Young, Settled, and Traditional | Rev. Allen Rea

July 17, 2014

by Allen Michael Rea, pastor
Dunn Memorial Baptist Church
Baxley, Ga.

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.
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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.

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Dan Nelson

This is real interesting post. It seems we put more energies into building our own theological straw men than sharing the gospel with others. Just starting out as a pastor 43 years ago I wanted to see people saved more than anything else and witnessed to them constantly. I wasn’t concerned if I was a Calvinist, Arminiain or Zebra. I just wanted to see people saved. In studying the Anabaptist we find no intricate theological system. I believe the early martyrs were orthodox but they didn’t develop their emphasis. I for one wish there was more writings on the church and baptism, but they were on the run, being martyred and the only time they seem to have had they preached the gospel and baptized believers by immersion. I am grateful for those who try clarify doctrine. I am not saying we ought to be theologically ignorant but we shouldn’t let our systems get in the way of bringing people to Christ. If it does there is something wrong with our system or the way we are interpreting it. If we make preaching the gospel priority everything else will fall into place. It worked pretty good for Paul and you my dear brother.
Dan Nelson, Pastor First Baptist Church of Camarillo, CA

Rick Patrick

Awesome testimony, Allen! There are thousands more young people who have not bowed their knee to Piper or Driscoll. Thank you especially for this painstakingly honest statement: “My desperate need at the time was to fit in.” I wonder how many others are falling in line not out of any sense of biblical conviction, but merely because the crowd is on a pilgrimage to Geneva by way of Louisville. Again, thanks for your courageous stand. May it encourage others to reconsider the true source of their theological views as well.

    Jason Stewart

    Hello, Rick. If I might ask, are you implying that those who are of the reformed faith are idol worshipers? To say that there “are thousands more young people who have not bowed their knee to Piper or Driscoll” seems to imply nothing less. I’m not trying to be argumentative but this seems like a very bold statement to make. I don’t really follow the ‘Calvinist/Arminian’ debates but I have been under the impression that for the most part, each ‘side’ viewed the other as fellow believers. Is this the type of unity we are striving for. Christ said that the world would know that we belonged to Him by our love for one another. The debate/converstation can be conducted rationally and intelligently if we make the effort. I’m reformed because election is clearly taught in the Scriptures, in my humble understanding, not because I’ve bowed my knee to a preacher.

      Rick Patrick

      Hi Jason. No, I was not intending to imply that those of the reformed faith are actual idol worshipers. I was using the phrase “bowed their knee to Piper or Driscoll” as a simple expression of profound loyalty to a particular individual or school of thought. Other examples might be: “The rogue mobster had not yet bowed his knee to the godfather.” “Some politicians refuse to bow their knees to the powerful lobbyists.” “He was practically the only actor in Hollywood who had not bowed his knee to the LGBT crowd.”

      To clarify, I do indeed view Calvinists as my brothers and sisters in Christ. I fellowship with them, serve with them, invite them to my pulpit on occasion, and so on. I simply disagree with the crowd that *looks up so admiringly* to Piper and Driscoll. In this case, Allen felt isolated as a younger Southern Baptist who does not identify at all with Calvinism. My comment was merely intended to comfort him in the fact that he is not alone. By the way, if my words caused you pain, you have my sincerest apologies.

      Blessings,
      Rick

      Max

      ” … those who are of the reformed faith are idol worshipers?”

      What I see happening in certain corners of SBC’s reformed ranks (particularly, the YRR sector), is more akin to “idolizing personalities” than “idol worship.” You can idolize someone, without worshiping him. A boy who idolizes his father adores him unquestioningly, believing that everything he does is admirable and beyond reproof. There is no doubt that this is occurring in the reformed world when so many young folks read and quote nothing but Piper, Keller, Driscoll and other leaders of the reformed movement. Their books are selling like hotcakes at the local Christian bookstore and conference halls are packed with their followers. Rather than “idols”, I prefer to call them “influencers” … for they have definitely influenced Millennials by the thousands. Praise God that young pastors like Brother Rea have paused long enough to reflect, retreat and return.

        Jason Stewart

        Max,

        I appreciate your response and your view. This articulates the issue a little better in my opinion. There are those that are younger that appear to be following a person rather than coming to conclusions through their own diligent study. This is true not only in the reformed camp or even regarding the two main views mentioned in the article but in all categories of evangelicalism. There are preachers/speakers who are more influential and esteemed higher than others in any crowd, whether it’s reformed, arminian, pentecostal, presbyterian, etc. Paul dealt with this in 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 and this text addresses the issue clearly. There are divisions among us. Differences in understanding mean little if they don’t cause division – and this is possible. We’re going to look foolish trying to stand together against abortion or the sanctity of marriage when we’re tearing one another down within our own family. That’s why I believe our choice of words (and metaphors) is important. Implications can be made, whether intentional or not. To think that John Piper is not evangelistic is not to have listened to very many of his sermons. Charles Spurgeon was extremely evangelistic. John Calvin was extremely evangelistic!
        My pastor made an excellent point yesterday and I believe you would agree. We don’t go around trying to convert someone to a doctrine but we heed Pauls’ words in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 – that what is of “first importance” is that “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…” This is what we preach. This is the gospel. May there be unity. There can be but it may have to start with those believers that are more mature in the faith, whatever their soteriological view, to give guidance to the young men in our churches. Paul instructs us in this in Titus 2. But let’s be careful to not make accusations of those who believe a little differently than we do. I think this also speaks to the comment below of escaping the “grip of the Pied Piper”. The conversation is important and I believe that your comment above establishes a better tone. Thank you.

volfan007

Allen,

Amen, Brother. What a great testimony! I, too, was wooed by Calvinists at the Seminary I attended. They tried their best to convert me to Calvinism. I seriously considered it. I really did. But, ion the end, like you, I could not reconcile the SYSTEM with the BIBLE. And, the Bible should always win out! Also, like you, I was glad to see things like the Traditional Statement, and the book “Whosoever Will,” because they helped me to see that I was not alone in the SBC world. And, they helped me to understand more clearly about the issues of Calvinism and just being a regular, ole, Southern Baptist Christian. They also helped me to see that there were not just 2 choices, out there, in the theological world…along with blogs…..that there wasn’t just Calvinism or Arminianism. We don’t have to let the Calvinists and the Arminians tells us that we’ve got to be either one, or the other, because that’s the only 2 options….well, unless you want to be Semi Pelagian, or full blown Pelagian.

So, like you, I’m content and satisfied to just be a Bible believing Christian, who is Southern Baptist.

David

PS. I heard Jerry Falwell say, one time, that he departed from being a Calvinist, when he began to realize that the more people he witnessed to, then the more people God seemed to elect!!

    Max

    “… the more people he witnessed to, then the more people God seemed to elect!!”

    It’s amazing, David, how many folks get elected in the red hot fire of genuine revival! It’s my prayer that Southern Baptists try having one sometime … on the other side of humility, prayer, and repentance.

Robert

Hello Allen,

Enjoyed your post and you share a testimony that really needs to be heard by many. Reading your testimony combined with my observations of the many debates regarding Calvinism leads me to an interesting thought.

When I read the New Testament carefully, especially the letters written to local churches, the main emphasis seems to be upon *character*. The Bible writes repeatedly are talking about character, how church leaders ought to exemplify it and how all ought to be striving for good Christian character. Compared to the amount of scripture on character there is very, very little on “Calvinism” (or Calvinistic concepts).

If we really Biblicists and emphasized what the New Testament emphasizes we would be emphasizing character not positions regarding Calvinism. And yet when you look at debates about Calvinism, the debates are never about character (and unfortunately sometimes involve lack of character with some zealots even claiming those who hold differing views to be unsaved persons!) but about technical points of theology and nuanced interpretations of a few texts (e.g. Romans 9).

These debates also lead to an “us versus them” mentality (i.e. they divide brothers and sisters who ought to be united in their desire to evangelize the world). We know that God is a God of order not disorder (cf. 1 Cor. 14:33). We also observe a lot of pride in these debates: and yet scripture tells us that God hates the proud and gives grace to the humble. Who is the epitome of pride?

So if the emphasis of the New Testament is on developing Christian character, and if these debates (and “discussions”) lead instead into division and a de-emphasis of character, who exactly is behind this division and confusion among believers?

I have said to people in the past that the devil cannot get true believers to divide over doctrines like the Trinity or Deity of Christ or Resurrection of Jesus (all believers agree on these things: people who doubt or question or argue against these things are not believers): so he will attempt to divide people on other issues that Christians can and do disagree about. So what if he is using Calvinism to divide and weaken the church? And in this case to weaken the Southern Baptist denomination. To get the church to de-emphasize character to de-emphasize witnessing? This would explain how developing theological ideas then takes priority over developing character and how otherwise united believers become hostile and divided from each other. Something to seriously consider.

Robert

Allen Rea

Brothers,

I appreciate your affirmations and considerations. Criswell, Rogers, Vines, and so many knew the right time to take a stand. Their stand we know as “The Conservative Resurgence”. I daily plead for the same wisdom; however, I know that I am on the same foundation as they were: the Word of God.

Ron F. Hale

Allen,
Thanks for sharing your in & out journey — very interesting. Blessings!

Norm Miller

Posted on behalf of Rev. Trey Crowell. -Ed.

I’m “young” (31), settled, & traditional as well! I have signed the Traditional Statement. Listening & reading material from preachers like Adrian Rogers & Jerry Vines is a joy to me. I have been around all the conversations of Calvinism & unlike many young people, it has never appealed to me. I believe in the “ol’ paths” of my preaching heros. I strive to pass out gospel tracts & go door to door knocking on a daily basis, winning souls to Jesus! Above all, I am born again, saved by the blood of Jesus Christ (at 16), called to the pastoral ministry (at 17), started pastoring my first & only church at 23 (been there 8 years), & will preach with the power of the Holy Spirit, the book, the blood, & blessed hope of Jesus Christ till the day God calls me Home! I am “young” & settled, holding to the traditional “ol’ paths”!

Michael Vaughan

Hi Mr. Rea,

I just had a quick question: why did you stop handing out tracts after reading Piper? Are you implying an association? I’d appreciate some elaboration. I have found Piper to be very encouraging in his exhorations to evangelize, and I cannot imagine that you read anything by him that encouraged you to stop.

Humbly yours,
Michael

Joe McGee

I am Allen’s Association Missionary. I have walked with Allen during much of his journey in the ministry. As a young teen I remember Allen attending one week missions trips in the mountains sharing the gospel. He is for real. He has assisted me as one of the teachers in our continuing education program. He is not some young guy who knows little about theology, rather he is probably one of the most theologically and academically sound pastors in my association. I am proud of him and have share the expectations of things to come in regards to exposing Calvinism within the Southern Baptist Convention. I know this because I was a young pastor near his age when I was part of the Conservative Resurgence. I believe Allan is a great example for young pastors. I write this so that you all would know his background. To God’s glory.

Max

“… time was selfishly spent in trying to convert other Christians to my theological persuasion rather than sinners to the Savior.”

Young man, you just described the leadership at two SBC church plants near me. It is refreshing to hear of your journey back from Piperville and miraculous escape from the grip of the Pied Piper. As you discovered, the Bible wins! May God multiply your tribe of young, settled and traditional … a lost and dying world is depending on your generation.

Jason Stewart

I am thankful for the article and for a forum to have discussion. What I hear is a strong view against Calvinism and John Piper. No, Calvinism is not in the Bible. Neither is Trinity, neither is Eschatology or Christology. Election is. So is predestination. The Bible is pregnant with language of God’s sovereignty and His authority and willingness to do what He wants how He wants when He wants. And it’s definitely not limited to Romans 9. After all, Paul is merely expounding on OT teaching in that chapter but we all know this. I just think it’s healthier to have the conversation without some of the quips about “bowing the knee” and escaping the “grip of the Pied Piper”. These can be divisive and this is in opposition to Christ’s teaching on unity.
Furthermore, if Calvinism is a threat, I would be more concerned with someone like Matt Chandler, someone who is actually part of the SBC and whose teachings are being pushed by Lifeway itself. But even thought he’s reformed, he is extremely (and biblically) evangelistic. Praise be to God for His Son and for the gospel of Jesus Christ that saves sinners.

    Robert

    Jason,

    In your mind and thinking Calvinism is the truth, so you wonder why others are concerned about it and even challenge it and attack it. The problem is that “Calvinism” is a theology based upon certain interpretations of the Bible. Interpretations that most Christians do not hold and even reject.

    You wrote:

    “What I hear is a strong view against Calvinism and John Piper. No, Calvinism is not in the Bible. Neither is Trinity, neither is Eschatology or Christology.”

    Calvinism is an *interpretation* of certain biblical texts yielding Calvinistic theology. It is not stated directly by the Bible but is an *interpretation* of the Bible. The Trinity, Eschatology and Christology on the other hand are exegetical conclusions derived directly from the Bible and for the most part there is agreement among all three of the major Christian groups (Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Protestant). For example all of these groups affirm orthodox views on the trinity, affirm the deity of Christ (Christology) and affirm a final judgment (eschatology).

    “Election is. So is predestination.”

    Again, there is a Calvinistic *interpretation* of election and predestination, but there are other interpretations as well.

    “The Bible is pregnant with language of God’s sovereignty and His authority and willingness to do what He wants how He wants when He wants.”

    All genuine Christians believe that God is sovereign (i.e. that He does as He pleases in all situations: this is most evident when people pray knowing that God can do certain things but also knowing that it is His decision as to what He will in fact do). Believing that God is sovereign does not make you a Calvinist as many non-Calvinist believers believe that God is sovereign in precisely this way.

    “And it’s definitely not limited to Romans 9. After all, Paul is merely expounding on OT teaching in that chapter but we all know this.”

    Again, you are appealing to a Calvinistic proof text, which is yet again a particular interpretation of Romans 9 (an interpretation which is false and rejected by most Christians by the way).

    “I just think it’s healthier to have the conversation without some of the quips about “bowing the knee” and escaping the “grip of the Pied Piper”. These can be divisive and this is in opposition to Christ’s teaching on unity.”

    The “quips” as you refer to them reflect observations that people have made that many treat Piper, et al. as if they are theological rock stars. The adulation is very similar to the way nonbelievers feel about their favorite rock stars. And this is itself divisive because if Piper and the others are promoting doctrine that is false, this in itself is divisive. And regarding divisive, one need only look at what is happening in the Southern Baptist denomination to see real division being caused by Calvinists and their doctrines.

    If one surveys church history one finds that any time Calvinistic beliefs are being taught, there is always confusion and division in the church about it. I have also experienced this divisive spirit of Calvinism first hand. I am thoroughly orthodox in my Baptist beliefs (none here would disagree with me on the trinity, the deity of Christ, etc.) I went to a well-known and orthodox seminary. And yet simply for disagreeing with Calvinism and declaring it to be false, I have had Calvinists say I was not a believer, a heretic, going to hell, a false teacher, etc. etc. There is something very, very wrong about a movement when orthodox Christians are attacked in this way because they disagree with a particular theology. And I am not the only thoroughly orthodox believer that has been and is being attacked in this way.

    “Furthermore, if Calvinism is a threat,”

    The “threat” of Calvinism involves problems such as: (1) the theology and doctrines are false (anything false is not good for the church and is a threat): (2) for various reasons, Calvinism seems to produce people who are arrogant and argumentative (arrogant people are divisive); and (3) wherever Calvinism is promoted there is always division, confusion, and resulting factions (the Calvinists versus the non-Calvinists). A movement that produces false doctrine, pride and argumentativeness and division and confusion is a threat to the church whenever and wherever it appears.

    Robert

      Jason Stewart

      I don’t disagree that John Piper and others have been exalted and that there are those that follow them to be edgy or even blend in with a crown. But it’s just as true that there are those that exalt others, Jerry Vines and Adrian Rogers for example. And I don’t accuse Allen of exalting them, I merely mention them because they are prominent themselves. I do believe that God elects those Whom He chooses to salvation but this does not make me proud at all. It is quite humbling and those of the reformed faith I have been around are some of the humblest people I know. I’ve seen pride in those who disagree with the doctrines of Grace but I have seen humility as well. I disagree that “the theology and doctrines are false”. This is obvious. I won’t say that ‘Calvinism” doesn’t produce anyone at all that is “arrogant and argumentative”. But I can’t say this of those who disagree with the doctrines either. Third, that “wherever Calvinism is promoted there is always division, confusion, and resulting factions” is untrue.
      Furthermore, a survey of church history will show many who held to the doctrine that God elects those Whom He will unto salvation. A survey of Baptist history will show this as well, including former SBC presidents.
      I do have one question, though. Do you consider a Catholic more of a Christian than someone who is of the reformed faith (a false teacher, obviously)? I’m curious.
      You can continue the name calling if you want. It’s prideful and it will not do anything but push the younger crowd away, perhaps toward others like John Piper.

        Robert

        Jason,

        You admitted:
        “I don’t disagree that John Piper and others have been exalted and that there are those that follow them to be edgy or even blend in with a crown.”

        Well if you admit it yourself then why are you surprised that others observe this and note this inappropriate “rock star” like adulation?

        “I disagree that “the theology and doctrines are false”. This is obvious.”

        Of course you disagree, you are a Calvinist and believe these doctrines to be heaven sent!

        “Third, that “wherever Calvinism is promoted there is always division, confusion, and resulting factions” is untrue.”

        Actually it is true, you appear to be unaware of church history. Look at any time in history the Calvinistic doctrine was proposed and you see the same division and confusion in connection with it. Examine church history for yourself, see for yourself.

        Your next question is very strange, you asked:

        “I do have one question, though. Do you consider a Catholic more of a Christian than someone who is of the reformed faith (a false teacher, obviously)? I’m curious.”

        Your question is full of problems. Let’s unpack this question and start with the phrase “someone who is of the reformed faith (a false teacher, obviously).”

        Your statement here is both sarcastic and also shows a lack of understanding of what a “false teacher” is. In the New Testament *false teachers* were those who denied essentials of the Christian faith. It was not used as a term for other professing Christians who hold other views than you do (e.g. when the apostles disagreed with each other you don’t find them calling the other person a “false teacher”). I am convinced that Calvinism is a false theology and many of its beliefs are false. But I would not say of a Calvinist that they are a “false teacher” simply because they espouse Calvinism. I would say they are mistaken in their claims and their ideas are not true. But for the most part the Calvinists that I know do not deny the essentials of the faith as genuine false teachers do. I do not throw around the term “false teacher” as flippantly as you do.

        Now let’s look further at your question.

        You use the phrase “more of a Christian than someone who”.

        Here is another mistake in your thinking.

        There are *not degrees of being a Christian*. You are either a Christian or you are not.

        The fact you ask this question shows some extreme confusion and misunderstanding on your part.

        We can better demonstrate this by tweaking your question a bit to this one:

        “Do you consider a Baptist more of a Christian than someone who is of the Presbyterian faith?”

        What is the problem with that question yet again?

        It *assumes* there are degrees of being a Christian as if one person is more of a Christian than another.
        Again, the fact is: you either are a Christian or you are not. There are not degrees of being a Christian.

        And apparently it may be news to you, but a Catholic could be a Christian, an Eastern Orthodox person could be a Christian, an Arminian could be a Christian, a Baptist could be a Christian, a non-Calvinist could be a Christian, etc. etc.

        On the other hand, a person who is a Baptist may not be a Christian; a person who is a Calvinist may not be a Christian, etc. etc.

        Your denomination/group is not what saves you or damns you.

        You are saved if you are in a saving and personal relationship with Jesus, if you trust that God alone can and will save you. And this means that a Catholic can be saved as can a person of the Reformed faith, etc. etc. etc.

        On the other hand you could be a Calvinist, be of the reformed faith and know all the “doctrines of grace” backwards and forwards and yet not be a saved person.

        People are saved or unsaved not dependent upon what denomination or group they belong to or profess.

        If people are saved they may vary in their level of maturity but there are not different degrees of being saved.

        Now it is true that some groups are more biblical and hold to a more biblical theology than other groups. For example, I believe that Baptist theology is better and more accurate in light of scripture properly interpreted than Presbyterian theology, or Catholic theology. But you will find genuine Christians in these different groups. And while I am firmly persuaded that believer baptism is biblical: I do not condemn the Presbyterians as “false teachers” or claim they are not saved persons because they hold to infant baptism. Instead I say they are Christians who are mistaken in that aspect of their theology and practice.

        Now I answered your question: now you answer mine.

        I have had Calvinists accuse me and others of being a false teacher, claiming that we were going to hell, claiming that we are unsaved:

        Is a person a “false teacher”, going to hell or unsaved *because they question or challenge Calvinism or believe it to be false?

        And if these things are not true of people because they question or challenge Calvinism: then why do your fellow Calvinists keep making these false charges?

        Robert

          Michael Vaughan

          Hi Robert,

          Hope you don’t mind me inserting myself into your discussion. I’m just really curious who these Calvinists are that tell you that you’re going to hell for not being a Calvinist. I’m not denying that it’s happened; I just find it incredibly far-fetched within the realm of my own experiences. Were these people that you interacted with in person? Were they Baptists? What region of the country are they in? Again, I’m not denying it happened, I’m just flabbergasted that it did.

          My follow up thought is that, if they’re online acquaintances, I would ask you not to refer to them as our “fellow Calvinists.” You will never find “a more wretched hive of scum and villainy” than internet comment threads. On any given day, John Piper can post a passage of scripture on facebook (without any interpretation, mind you) and certain individuals will respond that he’s preaching a false gospel of hell. Some people are just crazy or obsessed. I wouldn’t lump a whole movememt of people in with such individuals.

            Robert

            Hello Michael,

            “Hope you don’t mind me inserting myself into your discussion. I’m just really curious who these Calvinists are that tell you that you’re going to hell for not being a Calvinist. I’m not denying that it’s happened; I just find it incredibly far-fetched within the realm of my own experiences.”

            Apparently you live in a very insulated environment! :-)

            That’s good you don’t have to deal with some of the things that the rest of us have to deal with.

            Some answers to your questions:

            “Were these people that you interacted with in person?”

            Sometimes in person, sometimes on line.

            “Were they Baptists?”

            Baptists, Presbyterians, etc.

            “What region of the country are they in?”

            All over the country.

            “Again, I’m not denying it happened, I’m just flabbergasted that it did.”

            That is due to your insulated environment. You speak of being in a small group where everyone is nice.

            “My follow up thought is that, if they’re online acquaintances, I would ask you not to refer to them as our “fellow Calvinists.””

            No, they *are* your “fellow Calvinists” as they clearly advocate Calvinism.

            “You will never find “a more wretched hive of scum and villainy” than internet comment threads.”

            That is sometimes true, so why are we commenting on this comment thread? :-)

            Your comments do not change my experience or the experience of others who have been attacked by Calvinists; you are understandably trying to rationalize and justify the Calvinist movement that you are happy to be a part of. If you have been reading this blog with any frequency you would have seen some nasty Calvinists posting here as well at times. Some to the point that, thankfully, they have been banned from posting here. Make no mistake there is a real struggle in the SBC over Calvinism and at times it gets very nasty. The reality of this blog is itself a testimonial to the fact that this struggle is presently occurring in the SBC.

            Robert

              Michael Vaughan

              Hi Robert,
              I started a response to your post about why they’re not “my” Calvinists, but it’s turning into a meandering, book-length response. I’m going to put some thought into rewriting it a few times and get back to you.

          Jason Stewart

          I have to echo Michael’s response. I just don’t see that negativity among those I worship with and come in contact with. In fact my initial concern was not the article itself but comments that I read about people ‘bowing their knee to Piper’ (which to me is just a clear reference to Elijah and the 7000 men who had not bowed their knee to Baal, especially in the context of a theological conversation) and escaping the ‘grips of the Pied Piper’ (which to me is name calling…and sarcastic). So, I’m sorry, but I guess I’m blessed not to be around the negativity that exists…and I don’t deny it’s out there but that knowledge merely comes from my pastor and others who have also made mention of younger guys who seem to be ‘following Calvinism’ because it’s controversial or edgy or at the least, different from what they’ve been brought up under. So I do not deny that that is happening…at all. But I still believe that there are others that will follow another ‘system’ based on other influential speakers, presuppositions, whatever…but that does not make the preacher the enemy and a threat and I don’t have to resort to calling him names or make sarcastic comments about those who follow him and make what may seem to be an accusation that groups everyone who believes that way into a group that ‘bows the knee’.
          I’ve just been trying to clarify that…have those of the reformed faith (all of them) ‘bowed their knee Piper’ just because they were of the reformed faith. I just think some of the language I’ve read was unhealthy, that’s all.
          Finally I was just referring to your comment that Calvinism was a false teaching (doctrine). I assumed, wrongly maybe, that anyone who teaches a false doctrine would be a false teacher in your opinion based on the other comments I had read in this thread…so again I was trying to clarify.
          ‘More of a Christian’…correct, bad choice of words. My apologies. My concern there is that Catholics (true Catholics) deny the sufficiency of the atonement and consider the Pope’s authority to be equal, if not greater, than Scripture. So, yes, I question whether a true Catholic understands the gospel. Maybe that’s another discussion. I don’t know. I am sorry to make assumptions but I am just trying to clarify things as well. Thank you for your continued dialogue. I genuinely appreciate it.

            Robert

            Jason,

            Like Michael you are posting in order to rationalize and justify the Calvinist movement you are a part of:

            “I have to echo Michael’s response. I just don’t see that negativity among those I worship with and come in contact with.”

            And like Michael apparently you are part of an insulated environment where everyone is nice. Perhaps you live in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood where everyone is a good neighbor! :-) That may be a safe comfortable environment but that is not the reality that others are presently experiencing and facing. Things such as prospective pastors coming into their congregations in a stealth manner to become the pastor while not being open or honest that they are Calvinists.

            “Finally I was just referring to your comment that Calvinism was a false teaching (doctrine). I assumed, wrongly maybe, that anyone who teaches a false doctrine would be a false teacher in your opinion based on the other comments I had read in this thread…so again I was trying to clarify.”

            At one time I worked with Walter Martin in engaging non-Christian cultists. They are genuine false teachers. Christians who disagree on Calvinism, eschatology, baptism, church government, etc. are not “false teachers.” Your earlier comments indicated that you did not seem to understand this.

            “‘More of a Christian’…correct, bad choice of words. My apologies. My concern there is that Catholics (true Catholics) deny the sufficiency of the atonement and consider the Pope’s authority to be equal, if not greater, than Scripture. So, yes, I question whether a true Catholic understands the gospel. Maybe that’s another discussion.”

            You still don’t get it, a true Catholic can be a saved person even if they are mistaken in some of their beliefs. Just as a true Protestant can be a saved person even if they are mistaken in some of their beliefs.

            Contrary to what some believe (including those Calvinists who think they do in fact have a set of beliefs that are perfectly true) we are not saved because we have a perfect set of beliefs, we are saved because we are in a personal and saving relationship with Jesus and we have a perfect savior who did a perfect work of atonement on our behalf. And trusting in Him alone and what He has done is what saves us.

            It would be scary if we were saved because we had a perfect set of beliefs because most of us are mistaken in some of our beliefs and so very few of us would be saved! Do I believe the Catholics are mistaken in some of their beliefs, sure, but so are Protestants in some of their beliefs as well. A good example is the Presbyterians. As a Baptist I disagree with their beliefs and believe they are mistaken on baptism, church government and their Calvinism (and they believe the same thing about me). But we can both be saved while one of us is in error on certain things. Whether or not a person is saved and manifests Christian character is what is really important about them.

            Robert

    Rick Patrick

    Hi Jason,
    I think expressions like “bow the knee” or “Pied Piper” are really fairly mild, and simply indicate our sense that large numbers of Calvinists are engaging in a bit of hero worship. If you are suggesting that such expressions imply that we don’t desire unity, I think that’s really a stretch.
    Blessings,
    Rick

      Jason Stewart

      Hello Rick,
      Mild, maybe, but still it’s little more than name calling…especially the “Pied Piper” bit and in my opinion it will not open up dialogue with the “young Calvinists” of today. If it’s your sense that these comments don’t threaten unity, then we’ll just disagree on this point as well I guess. Again, I don’t deny the “hero worship” one bit, but it applies to those who exalt Jerry Vines or Adrian Rogers as well.
      Thank you,
      Jason

    Max

    “… I would be more concerned with someone like Matt Chandler, someone who is actually part of the SBC and whose teachings are being pushed by Lifeway itself.”

    Jason – I certainly agree with you on this! There is no doubt that Matt Chandler, SBC pastor “and” President of Driscoll’s Acts 29 organization, is a leading influencer of New Calvinism within SBC ranks. And, by his own testimony, was greatly influenced himself by John Piper: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKEpVzHnUw0

    As for LifeWay promoting Chandler’s books, you can easily locate titles under his name, as well as those by Piper, Driscoll, Keller and multiple non-SBC reformed leaders on the LifeWay website and at your local LifeWay store. After all, LifeWay is a book seller, and New Calvinist authors are selling well right now.

Joe McGee

I think I am the old guy on this blog. Nonetheless, when I was Allen’s age I fought the fight of biblical inerrancy during the Conservative Resurgence. Then, like now, there were those who were self-appointed “words police.” They could not provide evidence of the of their Neo-orthodox view of the inspiration and inerrancy of the Word of God (the Bible), rather they would pin point certain words of the conservatives with the notion of exaggerating their meaning with the purpose of painting the writer as judgmental, closed minded, and harsh in attitude and character. We too had to face the fact that there were paid Southern Baptist leaders, presidents of SBC institutions, and individuals at the Baptist Book Store (now Lifeway) who contradicted the theology of the great majority of Southern Baptist. The Neo-orthodox would champion the autonomy of the local church as if the conservatives denied it. The conservatives, for the most part, did not question the autonomy of the local church, however, they questioned the fact that those who worked for the Convention were being paid by co-operative program funds; just like some of the presidents of our Southern Baptist seminaries and those who work for Lifeway.

One of my fears for those who are taking a stand against the forcing of the view of Calvinism within Southern Baptist is one that we did not encounter during the Conservative Resurgence. That is the prevailing view of pragmatism that is strongly encouraged by the Post-modernist. The teaching and the acceptance the notion that there are no absolute truths and that everyone’s version of truth is just as legitimate as any other. In fact for one to claim that they have absolute truth is looked upon as being a bigot, disrespectful to others, and closed minded. Many of our young people have been indoctrinated in this false philosophy.

My concern with the likes of Piper, Mohler, and other Calvinist who sway our young preachers is how they affect their reasoning. One of the books that I have taught in Bible College is J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays’ book entitled Grasping God’s Word. In their chapter, “What Do We Bring to the Text?” They suggest that we as readers of the Word do not approach the Scripture with neutrality or objectivity; rather we bring our own baggage to the text. He lists these pre-influences as presupposition and preunderstandings. I believe that we all agree upon the presupposition that when we come to the text that it is God’s inspired and inerrant Word. Nevertheless, preunderstandings are those things that have already influence us, such as our training, our culture, and our experiences. These are things that are part of a filter within our minds that when we read or listen to a source they color our interpretations. When the Calvinist use the seminaries, Lifeway, and other sources to encourage their system, on our dime, those who are impressible will listen and allow the Calvinistic system to be part of the filtering process of their mind; which results with the impressible minister interpreting God’s Word with a Calvinist slant. This is why we need to counter with the traditional view of Scripture when referring to soteriology. Just a thought.

    Max

    Excellent perspective, Brother McGee … you have hit this old nail on the head! I, too was once young, but now am old … my primary burden these days is that we are losing a generation of young pastors to the New Calvinist movement. This breaks my heart, so I speak into this development as I am led to do so. Your words “on our dime” keep working through my spirit as I write this … the non-Calvinist Southern Baptist majority should really follow their money a little closer.

peter lumpkins

Allen,

So sorry I’m so late to the thread. Nonetheless I appreciate your sharing the theological journey you experienced. Though I infrequently speak of this, I first became enamored with Reformed theology in the early eighties. I received, as a graduate of Boyce Bible School (now Boyce College), a free copy of James P. Boyce’s Abstracts of Theology compliments of E. Reisinger and Founders Ministries who gave all graduates a free copy. I learned the “born again before faith doctrine” straight out of Boyce’s textbook. My pastor at the time was William J. Sullivan (now passed on to glory). I recall us discussing this particular doctrine in my upstairs apartment at B-7 Seminary Village. After several rather heated statements, he said to me, “Pete, you know what you are? You’re a Hardshell Baptist! A Hardshell Baptist! Where’d you get such a ridiculous teaching?” (btw, we remained close friends all through the years, and I never forgot Bro. Bill’s love for me and my family).

Well, the “Hardshell” in me became even more pronounced when I went on to university to finish my BA. I had taken my first church as pastor in south Louisville, a church that, while I was there, became a “Founders Friendly” church (while I never attended a Founders Conference, I eagerly awaited all the free stuff Founders Ministries mailed out). More significantly, I was being highly influenced by a philosophy professor who tutored me a year in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy for the University of Kentucky, classes I had to take for finishing my particular degree. And, when I say “highly influenced” I mean just that. “DrZ” as students called him, vigorously took on every Christian in class. I had him originally in a history class, the first day, if I recall correctly, was an overhead cell on exposing the Bible’s many contradictions. I do remember asking him what this had to do with the history of thought in America, and he said, “I don’t tell you what to preach in your pulpit; so don’t tell me what to teach in my class.” “DrZ” took a special interest in me, I think, in order to “convert” me to his explicit Liberal Christianity. And, his plan succeeded, a plan which included bringing me to the point of tears in his office because I was absolutely no match for either his intellect or his grueling questions aimed at my conservative faith. I began entertaining ideas of evolution, religious inclusivism, and generally the notions of what we call Classic Christian Liberalism. Much of this made me question my conversion, my call, my role as a pastor. Darkness settled over my soul so much I even began to question God’s existence.

In the midst of this darkness a faint light appeared in the distance–a book…He is There and He is not Silent…a book by a Reformed apologist, Francis Schaeffer (now deceased). Hope arose. Consequently, books by Sproul, Geisler, and Boice followed, all arguing for biblical infallibility (i.e. inerrancy) and all considered Reformed (note: only subsequently was there a ‘falling out’ so to speak between Geisler on one hand and Sproul, Gerstner, many of the inerrancy theologians; then Geisler was considered “one of them”). Reading these Reformed guys all solidified my own “Reformed” notions. And, recall: at the time, Southern Baptists had no scholarly theologians who embraced inerrancy. Thus, we turned to Reformed guys for debating the issue. The single exception would come later with Tom Nettles’ classic book on Southern Baptists, the Bible, and inspiration (recall Nettles was one of the original group who started Founders Ministries).

I’ve rehearsed a little of my journey, Allen, to demonstrate you’re not alone in “wandering” theologically, especially in your earlier years. It wasn’t until I graduated from NOBTS that the Reformed notions began slowly to dissolve out of my theological framework. While at seminary, I still happily remained a Calvinist at heart though admittedly I thought it a bit radical to walk around campus handing out Spurgeon tracts stating “Calvinism is the gospel” as one Founders Calvinist did. Once I got in the pulpit after seminary, preaching through books of the Bible, textual preaching, and keeping my head buried in exposition week after week after week, the system of Calvinism I had been taught by Sproul, Nettles, Berkoff, and others began to take a back seat to explicitly what the text under consideration actually claimed not what the text MUST say or mean given what I thought was consistent with Calvinism. This was not a sudden change. It literally took years for the hermeneutical transformation to take place. In fact, looking back over it, it was at least ten years and maybe more. In some ways, it’s still taking place!

Lord, bless, my brother Allen.

With that, I am…
Peter

P.S. For the record, while Calvinism may have been alive and well at BPC, I do not think that’s the case any more! All in all, however, I know you agree those years at BPC were an especially good time of growth God provided in your journey of faith. I look back on those days with “DrZ” which sent me into a theological tailspin as God’s way of growing me in the faith. ‘DrZ’ didn’t realize it when he was bringing me to tears in shattering every argument I gave him for the hope in me that I was also learning some things about how to defend one’s belief system from him, things I’ve carried along with success throughout my life in exchanging with Mormons, JWs, Moonies, Church of Christers, among many others. God was teaching me through the enemy of my very soul…

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