How Southern Baptists Should Approach Disagreements in Theology (by Dr. Kevin McFadden)

Dr. Kevin McFadden has been an  Assistant Professor of New Testament and Greek at Louisiana College. He is one of the professors whose contract was not renewed – the action that sent Louisiana College into the headlines. You can read his biography here. I appreciate both the wisdom and the spirit of this article. 

How should Southern Baptists approach disagreements in theology? What should we do when we disagree about what the Bible says about God? My goal in this article is to help Southern Baptists think productively about the Calvinism controversy and other theological controversies in the Southern Baptist Convention. Full disclosure: I am one of three professors who were recently told that their contracts would not be renewed at Louisiana College next year. None of us were given reasons for our non-renewals, but our non-renewals coincided with several public statements against Calvinism from the president of the college. Almost everyone, including the local paper, has connected the dots.

I think this Calvinism controversy was handled poorly by the leadership of Louisiana College and the leadership of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. But my goal is not to dwell on the past. My goal is to help Baptists think about how these things should be handled in the future. And I’m not just talking about Calvinism, because Calvinism will not be the last theological controversy that Southern Baptists face. How then should we approach our theological differences?

First, we need to recognize that some doctrines are more important than other doctrines. All Christians recognize this to some extent. For example, the doctrine of the return of Jesus Christ, the second coming, is much more important than the question of whether Christ will return before or after the tribulation. If you deny the second coming of Christ, it calls into question whether you are a Christian. But Christians have always disagreed about the exact timing of Christ’s return. So which doctrines are more important and which are less important?

One way to think about this issue is to distinguish between three levels of doctrines. First level doctrines include those a person has to believe in order to be a Christian. These include things like the inspiration of Scripture, the divinity of Jesus Christ, the humanity of Christ, the sacrificial death of Christ for our sins, and his bodily resurrection. Now I am not saying that every Christian understands these doctrines fully. But if a person rejects these doctrines, can they really be a Christian in any historic sense?

Second level doctrines include those which are important because they promote the health of the church. These doctrines include those which separate denominations, like believer’s baptism or congregational church government. One does not need to be a Baptist to be a Christian, but these doctrines are important enough to the health of the church that Protestants have been willing to divide over them.

Third level doctrines include those which are matters of indifference. These include doctrines like the pre-tribulational rapture of the church, or the question of whether Sunday has become the new Sabbath. Christians simply disagree about many matters of indifference in the Bible.

Now my distinction between three levels of doctrine will not solve all of our disagreements. But it will at least help us think productively about our disagreements. Not every disagreement over doctrine is important. Some are more important than others.

Second, we need to hold to our confession, the Baptist Faith and Message. The Baptist Faith and Message was crafted in part to help us deal with our disagreements. It is an umbrella document under which many different people can work together to cooperate in supporting missions and education. It explains which doctrines are important for us to agree upon, but it allows disagreement on other doctrines that are not as important.

Throughout history, Christians have attempted to clarify important doctrines through the use of confessions, or summaries of Christian doctrine. We don’t use confessions as a replacement of the Bible. We use confessions as a summary of what the Bible teaches. If we could, we would just sit down and read the entire Bible together and say, “that’s what we believe.” But that would take a really long time. So, we summarize the teaching of the Bible in confessions of faith.

Some of the earliest Christian confessions include the Apostles’ Creed and its expansion in the Nicene Creed. These confessions address what I have called first level doctrines. After the Protestant Reformation in the Western Church, many confessions began including second level doctrines. For example, the Westminster Confession of Faith was a Presbyterian confession. It was then modified to form the Second London Baptist Confession for Baptists. This Second London Baptist Confession is the parent document that traces down to the Baptist Faith and Message, which was adopted as the confession of the Southern Baptist Convention and the confession of Louisiana College.

To be a teacher at Louisiana College, you don’t have to agree with everything in the Baptist Faith and Message, because our confession includes both first level and second level doctrines. Every teacher at Louisiana College has to agree with the first level doctrines—that is, they must be a Christian. But not every teacher at Louisiana College has to agree with the second level doctrines—that is, you don’t have to be a Baptist to teach here. However, to teach in the religion department, you have to agree with everything in the Baptist Faith and Message. In other words, you have to be a Baptist. This makes sense, since we are training students for ministry in Southern Baptist churches.

Remember, the Baptist Faith and Message explains the doctrines which are important for us to agree upon so that we can work together in churches and as a denomination. It also allows disagreement on other doctrines that are not as important. It protects us from forcing others to agree with our theological pet-peeves and from being forced to agree with the theological pet-peeves of others.

So now we come to the question. Is Calvinism outside of the Baptist Faith and Message? Clearly, it is not. The Baptist Faith and Message comes from a line of Calvinist confessions, rooted in the Second London Baptist Confession and the Westminster Confession of Faith. This is our theological history as Southern Baptists. Our confession has been modified over the years to allow views that don’t fit strictly within the Reformed tradition, but it was certainly never modified to exclude Calvinists, because the current revision of the Baptist Faith and Message included five-point Calvinists on the committee. You can be a Calvinist or a non-Calvinist and be a Southern Baptist. Both views are permitted under the umbrella of our confession.

Is hyper-Calvinism outside of the Baptist Faith and Message? Yes, and it should be. Hyper-Calvinism is the idea that the gospel should not be offered freely to all people. This doctrine is not within the bounds of our confession. Let me say this clearly: Calvinism is not the same thing as hyper-Calvinism. Any person who says the two are the same is either ignorant or lying. And this leads to my last point.

Third, we need to be people of integrity. The Baptist Faith and Message is not enough. It is important. But for our confession to work, we need people of integrity to uphold it. This means that professors in colleges and seminaries should only sign a confession if they believe it and plan to teach in accordance with it. It also means that administrators in colleges and seminaries should enforce policies that are in line with the confession they claim to uphold.

The problem at Louisiana College is not a lack of integrity in the professors who are leaving. I have worked hand in hand with these colleagues for the past three years. They are not sinless, but they are people of integrity. The problem at Louisiana College is a remarkable lack of integrity among the leadership of the college and the leadership of Louisiana Baptist Convention. And I think this lack of integrity is rooted in something deeper I have observed in the Southern Baptist Convention—a culture of flattery and glad-handing and even outright lying for the sake of personal or political gain. I love the Southern Baptist heart for evangelism and revival. But revival needs to start at home. We need to pray that God would grant us repentance of sin and faith in his Son, that he would pour out his Spirit and give us integrity. And we need to beware of the spread of the hypocrisy that is in our midst (see Luke 12:1–3).

Let me close with a historical perspective from the Northern Baptist Convention. Conservative Baptists in the North fought against those who denied first level doctrines. But they lost, and they separated from the convention. Unfortunately, many of them didn’t stop separating. After fighting the battles over first level doctrines, they kept dividing and dividing, many times over doctrines that were really matters of indifference.

And this is what some who opposed the conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention prophesied would happen. They said in effect that if you cause divisions over first level doctrines, then the divisions will never stop. This prophecy is beginning to come true. I hope you will see that the situation at Louisiana College didn’t have to happen, and it doesn’t have to happen in the future.

Let’s be clear about first level doctrines—let’s make divisions when Scripture calls us to do so. But when we have theological differences that fall under the umbrella of our confession, let’s agree to disagree, and go on working together for the spread of the gospel and the glory of God.



  1. Dave Miller says

    I appreciate that Dr. McFadden shared this with us – he’s been at the center of a firestorm recently.

    And I agree strongly with all of your points. Thank you.

    • Scott Shaver says


      Please clarify for me if you don’t mind. By agreeing strongly with all of McFaddens points are you also including this point as well:

      “The problem at Louisiana is not a lack of integrity in the professors who are leaving … The problem at Louisiana College is a remarkable lack of intergrity among the leadership of the college and the leadership of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.”

      I would like to be clear about what you agree and do not agree with.

      • says

        I agree with his main points. I am not involved in the situation well enough to know whether the statement you highlighted is factual, but I’ve seen enough to give me pause.

        • Scott Shaver says

          Thanks Dave:

          The statement I quoted is McFadden’s from the article you posted. See point # 3. And thanks for your response.

          • Scott Shaver says

            I misunderstood your post by directing you back to the article Dave. After rereading I understand that you agree with McFadden’s main points but “not involved enough”in the situation to agree or disagree with the statement of McFadden I quoted from point 3.

            That is fair. I appreciate your response and clarification. Thanks.

        • says

          I’m from the outside looking in as well, in regards to the problems at Louisiana College, though I do have a little access to those involved due to church affiliations and such. McFadden, Hiles, and Lister are all highly educated men with the utmost integrity for family and the Gospel.

          And all the accusations against the LC administration and the facts that have come out, would usually question the integrity of Dr. Aguillard.

          That’s just my two cents. Correct me if I’m wrong.

          • Scott Shaver says

            I think the jury is still out on the “integrity” of Quarles and the 3 professors who were not renewed. They have publicly proclaimed on behalf of themselves to be people of intergrity and have accused the LBC Board, Executive Director and LC Administrators of being without such virtue (i.e. McFadden’s post). To this point we have their side of the story only and an independent investigation report that states it’s conclusions are based on an incomplete body of information.

            I would wait until the rest of the story is told before anybody starts clanging church bells in honor of either LC Administrators or the departed professors and their boss.

        • Dave Miller says

          I have spoken little of the situation at LC (though I have published articles here by those involved) because I have no firsthand knowledge of the situation.

          I’ve had friends who are involved tell me stories that raised seriously spiritual, moral and ethical questions, but I am not personally involved.

          I published this article because I thought that the things Dr. McFadden said were spot on in terms of what the SBC needs for the days ahead.

      • says

        Hello Scott,

        Great to see you over here too. There are three main points. I called them “excellent points.” They in fact are.


  2. Jason G. says

    “And I think this lack of integrity is rooted in something deeper I have observed in the Southern Baptist Convention—a culture of flattery and glad-handing and even outright lying for the sake of personal or political gain.”


    The unspoken reality in the SBC.

    • Dave Miller says

      The elephant in the room – that too often we are motivated more by personal ambition than by the glory of God.

      • Matt Svoboda says

        Amen, Dave.

        This is probably the most disappointing thing I see in the SBC. Most of the things we bicker about are simply a symptom.

  3. Rick Patrick says

    Does Southern Seminary hire Non-Calvinists? How many? Is it possible that by discriminating against BFM affirming Non-Calvinists, they too have failed to uphold the BFM as a sufficient confession, choosing to embrace as primary the earlier and more restrictive Abstract of Principles? If so, then they have made this a tier two doctrine, and I fail to see what could possibly be wrong with another SBC institution doing the same thing in the opposite direction.

    If one or two seminaries seem to hire ONLY Calvinists, why should we be surprised when others begin hiring ONLY Traditionalists? Isn’t this just the other side asserting their own autonomy?

      • Rick Patrick says

        First, it pertains to his point one regarding theological triage by suggesting that other Southern Baptists, prior to the current Louisiana College kerfuffle, have been selectively treating the Calvinism issue as a tier two doctrine, and wonders why, if it is okay for Southern to do it in one direction, it is not okay for LC to do it in another direction.

        Second, it pertains to his point two regarding our holding to the Baptist Faith and Message, wondering why it would be okay for one group of Southern Baptists to narrow the doctrinal parameters with a secondary confession like the AP, but it would not be okay for a second group of Southern Baptists to narrow the doctrinal parameters with a secondary confession like the Trad Statement.

        If this is how Dr. McFadden wants us to handle our theological differences, then he needs to tell those who started handling them differently years ago. It was their action at Southern which has triggered the current equal and opposite reaction.

        • says

          It’s not that Calvinism is the real issue at Louisiana College, which according to sources, it is not. The real problem has been on the academic side and Aguillard has been using this theological presence of Calvinism as a smoke screen and saying “here’s the problem, I don’t agree with it, but I love Calvinists…but three of them must go…”

          (I paraphrased that quote in my own words, btw)

          • Donald says


            Dr. McFadden seems to be saying it is about Calvinism:

            “I am one of three professors who were recently told that their contracts would not be renewed at Louisiana College next year. None of us were given reasons for our non-renewals, but our non-renewals coincided with several public statements against Calvinism from the president of the college. Almost everyone, including the local paper, has connected the dots.”

          • Scott Shaver says


            What about in a possible scenario where aggressive high Calvinism is part of an issue?

        • Jason G. says


          I am a bit confused by your statement.

          How has the “action at Southern” served to “trigger the current equal and opposite reaction”?

          It seems like you are making a lot of assumptions there. Let me point out a few…
          1. LC has not adopted the Trad Statement as a guiding document at all – thus it cannot play any role in hiring or firing. Are you saying that they ARE using that document? If so, without the say so of the trustees or the LBC, then that is a giant breach of trust.
          2. SBTS did not “narrow doctrinal parameters” with the AP. Here is where your historical fallacies hurt your argument. The AP pre-dates silly arguments about calvinism in the SBC.
          3. Profs at SBTS are hired knowing full well the doctrinal paramters of the AP and BFM. To hold them to an additional document, one that is not approved by the SBC, would be disingenuous and out of line. LC profs are held to the BFM only. If any prof violates that document, then they deserve to be fired. Apart from that, then some cause would need to be shown…and them not agreeing to an unapproved doctrinal statement is not really relevant.
          4. Is your argument that LC is actually responding to moves of other schools? If so, is reactionary type leadership the kind of leadership we want in schools? Do we really want people riding theological hobby-horses that their supporting entities did not approve for them to ride? Who gets to decide the “equal and opposite” response for LC to take?
          5. Is it your argument that LC actually narrowed their doctrinal parameters? If so, where has that been published? On what authority did they make such a move?
          6. How is firing profs despite them holding to the official theological documents of a school of the same type as not hiring people that can NOT sign a school’s official theological documents? That just does not make sense.

          • Rick Patrick says

            1. I don’t know or care if LC has adopted a formal statement or merely an informal hiring philosophy. I don’t know or care if they are discriminating against Calvinists, either. I am saying that if they ARE discriminating against Calvinists, they have that right, in my opinion, because Southern has been discriminating against non-Calvinists for a number of years now. Turnabout is fair play.

            2. Let me say this clearly, friends. I have no historical fallacies here. I know the AP predates every version of the BFM and the founding of each of the seminaries, and all of the above predates the Traditional Statement. I DON’T CARE ONE WHIT. I mean, I could not possibly care less about the order of sequence. I am extremely interested in the order of priority and importance in SBC life, and I do not believe we should automatically make our first statement our final word. If the BFM2K is our primary document, then it should supersede the AP in hiring decisions at Southern. Once that happens and Trads are welcome again, then it would be fair to balance the equation at institutions like LC.

            3. From my perspective, the “Southern gets two confessions, but LC only gets one” creates a double standard favoring Calvinist professors who are permitted to serve at both schools while their Traditionalist counterparts may only serve at LC, but are likely to be ruled out by the AP at Southern. An alternative view, expressed elsewhere on this blog, is that the AP itself does not allow for Trad discrimination, but it is being done regardless of any confessions.

            4. Yes, I think perhaps the LC situation, other Calvinist firings, churches defunding Southern, a bunch of blog articles, etc., are all in response to Southern favoring Calvinists. And yes, what you label somewhat pejoratively as “reactionary leadership” is precisely the kind I want, reminiscent of our Founding Fathers who clearly REACTED to taxation without representation by dumping tea in the harbor, picking up their muskets and fighting the red coats. When one is being abused by the proactivity of others, reactionary leadership is both justified and praiseworthy.

            5. I cannot speak to the issue of whether or not LC has narrowed their doctrinal parameters. It seems like there was plenty going on there, from moral issues to financial issues to theological issues. But I will say this, IF they did narrow those parameters more closely within the BFM2K than they had done previously, the precedent was set by Al Mohler a number of years ago, when he did precisely the same thing at Southern Seminary, albeit after first getting the AP document approved. I haven’t seen anything published, but I don’t care if every trustee board publishes their hiring philosophies. The authority to make such a move is invested in the trustees when they are elected to lead the school.

            6. In both cases, those doing the hiring are either REMOVING or ELIMINATING AS CANDIDATES the undesirable theological position. Basically, it all comes down to this: if Southern wants to be a Calvinist school, they have that right, but every other school also has the right to be non-Calvinist if they wish, regardless of confessional statements, publications, or anything that happened in 1858.

          • Jason G. says

            Rick, thanks for responding, brother.

            Please understand my responses with the intention of brotherly conversation…

            1. Do you really want to have “turnabout is fair play” as the guiding principle of seminaries/colleges? That seems like a very short-sighted and immature mindset about this issue. It shouldn’t matter what anyone else is doing…what matters is what is right. I think this is where your proportionality mindset fails you, because it does not matter what other schools do (assuming SBTS is guilty of what you accuse), it matters what is right or wrong BASED ON the approved hiring/firing principles.

            I agree LC (or any school) does not have to hire calvinists. It is their prerogative to hire who they want. But the issue with LC was not their hiring…they gladly hired these 3 profs. The problem was their firing. There is a HUGE difference there, and you appear to be glossing over that. If Aguillard had a problem with them 3 years ago, he should not have hired them…but unless they violate one of the stated school guidelines (which they did not), to not renew their contract is cheap. And I think you know that…but because they are calvinists your side was chosen.

            2. I think you are missing the point on me bringing the historical issue up, Rick. You have said SBTS “narrowed paramters”…but that is historically inaccurate (hence the term “fallacy”). SBTS did not narrow their parameters, the BFM2K potentially “broadened the paramters” (key word is “potentially). The AP is part of the convention approved structure of SBTS, thus abiding by it is not narrowing anything at all. Pretty straightforward. You may not care “one whit”, but you should because your argument does not make sense due to your ignoring of that fact.

            3. Again, SBTS doesn’t “get” 2 standards…they HAVE 2 standards, approved and acknowledged by the SBC. If you have a problem with that, there is a process to follow to fix it. If LC wants to adopt an second standard, that it is up to them, their trustees, and the LBC…it is not up to some false measure of proportionality or “turnabout is fair play”.

            4. I find it interesting that your assertions and accusations of SBTS and their hiring procedures has gone from suspicion to flat out assuming their guilt and now calling it “abuse”. Some interesting leaps there. Sorry, but I prefer visionary leadership where leaders understand what is right, regardless of who else is doing whatever else, and then they lead the organization/school/church to do what is right…not because “those guys are bad and we don;t like what they are doing”..but because it is right! That type of “reaction” deserves to be couched in pejorative language.

            5. Again, Mohler did not get the AP “document approved”. It was set in place at the founding of the seminary…it has been in use ever since. You can go to the library and see all the professors who have signed it all the way back to 1858 when it was approved by the SBC. Thus, Mohler narrowed NOTHING. Your misunderstanding of this particular issue is glaring

            6. Certainly, they have the right to do whatever they want…within the agreed upon guidelines. This is certainly a dangerous precedent. I am curious if you know of any Prof from SBTS who was not renewed or fired for being a non-calvinist. You keep saying that ‘Mohler did it first’ therefore it is ok. But I don’t know of any cases where you can draw an actual parallel. Hiring and firing are 2 very different things. Candidates are in a completely different position than those previously hired and given contracts. (Again, I think you know that.) No one has ever said that Mohler hired and then fired non-calvinists…and that would be the actual parallel.
            You can continue to deny the importance of documents like the AP and the BFM if you want to, but it further shows that your bias is running this and not actual facts. The AP and BFM are convention approved documents that inform employment issues…holding to those is MANDATED. Again, that is a huge point you are overlooking.

            Thanks for your time.

          • Rick Patrick says


            I am glad you used your “brotherly conversation” when you characterized my mindset as “immature” and “short-sighted.” Any other form of conversation would have bruised my fragile ego.

            As to my glossing over firings, I was not paying much attention years ago when Mohler cleaned house, but I’m sure there were many, many firings. I also did not gloss over the massive layoffs at NAMB a few years ago when Ezell handed out pink slips. So I’m not so much glossing it over as I am balancing it out. Turnabout IS fair play. What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

            I appreciate the chronology of the timeline, which you keep bringing up, a history with which I was already conversant, the importance of which I keep dismissing. This could go on forever. At the point when the BFM was affirmed, and our doctrinal statement was broadened, it should have been broadened everywhere for all entities the same. The SBC has approved a more narrow confession for SBTS. I think it’s wrong and unfair and gives Calvinists an advantage.

            It makes no difference to me whether they GET or HAVE two standards. My ideal for fairness demands only one. You are correct that there is a process to bring that about. We wonder why the SBC is not all on the same page. Two confessions cannot possibly help matters.

            Regarding leadership philosophy, I think it is visionary and right to protect the doctrines one holds dear in one’s denomination. If they are being threatened by views one disaffirms, then it is good and right to speak up for one’s convictions, even if that is perceived as reactionary by the other side.

            Well, of course the AP was approved in 1858, but Southern did not become all Calvinist until Mohler arrived in the mid-nineties. So what he apparently got approved by the trustees was an aggressive approach to hiring a nearly all Calvinist faculty based on his interpretation of the AP which must have differed from the earlier interpretation. At the very least, Mohler narrowed his hiring philosophy, a glaring truth I understand quite well.

            It sounds like the only way you can accept LC’s firing practices is if they adopt an “AP like” statement espousing Traditionalist views and then use that statement to justify their actions. If you need that piece of paper, perhaps the trustees there should draft one.

          • Jason G. says

            I said it was my “intention” to have brotherly conversation. I apologize if I failed that intent. I guess I could have just chalked up my tone to “turnabout is fairplay”. 😉

            I’ll leave you to your ideas, and let everyone else weigh the merits of the arguments presented…but I wanted to ask you to elaborate on something you said in your last comment. When Mohler became President at SBTS in the early 90s, and professors left (whether it be firing or of their own accord), do you really think Mohler was getting rid of people who held to the BFM but were non-calvinists? I think we all know why those people left SBTS, and it truly had nothing to do with calvinism. To imply it did or to connect those firings to these is just careless. Now, if you know of anyone (post-CR) that Mohler fired because they were not calvinist, then that evidence would be pertinent…if not, then the dots just don’t connect.

          • Rick Patrick says

            Granted, you can’t fire what is never there to begin with. Perhaps Mohler did not have had to fire many non-Calvinists, but only because he never hired very many. The conclusion is that perhaps Aguillard should never have hired Calvinists at LC to begin with.

            Regardless, if it’s okay for Mohler to build a Calvinist faculty, then it’s okay for Aguillard to build a Traditionalist one, if indeed that is what he is doing.

          • Bill Mac says

            Actually, I agree that LC has the right to shape the faculty however they want. From what I’ve read however, it sure looks like LC fired the Calvinists as a diversion to some shady things going on up top. So in LCs case it’s not really about Calvinism at all.

          • says

            I am replying here, since I can’t seem to reply on Donald’s comment.


            I understood what McFadden was trying to say. The non-renewals of their contracts was due to Calvinism, I agree. The reason for the non-renewals was Calvinism. But, we know that’s not the real issue and it’s sad that Aguillard used that to let go these three qualified, respected men.

    • says

      Lot’s of if’s in your comment, Rick. Why not flesh out McFadden’s post to reach (dis)agreement; then apply it to Southern once you get your “if” questions answered?

      • Rick Patrick says

        Well, I have less access to Southern Seminary’s personnel files than I do to the GCR box, which I will be entitled to open in twelve years and one month. Until then, let’s just call it a hunch that Southern has been electing nearly all Calvinist faculty members.

        Did you really expect that the other colleges and seminaries would not respond with theological discrimination in the other direction?

        • says

          Rick, what evidence do you have that other seminaries are responding to alleged theological discrimination at Southern?

          More importantly, do you think SBC seminaries should discriminate theologically within the BFM?

          • Rick Patrick says


            1. It’s an informed, educated guess, a hunch, an opinion. The only way to prove it would be to examine the confidential Personnel records at Southern and Southeastern. I can’t do that, but neither can you access any evidence to disprove my theory. It sure seems like they are hiring many more Calvinists than everyone else.

            2. The only justification I can see for theological discrimination on matters that fall within the BFM would be if one camp had already started doing it, which as I’ve already mentioned, I believe to be probable. In such a circumstance, I think it is justified for the other camp to begin doing it in self-defense of their own cherished doctrines which they would not want to see disappear from Southern Baptist life.

            Of course, against the argument someone will undoubtedly make that “two wrongs don’t make a right,” please know I view this as a form of theological preservation and self-defense. When someone is shooting at me, I am justified in shooting back. It’s wrong for the first person who fires, but completely acceptable for the second.

    • Dave Miller says

      The last thing in the world I want to do is to jump on this merry-go-round again, but your statement is historically inaccurate, Rick.

      Southern did not “replac(e) it (the BF&M) with the more restrictive Abstract of Principles.” The Abstract existed not much less than a century before the BF&M and was the founding document of the seminary.

      This is more than rhetoric, it is a reality. SBTS was founded on the Abstract when there was no BF&M and is part of the charter of the seminary. The way you presented it, as if the seminary rejected the BF&M to embrace the Abstract, is simply not factual – or fair.

      • Rick Patrick says

        I don’t give a hoot about the birthdays of the three confessions: the AP is oldest, the BFM is next and the TS is the youngest. Doesn’t matter to me at all. What matters is how Southern Baptist entities treat them.

        By the way, I don’t think the seminary either “replaced” (your word, not mine) or “rejected” (your word, not mine) the BFM. They are operating WITHIN the BFM as they discriminate against Southern Baptist Traditionalists who are also operating WITHIN the BFM. It looks like this:

        Baptist Faith and Message Two Thousand
        Abstract of Principles vs. Trad Statement

        We cannot simply appeal to the BFM2K because it is broad enough to include both groups. The tension comes from discrimination WITHIN the BFM2K that has been felt for years at Southern and is only now becoming fashionable at LC. What goes around comes around.

        • Dave Miller says

          Replaced was YOUR word, Rick.

          “they too have failed to uphold the BFM as a sufficient confession, replacing it with the more restrictive Abstract of Principles…”

          And, whether you give a hoot as to the birthdays, your statement remains inaccurate and misleading.

          • Rick Patrick says

            Thank you, Dave. I have edited that comment for clarity’s sake:

            “Is it possible that by discriminating against BFM affirming Non-Calvinists, they too have failed to uphold the BFM as a sufficient confession, choosing to embrace as primary the earlier and more restrictive Abstract of Principles?”

            In any event, my primary point was not about the timeline of historical dates. It was about which confession is the primary one guiding all Southern Baptists and which one is secondary.

            If one institution is making its decisions based on its own chosen secondary confession, then every other institution has the right to do the same with their own secondary confession, regardless of the date on which it was written.

      • says

        Not that Rick needs me to come to his defense, but I think that his point about the Abstract of Principles being used “in place of” or “in addition to” the BF&M at Southern is both accurate and fair if interpreted in a light most favorable to the writer (in this case, Rick). Obviously, the AB did not replace the BF&M in the strict sense of that word since, as Dave rightly points out, the AB predated the original 1925 BF&M. I’m quite sure Rick is aware of that fact.

        However, I don’t think that anyone can dispute that the AB — and not the BF&M — is the guiding document used to hire faculty at Southern. When I was at Southern, a big deal was made about new professors signing the Abstract of Principles and agreeing to “teach in conformity with and not contrary to.” Will using the AB lead to more Calvinistic professors than using the BF&M, particularly if the professors honestly sign the document with the intent of being bound by it (as opposed to moderate/liberal professors in the 1980s & 90s who paid lip service, but had no intent to abide by the AB)? I don’t think there could be any question about that.

        While I personally do not have a problem with SBTS using the Abstract of Principles in hiring faculty, I can certainly understand how my more Traditional-minded brothers could question the use of a more narrow document (AB) which would tend to exclude those Southern Baptists who were less Calvinistic in their theology. If you are asking non-Calvinistic Southern Baptists to support Southern through their CP gifts, I think that it is entirely fair for those non-Calvinists to ask whether or not Southern hires anyone but strict (however one defines that) Calvinists.

        Lastly, I may have missed this or simply did not understand, but what level would Dr. McFadden place Calvinism/Reformed Theology? I don’t think it would be First Level (non-negotiable doctrines of the Christian faith). If it is Third Level (“matters of indifference”), then we best get the word out to people on both sides of this theological issue because it appears that many, many people — including leaders, pastors, and lay folks — don’t act indifferent when this matter is discussed. If it is Second Level, then we have a huge problem that will not go away or be resolved by a special committee’s report. I appreciate the sentiment of the post, but I would like to know what level is Calvinism in theory and in practice? Thanks and God bless,


        • Dave Miller says

          Good points, Howell.

          I think that the placement of Calvinism/non-Calvinism in theological triage is a thorny issue.

          It depends, to my mind, on how important your view of the doctrine is. I know of a couple of folks who seem to make it a first tier doctrine. Those would be the extreme minority.

          Others make it such a theological priority (on either side) that any kind of partnership or cooperation becomes difficult.

          But, while I would never call the doctrine unimportant, for me it is definitely a third tier issue. One of my associate pastors is a Calvinist, the other is definitely not Calvinist. I’m in the middle of the two of them. We work together well because we do not make advocating or opposing Calvinism an issue in our church.

          Calvinism is as much of an issue as we make it.

        • Zack Stepp says

          “. . . if interpreted in a light most favorable to the writer. . .” – Howell Scott

          Ambiguity construed in favor of the drafter? My, oh, my, counselor! Have we forgotten our first year contracts course?

          /lame lawyer joke

  4. says

    I almost should turn this comment into a post of itself. Forgive me for the length:

    First, I think we need to consider what institution is cooperating around the BF&M. Are we asking how autonomous local churches can unite together for missions into one denomination? Then I see the BF&M as sufficient. If a local church wants to also cooperate solely around the BF&M then that is their prerogative. If a local church wants to adopt the BF&M but be more particular on other doctrines then that is their prerogative (provided that those particulars do not directly contradict the BF&M).

    I believe that same principle applies to institutions. If an institution feels that it can better fulfill the mission of Christ by being more narrow in an area (whether by adopting the Abstract or the Traditionalist statement or whatever) then they have that right. So long as they are also adhering to the BF&M and not contradicting it with their other document.

    How then is LC different than Southern? Only in that LC has not formally adopted another confession that these professors were supposed to sign. If they wanted to “clean house” and did so by adopting the Traditionalists statement that is their prerogative. Of course they need to do that with integrity as Dr. McFadden says. And it needs to be upfront, adopted by the Trustees, and all that jazz.

    Unity does not mean uniformity. And the Baptist Faith and Message is a sufficient doctrine to unite as as Southern Baptists as to direct cooperative program dollars. But it may not be quite sufficient for ever institution or church that is also under the umbrella of the SBC. A Calvinistic school can be united with a non-Calvinistic school around the gospel and the BF&M but diverge on this point of soteriology.

    Just my two cents…

  5. says

    I keep wondering why is it so difficult to see the duplicity in this discussion? How can anyone explain and defend that it is ok for one institution to do something and not ok for another?

    And speaking of institutions: Does anyone know the name of the only college that requires the full faculty to affirm only the BF&M?

    There is only 1 – think about that for a moment!

  6. says

    For the record, I am for SBC seminaries using only the BFM2K. That said, I don’t know how the Abstract keeps “Traditionalists” from being hired by a seminary when at least one professor signed both statements.

    • Rick Patrick says

      Well, I’ve always assumed it was a specific interpretation of the Abstract. If not, then how do you explain it? Just plain Calvinist Favoritism? You don’t need a document for that. You can simply practice it. But in that case, no document can save you from it either, which renders moot McFadden’s second point above about holding on to the BFM.

      Again, the BFM is neutral in this discussion. Calvinists and Traditionalists both fit within it, but appear to be jockeying for position at our entities, seminaries, colleges and institutions. Since the BFM does not lean one way or the other, it cannot resolve the conflict. All we can really do is allow each Southern Baptist institution to determine whether their faculty will lean more toward the Calvinist side or the Traditionalist side.

      • says

        Rick, if one Traditionalist (who actually wrote an article defending it) can sign the Abstract why can’t all since the Trad statement is more refined?

        Your assumptions aside, does Southern have a particular interpretation of the Abstract that faculty must agree to? If not, refer to my point above.

        Also, where is LC’s statement that allows them to exclude Calvinists?

        You state people appear to be jockeying for SBC positions. This position appears to think the least of others. When we assume this of others we create conflict where it does not have to exist. The BFM is enough, IMO.

        Oh, and NOBTS’s statement on man says, “all men have been born in sin, and are by nature children of wrath.” This does not seem to coincide with the Trad statement, but no one is talking about it.

        Time for some dinner fellowship with part of my church family.

        • Rick Patrick says

          Mark, I’ll try to respond to your multiple questions and comments:

          1. See priesthood of the believer. Some Baptists may be comfortable signing both, while others may not. The real issue, regardless of all the confessional statements, is: “Does every Southern Baptist have an equal chance of serving in each of our entities, regardless of their theological position on soteriology?” I think the answer is no, with good people on both sides being fired or not being hired to begin with.

          2. I don’t believe Southern has a particular interpretation faculty have to sign, but they do publish a guide to the BFM. Again, my issue is not so much the statements as the discrimination against Trads at Southern, and the possible backlash now against Cals.

          3. LC does not have such a statement, at least that I am aware of. Then again, if a statement is unnecessary for Cals to discriminate against Trads, then a statement is unnecessary for Trads to discriminate against Cals.

          4. When I said people appear to be jockeying for position (singular), I was referring to the general posture of Trads and Cals in our entities and institutions as they seek influence in the SBC. I did not mean it to sound like self-absorbed or overly ambitious individuals were fighting for specific positions (plural) or job vacancies that might come up. I’m not thinking less of others or putting them down. I simply recognize that some people are on the Trad side and others are on the Cal side and certain seminaries and colleges are on one side or the other.

          5. Every Trad I know believes we are born with an inherited sinful nature. Thus, we preserve original sin, even though we deny the inherited guilt of Adam. See Adam Harwood’s excellent book on The Spiritual Condition of Infants linked below.

      • Debbie Kaufman says

        “Again, the BFM is neutral in this discussion. Calvinists and Traditionalists both fit within it,”

        Exactly. That should be the end of the discussion.

    • Jason G. says

      Paige Patterson evidently saw no conflict with his theological positions and that of the AP. He affirmed the AP and led an institution with it as its primary (initial) document, and led other professors to sign that document. I don’t think he did so in a duplicitous manner.

      So, it must be true that non-calvinists can be hired and even LEAD institutions with the AP as a central part of its belief structure. If that is the case, then a lot of this discussion is simply off-base.

      I hesitate to even venture into this discussion, but…
      The situations at LC and SBTS are not even in the same sport, much less the same ballpark. To state anything to the contrary is to draw some very faulty connections. Did LC adopt the Trad Statement without anyone else knowing? Did they ask people to teach in accordance with that? If not, then there is no parallel at all with SBTS and the AP. If the only guiding document of the school is the BFM2K, then to not renew the contract of someone on theological grounds, who remains within the BFM, is sketchy, at best. There is no duplicity on this issue, because they are no parallel or similar issues. Moreover, we know that the issues at LC are not about calvinism at all, but immorality in leadership…attempting to paint a parallel to SBTS is intellectually dishonest, and morally unfair.

  7. says

    This is my first time commenting on a blog in a while. To be honest, since I’m not in LA I, like many others commenting here, “don’t have a dog in this fight.” However, I did find a couple of things curious at best, troubling at worst. First, I agree with Rick and Howell that to not see that Southern’s evident use of the AP is something that is railed against when even hinted at being done on the “other side” is just beyond belief.

    Also (and this is something that is beginning to be a bigger issue for me personally and pastorally) Dr. McFadden makes an interesting statement that goes to the core of what I believe is the issue between C’s and NC’s. He asks, “What should we do when we disagree about what the Bible says about God?” That’s not a question that can just be dismissed or even knocked down the triage street. It’s a BIG deal, and one that affects everything else we believe and do.

    I’ll illustrate my thinking this way. Suppose a church member says, “Our pastor wants to reach ALL of Augusta. He wants EVERYBODY to come and join our church. It doesn’t matter who, what, where – ANYBODY and EVERYBODY can come.” Another church member says, “Our pastor really only wants about 5% of Augusta to come to our church. It’s not for just anybody and everybody. In fact, he has set up some barriers to keep those that he doesn’t want here from coming.” Here is what has to be true. They are not talking about the same pastor.

    So, when Dr. McFadden asks his question: “What should we do when we disagree about what the Bible says about God?” That’s not a secondary or tertiary doctrine. I’m sorry. It is primary. And it will determine, as much as we may not like to admit it, how closely C’s and NC’s can really work together – even under the BFM2K. And, I think that my Reformed friends – and I have several – would agree if they were to be truly candid.

    Just a thought.

    • Dave Miller says

      Are you saying, as it seems that Cs and NCs cannot fellowship and partner in a denomination because of differences in soteriological perspectives? That is the takeaway I’m getting from your comment.

      I think we would all agree that Theology Proper in general is first-tier doctrine. I think that there are certain aspects of the divine nature and character about which we might be able to disagree, but the general presentation of God as Sovereign, Trinitarian, Holy and Loving is not open for debate.

      • says

        David and Matt,

        I’m just sharing something that I’m wrestling with personally, have talked over with my friends who are C’s, (One even tonight) and that I noted in Dr. McFadden’s question. I haven’t fleshed it all out yet. Definitely haven’t studied it from every angle, but I do thank you for the opportunity to flesh this out here a bit.

      • says


        Of the three levels that Dr. McFadden listed, which one do you think that Calvinism/non-Calvinism falls into? Unless I missed it, I don’t think that even Dr. McFadden clearly laid out an argument as to where this doctrinal issue would fall. People who believe that this is at Level Three (“matters of indifference”) can continue to work and partner together in the SBC. Putting this doctrinal issue at either of the other two levels will not bode well for the future of the SBC. I think Brad is correct when he says that it (how we view this issue) “will determine, as much as we may not like to admit it, how closely C’s and NC’s can really work together – even under the BFM2K.”

        As an inconsistent Calvinistic Traditionalist, I practice ministry as if this is a Third Level issue, which is why I can partner and fellowship with SBC Calvinists (you know who you are) and SBC Traditionalists (you know who you are). That doesn’t mean that it’s a matter of indifference, but rather that what someone else believes on this issue doesn’t make a practical difference in how I cooperate with them in missions and ministry. But, that is just me. If others see this issue as primary or even secondary, then partnership within the SBC will be difficult, if not impossible. Thanks and God bless,


        • Jason G. says

          That’s why you are the best, Howell. LOL

          I hope we can get together in Houston. That meal with you and DR was one the highlights of last year’s trip for me.

          • says

            Jason G.,

            Thanks :-) Lord willing, I will be in Houston. Surely that city has a few good BBQ joints that we could try out. I agree about last year. Was a highlight for me and a great way to finish the trip. Looking forward to sharing a meal and fellowship again this year. God bless,


      • Jason G. says

        Of course, once one diverts funds away from any SBC-approved entity that is entitled to funds through the CP, they are no longer ACTUALLY giving to the CP.

        They have every right to do so…but they no longer support what the Southern Baptist messengers have agreed to support through the CP, and to title their giving “CP giving” would be a bit misleading (at best).

    • says


      Are you aware of any pastors wanting to reach just 5% or are Calvinists and non-Calvinists instead alike calling out to reach anybody and everybody with the gospel of Christ, a gospel that we all agree God has offered to all people even as God has called for anybody and everybody to come to him and be saved?

    • says


      No one has responded to WHAT BRAD SAID. Everyone on this blog KNOWS that the following statement is important to ALL OF US… “What should we do when we disagree about what the Bible says about God?” That’s not a secondary or tertiary doctrine. I’m sorry. It is primary.

      Look at what you guys are saying… Matt… make a motion to exclude calvinists… Dave… what we cannot fellowship??? Breland… you are not giving to the seminaries…

      Here is the reality of it all…. for several years all I read is… “we are correcting the errant theology in churches of the SBC.” “It is time to get the gospel right!” God is sovereign in salvation; He and He alone decides who does and does not go to heaven.

      Guys… you have made this a level one issue so why not step up to the plate and own it? You are winning the battle for control in the SBC as far as I am concerned… this charade that we are all one big happy family… and that unity is the primary goal that we all need to embrace… come on… we have two very different theological presentations of who God is and what it is that HE does where conversion is concerned.

      This whole business of denying the differences is getting old especially from where I sit.

      • says


        Every theological disagreement is ultimately a disagreement about God. Either we believe we can disagree about God in some things and still cooperate, or we’d better have a different denomination for every individual Christian.

        On this issue, there can be unity among those willing to be unified.

        • Donald says

          “On this issue, there can be unity among those willing to be unified.”

          There was unity, . You should try to understand what has changed since Al Mohler called Paige Patterson the greatest theologian of the Conservative Resurgence. When you arrive at that answer, then you might just get why others are reacting the way they are.

      • says

        Real nice Chris. Real nice. Keep up the charade. A denomination for every believer. You understand the difference. So does everyone else writing on this blog. We have significant differences on WHO God is and WHAT God does where conversion is concerned. That is a LONG way from some insignificant nuance or theological disagreement… especially when you guys are so adamant about getting it corrected!

        I never cease to be amazed at some of you guys.

      • Scott Shaver says

        I think the conclusion you draw is an inescapable truth. Deal with the differences and drop the axe if necessary.

  8. says

    This issue of whether Southern Baptist Theological Seminary discriminates against Non-Calvinists (aka Moderate Calvinists, Traditionalists) should be simple to clear up.

    How many current SBTS professors agree with the Traditionalist Statement?
    One half of faculty?
    One third of faculty?
    Perhaps at least several professors could be named.

    Dr. Mohler could speak to this issue of whether a Traditionalist who is qualified to teach seminary (while agreeing with the Traditionalist Statement, and the Baptist Faith and Message 2000) would be welcome to teach at SBTS.

    David R. Brumbelow

    • Jason G. says

      The Trad Statement is not a guiding document of SBTS or any seminary. So people agreeing with it is neither here nor there. Same with any number of statements. That particular statement is simply irrelevant for the purpose of hiring or firing. There is no reason for anyone to be asked if they affirm an irrelevant statement. What matters is the 2 documents.

      As to your other point…there are quite a few non-5 point calvinists at SBTS…there always have been. Those people clearly affirm the AP and the BFM2K. I can’t speak to numbers or percentages (nor is it necessary – the existence of any disproves your point), but I know that to be true. There are even some who would not claim to be calvinists at all…but if they can sign the AP and BFM2K, they can teach there. As I mentioned before, Dr. Patterson evidently believed he could hold to the AP.

    • Debbie Kaufman says

      David Brumbelow: Many who are non-Calvinist do not agree with the Traditionalist statement and said so publicly and why. Some simply did not sign. The Traditionalist statement would hardly be a proper litmus test.

      • Debbie Kaufman says

        Besides the Traditionalist statement has not been voted on by any messengers, the people who wrote it were not appointed by the Convention to do so.

        • John Wylie says

          I’m honestly curious, but has the Abstract of Principles ever been approved by the messengers of the SBC? I honestly don’t know. I’ve looked all over the internet and cannot find a time when Southern Baptists as a whole approved the AP.

          • Jason G. says

            “After the idea to found a seminary caught on among Southern Baptists in the late 1850s, Boyce called on his fellow Princetonian Basil Manly, Jr. to draw up the “Abstract of Principles,” as Boyce termed it, in 1857. Manly, Jr. and Boyce shared a mind on the necessity of such a statement. Manly took up the task with vested diligence, working for much of the spring of 1858 on the document.

            When he had authored in draft form the twenty articles that comprised the Abstract, Manly presented his work to the SBC Committee charged with formation of the statement. The group met in May 1858 at the Plan of Organization meeting in Greenville prior to the main Convention meeting. For five intensive days, Manly, Boyce, John Broadus, E.T Winkler, and William Williams hammered out the document, working from the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, the Westminster Confession, the Philadelphia Confession, and the 1833 New Hampshire Confession. Manly later remembered the occasion with fondness: “Those were memorable days to some at least of those who engaged in them. In the freedom of brotherly discussion, in the warmth occasioned by the contact and collision of ideas of the younger and the older, there was keen stimulus to thought. Every great topic in theology was handled earnestly, freely, and yet reverently.” (2) Following the revision sessions, the committee commended the reworked document to the convention. In 1858, a year before Southern opened its doors, the convention accepted the Abstract and instituted it as the seminary’s official creed.”


          • John Wylie says

            Thanks Jason. I was looking and could not find that information. Since it is a Convention approved doctrinal statement for SBTS it would seem to me to be perfectly in order to use it as a criterion for hiring practices.

          • Bill Mac says

            It seems like we could go one step further. Since the convention authorized the AP as the doctrinal statement for the seminary, it seems to me that to NOT use the AP as a criterion for hiring, the seminary would actually be opposing the will of the convention.

  9. Perry Lassiter says

    A couple of things come to mind. First, it is one thing to say that the Bible is infallible when interpreted by the leadership of the Holy Spirit. It is quite another to act as if the BF&M of any year is infallible. I personally prefer some pledge by teachers of religion to the effect they will teach in accordance with and not contrary to some statement of faith. Even there, I would check off primary emphases of Christianity and Baptists. After all these are educational institutions, not indoctrinization points.

    Second, for many years I have heard Calvinists of many stripes argue from our Calvinist heritage. No one ever seems to point out that even if we descended in an unbroken line from Calvin, history is not the issue. What Scripture teaches is the issue. Paul teaches it as a great assurance, not as a problem. And he bases it on foreknowledge, not compulsion.

    The world is going to hell at an accelerating rate while we squabble. May I suggest we unite in evangelism around the Biblical theme of Jesus as Lord, which is what brought the SBC together in the first place – or kept it together aft the Civil War.

  10. says

    Observing these comments, it is my believe that most of those who are having trouble with Prof McFadden’s comments here, likely have never spent time in a secular school of higher education. I have no evidence for this, but that is how we roll here right Rick? This semester I took a course in American Religious History (class was a split level between undergrad and graduate). I was to my knowledge the only conservative Christian in the class. Through the class I have become more convinced that the “calvinist” debate within the SBC is beyond childish, and borders on theological malpractice. We have a unbelieving world that is rejecting scripture as the inspired word of God. Who are convinced that one can be a Christian and homosexual. Who believe that “good” people get in heaven, and you dont need to beleive in Jesus to do so. They believe these and many more points of theology that are inconsistant with the word of God.

    And what do we do here? We have people who genuinely seem to want to split the convention over the issue of Calvinism. We have people who wish to set ratios in our schools, who wish to make sotereology a major issue in the hiring of new professors, who spend more time over this issue than dealing with the reality of the world.

    The fact is that Calvinists and Traditionalists in the SBC agree on 100% of the stuff that really matters. The fact is, we all would do a lot better stopping this stupid debate and actually starting to work together to minister to a world that rejects what actually matters. Satan is laughing at us because we are spending our time on this garbage, rather than paying attention to the world that going to hell while we are not even on the sidelines, we are clear out of the park debating who has the better parking spot in the lot outside.

    • Rick Patrick says


      Since you mentioned me by name, yes, I have spent plenty of time in a secular school of higher education, which gives you at least a little evidence contrary to your premise. I do, however, wish to congratulate you on the forming of a hypothesis, the sharing of an opinion, a perspective, a viewpoint based upon your own personal observation that invites further research among those who publish such studies.

      I have often noticed, with great curiosity and more than a little amusement, that whenever someone offers an opinion on one of these blogs, someone asks, “Do you have any proof?” The proof offered is never accepted, but only disputed. It shuts down discussion, rather than opening it up.

      I think we need to tolerate more openly the whole realm of ideas, hunches, opinions, and observations. A hypothesis serves a legitimate purpose. Yes, it will need to be supported, as time goes by, with evidence as it becomes available. But let us celebrate the conception of knowledge, the germination of truth, and the creation of theories.

      • Scott Shaver says

        You’ve made a host of good points in this thread Rick. I appreciate them.

  11. Bill Mac says

    I think Rick and David B. are off base a little here. The TS is not the alternative to the AP. The TS is not nearly as important as it is being made out to be. Around 800 (is it 1000?) signatories out of millions of Southern Baptists? Maybe it will be. I’m not saying this to belittle the document or the signatories, but the TS is not even an infant, it is a zygote. It has a whole lot of growing to do before it becomes “the other side”.

    It is disturbing that the rhetoric from the non-Calvinist side seems to be heating up, with many people besides Brad openly suggesting that we can’t cooperate because we either don’t worship the same God or don’t preach the same Gospel. I don’t know what they think was happening for most of our history where both sides worked together without much of a problem.

    • Rick Patrick says

      How many people attended the last Founders luncheon? A thousand? Does that mean there are only a thousand Calvinists in the SBC? Please don’t limit Traditionalists to those who signed the document. With names like Patterson, Allen, Vines, Gaines, Fish, Chapman, Draper, Welch and many others, you can rest assured that these mainstream SBC beliefs are held by millions and millions in our convention.

      The TS leadership group decided not to continue signing people up. There was no point, since the point was to generate a dialogue. At least, now that dialogue is taking place. Purpose served. It is less useful as a census of our membership’s beliefs than as a starting point for discussion.

      • Jason G. says

        That is fair enough. But your previous comments sort of pitted it as a theological statement as a rival to the Abstract…which I think caused some confusion as to the place you felt the TS held.

  12. says

    The Baptist Faith and Message (since 1925) has included the following statement regarding the Bible; “and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried”.

    Can someone provide a Scriptural basis for adopting a multi-tiered, or triage, classification for doctrine?

    • says

      There is more, but how about these verses for starters?

      1 Cor 15:3 “What I received I passed on to you as of first importance”

      Matthew 23:23 “But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness.”

      Rom 14:1 “Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.”

  13. says

    Jerry and Jerry,

    You got me to thinking. If we adopted a multi-tiered system for ranking the important doctrines, then it would reveal our religious opinions, regulate our conduct, and could rise to creedal levels. Have Southern Baptists ever adopted anything that speaks to our conduct and religious opinions?

    If the Messengers to the Convention approve such a thing, then that would be basis enough, wouldn’t it?

  14. Scott says

    When traditionalists discuss the Abstract, they often speak as if SBTS is going against the wishes of the Convention by using it as their statement of faith. When the Seminary’s charter was approved by the Annual Meeting in 1858, it contained the fundamental law that every professor must teach in accordance with and not contrary to the Abstract. Again, the duly elected messengers to the Annual Meeting approved this action. In light of this, it seems to me that for SBTS to stop using the Abstract as a guide for the hiring of faculty, their charter would have to be amended.

  15. John Wallace says

    “I think this lack of integrity is rooted in something deeper I have observed in the Southern Baptist Convention—a culture of flattery and glad-handing and even outright lying for the sake of personal or political gain.”

    Kevin, thank you for having the courage to say this, brother. I will pray for you.

    There are many godly people in the SBC. Unfortunately, there are also a fair number of opportunists who use flattery, manipulation, and even deception to get ahead. The problem is that those who lack integrity are often successful at manipulating the perceptions of those who mean well. Thus, innocent people end up getting slandered and pushed aside. Many of us are complicit in this, though our laziness, our lack of courage, overlooking of casual gossip – failure to confront and expose evil for fear of personal consequences. Thus, I believe you are correct, it is a “culture.” God help us.

  16. says

    Brad, I’m not sure I understand this statement:

    First, I agree with Rick and Howell that to not see that Southern’s evident use of the AP is something that is railed against when even hinted at being done on the “other side” is just beyond belief.

    Southern’s use of the AP is railed against when other schools want to use it? Or, Southern’s use is defended when it is suggested that another school use a similar document?

    If I understood what you’re saying I would better understand what you find as “beyond belief.”

    Do you also find beyond belief the assertions made against Southern that are unproven? It seems that all Christians are charged with thinking the best of one another, but Southern’s leadership doesn’t get that opportunity in this debate for some reason.

  17. W.D. says

    These are excellent points taken by Dr. McFadden. Growing up in the shadows of LC, it is disturbing to see this fine institution experience the turmoil and uncertainty that currently exists on its campus.

  18. Ron F. Hale says

    Dr. McFadden,
    You stated, “The Baptist Faith and Message comes from a line of Calvinist confessions, rooted in the Second London Baptist Confession and the Westminster Confession of Faith. This is our theological history as Southern Baptists.”

    Those who worked on the 1925 Baptist Faith and Message state very plainly that they used The New Hampshire Baptist Confession (1833) as their template. The NHBC is a noticeable move away from a strong Calvinism.

    The Encyclopedia of Religion in the South says, “The New Hampshire Confession has become among Baptists of the South the most influential confession of their history.”(p561).

    I felt this needed to be added to give balance to your statement.


  19. Donald says

    I do not think the issue at SBTS is their adherence to The Abstract of Principles. The Abstract does not require Calvinism in order to be in substantial agreement with the document. For example, Paige Patterson and Emir Caner are in substantial agreement with The Abstract of Principles.

    Now, if the Abstract of Principles is being used as a foil by Al Mohler in order to purge SBTS of non-Calvinist then the problem is Dr. Mohler, not the document or Calvinism.

    I do not personally know anyone who had a problem with Calvinist in the SBC. I do know people who have issues with what has come to be known as the YRR crowd and their aggressive takeover and splitting of churches as well as their disproportional representation in the institutions of the SBC. I also have an issue with certain folks who either defend the troublemakers or give them aid by denying their existence.

  20. William Thornton says

    If trustees wish to have a completely Traditionalist institution, then have the courage and conviction to say so. Provide adequately for the Calvinist faculty that must leave and be clear about your direction to financial supporters and with present and prospective students.

    That would be the honest way to go about it.

  21. Bill Mac says

    I find the anti-Mohler rhetoric pretty ironic. I don’t have any data but my guess is that most SBC calvinists are not as invested in the culture war as non-Calvinists. That’s just a hunch based on all I have read over the years. But Mohler is popular in the SBC, not because he is a Calvinist but because he is an outspoken and articulate culture warrior. We’ve been told time and time again that calvinists are a small minority in the SBC. True enough. Therefore if Mohler is as popular and powerful as he seems, it’s not because we (calvinists) put him there, it’s because you (non-Calvinists) put him there.

  22. John Lawless says

    A few thoughts from a West Coast SBCer:
    1. We spend less time and energy being concerned about Calvinist/Non-Calvinist and more time and energy being concerned about Lost/Saved.

    2. When you find yourself in the NW (the most under evangelized area in the nation) you have less time to engage in these squabbles.

    3. Spend less time fighting with each other and more time telling people about Jesus.

    • says

      John, This is exactly right. I grew up in California and lived in NYC. I don’t know about the rest of the south but my time in Louisiana has convinced me that, at least there, their focus is decidedly different that what I have seen from churches else where. I fear that when “Christian Culture” is the majority culture that the urgency is lessened. I attended Church in the West Village of Manhattan. In an environment like that the Church simply doesn’t have the time or energy to fight over some of the things I saw fought over in Louisiana. That said, I am convinced that the real issue is not Calvinism but integrity and that is something the church should always be concerned about.

  23. Jess Alford says

    Interview, interview, interview. When those thay do the hiring get the interviews right the employees will be right.

    I was at one time a business man, the interviews have to be right.

    I don’t think it is as much as a Calvinism controversy as it is a Traditionalist controversy, because they are the one’s trying
    to put the squeeze on Calvinists.

    Calvinism has been under attack, there is no denying that fact.

    To solve one of the problems is to get the interviews right. To know the
    beliefs of an individual, one has to ask the right questions.

    Politics in any form should have no place in religious institutions.

    • Rick Patrick says

      Calvinists have been squeezing Traditionalists out of churches and institutions for thirty years. It’s in the Founders purpose statement to reform other churches, so it is not right to say that it’s only the Trads who are doing this. It is more accurate to say that the Trads are just beginning to counteract the Calvinist Reform Agenda in the SBC.

      I would prefer that denominational politics did not exist, but since it does, I want to represent the side whose views I espouse and defend it against those who would reform it to make it like them.

      • says

        Rick, this whole comment is an exaggeration. How exactly have “Calvinists been squeezing Traditionalists out of churches and institutions for thirty years?”

        • Rick Patrick says

          Calvinist Pastor or Youth Minister gets called to an unsuspecting church, starts preaching different doctrines, people get upset since they didn’t know, they ask him to leave, and he takes people with him. That’s one version. There are others, for example, the Calvinist only planting networks, Calvinist only faculties, etc.

          • says

            Rick, sure it does. That’s why 1. Local SBC associations are rejecting SBC affiliated Traditionalist churches (Oh wait, that’s Traditionalists rejecting Calvinist SBC churches) 2. State SBC colleges are “not renewing” Traditionalist faculty contracts due to their Traditionalism (Oh wait, that’s the Traditionalists not renewing Calvinists due to their Calvinism) 3. Calvinists are publicly railing against being led by Traditionalists in the SBC (Oh wait, that’s the Traditionalists demanding a quota for SBC leadership) 4. Calvinists are publicly saying that they cannot cooperate with Traditionalists in the SBC (Oh wait, that’s the Traditionalists saying they can’t cooperate with Calvinists) 5. Calvinists have created a new confession, emailed it to all the heads of the executive committees in the SBC, encouraged the person whose name is on the confession to run for 2nd VP of the SBC, doing their best to get as many Southern Baptists to sign it and create a movement (Oh wait, that was the Traditionalists).

            The bottom line is that if you viewed Calvinists who affirm the BF&M2K as equally Southern Baptist as you are, we wouldn’t be having most of these discussions. Calvinists cannot “take over” the SBC, unless they’re something less than Southern Baptist. Calvinists cannot “take over” the SBC because it was our’s to begin with (“our’s” means Calvinists, Traditionalists, etc. and everything in between). Southern Baptists cannot “take over” Southern Baptist institutions.

          • Rick Patrick says

            I guess these tensions are significant enough that we need to work on solutions and not just tell everyone to make nice and move on. I hope we can work things out, but I still say the Calvinists started it. Trads are reacting to the YRR Movement.

          • Jason G. says

            “They started it.”

            You do realize how juvenile that argument sounds, right? You can get mad at me saying that is sounds juvenile, if you want, but you would simple be deflecting. When my kids fight, this is the response I get. I expect it from them, they are not mature enough to desire to take responsibility for their actions OR to learn that just because someone else does something to them does not mean that they should respond with a “turnabout is fair play” mentality. I would expect them to “turn the other cheek” if they were mature, but they aren’t…so they say “he started it”.

            Why is it that we have otherwise completely reasonable and mature pastors and leaders who resort to this mentality on this particular issue?

            I don’t grant the point that “calvinists started it” (as I think Jared’s points are valid – and I think the accusations against Mohler and other conspiracy theories, are crazy)…but even if they did…does that mean that anyone else should respond with like measure? If you feel they are wrong for doing what they supposedly did, why would you then respond the same way?

            I just don’t understand how anyone could feel that “they started it” or “turnabout is fair play” is a responsible, mature, or godly response to these issues.

          • Rick Patrick says

            Self defense, as I have explained patiently. Wrong for the first shot. Right for the second. I get that you disagree, but you don’t have to belittle such a reasonable and fair approach.

            The law of non-retaliation was never meant to sanction the initiator of theological discrimination while punishing the responder.

    • says

      Politics (from Greek politikos “of, for, or relating to citizens”) is the art or science of influencing people on a civic, or individual level, when there are more than 2 people involved.
      Modern political discourse focuses on democracy and the relationship between people and politics. It is thought of as the way we “choose government officials and make decisions about public policy”.

      Blogging itself is a form of politics.

      I think the sinful foundation of selfish ambition and belittling others is what offends us as Christians. All of us who share an opinion, and most of us who ask a question (in the blogs) are hoping to influence the citizens.

      If there is need of a public decision between two or more people then it will be political. When selfishness, personal ambition and personal slights are recognized as inherently not-of-the-Spirit, then it can approach “Christian”.

  24. says

    The Traditionalist statement does not have the vote of the convention behind it. The Abstract of Principles does. Comparing the two is comparing apples and oranges.

    • Rick Patrick says

      Yes. the document affirmed in 1858 was embraced by people who are dead, while the one affirmed last year was signed by living, breathing Southern Baptists. Apples and oranges indeed.

      • says

        Rick, Um… I affirm the AP. As do millions of other living, breathing Southern Baptists. I’m not dead yet. Southeastern was founded in the 1950’s as well.

        I suppose that’s why you’re a New Traditionalist. You care more about the SBC’s recent history than her heritage.

        • Rick Patrick says

          I was speaking of the convention’s 1858 approval, which one could argue is superseded by our most current confession from 2000.

          • says

            Rick, the AP doesn’t go against the BF&M2K. As long as the charters of SBTS and SEBTS have the AP, they’ll be there. Same goes for NOBTS and their extra confession as well.

          • Rick Patrick says

            We may be ready to get on the same page. We will still disagree on what that page means, but one confession is more conducive to unity than two.

        • Scott Shaver says

          Jared tells Rick “I affirm the AP. As do millions of other living, breathing Southern Baptists. “Millions?” Get real. I doubt there are a million Southern Baptists who even know what the AP is, much less what it contains. Academics in the SBC who care or have a desire to teach in an SBC Seminary combined with the number of registered voting messengers to any yearly SBC meeting comes no where close to “millions”.

          I think a correct hypotheses about the level of support for any of this stuff (confessions, abstracts, etc) should be filtered through an awareness of just how disconnected the evolving confessionalism of the SBC is from folks who fill the pews and comprise the constituency of SBC churches.

          Rick Patrick makes sense to suggest “the law of non-retaliation was never meant to sanction the initiator of theological discrimination while punishing the responder.”

          • Scott Shaver says

            Not sure about the SBC collectively Jared, but I did see quite a bit of it in my home state of Louisiana during the years I was pastoring.

      • Debbie Kaufman says

        In light of Rick, Brad Whitt and other comments along the same line, here is the basic Southern Baptist Convention list of beliefs. Note specifically the belief concerning the Godhead, God, which both Calvinist and non-Calvinist can sign on to. I would also point to the BFM 2000 under the same headings that both can sign on to.

        • Debbie Kaufman says

          In fact both could sign the whole thing without hesitation and that would include salvation. In light of the Basic beliefs and the BFM, I don’t think you can say what you have said fellas.

  25. Jason G. says

    Those that know a little about who was most influential in the writing process of the BFM2K (meaning the person who penned most of it) have to be reading some of these comments and laughing.

    • says

      Jason G.

      I would love to hear an expanded explanation of who it is that you are saying is “the most influential in the writing process (meaning the person who penned the most of it)….

      I do agree that there are individuals reading comments like these and laughing… but not for the same reason you suggest.

      I will look forward to your explanation of this comment.

      • says

        If your comment did not need an explanation I would not have asked for one. For the record I know some of the members of that committee personally. So once again, can you explain your comment.

        Also… can I ask you if you were even aware of the BF&M2000 or are you getting your information from others?

        • Jason G. says

          Sorry, Bob…I answered below. I read Donald’s comment and thought it was you.

          For the record, my comment was not made to start a discussion of “who wrote the BFM2K” as it was done by a committee. My comment was made because some of the statements made about hiring practices and use of the BFM are a bit funny in light of it.

          BTW, what do you mean by “even aware of the BF&M2000 or are you getting your information from others”? I’m not sure what you mean by “even aware”. I was not on the committee, but I know people who were and I have heard this issue discussed on multiple occasions. Do you wish to dispute my statements?

    • Jason G. says

      I’m not sure my comment needs explanation. If you know anything about that committee and who was relied upon to do a lot of the wording of phrases of the BFM2K then you would know why I made the comment I did.

      Are you asking me to explain that comment further or to say who that person is?

      I find a lot of this funny, BTW. Most of the conspiracy theories are hysterical…but also some of the arguments. Funny, but not very productive.

        • Jason G. says

          Dr. Mohler

          He did not write it alone, of course. But the committee leaned heavily on him to work out the specific wording of the revisions from the 63BFM. This has been stated outright by multiple members of that committee. I also don’t think it should be much of a shock.

        • says


          Dr. Mohler was 1 of 15 members on that committee. He was elected President of SBTS in 1993. When the BF&M2000 was written, the issue of calvinism in the SBC was for the most part a non issue. Without a doubt, there were calvinists in the SBC and everyone knew that Dr. Mohler was in that camp. He is a brilliant individual and has done a masterful job both at Southern and as a statesman in the SBC.

          His involvement in the writing of the BF&M2000 was no doubt influential. I do not know anyone that would dispute that fact. What I will say is this; while it may be true that Dr. Mohler’s underlying intentions were to help frame certain statements to be more calvinist friendly, that was not the overall thrust of the committee itself and it was certainly not even on the radar when the statement was adopted at the annual meeting of the SBC.

          We talk alot about authorail intent; it certainly seems plausible that Dr. Mohler’s intent was certainly different than the intent of others on the committee and the intent of the committee as a whole that presented the statement for adoption and most assuredly the intent of the messengers who adopted the statement.

          So my point is really very simple. It is one thing to point to the BF&M2000 as it exists today with this newfound “historical significance” of a document that is a calvinist document and the authorial intent etc. That argument simply is not accurate for the committee that presented it and the convention that adopted it.

          • says

            Bob, before drawing the conclusions you present in your last paragraph it is only fair to show proof of the intentions of those on the comity.

            Simply guessing at others’ intentions to make an argument is not right.

          • Jason G. says


            Unlike you, calvinism (or opposing calvinism) is not foremost in my thoughts. My comment had nothing to do with calvinism, in fact I didn’t even imagine it could be taken that way. I did not mean to even imply that Mohler tried to make the BFM2K calvinistic or that he had any agenda other than that of the committee. That was not my intention at all, and I’m not sure why you would conclude that from what I said.

            Though it seems popular from some on here, I try to not make the dangerous step to evaluate people’s motives when I am unaware of them. I also don’t make accusations or assertions without any sort of proof (ironically, Mohler is often the target of unsubstantiated “hunches”).

            So, with that said, you made a huge jump to conclude from my comment what you concluded. I made NONE of the statements you concluded and did not even imply such. That is not at all why I find the comments funny.

            So to clarify…I made that comment I did because I find it funny that many on here act as if Mohler is guided by his own biases in hiring and is ignorant with regard to the BFM2K. They act as if he only knows the AP, and has no understanding or ignores completely the BFM2K. Some have basically said he ignores the BFM as he attempts to “narrow” parameters to the AP. That is preposterous because he was instrumental in writing the BFM2K…in fact, one could argue he was the main theological and writing force behind it. He is certainly not going to ignore (or be ignorant of) a document he helped write.

          • says


            The conclusions in the last paragraph were based on the statements that preceded it. It was 2000 that someone sent me a booklet on calvinism for dummies (that was not the title but it could have been and I was certainly qualified to read it) and my mouth was wide open for most of that read because I had NO IDEA that the 5 points of calvinism was even alive… boy was I wrong!

            Fast forward to today. If we could poll the 8 million who might have been in pews yesterday in SBC churches, and asked them about calvinism in the SBC most would have a deer in the headlights look on their faces… and depending on who asked the question and how it was worded, the answers would be a resounding “no” to the tenets of calvinism.

            Survey the seminaries… students and academians and it would no doubt be the complete opposite…. but not quite to the same degree. Of course, we could ask a lot of other questions and get some off the wall answers as well… and I am aware of that.

            I would venture to say that a bigger majority of church members in churches that many stronger calvinist guys pastor are not calvinistic in their theology and if asked the right questions would answer with a resounding no… we do not believe that.

            Calvinism today in the SBC is enjoying its greatest moment of influence and is seated in the entities and that is problematic for me where the future of the SBC is concerned.

            There is NO DEBATING the issue of the relevance of calvinism in the BF&M2000 when it was presented to the annual meeting and its adoption by the messengers. The adoption of the BF&M2000 was not a vote of affirmation for calvinism as it is being touted or suggested by some today.

          • says


            I will not question your motives nor the expressed intent of your remark. You are correct, you never mentioned calvinism in your brief statement. However, I do find it interesting you challenged my interpretation of your statement on the basis that I read into it a calvinistic application when you were speaking specifically to the issue of the use of the AP relative to the BF&M2000 by Mohler.

            If he were not a self professed 5-pt calvinist or was not a long-time supporter of the Founders, and listed with MacArthur, Piper, and a host of others… then I might possibly concede your point.

            Consider your own statement: ” I find it funny that many on here act as if Mohler is guided by his own biases in hiring and is ignorant with regard to the BFM2K.”

            Pray tell if this has nothing to do with the issue of calvinism as a bias what would that bias be? Your next statement is equally interresting: “Some have basically said he ignores the BFM as he attempts to “narrow” parameters to the AP. That is preposterous because he was instrumental in writing the BFM2K.”

            I hate to be the bearer of the obvious; he has said publicly that he is using the AP at Southern because it is the founding document of the seminary and the application he is referring specifically too is a return to historic calvinism at Southern.

            If you were not referring to the issue of calvinism, what is so preposterous in your following statement: “That is preposterous because he was instrumental in writing the BFM2K…in fact, one could argue he was the main theological and writing force behind it. He is certainly not going to ignore (or be ignorant of) a document he helped write.”

            There is a major difference between perspective and perception.

          • Donald says

            “It is one thing to point to the BF&M2000 as it exists today with this newfound “historical significance” of a document that is a calvinist document and the authorial intent etc. That argument simply is not accurate for the committee that presented it and the convention that adopted it.”

            Exactly right. Back when some were trying to show that the BF&M 2K advocates Regeneration prior to faith & repentance I spoke with Steve Gaines and Jerry Vines, and were assured that this was never the intention of the committee. My attempts to contact Al Mohler back then were met with silence.

  26. Ron F. Hale says

    Dr. McFadden … In your article, you have asked and stated:

    “So now we come to the question. Is Calvinism outside of the Baptist Faith and Message? Clearly, it is not. The Baptist Faith and Message comes from a line of Calvinist confessions, rooted in the Second London Baptist Confession and the Westminster Confession of Faith. This is our theological history as Southern Baptists. Our confession has been modified over the years to allow views that don’t fit strictly within the Reformed tradition, but it was certainly never modified to exclude Calvinists, because the current revision of the Baptist Faith and Message included five-point Calvinists on the committee. You can be a Calvinist or a non-Calvinist and be a Southern Baptist. Both views are permitted under the umbrella of our confession.”

    On several occasions you link the BFM to the Second London Confession and/or the Westminster Confession. Of course we know that the Philadelphia Confession is based on the Second London Confession, but the direct link of the BFM 1925 with the Second London or Philadelphia Confessions needs more support – in my estimation.

    Dr. Mohler writes the following in 1999, in tracing the history of the BFM 1925:

    “Mullins led the committee to adopt and recommend a revised version of the New Hampshire Confession (1833) rather than the more Calvinistic Philadelphia Confession of Faith (1742). Though the New Hampshire confession did not reject any Calvinistic doctrine, it attenuated and modified these convictions in a way that suited both Mullins and the populist character of the denomination in the 1920’s.” [R. Albert Mohler, Jr., vol. 3, Southern Baptist Journal of Theology Volume 3, 4 (Louisville, KY: Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1999), 15]

    Dr. Mohler and others that I have read point to the New Hampshire Confession as the parent document of the BFM 1925, but you state in the article:

    “This Second London Baptist Confession is the parent document that traces down to the Baptist Faith and Message, which was adopted as the confession of the Southern Baptist Convention and the confession of Louisiana College.”

    It seems that while Southern Baptist were modifying their position on Calvinism in the early 1900’s and had been moving away from a stricter Calvinism of the past – some today wish to overstate the case. Strongly linking the BFM 1925 to strict Calvinistic documents instead of the New Hampshire Confession is not fair to Southern Baptist history.

  27. Christiane says

    “But Christians have always disagreed about the exact timing of Christ’s return. ”

    that’s not possible . . . we are told in sacred Scripture, this:
    “Acts 1:7
    He said to them:
    “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority.”

    how can people disagree about something they are not supposed to ‘know’?

    what are the ‘beliefs’ of those who are disagreeing, and from where did they get the information they base their stance on ?
    Is this just something that was cooked up out of conjecture? That sounds unhealthy, if then it leads to arguing and division among Christian people.

  28. says

    Dr. McFadden wrote:

    These include things like the inspiration of Scripture, the divinity of Jesus Christ, the humanity of Christ, the sacrificial death of Christ for our sins, and his bodily resurrection. Now I am not saying that every Christian understands these doctrines fully. But if a person rejects these doctrines, can they really be a Christian in any historic sense?

    I have two comments. First of all, how one understands “the sacrificial death of Christ for our sins” is crucial to one’s salvation so I would say that calvinism is a level 1 issue especially given the fact that some zealously concerned calvinists are working so diligently to get the gospel right in the SBC today. It is obvious that this is the case as many on this very blog have argued that the majority of folk in the SBC are Arminian in their theology and are even Pelagians who believe that sinners can turn to God on their own apart from ANY work of the Holy Spirit.

    Come on… you guys are guilty of saying on thing one minute and then another the next. It is as if you have selective amnesia. We do not even come close to agreeing on what the Bible teaches when it comes to Jesus death on the cross; there are significant issues that deeply divide us and those issues reflect on the very character of God. Some have accused non-calvinists of worshiping at the altars of free-will and making man’s will more important than God’s. There are significant issues that are very real and they are not going to go away and they need to be addressed and dealt with.

    God either decides and determines who is saved or He does not. He either makes the decision who does and does not go to heaven or He does not. One or the other has to be correct; this is not a both and issue and no one reading or participating in this discussion is for that option anyway.

    One final thought. It seems that the importance of “understanding these doctrines” is related to which side of the fence one is on. I am not trying to be hateful or despiteful of anyone as I have been accused of doing. What I am sick and tired of is this back and forth by people who have to hide behind words, saying one thing but really meaning another.

    You may read what I write and it makes your blood boil but one thing is clear; you KNOW EXACTLY where I stand. I only wish that could be said of more on the other side of the fence. It is time for all this rhetorical side stepping to stop. Just answer simple questions with simple answers. This is not really that difficult a proposition. Everyone knows where everyone stands anyway.

    Here’s to a swift and effectual end to this problem in the SBC. Can I get an AMEN?

    • Bill Mac says

      Bob: Suppose, in Houston you are unexpectedly elected president of the SBC. Also unexpectedly, by majority vote of the messengers you are given nearly unlimited power to resolve the current conflict, including the expulsion of all professed Calvinists and churches from the SBC, and the reworking of the BFM in any way you see fit. You are also given power to hire and fire anyone at any of the SBC entities.

      So, what do you do?

      • says


        There is no simple solution. First of all the messengers of the SBC cannot tell the trustees of the entities what to do much less an individual. So the President of the SBC nominates a committee on nominations that is elected in Houston and that committee forms a nominating committee that then nominates people to fill vacancies on trustee boards of the various entities etc. Those names are then voted on in Baltimore in 2014 and a new committee on nominations is reappointed and presented for approval in Baltimore for what will most likely be the second term for Dr. Luter. The Committee on Nominations then appointed will nominate trustee appointments to be approved in 2015.

        A turn around in the SBC is a long a tedious process and that was intentionally set into place. The trustee system is a very good system but it is not perfect. It does have flaws and it can be compromised.

        I believe the SBC is in more dangerous waters today than it was in 1979 and that is going to prove to be a much more difficult recovery (and I believe one is necessary) for a number of reasons and that is why I believe the leaders of the calvinist revival in the SBC have been infinitely more successful in steering the SBC than many realize… including apparently many self-professing calvinists on blogs like this one.

        It is good for the calvinist cause that most of folks reading these blogs do not take them serious enough and it is even better that the overwhelming majority of SB’s do not even have any idea that these kinds of discussions are even taking place. When they finally realize it… it will be too late and I for one am confident that the hour is late at best and already past at worst.

      • says

        Bob, I was just finishing university in 1979 and wasn’t in seminary until 1983 (NOBTS). I was in a class where miracles recorded in scripture were denied as even possible. If memory serves correctly, some of the major issues dealt with from 1979 on were denials of innerancy, denials of the historicity of Genesis, etc. i.e. there were un-orthodox men teaching in the seminaries. Right?

        So in what specific ways is “the SBC is in more dangerous waters today than it was in 1979?”

      • says


        Inerrancy was the issue in 79. I had the same issues with professors as well. Your question, “So in what specific ways is ‘the SBC is in more dangerous waters today than it was in 1979’?” could be answered by your previous statement. of those “teaching in the seminaries. Right?”

        While I would not say that calvinist academians are unorthadox, I do disagree that the tenets of calvinism are Scripturally accurate and with the possible exception of POS, depending on which definition one presents, I at best only agree with the last point if one equates POS with eternal security.

        The justification for the statement you quoted is with reference to the level of influence the liberals managed to gain in the late 70’s relative to the level of influence calvinists have managed to gain in the entities and various places of influence in the SBC today. The calvinists are MUCH MORE ingrained than the liberals ever even considered… no one of any significance has even hinted of stepping up to the plate to lead the SBC away from this calvinist revival… and even of someone did… the time and effort it would take to reverse the tremendous gains that calvinism has made would be difficult to reverse…. IF THAT EVEN BECAME A MOVEMENT. I am not sure there are enough who care enough to engage the status quo.

        That is why I say the SBC is much more danger than it was in 1979. The problems are not so obvious and the lines less defined and the perceived need for another battle just is not there. Great news for the calvinists as I see it.

      • says

        Bob, I understand that you “disagree that the tenets of calvinism are Scripturally accurate.”

        But Calvinism is within the boundaries of the BF&M, right? I mean others commenting here (and many others not commenting) admit that the BF&M surely allows Calvinism.

        But it looks like you advocate a purge similar to what began in 1979.

      • says


        As I have argued in another comment post… the intent of the BF&M2000 and its newly found use are in my estimation two very different things. For anyone to try to assert that the current interpretation of the application of the BF&M was an intended consequence of its adoption is absurd. While it may be true that there was an intentional effort to leave room for both theological positions, that is a far cry from the present trumpeting that the BF&M is a calvinist document etc.

        My position is not a difficult one to understand; some may not like it and some may try to argue it is incorrect but to keep bringing up this confusion on the argument itself seems to me to be a bit trite.

        As for the purge, my point of contention is the control of the entities. If I do not believe that calvinism is Biblically correct, then it would also stand that I do not want it to be the theological underpinning that guides the entities because where the colleges and seminaries and the entities of the SBC go, so goes the convention eventually. Everyone is aware of those stakes and I maintain the calvinists do not like what they perceive to be the theological underpinnings that have guided the SBC over the last 75 plus years and many have said so here and on other venues.

        So we are really all in agreement; we just disagree on who ought to have that position of influence that the calvinism has managed to gain control of.

        One other statement here. When I say calvinist I really mean calvinism and fully understand that calvinists like traditionalists are all like snowflakes; we are all uniquely different and that includes our individual theological differences. I am not at all trying to make this a personal issue… it is a conceptual issue for me that sometimes gets called a calvinist issue but even when I use the term I am speaking of the concept in general as opposed to an individual in most cases.

    • Debbie Kaufman says

      I don’t know where you stand Bob. One minute you seem to want Calvinists gone from the SBC or at least silenced. The next thing you say that is not what you are saying. I’m confused what it is traditionalists want.

  29. says

    I find Bob Hadleys comment:
    Guys… you have made this a level one issue so why not step up to the plate and own it? You are winning the battle for control in the SBC as far as I am concerned… this charade that we are all one big happy family… and that unity is the primary goal that we all need to embrace… come on… we have two very different theological presentations of who God is and what it is that HE does where conversion is concerned.
    To be interesting. We’re winning? Who knew? Yippee! We now have this majority of non-calvinists right where we want them! (Ok, my sarcasms a bit extreme, but I hope you get it.)
    First, For me, its not about “Winning.” I’m GLAD to let this argument go. But I do tire of being slandered by being thrown in with some strawman amalgamation of the dreaded calvinist in the SBC. And yes, I’m sure non-calvinists get tired of being told they worship man’s free will over God.
    Fair enough. But Winning? I’m not keeping count of who’s filling what positions, but the infrequent polls show my “side” still a vast minority.
    Second, Unity IS important and I think is still important to most SBC folk which ever side of the tulip they are on. I work with almost non-Calvinists because I know very few Calvinist pastors. We give to the CP without defunding any SBC entity. So, even though some of my fellow pastors know I’m a calvinist they seem to be able to love me anyway. And I don’t think its cause I’m so darn lovable.

    BUT! Back to McFaddens article: He makes a lot of great points but I think he would have done better to avoid the insinuaton that the leadership of the LC is lying. Unless he could back it up, Then he should have.

    • says


      I appreciate some of the sentiment that you spoke of in your comment. When I said what I said about the calvinists winning I was speaking of the war not individual battles. I also appreciate the cry for unity and I believe there is more opportunity for unity in the majority of places in the SBC and it is difficult to write about the issue of the influence of calvinism in the entities of the SBC and individuals who are calvinistic being caught in the cross-fire. There is a difference and sometimes that difference is not present in every comment made. The former is where my comments are pretty much contained. I have no reason to believe that we could not love one another as you said and work together.

      I am in an association in Florida where Riverbend Community Church is. Dr. Roy Hargrave is the pastor there and he is a 5 point calvinist and the church is very successful and I have the utmost respect for his leadership and for him personally. As moderator of the association during some very difficult times, he was included on committees that were set up to help lead the association through the difficulties because he is a leader and leaders are needed. He and I disagree where our theology is concerned, but I have the utmost respect for him and the right he has to hold to those theological convictions. I believe the same is true for every person commenting here.

      I do not believe that is true where the entities are concerned and that is a completely different perspective.