LifeWay Research President and Southern Baptist blogger Ed Stetzer has written a great blog post over at Between the Times on what he is encouraged and excited about regarding the 2012 SBC Annual Meeting taking place next week (which you can watch a live stream of SBC Annual Meeting tweets at SBCTwit.com).
A particular section of Ed’s post was so well written and in line with my own thoughts regarding the latest brouhaha, I wanted to post it on my blog. I encourage you to go and read the rest of Ed’s post.
I am so looking forward to #SBCNOLA and meeting many brothers in Christ while voting in our first black SBC President.
We’re Getting Honest about Calvinism
In the past few years, Southern Baptists have been engaged in an often unhealthy dialogue about Calvinism. Still, I am optimistic that—at the end of the day—we can have a mature conversation about theology, preserving unity for the purpose of mission.
If we truly believe the Baptist Faith and Message is our doctrinal standard, then we cannot say that Calvinism, within a Baptist theological system, is itself a problem. Baptist Calvinism fits within our confession; therefore it is reasonable that some in our convention of churches hold to both the Baptist Faith and Message and to a Calvinistic interpretation of Scripture. We can (and should) cooperate in pursuit of the Great Commission. But we also can (and should) differentiate those who are within our confession and passion about cooperation, and those who have let Calvinism define their ministry and culture—an often elitist and agenda-driven Calvinism that is not fitting well in our convention.
While I know some will disagree, our problem is not theological—it is primarily about agenda and culture. Calvinism can peaceably, even helpfully, coexist alongside majority Baptist views in the context of our confession. Yet, there are some (and it appears a growing number) driven by a more aggressive agenda. As I’ve written recently, “At times, I am convinced some ‘nostalgic Calvinists’ have forgotten our mandate is to see men and women brought into the kingdom, not into Geneva.” Their existence should not be denied—just talk to some of my State Executive or DOM friends who are left to deal with the issues.
Yet, we should take care not to let convictional and evangelistic Calvinists who are passionate about cooperating in mission get caught in the crossfire—like so many contemporary church pastors did twenty years ago when the shouting began. We are weaker as a result of that poorly-engaged conversation. We can do better here.
I am hopeful that the voices for unity and honesty will prevail. And I believe the conversation about Calvinism in coming days, particularly with statesman like Frank Page leading, will help us clarify the problem and resist what I see as a growing problem of both elitist Calvinism and militant anti-Calvinism. It’s time to talk about it, and I think we are showing signs that we are finally ready to be honest, discerning, AND charitable.