Yesterday, “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation” hit the internet. The discussion that stems from this should be really interesting–to say the least. In the Preamble the motivation behind this document is set forth. It begins:
Every generation of Southern Baptists has the duty to articulate the truths of its faith with particular attention to the issues that are impacting contemporary mission and ministry. The precipitating issue for this statement is the rise of a movement called “New Calvinism” among Southern Baptists. This movement is committed to advancing in the churches an exclusively Calvinistic understanding of salvation, characterized by an aggressive insistence on the “Doctrines of Grace” (“TULIP”), and to the goal of making Calvinism the central Southern Baptist position on God’s plan of salvation.
I, yes even as a Calvinist, firmly stand with these men in opposing this “New Calvinism”. Though I adhere to what could be described as Calvinist soteriology, I firmly reject a commitment to make churches exclusively Calvinistic in their understanding of salvation. Of course I would be quite happy if we all embraced what I believe the Bible teaches on how we become Christians. Yet, I also understand that in the Lord’s goodness and sovereignty He seems content with allowing some mystery here and room for disagreement. Perhaps it is to show a watching world that believers are able to have deep and lasting fellowship around Christ and His gospel even when disagreeing on very significant (though not ultimate) issues. So, though I’m a young Calvinist (30 is still young right?) I firmly reject those in the new Calvinism camp that are committed to only advancing a Calvinistic understanding of salvation. This would include those that “seem to be pushing for a radical alteration of the long-standing arrangement” of cooperation around the Baptist Faith and Message.
I am especially opposed to those that “are characterized by an aggressive insistence on the ‘Doctrines of Grace’ (TULIP). I’m opposed to that because aggressive insistence goes against “teaching with gentleness and respect”. Furthermore, I do not support an aggressive insistence that others be Calvinists because it denies the very sovereignty and power of God that it claims to uphold. So again count me with these brothers opposing this “New Calvinism”.
I even oppose those that are “making Calvinism the central Southern Baptist position on God’s plan of salvation”. Of course I believe that a Calvinistic understanding of how we are saved is biblical. I firmly believe that because of the fall, man is unable to choose that which is good. A heart change must first take place. When that happens then people respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I am not 100% sure of what God’s plan of salvation is referring to. If it is referring to God’s plan to work in the world to root out of his kingdom all sin and unbelief and replace it with passionate worshipers then I must confess I’m not sure what that has to do with Calvinism. Though I think that being a Calvinist influences the way I share and present the gospel I am not sure what bearing it has on the content of the gospel itself. So, if there are these “new Calvinists” making predestination and such part of their content of the gospel message then count me out.
So, count me in, fellas. I have to confess right out front, though, that I do not affirm many of your articles. I’m not sure that you’ll really count me as part of your team. I do affirm the Baptist Faith and Message. And I do stand with you opposing these aggressive new Calvinists. I just have one more question…
What’s Our Next Step?
If I’m pressed really hard I may be able to think of a handful of these “new” Calvinists. I’ve often called them hyper-Calvinists (sometimes hyper because of too much sugar and sometimes too much systematic theology) and sometimes just not very good Calvinists. So, what do we do to find these angry and divisive Calvinists? And what do we do once we find them?
Do we love them and try to steer them to the gospel and address the heart issues that is leading to their anger? Do we try to change their theology? Do we encourage them to become Presbyterians?
I’ll be on the look out for these new Calvinists–you guys just let me know what I’m supposed to do when I find one. I’m sure they’re out there (and that part sadly, isn’t tongue in cheek). Until I hear from you this will be my strategy: How to Help an Angry and Divisive Calvinist.