On Wednesday July 15th, Executive Committee president Morris Chapman issued a “clarification of intent” for the controversial statements he made during the 2009 Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville, KY. I have read it through several times now, and honestly, all that has been clarified for me is that Morris Chapman still doesn’t get it.
The first thing that I think Chapman doesn’t get is the inappropriateness of his comments. The speech in question was delivered during the Executive Committee report on the Tuesday morning of the convention. This was time allotted for a report on EC business (which apparently there is plenty to talk about, e.g. Clark Logan, see later) and he used it instead as an opportunity to speak against Calvinism/the Great Commission Resurgence. Now, I’ll admit, I was a rookie at this meeting, but I do know that on Tuesday night, when Thom Rainer gave the LifeWay report he actually reported on things that had to do with LifeWay. In my opinion, choosing to deliver this speech in the first place was out of line and an abuse of the role which the convention has granted to Mr. Chapman, however that issue was never once addressed in the “clarification.”
The second thing I believe that Chapman doesn’t get is where the real problem with his comments lie. As Trevin Wax said about it, ” I think I agree with his exegesis, and wonder again who he’s fighting…” This clarification begins with Chapman’s most controversial phrase, a little bit of narrative, and then a more careful restatement of his words prefaced with the remark, “Had I spoken with greater technical precision in my report, my words may be expanded this way.” That’s all good, and like Wax I would agree with his restatement and following exegesis, but the fact remains that he still has no idea why people are upset.
Chapman says, “It has been said that no Calvinist in the Southern Baptist Convention would affirm the [original] idea as I stated it.” However, what he apparently misses is that pretty much every Calvinist in the SBC actually affirms the so-called clarification he is trying to make. Chapman seems to think that SBC Calvinists take issue with grace-by-faith salvation being the gift in Ephesians 2.8 (where both grace and faith are gifts). He also implies that they take issue with Spurgeon and his position in the conflict against Hyper-Calvinism. Neither of these, as far as I know, is actually the case.
By the way, why is it that non-Calvinists think that Spurgeon is always the exception to the rule among Calvinists? The presenters at the John 3:16 Conference said he was evangelistic “in spite of” his Calvinist convictions. Chapman said he held to the four listed principles from the article as a “departure [from the ministry of] the ‘older’ [i.e. Hyper-] Calvinists.” When will these men realize that the reason Spurgeon looks different than their view of Calvinists is not because Spurgeon is some exception but because their perception is built off of caricatures and not truth?
As well, the quotation of the interview from 2007 is of little help to him. Look at the next to last paragraph of the article. In it he says,
One danger is that pastors are tempted to accept church pastorates in churches that are not Calvinistic, and then strive to drive them into the Calvinistic camp, thereby destroying an otherwise strong and healthy church. Another danger is that the truly warm-hearted, ‘evangelical’ Calvinists often are misunderstood by second-generation successors, potentially resulting in a decline in evangelism and missions.
This befuddles me. Though I understand what he is getting at in the first sentence, what he says is a little out there. Pastors cannot just take any position they want in the SBC because we hold to congregationalism, so is he accusing SBC Calvinists of not being transparent about their convictions? And what is a “not Calvinistic” church? Have we picked teams already? Are some churches off limits to change in this doctrine? What about “Calvinistic” churches and non-Calvinist pastors? Then the second sentence gets into the realm of slippery slope fear mongering. Instead of finding any first generation Calvinists who are doing wrong, Chapman decides to hypothesize about radical descendants of otherwise decent Calvinists. That is just too much for words, and as I stated, clearly demonstrates that Chapman does not understand what the problem is.
Maybe I am indeed, the person who is misunderstanding Morris Chapman, rather than Chapman misunderstanding what people are upset about. It is possible. But as far as I can tell he seems to say “Calvinists” and then describe “hyper-Calvinism” leading to terrible misrepresentation. This is not good for either side of the debate. I have never seen someone quote Ephesians 2:8 in arguing against Calvinism… Nonetheless, Morris Chapman is free to believe what he wants to believe and say what he wants to say.
I merely ask that Morris Chapman understand what people are upset about, not terribly misrepresent those he disagrees with, and pick an appropriate venue to share the concerns he has.