Home > Southern Baptist Convention > TN Baptist & Reflector on Calvinism, Part 2

TN Baptist & Reflector on Calvinism, Part 2

Man, it’s turning out to be a prolific morning.

Soon after reading Nathan Finn’s article in the previous post, I went over to the Tennessee Baptist & Reflector to browse the current articles and found this article.

I’m not even going to provide any commentary; instead I will reproduce it here in its entirety and let it speak for itself. What follows is the article so linked.

Regardless of position, it is time for a cease fire
By Reggie Weems

The discussion concerning Calvinism is as important for the Southern Baptist Convention as it is healthy. It certainly demands ongoing dialogue moderated by truthfulness, sincerity, respect, and charity. This is because the tone of the discussion is as important as the conversation itself. The convention “discussion among friends” (at the SBC annual meeting in June) between Paige Patterson and Al Mohler set an excellent precedent for knowledgeable interaction balanced with a display of spiritual candor (Galatians 5:22-23). Any future discussion of Calvinism in Southern Baptist life should also possess the same kind of humble and sincere respect for brothers, displaying a “walk worthy of the vocation” (Ephesians 4:1) to which Christian ministers and gentlemen are called. Sadly, this spirit is lacking in many public monologues (be they preaching or print), turned diatribes, about Calvinism; a model of which appeared as a recent editorial in the Baptist & Reflector.

Its very title, “Calvinists have no sense of urgency” possessed an argumentative tenor that immediately revealed a predisposed bias that clearly lacked documentation. A well acknowledged history of Calvinism reveals the missionary fervor and evangelistic urgency of such well known Calvinists as William Carey, the father of modern missions; David Brainerd, missionary to the American Indians; Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield, a First Great Awakening pastor and evangelist respectively (Whitefield was a dear friend and co-laborer of the non-Calvinist John Wesley); Adoniram Judson, the first Baptist foreign missionary; and Charles Spurgeon, a 19th century paragon of evangelism who considered Calvinism “a nickname for Christianity.” Neither the Calvinistic founders of the Southern Baptist Convention or the Convention’s Calvinistic presidents for its first 50 years of existence lacked urgency, as the documented history of that missionary enterprise reveals.

Once past its egregiously erroneous title, the article begins with an unnecessarily sarcastic statement about predestination and is afterward replete with broad, sweeping, unsubstantiated accusations founded on the self-confessed ignorance of a subject chosen by the author. In short, the article should not have been written without more factual information or Christian charity for fellow-laborers in Christ. If Calvinistic pastors comprise no more than 10 percent of SBC pastors, it is statistically impossible for the former to be responsible for a decline of urgency in the convention. Complacency about evangelism in the SBC is a matter of disobedience in any church or pastor regardless of their position on Calvinism. As such, parties on both sides of the aisle are surely guilty of impotence in evangelism. Misleading statements about the effects of Calvinism do not address the real issue or solve the real problem.

Charles Spurgeon, arguably the most successful evangelist of his generation, never offered a public “come forward” invitation at the end of his sermons. The Lord Jesus certainly never expected that the fulfillment of the Great Commission would rest on one individual offering a single invitation one day a week. This is congregational disobedience to Matthew 28:18-20 and pastoral disobedience to Ephesians 4:11-12.

From the pulpit or in official papers it is all too easy to hit the Baptist hot buttons that are sure to evoke automatic “Amens” and immediate applause. These tactics only further polarize the already convinced. Such thinking by our own religious pundits is a short-term gain at best but detrimental to the convention in the long-term.

The very people who cry against Calvinism’s lack of evangelism use the pulpit to give unbelievers every reason not to become part of God’s family. Who wants to join a family that attempts to publicly embarrass its own? No one is going to knock down our doors to get in when the “C” in SBC stands for Cannibals. If evangelism is our common goal, genuine love for one another is a large part of Jesus’ answer to the problem.

It is much more difficult, though much more beneficial, to sit down and intelligently, objectively discuss matters of disagreement. Dialogue requires hard study, intellectual integrity, and Christian deportment. It is to the church’s shame that we often witness secular debaters treating their ideological opponents with the respect that requires each side to understand the other’s position while rationally, calmly, defending their own perspective.

Too many of our leading pastors resort to name-calling, branding, and innuendo. Further, easily influenced preachers reading a newspaper or magazine, perhaps returning to their churches from a state convention or pastor’s gathering not only articulate what they heard but also the manner in which it was spoken. Thus, we are teaching a new generation of pastors to resolve conflict from behind the sacred desk in ways that are not sacred. An ill demeanor may be temporarily forced upon a congregation or accepted by fellow pastors but such pastoral conduct will not advance the cause of Christ in the world. No one is going to bully a non-Christian into believing the gospel.

After enumerating the positive effects of the Spirit’s filling, Paul defined Spirit-filled believers as those who “crucify the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). Those “passions and desires” are then identified as personal “conceit” and the “provocation” of brothers (Galatians 5:26) both of which are a “transgression” of the law of the Spirit (Galatians 6:1).

Regardless of one’s perspective on the issue of Calvinism in the SBC, everyone benefits from the honest appraisal of another’s view, the proper representation of all sides and generosity, kindness, and respect.

Calvinism should not be the immediate issue. Even before we begin to discuss Calvinism, the shouting should stop and we should understand that our very character is being tested and revealed before God and the world.

Our real beliefs are showing up in our behavior and it is not appealing to anyone, inside or outside of the Convention. Christian character and integrity are simply the adorning of doctrine (Titus 2:10) which is the application of what we believe. Thus, who we truly are and what we sincerely believe is best defined by how we behave. It is as important as what we say.

Weems is senior pastor of Heritage Baptist Church, Johnson City.

One final word: for the letter I wrote to the Baptist & Reflector regarding the article addressed in this post, go here.

  1. November 22, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    I haven’t read Calvnism Part 1, but this was excellent. We Christians and perhaps ministers even more so need to learn that what we say isn’t necessarily as important as how we say it. How we say what we say is very important. Things like volume and cadence and our physical actions can commuincate something entirely different that what we say.
    I have often found that people who are condecending resort to loud ranting and name calling are often unsure of the accuracy and certainty of their belief.

    Again, good job. Visit my website

    Ken Qualls

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