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Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Roots of Virulent Anti-Calvinism in the SBC

The trend towards a less “gentile” Southern Baptist Convention is unmistakable.

All one has to do is listen to some of the bitter and extremely provocative denunciations of Calvinism coming from a select group of former, and sometimes current leaders, within the SBC to realize that trouble is brewing. The Anti-Calvinists within the Convention are itching for an old fashion (bare knuckle – knock down – drag out – winner take all) fight.

The Conservative resurgence within the Southern Baptist Convention won the day behind the flag of inerrancy. However, as some of the original leaders of the resurgence are fading from the scene the future of the resurgence movement is uncertain. The growing influence of a new generation of young, energetic, evangelical, and yes often Calvinist, Pastors who were rocked in the cradle of inerrancy, and who fully embrace the Word of God as their finial authority and not the reason and traditions of men, have a number of the older resurgence leaders worried.

The truth is; they should be worried. This new generation of Southern Baptist Pastors does not think like the last generation. The last generation of Pastors, while decidedly conservative compared to the liberal leaders they replaced, went off to seminary in the 60’s and 70’s when liberal thought and ideals were at their highest within the Southern Baptist Convention. It can honestly be stated that they were, almost without exception, baptized in the decidedly liberal waters that were freely flowing in our seminaries at this time. Although they may have come away from their seminary years with what one would honestly call conservative convictions for their time, it must be noted that they were not unaffected by this experience.

“Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?”

In contrast, and ironically thanks to the work of many in the conservative resurgence who are now worried, the current generation of pastors has received what is probably the most conservative education for ministry, from what is undoubtedly the most conservative professors, that one could have received from any Southern Baptist seminary within the last one hundred years.

The difference between these two generations of Baptist Pastors is not how they answer most questions, for they do agree on a lot of things, but instead their difference is in how they arrive at their answers. Before one can answer any given question he must decide on just how he is going to approach his answer, and it is this approach to the answer that is often so different between the two groups, and what is so revealing about the core differences between them.

This difference was vividly demonstrated by the arguments for or against biblical doctrines and social issues on the convention floor this past spring of 2006. While both groups considered their conclusions to be the proper conservative positions, and they may even arrive at the same conclusion, they each take a very different route to get their. The “Old Conservatives”, who were educated and undoubtedly influence by far more liberal professors, are far more likely to site tradition and the opinions of “most Southern Baptist” to support their positions, while the “New Conservatives” (who were rocked in the cradle of inerrancy) almost always exclusively turn to the Word of God to defend their positions.

“Calvinism scares the Holy Ghost out of many of the Old Conservatives…”

Increasingly the Old Conservatives and the New Conservatives are at odds with one another. This is particularly true when it comes to the Doctrines of Grace or Calvinism. “Calvinism scares the Holy Ghost out of many of the Old Conservatives…”

The virulent Anti-Calvinism coming from many of the Old Conservatives as of late has a defiantly familiar ring to it… In “tone” and “substance” it sounds much like the virulent Anti-Calvinism of their Old Liberal Professors of the 60’s and 70’s.

The Old Conservatives of the SBC today use many of the same tactics as their Old Liberal Professors used in attacking all things Calvinism during their seminary days.

Here is just a sample:

(1) Building Calvinist straw-men by telling their audience that Calvinist believe things that no Calvinist ever believed and then burning these straw-men to the ground.

(2) Telling emotional illustrations about Calvinism sending babies to hell and keeping some who are seeking and serving God with all of their hearts from getting on the bus marked for Heaven.

(3) Elevating the doctrine of “free will” to the honored position of the most sacred doctrine among Baptist when it is not even mentioned in our own statement of faith, the BFM2000.

(4) Bashing, giving false definitions of, and even mocking the doctrine of Election even when it is clearly defined for all Baptist to read in our statement of faith, the BFM2000.

(5) Falsely proclaiming that Calvinism kills evangelism and that it always has, when Baptist History clearly teaches otherwise.

When it comes to discovering the roots of this virulent strand of Anti-Calvinism being preached by some of these Old Conservatives today, which is having the effect of causing needless division and hurt within the SBC, one need only to look at the teaching of their Old Liberal Professors. Because, when it comes to attacking Calvinism there is virtually no difference between the Old Conservatives and the Old Liberals.

In closing two proverbs come to mind:

(1) “You reap what you sow.”
(2) “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck… it’s a duck”.

Greg Alford

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