At some point, it is fair to ask the question, “Is it good stewardship for me to pay for the institutional advancement of organizations promoting doctrines I do not embrace personally, nor desire to teach my children, nor favor publishing at Lifeway, nor seek to advance through church planting?” It is precisely here, in the practical outworking of our theological disagreements through our institutional struggles, that the same elephant we might overlook in our Sunday School class or church becomes absolutely impossible to avoid at the denominational level.
3. The Adversarial Agenda
Some have claimed that we not only have an elephant in the room, but we also have a snake in the grass. The only way to sympathize with such a sentiment is to consider whether a clearly adversarial agenda has been advanced by a network of Calvinist organizations relatively unknown to Traditionalist Southern Baptists, who secretly and quietly seek nothing other than to turn Traditionalist churches into Calvinist ones, a clearly stated goal they simply refer to as reform.
In their defense, it cannot be said that the Calvinists are doing anything they perceive to be wrong. Once one understands that they equate Calvinism with the true gospel of Christianity, any pejorative connotations are removed with regard to motive. Frankly, if I believed the way they do, I would also seek the spread of Calvinism everywhere, including the primarily Traditionalist churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. However, the agenda is adversarial in nature just the same. In order to explore this further, we will (a) identify five such Calvinist organizations, (b) examine one purpose statement, (c) evaluate our conflicts as interpersonal or foundational, and (d) clarify the uneven rules of engagement that have thus far marked the contest. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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.