Calvinism Conference: Panel Q & A w/ Steve Lemke, Frank Page, Herschel York, & David Dockery

You can live stream the Calvinism Conference here.  Tweet about the Calvinist Conference using #cal12. Follow @jaredhmoore for live updates.

Make sure you listen to his whole Q & A on your own prior to formulating your opinion. There was so much information given, some things were left out of this summary

Moderated by Kevin Smith

Smith: What do you think has happened since 2008? Why wasn’t the conversation between Patterson and Mohler more beneficial?

Page: A small minority of Calvinists have an agenda. They lie to pastor search committees because they’re willing to do whatever takes to get these churches right.

Smith: Dr. Lemke, are there ecclesiastical issues in Reformed theology?

Lemke: There are. We have several churches that have elders. I think there’s a problem when there’s a third office: pastor, deacon, then elder. Or, there comes to be that the elders rule and the congregation no longer does.

York: That’s a confusion of the issues. I’m a Calvinist. I don’t do that; I don’t believe that. I think it’s important not to paint with such a broad brush.

Smith: Dr. Dockery, historically, how problematic is the use of terminology? Are certain words more helpful than others?

Dockery: I wish we could get rid of the terms Calvinism and Arminianism. They need defining usually. I don’t think they’re going away.

York: 10 Churches by John Taylor. He’s the founding pastor of Buck Run. In 1818, they had two particular points, but had a third point that was general. They wanted unity. This is a gracious way of seeing this.

Smith: Lemke, have you felt any hostility for holding a general view of the atonement?

Lemke: I have on blogs. I think everyone has. Sometimes, it’s helpful to hear the perspective of those outside of our group. Southern Baptists just don’t like to be identified as Arminians. Southern Baptists are coming from a Calvinist heritage, and headed toward an Arminian one, but we’d choose Calvinism over Arminians.

Smith: Dr. Page, is it helpful for us to be more tribal?

Page: I do encourage dialogue. If you want to look at our missionaries, they often find themselves unity with other like-minded believers. It’s very positive to work with other like-minded individuals. We need each other desperately. Yes, we need to be better in dialogue.

Smith: Dr. Lemke and Dr. York, can you really substantiate if God is a God of love if He shows partiality to the elect?

York: Our theology has to God-centered, not man-centered. I want to preach God as high as I can get Him, and humanity as low as I can get them. I am not going to make a defense of God’s character when humanity sits in judgment of God. God has the right to do as He chooses. All of humanity deserves hell. He has the right to save some and not others. In fact, even if you don’t have the so-called Calvinist view. Either you’re going to worship a God who chooses to save some and not others, or else, a God who could save everyone, but leaves it up to everyone. Neither view

Lemke: God owes us nothing. We certainly don’t want justice. The fact that He shows mercy on anyone is a mark of grace. I’m concerned with what this says about the doctrine of God. If God is love, what has He chosen to do? John 3:16, 1 John 2:2, 2 Pet. 3:9, 1 Tim. 2:3. The God who’s revealed in Scripture, desires relationship in a way that we choose it. I think God is love and is also holy, and has wrath towards sin.

Smith: York and Lemke, Do you agree with Dockery concerning Calvinism being important, but not the most important issue in the SBC?

York: I think inclusivism and universalism are our biggest problems. All of the world is lost apart from the gospel, and I fear that many Southern Baptists don’t believe it. The man on the Is

Lemke: I agree with what he said. We are not penetrating our culture. Proclamation does not take the place of personal evangelism. We have 20,000 more churches but not more baptisms. We’re not discipling people, and we’re not evangelizing. We’ve got to get back to personal evangelism.

Smith: Dr. Page, how does a church deal with ecclesiology differences within a church?

Page: Calvinistic churches are not always changing into an elder system. Without discipleship, a few loud voices rule the local church. The people of the church need to study the Word of God, and live out congregationalism. Any church decision becomes a holy decision because we attach God to what we want.

Smith: Dr. York, would you please explain John 3:16 from a Calvinist perspective?

York: (He repeated John 3:16). That’s not inconsistent with what Christ said about not praying for the world, but for those who God gave Him. There’s clearly a sense where God’s love for the world through the redemption of His people. No matter what your view of that is, the world benefits from God’s activity in the world. Anyone who will repent of their sins and trust in Jesus will be saved. I can go to Revelation that people from all over the world will repent and trust in Jesus and will be crying out, “Worthy is the Lamb.” God’s love for the world will succeed. People from all over the world will be singing to Jesus.

Lemke: I agree with York.

Smith: Lemke, you didn’t sign the Traditionalist statement. Is the language in Article 2 Semi-Pelagian?

Lemke: Um, I wasn’t a signatore. The positive statement is a repeat of the BF&M 2k. It does have that negative statement. I don’t understand it to be pelagian or semi-pelagian. A semi-pelagian is someone who believes I can initiate a move toward God on my own. I don’t think it’s involved. I will say that 90% of the people we’re ministering to are coming out of a Catholic culture. Due to the Catholic culture, you have many issues like infant baptism, virgin birth, etc. if you teach original sin.

York: I believe in original sin because I’ve had children. We never had to teach them to sin.

Smith: In Baptist history, have you seen the interaction between Southern Baptists and those outside, is that positive or negative?

Dockery: Largely positive. There are Baptist distinctives, but there are other things we hold with other believers. We need to find ways to cooperate with those outside as well for the sake of reaching the world.

Smith: Dr. Page, what is your sense out in the general convention in churches and associations concerning unity? Are we unified?

Page: There are a multitude of forces and voices for attention, loyalty, and resources. Those streams and thoughts are pulling us apart: ecclesiology, Tradtionalism, Calvinism, old mission methodology, new mission methodology, etc. There is much division out there. There is a great deal of disunity over Calvinism. For us right now, in our SBC, Calvinism is the issue that is probably the most serious threat to our unity. We’re seeing many, many people who lack the honesty in particular situations. We’re seeing people react against Calvinism. We need events like this where we talk to each other, not at or about each other.

York: I want to say this respectively. It’s not surprising that people want to talk about the problems Calvinism to someone who wrote a book against Calvinism. The Tradtionalist statement had 500-600 signatures. Send North America had 2200 people attend. There’s positive thing happening. We need to see that the Lord is at work as well.

Page: Maybe I don’t know all that is going on. I do hear from many of my Calvinist and non-Calvinist friends concerning the arrogance of extreme Calvinists. There are ant-Calvinists as well that are driving me crazy. Great things are happening, and we do need to focus here, but we cannot deny the unChristlike spirit that’s going on as well.

Smith: Dockery, where have Baptists been on double predestination?

 Dockery: There’s some in Baptist history, but that’s not been part of the best of our heritage. It would be a matter of concern if we saw a trajectory of us moving in that direction.

Smith: Does the Holy Spirit attempt to draw all people with the gospel?

Dockery: Yes, He does.

Lemke: I do believe He does, but I believe there’s a point when you’ve blasphemed the Holy Spirit, and He quits trying to draw. God breaks through in amazing ways. People get saved because the Holy Spirit speaks to people’s hearts and tears down the barriers. The Holy Spirit works on everyone, but people just aren’t listening.

Smith: Anything you wanted to share today you didn’t get to share?

York: The Lord loves everybody, but he made some of us wildcats. Here in the KBC, I personally am so committed to not letting this be an issue that divides us. I think it’s important that we keep that the focus. The Great Commission is the commission God gave to all of us. We must take the gospel to the ends of the Earth.

Lemke: We need to learn to trust each other better. We’re not talking to each other. We’ve got to reign in some of the people on our sides. Some of the poster boys in Calvinism on blogs are giving a horrible name to Calvinism. There’s some people on my side that don’t understand Calvinism. Extreme voices on both side must be reigned in. We must make sure we’re saying what’s accurate. Don’t let the extreme voices represent the mainstream of each of these traditions. There’s a possibility of working together. Only in Christ can we overcome these differences. It’s going to take a work of God to bring about unity.

Dockery: I think this is a good start. The spirit here today has been marvelously encouraging. I think what Dr. Page has said is a reality. There are issues out there. Not all of these issues are directly related to this question. We don’t need to make Calvinism a scapegoat for all church problems. We’ve disagreed on this issues for hundreds of years. We must join together for the common cause of evangelism. We need to take the gospel to the nations.


  1. Bill Mac says

    This is so frustrating. I almost believe Mr. Lemke is being deliberately obtuse concerning elders. Elders and pastors are the same office. Elders are not a third office and he knows it. Our own confession used the term elders until recently.

    • says

      Bill Mac,

      I don’t understand why Lemke and others speak of elders as some strange and mysterious phenomenon. The constant conflation of elder rule and elder led is also commonplace in many discussions.

      It is a straightforward topic, why it is so often muddied is beyond me.

      • Bill Mac says

        Joshua: I think we know exactly why. Because to them Elders=Calvinism=Bad.

        Was the SBC wrong for all those years to use the word elder in our confession?

  2. says

    If we are going to really strive for unity, why not appoint mediators and work out the bounds of cooperation. The Separates and Regulars did it with reference to a few in the Separatist camp, people who had come to the view that Jesus tasted death for every one. I should note here the Separatists generally were just as strict in their views on the Atonement as were the Regulars. One can tell this from the fact that there was correspondence between Philadelphia and Sandy Creek Associations. One can learn it from the writings of Isaac Backus and others, The allowance of the reading of Hebs.2:9 held by a few brethren who had suffered with the strict brethren during the persecution, imprisonment, flogging, and urinating in the faces of some of the Baptist preachers by stalwarts of the Anglican CHurch was one of the reasons for both groups becoming ashamed. Here they had been calling one another brothers and then had said some less Christian things in a split that healed due to the sense of shame. They worked out the agreement that preaching that Christ tasted death for every man would be no bar to communion. Hence, most were obviously of the Particular persuasion. They saw the power as being in the blood of Christ, not in man’s faith, but they were willing to bear with differences in order that individuals might learn on their own the truths of the founding faith. Since -prayers have been made for a Third Great Awakening longer than I have been alive, and I have been praying for such for 39 years (it will be this Fall…I addressed the Pastors’ Prayer Meeting of the Sandy Creek Baptist Association in the Fall of 1973 on the subject of a Great Awakening. Later I would speak at the 5th and the 10th Anniversary of that Prayer Meeting on the subject, A Third Great Awakening). D.M. Lloyd Jones prayed for such a visitation for most of his life, so I understand. And I know of others who have been praying for revival since the 50s. Now there is no doubt about the theology that produced the First and Second Great Awakenings and the Launching of the Great Century of Missions (the Great Century of Missions is what Dr. Kenneth Scott Latourette called the 19th century). The sources are available, even printed versions of the sermons, along with theological writings, accounts of the awakening written at the time of the occurrence. and more. I never thought about the theology as I prayed, but I can see why it would come back. One must have the cause, the theology, that produced such effect, an Awakening, and Sovereign Grace, being the belief that accomplished such a thing, must have a resurrection. These therapeutic paradoxes enable and empower men to accept responsibility for their condition, for them to call on God to do for them what they can not do for themselves. As Truett, Spurgeon, and others have indicated, this theology makes people responsible to God. It also awakens us to the depth of profundity of the word of God, especially with reference to its perspicuity and clarity. We are getting ready for a terrible trial of financial collapse, we are also, likely, to witness the descent of the power of God like it has never been seen before, a visitation in which every last soul on earth will be won to Christ in one generation and the visitation might well continue for a thousand generations in order for God to vindicate His humor and comfort to His downtrodden people with the reference in Rev.7:9.