Open Letter to Southern Baptist Laypersons

October 30, 2013

by Dr. Rick Patrick, pastor
FBC, Sylacauga, Ala.

Dear Southern Baptist Laypersons,

In 1985, a gathering of more than 45,000 Southern Baptist clergy and laypersons met in Dallas, Texas, for our largest SBC annual meeting ever. Historians tell us this was the largest deliberative body in the history of the world. At stake was the future of the Southern Baptist Convention, particularly our view on the inerrancy of Scripture. Some leaders were embracing liberal theology — questioning the historicity of Adam and Eve, interpreting the early chapters of Genesis as allegory, and disregarding the theology and principles of the people in our pews who were paying their salaries.

Our convention was saved from liberalism when laypersons got involved and leaders were reminded that they were accountable to the people. The time has come to remind our leaders of this critical fact once again, for if left unchecked by Southern Baptist laypersons, the very same organizational system that would have placed us under liberal control in the 1980s will place us under Calvinist-Evangelical control today.

This is already happening, although most Southern Baptist laypersons are not involved, either due to apathy or ignorance. If Southern Baptist laypersons do not care about our denomination any longer, very little can be done. However, if our problem is ignorance, we can better inform the laity about our present conflict, which masquerades as nothing more than a theological debate. Make no mistake. It is something much more than that.

The SBC is changing and laypersons deserve to know. The debate over Calvinistic theology is not precisely the issue. Calvinists have always been among us, and they are certainly welcome in our convention. The issue, more specifically, is the apparent exclusion of those who are not Calvinistic from leadership vacancies in the Southern Baptist Convention as they become available. This disproportionate institutionalization of Calvinism in our seminaries, agencies, entities and boards is changing the SBC.

If Calvinism is the minority view in our convention as a whole, why should it be the majority view among newly elected and appointed entity leaders? Of course, if nothing is done to curb this trend, it will continue unabated. The Calvinists in our convention have been quiet with their rhetoric, but audacious with their actions, as I demonstrate below. This strategy of speaking softly and carrying a big stick has easily defeated those of us who have countered with more outspoken rhetoric and relatively timid action.

I know from experience that addressing this growing Calvinist influence elicits charges of being a conspiracy theorist as certainly as the sun rises in the east. Fortunately, facts are our friends, and the growing influence of Calvinists in the SBC is indeed a fact. I am not addressing the motives of Calvinists in this growing influence. I do not suggest any sort of secrecy as they grow in influence, as if they were meeting in underground dens to plot strategies, according to the usual caricature. Perhaps they are accidentally taking over the convention. It really doesn’t matter, for I am not addressing motives or tactics, but the undeniable fact that Calvinists are growing in influence disproportionate to their representation among the people of the Southern Baptist Convention.

You may ask, “How can the minority possibly be leading the majority?” It can happen when the minority is very well informed, very well organized and very well represented at the annual meeting and in other boards and committees. Frankly, these conventions have been dominated by ministers and denominational workers whose travel costs have been covered through the expense accounts of religious institutions. How many of our laypeople really want to pay a thousand dollars out of their own pockets to go to Baltimore, Maryland, or Columbus, Ohio, for a two-day Baptist business meeting?

Unfortunately, among our clergy and denominational workers alone, we do not appear to have enough votes to influence the convention in the direction of our membership base. Last year, for example, we elected as a convention officer a Calvinistic seminary student with only a few years of ministry experience over a very respected and well known Southern Baptist evangelist with decades of ministry experience. The minority can lead the majority when they are organized, informed and in attendance.

If SBC laypeople returned to our annual meetings in significant numbers, we could easily return the convention toward the principles and philosophies that have defined us for decades. If they do not return, the Southern Baptist Convention may never be the same. In fact, the SBC is beginning to resemble something I barely even recognize. What evidence exists to support my allegation that Southern Baptists are changing in ways that deserve the attention of our laypeople? What are these incontrovertible facts that point to a growing Calvinist-Evangelical influence unknown to most laypersons?

1. Theological Discrimination: Unless one is Calvinistic generally or possesses close personal ties to Dr. Al Mohler specifically, one need not apply for leadership vacancies in the SBC. As this graphic clearly reveals, the last six out of seven SBC entity leadership vacancies have been filled by those with Mohler ties. More recently, of the five newly elected staff members at the ERLC, only two appear to have degrees from any Southern Baptist seminary, and they both graduated from the same one—Southern, of course. Of the five other SBC seminaries, none is represented.

2. Non-Southern Baptist Leaders: I believe most Southern Baptists take for granted that leaders in SBC organizations like LifeWay and the ERLC are all Southern Baptists. However, such a notion is false. At the time of their hiring, neither the LifeWay Media Content Strategist, nor the LifeWay Small Group Training Specialist, nor four members of the Creative Team for The Gospel Project Sunday School series, were even members of SBC churches. Furthermore, when hired, one newly elected Vice President of the ERLC was not even a Southern Baptist, although I have been assured that he plans to join our denomination in the very near future. Personally, I believe it is reasonable to expect Southern Baptist organizations to fill their leadership vacancies with persons who are already active Southern Baptists before they are hired to lead in the SBC. Can we not find one talented and qualified leader among our 16 million Southern Baptists?

3. Non-baptized Baptists: Since the word “baptize” means “to immerse,” and since we find no other mode of baptism in the Bible, those who have not been immersed have not been scripturally baptized. Traditionally, the only legitimate and acceptable SBC mode of baptism was that of immersion. This is no longer the case. Quite a few churches now accept as members those whose Believer’s Baptism was by sprinkling or pouring. For example, The Village Church, with several campuses in the Dallas area, clarifies their view on page ten of a publication on baptism: While we practice a baptism by immersion at The Village, we do not require the mode of immersion for membership. Pastors and churches must now be aware that those who transfer their letter from another Southern Baptist Church may or may not have been immersed following their profession of faith. Incredibly, today’s Southern Baptist Convention includes non-baptized Baptists.

4. Alcohol Toleration: I remember well the moment when I first suspected that the convention was in the throes of an enormous theological shift. At the 2006 convention in Greensboro, North Carolina, I witnessed a 30-minute debate on the convention floor over the use of beverage alcohol, with some urging that we abstain completely to avoid causing our brothers to stumble, while others supported the use of beverage alcohol in moderation. When the vote was taken, 80 percent favored abstinence while 20 percent favored moderation. This trend toward the acceptance of beverage alcohol use in moderation, although not the traditional Southern Baptist view, is indeed the position favored by many Presbyterians and Calvinistic evangelicals.

5. Hybrid Church Planting: According to the North American Mission Board, the SBC plants only Southern Baptist Churches who give through the Cooperative Program and adhere to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. Actually, there is much more to the story, for within the description stated above one finds two types of church plants, not one.

Type A might be called a “Pure Southern Baptist” church plant, in which the sponsoring partners who provide resources such as training and financial support are all Southern Baptists. Such partners might include one or more churches, a Baptist Association, a Baptist State Convention and NAMB. By contrast, Type B might be called a “Southern Baptist / Extra-denominational Hybrid” church plant, in which at least one sponsoring partner is part of a network accountable to leadership structures outside traditional Southern Baptist channels, such as Acts 29. Historically, we have not planted these hybrid churches. Now that it is common practice, the membership of the Southern Baptist Convention deserves to know exactly how many of our church plants are Type A and how many are Type B. Thus far, NAMB has not asked our church plants to provide this information, even though it has been requested by messengers on the floor of the Southern Baptist Convention. It is hard to imagine that NAMB is unable to give us this information, since it could be acquired through simple research. It is equally hard to accept that NAMB is unwilling to give us this information, since as a matter of good stewardship, our church members deserve to know exactly what type of church plants their sacrificial contributions are supporting.

6. Infant Damnation Controversy: Dr. Gerald Harris serves as Editor of The Christian Index, the newspaper for Georgia Baptists. In an editorial dated August 22, 2013, he examined one specific statement in the Truth, Trust and Testimony in a Time of Tension Report presented at the 2013 Southern Baptist Convention: “We agree that most Southern Baptists believe that those who die before they are capable of moral action go to heaven through the grace of God and the atonement of Christ, even as they differ as to why this is so.” Essentially, Dr. Harris questioned the use of the word “most.” He wants to know: “What Southern Baptists are there who do not believe that those who die before they are capable of moral action go to heaven?” Because we can trace the practice of infant baptism among Presbyterians and Catholics to this doctrine of infant damnation, it is worthy of our attention as Southern Baptists. If indeed there are infant damnationists in Southern Baptist life today, then it follows that infant baptism may not be far behind. Since many Calvinistic Southern Baptists are already closer to Presbyterians in their views on salvation doctrine, church government and discipline, the end times, worship patterns and evangelistic practices, the ordinance of baptism is practically the only brick left in the wall to separate these Calvinistic Southern Baptists from Presbyterianism.

7. Rejection of Congregationalism: Whenever the minority leads the majority, a red flag goes up in my democratic mind, steeped as it is in the congregational form of polity. However, for those who embrace a form of polity such as Elder Rule, common among many Calvinistic Southern Baptist fellowships, the concept of a few wise people telling a whole bunch of less godly folks what to do presents no moral quandary whatsoever. James MacDonald, a key advisor for The Gospel Project, recently said: “We believe that the Bible teaches that the authority of the church is vested in the elders. And that when the elders speak collectively and in agreement, they speak for God to our church.” This approach is not exactly the proverbial “My way or the highway.” It’s more like “Our way or the highway.” There is very little appreciation here for the priesthood of the believer. MacDonald has also written an article entitled, “Congregational Government is from Satan,” in which we are encouraged to “send congregational government back to hell where it came from.” Please note that congregational government is the form of church polity currently practiced by the majority of Southern Baptists, the same people who pay LifeWay as it promotes MacDonald’s theology attributing our polity form to the Enemy.

8. Rejection of Evangelistic Practices: Southern Baptist layperson, do you know that there are SBC leaders among us who discourage altar calls? Usually, it is a Calvinistic minister who opposes the altar call as unbiblical, and may even claim that it promotes  man coming to God rather than God coming to man. In similar fashion, one often hears the use of the Sinner’s Prayer in evangelism denounced. My favorite quote of this sort may be attributed to Calvinist evangelist Paul Washer: “The sinner’s prayer has sent more people to hell than anything on the face of the earth.” In fairness, I certainly agree that the sinner’s prayer has at times been prayed prematurely or insincerely by one who has not genuinely experienced heartfelt repentance and faith. However, I do not lay this fault at the feet of the sinner’s prayer itself, for millions have prayed just such a prayer expressing their faith in Christ in a manner that is completely genuine and sincere. The main thing to realize here is that historically celebrated Southern Baptist evangelism practices are now being discredited as instruments that are sending people to hell.

CONCLUSION

What is the state of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2013? One seminary gives us all our new leaders. Newly hired denominational executives are not even SBC. We have non-baptized Baptists. We have Baptists who support the use of beverage alcohol. We use SBC funds to plant churches whose leaders are accountable to networks outside the SBC. We have Baptists who believe in infant damnation. Our polity form is said to come from Satan, while our evangelistic practices are charged with sending people to hell.

Southern Baptist layperson, if none of this disturbs you, please return to your easy chair. But if you are willing to help us stem this tide, to preserve our Southern Baptist identity, to correct our course from this Calvinistic-Evangelical drift, then please get involved. We truly need you. Unless you rise up, the institutions of the SBC will fall completely into the hands of reformers who are redefining daily what it means to be a Southern Baptist. Please come to the conventions, vote on the issues, elect traditional SBC officers, write letters to trustees, serve on boards, inform other Southern Baptists and help us resist these reforms. If you are willing to network with others who embrace the Hobbs-Rogers theological tradition in SBC life, then please visit www.connect316.net.

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Clay Gilbreath

Brother, this is so right! The debate on Calvinism will NEVER end. But the question we must ask is: do Southern Baptists want to be Calvinists? Thank you for this letter!!!!

William Thornton

I’m not an SBC layperson…is it OK if I peek at your open letter to them? And respond?

While I appreciate Rick’s concerns at some levels, the only place where I see much concern out of the laity over Calvinism is when they encounter an agressive Calvinist in a local church where the implementation of the Calvinistic pastor’s vision for the church explodes and destroys the fellowship. This type of thing is regular if not frequent and will resonate with laypeople.

On Rick’s several concerns:
1. Mohler influence: He acquired this legitimately. Rather than connect the dots, please show how his connection with Akin (“Southeastern will be a Calvinist seminary over my dead body”), Ezell (who resurrected our most dysfunctional entity and is doing a good job), Moore (too early to tell but I see improvements over the last ERLC leader). Better to show problems than connections.

2. Non-SBC leaders: I take this point and such should be noted whenever it is found. That said, please show the problems that have resulted for better traction here.
3. Sprinkling: Your solution? Kick them out of the association, state convention, or SBC? Are any in Alabama? What steps are you taking there?
4. Alcohol: Find one who is soft among our employees and let us know. NAMB and IMB have policies against this.
5. Hybrid planting: It should not be difficult to find dually supported NAMB plants, even if NAMB doesn’t report this. So far, I know of two from several years ago. Update please. And ACTS29 is so 2008.
6. Infant damnation: find one who so believes who is an elected or employed Southern Baptist.
7. Elder rule: There are lots of elders nowadays in SBC life but little elder rule. I presume that if you found any in your association or state convention you would move to have them expelled?
8. No invitations: Strictly a local church decision, not covered by the BFM or any statement of faith that I know of.

Rick, I know you to be a thoughtful person. If the SBC is rife with alcohol swilling, elder ruling, ACTS29, sprinkling, non-Southern Baptists, start naming names and calling for action. I may join you.

Rick Patrick

William,

Thanks for your detailed engagement. The reason I believe you do not find many laypersons who are concerned is that they do not know about these matters, the very situation prompting this post.

I also ask you to consider the view that the connections themselves ARE indeed the problem. Our newest leaders are not drawn from a representative cross section of SBC life.

Thanks for your comments.

    Alan

    Rick,
    No doubt there is a growing tide of spiritual ignorance in our congregations. I’m not sure why. There is greater access to resources both in stores and on the Internet than ever before. Honestly, much of the preaching even among (and perhaps I should say especially among) Calvinists is very good and sound. So, people should be better equipped today, but they aren’t. Many are willing to follow just about anything.

    What awoke me to the dangers of Calvinism? Visiting a large church and hearing a sermon that grieved me to the core. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of people were denied the comfort of their salvation because of what was proclaimed from the pulpit.

    Lydia

    Rick,

    The answer is staring you guys in the face but many won’t touch it. Would the average SBC layperson put up with an SBC leader who promotes and supports an “Apostle” from the “People of Destiny” now called SGM— that is not only a shepherding cult but has a history of protecting child molesters and teaching that reporting them to authorities is a sin? Our entity president said that people were against CJ Mahaney because they did not like his “strong leadership”. Now we have a much better idea of what his “strong leadership” entails which also includes documented blackmail and a cultic operation that paralled few out there in scope. The info is out there for anyone to search.

    Would the average lay person paying tithes in an SBC church put up with a porno divinations Mark Driscoll and give money to help him plant churches? Yeah, so he is soooo 2008. Well, his DNA is all over the SBC. As is John Piper, the John Calvin global Apostle. What would the average SBC person say about Piper teaching that women should take abuse for a season? Unfortunately, Patterson taught something similar.

    If the lay folks (there are NO laity in the NT, btw. guess we stopped teaching that?) do support these sort of things then we know that the systematic way patriarchy/leadership was introduced along with inerrancy actually worked well. The attitude is; Let the guys with the titles handle it all for us. They know best. And I have only mentioned a few things. The list is endless. And everything ended up exactly where it was headed: Power in the hands of a few who know best for the rest of us.

    Go back and look at that 45,000. How many were female? For the most part, they have been effectively shut up over the last 30 years in many SBC venues. The patriarchal mindset for the SBC, worked all the way around.

    There is a trust factor. Many of us know you guys look the other way because to say anything is considered mean and hateful. Gotta get over that.
    Facts are facts.. Hankins should never have agreed to be on a “unity” comittee and we now see the Unity announcment simply provided cover for the T4G statement defending Mahaney. Talk about being used. Where is the ethical street cred? There is none. It is our new normal.. . Page is shouting peace, peace when there is no peace. Fake unity never works long term. These are folks you cannot trust.
    It is that simple. Trust is gone.

Roger Simpson

Dr Patrick:

I thought that the tension between Calvinists and so called “Traditionalists” was put to bed as a result of the statement released by Frank Page’s group. I’m a layman myself. I don’t travel to the SBC annual meetings because of my wife’s poor heath. She has MS and needs quite a bit of ongoing help with daily living. I don’t personally know many SBC leaders.

The atmospherics looked good to me when the “Calvinistic Study Group” delivered its report in San Antonio. Dr. Hankins and Dr. Mohler were key contributors that word-smithed document that came out of the committee’s work. Dr. Dockery provided some historical context by describing the Sandy Creek and Charleston traditions whose vestiges influence the diversity we see today in the SBC. Dr. Page provided called the group together and locked them up in a room and got them to engage each other. What am I missing? I thought these guys did a pretty good job of reaching a consensus and agreeing to disagree on some issues while agreeing to cooperate on most issues. As far as I could determine — viewing this from afar — both sides agreed to bury the hatchet and move forward.

This is the scorecard as I see it. I admit that I am seeing things from arms length [OK more like a plane flying over the landscape at 30,000 feet]

IMB — Dr Eliff [my former pastor] I don’t know if he is a Calvinist or not. If he is then it must be a military secret.
NAMB — Dr. Ezell — I don’t know

The six seminaries:
Southern: Dr. Mohler — I think it is fair to say he is a Calvinist
Southwestern: Dr. Patterson: I think it is fair to say he is not a Calvinist
note that Dr. Mohler and Dr. Patterson had a debate some years ago in which they discussed their views. That debate was civil and irenic.
Southeastern: Dr. Akin — On a scale of one to ten (1 = hard core Calvinist and 10 = hard core Arminian) I guess Dr. Akin is a 4
Midwestern: Dr Allen is new on my radar. I have no idea where he fits on the Calvinist / Arminian spectrum
New Orleans: Dr. Kelley ?????
Golden Gate: Dr. Iorg ?????

I watch the SBC annual meeting via streaming video on the net. I listened to the report of each of our seminaries. It seems to me like our seminaries are running on all 8 cylinders. It looks to me like brighter days are ahead for Midwestern.

I don’t pay much attention to the exact Calvinist / non-Calvinist mix with Lifeway. Lifeway does NOT receive any CP funds. It is a self supporting entity, wholly owned by the SBC, that pays its own way based upon running a publishing operation and selling books. It also runs the Ridgecrest conference center. Lifeway’s customer base includes may churches who are not in the SBC so I guess it makes sense that Lifeway keeps its ear on the rail and pays attention to what is happening not only in the SBC but also within the broader evangelical community in North America. I have no problem with Ed Stetzer being involved with conferences held by various groups other than the SBC and also being involved somehow with Christianity Today.

As for the ELRC it seems to me like Dr. Moore is hitting the nail on the head in regard to his recent statements concerning contemporary issues such as homosexual marriage.

In short, I think the leadership in the SBC is broadly representative of the diversity in the convention and the guys who are the wheelhouse are doing a good job of keeping this ship on course for the cause of Christ. I don’t care exactly where any given person falls on some arbitrary Calvinism / non-Calvinism scale.

You mention a few Calvinist innovations such as infant Baptism. I don’t see how it is possible to read any version of the BFM and conclude that infant baptism is consistent with our statement of faith. If a church that is in the SBC fold practices infant baptism then I guess they are free to do so. However, they might risk getting kicked out of their local association and/or their state convention and/or not be able to send messengers to the SBC annual meeting. . There is precedent for factions in the SBC taking action to separate over doctrinal differences.

It is a mistake to conflate Calvinism vs. non-Calvinism with something fundamental such as inerrancy.

Dr. Mohler’s idea of “Theological Triage” helps us to differentiate what’s really important if we are Christians. My first introduction to the this idea was Dr. Jim Sawyer’s paper called “Hierarchy of Doctrines”. In any case, there are some key doctrines that are non-negotiable if you are an orthodox Christian. I think it might be possible to unlock some latent interest among laymen in the SBC pending a clear demonstration of how the current “situation with Calvinism” is a first tier issue just like inerrancy was in the 1970s and 1980s.

    Rick Patrick

    Roger,

    Thanks for contributing to the discussion. I pray you and your wife will experience God’s healing hand, His peace and His strength.

    Along with you, I enthusiastically embrace this past summer’s T5 statement, believing as it clearly stated, that we should continue this theological dialogue with respect and civility.

    My post, however, has fairly little to do with theology per se. It addresses a related topic not specifically addressed in the T5 report, namely the issues of denominational identity and the composition of our leadership structures. I believe newly elected leaders should proportionately represent the entire spectrum of Southern Baptist life, but we appear to be leaning in a specific direction with each new entity hire. That direction seems to prefer those who are broadly evangelical over against those who are denominational loyalists. And yes, it also appears to favor Calvinists generally, and those with Mohler ties specifically. I think it’s time for the rest of the convention to be better represented whenever new leaders are elected.

    Thanks again for your comments.

      Jason Reasor

      Dr. Patrick,

      You say that your post had little to do with theology “per se” but “namely issues of denominational identity and the composition of our leadership structures.” I will not speak on the executive level, but church. As you know ecclesiology is a theological issue, so to address it otherwise would not be prudent. If the SBC was to rescue it’s denominational identity, would it not be wise to revisit the paradigm used in 1845 when the SBC was founded? A quick reference back to your Baptist Identity & Heritage textbook from seminary will reveal that the current structural model was nowhere to be found in 1845; rather, the model that you are espousing to be “traditional” is based more on secular business models than ecclesiological models that can be drawn from Scripture. I also feel that your view of congregationalism is errant. True congregationalism is not lost in the “elder led” models of polity; it is the congregations who choose whom will lead them. Elder led polity (unlike what we view as exclusive Presbyterianism) is the majority ruling through the few, not a few men in a back room directing everything; this would contradict Paul’s teaching upon the individual member’s importance to the Body in 1st Cor. 12. What would behoove the convention is to look at their idea of church and see if it can be honestly found in Scripture. Baptists have always been “a people of the Word.” So the question that lies at our feet today is: “Does our current idea of the church paradigm look more like the New Testament structure, or does it resemble the 1950’s business model?”

        Rick Patrick

        Jason,

        Thanks for your contribution. There are certainly many people in our convention like you who support elder-led polity over classic congregationalism. Rest assured, those of us who disagree believe our polity form to be very well represented scripturally and not at all derived from the dreaded 1950’s.

Pam Knight

Rick, thanks again for a great article on this issue. I was one of those laypersons myself, that was just not informed enough about what all goes on within the SBC. 4 years ago our church’s Pastor, of 32 years, went home to be with the Lord. My husband was a member of the Pastor search committee and in his search for a Pastor he began to come across a lot of these things. Because of the lack of knowledge about this issue within our church , and as my husband began to share what he was coming across and finding, other people in the church began to caricature him as a Calvinist conspiracy theorist, and as a result he became virtually discredited as a committee member. My husband and I both agree the overwhelming majority of Southern Baptist laypeople have no idea of what is going on within the SBC and the majority of laypeople also believe that everyone who call themselves a Southern Baptist all believe the same things on Doctrine.
So thanks again Rick for another great article and I will continue to share these SBCToday articles with as many people as I possibly can.
In Christ
pam knight

    Rick Patrick

    Pam,

    Thanks so much for your testimony, and for passing on this information to other laypersons within the convention. Over time, I believe the offensive conspiracy theorist charges your husband had to endure will simply no longer stick. I mean, denominational positions are actually being granted to people OUTSIDE the denomination. I’m not even sure what to call that, but a term like “Southern Baptist treason” comes to mind. They may continue to call us names for a while, but the facts are on our side, and the truth WILL come out. I hope and pray it comes out in time.

    Blessings,
    Rick

    Max

    “… the overwhelming majority of Southern Baptist laypeople have no idea of what is going on within the SBC …”

    Pam – Whether they be uninformed, misinformed, or willingly ignorant, the SBC majority are simply not engaged. Rick has clearly pointed out the hot spots which need attention as Calvinization of the denomination picks up pace. The window that was opened to assess and address via Dr. Page’s Calvinism Committee is now closed. Agree to disagree, go along to get along is not genuine unity. The BFM2000 has enough wiggle room in it for diverse theologies, but how can we truly walk together if we are not agreed? Soteriology should not be a secondary or tertiary doctrine by any Christian’s triage. We are losing a generation to non-majority theological belief and practice through New Calvinism. The Southern Baptist identity I have known for 50+ years is slipping away. Silent pulpits and apathy in the pew are to blame. Evangelism, our denominational gifting, is being surrendered.

Roger Simpson

Dr. Patrick:

Maybe your issue is going over my head. I think the real issue is “are the guys we have running our boards competent or not? Are they anointed by God to do what they are doing? Are the institutions they are running on the right track?”. To you the issue is “do most of these guys come from a single source?”

I stipulate that it is the case that most (but not all) people appointed in the last decade to senior management positions in the SBC have ties to Dr. Mohler. In my opinion, he is the smartest guy in the room. So it is not surprising that he has an outsized influence. To the extent I know what he is doing, I agree with him.

I am out of the loop quite a bit. Let’s take some specifics. Who are some of the candidates (who are not in the Mohler sphere of influence) that should have been installed as head of NAMB, or Southeastern, or Midwestern, or the ERLC? Could it be that there is a vast conspiracy at work which has infiltrated the BOTs of these agencies so that when they appoint search committees for a new president that the committee is stacked with Mohler acolytes? I think such conspiracy theories are “over the top” but I can’t prove this one way or the other.

Along with the seminary presidents, the most important denominational job in the entire SBC is the president of the IMB. After all, what is the main purpose of the SBC? It is to do cooperative mission work. [The NAMB is also very important but if it folded tomorrow churches could pick up the slack much easier than would be the case than if the IMB folded] I think the right choice was made to fill that position. The search committee had an incredibility hard time finding a suitable candidate. They finally found the right guy. You could probably count the number of people suitable to run the IMB using only the fingers on one hand. Dr Eliff is one of them.

Again I ask. Other than the fact that many these guys spent time in Louisville, what is there not to like?

To initiate action, people like me need chapter and verse as to what these guys are doing that illustrates the negative linkage resulting from having breathed the same air as Dr. Mohler.

When something important was at stake during the CR Paul Pressler was out there. There was no ambiguity as to the point he was making. I guess his law degree from Princeton was put to good use. His influence as an appellate court judge came in handy.

I think his template is a good one to apply to anyone who sees something wrong and wants to turn this battleship in a different direction. THE MESSAGE HAS TO BE CRYSTAL CLEAR.

    Rick Patrick

    Roger,

    It’s not the competence of these men that I question, but their direction and vision for the future of the SBC.

    I think Ezell at NAMB was first of all disqualified by his lack of support for Annie Armstrong when he was a Pastor. I also think the new NAMB is overly invested in church planting efforts, having dropped other worthwhile ministries to embrace this singular focus. I am not at all certain that the location strategy for new church plants is optimal in reaching the greatest number of people. And I have concerns about what TYPE of churches we are planting, as mentioned in the article.

    I disagree with Dr. Jason Allen at Midwestern with regard to his approach on theological transparency. You may read his article, which I think encourages Calvinists hide their convictions from search teams in a manner bordering on dishonesty, here: http://jasonkallen.com/2013/09/are-you-a-calvinist-rethinking-theological-labels/#.

    I disagree with the vision of Dr. Russell Moore and his leadership at the ERLC, not only for hiring non-Southern Baptists to lead Southern Baptists, but also for employing a ministry philosophy I believe is out of step with most Southern Baptists. You may read about it here: http://www.randywhiteministries.org/2013/04/08/what-southern-baptists-can-expect-from-russell-moore-and-the-erlc/.

    I admit to you that the denominational shift away from Traditional Southern Baptist views and toward this new Evangelical-Calvinistic Reformed perspective is far less easy to articulate than the simple matter of liberal theology, which was the issue in the Conservative Resurgence. This conflict is very significant, but requires a deeper level of philosophical analysis to impart. It is not easily tranferrable, which may partly explain why laypersons have not yet picked up on all that is happening.

      William Thornton

      Rick, take the NAMB example. Ezell redirected about 10% of the budget from other things to church planting, hardly a “singular” focus, and your A29 concerns merely dust off ones several years old. It would help your case if some facts that support your concerns could be uncovered. And Annie Armstrong is one of the few bright financial markers (it’s up considerably) in our convention, so churches seem not to be holding Ezell’s previous record against him.

      The one area that has traction with laypeople is that which is closest to them – Calvinists blowing up churches.

      I actually share several of your concerns in this but need facts that call for more specific action. You are short on both. There is no possibility of a CR type, decade long challenge to the SBC status quo, best I can tell.

        Rick Patrick

        William,

        Fact: Dan Darling, outside the denomination, was hired to be a denominational executive, inside the denomination. You don’t have to pay dues anymore. You don’t even have to be a Southern Baptist. You just have to be a Calvinistic evangelical who knows the right people. And yes, they are in Louisville. That is a problem in its own right.

        Fact: As you mentioned, Calvinists are blowing up churches. They need to be transparent with Search Teams about their Calvinism. But Jason Allen’s article encourages the kind of hemming and hawing that refuses to say, “Yes, I am a Five Point Calvinist.” He himself had Mohler ties, and dodged the Calvinism question during his hiring process.

        Fact: Washer and others have disparaged the Sinner’s Prayer. I’m not making this up. It’s a fact. MacDonald has disparaged congregationalism, and Lifeway continues to print his material.

        Fact: There are non-baptized Baptists in the SBC.

        William, I appreciate your wit and your concern for the CP, among many other things. But I don’t think you’ve accepted some of the facts I have provided in this article. You seem to be demanding more facts when I have actually provided plenty of them already.

          William Thornton

          Now you offer a precious few facts?

          You are aware that I have written extensively about Calvinists blowing up churches, about Jason Allen’s piece on being identified as a Calvinist, and about church search committees being informed enough to deal with a Calvinist candidate, and about Calvinist candidates being open and transparent? I have years worth of those and we share the same viewpoint.

          I know you have called for quota hiring and here you seek to rouse the laity. Perhaps you could do more work here. It’s simply not enough to identify someone as being mentored or sponsored by Al Mohler. Show how this is harmful to the SBC. It’s not enough to say that NAMB allows their plants to have some affiliation with other networks. Show us how many, and how these are harmful to the SBC (in 5 or 10 years, you will have a NAMB plant track record to bolster or diminish your case).

          Don’t worry. Both my eyes are open in all this and have been for some years.

          The Crimson Tide is our only SEC hope these days. I wish them well.

          Scott

          Rick,
          If you go back and read Dr. Allen’s post, you will find that he encourages people to avoid labels for the sake of being as accurate in describing their beliefs as possible. There is an entire point in the post encouraging people to use the most forthright language possible. This is the opposite of concealing what one believes. To read him the way that you have is to assume the worst about his post. In fact, what you have done is the opposite of love which “hopes all things.” Doesn’t this at the least mean that we should give a person’s words the most charitable reading possible? I’m sure that this is what you would desire for your own writing.

            Rick Patrick

            Scott,

            When the person asked Dr. Allen if he was a Calvinist, I believe he should have replied, “Yes.” It would be the accurate answer to the question, consistent with the biblical admonition that our yes should be yes and our no should be no. I disaffirm his philosophy regarding the avoidance of labels generally, and the label Calvinist particularly. I believe this one equivocation has done much harm in Southern Baptist life. If you are a Calvinist, simply say so–clearly, honestly, openly, transparently, using the very word “Calvinist.”

            I realize that he claims his approach results in forthright language and transparency. I disagree with him in his evaluation of his approach, believing it actually REDUCES the clarity of a ministerial candidate’s Calvinistic views.
            I am not, as you claim, “believing the worst” about him personally, or in any way “opposing the love that hopes all things.” I just think his approach is actually more confusing than simply saying, “Yes, I am a Calvinist.”

            As for my desire with regard to my own writing, and specifically the using of theological labels, the golden rule certainly applies. I must be willing to answer the question, “Are you a Calvinist?” with the answer “no.” I must also be willing to answer the question, “Are you a Traditionalist?” with the answer “yes.” I am not asking Dr. Allen to apply a different standard than the one I have set for myself.

    Rick Patrick

    Roger,

    I do not question the competence of these men at all. There are a great many men who are competently moving organizations in a direction I do not believe they should go. The issue for me is the direction and vision for the future of the SBC–not their competence. I provided a more substantial explanation of this, but it required a few links, which do not survive the moderation rules here.

    (Just so everyone knows, my comments sometimes get hung up in moderation here just like yours.)

      Norm Miller

      Rick: Yes, comments with links in them by default go into moderation until the links can be checked out. However, others’ comments go into moderation because they may be a first time commenter who has not affirmed they have read and will abide by the commenting guidelines, or they are blacklisted because of previous untoward comments that transgress the commenting guidelines.

Roger Simpson

Dr. Patrick:

Thanks. The ball is in my court.

I am a layperson — now retired. My background is a manager / developer for microcode projects. I put in 40 years in Silicon Valley before moving in 2004 to Oklahoma City upon retirement.

My problem is that it seems to me that a lot of stuff going on is “theological noise”: A group of people arguing about “ordo Salutus” or whether Infralapsarianism is right or not. My eyes glaze over.

I’ll study the links you have cited as well as the “connect316.net” site.

Roger

Ben Simpson

Rick, to your concerns, I say:

1. Theological Discrimination – Rick, you have absolutely no grounds to claim theological discrimination in these hirings. You said that you were going to provide “incontrovertible facts.” What facts do you have that these boards discriminated theologically against Non-Calvinists or even against those not connected to Mohler. Furthermore, is it not true that you are calling for theological discrimination by making sure some soteriological quota is maintained in the SBC entity leadership? I encourage you to instead call for our entity boards to hire the best Southern Baptist candidate available, regardless of his soteriological nuance within the BF&M..

2. Non-Southern Baptist Leaders – I agree with you completely. Our entities should be hiring only committed Southern Baptists.

3. Non-baptized Baptists – This is totally irrelevant to the convention as it stands now because it is a church autonomy issue. I certainly don’t believe that accepting non-immersion as a valid baptism is good, biblical practice, but it only becomes relevant when an individual comes forward for leadership.

4. Alcohol Toleration – You seem to be employing the guilt by association fallacy. The question is not “Do Presbyterians and Calvinistic evangelicals tolerate alcohol in moderation?” The question is “Do our entity candidates tolerate alcohol in moderation?”

5. Hybrid Church Planting – “Pure Southern Baptist church plant”… I don’t really take any issue with your point here other than your employment of a polemical label. I know you have a fondness for polemical labels (eg., “Savabilist”), but that just won’t be helpful!

6. Infant Damnation Controversy – This seems like guilt by association again. Honestly, Rick, there is no controversy over this. Some men simply just do not feel the Word reveals certainty about the eternal future of those who die in infancy. They are neither positive or negative, but rather neutral. I’m positive they’ll be in heaven, but if a man says he doesn’t know because he doesn’t think the Word tells us, I can tolerate that.

7. Rejection of Congregationalism – I feel like you are utilizing guilt by association once again. What Southern Baptists are calling for elder rule? The strongest voice I hear on this is coming from 9 Marks Ministries who advocates Plural Elder-Led Congregationalism, which is in no way elder-ruled.

8. Rejection of Evangelistic Practices – The question is not “Are they giving Finney-esque altar calls and leading people to repeat the sinner’s prayer?” The question is, “Are they preaching the undiluted gospel far and wide and inviting all sinners to be saved?” That’s what matters!

    Rick Patrick

    Ben,
    1. If you can’t see that 6 of 7 entity heads coming from the same leadership tree is not representative of our entire denomination, then there’s nothing more I can do to persuade you.

    2. Glad we agree. What can we do to make sure this doesn’t happen again?

    3. I think it is in the interest of the SBC to insist that Baptists be baptized.

    4. I’m not only concerned with entity leaders, but with other SBC churches whose tolerance of beverage alcohol changes the perception of Southern Baptists for all of us…and in a negative way.

    5. Not just labeling for labeling’s sake here. There really are two different kinds of churches being planted, and some of us only want to plant the kind that does not answer to leadership structures who are not Southern Baptist.

    6. I understand you can tolerate infant damnationists. Some of us agree with Dr. Harris that we should not tolerate it.

    7. Dever’s ecclesiology — whether Elder Rule or Elder Led — violates what most Southern Baptists practice and believe in. For that matter, so does Furtick’s, with his extra-congregational board setting his salary–and yes, I understand Furtick is not a Calvinist, although he is a Southern grad. I just think most Southern Baptists believe in our basic Pastor and Deacon Body congregational polity.

    8. Altar calls and the use of the sinner’s prayer are generally accepted in SBC life. Most of the convention does not even know that these matters are controversial in certain circles. I think they deserve to know, for it will eventually impact the denomination and our churches, and we should address the issue from the start, or to borrow a phrase from Barney, “nip it in the bud.”

    Clearly, we disagree. I just think a lot of Southern Baptists don’t even know about these concerns, and I think they should.

Kris

First, it appears that most SBC pastors would rather utilize their conference money to attend something other than the SBC annual meeting. Most laypersons avoid business meetings at their local church. Therefore, encouraging them to attend the SBC annual meeting seems impractical – at best.

1. Theological Discrimination: What if, just what if, SBTS was hiring the best facility, recruiting the best students, and providing the best training. Therefore, the common denominator might be SBTS and not Mohler. Maybe the best and brightest are coming from SBTS – faculty and students. You claim theological discrimination, but in making that claim you assume that ALL students and faculty are Calvinists. It appears your concerns are generated because individuals have an association with Dr. Mohler and not with a specific theological perspective.

2. Non-Southern Baptist Leaders: I believe this is a legitimate issue. However, I see it as a Baptist issue and not a Calvinistic issue. Individuals that are hired at our entities should be the best and brightest. Dr. Patrick, it appears one of your advanced degrees was earned at a non-SBC school. Does this disqualify you from from SBC leadership?

3. Non-baptized Baptists: I thought this letter was about Calvinists taking over the SBC. What Matt Chandler does at The Village church is not voted on by the SBC…we are a loose affiliation of autonomous churches. Chandler holds no place of leadership in the SBC, but is the President of Acts 29. So, it appears you are making a note about The Village because of Chandler’s secondary affiliations. I do affirm that immersion is vital to our baptist history and is one of our distinctives.

4. Alcohol Toleration: You provide no evidence of toleration of alcohol. Although I could cited numerous churches that elected “drinking deacons” while the pastor abstained from alcohol. In other words, we have been heading down this road for some time – this isn’t due to Calvinism, but culture.

5. Hybrid Church Planting: Truth is that we are behind the power curve in planting. I think some are trying to learn from a para-church that is doing good things to expand the Kingdom and push back the darkness. It seems your objection to the hybrid is the organization that comprises the hybrid – Acts 29 which affiliated with Mark Driscoll. If the organization wasn’t Acts 29, I sense there would be less of an issue.

6. Infant Damnation Controversy: Subsequent interviews determined that no one could be found holding to the position that Harris described was such a threat. In other words, he jumped on the word that was used in the statement. It appeared the authors were leaving some room under the big SBC umbrella for “others” that might have a differing position. Again, those that followed-up, including Harris, found NO ONE that held to the position that generated the “controversy.” It appears he created his own controversy.

7. Rejection of Congregationalism: This has been the best argument that Reformed Theology has caused us to drift from our Baptist Distinctives. I believe Dr. Lemke at NOBTS has shared this perspective on several occasions. I do believe and affirm the congregational form of government. I also sense that the reappointment of elders has been a reaction to a closer study of the NT. Additionally, I wonder why you didn’t note all the pastors that are not Calvinists that have pushed for more and more control and the establishment of “staff led” churches. These too are shifts from our congregational polity.

8. Rejection of Evangelistic Practices: I think this is a local issue and outside the scope of the BF & M. This is a pastoral and practical theological issue. Preach the Gospel – let the Spirit work, and compel the lost to repent and believe!

I pray our convention will soon unite over the importance and mandate to share the gospel. The SBC tent is much bigger than most bloggers make it seem.

Roger Simpson

Dr Patrick:

I did some of my homework.

The debate between the two Southwestern profs, Dr. Yarnell and Dr. McKeller on “Calvinism” vs. “non-Calvinism” is excellent.

I agree with the tone of Dr. Allen’s blog where he says that people have to be fully transparent as to what they mean when using certain theological terms — in this case “Calvinism”. There has to be some historical context in view in order for each person to know that everyone in the discussion has a common understanding of terminology. It is certainly the case, as Dr. Allen says, that terms mean different things to different people such as the term “fundamentalist”. I am a fundamentalist because I have the 5 volume set of THE FUNDAMENTALS that were first printed in around 1920 and I agree with most of the stuff in these books. However, I am not a fundamentalist because I don’t handle snakes during church and/or I don’t demand that only the KJV bible be used at church.

In regard to Dr. White’s critique of Dr, Moore: I can’t offer an articulate response. I guess Dr. White is attempting to decode “key words” that Dr. Moore has used in past statements to project that Dr. Moore has some type of quirky – dominionist – eschatology. White’s argument is too nuanced for me to have a clue as to exactly what charges he is making and how those charges have any practical outworking in terms of the day to day operations of the ERLC.

I guess I’m dense but I just do not see any alarm bells ringing.

I have heard cases of “Calvinist” pastors splitting churches. I know anecdotally of one such case. My information regarding this case is fragmentary. Given my current state of knowledge (more accurately non-knowledge) regarding “Calvinism in the SBC”, I’d guess that looking into church splitting pastors is the only “anti-Calvinist” area of inquiry that might actually illuminate the purported Calvinist problem.

Rick Patrick

CORRECTION: The Calvinistic seminary student I described as having “a few years” of ministry experience, in fact, had about a dozen years at the time of his election. He contacted me today, correcting my estimate of his experience, disaffirming any organized effort to get out the vote on his behalf, and admitting that his opponent was indeed more qualified.

Ron F. Hale

Rick,
I find it ironic that our Calvinist Brothers – who believe in the “meticulous providence” of God (that He orders and directs every detail in the universe) have worked so hard in planning, organizing, and strategizing together in promoting the resurgence of Calvinism and their political plan of governing the new SBC and Evangelicalism. It has made some very, very wealthy and very powerful.

Thank you Rick for sharing what you believe to be true in SBC life. Many believe the same way that you do, but for some reason, they choose to remain on the sidelines of silence.

    Jon Hall

    Ron,

    You state, “I find it ironic that our Calvinist Brothers – who believe in the “meticulous providence” of God (that He orders and directs every detail in the universe) have worked so hard in planning, organizing, and strategizing together in promoting the resurgence of Calvinism and their political plan of governing the new SBC and Evangelicalism.”

    So, would it be fair to say that you don’t believe God’s sovereignty means that “He orders and directs every detail in the universe”? That’s a hard stance to take once you read the Bible. But I think the heart of your statement comes to, “It has made some very, very wealthy and very powerful.”, which implies of course that this wealth and power they have accumulated is tainted and therefore sinful.

      Ron F. Hale

      Jon Hall,
      I was just observing that some of my Brothers are very determined in bringing about the things that they believe that God has already determined or decreed. While God is sovereign, my theology may hold a little more tension between His sovereignty and man’s responsibility. Blessings!

      Robert

      Jon you wrote:

      “So, would it be fair to say that you don’t believe God’s sovereignty means that “He orders and directs every detail in the universe”? That’s a hard stance to take once you read the Bible.”

      It is not a hard stance to take at all and in fact the vast majority of Christians from early church history through today have taken this stance and rejected Calvinism’s belief and claim that “God ordaineth whatsoever comes to pass”.

      Most thoughtful and Bible believing Christians have rightly reasoned that if God had predetermined all events and controlled all events so that whatever occurs is exactly what God preplanned and desires to happen: then this makes God the author of all sin and evil. That would mean that God “orders and directs every detail in the universe” results in God preplanning, desiring and ensuring that every evil that occurs takes place.

      To take a couple of examples that are “close to home” for me personally, as I work with inmates. Most of them have substance abuse issues, and their addictions have led to untold misery and suffering for themselves, their families and friends and others. Are we seriously to believe that God preplanned and desired every one of these folks to become addicted to substances?

      And not only are their addictions difficult to square with the Calvinistic claim that God predestines every detail of history. This also goes for their crimes as well. Can you really say with a straight face that God preplanned their every crime and then controlled them to ensure that these crimes occur just as God preplanned for them to occur? If all is predestined by God then God predestined their desires to take drugs, predestined their desires to commit crimes, controlled their every thought and action to ensure they become addicted and commit these crimes: this is ridiculous and makes God look like a person of extremely questionable character.

      And while I am primarily focusing on the sins of nonbelievers here: what about the sins of believers? Are we seriously to believe that God predestined believers to be involved with pornography, to abuse their spouses and children, to divorce, to mistreat other believers, etc. etc.? The bottom line is that is you want to hold the belief that God predestines everything then you have to stomach the pill that that includes *everything*. And if it *includes everything* then it includes all sin and evil, whether done by believers or nonbelievers.

      If you “read your Bible” and interpret it correctly, *that* is not only a hard stance to take, it is a stance that ought to be rejected by every believer. Throughout church history it has been rejected by the vast majority of believers, though sometimes it makes a reappearance.

      Robert

Leslie Puryear

Rick,

Thanks for this post. I plan to use this document to inform my church as to what is really going on in the SBC.
Blessings,

Leslie

Kenny Rhodes

I thought democratically elected leaders were the expression of God’s will? If Calvinists are being elected…
Oh, maybe congregationalism is not good. It ripped my church apart and every pastor I served under (2 times as an associate and once when I was the sr pastor). Seems like the logic of the posted issue of congregationalism collapses itself.

    Rick Patrick

    Kenny,

    To be clear, I do not question at all the legitimacy of the currently elected leaders in holding their offices. What I am questioning is their vision and direction for the future of the SBC. The processes of democratic elections and congregational rule are ongoing. Thus, rather than simply accepting Obama’s vision for America, for example, as an expression of God’s will, I can work with others to overturn that agenda in the interest of pursuing that which I believe to be God’s will for our nation. Of course, I am also free to pursue my understanding of God’s will for the SBC.

Patrick Johnson

Although I disagree with your position, I also believe that you “tried” to remain fair and balanced… that is, until point 6. At that point, it appears that you began to grasp at straws, straw-men, and red herrings. Here are some responses:

6. There is no documented example of any movement among Calvinistic Baptists to introduce Infant Baptism to the SBC, nor is there any evidence that they are moving towards denying immersion as the correct mode. Infant reprobation may or may not be an Arminian “or” a Calvinist’s view, but this has no bearing upon the mode of baptism, unless you believe in baptismal regeneration. It is a mischaracterization to imply that most Calvinists in SBC hold this view.

As for 7 & 8, just because something is accepted by a majority does not mean that it is right. The Roman Catholic “church” is a good example. Just because you’ve done something for 150 years does not make it right either. It is also unfair to take controversial sound bites of what pastors have said without giving some insight to their position or the context in which they were said, when they have publicly clarified such statements. Others who have not heard their reasoning are cheated of the opportunity to make up their own mind. Also, if I remember correctly, James MacDonald, though not one of my favorite pastors, is not even a Calvinist.

I can tell you that I was personally duped by the 200 year old practice of the sinners prayer you defend. I was told if I prayed the prayer then I was saved, but not one sermon ever addressed the doctrine of assurance. Not once was I told to examine myself. Such a practice (sinner’s prayer) is not found anywhere in scripture. I spent nearly 15 years as a false convert and would have entered Hell in utter amazement, had God not intervened. Not one finger have I seen the non-Calvinists lift to undo this rampantly pervasive problem in the SBC. If I were to look at the youth group of 30 I grew up with and the lives they lived, maybe 2 were even saved. The worst part is that they believed that they were.

To close, I do not think that you would find yourself in agreement with the founders and prominent leaders of the SBC at its inception, after all they were Calvinists. You call Satan the Enemy in your address, but your tone seems to point to Calvinist Southern Baptists as being enemies within the body of the SBC. Though they have, as you said, been silent and without rhetoric, you have loudly sounded a call to put them back in their place as a silent minority. I pray that God would continue to sovereignly move and put men in leadership positions that “He” has ordained. If you would like to make a difference, perhaps you should submit your application to a position where you can give voice to your views. I pray that you will be fair as you do. Remember, we must give an account for every idle word.

    Rick Patrick

    Patrick,

    Thanks for commenting. Rest assured, my intention was to remain fair and balanced throughout the entirety of the article.

    I admit that with regard to item six and the infant damnation controversy, Dr. Harris and others have been addressing something which we all know may or may not exist. If it does not exist at all, then the T5 report should not have used the word “most” in describing the Southern Baptist position that infants who die will go to heaven. It is fair to say that Dr. Harris and others, including myself, are either looking for (a) these infant damnationists to identify themselves, or (b) for the report writers to admit that “all” true Southern Baptists believe infants go to heaven, rather than merely “most.” Frankly, if you are right and no one believes this, we should amend the word “most” and either delete it or replace it with “all.”

    Regarding item seven’s congregationalism and article eight’s evangelism practices, I will certainly yield to you that the majority is not always right. The majority elected Obama. The majority of American adults drink alcohol. My appeal is not merely to populism, but to general awareness. Most Southern Baptists in the pews do not even know that their form of church government and their usual evangelism practices are under intense scrutiny right now among the leaders of their denomination. Whether they will change their minds or not, they should at least know it’s happening.

    As for your personal experience regarding assurance of salvation, I wish this doctrine had been preached more often. If you prayed the prayer prematurely or without genuine, heartfelt repentance, and thus were comforted by a false profession, I certainly sympathize and deeply regret such a misunderstanding. By the way, Luke 18 includes the words, “Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner,” which some of us accept as a legitimate expression of a brief sinner’s prayer.

    Finally, as to the matter of the SBC’s history, while I admit the presence of many Calvinists, there are two theological streams in Southern Baptist life and not merely one. To put it bluntly, they were not ALL Calvinists. Nevertheless, Calvinists are not my enemy. Satan is the enemy. Calvinists are my brothers and sisters, and I am cooperating with them in our denomination every day as they increasingly pursue a reform agenda I disaffirm. Should the Traditionalist agenda ever rise to a place of prominence in SBC life, I trust they will cooperate with me at that time just as faithfully as I am cooperating with them right now. We are not enemies, merely two wings of a denomination committed to sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world, with admittedly different philosophies as to how this task can be best accomplished.

Stephanie Usrey

Dear Mr. Patrick,

I am a 45-year old housewife and a lifelong SBC member. I would like to heed your call for more involvement, however, I might not be of the historical SBC mindsets you are seeking.

I was raised in an SBC church, gave my life to Jesus at the age of 10 (yep, I prayed that prayer) and then tried super hard to grow and learn, but found no one in the church who knew anything about discipleship. So I nearly starved to death for the next 30 years, languishing in church after church and parachurch ministries (BSU) which DID NOT teach doctrine. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of Bible studies and plenty of sermons… none of which taught doctrine. Romans 9 was avoided. Ephesians 1-4 was taught vaguely. Evolution was avoided. Difficult biblical and cultural questions were never addressed. And no matter who was teaching, there was no authoritative teaching. Thus, I ended up in my late 30s with a dedication to a God that looked very little like the God of the Bible.

But then, in 2005, I became involved with a group that was running. RUNNING toward God in Scripture study, denial of self and devotion to spreading His fame. And they were reformed. They were regularly sharing the gospel with unbelievers, loving the unloved and challenging me to join them. No one had EVER challenged me like this and I responded with my whole heart. They explained grace, finally. They expected reading of the WHOLE Bible and even challenged me to reading all 66 books in 90 days. There was accountability and love when I failed, coupled with encouragement to get up and run again. They expected results. They expected me to discover what I believed and why. They explained justification, sanctifiation and glorification. There was real and substantive teaching! They exposed me to Jonathan Edwards, John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, A.W. Pink, John Piper, David Platt, MacArthur and a host of others. Theretofore, I had not met such knowledge except in seminary graduates.

I genuinely believe my early SBC church experience isn’t unique. Sadly, I believe it’s the norm. The true, converted church is starving for meat and real leadership and discipleship. I believe in reformed theology, it makes far more sense than what I knew before. For reasons I cannot explain, reformed theology has transformed me into an evangelistic, mission-minded Christ-follower. I love the church like I never loved her before, because I now understand grace and my total depravity. I love others and I forgive because I finally understand how I’ve been forgiven. I finally understand God’s sovereignty, election and the security of my salvation.

Regarding the “sinner’s prayer”…. I have come to loathe it. It didn’t save me. God did. I believe countless goats sit in our pews believing they’re sheep, living unconverted, unchanged lives, behaving like what they are – disobedient children of wrath. And there is NO ONE calling their conversion into question. No one willing to confront in love. A cheap grace was sold to them from some well-meaning person who wanted some drive-thru McDonald’s evangelism. I was taught this method of evangelism over and over and over. The cost of discipleship was NEVER explained. It’s got to stop.

If joining you as a layperson at the SBC annual meeting can help to preserve immersion baptism and altar calls then I’m in. But I’m NOT joining to keep the status quo.

Stephanie Usrey
Warrenton, Virginia

    Rick Patrick

    Stephanie,

    At least we agree about altar calls and immersion. To be clear, I applaud the involvement of laypersons in Southern Baptist life, regardless of their views on reformed theology. I simply believe many mature, discipled Southern Baptists who share my position are unaware of the so-called “Quiet Revolution.”

    I am not only sorry you experienced such weak levels of discipleship among churches espousing the Hobbs-Rogers theological tradition, but I am also thrilled that you received strong levels of discipleship among churches espousing Calvinism, even though I disaffirm their doctrines.

    Blessings to you in Warrenton–very close to my sister’s former residence. Perhaps we will see you in Baltimore at the SBC.

      Stephanie Usrey

      Rick,

      I’ll be checking into the Baltimore meeting for sure! Thanks!

      You said, “I simply believe many mature, discipled Southern Baptists who share my position are unaware of the so-called “Quiet Revolution.” I believe the reason they are unaware is because there is no challenge in the local church to consider such things. I have NEVER heard a ss teacher or pastor address SBC issues! I’ve been active in small country churches, a university campus church, BSU, a large FBC in Florence, South Carolina, an almost-mega church in Gainesville, GA and now another small town SBC church in Virginia. Is it possible that even the pastors are unaware of this “Quiet Revolution”? Is it possible they don’t care enough to tell their congregations? Is it possible they don’t believe their congregations care?

      I also believe you grossly underestimate how few mature, discipled Southern Baptists there are! All you have to do is wander into a few ss classes that are being “taught”. The majority of these leaders cannot Biblically explain why homosexual marriage is wrong, why abortion is wrong or about evolution. They are simply ignorant. So don’t be surprised if their students don’t know. And if they can’t teach basic docrtine on these fundamental levels, you would be hard-pressed to find them addressing Calvinism and even fewer attending one of your SBC meetings!

      Therefore, I’m not surprised at all at the change taking place in SBC leadership. There is a level of engagement that gets kicked up a notch in reformed circles, and as I’ve said, I cannot explain it.

      Blessings to you too as you try to rally the troops. Maybe the dust you kick up will draw a lot of attention!

        Norm Miller

        Thank you for your willingness to comment and to get involved. I have seen the prevalent biblical illiteracy you note, and can only say that a vacuum must be filled. However, I cannot cotton to what the Calvinists are offering, and that is a view of God’s salvation I do not find in the Bible, and in particular, the so-called TULIP. Among that which I find most objectionable is Calvin’s position that God condemned people to hell for his good pleasure. A number of apparently uninformed Calvinists have read that statement from me before and reject it as hyper-Calvinism, or not Calvin’s. But when I post Calvin’s own verbiage from his ‘Institutes” in this vein, they grow strangely quiet. Then when you learn from history what all happened as a result of Calvin’s direct or indirect influence — that people who believed in believers only baptism were murdered — then the system becomes not only repugnant, but utterly tragic. And besides all of that, I refuse to have my theology judged by another man’s, particularly one such as Calvin.
        Hope to see you in Baltimore. — Norm

        Max

        “… there is no challenge in the local church to consider such things.”

        Stephanie – While I don’t share your theological position, I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of life in the local church. As a 50+ year Southern Baptist, I too have observed many of the failings you note regarding SBC leadership and discipleship. If Southern Baptist identity is slipping away, it’s the direct result of silent pastors and apathy in the pew. As I noted in an earlier comment, Southern Baptists at large are uninformed, misinformed, or willingly ignorant … and not engaged in preserving SBC belief and practice as Calvinization sweeps through their denomination. If the “Quiet Revolution” is working, it’s because the multitudes have been quiet. We desperately need “family talks” in 45,000+ SBC churches … but who will rally that cause and at what price?

    Donald

    Stephanie said “But then, in 2005, I became involved with a group that was running. RUNNING toward God in Scripture study…”

    Stepahanie,
    Your story is exactly why the New Calvinism movement has grown. All successful movements fill a void, and young folks seeking meat found very little at their local church.

    Donald

      Max

      Donald – In a search for “Truth”, church history is cluttered with movements which filled the intellect, but not the soul. Traditional Southern Baptists are waking up to the fact that young folks need more nutrition than pizza. Occupying our youth with videos and games, instead of the Word, will not make disciples of Christ. Disciples have discernment to sort through the theological maze to arrive at Truth – too many folks caught up in movements haven’t developed the ability to spiritually discern. Local SBC churches (in most places) have failed to produce disciples and are now reaping the loss of a generation to yet another movement. But when the dust settles, when their running is over, will they know and be known? A tough way to learn a lesson, but the SBC needs to put mature believers in charge of our youth who can teach and disciple … in which godliness, age and wisdom teach youth following the Biblical pattern, rather than youth teaching youth. “New” Calvinism will run out of stream, but “Old” Christianity won’t.

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