I’m really tired of it. That weariness has been growing over time and now I have reached the point where I think I need to make some changes in the way we approach the subject of Calvinism here. This is not a rebuke of one article or one author, but of the whole tone and tenor of discussions not only here but also throughout the SBC blogosphere. Observing the discussion here the last couple of days just crystallized things in my mind. As the editor of SBC Voices, I have the authority to make some changes and I intend to attempt to do that.
For what its worth, here’s how I feel.
- I am weary of blogs (or blogposts or comments) that produce a constant flow of “Calvinists are evil” missives that call the character, intent and behavior of all Calvinists into question. Stereotype much?
- I am weary of blogs (or blogposts or comments) that come from the “Calvinists hung the moon” position that all divergence from the Calvinist mindset is a compromise of the gospel. A little perspective, please!
- I’m weary of people painting all Calvinists with the same dark brush.
- I’m weary of Calvinists claiming that all criticism of them and their position is unfair.
- Most of all, I have come to believe that the way we carry on the discussion does not honor the Savior and we can do better.
In general, I am weary of the whole debate – not the discussion of the Scriptures or the theology, just the silly way we have discussed these things. I am just amazed at the pettiness, arrogance, stereotyping, caricaturing, mean-spiritedness and general uselessness of the debates. Calvinists have hurt others and been hurt. Non-Calvinists have hurt others and been hurt. But we all just keep recycling the same tired offenses and accusations.
So I am going to use what little power I have to change things – at least around here. I’m coming to the conviction that any time or energy devoted on this blog to the Calvinism issue MUST be devoted to increasing understanding and finding solutions, not just rehashing the problems ad nauseum.
We have been criticized as a “YRR” Calvinist site by some. It is a false charge, made by those who have an axe to grind or only read the site when a Calvinist advocates a position. We have at least 5 of our regular contributors who are not Calvinists. Two of us are Calvinists but not real crazy about everything that goes on under the Calvinist name. I don’t know where two of our contributors stand on the issue and yes, several are pretty strong Calvinists who have argued their positions forcefully. Any Calvinism at all is too much for some. And any non-Calvinism is too much for others. We are going to strive to stand in the middle.
Here are the realities:
1) Calvinism is and probably will continue to be a minority position in the SBC, though the Calvinist percentage fluctuates.
2) Calvinism is a reality in the SBC and has been since the days the SBC was founded, to one degree or another. It is not an issue that is going away.
3) There are extremes on both sides that should be avoided. They do exist and should be both acknowledged and opposed.
4) Calvinists have offended and mistreated non-Calvinists. Non-Calvinists have mistreated and offended Calvinists. I don’t know if the number and severity of offenses is equal, but I know that rehashing the offenses will not get us anywhere. It is the ultimate in ideological blindness to pretend that your side has not offended the other. It is ungodly to act as if the offenses of the other side justify those of your side. Jesus had a few things to say that blow that rationalization to bits – stuff about returning good for evil and blessing those who persecute you. So there is little to be gained in the pursuit of a scorecard to judge who has offended the most.
5) The bulk of Calvinists (past the cage-phase) and the bulk of non-Calvinists (not in attack-dog mode) can get along pretty well and cooperate on most things gospel-related and Baptist. We can cooperate without trying to convert one another. We can do better on this issue than we have done. Cooperative Calvinists and non-Calvinists need to step up and push the petty and combative ideologues on both sides to the sidelines. It is the Calvinists with the takeover agenda and the anti-Calvinists with the “cleanse the convention” agenda that cause the problems and their voices should not be allowed to guide the debate.
6) There are issues to be debated – biblically, exegetically, theologically. This has been an item of discussion for nearly two millennia and it won’t go away tomorrow. We need to debate these topics and issues. The answer is not avoidance. In fact, there are few issues more important to discuss and seek to understand that the sovereignty of God in salvation.
The differences theologically between Calvinists and non-Calvinists are neither minor nor unimportant. We need to address the issues.
7) The current petty squabbling is getting us nowhere. So, as Bob Newhart said, “STOP IT!”
So, here’s my new stance at SBC Voices:
- We will not avoid the ISSUES related to Calvinism. We will write on the theology and biblical interpretation that goes along with the Calvinist position – pro or con. I hope we have a steady stream of posts addressing the crucial issues related to Calvinism at Voices.
- Those posts will be exegetical, expositional and theological – or even devotional.
- If an issue erupts in SBC life relative to Calvinism, we will address it. I’m not talking about sticking our heads in the sand. We will just attempt to address it from a redemptive perspective, not just assign blame and declare winners and losers.
- Here’s the point: Every Calvinism (or non-C) post we do has to add to and promote understanding of the topic. I am not going to publish any more “Calvinists are evil” or “Anti-Calvinists are evil” posts. We are not going to lob bombs at one another on this site. Been there, done that. Got the scars.
- I will likely be a little more heavy-handed in moderating comments on Calvinism posts. Sometimes, the problem is less with the post and more with the discussion. This has two downsides – moderation takes time and is a pain in the…neck and people get really snippy about having their comments deleted. I don’t care. (Well, I do, but I’m going to moderate them anyway.)
- We will promote understanding not just rehearse grievances. If the primary purpose of the post is to state or exacerbate grievances over the subject, I’m just not interested in posting it. “The Biblical Basis of Limited Atonement.” I will publish that. “A Biblical challenge to Limited Atonement.” Yep! “Why those who believe in Limited Atonement hate Jesus, evangelism and puppies.” Uh…probably not.
Obviously, this leaves me in the position of deciding what is acceptable and what is not and I will certainly be accused of being unfair. The accusations may be right and it will be neither the first nor the last time the accusation is made. But I am convinced that the Calvinism-bashing and the non-Calvinist degrading arguments are just not productive. Open a Bible and discuss an issue. Defend your position with verses. But let’s raise the tone and tenor of the debate. I have confidence in our contributors here that I will not have to enforce this, but that our authors will willingly and enthusiastically embrace this.
Do we care more about our arguments or our brethren?
Frankly, I’m a Calvinist in a way that would offend many anti-Calvinists but won’t satisfy many Calvinists. But the solution to the SBC’s issues is not “reforming” the convention, nor is the solution in banning the reformed. It is in walking in the unity of Christ, proclaiming Christ, reasoning from the scriptures to gain greater understanding of the issues and honoring Jesus with our words and actions. BIFF, baby, BIFF.
As I watched the discussion Wednesday, I just became more and more convinced that we’ve reached the saturation point on petty bickering. Let’s do better.
One man’s opinion – now you can tell me yours.