray this prayer” or “ask Jesus into your heart.” These are possible ways that you can encourage sinners to respond to the gospel, but only after explaining both the good news and the nature of the response.

2. Never give the impression that the decision to become a Christian is a mere decision.

Sometimes I hear non-Calvinists imply that “all you have to do” if you want to be a Christian is believe in Christ. This makes it sound like faith is a simple free will decision that can be made apart from the gracious work of the Holy Spirit. I know the vast majority of my non-Calvinist friends don’t really believe that. Even if you disagree with my Calvinism, I know most of you believe just as strongly as I do that the Holy Spirit is at work in the lives of sinners to draw them to faith in Christ.

3. Be careful not to turn your strategies into sacraments.

I have in mind here two popular practices: altar calls and “sinner’s prayers.” . . . I am not so much concerned with either of these strategies as I am the way they are sometimes applied. More than one observer has argued that altar calls are to many Southern Baptists what sacraments are to Roman Catholics: we are not sure folks can really be saved without them!

I think Nathan has addressed three important topics, the first one being most important.  I understand that there is a third post following these two that will be a sort of synthesis or consensus which I look forward to reading.  Instead of personally responding here, I think I will post them later in another blogpost. In any case, big thanks to Nathan and Dr. Reid for their constructive and fair-minded open letters. May this kind of dialogue build a greater love and appreciation for those whom we may disagree in the spirit of unity we find in the company of the Redeemed.

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6 Comments on “Nathan Finn to the Non-Calvinists in the SBC”

  1. Jerry Says:

    Another great letter.

    I guess that those who were looking for a “cage fight” between Reid and Finn are going to be disappointed.

  2. ChrisB Says:

    Can’t argue with #1 at all. The things people do sometimes drives me nuts.

    #2, though …. The Spirit will do what He does, but do we really need to go into the nitty gritty details in every “altar call?”

    #3, I understand what he’s saying, but I’m not sure he understands the other side quite properly. It’s not that they think these things are magic (well, some, but …) but some think that a person will not be saved until they make a conscious decision and so they should be encouraged to do so.

    Others think these things can happen gradually and that people can look up one day and realize they’ve been believing for a while, so they’re less inclined to push people to “decide now.” Then there’s the Calvinism.

  3. Are you going to compare and contrast the two letters? Or can I do that?

  4. Jeremy,

    Sure, you can do that. 🙂 I hope to post my thoughts as well sometime soon.

  5. Okie dokie.

    BTW, the latest post at BtT by J.D. Greear inspired worship in me. I would recommend his post to both Calvitists and non-Calvitists.

  6. […] Brister recently summarized the letters for us here and here, and there is a lot of good discussion on Dr. Reid’s letter at his blog.  I would encourage […]

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