Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Convention: Code RED

“There is no attempt to Calvinize the SBC.” If I had a dollar for every time I had heard that statement made in the last year, I could retire. Why on earth would anyone make such a claim? Let me answer that question. Things are FAR worse than I realized until this morning. I have been seeing numerous “red flags” waving opposing this statement. Understand that when I use the term “red flag,” I am not including the fact that many seminary professors, many college professors and administrators like Al Mohler are already in the lime light because of their open proliferation of the Reformed Theological Platform. While it was a “red flag” in my mind, it has not appeared to be a “red flag” to many others. And in addition to this, I am not including stories of churches that have split over the issue of Calvinism because Calvinist individuals were called to pastor non-Calvinist churches without truthfully revealing their theological differences in an attempt to correct the theological position of the non-Calvinist church they were called to pastor as they sought to lead them to be more “Biblically or Gospel centered.” I knew Calvinism was a major issue; I did not realize how MUCH of an issue it has already become.

I am writing this at 2:30 in the morning. I woke up with this article on my mind.

The First Red Flag for me: seminary graduates. A recent Lifeway report that said 1 in 3 seminary graduates are self-professing 5-point Calvinists was a “wake-up call” for me. I contrasted that alarming statistic with the same report that said that only 1 in 10 current pastors were professing Calvinists. I maintain that less than 85% of the people in the pew are Calvinist, and I really believe I am being liberal with that number. Keep this in mind, this is in addition to the fact already mentioned that a vast majority of Reformed professors are the ones teaching these future denominational leaders.

The Second Red Flag for me: (Actually there are Multiple flags: I will call them Orange Flags that lead up to the Red Flag) NAMB Actions. The First “Orange Flag.” Personally, I was disappointed at the appointment of Kevin Ezell as President of NAMB. Let me say for the record, I have never met Dr. Ezell. I am sure he is a quality individual and has been an exemplary leader and pastor or else he would not hold the position he holds. Why the disappointment with his appointment? Dr. Ezell was Al Mohler’s pastor. Whoa Nellie! What? “That is the reason you were disappointed with his appointment to lead NAMB? You are kidding right?” No. The one thing I have seen demonstrated consistently with respect to LEADING Calvinist advocates is their proclivity for association. I cannot for one moment imagine that Dr. Mohler, of all people, would attend a church that has a pastor who differs from him on matters dealing with the essentials of salvation. Dr. Mohler is a man who sincerely believes that Calvinism is Christianity and the most consistent form of Christianity is Calvinism. He is not going to attend a church, unlike a prominent national leader, and pay no particular attention to what the pastor preaches.

Now, just as I could not in good conscious attend a Reformed preaching church and did in fact leave one that I started attending when I first moved to Florida for that reason, neither would I expect Dr. Mohler to do any different. Does this mean that Dr. Ezell is a Calvinist? I suppose the answer could still be “no.” Hint number two: As I was watching all of this unfold, I have noticed conference after conference of various Reformed Church planting groups with speakers who are unquestionably Reformed in their theology (and well they should be) but guess who consistently shows up on the speaker list? Dr. Ezell. As I said earlier, one of the distinguishing characteristics of these Reformed leaders is their unmistaken, intentional tendency to associate exclusively together. So my reservation is nothing more than “guilt by association,” correct? Correct. I said it was a concern. It still is.

The Second Orange Flag for me was NAMB’s cutting of funding to COSBE, the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists. $90,000 is a LOT of money for a lot of folks. This is one of the first issues I took up as a blogger. I remember reading NAMB’s stated objectives concerning the importance of sharing the gospel and their efforts to support organizations that were “taking the gospel to the streets so to speak.” As I saw it, NAMB’s move was a move away from itinerate evangelism. I had been reading Calvinist’s criticism of invitational evangelism and how it was unbiblical and responsible for unregenerate church membership and this “easy believism” that is plaguing the SBC. Granted to NAMB’s defense, they made cuts in various areas and as much as half of the budget was spent on COSBE attending the Southern Baptist Convention annually and it was stated that NAMB could no longer justify that expenditure. I certainly understood NAMB’s personal response to my concern.

Understand the rest of the money went to assist full time vocational evangelists who would sacrifice personally to go to help lead churches that could not afford to have a vocational evangelist come and had no or very few baptisms recorded in recent years. Since COSBE has no budget and is made up of vocational evangelists who struggle on a weekly basis to continue what they believe God has called them to do, it seemed unfair to me to cut $90K out of a $130 Million budget, when dollar for dollar even considering the travel expenses to get to the SBC’s annual meeting was still the best bang for the buck NAMB was spending. In my opinion, it was nothing less than a slap in the face of an organization that has and still does work tirelessly to tell others about Jesus. Oh by the way, this was one of the FIRST things Dr. Ezell did as the new leader of NAMB. Add it up. Strike two against Ezell in my disappointment of his appointment. Was this move a Calvinist motivated move? Maybe it was and maybe it wasn’t. It was an orange flag for me. I now wonder if this move had anything to do with Ezell’s comments regarding the “de-nerding of NAMB”? That statement was made alongside his statement that major changes were coming to NAMB so that they would be able to free up as much money as possible so that NAMB could place more focus on church planting.

Ah, church planting at NAMB, Orange Flag number three. This has certainly been a popular topic of discussion on SBC blogs. At first I thought, OK this sounds reasonable. However, the argument that NAMB ought to be focused on strengthening the core that is providing its support and spending money to start churches in areas that have been traditionally difficult places to get church plants started may do more long term damage than good. Common business principles argue against focusing too much attention on new development and ignoring the core base that is financially responsible for the long term success of the organization. NAMB charged on.

I remember Dr. Ezell commenting that Associational DOM titles would be changed to Church Planting Catalysts. OK. Then I began noticing Reformed Groups popping up with one church planting initiative after another. There was the Acts 29 Group, then I was looking around the Founders Web Site and I noticed PLNTD, their church planting initiative. I started noticing more reformed church planting groups that were planting confessionally reformed churches. I am not going to go back and revisit all this: Google offers plenty of information for anyone concerned that I am overstating the obvious here. In reading some of the talk about this move and the implications of NAMB funds being funneled into these groups to help support the aggressive church start initiatives of these theologically connected plants, I heard the following statement made in NAMB’s defense: “You non-Calvinists do not want Calvinist preachers in your churches so what is the big deal in funding churches for them to preach in?” OK. I will let you connect those dots. Let’s go back to the initial statement of this article: “There is no attempt to Calvinize the SBC.”

Add to this Orange Flag number four, the most recent issue of ON MISSION magazine that features two church plants that are, you guessed it, confessionally Reformed and I can only assume, funded by NAMB. There are two church plants highlighted in NAMB’s magazine and both are Reformed. The two church plants are not 2 out of 10 featured; they are 2 out of 2 featured. Now, in defense of NAMB, there is no mention of their Reformed association so what is the big deal? Of course there is no mention to it; one has to do some looking to discover that seemingly insignificant fact.

The Third Red Flag for me: IMB moves. When Dr. Rankin retired as President of IMB, one of the names that quickly surfaced as a possible replacement was Dr. David Platt who spoke at the SBC’s Annual Meeting in Orlando where Dr. Rankin shared his final farewell comments .Dr. Platt is one of the leading Reformed pastors in the SBC. Dr. Tom Eliff was selected to head the IMB.

Fast forward to 2011’s Lottie Moon Promotional Video. What? Pop in the Promotional Video and here are two leading SBC pastors speaking about the importance of SBC churches giving sacrificially to the Lottie Moon Mission Offering to help the IMB send missionaries around the world. Now, how on earth could that be a Red Flag? Drs. David Platt and JD Greear are encouraging SBC churches to give sacrificially to LMCO to help send missionaries around the world. BOTH of these guys are card carrying Calvinists; they are not just casual Calvinists, they are at the top of the list. One is a former IMB missionary; both have come under fire because they pastor churches that have apparently failed to file ACP reports, which contain statistical information that help the various SBC entities gauge how they are doing as far as effectiveness is concerned.

Both are arguably missions giving individuals and pastor missions giving churches. The question is, how much do they actually give to the cooperative program to support CP work? It is one thing to be the pastor of a great missions giving church that spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on new church plants and overseas missions projects which without a doubt makes one a great kingdom work leader but that does not make him a model spokesperson for churches that cannot afford to spend that kind of money and do that kind of kingdom work themselves. This is why the CP exists. This is why the LMCO exists. The IMB most certainly has figures on the top giving churches that support Lottie Moon with their offerings and those are the guys that ought to lead the charge to encourage us to “do as they do not as they say we ought to do.” Are the churches these two men lead, leading givers? No one knows. Are they leading figures? Without a doubt. Both continue to be quality featured speakers for IMB events, along with a host of other well qualified individuals.

Ignore the statement about the ACP charges that have been discussed and debated since this material was released; the facts are, the two guys the IMB tagged to do the promotional piece, are not just leading, influential pastors, they are leading, influential Reformed pastors. That is a Red Flag for me.

Fourth Red Flag for me: Lifeway. Count the red flags: Seminaries, NAMB, IMB and now Lifeway. What is the problem here? Well there is the Vice President of Research and Ministry Development for LifeWay Christian Resources, Dr. Ed Stetzer. He is a featured speaker for Acts 29 conferences and is listed on Monergism’s site as a featured speaker and author and he is a frequent speaker at Founders Conferences.

Dr. Stetzer is the project manager for Lifeway’s newest project, “The Gospel Project.” The facts are crystal clear that everyone associated with the production and the writing of this project are not just casual Calvinists, they are confessionally and unashamedly Reformed. The project clearly states that its purpose is to provide “a theologically driven study (according to the writers) that points people to Jesus.” The “correct theology” of these individuals will no doubt be reflected in the theological position of this project. There is no reason to expect anything less here. Make no mistake about it: “The Gospel Project” will deliver everything promised and a LOT MORE.

This is alarming to me and certainly ought to send a wake-up call to the people in the pew in Southern Baptist Churches that something needs to be done about the influx of this Calvinist influence and deliberate effort to turn the SBC into a Calvinist led theological entity. Remember, Calvinists believe that Calvinism IS real Christianity. In their minds, there can be no compromise. Personally, that is the only statement in this article that I wholeheartedly agree with (the no compromise part). This is where the SBC is heading; no, sadly that is where it is TODAY! If something is not done now, not soon, but now, the SBC will see significant changes in the not so distant future, changes that are already being signaled by the entities of the SBC.

One final comment. Given the current state of affairs, I am today more sympathetic to a discussion of a name change for the SBC. It seems that this is coming, like it or not. Since Southern seems so offensive to so many, I am sure CBC may soon resonate well: The Calvinist Baptist Convention.

Maybe I will go back to bed and wake up and all this will have been a bad dream. I could only wish that was true.


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62 Responses to Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Convention: Code RED

  1. Well, Bob, you do surprise me sometimes, and this is definitely one of them. Even though I am not quite so elated as you are deflated (mainly due to the fact that the Reformed ideas are still pretty superficial and subject to outside manipulations…what you don’t know about politics woudl fill several libraries), but the idea does give me a little hope (if the manipulation by the outside managers can be avoided) as the theology of the First and Second Great Awakenings and the launching of the Great Century of Missions is beginning to come back into vogue. When prayer as in Edwards’ Humble Attempt is added to the situation, then we will begin to see the possibility for which I have long prayed, namely, a world-wide awakening, winning every soul on earth beginning (hopefully) with this generation and continuing for a thousand generations (I Chrons.16:15) and reaching perhaps a million, million planets as humanity spreads to the stars. This, of course, all grew out of Edwards’ Humble Attempt and other works which inspired William Carey and Andrew Fuller, the latter’s Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation, and Dr. John Owen’s limited atonement tract, The Death of Death in The Death of Christ, particular doctrine being the most winsome truth, the most intensely inviting, urgent, compelling, attractive, drawing, magnetic, balanced, accomplished, maturing truth of all, the very one that sets at the very heart of Heaven in the Lamb that had been slain standing in the midst of the throne in Revelation. Ever hear of paradoxical intervention and therapuetic paradoxe? Or of God calling on some one to do the impossible (Mk.10, the rich young ruler) which Charles Wesley recorded in the line, “Hear ye deaf, See ye blind, Leap ye lame for joy.”

    • sbcissue says:

      Thanks for stopping in and I am certainly glad I surprised you, I think. I loved the word play in the second sentence. Not exactly sure what you meant with the superficial and outside manipulations comment but I will persevere. Once you hit the First and Second Great Awakening you totally lose me but I am sure the thought was a good one.


  2. Real Sovereign Grace is the most egalitarian theology in the world. It is so subtle that it produces the exact opposites of what most people think, e.g., seemingly the most dictatorial sounding yet the most lbierty by checks and balances, the only theology in the world that produces such fixtures in political economies. Few of those who believe it can even guess at its freedoms that are at the same time most conducive to true godliness and not at all amenable to either antinomianism or legalism,

  3. weforster says:

    I would like to comment briefly on my personal experience with Calvinism. Having been brought up in the Lord in an Arminian Independent Baptist Church, I relished reading God’s Word. Transplanted to an SBC Church, I continued to grow, being brought slowly over 2-3 years to a place of conviction that Calvin had some very good points-5 of them, to be exact. Theology -STUDYING God’s Word-was so different! I LOVED it! It was like having the scales fall from my eyes, and I had another new birth. Suddenly, tradition had no place in my worship of God.
    If I had a choice, I would go to a Reformed Church any day. (There are none around here.) Most people have never experienced the difference; but those of us who have, experience God in a very different way. It’s a gradual process in understanding, and can’t be swallowed all at once for those with an Arminian background. It’s at first, offensive, just as the cross is to the unbeliever. Gradually, the Scriptures came alive for me as they preached and as I studied. I couldn’t wait to read more! Back in an Arminian church, I seem to have no direction when I study, and I really miss having that theological teaching. I can understand why the Reformed leaders are gaining so much ground. It’s not for nominal Christians, nor for those who are entrenched in tradition, but for those with vision and a burning desire to know more of Christ. Just speaking from experience…

    • John D Stricklen says:

      Where do you live? Maybe there is a Reformed Church in your area and you haven’t found it yet. Keep praying that God will lead you to a church that teaches and boldly preaches the true Gospel, because once you’ve tasted the Word of God from a complete understanding of God’s sovereignty point , you can only humble yourself and praise Him for his Amazing Grace. If you’re on Facebook, please friend me. I would love to talk with you. My name is John Stricklen from Daytona Beach, FL. God bless!

  4. sbcissue says:


    You know I love ya and you have known me as long as I have known you (interesting how that works!) The post really has NOTHING to do with Calvinism itself… it really does not. I am NOT concerned in this post with the pros and cons of Calvinism as far as its validity is concerned.

    The real thrust of the post is that the SBC is overwhelmingly NOT Calvinist BUT the major entities of the SBC, several of the seminaries (not to mention state colleges), NAMB, IMB and Lifeway are being influenced by and directed by Calvinist thinking individuals in a disproportional manner.

    Like it or not, agree with it or not, that is exactly what has already taken place and that is the thrust of the article. Obviously I completely disagree not only with the level of influence that Calvinism now holds in the entities but I personally disagree with the theological tenets Calvinism presents. But in all fairness, agree or disagree with Calvinism itself, it is not right for Calvinism to hold the position of influence I maintain it currently holds when less than 15% of the people in the pew who are the ones sending money to pay the bills, disagree with the tenets it posits.
    That is a fair objection.

    I can also argue that many who believe they are Calvinists do not fully understand the full implications of what Calvinism says. That is another subject for another day or one taken up on my other blog.


  5. Don Allred says:

    As Dr. Tom Nettles proves in his book, By His Grace and For His Glory, Southern Baptists came out of the Reformed Baptist movement in America known as Particular Baptists. Virtually all SBC denominational leaders, pastors, professors, congregants, etc. were 5 point Calvinists theologically until after the 20th century was well on its way. The rise of a watered down hybrid arminian/calvinist theology arosee in the SBC only in the last 100 years. But a revival of interest in our theological heritage has led many Southern Baptists back to the writings of our founders and a Calvinistic trend is the result. For many years the Convention was heading toward the theology of Charles Finney, Frank Stagg and Dale Moody. It is now headed back to its roots in the direction of Al Mohler and C.H. Spurgeon. The theology of ‘one-point Calvivism’ {only retaining Security of the Believer or, as it was once known, Perseverance of the Saints} will either continue moving toward full-blown Arminianism or even Pelagianism, or will move back to Calvinism. Any middle ground is only temporary. Those who believe in the historic doctrines of the SBC are Calvinists. It is the one-pointers who are the new innovation.

  6. sbcissue says:

    Thank you Don for your comments. This is exactly what alarms me and simply echoes what I am saying is happening. You are the first one to actually acknowledge that there is an attempt to Calvinize the SBC.

    You are 110% correct in saying “It is now headed back to its roots in the direction of Al Mohler and C.H. Spurgeon.”

    I am saying the 85%+ in the SBC can and should stop that “heading back.”

    May God bless you my brother.


  7. Being a descendant of families associated with Southern Baptists from the get go, including the very earliest settlements, and having ancestors who were sovereign grace preachers like yours truly, and also that I sat under such preachers in childhood and after conversion from atheism, and also knowing the history of Southern Baptists as I do, I really can’t see what you are fussing about Bob. After all, it was them Sovereign Grace folks who introduced religious liberty and broadened the fellowship to let in folks of your ilk, though sometimes we wonder about the wisdom of it, especially when folks like you get ansy about our freedom to present our side which also happens to be the founding side. Now, like I said, most of the Reformed stuff is pretty superficial. Them folks have gotten a taste of it without knowing and appreciating the greater depth of it in the Baptist past and how it produced such liberty and freedom, but the hope of the future is that Third Great Awakening. And I should think it is pretty obvious that I am thinking of such a multitude of converts in heaven that even the Lord would not want to number them. Just think how many it would be if every soul on all the planets for a 1000 generations was savingly and soundly converted. When Dr. John Owen in his lovely tract on particular redemption/limited atonement spoke of the sufficiency and value of the shed blood to redeem all of the inhabitants of a 1000 planets, I simply added a bunch more zeroes, for who can say where or when the limit of the value of the blood of Christ is reached. Of course, it is guided and accomplishes what it does by Divine purpose, and what God purposes He actually does…so we are talking about a definite, concrete, and successful atonement in which not one drop of blood is wasted. When will the number in Hell be enough? Far as I am concerned, enough is enough, and all we pray for in the Awakening as Spurgeon did (praying for every soul on earth to be saved) grips my soul as a distinct likelihood for the glory of Christ.

    • sbcissue says:

      Dr. Willingham,

      You wrote, “when folks like you get ansy about our freedom to present our side which also happens to be the founding side.” I have no qualms about your “freedom to present your side”; I simply do not believe that the 85% of Southern Baptists are interested in the SBC becoming a Calvinist denomination. If they are, that is fine. I disagree. The fact that Reformed Theology played even a major part in the founding of the SBC is history. That does not mean it must be part of the future, especially when it has not been a Calvinist organization in my lifetime.

      I awas very interested in your statement, “Now, like I said, most of the Reformed stuff is pretty superficial.” I am sure there are a number of Reformers who will take you to task on that statement. I will leave it alone.


    • weforster says:

      Dr. Willingham, will you please come and pastor the SBC church here on the Big Island of Hawaii? I don’t belong to that good church, but they could use someone with your experience and vision, and they don’t have a pastor right now. They are actively recruiting willing preachers, and praying that God will call that person to serve here. I doubt that it is a Reformed church, but I would move my membership to hear you preach. Dr. Hadley said he wasn’t interested. He’s a dear friend, but like you, I wish he wasn’t so fearful about the Calvinists. My husband and I agree with you that it is mostly superficial The theology behind WHOSE decision it was to reconcile us to God is less important than many think. My husband and I coexist in harmony because we are both Christians first and know this to be true. It doesn’t change or negate the reality of our salvation. The spirit of divisiveness in the SBC and beyond is not productive, nor helpful to the purpose of the SBC or to God’s purpose. Thank you for expressing this same thought so succinctly and eloquently.

      • sbcissue says:


        I still love ya anyway! I am really amazed at the statement of superficiality with respect to the Doctrines of Grace and their implication and application. i guess I believe more in the DOG than you do! i see them as everything BUT superficial. The divisiveness is indeed sad. It is however, a fact of life. When iron sharpens iron it is ok as long as it is someone else’s iron and not ours. Kind of like politics… everyone wants the budget to be cut EXCEPT for those funds that directly affect them!

        Good night.


  8. Little knowledge means little understanding or appreciation. A departure from the original faith is no light matter. Could it be the explanation for the decay of our civilization, morally and otherwise. You have the right to disagree. Just remember that among the Southern Baptists it came from what you call the Reformed side and what I call the Sovereign Grace side.

  9. Jimmy Sloan says:


    I understand your concerns, but what I don’t understand is the 85% number you state. You give some reasoning for where you came up with that, but is there any research or hard data to back that up? Just wondering, if so, I’d be interested to see some of the breakdowns by region and age.

    I’ve seen your 5-part article at SBCvoices on your alternative TULIP definition. I appreciate your thoughtfulness on this as well. The question I have on that as it relates to the 85% you state here is: Do the people in the pew even think about such things? Does the 45-yr old house wife in the 4th row have such an understanding of soteriology that she can say she isn’t (or is) reformed in her theology?

    We’ve seen so much moralistic (and some would argue legalistic) curriculum from all publishers (not just LifeWay) over the past 40 years that doctrine of any substance hasn’t been taught in he local church that much. I for one am glad for both what LifeWay is doing with the Gospel Project and what NAMB is doing with church planting. There is a distinct focus on knowing & teaching biblical doctrine and on planting healthy local churches. With as many churches we have in the SBC that are dying (not just the congregations but the congregants as well), we need a plan for the future. Ezell, Stetzer and co. are doing that. And apparently doing it well.

    Final question, I promise. The institutions that are thriving in the SBC right now are ones you identified as “led by Calvinists”. In the past 10-15 yrs, those not led by the Calvinists you identified have been relatively stagnant by comparison. Not saying soteriology = success, but could one perceive that people are starting to identify with and understand reformed theology and are aligning resources & momentum behind those leaders/entities?

    Again, thanks for your thoughtful writing. Much better than I’ve seen on other blogs discussing similar issues.

    • sbcissue says:

      Bro. Jimmy,

      Thanks for the kind words. As for the comment regarding the 85% of the people in the pew that are not Calvinist in their theology is probably best answered by your own comments. I maintain this group has no idea what the difference is between a rose and tulip… and since probably 40% are male, they don’t even know the color difference! Come to think of it, neither do I! I think a couple things are true. First of all, I would argue that half of the people in a Reformed church would not really understand the intricacies of Calvinism; regeneration preceding repentance and saving faith; Jesus dying for the elect only; limited atonement.. I mean nuances of it perhaps but I think you are correct. they have other things to be concerned with and well they should.

      I really am not at all fond of this endeavor. I wrote this piece and was torn on the inside and had to take some time and get alone with God in our prayer room beside my office yesterday afternoon; I hate that this needed to be said. I believe it needed to be said and that is shy I ultimately published the article. As I have said on numerous occasions, I have no problem with Calvinists. I believe in the priesthood of the believer. I believe in the autonomy of the local church. My strong concern is that those who are leading the charge in this “new Calvinist” movement are not so tolerant of another position as evidenced by the confessional nature of the church plants being Reformed. When these guys say that the Gospel is Calvinism and that Calvinism is the most consistent form of Christianity, it causes me concern that they would associate with anyone who held to a lesser standard of confession once they are in the majority. That is more of a personal concern that I have seen expressed, just not too loudly because no one really wants to be called a trouble maker… after all we are all brothers and sisters working for the King and we all ought to get along. I agree that ought to be our desire, however sometimes we have to allow iron to sharpen iron and that process is not always an easy one to endure.

      While I am highly disappointed in the theologically leaning team assembled to produce the Gospel Project, I understand the argument that it is needed and I have no problem with that. i am sure there has been literature that has been used already that would differ from my preference but I have not made it a goal to read every thing that our SS uses. With that said, had BP not done the article on this issue and listed the names of the team of writers, i would have not known about it and this all might have not even been written. Here is another interesting little side note. I have probably looked at BP 4 or 5 times in the last year. At most a dozen and I seriously doubt that. I just happened to click on it and just happened to see the title “Gospel Project.” Since I had heard lately so much about THE GOSPEL being solidly rooted in the Doctrines of Grace… I decided curiously to click on the article and walla… look what I found. I googled the individuals and was sorely disappointed at what I found, although unfortunately not surprised. That is what was even more disappointing that what I had discovered.

      I have stated for the record, is that I have no problem with the release of this project IF Lifeway will modify the title to say, “The Gospel Project: A Reformed Perspective.” If indeed it has been deemed profitable to produce a Reformed Bible Study then label it as such so everyone will know what it is that they are buying. Do not put it out to Baptist churches that look to Lifeway as a safe and stable source of literature and not disclose the nature of the theologically leaning work. In my opinion to not disclose this lends to a less than noble intention and that is not a fitting endeavor for Lifeway to be part of.

      One final comment. Your last statement contains a rather bold assertion that I have not seen mentioned. I know that there are a number of charismatic guys who are great pastors and successful leaders but to say that they are the thriving ones and the older guys are stagnating is a bold statement that I would challenge statistically. I mean the fact that Lifeway’s own statistics indicate that roughly 10% of pastors in the pew are Calvinist, which is probably a little low… depending on how one defines Calvinist, your assertion is not going to fly with me without serious substantiation. And… I am only speaking of the SBC.

      Your final statement, “Not saying soteriology = success, but could one perceive that people are starting to identify with and understand reformed theology and are aligning resources & momentum behind those leaders/entities?” can be evaluated in the soteriology = success. While you may not be saying it, that is certainly what you are implying. I think what is happening is that the younger preacher types are indeed doing exactly what you suggest perhaps for a number of reasons but it is not a groundswell in the pew. Success in ministry today has a number of aspects that are creating a lot of buzz, much of what is not at all healthy: I do not have to begin naming names on that subject. There are far more than I care to even count.

      Personality and charisma has a lot to do with popularity in churches today; momentum is a factor; location is a factor. Finances are a factor. Now all of these things are factors but while the methods have to change, the message has to remain central. Calvinists are super on maintaining that centrality. There are a lot of non-Calvinists who do the same. Since the numbers are so significantly different, I would probably guess the stagnant charge is more evident in the non-Calvinist SB churches and the more visible high profile Calvinist guys although fewer in number have a solid following especially in the under 35 age group looking to go into vocational ministry.

      Thank you for your comment. it made me think a little more than I really intended to do but that is ok. I am not going to proof this so forgive me if I err somewhere, which I probably have done. It is midnight on the east coast and I am shutting down for the night.

      May God bless all our efforts to carry out the great Commandment and Commission as He would have us do!


      • Guys. The person in the pew isn’t as dumb as you think. They know soteriology. They should if the minister is guiding them to not only listening but properly studying all of the Bible. I am so tired of the person in the pew being thought of as dumb. They aren’t. That I can assure you.

    • Eleanore says:

      I am a 65 year old housewife who has been in a southern Baptist church for 35 years. When the reformed theology began coming in my antenna went up. After 3 years of it becoming more pervasive, it drove me further into the Scriptures, how it all started to becoming more prevalent, and helped me to know why I believe what I believe. Yes, my husband and I began studying soteriology, as well. Maybe we are the ones who have had it wrong all along but I will say this….I liken our reaction to one who works for the Treasury and has studied “real” money so long that the counterfeit sticks out like a sore thumb. After being taught “whosoever will may come” and “Jesus died for all,” limited atonement is a hard pill to swallow. We are even reading and hearing messages where Scripture has been taken out of context to fit the topic being preached. I’m beginning to believe seminaries are teaching young preachers to interpret the Scriptures differently now.

  10. weforster says:

    Dear. Dr. Bob,
    You know that I still hold to those DOG, but what i intended to convey was that our opinions are superficial to the facts. That souls are saved by the hearing and preaching of the Word is what matters. Most converts to Christ have little to no theology, except that they are saved with the simplicity of a child, only recognizing their need for Christ and His atonement. Neither Arminianism or Calvinism is what saves the soul. It is by the grace of God, (solo gracia) alone. Therefore, in that context, if we all agree, what’s the fuss all about? The deeper things of God will only be pursued by folks if they are led by a hungering for more of Christ. Reformed Clergy seem to be especially good at whetting the appetites of congregations to desire more. Sadly, you may be correct in assuming that the percentage of folks who care to explore those theological truths on their own may be small indeed. Especially if they have a pastor that doesn’t preach about those deeper things, or discourages investigation of those doctrines of the early church. That’s like our President who thinks the electorate is so stupid that we need him and the government to tell us what to do. I think those doctrines should be discussed and explored within a church. Don’t underestimate the intellect, and more importantly, the Spirit’s teaching. Pastors shouldn’t allow their church members to be uninformed about the different theological ideologies. How can folks have an opinion if they don’t know the differences or the reasons behind them? Church history is fascinating! God Bless you, My Friend.

  11. We are ready to come to Hawaii day before yesterday. Unfortunately, I am 71, and we are at that age when churches are not likely to look very receptively on our availability for ministry. As to the average John Doe in the pew, I don’t believe in selling such folks short, Bob. Like the dear lady said back in the 1800s: “God must have chosen me before I was born, cause He sure wouldn’t have after I was born.” There is a lot of deep theological insight in her statement. While Bro. and Sister Average Southern Baptist might not state things with the theological sophistication of a trained minister, you might be surprised at how much they can and do grasp concern the Doctrines of Grace, when they can put it in their own way or understand the issues involved. But, in any case, simply believing the doctrines is no proof of salvation. After all, Judas believed them, too. One is simply asking to get his or her head chopped off, if he or she accepts DOG adherents at face value. On the other hand, like a relative by marriage once said many, many years ago, “If that is the way God wants to do it, that’s alright with me.” In the mainwhile, let us get to pleading the promises/prophecies (nearly 100) listed in Jonathan Edwards’ Humble Attempt for a Third Great Awakening, the one which wins the whole earth and every soul on it beginning, hopefully, with this generation and continuing for a 1000 generations. And the fellow who inspired me to start thinking in such terms, the wisest man I ever met, did it with with one question (and he was five pointer): “Have you ever thought about the fact that at any one time, every last soul on earth could be the elect of God?” I answered, “No, I never thought about it.” (How could I in view of my eschatology?) Six or seven years later, that question blew my eschatology all to pieces, when God called my attention to Jonah 3:1-9. Jonah’s, “Forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown,” was an unconditional prophecy that was given for a purpose, namely, to bring the Ninevites to repentance so that God would not destroy the city. And if that was true for Jonah’s prophecy (and he suspected such was the case, then the same could be said for many of the prophecies of gloom and doom in the NT (and we are not as suspicious as Jonah. We think it is all cut and dried, but it ain’t!). Any way Edwards tract , Humble Attempt, inspired Carey and others to pray and then launch the Great Century of Missions, and it is likely that it also contributed to the Second Great Awakening. Since his writing came out of the First Great Awakening, contributed so much to the launching of the Great Century of Missions, and, likely to the Second Great Awakening, it seems in order that it might be a factor in the Third Great Awakening, especially if we will go to pleading those promises and prophecies in prayer to that end.

  12. sbcissue says:

    Dr. Willingham,

    The “sweet lady” in Hawaii is a very good friend and I was giving her a hard time as we have had discussions dealing with the DOG for several years. I would not be trading comments as I did with her on a complete stranger, unless of course it was with someone like you who I figured had thick skin! Just kidding. It is only expected that we all be passionate about being the person God “has graced us to be.”

    I actually had that conversation with another Calvinist gentleman who said, by God’s grace he was turned toward Calvinism. I said…. ah… you are a Calvinist today because of God’s grace then that must mean I am not one because of God’s grace and that means we are both where God wants us to be so lets celebrate that together!


  13. Mary says:

    Hey Bob, I wanted to let you know I’m around. I’m working on a project I think you’re gonna find very interesting. I haven’t had a chance to do more than glance at all that’s written here, but when I finish what I’m working on, I’d like to come back and interact with you and perhaps some commentors.

    Thanks for the invite!


  14. Uramiricle says:

    I have just one question for those who hide behind the word “election” in the SBC: If you are convicted that the Calvin doctrine is the way to present the gospel, when are you going to start preaching it in the pulpits?
    If you are so sure you are among the elect, and you must feel like you are by your vociferous elite babblings about the doctines of a mere mortal, as opposed to the true doctrine of salvation for all according to the love of God in and through Jesus Christ, when are you going to tell your wife, or your children that the same election may not be true in their case. When will you preach the gospel of Calvinism openly and tell your congregations that they can be saved and join your church if they have been elected.
    Doctrine based on clandestine, secretive belief structures cannot be the true gospel that the loving Jesus commanded us to witness about because He said time and time again that He came in love to save all, and lived to love all, preached love of all, taught love for all, lovingly died for all, lovingly raised Himself from the dead to eternally seal his loving presence with us by the Loving Holy Spirit, and ascended back to the presence of His loving Father, the loving God of all.
    I am dismayed that the “reformed” propogate what a rebel protester has opined rather than the true gospel of Jesus Christ, but in trying to justify their belief they waltz over the most defining word of relationship of God to man….that of love.
    Shame on you!

    • sbcissue says:

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment. I am not even a 1 point Calvinist. And while I openly argue the Doctrines of Grace do not represent what I see written in the Word of God, there are some things that I have learned in my time speaking to Calvinists about Calvinism.

      First, I do agree that Calvinists have a tendency to preach at least on the far right side of their stated theology. While they do believe that Jesus only died for the elect and only the elect will be saved, they do not know who the elect are and since salvation is up to God and God alone (which I do agree with), they can and should preach the gospel message that Jesus Christ has come to seek and to same them that are lost. I have made a much stronger argument than you do here in the not so distance past, but realize that my argument was unfair and have abandoned it. It is not healthy for those who need to hear the gospel message so the Holy Spirit can touch their hearts and bring conviction into their hearts, so in all fairness, I want Calvinists to continue to preach the gospel message as they do. I want them to continue to tell the lost if you are not saved, you need to repent and ask God to forgive you of your sin and by faith alone come to Christ alone for salvation. They do preach sin and conviction and for that I personally am grateful.

      It is also unfair to argue that they are preaching Calvin instead of Jesus. Even the front line card carrying Calvinists, ALL of them, believe fully in the authority of the Word and the love of God and are probably more devout in their walk than I am. so even though I disagree with their theology, I can affirm and applaud their love for the Father and His Word and their commitment to tell the world about Jesus and one another about their theological position.

      My point is, be up front about it with pulpit committees BEFORE becoming pastor of a church that does not believe as you do. My point is this theological position is decidedly different from that of the vast majority of the people who are supporting the entities of the SBC but the entities have been infiltrated by those who hold ot the Doctrines of Grace and are showing every intention in their actions to institute a confessional statement of belief in those Doctrines of Grace to have a voice in the direction of the SBC. Lifeway’s actions to produce a decidedly Reformed Bible study to be promoted to ALL SBC churches without informing those churches of the doctrinal slant is unacceptable. This charge has drawn criticism from the Reformed camp that it is NOT Reformed leaning. Then I say, shame on the writers for writing something that is inconsistent with what they believe the Bible to say. For the record, I am not biting on that argument and that is why I said, I fully expect this group of hand-picked writers to deliver exactly what they promised. Now, will that literature be as Reformed in its language as they would like for it to be, probably not. Will it be subtly Reformed. Probably so. Do I believe that is intentional. Absolutely. Do I like that, NO. That is why I expect Lifeway to add Reformed to the title, not in a disclaimer hid in 6 pt print along with the legal info in the front of the literature.

      I am concerned with the influence that Calvinists now have in the various entities of the convention and the effects of that influence to touch the minds and hearts of the people in the pew. Calvinists claim I am being an alarmist. If that is true then that means I believe more in Calvinists than they do. I fully expect Calvinists to do what some of them have set out to do and the evidence that I site in the article is clear; they have already accomplished more in that area than even I was aware of until I wrote this article, the other morning after waking up at 2:30, with this on my mind.

      Thanks for your post.

      • Uramiricle says:

        When the elect don’t know who the elect are, that is a problem….their’s not mine. I know who the “elect” are. The determining factor is not who but how, and the how is mandated by the true gospel of Jesus Christ based His unfailing love for us….”For by grace are ye saved through faith….” and “For God so loved the world, that he gve his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For Go sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” Why do Calvanists embrace anything in regard to our relationship with God that is not based primarily on the love that God has for His children. His love for us surpasses any other factor in our relatioinship with Him, and transcends any and all other “doctrines of salvation”.
        Your comments about LifeWay are relevant and noteworthy. I will use Glorieta Baptist Assembly as an example of why I agree with you. LifeWay (and now the Sunday School Board of the SBC) is treating Glorieta like a second rate financial gain opportunity, made second rate by their own neglect and inept management. I was there the first meeting….Pioneer Week. I was a teenager son of the man who raised the initial funds to buy the land. Then, on fulfillment of the SBC/BCNM agreement, the land was turned over to the SBC….per the condition that such land donation by a state determined its location in that state. For decades the facilities were an effective instrument for God’s work in saving souls and discipling believers. Why Glorieta was treated as something other than a tool for the gospel is anybody’s guess, but i suspect it was a decision based on something besides an effort to continue proclaiming the gospel as had been the case for decades.
        I have noted with great interest and anticipation the forming of the ad hoc committee by the BCNM to pursue the future possibilities in regard to Glorieta. Please join me (as i know you have already) in praying that the will of God will be the determining factor in future decisions for this magnificent facility.
        One other point about Calvinism: How can anybody who believes in our creation in the image of God construe that God intended our creation for any other purpose than to fellowship with Him, not by election or anythng else devised by man, but by the very fact that God made us unique and capable of establishing a relationship with Him. This relationship is not conditioned on any fact except our own willnness to become His children by the plan of the New Covenant that is in Christ Jesus, based on His unmatched and undying love for us. Can we possibility believe that
        God would intentionally place His children in jeopardy of eternal damnation? They can believe that if they want, but i will never deny the loving Father/son relationship that i am blessed with, nor will I embrace any doctrine of man that would deny its availability to all others created in His image.

        God bless you and yours, Brother.

      • sbcissue says:

        I was giving a non-Calvinist explanation why Calvinists preach the gospel the way they do even though it seems that what they say at times differs from what they actually believe. I believe you are correct in the how part; I am also convinced that many Calvinist preachers also believe what you said… in a round about way… sort of. The difference in the emphasis on “the whosoever believes” and how they do that. They will say, those who respond are the ones God has chosen… so I have slowed my criticism of what they say understanding why they do what they do… and for the most part, most have the right intentions… just a less than solid foundation in my opinion.

        I agree, I do not understand how anyone can believe in RT… I don’t. I think the issue of not everyone being saved is the impetus that sets RT in motion… and it attempts to answer that question. For the RT guy, man’s will cannot trump God’s will so walla… we have Calvinism and RT. I see it differently; my position is no less a position with respect to the sovereignty of God than Calvinism… I believe God has done everything heavenly possible to have the only thing He cannot have in a world created for love; my devotion and obedience and love.


    • Les says:


      You said, “When the elect don’t know who the elect are, that is a problem….their’s not mine. I know who the “elect” are.”

      Pray tell, who are they? If you would share with everyone which persons are elect, we could save a lot of effort and time by focusing on them instead of them AND the non-elect.


      • uramiricle says:

        If you would read the posts leading to this one. you would know as well as i do who the elect are: They are all who believe in a loving God and accept His loving saving grace, through faith, as based on the loving sacrifice of a loving Jesus on the cross.

      • Les says:

        Thanks. I had read above and must have missed that. You said,

        “They are all who believe in a loving God and accept His loving saving grace, through faith, as based on the loving sacrifice of a loving Jesus on the cross.”

        I’m a 5 point Calvinist and I heartily agree with the above statement. No unbeliever is among the elect. And preachers should declare:

        “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, the loving sacrifice on the cross for sinners, and trust in Him alone by grace and you will be saved!”


  15. I was thinking of the sophistication of the average john doe baptist, and I want to affirm his or her grasp of the issues. In ’72, when I came to the Gum Springs Church in the Sandy Creek Assn, the chairman of the pc asked me what I believed about the Bible. I answered:”I believe it is the inspired word of God>” He than asked:”You don’t just believe the Bible contains the word of God?” I answered, “No. That’s the liberal position. I hold to verbal inspiration, every word as originally given is inspired of God.” He then said, “You might be the man we are looking for.” The end result was a 100% call. As to the Sovereign Grace theme, the church had been founded in 1829 by a pastor who had been converted in 1798,, circa the Second Great Awakening period of 1801, and who was the first named member of the Committe of Sandy Creek draw up the Confession of Faith which has two solid Sovereign Grace points which are in the Abstract of Principles of Southern and Southeastern. The chairman of the committee was the Father of Missions among Southern Baptists, Luther Rice, who said the doctrines of grace were in the Bible and you had better preach it. another member of the Committee was Basil Manly, Sr., clerk of the Assn., who would suggest the founding of Southern Seminary and whose son, Jr., would draw up the Abstract of Principles with the help of Rev. A.M. Poindexter. Any way back to Gum Springs, the longest term pastor in the 20th century was Rev. T.Y. Seymore who served 26 years as a part time pastor and died as he wished, finishing his last sermon in 1946/47 (I forget the exact year), stepping back, and slumping to the floor, gone before any one could reach him. He had said he wanted to go that way to Rev. Spurgeon Glosson (both had been fellow students at Southern early in the 20th century). No doubt both had sat under Dr. John R. Sampey and W.O. Carver, both of whom presented the two doctrines in the Abstract). Several members of the founding families recognized that I used the same language as Rev. Seymore, meaning election, etc. Also I should point out that at the 1816 Sandy Creek Meeting were messengers of the Mt. Pisgah Church whose articles of faith adopted in when the church was formed in 1814 spoke only of Christ dying for the church…and not a word of His dying for the world. From Mt. Pisgah a few years later would come the first missionary to China, Matthew T. Yates. O yes, and in Alabama oneof my ancesors, Elder Holland Middleton would be noted in Henry Holcombe’s History of Alabama Baptiss in 1840 for his preaching…and I’ll let you guess what kind of preaching he was doing, when the President of the Univ. of Ala. was Basil Manly, Sr., whose sermon on Divine Sovereignty was published in Alabama originally, if memory serves correct. Yes, the same Manley who would lead in the founding of Southern,.whose son would draw up the Abstract of Principles, and whose preacher boy, James Petigru Boyce, would be the first president of the seminary and would publish his abstract of systematic theology, a very clear statement of Sovereign Grace.

    As to Election, unconditional election, the election of someone else, I regard that truth as an invitation to take God as He really is, not as we think He is or want Him to be. Just look at Mt.15:21-28, where Jesus says to the woman of Canaan, “I am not sent but tot he lsot sheep of the house.” Her response to that paradoxical truth was she came and worshipped him. Then things got worse, for He said, “It is not meet tot take the children’s bread and cast it to dogs.” That brought out her depravity and her reprobation. Her response, “truth, Lord.” In other words, she was as depraved and unclean as a dog, as reprobate as they represent, but “even the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from their little masters’ table.” No one begrudges the dogs those crumbs or insists that they should be given to the children. And a crumb would satisfy all her needs..What a compliment to Jesus! What an honor to him! A crumb of His mercy, His grace, His saving power, would more than meet her needs. So He gives her his highest and greatest commendation: “Great is your faith.” Humm!

  16. Jimmy Sloan says:

    Much has been said here (and elsewhere) of pastors “hiding” their theology until being installed. What I haven’t seen are specific instances of this happening. I personally know of no church that has had this happen in it. Now, I’m not naive enough to think this hasn’t happened. But are there some specific instances or even a couple of higher-profile cases of this?

    I’ve personally seen churches split over worship styles (probably the most common example) ministry objectives & emphases, relocation & building plans, moral failures, and even political power grabs by certain members of the church. But I have yet to come across the “pastor slipped his soteriology by the committee” example. Maybe it’s not as publicized? Maybe it’s my part of the country?

    I keep hearing about it, but have yet to see it first-(or even second)hand.

    Anyone have specifics?

  17. Karen H says:

    @Jimmy Sloan. I’m happy to have the opportunity to answer two of your comments. First of all, I am not a 45 year old house wife on the 4th row, however, I am a 39 year old house wife usually seated somewhere between the 9th-12th rows. I am deeply concerned about the issue of Reformed Theology in the SBC, hence my reading of this blog. My concern was birthed greater than 10 years ago when the non-denominational church I grew up in split when a reformed pastor was called. That church had an elder body with reformed leanings, so I am not certain as to whether the pastor was open about his intentions prior too coming or not. About 8 years ago a prominent baptist church in our community (which we now attend) split when the newly called pastor attempted to reform the church. I have been told he was not clear about his intentions during the interview process, but cannot speak to it personally. What I can speak to is my former church home of 12 years. Our search team appointed one member (a dear friend) to be responsible for inquiring of candidates to ensure we did NOT get a Calvinist/ reformed pastor. The primary candidate was questioned extensively regarding this issue, and the entire team came away with the impression that he absolutely was not reformed in his theology. The pastor came in and began subtly laying the foundation for the doctrines of grace, which he introduced almost exactly one year after coming. Everything he did was more or less identical to articles I’ve read by Mark Dever and Ernest Reisinger. I suppose we can congratulate him on a successful reformation with the recent revision of the bylaws to create an elder body.
    Just this week I saw where his mentor, Jeff Noblitt, is hosting a True Church Conference titled “Storms of Reformation: Desertions, Divisions and other Trials of Reforming a Church to Biblical Health.” The implications are obvious as we certainly would not expect those reactions from a reformed pastor going into a reformed church… I have lived what you question even existing. It is real and it is devastating to individuals, families and communities. I find it ironic that those who espouse God’s sovereignty the most, give the appearance of trusting it the least by failing to be forthright with search teams and trusting God to do the rest. To his credit, I do recall reading an article by Danny Akin years ago encouraging his fellow Calvinist to do just that. Sorry this was so long, but this 39 year old, 10th pew sitting house wife is passionate about this issue (as well as many others…).

    • sbcissue says:


      May God bless you for telling your story. There are hundreds of stories like yours and this is precisely what I want to see minimized. Your experience ought not have to be experienced by anyone but sadly it is being repeated in churches over and over again.

      Your statement is perhaps one of the best I have read by anyone: “I find it ironic that those who espouse God’s sovereignty the most, give the appearance of trusting it the least by failing to be forthright with search teams and trusting God to do the rest.” AMEN and AMEN. I may use that again, if it is alright with you.

      Add to your experience the following article on the Founder’s website, called “Walking Without Slipping: Instructions for Local Church Reformation” that can be found HERE.

      I have heard the argument that since the SBC is 80+% non-Calvinist, then it must be the non-Calvinists and not the Calvinists that are the problem. That would seem logical with one exception: “one bad apple can spoil the whole barrel.” Everyone knows the majority of the “new Calvinists are the younger group of guys” who have a LOT to learn in the pastorate to begin with. A college education does not a pastor make us. The on the job training is the toughest part and that never stops!

      However, when these guys go in to their first church and have significant theological differences they have more strikes against them than they really need. The argument is made, “If the Reformed prospective pastor tells the search committee up front that they are 5 point Calvinists, then they know the likelihood of them getting hired is slim to none.” I agree with you; if it is God’s will, He will handle the objections and if it is not God’s will, what God fearing person would want to be somewhere that God has not placed him in the first place! That is nothing more than a recipe for disaster in the first place!

      Thank you so much for your story. May God continue to bless you and your family.

      • Karen H says:

        Thank you for your kind words. You may use that quote. It was Daniel Akin, yet again, that spurred that thought. He made the connection to trusting God’s sovereignty in his exhortation to Calvinist pastors in the article “Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility” on SBCLife.

    • Jimmy Sloan says:

      Thanks for the reply. I knew it had to have happened somewhere, too much smoke for there not to be a fire. Just never heard a first-hand story.

      My only lingering question relates to your friend who was installed to “not get a reformed pastor”. I understand congregations having a preference (we all do, right?), but is that not similar to the whole “not trusting God” part you eschewed? If you call for potential candidates to trust God’s sovereignty and be open about their theology, shouldn’t a church trust Him as well and tell the prospects that they don’t want a particular theology from the pulpit?

      Again, maybe I’m naive, but why would a potential candidate openly step into that knowing he’s got a 180-degree view of theology from the outset? Seems like the issue then wouldn’t be his theology as much as it would be his pride for thinking he could “change” a church. Pride is no discriminator when it comes to theology. That goes to Bob’s comment below as well. I’ve known some humble young guys and some prideful old ones too. Still think, to a degree, it’s arrogance and pride rather than theology that gets most in trouble.

      • sbcissue says:


        Somehow I think you are missing the boat with respect to Karen’s experience. The church openly made it clear that they did not want a Calvinist pastor. This gentleman intentionally misrepresented his position to the committee to get the position. I personally agree with your question and would love to hear folks answers on it:

        “why would a potential candidate openly step into that knowing he’s got a 180-degree view of theology from the outset? Seems like the issue then wouldn’t be his theology as much as it would be his pride for thinking he could “change” a church.”

        One of the answers I have heard goes something like this: “God has called me to correct people’s theology that is Biblically incorrect.” I do not have a problem with that either, as long as you let me know what those changes are BEFORE we begin the process.

        Here is the other popular come back: “If I say I am Calvinist, the committee or church will not have a proper concept of what a Calvinist is and that will keep me from getting the position.” OK. deception is ok since the problem is them and not me!

        Even your final comment is a little misleading. It is accurate to a degree; my comment was adding to the theology issues the inexperience and pride etc… just further complicates ones early ministry experiences and makes those years unduly long and difficult for EVERYONE. Transforming churches is not for the novice… of course, novice always describes the other guy.

        Where churches and people are concerned, Theology ALWAYS matters. i have heard the argument that people cause division not theology; pride causes division not theology. Bologna. I agree things happen that are not theologically driven but bad theology is always going to be a problem.


      • Karen H says:

        First off, thank you for the respectful tone of your response. This is only my second comment on a blog. The first was on The Founders blog 2 years ago, and the responses were quite the opposite.

        I disagree with your assertion that it reflected a lack of trusting God to ask specific doctrinal questions (reformed or otherwise) of the prospective pastoral candidates. If theological and specific doctrinal questions are not to be asked of a candidate, then what criteria would be used in the selection process?

        My call is for candidates to be honest, just as the search team was being honest about the doctrinal and theological stances of our body. There is no inequity there. Everyone should “put their cards on the table” (that should probably be credited to Daniel Akin as I am recalling an article by him as I type).

        I also think it is weak to refer to one’s stance on Calvinism as “a preference.” I agree with John Piper in his assertion that where we stand on the 5 points essentially affects everything we believe. Though we are brothers and sisters in Christ, it is indeed a foundational difference.

        The reason the pastor came into the church despite knowing our theological differences is that he had been mentored to “reform” existing churches. He even stated that as his belief in a blog post. As previously mentioned, publications are readily available to guide pastors in reforming existing churches. The naivety would be in one assuming no one is doing it.

    • Les says:


      It is sad to hear the experience you recounted. I’ve been Reformed in my theology for 26 of my 30 years as a Christian. I confess that early on I was overly zealous in my desire to see everyone agree with me about the doctrines of grace. Time and hopefully some maturity have softened me on being quite so insistent in making everyone agree with me.

      I have commented elsewhere that I believe that pastors should be up front about their theology. These Reformed leaning pastors know that Calvinism is a very touchy issue in the SBC and if ANY are being deceptive, well that is unbecoming a pastor.

      By the way, I was in seminary with Jeff Noblitt many years ago. He may have changed, but I remember him as a gentle and kind young man and I would think he would not advocate deception on the part of pastors.

      God bless you.

  18. Some preachers do not know how to preach. Period. They turn theology into a billy club with which to beat other people over the head. They come forth as authoritarian, a most unhealthy form of authority, not as authoritative, a healthy form of authority. This can happen with any theology, any doctrine, any area of theology. There is, however, a point to Soveeign Grace that does arouse ire, even wrath. Our Lord faced such wrath, when he pointed out the depravity and even the diabolic nature of his Pharisaic opponents. Look at John 8:44 and following. At the same time there is a gracious way to present the truth as well as a way that would drive any sane person from accepting it. Consider how an amoral minister makes all ministers look bad or how dictators can make themselves look like God’s own servants and yet God will clear His name with such. The founding faith of Southern Baptists is Sovereign Grace and all efforts to the contrary not withstanding will not establish a foundation other than Sovereign Grace. The beginnings our documented. Think of it the Number one Confession of Faith for Southern Baptist Churches and associations in the South is the Philadelphia Confession until 1845, when the New Hampshire Confession begins to be advanced. And even it has enough to support the Sovereign Grace view as one author has documented. Our schools, mission organizations, conventions, and, yes, even our journals/papers had plenty of sovereign grace writings in them. Now as to some who want to advance an unlimited authority, they are really out of order. Only God in a baptist church has unlimited authority, and He has it within His moral nature. Besides, I repeat every point of the TULIP acrostic is an invitation, a paradoxical intervention, a therapeutic paradox, that presses a person to do the impossible, to be saved. The very essence of Christian courtesy lies in Sovereign Grace teachings and preachings, regardless of the misrepresentations by those who have a limited knowledge of it. All one has to do is study the Sovereign Grace practices and writings of our founders to discover what I mean. One illustration and I must close due to other responsibilities. Boyce was once complimented for his courtesy in presenting the truths of Sovereign Grace, and he answered the person by saying something to the effect that He wished he could win that person with the truth of the same.

  19. O by the way, I wanted to point out that yesterday, Jan.29, 2012 was the anniversary of the birth of Basil Manly, Sr., who was born Jan.29, 1798. He is father of Southern and grandfather so to speak of all the other of our seminaries. A sovereign grace minister and a very courteous one, too.

  20. Don Allred says:

    l always preached expository sermons, verse by verse through books of the Bible. I wasn’t trying to ‘Calvinize’ anybody. I was trying to preach the Word of God and let the chips fall where they may. When a verse taught ‘whosoever will’ that’s what I preached. I did not water down passages like Rev.22.17 or John 3.16, nor did I water down passages like Eph.1.4-11 or Romans chapter 9. I just am amazed that the founding doctrines of So. Baptists are now considered and portrayed by many today as heresy. Spurgeon experienced and stood against the beginnings of the liberal and Arminian inroads into the Baptist Union’s Calvinistic theology in London in the late 1800s. We have gone through a much more drastic change than Spurgeon saw in his lifetime. We now have a ‘seeker sensitive’ tidal wave decimating American Protestantism. Many ‘evangelicals’ (so called) are even embracing ‘Open Theology’ — willing to go so far as to say God does not and cannot really know the future, rather than embrace the biblical doctrines of election and Predestination. Read the ‘Of God’s Decree’ section of the Baptist 1689 Philadelphia Confession of Faith and compare it to Baptist statements of faith from the 1800s and you will find little difference (except, of course, for General Baptist and Freewill Baptist confessions, but these were full blown Arminian groups from their very beginnings). But compare the 1689 Philadelphia Confession to a late 20th century SBC church’s statement of faith and you will be amazed at the change that has taken place in the theology between the two. The more that SBC ministers get back to reading the writings of the SBC’s founding theologians and early statements of faith, and the Scripture passages upon which they were based, the more the preaching of those ministers, and the teaching of those educators will reflect the Calvinism of the founders. Anyone who truly wants to understand where So. Baptists have come from, theologically speaking, should read the definitive work on that subject, By His Grace and For His Glory, by Dr. Tom Nettles. (BTW, Dr. Nettles and Dr. L. Russ Bush co-authored a definitive work on the ‘inerrancy of Scripture’ doctrine from Baptist beginnings to the resent time, proving that the SBC has always held to the verbal plenary inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture.) {BTW (again)>>Thanks for this online ‘forum’ and may the Lord bless you, Brother}

  21. sbcissue says:


    Thanks for your input here. A couple of responses. The history of the SBC is just that, our history. It does not mean it is His Story. I have no desire to attempt to rewrite history nor seek to diminish the influence of Calvinist preachers in the founding of the convention. However, I maintain today, calvinism has more influence today than it has ever had in the convention and I am not sure why that is such a negative statement; it is actually a compliment to those who are guiding its revival and success today.

    Second, you make another very good point, “We now have a ‘seeker sensitive’ tidal wave decimating American Protestantism. Many ‘evangelicals’ (so called) are even embracing ‘Open Theology’ — willing to go so far as to say God does not and cannot really know the future, rather than embrace the biblical doctrines of election and Predestination.” However, that point has NOTHING to do with the viability of Calvinism as an alternative. Two wrongs do not make a right and Calvinism cannot be seen as the lesser wrong. I know that is not WHAT you are saying but it is no argument to accept Calvinism is my point.

    Now to your next statement, “The more that SBC ministers get back to reading the writings of the SBC’s founding theologians and early statements of faith, and the Scripture passages upon which they were based, the more the preaching of those ministers, and the teaching of those educators will reflect the Calvinism of the founders. Anyone who truly wants to understand where So. Baptists have come from, theologically speaking, should read the definitive work on that subject, By His Grace and For His Glory, by Dr. Tom Nettles.”

    This is an interesting statement indeed and really confirms one of my major objections to Calvinism. I do not believe one can become a Calvinist without reading Calvinist writings and placing the framework of Calvinism over the Scriptures. I have read the Bible as a guide since surrendering to preach in 1980, and of course before that but 32 years, “professionally so to speak”. I NEVER had a clue or a hint of the DOG in my reading the Scriptures. I almost fell out of my chair when someone sent me this little softback book that someone had written to help people like me understand Calvinism. That was in 2002 or something like that. I had Calvinism taught in college and seminary but had NO IDEA this kind of theology was as viable as it is.

    Personally, I do not care about reading early founding writings and statements of faith. I have read thousands of pages of research trying to understand how anyone could read the Bible and see regeneration BEFORE repentance and saving faith. I cannot understand how anyone can read the Bible and believe that God handpicks who will and will not be saved. I cannot understand how ANYONE can read the Bible and conclude that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for the sins of a few and not the world.

    That being said, the real thrust of this post really has NOTHING to do with what you or I believe but everything to do with the level of influence that Calvinism has and is being used in the workings of the entities of the SBC, namely the seminaries, NAMB and Lifeway. The SBC is decidedly and overwhelmingly non-Calvinist and I maintain if the average person in the pew read this article, MAJOR changes would take place immediately if not sooner.

    That is my point here.

    I would love your response to my suggestion that Lifeway publish “The Gospel Project” with the following title: “The Gospel Project: A Reformed Perspective”

    If it is a much needed study for the Reformed crowd, then label it as such so non-Calvinist churches will not purchase it unaware of its theological position. Would that be a fair request in your opinion?

    May God bless you and your family and ministry for His glory!

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  26. Robert I Masters says:

    That would be a fair If we label all material theologically…..ex The Gospel Project : A Dispensational Perspective by Paige Patterson.

    Not likely to happen would you agree

    • sbcissue says:

      Nice try.

      Lifeway KNOWS this project would lose BIG time IF they were forced to label it for what it is. Which begs the question, “Why did they produce it in the first place?”


  27. Bob: Yes, there are people who become calvinist without ever having read or even seen anything written by such. A friend told me he had come home from the military to visit his brother who had become a Baptist preacher. He had jsut come into the house and sat down at the table, when God literally knocked him out of his chair and he lit on his knees praying, begging for mercy and grace, for salvation. The end result was he believed Sovereign Grace. He use to witness to me and a fellow named Spurgeon in the Fall of 58 at ETBC. He later went on to earn a ph.d. in Hebrew from Dropsie College (I think it was) an dthough a Baptist teaches some, I think for Westminster Theol. Sem. Then I had a another friend who was converted under the preaching of Mordecai Fowler Ham. You know Ham. He’s the fellow who won Billy Graham. In any case, Moredcai gave an invitation for all those who did not want to commit the sin against the Holy Ghost. My dear friend went forward, wanting to avoid such sin, and while he was standing at the front the whole plan of Salvation by Sovereign Grace was opened to his heart and mind and he said he believed all five points from that moment. O and by the way in old age, Brother Ham use to get on the bus and ride all the way from Ky. to NC to visit that dar brother….Interesting, no?

  28. Steve says:

    From a Calvinists perspective, this is great news! Praise God that we are getting back to our original Baptist roots.

    • sbcissue says:

      You are correct Steve… it is great news for calvinists. My prayer is that the non-calvinists in the SBC will realize it is not so good news and do something about it.

      Thanks for stopping by!


      • Steve says:

        I can’t quite understand why getting back to the “foreign” Baptist origins is a bad thing? My pastor reads a Spurgeon quote from the pulpit in one sentence, says he loves this man because he’s a “man of the Bible”, yet in the next sentence mocks & denigrates those who interpret the scriptures with a theocentric hermeneutic. You can’t have it both ways. Today’s Church is suffering from some weird form of confusion & psychosis.

      • sbcissue says:

        I am assuming by “foreign” Baptist origins, you are speaking of the Reformed roots. I am sure that bunch will love your characterization; glad that is what you said and not my words. I have not made reading Spurgeon a habit; I have some of his sermons in my library and have referred to them a time or two, years ago more so than in the even close past. But one of the things I have read is Spurgeon may not have as much in common with the modern day calvinist as they would like to think; I tend to agree but the truth is, he put his pants on just like you and I do, and most other guys I am assuming so his theology is exactly that; his. That in no way means mine needs to reflect his.

        I do not think I have any problem waffling between the two positions. I am pretty much set on solid, consistent ground, which by the way is difficult for most calvinists to say as I see it.


  29. Hey, Bob. What members want is something that feeds their souls, renews their spirits, gives them confidence with which to face the world and its gloom and doom. Biblical preaching will do it, especially when it honors those mysteries of the word like Sovereign Grace. Remember that is a good reflection of the Bible’s teaching on the subject, Roms.5:21, “That as sin has reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” Reign points to a Sovereign, to one who is in control, Sin’s reign is the reign of a tyrant, Grace is the reign of God’s unconditional favor. That is where the triumph lies: In THE REIGN OF GRACE as Abraham Booth called it in his book by that title back in the early 1800s.

  30. If I am already chosen by God to be saved whether I want to or not, why are we planting Churches? It seems to me the God that set all this up surely can find me without the help of the SBC and let me know I’m already “predestined”. Which has to do with the act and not the person.

  31. sbcissues says:

    Hey Forgiven,

    Sorry for taking so long to get your comment approved… I changed computers and took too much time to get back here!

    Well…. the calvinist will say that they do not know who is and is not the elect and God uses the gospel as the means to reach the elect… and therefore the need for planting new churches and evangelism. In defense, I do believe that most calvinist leaning individuals do believe that very thing. However, the theology itself does not allow this interpretation and just because calvinists say it is so does not make it consistent with what the theology actually says.

    Thanks for stopping by SBC Issues.


    • Ah, Bob: The theology of Sovereign Grace, the best desriptive and most biblical term (cf. Roms.5:21, grace reigning), is coming back without a conspiracy cause prayers are being made to God for a Third Great Awakening, and the theology of the First and Second Great Awakening and the launching of the Great Century of Missions was Sovereign Grace. This Third Awakening will reach every soul on earth by persuasion for a thousand generations. I mean, if folks get converted to it as the ones mentioned above, then the only one promoting this theology is the Holy Spirit of God in answer to prayers for a Divine visitation. Wake up, Bob. I’ve been put you on my prayer list some time ago. If it took 40 years to see a Spurgeon change, how long will it tak God to change a Hadley?

      • sbcissues says:

        It seems that the only place Sovereign Grace is making any headway is in the SBC. That in and of itself is interesting and simply reinforces my objection that where the entities go the convention follows. So I am not such a big fan of your theory that the Holy Spirit is the One promoting this errant theology. Also, the Holy Spirit’s activity cannot be the result of anyone’s prayers for a Divine Visitation… as it would be the direct result of God’s Divine plan…

        Now as to being on your prayer list… I appreciate it… and I assure you if God wants me to be a calvinist, then giddy up, it will no doubt happen. I can only assume that is not His plan or I would be one… deterministically speaking… but thanks for your concern.

        I will not be here 40 years from now.


    • John White says:

      I am the most “nobody” in this list of commenters. I’m an untrained Southern Baptist lay preacher from TX. I lived through a situation where a wonderful Spirit filled genuine beautiful small baptist church was overtaken by Calvinism. It sucked all the life and joy out of that church. What Calvinism did to that small church it is now seeking to do to the entire SBC. I was a Calvinist for about 5 months some 40 years ago. I’ve been through all the intricate dance steps that Calvinists do to get around the clear teaching of scripture. Though I am a nobody I will add my small voice to the Red Flag warnings. There is so much more I could say but I will close with this: I love all people and I love my Calvinist brothers, but if any man stands up and proclaims that my Lord did not die for all men, that man should expect to be opposed. He should not be offended or surprised. My dear brother, please stop and consider what you’re saying. Please stop the continual assault on God’s word, I know you don’t intend to do what you’re doing but the damage is there nonetheless.

      John from Van

  32. Harry says:

    Has it even occurred to anyone here that both the “religions” of Calvinism and Arminianism are both wrong?

    • sbcissues says:

      Actually… I agree and make that case quite often. In fact since BOTH begin with total depravity and inablity, it seems to me calvinism is the more logical conclusion. Given that fact, I reject both positions.

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