Why today’s Calvinism concerns me.


Tim Guthrie is Senior Pastor at Arlington Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tenn.


(Ed.’s note. This is a post from Tim Guthrie’s blog [see timguthrie.org] and is re-posted here in a slightly edited form. Tim is a frequent commentor at sbctoday.com.)

I have debated writing this post for some time. The reality that anything written can be misconstrued is enough by itself to cause hesitation. The last thing I want to do is leave the wrong impression with anyone. I love Calvinists and I love Traditionalists. I work with both and even some in other groups. So I write the following to voice concerns that I am seeing and hearing. I write to add clarification as to why I signed the Traditional Statement. I write to reveal why this issue is a growing problem. And since I write best by making lists, I will compile a list of my concerns while making it clear that NO priority is given other than the first one on the list.

The list will include specific and generic issues tied to people and promotion. Again, these are my concerns and are questions that I have yet to get consistent answers from (new) Calvinists. The older SBC Calvinists that I have known and respected were totally different.

My Concerns:

1. Ask 10 different Calvinists what they believe must occur for a person to be saved, and you will get at least 5 different answers.

2. Do Calvinists really believe that John 3:16 shows that only the elect are the ones God loves.

3. Do Calvinists believe that some people are born with NO hope of salvation?

4. At what point do Calvinists believe salvation occurs?

5. How can Calvinists call Traditionalists divisive when it is the Calvinists who have web sites and blogs that specifically state their desire to change the SBC and beyond?

Here is an example from the Founders’ blog (knowing their website clearly states their desire to change the SBC): “It is indisputable that we are in the midst of a reformation and recovery of the doctrines of grace, or what has historically been called, ‘Calvinism.’ Both statistical and anecdotal evidence of this fact continues to mount. I believe that this is a movement of God and that it is even more widespread than recent studies indicate. As is true with any of work of God, the devil always keeps pace and seeks to steal, kill and destroy. If he cannot keep us from truth, then he will do what he can to cause us to hold the truth in imbalanced and ungodly ways.”

6. Young pastors and staff members are speaking and writing articles claiming it is dangerous to lead a child to pray to accept Christ? If this is true, what, then, should a child do and how should a child be lead by their parents and other influences?

7.  Why is Lifeway sponsoring The Gospel Coalition conferences?

8. Why is Lifeway promoting more Calvinists and their material?

9. Why are Calvinists leaders NOT doing more to instill that pastors must be upfront with their soteriology? There are even manuals on how to transition a church from Traditional to Calvinist doctrine. If there is no move to change the SBC, why are there manuals by 9Marks and others?

10. Why the aggression from Calvinists because many in the SBC do NOT agree with them?

11. If the BF&M is enough, why do we have two seminaries requiring faculty to sign other statements that are Calvinist/Reformed documents?

12. Since when did Baptist and Reform go together? The day-to-day operations of the church do not even match!

13. If there is no takeover plan, why was there an SBC Professor giving the benefits of the takeover (even using a racial slur) at one of the meetings during the SBC?

14. Why did Lifeway do a survey that offered respondents no option other than saying they were, essentially, either Calvinists or Arminians?

15. With the exception of infant baptism, since when were Baptist and Presbyterians so much alike? Dr. James Kennedy was my kind of Presbyterian, but today’s new Calvinists are nothing close in belief and practice. Just think back to Evangelism Explosion materials (I was certified as a trainer in an SBC church). Today’s new Calvinists would reject Dr. Kennedy’s material. How and why?

These are the questions I have. They are simple and I think need to be answered. We are told that we need to cooperate. I am fine with that. I am concerned, though, that the answers to the above may highlight the difficult journey that cooperation will reveal. Some Traditionalists are even saying they will sit this discussion out. I wonder if they would maintain that position when the real truth of the answers are shown.

I find this issue extremely important simply by the answers to point number one. If we cannot agree on that one, then we have two different Gospels. Cooperation will not occur at that point.

And speaking of the Gospel, is it not odd that Calvinists/Reformed call their soteriology the true Gospel and thus label much of their work and conferences with the word Gospel in it?

These are my concerns.