Posted tagged ‘Anti-Calvinism’

Reflections on My First SBC Annual Meeting: 10 Lowlights

June 30, 2009

At the SBC 2009 in Louisville, there were far more highlights than there were lowlights, as seen in my previous post.  However, there were some significant moments and observations I came away with from my first SBC Annual Meeting that were rather discouraging.  Here are some that I jotted down:

1.  Morris Chapman

What Morris Chapman did as a part of the Executive Committee report should be enough to bring about his resignation.  It was that bad.  Seriously.  Whether he claims ignorance or spoke with such ill-informed knowledge, the level of incompetence and grandstanding for political agendas as the most influential bureaucrat in the SBC is appalling. There is too much power and pulpit for one man among a convention of autonomous, local churches to continually say such things without accountability to the convention he is positioned as the Executive Committee CEO.

2.  Motions & Moralism

It has been pointed out already by several that motions can be made by any credentialed messenger at the SBC and that the motions do not necessarily represent the common voice of the SBC populace.  While that is true, I do believe the motions reveal a lot about the ongoing need for the recovery of the gospel in the SBC.  The Pastor’s Conference centered a great deal on gospel unity, passion for mission, and a commitment to seeing renewal in our local churches.  The motions, however, focused on education, boycotts, homosexuals, drinking, cussing, flags, etc., all of which leads me to the next lowlight.

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Casualties of Anti-Calvinism

December 8, 2008

Three years ago, I began writing about the anonymous attacks of a website called “BaptistFire.”  They were a website operating in the dark that advertised churches which either experienced conflict as a result of Calvinism or had fired their pastor as a result of it (assuming to warn other pastors of what might happen to them if they attempt to pastor SBC churches). Furthermore, I began receiving reports from friends in the trenches who said that state convention employees were directing church committees to this website to see how other churches dealt with Calvinism.

After hearing word that five pastors with Calvinist convictions were fired for no other reason than holding to the doctrines of grace, I began talking with a few other friends who were also addressing BaptistFire and websites like them who were fueling the anti-Calvinist agenda.  On May 1, 2006 we launched the website Strange BaptistFire with the expressed purpose of addressing all the content on BaptistFire and providing a Reformed response to the attacks that continued to escalate.  No less than 11 days after the website was launched, BaptistFire packed up their bags and left the internet, knowing they were about to be exposed.

Since then, the anti-Calvinism in the SBC, although decentralized, has not ceased but intensified.  We have seen everyone from the likes of Bill Harrell, chairman of the Executive Committee, say that dealing with Calvinism is a top priority.  Ergun Caner is unabashed in his declaration that Calvinists are “worse than Muslims.”  I could go on and on (not to mention the recent offerings of Steve Lemke and David Allen).

The decentralized anti-Calvinism, however, has reconvened as a new centralized movement under the leadership and direction of Jerry Vines and the John 3:16 Conference.  While the advocates of the John 3:16 Conference bemoan the label of “anti-Calvinism,” it is nonetheless warranted and accurate.

This morning, as I began to prepare for the day, I came across this comment which was submitted on my John 3:16 Compilation:

I’m a pastor’s wife in a small southern county. We’ve already seen one pastor fired and one in the process of being fired for Calvinism. In both cases, the lay people doing the firing referenced the John 3:16 conference as a motivation/source of information. It’s the saddest thing.

Indeed, this is the saddest thing, and a thing which, if BaptistFire was still around, would be celebrated as front page news on the anti-Calvinist front.  What’s even more tragic is that these pastors will not be the only ones whose ministry and calling are affected by this conference, and don’t expect to find Baptist Press to be reporting on these realities either.

Friends, this is why I confront the anti-Calvinism in the SBC.  I don’t care about debating Calvinism per say.  I don’t care to “Calvinize” the SBC.  What I do care about are the men of the cloth called by God and appointed to preach who are being forced out of their churches for the crime of being a Calvinist.  Imagine what this does to their families.  This is not a game.  It’s about biblically faithful, confessionally Baptist, theologically conservative God-honoring preachers getting put out on the streets because of an anti-Calvinist agenda.

Southern Baptists cannot and should not tolerate this happening in our own camp.  The non-Calvinist will tell us that we are dealing with “rubber dummies.”  Would they tell be willing to tell that to these pastors and their families?  They, like so many others, will bear the scars of the waging “Baptist battle” being fought by the anti-Calvinists.  Once these hill-takers are off the battle lines in a few years, they will have left a devastating impact on the already dying churches and declining denominational interest among the younger generation. One could argue that since the anti-Calvinists without succession, they are going to fight against any Southern Baptist progression.  Ironically, it’s those who are decrying a “militant, extreme, aggressive, disruptive” Calvinism who are acting most militant, aggressive, and disruptive.

I cannot help but wonder how many more casualties of anti-Calvinism will need to occur before Southern Baptists leaders will speak up and denounce this counter-productive agenda for the sake of the churches.  If not, perhaps the future of the SBC will indeed be one full of grinches, ghosts, and goblins.

Let’s hope and pray that is not the case.

Hyper-Calvinism, Anti-Calvinism, and Founders Ministries

December 5, 2008

Update 12.05.08 :: 11:30 p.m. Having been away most of the day with family outing and then church planting meeting, I have not been able to follow the comments of this post. Upon reading them, I have become discouraged by the direction of the commentary and chose to dump all existing comments, including my own, into the moderation pool.  I will follow up with my thoughts soon, Lord willing.

Whenever controversy arises in the SBC, it is always helpful to understand the agenda on both sides.  Regarding the current controversy over Calvinism, it is important to note that the agenda has often changed.  Earlier in the debate, the goal was to (1) discredit and debunk the doctrines of Calvinism (take William Estep’s 1997 article Doctrines Lead to Dunghill for example). The most devastating blow to Calvinism would be, of course, to show that it is unbiblical.  However, non-Calvinists have not dealt with the biblical texts, and as the John 3:16 Conference reveals, very little exegesis was offered for their rejection of the doctrines of grace.

When it became apparent that Calvinism could not be stopped by proving the doctrines were unbiblical, the next step (2) was to argue from pragmatism.  Calvinism, they say, is contrary to the Great Commission and would result in less baptisms and fewer people being saved.  LifeWay Research last year proved that this claim to be false much to the behest of Steve Lemke and some SWBTS professors.  Ed Stetzer has just posted a response to those challenging and questioning the research methods and approach regarding the Calvinism study by LifeWay/NAMB Research.

Furthermore, when pragmatism couldn’t snuff it out, the next thing on the agenda (3) was to police Calvinism.  In other words, if you can’t beat it, try to control it and marginalize it.  This was seen in the denominational talking point of the pastor search committee and Calvinists putting all their cards on the table.  Calvinists who are (and should be) up front with Calvinism have to plow through the caricatures and misunderstandings that have been perpetuated over the years.  With transparency and integrity as guiding principles, they are told that they should not be wearing Calvinism on their sleeve, that their willing admission therefore constitutes one who is “aggressive and militant.”  On the other hand, Calvinists who are perhaps “softer” and less outspoken about their soteriology simply preach the Bible and love the people, but should it be known at a later time they are Calvnists, they are deemed “deceptive, dishonest, and disruptive to our churches.”  In some state conventions (Florida, Texas, and Missouri to be specific), non-Calvinist literature was purchased and sent to every pastor in their states in an attempt to sway ministers against Calvinism.  Denominational platforms from convention speeches to Baptist state papers to academic “white papers”, the policing effort was rather comprehensive.

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Tom Ascol Responds to the Anti-Calvinism in the SBC

November 26, 2008

Last week, I directed you to read the words of Voddie Baucham on the anti-Calvinism in the SBC. This week I want to turn your attention to the response of Tom Ascol who addresses three recent happenings: Steve Lemke’s article in NOBTS journal (which I have addressed), David Allen’s 34-page review of Building Bridges book, and the John 3:16 Conference. Ascol has not, to this point, responded to the escalating rhetoric and tactics of the anti-Calvinist movement in the SBC, predominantly located within SWBTS, NOBTS, and Jerry Vines and Co.  Some of the notable points by Ascol include:

1.  The “study” which Lemke again quotes to argue that Founders-friendly churches was not only methodologically flawed, but, should the same standard applied to the churches Lemke himself pastored, they would be in worse shape than the Founders churches.  The same goes for David Allen.  Perhaps a “study” should be done on the churches pastored by “seminary administrators.”

2.  Allen criticizes Building Bridges for partnering with Founders Ministries because it was a non SBC entity, while, within weeks after publishing this article, partners (and participates) with a conference that is a non SBC entity (Jerry Vines Ministries).  The ability of Allen to discredit himself is no less alarming than his hypocrisy on this point.

3.  Allen is deeply concerned about Dr. Nettles article “Why Your Next Pastor Should Be a Calvinist” while apparently not concerned by the dozens of denominational “servants” telling churches why your next pastor should NOT be a Calvinist. Different standards for different people.

4. David Miller, a conservative statesman and evangelist in the SBC, attended the John 3:16 Conference and shared his disappointment to Jerry Vines in a letter, part of which was summarized in Ascol’s article.  Miller writes,

“The brethren (presenters), not only contradicted each other but themselves as well” while building “straw men” and “knock[ing] them down with Scripture verses taken out of context…with measured sarcasm and no small dose of arrogance.”

Ascol concludes with a personal appeal for gospel-centered consensus by Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike while distancing from the agendas that seek to divide and create factions in the SBC.  He concludes,

Now is the time for Southern Baptists of all stripes to stand up and hold those who misrepresent brethren with whom they disagree accountable for their words and actions. Speak the truth in love and leave the consequences to God. The anti-Calvinists (as opposed to non-Calvinists) are becoming, as one seminary student put it recently, “increasingly irrelevant,” especially to younger SBC leaders. While they are writing and preaching to themselves, more and more Gospel-centered Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike are showing a genuine willingness to link arms in order to move forward to make disciples of the Lord Jesus.

In the comments of his article, Dr. Malcolm Yarnell has responded (eight times) to Tom Ascol, mostly pertaining to his admission that Servetus was a Baptist (when he was not).  The conversation is worth reading.  More later.

Why Go Back to the Founders? Responding to President Frank Page

January 18, 2008

The President of the Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. Frank Page, is a nice and gracious man. From the little personal exposure I have had with Dr. Page, he is warm, cordial, and courteous. And while I had concerns about his nomination for presidency two years ago, I have appreciated the tone of his presidency and desire to work together for the gospel with a desire to bring our Convention to a greater Great Commission focus.

Although his legacy will undoubtedly be the first non-Kingmaker appointed nomination to win the Presidency since the Conservative Resurgence in 1979 (with the except of Jim Henry ’94), one has to wonder if his personal commentary will someday eclipse his role as a denominational statesman. In a recent Christianity Today article, entitled “TULIP Blooming,” Dr. Frank Page seems to think that the Reformed Resurgence in the SBC, much like the 15-evangelist conference, to be something we should lament over. Dr. Page asserts,

“The totality of history shows the vast majority of Baptists have not been [Calvinists], so why go back to the founders?” Page said. “I think we need to go back to the Bible.”

Of course, with Page’s argument, we are led to believe that what the Founders of the SBC believed and taught was something contrary to the Bible. As a president of the SBC, I find it remarkable that our top figure would state that our convention adhered to doctrines not founded in Scripture. Now it is apparent to all that Dr. Page has had trouble with TULIP, and that is fine if he disagrees or has differences (though I think his arguments are presumptuous and problematic). However, having trouble with TULIP should not thereby constitute trouble with Baptist history.

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Evangelism, Calvinism, and the SBC

January 11, 2008

Baptist Press recently reported on a conference of evangelists in the SBC who are lamenting the growth of Calvinism with the Southern Baptist Convention. Considering that Baptist Press found this worth covering, I figured that this was a significant conference with considerable attendance addressing serious and substantial issues. However, the first line of the article says thus:

A group of 15 evangelists meeting in Jackson, Tenn., Jan. 7-8 said they have concerns about the growth of Calvinism and the rise of a Willow Creek-style of non-confrontational evangelism within Southern Baptist churches.

Did you catch that? A group of 15 evangelists constituting a conference garnered enough political muscle to make this front-page Southern Baptist news. Anyone else find this peculiar?

Secondly, for these 15 evangelists from eight states to come together, there must be some serious matters which are causing such lamenting and concern. According to the BP article, here are the reasons for lamenting:

1. The LifeWay study which reported about 10 percent of Southern Baptist pastors identified themselves as Calvinists, while 29 percent of recent SBC seminary graduates espoused Calvinist doctrine.

2. A few summit participants said the movement toward Calvinism has come on secular university campuses through organizations such as Campus Crusade for Christ and InterVarsity.

So the growth of Calvinism among seminary graduates and the spread of Calvinism on secular campuses causing SBC evangelists to lament. Hmmm . . . But here’s where it gets interesting.

Hal Poe, Charles Colson Professor of Faith and Culture at Union University, said that the kind of Calvinism Piper espouses is not the historic Calvinism of Calvin or Spurgeon. Poe argues:

“He holds huge, stadium-type events that are rip-roaring. There’s nobody else doing anything like that so he becomes [Calvinism’s] expositor. But John Piper’s version of Calvinism is not something John Calvin would espouse, or even that Charles Spurgeon [British reformed Baptist preacher] would espouse.

Poe does not explain what he means by his assertion, but one is led to believe that Piper is advocating a version of Calvinism “more extreme” and less evangelical than that of Spurgeon. But then again, you have to explain that to all the missionaries whose lives have been changed and charged for the glory of God by Piper’s fiery heart for missions and reaching the lost for Christ.

Jerry Drace, who initiated the “conference,” argues that Calvinism is giving young pastors a reason to “laugh at evangelism” and offer “an excuse not to do evangelism.” Nothing new here. Same ole’ rhetoric from the likes of Nelson Price, Lonnie Wilkey, and Bobby Welch.

Now, let me offer a few thoughts regarding this article by Baptist Press and the conference of evangelists:

1. The SBC media machine, Baptist Press, has a way of making matters “newsworthy” that do not have the merits thereof. There are thousands of church staff who have “conference meetings” with higher attendance than this conference. Baptist Press is simply trying to shine the spotlight on something they think it is important to them.

2. Jerry Drace talks about the young people “laughing” and “finding excuse for not doing” evangelism but fails to factor in the LifeWay study which revealed that “Calvinistic recent graduates report that they conduct personal evangelism at a slightly higher rate than their non-Calvinistic peers.” So if the Calvinists, who are laughing and finding excuses, are more personally evangelistic than the non-Calvinists, then what are we to make of the non-Calvinists?

3. Hal Poe’s assertion that Piper espoused a morphed (and distorted?) version of Calvinism is unqualified and unsupported. It would be nice that if a professor is going to make such claims that he would back them with substance.

4. The caricature that Calvinists are not evangelistic is an old and well-worn hat in the SBC. Consider these facts. According the 2006 Annual Church Profile (ACP), there are 44,223 churches in the Southern Baptist Convention.

10,449 churches baptized NO ONE
3,312 churches baptized ONE PERSON
13,760 churches baptized 1-5 PEOPLE

A total of 27,521 churches in the SBC baptized less than FIVE people for an entire year, which comes to 62% of all SBC churches.

Furthermore, at least three out of four churches are plateaued or declining.

So can it really be said that one of ten Southern Baptist ministers (who are Calvinists) be the real reason for lamenting in the SBC?
Should we not be lamenting over the nearly 10,500 churches who are practically dead?
Should we not be lamenting over the fact that over 75% of our churches are experiencing no conversion growth?
Should we not be lamenting over the evangelism (and its practices) of the past 50 years which has turned in the SBC into an unregenerate denomination with over half of our “church members” as unrecognizable?

And yet, in spite of all this, a conference of 15 evangelists come together and talk about how they do not like John Piper–a man who has done more to fuel missions and evangelism than any Southern Baptist alive today.

And this is Southern Baptist news.

Jamesonian Snickering and Snoring

December 2, 2007

Here’s yet another reason why Baptist state conventions are problematic – editorials. On Nov. 30, fresh off the heels of a rather successful Building Bridges Conference supported by men like President Frank Page, seminary presidents Dr. Albert Mohler and Dr. Danny Akin, Southern Baptist statesmen like Drs. Tom Ascol, Thom Rainer, David Dockery, and Ed Stetzer, and hundreds of Southern Baptist pastors, the editor of The Biblical Recorder (NC state paper), Norman Jameson has come out with an op-ed piece resembling the very type of ranting rhetoric that this conference has sought to overcome.

One of the things I fail to understand is how these types of articles find their way onto state papers month after month, year after year. Why should the Nelson Price’s, Bill Harrell’s, and Norman Jameson’s have such a voice in the SBC? These men express the very divisive rhetoric that has prevented the kind of cooperation and consensus our convention so desperately needs. The Southern Baptist Convention will eventually decide whether its future will be directed by men like Page, Akin, Dockery, Rainer, and Ascol, or the alternative bridge burners.

Jameson writes, “In yet another ‘angels on pinheads’ debate of the kind that makes theologians salivate and laymen snore, several Calvinist positions do bear mention as they grow in influence among Baptists.” Of course, this line of thinking assumes that Baptist laymen are anti-intellectual and consider growing in the knowledge of God a contemptible and fruitless exercise. After having read his understanding of unconditional election and limited atonement, the only accurate conclusion one must make is that Jameson was himself snoring through the messages on the “creeping Calvinism in Baptist life.”

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Setting the Record Straight About SBC Bridge Burning

November 11, 2007

About a month ago, I wrote about three ways to prevent denominational depopulation and furthermore to come together for the church.  They were:

1. Labor to build new bridges in the SBC.

2. Protect and defend the bridges that still exist.

3. Call out those who are burning bridges in the SBC.

I noted that #1 has begun to take place, especially under the leadership of men like Tom Ascol and Danny Akin who are heading up the Building Bridges Conference which is scheduled to take place in just a couple of weeks.  In that conference, Nathan Finn is making a presentation he has entitled, “Southern Baptists and Calvinism: Setting the Record Straight” under the category “Theological Stereotypes: Let’s Be Fair and Honest with Each Other.”  Nathan has asked for our help in identifying the gross mischaracterizations and caricatures of Calvinism.  After I created my chronological compilation of the controversy of Calvinism in the Convention (that’s six “c’s” for all you alliterative Southern Baptists), I began putting together another document called “Calvinism: The Whipping Boy of the SBC.”  In that document, I put together quotes of such caricatures and stereotypes Nathan is referring to (still being drafted).  In any case, if you know of any yourself, please chime in on his post.

I also noted a month ago that I did not see #2 and #3 taking place in the SBC.  Well, fortunately, this too is started to take place.  Tom Ascol recently shared that the Arbuckle Baptist Association in Oklahoma voted last week to “take a public stand against Reformed theology” in the Oklahoma Baptist Convention and to register their opposition with the Executive Committee of the SBC.  Ascol rightly concludes, “[This] is a great example of bridge burning in the SBC.   Attitudes and actions like this are exactly what the Building Bridges Conference hopes to address and work to change–not by any kind of coercion or intimidation, but through brotherly fellowship and God-honoring dialogue.”  I am thankful that there are men in OK who are willing to expose such bridge burners as their agenda should not be tolerated in a Convention comprised of both Calvinists and non-Calvinists.  Likewise, M. Jay Bennett has written a nine-part series in response to an SBC pastor who does not like the fact that SBC seminaries are producing Reformed ministers by the dozens (whom he apparently calls “hyper-Calvinists”).

I know these last two revelations are disturbing and disappointing, but I am encouraged nonetheless because such bridge burning is being exposed in the light of day.  Much of the SBC controversy with Calvinism is a broken record, so I am glad that there is a consensus among Calvinists and non-Calvinists to set the record straight.  Let’s pray that bridge-burning will become a thing of the past, and future cooperation and consensus can be forged with a passion for the gospel and the building of healthy churches.