Thursday, March 27, 2008

Where are all the Calvinist Troublemakers in the SBC?

As both a Calvinist and a Southern Baptist, I have to ask the question, "Where are all the Calvinist Troublemakers in the Southern Baptist Convention?"

When I read various articles within the Southern Baptist sphere, I see people warning that some Calvinists within the denomination, in particular pastors, are going into churches, teaching Calvinism, causing problems and pain, and splitting churches.

For example, Dr. Frank Cox, who is running for SBC president this summer, said this in an interview with Les Puryear, "My great concern is this new aggressive form of Calvinism that is being disruptive to some of our churches. I believe a pastor or staff member has the right and freedom to hold to this view. However, I would encourage them to be upfront with the church that is seeking God’s mind in calling them to be their pastor. If the church is informed and prays it through and believes they can operate together—then wonderful. However, there are many churches that are not informed and this is not their theological view, so when the pastor begins to lead in this direction, it causes a tremendous amount of heartbreak and disruption for the church and also for the pastor." Read the entire interview by clicking here.

My question remains. Where are the Calvinists causing these sorts of problems?

I routinely read statements, mostly by those in the SBC who oppose the resurgence of Calvinism, that sound like scare-tactics. The idea basically is that Calvinists are hiding their beliefs until they get into churches. After they are there, they begin to teach Calvinism, which in turn causes all sorts of problems.

If this assertion is true, then it is a problem. However, there must be specific examples of it actually occuring in order for it to be true. This leads back to my initial question.

No one making the claim that some Calvinists are causing problems ever seems to mention even one specific instance. I have yet to hear of even one example. Furthermore, if this was a significant issue within the SBC, then there would be numerous examples.

Where are they? Would someone, maybe even Dr. Cox, please share with us ten to twenty examples of churches that have suffered at the hands of a Calvinist? If this is really an issue, then we need to know specifics.

Right now the lack of specifics makes this look more like anti-Calvinists trying to scare churches away from hiring Calvinistic pastors.

(On a related note, the "John 3:16 Conference" should be interesting. It concerns me that the speakers have chosen just one verse to be the primary text. Why not look at the whole counsel of the word of God? When is the Ephesians 1:3-14 conference going to be scheduled?)


Aussie John said...


Timely, and necessary challenge.

Obscure claims such as are made are mischievous, at least. They are often deliberately, and dishonestly, inferring hidden dangers which are "obvious" to the writer or speaker making the claims, thereby placing a question mark over the credibility of everyone. After all, just who are these terrible fifth columnist infiltrating the churches?

Simple Christian ethics demands that names are named and the persons involved given opportunity to speak for themselves.

Often those who are looking for a Calvinist under every bed, like Dave Hunt, have very little understanding of the subject about which they speak, and very little interest in learning more.

Eric said...


The issue is certainly a frustrating one.

The "Powers-that-be" within the SBC are doing two things. First, they are telling all Calvinistic pastors that they MUST inform prospective churches that they are Calvinists. Second, they are scaring churches by telling them how Calvinists are going into churches and causing problems.

What this amounts to is an attempt by the entrenched SBC leadership to keep Calvinists out of the pulpits of SBC churches.

Rev. said...

There is a new SBC shibboleth and "Calvinists" have been told they are unable to pronounce it.

Eric said...


You're right on.


Rhea said...

I think that one of two things might be happening. On one hand, I think that it's possible that what Dr. Cox is saying is true, and that he doesn't wish to slander or say anything negative about the specific ppl that are causing these problems. Perhaps they have repented, and he sees no need to call them out anymore about it.

The other thing that I think might be happening is something like this:
some SBC church voted in a new pastor, who happened to be a Calvinist. At some point, there was some slight misunderstanding between the congregation and the pastor. Nothing big...just simply a small that might have nothing to do with the pastor being a Calvinist. Well, by the time that story is told for the 80th time, it turns into "all they crazy Calvinist pastors are destroying SBC churches." Sorta like how the 4 inch fish that Uncle Bert caught one summer turns into a 4 FOOT fish.

Eric said...


You might be right. It is difficult to know exactly what is happening.

My primary concern with Dr. Cox in particular is that he is in a high-profile position. If he is going to make a charge like this, then he needs to back it up with facts.

This is just a part of the leadership of the SBC trying to push Calvinists to the margins of the convention.

Brian said...

Well, I know John Piper is causing some controversy with his comments about the teaching office of the church needed to be limited to proper biblical teaching - iow: calvinism.

Eric said...


I haven't read specifically what Piper said; I have heard others discuss it.

Piper is not in the SBC, although his church is Baptist. He does, however, have a great deal of influence upon some pastors and seminary students within the SBC (myself included).

As for teaching Calvinism specifically, that is not something that many people are doing. However, when they teach through passages and run into verses that speak about the sovereignty of God, I sure hope they do not shy away from it.

As a Calvinist, I do believe the doctrines of grace are a good description of biblical soteriology. This will come through in my preaching.

I still have not heard of even one church where Calvinistic pastors have caused problems. There probably are a few. However, I highly doubt there are many like is implied by some of the SBC leadership.

Brian said...

Here is what all the fuss is about with the Piper:

What he is say may or may not apply to this discussion (probably not).

I can understand where you are coming from wanting to know the specifics of what is going on with the SBC churches.

Eric said...


Thanks for the link. I'll check it out.

Unfortunately, it seems that we in the SBC always find some issue to argue about.