Reprinted below is a letter I recently received from a Southern Baptist layperson struggling with the changes taking place in her church. Following the letter is my reply. Certain details have been removed in order to protect her anonymity. From time to time, all churches face conflict in making decisions and seeking God’s will, but the special sense of betrayal felt by this woman appears mostly related to two issues. First, during his candidacy, her Pastor denied his reformed theology. Second, reforms were not implemented openly as one might anticipate in a church business meeting, but quietly and secretly, behind the scenes, almost imperceptible to the majority of church members for whom theological discernment is simply not a gift.
|Letter From Soteriological Dishonesty Victim:Hello. I’ve checked out your site multiple times. I’m looking for help or support from like minded individuals. I live in a small town and we recently got a new pastor. After some strange suggestions of Bible study materials, I started to question the theology of this new pastor. My search lead me to your web site as well as an SBC state convention.This whole new Calvinism thing is new to my area and it seems to be infiltrating my church and no one seems to be noticing. We’ve had several guest speakers now that are most certainly reformed in their theology and without voting for it we are now using reformed resources for Bible study materials. My church is not even batting an eye. Most people aren’t even noticing. Either the deacons are blind from the glamor or they are flat out lying about what they know.
Our pastor told our church that he wasn’t a Calvinist, and our church asked no other questions. Do you know anything about a certain reformed organization? All I can tell is it seems to be overwhelmed by many well known Calvinists. I don’t even know what my question is for you, or what kind of advice I need. We love our church family, and I’m not opposed to the fact that people have reformed theology, but those people shouldn’t be my pastor… and they shouldn’t be deceiving and lying to our church about who or what they are. Any help here? I’m afraid I’m appearing like a crazy lady off her rocker—so I wish to apologize for the crazy.
Thank you for writing. Sadly, your story is repeated frequently in Southern Baptist life these days. We receive many letters and emails similar to yours, in which people express their shock and dismay at the changes that have taken place in a church they may have loved and served for a lifetime. We realize the pain caused by such spiritual subterfuge.
Let me assure you that you are not off your rocker at all. In fact, those of us who point out publicly the existence of such secretive Calvinist reforms are unfortunately susceptible to a common secondary attack—namely, the charge that we are actually conspiracy theorists for pointing these things out—which only adds insult to injury, allowing Calvinists so inclined to dismiss our concerns and not take them seriously.
Although you are resting quite solidly upon your rocker, your church is most certainly being quietly reformed. Rarely is the decision to enact these reforms brought before the church for a vote, since the motion would be unlikely to pass. Instead, the typical reform strategy includes the two characteristics you mentioned:
As your church moves forward, it will either address this reform attempt or it will not. Either way, there will be some painful days ahead for every person in your church who cannot in good conscience embrace this new direction. Should you decide to find a new church home, below is a list of Pastors in your state who have signed the Traditional Statement. Rest assured they harbor no doctrinal secrets. If I can be of any further assistance, please let me know.