Once again, SBCToday.com has made itself the proliferator of paranoia, conspiracy, and outright fear mongering on the issue of Calvinism in the SBC.
Yesterday, I quoted former SBC Executive Committee chairman Bill Harrell’s recent comments on Calvinism in a post documenting Eric Hankins’ unfortunate comments on Calvinism. Today, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Provost Steve Lemke posted an article by Harrell titled “Things That Bear Watching.”
I am not going to interact with Harrell’s words as he has made it clear he has no desire to listen to anyone younger or less experienced than himself. His self-importance is made aware in the last paragraph:
I know that what I have said will be decried as harsh, but we are dealing with harsh realities in the SBC. If things follow a normal course, it will be the young theologues who have little or no experience who will be the harshest in their criticism of my thoughts. They are still “wet behind the ears” and don’t have the experience or background to say very much at all. In general they have no respect for those who have had a ministry of forty or more years. I really don’t care who says what. My observations are built on the foundation of sixteen years on the Executive Committee and thirty eight years of pastoring Southern Baptist churches.
So, instead of interacting with Harrell’s words I will merely post quotes from his writing that display the unfortunate fear mongering and division that need not take place in a convention that has a rich history of Calvinism and welcomes Calvinists as good Southern Baptists.
Make no mistake, all of these quotes are rooted in a mindset that Calvinism is inherently dangerous to the SBC. Harrell maligns the integrity, intelligence, and character of many in the SBC by his “blind followers” comments and conspiratorial agendas he attributes to many leaders though he has not one ounce of evidence. It is beyond Christian discourse and I am disappointed, but not surprised, that Steve Lemke is advancing such comments by posting them on SBCToday.com
Note Harrell’s assertions and yet he offers not the slightest evidence. I have underlined the most troubling of his assertions.
There are those who have it as their goal to change the SBC into a Reformed convention more akin to a Presbyterian church that [sic] a Baptist church. I cannot, in these few words, get into a broad examination of what is going on, but any informed member of the SBC understands that this is happening.
There is a growing emphasis on church planting and missions. Let me offer a suggestion as to why. The young Calvinists, who are being turned out in numbers from Southern and Southeastern in particular, are finding it difficult to get a job in a Southern Baptist church because 90+ % of our churches reject five point Calvinism. The leaders of these seminaries know they cannot tell a young person that “we are going to educate you in Calvinism, but we want you to know that it will be difficult for you to get a job in a Southern Baptist church when you graduate.” Now suppose they told them that. How long do you think they would attract students in number? So, they are pushing church planting and missions to give these people an outlet for ministry opportunities. They can’t afford to warn the young student about the reality of job hunting in the SBC as a five point Calvinist. They just make them a part of their little group, which I describe as an “intellectual, spiritual groupie thing.” They have their gurus who they follow almost unquestionably.
Lifeway, which is in the process of being changed into a Reformed agency, has just released a series of Sunday School lessons on the gospel of which all authors are Calvinists except maybe one person. Now, let me ask a question: With 90+% of the SBC people rejecting Calvinism, how did our educational agency happen to product a Sunday School series on the gospel that is authored almost exclusively by Calvinists? I think it was by design. It was intentional and done because, as stated previously, they think they are in control of the convention enough at this point that they can do as they please.
I believe that it has always been a dream of the President of Southern Seminary to use that institution of higher learning as the home base for making the SBC a Reformed convention.
We just didn’t notice that as he fired the liberals, he replaced them with inerrantists who happened to be Calvinists. Some were not even Baptist; they were Presbyterian.
While I believe that there has been a long term plan to take the convention to the Reformed position, I also think that the number of our agency heads and leadership positions held by Calvinists or those sympathetic to that theological model prove the point. Where did Thom Rainer come from? Southern Seminary. Where did Ed Stetzer make his trek to Lifeway from? Southern. Where did Trevin Wax, a new writer and editor for Lifeway get his Masters degree? Southern. Where did Kevil Ezell come from? He was Al Mohler and Danny Akin’s pastor in Louisville. Where did Clark Logan, now at NAMB come from? Did you guess Southern? You are right. Even Danny Akin went to Southeastern from Southern. A “family tree” kind of graph, showing where the current leadership of some of our most influential agencies came from and who has been involved in their hiring, might be very interesting.
Dr. Mohler, along with The Founders group and others know that it would take five lifetimes to take the SBC back to a Reformed position church by church but he is also smart enough to know that it could be accomplished in only a couple of decades through the educational system: Lifeway.
With this gospel Sunday School series, they are subtly trying to change the definition of the word “gospel.” Even now, when those who hold to Reformed doctrine refer to preaching the “gospel,” they are meaning that one is preaching Calvinism. When one of the Calvinists says “preach the gospel brother,” he is really saying “preach that Reformed doctrine brother.” NonCalvinists are saying “preach the whosoever will gospel brother.” There is a vast difference. And, I believe that the goal is to re-educate the people of the SBC to understand that Reformed doctrine is the “gospel” and that the “gospel” is Reformed doctrine. Once that is accepted by the people after a couple of decades, the leaders of the Reformed resurgence can say, “we have done it; the SBC is now a Reformed convention.” And, they will have used the same basic approach to accomplish their goal as they use in the local churches: slow indoctrination that “sneaks up on the blind side.”
Let me pose this question: “Why, in the midst of all the other things that are transpiring that would totally transform the SBC, do we have this effort to change the name of our convention?” Let me offer this assessment. The effort is to “rebrand” the SBC. Call it something else and change the image of the convention in the minds of the people. At the same time the goal is to insert Calvinism as the identifiable theological bent of the convention. It would be easier to do it that way since the name “SBC” would not easily carry the designation as a Reformed convention. Rebrand it; rename it; insert Calvinism; educate the people that this is where the new convention is theologically. It would be much easier to call a newly named convention a Reformed convention than it would be to identify the SBC as a Reformed group. I realize that not all the people on the name change committee are Calvinists and had no concept of this. But, I believe others did. Those who are not Calvinists probably went along with the “nickname” approach because that is far better than totally changing the name, in their view.
Let me tell you what I think will happen. I think that the GCB will become the “Calvinistic arm” of the SBC. The perception of the young, restless Calvinists is that their heroes are the ones behind this renaming approach, and they will run to be a part of whatever Brother So-and-so helped form and endorses. Soon it will be obvious that this “division” of the SBC is the Calvinistic “arm” of the SBC. Money will flow there in order to support whatever their leaders “suggest” is a good thing to support. So we will wind up with the CBF on one side, the SBC in the middle and the GCB (Calvinistic arm) on the other side. They will do the same as the CBF has done and stay in our convention and churches. More fracturing and confusion will be the result.
Things are changing in our Southern Baptist Zion and they are not for the good. If things continue on the present course, I predict that in only a few years we will not have thirty-five state and pioneer conventions but about twenty-five. Some will cease to operate. Some will combine with a more stable convention in order to survive.
One might say I am being an alarmist, but I believe that the fragmentation of the SBC is already taking place and it will proceed in that direction until we are no longer the monolithic spiritual body that has influence in the nation and world. We will be like any other denominational body. We will not be the leader among denominations as we have been, but we will be classed with those that the world doesn’t care if they exist or not because they are no threat to the sinful directions of society.