WARNING: Having just declared my intent to steer away from discussions of Calvinism, I’m going back to the subject less that 48 hours later, now that Frank Page has named his Calvinism Committee (or whatever they are calling it).
There is a certain irony intended in the title of this post. I have written forcefully about my disdain for the “God’s Man” rhetoric that has been employed by search committee chairs. You can read one of my rants here. I may have mellowed a little, but I still agree with what I said two years ago. I think it is a dangerous tactic to label someone “God’s Man” to enlist others to vote for his nomination.
But, there is another side to this. Sometimes, a man gets elected and as he carries out his job you become more and more convinced that he was, in fact, GOD’S MAN for that particular job. That is how I feel when I think of Frank Page and the job he is doing at the Executive Committee. I’m sure he will do some things I disagree with (and hence, be wrong!) from time to time, but I am convinced that his election as the President of the EC is a sign of God’s continuing grace to the SBC in this day.
Can you imagine where we would be if we had a more combative, partisan man in the SBC Oval Office? We would be in deep trouble.
Dr. Page is not a Calvinist. We know this – he wrote a book called, “Trouble with the Tulip” which was not about gardening. But he is willing to partner and work with Calvinists in accomplishing the work of the SBC. There is no rancor on the subject with Dr. Page. He’s not a drawer of lines, an “us against them” kind of man. That makes him perfect for the time. He is someone non-Calvinists and Calvinists alike can trust and work with.
At the time that the Calvinism wars were coming to a head, God in his grace arranged that Dr. Page would be our leader; a voice for unity, for Christlikeness, a voice that every Southern Baptist can trust! (There is no truth to the rumor that I am about to write a letter asking Dr. Page for a loan. No truth at ALL.) I am thankful that we have a man like him at a moment like this.
Enough of this hagiography, I guess. Dr. Page is still alive and healthy. But I think the world of him and I see his appointment as a sign of God’s mercy and grace. So, let’s talk about the advisory committee.
The Calvinism Advisory Committee
Dr. Page has appointed 16 people to an advisory committee to study the issue of Calvinism in the SBC and craft a strategic plan by which the disparate elements of the SBC can work together. Dr. Page said,
“My goal is to develop a strategy whereby people of various theological persuasions can purposely work together in missions and evangelism.”
The committee seems to be fairly representative of the theological spectrum. Seven of the sixteen are academics and seven are pastors. There is a state executive (way to go, Leo!) and a homemaker (and writer). There are some noted Calvinists on the list. There are some of the more noted and forceful opponents of Calvinism on the list. And there are quite a few people who have not really been involved in the battle on either side. There is even a very close friend of mine on the list! If any advisory committee can make something like this happen, this might be the committee.
Dr. Page has made it clear he is not going to try to rewrite the BF&M. It would be foolhardy to think that an advisory committee such as this will solve all the theological issues that the church has argued for millennia and the SBC has been arguing since its inception. It would seem that this committee is about finding a template for cooperation and understanding for the purpose of missions, not about trying to enforce some kind of theological conformity.
Here is the list from Baptist Press of the members of the committee, with their information.
— Daniel Akin, president, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C.
— Mark Dever, senior pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington D.C.
— David Dockery, president, Union University, Jackson, Tenn.
— Leo Endel, executive director, Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention.
— Ken Fentress, senior pastor, Montrose Baptist Church, Rockville, Md.
— Timothy George, dean, Beeson Divinity School, Birmingham, Ala.
— Eric Hankins, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, Oxford, Miss.
— Johnny Hunt, pastor, First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga.
— Tammi Ledbetter, homemaker and layperson, Inglewood Baptist Church, Grand Prairie, Texas.
— Steve Lemke, provost, director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
— Fred Luter, senior pastor, Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, New Orleans; president, Southern Baptist Convention.
— R. Albert Mohler Jr., president, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky.
— Paige Patterson, president, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.
— Stephen Rummage, senior pastor, Bell Shoals Baptist Church, Brandon, Fla.
— Daniel Sanchez, professor of missions, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.
— Jimmy Scroggins, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, West Palm Beach, Fla.
Nothing real surprising here.
So, now they go to work. We pray that God will give them wisdom.
So, here is my thought, for whatever it is worth. Why don’t we just declare a cease-fire while they do their work? One of the objections to suggestions of a cease-fire has come from those who believe that there is an organized Calvinist attempt to takeover the SBC. The committee is on it, aren’t they? Calvinists who feel like you are being misrepresented and treated unfairly, the committee is on it, right? There are Calvinists on the panel who will not let anyone run roughshod over SBC’s Calvinist minority. And there are some non-Calvinists who will not let the Calvinists put anything over on anyone.
Why don’t we just let them do their work and then when they bring back their report, we can analyse it and see what it says. We can always go back to war in the future, can we not?
That’s my suggestion. Let’s get about the work of God, stop the bickering that has marked so much blogging on this topic, pray for Dr. Page and the advisory committee as they begin their work and see what God can do.
What say you?