Three years ago, I began writing about the anonymous attacks of a website called “BaptistFire.” They were a website operating in the dark that advertised churches which either experienced conflict as a result of Calvinism or had fired their pastor as a result of it (assuming to warn other pastors of what might happen to them if they attempt to pastor SBC churches). Furthermore, I began receiving reports from friends in the trenches who said that state convention employees were directing church committees to this website to see how other churches dealt with Calvinism.
After hearing word that five pastors with Calvinist convictions were fired for no other reason than holding to the doctrines of grace, I began talking with a few other friends who were also addressing BaptistFire and websites like them who were fueling the anti-Calvinist agenda. On May 1, 2006 we launched the website Strange BaptistFire with the expressed purpose of addressing all the content on BaptistFire and providing a Reformed response to the attacks that continued to escalate. No less than 11 days after the website was launched, BaptistFire packed up their bags and left the internet, knowing they were about to be exposed.
Since then, the anti-Calvinism in the SBC, although decentralized, has not ceased but intensified. We have seen everyone from the likes of Bill Harrell, chairman of the Executive Committee, say that dealing with Calvinism is a top priority. Ergun Caner is unabashed in his declaration that Calvinists are “worse than Muslims.” I could go on and on (not to mention the recent offerings of Steve Lemke and David Allen).
The decentralized anti-Calvinism, however, has reconvened as a new centralized movement under the leadership and direction of Jerry Vines and the John 3:16 Conference. While the advocates of the John 3:16 Conference bemoan the label of “anti-Calvinism,” it is nonetheless warranted and accurate.
This morning, as I began to prepare for the day, I came across this comment which was submitted on my John 3:16 Compilation:
I’m a pastor’s wife in a small southern county. We’ve already seen one pastor fired and one in the process of being fired for Calvinism. In both cases, the lay people doing the firing referenced the John 3:16 conference as a motivation/source of information. It’s the saddest thing.
Indeed, this is the saddest thing, and a thing which, if BaptistFire was still around, would be celebrated as front page news on the anti-Calvinist front. What’s even more tragic is that these pastors will not be the only ones whose ministry and calling are affected by this conference, and don’t expect to find Baptist Press to be reporting on these realities either.
Friends, this is why I confront the anti-Calvinism in the SBC. I don’t care about debating Calvinism per say. I don’t care to “Calvinize” the SBC. What I do care about are the men of the cloth called by God and appointed to preach who are being forced out of their churches for the crime of being a Calvinist. Imagine what this does to their families. This is not a game. It’s about biblically faithful, confessionally Baptist, theologically conservative God-honoring preachers getting put out on the streets because of an anti-Calvinist agenda.
Southern Baptists cannot and should not tolerate this happening in our own camp. The non-Calvinist will tell us that we are dealing with “rubber dummies.” Would they tell be willing to tell that to these pastors and their families? They, like so many others, will bear the scars of the waging “Baptist battle” being fought by the anti-Calvinists. Once these hill-takers are off the battle lines in a few years, they will have left a devastating impact on the already dying churches and declining denominational interest among the younger generation. One could argue that since the anti-Calvinists without succession, they are going to fight against any Southern Baptist progression. Ironically, it’s those who are decrying a “militant, extreme, aggressive, disruptive” Calvinism who are acting most militant, aggressive, and disruptive.
I cannot help but wonder how many more casualties of anti-Calvinism will need to occur before Southern Baptists leaders will speak up and denounce this counter-productive agenda for the sake of the churches. If not, perhaps the future of the SBC will indeed be one full of grinches, ghosts, and goblins.
Let’s hope and pray that is not the case.