5 Questions Pulpit Committees Must Ask Prospective Pastors | Part Two

Dr. Jay Sulfridge |  Academic Dean
Clear Creek Baptist Bible College, Pineville, KY

*For more information about Dr. Sulfridge or CCBBC please click here.

The prospect should also be asked if he believes in Unconditional Election. John Piper explains the idea of Unconditional Election taught in Calvinism:

If all of us are so depraved that we cannot come to God without being born again by the irresistible grace of God, then it is clear that the salvation of any of us is owing to God’s election. Election refers to God’s choosing whom to save. It is unconditional in that there is no condition man must meet before God chooses to save him. Man is dead in trespasses and sins. So there is not condition he can meet before God chooses to save him from his deadness. We are not saying that final salvation is unconditional. It is not. We must meet the condition of faith in Christ in order to inherit eternal life. But faith is not a condition for election. Just the reverse. Election is a condition for faith.[1]

The Baptist Faith and Message says of election, “It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end.”[2] The free agency of man leaves all individuals free to accept or reject the Gospel call to salvation. Instead of teaching the freedom of all individuals to make that choice, Calvinism teaches that God unconditionally chooses certain individuals to be saved. Since Calvinism is not consistent with a belief in the free agency of man, a potential pastor must be asked, “Do you believe God unconditionally chooses certain ones to be saved?”

Pastoral prospects should be asked if they believe in Limited Atonement. This is the issue involved in the question, “For whom did Christ die?” The Baptist Faith and Message says of Christ, “He honored the divine law by His personal obedience, and in His substitutionary death on the cross He made provision for the redemption of men from sin.”[3] Most Baptists would say this refers to all men, and that one may say with complete confidence to any person, “Christ died for you.” Preferring the term Particular Redemption, one Calvinist stated their belief this way: “Put simply, Christ died only to save the elect, securing with absolute certainty their salvation.”[4] Since the issue of Limited Atonement would cause the Calvinist to say that Christ died only for the elect, they would say that the stranger can only be told with complete confidence, “If you are of the elect, Christ died for you.” A key question to ask a minister during the interview process is, “Do you believe Christ died for each and every person in the world?”

Irresistible Grace is another point of Reformed Theology that must be addressed. This teaching centers on the idea that when God has chosen (elected) to save an individual, His grace toward their salvation cannot be resisted, nor can His genuine offer be refused. Calvinism teaches, “The Lord, by his Spirit, irresistibly draws his elect to himself, raising them to spiritual life and making them willing to trust in Jesus.”[5] Calvinists believe if God draws one to salvation, that individual cannot escape salvation. Piper says, “It is because God chose us before the foundation of the world that he purchases our redemption at the cross and quickens us with irresistible grace and brings us to faith.”[6] The idea of “running from God” has no place in Calvinist doctrine, even though Stephen said, “Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost.”[7] The question to ask concerning this teaching is, “Do you believe anyone can resist God’s call to salvation?”

Perseverance of the Saints completes the TULIP acronym. Virtually all Baptists would be in agreement that those who are truly saved will persevere to the end. This is the heart of our beloved doctrine, the Security of the Believer. The only point in which a Calvinist might disagree with most Baptists concerning the Perseverance of the Saints would be in matters of why this doctrine is true. The Calvinists would say that perseverance is based on God’s unconditional election of that individual to salvation.

After studying the five points represented in the TULIP acronym, a clear picture of the basic tenets of the doctrine has emerged. Calvinism (reformed theology) teaches that man is so totally depraved that he is unable to respond to the Gospel call to salvation; that God has unconditionally chosen some individuals to save; that Christ died for those God has so chosen; that He draws those chosen ones to salvation with a call they can neither refuse nor resist; and that on the basis of that election, they cannot fall from that state of salvation. Except for the fact that the saved will not fall from grace, these teachings may never be mentioned unless the right questions are asked. Even then, care must be taken to ensure that simple, concise, relevant answers are given. Committees should investigate the candidate’s beliefs, point by point, without any hesitation to ask for clarification or to require a “yes or no” answer on any point. After all, your church is at stake, and no honest minister will be offended at your desire to know what he believes.

Five Questions Pulpit Committees Must Ask
1. “Do you believe in the Total Depravity of man?” (A “yes” answer here does not necessarily indicate Calvinism. The next question is the key.)
2. “Does Total Depravity, as you understand it, mean that those not chosen by God for salvation are unable to respond to the Gospel call?”
3. “Do you believe God unconditionally chooses certain ones to be saved?”
4. “Do you believe Christ died for each and every person in the world?”
5. “Do you believe anyone can resist God’s call to salvation?”

 

[1] John Piper, “What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism,” quoted in Reformation Theology. Available online http://www.reformationtheology.com/mt/mt-tb.egi/499 .
[2] Southern Baptist Convention, “Baptist Faith and Message.” Available online http://www.sbc.net/bfm/bfm2000.asp .
[3] SBC, “Baptist Faith and Message.”
[4] Chris Allen, “Reformshire: The Doctrines of Grace.” Available online http://www.reform-shire.blogspot.com/2006/11/doctrines-of-grace-2-5.html .
[5] GraceNet, “The Doctrines of Grace.” Available online http://www.grace.org.uk/faith/calvin.html .
[6] John Piper, “What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism.”
[7] Acts 7:51, KJV.