Connellism Versus Calvinism: You Be the Judge

Some of you may remember last year in Greensboro a motion was made to Bobby Welch requesting that “Calvinism’s current impact on SBC churches as well as its implications for the future of the great Convention.”  The man who made this notion is Dr. John Connell, pastor of Calvary Baptist Temple in Savannah located in Savannah, Georgia.  Dr. Connell is also superintendent of Calvary Day School, the k-12 private school of Calvary in Savannah.  Statewide, Dr. Connell is also an influential Georgian Baptist as he has written Sunday School lessons for The Christian Index (GA’s Baptist state paper) and will also be one of two “tellers” for the state of Georgia at the 2007 Annual Meeting in San Antonio. 

Like other influential Georgian Baptists, including the likes of Nelson Price (Evangelical Calvinism Is an Oxymoron) and Johnny Hunt, Connell has developed a strong anti-Reformed agenda.  Last year (copyright 2006), Connell wrote a 73 page book essay which he entitled “The TULIP in the Garden: Pruning the Petals of Calvinism” which he gives to his students who attend either Presbyterian or Reformed Baptist churches.  In summary, Connell blasts Calvinism at every point while offering an alternative view of God which he calls “Connellism.”  So what exactly does “Connellism” teach?  Let me first share with you some quotes from his book against Calvinism:

“Calvinists see man as totally depraved. I see man as mostly depraved.” – page 8

“I vehemently decry the thought that God, in any way, chooses some to be saved and some to be lost.” – page 9

“[T]he Bible is clear that Jesus died for everybody in the world, for all ages, for all time…” – page 10

“That is, Christ’s death on the cross paid the price for all human sin in all human ages.” – page 18

“I reject irresistible grace […] Choice is what God wants. If you’ve got a problem with that, then talk to God, not me.” – page 12

From these quotes, Connell appears to reject Calvinism at every point.  In fact, Connell’s alternative acrostic to TULIP, which he calls “Connellism” goes like this:

A – All encompassing love
C – Creative purpose
C – Choosing autonomy
E – Evangelistic initiative
S – Security of the believer
S – Separation of the unbeliever

Now, if that is not bad enough, let me provide a smattering of his ad-hominems: 

“Calvinism can lead to arrogance and elitism.” – page 37

“Calvinism naturally leads to depression and despair.” – page 38

“[Calvinism leads to] a life void of evangelistic fervor.” – page 38

“My experience with many five-point Calvinists is that they are militant, that they are more concerned about you becoming a Calvinist than they are about their neighbors coming to Jesus. […] Large numbers of five-point Calvinists aren’t interested in discussion but only in doing battle with the hopes of making another convert to the TULIP.” – page 64

After having read these quotes, let me remind you who is “pruning the petals” if you want to call it that.  The same man who wrote these words is not only the superintendent of the Calvary Day School, one of two “tellers” for the state of Georgia this year at SBC’s Annual Meeting, a writer for GBC Sunday School material, and the one behind the motion to examine the impact of Calvinism in the SBC.  If it doesn’t make sense and clear things up, allow me to have Connell speak for himself.  He writes,

“Twenty-five years ago we had some courageous men to stand up and lead the way in preventing the Southern Baptist Convention from being swept away at the hands of moderates/liberals. […] I predict that in the next 10-20 years a group of men will have to do it all over again – not with moderates/liberals, but with Calvinists. I detest convention politics, but the greatest mission program in the world is at stake. Calvinism will ultimately destroy that mission program.”

There you have it.  Calvinism destroys the mission program, therefore the Great Commission is at stake unless we eradicate Calvinism from the SBC.  I suppose the dozens of Calvinists I know on the mission field didn’t get that memo, neither did the NAMB church planters.  So this leads me to turn his alarming statement into a question.  “Who in the next 10-20 years will fight to keep the Convention from being swept way at the hands of Calvinists?”  Who are the leading Arminians of this younger generation of Southern Baptists?

Well, I guess I have to go and update my chronological compilation now.  While 2007 has been a relatively quiet year for wild and crazy rants against Calvinism, I suppose we will just have to wait and see what San Antonio will “tell” us.  Till then, let us Calvinists be about serving God’s people and reaching our world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

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19 Comments on “Connellism Versus Calvinism: You Be the Judge”

  1. Jim Pemberton Says:

    Shucks. I suppose as a Calvinist I could say something, but I’m too busy generating discipleship material and media assets for my church’s mission efforts while my Calvinist family is overseas doing… evangelical missions. Dr. Connell needs to get busy doing something constructive.

  2. genembridges Says:

    A. Well, as long as they keep turning out material like this, our side will win by default. I’m sure the students in the RB and Presby churches appreciate the literature. I bet it gives their eldership something to respond to. He’d be a good one to debate in front of the whole school. Somebody should give Dr. White a heads up on this.

    B. By the way, “Jesus died for everybody in ALL ages…” Wow. So, Jesus died for the sins of people already in hell. Arminian theologians don’t argue that.

  3. genembridges Says:

    Oh, and perhaps you’ll enjoy this chat Steve and I are having with “Henry.”

    You’ll enjoy this conversation with “Henry.”

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/05/mg.html
    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/06/which-is-more-loving.html


  4. As a Baptist [SBC at that], and a Calvinist [5 pointer at that], i must ask: what is the greatest threat of Calvinism to the SBC? Is it that people will realize that God is sovereign and man is not?

    Is it that a right understanding of God’s glory and sovereignty will eradicate the decades-old, man-made, man-centered establishments of the SBC and cause us to lose the oh so precious dollars and numbers we lust for? What a shame that would be indeed!

    [i will grant, however, that many a Calvinist has not rightly understood his own theology and abused it to the points that Connell makes…wait, doesn’t that prove that man is depraved?]

  5. Barry Says:

    I think it’s fair to suggest that since SBC control was “wrested from the moderates/liberals” that more egregious harm has been done to the stability of Christianity in this country than heretofore.

    I would suggest that Mr. Connell might like to take a look at the militants and zealots within his own portion of the movement before casting aspersions at “5 – pointers”.

    1Jn 2:9 Whoever says he is in the light, yet hates his brother, is still in the darkness.

  6. Kern Pegues Says:

    “Calvinism can lead to arrogance and elitism.” – page 37.

    This is the only thing that I agree with. Many of my Calvinist friends and I have to guard against every day, is my tendency to become arrogant. I see this in many of our Reformed church’s, not all, but many.


  7. Bridges is right on. The parents of kids attending Calvary need to know the propaganda being fed to the little ones; “Thanks Calvary.” And a fantastic point about those already in hell.


  8. People like Connell, Hunt, etc. are right on one point: most “Calvinists” – meaning most of the membership of churches that call themselves “Calvinist” – are not evangelistic. They may support overseas missions, but as for personal involvement in reaching the lost and helping people, there is little or none. (I say this as a 5-point “Calvinist.”) The only problem is that most of the “Arminians” are not evangelistic either. From what I’ve seen, there’s not a whole lot of difference: both sides have people who evangelize and help people in need, and both have ones who don’t.

    What I’m saying is that we should be fair. It’s no use saying simply “Calvinists evangelize,” because the vast majority do not; equally, the vast majority of non-Calvinists don’t either, which Connell, Hunt, Caner, et al should realize if they put a moment’s thought into it.

    Kern: I agree with this also, and say simply that it also applies to both sides. They main difference is that the Arminians have an anti-elitist elitism – smugly decrying elitism while they are just as elitist in their own way. “We evangelize and you don’t.”


  9. “From these quotes, Connell appears to reject Calvinism at every point.”

    Sort of, except for the eternal security part. (I know that’s not exactly what the “P” stands for.) One thing that I despair of getting synergists to understand is that if the whole cornerstone of their philosophy – free will – destroys election, it also destroys eternal security. “But eternal security is in the Bible” they’ll say. Yeah, but so is election.

    That was what made me open my eyes to becoming a monergist – a hopefully not-too-mean Calvinist – in the first place. If God has so much respect for my free will, why does He take it away as soon as I get saved? Shouldn’t He still respect my free will to “unsave” myself? Though the devil can’t pluck anybody out of Christ’s hand, can I not pluck myself out of His hand?

    On the premise of free will, C.S. Lewis’s arguments against “an army of mechanical puppets loving Him” led directly to his unabashed Arminianism. I love the Screwtape Letters; but the sheer Arminianism throughout has always made me want to try to write a more Biblical version of Screwtape. If I had some talent, I might try it.

  10. Barry Says:

    One almost gets the sense that an effort is underway to cut Calvinists completely out of the Baptist Church. Or, I’m reading too much into this.

    By the way, one of my dearest friends told me that she is a 4 – point Calvinist. I didn’t even know there was such a thing. I did some research and, lo, Amyraldism. They cut the “L” out of TULIP.

    Next thing I know someone will tell me there is a six – point as well!


  11. Barry – I think you are right. Witness people saying that all these “new” Reformed Baptist churches popping up are not “real” Baptists. And it’s not only Baptists. Some (thankfully, not all) in Calvary Chapel are trying to do the same.

    As for 3- or 4-point Calvinists, I hear that a lot in Calvary. It’s interesting that you will hear some people primarily stumble on the “L”, and some stumble on the “I”. The more Biblical ones seem to stumble on the “I” – they agree that God has to elect us, but they maintain their grip on free will. We still have a chance to use our free will to reject God!

    My former Dallas Seminary-trained pastor says he’s a “3-1/2 point Calvinist.” I never did get a chance to ask what he meant by THAT. 🙂

  12. Ted Says:

    Being a Calvinist who has passed his “cage period” I can categorically state that I have no desire whatever to be arrogant or elitist. When a Christian newly discovers the Doctrines of Grace, that is certainly a tendency, but the Holy Spirit soon brings the believer in line, sometimes painfully. 🙂 For me it has increased the desire to be evangelical. Before, in the wasteland of churchianity, I didn’t care if I shared my faith or not. Now, I not only want to share my faith, I *need* to. With that has come an explosion of interest in theology and apologetics so that I can not only be prepared to make a defense for the hope that is within me, but I can teach others to do so as well. The “gentleness and respect” part is hard sometimes. 🙂 Though oddly enough, I have more trouble keeping my cool debating self-identified Christians rather than atheists! Go figure.

    I agree with Charles Spurgeon (or was it Hodge?) who said that “Calvinism” is nothing more than the Biblical Gospel. It’s a simple concept. God is God, and we are not. It mystifies me how many people sit in the pews every Sunday and do not get this, because it is not preached to them.

    Oh, and…what Gary said in comment No. 8. Right on, brother. That is *exactly* how I felt and that is what drove me simultaneously to the Doctrines of Grace and the foot of the Cross.

  13. Barry Says:

    It seems as though sides are being drawn in many movements. I certainly see it in the RC Church and it has been exacerbated by politics. Ultra cons would like nothing better than to purge the church entirely of those who don’t carry on the way in which “they” view things (even if the vast majority of parishoners and administrators want to follow a moderated course).

    It is almost like a scary “ethnic cleansing” they would prefer to have in place.

    Oh, for some sense between people.


  14. Barry, you have interesting comments – as usual. I really do appreciate your participation over here. Not being (any more) in the RC church, I don’t know for sure, but are you sure that it’s really that the “ultra cons” want the church purged of people who don’t agree with what they believe?

    First, discounting sedevacantists, it seems to me that these “ultra cons” are upholding what the church actually teaches, not their own private opinions. I realize the majority of church members (at least, here in the US) don’t agree with these teachings. That indicates that perhaps the members themselves should question whether they want to be associated with a church with teachings they disagree with. The vast majority, of course, are “cultural Catholics” (as I was and most of my family still are), so they don’t care enough to do so. But, in principle, it seems that one should question whether they should belong to a church whose teachings one is opposed to.

    Second, are you sure that they want people who disagree to leave, or is it that they simply want to uphold the church’s official beliefs and teachings in the life of the church? It is an easy thing to assume that we know what other people’s motives are; I do it all the time. But often I find I’m wrong – for example, that I thought somebody wants to get rid of me, but in reality he simply wants to affirm what he believes to be the truth.

    You see the same kind of issue in today’s talk about “tolerance.” Most of us think (on obvious grounds) that the Bible is against homosexual practices and calls them sinful. It is an easy thing for activists to make the rest of the world believe that we do it because we hate homosexuals, or because we are afraid of them (“homophobia”), or because we are secretly worried about being homosexual ourselves, or any number of other possible motives. What never (apparently) enters their minds is that we may really be telling the truth when we say we love the sinner but hate the sin, and do the latter simply and solely because the “Bible tells us so.”

  15. Barry Says:

    Gary,

    I also enjoy your well thought out comments on support for monergists and other topics. And, I think you have quite a bit of talent. Okay, that’s as close as I’m getting to the brokeback moment.

    Your comments sound right about RC’s except that when you visit many (if not most) of the RC blogs they are incredibly extreme. Just as an example, take a stroll through: romancatholicblog.com and after some time you’ll know what I mean. Most of the commenters yearn for the day when those of us who are not hard-line doctrine followers are no longer among them. And, I’m being kind here. Some are very harsh.

    The term “tolerant” is abused. It has to be taken subject by subject.

    One common ground for Americans in this realm is that when people are dishonest (politicians/pundits as examples) our tolerance level goes accordingly downward.

    “A three and a half-point Calvinist”? I got a good laugh out of that.


  16. “Brokeback moment” … good one. I am so out of the “hep young lingo” (as my son and I would jokingly say) I had to look that one up in urbandictionary.com.

    I’m not familiar with romancatholicblog, but I am familiar with Envoy and some others. You may be right about that – though remember people have a lot more bravado when they’re typing on a computer than they would in real life. Similarly, I have talked to a number of “mean Calvinists” who truly fit that description on blogs or chat channels: I agree with their beliefs but think they are incredibly obnoxiously expressed. Again, I would bet that in real life many are probably decent people. (One is a pastor: I prefer not to talk to him in chat-type forums, but I’ll bet he’s a kind and compassionate person in real life.) But what you’re saying is probably true.

    Of course, if the fact that we are having a rational and respectful conversation ever got out on romancatholicblog … well, you may no longer be welcome over there. And to avoid future “moments” I hope others will chime in …

  17. Jeff H. Says:

    Though this has been confessed elsewhere, I believe I need to confess it here as well. I am the one who seconded this ridiculous motion made at the convention last year. I am a Calvinist. Sounds like foolishness, doesn’t it? But, after hearing Ed Young, Paige Patterson, and some other pastor from SC bash Calvinists and Calvinism, I had had enough. When the motion was made, I couldn’t contain myself. I yelled “SECOND!!!”

    Here was my thought process. Let them study the Calvinists. If they do an honest study of Calvinism in the convention (and I realize that is a big “if”), the will find that it isn’t destroying anything. In fact I think they may find, healthier church memberships, better discipled church members, more worshipful services, and possibly even more urgent desire to share the Gospel. And furthermore, even if they don’t find healthier churches, how can it be any worse than it already is in the convention. How many Calvinists can there be in the convention? 10% at the most. So is it the 10% that have had zero control over denominational actions in the last forever that have screwed everything up. It was Ed Young who said at the Pastor’s Conference last year that the SBC was going out of business. Did the Calvinists do it? Heck no!!! (and that is being polite…i could go Mark Driscoll on this one)

    As a friend and I often say, “You just have to lament the loss of logic.” Why can people not see that the synergistic, seeker-sensitive, church growth, exisistential, fluffy, easy-believism which has been and still is the predominant view and polity is what has caused this problem. I only have one answer…blindness.

    God help us….

  18. Barry Says:

    The honest expression here makes this a great blog site.

    I see two forces at work for all of us in this country right now. One is that people are becoming more aware and willing to speak to religion publicly where before they never would have the courage to do that. Not only do we speak to our own families about our views, people are challenging time honored traditions in many (if not all) movements. And, part of this awareness of religion is the visible leaders we have and whether we really view them as being of good balance or off the mark.

    The second aspect which lends to continued frustration among us is the on-going inability to see the other side. It is the picking through scripture, and holding it close to our breast, the items we like while not holding on to scripture which gives an alternate view. Movement (a) likes this scripture and refutes or espresses away pieces that show an opposing thought that movement (b) holds to its breast while resisting the scripture that (a) likes.

    It seems to be embodied in the math that says: I can be right and you can be wrong; or you can be right and I can be wrong; or we can both be wrong. But, we both can’t be right.

    Actually, I think contra-indicating scripture can both be right. And, I actually had Calvinist friends who have expressed as much.

    Am I glad it’s Friday.


  19. Ted – good one about “cage period.” James White says something along those lines: that people new to reformed understanding ought not to say anything for awhile. Sadly, there are some folks over on his chat channel (certainly not all, but a few) that should probably take that advice. It was indeed Spurgeon who said, in “A Defense of Calvinism”:

    It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus.

    Barry – you may wish to read that article at http://www.spurgeon.org/calvinis.htm. After all the unbeautiful prose that I’ve spouted, reading some of Spurgeon’s beautifully crafted sentences will feel like a breath of fresh air.

    When you say “I think contra-indicating scripture can both be right,” I think we may be tripping up on the semantics here. Certainly, it is possible to misread, to mistake a metonym for the whole. One may not get the full picture by simply reading a single verse or small group of verses: in fact, often that is the case. That’s why you always have to interpret Scripture with Scripture.

    I just wrote something along these lines over on my blog. It might be useful here (maybe not, but hey, you never know).


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