Over recent years, there have been a number of attempts at labeling Calvinists and non-Calvinists in the SBC. I have referred to Calvinists and those who are Calvinistic (not five-point Calvinists), and on the other side to non-Calvinists and anti-Calvinists. My last post revealed some of the results from continued anti-Calvinism, and in the article prior to that I made the case that their latest agenda includes a redefinition of terms along with false labeling.
In light of this, I am happy to see that Nathan Finn has resurrected and slightly adapted an article he wrote earlier this year entitled “Some Thoughts on Calvinism and Cooperation.” In his article, Finn accurately notes four kinds of Baptists (with excerpts):
1. Non-cooperative non-Calvinists
“Non-cooperative non-Calvinists tend to misrepresent the convictions of Calvinists (Calvinists aren’t evangelistic) and use incorrect labels when discussing Calvinism (”hyper-Calvinism,” “militant Calvinism”). Though there are some well-known Southern Baptists that probably fit into this category, I suspect it is a minority position among well-read non-Calvinists. Non-cooperative non-Calvinism is an extreme position and is a threat to the future of the SBC itself, not just Calvinism within the Convention.”
2. Cooperative non-Calvinists
“Calvinism is not a threat to the convention, but plays a prophetic role in speaking out against much of the silliness and shallowness in the SBC, even if Calvinism does not always provide the best solution for those problems. . . . This is a reasonable position that will aid the Convention in building upon the foundation of the Conservative Resurgence as we move toward a Great Commission Resurgence.”
3. Cooperative Calvinists
“These folks are consistent Calvinists, meaning they affirm all five points of Calvinism (though there may be intra-Calvinist debates about the best way to articulate some of the points, particularly limited atonement). Cooperative Calvinists want to see the influence of Calvinism grow within the SBC. They are excited by both the renewed interest in the soteriological convictions of many of our Southern Baptist forefathers and the creative interaction between contemporary Calvinistic Southern Baptists and other Calvinistic evangelicals. Cooperative Calvinists think that Calvinism offers some good solutions for some of the problems in the SBC, but they are willing to work together with cooperative non-Calvinists within the Convention’s framework.”
4. Non-cooperative Calvinists
Like the above category, these folks are consistent Calvinists. Unlike the above category, non-cooperative Calvinists are unwilling to join hands with those who do not share all or most of their theological convictions. For these folks, Calvinism is the gospel, and it is as simple as that. Furthermore, the SBC is an almost hopelessly Pelagian denomination that needs to be rescued from the coming wrath of God. Calvinism is the magic pill that will solve all the SBC’s ailments.
Finn’s categories reveal the best attempt to explain what is going on the SBC. What he does not do, however, is reveal who specifically fit into each category. For the sake of clarity, I want to lay out some of these specifics.
Category 1 (non-cooperating non-Calvinists) would include those whom I have aforementioned as anti-Calvinists, including Jerry Vines, Steve Lemke, David Allen, Malcolm Yarnell, Ergun Caner, Elmer Towns, Bill Harrell, Nelson Price, Jack Graham, Bobby Welch, Paige Patterson, Fisher Humphreys, Norman Jameson, Lonnie Wilkey, John Connell, and Peter Lumpkins (among others).
Category 2 (cooperating non-Calvinists) would include Danny Akin, David Dockery, Johnny Hunt, Thom Rainer, Ed Stetzer, J.D. Greear, majority of SEBTS faculty, and Frank Page (among others).
Category 3 (cooperating Calvinists) would include Tom Ascol (Founders), Al Mohler, Mark Dever (IX Marks), Tom Nettles, Greg Welty, Darrin Patrick, Nathan Finn, majority of SBTS faculty, and myself (among others).
Category 4 (non-cooperating Calvinists) would include (1) those who equate Calvinism with the gospel, (2) argue for Calvinists to leave the SBC (and hold those who don’t as compromisers), and (3) think that non-Calvinists in the SBC who don’t hold to the doctrines of grace are unbelievers and need to be converted.
Let me make a few notes about these categories:
1. Over the past decade, those in the first category have dominated the discussion and forwarded the overwhelming majority of controversy regarding Calvinism. The presence and growing influence of Calvinism is a cause for lament and a catalyst to fight even harder.
2. There are those who have broke away from this camp to become more cooperative in recent years, not the least of which include Johnny Hunt and Frank Page. One can only hope that more of this happens.
3. I readily admit that there may be some overlap between the first and second category. For instance, Allen, Yarnell, and Patterson may not want to rid the SBC of Calvinism, I would still categorize them non-cooperating non-Calvinists by virtue of their record.
4. Those in the first category want to call those in the third category, especially Tom Ascol and Founders, as non-cooperating (aggressive, militant, extreme, etc.) Calvinists. Informed and experienced Baptists know this not to be the case (ask those in category 2).
5. Those in the fourth category are discouraging to me as a Calvinist and dangerous to the cause of Baptist cooperation. For some time, when they commented on my blog, I have passively allowed them to share their thoughts. However, I have chosen to take a more intolerant approach to the non-cooperating Calvinists as I do not want my blog to be a comfortable or accepted place for their agenda to spread on the internet.
6. I realize that some may not like where I have categorized them, and I may be wrong in my assessment. I would love to be convinced that there are far more cooperating non-Calvinists than non-cooperating non-Calvinists, and I would be happy to consider the merits of their position.
The Great Commission Resurgence and renewed focus on gospel-driven consensus is the primary goal of those in the second and third category, and the cooperation and shared commitment of these Southern Baptists are where we will find hope for the future of the SBC. I am not in the least bit interested in associating with those in category 4 even if we align soteriologically on the doctrines of grace. Frankly, as long I blog on these issues, I do not want either anti-Calvinists or anti non-Calvinists to throw up on my front yard.
There’s a fine line between exposing the factious agendas of those in the first and fourth camps while not giving them an opportunity to continue to influence the discussion. That is the challenge that lies ahead for those in the second and third category. May God give courage and conviction to those cooperating Southern Baptists, both Calvinist and non-Calvinist, in forging ahead in spite of all the carnage of the past. It is time for a new day where the mission of God governs our lives, the gospel of God shapes our conduct, and the glory of God propels our churches to serve together, give together, and go together for the sake of His name.