The appeal for unity by Southern Baptist Calvinists makes perfect sense to me. Let’s put our differences behind us for the sake of our witness and cooperation in the gospel. We may have slight differences in soteriology, but we agree that Jesus is Lord, the Bible is inerrant and God wants us to tell a dying world about Him. Fine. Really.
The suggestion by Southern Baptist Calvinists that Traditionalists may believe in heresy is much more troubling. Traditionalists who affirm Total Depravity reject Total Inability. Traditionalists who affirm our sin nature in Adam nevertheless reject that we are guilty of Adam’s sin, holding rather that we are each accountable only for our own sin. These may not be Calvinist views, but they are certainly not heretical, semi-Pelagian views. Real live Cooperative Program supporting Southern Baptists believe these doctrines. Lots of them. Seminary Presidents. Professors. Pastors. More than 800 signers as I write this article. Has a fifteen hundred year old heresy really crept into Baptist life without anyone noticing until now? Or have the Calvinists overreacted a bit?
My primary concern in this post becomes clear only after I get over the shock of being falsely accused of heresy. I’ve been accused of many things, but this is a new one. Painful though it may be to consider the charge, the heart of the issue comes as I attempt to reconcile these two arguments — unity and heresy — from the perspective of a Calvinist. The real problem is neither the appeal for unity nor the charge of heresy, but the totally incongruous combination of the two. Once one assumes the existence of heresy on the part of the Traditionalist, it should logically shut down on the part of the Calvinist any desire to cooperate in propagating false doctrine. These two ideas simply do not work together. If we are to be unified, we cannot call each other heretics, and if either of us is guilty of heresy, then how can we be unified in working together?
Why work together to plant a heretical church? Why work together to produce semi-Pelagian Sunday School materials? Why support between two and four heretical seminaries? We don’t cooperate with EVERYBODY. We draw boundaries that keep us from cooperating with Methodists and Presbyterians. We don’t fight with them. We don’t dislike them. We just cannot cooperate in church planting because we don’t believe, you know, the same things about God and all.
I can understand sacrificing unity for truth. I can understand Calvinists saying, “You know what? We’re not on the same page here. We can no longer in good conscience help fund and promote your heresy.” But I cannot wrap my mind around the idea of sacrificing truth for unity, which the Calvinist would have to do in order to say, “I know you are teaching heresy and all, but it’s important for us to put our little differences behind us so we can work together in sharing your false message with the world.”
Truth before unity. If we don’t have the same message, how can we work together in sharing it? Southern Baptist Calvinists need to spend a few days and figure out if Traditionalists are truly guilty of semi-Pelagian heresy. It’s a simple yes / no question.
If Traditionalists are NOT heretics, an apology is most certainly in order. It would sound most convincing if it came from the lips of the highest ranking Southern Baptist Calvinist–most certainly Dr. Al Mohler. After such an apology, working together in unity is at least conceivable. However, if Traditionalists ARE guilty of believing in heresy, in the eyes of Calvinists, then how can these same Calvinists possibly justify partnering together with Traditionalists in spreading false doctrines?
As Dr. Page’s “Consensus Accord” leadership group is formed and begins its meetings, it seems to me at least, that the first order of business must be to untie this knot. If we are to have unity, then heresy must not be present. If we do have heresy present, then how can there be unity?