I am young (29 to be exact), have two beautiful daughters and one on the way, and have been married almost eight years to Kara, my beautiful wife. We met at Brewton-Parker College, a wonderful Georgia Baptist college in southeast Georgia. All of these eight years have been spent in service to the local church.
My days are a little chaotic because Kara and I are humble homeschoolers. I also am serving my first full time church while pursuing a D.Min. degree.
Thankfully, I have gotten a little experience behind me. I was blessed to preach my first sermon at age 12, and I was licensed to preach at 16. In those early years of pulpit supply, I had only a Bible. I was borrowing commentaries left and right; however, I came across a little orange book, “What Baptists Believe,” by Herschel H. Hobbs.
Long before theological studies at Brewton-Parker College and Luther Rice Seminary, Dr. Hobbs laid the groundwork for me. I also listened to Adrian Rogers on the radio and passed out gospel tracts in my high school hallway. You may be surprised to hear that the Hobbs text is a little beat up, but I still listen to Adrian Rogers and I still hand out tracts.
Just because I am young does not mean that I am Reformed. I am settled; however, it has taken me a while to get here. I was surprised when I began my studies at a Georgia Baptist college and discovered some professors did not believe as I did. Many students did not either.
I remember the first time I heard about Calvinism. The problem was that I just could not find it in my Bible. I was assured that, with the right training and hermeneutics I would come around. I am sorry to say that I did. My desperate need at the time was to fit in. The head of the Christianity department was a Calvinist, and it seems that I just could not get away from the issue. I threw my lot in with them; all the while, my soul was tormented. I put down Hobbs, I switched Rogers for Piper; and wouldn’t you know it, I stopped handing out tracts.
I became consumed with my “election.” My time was selfishly spent in trying to convert other Christians to my theological persuasion rather than sinners to the Savior. Like Austin Fisher, my journey out of Calvinism is not one-sided. The bulk of my exit consisted of one restless summer where I committed to the soteriology of study of the Bible. I was weary of wrestling with the text and I wanted to let the text wrestle me. The Bible won.
I dusted off my Hobbs book, and Dr. Rogers echoed in my car speakers once more. I was back to the place I never should have left. I even ended up changing my college major to get away from the debates and controversies.
My Calvinistic pilgrimage was brief, but long enough to teach me some invaluable lessons. Dr. Frank Page’s “Trouble with the Tulip” assured me that I was not alone in my convictions. I am young, but I am not restless. I am settled concerning my biblical convictions.
I am Traditional, but before that understanding, I floated for the longest while. With the release of Dr. Hankins’ “Traditional Statement” (found at www.connect316.net ), I was pleased to find that I was not alone. I carefully weighed the document with Scripture. I discussed it with my director of missions and was blessed to have The Christian Index interview me about it. My conclusion was that it was a brilliant appendix to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. I was honored to sign it.
(Ed.'s note: You may still sign the Traditional Statement, HERE.)
What does it mean to be Traditional? The Bible takes supremacy at my house. It means more than listening to Jerry Vines and Adrian Rogers, though I consider such favored activities. I am the first one up and the last one to go to bed at my house, and am edified by the blogs at SBCToday and SBCTomorrow. I keep extra copies of the Traditional Statement with me to hand out and talk to lay leaders and pastors; however, I would rather talk to a lost person about Jesus.
To pulpit committees and generally concerned lay people of the SBC: thank you for all that you do. We pastors and leaders who have signed the Traditional Statement want to assure you that you are close to our hearts. We love you and preach to you every week.
Let me encourage you that not all young seminarians and young pastors are Calvinists. We were trained well. My own experience is that Luther Rice is the epitome of biblical conservatism. Our local pastors preached to us the Word of God without compromise. Our Sunday school teachers used biblically centered literature to teach us the fundamentals of the Christian faith. We did not all graduate from seminaries that are rumored to produce “closet” and “church-splitting Calvinists.”
We are Traditional Baptists. We like the hymns and we preach in suits, and do not see much of a reason to change things. Theological fads change, but the Word of God does not. Whatever name I am called, I am settled on my biblical convictions. To my beloved SBC friends and family, there are more than a few young, settled, and Traditional pastors out there. I am thankful to be one of them.
CLARIFICATION: Based on a phone call with Rev. Rea after this blog was posted, Rev. Rea wants to assure readers this account of his theological sojourn is not an inference extended to anyone else, but is, in fact, what he experienced. -- Ed.