10 things more important for the SBC than the Calvinism debate

That small sliver of the known universe who keeps tabs on things related to the Southern Baptist Convention cannot have missed the continual rancor over theology. More specifically, to what extent the theological system known as “Calvinism” and the wider system known as “Reformed theology” should have influence in the conventions entities and churches. An oft spoken mantra with SBC blogs is, “If you want to drive up the hit count write something about Calvinism.” And, aside from the occasional Mark Driscoll drive-by, this holds true.

With all things Internet related our sense of scope and size is often much smaller than reality. When one is constantly neck-deep in debates over doctrine it seems the entire world is engaged. It simply is not so. Laser focus on a debate topic reduces our cultural peripheral vision to a thin margin, while the target of our focus undergoes a drastic pseudo-expansion.

Over the last two decades the Southern Baptist Convention has yielded precious influential ground in our culture. We have preferred to treat our intra-mural squabbles as if they were the Super Bowl rather than the annual spring game. And, we have not noticed the “fans” in the stadium are only friends and family. Few are clamoring to watch. As we have argued over machinations–and, yes, theological refinement–fewer and fewer people still care about what our leaders say about anything. The SBC is a Titanic of historical influence ramming the iceberg of current realities with not enough lifeboats to survive.

Our continued argument over Calvinism is a microcosm of our larger problem. The eternal fate of the lost does not depend on who has the best explanation of God’s sovereignty, human will, election and predestination. Lost people do not remain lost because we are still unraveling the interwoven threads of soteriology, but because we do not tell them what we do know about the gospel. By and large the only people in the Southern Baptist Convention consumed with Calvinism are those convinced of its truth and those convinced of its error. Most of our own people are not interested in an argument that has become, in some quarters, a theological equal to the Hatfield and the McCoys, but having ten times the length with one tenth the progress. There can be no mistake: the Calvinism debate in the SBC is not about the truth of Scripture, but over an interpretation of Scripture. Earnestly contending for the TULIP is not earnestly contending for the faith, nor is earnestly trying to pluck its petals any more biblical.

In our current state of affairs there are at least 10 things we can think of that are much more important for the Southern Baptist Convention than the Calvinism debate. We humbly submit that time may have passed us by on some of these, but there is yet time to impact the rest. God help us to do just that.

1. The worldwide sex trade.
Our constant bickering in the face of the multi-billion dollar sex trade is appalling. We might as well be looking these women, boys and girls directly in the face and laughing. Who really cares how money is divided, and who gets what office when 13-year-old girls are raped up to 30 times a day while chained in a brothel basement? We have no time for anyone who thinks theological debate is more important in the eyes of God than this. (Even if it is “robust.”)

2. Racial partnerships.
If the watching world will know that we are brothers and sisters by our love for one another, we could start by loving our brothers and sisters with different skin pigmentation. If Fred Luter is elected as president of the SBC this June that will be a good step, but, largely symbolic. The dominant race in the SBC (anglo) which is also the dominant race in our leadership, needs to realize we are white, we act white, we think white, we evaluate white, we judge white, and, usually, we think we are white right.

The cultural differences embedded in American racial constructs are profound. Talking about racial differences is barely a starting point. Until we are eating with, sharing life with, praying with, ministering with, and loving multi-racially, all of our perspectives will be skewed. An African-American president is good, but non-anglos holding the three primary elected slots would be better.

3. The homosexuality/gay marriage debate.
In case you are unaware, evangelicals have, for all intents and purposes, lost this debate. Those who seek to advance gay marriage and other “non-traditional” views on human sexual relationships have framed this debate, determined the wording, established the meanings and been aggressive. Those who believe marriage is between one man and one woman (as should be sexual relationships) will soon be severely–if not already–in the minority view. How and why this is so can be debated, but the numbers of Americans who approve of gay marriage continues to climb and is now a majority.

We can think of no convincing argument as to how debating the finer points of soteriology is more important than this.

4. Loss of civil liberties and looming civil disobedience.
The erosion of the rights guaranteed to Americans under the constitution is happening at an unprecedented pace. Within a few short years the “American experiment” could collapse like an Indonesian hillside in a typhoon. Despite what our Republican friends think, this is the result of multiple administrations and both major parties. Corporate influence, power mongering, greed and corruption are systemic in our system of government. Calls for civil disobedience were being discussed in February by influential evangelicals including Timothy George and Chuck Colson (who has since deceased).

Most Southern Baptist are not prepared for biblically grounded acts of civil disobedience. Our infighting will not help them get there.

5. Social injustice.
The growing discontent across Christendom about our world’s injustices is a good thing. That activity is happening to answer those concerns is even better. We are thankful people are reading the Minor Prophets again. Even in this, we face the danger of turning a move of God into a theological debate. When the particulars of the gospel are more important than the practice of the gospel, then we have denied the gospel in the name of defending it.

It is a shame when so much addressing of injustice is done by secular organizations. They are “trying to make the world a better place,” while we argue over how the gospel is to be defined rather than being defined by it.

6. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.
The lost jewel of Southern Baptist life is the Disaster Relief ministry. This “helping hands for the gospel” kind of effort demonstrates the very best that Southern Baptists have to offer. Coordinated across associational, state and national levels, the work of “regular” Southern Baptists have been profiled after disasters like the 9/11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and countless local floods, tornadoes and the like.

Nowhere is the gospel more readily seen than when Southern Baptists take vacation, don yellow shirts and hats, and, for days at a time, serve food, provide care, assist with communications, remove debris, chainsaw trees, and, yes, share the message of Christ.

7. Idolatry of the SBC.
We have heard too many people lamenting the estate of “our Southern Baptist Zion.” There is little more self-centered, and, thus, idolatrous, than co-opting the biblical imagery of heaven (“Mt. Zion”) to use for a denomination. We aren’t all that. We never were. If the kingdom of God is not bigger than the SBC, then it is not a kingdom. If it is not more important than the SBC, then it is not God’s. The language “Southern Baptist Zion” is arrogant, disrespectful, unsupportable, unbiblical, unrealistic, unsustainable and unneeded. The simple truth is the only people in the United States who think we are somebody are a few Southern Baptists.

Certainly if Moses were among us he would be throwing every available tablet in response to our denominational golden-calfery.

8. Worldwide abuse of women.
It is amazing that a guy who said, “Son, behold your mother!” in a dying breath is hallowed and followed by so many who care so much less for women than He did. Beginning with Eve women have been specifically targeted by Satan for abuse. Sexual abuse, verbal abuse, and physical abuse are just a few most Southern Baptists could name. How women are “the weaker (fairer) sex” may be debated. That the supposed “stronger” sex has repeatedly asserted that strength for abuse is not. Where is the Southern Baptist voice against Middle Eastern countries like Yemen where women are purposefully withheld from educational opportunities, resulting in overwhelming illiteracy rates? Why are we more concerned about oil pipelines than forced female circumcision? Why are we preoccupied with preaching styles while women around the world can be raped then sentenced to death for adultery? Indeed, as Egyptian writer, Mona Eltahawy, asks, “Why Do They Hate Us?.”

Will anyone seriously argue that our theological sparring reaches even into the shadow of this level of seriousness?

9. Unbelievers.
Who comes to know Christ as a result of our wrangling with each other? No one. Who comes to Christ because one Calvinist is able to put a theological beat-down on a non-Calvinist, or a non-Calvinist scores five debate points against a Calvinist? No one. Are not unbelievers more important than theological structures? Yes, and eternally so.

We have known of people won to Christ both by Calvinists and non-Calvinists. We know passionate preachers who are making disciple-making disciples who hold all possible positions along the scale. No one is saved by your system. They are saved by faith in Christ and the power of the gospel or they are not saved at all.

10. Lack of credibility in the public square.
It is true that particular Southern Baptists have a public voice: Ed Stetzer at LifeWay Research, Rick Warren at Saddleback Community Church, and Al Mohler at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary are a few of them. However, we have a limited moral authority due to our very public stumbles. It really does not matter who wins a theological debate if no one is around to listen to the winner speak.

Most of this is our own fault. Of course it is true that most media are not looking for the good things Southern Baptists do; only the bad things merit news coverage in most cases. Yet, we do not help ourselves if our PR could have been done by Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf himself. We do not put forth a narrative of what God is doing through us that is authentic, realistic and compelling. As a result, our faults are multiplied and virtues diminished. The SBC should be pro-active in all media venues telling the story of what God has done and is doing, and we do not have to settle when regeneration takes place in order to do that.


  1. says

    Great list! I bet it could probably get close to 100.

    #11 for me would be discipleship within the local church. Helping people grow in the Word, their relationship with Jesus, and with one another, will not only increase worship but it will also be the fuel for much of these 10 things you mentioned.

  2. says

    I did pastor two short term SBC churches, and have been in three SBC churches. With that said, SBC and any other Baptist churches have a lot of problems. But getting the doctrine of grace and salvation right is by far the most important issue. If a pastor understands the doctrine of grace then he will have the right kind of thinking when it comes to his preaching and leadership. Your idea of how a person becomes a Christian and your view of getting people in church effects they way you do ministry.

  3. William Thornton says

    Not sure why disaster relief is in the mix here. It is neither a “lost jewel” nor is there much debate/disagreement among ourselves on its value.

    • cb scott says

      Yes Matt,

      Why is Disaster Relief in the mix? Maybe I ask this question because today is the anniversary of the Tornadoes of 2011 that brought 62 tornadoes to Alabama with death and destruction of horrendous proportions. Yet, there they were: hundreds and hundreds of Southern Baptists in Yellow Hats bringing relief to the broken, fearful, confused and near hopeless. Many of those Yellow Hats were on the heads of older and senior adults. They worked tirelessly alongside the younger and more able.

      It was a noble picture of hope and reflection of a Christ-like love during a world of hurt in Alabama and shortly afterward many other places across this nation.

      I think William is right. SBC-DR is alive and well on planet earth.

      • says

        William and CB,

        I think Matt included DR in the list because SBCers have done DR very well and it would do us well to talk more about its successes and how to continue doing DR well, rather than spending more time within our conventions arguing about Calvinism.

        I’m guessing he also wanted to include something we were doing very well as the SBC that was deserving of our energies in his list (which includes other things we may not be doing so well).

      • says

        Josh has this correct.

        It wasnt a list of “10 neglected things more important than the SBC than the Calvinism debate.”

        While most of them certainly are areas we need great improvement, that wasnt the purpose of all of them. I live in Tennessee and I can attest to the wonderful reputation the SBC’s Disaster Relief program has here.

        I do think we could better highlight our disaster relief efforts through media than we currently are.

        • cb scott says

          Matt Svoboda and Josh Collins,

          Thanks for the responses. I think you are probably correct.

  4. says

    Good, and needful, post.

    Discipleship in the local church would be #1 on my list. The fact that the most common trait among Southern Baptists is that they don’t even go to church.

  5. says

    In refrence to #10… How do we bring back people like me, who started out as Sunday School Kindergartners, did the Glorieta/Ridgcrest thing all through their youth, stayed faithful through young adulthood, but after age 30, simply worked their way to a state of abandonment by mid 40’s.

    I am now, ans have been since age 5, a “Southern Baptist”, but since 2000, have been unable to step into an SBC Church, and refuse to acknowledge myself as a “card carrying member” of the convention.

    I literally “mourn” being away from the SBC, I want so desperately for my 4 daughters still at home to go to Ridgecrest, I am just holding my breath daily, wanting to get myself and my family back to an SBC church. But I cannot, much water has passed under the bridge, and I see no repentance in the horizon for the convention.

    What about the ones that have “faded away”? What can they tell me, and show me that will heal my broken heart?

    • Christiane says

      “I see no repentance in the horizon for the convention.”

      Hello GUY,
      If you did see repentance for the convention,
      what would it look like to you?

      • says

        I would like to see a more “Gospel oriented” approach to issues of “Social Justice”, and a less “Worldly contentious” approach. Jesus had no problem with Sinners and Publicans, and He certainly had no problem associating with folks that had sexual sins in their “Portfolio of broken Laws”.

        “SBC Mouthpieces” in the media have lowered themselves to the dirty laundry approach of the media when trying to push what has now become their own “agenda”, using “God” to “back their play”.

        I like the idea of The Gospel Project, but it is far too wishy washy, and just doesn’t provide the “Whole Counsel of God”, just the same old “Pretty Stories”, with the standard exegesis behind them, of which I am mostly referring to the preschool and childrens curricula.

        Back in the 70’s, the child was the backbone of the SBC mindset, and WMU (RA’s & GA’s) was the biggest gun around when it came to keeping those little ones at the forefront of the Body of Christ. Glorieta and Ridgecrest were as important to the church children, as the Hajj is to Islam.

        I want to see the SBC instruct ALL member churches to stop standing over the children, and talking down to them, and get down on their knees and look at them eye level, turn to their adult congregants, and tell them “Let the little children come to Him and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

        This is not being done, because the “Mouthpieces” are too busy taking up the adults time with politics, and Social Class War contention.

        VBS has become nothing more than a community babysitting service, and most churches even admit that, and tell themselves that at least they are getting the children in there. Respect for VBS, for childrens and youth activities, and even the WMU has faded greatly over the years, and that is allowing the very foundation of Southern Baptists to erode. We are not doing a good enough job of preparing the Church for future generations of torchbearers, because we are too busy creating a ruckus in the present.

        Maybe my opinion is a bit slanted because I am the Father of 8 Daughters, with 5 still at home, but I cannot ignore what I observe as an adult. The SBC is no longer a Denomination, it has turned into a political party, and at times, a shameless one.

        I have often thought that my opinion is also being unfairly shaped by my “becoming jaded” as I grew older… My K-12 years were Heaven on Earth, God was an Awesome God, I could see His Majesty in everything around me, everything with life testified to His Sovereignty, my childlike Faith gave Him a welcome Omnipotence, He was a Sustainer that I was madly in love with!

        But as I grew older, the world became colder, darker, and those around me became more bitter and self-centered as they too had to survive in the adult world. Jehovah-Jireh was slowly being replaced by god Mammon as sustainer, and what was once a Majestic Creation, was slowly becoming a prison of consumerism.

        I turned to my denomination, and I saw the same bended knee to Mammon-Jireh, and it is even more evident this very moment as I look upon it.

        I am bitter and broken hearted, I want to be 15 years old again, and back at Glorieta in the Summertime, I don’t want to be an adult, I don’t want to be in this narcissistic world. I know it must sound silly, and utterly irrational, but I want my God back, I don’t want this god that humanity has replaced Him with… I want the children and WMU back at the forefront of the Church, I want the Women and Children to get into the lifeboats first, and then us men staying behind to try and save the ship.

        • Frank L. says

          As long as you remain bitter you will never get better. Your bitterness is not an SBC problem.

          It is easy to paint with a broad brush. But as you point out your perspective is jaded. I’m sure some of your observations have some validity, but certainly not all.

          I do hope you find healing for your bitterness before it causes permanent damage to your family.

          • Jim says

            So you call it bitterness, when I see things in reality of just how the worlds religous systems seems to work just to accept everyone with the mercy of the Lord. It’s obvious you are blinded to what is being accepted in the church, and how the lost and their views have been accepted under the mercy laws and compassion to understand these lost people need time to adjust to a Godly accountability and responsibility that they have no desire to live out, as long as we who are of the faith keeps giving them mercy. I would say the lost are then more convincing and persuasive as I have seen it in the attitudes when the rules of the baptist doctrine now seems to be just words, instead of oaths or laws that we are to uphold in our faith and heart. So if that is what you call bitterness, no matter what faith of baptist it is, your ideas of saying what you say, does not justify standing up for Gods laws and commandments wheather it’s a SBC problem or not. All words of the KJV Holy Bible is for all faiths and denominations of Christianity. You seem not realize that. I do support my pastor now where he mentioned on Sunday that now the sinners prayer is to be good to use for the salvation prayer for the lost as it mentions no mercy and other words as the true salvation prayer is written. SBC needs to examine themselves before calling people like me bitter. I’m better since I signed in to SBC and getting this off my mind, as I know now I have accepted the truth as truth as a believer in God and the Son of God Jesus Christ. You’ll never see any replacements of the word from me.

          • Frank says


            I’m not sure of the source of your vitriol. I didn’t call anyone bitter, that’s what they called themselves. And I wasn’t reacting to anything you said, anyway.

            I have to say, in general, I don’t understand a thing you are saying. Perhaps your post simply landed in the wrong place in the thread and that’s why it doesn’t make any sense.

          • Jim says

            Sorry, It looks like I read something that was directed to another person, which I thought was to me. I have heard the similar words which was why I responded as I did. This is my 1st time on here as I had heard on Sunday how the SBC is more or less accepting what the everything goes crowd believes and is confused from the actual word of God when they hear it. I also get the gut feeling that this Calvinisim is not the real deal of religous faith and true Christian beliefs as Jesus Christ taught. Is it my own imagination or does the teachings of Paul in the NT have more focus on how Calvinism beliefs are practiced over the red letter words of jesus Christ and his own words which are Gods words as well as Jesus and the father are one of the same. I do not believe any of the other apostiles words should over ride and be more of teaching rules and laws than those words of Jesus Christ. I know 2 Timothy 3:16 says all scripture is written by the spirit of God, but… Don’t any of you believe the words of Jesus Christ are one of a kind, true, and the pure word of God ? I am tired of the confusion about the letters of Paul, David in the psalms, and Solomons proverbs & Ecclesiastese, and some NT chapters, as every subject of the daily life of the human race seems to be contradictive in both OT & NT chapters. Which of any Christianity religions are right I have no idea. I do know we are to pray in Jesus name not the mother Mary. I do know we are to believe in the Son of God as John 3:16 promises what he promises. But when he says in Matthew to the lost and the unbelievers, Depart from me for I never knew you, Does that mean believeing in Jesus is not enough, that we must know him at the same time while we believe in him ?

    • Bruce H. says


      Keep in mind that there are many of us in the SBC who are also wounded soldiers. We have been wounded by preachers, clicks and other Christians. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:15:

      “But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

      The issue you have is not with the SBC, it is with Jesus and what He allowed to happen in your life to conform you into His image. Jesus’ whole purpose in coming to earth was to lay down His life to forgive YOUR sins. You need to mirror Jesus. Your daughters are a heritage from God. You have a tremendous responsibility with what is God’s.

    • cb scott says

      Guy R Vestal,

      May I ask what happened in 2000 that made you a “man without a country” and caused your refusal to enter a foot into a Southern Baptist church?

      • says

        I suffered a “Church Split” at my childhood home church at 18 years old, and then in 2000, myself and the Senior Pastor were ousted by the church council, and replaced by someone who was deep in sexual sin within the church, and at his behest. It affected my children, my marriage, and myself. I had to leave Southern California, and come to New England just to find somewhere that I could escape the “rat race” that I was enslaved to.

        • cb scott says

          Guy R Vestal,

          A lot of “guys” have suffered similar experiences. Some probably worse. In truth, Jesus told us that kind of junk was going to happen to us. It does get rough sometimes.

          There is something Paul wrote to Timothy that has helped me out on some occasions when a person or persons who I had trusted as brothers spit on my head and told me it was just rainin’. I will share it with you. I read it often when I get melancholy, thinking about some past injustices in my life.

          Paul wrote to Timothy:

          “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come….evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

          Now Guy R Vestal, that is the Word of God to all of us who serve Him, the One who paid for our evil, sinful, sorry selves with His own precious blood on a cross that we so rightly deserve and worse.

          So Guy R Vestal, you get up off your cold-hearted, Satan-blinded, dead butt, repent of this silly cry-baby stuff, get back into the Word of God and take you place as a man of God, taking care of your wife and children like God full well expects you to do and don’t come around here crying these silly blues anymore.

          The next time you come on this blog, you come on here like a man and engage like the blood-bought child of God that you are supposed to be.

          Cowboy-up Guy R Vestal. Time’s a wastin’

          • says

            Sure… Ok. You’re right.

            Just for the record, I actually “toned down” to come onto this blog. I have lurked for a while. and didn’t want to come here like most are accustomed to me doing. But I will take your advice into consideration, and will re-evaluate your Scripture reference, to make sure my current exegesis of it is correct.

            Thank you.

        • Frank L. says


          “Been there. Done that. Have the scars to prove it.”

          Here’s the good news: you are now in one of the most needy mission fields in America. Time to make lemonade.

          Hope you are doing well in your new digs. Remember Joseph: “What men meant for evil, God turned to good–real good!”

          Thrive and prosper friend.

          • says

            Amen to that… I am in Northern Vermont, and it is indeed the most unchurched state in America, but the Gospel is a lot more welcomed then most would think. I miss Southern California, but would never leave this little patch of woods for anything. Unless God moves me again of course. LOL

  6. bapticus hereticus says

    Civil disobedience: Apart from acts of stupidity (e.g., property destruction), yet some said acts were provoked by authorities, in which negative impressions are merited, the OWS protestors have not received favorable support from conservatives, even as the protest concerns greed, corporate malfeasance, and governmental duplicity.

    Social injustice: Any talk of such by a liberal is a sure way for some to begin a tirade against them as being socialists and humanists.

    Nonetheless, welcome to the party; conservatives are late, but welcomed.

    Southern Baptist Disaster Relief: A fine, fine thing done by SBC. When one grows weary of divisive voices in SBC, one can look to this work and glimpse, what Capon would suggest, the divine fox.

    • Frank L. says

      “”””conservatives are late, but welcomed. “””

      So Wilberforce was a moderate?

  7. Bruce H. says

    Could it be that we take this list and add our own and others to it? Then, ponder the impossible task before us until it becomes so real that we fall down before our holy, omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient God and begin to cry out in prayer? You know, Pentecost was not an organized Billy Graham Crusade. It is going to take the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish even 1 of the 10 above, much less everything else that is evil out there. Jesus began and ended His purpose here on earth in prayer and accomplished 100% of God’s will for Him.

    It is not ours to organize or find workers to do the work you mention above. We must pray that God would send laborers into His own harvest, then be ready to go when He says go.

    “Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly [is] plentiful, but the laborers [are] few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” Matthew 9:37, 38

    • Christiane says

      Thanks for link, DAVID ROGERS,
      that was a beautiful post. It reminded me of an ancient Christian prayer for someone who has passed . . .
      “May the angels lead you into Paradise;
      may the martyrs receive you at your coming
      and lead you to the holy city of Jerusalem.
      May a choir of angels receive you,
      and with Lazarus, who once was poor, may you have eternal rest.”

  8. says

    I would certainly agree that these are important issues/concerns, but if we are wrong on salvation (soteriology) there is an eternal consequence without remedy.
    The rest only matters in the temporal realm.
    Calvinism leads to missional activity that focuses on the social plight of mankind (social gospel), ignoring the eternal need, because God has already elected His selected.

    • Greg Harvey says

      You’re overreaching, Kev. The eternal consequence of Church of Christ believing baptism is salvic is likely vanishing if not zero and that’s more offensive to Southern Baptists than Calvinism. Or are you saying only people who believe like you do will populate heaven?

    • says

      Knowledge puffs up a person and makes him proud, but wisdom teaches a person how to live. Wisdom is the proper application of knowledge and comes from seeing life from God’s point of view rather than from our perspective (IBLP). I have come to conclude that Calvinism is man’s attempt to reason out what only God can fully understand and in doing so, man arrives at a flawed conclusion concerning God’s sovereignty, love, election and atonement. True faith simply rest in what God has simply revealed – the just shall live by faith.

      • says

        Original comment removed because of the ridiculousness of debating Calvinism on a post about the things more important than debating Calvinism.

      • says


        This is not the thread for you to talk about the absurd conclusions you have come to about calvinists or calvinism.

        Did you read the post?

      • says

        Just a note that Paul made a different comparison – Knowledge puffs up, but Love constructs (I’m often tempted to render this as “Love is constructive”). I think often the issue isn’t what we know, but how we’re using that knowledge – are we using it to push pride in our own group as “the ones who are in the know”, or are we using it constructively in love to benefit those around us?

        And I think we need to pay a lot more attention to the next verse: “If anyone thinks he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know.” I’m more and more convinced that what we ‘ought to know’ is our own ability to misunderstand and to get things wrong. It’s a lot harder to let knowledge puff up your head when you’re aware of how easily that knowledge could be faulty. Understanding this doesn’t mean you can’t speak with certainty. It does mean you’re a lot more circumspect about it.

        God’s Word is perfect. Our ability to understand it….is not. The tension between those two statements is difficult to express without ending up speaking in paradoxes (one of my favorites is from G. K. Chesterton: “It it not bigotry to be convinced one is right. It is bigotry to be unable to imagine how one could possibly have gone wrong.”). Sometimes I think a lot of my fellow evangelicals have resolved that tension by ignoring it, and presuming more of our ability to understand than is justified.

        Paul started his Christian life by having his ability to be utterly convinced he was right, while actually being utterly, utterly wrong, practically slammed in his face. I think that’s part of why God seems to have made him one of the primary theologians of the early church (I suspect it’s also why he was so circumspect about talking about experiences like being caught up to the third heaven). I suspect a lot of us that tend towards theological nit-picking could use our own version of that experience.

  9. says

    Convention of Southern Baptists of Texas recently met and the leader decided it would be better to think of themselves as Christians rather than Democrats or Republicans . He said in part that if they didn’t watch out they would find themselves on the outside looking in . It’s about time – but it’s too late in my opinion to stop the hemorrhaging completely – this “month” .

  10. Jim G. says

    Matt and Jay,

    I appreciate what you are trying to accomplish, but I think you are ignoring the oversized, enormous white elephant in the room (since I know Matt at least is a Calvinist), which is the fact that Calvinism in no way can be disconnected with a view of the meticulous sovereignty of God that holds that everything that happens – no matter how minute or seemingly insignificant – is exactly as God has decreed it to be.

    You write “Lost people do not remain lost because we are still unraveling the interwoven threads of soteriology, but because we do not tell them what we do know about the gospel.” No good Calvinist should say that. Lost people, according to meticulous divine providence, are lost because that is exactly where God wants them to be. If the lost are elect, God will provide a way for them to hear and believe (in accordance with the obedience of one who preaches to them). But if the lost people are reprobate, they will never hear and believe, no matter what, because God does not want them to hear and believe. He has either positively chosen these people to eternal destruction or has passed them by with the same results (depending on how you look at it). So don’t say that lost people aren’t being reached because of our Calvinism debates: lost people are exactly where God wants them, if one is a determinist.

    A deeper problem is that a meticulous determinist must also see that all of the problems listed in reasons 1-10 are also here because God has decreed them to be. To the determinist, God has decreed the worldwide sex trade. He has decreed that millions of young girls and boys become sex slaves for his own glory. He has decreed that their suffering and death be done in all its tortuous pain for his own good pleasure. He has also decreed that the authors of this post think that the SBC is somewhat apathetic toward it. He has decreed all of our responses, though most Calvinists will say our will is “free” (compatibilism, that is) to act in accord with his secret decrees. If we take action against the sex trade, it is only because God has decreed we would. If we ignore it, it is only because God has decreed we would. Has not God decreed all of the evil things that we agree ought to be fixed? Has he not decreed racial hatred from eternity past? Social injustice? The horrible treatment of women?

    Also, isn’t our debate over Calvinism decreed as well, even to the detriment of other things that seem more expedient to us? Finally, a determinist must come to the conclusion that what occurs is exactly the way things ought to be. The secret, decretal will of God cannot possibly be thwarted, even though he allows his revealed will to be thwarted in accordance with his secret will. (The secret will is the trump card!) Now, you wrote your post like you don’t believe that. Come on over from determinism. We non-determinists will welcome you with open arms, out of our own free will!

    Jim G.

    • says

      Ahh, yes… The stubbornness of the SBC blogosphere prevails.

      Not only did Jim G and Kevin use the post dedicated to not debating calvinism to in fact debate calvinism, but they still used the same old mischaracterizations.

      For instance:
      “You write “Lost people do not remain lost because we are still unraveling the interwoven threads of soteriology, but because we do not tell them what we do know about the gospel.” No good Calvinist should say that.”

      Every good calvinist should say that. Spurgeon said things like that all the time. So you either A) are a terrible calvinist B) another non-calvinist that misunderstands calvinism or C) simply have a terrible time coming up with good arguments.

      But again, for all the threads dedicated to debating calvinism on SBC Voices this is not the one. Every good calvinist could say everything Jay and I have written above (we are both calvinists)- nothing contradicts our theology. This is not a point to be argued.

      Try engaging the issues raised.

      • Jim G. says


        If you think I am hijacking, I’ll bow out. It’s your thread. Say the word and I’ll say no more on this thread. But you don’t have to be judgmental about my motives. And I don’t appreciate your dismissal that I don’t understand Calvinism, though. I do understand it – quite well, actually.

        But, do you not agree that every lost person on the face of the earth right now is lost because that is where God wants them to be at this moment? Do you not agree that God has decreed everything, including the sex trade, racial disharmony, and all the other things on your list? If you believe that he decreed these things, then wouldn’t that have some bearing on how to approach them?

        What we think about God is vitally important.

        Jim G.

  11. Pastor Harold says

    There were many of the same types of issues in the first century, and most of the NT is dedicated to teaching proper doctrine. We must have a right view of scripture in order to work together to tackle today’s problems. It makes a big difference how you view the world’s problems. #1 man responding to God’s decrees or #2 God responding to man’s decisions. This is still a major issue!

  12. Louis says

    I, too, could run this up to a list of 100 easily.

    The so-called “Calvinism” debate in the SBC should not be a big deal.

    I believe that discussions, particularly in the academic arena and scholarly journals, even robust ones, are good things.

    But for the churches and the Convention to be so wrapped up in this debate is a really bad thing.

    The debate has been around for ever. There are always going to be people taking various positions on the theological matters at issue.

    Let the debate continue, but let’s put it in some perspective.

    • Christiane says

      “The debate has been around for ever.”

      In a way, it has been,
      and likely will continue to be until the end of time.
      REASON: the mystery of God, and time, and eternity . . . we don’t have enough info or capacity to comprehend the ‘mysteries’ of how God’s ways are ‘far above ours’, so we speculate . . .

      then, we get excited about having possibly ‘discovered’ some truths about these mysteries, based on our own human reasoning . . . and that together with the sin of pride . . .

      well, you all know the rest of the story

  13. Jon McFarling says

    Well written. I agree with every point. While I was living in the dorm at seminary it got to the point that I would not even go into the TV room if certain people were in there because all they wanted to do was argue about Calvinism. I decided I had better things to do and so does the convention. I grew up in a SBC church in what is called the frontier and we never had to deal with this we were to busy trying to minister to our community in the shadow of another religion then to worry about how someone was saved.

    From what I have heard from people back home is that for some reason disaster relief is not well liked by certain element inside NAMB and they want to divert funds from it to urban church planting. I think this is what the authors are getting at. If we do not show the love of Christ to those in need who will. Like it or not in this era people are more concerned with how we walk then what we say and until we convince them that we are genuine they will not listen to what we are saying.
    Jesus lays this out in Mathew 25:34-40
    Also I feel that we have forgotten what he said in Matthew 22 about the law hanging on the two commandments loving God and loving our neighbors. The rest just fills in the details of how to do them.

  14. says

    “The SBC is a Titanic of historical influence ramming the iceberg of current realities with not enough lifeboats to survive.” – WOW.
    Excellent blog, great food for thought, IF ONLY the hairsplitting warriors of minutia would heed.
    I do have a small dissagreement, so small I hate to mention it, but then, I guess I really don’t…hate to mention it that is. I don’t think those convinced of the doctrines of grace, the TULIP, whatever you want to call it are near as obsessed as those who have a problem with it. Likewise those that are intolerant of standard Baptist beliefs (some of the calvinists) are also more consumed/obsessed that most rank and file baptists.
    Actually I think its a small percentage on “both” sides, but boy can they make a lot of racket. If SBC Voices ignored them, maybe they’d go away? Maybe?

  15. Sima says

    # 2 Racial Partnerships: “Talking about racial differences is barely a starting point. Until we are eating with, sharing life with, praying with, ministering with, and loving multi-racially, all of our perspectives will be skewed”. Amen! I have just returned from the Multi-ethnic Church planting conference @ exponential, and the demographic changes that are occurring in America are going to require a change in the way we do church. The sin of racism has left the church facing serious consequences that we are still dealing with today. If we do not stop talking about other sins and their consequences- and the gospel’s power to overcome them- why do we hesitate to confront the fallout from this sin. Especially, when it has been done on earth as it is in heaven. The Book of Acts shows us a way forward.

  16. Stan the M down south says

    Good job guys… I was so liking the post (gutsy and on the spot biblically, I think) that it was a bummer to see the comments implode and go to crazy-land (i’m an okie) …you gave us all some good stuff to think, nope, PRAY about… thanks…

  17. says

    The truth of the matter is that the solution to the problems you listed as concerns will be reached, when Southern Baptists begin to really pray in terms of the theology of Sovereign Grace as Andrew Fuller and William Carey did in England in the 1780s and as Rice and Judson did in America in the Haystack Meetings, both following the advice of the calvinist and reformed preacher of the First Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards, in his work, The Humble Attempt which helped to launch the Great Century of Missions and undoubtedly contributed toward the Second Great Awakening, while reflecting the theology and power of the First Great Awakening. For years folks have been praying for another Great Awakening (it will be 39 years, since I began to pray. I know of another fellow who has been praying for over 50 years, and there are others, some of whom have prayed even longer. In order to have the blessing, you must have the theology that brings it to pass, the theology that God in Christ blesses to that end. And there can be no doubt as to the theology that produced the First and Second Great Awakenings and launched the Great Century of Missions: IT IS SOVEREIGN GRACE, the reign of grace, and you can call it calvinism and reformed theology or founders views, but it is the original theology of the word of God and of the church and was never originated by the reformed or Calvin or Augustine. And it is evangelistic, beautifully winsome, attractive, wonderful appealing, persuasive, charming, drawing. Like the lady who said to my friend who won her to Christ, “O it was so wonderful that I could not resist it.” The Awakening is coming, the theology is beginning to permeate the mass like leaven, and soon the visitation shall begin in an even greater way. Then will come the issue of whether some folks need to lead, follow or get out of the way. But I don’t believe in the third option. Just the first two, all joined together, and God getting all the glory

  18. Jim says

    WOW !! So many beliefs, but which are fact and has truth to them? Ephesians chapter 5 and Proverbs in parts of it, tells us not to be part of certain people as does some other Bible chapters warn us not to be part of the devils crowd. So what happens when a person like me who see his pastor and wife, accept a losers and lost ways of living after being baptized for over 4 years, accepted Christ as Lord & Savior, yet this person lives as if none of that has ever happened ? I see how the pastor and wife are more like this person than the example of what Christ gave to us as we are to have mercy & grace, as I believe the mercy and grace are the gifts to those who do not mock God nor uses others for the wants of the self-centered people who claim they are serving God, but looks at what they want first and foremost before others. If that means they use people no matter how you do it or who you learn it from, than Calvinism and all faiths are all scams and false doctrine. The heathen and athiest are teaching the pastors and other teachers of God pretty good on how the devil opperates. As one pastor I know who’s not preaching today said…”” God is in control of everything but the devils ways and the devil has been ruling the world.” I see that to be true every Sunday as I hear the people talk what their beliefs are, as it always matches to what they have and how they live, yet not 1 penny to millions of dollars, acres of land, vehicles, or thread of clothing will anyone have to take with them
    when a person dies. Those people in all faiths, seems to be so much better and arrogant, than a humble poor or low income person as I remember well a true story of my one rich aunt and how a minister treated her compared to her sister who was at least 1,000,000.00 poorer than her. So who according to all of the worlds income from richer or poorer has more truth and facts of real biblical doctrine as my pastor has said more than once that the love of $$$$$ is the root of all evil. That does not mean though all other scripture in the OT & NT are to be ignored as a lost person should never persuade a pastor and wife to use the word of MERCY 70 times a minute for a person who has used the Bible and the OT & NT laws for their own distorted views of making a truth a lie and a lie the truth. That has been an example of a Calvinist way to save a lost soul and maybe another as this person is hooked on Satan and use any Christian for their benefit & purpose only. It don’t matter if it is SBC, Calvinist Baptist, Baptist, Lutheran, Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, Nazareene, SDA, or JW. If the Bible says it is wrong it is wrong as the book of James said, If you are guilty of one part of the law, you are guilty of the whole law. Based on that we all deserve hell except Jesus Christ. Sure forgiveness is part of Christianity, but when a repeated attitude and actions still happen, forgiveness means nothing. A person is only as good as his/her words. They wil tell anyone if that person or pastor, minister, & etc… are of the God we are to serve in honor and humbleness, or the devil in bragging and idolizing others while we try to serve God alone and secretly brag or boast about it on Sunday.
    God is to get all the credit as John 15:5 Jesus said, Apart from me, ye can do nothing. He is the Vine, we are the branches. It’s too bad a lot of branches will become ash quickly who sits in the congregations, and stands in the pulpits. Meanwhile the lost heathen or devils slave and
    athiest rule on. In all this case the MERCY that can be given is an act of satanism for allowing the lost and heathen to rule and mock God and his laws. If Christianity has increased over the last year or so, it is not a Christianity who takes God and Jesus Christ very seriously. Forgiveness, Mercy & Grace are not Larry, Moe and Curly.

    • says

      Failures abound in this world, and even the word of God, the Bible, records many instances of disappointing conduct. There was Judas who was an Apostle and who preached and who performed miracles, and he also was stealing from the church treasury as he took care of the offerings. Again, Peter would deny Christ with a curse, and the other disciples were having a church fuss over who would be the greatest in the kingdom and that was going on the very night in which Jesus was betrayed! When I went to my first church, it was really down, having had to fire the pastor before me. I was led to preach on I Cors., Paul’s letter to a church with so many problems. I came away from that experience with an appreciation for the fact that the word of God speaks to such situations of disappointment with mirror images of them and the way God sometimes works to resolve such griefs. In the end, He will bring things to pass which shall redound to His honor and glory and the good of the sufferers. Justice also shall be manifested, when it serves His purposes. We will not be the executioners of justice. God reserves that right to Himself, and the Father put it in the hands of Jesus to handle as He is also a human. Right now THE JUDGMENT is going on at every service in the local church (I Pet.4:17; Hebs.12:22ff), and one can meet the judge and set down with Him who is also the mediator. Imagine being able to handle problems with the judge before they come a time for a sentence of execution. I remember getting a ticket for clipping a yellow line. When the judge asked how many I had ((I had two earlier tickets, both for speeding, doing 10 miles over the speed limit), I told him. He said, “If I turn this in now, you will lose your license.” I had just begun my first pastor in 1962; it would mean disaster for me. The judge, a Presbyterian elder also, delayed the ticket action until my first ticket dropped off of my driving record. He had me coming back once a month for, I think it was, 3 mos. I would set down with him in his chambers, and he would tell me how I ought to pastor a Baptist church (nothing about doctrine was said or discussed; it was about practical matters like visitation, dealing with folks with problems and how to handle situations). The judge was a good and godly man. He was elderely then, so I think he is likely in eternity now…or he would be the oldest person in the world..very likely. Anyway, going to church is going to the very center of Heaven to get the help of Jesus who is residing there in a special sense and who is the judge with whom you can adjudicate your sin problems and get help for dealing with them and how to live a godly Christian life in the midst of so many disappointing situations as we face in the world and in the church even today.

  19. Jim says

    No we are not the executioners but…, Should we or should we not speak out loud when we see wrongful acts of a person or a person plus a pastor and others, accept in the church wickedness, idolatry of evil actions & beliefs ? Mercy and grace starts getting to be abused with its use in ungodly ways when mercy and grace towards one persons actions from the church leaders have allowed the person with the wicked and evil ways celebrate their craftiness of their beliefs that now the leaders and pastor of the church seens to have accepted these actions as okay even if the Bible says it’s wrong. As I say,, this is in a Calvinist above the law and better than people than that of other Christians I know who go to other churches as they as other faiths I know thinks I have backslided into a false religion as I see Calvinism is what every other false doctrine is. The rest of all other faiths and churches should never feel guilty with their other isms of the world which means nothing if all Christians can not act as if they are better that I or I am not as good as them, based on what we own, and who we are by our last name & etc… As the rich hates the poor, so do Christians ( and those who think they are Christian) who have it all, brag over what they have and have done, they will see soon as James says the rich will suffer loss.
    As Proverbs 14 vs 20 puts it.. The poor is hated even by his own neighbor, but the rich haveth many friends. Jesus will have the poor to help judge when that day shall come. Knowing how poor some people like me have been, as certain trials and tribulations have always been with us, Job and other poor people like me should help Jesus on that day who would get more of what they sowed as they will reap what they had sowed then, as some are still sowing today. Let my neighbors hate me because I am worthless to their world and the world itself from their own thinking. Hey,, That is the U.S.A. as we know it. I know they will have nothing to do with Jesus saying to me.. Well done, thy good and faithful servant.” That was for me the last part, because this nation (U.S.A.) as the leaders, pulpit people and church organizers have a very seared conscious. God’s commandments and the Beatitudes means nothing today when the culture of Godly minds says, God will forgive us no matter what we do, think, or say. Then we started to believe the government as President reagan said, When we forget that we are One nation Under God, We will be a nation gone under. We under now, as we have accepted anything in the church and in the pulpits, while they who speak stays silent, as some who should never be speaking are changing the rules of preaching sermons and giving us their beliefs other than the complete facts and truths of God / Jesus Christ.