Yes, it is sometimes hard to hug a Calvinist. While I don’t mind them embracing a different theology, I often find it hard to get past two key issues: (1) a superior attitude, and (2) a takeover mentality. Lest I be accused of stereotyping, of lumping and dumping, let me say at the start that while every Calvinist does not fit this mold, so many do that it poisons the pot for everyone else. Let me briefly illustrate the two offenses before I run for cover.
1. Superior Attitude
The superior attitude suggests that no reasonably thinking Christian scholar, pastor or theologian who takes the time to study the Scriptures could ever possibly come to a different conviction about the nature of the gospel, the doctrines of grace and the proper way to order and organize church life. It just seems that the Calvinist system of thought is so neatly reasoned that once one embraces these doctrines, one often develops little to no respect for those with non-Calvinist convictions.
To illustrate this superior tone, consider Dr. Mohler’s words at a Gospel Coalition interview: “If you’re a theologically minded, deeply convictional young evangelical, if you’re committed to the gospel and you want to see the nations rejoice in the name of Christ, if you want to see gospel built and structured and committed churches, your theology is just gonna end up being something like this New Calvinism or you’re gonna have to invent some other label for what’s just gonna be the same thing. There just are not options out there.” The quote starts at 6:25 in this link.
Mohler clearly claims that people who are (1) theologically minded, (2) deeply convictional, (3) committed to the gospel, (4) desire to see the nations rejoice in Christ, and (5) want to see gospel structured and committed churches HAVE NO OTHER OPTION than New Calvinism. Dr. Mohler, with all due respect and appreciation for your many achievements in Baptist life…balderdash! One can easily be all five of those things yet reject New Calvinist doctrines concerning salvation and the church! In fact, the majority of the Southern Baptist Convention fits into this allegedly non-existent category. The “if you’re smart and you really love Jesus you must think like me” approach is condescending.
2. Takeover Mentality
The takeover mentality has been illustrated time and again by stealth Calvinist candidates who are called by doctrinally naive and unsuspecting Southern Baptist Search Committees who believe that seminary graduates today possess the same basic theology that seminary graduates possessed twenty years ago. As we all know, that is no longer the case. Graduates from our mother seminary are disproportionately Calvinistic relative to the prevailing theology in our churches. Over time, these churches discover that their new pastor is trying to lead them in a new direction with which they are uncomfortable. Sometimes, the Calvinist pastor “wins” the takeover and reforms the church. Many non-Calvinists leave. Other times, the lay leadership of the church rises up to “defend” non-Calvinism and the pastor is removed from office. Either way, the fellowship is deeply wounded by the experience. You simply cannot put a square peg in a round hole!
Another example of this uncompromising takeover mentality concerns the ever controversial Acts 29 Network. This network overlaps with SBC churches, particularly new church plants, because it is in their self-interest to draw from our vast resources and use our money to help them plant churches that are CALVINIST ONLY. Meanwhile, our SBC church planting efforts are BOTH CALVINIST AND NON-CALVINIST. This partnership is inherently biased in favor of Calvinism and will continue to be so until there develops a NON-CALVINIST ONLY church planting network to bring balance to the force. Such a network has been slow to develop as it was unnecessary in previous years since nearly all SBC church plants were indeed non-Calvinistic. But that is no longer the case. SBC churches who desire to support Calvinistic plants can dually support the Acts 29 Network along with traditional SBC channels, but where are SBC churches who desire to support non-Calvinistic plants supposed to turn?
Channeling Rodney King
Yes, we can all just get along, but my Calvinist friends will have to understand two important considerations. First, non-Calvinist Southern Baptists will not patiently sit back and sing “Kumbayah” while our theological positions are being marginalized by a brilliant yet condescending Calvinist theologian. If you wish to call a truce, then you must stop firing such verbal shots and quit insinuating that our differing conclusions result from weaker minds or the absence of any legitimate alternative biblical positions to yours. Second, non-Calvinist Southern Baptists will not patiently sit back and sing “Kumbayah” while Acts 29 church plants attempt to use non-Calvinist dollars to plant CALVINIST ONLY churches. We consider that to be an unfair, unbalanced and aggressive posture disrespecting our right to be just as NON-CALVINIST ONLY in our church planting as the Acts 29 Network is CALVINIST ONLY in their church planting.
Let me conclude with one final preemptive consideration. For those of you who are about to write that the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message should be enough to unite us, may I gently point out: (1) it is evidently not enough since we are not united, and (2) the Acts 29 Network was only founded in 2000. In other words, our current confessional statement was not written in such a manner as to take into consideration the present controversy. We were still dealing with the last controversy of inerrancy and its corresponding splinter group, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. While I do not presently support revising our confessional statement by narrowing our doctrinal parameters to exclude our current splinter group of Acts 29 Network churches, I believe non-Calvinists will only be driven increasingly to support such a measure the more that Calvinists display the afore-mentioned superior attitude and takeover mentality.