Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Calvinist Menace In Our Midst

It seems that, like mice in the kitchen, the Calvinist vermin are infesting Southern Baptist churches in Tennessee. What is to be done about this plague? Earlier this month, Tom Ascol blogged on a memo that was being circulated amongst Southern Baptist Churches in Tennessee advising on how to discover, and get rid of, Calvinists in the pulpit.

While many of the “Red Flags” outlined in the memo are absolute distortions of the Calvinist position, some are quite laughable.

Such as: “Use of the ESV Study Bible.” (Whew! I use an NASB MacArthur Study Bible!) -Or- “Look for the men they quote in their sermons: do they mainly quote Calvinists such as John Piper, R. C. Sproul, James White, Jonathon Edwards and others.” (Can I still quote Calvinists such as C. H. Spurgeon, J. P. Boyce, Alistair Begg, or John MacArthur?) –Or- “Tendency toward a highly logical systematic theology…” (As opposed to a highly illogical systematic theology?)

Others are self-contradictory, like: “Moving the church to become under Elder Rule.” -And- “Tendency to use their pastoral authority against any member that questions their reform theology or their direction.” Well, which is it? Are they looking to share power with other God-gifted men, or are they pushing to be dictators?

Some are just plain silly, like: “Adding other belief statements or confessions to what their church believes, such as: 1st London Baptist Confession (1689), 2nd London Baptist Confession (1644), New Hampshire Confession, and Abstract Principles.” (Yes, I noticed the dates, too…) Oh, please! The Abstract of Principles was the first statement of faith adopted by Southern Baptists in 1858! Are we never to look at what Southern Baptists believed in the past? Are we to ignore all history? There seems to be an ongoing effort to deny any and all traces of Southern Baptists’ Calvinist heritage, and this is wrong.

All of this is troubling, but, what troubles me the most is the assertion that Calvinist pastoral candidates will have a “Tendency to be evasive about their theology during the pastor search process. They will say things like: ‘I believe and preach the historic doctrines of Southern Baptists just like many of the great Baptist preachers of the past.’ Many laymen will be satisfied in hearing the statement, ‘I believe and preach the Bible.’ Without more intense questioning, the committee will not be fulfilling the sacred duty their church entrusted to them.

The memo was even accompanied by a “Belief Statement and Pastor’s Pledge” to be signed by the pastor, the chair of the pastor search committee & the chairman of the Deacons:
“I, (pastor), state that my theological beliefs and practices are in accord with _____ Baptist Church. I wish to state that I do not hold to a reformed or Calvinist doctrine and the Pastor Search Committee has questioned me comprehensively in this area of concern.

“With integrity of heart, I have heard the statements of the Pastor Search Committee and can say with certainty that if my theology ever changes to a Calvinist doctrine, I will share with the Deacons my new beliefs and work with them and the personel (sic) committee in transitioning me and my family to a new place of ministry that is more in line with my new theological stance.”

I could never sign such a document, as I would never hide from any search committee any of my theological positions & I agree wholeheartedly that every pastor search committee should thoroughly question every candidate, especially those under serious consideration. No pastoral candidate should ever be anything less than totally up front about any doctrinal position which he holds. Of course, I have no way of knowing how pervasive this “evasion” of search committee questions really is. And, as delusional as the rest of this “red flag” list is, this “evasion” may just be another delusion. However, the point remains that every man of God should be of sound and open doctrine.

With that in mind, I have decided to include a Statement of Faith here at A Squirrel in Babylon. I will be building up this Statement of Faith over the course of several, if not many, weeks in a series of blog posts. That way, I can expand upon each doctrinal statement, providing both my reasoning as well as scriptural proofs. I have no intention of writing a full blown systematic theology, but I never want to leave anyone in any doubt as to exactly what I believe, or why I believe it!

Stay tuned…

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