Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Florida Baptist Inquisition Or "Rise of the Empire"

Southern Baptists have been told, rather consistently I might add, that Calvinists are dividing churches. We're told that there are "extreme Calvinists" like those at Founders who are not evangelistic. (I'd like to the their names). We've been told that Calvinists are getting called to SBC pulpits by less than honest means by hiding their Calvinism.

Yeah, right...I have a really, really hard time believing it with these recent developments in the great state of Florida.

First, we have this event in Holmes Association.

You can read the notes from the meeting here.

And this isn't the first time Brother Cecil has been involved in such behavior.

And if that's not enough, Jim Sullivan the Executive Director of the Florida C0nvention has decided to mail out anti-Calvinist propaganda to the churches.

Oh, but that's not enough. He's defending Brother Cecil, while Brother Cecil asks "Are you calling me a liar?" Well, I'm not as nice as some, so I'll just say it. Brother Cecil, I have read the minutes of the meeting, and five of the six persons there were not Calvinists and have no need to lie. So, unless you can produce a motive for them to lie and the evidence for it, yes, Brother Cecil, you are a liar, and you need to repent, and Brother Jim needs to step up and do his duty to Florida Baptists and remove you if you refuse correction. Further, lest you think I am not an equal opportunity kind of guy: If these charges are false, and I truly hope they are, then those who have bore false witness against you need to repent and they should step down or be removed. Whatever happens, there needs to be complete transparency.

Further, Roger Moran has been outspoken in Missouri Convention.

Let us not forget Brother John Connell who has been handing out anti-Calvinist material, if Timmy's report is correct, to Reformed Baptist and Presbyterian students at his school. This brother claims in the meta, if you read carefully, that he's just voicing the concerns of average Southern Baptists in the pew. He then discusses Calvinism as settled in Presbyterian churches. Pray tell, then, why is he handing out material to Reformed Baptist and Presbyterian students if he's fine with the matter being settled in such churches? Let's not forget, too, that apparently on page 63, he called for the dismantling of SBTS' Abstract of Principles as its governing confession and he's the one who called for the study on Calvinism's effect on the SBC at last year's Convention.

Yeah, Calvinists are "dividing churches" and "sowing disorder." Riiiight. Most of us speak up these days to reply to this sort of material. When we reply, we're told we're the ones who are making offense. So apparently, "sowing division" and "dividing churches," and "extreme" are defined as "engaging the matter in defense." We have to suck it up, while they dish it out. It’’s like we’re getting mugged in the street and when we fight off the muggers, we’re the ones that the police arrests and charges with a crime. What is wrong with this picture?! Is this the Inquisition? Maybe Brother Ben Cole is right about Baptists and Rome.

This isn't about Calvinism as such. This is about truth. This is about integrity. This is also about the autonomy of the local church. Don't start talking about how divisive and dishonest Calvinists are when this is the level to which the anti-Calvinists are stooping. Further, if you're going to start mailing Dr. Vines' material to the churches of the FLBC, then by all means follow up with a mailing of material from the other side. My brother, Timmy Brister is right:

The problem in the SBC is not that we have too many Calvinists in the Convention but that we have too many liars in the Convention. Brothers, whether you agree with Calvinism or not, we must agree that we must be people committed to the truth, to being truthful people, and at all costs, maintain the integrity of visible church which is the pillar and buttress of truth. If what Roger Moran is allowed to say and do what he wants in MO and Sulivan/Seagle in FL, there will be no questions why churches are dying and Southern Baptists are leaving.
This sort of systemic dishonesty and underhandedness needs to called into the light. I feel like I'm watching Emperor Palpatine, Darth Vader, Darth Maul, and Count Dooku manipulate the Galactic Senate in the Star Wars Prequels, while Obi-Wan, Yoda, and Mace Windu struggle against them. Will there be a Queen Amidala to sit back and say, "So this is how liberty dies...with thunderous applause." I pray not.

It does not matter if you are a moderate or a conservative, a Calvinist or a rank Arminian, Landmark or Whittsitite, it needs to be called out. The days when this sort of thing can go on unchecked are over. People are wise now. They take notes, and what you say is in writing for the world to see. They also post it on the internet, where it will be picked apart and analyzed by many. The days when you could hide what you're doing in the dark are long gone. Some have said blogging is irrelevant. Others have viewed it as gossip. Well, I submit, this is precisely why we Baptists need to blog. The people in the pews are having their eyes opened. Indeed, some who once doubted what some of us have been saying are now persuaded otherwise.

Brothers, when you go to San Antonio this week, every one of you needs to shake the hands of these men and then tell them they need to resolve this issue. Most, if not all, of the parties involved will be in TX for the Convention next week. You will all be in a place with plenty of privacy in your rooms to sit down face to face and, if Brother Cecil has been wronged, expose it. If the charges are true, then Brother Cecil needs an intervention, as does Brother Jim. Brother Jim needs to explain why he's using churches' dollars/God's money to send these mailings, and he needs to be urged to agree to a mailing of another point-of-view if nothing else. The same is true of Brother Roger and Brother Cecil. Do the right thing, brethren. I would love nothing more than for you all to come back home and blog next week about a powerful movement of God's Spirit, where offenders and offended repented and forgave and where monologues became dialogs.


  1. I praise God for the amazing work the Founders Movement has brought about in the Southern Baptist Convention.

    As a Calvinist and a Reformed Baptist, I tend to think that evangelicalism can no longer be distinguished as a "movement," although one thing unites evangelical "thought" (if it can be called "thought"): the quest for immediate religious experience.

    This is why, to be honest, when I meet an evangelical, I don't immediately think "oh, look, there's a brother!". Instead, I withhold judgment for some time.

    As a former evangelical myself, and as someone who, by God's grace, has been Reformed for 11 years now, it is clear to me that evangelicalism is another faith. It is a different worldview than the Reformed faith, and it seems to me to be diametrically opposed to it.

    This is why I am not surprised when I read of this kind of depressing stuff in the SBC. After all, who wants to believe that God is sovereign? Who wants to believe that He has the right to do whatever He wants? To elect some to eternal life, and leave the rest to their eternal justice? Who wants to believe that God has ordained every last detail of life? Who wants to believe that God has declared that we are to worship Him the way He says we are to worship Him?

    Who wants to believe that the only way God speaks to us today is through Word and Sacrament? You mean He doesn't speak directly to me? He doesn't tell me every day what shirt to wear, or what is going to happen that day?

    Yes indeed. Calvinism and the Reformed faith just isn't attractive to the flesh.

  2. Josh,

    You said:

    "This is why, to be honest, when I meet an evangelical, I don't immediately think "oh, look, there's a brother!". Instead, I withhold judgment for some time."

    I understand why you may think this way, but if someone has a profession of faith you should, in Christian charity, accept that profession unless or until they show you otherwise. This kind of pre-judgment about the spiritual state of other professing Christians is biblically untenable, and is part of the reason those outside of Reformed Baptist circles think we're spiritually prideful and legalistic. Not that those charges are always true, but sometimes they are...


  3. One wonders, though, what rightly constitutes a profession of faith nowadays. The Bible contains words, but those words are intended to express ideas. If someone tells me "I believe in Jesus Christ", there are a variety of ideas, right as well as faulty that can underlie those words.

    Indeed, I wonder if the word "Christian" is almost useless nowadays. When "Christian" was a word applied from without (ie Romans/Gentiles, and in derision) to early Christians, it was obvious what it meant... but now the word "Christian" has a multitude of connotations. I -hate- when some topic of disagreement comes up between believers, and someone says, "Well, I'm just a Christian" (as opposed to Presbyterian, Baptist, etc). That's asinine, because they are essentially trying to make themselves appear as "pure unadulterated Christian" while painting the other person as not so (because they use "Reformed", or "Calvinist", or whatever). But it's not about the word, it's about the idea.

    But, your comments about charity are definitely valid, and I admit I kind of went off on a soapbox tangent.

  4. Scrape,

    I assume that if someone calls himself "Christian" he believes in the Trinity and the Person and Work of Christ (His deity, intercession, etc). I have run across JWs who try to say they're Christians, but the conversation doesn't have to go too far before they are found out. But since I'm not omniscient, I take someone's profession at face value. As always, time will tell one way or the other...


  5. Thanks for the link, Gene. Have we met before? Anyway, the only correction I would offer is to change the name "Jim" to "John" when you're referring to Dr. John Sullivan.

    As one who has been in Cecil Seagle's sights on more than one occasion, it was just a matter of time (does the name Haman ring a bell?). I know all the players on both sides and those dear brothers in Holmes County are not liars.

    Bill Lollar
    The Thin Edge of the Wedge