Back in 2006 at the Southern Baptist Convention held in Greensboro, NC, there was a breakout session lead by Paige Patterson, the President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Al Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on “Reaching Today’s World Through Differing Views of Election.” The sessions drew such large crowds that only standing room was available in the convention hotel ballroom. For those that were unable to attend these sessions, here are some quotes from both men…
Quotes and implications from Patterson:
1. “My fervent prayer is that whatever your beliefs are about the sovereignty of God … you will join me in taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth.”
2. “I would caution my non-Calvinist brethren against the conclusion that the doctrine of Calvin automatically means that a person will not and cannot be evangelistic,” Patterson said. “… One of the commands that the Lord gives is to take the Gospel to the ends of earth. No Calvinist worthy of his stripe would thereby disobey a command of God.”
3. “It’s very unfair to a Calvinist to refer to him as a hyper-Calvinist. It prejudges him. … I think instead you ought to ask him, ‘What do you believe?’ If he’s wrong about it – if he goes too far in one direction – you can correct that. I don’t like name-calling.”
4. “This is an old discussion. It’s a discussion that predates Calvin. It is a discussion that predates Augustine. … God’s people have always struggled to try to figure out what is it that God has done on one hand and what is it for which we are responsible on the other.
“It’s a good discussion, it’s a healthy discussion, as long as we don’t begin to anathematize one another for our various perspectives and as long as the discussion of this theology or any other theology does not become an impediment to the most important thing, which is getting the Gospel of Christ to 6.5 billion people.”
5. Within SBC history, Patterson said, “both sides of this discussion are well-represented.” He said there are two “streams” of belief flowing into the same river. One stream was the Charleston, S.C., stream, which was “more Calvinistic,” the other was the Sandy Creek, N.C., stream which was “more revivalistic,” Patterson said. Yet the Sandy Creek statement of faith also had a “very Calvinistic strain”, he added.
6. Patterson urged Southern Baptists not to follow the example of the English Baptists who divided over the issue. After the split, those who held to limited atonement (the particular Baptists) became “anti-missionary and anti-evangelistic,” while those who held to general atonement (the General Baptists) emphasized doctrine so little that they “became universalists,” Patterson said.
“The splitting of the two did them no favors and pushed them in opposite directions that were very unfortunate,” he said. “… If we allow Satan to have his way, we’ll divide up over it, as we certainly should not,” Patterson said.
Quotes and Implications from Al Mohler:
1. Mohler agreed that there are “hyper-Calvinists” – those who reject the need to spread the Gospel – within the SBC. But he said it is by nature a small group.
“If you ever find a vital hyper-Calvinist movement, you will have a living oxymoron.”
2. Five-point Calvinism, Mohler said, “is not hyper-Calvinism.”
“However, if one takes an additional logical jump from that point and says, ‘Therefore, we should not present the Gospel to all persons,’ they are in direct conflict with the Scripture and direct disobedience to the call of God and in direct contradiction to the model of the apostles,” he said.
3. The majority of the founders of the SBC, Mohler said, held to Calvinist beliefs.
“They were themselves representative of a great Baptist movement that itself was a part of the great evangelical movement,” he said. “… It is no accident that [British missionary] William Carey held these very beliefs, and thus he went to India to begin the modern missionary movement. It is no accident that those who founded this denomination likewise held those beliefs, and those very beliefs compelled them into world missions.”
4. Calvinism, Mohler said, is “part of the stream that has brought us to this place.”
“Dr. Patterson and I have discussed this far more extensively than a one-hour presentation here would allow,” Mohler said. “It’s a part of the vibrancy of our friendship in the Gospel. … We owe it to each other as brothers in Christ, who share an affection for the Gospel … to, as iron sharpens iron, talk about these issues so that we can be evermore faithful in preaching and teaching the Gospel.”
You can read more of the discussion here. It’s worthy of your time and attention.
What I don’t understand is why there are some in Southern Baptist Churches that want to run Calvinists out of Southern Baptist leadership at both the local church and convention levels. If the gospel is central, and neither Calvinists nor non-Calvinists are violating the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, shouldn’t we be able to lovingly disagree while taking the gospel to the ends of the earth as united brothers in Christ?
I will leave you with one final quote from Paige Patterson from back in 1999:
Having close friends who are five-point Calvinists, Patterson said, he respects their commitment to the Bible as the word of God and their belief in the reality of sin.
Pressed by another listener as to whether those who hold to Calvinism are to be accepted as part of the convention, Patterson replied that the Baptist Faith & Message is the SBC’s agreed-upon, adopted statement of faith.
“There’s plenty of room under the umbrella for anyone who is anything from a one- to five-point Calvinist,” Patterson said, stipulating that any Southern Baptist would have to agree upon the doctrine known as perseverance of the saints or “once saved, always saved.”
“There’s room for a two- or three-pointer like me, provided he can explain what is meant by two and three,” Patterson said. “There’s room for four- and five-pointers whom I believe lack scriptural justification for that, but I’m certainly not in favor of running them out.”
You can find the rest of the story surrounding this quote here.
What are your thoughts about Calvinism in the SBC? Do you see it as a threat? Or, should affirming the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 be enough to serve in SBC leadership and Southern Baptist churches? Should either group encourage churches or SBC leadership to get rid of their Calvinist or non-Calvinist pastors/leaders? Why or why not?