Ramblings on being a non-Calvinist in the SBC by Peter Lumpkins

The following is an article SBC Blogger Peter Lumpkins wrote in 2007 and reposted it again today at SBC Tomorrow. I appreciate his perspective and personal reflection and am with his permission reposting his article in its entirety here. You may visit his blog site by CLICKING HERE.

I launched this website almost a year ago. I entered blogdom surfing sites, commenting here and there and finally found the energy to go for it myself: SBC Tomorrow was born. Part of the energy came from a simple desire to write…to place my thoughts on paper…to record outwardly what was taking place in the inward workings of my mind.

Another factor that offered poise to begin a site was the dark atmosphere I experienced in some of the more well known Calvinist blogs. By dark I mean to suggest more of a feel than a problem with the content on many of them.

Many do not realize that for years–especially early in my faith journey–I was steeped in the “Reformed” sector of our common faith. My heroes were the same heroes one may find listed on most any Baptist blog today that unapologetically names the name of “Reformed–Warfield and Hodge, Berkof and Boyce, Dagg and Owen, Spurgeon and Whitfield, Sproul and Gerstner.

The first Church God gave to me to Pastor over twenty-five years ago is still listed as a Founders-Friendly Church of Founders Ministries. To “Reformed” theology I am no stranger.

Admittedly, something transformed through the years both spiritually and theologically. Most of my ministry has been as a Pastor in a local Church. While my Master’s focus swayed more toward systematic theology–an obvious result of an undergraduate love affair with religion and philosophy–my further studies carried me into my first love of expository preaching, studying with the last of the puritan preachers, Stephen F. Olford. From him, perhaps more than any other, I learned the non-negotiable principle that rules my Biblical life–textual concern always precedes theological concern.

I preached textually–week by week, sermon by sermon, lesson by lesson–working my way through entire books of the Bible, not so much concerned with my message agreeing with last week’s assignment. Rather, my concern was with the text before me and whether or not I was faithful to it. Non-negotiable for me was, what the text was saying to them before what the text was saying to me and my congregation.

I offer this snippet of my life to suggest that, contrary to my Calvinist brothers, who seem to suggest that if one goes only to the Scripture from which to drink, Calvinism will be the result. I beg to differ. For it was from my ceaseless guzzling from God’s Word itself that the Calvinism I had joyfully embraced began drying up. Neither my philosophy nor my heroes could bandage the bleeding when God’s Word began to slice.

And, this transformation was subtle and lengthy lasting over a period of years. I could not say when it began nor can I predict when it will stop. Indeed, I do not want it to stop for I do desire, as miserably as I might fail, that every thought is taken hostage to the Word of God.

I am a non-Calvinist. I cannot help it. To confess any other would rot my integrity. By stating such, I do not mean to either portray a level of achievement for myself or denigrate my brothers and sisters in Christ who see the Doctrines of Grace in such a fashion as historic Calvinism does.

Rather, I mean that is who I am and where I am. You may agree with me, ridicule me, curse me, ignore me. But you cannot define me. My definition comes from a Much Higher Authority than you, I assure.

I am a non-Calvinist. I am definitively not an anti-Calvinist–and that for two simple reasons. First, to be anti-Calvinist is to be anti-Christian. Calvinists stand tall in our common faith deposited to the Church of Jesus Christ. They have faithfully preached the gospel, strived for Church purity as well as left us a trail of theological acumen second to none for God’s community on earth. To be anti-Calvinist is to be anti-Christian.

Secondly, to be anti-Calvinist is to be anti-Baptist. Whether or not you accept it, Calvinism dwells deeply within the root system of the Baptist movement. Wherever on God’s earth there have been Baptists, there have been Calvinists. As Baptists, we owe much to our Calvinist forefathers. Know this, you who are anti-Calvinist: our river runs red with Calvinist blood spilled for Baptist convictions. When you curse Calvinists, you are cursing your spiritual ancestors.

Why then are not all Baptists Calvinists? Interestingly, the same can and should be said for non-Calvinist Baptists. When the Calvinist curses the non-Calvinist, he too curses his spiritual ancestors. For it could just as easily be argued from our genealogical record, that, wherever you are the world over again or into what era you find yourselves, if you find Baptists, you will find those I choose to call non-Calvinists. They are as likely to be around in any Baptist community as their spiritual kin, the Calvinist.

Alas, however, I am now called a dying breed. I am dubbed an endangered species. For now we hear so much from our spiritual kin that our only true heritage as Baptists is Calvinist. When a non-Calvinist explores the deeper side of Calvinism, many times he is shooed away as a common fly and ordered “Speak no more, thou ignorant fool. Ye know not what ye spew. Tis for us as Calvinists to know and then tell you.”

Thus when non-Calvinists attempt to express what they sincerely understand Calvinism to mean, inevitably they now are dubbed anti-Calvinist. The non-Calvinist slowly but surely is heading for extinction if this practice continues.

I am told Dr. Al Mohler and Dr. Jerry Vines are very good friends. Indeed Dr. Vines preached at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary only a few short weeks ago during the Mullins’ Lectures. After the lectures, during a Q/A session, a question was posed to Dr. Vines about his views toward Calvinism. I’m further told he replied, making a clear distinction between militant Calvinists and Calvinism. And it was the former not the latter that gave him his deepest caution.

I could not agree more. It is not Calvinism that is the issue in the SBC today, for the reasons I’ve already given. Rather it is the aggression of a small, but vocal group of militant Calvinists that deny the non-Calvinist to draw from the Baptist well with the same bucket as he. He claims that his understanding of the Doctrines of Grace is the Doctrines of Grace itself.

He poises himself as the only one who faithfully preaches the true Gospel and pronounces Anathema on any other who would dispute his claims: “The Gospel IS Calvinism and Calvinism IS the Gospel!” we hear him proudly assert.

“Contending for the faith, once for all given to the saints” stands as their battle cry. Of course, the faith of which they desire defense is not the Inspired Apostolic Witness of the New Testament itself. Rather it is the TULIP–the five points of developed, theological doctrine known as Calvinism.

I am not an anti-Calvinist. But I am an anti-aggressionist; and I will not sit idly by while aggressive, militant Calvinists ceaselessly poke non-Calvinists in the eye. Bullies do not deserve empowerment.

Grace.

With that, I am…

Peter

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One Response to Ramblings on being a non-Calvinist in the SBC by Peter Lumpkins

  1. Pingback: The Top Blog Posts of the Week | SBC Today

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