Art Rogers (12 Witnesses) recently interviewed Dr. Sam Storms on various issues in the SBC. I encourage you to read the whole thing; however, in the meantime, I would like to post his answers to some relevant issues I have addressed here in the past. You won’t find many in the SBC leadership saying the things Dr. Storms has said (there are exceptions), and I am grateful that someone of his stature has stepped up to speak truth to the issues where many have embraced silence and solitude. The three excerpts I have provided here are on Calvinism, the alcohol debate, and the growing influence of fundamentalism in the SBC.
If you have in mind agencies and institutions within the convention, I fear that we may see seminaries and colleges and other agencies drafting statements similar to the one by Southwestern Seminary concerning charismatic gifts and practices. But in this case it would be to eliminate and forbid from the faculty those who embrace five-point Calvinism, or conversely, four-point Arminianism (I can’t image any Southern Baptist agency or institution ever taking a stand against the doctrine of the security of the believer).
I hope this never happens. The healthiest and most instructive and edifying atmosphere in an educational institution is when both perspectives are fairly and objectively represented. I’m a five-point Calvinist but I’ve worked for years alongside colleagues who were five-point Arminians. I’ve found most of them to be Christ-loving, Bible-believing evangelicals that served only to enrich the educational experience.
As far as the Convention as a whole is concerned, I suspect that someone somewhere along the line will propose amending the BFM to exclude Calvinism. If that ever were to happen, I predict a significant exodus from Southern Baptist life of those whose convictions would prohibit them from affirming such a statement. That would be tragic. Short of that, I encourage both sides within the Convention to continue the pursuit of civil dialogue and biblically-based discussion.
Honestly, I’m weary of this debate. Certainly anyone who embraces the authority of Scripture must denounce drunkenness. But I’ve never been persuaded in the least by the alleged “biblical” arguments for total abstinence. Having said that, I think total abstinence is a perfectly honorable and permissible practice to embrace. Any Christian is free to abstain from alcohol. But they aren’t free, in my opinion, to insist that others do the same. They are even less free to accuse those who drink in moderation of being sub-Christian. Abstinence per se is neither a sign of spiritual weakness nor of spiritual strength. Neither is one’s choice of moderation in the use of alcohol a sign of weakness or strength. Whether one totally abstains or drinks in moderation is simply irrelevant to Christian spirituality.
The divide is certainly real. How serious it is, I’m not sure. There is an unmistakable presence of a “fundamentalist” mentality that I fear will become increasingly belligerent and narrow and critical of those who don’t “toe the line” on their cherished secondary and tertiary issues. I hope those in the Convention can unite on their commitment to the “Fundamentals” of the faith and build a cooperative and effective witness on that basis. But there is, sadly, always an element within any movement or group or denomination that is convinced that true spirituality will always look the same, act the same, worship the same, even when the Bible is either altogether silent on such matters or permits a freedom that such zealots find uncomfortable (if not dangerous).
Again . . .
The one thing these issues have in common is that none of them is central to the gospel itself. They are all, at best, secondary doctrines, or doctrines on which Christ-exalting, Bible-believing Christians can and often do disagree. Sadly, some question the evangelical credentials of anyone who might dare to differ with their view on Calvinism or whether miraculous gifts occur today or the timing of the rapture or the nature of the millennium.
But there is something else that is even more disturbing, and that is the angry and divisive dogmatism that is emerging over behavioral issues on which the Bible is either silent or leaves one’s decision in the realm of Christian freedom. Perhaps the greatest threat to unity and acceptance in the Church is the tendency to treat particular life-style and cultural preferences as though they were divine law. To be even more specific, it’s the tendency to constrict or reduce or narrow the boundaries of what is acceptable to God, either by demanding what the Bible doesn’t require or forbidding what the Bible clearly permits.
I’m concerned that in certain segments of the Convention there is a mindset reminiscent of the old “fundamentalism” that is characterized by isolationism, separatism, anti-intellectualism, cultural withdrawal, and a generally angry and judgmental attitude toward all those who dare to differ on these matters that quite simply don’t matter; at least they don’t matter nearly as much as whether or not you believe in the deity of Christ, his substitutionary atonement, bodily resurrection, and salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
Whereas conservative evangelicalism has typically drawn the line on theological essentials, this more recent fundamentalism draws the line ever more narrowly on issues such as total abstinence vs. moderation in the use of alcohol, the degree of freedom and the role of affections in public worship, the legitimacy of so-called “private prayer language,” etc. Sadly, when one’s commitment to Christ and the authority of Scripture is judged on the basis of this latter group of issues, rather than the former, the situation is bleak indeed.
Thank you, Dr. Storms, for these very helpful words on such important (and front-burner) issues in the SBC.