Wednesday, June 27, 2012

My analysis of the SBC family

Over the last several years I have had multiple opportunities to reflect on the composition of the Southern Baptist family of which I am a part. I've seen that composition change significantly from 1978, when I began to pastor my first church, to the present. Gone are those who clandestinely questioned the historicity of Adam or even the resurrection of Jesus. With them left the ones who saw the Bible as riddled with errors. Sadly, some others who have no doubts about such things also left because of weariness of political wrangling and ungodly behavior during the battle for the Bible.

From the mid-1990s if a denominational employee or convention leader did not affirm the full authority of God's Word, then he or she knew to lay low or plan to go. The convention of churches made a decided return to our historic roots in affirming the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible. That was blessing from God and prevented us from going the way of the mainline American denominations in the twentieth century.

With the return to a full affirmation of the Bible's authority there also emerged a renewed interest in Baptist history and theology as well as biblical studies. When I completed my PhD dissertation in 1989 on John Gill and Andrew Fuller I was told that I was on the cusp of an explosion of dissertation proposals in Baptist studies. This growing interest in biblical and Baptist theology helped fuel a nascent reformation in understanding soteriology and ecclesiology among the rising generation of Southern Baptists. Some of that generation, myself included, came to the conviction that the Bible teaches exactly what the founders of the SBC affirmed in those two areas of study. Sometimes we have been called "reformed" or "Calvinists" because of these convictions. When used with historical and theological understanding, they fit. When used pejoratively, they are a hindrance to understanding and fellowship.

Though we knew that we had differences with our more dispensational brothers, we sensed a genuine unity with them in standing on the full authority of God's Word. After all, Tom Nettles, together with the late Russ Bush, authored the seminal book for making the case for conservative Southern Baptists in the battle for the Bible. During the Baptist21 meeting at the recent SBC, Paige Patterson called the publication of Baptists and the Bible one of the ten most significant events in helping turn the tide of the SBC back to its conservative roots in the last two decades of the twentieth century. Our Baptist polity is such that those in the SBC should be able to work together with brothers and sisters who affirm the essence of the gospel as spelled out in our Baptist Faith and Message statement.

The last 10-12 years has seen a tremendous growth in the numbers of Southern Baptists who have come to a more God-centered understanding of salvation and more rigorous understanding of the nature and role of the local church. Collin Hansen has famously called this new rising evangelical generation the "Young, Restless and Reformed" (YRR). As their presence began to be felt more and more on college and seminary campuses some of the less reformed Southern Baptists began to grow alarmed. No doubt there are many reasons for this, part of which would include the impertinence of some of the YRR crowd. However, that is not to discount the real theological issues that are at stake.

The recent publication of the "Statement of Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God's Plan of Salvation" and the commentaries and analyses that it has provoked reveal how deep some of the theological divides actually are. It will not do any good to pretend that it is otherwise. When 30% of Southern Baptist churches can be considered in some sense "reformed" and 61% of SBC pastors are concerned about the impact of Calvinism in the convention and when a classical, respected Arminian theologian calls the views of several of our seminary and college presidents and many of their faculty "obviously and blatantly semi-Pelagian," then it is obvious that Southern Baptists face an unavoidable crossroads.

How will we move forward? Executive Committee President, Frank Page, has announced that he intends to appoint a "group of advisers" that will help chart the way for the convention. Pray that this effort will serve SBC churches well. Those advisers will face a herculean task and will need wisdom from above.

Over the last few years as I have surveyed the SBC landscape I have identified what I believe are 4 distinct types of Southern Baptists who care about the issue of Calvinism. Most Southern Baptists do not care about the issue at all, or if they do, we have no way of knowing about it since they are AWOL. But among those who do care, this is what I see:

  1. Intolerant Calvinists—These are those who are convinced of the doctrines of grace and believe that anyone who does not agree with their views does not really believe the gospel. Therefore, they are always suspicious and often dismissive of folks who understand issues like unconditional election, particular redemption and effectual calling differently than they do and think that it is unwise at best and most likely impossible to work together with such people. 
  2. Cooperative Calvinists—These are people who believe the doctrines of grace but recognize that there are other brothers and sisters in the SBC who do not agree with their understanding. They are not mad about the disagreement but believe there can be genuine cooperation on the basis of what is believed in common. They do not think that it is necessary to be a Calvinist in order to "really believe" the gospel and they acknowledge that there are good and godly people who simply disagree with some of the specific tenets of reformed soteriology. They are unwilling to compromise their convictions but do not see cooperating with gospel-believing non-Calvinists as necessitating that. 
  3. Cooperative non-Calvinists—These Southern Baptists disagree with one or more points of the Calvinistic understanding of the doctrines of grace but do not believe that Calvinists are heretics or believe a "different gospel." They are open to dialogue about their differences and willing to work with Calvinists and others who might disagree with their views as long as there is agreement on the nature of the gospel. They are not embarrassed about the Calvinistic heritage of the SBC and harbor no paternalistic attitude toward their Calvinist brethren. They are unwilling merely to tolerate Calvinists but desire to work with them in the common cause of making Christ known to the nations. 
  4. Anti-Calvinists—This group genuinely believes that Calvinism is a serious threat that must be rooted out of the convention or at best, relegated to a "back of the bus" status. They seek to marginalize Southern Baptist Calvinists by actively working to block access to local churches and denominational positions. Those anti-Calvinists who are denominational employees sense a stewardship to stand against Calvinism as well as, with increasing regularity, against those cooperative non-Calvinists who embrace their Calvinist brethren as equals. They believe that by doing so they are protecting the convention.
I believe that the 3rd group is the largest and the one that is in the most difficult and pivotal position. Many of their friends and heroes are in the 4th group and due to increasing pressure from that group are being forced to choose between their principles and their relationships. Recent testimonies of pastors who were pressured to sign the above-mentioned statement on salvation illustrate this with tragic clarity.

I consider myself in the 2nd category and think that it is probably the fastest growing of the four. As recent communications from some friends and others indicate, we tend to be viewed with suspicion or even disdain by some who believe that if you are not a Calvinist then you don't believe the gospel. Others with that view simply pity us and think we are on a fool's errand by staying in the SBC even though our theology is the same as those who founded the denomination.

If the convention of churches hopes to move forward redemptively through these challenges that face us, then we must see a growing determination to stand against the extreme positions and agendas of groups 1 and 4. Failure to do this will greatly weaken the SBC and diminish its usefulness in the lives of the autonomous churches that comprise it. The SBC is so big that inertia will keep it going for a long time regardless of what happens. But movement does not necessarily mean life. And even where there is life, there is not necessarily health.

Pray that God will pour out His Spirit on the churches of the SBC and revive us with a genuine spirit of humility and love that result in deeper devotion to His Word and zeal for His glory to be displayed among all people.

47 comments:

tracy said...

Thank you. I am a # 2 ministering in a # 3 association.

Jerry said...

Good analysis, as always, Praying that groups 2 & 3 will prosper and grow, and that groups 1 & 4 will decrease in both numbers and influence.

All for His glory.

Tom Hicks said...

Well said Tom! As Southern Baptists, we should be content to leave theological issues not addressed in the Baptist Faith and Message to indivdiual local churches and make the most of cooperating with churches who differ from us on non-confessional questions of theology.

Adam Harwood said...

This is a thoughtful and help article. Thank you, Dr. Ascol.

Tony said...

Wise words. I would agreey with Tracy. I am an #2 ministering in a #3 association. I consider myself blessed.

Prophet Among Them said...

Kevin DeYoung, on the heels of the RCA National Meeting posted a helpful list of items that help define beneficial boundaries or guidelines for cooperation within a group of churches. Here is the link: http://mail.aol.com/36515-112/cs_com-6/en-us/Suite.aspx

honeyandlocusts said...

This is great. Thanks for your thoughtful analysis and commentary!

Prophet Among Them said...

Sorry men - here is the correct link to Kevin's post on the Gospel Coalition:
http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/

Billy said...

Thank you for this gracious post, Dr. Ascol. A prominent SBC professor just recently deleted a comment I posted on his facebook page commending your article on the "Sinner's Prayer" resolution. Here is the reasoning he offered via private message:

"Please refrain from linking to Tom Ascol or any aggressive Calvinist websites on my Facebook page. Their divisiveness is not really appreciated. Thank you."

My response:
"My comment was written in a spirit of kindness and unity, as per your request. Dr. Ascol's article, to which I alluded but did not link, was likewise written in a spirit of kindness and unity. I don't quite understand what is expected. I'll be honest. After typing and sending that comment, I could have sworn there would be nothing in it with which you would disagree. I had even hoped that it would help you to see that I'm here to dialogue in a spirit of love and humility, not to argue.

"I apologize for any offense."

His final response:
"Dr Ascol is a divisive figure. One post does not a reputation unmake. Thank you for your understanding, William. No offense taken."

As you can probably tell, this is not the first time he has corrected me via private message and written to me with what you have aptly refer to as a "paternalistic attitude." This approach by some of our more "Traditionalist" or Anabaptist brothers is very troubling to me, especially when I see you posting such gracious articles. I pray that you will continue in this spirit of humility and love. In so doing you aid your more Reformed brothers by providing evidence against these accusations. Thank you for your ministry.

Bryan Catherman said...

This is a well thought out and gracious article. I appreciate the focus it brings to the matter without driving toward divisive and unprofitable arguments. I've just graduated seminary with an M.Div and I would have to say your observations seem fairly accurate in my circles. (Also, I'm in the second category.)

David Tuten said...

I would classify myself in your continuum as group 2.5 or 3. I watch much of the current disputations in the blogosphere while scratching my head over it all. However, I do understand some of the tensions that arise, which often are attributable to semantics. A sentence in your post caught my eye as it went by:

"The last 10-12 years has seen a tremendous growth in the numbers of Southern Baptists who have come to a more God-centered understanding of salvation and more rigorous understanding of the nature and role of the local church."

Are you not aware that using a phrase like "a more God-centered understanding of salvation" in reference to the "Reformed" position will leave a strong impression you think others have an understanding of salvation that is NOT God-centered? That is the type of insinuation that I see Group 4 folks jumping on all the time. And I get the impression sometimes that those who are Group 2 don't even recognize that problem in their phrasings. (Group 1 probably wouldn't care.)

Somehow, those in the comfortable, co-existing middle have got to start tempering their own phrasings, so the implications of "heresy" aren't perceived flying in one direction, and the implications of "inferior understanding" aren't perceived as flying in the other direction.

Pastor Paul said...

I'm interested in the "Recent testimonies of pastors who were pressured to sign the above-mentioned statement on salvation." Can you provide links?

Tom said...

David,

Point well taken. Thanks for pointing it out. Semantics is an ongoing challenge to speak plainly without being offensive. I certainly intended no offense, but see your point. Thanks again for your comment.
ta

David Tuten said...

I frequent some blogs where this particular debate is very heated. I don't usually weigh in, but I have learned see the sort of things that both sides tend to react to strongly!

Dr. Michael Vaughan said...

In agreement with Paul. Are these stories that were told in confidence that you are not at liberty to share, or do you have any links about pastors forced into signing the statement?

Tom said...

I don't know of any links that are available about the pressure that has been applied to some to sign the statement. I was not told this in confidence. I hope those who experienced it will be willing at some point to speak for themselves. If the issue can be depoliticized that is much more likely to happen.

fred-johnson said...

Tom,
It seems to me the people inhabiting what you have designated #s 1 and 4 are beyond the bounds of the Baptist Faith and Message. Does it not look as if they have moved themselves into non-cooperating extremes?

I think both the Intolerant Calvinists and the anti-Calvinists (who I would call Intolerant Traditionalists) have moved themselves beyond the cooperative confession. The first group would likely be more happy in a Reformed Baptist denomination, and the latter group as Independent Baptists.

strangebaptistfire said...

"Praying... that groups 1 & 4 will decrease in both numbers and influence." ... Isn't that sort of intolerant? :p

Tom, do you recommend that Reformed SBC churches, who feel that the doctrines of grace are critical to a right understanding of the gospel, should therefore separate from the SBC? I suspect they would fall into the "intolerant" group you defined.

Also, I wonder why we are never called Non-Arminians. :)

Tom said...

Billy,

I am sorry that your comment was censured by a prominent SBC professor because of a reference to me. I hope, if you are his student, that you will not suffer any other repercussions. If you do, please let me know.

Keep pressing on,
tom

Tom said...

Strangebaptistfire,

That's a good question. If by "critical" you mean essential, then I think it would be very difficult for a church to have any kind of meaningful relationship to the SBC, knowing that there are many churches within it who intentionally stand against the essence of the gospel. If by "critical" you mean something very important but less that essential then I think a church could continue to cooperate within the SBC, knowing that while there may be many churches that don't have a vigorously healthy understanding of the gospel they do have its essence.

Ultimately a church has to decide what its non-negotiables are as well as how it will relate to and cooperate with other churches.

Blessings,
tom

ReformTheSBC said...

As is my brother above, I am a #2 in a #3 association. It has been a blessing.

The keys are: 1. Build and maintain cooperative, healthy relationships with fellow SBC pastors and denominational leaders, 2. Don't wave Calvinism as your banner, always keep your banner Jesus and let your faithfulness display your robust Reformed theology, and 3. Show up. Be there. Just participate and they'll love anybody that cares enough to be involved in the associational work.

John Harris said...

I wrote about this as one of the 12Cs needlessly distracting the SBC. I think it posted today even, http://johnmarkharris.net

Derek said...

Tom,
I would like to respectfully push back just a little bit. I am interested to hear what you think.

If the so-called "traditional statement" is Semi-Pelagian, why do you think that the right thing to do is stay institutionally associated with those who signed it?

You breakdown of the SBC into four categories assumes that everyone is either a Calvinist or an Arminian. And, every category is described in relation to how they feel about Calvinists.

Isn't it more important to break down the SBC in terms of their doctrines concerning Christ?

It seems to me that you and many others in your 2nd and 3rd category have adopted a Roman Catholic definition that assumes Christian unity means institutional connection rather than unity in the gospel that allows Christians to form different networks for missions. 2s and 3s seems to be saying that those who are calling for the creation of two different denominations or networks are elevating non-central issues to the center of baptist identity. Isn't that appropriate if people are signing Semi-Pelagian document?

I hope you read this as a genuine question. Thanks for your faithfulness.

Grace and peace,

Emerson

Tom said...

Emerson,

Thanks for your comment and observations. This is exactly the kind of discussion we need to have. Hard, blunt questions need to be asked without the personal barbs that can often and too easily accompany them.

I'll address the 3 concerns you raise in the order they appear in your comment.

"If the so-called 'traditional statement' is Semi-Pelagian, why do you think that the right thing to do is stay institutionally associated with those who signed it?"

The language in Article 2 of the statement has raised serious concerns in the minds of many Southern Baptists as well as in the minds of other inerrantist evangelicals across the theological spectrum. Discussing that will be necessary if Southern Baptists are going to move forward with any kind of meaningful unity. That is one glaring example of the kinds of issues that must be openly and honestly discussed. I am unwilling to conclude that all of the signers are semi-Pelagians for numerous reasons, not the least of which is some of the clarifications that have been offered by many of them (for example, I was greatly encouraged by elaborations given in a blog post Eric Hankins wrote in response to the expressed concerns over Article 2).

I would guess that you and I might have different understandings of what it means to be "institutionally associated" with people. The nature of the SBC is such that it will inevitably be comprised of doctrinally diverse churches. The parameters for that diversity are defined by the BF&M. That does not mean that the BF&M is all that anyone can confess but it does provide parameters for evaluation.

"Isn't it more important to break down the SBC in terms of their doctrines concerning Christ?"

My analysis is limited to "Southern Baptists who care about The issue of Calvinism." I agree that views of the person and work of Christ are much more important but my analysis is limited to the issues related to the controversy swirling around Calvinism. We're I to offer my thoughts on the SBC as a whole there would need to be other categories including "unregenerate" and "atheological."

"It seems to me that you and many others in your 2nd and 3rd category have adopted a Roman Catholic definition that assumes Christian unity means institutional connection rather than unity in the gospel that allows Christians to form different networks for missions."

That is not my view at all. If I have conveyed it then I have miscommunicated. Every Baptist church is autonomous. Affiliating with the SBC does not impinge on that in the least. I think it is inevitable and in some cases advisable for churches to form or join other networks--both formal and informal.

Again, thanks for your questions.

Blessings,
tom

Dale Pugh said...

Your post points out three problems within the SBC that must be addressed:
1. Gutlessness
2. Bullies
3. Stealth
Those who would sign anything of any sort under pressure from anyone else is simply gutless. Such people are not worthy of leadership in our Convention. Such people are not worth repeating. If someone has been pressured, then he or she should stand up, name names, and make it clear that we will not allow such tactics within the Convention.
Those who would bully someone else into signing something for any reason whatsoever should be outed as such. Heavy-handed tactics within the body of Christ are out of place and ungodly. Those being pressured should name them.
Anyone who would bring up such accusations and then just let it lie there without evidence or substantiation is practicing stealth. Make a surreptitious comment here, sow the seeds of doubt there, make a claim of conspiracy over there--all of it just fomenting discord. It reminds me of the person who walks in to the pastor's study and says, "Pastor, I've been hearing comments from people who are unhappy with your leadership in this church. I won't name anyone, but maybe you should consider resigning." Much of the time the claims are overblown and false, but the pain involved is very real. Stealthiness accomplishes nothing positive, sir, and I would implore you to not practice it.
The gutless should take responsibility by removing their names from the Statement, then they should name the bullies. Those who have not been pressured themselves but have "heard testimonies" should keep their mouths shut and pray that "things hidden in darkness will come to light."

Godismyjudge said...

Tom,

It seems inconsistent to me to say on the one hand Traditionalists are semi-Pelagians and on the other desire unity with them? Herisy accusations don't make for unity; it the charges are true then there is good reason not to unite if they are false, they should be dropped.

God be with you,
Dan

Jay Beerley said...

Tom,
Insightful as always.
Unfortunately for us here in Texas, the turnaround from liberalism was not so clean and distinct. For those who don't know, we now have two state conventions. One, the SBTC, firmly cooperates with the SBC like you would expect SBC churches to do. Our other one, the first one, does not associate themselves in an informal sense with Southern Baptists. They now call themselves Texas Baptists. They are definitely leaning liberal in their views of Scripture, which of course leads to liberal views of everything else. The problem is, on the local church level, most people probably have no idea that they are supporting a convention that no longer is very SBC. They totally reject the 2000 BF&M, and even though they accept the '63, they probably don't theologically line up with that, either.
I think Ed Young's rant is indicative of what Texas is facing. The dividing line is growing larger and larger. There are liberal churches who may still be considered SBC, but, just like the rolls of many of our churches, probably need to be purged.

Trish said...

Thank you, Sir, for an informative and well-balanced article. Living in the south (Texas and now Florida) I've been a member of SBC churches for years. However, my father was an American Baptist minister from Ohio (many years ago) and as a child, then moving into adulthood, I was never exposed to "deep" theological issues. I was, however, then and now, a Bible student, teacher, and voracious reader, with a heart cry that lasted for decades: "there has got to be more!" What I read in the Word didn't square with either my own life or the lives I saw around me. Obviously, the fault (sin) was mine. When God introduced authors and bloggers into my life several years ago (using Tim Challies as His vehicle) I found an entire community of spiritual leaders and fellow believers whose words resonated deeply. It is not that they convinced me by what they said and wrote, it is that they expressed what I had always found in the Word. The Doctrines of Grace have become very precious to me, and God has used them to deepen both my love of Him and my evangelical fervor and love for others. I'm eternally grateful.

That being said: Anyone and everyone who is truly regenerated by the Spirit is part of God's family, my family - and our over-arcing mission must be to stand firm for the glory and Person of Jesus Christ and His purposes. I am one of multiple thousands who are heavily burdened and praying for a true revival, one that will return us all to our first love and bring unknown numbers into the Kingdom - regardless of the cost.

That will only happen as we love one another - and love Him above all things, including our doctrinal differences. Those differences are not unimportant and there are extremes and erros on both ends that may very preclude fellowship in some cases - but I believe those cases are relatively rare.

The pastor and many members of the SBC church I was active in prior to my move to Florida take good-natured "pokes" at some of my blog posts that clearly reveal me as a "restless, reformed" believer (I am far from young!) - but our love for one another remains strong, and we are bound across the miles by shared, passionate prayers for revival in our respective churches, families and communities. Surely, that's the way it should be.

Again, thank you for the article. As always, it was obviously written after deep thought, consideration, and in love. Blessings!

Unknown said...

Tom, great post. If Whitefield and Wesley were never able to come to agreement on, for example, the doctrine of election, neither will Southern Baptists. Just as Whitefield and Wesley were able to reconcile their relationship and publicly express a sincere love for each other, so must Southern Baptists.

Tom said...

Dale,

I didn't say anyone signed under pressure but that some were pressured to sign. The ones I know who experienced that resisted and did not sign. Like you, I hope that they will stand against that, not only privately, but publicly. It would shed a great deal of light on the situation.

I simply disagree with your opinion that I should just "keep my mouth shut" about this. I didn't embarrass or implicate anyone--I just stated part of my experience that has gone into my analysis.

Blessings,
tom

Tom said...

Dan,

I am not prepared to say that the "Traditionalists" are semi-Pelagians. I do think that the language which has provoked widespread concern about that possibility must be more closely investigated and, hopefully, clarified. If that is going to happen in any way that is helpful and not reactionary it will take time, humility and clear-minded devotion to the Word of God as our final authority and respect for historical confessions and analyses as potentially helpful aids in understanding the Word.

If Southern Baptists are going to move forward on this issue, that is the kind of conversation and study that must take place, in my opinion.

Blessings,
tom

Tom said...

Jay and Trish,

Thanks for your comments and insights.

ta

Godismyjudge said...

Tom,

I appreciate your saying that. For my part, the clarification that have come out so far have answered the question. That said, I think rewording article 2 of the TS would be helpful.

God be with you,
Dan

John T. Meche III said...

What is sad and tragic to me is when you are a 2 who has heroes who are 4s. I keep looking at the signatures of some of these seminary professors that I love whom I have sat under and gleaned so much insight from...and I just think to myself, "Do you really see me as that much of a problem?" I might disagree with them about the role of the human will in salvation, and it might affect the ways we each do ministry, but I don't want them gone. I want to partner with them to tell as many people as possible about the salvation of God in Christ.

Mark said...

The 1-4 list is a bad listing because you can't simply be a "non-Calvinist". You must believe something positively. My hunch is that the VAST majority of the maligned #1 list are people who are not hostile to true Arminianism, but rather to Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism. As this article says, Olsen (an Arminian) charges that most who call themselves Arminian are truly semi-Pelagian, which the "traditional" statement of salvation clearly reveals to be true. As much as they deny that they are semi-Pelagian, their verbiage is extremely consistent with semi-Pelagian theology, which has long since been condemned as heresy. Therefore, many of the #1 people refuse to pursue unity with those teaching heresy, not with classical Arminians like Olsen, who is not a heretic.

Great article, but the categories are poorly defined and fail to take into consideration the possibly of true heresy as a valid reason for not pursuing unity.

David B. Hewitt said...

I suppose I'd put myself somewhere between 1 and 2. I don't believe that people who are not Calvinists don't believe the Gospel or don't have it at all, but I would say that in many cases, a non-Calvinist would not proclaim the Gospel as purely as a Calvinist. Because of that, I am more likely to think that someone who is a Calvinist will usually do a better job of proclaiming the Gospel (if he is being consistent) than one who is not. At the same time, I love Way of the Master, and only wish I were as consistently bold with the Gospel as those two men (though I wouldn't describe Christ's work on the cross in quite the same way). Anyway, I am curious to your thoughts, Dr. Ascol, or if I have not provided sufficient information for the development of an opinion of it, let me know. :)

sdg,
dbh

Dale Pugh said...

I cringed when I re-read my comment. My apologies for the harsh tone. While I stand by the premise in my comment, I had no right to shoot from the hip like I did.
It seems that I also jumped to a conclusion about your wording. Again, my apologies.

Tom said...

Mark,

Granted, there are lots of nuances that could be added to each category and I am not surprised that folks disagree with my assessment. It's just the way I see things shaping up in a general sense. I tried to be careful and not misrepresent the folks I have in mind.

I don't think anyone who sees himself as orthodox can conscientiously link arms with those whom he believes to be in serious error or heresy. Thus, those who think that Calvinism is hyper-Calvinism or "another gospel" should not be expected to pursue peace and unity with Calvinists. The same would be true for Calvinists who believe that anyone who is not a Calvinist does not believe the gospel.

There may be better ways to think about all this. I've just tried to lay out my own perspective.

Blessings,
tom

Tom said...

David,

I agree with you in general. But I know from sad personal history that it is possible to be a Calvinist and not preach Christ. I have done it. On the other hand, I have heard gospel rich sermons from men who are self-consciously not Calvinists.

Obviously, I think historical, evangelical Calvinism provides the best understanding of the gospel and how it works and I know you do, too. But I have come to appreciate more and more that Calvinism is not enough. We must be Christ-centered in our understanding, teaching and ministering. Calvinism is not incidental to that but it does not necessarily guarantee it, either.

Again, I know I am preaching to the choir on this. :) Thanks for your comments and observations.

Blessings,
tom

Tom said...

Dale,

Don't worry about it. Apology accepted. Thanks for your comments.

Blessings,
tom

Jeremy said...

"The last 10-12 years has seen a tremendous growth in the numbers of Southern Baptists who have come to a more God-centered understanding of salvation" Is this in reference to Calvinism as opposed to Arminianism? If so that's disappointing. Attitudes like that contribute to the unease that a lot of non-Calvinists feel about the growing influence of Calvinists. Arminianism is God-centered in its understanding of salvation.

biblicalrealist said...

Dr. Ascol,

I'm a non-Calvinist who firmly holds to unconditional election/divine determinism; but as a centrist, I deny pre-faith regeneration or total inability (preferring the Andrew Fuller model of inability and obligation). I think there are many Southern Baptists who are non-Calvinists but do hold to unconditional election (whether by compatibilism or antinomy).

A large part of the middle group has been unwillingly coopted (by the use of the label "non-Calvinist") by the hankins group. Please consider posting a single-point statement of concensus, wherein all Southern Baptists who hold to unconditional election, both Calvinist and non-Calvinist, can add their signatures.

Thank you.

Tom said...

Jeremy,

Mea culpa. I could have chosen better language. But David Tuten beat you to it (see his comment above).

Blessings,
tom

Tom said...

Biblicalrealist,

I share your view that you are representative of many Southern Baptists. It's a challenge to know how to align ourselves because of the various nuances in all of our beliefs. That is why I think we should start with the BF&M and look to it to help frame the borders of acceptable doctrinal parameters.

I am not enthusiastic about issuing statements and gathering signatures. There are times that call for that but it seems to me that it is overdone in our day. Because of that I don't anticipate offering such a statement in contrast to the "Traditional" one.

Thanks for your comment.

In Christ,
tom

PS. I am intrigued by your appeal to Fuller's view of inability and obligation and would like to understand more of your thinking on this point. Would you mind elaborating--either here or privately via email? Thanks.

biblicalrealist said...

Thanks for your reply. I don't like the popularity method of theology, either. But since it seems to be working for them, and also since election/determinism is the crux of the issue, I thought of the suggestion to wake them up to the "other middle."

I understand your reluctance. Strength of argument, and not popularity, should earn someone a seat at the table. Anyway...

I'd be happy to send you an email (from ken_hamrick@hotmail.com).

Be blessed!

Darryl said...

I'm a #2 church member under a #3 pastor in a #4 state association. I mourned when I went to the Traditional's statement page and saw the name of the head of our State association.

I found your blog when Google hit your response to the Hankins' statement. Your words have been very encouraging and most needed. Add me to the ones who hope those in the #2 & #3 group continue to grow.

Hughuenot said...

Frank Page on unity at the 4th August 2012

The SBC Voices recap:

http://sbcvoices.com/calvinism-conference-frank-page/

God’s intent is that we be one in essence. We must one is essence, purpose, and plan; one unity; one purpose. There are many voices pulling us away from one another. It’s God’s plan that we’ll be together. Can we come together for something greater than ourselves?

God has a plan for unity:

1. Respect

1 Pet. 2:17. This is inerrantists disagreeing with other inerrantists. We respect each other’s right to hold opinions. I don’t see that happening. We’re talking about and at each other too often.

2. Peace

Heb. 12:14-15. We make every effort to castigate, but Scripture says the opposite.

3. Love

Eph. 4:15. We must relearn this. It’s time for honesty. Tell the search committee what you believe.

4. Honesty

5. Scriptural adherence. Hold to the Word. We need to quote the Author before we start quoting other authors. We must quote Scripture first.

6. Great Commission. We must go into all the world teaching, baptizing, and teaching. The issue before us is the souls of men, women, boys, and girls. The bottom line issue is men and women who need the gospel.

If we do these things, Calvinists and non-Calvinists can work together.


QUOTE: "God's intent is that we be one. And that's not a one that is one in [the] sense that we just agree on a few things; that's one in essence. I pray that they would be one as you and I are one. God the Father and God the Son, one in essence, one in purpose, one in plan. And that's what God wants us as Baptists to be: one together. One unity, one purpose. Really, in essence, together, as brothers and sisters in Christ."

Oh.