This post is the content of an op-ed which will be published in a state baptist newspaper soon. In order to make this op-ed the best it can possibly be, I solicit comments from Calvinists and Traditional SBC folks on how I can improve this article. Comments are open for this post.
Is There a Calvinist Agenda To Reform Traditional Southern Baptist Churches?
Recently, I was speaking with a Pastor Search Committee about a pastor search they were conducting. When I mentioned that Calvinist candidates may not be forthcoming in regard to their true beliefs, they asked, "What is a Calvinist?" I wasn't surprised that a small rural church was not aware of the Calvinist plan to reform SBC churches.
What is a Calvinist? Calvinists believe in five specific doctrines regarding salvation which are framed in the acronym: TULIP. Here's what TULIP stands for:
T = total depravity. Man is incapable of coming to Christ without first being regenerated by the Holy Spirit.
U = unconditional election. Before time began, God predestined who He would save. Unless one is a part of this special group, known as the "elect," one will not be saved.
L = limited atonement. Jesus did not die for the whole world. He died for the elect.
I = irresistible grace. In the case of the elect, they will ultimately come to Christ because God will cause them to come through an irresistible pull from Him.
P - perseverance of the saints. The elect of God will persevere in their faith in Christ and will not fall away.
Now let me make a couple of points regarding this doctrine of salvation which Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says is our "future." Here are some of the logical conclusions to what Calvinists believe. If God chose who was going to be saved before time began, then nothing can change His sovereign decree. Thus, if you are not one of the elect, you will not come to Christ. You can hear the word of God preached but it will have no saving effect on you because you are totally depraved and cannot come to Christ unless God causes you to come to Christ. And if you are not one of the elect, God will not cause you to come to Christ. The flip side of this theology is that God does nothing to draw the non-elect to Himself, thus they will not come to Him through Christ.
The majority of these Southern Baptist Calvinist pastors are coming from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Louisville, KY) and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (Wake Forest, NC). In North Carolina, small rural churches have been particularly vulnerable to Calvinist graduates from these seminaries because of their close proximity to churches in our state.
If Calvinist candidates, who are seeking pastoral positions in traditional Southern Baptist churches, would be honest about their beliefs, then I would see no problem. Our churches are autonomous and can choose to hire whom they please. If a church wants to hire a Calvinist pastor, then God bless them. Unfortunately, many Calvinist pastoral candidates are not revealing their Calvinism during the pastor search process in order to secure a pastoral position. Many times after the Calvinist is called as the pastor of the church, they begin to teach Calvinism in order to "reform" the traditional Baptist church in ecclesiology, polity, and worship. In many of these churches, the result is either a church split or the church is traumatized by the process of firing the pastor.
Is there an issue with pastoral candidates not being truthful to search committees about their beliefs? Apparently it is an issue that Danny Akin, President of Southeastern Seminary, thought was worthy of comment when he wrote:
“Act with personal integrity in your ministry when it comes to this issue. Put your theological cards on the table in plain view for all to see, and do not go into a church under a cloak of deception or dishonesty. If you do, you will more than likely split a church, wound the Body of Christ, damage the ministry God has given you, and leave a bad taste in the mouth of everyone. Let me give an example. I am pre-tribulational/premillennial in my eschatology. It would be inappropriate for me to interview with a church and continue the discussion if I discovered that it was committed to an amillennial position... If a person is strongly committed to five-point Calvinism, then he should be honest and transparent about that when talking to a church search committee.”
Is there a Calvinist agenda to reform traditional Southern Baptist churches? Absolutely. Ernest Reisinger, the chief architect of Founders, a Calvinist ministry, describes in great detail how to "reform" a traditional church. He even gives the agenda a name: "The Quiet Revolution." Make no mistake, there is an intentional effort to "reform" traditional SBC churches into "Reformed" (code word for Calvinist) churches.
Traditional SBC church leaders and their churches need to be informed about this Calvinist agenda. They need to be informed on how to ask the right questions to determine the true theological positions of their pastoral candidates. Not only would this process identify Calvinist candidates but other candidates who may not be a good fit for their church such as candidates who speak in tongues, candidates who believe that one can lose their salvation, or candidates who believe that the Ten Commandments are no longer valid. But the main difference between Calvinists and other non traditional Baptist candidates is that only Calvinists are actively trying to change local SBC churches to their beliefs.
Is there a Calvinist agenda to reform traditional Southern Baptist churches to Calvinism? Undeniably, yes. In response to the Calvinist efforts to reform non-Calvinist churches, a group of traditional Southern Baptist leaders and scholars wrote a “Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.” There are hundreds of signatures affirming this traditional Southern Baptist view of salvation. The list of signatures include includes over 250 pastors (representing small, medium, and large churches in 29 states), 6 former SBC Presidents, 7 state Baptist convention executives, 4 members of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 committee, over 20 associational Directors of Missions, 5 Baptist seminary and college Presidents, and hundreds of other evangelists, church staff members, and lay ministers. If you would like to stand for traditional Southern Baptist views of salvation, then I encourage you to go to the website and add your signature.
After the release of this statement, many Calvinists said they wanted unity in our convention. Traditional Southern Baptists also desire unity and I believe that unity is an attainable goal, but only when Calvinists cease trying to reform traditional SBC churches to their views.