Nettles recommends ‘universal’ Calvinism in the SBC

By Dr. Rick Patrick
Senior Pastor
Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church
Hueytown, Alabama


On page 468 of the book By His Grace, For His Glory, Dr. Tom Nettles concludes: Calvinism should still occupy the place of universal adherence in Baptist life. To reject it is not theological progress, but decline, not theological wisdom, but folly; not theological erudition but fragmentation.

In the interest of fairness, I tried to include a Traditionalist quote implying that everyone should universally adhere to the Traditionalist position or else be guilty of theological decline, folly and fragmentation, but I was unable to find any such quote, primarily because there simply are not any to be found.

Given that my personal theological convictions as a Southern Baptist lie outside of this viewpoint which Dr. Nettles claims “should still occupy the place of universal adherence in Baptist life,” is it not fair to say that Dr. Nettles disapproves of my view? He calls it “theological decline.” He labels it “folly” and “fragmentation.”

I have a few questions for my Calvinist Friends:

  • How am I supposed to absorb such a condescending and elitist blow from a Southern Baptist professor?
  • Is this what unity is all about? Or is unity just asking Traditionalists to be quiet and stop making such a fuss while Calvinists like Nettles label our views as “theological decline” and “folly?”
  • How can Traditionalists really be expected to work alongside Calvinists who insult us with such condescending remarks?
  • Why do Calvinists want to work together for the gospel with such “fools” in “theological decline” who “should” adhere to a completely different position?
  • Since Calvinism clearly does not occupy a place of universal adherence in Southern Baptist life, is Dr. Nettles not looking down upon the theology of the majority of Southern Baptists today? Are these people not the very ones whose financial contributions support his scholarly work in writing books with conclusions that insult them?
  • Will you not join me in asking, “How dare he?”
  • If you are not willing to rebuke such a sentiment, am I to understand that you agree with Dr. Nettles?
  • Do you realize how ominous the term “universal adherence” sounds when Traditionalists consider the possible intentions of Southern Baptist Calvinists? Is “universal adherence” the goal here? Will Calvinists stop at nothing less, since this is the position which Dr. Nettles claims “should” prevail in Baptist life?

I take a fair bit of grief from certain Calvinists for alleged conspiracy theories, when in fact I am only addressing the crystal clear purpose statements of Calvinist organizations and writers with published agendas for all to see. I don’t read Dr. Nettles as science fiction. I don’t believe he is talking about Freemasons or the Illuminati. I believe he is a serious Calvinist who believes profoundly that all Southern Baptists should also be serious Calvinists.

If all Calvinists believe this same thing, then we have a problem. On the other hand, if all Calvinists do NOT agree with Dr. Nettles, then where is the outrage to match his truly outrageous statement insulting the majority of Southern Baptists? There should be more than crickets on this comment stream.

Calvinists, if you disagree with Nettles and his desire for universal adherence, put him in his place. If, on the other hand, you agree with him, put me in mine. But if you advocate for the universal adherence to your position, try on my moccasins for just a moment, and consider the question: “How am I truly supposed to have fellowship with brothers and sisters who view me as a second class theologian and a fool?”