As a Calvinist, I have been told that I’m a heretic, promoting a license to sin, preaching the doctrine of Hell, etc. I’m used to these comments and do not concern myself with them too much.
There is only one accusation that cuts deep: “Calvinism hinders evangelism.”
I’ve heard it mainly from my Arminian Methodist brothers and sisters (expectedly, of course), but lately I have seen traces of it all over the SBC – past and present. What kills me is that, as a Calvinist, I hold missions and evangelism in extremely high regard. Truly, one of my proudest claims as an SBCer is that we are so focused on the Great Commission.
Here are a few statements that I have read lately from SBC and other Baptist leaders:
- Robert Sloan claims that “[Calvinism] is a dagger to the heart of evangelism“ in a December 1994 article in the Baptist Standard. Leon McBeth is also cited as believing that Southern Baptists are most effective when balancing Calvinism with Arminianism.
- Frank Stagg, in The Baptist Record in 1995, states that Calvinism as stated in SBTS’ Abstract of Principles “makes missions and evangelism a mere formality” since they believe in particular redemption.
- In 2006, Nelson Price wrote an article for the Christian Index titled, “Evangelical Calvinism is an Oxymoron.”
- In the Baptist Standard in 2000, Freddie Gage is quoted by Mark Wingfield claiming that “liberalism, five-point Calvinism, and dead orthodoxy … are all enemies of soul-winning” and are practically the same thing.
- In 2006, Florida Baptist Convention executive director John Sullivan saw it fit to mail a copy of Jerry Vines’ anti-Calvinist sermon (stating in the audio that Calvinist soul-winners do so in spite of their theology) to every Baptist pastor in the state.
- In the book Whosoever Will (birthed out of talks from the 2008 ”John 3:16 Conference”), David Allen of SWBTS argues that Limited Atonement causes serious problems in evangelism.
And the list goes on forever.
It’s heartbreaking, to me, that these men of God blast a theology that they obviously do not understand. I can rant theologically for hours on why God’s sovereign election is more gratifying and worship-inhibiting to Calvinist evangelists, but we do not have time here. Plus, I’m sure that the comments section will be full of debate from both sides.
Instead, I will give a few snippets of support or testimony on behalf of Calvinistic evangelists’ efforts:
- In 1993, when Albert Mohler was elected as SBTS president, one of his first plans of action was to establish the Billy Graham School for Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth.
- Mark Dever, of the Reformed Baptist ministry IX Marks, wrote an amazing book released in 2007 called The Gospel and Personal Evangelism.
- Roger Williams, the Calvinist founder of the first American Baptist church, spent much of his career evangelizing to Native Americans when most of his brethren were in disagreement. His passion for the Native Americans was one of the chief charges that led to his being forced out of Massachusetts by ruling of the General Court).
- In Founders.org’s FJ in 1995, the late Ernest Reisinger contends that “Calvinism may kill man-centered evangelism, but true, Biblical Calvinism gives evangelism its only proper doctrinal foundation … it guarantees evangelism’s success … [because] God saves sinners.”
- Daniel Akin, in the book Calvinism: A Southern Baptist Dialogue, says of himself, “I am Calvinist who embraces with my whole being our Lord’s command to take the Gospel across the street and around the world. Anything less puts a person outside the camp of Southern Baptists.”
- Let us not forget William Carey, a Calvinist who is perhaps the greatest Baptist missionary to ever live.
Of course, this will never be settled. I pray that those who have animosity towards Calvinism will see the need for common Great Commission work, realize the Biblical Calvinist passion for missions, and leave the mud-slinging out of it.
Oh, and Calvinists… lighten up.