I Officially Resign From Being A Calvinist

September 15, 2009

After graduating from seminary with my MDIVBL in 2002 and was able to immerse myself more into the Bible rather than what other people thought about the Bible, I began a quest to figure out how salvation works. In other words, how does predestination work in salvation, and what is man’s responsibility in being saved? At about mid-2004, I began to embrace what is commonly known as the doctrines of grace, except for limited atonement. It was a thrilling time for me as I discovered those doctrines and began to understand more and more of God’s love. It was at this time I hesitantly accepted the label “Calvinist.” The reason for hesitancy was that I also understood the wide definition of Calvinism and some of the false representations of what Calvinists are. This is where I have stood until recent events have caused me to rethink and reject the label of Calvinist. While doctrinally I still stand where I have been, I refused to be defined by this doctrinal label that has been mischaracterized by many on both sides of the issue.

Therefore, I wish today to officially drop myself from any connection to Calvinism or its movement. Below are the reasons:

1. Recently I saw a dear evangelist friend to whom I became acquainted four years ago. At that discussion four years ago the topic turned to Calvinism. I told him at that time I was one. In my most recent conversation with him the subject came up again and I mentioned to him that I was not a five, but a four pointer. He was shocked and said he always thought I held to all five points. I said no. For four years he assumed that I held to limited atonement. While I disagree with that point and in no way am I saying that those who hold to this point are somehow evil or heretics, it is a point that I nevertheless do not embrace (similar to being given the label Landmarker, which I am not). There is a prevalent confusion on defining Calvinism. Is it acceptance of all five points or just four? Frankly, that confusion is not what I want to leave people when they think of my doctrinal stands.
2. For a long time I have also stated that I am somewhere between three and four points. Another friend commented to me that you are either a three or a four pointer, there are no in betweens. Personally I disagree for this reason, I believe in God’s sovereignty in election and salvation, but I also believe in human responsibility in accepting the message of salvation. For some, this type of understanding in election rejects irresistible grace. I am comfortable with that because irresistible to me seems a bit misleading. For others God’s sovereignty and human responsibility is perfectly fine as long as irresistible grace is understood as God’s persistent calling or wooing that will ultimately lead to the elected accepting the gospel message. This does not make man the mind-controlled robot of God, but a free agent to accept His offering of Grace. Both sovereignty and responsibility need to be preached equally from the Sacred Text. For me how this works is truly a mystery and I cannot make declarations that God regenerates before someone accepts or that someone accepts before God regenerates. I know for some who are able to get deeper in the text, they are able to decide that issue of doctrine, but I choose to just leave it alone and pick up where the Baptist Faith and Message takes it by understanding that, “Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.”

3. One final reason was the recent discussion held at Southern by Drs. Malcolm Yarnell and Michael Haykin. I thought the dialog was great and I appreciated the spirit of the whole event. I wish more interaction such as this could happen with this type of Christian respect so no more boogey man scenarios are allowed to float out there. I also appreciated Dr. Haykin’s viewpoint and will now look to read more of his research into Baptist heritage. I believe we all can learn from his years of diligence. Yet while I appreciate his work, I cannot agree with his assessment that a good Baptist is a Calvinist Baptist. While Calvinism has played a role in the theological history of Baptists, so has non-Calvinism. I have to affirm the question presented, “Why can’t we all identify as Baptists and be free to be a Calvinist or a non-Calvinist?”

I am a Baptist, pure and simple in the historical and biblical sense. I believe being a “good” Baptist means we are to be people of the book and that the truest form of a New Testament local church is a visible group of regenerate Christians who covenant together to practice believers baptism by immersion, carrying out the two ordinances of the church: baptism and the Lord’s Supper (participants are to be saved and properly baptized), organized under a congregational system of polity, submitting to the Lordship of Christ, and propagating the gospel to the lost. As a “good” Baptist, one should uphold the doctrines of inerrancy, priesthood of all believers, and soul competency. Now, in a biblical sense, there is no one “good” but God. I am only borrowing the language used by both speakers, but also in a biblical sense I am under the strong belief that these doctrinal stands, working together, identify us as Baptists. I again revisit the question, “Why can’t we all identify ourselves as Baptists and be free to be a Calvinist or a non-Calvinist?” Why does identifying with Calvinism make one a better Baptist than a non-Calvinist? The answer, it doesn’t. Both groups have been instrumental in passing on a rich heritage to us. To classify us into a hierarchy based on our understanding of soteriology creates nothing but worldly division. Again, for all including those who distort Calvinism as the dreaded death knell to Southern Baptists, let’s be Baptist and be free to choose how we define our soteriology.

I would prefer to be known as a Baptist pastor who diligently searches the scriptures for God’s wisdom, shepherds the flock for which I have been given responsibility, and tells others about the love of Jesus for them. Pure and simple.

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Keith Andrews

I agree wholeheartedly. I am a Southern Baptist. I hold to the Baptist Faith and Message. I believe in the ideals that historic Baptists fought for and established. We should hold onto that. Adrian Rogers said; “I am a Baptist from the the top of my head to the bottom of my feet.” It is time we have that kind of pride again.

peter

Robin,

Welcome to Arminianism. No wait! I’m sorry. Those Baptists among us who are non-Calvinists are no longer simply Arminians. Instead we are now Manicheans according to one group of esteemed Calvinist critics.

With that, I am…
Peter

Chris Roberts

Dropping labels does not erase doctrinal distinctives. You mentioned yourself that you have not moved theologically, you just are not going to label it. So division of a sort will continue to exist – you will be different from those who disagree by nature of your disagreement whether stated or not.

My concern is we can too easily sweep differences under the rug if we do not identify them. We need unity, absolutely, but unity does not mean conformity to one another, it does not mean ignoring the places where we are different or covering over serious theological disagreements.

It was Herschel Hobbs who said, in effect (and with clarification), the moment one Baptist tells another Baptist how to be a Baptist he ceases to be a Baptist. This sentiment echoes well with the last sentence of your next-to-last paragraph but in order to really display this sort of thing we cannot be afraid to \”claim what we are\”. I am a Baptist by church and denominational affiliation as well as by some specific theological conviction. I am also a Calvinist (all 5) by other theological convictions. I am quite happy to work and fellowship with others (Baptist and otherwise) who are not Calvinists but, generally speaking, I will not let unity be defined by hiding differences. Unity is fellowship in the midst of such differences.

Bob Williford

I am a Baptist Faith and Messenger with the understanding that the Bible is the Inerrant Word of God, and Jesus is Lord fo the whole shbang!!

Adam

Robin,

Just some thoughts:

Regarding your reasoning for (1), do you accept the label of Christian? As a whole, Christianity is a term used to describe a diversity of doctrines, many of which we as Baptists disagree (paedobaptism, real presence, etc). So if one reason you avoid the label Calvinist is that you do not agree with certain beliefs held by Calvinists (limited atonement) wouldn’t you also want to abandon the term Christian lest you be lumped in with others with whom you disagree? Just wondering if this reasoning applies to other labels. It seems to be rather than abandon a label it makes more sense to clarify your definition and then make an argument for your definition. You call yourself a Baptist, indicating an unwillingness to abdicate that label despite others who take the Baptists label and hold to doctrines contrary to what Baptists have/should believe. Why not take that same stance with Calvinism, if you haven not moved theologically? Tactically, I think encouraging people to drop “reformed” or “calvinist” is a bad move in the long run. Baptists can be reformed baptists, but the fact that they must add that “reformed” to “baptist” indicates that being baptist doesn’t commit one to either reformed or non-reformed soteriology, which I think, is the best place for Baptist to get along, be unified for the local church, Gospel, missions, denomination work, etc. This contrary to those who say being baptist entails being reformed, which whom I disagree! Being Baptist does not specify one’s soteriology, but Baptists do often take specific positions on certain doctrines of election, predestination, beyond those parameters that make one Baptist. So, it seems to make perfect sense that people would identify themselves as reformed baptist.

Just some thoughts while on break from the Lifeway National Youth Workers Conference :)

Thanks,
Adam

David R. Brumbelow

Robin,
So, are you a semi-Arminian or a semi-Calvinist? :-).
Or maybe an Arm-Cal?
David R. Brumbelow

Tim G

Robin,
:)!

Robin Foster

Adam

Whenever I say I am a Christian that distinguishes me from being a Muslim, Buddist, Hinduist, or any other type of religion. If they want to get more specific on which sect of Christianity I belong to, then I get a little more specific by saying Baptist. People generally know that a Christian is not a Muslim or Buddist. (Even though they may believe the heresy that we all worship the same God.) On a grand scale of delineating differing religions, “Christian” serves to explain that I am not of those other religions.

The term, “Calvinism” could mean “Reformed,” “four” or “five” point.

I guess that the term Calvinism could be used to distinguish from Arminianism, but I don’t want to be know about my particular soteriological belief. Now, I have no problem with those who wish to embrace the label, but for me I am dropping it. I embrace Baptist theology and thought because I believe it to be a biblical delineation that distinguishes me from being a Presbyterian or Methodist. Baptist, for all practical purposes encompasses some of the identifying marks I named in my post. Calvinism is not a denomination or Christian religious grouping. It is a doctrinal understanding of soteriology.

For some it may be more important to be know as a Calvinist than a Baptist. That is their choice, but not mine. So I am dropping the Calvinist label to work with other Baptists that differ in their understanding of soteriology. That should not be a litmus test for what is a good Baptist nor for our cooperation with one another.

David

:-) I have been called big as a semi, but I try not to be semi anything.

Robin Foster

Chris

You are right, I will still believe what I believe, but I am seeking to help in the division we have within our convention. Therefore, as before, I am willing to work with anyone regardless of their soteriology in missions or church planting (as long as the word hyper isn’t involved) that embraces Baptist ecclesiology and the other areas aforementioned. The BF&M has allowed us to do this, lets move on.

Ted Elmore

Why would anyone who has come to Jesus for salvation want to call their religious belief system after the name of any other human being?

Chris Roberts

Ted,

Labels are conveniences and may or may not mean anything. A host of people carrying the label Christian are no more Christian than a toad. That said, I identify myself and my religious belief system as Christian. I am a Christian. Now if you ask me what sort of Christian I will tell you Protestant. What sort of Protestant? Baptist. What sort of Baptist? A Calvinist. Each of these just helps the person understand something about my beliefs. They may not have an accurate knowledge of what those labels mean, which can lead to actions like Robin’s, dropping a label to avoid misunderstanding. I think it is best to keep the label but explain what we mean by them. There may be times when a label needs to be changed, but they remain useful conveniences.

People DO believe different things and those differences must not be ignored if we are to be healthy and experience real unity. We need to learn how to get along despite differences. It has to happen when people from different cultures get together, it also has to happen when people of different theologies get together. We may decide that our theologies are too different and will not allow our fellowship to be too close (various denominations) but if we ignore the differences we will rot away.

John Daly

Since we’re discussing labels, can we not drop the name “Southern?” First, we (the good guys) won the War of Southern Aggression, should we not be able to dictate the terms? :) Seriously, it needs to have been dropped like 50 years ago. I propose the Christian Baptist Convention, c’mon let’s get with the 21st, whoops, I mean the 20th Century.

Tim Rogers

Brother John,

We changed Baptist Book Store to Lifeway. When it was the BBS we featured solid theological authors. Now that it is Lifeway there seems to be a push on featuring anything that sales, regardless of the theological perspective.

I will not die if we lose “southern” from out name but I will not sit quietly by and allow it to happen either. There is a difference in a “Southern Baptist” and a “Baptist”. Survey the members of a local church and I believe you will find they know there is a difference also.

Blessings,
Tim

Chris Johnson

Brother Robin,

You have made some good points here …and all without getting to the number 5. Someday there may be a clan of folks calling themselves a “Robinist” after they read your articles on soteriology… who knows. I’m fairly certain that Calvin could probably care less if you or anyone else used his name to try and define political movements. He would accept your resignation.

I like your approach here,…. Study to show yourself approved is really the pursuit, not some ambiguous and biased label whether hatched by Arminius or Calvin….. Simply study… That is what works for me and a lot of people I know. I’m with you on this my friend.

Blessings,
Chris

Chris Johnson

Brother Robin,

Another important item that came to my mind after reading your post was that Calvin and those that wrote about him in order to establish the five points…all these folks were not really breaking any new ground with regards to salvation at all. They had just been in an environment of ignorance and control for so long that when Calvin came along,…his work seemed to appear different, when all along he was just clawing his way back to some kind of reality. Because on many other fronts, such as ecclesiology and baptism, Calvin missed it…like so many men still do today, even within the SBC. So your resignation should not be viewed as pejorative, but as realizing that men are still men and probably do not represent a good label at all…..unless of course you are interested in riding the current most popular wave at the beach for a season.

Blessings,
Chris

Robert I Masters

Robin,
I would encourage everyone to listen to the discussion between Michael Haykin and
Malcolm Yarnell.

I like the label Reformed Baptist or Calvinistic Baptist because ,like Dr Haykin said, General Baptist history within Baptist streams is always a history of apostasy.

My understanding is that Southern Baptist history is rooted in Calvinistic Baptism. I would like to see a return to that heritage. I am a Calvinist Baptist before I am Southern Baptist and a Christian before a Calvinistic Baptist.

Lastly like R.C.Sproul and many reformed leaders have argued anything less than
five points is something other than Calvinistic. In your case Amyraldian! I agree with them.

In the grace of God

Robert I Masters
from the Southern Baptist Geneva

Robert I Masters

Robin,
After rereading your post maybe not Amyraldian but not Calvinistic!

Robert I Masters
From the Southern Baptist Geneva

peter

Robin,

Don’t you love it when others tell you what best to call yourself and why? I do. I am presently filled with warm fuzzies all over as I think about it.

With that, I am…
Peter

Robin Foster

Peter

LOL. Really I have no problem with that as long as I can look at someone else’s theology or practice that is not in line with what Baptists believe and practice and then say they are not Baptist, then I am fine.

BTW, Lunch was cornbread and beans, but no butter milk. Sorry.

Robin Foster

Chris

Tried to post this last night but couldn’t. If some group wanted to call themselves “Robinists” after a particular teaching I developed, then I would be the first to call them morons! I don’t trust myself to follow me. I do my best to follow Jesus.

:-)

Robin Foster

Robert

I thank you for your comment. It supports my argument in that I don’t feel I fall in the Calvinistic camp, but I also question whether I can be considered Amyraldian (Which I believe is the term used to describe those who adhere to only four points of the Tulip rejecting limited atonement).

Drop the confusion, drop the soteriological labels. I am a Baptist by conviction!

chadwick

Robin,

Could not there be another way of asking the question? . . .

“Why can’t we all identify ourselves as Baptists and be free to be an Arminian or a non-Arminian?” :razz:

–chadwick

Robin Foster

Chadwick

I was waiting for someone to ask that question. But that is not the question at hand and our BF&M is not an Arminian document by a long shot.

Good point though.

Tim Rogers

Brother Robin,

I am a Christian by choice (God’s); a Baptist by predestination (my convictions); and a Southern Baptist by either Election(My parents were Southern Baptist), or Irresistible Grace (The church I joined after salvation was Southern Baptist).

So much for labels.

:)

Blessings,
Tim

Scott Gordon

BTW… I’m still up for being called a Reformed, Calvinistic, Doctrines of Grace Southern Baptist! :-D

But whatever you call me, don’t forget to call me to dinner!

[Just couldn’t resist making this comment!!!!!]

Sola Gratia!1!2!3!4!5
:-D

chadwick

Robin,

Arminian doctrine is certainly not in the BF&M. However, it [Arminian doctrine] is overflowing from the ‘majoritarian’ pulpits in SC! :lol:

Are these statements Arminian?
– “It’s all up to you. God has done all He could do.”:eek:
– “You make the choice. [Then]God makes the change.” :eek:

It is not the creed that is the problem in the SBC. The problem is that the preaching in the average SBC pulpit lines up more with the Free-Will Baptist creed rather than the BF&M.

–chadwick

Bill

To add to Chadwick

“Elected because I selected.”

That’s one of my favorites.

Dr. James Galyon

Ironically enough, many of us in the SBC who don’t want to be labeled as “Calvinists” (even though we hold to the doctrines of grace) have often been told we’re being “dishonest” when we don’t say we’re “Calvinists.”

Ed Tompkins

Good article.

I, myself, am an Arminian Baptist by conviction. I never get people going away from labels though. Friends of mine, even though they stay doctrinally Baptist, are starting to call themselves non-Denominational because they don’t want to be label with the few wackos in the Baptist grouping. I always say to them, isn’t not labeling yourself is labeling you with more people than keeping the label, saying that I’m a Baptist means something, it means that I hold to basically what you describe in your article as “Good Baptist.” When you say that you are non-Denom, you can believe anything. Labels, in my opinion, always have more benefit than saying that you don’t have a label. The same is true about Soteriology. Whether you call yourself a semi-Calvinist or a Calvinist or a semi-Arminian or even an Arminian (as I do), it means that you believe something in Soteriology and that you’re not off the wall into heresy.

Though what really gets me these days is when so many Calvinist (many of whom are men that I greatly respect them and what they have written) just read either a Calvinist critic of Arminianism or a Open Theist who claims to be an Arminian and then writes articles about how Arminianism is full of heresy. I would ask all Calvinist before saying anything negative about us to please read Roger Olsen’s Arminian Theology. This book clearly defines what an Evangelical Arminian believes and for those of you who don’t hold to Calvinism but don’t know what you believe, you might find that you are really a 4 to 5 point Arminian. Which is how I came to my Arminian conclusion.

Tim Rogers

Brother Ed,

Interesting insight. Please understand that I make this next statement with all due respect. I am not a 5 point Calvinist, but neither am I a 1 point Arminian. :)

Seriously thanks for your contribution. I believe that you will find many who visit here would not hold to Olsen’s theological position.

Blessings,
Tim

JP

Hi Robin,

I wonder how one can believe the four points of the Doctrine of Grace and drop one of it while it goes all complementing one another. If I am not to believe the Limited Atonement Doctrine, then it simply makes Irresistible Grace void. For if God calls all man to Him, then, with your view, all would come since His call is irresistible. Thanks in advance for your answers.

God bless…

JP

Mike Rasberry

Robin,

I know I’m late to this particular discussion, but I’m happy to see this issue discussed in this form. I,too, have long struggled with the big “C” in the midst of the fellowship room.

I am NOT Aminian, and in fact know few Southern Baptists who are. Most of us tend toward Calvinism to some degree. I’m somewhere between 3.5 and 4.5. However, the definition of terms goes a long way in that determination.

I can understand “Limited Atonement,” if it is defined as limited to those for whom atonement is effectual. My greatest problem is with “Irristible Grace.” After forty plus years of study, I cannot bring myself to the point of denying man’s ability to reject God’s proffered gift. I do not see such as limiting God’s sovereignty, but rather enhancing the expression of that sovereignty. I believe God is so sovereign that He can allow man to reject salvation, even after wooing Him, and that God is in no way diminished by such rejection.

I continually refer to God’s promise to Abraham that he would inherit the Promised Land, but not yet. Because the iniquity of the inhabitants of the land was not yet full. To me, I see God in His lovingkindness continuing to offer opportunity, even though He knew they would not respond.

I simply cannot get past that point.

Tim G

To all my brothers and sisters,

I understand the debate and love all of you. However, let’s love one another that the world will know that there is a God who can reach past cultural, racial, tongue, and yes even soteriological differences and have those who are Christians, who despite differences have deep, encouraging fellowship. Instead of investing so much time on these and other arguments, let’s go out there and love some people who don’t know our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with the love that placed Him on the cross to die for our sins and the same power that raised him from the dead can raise us from our computer, out of our offices and among the people that he came to seek and to save through you and me.
Let’s live Gospel Centered lives, loving people with Gospel centered love, and sharing with the love of Christ with everyone either because we believe that God may use us to call them, or because if not us He will use someone else. Only He knows truly how and when He is going to work! Let’s put these differences aside and join in the fight for souls!
Let’s invest in time loving people! Sharing the Gospel! Trusting God as we go!

By His Grace,
Tim

Bob Williford

I have never bothered with whether or not I am or am not Calvinist…..However, I will say that I am not a part of the so-called Reformer Movement that is growing quite rapidly among Southern Baptists. What catches my interest here is that the BFM does not, in any way, endorse Predestination, Election, Limited Atonement, etc. Why, then, is there such a frantic move toward Calvinism? Why don’t these who are so involved with the Reformers move on to where they can be comfortable with who they are…Calvinists and not Southern Baptists? They can always find themselves happy with the name Reformed Southern Baptists……..
Jesus is Lord, anyway…..:)

Mike Rasberry

Most Southern Baptists are NOT Arminian. Most hold to three or more points of Calvinism, and are strong proponents of God’s Sovereignty. The propensity of 5-pointers to derisively label non 5-pointers as Arminian is a source of continuing frustration. Very few Southern Baptists would hold to the doctrine espoused in the Arminian position.

Bob Williford

The idea that ‘most’ Southern Baptists are this, that or the other is only an assumption and most certainly cannot be substantiated. Certainly, I would think that most Christians will affirm the Sovreignty of God, but what flows from that is anyone’s guess.

However, we do have the BFM, not as a creed as some would suggest. The BFM is nothing more thna a point of reference that everyone in the SBC may or may not agree upon. Obviously those who are of the CBF would not agree with the 2000 statement.

And now there is the Acts 1:8 adherents, the so-called ‘Red Letter’ advocates, etc. Tne list goes on to adinfinitum…almost. LOL.

However, what I do know is that I am not a Calvinist. Those with whom I agree are much more in knowledgable of Calvin, Luther and others. The shorter versions of what these men have written are what I am familiar with. And I do not agree.

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