Together for the Church

Below is a post in a series I am writing this week on issues related to the Southern Baptist Convention.

Let me frame this post by beginning with a few quotes in recent years.

Danny Akin (April 2006):

“Act with personal integrity in your ministry when it comes to this issue. Put your theological cards on the table in plain view for all to see, and do not go into a church under a cloak of deception or dishonesty. If you do, you will more than likely split a church, wound the Body of Christ, damage the ministry God has given you, and leave a bad taste in the mouth of everyone.”

Frank Page (May 26, 2006):

“We must have honesty about this issue. There are churches splitting across the convention because pastors are coming in quietly trying to teach Calvinism or Reformed theology without telling the pastor search committees where they stand. The vast majority of Southern Baptist churches are not Calvinistic in their theology and it’s causing some serious controversy.”

Bill Harrell (October 26, 2006):

“I think the problem of Calvinism in the SBC could be solved if we establish one ground rule. If a man wants to start a Calvinistic church, let him have at it. If a man wants to answer a call to a Calvinistic church he should have the freedom to do that, but that man should not answer a call to a church that is not Calvinistic, neglect to tell them his leanings, and then surreptitiously lead them to become a Calvinistic church. That is not to suggest that all of our Calvinistic friends do that, but when it is done it is divisive and hurtful.”

Morris Chapman (First – June 13, 2006; Second – March 15, 2007)

“If you wish, debate Calvinism. We should not fear theological debate as long as the participants understand they are brothers debating one another in a friendly environment. While Calvinism is a fair debate in the halls of academia, we do not need to bring the debate into our churches at the cost of dividing our congregations.”

“One danger is that pastors are tempted to accept church pastorates in churches that are not Calvinistic, and then strive to drive them into the Calvinistic camp, thereby destroying an otherwise strong and healthy church.”

I think that’s enough quotes for now. Do you see a common thread here? Denominational executives have come out of the woodwork with warnings in the form of talking points telling young Calvinistic Baptists to stay out of non-Calvinistic churches. Young Calvinists like myself are told that we must “put all our theological cards on the table” with full disclosure of our soteriological and ecclesiological beliefs. Don’t get me wrong. I am all for that, but the problem comes when you talk to a pastor search committee who understands Calvinism through a book given them through their Baptist State Board of Missions by Fisher Humphreys who butchers the Bible and contorts the most fundamental understandings of Calvinistic doctrine. More and more non-Calvinistic churches are being given literature, sermons, and materials that is inaccurate, biased, and entirely unhelpful (if not Humphreys’ book, then Dave Hunt or Norm Geisler). The result is that it is impossible to talk about Calvinism to folks who have an altogether different definition from a different dictionary than Calvinists. To make matters more difficult, we are told, as aforementioned in Chapman’s quote that the issue of Calvinism is for academia, not the church.

On the other hand, when Calvinists do not use Calvinistic terminology and simply preach the Bible only later to be questioned about Calvinism, they are told that they are being deceitful, dishonest, and disingenuous. So if you put all the theological cards on the table, you are accused of trying to convert them to “five-point Calvinism,” and if you don’t, you are not a man of integrity and honesty. It is a lose-lose situation in the SBC for young Calvinists, and early into his presidency, Frank Page recognized this as Baptist Press reported,

Asserting his belief that some Southern Baptist seminaries are graduating “hundreds” of students who espouse Calvinism while there are a “relative small number” of Calvinist SBC churches, Page said that he believes Southern Baptists are headed for “tumultuous days” as those graduates come to places of service in the churches.

So how are we to deal with the “tumultuous days” ahead? Well, for the young Calvinists, their answer is to either abandon the SBC altogether or plant new churches. They aren’t coming “to places of services in the churches.” They have received the warnings and “No Thank You’s” from the denominational executives. Just this past week I conversed with students who had recently participated in an Acts 29 Church Planting Bootcamp who will soon graduate and plant a non-SBC church. Other students have committed themselves to higher theological education with the pursuits of being an educator or professor at a Baptist college or seminary. The result is that the vast number of SBC churches will soon have vacant pastorates with a increasingly fewer candidates that don’t fit the theologically correct criteria predetermined by our denominational executives.

Other denominational leaders are sensing the growing attraction to overseas missions and church planting and are cautioning young ministers to not abandon already existing churches. Last week, Dr. Mohler wrote on his blog a necessary word of caution, asserting,

At the same time, we also need this generation of young pastors to go into established churches and revitalize a Gospel ministry through expository preaching and energetic leadership. Giving up on the established church is not an option. Some young pastors see church planting as a way of avoiding the challenge of dealing with the people and pathologies of older congregations. This is an abdication of responsibility.

While I agree with Dr. Mohler entirely on his caution, how can a young future pastor like me heed his counsel without falling under the criticism of the men quoted above? This conundrum is far more problematic than we realize. Several leaders are piping out warnings to not go into existing non-Calvinistic churches, and on the other hand, we are exhorted to not abandon them. What one denominational executive calls “destroying a strong and healthy church,” another calls not doing it would be an “abdication of responsibility.” Indeed, this is a lose-lose-lose situation.

Many of us in seminary are being trained by professors and administration who have never done it. They have gone to an established church that needed revitalization of gospel ministry and labored there for decades, revitalizing it, and building it on strong theological, confessional, and missional principles. The remarkable Reformation of my beloved seminary has yet to make a significant mark in churches within our own region and area. Rather, when friends put their resumes out to churches and associations, when they find out that they are Southern students and Calvinists, their resumes quickly find the trash can. Something has to change. There is yet much reformation that remains in the SBC.

It is not enough to tell a young Calvinist who enters a church to “just love the people and preach the Bible.” It isn’t enough to warn them with handed down political talking points. It isn’t enough to provide them with sound theological education. When the bridges for this younger generation are being burned and yet they are still told to walk the line, the result is that many young Calvinists find themselves forced on a plank leading to the edge where the rubble of a burned bridge looms below.

If the Southern Baptist Convention is going to see churches revitalized, old churches replanted, and new church plants embraced, then they are going to have to extend the right hand of fellowship to the young Calvinists existing the seminary with a willingness to be taught and led from God’s Word. Calvinism can no longer be the whipping boy for all the divisions and splits that occur in our churches (though it is likely involved in some). Young seminary students will need more than just sound theological education, but they will need sound pastoral training in church polity, church leadership, and caring for the flock that only comes from within an ecclesiological context. Finally, the Convention at large is going to have to develop a consensus on the gospel that embraces “five-point Calvinists” and encourages guys like me, not discourages us, to pursue pastorates in existing churches.

At this point in time, I can understand why some of my brothers are discouraged. There is little that is attractive to coming into the SBC, whether it be the fundamentalism expressed in alcohol issue or the sectarianism that I have mentioned here. But if we can come together for the church, for the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention, then I believe the tide can change. I’m in, and I hope others in the SBC, whether Arminian or Calvinist, can come together for the building of God’s church and furthering of the Great Commission under the same conviction and inspiration as our founders in 1845. They did it then, and by God’s grace, it can happen today.

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31 Comments on “Together for the Church”

  1. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    While Calvinism is a fair debate in the halls of academia, we do not need to bring the debate into our churches at the cost of dividing our congregations.”

    Translation: Keep the people stupid. When they no longer care to know they will no long care what they are taught. When they no longer care what they are taught, there will be no need to teach them. When there is no longer a need to teach them they will no longer need trained teachers. When the teachers are no longer trained, they will be a stupid as the people. Then, no one will know to care what they are being taught.

    Oh, did that already happen?

    What elitism to think that the congregations cannot handle the truth wars. What happened to: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.” Isn’t that what we are supposed to be training them to do: Ephesians 6:13 so that we are not Ephesians 4:14? The healthiest thing a church can do is engage controvery, exercise the gifts of discernment through practice. Since when are the men in the pulpit and in the halls of academia the “high and lifted up.” I guess that “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth,” passage isn’t in Chapman’s Bible.

    My former pastor thought the same, remarking that the congregation was not only dumb, but would be bored with studying the 1689 and the doctrines of the historic SBC. What arrogance! For wanting to introduce what our constitution required, training and instruction in doctrine and history, I was branded as arrogant. Go figure! The problem is not endemic to the convention level. It is a condition that can be found throughout SBC Land.

    “One danger is that pastors are tempted to accept church pastorates in churches that are not Calvinistic, and then strive to drive them into the Calvinistic camp, thereby destroying an otherwise strong and healthy church.”

    When is this claim going to be documented. You’re right it is as if there have been talking points handed out. The caricature of a mad Calvinist with a bullwhip in hand driving cattle is quite comical. And, by what imagination would Calvinistic influence and teaching necessarily destroy?

    “Put your theological cards on the table in plain view for all to see, and do not go into a church under a cloak of deception or dishonesty. If you do, you will more than likely split a church, wound the Body of Christ, damage the ministry God has given you, and leave a bad taste in the mouth of everyone.”

    Yep, sure. When the cards are displayed in the open, that is when the trouble begins. The bad taste is already there. It is spoilage that is decades old. And, what of us laymen? How are we to expose ourselves. I came out of a congregation that twenty years ago simply kicked Calvinists out. It is still the same ole school bigotry controlling it today. Mention Calvinism, just mention it, and the steely knives are unsheathed. And just where did that attitude come from? I think the quotes and your inferrances say it all.

  2. Paul Says:

    I find it interesting that it is the “Calvinists” who are accused of not being forthright about what we believe and teach. In our bitter experience it has been the pragmatic, purpose-driven, and emergent who are most deceptive and insidious.

    I’m not secretive at all about what I preach and I challenge these elitists as Luther did his accusers; show me from God’s Word and plain reason that my beliefs and teaching are wrong. My conscience is bound to His Word alone and not their traditions.


  3. Brothers,

    I do not claim to have all of the answers, but I would like to offer a few things that I think might be helpful.

    First, I think Baptist Calvinists [BC] might have more of an advantage with OLDER Baptist churches–meaning churches that go back in their history to the 1800’s for example. I think pretty much all of those churches had Calvinistic confessions and their associations did too. I encourage you to do your homework and find these confessions. You might have to go to a baptist college in the state. In NC for example, Wake Forest University has tons of NC Baptist history that one can research. I spent a day there and ended up with the original confession of my local church and some info on the first few earliest pastors of my local church as well. I was able to learn what the Baptist Association’s original confession is that my local church belongs to at Southeastern.

    If you are being interviewed and you have either one or both of these confessions, then you can give that to them and say that you believe what it says about salvation. This gives you some historical precedent. They might even be impressed that you would care to research their church’s history anyway.

    Second, make sure you do what an elderly pastor I worked under told me: “You’ve got to get down with the people”. If you end up being a pastor, I encourage you to visit them, ask questions about their life and L I S T E N to them. Their personal stories might be very interesting. Don’t be all high and mighty coming from an SBC seminary to a local church. If you can geniunely enjoy being with them, then I think you could be on your way towards a “happy” marriage with the church.

    Third, if you become a pastor, I encourage you to preach through a book or books of the Bible. It’s a good thing if you can convince them that your “agenda” is the Bible by your preaching. Also, if you stick with Bible terms [instead of a bunch of “high fallutin” extra biblical terms] then I think they might become confident that you are sticking with the Bible.

    *While I do think it is true that there are many unbelievers in local churches, I also believe that there are believers as well WHO HAVE NOT BEEN FED PROPERLY. If you truly feed them so that they seemingly have something awakened within them, then I think something special might take place for them and for you.

    Again, I don’t have all the answers, but I do have experience in working on church staff.

    I hope somebody can be encouraged and helped by these things.

    Grace

  4. Todd Says:

    ok, frame it this way. Lets keep Arminianism out of our churches, and keep the debate of Arminianism into academia, and let Arminian pastors state bold before they enter milk congregations the heresy they are are about to wallow in.

    I am tired of this double standard as if Calvinism a “camp”, but everything else is non-definable.

    I like what Paul said in his first paragraph. (that is more insidious)

    I sure wish John Owen and John Gill were alive today to write a post back to this double-standard.

    Stop using two names of men in the 16th century. Just flat out tell your congregation: I believe man is not enslaved to sin. I think election is conditional. I believe man makes the cross effectual. I think man is sovereign over the Holy Spirit. I believe since man is free he can lose his salvation.

    Stop preaching eternal security without a theological basis.
    Stop singing “Jesus Saves” when “you make the difference”
    Stop singing “How Great thou Art” when He has failed to save those on the broad road.
    Don’t tell me you think all 16 million are regenerate? But according to your decisional regeneration what is amiss?

    Maybe my post comes across blunt, but it is hard to be polite when men try to hide their own heretical theology by merely stigmatizing others. Be honest yourself. Say We are “First Baptist Arminian Church of NC” No more hiding yourself. Might as well say, we are “First Baptist Pelagian Church of GA, etc”

    so if you give such advice, apply to yourself as well.

  5. Pat McGee Says:

    To go into a church and teach what is contrary to its established doctrine could be considered defiance of the constituted authority of the church…to be in rebellion to the elders. Why not instead join a Reformed Baptist church or something else similar? They would welcome you with open arms. If you are already in an Arminian church, consider relocating!

  6. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    Pat McGee,

    And what if it is not established doctrine? Sunnyside Baptist here, has no established doctrines, nor elders. Neither do any other SBC churches in this town. Sunnyside tenaciously clings to the 1963 BFM for the odd reason that “We we saved under it.” As far as I know, no SBC here advertises that they are Arminian. Sunnyside does not and you cannot find the word in any of their articles of covenant. Shouldn’t they at least advertise their orientation? I was always curious as to why not. Are they ashamed, or deceptive, or is it that they just do not know and do not care to find out? There are no Reformed Baptist churches here. The nearest is fifty miles away. The closest thing to a RB church is a small Presbyterian.

    What if some were teaching and others believeing that mankind was not conceived in sin but became sinful after birth? What if they were believing that man was save through obedience and that faith was just an instrument that could be placed in Christ or something else rather than the vessel through which we are saved? What if the Pastor taught that the blood of Christ never actually saves anyone, instead a person is saved by the personal application of his blood? What if some believed that Adam was created both good and evil in the image of God?

    Would you leave your brothers lost in that mess? Or, would you make every attempt to snatch some from the fire even if it cost you your relationships save those that you rescued?

  7. Barry Says:

    Actually Thomas, I think you’ve touched on it before. People who go to church don’t want to analyse why they’re there. When you throw too much at simple people they shy away.

    What happens when you stand in front of an average church-goer and try to convey to them your theological precepts, doctrine and philosophy?

    Are they really interested in discussing life and death and who gets saved?

    The problem is exacerbated, I think, in today’s world. We do not strive to educate people in this country. Look at all the television programing we have today which caters to the low mental denomiator. People aren’t getting smarter. There is a “dumbing down” in this country whose only result is a dichotomy between those who think and those who feel.

    I’ve never seen television programing that is so focused on entertaining stupid people. It’s really sad.

  8. Reg Schofield Says:

    The problem is the growing misunderstanding form what was mentioned , the misrepresentation of what Calvinism is by the likes of Hunt and Geisler and men who refuse to honestly engage in debate apart from personal attacks.
    I’m just a pew sitter , one who would love to lead a bible study but in my circle of baptist here in Nova Scotia , I have been told that since I hold to the doctrines of grace , they could cause a problem if I begin teaching them to other believers but each Sunday I sit through some of the worst free will almost semi-pelagian sermons I have ever heard . My bother who is soon to finish his degree in pastoral ministry and hopes to be ordained to full time service , recently preached out of Romans concerning the inability of man to even blink an eye to God , that none seek after God , that salvation is all of grace and he was almost vilified!!
    I would love to find a place to truly call home but in my area there is o place to go. Granted in the church I attend there are like minded believers but we remain quiet but I’m afraid that will come to an end because I’m thinking of using the Amazing Grace DVD that was used by Tom Ascol to start a bible study anyway ! All my heroes of the faith were never silent and I’m getting to the point I cannot be silent anymore and declare as Spurgeon did ,to deny Calvinism or the doctrines of grace is to deny the gospel itself!

  9. Pat McGee Says:

    Thomas, if there is no established doctrine or elders, I would hesitate to call that a church. In that situation you would have the freedom to teach the doctrines of grace because you would not be going against elders or doctrine. I personally would not attend somewhere that had no established doctrinal statement or elders. However, if there is an established doctrine and Calvinism is anathema there, go elsewhere, even if it means starting a new work. I am part of a new Reformed Baptist fellowship which hopes to become a full-fledged church some day. We have a church which is sponsoring us. I would covet your praayers in this endeavor. I am in Madera, Ca.
    What is the 1963 BFM?
    Being in a church involves being in submission to the elders and its interpretation of the Bible. I could not stay in a church that teaches the stuff you listed in your response. I would leave and tell the elders why, along with anyone else who asks why I left.

  10. slave2Messiah Says:

    As an SBC-member, and a reformed theologian, i too have felt the desire to cut-bait and walk away from the SBC over the anti-calvinism that is promoted. Even if it’s not forthright [which seems to be their challenge to Calvinists], the subtleties are still there.

    It seems that the SBC has [over the decades] taken its stand in the more humanist camp: what is best for mankind and for the happiness thereof. If we neglect to teach sound doctrine, from Scripture, to the people, without fail, then we are NOT worshiping God!

    Even if you disagree with the doctrines of grace, show me a Calvinist who went into a non-calvinist church, tried to teach the doctrines and caused a split, and i’ll show you either a man with no wisdom, or a church with no humility before God.

    And as for “destroying an otherwise strong and healthy church,” what makes it strong and healthy? Numbers? Fun? Or solid Biblical teaching? Converts who are true converts, not just “decision-makers for Jesus”?

    And for the record, [one reason why i have not toally abandoned the SBC, yet], i know of at least one SBC, Calvinist church that is thriving. If it’s okay to name-drop here, the church is FBC Muscle Shoals, AL They are zealous for missions, sound doctrine, and loving their neighbor. What are they ruining except the stereotype that non-calvinist SBC elite hold to?


  11. Brothers,

    a correction on something I said.

    My “I think pretty much all of those churches had Calvinistic confessions and their associations did too” probably should read “I think pretty much all of those churches had Calvinistic confessions and [maybe] the associations they belonged to did too.”

  12. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    Barry-

    Exactly. What does the Great Commission mean when it says make disciples? Today we would called them students, and we still call the regimine of education disciplines. We are to teach and the sieve is the discipline of submission as Christ said, “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you have no part in me.” Should we be more tolerant to those who just wish to fill their bellies? We are to teach and to lead disciples in the expression of what is taught by mentoring them in the actual world. The medical world would call it a Residence, in other disciplines it is called a practicum. In the classroom, on the street is the way the Lord lead the Disciples. But, we have, as you have said, “dumbed down” the Gospel and lowered the bar. I think in part this is what Tom Ascol and others are pointing to when they speak of accountability. Regenerate membership should be driven by the desire to learn and practice.

    Pat-

    Let me clarify. Our SBC church had the BFM. That was their basic doctinal statement. The SBC BFM (Baptist Faith and Message) though is a cooperative document not intended to be used as a creed. However, there was nothing beyond that even though the Constitution of Sunnyside required the training in the history of the Christian Church, the SBC and their doctrines, standard Discipleship Training. Needless to say, no SBC church here that I am aware of has an individual statement of faith. As is typical in the modern era of the SBC, none of them have Elders. Congregational rule is usually the rule and that rule means “old money speaks.” Our Deacons were some of the most poorly trained doctinaires. That was not their fault, it is the default mode in the SBC. Their Teacher’s Guides were the deepest that they got into Scripture. As I said, it is not quite as simple as it seems to find yourself as I did in an Arminian church when you become aware of an entirely different theology. The problem is that the church itself did not know what system of beliefs it followed. Which is typical, and not just of the SBC, but I would guess the majority of Evangelical Churches in America. My guess also is that you will not find an SBC church in a hundred that puts in its Visitors Guide that they are Arminian.

    By the way, pray for me too. Two Deacons came out with me and as I said we do not have a Reformed Baptist congregaton here. I have terrible organizational skills and need God’s intervention if we are to do what you are in seeking to do and establish a Reformed Baptist church here. How many are in your fellowship? I have not even begun to organize though I meet once a week with one of the Deacons and another is soon to be starting up a weekly bible study, hopefully to begin again using the Amazing Grace DVD as a backdrop to begin to study the DoG. I’ll pray for you, you pray for us.

    You can go here for a look at the BFM:

    http://www.sbc.net/bfm/bfmcomparison.asp

    Reg-

    Praise God for you. I wish it was not so that we have to feel like subversives to share with fellow church members what we know the Scripture teaches. The closed-mindedness is a product of that “dumbing-down.” There is a sense of pride founded in ignorance as if ignorance was an honor. The Scripture says otherwise, though, Hosea 4:6; Isaiah 11:2. Teach those you can teach and let the chips fall where they may. It is the only way to know how many are hungry for the reality of grace. I am really blessed to know that the DVD is going global (okay, is just Canada, but heh, it’s a stretch, eh). Maybe you should tell Tom Ascol, I am sure he would be blessed by the news!

  13. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    At the same time, we also need this generation of young pastors to go into established churches and revitalize a Gospel ministry through expository preaching and energetic leadership. Giving up on the established church is not an option. Some young pastors see church planting as a way of avoiding the challenge of dealing with the people and pathologies of older congregations. This is an abdication of responsibility.

    This was the point, correct? Mohler says it is abdication to run away from established churches with “pathologies.” And, just who is going to? If we become aware of the DoG and remain, we run afoul of the “older congregation.” So, how does one stay put, and more to the point, should it be a concern of the Convention that many DoG Pastors are graduating and would, if they could, work to revitalize dying churches. Often, those churches remain in neighborhoods that are also dying. And that means often the poor, the hungry, the scum of the earth. What better missions field? We have a large percentage of Pastorless SBC churches here in Wyoming and it is a shame, that because of “acceptable” but not accepted doctrine, young men who would fill the pulpits are going outside the SBC for expression of their calling.

  14. Mike Corley Says:

    Timmy you are dead on with this piece! The situation you write about is sad, tragic and getting worse. The ignorance toward the doctrines of grace in many SBC churches is amazing, But as you state, when “More and more non-Calvinistic churches are being given literature, sermons, and materials that is inaccurate, biased, and entirely unhelpful…”, it is no wonder. As you know, the situation you write about here speaks volumes as to why I left the Southern Baptist Convention. To me, Reformed faith, the Doctrines of Grace, Calivinism is simply….biblical Christianity.

  15. Jason McNutt Says:

    I could not have said it better myself but there is hope. I took a church (bivocational) that was in desperate need of life. I held a 2 hour discussion/question session before I let them discuss and vote–I did everything I could to scare them away. I laid out all five points of Calvinism right before them and answered all questions. The congregation voted 99% in favor. Then about 6 months into it, the problems arose. I was told what I was teaching was not Baptist or that I was sneaking in. I clearly told them that I was honest up front and tried everything humanly possible to get you to vote “NO” for me. The waters have calmed without a split (one couple left but I had doubted his conversion to begin with) and now a broken town (drugs, crime, etc.) is falling before the Savior. Stick with it and know that it is a tough battle but it can be won in Christ.

  16. Paul Says:

    What continues to amaze me is the willful ignorance and dishonesty of those who paint Calvinistic theology as somehow aberrant and non-SBC. Have they never heard of Patrick Hues Mell? He was only the President of the SBC for 17 years. His book, “A Southern Baptist Looks At Predestination” is a strong refutation of the very same lies and half-truths that Arminians are still spouting today.

  17. Sal Says:

    I think if a someone is candidating at a church they have to put thier cards on the table about their sorteriology. A church should also know what they believe and what they don’t believe and put their cards on the table and not be too desparate to get a new pastor, the Lord will provide in His time. The same thing is true when looking for a pastoral position. Wait the Lords timing and for the right church. Remember Pastor, the church that you are candidating at, might be a “job” or an “opportunity” for you, where you can live out what you believe to be God’s agenda, that is to “Calvinize” another Baptist church, by “just preaching the Word”, that church may be very precious to a number of people and their families. It may be a place where they have met God and experienced His wonderful blessing. These people don’t need you to come there and tear the place up through your agenda to “Calvinize” the place. Why don’t you try to “Calvinize” some non- Christians. Stop spreading your heresy by trying to “convert” believers. Stop tearing up peoples lives!

  18. Pat McGee Says:

    We only have four families so far. However, we have not yet let people know we exist. As soon as we get into our building we will put out some flyers and let people know we exist. We will do other things to make ourselves known.
    May God bless youe endeavor Thomas. May I suggest that you find a Reformed Baptist church that would be willing to be the planting church. That is what we are doing. They will be providing the preaching and act as elders until we are properly constituted.
    Thomas, you are right in that most churches have no clue about the construct of their theology. Many pastors are ill-educated.

  19. Sal Says:

    I want to apologize to my Calvinist brothers for calling Calvinism a “heresy”. I know it is an orthodox view. It is not mine, but it is orthodox. I have many wonderful Calvinist brothers. I just get upset however when I hear of people going into a church by stealth to change it. Sorry. God bless.

  20. true believer Says:

    thank you so much, sal, for so clearly and succinctly stating the objections to “converting” a mainstream, long-standing SBC church to the piper/dever/macarthur form of current calvinism.
    my 150 yr-old church just went thru a devastating split after our young pastor of 5 yrs went to a macarthur seminar and came back “converted” (while neglecting to tell anyone in the church).
    soon after, he started a 9 marks series, and we were subjected to “expository” preaching again and again about our wicked state, the need to change our governing structure, strident policies about women in the church (when we previously had no issues), doing away with program after program (such as awana, which was teaching bible verses to over 200 children every wed. night), etc, etc.
    a trickle of people started leaving…many of them wonderful, Godly servants of many years, and then the trickle turned into a flood. the pastor actually told the staff it was OK that so many were leaving, because he was “purifying” the church.
    some of us figured out what was really going on when we started to read internet stuff about this reformed movement…it was everything our pastor was doing, and to the end he denied being part of the movement!
    so many people left that the ongoing operation of the church from a fiscal standpoint was coming to a crisis point. the pastor put himself up for an approval vote, saying he would leave if he did not get 75%.
    well, of course he didn’t get it, so he left immediately, as did many of the younger families who had not left already. he started an openly reformed baptist church with these families less than a mile from our church.
    it has been a long road of healing these past months, but it is exciting to see God’s faithfulness in action, and the resurgence of the Spirit changing lives!
    it has been very hard for me to let go of my anger, when i think of what this arrogant young pastor did to this church. was anything he taught “unbiblical”? NO…of course not…
    but i do resent being called “unbiblical” myself, for not feeling comfortable with the direction he wanted. how could one be comfortable with a direction that went from giving over $200,000 annually to missions, that went to ZERO??? (he needed the funds for current operating expenses…a fiscal reality he also neglected to share with the church in a timely manner).
    how DARE these young militants label the servants who built the churches they grew up in as “unbiblical, uneducated and probably unsaved.”
    sigh…i’ll stop now…just PLEASE, people…use some compassion, empathy and common sense before turning a church upside down, even tho you are passionate about what you believe…thank you…

  21. true believer Says:

    and PS….and you had better believe we will use every means available to ascertain what our pastor candidates REALLY believe….


  22. “true believer,”

    I see that your email address has you as “hilary clinton.”

    I thought you guys were against wire-tapping phone conversations and undercover investigations . . . 🙂

  23. true believer Says:

    hehe…please don’t tell bill…

  24. true believer Says:

    one last thought…as i recall the events of the last 2 years at our church(prior to, during and after our split) , it becomes pretty clear that things started getting pretty dysfunctional when our focus turned INWARD, i.e. this emphasis on church discipline, governance, worship style policies, etc. instead of OUTWARD…local and international missions, local programs, visitation and outreach.

    Jesus sets a very clear example of how we can lead joy-filled, fruitful lives…spending time with the Lord AND reaching out to others. these need not be mutually exclusive. Jesus did not use big words, or engage in mean-spirited debate, or point His finger at everyone. He used simple language and word pictures to explain God’s message. but most of all, He was OUTWARDLY focused…with a servant spirit…

    yes, we do need to guard against being overly “programmatical” and “busy”…

    but we also need to guard against letting pride and intellectual superiority guide our steps…thank you…

  25. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    true believer said:

    Jesus did not use big words, or engage in mean-spirited debate, or point His finger at everyone.

    But Scripture says, “Then he said unto them, ‘O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken’…”

    fools: anoetos, fools
    slow of heart: bradus ho cardia, literally, stupid to the core.

    Jesus was not the effeminate Christ that you portray. We remember his venture into the temple and the disciples later recalled “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up?” Zelos means in this context, the fierceness of indignation, punitive zeal. We get our word jealous from it and in the
    OT it is a name of God, Exodus 34:14. Proverbs uses it of a husband righteously angry in jealous rage. The NT uses the same equivalent when Paul speaks of his jealousy for the church, and of us when it calls upon us to be zealous both in works and defense of the Gospel. To Peter he turned
    and called him Satan. To his brother Jews he called them children of the devil, to his own mother he said, woman, “gune”(gunay) not meter (mayter), mother. He rebuked her because she did not recognize the times and seasons, “My hour has not yet come.” At another time he showed her again only common respect not even making a place for her, “Who is my mother…” To some he called white-washed tombs, even to his own disciples he pointed the finger and derided them.

    But it goes on. Read Acts and the instances of ‘harsh’ speech used by the disciples of their own. What of Paul’s treatment of Peter and Mark? In Paul’s admonishments to Timothy, he calls him to rebuke, strongly warn, etc. These words are ‘big’ words rendered simplistically in English. I would invite you to check out there meanings. You’re out of balance and the Lord hates an unequal balance. Both aspects, kindness and gentles, sterness and harsh, appropriate speech are required in the fellowship of believers. You make a good case that liberalism and the “Can’t we all just get along attitude,” of political correctness has throroughly invaded the SBC. And you can not hide behind the idol of evangelism and outreach. They lie at the end of the Great commission and flow out of discipleship. That was the Lord’s model. He taught them first, orthodoxy, then lead them in orthopraxy. It is make disciples (students) teaching them to keep (sound doctrine) and to do (practice it), in that order. You have it backwards. But, I contend that you do because you rue SBC history and it sound foundational teaching. You fall into the revilalist trap and excite
    people about Jesus just to bring them a Christ that does not exist. I would suspect that you’ve not read the Founders, for as you said, they used big, very big words. But, remember this: 2 Peter 3:16.

    You’ve display for us exactly what is wrong with the SBC. The status quo, is entrenched and refuses to budge even if it is wrong, dead wrong. You have settled for the effeminate, docile, compromised, cooperative, coopted Christ who can be placed in the corner and admired, but not worshipped.

    To the end that pastors’ deceive the people, you are absolutely correct. But, what kind of search committee has such little discernment that they cannot tell the difference between one man and another? Can you find something wrong with MacArthur? Did your church rival his outreach and evangelism, his programs and community services in and out of house? Have you ever look at what he is doing? I doubt it, or you would have been excited by a young man who had vision. It is a guess, buI you
    probably haven’t really research Piper, or Dever, how about Roy Hargrave? I am sorry that this young man was, if he was, the arrogant man you have discribed him to be, but without a name, and you do like to name names, your story remains a myth, a flight of your own imagination. Let’s hear the second man, if you want to follow the admonitions of Scripture, 2 Corinthians 13:1, Proverbs 18:17. Until then, you just bear tales of gossip, separating close friends. I suspect that you suffer from a settlers mentality. Having homesteaded in your church and having built a
    temple to yourselves, you could not stand a foreigner coming in and upsetting your traditionalism. I would imagine also, that if it was Christ himself, he would not have gotten the votes, either.

    What I find incredible is: you can vent your frustrations and excuse your vitriol as righteousness while at the same time condemning your brothers for the same thing. You should remove the mote in your own eye.

  26. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    Please excuse my sloppy editing above.

    true believer- Having said all I said, the true test to our Christian brotherhood is can we now sit down in fellowship, agreeing that “faithful are the wounds of a friend? Are you willing to “Be angry and sin not. And do not let the sun go down on your wrath….but speak, the truth in love…?
    And that, even if our emotions and pride get in the way? Are you willing to have your lips touched by fiery coals, just as willing as you are to touch other’s lips with them?

    I am ready, are you?

  27. true believer Says:

    sigh…i don’t think of Jesus as effeminate, i am not a liberal, i am not “entrenched in traditionalism,” etc etc etc…
    i do stand corrected that Jesus did rebuke when necessary.
    on the other hand, i do think Christians should “get along.”
    my point in writing anything in this forum was to ask for caution before tearing a church apart. we are talking, in many cases, about churches where hundreds of people have come to Christ, been discipled, raised families, and ultimately were buried. having done that, i will write no further.
    and you have definitely reinforced for me the mean-spiritedness of this movement.


  28. “true believer,”

    I feel like this is an appropriate place for me to chime in for a second.

    1. No one else on this thread (I presume) knows first-hand the situation of what happened in your church. If what you revealed is accurate and true, then no matter whether you are a Calvinist or Arminian, such behavior is unacceptable. It does not matter what theological stripe you bear, no Christian has the right to be a jerk and irresponsible shepherd of Christ’s church. I’m sorry that you have had such a terrible experience.

    2. While I have not read all the comments on this thread, I have read yours, and I must say, you have been quite mean-spirited while projecting your experiences on other you do not know. Because you have had a bad example before you does not give you the right to conclude that everyone who believes such doctrines is therefore with exception of the same mold. You have strong disagreements with others here, and as an administrator of this blog, we welcome differing viewpoints. You are always welcome to express your thoughts, and should you be disrespected or the recipient of ad-hominems, then I will be the first to stand up for you.

    3. If you look back at my original post, I concluded with this statement:

    But if we can come together for the church, for the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention, then I believe the tide can change. I’m in, and I hope others in the SBC, whether Arminian or Calvinist, can come together for the building of God’s church and furthering of the Great Commission under the same conviction and inspiration as our founders in 1845. They did it then, and by God’s grace, it can happen today.

    The point was to come together for the churches in the SBC and for the Great Commission. It was not to “Calvinize the SBC” but simply to say that, if you can confessionally agree to the BF&M, then let’s put our emphasis and efforts to revitalizing churches and planting new ones for the sake of the Kingdom. All the statistical data reveals that the overwhelming majority of our churches are dead or dying, most church plants are due to church splits or newly associated, and more and more churches are not seeing anyone baptized on a yearly basis. If someone comes to such a church committed to love God’s people, preach the Bible, and reach the lost with the gospel of Jesus Christ and yet is a Calvinist, would you therefore discard such a minister from ever serving in your church?

    I regret that some of the comments have “reinforced for you the mean-spiritedness of this movement,” but I hope that, should you be given the opportunity to know a young, Reformed, Southern Baptist, they would exhibit the same grace and extend the same mercy to you and others that they have received from our sovereign God.

  29. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    I want to apologize if I have been nasty. My intent was to question the motivation. I truly cannot understand attacking people like MacArthur and Deaver, Piper or others who also are working for the cooperative existence of the convention and the Commission. The matter comes down to freedom of conscience, and liberty, two distinctives of the SBC that are in bad neglect. There are fallacies and errant emotionalism on both sides. We, no matter our preference, are adamantly invested in our beliefs. If we were not passionate about them, believing them to be true, over against others, what kind of lovers of truth would we be?

    That being said, it is not mean spirited to spiritedly defend ones beliefs. Our openess is expressed in the BFM this way:

    That we do not regard them as complete statements of our faith, having any quality of finality or infallibility. As in the past so in the future, Baptists should hold themselves free to revise their statements of faith as may seem to them wise and expedient at any time.

    In our conference, and in our local churches, where a pator may change his mind, or the layman may do likewise, we have agreed to be cooperative, to rationally, with demure and deference, freely exchange ideas. We have agreed to teach the historic Christian Faith, the history of the Church, the history of the Southern Baptists, and their doctrinal heritage as a dedication to discipleship training.

    Christianity is the faith of enlightenment and intelligence. In Jesus Christ abide all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. All sound learning is, therefore, a part of our Christian heritage. The new birth opens all human faculties and creates a thirst for knowledge. Moreover, the cause of education in the Kingdom of Christ is co-ordinate with the causes of missions and general benevolence, and should receive along with these the liberal support of the churches. An adequate system of Christian education is necessary to a complete spiritual program for Christ’s people.

    Sadly, it has not been this way. Calvinistic teaching is not allowed in the vast majority of SBC churches in a plenary sense, even in the context of history and doctrinal discernment. It is dismissed out of hand, and as I and others have experienced, even in the face of constitutional requirements, churchs’ refuse to teach it without predjudice. All of this bigotry, and discrimination is what has lead to the godly angst and anger of many Reformed Baptist believers. The hypcricy is evident. Double-standards, yes, traditionalism, rules over common courtesy. That traditionalism lords over constitutions and principles that cemented the conference together. It is not the resurgence of the historical faith and beliefs of Calvinism that is tearing the conference apart, according to its own admission in the BFM

    Baptists are a people of deep beliefs and cherished doctrines. Throughout our history we have been a confessional people, adopting statements of faith as a witness to our beliefs and a pledge of our faithfulness to the doctrines revealed in Holy Scripture.

    Our confessions of faith are rooted in historical precedent, as the church in every age has been called upon to define and defend its beliefs. Each generation of Christians bears the responsibility of guarding the treasury of truth that has been entrusted to us [2 Timothy 1:14]. Facing a new century, Southern Baptists must meet the demands and duties of the present hour.

    These are the things which are actually the reason for it adhesion, the search and the preservation of the truth whether we like or not.

    If I caused you pain, true believer, understand that I hurt also. I have to listen to your rebuke as one who is guilty. But, I press on. Coming up is the Building Bridges Conference. There can be two outcomes. One is an agreement and declaration that will allow the cooperative agreement of the BFM to be honored, allowing for true free expression of knowledge in our local churches. Or, it can confirm that there is no reality to the BFM. It can affirm the freedom of conscience and liberty that has been the distinctive of the Reformation and of the SBC, or it can remain recalcitrant, refusing to even hear, or instruct with love of truth. The conference can repent of allowing its most revered leaders to speak vitriolically against a sytem that they do not understand, and against men that they have not sought to know. Or, it can continue to allow the obvious unchristian attitudes that prevail among the “old guard.” A simple agreement, or truce, will not do, we will be back talking in secret, hiding our faith, or, there will simply be a split.

  30. Stephen McCormick Says:

    I am a career missionary at a large year round Christian camp in northern Michigan. Although the camp would have had a leaning toward many Calvinistic doctrines for decades, since our new director took over a few years ago he has been steering the camp toward a more solid five point Calvinist position. I reacted so strongly to the switch in emphasis that I determined I must find a definite answer in Scripture. I have taught inductive Bible study principles for 20 years and determined if I could not find a conclusive answer in Scripture I would stop teaching. Well, I found the answer in Romans right square in the middle of the passage the Reformers use to teach their beliefs. I am working on a doctoral level paper which I intend to publish as a book at some point, and it looks like it will cost our family our place on staff here.

  31. John Humbee Says:

    Calvinism is an evil cancer that needs to be eradicated. What utter hogwash!


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