Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Florida Pastors sent anti-Calvinist propaganda

Just before leaving the state of Florida on my way to Texas for the Southern Baptist Convention next week, our family stopped to visit dear friends who live in the panhandle. As we shared dinner in their home with another pastor and his family, I was informed of a "care package" that arrived today in the mailboxes of pastors throughout the state.

It seems that Dr. John Sullivan, the Executive Director of the Florida Baptist Convention, has mailed a set of Jerry Vines' sermons entitled, "Baptist Battles," to ever pastor in the Florida Baptist Convention. These are sermons that Dr. Vines preached at First Baptist Church of Woodstock, GA last year. One of those messages is entitled, "Calvinism, A Baptist and His Election." I reviewed that sermon not long after it was preached.

I ended my assessment of that mistake-laden message with these words:
One final observation: Dr. Vines' message screams for a response from denominational leaders who never hesitate to issue warnings to Southern Baptist Calvinists whom they label "Calvinazis" and charge with being more willing to fly across the country to debate Calvinism than to cross the street to witness to a lost person. Wouldn't it make sense that those who issue such warnings should feel some compulsion to issue them in both directions? Will this kind of complete misrepresentation of the theological heritage of the Southern Baptist Convention and the theological convictions of thousands of Southern Baptist pastors be given a pass by denominational leadership? If recent history is any indicator, that is exactly what we can expect.
Little did I know. Not only has the denominational leadership of my own state convention given Dr. Vines a pass on this sermon, they have used God's money to send it to every Southern Baptist in the state!

This mailing comes on the heels of a very egregious attempt last week by a state convention executive to intimidate pastors in a local association in our state over the issue of Calvinism--a matter into which I have been drawn and that I am in the midst of personally investigating in hopes of seeing it resolved. So far I have been unsuccessful in getting this person to return my phone call. At least one pastor who has spoken with people in the denominational state office about this affair has been disappointed in the response.

I don't know what is going on in Jacksonville, but I hope to find out. This much is clear: the mailing of Dr. Vines' sermon on Calvinism is a clear indication that the Executive Director of the Florida Baptist Convention has an agenda to demonize the ministers and churches in our state who believe what the founders of the Southern Baptist Convention believed regarding the grace of God in salvation. This is a serious matter. Very serious.


Tom said...

I am on the road and will not be able to comment here much for the next day or so. Please be judicious in your comments. As I said, this is a very serious issue (especially in light of what happened in that association last week) and should be seriously engaged.


GUNNY said...

I remember when something VERY similar happened here in Texas, where the SBTC sent out a packet of anti-Calvinism material from the director of evangelism, Don Cass.

We actually did get an apology issued by the executive director of the SBTC, but I sure was tender about the whole ordeal, especially thinking that's NOT what we send them money for.

I pray for some positivity to come out of the negativity and look forward to see you and other beloved brothers in San Antonio.

Gig 'em and keep the faith, brother.

kingofbleh said...

Wow! I am 5 years removed from the Jacksonville scene, but this has me speechless (but not surprised)! We are getting ready to call a new pastor up here and I am definitely concerned about his views on the reformed resurgence and the issues you and other have brought to the attention of the SBC.

On a side note, it is interesting to see that Voddie Baucham, Al Mohler, Jerry Vines and Ergun Caner are all on the rostrum at next year's First Baptist Jax pastor's conference. Mohler, Vines and Caner are all regulars, but I think this is Baucham's first time at that conference. So far Dr. Brunson has done a pretty good job of taking the high road and representing both sides of the issue in a fair-minded manner. It will be interesting to see if anything comes out of that conference.

Aaron L. Turner said...

I wonder if Dr. Sullivan would be willing to send out a mailing with a good cd or dvd representing the other side of the issue?

Hmmmm....something tells me it will snow on the equater before that happens.

Tom said...


That very question was put to Dr. Sullivan yesterday in a phone conversation. When 2 names were suggested as capable respondents--one a pastor and one a denominational agency leader--he responded decisively in the negative about sending out anything by the pastor, but said he would be willing to send out something by the other man. We will see.

As Gunny pointed out, this same kind of mistake was made recently in Texas, and resulted in apologies from the state exec there. Who knows what will happen in Florida?

M. Jay Bennett said...

At what point should it be considered bad stewardship to send money to associations that do this sort of thing?

I'm no prophet and this is no prophecy, but I predict a denominational split in the SBC over Calvinism in the next decade or so.

Aaron L. Turner said...
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Aaron L. Turner said...


I guess there are some high mountains on the equator, so maybe it does snow there.

As you said...we will see


Carey Olson said...


Thank you for your good ministry. I am new in the FBC and SBC and look forward to meeting you, perhaps soon. Stop by, if you can, on your way through the Panhandle going home; I cannot attend in San Antonio.

Blessings of Grace,


Tom Buck said...

I am in Texas as well. When the packet came from the Evangelism department of the SBTC attacking the view of Calvinism, it included a sermon from Dr. Fish and one from Dr. Patterson. I personally addressed the situation in writing to the leadership of the SBTC in a gentle fashion. I explained that the ways in which Calvinists were characterized were grossly untrue. I pointed out several major errors and the straw man arguments that were used, particularly in Dr. Fish's sermon.

Prior to the letter of apology, I received a personal phone call from one of the SBTC leaders apologizing for the "misunderstanding" and was assured that this came from the Evangelism director personally and the rest of the leadership did not know about it. It was meant, they said, to help pastors think through these issues.

Since the sermons sent out clearly stated that Calvinism was completely incompatible with evangelism, I requested that if they really wanted to help pastors "think through the issues" that they send out a sermon from someone who would argue that Calvinsim is completely compatible with evangelism. Doesn't thinking through the issues require you to actually have more than one point of view? I gave several suggestions and they said that would only "add to the problem." They didn't want any more controversy and to send out another CD would continue the fire storm. I contended that the toothpaste was out of the tube and you couldn't put it back in so we deserved to be represented fairly. The leader contended that was why Dr. Patterson's sermon was sent along with Dr. Fish's to present "the other side." He said our view was represented by Dr. Patterson. I love and respect Dr. Patterson and believe he would be surprised, himself, to find out his sermon was a "defense" of the Calvinistic position.

I may be, and pray that I am, wrong about this. But I believe this is actually a strategy by some who oppose Historical Baptist Doctinre. Throw the theological grenade to misrepresent and undermine Reformed Doctrine, once it explodes issue an apology to put out the fire of those who are offended, and then not allow a response in order to "bring unity" and stop the strife. At the end of the day, the attack is complete, those offended are appeased and their point of view remains the final word out there. If it is a strategy, it is a brilliant one. This has now happened in two state conventions and how many more before it becomes a trend?

Tom, I agree that this is very serious. What I pray for is open dialogue and fair representations of both sides of view. But right now it is a monologue full of misrepresentations and straw-men argumentation that seems to be the propoganda of many of those in SBC leadership. Whether we agree or not, where is the brotherly love and affection for one another? We are eating our own.

Tom Buck

Larry said...

All throughout history when the true Gospel is recovered it has received oppostion, sometimes very severe oppostion. Most often from within the church itself as we're witnessing here.

This is just a sign to me that the Doctrines of Grace are beginning to make an impact. May that continue to be the case.

Zack said...

Wow! Take a stand for Truth, but always speak up... as in, kneel down, and look up and 'unpack our salvation with fear and trembling'...

Bill Lollar said...

John Sullivan ought to be ashamed! He was my pastor in Shreveport and he brought me on staff of the Church Planting Department in 1997 with full knowledge that I was a "5-point" Calvinist. In fact, he admitted to me in a new employee reception that his own theological convictions were closer to mine than any other views of Scripture. We had a good relationship during my tenure as a church planting strategist with the FBC. Sadly, it sounds like he has caved in to the pressures of the SBC anti-Calvinist SWAT team: men like Johnny Hunt, Jerry Vines, and formerly the likes of Adrian Rogers and Jerry Falwell.

Cecil Seagle is another story! He just about choked on his food when the subject came up between John Sullivan and myself at my final interview at dinner. He's the real bully of the Florida Baptist Convention, determined to stamp out Calvinism throughout the state. Four years ago, he invited Wiley Richards (author of "Why I'm Not a Calvinist") to address Directors of Missions at their annual state-convention-funded retreat on the subject of how to deal with Calvinism in their associations. When I heard about it, I contacted Seagle and raised the objection that Richards would not be presenting an objective perspective and that he would certainly bring along cases of his books to share with the DOM's. He assured me that that would NOT happen, but it did and he got away with it.

I'm really sorry to hear things continue to go downhill in Florida. Sounds like you guys need to start your own association!


Bill Lollar

irreverend fox said...
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irreverend fox said...


If our church was in that state we would demand an apology or we'd disassociate and encourage other churches to do the same!

what an absolute outrage!

Brian Hamrick said...

I have yet to receive the propaganda in Sugartown. But a significant response should be formulated, no doubt. It's budget time around here, I appreciate the heads up to help us be wise stewards.

MikeT said...

Like Tom Buck, our church body went throught this same attack last year here in Texas. The SBTC never had a problem using our money, but all of a sudden, out of the blue, the churches in the SBTC adhering to the doctrines of grace were, according to Mr. Don Cass, a "critical issue" (the other critical issue singled out was "universalism"). After several months of exchanged correspondence, a couple of unacceptable "aw-shucks" letters from the Executive Director of the SBTC, and multiple deliberations with our congregation, we disassociated with the SBTC. I am not foolish enough to believe that the state of Florda officials will be saddened by any churches in Florida who leave the association because their theology is not welcome--a theology that is, by the way, fully supported by the BF&M 2000. But what they will miss is your money--if enough of the Florida churches truly believe what they claim to believe.

Stephen said...

My question is, if the anti-Calvinists can send out all this blatant propaganda, then why can't Calvinists?

The autonomy of the local Baptist will be the one thread that holds together these two groups in the SBC, both with access to the CP.

How long will that thread hold?

Tom said...

I have have had many conversations today about this matter--including one with an executive in the state office. Though I appreciate his willingness to talk very plainly, there are still some serious, unresolved issues that must be addressed.

The impression I get is that many pastors and churches in our state are upset about the CDs that were mailed out. As I told a reporter today, it is immoral to ask churches to support with their finances activities that blatantly attack what those churches believe and teach.

G. Alford said...

I agree with Bill Lollar…

It is time for the Conservative “Historic” Southern Baptist Churches in the state of Florida to form a new Convention…

I am so tired of the same old attacks that being a part of the Florida Baptist Convention is simply not worth it anymore and in my opinion it is time to leave the Fundamentalist and let them fight among themselves…

Grace to all,

kingofbleh said...

It will be interesting to see if and where Mac Brunson comes down on this kind of stuff. As John Sullivan's pastor and pastor of the largest SBC church in the state, he definitely has the power of the "bully pulpit" at his disposal.

Last year Dr. Brunson preached a couple of months on church history and spent 3 or 4 weeks on the Reformation. Not once in any of those sermons did he come within a country mile of what we have been hearing from Vines, Hunt, Falwell and Caner. The sermons were a fair-minded presentation of the historical facts and their importance to where we are today.

Regardless, Dr. Ascol, there is strong pocket of us up here in NC who will be praying for you AND for Dr. Sullivan.

Tom Bryant said...

As a non-Calvinist, I was bothered by the mailing also. I was particularly bothered by the grouping of of Liberalism, Pentecostalism, Libertinism with Calvinism.

Bob Cleveland said...

The irony of all this is that, every time I have been approached and asked if I knew for certain where I was going to spend eternity, in the past 32 years, it's been by a Presbyterian, and never once by a baptist.

The anti-Calvinists simply don't know what they're talking about.

hisbygrace said...

Truth always divides..always has, always will. If a denomination can't agree on what the truth is, then perhaps it's time to abandon that denomination. Spurgeon had to make the same stand in his day. Frankly I'm sick of the "big tent" mentality of the SBC and the "superstar" pastors it's created, who gain that status by getting the most "decisions" and baptizing more unregenerates than anyone else. The SBC claims no hierarchy, but anyone one-eyed and half-sensed can see that the leaders who have that status wield a mighty big club. People got angry and turned away when Christ preached the hard truths to them. Can His people who stand on those truths expect any different? Just thinking out loud.

Scotty Karber said...

After listening to cd's of the last Ligonier National Conference dealing with postmodernism I have become convinced that the same deconstruction of language and words is going on in regard to Scripture in the SBC. The reminder of Vine's sermon completely misrepresenting (lying about) the plain words of the 1689 Confession is one example. I also think it is going on in respect to Scripture. I have not always been a Calvinist and know it was the plain teaching of Scripture everywhere on the complete sovereignty of God that brought me to submit to what could not in good conscience be explained away. Bro. Tom, I appreciate your active resistance to this in Florida and think it is time for all of us to be more proactive in demanding that these people submit to Scripture rather than be given a pass to redefine words in the very best of postmodernist tradition.

Scotty Karber

Tom said...

I fully understand the frustration and disappointment with the Florida Convention leadership in sending out this mailing. I share that frustration completely. One thing that every Southern Baptist pastor and church must remember and believe decisively is that every state convention employee works for us! They are our servants. Now, I have never met a state or national SBC employee who has denied this, but I have met dozens who act as if the roles are reversed.

It is high time that we start demanding accountability from our servants--not harshly or with a heavy hand--but honestly and plainly requiring accountability for their actions. This will only happen if those churches and pastors who understand the dymanics of this relationship are willing to stand up and say, "Enough!" All who recognize the the damage that is being done and discord that is being promoted by such antics as this mailing must make their voices heard to our servants who have failed us miserably in this.

This is not the time to check out. This is the time to engage fully.

G. Alford said...

One comment made by Jerry Vines in his attack on the “Historic Doctrines of the Christian Faith” reveals the VITRIOL and “PURE HATERID” he and his fellow Fundimentialist feel toward Southern Baptist Calvinist of the SBC.

"Calvinism eats the life out of our churches."

According to Jerry Vines, Johnny Hunt, and John Sullivan:

The doctrines taught by Dr. Mohler “eats the life out of our churches.”

The doctrines taught by Dr. Nettles “eats the life out of our churches.”

The doctrines taught by James P. Boyce “eats the life out of our churches.”

The doctrines taught by John a Broadus “eats the life out of our churches.”

The doctrines taught by Charles Spurgeon “eats the life out of our churches.”

The doctrines taught by John Piper “eats the life out of our churches.”

The doctrines taught by Dr. James Kennedy “eats the life out of our churches.”

The doctrines taught by R.C. Sproul “eats the life out of our churches.”

Can you imagine the outrage that would come from them if Dr. Mohler or Dr. Nettles or any of these men had made the comment that the teachings of Jerry Vines or Johnny Hunt “eats the life out of our churches.”

These Fundamentalist would have a stroke! They would be calling for their heads on a pole… and they would get it to…

This is a direct and deliberate attempt to cause division within the Body of Christ, the SBC, and the Florida Baptist Convention… and as such John Sullivan and those responsible should all be held accountable!

Grace to all,

Brian Hamrick said...

Alas, I was not exempted from the mailout- it came today. I have not yet had the opportunity to partake.

I am disturbed that the included note has the nerve to say "May the good things of grace continue" when GRACE itself is probably being undermined in one of these messages. "May the good things of grace continue, even though we don't really believe in the kind of grace the Bible reveals!" I guess they ran out of room on the notecard for full disclosure.

Brian Hamrick said...

Hmmmmmm.... the note says DVDs, but the discs say CDs..... another example of things not being carefully examined or reviewed....

Brian Hamrick said...

I can't believe Dr. Vines tried to used John 1:12 to argue against regeneration preceding faith... I just yelled out in my office, KEEP READING! John 1:13 is a slam dunk in the face of salvation by human ability.

Byroniac said...

Well, it's easy to preach when you're not the one who's suffering or being tempted to lash out in return (since I'm over here in Texas), but 1 Peter 2:19-23 came to mind concerning this issue:

1 Peter 2:19-23 (ESV)
19 For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

Rob said...

Just listened to the Calvinism CD. All I can say is, "Zoiks!"

Every head bowed, every eye closed.

Hargrave said...

Gentlemen, when the battle is raging let us keep our wits. Wait, pray for wisdom and wield the sword that God has providentially placed into our hands. The present situation is a walking advertisment for reformation's necessity. Let us not squander this opportunity through unbridled emotions.

Tom said...

Be sure to read the very pertinent and insightful thoughts of Gene Bridges and Timmy Brister that are relevant to this discussion.

dogpreacher said...

Well, I am from Texas also, and I want to know where that apology was for a small church in east Texas.

I talked with Tom B. and I understand he received a call, but some of us are not in a large pulpit, and don't matter. Besides, it was not from the man who "did the deed".

Yes we must conduct ourselves a notch above, but sometimes you just have to stop being naive, and call these things what they truly are. I am...

...Grateful for Grace

William said...

I have just returned from a wonderful week of hearing Pastor Conrad Mbewe (Kabwata Baptist Church in Lusaka, Zambia) preach at our SBFYC youth camp in Bolivar, MO. He preached in the mornings on "Missions" (three wonderful sermons on 1) the missionary, 2) his team, & 3) prayer). In the evenings he preached evangelistically (I know that some find it hard to believe that a 5 point Calvinist can preach evangelistically) on "Lessons from Sodom and Gomorrah." The sermons were powerful and passionate, and the Lord saved several of the young people who were in attendance. I say all of this because I have just now read the happenings in the Florida Baptist Covention and I am deeply saddened. John Sullivan was my mentor for five & one half years (1978-1983) at the Broadmoor Baptist Church in Shreveport where I served under him as Assistant Pastor. I learned many wonderful things from him that have been very valuable to me in ministry through the years. He was always very kind to me, even when I became convinced of the doctrines of grace while at Broadmoor. He even defended me when a couple of the members of the Personnel Committee wanted to get rid of me because of my Calvinism. Not only did he defend me, he even defended my theological position and asserted that my theology did not, in fact, harm evangelism. He knew full well that I was a five-point Calvinist and was, I believe, genuinely sad to see me leave Broadmoor to begin pastoring at the FBC of Clinton, LA. While I will not impugn John Sullivan's motives, I know that he knows better.

I do not know what it would cost, but I would be willing to lead my church to raise part of the money to pay for the statewide distribution of a set of CDs on the doctrines of grace that could be sent throughout the Florida Baptist Convention. The addresses of all the churches are readily available, and we do not need to wait around for the state convention to do our work for us. We will be meeting for the national Founders Conference here at Bethel in a few weeks (not to mention the Founders Breakfast in San Antonio in a few days) and we could discuss the logistics of this.

Viva la Reformation in the Florida Baptist Convention, as well as every state convention, and throughout the length and breadth of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Bill Ascol, Senior Pastor
Bethel Baptist Church
Owasso, OK

G. Alford said...

Bill Ascol,

I regret that I will not be able to attend the National Founder Conference this year… but you can count on me and my Church to financially support the mailing of a set of Calvinistic CD’s to every Baptist Church in the State of Florida.

Just let me know where to send the check…

Grace to all,

Aaron L. Turner said...
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Aaron L. Turner said...

"The addresses of all the churches are readily available, and we do not need to wait around for the state convention to do our work for us."

I agree that this would be a good thing to do, and I am willing to contritute to it as well.

However, the issue here is not "waiting around for the state convention to do our work for us."

The state covention took cooperative fund money, and sent out anti calvinist propoganda. In order for this to be made right, they ought to have to fund a mailing of material that gives the other side of the issue. In my opinion, they need to have their feet held to the fire, until they make this right.

As Calvinists, we did not start this controversy. But we ought not to let it die, until it is made right.

In the meantime, count me in, and my church to help fund the mailing to which your referred.

Bill, please do not take this as a rebuke, but only as a correction and a clarification.


dogpreacher said...

Brother Hargrave said..."let us not squander this opportunity through unbridled emotions."

AMEN...but...there are serious questions to be asked, and lets not squander this opportunity by doing nothing, either.

Thanks Brother Bill, and I would be glad to contribute also to the actions you mentioned...although Aaron Turner does have a very valid point.

Hargrave said...

Dogpreacher, don't misunderstand my intention in the statement you quoted. You said, Brother Hargrave said..."let us not squander this opportunity through unbridled emotions." The key words were "not squander this opportunity" and for further explanation of my intention, I'll add this addendum, by being emotional about this serious matter instead of being prayerfully thoughtful, reflective and intentional in our response. I have sought to practice that very thing by doing what I can do.I've written an open letter to Dr. Vines and Dr. Sullivan concerning, primarily, the content of Dr. Vine's message which thoroughly misrepresented the common calvinistic view in Baptists circles. Its posted at I have some concerns that the danger of what is being taught in our pulpits today will be forgotten while we focus on the surface issues of the CD's being sent out (which is a surface issue). We cannot let the root of this occasion get lost in the shuffle of merely reaching out to one another. Can we call what is being propagated in many of our pulpits today a form of the gospel, when the law, the gravity of sin, the hopelessness of sinners, the coming wrath and the necessity of repentance is negated. Is the good news,good news, in the context of no bad news? When the malady is not known, is the remedy nothing more than casting the pearls before the swine? John Wesley would be considered a Calvinist today in the prevelant environment of neo-pelagianism. Arminius himself would propably stand against the user-friendly, story-telling, sentimental love of God preaching in our day. Is what is generally being preached among us the gospel of Christ? That is the question. It is not primarily is it calvinistic or arminian, it is, is it the gospel?

dogpreacher said...

I agree...completely. I was not insinuating that YOU would be doing nothing. I have heard so much about you that would lean to you being a man of WISE action. I did all that I could last year concerning this same type of thing in Texas (SBTC). However, I do not have the "platform" that many have to speak from.

I actually believe this has much to do with Brother Tom's resolution on "Integriy in Church Membership"! Do we really expect a warm welcome to this resolution before we address "Integrity in Leadership" (i.e. Pulpits / pastorates, Association DOMs, State Association Leaders / Directors, & SBC Leaders). Let's face it, we are paying the price for a lack of integrity...period.

I am looking forward to hearing you preach in a couple of weeks Brother Hargrave.

SGH said...

You know the thing that struck me? The insinuation "Calvinists think babies are going to hell."

Being that I dont believe that as a "Calvinist" this means that Dr. Vines has just beared false witness about me and I feel sure (and know some) many other Calvinist brothers that do not believe babies go to hell....just interesting to me that a preacher would bear false witness in such a way.......he said, "I am not going to attack individuals".....but he did in a shotgun blast approach....he said folks are listening to "prominent preachers" etc etc and learning from them. (I paraphrase)....hmmm, the same thing he is doing?? I just have to chuckle.....he beared false witness about me and for me, I was tired of listening to the watered down gospel, do your "ABC's" and you can be saved, and all the other weak anemic pragmatic, humanistic, non-biblical garbage that is rampant in the churches today. The Doctrines of Grace when I discovered them the Holy Spirit showed me why I was so unsettled by the preaching I was hearing....The Bible is a two edge sword and it should be preached as such.

brandon said...

Can someone please simply state both sides for me, I didnt get the cd.

Tom said...


Click the link where I reviewed the sermon. That will give you a summary of the issues.