A Virus?

While most people, like my fellow SBF blogger Nathan White, like to spend their Christmas vacations with activities such as skiing, I, on the other hand, have been taking some time during the semester break here at SBTS to do some historical research (I can feel the envy of all SBF readers emanating through my monitor).

What has particularly caught my attention lately has been issues of Nazi propaganda used against the Jewish people. Watching movies such as Schindler’s List and The Pianist, I’ve often wondered about how so many German citizens could cooperate with the Nazi programme to systematically discriminate against and finally attempt to eradicate the German Jewish population. How did the Nazi leadership spread their ideas? Why did people buy into this type of barbarism? (I’m aware that the Nazis also severely persecuted other groups as well, such as gypsies, the handicapped, homosexuals, and others they felt to be undesirable for German society, but the literature of the time reflects a special concern on the part of the Nazi leadership in regards to what they referred to as the “Jewish Problem.”)

One excellent resource I’ve found on the Internet to help with this historical study has been the Nazi Propaganda page on the website of Calvin College. This page presents translations of several original source materials such as pamphlets, speeches, articles, books, and posters from the Nazi Era in Germany. Examining these and other sources, I’ve finally come to the point of reaching a few conclusions as to the Nazi mistreatment and ultimately their act of murdering the Jews in Germany.

What fueled the persecution of the majority of German citizens against the Jews? It seems that after WWI the German economy was in shambles and the German people were highly doubtful about their culture, having been told that they were the villains in the Great War. When the larger culture is in great disarray, the sub-cultures of a nation may prove to have greater economic and ideological stability. The Nazi party played on people’s jealousy of these minority sub-cultures- particularly the largest sub-culture, which was the Jewish population- and found a way to unite the majority of Germans around the idea of driving out these sub-cultures.

A key to convincing the majority population of Germany to rally around the persecution of the Jews was to paint the Jews as making no valuable contribution to society. Though the Nazi Propaganda film The Eternal Jew declared that, “Fifty-two out of every 100 doctors were Jews,” and, “Of every 100 merchants, 60 were Jews.” This was seen to be some sort of Jewish conspiracy to keep the majority population in subjection rather than a commendation of Jewish dedication to education and economic sensibility. The Nazis often claimed that the Jews had never founded any successful society. They were able to make this claim only by re-writing history and distorting the biblical testimony. The Nazi article titled “To Know the Jews is to Understand the Meaning of War!” referred to the Old Testament patriarch Joseph as “the exploiter, grain speculator, finance minister.” Nazis also made references to verses such as Joshua 24:13, “And I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and oliveyards which ye planted not do ye eat,” to try and prove that the Jewish people have always been entirely dependent on the work of others (this overlooking the work of God done through Moses in organizing a unique nation and His work through kings David and Solomon to establish a glorious kingdom). The Nazis, therefore, were constantly referring to the Jews as “vermin” and “parasites,” claiming that the Jewish population could not exist without a host society, the health of which society, they said, the Jews were constantly draining.

And this thought brings in the reason why I’m posting this article on Strange BaptistFire.

For years now, the Southern Baptist Convention has been in turmoil. Though most within the SBC would consider the Conservative Resurgence to be a victory, we are still confronted with a depressing economic situation in which funds given through the Cooperative Program of the SBC have declined 33% over the last 20 years [Source: Chad Owen Brand and David E. Hankin, One Sacred Effort: The Cooperative Program of Southern Baptists (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005), 161]. Aside from financial woes, the SBC, having strongly re-affirmed the infallibility and inerrancy of Scripture, rejecting liberal theology, is also now facing a lack of ideological focus. In this situation certain sub-cultures within the SBC are seen to have relative stability and may seem to be in a somewhat envious position. Recently, there seems to be a growing call in some quarters for the majority of Southern Baptists to gain unity by rallying against these sub-cultures. So we see situations like that at First Baptist Church Woodstock, Georgia, in which Dr. Jerry Vines preached a series of sermons called “Baptist Battles.”

Possibly the largest sub-culture within the SBC (though we are, admittedly, a very small group) consists of Baptists who are self-consciously trying to promote a resurgence of Reformed Theology (commonly referred to as “Calvinism”) within the larger Baptist community. Some ministers within the Southern Baptist Convention seem to see Calvinism as both some kind of threat and also as an opportunity to unite the SBC around a common enemy. And so one of the “Baptist Battle” sermons mentioned above (along with other sermons by Pastors Johnny Hunt and Nelson Price) was dedicated to anti-Calvinist rhetoric. In order to convince the SBC that Calvinism needs to be expelled, certain individuals have loudly declared that Reformed theology never makes any contribution to the churches in which it is introduced. And so we read Dr. Ergun Caner making statements such as, “Five-point Calvinism is a VIRUS: It saps the evangelism of every church it infects,” and asking Calvinist ministers, “Have any of you done ANYTHING accept kill your churches with sermons expounding the Westminster Confession?” [These quotes found in the comments of the February 14, 2006 article on the Founders’ Ministries blog.] And we hear Johnny Hunt exhort five-point Calvinists to stay away from his church and go kill their own churches (as if this is the inevitable consequence of Calvinism).

But is it true that Reformed theology is antithetical to evangelism? Is Calvinism a virus that only saps evangelical fervor out of every church it enters? I would say that this is quite obviously untrue. Calvinism can be seen to promote evangelism in modern ministry as demonstrated by the Reformed convictions of each speaker at the Together for the Gospel conference, who are all successful in ministry by anyone’s definition of the word. Calvinism can be seen to promote evangelism in historic ministry as demonstrated by the thoroughly Calvinistic evangelical preaching of that Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon. Calvinism can be seen to promote evangelism in the history of the Southern Baptist Convention, as the confessional statement of the church or association of every one of the 293 delegates who gathered in Augusta, Georgia to organize the Southern Baptist Convention in 1845 was the 1689 Confession (or one of its daughter confessions such as the Philadelphia or Charleston Confessions), which continues to be a standard for Reformed Theology.

My purpose in publishing this post is that readers of this blog would be better able to identify propaganda when they see it. Calvinism is not a virus and it is not an enemy of evangelism that needs to be battled. So when you hear anti-Calvinist rhetoric, carefully check the historical facts. Don’t allow someone to persuade you to a dishonest agenda.

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6 Comments on “A Virus?”


  1. Excellent Post! I have been thinking this very same thing for a while now. The anti-Calvinist rhetoric and strength of conviction of some of these SBC leaders is frightening. I have a hard time believing that they could be as ignorant of their own history as they would have to be to make these kind of statements.

  2. Gene Says:

    And thus, we have the reason I’ve chosen to investigate the world of Post Reformation Reformed Dogmatics in history and write about men like Jacob Vernet….More of this to come…

  3. Jesse Says:

    I am not a Southern Baptist, but I do keep an eye on what is going on the SBC, just because it is so large and influential. Strange that there is such a push to purge Calvinists from the denomination, while simultaneously a slew of emergent and/or new age teachings are taking hold in various places in the SBC. The Ed Youngs are even teaming up with modalist T. D. Jakes for a conference. Check out Slice of Laodicea for all the details. Why don’t these leaders go after one of these subcultures that actually IS dangerous and destructive for a change?

  4. Nathan White Says:

    What a great post. I think you have ever so slightly picked on the over-emotionalism that is common in the SBC. Personally, I believe that this subtle emphasis on emotions has been gaining steam in the SBC for quite some time. Some within the SBC have begun to model the Charismatics in musical worship, the Methodists in shallow, feel-good theology, and the good ole country boy in politics and social agendas. We certainly cannot displace the role of emotions in the Christian life, but they are of course dangerous when they take preeminence over scripture. In this case, the ‘witch hunt’ being waged on the Calvinists is clearly something that is fueled by the emotion of what they feel to be right, rather than by the clear teaching of God’s word. In hopes that this does not sound condescending, I think we can have confidence that only the truly naïve and ignorant will continue to fall for this sort of persuasion over the long run. Sooner or later, people are going to want to find the answers for themselves.

  5. Josh Says:

    It’s always easier to persecute a group if they’re under a stereotype. Calvinist is a dirty word to some just like Christian was when it was first used. “Clear teaching of God’s word” is at a premium right now. Southern Baptists are really good at moral outrage these days and what could be more immoral that not dunking everyone who comes through the door? I can’t see any sort of reconciliation or unity happening until there is a microscope put on membership as benefit of conversion as opposed to an evangelism tool.

    Josh
    “…the word of God is not bound.”
    –2 Timothy 2:9

  6. dmac Says:

    Great post..I made a very similar post on my blog and I find comfort in finding God’s truth at work in others. The comments got a little out of hand and I had to close the comments to keep it from becoming something that it shouldn’t. I agree with the commenter who said that “Calvinism” has become almost a dirty word. It seems that most will argue against it with great passion and without a true understanding of what it represents. So many say that it is impossible to believe in Calvinism while still having a passion for evangelism and Godly lifestyle. I think that is so untrue and I believe you captured that here also. I think it was Spurgeon who answered the question “Why don’t you just preach to the called, the ones who are elect?” He said, “If you will pull up everybody’s shirttails so I can see if they have an E stamped on their back, I will.” His point is that we don’t know who the elect are and thus we must preach the word and leave the results up to God. Just in case your interested:

    http://www.dmacattack.com/blog/2006/12/11/do-southern-baptist-believe-in-predestination/


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