In a recent comment on his own post at SBCToday.com, Dr. Eric Hankins, pastor of First Baptist Church of Oxford, Mississippi and son of David Hankins, the Executive Director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, joined the vocal group of Southern Baptists who view Calvinism within the Southern Baptist Convention as a danger that needs to be dealt with.
…this growing problem didn’t start with guys like me condemning Calvinism. For instance, the SBC gladly placed Al Mohler at Southern knowing full-well he was a Calvinist. We were proud and appreciative of his erudition and leadership. But the neo-Calvinists started the name calling and pushing, saying things like, “most Southern Baptists are semi-pelagian.” If they don’t want a fight, they shouldn’t use fighting words. So, now that the issue is being pushed, it looks like we’re going to argue it all the way out. I, for one, believe the logical conclusions of Calvinism are clear and they are dangerous, and I will be encouraging other Southern Baptists not to subscribe to it. I think that will be pretty easy because most of them don’t.
Hankins is not alone. In the past year, several prominent Southern Baptists who view Calvinism as a threat to Southern Baptist life have been vocal and unashamed in their rhetoric.
Here are a few quotes:
I have stated before, so it’s not new news, that should the SBC move toward five-point Calvinism it will be a move away from, not toward, the gospel. – Jerry Vines, January, 2012
The current trend in Southern Baptist life to imitate the Reformed movement is a major step backwards and must be resisted. – Paige Patterson, February, 2012
While most of the Reformed pastors and churchmen I know are gracious and godly people with a profound devotion to the Word of God, Southern Baptists must decide if they are satisfied with what I would call the presumable encroachment of Calvinism in SBC life. – Gerald Harris, February, 2012
For a number of years there has been a plan to raise up an “army” of Calvinists in an effort to capture the SBC for the Reformed position. People will deny this and use all kinds of “doubles-speak” to talk around it but anyone who has been involved even in a casual manner knows this is true. And, at the present time, we are experiencing problems which stem directly from this effort. – Bill Harrell, March, 2012
Hankins further states that he believes a conspiracy is underway within the convention and being led by Calvinists:
Fourth, “how much weight should be behind what ‘most most Baptists believe and think others ought to believe?’” Uh, all of it. Unless we are moving to a presbyterian polity, the SBC will reflect the will of member churches, which are autonomous. The only way to change the soteriology of the SBC would be to take over some seminaries, produce Calvinist pastors, take over the literature used in the Sunday Schools and slowly move all the churches to a Calvinist soteriology. Hey, wait a second . . . [Full quote]
These are troubling words for those who desire cooperation within the SBC. To call a viable and historic Southern Baptist theological system dangerous and to assert there is a deceptive conspiracy to take over the convention is unfortunate. I believe most Southern Baptists would denounce such rhetoric, especially in light of an understanding of the rich history Calvinism has within the SBC.
However, there is good news. Fred Luter, the presumed next president of the SBC, was recently asked, “Do you think resurgence of Reformed theology is a threat to the SBC identity?” Luter responded, “Not at all.”
It will be the Fred Luters of the convention who unite both Calvinists and Non-Calvinists to be about the business of the SBC. The business of bringing the gospel to all people through the cooperation of those gathered under the doctrinally broad Baptist Faith and Message 2000.
Dr. Charles Quarles, Vice President for Integration of Faith and Learning and Dean of the Caskey School of Divinity at Louisiana College, recently wrote in the Baptist Message on the issue of Calvinism in the SBC and choosing our battles wisely. I enthusiastically agree with his words and believe they will serve us all well for the days ahead. Quarles writes, “In the face of enormous threats from universalism, naturalism, atheism, and mysticism, will we battle each other over Calvinism? I hope not.”