Friday, May 31, 2013

At Long Last Peace in the Southern Baptist Convention!

The Calvinism Advisory Committee has just released it's report with two weeks to go before the international SBC convention to be in Houston this year. You can find the report here:

And I like it.
I have not always been a "more reformed" believer. I kinda grew into it through the recognition of God's Ultimate Sovereignty.  I actually fought it against vehemently for a good while.
The first time I read R. C. Sproul's Chosen By God, I made a lot of question marks in the margins and comments, too.

Now some years back some Reformed Southern Baptists started an organisation called the Founders. It was a reference to the reformed faith of the founders of the SBC. Some non-reformed folks didn't like that. Thought it a tad arrogant perhaps. Then, recently, a statement of faith was drawn up that is non-Calvinistic, referred to as a Traditionalist statement. Seeming to imply that its the Non-Calvinists who are the true tradition of the SBC. Kinda insulting to the rest of us it seems.
Some Reformed Baptist Guys
BUT, I don't 'personally' know anyone who says we need to Take Over, or Drive Out the other group. A couple bloggers I'm familiar with may be that way. Some bloggers have been less than fair and gracious in their interactions and gossiping; like Peter Lumpkins, Ergun Caner, and the more benign but still injurious Adam Harwood. (The latter I consider a friend but have been surprised by how hurtful and inconsiderate he has been.)
Some Calvinistic Baptists sure sound like they want to take over and marginalize the non-reformed types. (But I don't follow them well enough to name names.)
E Y Mullins, Not so reformed.
However, I work with many, in both camps, that are not fighting this battle. We tend to get along quite well, thank you. And interestingly enough, It's not the Calvinistic Baptists who are in charge of most SBC institutions. We are a minority in the SBC. We know that. It's OK.
     I do want to change a few things, though, let me be clear. But I am joined in some of these things by non-Calvinists, too.
For instance, I'd like us to move away from using "altar calls as manipulation" to get people to "Make a Decision." I'd like to see less dependence on "The Sinner's Prayer" to bring folks into the Kingdom of God, and assuring them they are saved once they repeat it! I'd like to see more emphasis on the proclamation of the Gospel, that Jesus came to save sinners, and greater recognition that the Gospel IS relevant to the lost whether they know it or not. Now, let me be clear again to say that an altar call and a sinner's prayer are not inherently wrong. I'm not saying that. I'm saying they don't save! Faith in Christ and His work saves.

Herschel Hobbs,
Another not so reformed.
Back to the Calvinism Advisory Committee, I'm grateful for their attempt to bring down the excited rhetoric, and encourage gracious listening and understanding. I'm glad they recognize our "Tradition" is made up of both camps and several shades in-between. Interestingly, the leader of the group, Former SBC President Frank Page, (who I have found to be a gracious fellow) has written a booklet called Trouble with the TULIP, which as you can imagine puts him in  an interesting spot as the leader of this commission. But he was joined by people from both parties and they all seem to show a great magnanimity toward each other.
I sincerely hope that this will help heal some things that have hurt us in recent years. But until some of the more "mouthy", rude, inconsiderate types let this go, it's still going to be a hurtful subject.
And I mean that for people on either side of this debate.

This doesn't mean we don't discuss these things. It means we do it with mutual respect and courtesy, yet speaking the truth in love. It doesn't mean Dr. Page can't write another book about the "Trouble with the TULIP" or Dr. Mohler another book on the "Danger of the Daisy." (A little play on the Non-TULIP idea. Can you handle that?) It means they write those without personally attacking those who may disagree. Without calling them lost, or stupid, or pronouncing the anathema on them.

Frank Page
Al Mohler
As many have said, Truth Unites - and Divides. I do think there is a danger in hyper-Calvinism and extreme Arminianism (or Semi-Pelagianism). I don't want us to ever abandon the free offer of the gospel and the compelling of women and men to repent and believe the gospel. Neither do I want us to practice a soteriology that says, just repeat this prayer after me and you'll be saved. Or, its all up to you, just accept Jesus as your personal savior and you can go to heaven (leaving out the need for repentance and surrender of one's will to Christ as Lord.) But if we can avoid extremes, can we get a long? If somebody is appointed a ministry leader in SBC life can we avoid criticism because they're just a little different from us?
Do they affirm the Word of God? Do they affirm Christ, the God/man who died a substitutionary death, so that we may believe and be saved? Do they affirm that Salvation is by the Grace of God through faith and not of works? They they affirm that the grace that saves brings along with it a repentant life? Do they affirm the requisite task of evangelism and disciple-making and the free offer of the gospel to all who believe? Isn't that enough? Doesn't that describe our ministry leaders today?
I certainly hope so. And I certainly hope this study has great success in achieving their goals.

Behold how good and pleasant it is when brethren dwell together in unity.


*TULIP Stands for Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Perseverance of the Saints. I would re-title these 5 categories, similar to RC Sproul, as Radical Depravity, Unconditional Election, Definite redemption, Effectual Grace and Preservation of the Saints. But RUDEP isn't that catchy.