Posts Tagged ‘Baptist twenty one’

The Problem With Calvinism in the SBC

There are a number of issues that the SBC is going to have to deal with concerning the issue of Calvinism in the SBC. The issue is not one of co-existing. It is an issue of control and influence. For years, the liberals and conservatives co-existed in the SBC. However, in the 60’s the liberal faction managed to make their way, under the radar so to speak, into the colleges and seminaries that were supported in part with Cooperative Fund monies. They began turning out preachers and graduates who saw the Bible from a more liberal stance than most traditional Southern Baptists did. This influence rooted in the seminaries was having an impact on the perceived future of the SBC. So, men like Paul Presslar, a Houston judge and Paige Patterson, then President of Criswell College and W.A. Criswell, Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas and Adrian Rogers, Pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee put together a plan to elect a President of the convention who could help turn the tide and the threat of liberalism in the convention. The President of the Convention was responsible for appointing people to serve on committees who would be responsible for choosing individuals to serve on various trustee boards and in various positions of leadership within the convention’s organizational entities. In this way, this group would be able to gain control of trustee appointees who in turn would be able to make sure the various entities held to the appropriate theological positions of the conservatively elected leadership. Adrian Rogers was elected President of the SBC and the conservative resurgence was begun and it continued for a number of years.

Today the SBC is facing another challenge posed by Calvinism in much the same way it did with liberalism in the 60’s and 70’s. The Calvinists will scream bloody murder at being cast in the same light as the liberals of the past generation. The point however, is unfortunately the same. The truth is, the Calvinist theological position is decidedly different from the theological position of the person in the pew today and the question must be addressed, “How much of a Calvinist influence in the SBC is enough or too much?” If the people in the pew do not make that determination, the people in power most certainly will and that tide is swiftly turning in favor of the Calvinist camp.

There is another problem that is prevalent in Calvinist pulpits and that is a message that is theologically inconsistent. The following statement that is a part of the chapter titled, “Walking Without Slipping”, which appears on the Founders Website in of all things, a “quiet” file.

“Along with the doctrines of grace, human responsibility to believe is another foundational doctrine, a hill on which to die. We must proclaim to every single person: All are sinners. All are dead in trespasses and sins. They are not sick and simply in need of help. Rather, they are dead and in need of life.

Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is a perfect, able and willing Savior of sinners, even the worst, yea, even the chief.

The Father and the Son have promised that all who know themselves to be sinners and who put their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior shall be received into favor, and none shall be cast out.

God has made faith and repentance a duty, requiring of every man who hears the gospel a serious and full casting of the soul upon Christ as an all-sufficient Savior. He is ready, willing and able to save all who come to God by Christ.

To the question the article “Walking Without Slipping” states, “What must I do to be saved?” we must respond to all who ask, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” What does that mean? It means: (a) knowing that you are a sinner, (b) knowing that Christ has died for sinners, (c) abandoning all self-righteousness, self-confidence and self-effort as a means of salvation, (d) casting yourself wholly upon Christ for pardon and peace, (e) exchanging your natural enmity and rebellion against Christ for a spirit of grateful submission to the will of Christ through the renewing of your heart by the Holy Spirit.”

In all fairness, the Calvinist must accept the fact that this answer requires some forethought. While this statement is technically correct from a strict theological position, Calvinist’s must admit “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” is understood to be qualified by the statement, “if that is God’s will.” In fact, to the Calvinist, it is not even possible to be saved if God’s effectual call is not present in the heart of the one asking the question. The Calvinist’s position must be understood that regeneration MUST be the initial step in any move toward God. While it is understood that the since no one knows who is the elect or not, it is fair to make the aforementioned offer and leave it to God to reap the harvest. This out to be true of everyone who extends such an invitation, Calvinist or not. However, from a theological standpoint, the following statement is still true for the Calvinist: “If it is God’s will for someone to be saved, then that person will be saved. If it is not God’s will for an individual to be saved, then that individual will not be saved.”

This introduces the next problem that Calvinism presents and that is the concept of “double-predestination.” If the Calvinist is correct in his assessment of salvation and God’s responsibility in the salvific process, then not only is God singularly and solely responsible for every person that comes to Christ and goes to heaven, He is also singularly and solely responsible for every person who dies without Christ and goes to hell. John Frame in his book, Salvation Belongs to the Lord speaks directly to this issue and its implications related to Calvinism.

“Now the question comes up, if God chooses us eternally for salvation, does He also choose who will be lost? God’s choice of who will be lost is called reprobation. So we know God elected; does he also reprobate? It seems logical to say that if God chooses some to be saved; he automatically chooses the rest not to be saved. This doctrine is sometimes called ‘double predestination’.”

“But this is a hard pill to swallow. It is hard to believe that a loving God could, before the beginning of time, send some to eternal punishment, accusing them before they could do anything about it. Although reprobation is a particularly hard problem, I believe the best answers are the answers I gave earlier: God brings good out of evil even when we can’t imagine how He could possibly do it; and He reserved to Himself the right to do that, to His own honor and glory. Remember, too, that if God does not reprobate, He does not elect to salvation either. So, the alternative to election and reprobation is for us to try to save ourselves by our own resources, I would not want to try to do that. What settles the matter is that the doctrine of reprobation is biblical and not just an implication from the doctrine of election. In other words, He uses His sovereignty negatively rather than positively.”

There is another problem that Calvinism presents. This problem centers on the issue of “invitational evangelism and false converts in the church.” A number of present day Calvinists have written and preached sermons criticizing invitational evangelism and giving lost people a false sense of hope. It is almost as if Calvinists are saying that this makes evangelizing the elect more difficult. This whole argument is an illogical one and completely inconsistent with the tenets of Calvinism. There are two basic problems. First according to Calvinistic doctrine, unregenerate church members are just that, dead in their sin. They are no worse off than the unregenerate person of the world. To the Calvinist, regeneration is a lost person’s only hope, church member or not. If Calvinism is correct, the fact that someone has made a false profession of faith at an altar call should have no consequence at all on the individual who is efficaciously called by God to salvation. There is simply no merit whatsoever to this argument.

The other problem with this theologically as it relates to Calvinism is, just because someone is not regenerate today does not mean that his time will not come tomorrow or next year or any time before he passes from this life. There really is no justification to move this person out of the fellowship of the church if in fact God is sovereign and in complete control and nothing happens by accident. The fact that this person is even at a particular church is in and of itself at least partly because of God’s doing or one could argue, he would not be there in the first place. Again, an unregenerate person whether he is in church or not or whether he is in a church that has unregenerate members is not going to hinder the providential work of God in salvation for the Calvinist. John Frame alludes to this as he notes, “A lot of people in the world are the elect but not yet saved. Before you believed in Jesus you were in that position. You were the elect, chosen of God before the foundation of the world, but you lived as an unbeliever, without any faith in Christ. How did God change you? The first phase, the first event, is effectual calling… it is then that God opens your heart to receive the truth.”

A final issue with the Calvinist position with regard to unregenerate membership can be seen in the Calvinist’s efforts to exercise church discipline as elders so that members who do not agree with the “new reformed way” can be shown the door. Elders in many cases do not have to get congregational authority or permission to see that the church is run “orderly.” Calvinist pastors have been seen by some as promoting the age old philosophy, “It’s my way or the highway. If my way does not suit you, don’t go away mad; just go away.” In the last decade, as churches have started using membership classes to help new members learn what it means to be part of a particular church, many of those churches are now limiting leadership positions to those individuals who have completed “Membership 101, 102 – 105.” There is an argument that these classes are being used to help the church leadership weed out dissenting individuals by disqualifying them for leadership in the church. It is a very effective way to gain control of a congregation.

These issues that Calvinism present are not going to go away. Calvinism can continue to make its way into every facet of Southern Baptist life and can eventually take control of the convention if something is not done to limit its influence. Calvinism today covers a broad scope of individuals and ideas. However, those who are “real Calvinists” will tolerate those who are only Calvinistic until the day comes when they will not have to do so and then there is always the possibility that they will cut ties with the three and four-point Calvinists and people will begin to wonder, “How on earth did all this ever happen?” If there is any doubt as to the reality of that possibility, just take a good look at what has happened in Washington DC over the past few decades. If the SBC does not make a move and soon, this convention will continue to move in the Calvinist direction and this convention will be left suffering with more than an identity crisis being examined by a name change committee.

Grateful to be in His Grip!

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Calvinism or Conversionism; Reformed or Transformed Theology

Welcome to Transformed Theology and the home of Conversionism.

Southern Baptist’s have a big problem today. Although Calvinism has been a part of the SBC since its inception and even before, it’s influence and popularity today is greater than it has ever been. That is and of itself, is not the real problem. The problem is where that influence is positioned today and how that influence may well change the face of the SBC in the “not so distant” years to come. One of the problems that makes this issue so interesting is the fact that Calvinists come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. There are 5 point Calvinists, 4-point Calvinists, 3-point Calvinists and possibly even 2 and 1-point Calvinists. This is cause for concern for me; it appears that the umbrella of Calvinism has been broadened to make it wide enough to hold almost anyone who has been born again and believes in the sovereignty of God or His amazing grace. This “Calvinist friendly” position is not helping the cause of Christ and it is not going to be good for the health and well-being of the future SBC.

Calvinism is not limited to the SBC. There may be individuals of other denominations who are struggling for a new identity as well and this new terminology may find fertile ground for you but from an influence standpoint, my focus is with respect to the SBC and its entities and especially its seminaries. The overwhelming majority of members in the pew have absolutely no idea what the Doctrines of Grace are; most cannot even spell Calvinism correctly much less explain its most basic tenets. I do not want money being sent to the SBC to be used to promote these doctrinal differences that will eventually change the face of the convention as it exists today. Now to be fair, I KNOW that Calvinism has been a part of the SBC since its inception. I understand that Calvinists would like to have a majority voice in the convention. However, the facts are overwhelmingly clear; you do not have a majority voice and there are those who want it to stay that way. I am in that group.

Anyone who does not believe that God regenerates an individual before he can exercise saving faith or repentance is not a Calvinist. A person who claims to be a 4-point Calvinist who does not believe in Limited Atonement, is not a Calvinist. The same is true for that person who does not believe in any of the other four points. Period. What we need today is some new terminology that will adequately represent some of the things that Calvinism has right, and then reflect on the things that Calvinism completely misses the mark on and in the process give people some solid ground upon which to stand. Welcome to the home of Conversionism and Transformed Theology.

Calvinists have been relatively successful in painting a picture of theological extremes by placing hyper-Calvinism on one side and universalism on the other and painting Calvinism as a middle ground. I would like to offer an an alternative middle ground if you will, that moves Calvinism and Reformed Theology to one side and universalism to the other. Calvinists covers a number of issues and they are very deliberate in their presentation. I like what one person said, “We all use the same vocabulary; we do not all use the same dictionary.” This statement contains a mountain of truth!

Conversion is the key to Christianity. The Calvinist will agree with this statement. The difference between Conversionism and Calvinism is how this conversion takes place. For the Calvinist a totally depraved man must be regenerated by God for him to respond to God in faith and repentance in order for that person to be converted. This process of regeneration is both central and critical to the salvific process. Because “Conversion is the key to Christianity,” it is equally true that “the process of regeneration is both central and critical to the salvific process” for both the Conversionist as well as the Calvinist.

The issue of course is when does regeneration take place and how are faith and repentance and regeneration related? For the Reformed, regeneration precedes faith and repentance and in fact lead to them and they are impossible without regeneration. In Conversionism revelation and reconciliation, which are both at God’s sole initiative precede faith and repentance that brings about regeneration.

What is Conversionism or Transformed Theology? Conversionism and Transformed Theology is a new identity that offers what I believe is a much needed change in terminology for the child of God who is neither Arminian or Calvinist.

Reformed Theology has built itself around, namely the TULIP which is an acronym representing the five points of Calvinism. By using the same five letters, here is a new twist on an old identity that can find significance as a New Tulip. Consider the following acrostic:

An Argument for Total Lostness
An Argument for Unconditional Love
An Argument for Limitless Atonement
An Argument for Irreplaceable Grace
An Argument for Perseverance of the Savior

Thankful for a new identity! More to come.


Grateful to be in His Grip,

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The More I look… the Less I Like!

Anyone heard about the church planting group, B21?

Here are a couple interesting articles on their website at http://www.baptisttwentyone.com/

B21 is very excited about the direction of the North American Mission Board under the leadership of President Kevin Ezell (who will also be joining the B21 lunch panel on Tuesday of the Convention, Register for that HERE). Ezell has introduced the strategy entitled “Send North America” that will be a major church planting push from NAMB. NAMB is putting on a lunch panel to discuss this strategy and how churches can get involved. If you are going to be in Phoenix for the SBC, please make every effort to attend this meeting.

“As we continue to prepare for the B21 Panel at the SBC next Tuesday, we would like to hear from you! What kinds of questions would you like John Piper, David Platt, Kevin Ezell, Albert Mohler, and Danny Akin to answer? You can submit the questions you have by leaving them in the comment field below. Please tell us which panelist the question is for and your question.”

Add to this group Acts 29 and PLNTD… all “theologically sound” church planting groups… no wonder Dr. Ezell is so excited about being at NAMB and working so hard for Southern Baptists in the area of church planting.

Grateful to be in His Grip

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