Troublemakers in the SBC: Do We Want Unity or Division?

Only July 12, the New Orleans Baptist Association published a statement titled, Which Way Forward, Toward Unity or Division?” It can be read in its entirety by CLICKING HERE. I understand the need for unity and the desire for unity. As Christians, one would think that this would be a given. As the old saying goes, union is one thing; unity is another.

Reference is made in the article to J.D. Greear’s move in stepping down in the SBC presidential race to help lay a foundation for unity in the convention. The article stated, “This act sparked surprise, relief, gladness, and even celebration.  We witnessed an act of grace motivated by a desire for unity.” Dr. Greear’s decision was a gracious one and was without question one that helped avoid other potential problems. It must also be stated, Dr. Gaines was prepared to do the same thing for the sake of unity. Both of these men are to be commended for their humble response to what was a very difficult position to have been placed in.

The article acknowledges positive strides in their association toward racial reconciliation and then moves its focus to the divide related to the theological issues specifically tied to the rise of Calvinism in the SBC and the issues the state convention and its college, Lousiana College has faced in recent years. They acknowledge disappointment in attacks against certain agency heads in SBC entities: “we are troubled by the critical editorials in our state Baptist paper against SBC agency heads David Platt and Russell Moore.”

The article asks a pointed question and then makes a definitive statement: “Do we want our Convention split in two? Do we want to continue to read editorials in our state Baptist paper critical of SBC agency presidents?  Do we want unity or division?

Leaders lead.  What kind of qualities do we want our leaders to demonstrate?”

I want to address the question, “Do we want unity or division?”

How we answer that question certainly addresses the thrust of the article and the statement, “Leaders lead.”

I will address the issue from the “other side of the tracks” and speak to the issue of Troublemakers in the SBC. The perception is that those who LEAD are going to do so for the sake of unity while those who do not work toward unity are not leaders but in fact troublemakers.

There are two types of troublemakers. There are those who take the bull by the horns and seek to make tough changes to the status quo. This is what the reformed leaders of this Calvinist revival in the SBC have done and are continuing to do. While I do not agree with WHAT they have done, I applaud their successful efforts and even acknowledge that they have the RIGHT to do what they have done. I might argue rather successfully that their methods were underhanded as far as being forthright in their intentions from the onset… but that would have been horribly unsuccessful so if I were in their shoes I might have done the same thing.

These guys are rightfully troublemakers. So were the reformers of the past. That is not being critical it is actually complimentary, even though I do not like what they have done.

The other type troublemaker is the one who seeks to maintain the status quo. In the Conservative Resurgence both of these groups existed as well. The liberals did pretty much then what the Calvinists have done today with one exception; they were not as successful! The conservative camp did pretty much then what the non-calvinist camp is doing now with ONE KEY exception; they were successful while the non-calvinist camp today has not been.

In the CR, there were LEADERS/Troublemakers who stood up and spoke out and the liberal faction in the seminaries was pushed back. There were two key factors that came into play there. First, the liberal faction did not manage to gain control of the larger group of entities and I am not sure that was ever their intention and so their influence was still rather limited. This group was not “bunkered down” as well as the Calvinists of today are. I believe this group today learned some important lessons from the CR and those lessons have proven effective in the new CR, Calvinist Resurgence today.

There is one other issue that stands out as we compare the problems we face today as compared to the CR. Liberalism in Biblical theology was an easier topic to popularize than Calvinism is today. People could grasp it. 80% plus of the people in the pew in the SBC have no idea how to even spell Calvinism much less understand what it teaches. There is no sense of “urgency” in this struggle although those who understand the issues KNOW that this is every bit as important a theological issue as has ever existed in the SBC. While it is true that Calvinism has been in the SBC since its founding, it has never held the level of importance it has garnered in the last decade and its influence has never been more prevalent than what it holds today where the direction of the convention is concerned.

There is a vacuum of leadership willing to stand up and speak out today against this Calvinist Resurgence. This is what is so surprising where this issue of Calvinism is concerned. Some have suggested that the CR of the 80’s and 90’s took a lot out of people and there is no “fight left in a lot of folks.” Well, to ask for “fight” in Christians is sort of a tough expectation in the first place but as Solomon said, “There is a time for everything under the sun.” There seems to be a move within the MEGA church pastors to not want to “rock the boat” and to stay in good graces so to speak with the new power brokers of the SBC. Calvinism is just not an issue that is garnering much attention among those who have the clout to do what it would take to stop its continued influence. It just is what it is.

So who are the troublemakers in the SBC today? Are the troublemakers those who are working feverishly to change the SBC? Are the troublemakers those who are actively involved in reforming the SBC and moving it to a Calvinist Convention?

Are the troublemakers those who have finally woke up and realized what has happened under their noses where this Calvinist Resurgence has been concerned? Are the troublemakers of today the unifiers of yesterday who had no clue what the reformers were doing until this “lady” was eight and a half months pregnant before anyone even noticed and realized that “she” was about to give birth?

Calvinism is a real issue. It is a real issue for both sides. It is not going away. It is an issue for those seeking to move the SBC in that direction. It is not going away when the majority of the entities of the SBC are being led by men associated with the Mohler machine. This is not an idle cry; it is a bold faced fact. This has not simply “just happened” This is the “eight and a half month” reality that could not be hidden any longer.

Now, let’s go back to the initial quesiton, “Do we want to continue to read editorials in our state Baptist paper critical of SBC agency presidents?  Do we want unity or division?”

The answer to that quesion sadly is going to be this: it depends on which side of the Calvinist issue one is standing. If it is not a big issue then the answer is going to be “No; it is time to seek unity and let this Calvinist Resurgence continue.” Leaders will lead in that direction. Those who do not follow are the troublemakers.

For those who see Calvinism as an indictment against the character of God because it contends God and God alone decides who does and does not get into heaven and they see it as a faulty philosophical theological system that is every bit as dangerous or even moreso as the liberal faction of the 80’s and 90’s then you can expect their leaders to lead and those who do not follow are the troublemakers.

Do we want our Convention split in two? Do we want to continue to read editorials in our state Baptist paper critical of SBC agency presidents?  Do we want unity or division?

Leaders lead.  What kind of qualities do we want our leaders to demonstrate? Do we want unity or division?

The answer sadly depends on which side of the issue one is standing.

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About sbcissues

Interested in bringing the issues facing The Southern Baptist Convention to light.
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32 Responses to Troublemakers in the SBC: Do We Want Unity or Division?

  1. donaldm56 says:

    This is going to be a painful battle. One which I believe will split the SBC. I am saddened by this, but in these last days it is to be expected. I for one will continue to support the local church I belong to, which offers an altar call every Sunday, and pray for real unity within the Body of Christ.

    • sbcissues says:

      We do need to do exactly what you have suggested. The thing that everyone so easily dismisses is the control of the entities. It is as if the disagreement is with the theological differences alone. Make no mistake about it, I do not like calvinism at all. I am not even a 1 point calvinist.

      However, I do believe an individual and a church has the right to determine for themselves which side of theology they want to stand on. However, for a small group to have control of the entities that exists today is simply not acceptable. I have seen questions about what percentage is acceptable. I don’t want the theology being taught anywhere but that is obviously not feasible. But on the same note, to have every single entity head hire in recent years to be from the Mohler camp is equally unacceptable.

      I am afraid you are right. This does not bode well for any possibility of unity. It would be great if we cold even achieve harmony but I do not believe that is possible either.

      Thanks for your comment.

  2. Scott Shaver says:

    Great article. Have watched the history of the SBC over last 45 years unfold to exactly the conclusion you’ve described.

    The fractures are irreparable….all the kings horses and all the kings men.

  3. Scott Shaver says:

    I would take friendly issue, however with your assessments that “liberals” (many of which were figuratively burned at the state for espousing ideas considered “core gospel issues” by current SBC “leaders”) were doing the same things as Calvinists, only unsuccessful.

    My take on that history is that “Fundamentalists” (now “Trads” of the self-proclaimed “Hobbs-Rogers” vein) partnered with mercenary Calvinism Ala Al Mohler under the Judge and Paige’s banner of “Inerrancy” (now a more mixed bag of ideas and emotions with the influx of Hyper-Calvinism than prior to the “CR”.) as completing the dynamic you’ve so eloguently described.

    The small statistical percentage of true “liberals” (if they existed) by SBC “cooperative” definition were already in a mass exodus over 20 years ago.

    In short, “Fundmamentalists” of the “Hobbs-Rogers” vein are getting a dose of their own medicine with Five-Point Reformed Calvinists/Baptists/Presbyterians (whatever you choose to call em).

    The small percentage of true “liberals” by SBC “cooperative” definition had already begun a mass exodus over 20 years ago.

    Which brings to pass the prophecy of Russell Dilday during the CR who said the thing would eventually crumble, fragment and fall along Calvinist/Non-Calvinist lines.

    • sbcissues says:

      Well… I was talking about what was taking place in the 80’s and 90’s and comparing that to what is taking place today. The conservatives did accept the calvinist help in the 90’s. RT was not really on the radar when Mohler went to Southern and certainly no one could have predicted what has happened since then.

      I was aware of the CR issues in the 80’s but had NO IDEA calvinism was even an issue until 2000 and then found out it was running rampant in the SBC only a 5 years or so ago! WOW what a change.

  4. Scott Shaver says:

    Live by the sword, die by the sword (figuratively speaking).

  5. Scott Shaver says:

    Hyper Calvinism coupled with the cultural Marxism being pushed by guys like Russell Moore, Denny Burk, Alan Cross are making the SBC a reproach in the eyes of many life-long constitutents. DONE with em.

  6. Tom says:

    All I heard during the CR was once the “liberals” were removed, the SBC would thrive again. It has not happened and never will happen IMO.

    • sbcissues says:

      Well… times are a changing. The SBC needed to move those who did not hold to the authority of the Scripture out of the positions they were in. It was a necessary move. Now.. the move of the calvinists to fill the void was unfortunate BUT that being said, their rise has not effected the SBC YET. Those days are coming. Will the SBC thrive again? I am not sure that once the 50+ group is gone, so is a vast percentage of the giving and that is going to effect the denomination in a major way. Add to that the doctrinal differences… things are not looking good for a very bright future.

  7. Scott Shaver says:

    It was necessary for the SBC to remove those who did not hold to the “inerrancy” ruse so the denomination could fragment and declinine while replacing the “non-bible” believers with the gospel of cultural Marxism. That is all they’ve achieved under “inerrant” leadership and they’re further “out to lunch” than they’ve ever been in the history of the denomination.

    Who’s the real threat to denominational integrity now Mr. Hadley? You’ve got nobody left to blame but the former calvinist henchmen of the CR.who tout the shibboleth of inerrancy just as hard as you.

  8. sbcissues says:

    so the denomination could fragment and declinine while replacing the “non-bible” believers with the gospel of cultural Marxism.

    So let me see if I am understanding your comment here. You are saying that the SBC ran off the Biblical liberals to establish a “gospel of cultural Marxism” which is a gospel in effect that pushes for the decline of the White Christian Male? Surely you cannot be serious! Of all of the lame brain claims I have read, this one takes the cake!

    Who is the real threat to denominational integrity? Anyone promoting errant Biblical theological positions. If someone cannot accept the truth given to us in the Scripture then there is no value to them and truth is portrayed as relative and that becomes problematic. That is why I believe it was necessary to do what the convention did in the 80s and 90s. The calvinist “henchmen” were a minority then and are today a growing minority.

    Liberalism calvinism… BOTH are problems where the gospel is concerned. It is one thing for these errant theological positions to EXIST in the SBC; it is a whole other matter for those positions to have control of the entities of the convention, which holds too much influence over the future direction of the SBC.

    That is my MAJOR concern.

  9. Tom says:

    Bob: You said:”The SBC needed to move those who did not hold to the authority of the Scripture out of the positions they were in.” But my concern as a 42 year SB is was the process to move “them” out a fair one?

    • sbcissues says:

      There is no easy way to change the direction an entity is headed since the entity and direction involve people. We have a trustee system and a process of selecting those trustees and that is what was done in the CR and it was a leader led and grass roots responded move. Yes I think it was a fair process, painful but fair.

      The situation we have today is the new CR Calvinist Resurgence learned from the mistakes of the past and have paid more attention to the trustee system to anchor themselves more securely. So in a sense, the old CR moved liberal minded professors for the most part out and then the calvinists took the system and manipulated it for their own benefit and have done a remarkable job to this point.

      So is this new move “fair?” Yes it is and no it isn’t and that is the underlying thought in the OP.

      • Tom says:

        Bob: You said:’So is this new move “fair?” Yes it is and no it isn’t and that is the underlying thought in the OP.”

        This I will agree with you.

  10. Scott Shaver says:

    Bob, I believe your mistaken premise is that the SBC “had” to do something about “liberal: professors”.

    So according to your logic, it makes sense to purge and alienate roughly half of the denomination’s constituency while fostering ongoing and needless divisions beyond the CR, all over a handful of despised and suspect academicians.

    News flash, the purge didn’t shut the detractors up but it did sorely reduce the efficacy and strength of the denominations former evangelical effectiveness. In essence, Fundamentalists, achieved every ecclesiastical disaster they said they were fighting to prevent.

    Heads up, 15 million “Southern Baptists” is probably closer to 8 million now in reality. CR boys showed a lot of bluster and spouted a lot of shibboleths about the Bible but, alas, they didn’t demonstrate collectively very much in the way of brains.

    • sbcissues says:

      I could respond by saying, your mistake is in the phrase, “I believe”; here is the deal. Theology matters. If professors are teaching students of SBC institutions that the Bible is a good book and with what we know about textual criticism there was no flood; God did not part the waters of the Red Sea down to the divinity of Jesus and what that REALLY meant then yes, it was necessary to do something about it. The “purge” as you describe it, did not alienate nearly have of the denominations’ constituency. That is a ridiculous charge.

      The CR did not “reduce the efficacy and strength of the denominations former Evangelical effectiveness” either. What you are implying is that somehow the CR weakened the convention. It did not. One could argue that the warning in the Scripture concerning removing one demon and attracting 7 (Matt 12) is applicable to what has happened to the SBC but that has nothing to do with the responsible move to curb the liberal view of the Scriptures in our seminaries.

      The reference to 8 million SB’s has NOTHING to do with the CR nor does it have anything to do with the current CR. Churches have been lax in purging church rolls and the climate of society today has been one to move away from the church and to the world. The problem is the church has not been salt and light to the world and to even its own for that matter.

      Churches have in many areas moved away from church training hour and even Sunday night services because it is difficult to get people to come. People are not as committed today as they were a generation or so ago. What is happening in the SBC today is cause for concern for sue but your assessment of the cause of that turn is sadly lacking.

      Thanks for the input but I am finished with this discussion that really has nothing to do with the OP.

  11. Tom says:

    Scott: Sadly folks like you and I will never convince some that the CR was a horrible mistake and the seeds sown some 37 years ago have much to do with the current mess in the SBC. Facts are very hard to argue with. I totally agree with you Scott the CR was “all over a handful of despised and suspect academicians” Why not just remove the few, but anyone who knows anything about the TAKEOVER it.became a witch hunt and a political exercise to seize complete control. Now the Trads are being completely taken over by the Calvinists. The same cry Unity or Division has already been fought once before and we know how it turned out and we know how it will turn out now. IMO the SBC is in for a big split and I for one find it ironic it will not be the liberals fault for the split.

  12. Scott Shaver says:

    Don’t go by their logic Tom, go by the results. By all practical appearances, a shift to “curb liberalism” has done more damage more quickly in the SBC than the outright “liberalism” they claimed to be fighting against.

    The numbers regarding lost membership, squandered missions resources, and theological divisiveness over “The Gospel” don’t lie.

  13. Tom says:

    Scott: The pre-Takeover and post-Takeover SBC are worlds apart and IMO the post Takeover crowd will continue to cannibalize each other.

  14. sbcissues says:

    Tom and Scott… are you two part of the group that left the SBC with the CR decades ago?

    It appears that is the case because the comments that you are making really have NOTHING to do with the OP.

    Personally, I do not see the point you are trying to make as well. Are you saying that the CR should never have happened… that the liberal professors should have been left alone? The argument that the result of having a calvinist resurgence to contend with was reason enough to leave the liberals alone is like saying… let the scorpions stay in the house because if you expel them rattlesnakes are going to take over the house.

    That argument makes absolutely NO SENSE. Maybe I am missing something.

    • Scott Shaver says:

      That’s exactly what I said then and I’m still saying it Bob. THE CR SHOULD NEVER HAVE HAPPENED. Your revision of SBC history does nothing to explain the current disastrous results of the CR.

      Have a nice day in La-La land. I’m tired of this ridiculous banter back and forth.

    • Scott Shaver says:

      “No easy way to change direction” Therefore, Patterson, Mohler, Pressler etc had absolution from God for resorting to yellow journalism, character assassination and underhanded political machinations.

      I guess to an eschewed view of history it makes sense.

      No wonder the spirit of the CR is still fragmenting what’s left of those who remain and are convinced of the SBC’s viability.

      In answer to your question, Bob, I never left the SBC and it will take more than half-cocked witch-hunters like yourself to remove my participation. Get used to it. Still fighting the CR war here and will do so until my job description is reduced to pushing up daisies..

  15. Tom says:

    I’m not sure you want me to ban me from this site or not as I was at SBC Today because of my views on the CR, that is always your choice. I think Scott and I are making very valid points, but you think they have nothing to do with your OP; The sad part is now that the Calvinists will treat you and yours just as you and the others treated the “liberals” you will never be able to see it. I shall not try to convince you of the similarity. Thanks for allowing me to comment.

    • sbcissues says:

      I did not say anything about banning you. You continue MAKING points but have no response to the issue I asked you about. I do not see how the onset of calvinism has anything to do with the necessary move taken to move liberal professors out of the seminaries. So your tirade against the CR has nothing to do with the issue the SBC is facing today.

      As I read your posts, I sense that you believe the liberal professors should have been left alone. Two wrongs do not make a right nor does replacing one evil with another negate the necessity of the first move.

      For the record, the original post had to do with who is at fault as a “troublemaker”. The same argument would have been made during the CR… with the same response.

  16. Tom says:

    Bob: We are not communicating. So I shall walk away from this. Thanks for your time and blessings upon you! Thanks again for allowing me to comment. .

  17. John White says:

    In a more general note: If we, Southern Baptists, are to have the blessings of God we must stand on the truth of God’s word. Now I understand that the concept of truth is different for different people. Each of us, if we are serious bible students and care about the truth and the church must stand on what we are sure of in scripture even though others may be just as sure that their ideas are correct. I respect all the views given and appreciate the openness of this forum in printing all the views. All that being said, I must, as kindly as possible, insert what I firmly believe.
    Let me begin by saying that I oppose Calvinism, especially hyper Calvinism; but I love Calvinists. They are my brothers and they have been deceived. I was once similarly deceived. Let me also say that I am currently in a bible/book study with a great group of guys who are Calvinists. They are solid Christians. I really think they came to Calvinism as a reaction to “easy believism” and other excesses that have existed in our evangelical efforts for years. To get down to it: Liberalism was against scripture and had to be dealt with. We had people teaching unbiblical concepts in our seminaries. I really don’t know much about how those folks were removed so I can not speak to that, but they had to be removed because they were not teaching God’s word. I feel that a similar situation exists today and has for years in that full fledged Calvinism is being taught in our seminaries. We must make a stand. A stand in love but a stand that is firm.
    Paul made a clear stand against those people in the days of the early church that taught false doctrine and 5 point Calvinism is false doctrine. There are many truths standing in the way of the CR. I will mention only two. (1) “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” The simple truth of that verse is believed by almost all Christians even many Calvinists. No amount of theological tap dancing will ever remove this truth from the collective mind of the church. (2) Christ paid the sin debt for all men, not just a few. These are two hurdles that the CR will never climb over in the minds of most Christians. There are of course many others but that’s enough for now.
    I believe that the CR folks are going to do one of two things in the next few years: They will ease up on some of the 5 points, or they will double down on there error and move into Hyper-Calvinism. I pray that it is the former.

  18. John White says:

    Sorry but I can’t sleep, so ….. This is more of a general question about Calvinism. I was reading a book written by a Calvinist professor, the forward was written by John Piper. It had some really good points with which I totally agree. However I read a curious phrase in his book. He made reference to “an unreached people group”. The folks he spoke about were heathen to the extreme and he implied that there were no saved folks among them. Using his theology, as I understand it, I wonder why God did not employ His effectual call and convert a bunch of those heathen from among the people and from those reach the entire population? Were those guys more lost than I was? How could there exist unreached people groups scattered across this world? Many many years later God did actually begin doing what I spoke about one sentence back. God began saving bunches of people in that area of the world for the author was referring to an area that later became a major center for saved people and the church. He seemed to imply that those people of long ago lived for many centuries with no elect among them. I don’t understand a theology that would let all those people go to hell since those people bore no personal responsibility for their relationship with God. Their eternal state depended not one whit on any thought or desire in their mind or heart, it depended not one whit on how evil they lived or how kind they were, it depended not one whit on how they responded to God’s voice in nature. They stood totally helpless with no chance whatsover to respond to God even if all they knew of God was what they saw in nature. They could wonder and stare at the sunset until their eyes fell out but to no avail unless they happened to one of the heaveny lottery winners. I don’t mean to be flippant, I am asking a legitimate question about Calvinism.
    In my theology those heathens are held responsible for how they responded to what they saw of God in heaven, (Rom.1) God is sovereign and could have made man in any way He wanted. My bible tells me He made us with the ability to respond to His drawing, and the entire bible is about that response or the lack thereof. My bible tells me that God loved those heathen and would have, and perhaps did, noticed their response. (I am not saying I understand exactly how God saves the unreached, but I know that they are without excuse.) What kind of picture are we painting of God? Does Calvinism teach that there can be no effectual call until missionaries arrive? How could there exist an “unreached people group” within Calvinistic theology?

  19. sbcissues says:

    How could there exist an “unreached people group” within Calvinistic theology?

    This is a very good question. I make an argument that God already had things in place for unconditional election in Judaism; if He wanted certain people to be saved, all He had to do was let them be born Jews and Jews would go to heaven. In a sense, calvinism is really nothing more than “spiritual Judaism”.

    AMEN to the following statement; My bible tells me He made us with the ability to respond to His drawing, and the entire bible is about that response or the lack thereof.

    I do not understand how God is going to respond to those who have not heard the gospel. God is the One who saves the lost. The Bible deals with 2 things; how those who hear the gospel are to be saved and what we who are saved are to do in sharing the gospel with our neighborhoods and the world. How God chooses to deal with those who have not heard because we have not gone to tell is His responsibility; not mine!

    As for the first comment. I do not see any difference in what is termed “hyper-calvinism” and what I call consistent calvinism. I do not argue WHAT calvinists say; I try to speak about WHAT calvinism posits. There is of course a HUGE difference in those two concepts. Calvinists cannot agree on what calvinism teaches and how the nuances apply to real life. As far as I can see, ther is no such thing as a 3 or 4 point calvinist. If one begins with total depravity and inability THEN calvinism is really the only theology that makes sense.

    I do not believe total depravity and inability are Scripturally sustainable. It is a philosophical position that has to be read into the Scripture and not one that is read out of Scripture. The same is true of irresistible grace and God’s effectual calling and this concept of regeneration prior to repentance and believing faith. I cannot even understand how ANYONE can read the Bible and THEN digest calvinism. That whole idea continues to amaze me.

  20. Pingback: Will Calvinism Split the Southern Baptist Convention? – SOTERIOLOGY 101

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