“Calvinism” in “Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (1859-2009)”- excerpts from the book by Dr. Gregory A. Wills, Part 4
Part 4: “Calvinism and Denominational Doubt”
[The entire post below is a quote from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (1859-2009), pages 542-543, with links added.]
Moderates were astonished to discover that Mohler advocated Calvinism and attacked him for it. Most conservatives in the Southern Baptist Convention rejected the doctrine of predestination but were little troubled by Mohler’s views. Since the 1940s, Calvinism had grown in popularity in evangelicalism generally. London preacher Martin Lloyd-Jones influenced many evangelicals in the United Kingdom to embrace Calvinism through his preaching and his promotion of interest in the Puritans. A number of publishers reprinted Puritan writings to meet the growing demand. The writings of John Stott and James I. Packer popularized these emphases in Great Britain and in the United States. In the United States, such preachers and authors as R.C. Sproul, John Piper, and John MacArthur taught an explicitly Calvinistic understanding of the Bible. Francis Schaeffer and Carl Henry, whose writings spurred an intellectual renaissance within American fundamentalism and evangelicalism, also contributed greatly to the spread of Calvinism’s popularity. Mohler had studied appreciatively the writings of many of these.
In the Southern Baptist Convention, Calvinism’s popularity was spreading at the same time, drawing in part on the same influences. But many Southern Baptists were looking to their own past and discovered there a rich stream of Calvinist evangelicalism. They reprinted and read the theological works of nineteenth-century Baptists, especially of such men as James P. Boyce. Some formed the Founders Ministries, an organization that produced a quarterly journal and hosted an annual conference dedicated explicitly to the promotion of “the doctrines of grace,” as Calvinism was also known. Tom Nettles, professor at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, published in 1986 an extensively documented history of Calvinism among Baptists, which served as an influential introduction to Calvinism for many Southern Baptists. Nettles joined Southern Seminary’s faculty in 1997.
Convention moderates agreed with Mohler that Boyce and Manly were Calvinists, but they viewed Calvinism as part of an obsolete tradition of interpretation that included also the oppression of blacks and women. To “return to Boyce and Manly,” retired Southern Seminary professor Frank Stagg wrote, was to return to “slavery, silencing of women, the mean theology of Calvinism.”
Other Southern Baptists were puzzled or troubled by Mohler’s affirmation of Calvinism. At the 1995 meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Atlanta, two messengers questioned Mohler’s Calvinism. One said that he could not find Calvinism in his Bible. Mohler was disarmingly honest about his convictions. Most conservatives did not seem threatened by it even if they did not agree with him. He had never seen Calvinism as his cause. He wanted to promote the gospel of redeeming grace.
In the early twenty-first century some conservative leaders nevertheless began warning Southern Baptists of the apparent dangers of Calvinism. In 2008 two of the denomination’s leading conservative preachers, Johnny Hunt, pastor of the Woodstock, Georgia, First Baptist Church, and Jerry Vines, retired pastor of the Jacksonville, Florida, First Baptist Church, held a conference that challenged the five points of Calvinism. All the evidence, however, indicated that Calvinism was spreading, especially among younger Southern Baptists, despite the warnings.