I have served in a pastoral capacity in 4 Southern Baptist churches. In my experience, once Calvinism is explained without calling it “Calvinism,” there are many Christians in our churches that agree with it, and many others that haven’t even thought about in detail what they believe concerning the doctrine of salvation and the doctrine of God. (I don’t call what I believe “Calvinism” because it’s a loaded term. When Southern Baptists hear “Calvinism,” they automatically assume I believe a whole host of things that I do not believe. Plus, 5-point Calvinists, whether they baptize babies or not, often don’t consider me to be a Calvinist.) Here are the 5 points of Calvinism explained using the Acronymn T-U-L-I-P:
T is for Total Depravity
U is for Unconditional Election
L is for Limited Atonement
I is for Irresistible Grace
P is for the Perseverance of the Saints
God is 100% sovereign and man is 100% responsible. Man does indeed choose God, but God first chose him. I affirm and teach 1) Total Depravity: mankind is dead in his sins and unable to save himself; even unable to have faith in Christ apart from the Spirit’s intervention. 2) Unconditional Election: mankind cannot save himself. Salvation is a result of God’s supernatural work in a dead sinner. 3) Irresistible Grace: Once God’s grace is understood in a salvific sense, a sinner cannot resist it. God’s grace is greater than our sin, and our foundational understanding of this reality already reveals God’s work in our hearts. God’s grace is irresistible in the sense that the person who understands his wonderful grace is already gripped by the Holy Spirit; otherwise, he would not be able to spiritually discern and understand God’s grace. 4) Perseverance of the Saints: Those who God saves, He saves to the uttermost. Once sinners belong to God through Christ, they persevere in Christianity because they belong to Him eternally. Now, concerning Limited Atonement, I don’t teach or believe it. I believe that Jesus died for the entire world, not merely the elect; although, of course I believe that the blood of Christ is limited in that it is only applied to Christians. I’m not a universalist. I don’t believe there is enough biblical exegetical evidence to believe or teach limited atonement; however, I do love my brothers and sisters that believe it. I will gladly support and fellowship with Southern Baptists who are 5-point Calvinists.
Most Southern Baptists, in my experience, affirm at least 2 points (T and P) of the above T-U-L-I-P. What’s 2 or 3 more points, really? As Southern Baptists, the question often isn’t “are you a Calvinist?” The question most of the time is “What kind of Calvinist are you?” If many Southern Baptists will search out the Scriptures and examine their hearts, they will find that they often agree more with Calvinism than Arminianism. I believe that there are several Anti-Calvinist Southern Baptists that are more Calvinistic than they realize. Thus, they are Calvinist Anti-Calvinist Southern Baptists!
In the words of Paige Patterson concerning Southern Baptists, “There’s plenty of room under the umbrella for anyone who is anything from a one to five-point Calvinist.” I agree with Paige Patterson.
What are your thoughts?