Jerry Vines Blog
2012 at 03:25 PMPosted by Jerry Vines
Last week I signed the “Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.” I also wrote a response (“It is Time to Discuss the Elephant in the Room”) to Dr. Al Mohler’s response (“Southern Baptists and Salvation: It’s Time to Talk”) to that statement. By “the Elephant” I refer to New Calvinism. By “the Room” I refer to the SBC. On my social media accounts I indicated I would not respond to every blog, Twitter, etc. asking me about it. It would be impossible for me to do so and carry on the responsibilities of the ministry God has given me. I indicated I intended to take part in the discussion through books, future conferences, etc. And, I may selectively respond to articles such as Dr. Mohler’s.
This past weekend Dr. Daniel Akin posted on “Between the Times” an article he had previously written entitled “Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility.” It is an excellent article, and should I be asked to do so I would gladly sign it, indicating general agreement and making no attempt to nuance its content. I would also encourage others to sign it.
In an introductory paragraph to that article Dr. Akin referenced my article about discussing the Elephant in the Room. I consider Dr. Akin an adopted son in the ministry. I met him when he was a fellow student at Criswell College with a number of my sons in the ministry (Dr. David Allen among them). I love and appreciate Dr. Akin. He has a marvelous family (Though I give Charlotte most of the credit for those wonderful sons!).
Dr. Akin correctly points out a variety of discussions that have previously taken place concerning the issue of Calvinism. But that’s not all that is involved in this Elephant in the Room discussion we need to have. In the opening paragraph he made no reference to my concern about “the new kind of Calvinism among us.” He does mention certain concerns of his own relative to that in his article. But, there has been little formal discussion about this particular area of concern. It is time to discuss ALL the Elephant in the room.
I gladly affirm the right of the New Calvinists to set forth their views, though I may not agree with them. Those who read Scripture differently should have the same right. When they do, it should not be suggested they might be semi-Pelagians or don’t have enough theological savvy to understand their own views. Personally, I am pretty tough skinned when it comes to some of the stronger comments directed toward me. I have been insulted by professionals! Dr. Akin’s remarks in response to a question at the Founders’ Luncheon at the Louisville SBC relative to the John 3:16 Conference weren’t helpful. I take no offence, but it saddened me. Further, there must not be attacks, nor elitist and dismissive remarks toward those with whom we disagree. It is time to discuss ALL the Elephant in the Room.
To deny the strong influence of New Calvinism at Southern or Southeastern is to try to hide the Elephant. I sent a number of young people to both seminaries. Some, not all, returned with unkind, critical attitudes toward their childhood pastor. I am not the only pastor who has experienced this. Even some pastors’ biological sons have caused them personal sorrow because of their conversion to New Calvinism. Perhaps some would have turned out that way regardless. But there is too much of this kind of thing going on to overlook it. It is time to discuss ALL the Elephant in the Room.
The list of signatories of the Statement is impressive, far beyond its number. 4 of the 6 living so-called Conservative Resurgence SBC presidents signed it. Several committee members of the BF&M 2000 committee signed it. SBC state Executives, Seminary Presidents and Professors, etc. signed it. A large number of pastors and lay people signed it. Many more will follow. They all indicate New Calvinism has become a major problem in the SBC. Are they all mistaken? It is time to discuss ALL the Elephant in the Room.
State denominational ministers, DOMs and others know it to be a fact that New Calvinists have contributed to division in some of our churches in their respective areas. To be sure, those who are not New Calvinists have done the same. But, I have yet to see any group of signatories to a document of concern for that. Every week of my life, by email, letter, call or personal conversation, I hear about churches that are having problems due to New Calvinism. A previous church I served (not First Baptist, Jacksonville) was split right down the middle because of it. Were there other factors? Of course. There always are. But New Calvinism was the lynch pin issue. It is time to discuss ALL the Elephant in the Room.
There seems to be a strong trend toward loading programs with New Calvinists. Recent SBC Pastors’ Conferences featured many notable New Calvinist speakers. Other conferences around our Convention do the same. Why is this? I personally think it is good to hear other voices than just our SBC speakers. But, it does seem to be out of balance. This year’s Pastors’ Conference indicates a return to some balance. It is time to discuss ALL the Elephant in the Room.
Some, certainly not all, New Calvinists move toward moral antinomianism. Dr. Akin and I had a very forthright, yet respectful and loving, conversation concerning having New Calvinist Mark Driscoll speak at Southeastern’s Chapel. I understood some of Dr. Akin’s motivation for doing so. But, I find it hard to accept putting up as a role model for our young preachers someone who says he repented of the sin of total abstinence from alcohol and who puts forth some views on sex that can only be described as bizarre. So much so that my friend, Calvinist John MacArthur, has taken him to task quite firmly. It is time to discuss ALL the Elephant in the Room.
I just don’t see that we have discussed all of the issues resulting from the New Calvinism in our midst. I had no part in the GCR Task Force. Perhaps they had many long discussions about the growing problem of New Calvinism. If so, it was not reflected in their report. Several areas of our work have been affected by New Calvinism. About all I have heard from leaders in those areas is denial that there is an Elephant. Such denial just lowers the level of trust on the part of rank and file Southern Baptists. It is time to discuss ALL the Elephant in the Room.
New Calvinism expresses itself in some very crucial ways. Just one example: There are now those who have eliminated public invitations and even deride the sinners’ prayer. Do any of us want manipulative invitations? No. Do any of us believe any sinner’s prayer will save him/her? Of course not. But the Bible says, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13). Does “whosoever” mean sinners? I believe so. Does “call upon the name of the Lord” constitute prayer? Seems that way to me. It’s time to discuss ALL of the Elephant in the Room.
I am thankful Dr. Akin’s article gave me an opportunity to further tease out my convictions concerning the major problem of New Calvinism in the SBC. There is much, much more to be discussed about “the Elephant” (New Calvinism) in our “Room” (SBC). Some who read my words may think I am being unloving. Strong disagreement does not mean lack of love. If you think so, I hope you aren’t married! I pray daily the Lord will help me be irenic, loving and Christ-like in my statements as we discuss ALL the Elephant in the Room.
Let the discussion continue.