Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Southern Baptists and Calvinism Conference

This morning Tom Ascol announced an upcoming conference on Southern Baptists and Calvinism at Ridgecrest Conference Center in NC in November 26 - 28. (That is, I believe Tgiving weekend!). It's also 2 hours from my house, so I will plan to be there. I expect to see several bloggers in the SE there...maybe Steve "Cary Grant" Hays will grace us with his physical presence. I'm beginning to think he's one of the Final Five Cylons, a disembodied AI living on an ethereal plane, with a plan. Come on, Steve, what do you say? Come play with us at Ridgecrest in the mountains near Asheville!

I will do my best to drag Dustin Segers there with me! Centurion and Tad Thompson, his pastor, should hike from OK too. It's not like I'm going to hike out there anytime soon. I'd be willing to bet Les Puryear and Wade Burleson, and maybe even Marty Duren will come round for a visit. In fact, I'm hoping many of the Reformed and Baptist/SBC bloggers will come.

At any rate: Dr. Ascol writes:

Today at the Founders Breakfast in San Antonio, I announced an upcoming conference on "Building Bridges: Southern Baptists and Calvinism." The conference is being jointly sponsored by Founders Minstries and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. It is scheduled for November 26-28 at Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina.

Details will be made public over the next few weeks. The reason for making the announcement now is to encourage people to hold the dates and begin making plans for what promises to be a historic gathering for Southern Baptists.

The purpose of this conference is to bring together Southern Baptists of various theological commitments in order to hear pointed presentations and dialogue about what is arguably the most important theological movement among us today. It is certainly one of the most controversial movements on the scene. Some people seem to despise those doctrines that have historically been denominated Calvinism. Others greatly fear them. Some caricature them beyond recognition.

Among the proponents of Calvinism there are some who seem to be more interested in winning theological debates than in advancing the Kingdom of God by preaching Jesus Christ. Others allow their commitment to God's sovereignty in salvation to excuse their lack of evangelistic passion or to justify a pugilistic spirit.

It is time for Southern Baptists to come together to discuss openly and honestly these particular doctrines of grace that once were the theological consensus among our forebears and is now becoming more prominent among us again. The organizers of this historic gathering envision sessions addressing the strengths and weaknesses of both Calvinistic and non-Calvinistic positions on salvation. The presentations will be exegetical, theological, apologetic, passionate and pastoral. Our desire is for the issues to be addressed in what I call a ruthlessly biblical manner. Such an approach will be neither rude nor superficial. Rather, if our goals are met, they will be energetic, thoughtful and humble and all who participate will walk away with a deeper respect for arguments both for and against the Reformed understanding of salvation. More importantly, we hope that all will recognize more clearly the glory of God displayed in the salvation that He has provided for sinners in the person and work of His Son. That is something which both Calvinists and non-Calvinists need in increasing supplies.

Please join me in praying that the Lord will use this opportunity to strengthen the fellowship and spiritual health of His people known as Southern Baptists. I believe that both are within reach.

Stay tuned for forthcoming details.

Perhaps this will give some individuals, like Dr. Ergun Caner and Johnny Hunt pause before making inflammatory comments in public, at least until then. Personally, it might be the right place for that debate between White/Ascol and Emir/Ergun Caner to take place. I'm impressed by the sponsor, Dr. Akin. He's been a voice of rationality. Of course he's 4 Point Calvinist/Amyraldian anyway, but he's also a thoughtful person, and I'm glad he and SEBTS are taking the time to do this. However, I also believe, at this point, that many a person in the pew, at least here in NC, if they even know there is a debate, if they are not in the thrall of anti-Calvinist theology already (we have a large number of IBFx types like Dave Hunt in NC, even in the SBC churches), who think this is just another preacher fight. On the other hand, it pleases me that this will occur so close to Montreat, which is just up the road, where a certain ex-Presbyterian, rC, Anglo-Catholic professor who cannot seem to abide Bapistery teaches. Perhaps he'll poke his head in the door and find out we aren't just bunch of rabid dogs.

You know, I might even live blog the conference!

In other news, Andrew Lindsey discusses some of the Pastor's Conference, over at Strange Baptist Fire. At the end, he notes:

I forgot to mention that while Dr. Hunt decried declining baptisms in the SBC, he did take note of one group in which baptisms have increased. This past year, SBC churches baptized more children from ages 1 to 5 than ever before. Dr. Hunt took this as evidence that Southern Baptist preachers are only reaching young children and that we need to focus on other age groups as well. I would point out that if the SBC is making a regular practice of baptizing children this young, the Convention is, in effect, becoming paedobaptist.

This is disturbing, because even Dr. Hunt notices it. Remember, this is a denomination that can't get half its people to darken the church on Sunday mornings. Dare I say that is worse than the PCA and OPC! This is what the dominant soteriology of the SBC breeds: sacramental prayers for toddlers and preschoolers to "ask Jesus into their hearts" to please Mommy, Daddy, their VBS or Sunday School teachers, and then the baptizing of unregenerate souls. The SBC would do well to remember that baptism was viewed by our forefathers as means of grace, and that it could harden those who were not baptized properly:

As for those wicked and ungodly men whom God, as the righteous judge, for former sin doth blind and harden; from them he not only withholdeth his grace, whereby they might have been enlightened in their understanding, and wrought upon their hearts; but sometimes also withdraweth the gifts which they had, and exposeth them to such objects as their corruption makes occasion of sin; and withal, gives them over to their own lusts, the temptations of the world, and the power of Satan, whereby it comes to pass that they harden themselves, under those means which God useth for the softening of others.

This is why we take baptism seriously as Baptists. This is why we decry confetti baptisteries with all the perks. Calvinism isn't killing the SBC, this sort of thing, and the thinking behind it is killing it. Over half its young people apostatize these days. Here's the reason why! Let us hope and pray that Tom Ascol's resolution on integrity in church membership passes and that there will be those @ Ridgecrest in November who will reconsider their soteriological practices, if not their theology.


  1. Looking forward to the conference. Right in our back yard! Told a couple of buddies of mine to mark off that date on their calendars too.

    Lucas Defalco

  2. Gene,

    The good Lord willing, I'm planning on being there. It's already on my schedule.


  3. i live in asheville, which is very close to ridgecrest, so if anyone is going, please get in touch with me, we are starving for more reformed thinkers, i got a house downtown, we could have a good time, e-mail me if you'll be around


    in Him alone,
    Devin Murphy

  4. I'm a Southeastern student and am planning to attend the conference. As an avowed Arminian, it should be a quite interesting time together. I believe that Arminius and Arminians have also had his/their share of being caricatured by Calvinists. I wonder if there's any hope in sight?