Calvinists and Their Tactics

By Dr. Dale Denning

As I view the some of the statements being made today with this issue of Calvinism, I’m somewhat reminded of how I feel when I hear the liberal media discuss religious freedom in America today. The obvious agenda of the media over the past 25+ years has been to change the religious climate of main street America. They pressed their agenda and whenever anyone stood in rebuttal they were labeled intolerant and quickly silenced. What America has seemingly failed to realize is that this great country was founded upon the rights of individuals to express their religious views openly and without fear of persecution.

It seems as if conservative Americans were expected to simply sit silently while the most prized freedoms that are ours to enjoy are being gradually stripped away. Sadly, that’s pretty much what I see happening with this issue of Calvinism in the SBC.

I have been a Southern Baptist all of my life, and I’m from a long-line of Southern Baptists. I had never even heard of Calvinism until I went to seminary. I’ve served 6 different churches – none were Calvinist. I have preached many revivals in many different cities and states – I’ve never had one of them indicate they were Calvinist. I traveled and sang for 30 years with a southern gospel group – never heard one church express “reformed” theology.

I have many, many pastor friends across this land – I don’t know of a one who would claim to be Calvinist. I would dare say that the VAST majority of SBC churches would take a firm stand against Calvinism if they truly understood what it was. (I feel this is the reason that many Calvinists aren’t very open about their reform theology.)

Now, having said all of that – do Calvinists think that we should simply sit back and say nothing while they gradually indoctrinate our convention with – what most pastors I know would view as unbiblical? Are Calvinists going to use the same tactics as the liberal media and attempt to silence the leadership of the overwhelmingly vast majority of Southern Baptist churches? Remember – we’re not the one’s attempting to implement change – CALVINISTS ARE!

I for one resent it when any group thinks they have the right to institute a philosophy of change, while everyone who disagrees with their philosophy is viewed as intolerant. If the Calvinist wants to teach his theology – he has the right. He also has the right to disagree with my views, but those of us who strongly disagree with Calvinism have a right to take a stand as well!

Dr. Dale Denning has been Senior Pastor of Chapel Hill Baptist Church in Milan, Tn. for 20 years. He is a graduate of Union University and has his Masters of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from Southern Seminary. Imagine that! He and his wife Chrsiti have two sons, Andrew and Drake.


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8 Responses to Calvinists and Their Tactics

  1. Les Prouty says:

    Don’t Calvinists fit in line with the BF&M? Is it ok for a pastor in conformity with the BF&M to be in leadership in the SBC? And of course youy have your right to speak out too.

  2. Ricky LeMons says:

    The holes in Dr. Denning’s post are immediately recognizable and glaringly huge. I’ve never had to stand in the pulpit that I am privileged and honored to preach in and make the acclamation or pronouncement that we are reformed in our theology. I’m not silent on the issue at all. I do open God’s Word and teach the Scriptures. I’ve never heard one of my Arminist friends declare from their pulpit that they hold to Arminist views. Perhaps in all of Dr. Denning’s extensive travels in a variety of capacities he has heard the clarion call from a church, “WE ARE ARMINIST AND PROUD OF IT”, but I rather doubt it.

    I would like to know how Dr. Denning arrived at the conclusion that Calvinist are attempting to silence the convention. Has someone made threats? Offered a muzzle? Shut down a blog? Or have they simply waded into the fray with clarity and refuted poorly written blogs.

    Perhaps it is time for Dr. Denning to expand his circle of friends to include those who are from a reformed theological perspective. His circle of friends seems to be only like minded individuals. I am pretty secure in my beliefs and do not feel threatened at all to associate with or call friends those that may disagree with my theological leanings.

    Dr. Denning posits, I’d dare say that the VAST majority of SBC churches would take a firm stand against Calvinism if they truly understood what it was.” I would dare say that I could stand in the vast majority of SBC churches and proclaim the “Golden Chain” of salvation and the vast majority of those churches would not disagree with me at all…I wonder why. Maybe because the vast majority of churches are doctrinally ignorant. They have no idea where they stand. The average congregant attends the service, leaves the service and as long as the service did not go past the appointed concluding time they are happy. The pastor may have delivered the best sermon on the Doctrine of Salvation and the average attender won’t remember it after the next few hours.

    Stand up Dr. Denning and loudly with boldness proclaim your disapproval of Calvinist. I will stand beside you and cheer you on. Why? Because I agree with you? Obviously not. It’s because you are a Southern Baptist as am I and we are a denomination that is large enough to be able to co-exist, cooperate and do all that we can to expand the “Good News” of God’s love and sacrifice…Well, we can coexist and cooperate until Calvinist grow strong enough numerically to initiate a coup to complete our takeover of the convention which is the scheme that others have accused us of…then we will throw you out on your keister…Just kidding. It just seemed time to lighten some things up.

    Have a great evening. If you are ever in Montana look me up. I would be glad to take you to dinner.

  3. sbcissue says:

    Ricky LeMons,

    I am not sure how long you have been where you are but Dale has been pastor of his church for 20 years and it is a strong, healthy church, and he has a D Min from Southern of all places. I realize you may not agree with him but his opinions are certainly ones that should be taken with some degree of respect.

    Your own assertion that “the vast majority of churches are doctrinally ignorant. They have no idea where they stand” maybe true and it is a growing problem in churches in the US and the deep south for sure; however I am going to stand with Dale and say if you and I were to give our various soteriological positions in the majority of Southern Baptist Churches today, I believe with all my heart, they would overwhelmingly side with the non-calvinist presentation especially if they were to hear the issues espoused by someone who actually knows what is being said and what is not being said.

    While it may be true that you could go into the average church and say what YOU want to say and come out with a vote of confidence, I would venture that we could BOTH go in and I could make my presentation and you yours, and I believe the results would be very different from what you have suggested.

    There are calvinist leaders who are seeking to influence the future of the SBC by gaining control of the entities of the SBC. That is a non-debatable issue. The fact that there are a lot of calvinists who are arguing that this is not the case is not at all surprising; they are not involved and they cannot see the forest for the trees and since they are in favor of the revival, they are ok with it. There is a substantial group of Southern Baptists out there that are not ok with it and they do understand what is taking place and they do understand the theological implications of this move and they are standing and voicing disapproval and they will no doubt continue to do so. The disapproval has only just begun!

    Thanks for your comment.


    • Ricky LeMons says:

      I have no idea who Dr. Denning may be. I am sure that he is a highly respected pastor with all the proper degrees. Which for some reason you feel the need to present. However, it does not negate the fact that his post has huge holes of logic throughout it.

      Surely, your assertion that the supposed coup of the SBC entities is non-debatable was meant tongue in cheek. There is a debate of reformed versus non-reformed theology. There is a debate over the GCB name change (and I’m not referring to the ill conceived situation comedy…Although, I do find the name change comedic in and of itself). There is debate over the restructuring of our denomination as a result of the GCR (wow, we in the SBC love our abbreviations). But since you feel that the takeover is not debatable…what proof or evidence do you have that would in fact make it non-debatable?

      We can both enter into a pulpit and both present our views while both of us use the Scriptures. You assert that folks would leave believing your view. I assert that they would leave confused. Many in our denomination (and I believe throughout Christiandom) have not been taught to think critically or for themselves. Or, even worse…they don’t want to think for themselves.

      I truly meant no disrespect to Dr. Denning. Nor do I mean to offend you. I would stand next to Dr. Denning and you and cheer both of you on. I would also offer to take you to dinner or out for coffee. The SBC is one big dysfunctional family, but it’s my family and I love them.


      • sbcissue says:


        No offense taken. The point to my statement with respect to Dr. Denning’s work was to establish credibility in where he has been not where he wants to go. Today established credibility seems to carry less weight with every passing second. A guy who has the academic credentials and has been in the trenches for 20 years at the same place and pastors a strong healthy church that he has nurtured is unusual first of all and worthy of respect. If his opinions differ from mine, I must consider who he is based on what he has done (what God has done through him) before I just jump in with both feet criticizing his perspective. Sometimes, the perspectives of others is worthy of consideration even though they differ from mine and I do try give all that courtesy.

        If you will take a minute or two and read some of the articles I have posted on this site, you will see that my assertion that what is now taking place with respect to the entities of the SBC is a major point of concern and is anything BUT tongue and cheek. I do not need to repeat all that here. My position has been clearly stated on earlier posts.


  4. Ricky LeMons says:

    I understand your position and reason for detailing Dr. Denning’s credentials or, as my great grandmother would say, his bona fides. I whole heartedly agree that any one who has remained in the same pulpit for 20 years is worthy of respect. I am sure that Chapel Hill Baptist Church has been blessed to have Dr. Denning as their pastor. We are lucky if pastors stay a couple of years in one place here in MT. It’s not the easiest place to serve.

    I will gladly review your material. Rest assured if there is a nefarious plot to overthrow the current leadership within our denomination I am not a part of it. I’ve not always been Southern Baptist. I grew up fundamental independent baptist. As a matter of fact we were so fundy that Fundamental Independent Baptist was the church name, but I believe in the Cooperative Program and our mission strategy for taking the gospel to the world. So I have planted my life in our denomination.

    Have a great day brother,


    • Dale Denning says:

      Hey Ricky,

      I’m sorry that I haven’t responded sooner, this article had been posted for a while before you commented. I didn’t even realize that it had drawn your attention. I was just wondering if you would share with me a little bit about your ministry. You know about mine – but I know nothing about you. I attempted to “google” you, but was unsuccessful in finding you or your church in Montana. Before I have a public discourse with someone, I would kind of like to know a little about them and their ministry.

      Thanks in advance Brother,
      Dale Denning

  5. sbcissue says:


    I am 100% with you here… all the way. One slight comment; it is not that there is a “nefarious plot to overthrow the current leadership of the SBC.” My point is I disagree with the tenets of calvinism, all of them; I am not even a 1-point calvinist. I am 100% Baptist: here is how I see that statement, Some Baptists are calvinist. That is fine. Most Baptists are not calvinists; that too is fine. So for me to say I am 100% Baptist that makes no reference to those who are or are not calvinist.

    I believe calvinism in the local church is the church’s business, not mine. When calvinism moves into the entities of the convention it is no longer a church issue but a convention issue and since I disagree with the soteriological position calvinism posits, I do not want that influence being touted in the convention entities because of two factors: first I believe the convention entities ought to reflect the theological position of the people in the pew and second the theological disposition of the entities usually becomes the theological position of the churches gradually.

    Mt point of contention is first of all and primarily theological and that is why I am against the increase of influence in the entities that is calvinistic leaning. Hope this makes sense.


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