Alabama pastor calls for ‘frank’ conversations about Calvinism

Alabama pastor calls for ‘frank’ conversations about Calvinism

Alabama pastor Rick Patrick would like to see intentional “frank” conversations happening among Southern Baptists related to how Traditionalists and Calvinists can better co-exist in the denomination.

“I believe we have thousands of Traditionalist Southern Baptist churches starved for resources and ministry initiatives that make sense within a more Traditionalist ministry paradigm,” he said. “The overwhelming number of Calvinist resources and ministry initiatives are like square pegs in round holes.

“This lack of alignment at the national level compared to the state, association and local church level has produced much of the tension,” said Patrick, pastor of First Baptist Church, Sylacauga. “Over the past decade, the leaders we have chosen as our entity heads, speakers and authors have been much more Calvinistic than the average Southern Baptist.

“We need some frank conversations regarding practical solutions to get us all on the same page.”

Patrick — who said he affirms Calvinists’ rights to share their beliefs and practices — made headlines with his Nov. 29 chapel sermon at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, about the importance of salvation doctrine.

Using Hebrews 2:1–3 as his supporting text, Patrick’s topical message was structured around three points of application — that we not neglect the story, study nor significance of salvation.

“The first section was basically a personal testimony and has engendered little critique,” Patrick said. “The second section was criticized as a commercial, but might more charitably be referred to as a lecture reviewing current books and resources in Traditionalist theology.

“The thesis of the third section was that salvation is the most important thing that ever happens to anyone, so whatever else we get wrong about God, we must be certain to get salvation right,” he explained. “This theme was developed by tracing various doctrines of reformed theology that come along for the ride when one embraces Calvinist soteriology.”

‘Presbyterian view’

“In addition to these doctrines, some practical ministry applications that flow from these underpinnings were then explored prior to the conclusion.”

For instance, near the end of his 5,000-word sermon to current students of his alma mater headed by President Paige Patterson, Patrick said:

“Southern Baptists cannot help but wonder what is happening as we increasingly embrace the Presbyterian view of salvation doctrine, church government, mode of baptism, avoidance of the altar call, use of beverage alcohol, approval of societal missions funding and so on.

“It is naïve to think that we can gradually reform our beliefs without simultaneously reforming our practices.

“And the question we must ask is whether or not these reformed practices are making things better or worse.”

Following Patrick’s sermon, Patterson responded to the “rude behavior on the part of a few students who had … walked out to show their displeasure.”

“If I held Presbyterian beliefs, I would be a Presbyterian,” Patterson said. “If I held charismatic beliefs, I would probably affiliate with the Assemblies of God. If my only difference with Presbyterians were that I favored only baptism of adult believers rather than the baptism of infants, I would probably be conflicted, but I might affiliate with Primitive Baptists.”

Clarifying the original reports of his statements, Patterson posted a Dec. 2 blog explaining, “Let it be clear that I asked no one to leave the [Southern Baptist Convention]. … I expressed what I would do just as every Baptist is free to do and especially as is our custom in the academic world.”

To read Patrick’s full sermon, visit (TAB)