The debate between Calvinists and non-Calvinists (including Traditionalists) has been dominated in the SBC by the extremes on both sides. It is time for that to end.
There are some Calvinists who annoy me – they seem intent on labeling the other side with pejoratives, never admit fault on their side, and come across as condescending and arrogant. There are some non-Calvinists who annoy me – they seem intent on painting Calvinists with dark, conspiratorial motives and appear to be content with nothing less than pinning a scarlet C on every Calvinist and banning them from leadership in SBC life.
Both extremes are annoying, divisive, and from my experience, completely unwilling to a) see the problem or b) do anything to correct it.
I believe that the vast majority of us stand in the middle between these two warring parties and are sick of the conflict. We are Calvinists, modified Calvinists, antinomists, non-Calvinists, modified Arminians, and Traditionalists who see this as an important discussion within the Baptist family. We are Calvinists who do not see Traditionalists as heretics or enemies of the gospel. We are non-Calvinists who do not see Calvinists as purveyors of evil and darkness. We disagree, and we discuss, but we do not denigrate.
I think we are a majority and it is time that we assert ourselves. Cooperative Calvinists, it is time that we stand up and rebuke the arrogant, angry Calvinists who drive the discussion. Cooperative non-Calvinists, it is time that you stand and rebuke those angry, divisive folks on your side of the debate who often drive the discussion.
There may not be anything that we can do about the angry, divisive folks on both sides who view the other side as the enemy. But we can marginalize them (that sounds so awful). We can voice our dissent from their harsh rhetoric and divisive approach. For the sake of the future of the SBC, that we must do.
Here are some thoughts:
1) We need to intentionally affirm our unity on doctrinal issues – Bart Barber’s statement last week is a great example. A Calvinist and a Traditionalist Baptist have more in common than our differences would indicate.
2) We need to call the angry voices on the carpet – even those that agree with us. When people attach labels on others, we must identify that as unacceptable.
3) We must accept the Southern Baptist reality – we are a denomination of 5-point Calvinists, modified Arminians, and pretty much every soteriological point along the way. Thus it is. Thus it always has been. Hopefully, thus it will always be. We are blessed by both sides. Frankly, I wouldn’t want to be part of an SBC that fell to either side completely.
4) We must continue to DISCUSS soteriological issues as a passionate, familial discussion. As many have said, this is a discussion we must have. It is a debate worth debating! But only in a context of affirmation. This is a brotherly argument. We are not the Romans and the barbarians here, folks.
5) We must give as much honor to the biblical passages on unity and kind treatment of one another as we do the theological passages!
If the passionate voices on both side are actually the majority, we are going to splinter as a convention. But I do not believe they are. They are the loudest voices, but I do not believe they are the majority of voices. I think most of us are tired of fighting about Calvinism and Traditionalism. We are tired of seeing our brothers treated as enemies. We want to unite around our shared gospel theology and mission.
This, we must do.