Showdown looms over SBC and Calvinism

Land "describes the current struggle over the next leader as a battle between the 'Billy Graham wing' of the SBC versus the 'John Calvin wing.'" OneNewsNow

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John E.'s picture

It would be a travesty if anti-evangelizing Calvinists in the vein of George Whitefield, David Brainerd, William Carey, and Charles Spurgeon were in leadership positions within the SBC.

By the way, if "Calvinism is the biggest issue facing the SBC at the moment," the SBC would be in pretty good shape.  

Bert Perry's picture

What John says, but in a way, what a food fight we could kick off if each of us named what WE thought was the biggest problem with the SBC.  I will abstain as well.  :^)

To his point, the article really misses what is probably the biggest reason people are attracted to Calvinistic thought; it is the type of theological thinking that is all too often absent in fundagelical churches.  Whatever our positions on the doctrines of grace, we need to remember that orthodoxy begets orthopraxy, and hence if we want active evangelism, we need to create a place where it's safe and encouraged to think about these things.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Ecclesiastical politics. How stupid and pointless. I'm a Calvinist, and I gave two young ladies Gospel tracts at church this past Sunday, then invited them to come have coffee with my wife and I to discuss the Gospel.

There is nothing more slimy and reprehensible than ecclesiastical politics. Secular politics is bad enough. This is stupider, and more vile.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

John E.'s picture

Echoing Jim, it probably won't make much of difference within local SBC churches. The SBC actually has less say over its member churches than the FBFI does over their member churches. Reformed SBC churches (like mine) will simply roll their eyes and keep doing business as usual and will continue to be thankful for the ministries of our faithful "non-reformed" brothers and sisters within the SBC.

By way of clarification - I didn't mean for my comment above to imply that the SBC isn't in good shape. I was simply amused by the quote I pulled.  

Jim's picture

Outcomes are measured differently: 'Billy Graham wing' vs .. the 'John Calvin wing.'

BG wing:

  • xxx came forward
  • xxx professions of faith
  • xxx [mostly children] baptized
  • [note: immediate point of contact measurements. Concrete, measurable, clear correlation between event or speaker and response. Eg Evangelist Billy Bob preached and 50 were saved]

JC wing:

  • Adult membership growth 
  • Lack of correlation between event and measurement
  • Measurement can be done but might be more like this: we presented the gospel to xx students 

Coming from the point of view of a business person: The BG style is like what we did in business:

  • When I sold computers: [My biggest one time sale was $ 1.8M in 1977. That's $ 7M in today's dollars. It was a very big deal!
  • When we upgraded our bank computers from XP to Windows 7 (we measured this weekly until we were done ... 300,000 of them! (on time)

But the BG style is not the right paradigm for the gospel!

So to the BG wing: the JC wing looks like nothing is happening!

David R. Brumbelow's picture

Since 1845, Calvinism has ebbed and flowed in the SBC.  It will continue to do so. 

Many will vote for J. D. Greear because he is a Calvinist. 

Many will vote for Ken Hemphill because he is not a Calvinist ( or you could consider him a Traditionalist, or non-Calvinist). 

And many will vote for one of them for other reasons. 

Both are good men.  The vote will be interesting.  Regardless, the SBC will survive after this year’s annual meeting in Dallas. 

In the meantime, I will continue warn people of the errors of Calvinism :-). 

David R. Brumbelow

G. N. Barkman's picture

Calling non-Calvinist Southern Baptists traditionalists (or something similar) betrays either ignorance of SBC history or deliberate attempts to mislead.  (I assume it is mostly the former.)  If anyone will take time to read the book, For His Grace and By His Glory by Tom Nettles (now revised with a new title which I do not remember), they will discover that the SBC was founded and led by Calvinists for the first fifty or more years of its history.  So who's the traditionalist?

G. N. Barkman

TylerR's picture

Editor

And it begins ...

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Mike Harding's picture

Since the FBFI was mentioned, I want to clarify that the FBFI is not church membership.  It is an organization of individuals.  No church votes to become a member of the FBFI.  The individual has to agree to the doctrinal statement and pay a small fee that essentially covers the cost of the magazine.  There is no control mechanism in place.

Pastor Mike Harding

Bert Perry's picture

Jim's comment about the Billy Graham vs. Calvinist wing reminds me a lot of the conflicts in business over long term vs. short term thinking.  You get the finance guys in general wanting to trim spending to the bone, and then five years later, the company wonders why they don't have any compelling new products.  #NotRocketScience.

In the same way, churches can get gaudy "conversion" numbers, but when you look as little as a week later, there is no fruit.  One might protest that it's unfair to say this, but if a group is going to call themselves the Billy Graham wing, they own as a result not only the gaudy "conversion" numbers, but also the dismal retention numbers.

One doesn't have to be a five pointer to recognize that the church ought to do some very different things than are being done in the Graham organization.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

John E.'s picture

Fine, "individuals."

Now, let's pretend that Pastor X who is a member of the FBFI wants to introduce Getty music into his church's worship service. If Pastor X chooses to do so, he runs the risk of being publicly demonized by the FBFI via Proclaim and Defend. That's what the convergence nonsense was about. Fundamentalist churches were failing to adhere to FBFI's strict rules of conduct and separation.

The FBFI may not have any official "control mechanism in place," but that doesn't mean that ecclesiastical control and pressure isn't exerted. 

Over the last ten years or so, I've had several conversations with brothers who were wanting to lead their church in certain ways but were wary of doing so out of a fear of the possible reprisals from the FBFI. I'm sure that we could start an entirely new thread to post anecdotes about the FBFI exerting pressure on "individuals" because of the direction that "individual" was leading their church. If I were to post further information about my conversations, my anecdote would frequently end with me encouraging the brother to join the SBC where he wouldn't have to worry about being ostracized and publicly demonized over things like music. Hence my initial comment.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Not a discussion about fundamentalism ... Noooooooooo!

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

John E.'s picture

I brought my comment back to the SBC. Smile And those of us in the SBC aren't fundamentalists, right? I mean, my neighbors (all of them) think I'm a fundamentalist, but what do they know?

Jay's picture

And the pastor is the individual, then doesn't the FBFI really have a grip (however loosely) on the church itself?

I understand the FBFI's reticence to be an association of churches, but it is largely an association of church leaders and therefore churches.

As to the fear factor - I will also vouch for a real 'fear factor' of people who want or need to stay on the FBFI's good side. That is part of why I say the things I can here about it... I can say things that people will never say but absolutely would if they didn't see the proverbial sword of disfellowship overhead. 

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Bert Perry's picture

Really, if any organization has no message discipline, you've got to question whether that organization has any reason to exist.  And as John notes, you've got formal and informal methods of message discipline--as the Amish will tell you, shunning and shaming can be powerful incentives.  Just like expulsion, just like formal sanctions, and the like.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jim's picture

I've heard under 500 members (Mike can confirm)

That's 500 people would paid for a magazine subscription

The demographics are heavily swayed towards the older set

Not even changing the name to "Foundations ... [whatever] ..." will help

The FBFI is to fundamentalism what Sears is to retail

Don or Mike ... please disabuse me of my "500" number 

---------

Why its future is dim:

  • Trend today is against centralism
  • Trend is against heavy-handed autocracy (think the FBFI closed, club like board and persistent presidency (about to change with Vaughn stepping down)
  • The FBFI panders to the fringe issues (music, music music) AND
  • It's silly attacks on noted men like MacArthur come across as lame. 
TylerR's picture

Editor

This thread proves that any topic can be brought back to Baptist fundamentalism in a very short period of time ...

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

josh p's picture

This thread has the ingredients to be epic! Fundamentalism, the SBC, Calvinism, and even music were all mentioned on one page. 

John E.'s picture

Thanks to your comment, I'm now tempted to introduce a*****l into the discussion. But I won't. 

Jim's picture

josh p wrote:

This thread has the ingredients to be epic! Fundamentalism, the SBC, Calvinism, and even music were all mentioned on one page. 

We call this thread B.I.N.G.O.

John E.'s picture

Per Bert's comment (and Jim's original comment), we (my reformed SBC church) ignore the request from the SBC every year for our conversion and baptism numbers. I haven't asked around, but I would imagine that most of the SBC churches associated with either IX Marks or Founders (or both) do not submit their numbers either.  

TylerR's picture

Editor

Good for you guys!

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Mike Harding's picture

Jim and Jay, I don't know the membership numbers.The last time I hosted the annual meeting at our church I had about 400 outside registrants for the three-day conference. Our theme was "The Supremacy of God".  The conference was one of the most successful  annual meetings the FBFI has had in attendance, interest, and substance. This year we are hosting the annual conference with the theme, "The Generation To Come." I am anticipating about 300 to 350 registrants plus many unregistered visitors in the evening services.  I am not throwing grenades at anyone when I state the fact that the FBFI has always been a fellowship of individuals and not churches.  In that regard its a loose-knit Christian fellowship that is bound together by its doctrinal statement and mission statement.  The FBFI has never pressured me personally.  For three decades I have used the NASB as my official church translation, taken a Calvinistic position (4 pt) on soteriology (I am a dispensationalist), have been unashamedly pro-Lordship on the gospel, sung songs from a variety of authors who have produced beautiful melodies and strong theological lyrics.  Simply because a song was originally performed in a style that I am very uncomfortable with does not necessarily mean that the song and its lyrics are unacceptable when arranged and presented in a conservative fashion.  Many men (certainly not all) in the FBFI would agree with me on that, I believe. Best to evaluate each song on its individual merits aesthetically and theologically and then present it as a musical offering to God in a manner that fully glorifies God. Dr. Minnick has publicly addressed the Conservative Evangelical leaders at FBFI meetings in the most discerning and gracious terms--very fair-minded and balanced presentations.  I have been personally present in those meetings to hear these lectures.  If you visit our church website and click on the link for the conference (fbctroy.org), you will see that our speakers represent some of the best and brightest men in our circles.  The "schedule" gives all the speakers and all their topics. Still working on getting all the pictures of the speakers.  Kevin Schaal, our new president, will do an excellent job leading this fellowship.  He is well-spoken and highly respected.  He is also one of the most successful church-planters in Arizona and has a wonderful church and Christian school.  The FBFI is far from perfect (partly because I'm in it), but I believe the fellowship has improved over the years.  Some of your criticism is valid and by God's grace we will learn from that criticism.  That's my heart on the matter.  

Pastor Mike Harding

Rob Fall's picture

can be deceiving. Many of its supporters only subscribe to Frontline but are not members.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Don Johnson's picture

I thought this was a thread about the SBC? but John E. wants to troll about the FBFI, so throws out a little line to sidetrack the discussion. Nice.

As for the SBC, as I understand it, the president has authority to appoint board members of many SBC institutions, especially the seminaries. That is how they accomplished the "Conservative resurgence" and recovered the seminaries from the Liberals. I don't know either of the men nominated for president this time, but suspect they both intend to continue the conservative approach of the last few years (decades?).

Please note, I hope my statements above are accurate, but regardless, the SBC president does have some real clout, not over local churches, but over SBC institutions.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

John E.'s picture

Call me naive and uninformed if you want. But, troll? 

My insertion of the FBFI was much, much less about the FBFI and much, much more about the SBC. Responding to Tyler's comment, It was a contrast with the intended purpose of making the point that the president of the SBC will make almost no difference (if any) to the daily operations of SBC churches (for the record, there is technically no such thing as an SBC church; there are churches who contribute money to varying degrees or other and who send "messengers" to the Convention). 

If I am a troll that loves using the FBFI to sidetrack conversations, then it should be easy to find my many, many comments on the many, many threads about the FBFI or threads sidetracked by FBFI discussions. The years I've been a member of SI have provided me ample opportunity to grind my FBFI ax. Except, I haven't. You won't find those many, many anti-FBFI comments because I ain't made 'em. 

My response to Mike Harding is one of the very few (if any) publicly negative comments I've made about the FBFI.

In fact, if you were to scour through my online writings beyond just SI, you'll find that I am usually defending FBFI style fundamentalism. Much to the consternation of old friends and acquaintances who have actively lobbied me in the past to join the anti-fundamentalism online crowd. 

I am thankful for fundamentalism. I am thankful for my strict, fundamentalist parents, including my dad who recently retired from the FBFI. I have spilled much ink saying so, and I've received quite a bit of blow back and lost friends for doing so. 

 

Don Johnson's picture

First, I am using it in the internet sense of one who throws a comment into the mix to start a fuss and then sit back and watch. You aren't exactly doing that.

However, please do note that the comment in this thread was gratuitous, had nothing to do with the topic, and given our history here, lends itself to a feeding frenzy about the FBFI. Am I not correct?

So be more careful. As I pointed out in my comment above, the SBC is a denomination, its positions are positions of real power and influence, limited though they may be. The FBFI is an entirely different kind of organization. Yes, we do make our positions known, but we have no power (nor do we want any) to enforce our views on churches. We want to influence and persuade, not control.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

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