Anyone who has been following current events in the SBC, on even the smallest level, has heard by now of the issues surrounding Calvinism in the SBC. The SBC put an advisory committee together just to address the issues, numerous reports have been given, books have been written, panels and conferences have been held, and on and on. I’m not naive or stupid enough to think I will resolve the issues in this short blog, but I would like to offer a few thoughts, even if I’m the only one to benefit from them.
As I think about the future of the SBC, and with the annual convention approaching next week, there are a few things I would like to share that I think need to be in the minds of all people, especially leaders, in the SBC as we seek to move forward.
1. Definitive statements either for or against Calvinism are in and of themselves a part of the problem.
I’m a pastor and the church I shepherd is not immune from these issues. Any preacher who teaches the Bible seriously will have to address important doctrines. There is no way around election, predestination, foreknowledge, and most importantly God’s sovereignty. Likewise, there is no way around faith, repentance, Lordship, etc. Honestly, what faithful preacher would want to get around any of those doctrines? The only way to deal with them is by teaching straight through them. However, and this is where some of the problems begin, as you teach through them, you quickly discover there is not universal acceptance on some of these doctrines. We would all agree that election is taught in the Bible, but what exactly does that mean? Who are the elect?
As we know, answers for centuries have been given to these big and broad theological subjects, but the doctrine of election cannot be definitively defined, and to attempt to do so either way, leads to problems. It is okay to have a position, I have a personal position on election, but to attempt to say that one position is the definitive position is troubling. This is where the non-Calvinists say, “See, that’s my beef with Calvinists, they think they have it all figured out.” What I would say is, “Aren’t you saying the same thing though by declaring that your view is absolute also?” I am discovering that non-Calvinists are guilty of the same thing they accuse Calvinists off…which is, “My way is right and your’s is wrong.” So, what’s the solution? Well, that’s my second point:
2. Pastors need to get comfortable, as well as lead their people to get comfortable, living with certain tensions in the Scripture!
If Calvinism could be definitely proven or disproven,we wouldn’t be having the continued problems that we have…and I wouldn’t be writing this blog. The issues surrounding these important subjects will not be resolved this side of heaven, and we won’t care when we get to heaven…SO WHY DO WE CONTINUE ARGUING OVER THAT WHICH CANNOT BE RESOLVED????
I know it sounds like a “wishy washy” thing to do, but I honestly think it’s the most unifying thing we can do on these subjects. We must get comfortable living with these type of tensions in the Scripture…God is sovereign…PERIOD, but man is responsible…PERIOD! If we are to move forward as a denomination, we cannot drive unnecessary stakes in the ground, for when we do, we only further divide our denomination and get distracted from the Great Commission! This goes for people on both sides too!!! Non-Calvinists need to stop attacking Calvinists and Calvinists need to stop attacking non-Calvinists. Again, it’s okay to have a position, just don’t insist that your position is the only possible position and those that don’t agree with you must be idiots. Both sides needs to admit they could be wrong. Embrace the tension and focus supremely on the Gospel of Christ!
3. Pride needs to be repented of on both sides!
Whenever I see attacks from either side, there is always so much visible pride, and it’s so disheartening. Accusations are made, names are called, labels are attached, etc., and it’s just all so ugly. None of it reflects Jesus. People should be ashamed at some of the things being said and done. For the Calvinist who thinks all non-Calvinists are just stupid…REPENT of your pride! For the non-Calvinist who has the audacity to say that Calvinists present a false gospel representing a false god…REPENT of your pride! None of it brings glory to God and we are so foolish to engage in such pride-filled ego matches that only build ourselves up and tear others down. Jesus said we would be known by our love for one another, but we are far from that! May grace and gentleness be known among the brethren, especially as we deal with difficult things.
4. Nobody witnesses like they should regardless of their Calvinist or non-Calvinist position!
In my church, what I have discovered is that NO ONE witnesses like they should. Non-Calvinists love to say that Calvinists don’t witness, when in realty they don’t witness anymore than the people they are criticizing. Here’s an idea, instead of criticizing each other, why don’t you go evangelize together!!! If you’re so concerned about who is and who is not witnessing, why don’t you just resolve the issue and go witness together. Stop the name calling, labeling, and hypocritical accusations and begin doing the work of an evangelist together. What we’ve discovered in our church is that people from different positions on this, who serve and evangelize together, often have more in common than what they realize. Just get out and start witnessing together…it will bless you.
5. Really get to know people who differ with you on these issues!
So many people love to draw conclusions about people they don’t really know…we are all guilty of this. Take some time and get to know people who are different that you. If possible, pray together, study the Scripture together, calmly discuss things, listen to each other, and encourage each other. There is a certain level of respect you should have and develop for people who think differently than you do on these things…and yes, there will always be crazies and extremists on both sides, and you won’t be able to control them, but I’ve discovered many people to be level-headed on the issues, we just need to take the time to get to know them.
6. Finally, in all things, let NOTHING…NOTHING distract you from the Great Commission!
I love Philippians 1:27 which says, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel (Philippians 1:27).” Oh, if only the church would live this. We waste so much time fighting, debating, arguing, etc. Let us ALL stay focused on the Great Commission! Some need to stop trying to make a name for themselves in the SBC and start being a voice of wisdom! I’m convinced some people are thinking they need to stamp Calvinism out so one day Baptists can look back and say, “Thank you for saving our denomination from such evil people.” If that’s you, repent! Likewise, there are some who think, “Maybe I’ll be remembered for leading this denomination out of their theological ignorance and be responsible for getting the SBC to be Calvinistic!” If that’s you, repent!
It’s not about us…any of us…it’s about Jesus! Please, we need voices to rise in the SBC up who will keep us focused on Jesus and His Gospel…that is ALL that truly matters!!! May our denomination be known for a fierce love for Jesus and one another. We must stop the bickering and focus on the Gospel. As the annual convention approaches, Baptist brothers and sisters, please, let’s not embarrass ourselves…let’s come together, rise up, and focus only on what matters…JESUS and HIS GOSPEL!!!