Tuesday, May 09, 2006

They're Creeping In! Pt. 4

We are continuing our series of responses to the “Crept in Unawares…” article from BaptistFire (the first three posts can be read here: 1, 2, and 3). We now move on to the second paragraph:

Southern Baptist Calvinists Are Well Organized

They have an organization called Founders Ministries. They have a web site and hold regular meetings. They claim that since some of the original founders of the Southern Baptist Convention were Calvinists that the SBC should hold to these doctrines.

First and foremost, the Founders Ministry desires to bring the Southern Baptist Convention back to its historical roots of the Doctrines of Grace because they are biblical doctrines. The fact that this is the historical position is just the icing on the cake.

In any case, I’m curious what purpose this paragraph serves. Should I not just note: “Southern Baptist Arminians are well organized. They have an organization called ‘BaptistFire.’ They have a web site and hold regular meetings. Oh… and they’re anonymous”?

The Southern Baptist Convention, however, was not founded over the issue of Calvinism. Rather the founders of the SBC held that whites owning blacks in slavery was an acceptable behavior for Christians. As far as we can tell, Founders Ministries does not advocate a return to slavery. Which makes it a rather odd name for the organization.

1. It is, at best, an understatement to portray the central focus of SBC founders as initiating the SBC in the agenda of the advocacy of slavery. Did the gospel have nothing to do with it? Did furthering Christ’s church and fulfilling the Great Commission have no place in the desires of the founders of the Convention? I believe that anyone who has acquainted himself with the writings of the founders (which I fear that the BaptistFire contributors have not) can answer these questions with a resounding “No.”

2. The unstated argument here is basically: “it would be ridiculous for us to return to our roots concerning slavery, and therefore, it would be ridiculous for us to return to our roots concerning Calvinism.” But the error here glares. Let’s say that the SBC one day becomes Unitarian. Would it then be ridiculous to call the SBC back to the historical, Biblical, and orthodox position of Trinitarianism simply because the SBC was initially sympathetic to slave-holders?

3. I am truly curious of what extent the BaptistFire contributors acknowledge the reality of the SBC founder’s embracement of the Doctrines of Grace. This was not some dispassionate, mental attestation. One only has to read the words of Basil Manly to be well acquainted with how these founders viewed the theology of the Reformation:

The greatest reason, however, why the Christian family is divided on one or the other side–rejecting one or the other of these great doctrines–is that the doctrine of dependence on the Divine being, throws us constantly into the hands, and on the mercy of God. Proud man does not like it;–prefers to look at the other side of the subject; becomes blinded, in part, by gazing at one view of the truth, alone; and forgets the Maker, in whom he lives, and moves and has his being.

…The Scriptures, in no ambiguous manner, intimate the true reply to this question. We are confident that “he that hath begun a good work in you will perform it &c.” “Draw me; we will run after thee.” I will not multiply quotations; the current of scripture ascribes the incipient operation of God. “I have loved thee, with an everlasting love; therefore, with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.” “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit.” “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth.” “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” “Which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

But how was it in your experience? Let us go back, in our consciousness, with this question: for, if there is a work of grace in us, that work is a subject of consciousness, to some extent. Now I ask any Christian man to say–Did you go, irrespective of motive; go first to meet him and then he came to meet you? Did you, without a change of heart, resolve to change your own heart? And did this effort, self determined, self-sustained, self-dependent, succeed?

If so, the credit of the whole operation, the merit of the work, belongs to you. The Christian heart replies;–no, Jesus sought me first. I remember a pious old Methodist Lady, singing with my Mother, that hymn–”Come thou fount of every blessing;” and when she reached the verse “Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God”–she burst into tears, and hid her face in her handkerchief, and said,–Yes, it was so, it was so.” There spoke the true Christian heart. Take a true believer away from theological creeds and technicalities, from the musty volumes of controversy and the arena of bitter strife, and there is but one voice on the subject;–”Not unto us, not unto us, but unto God be all the glory.”

The Calvinists have a clear goal — the conversion of the SBC to Calvinism

From their Frequently Asked Questions [FAQ] web page: “Do you really think the SBC can be reformed? Absolutely!”

“Reformed” as used by the Calvinists in the above context does not mean reformed from liberalism or unbelief. It means “reformed” or converted to their belief that God doesn’t want everyone saved and that Jesus didn’t die for the whole world.

1. To have faith that God would bring his church back to a Biblical doctrine of salvation, one that ascribes the work of redemption wholly and unequivocally to him alone for his glory alone, is a noble faith.

2. The term “reformed” comes from the historical doctrines of the Protestant Reformation. The fact that the BaptistFire contributors are ignorant of this is quite telling.

3. Of course, we shouldn’t expect this anonymous author to define the doctrines of the Reformation in a fair manner that actually and honestly informs the reader of their principles. Rather, unqualified and ambiguous language is used. Do I believe that Jesus died for the world? Yes, I do, but I define that word in its biblical context, not on the basis of the BaptistFire-assumed reading. Do I believe that God fails to accomplish his will to save those whom he desires? No, I do not. Rather, I believe that God saves completely and efficaciously whom he desires.

The Calvinists have a clear tactic — deceitfulness in your pulpit!

While theologically in error, Calvinists are not stupid.

How terribly kind of BaptistFire! ;-)

Calvinists realize that the vast majority of Southern Baptists believe Jesus loves the whole world.

More loaded, unqualified, and ambiguous terminology, nothing more. He (or she) fails to define for us “world.” In fact, the notion of defining the term probably seems outrageous to BaptistFire. But that is simply exegetical ignorance. Furthermore, the author fails to distinguish between redemptive love and common love. All of this and more was pointed out in my first post.

Calvinists know that Southern Baptists overwhelmingly believe that Jesus desires the salvation of everyone. The Calvinists are smart enough to realize that if they should openly promote their beliefs in Southern Baptist pulpits, most churches would boot them out so fast it would make their heads spin.

Yes, it is terrible that the state of the church today is such that it opposes a Biblical and God-glorifying doctrine of salvation. In any case, we have so far yet to see a single ounce of substance in this article. Where’s the exegesis of John 6? Where’s any exegesis? Where’s the substance?

The challenge, then, for the Southern Baptist Calvinists is how to convert Southern Baptist churches to Calvinism without letting the local churches know that the primary goal is to convert the church to Calvinist theology.

No, the challenge is to bring the church back to a Biblical doctrine of salvation without confusing the church with terms concerning which websites such as BaptistFire have already poisoned the well.

Sounds impossible? It’s not. In order to meet this challenge, Founders Ministries has a how-to-do-it manual on their web site for covertly converting a church to Calvinism. Their web site says,

[quote] * In the pulpit, don’t use theological language that is not found in the Bible. Avoid terms such as Calvinism, reformed, doctrines of grace, particular redemption, etc. Most people will not know what you are talking about. Many that do will become inflamed against you. Teach your people the biblical truth of these doctrines without providing distracting labels for them.[/quote]

“Calvinism,” “reformed,” “doctrines of grace,” “particular redemption” — these are the buzzwords and phrases used to identify doctrines that are contrary to John 3:16, 1 Tim. 2:4, 1 John 2:2, etc.

1. The simple and sad fact is that before books like Dave Hunt’s What Love is This?, many had never even heard the term “Calvinism.” So their first acquaintance with the term comes from someone who himself does not understand the doctrines. In fact, Dave said once on a radio program, “Well, first of all, I’m very ignorant of the Reformers.” So, while many of the church audience is simply ignorant of the term, many have only a misconception of its meaning. In fact, I would be willing to bet quite a large sum that if I asked one of these anonymous authors to explain for me the doctrine of effectual call (irresistible grace), he would be unable to do so without erring. This fact is ever-more true of those who are unacquainted with this terminology.

2. The author once again cites John 3:16, 1 Tim. 2:4, and 1 John 2:2. We’ve already looked at these texts, but the author has yet to provide any exegesis of them.

3. Notice that the anonymous author does not tell us what the phrases mean, but what they supposedly don’t mean (”contrary to…”).

Most informed Southern Baptists would immediately recognize these phrases as contrary to what the vast majority of Southern Baptist churches believe.

Most “informed” Southern Baptists (that is, SBC folk who have been biased because of the poisoning of the well by websites like BaptistFire and authors like Dave Hunt who are simply ignorant of the Doctrines of Grace) haven’t a clue what the actual teaching of Calvinism is. And BaptistFire has not made a single effort to “inform” them of the positive claims of Reformed Theology. Rather, it has simply told us what Calvinists supposedly “do not believe.”

Founders Ministries is therefore advocating not using identifying terms which would immediately reveal to the congregation what they believe.

Rather, the Founders are responding wisely to unfair and dishonest well-poisoning.

This is deception, pure and simple.

Why? Why is it deception to frame the discussion in Biblical terms that have not already been abused by people like Dave Hunt and the anonymous BaptistFire contributors? Why is it deception to know your audience? He (or she) never tells us.

While these Southern Baptist brothers are certainly not what God was referring to in Jude 4, their methods sound much like the heretics of Jude’s day: “For there are certain men crept in unawares …”

In other words, this author compares the Founders to the false teachers/apostates “who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” But, certainly BaptistFire does not agree with Jude’s assessment that these false teachers were “designated for this condemnation“? I always find it ironic when opponents to Reformed theology cite texts that support Reformed theology.

We believe that a Calvinist preacher who takes a position of leadership in a Southern Baptist church should be open and honest about his intentions to attempt to change the long held theological beliefs of the church. A preacher who believes Jesus doesn’t love the whole world should just come out and say so.

Ignoring the persistence in unqualified, unspecified terms, I believe the Founders Ministry has made its Calvinist doctrine clear. How else does BaptistFire know about it?

A young seminary graduate should inform a church if he doesn’t believe the words in a song that most every Southern Baptist church sings: “Jesus loves the little children, All the children of the world.” The Baptist Hymnal, p. 592 (Convention Press, Nashville 1991).

Very ironic, not only are the BaptistFire contributors unable to competently exegete their central Biblical passages, but they are unable to competently exegete their own hymns! Notice that this song qualifies it’s own use of the word “world”! What is the next line that follows? “…All the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight.” This song qualifies and defines its use of the word “world” as “from every tribe tongue people and nation.” Jesus doesn’t just love Jews. He doesn’t just love white people. His love is does not discriminate between kinds of people. But the BaptistFire contributors confuse love without discrimination with love without differentiation.

Anyway, of course the pastor of a church should inform his congregation of his doctrine. That is, of course, not what the Founders Ministry is arguing against. Rather, they rightly and wisely note that using loaded, unclear, or well-poisoned theological terms is not always the best way to teach the church. I can teach the church about the doctrine of election without using loaded terms like “supralapsarianism.”

Churches who are calling pastors need openness and honesty, not someone who has “crept in unawares.”

I think the Founders Ministry has been quite open and quite honest (do you notice the irony that the author of this article is, on the one hand, writing about a group, The Founders, that is very out and in the open [unlike the anonymous contributors of BaptistFire], and then on the other hand describing SBC Calvinists as “crept in unawares”?) , and to continue to compare them to the Jude 4 passage concerning those who deny the very deity of our Lord is a distracting red herring. Where’s the exegesis? Where have these authors addressed the relevant issues?

We’ll continue to critique this article in the next post!

Evan May.


  1. "... before books like Dave Hunt’s What Love is This?, many had never even heard the term “Calvinism.” So their first acquaintance with the term comes from someone who himself does not understand the doctrines."

    This sounds remarkably like the Catholic response to Baptists. Change the title of the book and switch Calvinsm to Catholicism.

  2. A very commendable critique. In this current age of opposition to critical thinking and intellectually sound theology, your comments are a refreshing breeze. I was actually unaware that anybody took the "fire" people seriously. There are two types of people: people whose opinions are based on fact, and people whose opinions are based on emotion. Those based on fact are persuaded by fact, those based on emotion by emotion. Thus there will always be a communication gap, and there will always be Baptist-Fire and other emotionalist groups

  3. Isn't it strange how many believe that they need an "ism" in order to explain the doctrines of God's grace??? I do not see Jesus telling the Apostles on the Day of the Ascension, "go to Jerusalem, and wait to be endued with the power of an "ism" I think all the Church needs is to be endued with the power of holy spirit; yeah, Bapt-ism seems to have a bit more power to, "bring all things to your remembrance", "make you witnesses unto me", "lead you into all truth" guide, comfort, etc., etc., etc.