Charles Kettering said, “A problem well-stated is half-solved.” Now that Southern Baptists are talking about the proverbial elephant in the room, it seems helpful to define that elephant as clearly as possible. Thus, I write this article not to foster division among us, but to more clearly define that division which already exists. The tension between Calvinism and Traditionalism in Southern Baptist life will never make sense to anyone who views this struggle merely as a dispute over minor doctrinal concerns. Rather, our present fault lines stem from three specific components: a theological debate, an institutional struggle and an intrinsically adversarial agenda. Unless we look at this elephant from all three sides, we will fail to comprehend the scope of our conflict resolution challenge.
Were I to make the statement “Calvinism is heretical” and then claim “Traditionalists and Calvinists need to work toward unity and cooperation in the Southern Baptist Convention,” my Calvinist brethren could rightly question my sincerity concerning unity and cooperation.
There are certainly some non-Calvinists who believe Calvinism ultimately leads to God foreordaining men to evil, which was condemned at the 2nd Council of Orange.1 However, to claim Calvinism is heretical would be a stretch most of us are unwilling to make.2 There is a major difference in addressing: 1) the belief that God foreordains men to evil as heretical; and 2) calling all Calvinists heretical. The former I would gladly affirm; the later I would wisely avoid.
By Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort
Looking Beyond the Bucket List
Ecclesiastes (Selected Scriptures)
“What do you want to do before you die?” Someone posed this question on The Today Show (03/26/12) followed by a segment on a group of men who were checking off things on their bucket list. After viewing this segment, it occurred to me that the movie became a movement. The phrase “kick the bucket” means to die. Therefore, the bucket list is a list of things you want to do before you die. Dr. Ray Pritchard notes, “John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, used to say about his people, ‘Our people die well.’” [I wonder if he could say that today about Christians in general.] Dr. Pritchard observes, “In earlier generations Christians talked about death a lot more than we do now. The Puritans actually wrote books to help one another learn how to die well. Dying well was considered to be a Christian virtue.”
Peggy Noonan states, “Our ancestors believed in two worlds, and understood this to be the solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short one. We are the first generation of man that actually expected to find happiness here on earth and our search for it has caused such unhappiness.” If Solomon could read Peggy’s statement he would likely say, “Tell me about it.” Remember, Solomon wrote a book about this very thing called Ecclesiastes. In it, he reveals the findings of his grand experiment.
John MacArthur says that the book contains the names of all “those chosen for salvation.” As a Calvinist, this means that God unconditionally elected them to salvation, and they will receive the internal efficacious call, irresistible grace, resulting in regeneration followed by an inevitable free choice to believe. Immediately following these words he says, “Unbelievers, those whose names are not recorded in the book of life, will ‘perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved’ (2 Thessalonians 2:10). Scripture also teaches that the faithless will be judged because they ‘did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness’ (2 Thessalonians 2:12). While the eternally elect are saved through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 3:16; 5:24; Acts 13:39; 16:31; Romans 3:22–30; 4:5; 10:9–10; Galatians 3:22-26; Ephesians 2:8–9), the nonelect are lost because they refuse to believe the gospel (John 3:36; Romans 1:18-32; 2:8; 2 Thessalonians 1:8–9; 1 Peter 2:8; 4:17). Unbelief and rejection always indicate those persons whose names were not written … in the book of life.”[i]
Why the double-talk? As mentioned on several occasions throughout the book, within Calvinism there is a problem of what I call double-talk. By the use of this term, I am not implying immoral or clandestine trickery. Nor am I suggesting conspiratorial deceit. I must admit that upon reflection on my time of being a Calvinist, I did the same thing. I did not do so out of ill motive, intent to deceive, or because of a lack of desire to be faithful to the Scripture—nor do I so impugn my Calvinist brothers and sisters.
As a matter of fact, upon reflection, I did it because I believed in Calvinism and the Scripture. This brought about conflicts that required unconscious or at least unthoughtful responses to the conflicts, which I now see as double-talk. This double-talk obscured the harsh realities of Calvinism and the inconsistencies between Scripture and Calvinism; what I have now come to describe as disquieting realities of Calvinism. Either there was an unconsciousness of the serious gap between Calvinism and the simple reading of Scripture, or I was simply unwilling to face these disparities directly. At times, a lack of thoughtfulness may have been easier than embarking on the quite disconcerting and uncertain journey that I have been on for the past thirteen years. Also, I did not have the knowledge and ability to see them as clearly then as I do now. By double-talk, I am referring to the inconsistencies between the irreducible tenets and logic of Calvinism, and the speech, writings, prayers, etc., of some Calvinists. This is particularly pronounced in areas like missions, prayers, preaching, and written and spoken comments that seem to ameliorate or soften the harsh realities of Calvinism. Actually, it is this double-talk, which I found myself tolerating, that I read and heard Calvinists reciting, all of whom I esteem as godly men and women, that stimulated my disenchantment.