I just read an article from Ron Hale on SBC Today dealing with double predestination, called “John Calvin: In His Own Words.” It’s not a very focused article, moving from Calvin’s views on double predestination to an a priori assumption that this view is “monstrous,” to an affirmation of “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation,” to a call to Southern Baptists to get out from “under the long shadow of a Catholic monk named Augustine.”
My intention here is not to provide a point-by-point rebuttal to Hale’s article, though I am a proponent of so-called “double predestination.” I’d like to look at one paragraph here and comment briefly on our debates about Calvinism within the SBC and a brief word on double predestination. First, here’s what Hale had to say specifically about double predestination:
Calvin is very clear and concise in what he believed. Others have made it sound even more monstrous, while others have used every skill of oratory and written composition to carefully coat this bitter pill with sugariness. Most Southern Baptists have never swallowed this sour pastille. Just reading his words (above) leaves a bad taste in your spirit if you believe the character of God is that of love, mercy, and grace.
Based on this paragraph I’d say Hale has no intention to actually dialogue with Calvinists who hold to double predestination. He may be scoring points with other people who have as much disdain for double predestination as himself, but he’s also insulting anyone who holds that view.
This is one of the problems with our debates about Calvinism and I myself have been guilty of this as well. We have no desire to respect each other’s views or to treat one another with kindness and respect. In one breath we say that we believe the other has a place at the table, yet how many of us would sit through a meal with someone who said your beliefs were “monstrous,” that you were trying to sugar-coat your views, and that they leave a bad taste in the mouth of anyone who believes God is loving, merciful, and gracious? If anything, I’d take that meal to go. And that seems to be the point. Create a rift, emphasize why we can’t be together, and maybe, just maybe, we can insult each other right out of the SBC.
Double predestination might have appeared to be a safe whipping boy, since it’s not the predominant view of the Baptist Calvinists I know. But it’s my view. Let’s leave the bogeyman aside and engage in meaningful and respectful debate. There’s room at the table for Calvinists and non-Calvinists of all sorts. Just don’t sit me next to someone who’s going to insult me throughout the meal. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth.