Here’s yet another reason why Baptist state conventions are problematic – editorials. On Nov. 30, fresh off the heels of a rather successful Building Bridges Conference supported by men like President Frank Page, seminary presidents Dr. Albert Mohler and Dr. Danny Akin, Southern Baptist statesmen like Drs. Tom Ascol, Thom Rainer, David Dockery, and Ed Stetzer, and hundreds of Southern Baptist pastors, the editor of The Biblical Recorder (NC state paper), Norman Jameson has come out with an op-ed piece resembling the very type of ranting rhetoric that this conference has sought to overcome.
One of the things I fail to understand is how these types of articles find their way onto state papers month after month, year after year. Why should the Nelson Price’s, Bill Harrell’s, and Norman Jameson’s have such a voice in the SBC? These men express the very divisive rhetoric that has prevented the kind of cooperation and consensus our convention so desperately needs. The Southern Baptist Convention will eventually decide whether its future will be directed by men like Page, Akin, Dockery, Rainer, and Ascol, or the alternative bridge burners.
Jameson writes, “In yet another ‘angels on pinheads’ debate of the kind that makes theologians salivate and laymen snore, several Calvinist positions do bear mention as they grow in influence among Baptists.” Of course, this line of thinking assumes that Baptist laymen are anti-intellectual and consider growing in the knowledge of God a contemptible and fruitless exercise. After having read his understanding of unconditional election and limited atonement, the only accurate conclusion one must make is that Jameson was himself snoring through the messages on the “creeping Calvinism in Baptist life.”
Jameson believes that the issue of Calvinism is a discussion Southern Baptists should not be having since our denomination does not base our doctrines “on Calvin’s understanding of scripture.” I find that really intriguing since James P. Boyce’s most referenced theologian in his masterful systematic theology is Charles Hodge who relied on Frances Turretin and John Calvin. What about John Dagg, Basily Manly Sr. and Jr., John Broadus, Andrew Fuller, and on and on? Should it not be required that an editor who speaks to an entire state convention have a little more familiarity with the history of Southern Baptists? Perhaps then he would not think that we are being “forced into the conversation” because of men like Dr. Mohler and other academicians.
Admittedly being “befuddled” and “not a whit more attracted to it and just as certain it has severe potential to divide,” Jameson is adept to picking up anti-Calvinistic rhetoric by referring to the title “Baptist Calvinists” as an “oxymoron” (a la Nelson Price). Furthermore, he borrows from Dr. Yarnell the idea that Calvinists are trying to “shoehorn every question mark into someone’s systematic theology,” thereby tending to “offer answers to difficult questions based on ruminations about the system, rather than from a simpler scriptural answer” (i.e. the soteriological “baptist” answer). Although these rhetorical sound-bytes are complimentary to an explicitly anti-Calvinistic op-ed piece, such unqualified assertions are utterly baseless, especially in light of the fact that not one example is presented to support such second-handed “ruminations.”
Aside from the doctrines of grace, Jameson seems to question whether or not there are churches who are not comprised largely of an unregenerate membership. Rather than recognizing the facts, he argues that Calvinists are ushering “another conflict” due to what “they” (Calvinists) perceive. Consider what he came away with on this matter:
“Calvinists, at the conference at least, appear to be pretty certain Baptist churches are filled with persons who are not saved, who are just as reprobate and destined for hell as anyone else who, well, as anyone else who God tapped for torment while He was contemplating creation.”
Check the rhetoric: “reprobate,” “destined for hell,” and “tapped for torment.” Here’s another way of looking at it:
“Calvinists at the conference believe that regenerate church membership has been a defining mark of Baptist polity from the start of the Southern Baptist Convention, and they are deeply concerned that there are many who are on our church rolls who bear no evidence of regeneration. These members need the loving confrontation that a gospel-centered, covenant-keeping church brings through restorative and corrective church discipline. They agree with the BF&M that says churches are comprised of ‘baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel’ and want to restore the purity of the church through integrity in church membership.”
But then again, such a viewpoint would not fit well with an author who believes that Calvinists are “brain crutched by the acronym TULIP.”
North Carolina Baptists, Southern Baptists–if you are committed to building bridges and working together for the sake of the gospel and building of His kingdom, let your voices be heard. I happen to believe that Baptist laymen do not fall asleep when the gospel of grace is being discussed and are not afraid of studying the great doctrines of the Bible. Unfortunately, you and I may not have the megaphone of an op-ed column in a baptist state paper, but together our voices can resonate with greater amplification as we commit ourselves both to the truths of the gospel and to the cooperation of Southern Baptists.