Southern Baptists and Calvinism
Recently, a group of prominent members of the Southern Baptist Convention signed a statement “affirming the traditional Southern Baptist view of salvation” and rejecting a group they are calling the “New Calvinists”. The worry seems to be over alleged aggressive promotion of the Calvinist theology to become the standard theology of the convention.
I don’t know why they are worried.
Most Southern Baptists will always agree with the parts of Calvinism they like (eternal security, original sin) and reject the parts they don’t like (limited atonement, irresistable grace).
For myself, I don’t really care if I have had a hand in my own salvation, as long as I get into heaven. The appeal of Calvinist theology is its logical consistency, based on how Calvinists interpret certain portions of Scripture (and hand-wave other, seemingly contradictory passages). It seems to be the preferred theology of seminarians.
Here’s a brief rundown of Calvinistic theology (as if you didn’t already know this):
1. Total depravity of man. Not that man is as evil as he can possibly be, but that man is always destined to fall far short of perfection–which is the standard if one desires to commune with a Holy God.
2. Unconditional election. God elected certain people to receive His gracious gift of salvation before time began, and thus before anyone could do anything to earn His notice or favor. The “Foreknowledge” part of Predestination does not mean that God “saw who would believe in Him, and so elected them to salvation.” His election is according to His purposes, which we cannot know.
3. Limited atonement. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is only sufficient to redeem those who were elected to salvation. There was no provision made for the salvation of the non-elect.
4. Irresistable grace or calling of the Holy Spirit. Those who are part of the Elect will without fail become believers. They have no choice in the matter; or, perhaps, they will always choose belief, just as the non-elect will always choose unbelief.
5. Perserverance of the saints. Those who are called by God to be part of His Elect will perservere in the faith until God calls them home. One can tell if another is really not a Christian if the other person turns away from the faith or fails to keep pursuing a righteous lifestyle.
As I say, I have no beef with God picking me for salvation without my having a say in the matter. But the Calvinist doctrine seems to throw some serious slander against God’s character. One must, for example, assume that God is a bit malicious, to offer salvation to people He never intends to actually save. He commanded His followers to spread the Gospel to the world, and so offers salvation, then snatches it away again. Not that the unelect really care, according to the Calvinist worldview. They’re perpetually unredeemed, so they really have no idea what they are missing.
Calvinists themselves can be as insufferable as any evangelistic atheist. Salvation is more dependent upon one’s acceptance of Calvinism than one’s acceptance of Christ, it seems. Part of this attitude stems from having a truly logically consistent theology that appears to have strong Scriptural support.
My advice is that, if you are not a believer in Christ, and for some reason think that you can’t be saved because you are not part of God’s elect, simply ask Him to change your circumstances. He exists outside of time and space; He can always go back to the beginning of the world and pencil your name in.
A critique of Calvinism:
An article on how eschatology (view of the endtimes) informs soteriology (view of salvation):
This last article is interesting to me, as I am one of the scorned “Pre-tribulationalist/Pre-millenialists”. It does seem that Calvinists (at least, prominent Calvinists like R.C. Sproul) tend toward amillenialism or even preterism. I think they enjoy the idea that God wants Christians to take over the world.