Gerald Harris is the editor of The Christian Index, the newspaper for Georgia Baptists. In the most recent (Feb. 09, 2012) issue he wrote an editorial entitled “The Calvinists are Here” in which he discusses the new “tremendous challenge” that is the theological divide between Calvinism and non-Calvinism. The link requires registration, but you can read the whole thing here. I wanted to post a couple of thoughts:
1) There are some of what Jerry Vines calls in the article “Militant, Hostile” Calvinists, or what I would call angry, young Calvinists, in SBC life. Fresh converts to Calvinism are typically intelligent young men who are looking for a deeper and less superficial faith, and when they find it in Calvinism they are often pretty forceful with it. This attitude is sinful, it should be acknowledge and repented of. Part of this comes because they find themselves in a minority which gives them two options, aggressive and angry engagement or loving and humble engagement. I think we all know which response brings glory to God and may he raise up more of the latter.
2) This is not, as Frank Page insinuates in his quote, a new problem. This tension has existed in Baptist life since the 1600’s. For the majority of that time, and especially in the American south in the early and mid-1800’s, the Calvinists were the dominant strand. With the rise of revivalism and the Second Great Awakening, along with the rise of dispensationalism, the more “Arminian” or “Free-Will” Baptists became the dominant group in the 1900’s, the Reformed Resurgence is simply a comeback for the Calvinist theology of the past. We would all be wise to learn from the conflicts of the past and embrace our commonalities without minimizing our differences. Baptist churches have local church autonomy, so we should allow the local church to make those decisions and hold their pastors and staff accountable. We should be mature enough to have serious theological discussion without misrepresentation, name-calling and mudslinging.
3) Jerry Vines is quoted as saying, “Current attempts to move the SBC to a Calvnistic soteriology are divisive and wrong. As long as groups and individuals seek to force Calvinism upon others in the Convention, there will be problems.” This is a troubling statement in so many ways. First, who are you talking about? I don’t know of any Calvinist who is seeking to force Calvinism upon others. It would be nice if you actually mentioned a real person. Second, If someone embraces Calvinistic soteriology shouldn’t they try to encourage others to accept it? Calvinists only attempt to move the SBC to a Calvinistic soteriology in the same way that you and others attempt to move it towards an Arminian soteriology, and that way is teaching it and encouraging others to believe it. Basically you are telling the Calvinists that you don’t mind them in the convention as long as they shut up and be quiet. I would say, develop better answers to their theological concerns. Do a better job defending your position and fewer young Baptists would become Calvinists.
4) While attempting to be balanced, Harris’s article most certainly was not. He mentions several prominent Calvinists, but never quotes them while always allowing the prominent opponents to Calvinism an actual quote. I think it would have been great if he had actually allowed Mark Dever or Trevin Wax or Bland Mason the opportunity to respond in like fashion.
5) I really don’t understand the mention of Mark and Grace Driscoll’s Sex book in this discussion of Calvinists in SBC life. Has Driscoll been influential for SOME young SBC pastors? Yes. Does his sex book have anything to do with that? No. In fact, I have seen mostly criticism from Calvinists over the book, Dr. Akin being one exception.
6) I agree that many young Calvinists demonstrate a different type of Calvinism than J.P. Boyce, but I don’t think they are learning it in seminary. I think they are getting it from celebrity pastor types like Driscoll. Plus, you set up a false dichotomy in this paragraph. So would the reformed theology of J.P. Boyce be OK? His was a robust and manly form of Calvinist theology and I guarantee you he wouldn’t be sitting idly by in the modern SBC either. Be more specific. What brand of Reformed theology do you have a problem with?
7) Again, speak what you mean clearly. What are you inferring in the final paragraph of the article? The whole article is about Calvinism in the SBC, then you ask if we would dare defame the potential new “Great Commission Baptist Convention” name with half-hearted evangelism and church plants that wither away in five years. I cannot judge your motivation, only what you say. What you seem to be saying is, this is the kind of evangelism and church planting that would happen if we were Calvinists. If so, say so. I’m sure the Calvinists would much rather have an honest opponent who says what they mean rather than an opponent who pretends to be unbiased.
8) Out of curiosity, why were all the times you used the word Calvinist and Reformed printed in BOLD?
This article doesn’t make me angry, just sad. I propose that all the Reformed Baptists out there respond in truth and love and humility. Also, that they are more in love with Christ, find wore Joy in Him and his word, live consistently faithful and self-controlled lives, devote themselves to the word, to their families and churches. Transformed lives, families, churches and communities through the power of the Gospel and to the glory of God are the best answer for this kind of thing.