Calvinism and the Real Elephant in the Room that is the Southern Baptist Convention: An Open Letter to my Brethren

To my Southern Baptist Brethren,

There always seems to be some kind of discussion going on in the Southern Baptist Convention. Often times it is a negative discussion. I’m so pleased that the SBC has the discussion of having elected Fred Luter as president. There is much reconciliation still needed with the history the convention has concerning race. I’m so glad that churches want to be called ‘Great Commission Baptists.’  There is however one discussion I’m growing rather weary of: the Calvinism one.

Dr. Jerry Vines called the discussion around Calvinism an elephant in the room. You can read what he wrote here. There is a document floating around being signed that is causing a big stink about what is a ‘Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of Salvation.’ I don’t think it is a fair document historically about what Southern Baptists have believed. I’d talk to James Boyce and John Dagg about what they believed. I’d read the Baptist Faith and Message and the Abstract of Principles. (Those are two historic Southern Baptist Documents). Surrounding this document there is accusations of semi-Pelagianism from people who aren’t even Southern Baptists and guys who are.  I’m appreciative of the work of some who have gone through article by article in the statement addressing what it really says and doesn’t say.

But I don’t think Calvinism is the elephant in the room. I think the real elephant in the room is the uncharitable nature by which Southern Baptist are treating one another over the ‘Calvinism issue.’

The Southern Baptist Convention is a group of Baptist people who are supposed to be on mission with one another to bring glory to Christ. We cooperate together to support numerous state ministries, seminaries, the IMB, and NAMB. We come together with our money and resources to tell people about Jesus. Al Mohler and Paige Patterson are both Southern Baptists who don’t agree on everything theologically but both serve as seminary presidents at Great Commission seminaries.

James Boyce and Adrian Rogers are men who stood firm on the word of God though they might not always agree on how they interpreted things. I know they both believed in the same Jesus and the same saving grace even if they disagree on how one comes to that saving grace.

Brothers and Sisters, if you are a Calvinist, an Arminian, a Molinist, or somewhere in between and a cooperating Southern Baptist I besiege you love you brothers and sisters. We’re all in this together, we all want to see Christ glorified and people come to know him as Savior and Lord. The Calvinist in the Southern Baptist Convention isn’t the enemy of the non-Calvinist. The non-Calvinist isn’t the enemy of the Calvinist in the SBC. We’re brothers and sisters who are coming together with our resources so that Jesus might be known throughout the nations, not the SBC, not John Calvin, not Jacob Arminus, not Luis de Molina.

When the media watches us at the convention can they see Jesus more than they see us fighting amongst ourselves?

Southern Baptists let Jesus be the flag you fly. Cooperate with your brothers not just with your pocketbook but with your  heart, soul, and mind. Jesus didn’t say that people would know we were his disciples by the fights we pick with one another, but how we love one another. If you are a Jesus loving Arminian, Calvinist, Molinist, or whatever orthodox understanding of grace you have I’ll link arms with you for the kingdom of heaven and get in the trenches of this world and do my best with you to see people see Christ as supreme.

Beloved we need to get our act together and make King Jesus supreme in the Convention.

I love you brethren, and I pray God would strengthen us together for his name sake and that he might be exalted among the nations.

Let us love and sing and wonder
Let us praise the Savior’s name
He has hushed the law’s loud thunder
He has quenched Mount Sinai’s flame
He has washed us with His blood
He has brought us nigh to God

Let us love the Lord Who bought us
Pitied us when enemies
Called us by His grace and taught us
Gave us ears and gave us eyes
He has washed us with His blood
He presents our souls to God

Let us sing though fierce temptation
Threatens hard to bear us down
For the Lord, our strong salvation,
Holds in view the conqu’ror’s crown
He, Who washed us with His blood,
Soon will bring us home to God

Let us wonder grace and justice
Join and point to mercy’s store
When through grace in Christ our trust is
Justice smiles and asks no more
He Who washed us with His blood
Has secured our way to God

Let us praise and join the chorus
Of the saints enthroned on high
Here they trusted Him before us
Now their praises fill the sky
Thou hast washed us with Thy blood
Thou art worthy Lamb of God

– John Newton

Allen M.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. – John 13:34-35


4 thoughts on “Calvinism and the Real Elephant in the Room that is the Southern Baptist Convention: An Open Letter to my Brethren

  1. “When the media watches us at the convention can they see Jesus more than they see us fighting amongst ourselves?”

    The question is spot on. Unfortunately, the “media” (I might interject non-believers, agnostics or anyone interested in spiritual things) aren’t interested in how the discussions ongoing within the SBC replicate the love of Jesus or anything of the sort. Rather, at least in my opinion, what the “media” see are Christians who don’t agree on matters of faith. What the “media” realize is that the gospel might not be what Christians claim it to be wherein if learned theologians (many with PhDs!) can’t agree on a fundamental aspect of Christian doctrine, then how can Christians be trusted to know just what is the truth that we proclaim?

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