The Truth May
REALLY Be Ugly
The gentlemen (some might argue with my choice of words, referring to either) in the pictures over there are Jacobus Arminius at the top, and John Calvin beneath. They are generally acknowledged as the fathers of what we refer to today as "Arminianism" and "Calvinism".
You ... stop making faces!
There's been a lot of debate in the last couple of years about just what the presence of the Calvinistic element is doing within the Southern Baptist Convention. At one end of the scale, we have folks who point out that we trace our roots to the Anabaptists, who were themselves, Calvinistic in their teachings.
At the other end of the scale, we have some folks who have said that the biggest problem in the SBC today is the damaging effects the Calvinistic teachings of some are having on some SBC churches.
Generally speaking, Arminius said anybody can be saved, merely by deciding they want to be saved. Repent of your sins and decide to believe. He also said you can be lost subsequent to salvation, should you decide you no longer want to believe, trust, etc. In that sense, Baptists aren't Arminians, but I don't know any other simple one-word term (except maybe noncalvinist) that would apply to Baptists, or anybody else, to designate folks who aren't Calvinists.
Calvinists hold another system of doctrine, in which only the elect will, or even can, be saved. And, to those who are follow this soteriology, it's really OK, since if you're not elect, you'll never want to be saved, anyway.
The picture of someone who wants to be saved but never can be, because he's not elect, simply isn't valid.
So .. why all the upset? Why is it that some folks who seem to know what's what in the SBC see Calvinism as such a threat to the Southern Baptist Convention? I haven't really seen any evidence that it is, but let's presume for a second that they are correct. Let's explore why that might be.
Let's say that certain pastors come into certain Baptist churches and begin to preach "Calvinist theology". And the people begin to accept it and become full-fledged Calvinists. What do you suppose would be the reason they switched their soteriological view from "Arminianism" to Calvinistic soteriology? Do you think my pastor would change if he listened to those same sermons?
I think not. But I know the reason why.
He knows what he believes.
I do not think the average Southern Baptist does. See, I've been thinking the nickname "Great Commission Baptists" doesn't really fit the SBC on the basis that about 70% of the people God sent down our aisles are not in church on Sunday, and are thus not being discipled. Now, the thought that struck me today was that we're not discipling the people that ARE coming to church!
I've mentioned it before, but I'll say it again, here. I've asked people for a couple of years why we have to be baptized to join a Southern Baptist church. I've asked members, I've asked Sunday School Teachers, and I've asked the Deacon Body (assembled). I even asked a table with 2 pastors sitting at it, while at a meeting the other day.
Nobody has ever had the right answer. NOBODY!
If it's true that Calvinism poses a threat to the form of "Arminianism" found in Baptist churches, it's no wonder. We've failed at teaching our regularly-attending members what we, as Southern Baptists, believe.
Great Commission Baptists? You can call us that, if you want.
Oh, yes. I almost forgot. I was a member of three different Presbyterian Churches over about 11 years. They're Calvinists, you know. Two things I recall most clearly about them. They were much better at making disciples there, than I recall among Baptists. And, I don't ever recall any Calvinistic preaching or teaching. They simply taught the Bible, without emphasizing anything other than the passages in the book they were teaching. Nobody was ever "pushing" Calvinist doctrine.