A recent post at a sister Baptist site of a traditionalist flair boasts of how their pastor search questionnaire recently prevented a Calvinist from being hired at a church of non-Calvinist leanings. The DOM of the church’s association went to the church with the questionnaire and the information that a candidate was a Calvinist.
It does not appear from the post that the church actually went through the questions with the candidate, and instead opted to just disengage their pursuit. That’s their right, but it would seem that the DOM may have overstepped his bounds. Provide a questionnaire, sure, but do it in a way that the church doesn’t even end up asking a candidate in which they had shown interest the questions?
When the candidate objected to the DOM, the DOM replied:
“Don’t you think a church deserves to know if you’re going to stop having invitations after the gospel is preached? Don’t you think they deserve to know that you intend to replace their congregational polity with an elder rule one? Don’t you think they deserve to know whether or not you’re going to accept and/or practice infant baptism–a practice which will cause them to be disfellowshipped from this association?”
Then one of the commenters on the post stated:
Perhaps it would be helpful to describe/document the changes in church life that come when a Calvinist is at the helm. Here are a few I have observed:
1) A distain for and lack of interest in traditional evangelistic efforts such as revivals and camps/conferences for children and youth that have an evangelistic focus.
2) A desire to replace church leaders with those who share his Calvinism views, including SS teachers at all levels.
3) Transitioning the church away from congregational church gov’t to elder-led or pastor-led if replacing deacons with elders is not possible..
4) Using more Calvinistic oriented teaching materials, SBC and other.
5) Not cooperating/supporting local Association unless it is dominated by Calvinism.
If church members knew what was at stake they might have more concern.
Since it seems that some wish to paint all Calvinists with a broad brush, I thought I would offer some perspective as a self-proclaimed Calvinist.
First, I’m a 5-point Calvinist and I use many “traditional evangelistic efforts” to try to reach people. My church and I support our associational camp and involve ourselves there in various ways. We have engaged in door-to-door ministry, in which we have shared the gospel, invited people to church and/or events, offered to pray for people, given out cookies with a card saying “We Love Adrian” (our town) that points people to our website where they will find a basic gospel presentation. This past Sunday night we also kicked off our month-long revival series that meets each Sunday evening of March.
Oh, and among the speakers at our revival series are a self-proclaimed Baptist Arminian and a traditional (though not “traditionalist”) non-Calvinist, non-Arminian Baptist. These two gentlemen are also two of my best friends, and I’ll be preaching one night of a revival at my “Baptist Arminian” friend’s church later this month as well.
So, not only do I support many “traditional evangelistic efforts,” but my efforts also show that guys on different ends of the soteriological spectrum can get along swimmingly.
Second, I’m a 5-point Calvinist, and I give an invitation at the end of my sermons. We give people a moment to reflect on how God’s Word challenged them that day, and then I say, “If you’re not a follower of Jesus, I would love to talk to you about what it means to follow him. You can come talk to me as we sing our last song or find me after the service ends.”
Third, I’m a 5-point Calvinist, and I have no desire to baptize any infants. My fathers in the faith taught me to love the Bible, learn the Bible, and teach the Bible. It is from that conviction that I became a Calvinist. Now, I’m not saying that those who don’t align with me don’t love the Bible, know the Bible, or teach the Bible. I believe my friend who is on the opposite end of this Calvinism-Arminianism spectrum loves, knows, and teaches the Bible quite well. But in our pursuits, we have come to different conclusions. So, iron sharpens iron, we challenge each to ponder and grow.
Yet, it is also this same conviction that has led me to reject infant baptism and straight-up Covenant Theology, even as a soteriological Calvinist. I don’t see the Biblical case. And every Calvinistic Baptist I personally know (which is quite a few) agrees with our traditionalists and just plain ol’ Baptist friends on this one. That’s why we’re Calvinistic Baptists—we think the reformers didn’t reform quite enough on this point, even in their “scripture alone” stance. If we saw a Biblical case for infant baptism, then we would be Presbyterian and not Southern Baptists.
Give us the benefit of the doubt on this one: Though we think Calvin got it right on soteriology, we don’t think he got it right on everything. It’s the Bible we view as inerrant, not the Institutes.
Fourth, I’m a 5-point Calvinist and I don’t try to instill Calvinists into every position of leadership. My church has four deacons, of those four exactly zero are Calvinists. My church has twelve Sunday School teachers (not including me), and only three of these twelve were teachers when I arrived almost seven years ago. Of these twelve, one is a Calvinist and one mostly leans that way, though he doesn’t make a big deal about it, ever. Our doctrinal statement is the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 with a modification to a more open (any believer, not just Baptist believers) Lord’s Supper table. Our teachings in Sunday School are to conform to that, not my Calvinist preferences. Oh, and we use all three offerings of LifeWay Sunday School literature, depending on the class.
Fifth, I’m a 5-point Calvinist and I love my association. We are in an association of 30 churches, currently with 25 pastors. The number of Calvinists pastors, including myself, is 2. Frankly, I’m okay with being one of two “odd ducks.” I love serving with and being around my associational pastors, and we don’t major on what we see as a minor theological difference because we know that we all love Jesus and desire to see people come to faith in him, though we have different beliefs of how that works in the spiritual behind the scenes.
Sixth, I’m a 5-point Calvinist and I do prefer elder-led. Okay, I’ll own that one, but though I prefer it, I also don’t make a big push for it. I think it’s the best and most biblical model, but I also don’t go so far to say that it’s an absolute command of Scripture. The idea carries a lot of baggage in some churches, and while I don’t shy away from teaching it, I’m also not willing to make it a church-splitting hill on which to die.
But, I didn’t come to my elder-led convictions from a Calvinist influence. No, the person I first learned it from who led me to embrace the conviction is a traditionalist (who actually signed the traditionalist statement and writes for that other blog) who does a lot of teaching against the “dangers of Calvinism.” I do get that it is mostly us Calvinist guys who are more in favor of a congregational elder-led model (not a non-congregational elder-ruled model, mind you). Yet, I also find it ironic that this is often pushed as a potential danger of having a Calvinist pastor when I learned it and was convinced biblically of it by a traditionalist. Go figure.
All of this to say, yes, I’m a 5-point Calvinist, but me and many like me don’t fit into the strawmen, boogey-man specter that is often used to broad-brush paint us. We love Jesus, we love his word, and we love seeing people come to know and follow Jesus through the sharing of his gospel. And we know the same is true of our non-Calvinists (and even self-proclaimed “Arminian”) Southern Baptist brothers and sisters.
There’s so much division already in this world, so let’s tell a better story and try to paint a better picture of one another. Let’s actually engage with each other personally and in love, as opposed to painting with a broad brush against each other. If we do, we might just find that we can work together a lot more happily for our common cause.