Thursday, November 02, 2006

Another take on "problem of Calvinism" in the SBC

I have been the fortunate recipient of several emails from brothers who are concerned about the subject of my last blog article. It is obvious from the public comments and most of those emails that many are upset about the comments that are attributed to Brother Bill Harrell in the Georgia Christian Index. I share those concerns, but must also admit that there is a more generous way to take them. In explaining his "one ground rule," Harrell reportedly said,
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.
I gave my take on this comment in what I previously wrote. Now let me give you another take, this one by Dr. Greg Welty of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, a friend who shares my doctrinal commitments and has given the benefit of the doubt to Pastor Harrell (he has also given me permission to quote him).
As I read it, he is not saying that you can't seek to reform a non-Calvinistic church. Rather, he's saying that you shouldn't do so with deception, by hiding your views from them when you're hired.
This is a gracious reading and one that I think is legitimate. It is certainly true that no one should advocate deception when candidating for a church. Granted, a church or search committee, may not have the biblical literacy to discuss many doctrinal issues with much understanding, but they should not be intentionally deceived, nor should a man try to hide what he genuinely believes from them. On this, I fully agree with brother Harrell.

On another note, I have been corrected about my claim that the Reed Creek Baptist Church was started by Abraham Marshall (this is what the Abilene Baptist Church's website claims). It was actually started by his father, Daniel, who also started the Kiokee church, whose covenant I quoted in the previous post. This historical mistake is regrettable, but does not change the force of my main point. To the contrary, since the same man started both Kiokee and Reed Creek it is reasonable to expect that the covenant of the former would be very similar to if not exactly the same as that of the latter.

34 comments:

Greg Welty said...

FWIW, here's the email I sent to Tom last night, which I think I still stand by in its entirety:

Tom,

Here's another take on the Harrell article. The pertinent quote that is apparently causing so much consternation is the following:

"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."

So Harrell is warning against the following *combination* of actions:

[a] answer a call to a non-Calvinistic church, and
[b] neglect to tell the church your leanings, and
[c] surreptitiously lead the church to become Calvinistic.

As I read it, he is not saying that you can't seek to reform a non-Calvinistic church. Rather, he's saying that you shouldn't do so with deception, by hiding your views from them when you're hired.

His "ground rule" seems quite compatible with leading any church you pastor down any path of doctrinal reform, according to what you are convinced the word of God teaches. He's simply saying that this should be done openly, without deception.

I think the problem with many of your commentators is that they are isolating [a] above from [b] and [c]. But if you reread the paragraph I've cited, he's clearly warning against doctrinal-reform-by-deception, not doctrinal reform *per se*. So a lot of the reductio ad absurdum being posted by your commentators seems misdirected. On this reading, Harrell's "ground rule" is universally applicable, since honesty and openness is a universal virtue, applying to all situations whatsoever.

Greg Welty said...

BTW, allowing for the reform of a non-Calvinistic church in a Calvinistic direction -- as long as it is done with complete openness and lack of deception -- is surely a position anyone ought to allow for, Calvinist or non-Calvinist. For otherwise, you rule out *any* kind of reform in *any* kind of SBC church in *any* direction.

For example, think about expository preaching. This is a worthy goal that both Calvinists and non-Calvinists can agree upon. Is the non-Calvinist really to say that a pastor (Calvinist or non-Calvinist) shouldn't seek to help a church appreciate the great value of expository preaching? Wouldn't that be a worthy goal, *even if* the particular local church at present is devoted to the opposite, say, topical preaching on cultural issues-of-the-moment? As long as the goal of reform-toward-expository-preaching is pursued with all openness and honesty, why not? Ditto for the practice of genuine church discipline, etc.

So the idea can't be: don't ever lead a church to embrace convictions they don't currently embrace. Rather the idea is: if you are going to bring reform to a church, in any area of doctrine or practice, do it without deception. And I think the Harrell interview is consistent with that common-sense position.

David said...

I have personally written and recieved an answer from Rev. Harrell. Greg's analysis is in agreement with the response I got - It applies to all.

However, the driving force behind this is clearly Calvinism. It is he that stated the issues. Had it been his desire to express concern simply about any pastor failing to be upfront about his beliefs, he could easily have said so.

Why not just state that one issue we face is church splits resulting from pastors that are not upfront with their beliefs prior to accepting a call? To me, this would have been fair to all systems of belief if the concern had really been universal. Based on the response given to my questions, I cannot say that was the original intent. Especially when Calvinists have been once again singled out as being the source of much discomfort.

My concern is that some of the SBC leadership seem to have little or no idea what the major issues actually are or should be. To be honest, it gives the appearance that many are just waiting on the opportunity to get their anti-Cavlinist sound-byte in to appease major constituents who have been very vocal on this issue.

David said...

Let me simply say that I did not intend to insinuate that what Rev. Harrell said was for a "sound-byte" but that this kind of remark can give that appearance. Living near Lynchburg, VA I hear that kind of thing very often. This does tend to make me hyper-sensitive to the issue. Please forgive me.

His desire for pastors to be upfront and honest is a valid one. I respect him for taking the time to answer me and offer me the opportunity to speak with him personally. He was very gracious.

Caddiechaplain said...

What would be the difference if I, a potential Pastoral candidate were to desire to go to a "traditional program driven church" and desire to move the church to be "purpose driven(let's just say)?" Would my intentions be a wrong as what Brother Harrell contends or is the issue here really all about Calvinism? How many pastors have typically gone to churches and then were moved by the Holy Spirit to cast vision for this church to change that required changes in its Theology and Methodology?
It is the responsibility of the local congregation to determine what is best for itself. It is not the job of the chairman of the Executive Committee of the SBC to make that determination for any local,independant, autonomous, cooporating SB church.
The "deception" shoe that brother Harrell speaks about certainly fits any other similiar deceptive shoe; to include plagiarizing someone else's quotes or thoughts.

GeneMBridges said...

Incidentally, Les Puryear has noted in comments over at Marty Duren's blog (SBC Outpost), and I have agreed with him, that a much bigger problem in the average SBC church at present is dictatorial leadership. The issues with pastoral honesty go deeper than disclosing one's theological orientation to a search committee. Rather, they go to one's leadership style. If you are a dicatorial leader, then it doesn't matter if you are a Calvinist or a liberal Arminian or anything in between. Cyril of Alexandria was mostly right about Christology (though he had some Apollinarian leanings, but that's another story), but he is remembered today not for that as much as his contentiousness, politicizing, and downright mean attitude toward those who disagreed with him and dared to contradict him, whether it be his theology or his leadership.

M and M said...

I accepted the call to pastor a church in Pine Bluff Arkansas, and soon after embraced all five points of calvinism. I was scared at first, because I was sure I would be immediately fired. I struggled with the issue of resigning the church. However, I soon realized that God had called me to Pine Bluff to preach the truth. I believe the doctrines of grace to be the "truth". I don't haft to do it secretly, nor do I haft to apologize for it. I simply haft to preach the "truth". By doing so, my brothers will be enlightened as I was, and strengthened in the faith.

Michael

B Nettles said...

Despite the clarifications offered by Pastor Harrell via Greg Welty, I am still concerned that "Calvinism" has become the whipping boy of the SBC, in the truest sense of the analogy. There are other things that are deemed untouchable, so Calvinism is blamed for the problems in the SBC.

Tom Ascol tried to raise one of those issues (accountability in church membership) and was ignored for the most part. It's easier to whip an innocent rather than the prince.

centuri0n said...

Coming from the perspective that brother Welty is my hero (well, one of my heroes), let me say this: I think his generous spirit is refreshing but -- and I say this with trepidation -- naive. And that's hard to say knowing Greg from a couple of years at the Reformed Baptist Distribution List, because it's hard to imagine anything upon which he's not wholly informed.

Here's why I say it's naive: in the rest of the article, Harrell really gives no quarter to Calvinism, and attributes all kinds of evils to the prespective and its advocates. He lists it as one fo the two biggest problems inside the SBC. While I am certain that deception is a component of his complaint, I don't think he meant that deception to a search committee is the major problem: the major problem is being a Calvinist who doesn't come clear explicitly in the calling process.

If this turns into a contest with brother Welty, let me just concede. He is smarter and more admirable spiritually than I am -- so I have said my piece and I expect that Greg has a rebuttal which will cause me to put ice on my jaw.

Grace and Peace.

Greg Welty said...

David writes:


Had it been his desire to express concern simply about any pastor failing to be upfront about his beliefs, he could easily have said so.


Sure. On his view, addressing such deception will allegedly solve a particular problem, "the problem of Calvinism in the SBC." So it's clear that Bill Harrell believes that this is an issue that is more prevalent among Calvinistic candidates than among others. Whether he has a good argument for this (statistical, convention-wide) is another matter.

All I have to go on is anecdotal evidence, and by my lights this *isn't* a convention-wide problem afflicting Calvinistic candidates in particular. But my evidence is anecdotal, and so I won't generalize from it :-) I simply register my agnosticism on this point.

Caddiechaplain writes:


It is the responsibility of the local congregation to determine what is best for itself. It is not the job of the chairman of the Executive Committee of the SBC to make that determination for any local,independant, autonomous, cooporating SB church.


Sure, but I see nothing in the Harrell interview that says otherwise. Indeed, Harrell explicitly identified the autonomy of the local church more than once. He also said, "I believe our Convention leaders need to make a more definitive statement about how we identify ourselves in worship and who we are as Southern Baptists." Notice he said "statement," not policy, much less law enforced on the local churches. That would be impossible. He also said, "We are never going to be homogeneous, never have been, but there are some lines we should never cross as Southern Baptists." And wouldn't we all agree here? Don't we believe that there are lines that *no* SBC church should cross, if only because it is a *church* after all? :-) So the disagreement is over where those lines are, not (i) whether there should be lines, or (ii) whether the individual, local church is the only entity that can enforce those lines.

Gene Bridges: bingo! If you want "reform" by being a dictator, rather than by means of preaching the entirety of the word of God, so that the truth for the church flows naturally and spontaneously from that, then you deserve to be booted, regardless of your soteriology.

B. Nettles wrote:


Despite the clarifications offered by Pastor Harrell via Greg Welty


Actually, it was David who wrote Pastor Harrell. I'm just going off of the interview link provided by Tom!


I am still concerned that "Calvinism" has become the whipping boy of the SBC, in the truest sense of the analogy.


Here's another potential whipping boy: anti-Calvinism ;-)

I don't mean to be rude (really), but here's something interesting. I noticed that no one commented on a very important statement Harrell made: "People who have lowered the bar to attract the world, who have embraced a non-confrontational approach where sin is concerned in order to attract the world, have become so much like the world that they are losing their witness to the world." Again, shouldn't we be celebrating this conviction? Why cherry pick an interview to find a paragraph or two in which something disagreeable was said about Calvinism, and then provide nearly fifty indignant comments in response? "Someone, somewhere in the world, said something bad about Calvinism! Let's vent for awhile! The God of John Calvin can't take this kind of abuse!" :-) Meanwhile, no appreciation is stated concerning common points of agreement. Isn't it possible that we can be unbalanced in our response to others' disagreement with us?

I include myself in this cautious warning, of course.

Centuri0n: there's a fine line between naivete and charity, isn't there? :-)

Sure, we might disagree with his assessment that there *is* a "problem of Calvinism in the SBC". Why does that give us the right to give a bogus exposition of his "ground rule"?

Finally, consider this against your own interpretation of the interview. Your view is pretty pessimistic. You say: "... in the rest of the article, Harrell really gives no quarter to Calvinism, and attributes all kinds of evils to the prespective and its advocates. He lists it as one fo the two biggest problems inside the SBC."

To begin with, you're overstating quite a bit. Saying that dishonesty in the candidating process "is divisive and hurtful" is a far cry from "attributing all kinds of evils" to advocates of Calvinism. But in addition, consider the relevant paragraph from Harrell:


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.


Has it struck you (as it struck me) what he *didn't* say? He *didn't* say: (i) let's run all the Calvinists out of the convention, or (ii) no Calvinists should be allowed to start churches, or even (iii) no Calvinists should ever candidate at non-Calvinistic churches. Instead, he actually thinks that the entire "problem of Calvinism" can be solved through *one ground rule*! That is, simple honesty about your convictions, during the candidating process. Considering the anti-Calvinists *I* have talked to over the years, they might accuse Harrell of being naïve ;-) I happen to think his sentiments were quite mild.

Caddiechaplain said...

What is a "Calvinistic Church?" What is the problem here? What ever happened to a "God fearing, Bible believing, Christ honoring, Holy Spirit convicting, Baptist Church. You would thing that the Doctrines of Grace(thank you very much) were some new and strange theological heresy. Where is Dr. Tom Nettles when you need a real Baptist Historian? I am out of here on this . . . .

Docsalogy said...

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.

B. Nettles wrote:
Has it struck you (as it struck me) what he *didn't* say?

Did anyone notice what he DID say? What to do about the "problem" of Calvinism. I kind of thought that a return to "calvinism" (or rather put, "the historical Baptist beliefs in the doctrines of grace and the sovereignty of God over salvation," would be the SOLUTION to many of the problems in the SBC.

stilldesiringGod said...

caddiechaplain said "What is the problem here? What ever happened to a "God fearing, Bible believing, Christ honoring, Holy Spirit convicting, Baptist Church?" They all went to the Billy Graham Crusade and went forward to get saved...again. :-( Okay, it was a little before that, Billy Sunday, social gospel, Charles Sheldon, and that is just a little bit of a hundred years of problems.

But back to the post, I think Ceturi0n hit it on the head when he pointed out and brought everyone back on track when he wrote "He lists it as one of the two biggest problems inside the SBC." Let's not neglect Harrell's point here that one of the two biggest things that are problems in the SBC- Calvinism. Whatever else he may say to justify his position or define a certain situation, what is he really saying if it is one of two "problems"? Problems are things you want to go away. Problems are things that are wrong. Problems are things that are annoying. Problems are things that need fixing. Problems are things that you talk bad about in public, but you really trash to your close buddies in private. You have heard what the Caners say to our faces on our own blog, can you imagine what they say behind our backs?! VIRUSES!!! Sorry to bring them up. But if Calvinism is such a problem to this man, why listen to this mans solution at all? Should we not listen to someone who is levelheaded? Someone who comes out with guns a blazing does not sound like someone to whom we should give credibility. I apologize for not knowing Mr. Harrell before today. But his flaming zeal put him in a category with other trick or treators, Hunt, Patterson, the Judge, Falwell, Caners, etc. Lest I should come off sounding like a know it all, I recognize that if it were not for the grace of God, I too would be rejecting His Word and the truth that is within. My struggle is not with understanding this great reality to which I can hardly believe is real, but that men who claim the inerrancy of Scripture aim their swords against brothers now, or at least claim to be brothers sometimes, sometimes not, and claim us to be problems, even enemies of evangelism, church killers, making us the very enemies of God.

If we are problems for the SBC let us be problems of constant contradictions in their weak misunderstanding minds.
-When they think of Calvinists as unloving of the lost, let us have a fervent passion for the lost, forsaking everything for the elect's sake to the point of death, knowing that dying is gain.
-Let us make missions our aim because there are places on this earth right now where our Holy Father is not being worshipped and Jesus is not being gloried in and the Spirit is not interceding on behalf of His saints to their Maker.
-When Arminian Pastors look at us and see us study let us set the standard looking to God's Word as the final authority not only in mantra only, but in life and practice, at home and in our personal affairs and how we conduct our churches.
-When our churches ecclesiology is ripped a part as not being Baptist, let us not have a tendency to find a historical Baptist church who looks like us, WHO CARES who did it like us. Do we believe in Sola Scriptura? God cares if we are doing it like Him! Local church autonomy is one Baptist distinctive we can use to our advantage to set a Godly example!
-When we feed the sheep, let us love them with compassion and put their sanctification in a proper perspective alongside our own family. And Pastor’s, please, make friends. The pastorate can be the loneliest job on earth! Do not take it (church life/politics) out on your wife and children. Do not neglect family worship; they are your greatest congregation!
-Do not give in to the temptation to be one-upman in speech and theology. Meekness is a godly attribute, too. How come Reformed Pastors seldom show it!? The last word does not make you right; some times it makes you stupid, stubborn, and ungracious!
-When there is one thing that absolutely has to set us a part from every other church and congregation out there, every other denomination out there, let it be that we strive for Christ's preeminence in all things and that His glory be above all and seen and in all that we do, act, think, see, breathe, walk, talk, attempt, you get my point.

If we can be about those things, then when the fiery darts of the Devil come, even when they are shot from within our denomination, and yes, Caner, you can read that in your stinkin' class, then our shield of faith will extinguish all attempts of the Evil One. He may gain little victories in the fighting, but he will not win the battle. Enough for now.

Wait! Docsalogy just wrote while I was typing and mine piggy backs on what he typed. Good stuff. But that reminds of some lines from a movie I never saw. "Do you want answers? I want the truth. You can't handle the truth!" Much in the same way the SBC wants answers (desperately needs answers), thinks it wants the truth (Biblical soteriology), but couldn't handle the truth. (Calvinism) Or does not want to, anyway. A sad state of affairs, as stated above, a Biblical return to a right view of God's grace would be a solution to many things that woes the SBC, even if the dreaded "C" word came along with it. It is a bigger curse word than many in our circles. Just listen to them talk.

Bill Formella said...

Greg, I delayed my response to this thread for the same reason. Although his referring to these two issues as the the two biggest problems is way out of line making his views very inflammatory, he did say some things with some merit.

By the way, Calvinists aren't the only ones upset about his comments. Go over to SBC Outpost and you'll see that his comments about worship were the primary source of inflammation there. Although I agree that he deals with the issue in a painfully simplistic manner, the mere mention of concern over worship style leads many to label you a "traditionalist" who wants to revert back to the 1950's.

I believe the issue of worship is not a matter of hymns or contemporary. Although I do think it's foolish to totally cut out the foundation laid before us for the sake of the new and the novel, it's a matter of choosing the music that most honors God both in music and lyrics. But when we choose our music to draw a crowd or to "speak to the post-modern mind" I think we are way out of line.

In my experience in SBC churches in the Atlanta area, more and more seem to be moving into the entertainment mode hoping to draw a crowd of the lost through our worship. I agree with John Piper when he says that worship is an end to itself and is not something we do with an agenda. When we "worship" to evengelize, build a building, get more people to serve in the church, etc., etc., then what we are doing is not really worship.

The oft used expression "what we win them with is what we win them to" is so applicable. If we drew them with entertainment then they will expect church to entertain them the rest of their lives. In that sense I found some of what Harrell said refreshing, although I believe he took it much too far.

DoGLover said...

I can only echo the concerns already posted. Those who see Calvinism as a problem want to remove it, whether or not they say so plainly. Why else would anyone not issue a call for integrity to ALL SBC pastors? Actually, that call was rejected on the floor of the Convention, wasn't it?

How should we respond to the criticisms & ignorance? Paul's counsel to Timothy (2 Tim. 2:23-25) serves us well:

"Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will."

We must remain firm in our conviction to demonstrate the grace we profess, even as we seek to correct the errors of others. We must resist the urge to let our anger take over. To borrow from Dr. ML King, let them judge us by the content of our character, not the color of our tulip.

Bartimaeus said...

I Have the perfect solution for keeping the Calvies out of the your church.
Poison the well. – tie Calvin to Augustine the “the First Roman Catholic” and then play the Servetus card. Like their leader all Cavinist are mean and unloving.

Next play the fear card that Calvinism splits churches and that Calvinistic churches are small

After that marginalize Calvinist are a small insignificant group and warn Calvinist pastors not to accept a call to a non Calvinistic church. However it is OK if a non-Calvinist accepts a call to a Calvinist or Reformed church to get them back on track.

Next ignore history and tell people that Calvinist will kill the missions program. For this to work you must hope that the congregation is not familiar with the great missionary movements of the past.

It is also important to create a straw man argument of what Calvinist believe.

Next scream and shout with great emotion these three verses John 3:16 make sure that you place special emphasis on the words “loved”, “world”, and “whosoever” Next quote Matthew 23:37. Now here it is better that your get your que from Dave Hunt and drop the words “your children” . Finally quote 2 peter 3:9 “he is not willing that any should perish”. Now for this one to work you only quote that phrase and be sure to ignore the context.

And finally at all cost to not engage in any meaningful exegesis of the text. Proof texting is sufficient for this. The more the better,

For more information check out my blog at Reformation Truth
http://reformation-truth.blogspot.com/

FBCW said...

Let me start with this heart felt truth... Normally I do not read this blog, or any other blog because it is depressing!! I come on the site to get the Sunday School Helps for the SBC curriculum. (Obviously I peeked when I saw the title)

I am a Sunday School teacher at a large church in Woodstock. To the commenter’s that see this as a mean and hurtful attack I will most certainly concur. I cannot speak for anyone but myself.

I have sat on the pew in my church and cried. This is mean and hateful speech directed at anyone who holds to the doctrines of grace almost on a weekly basis.(let me clear - when quoted and in writing you might be able to say "shucks it weren’t that bad" - but the truth comes out in sermons and events where it becomes painfully obvious they have a hatred in their hearts for doctrine...yeah.. they - by their actions... are CONSUMED by the subject and are bent on facilitating it's destruction)

My pastor (I do love him dearly) seems to has made it a personal mission to destroy the winds on conservatism, revival, reformation, or generally moving back to the basics (He attacks these doctrines regularly - He attacks when speaking at various state conventions; ie: Mississippi, he attacks when speaking at colleges, at pastor's conferences, at Bonfire events, Middle School events ect..)

On a "Flesh Man" basis I lament coming to see these truths - Doctrines of Grace - because of all the persecution - But on the "Inner Man" basis I adore these doctrines...My love and zeal for Christ is so sweet and I am so Unbelievably humbled He regards me at all.

I believe - speaking for myself - seeing these doctrines comes naturally as we - who are regenerate - grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord - It happened to me teaching through the book of Ephesians.. well I fought it then.. I finally gave up, after that, while teaching through the gospel of John.

Why the hatred? Why the venom? I serve in our church. I am active in visitation, missions ect... I am a giver. I also feel I am hated. I am made to feel ashamed. Am I an enemy? I pray God would never allow me to bring reproach to His name.

I believe -wholeheartedly- that if we would have an open forum discussion - with a couple of speakers - who could cross examine one another with the SCRIPTURES - all this discord would be over. The Bible, both in context, and great volume speaks and affirms. May we be honest and admit, we may not understand it all, but we should accept what the Bible plainly says. I pray we would get away from one verse answers to stuff -that is how twisting the scriptures happens- and get back to using several verses and context to answer subjects...

I wish - if we cannot agree on it - and it seems we cannot... that we would stop the attack and speak out against sin and magnify the need for repentance - teach on saving faith and warn pew sitters who may not exhibit it in their lives. Let’s all glorify God and by that evangelism, missions, teaching, reaching and ministering will occur.

Words cannot describe the hurt I feel. I wish there was no hatred from my brothers.. my own family

Bill Formella said...

FBCW, to borrow the words of a former Georgia politician, "I feel your pain." I too live in the Atlanta area and have been a member of some very anti doctrines of grace churches. You're right. The best way to describe what happens to some when they find out what you believe is absolute hatred.

I didn't fair as well as you are though. I was told I needed to find a new church if I ever wanted to serve. Can't have a missionary minded Calvinist around messing with people's minds. :-) So I did find a new church and absolutely love the preaching and body life of the fellowship.

I've often referred to my Pastor, Ty Blackburn, as the best kept secret in the Atlanta area. He won't be a secret for much longer, but more on that later. You can hear his sermons at www.providenceduluth.org.

FBCW [I assume that's an acrostic for Feeling Blue Cuz of Woodstock :-)], I would love to keep in touch with you and let you know about some positive things that will be happening in this area. My e-mail is bformella@charter.net.

God Bless Brother.

Caddiechaplain said...

Well, there you have it folks, right from the guys who are feeling the flames of the firery furnace. Hang lovingly tough in there, Men of God!

Greg Welty said...

Docsalogy said:

Did anyone notice what he DID say? What to do about the 'problem' of Calvinism.

Yes, we all noticed that. It has provoked dozens of comments. No one is unaware of this. That's not the point. The point is that commentators on the Founders Blog (a blog I love and read every day) apparently go apoplectic because a denominational servant doesn't like Calvinism. Does anyone stop and think what kind of public persona about Calvinists emanates from the comments section of this blog on a daily basis? Do I really have to assemble a list of comments from the last post, in which commentators are making the most ridiculous inferences from Harrell's comments, and then attributing these monstrosities to Harrell himself?

This kind of behavior gets a pass, on a daily basis. It's as if someone isn't free to express a contrary opinion on Calvinism without being swarmed by locusts. What kind of witness is this to the convention?

'Yeah, but they do it too!' No doubt, but why is that an excuse for *our* behavior? It's no wonder many non-Calvinistic churches wouldn't want a Calvinistic candidate. Perhaps they've come to the Founder's blog and see professional whiners plying their trade day after day :-)

I love the Reformed faith (in its duly qualified, Baptistic expression, of course). But why must we moan and wail over and over and over again, publicly no less, every time someone announces he has a problem with Calvinism? Are we really that thin-skinned? Why can't we say, "I agree with his call for honesty. I disagree that it is a problem peculiar to Calvinistic pastoral candidates. I also disagree that Calvinism is a 'problem' in the SBC in any significant sense. I'll pray that he reconsiders the issue. And, by the way, here's some sober, calm, principled arguments free of sarcasm and vilification..."

Why, instead, must we append stuff like: he's trying to "impose" a dress code, it's "obvious" he "does not understand the SBC," he's guilty of either "religious elitism" or "selective amnesia," I'm "amazed" at this guy, his position "ticks me off," his words are "offensive," he's an "SBC modernist who refuses to be convinced with the historical facts" and is guilty of "APOSTASY," Harrell's rule is "a homebrewed recipe for heresy, apostasy, legalism, antinomianism, and nominalism if allowed to steep in its juices and ferment long enough" (apologies to the author, but this isn't anywhere near a legitimate inference from what Harrell actually said), he says that "that Calvinists 'need not apply' to certain churches" (nope, he never said that), "Harrell's ground rule promotes the status quo for every church, regardless of what that status quo is" (no, it's a call for honesty, not a forbidding of any doctrinal or practical reform), Harrell's view "sounds like popery to me," let's all "imagine what they say behind our backs" (now *there's* a profitable exercise ;-), Harrell's "flaming zeal put[s] him in a category with other trick or treators, Hunt, Patterson, the Judge, Falwell, Caners" (now, where does that put Founder's commentators with their flaming zeal? ;-), guys like Harrell have "constant contradictions in their weak misunderstanding minds," "and yes, Caner, you can read that in your stinkin' class," people who disagree with Calvinistic conclusions don't "engage in any meaningful exegesis of the text," "they have a hatred in their hearts for doctrine," and on and on and on like this.

Fbcw asked, in another context: "Why the hatred? Why the venom?" A good question indeed... in yet another context.

How can we get it so wrong? All of this flows from *a paragraph in an online interview*! Someone thinks Calvinism is a problem and suddenly it's the Apocalypse. The sky is falling. The boiling oil is next, for sure. Why is it that when we find someone who disagrees with us on one point, that poisons our interpretation of what he actually said? Is it really some kind of rage that blinds us, or what?

This situation burdens me greatly.

B Nettles said...

Greg Welty said:
Meanwhile, no appreciation is stated concerning common points of agreement. Isn't it possible that we can be unbalanced in our response to others' disagreement with us?

Pastor Harrell is probably taking more heat than he deserves because most, if not all, of us say things less precisely or completely or orderly in a live (interview, teaching, preaching) moment than we would in a written statement. (Please, no comments about my imprecise, incomplete, disorderly writing...I am NOT Tom :) )

The writer of the Georgia Christian Index article quotes Pastor Harrell (correctly or not, I know not, and we all know about newspaper accuracy):
“I am afraid,” Harrell declared, “that the contemporary church movement gets people into a casual mindset, which can lead to a casual mindset toward spiritual things, toward God. People who have lowered the bar to attract the world, who have embraced a non-confrontational approach where sin is concerned in order to attract the world, have become so much like the world that they are losing their witness to the world.”

I agree with this, but why, at least based on the article, is this NOT identified by the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the SBC as one of the "two important issues to solve?"

Maybe the writer of the article twisted Pastor Harrell's words. If so, I would hope that he would clarify, publicly and not just to David or Greg or Tom or this blog, that the BIGGEST problem in the SBC is a "casual mindset toward spiritual things" in our churches and how our lives are lived. That problem will NOT be solved by drawing up a set of "acceptable" worship styles or establishing a ground rule regarding disclosure of whether you are a "5-pointer" or not. [a misunderstood term at best, by most people.]
If the words were NOT twisted, then shouldn't Pastor Harrell, as an elected servant leader who has the power of the "bully pulpit" avoid cherry-picking? Maybe he's not, and he's saying what he really means. I hope not.

I believe the whipping boy analogy for Calvinism stands since the it IS being "struck" falsely by the leadership of the SBC (Harrell, Hunt, Vines, Young, Patterson) for problems that few care address because they are so endemic. I don't see the more Calvinistic leaders striking specifically against "anti-Calvinism."

Tongue-in-cheek comment: If the concept of a whipping boy is similar to substitutionary atonement, is the fact that Calvinism gets picked on an affirmation of limited atonement?
(I do recognize the specious logic.)

Respectfully,
Bill Nettles

Bill Formella said...

Greg, once again your point is well taken by me and, I'm sure, others on this board as well. There is no excuse for the way we explode sometimes. However, having personally experienced the kind of persecution that FBCW is experiencing, I can understand why many of us are prone to this.

When I left my last church I wrote the Pastor a very gentle and loving 4 page letter that started out by thanking him for much about his ministry that I truly appreciated. I then asked him why an atheist, buddhist or muslim would receive more encouragement and love than I did. I asked, if Calvinism was so dangerous, then why was there no effort to work through the scriptures with me to help me see the truth. I had not caused dissension in church. Indeed, most of my close friends were not even sure where I stood on soteriology. Yet, not one question was asked to confirm my doctrine or to help me work through this. I was simply told it would be best if I moved on.

By the way, the only response I received from my former pastor was a "thank you" for taking the time to tell him why I was leaving and "you go with my blessing". Not one question was addressed.

Greg, maybe you have not experienced the kind of persecution many of us have. To have people who you've become friends with instantly look at you with disgust and mistrust upon simply learning where you stand on this issue is very disturbing. I thought the road to an understanding of the doctrines of grace was hard enough. I had no idea what was ahead of me.

Caner is not alone. Many of these people would rather see me be an atheist, buddhist or muslim than a big bad Calvinist. It seems a Calvinist is beyond the reach of grace.

The fact of the matter is there is no group within the SBC that is facing more defamation of character and verbal persecution than the Calvinist, and all this from the so called gatekeepers of the convention. Did we go off too strongly on this interview? Indeed. We need your loving correction. But be careful not to shoot the wounded.

centuri0n said...

Greg:

I take your point about "one condition" seriously. I'm curious as to whether there's any way to tell if this thing which Mr. Harrell, through you, has explained occurs frequently enough to be classified as one of the top two problems in the convention today.

See: I think you, as always, have approached this topic soberly and thoroughly. The question is if, in trying to credit fully a degree of charity to Mr. Harrell, you have compartmentalized his statements -- segmenting the broad charge of "Calvinism" being one of the "top two" problems of the convention from the charge that Calvinist deception is really the root of this problem.

Let me say that I don't doubt that it happens. I am sure many men, in an effort to gain a pastoral position, do not make a full confession to the search committee -- and because of the popular view of Calvinism, I am also sure that Calvinists do it for the same reasons a pastor who is a convinced Democrat might not mention his affiliation in some churches.

The question is if this specific non-disclosure is so rampant that it is in the top two issues before the convention. Is it really as rampant as churches migrating from "traditional" services to "contemporary" services? Personally, I find that hard to reconcile.

You may have facts that I don't have, and I thank you for not squashing me like a bug. :-)

chadwick said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
chadwick said...

Ladies & Gentlemen,

You must read the new Baptist Press Article concerning the new Charles Spurgeon Chair of Biblical Preaching at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary: http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=24311

I have a few thoughts concerning Bro. Harrell & The Charles H. Spurgeon Chair of Biblical Preaching at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary:

Tom Harrell said, "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.” [Emphasis mine]

Will Bro. Harrell plead with MBTS to change the name of the chair to the Charles H. Spurgeon [A Radical Interpreter] Chair of "Radical Biblical" Preaching?

Or Will Bro. Tom Harrell seek to oust Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for forming the The Charles H. Spurgeon [A Radical Interpretter] Chair of Biblical Preaching?

Will Bro. Harrell seek to publically oppose the Spurgeon Chair since he considers Spurgeon "wrong about the tenets of five point Calvinism"? Think about it, Cooperative Program money is being spent to establish a 5-Point Calvinist's Chair . . .one who is a "radical interpretter" of the Scriptures at an SBC Seminary. . . that is remarkable!!!!

Will MBTS state a disclaimer about Spurgeon being a "Radical Interpretter"?

The BP article stated, "an annual Spurgeon Conference on Biblical Preaching will be scheduled on PERTINENT THEMES, with OUTSTANDING BAPTIST THEOLOGIANS AND PREACHERS participating in each conference."

Will MBTS allow the Spurgeon Conference to allow pertinent themes such as "The Doctrines of Grace," which were near and dear to Spurgeon's heart, to be preached?

Will MBTS invite "outstanding Baptist theologians and pastors" be "Radical Interpretters" such as Ascol, Nettles, & Whitney to preach,who are cut out of the same cloth as Spurgeon? Or will MBTS contract "Radical Distorters" like Patterson, Vines, Hunt, and the Caners' who seek to distort Spurgeon's Theological belief's?

I was just thinking?

Respectfully, a Radical Interpretter,
Chadwick

stilldesiringGod said...

My apologies for being insensitive with the trick or treators comment. My intention was to get across the point that anyone can be a Baptist now days. You just have to name it and claim it, I suppose. We have gay clergy and CBF, Reformed and political conservative as well as pew sitting moderates and all in between variants of every shade and active/inactive status. Of all the things I said I know that those reading could pick out just a few choice words and harp on those things, but I think that it is a reflection of their heart and where they are in their spiritual walk, or perhaps where they are not. Are we to bend over backwards on a worldwide internet blog with the genre of reformation theology aimed at those of us who desire fellowship with one another and seek out each other for like minded interaction, encouragement, edification, teaching, rebuke sometimes! And other things that a specific blog intended as created for a purpose to reach a group of people, primarily men, (but not exclusively) that we should now cater our speech to not discuss the times but make it a prayer request forum? Or just type in the heading and say bland bland bland? We already know some hate us. Those in the classrooms have the opportunity to study the history of those who have gone before and recognize history repeating itself as a denomination is rejecting God’s Word for the tickling it prefers. It has comfort, it has programs. It has games, concerts, coffee houses, social gatherings, small groups, and a purpose! But it may not have a love for the God they say they are worshipping. Are they worshipping? Are they even coming to church, anymore? I do not think you can say yes in most cases. I think that if Mr. Harrell was a little more honest with church life in the SBC he could come up with a few dozen more issues than Calvinism that are threatening the life of our churches. I do not think it is ever going to stop in any generation no matter who it is or who passes away or who carries the torch if someone stands up and makes comments like this they are going to get lashed out at to some degree. What if I said one of the two biggest problems in the SBC is two half-point Arminians! I bet if I had any credibility in Founders circles the crows would be swarming in the SBC. That is the nature of the beast. Humans hover over trouble. We flock to what is messy. Just like accidents on a highway.

Also, Mr. Welty, did you get all of your quotes from Another take on "problem of Calvinism" in the SBC, I did not recognize some of them. I would like to read them in their context. You do not have to supply context, I can do my own homework on that, just where they came from would be sufficient. Thank you.

Chadwick, you are hilarious, but right on the money! Just think of all those books there by that radical interpreter!

G. Alford said...

Someone give our dear brother Bill Lollor a call and let him know that Rev. Harrell has approved his appointment to NAMB as a church planter (three years after he was blocked from this appointment for being a Calvinist.

"If a man wants to start a Calvinistic church, let him have at it."

Greg Welty has rightly admonished us for not looking on the positive side of Rev. Harrell's article... Having the chairman of the executive committee on record that the SBC should be supportive of starting new Calvinistic Baptist Church is indeed positive!

Bill Lollor, if you read this come on back across the pond NAMB is now accepting Calvinist church planters.

Andrew said...

Greg, your point is well taken here! I did not comment on the previous post, but my thoughts were very much reflected by the disappointment/frustration/whininess of others. I'm going to take your strong word of caution to heart (really).

Having said that, I do not think it’s in any way unfair to hold Harrell accountable for his comments. Harrell spoke bluntly on 2 very controversial topics, and he was about as clear as mud. If he has the courage & conviction to boldly IDENTIFY the #1 and #2 PROBLEMS in the convention, AND THEIR SOLUTIONS, then the least he can do is BE CLEAR. No one is edified by sweeping generalizations and oversimplified solutions. Obviously he was not clear, or else the SBC blog-world would not be so confused about how to “interpret the interview”.

Therefore I will repent of the unfair inferences which I read into Harrell's remarks. I will certainly give him the benefit of the doubt. The next time a denominational leader makes such remarks I will say to myself, "This guy either doesn't understand what he's talking about, OR he is not capable of articulating his view". And pray that God would give him wisdom.

At the same time, I can distinguish between my own sin and what in this case were very clumsy and unprofitable statements made by a leader whose tongue is held to a higher standard. (James 3:1-2)

wayner said...

While following some links in the Bellevue situation I ran across a couple of Union University links that might be of interest.

I guess Union used to do a preaching conference called Preaching Points. Dr. Dockery did 2 talks titled, "Calvinism, Arminianism & Southern Baptist Evangelism" from 2004. Here are the links to the audio http://www.uu.edu/audio/preachingpoints/021004-Dockery.wma &
http://www.uu.edu/audio/preachingpoints/021004-Dockery-2.wma.

I couldn't remember them being referenced, and I couldn't find reference to them during a search. Sorry if this is old news to most.

Greg Welty said...

Thanks to all for your comments.

B Nettles writes:

Greg, maybe you have not experienced the kind of persecution many of us have... Did we go off too strongly on this interview? Indeed. We need your loving correction. But be careful not to shoot the wounded.

Point taken! I don't want to minimize in any way the painful past experiences of many who post here. That helps me understand the frustration, including its intensity. I'm simply trying to encourage others not to let past pain determine present response. As Christians, we're called to rise above this, for the sake of Christ and our witness to the world. I don't imagine that this is very easy at all. We all need to pray for each other, even as we hold each other accountable. In the end, my point is rather small: why should Bill Harrell pay for what others did to us?

I too can tell a story or two of my own, though I'd prefer not to divulge the precise details here. Suffice it to say that, early in my Christian pilgrimage, the public response of an assistant pastor to a private, loving letter left me utterly disillusioned. I wanted to leave the Christian faith entirely. In fact, I wanted to die, and I didn't overcome the depression for at least six months, if not a year. Nevertheless, I *can't* let experiences like that mold my speech in a downward direction. That way truly is the way of despair.

Centuri0n writes:

I'm curious as to whether there's any way to tell if this thing which Mr. Harrell, through you, has explained occurs frequently enough to be classified as one of the top two problems in the convention today.

Two points. First, Harrell isn't explaining anything "though me". I've never met him or had a conversation with him. Again, as I stated in the last post, I'm simply going off of the interview itself.

Second, I've already commented on the thing you wonder about. I'm on record as saying (earlier in this thread) that (i) I don't think there is the "problem" mentioned, and (ii) I'm unwilling to generalize from merely anecdotal evidence. So I respectfully disagree with Pastor Harrell's assessment. But that wasn't why I posted. My post was about how we express that disagreement.

The question is if this specific non-disclosure is so rampant that it is in the top two issues before the convention.

Like I said before, I personally don't think so.

Stilldesiringgod writes:

Of all the things I said I know that those reading could pick out just a few choice words and harp on those things, but I think that it is a reflection of their heart and where they are in their spiritual walk, or perhaps where they are not.

I think your words about me here are true, but perhaps not in the sense you intend ;-)

Also, Mr. Welty, did you get all of your quotes from Another take on "problem of Calvinism" in the SBC, I did not recognize some of them. I would like to read them in their context. You do not have to supply context, I can do my own homework on that, just where they came from would be sufficient. Thank you.

Sure. Just use control-F in your browser to search for each of my quoted phrases in the previous post's comments and in this one. They're all there.

Andrew writes:

Having said that, I do not think it’s in any way unfair to hold Harrell accountable for his comments.

I agree. My concern was in another realm entirely: *how* we do this. I read back through the comments and scratch my head, wondering, "And how is Bill Harrell supposed to be helped by this, really?"

I don't mean to harp on this subject. I've said enough, and hopefully made my point. I think providing an environment for open, robust disagreement and exchange of contrary views ought to be the norm in the SBC. I'm just trying to highlight the "love" part of "speaking the truth in love".

stilldesiringGod said...

Mr. Welty, I apologize, I never would say something like that to you. Although I do not know you, I can tell by the comments from other men on this blog that you are a man who is well respected. That, outside of the fact that I owe you respect just for being human and a brother in Christ, I respect you not to make a comment like that to you. My comment was for passerby readers who may take just a sentence or two from everything I have written and throw away the rest as though everything was flamboyant, forgetting the heart and context it was written in. Just as you had mentioned outside readers, I was attempting to address that same universal crowd with that quote, not anyone particularly, and certainly not anyone on this blog. Some things I may say are quite passionate, some may, if isolated, sound off the wall, I suppose, to others. But if taken in the context of the continual stream of this blog as one ongoing conversation between us all interacting with each other, reading what I said in context I know nothing I said was of a whiny nature. And I hope helpful to someone.

Mr. Welty, if you recognized yourself in my comment, then okay, but please do not recognize yourself in the last part of this quote, "but I think that it is a reflection of their heart and where they are in their spiritual walk, or perhaps where they are not." I could NEVER have been talking about YOU!

If Centuri0n says you could hit him so hard he would have to put ice on his jaw, (spiritually, of course) I know I would have to watch out! I like that guy and he thinks the world of you!

Thanks for the Control-F function information. That is cool! Too bad it does not work for all the archives!

colinm said...

I will fearfully step into this ring to add very little to the discussion, but much in the way of compliment.

Thank you Dr. Welty! It is not only what you say but how you say it...very refreshing indeed. I pray people will take note of your remarks before blasting SWBTS in the future.

scripturesearcher said...

Of this we can be absolutely, completely and totally assured:

All those in HEAVEN will be those forgiven sinners chosen in Christ hefore the foundation of the world;

those forgiven sinners who were supernaturally drawn to faith in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit;

those many sinners for whom Jesus Christ suffered, bled and died on the cross;

and those believing sinners who were kept or protected by God's sovereign, saving, sustaining grace until they graduated to glory where they will worship and praise their triune God forever!

Let us continue to pray daily that in that great multitude there will be some Calvinists and Arminians!!

David said...

Greg said,
"I'm just trying to highlight the "love" part of "speaking the truth in love".

And you did so with all the love and eloquence of a true brother in Christ. May all that would read, respond with Meekness. A struggle that we all face.