Calvinists, ‘traditionals’ called to humility, common mission over doctrine of salvationcomment (0)
June 28, 2012
When a group of longtime Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) leaders released a statement in early June reaffirming the doctrine of salvation as understood by “traditional” Baptists, some wondered if it would change the tenor of the then-upcoming SBC annual meeting in New Orleans.
It not only stirred a blogosphere conversation and allowed for some serious hallway discussions, but the statement (visit www.thealabamabaptist.org to read the full statement) also forced the dialog onto the public platform at the annual meeting.
The topic showed up in a resolution (see story, page 7) and was the focus of SBC President Bryant Wright’s president’s address (see story, this page)
Executive Committee President and CEO Frank Page also addressed Calvinism during the Executive Committee report.
“Calvinism is an issue amongst us,” he said. “You may or may not like that, but it is a real issue. I don’t want to shock anyone in this room, but I am not a Calvinist. I am not. I know that shocks you. But I want to tell you this: A lot of our people are.”
According to a recent LifeWay Research poll, more than 60 percent of Southern Baptists said they were concerned about Calvinism in the convention, Page noted.
“Friends, I’m concerned because there seems to be some non-Calvinists who are more concerned about rooting out Calvinists than they are about winning the lost for Christ,” he said. “Did I tell you I’m not a Calvinist? But I am not among that number.”
Some Calvinists, Page said, “seem to think that if we do not believe the same thing about soteriology that they believe then somehow we are less intelligent or ignorant at best.”
“I simply say to you today that it’s time to realize that a Great Commission Advance needs everyone. A Great Commission Advance needs everyone,” he reiterated. “Calvinists and non-Calvinists have worked together for decade upon decade upon decade in this convention.”
Page confirmed again that he plans to assemble a group of advisers to help chart a way through the division surrounding Calvinism. That will not include revising the Baptist Faith and Message, Southern Baptists’ statement of beliefs, he said.
“I do believe we can find some ways to work together better, and I believe that the leaders of both of these groups can come together to say, ‘Here’s how we can return to working together like once we did,’” Page said.
One way to come together, he said, is for Calvinists and non-Calvinists to go door-to-door in Houston next summer, telling people about the good news of Jesus Christ before the SBC annual meeting.
“If we can come together in missions and evangelism, we can come together,” Page said.
David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, Birmingham, touched on the Calvinism debate during his Monday afternoon sermon at the SBC Pastors Conference.
“Let us humbly discuss the things we do not know and boldly declare Truth that we do know. Everyone who repents and believes in the Lord Jesus will be saved,” Platt said. “We can all ‘Amen’ that and everyone who is saved is saved by the grace of God. We are together on this.
“We can debate all day … but the Scripture is fundamentally clear, God loves the whole world and everyone who trusts in Him will be saved,” he said. “We do not have time to waste debating the good news when we have been commissioned to share the good news.”
The LifeWay Research survey mentioned by Page presented a slate of statements about Calvinism to a randomly selected sample of senior pastors in the SBC to gauge their theological inclination and whether they are concerned about the impact of Calvinism in the convention.
Seventy-eight percent of pastors responded they personally are not five-point Calvinists, while 16 percent agreed (8 percent somewhat and 8 percent strongly) with the statement “I am a five-point Calvinist.” This compares to 32 percent of pastors who agreed with the statement in last year’s survey of Protestant pastors.
LifeWay Research asked a similar question in a 2006 SBC survey, which revealed 85 percent did not consider themselves five-point Calvinists and 10 percent affirmed that they were five-point Calvinists.
“Rather than ask a single question of yes or no, the new survey was intended to capture some of the complexity of the debate by covering several specific theological points and bringing clarity to how strongly pastors hold each position,” Stetzer explained.
Ten percent of respondents strongly agree with the statement “Christ died only for the elect, not for everyone in the world” and another 6 percent somewhat agree. More than 80 percent somewhat disagree (6 percent) or strongly disagree (77 percent) with the statement. This compares to 91 percent of Protestant pastors who disagreed in the earlier survey.
Two-thirds of SBC pastors strongly disagree with a statement on double predestination: “Before the foundation of the world, God predestined some people to salvation and some to damnation.” Eleven percent strongly agree with the statement, while 10 percent somewhat agree and 9 percent somewhat disagree. A similar question was asked of Protestant pastors and 13 percent agreed. Ninety-four percent of respondents believe in the security of the believer, disagreeing with the statement that “a person can, after becoming a Christian, reject Christ and lose their salvation.” Five percent agree a person can lose their salvation.
Stetzer summarized that, “Most Baptists are not Calvinists, though many are, and most Baptists are not Arminians, though many are comfortable with that distinction. However, there is a sizeable minority that see themselves as Calvinist and holds to such doctrines, and a sizeable majority that is concerned about their presence. That points to challenging days to come.”