Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Calvin?

The Southern Baptist Convention—full disclosure: I am a member of an SBC church, and proudly so—has debated “Calvinism” off and on for nearly the entire span of its existence. SBC leaders sometimes rail against “Calvinism” and sometimes embrace it.

When Calvinism is taken to task, however, the discomfort usually stems from people who either don’t understand Calvin and his authentic work or confuse Calvin with his more zealous and less theologically astute heirs (the so-called “hyper-Calvinists”).

Back in October of 2010, when yet another of the “pro- v. anti-Calvinist” debates was going on, John Revell wrote a very nice summary of the issues for SBC Life. In particular, his observation that

Article V [of the Baptist Faith and Message], “God’s Purpose of Grace,” . . . states:

Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.

All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.

This statement, reaching back to the original 1925 BF&M and to the New Hampshire Confession of Faith upon which it was based, accomplishes a significant feat: it accommodates the soteriological convictions of both Calvinists and non-Calvinists within the SBC family.

Unfortunately, in spite of the fact that Calvinism has long found a home in the SBC, it continues to be misunderstood and, in some quarters, demonized. Revell, in an examination of several books that discussed the topic, noted that the same misunderstandings keep arising:

• Calvinism is a threat to evangelism
• Calvinists are against invitations
• five-point Calvinism is hyper-Calvinism
• Calvinists deny free will
• Authentic Baptists are not Calvinists

I’ll be addressing these points—each of these misunderstandings—in posts, all as part of a miniseries on Baptists and Calvinism. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, Logos offers loads of resources for those researching Baptist history and its intersections with Calvinism:

Calvin 500 Collection (108 vols.)
Charles Spurgeon Collection (86 vols.)
A Sourcebook for Baptist Heritage
The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness
A.T. Robertson Collection (15 vols.)
Expositions of Holy Scripture (33 vols.)
The Sacred Trust: Sketches of the Southern Baptist Convention Presidents
Systematic Theology (3 vols.)

++++

Jim West

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2 Responses to “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Calvin?”

  1. Acidri July 6, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

    Calvin must be spinning in his grave when he sees his name being given to doctrinal truths that the Bible teaches. Seeing that even in his death he did not want t o bring attention to himself.

    • Jim West July 6, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

      His grave is unmarked, so we will never know if he’s turning or not.

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