Sam Storms on the SBC

Tim Brister —  April 10, 2007 — 14 Comments

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. 

On Calvinism:

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.

On Alcohol:

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. 

On Fundamentalism:

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. 

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  • Scott Morgan


    First, I appreciate your blog and enjoy your comments and interaction with people. So, please forgive me for going off subject a little. I have a growing concern among the Baptist blogs that I see. My concern is I rarely see anyone talk about the ” Old Baptists” but I see many Calvinists like myself always refering to the Presbyterian men alot. Yes, I have all the Banner of Truth sets but I’m growing more and more concern that I don’t hear men talk about Dr. John Gill, John Brine, JC Philpot, and the older Particular Baptists as much. Like you I don’t agree with everything of the men I listed but I do alot in majority of places.
    I’m hearing more and more Calvinistic Baptist that are entertaining the thoughts of serving the Lord’s Supper to Presbyterian believers. First, how can they since we don’t recognize their baptism and since we don’t then they can’t be added to the local church according to Acts 2.Most older Baptistic confessions that are solid forbid serving the supper unless a person is a member. I have had people ask me recently ” Scott, are you telling me that you would not serve the Lord’s Supper to RC Sproul”? My answer is ” No I would not” !. First, my church practices communion only to our members in good standing but I don’t recognize Sproul’s baptism thus we would not accept him into membership. I shared this info to ask you if you would consider doing a blog entry about this subject. I would love to read some comments and learn where I might be in error. Hope this info makes sense and you would consider doing a blog entry on this subject sometime. Yes, I have Sprouls books and I enjoy him teaching on certain subjects and do recognize him as a Christian but many of the early Particular Baptist did not even recognize the Presbyterians as a local visible Church and many did not even embrace a universal church view such as BH Carrol( Southern Baptist). Some early Baptist went as far as saying that the Presbyterians ” Were not even a visible Church” however some would say” They are not in good gospel order”. Remember Gill’s work entitled ” Infant Baptism : A Part and Pillar Of Popery”. Again, thanks for your great work on this blog and keep studying hard !

  • G. F. McDowell

    I was going to comment on Timmy’s post, but you’ve reeled me in to your question.

    Who do you say the church is??? I want you to state, in a positive way, how you define the church, then we can talk.

  • Scott,

    It might interest you that the issues you raised here, in particular the Lord’s Supper and baptism, were discussed among members of T4G after the conference last year where, if I understand correctly, Dever and Mohler said the same thing about not allowing Lig Duncan to the communion table because he was a Presbyterian. At the time, the issue at hand was Piper and BBC regarding paedobaptism.

    I think the issue you raised is an important one, although I will not be able to give an attention to it for the time being. I am heavy into several other issues right now and simply cannot devote the time and attention such a topic would require. The good thing about the blogosphere nowadays is that there are many solid blogs with great content, and each of us has something to offer. While I may not have exactly what you are looking for in my posts, I hope that my offerings are edifying and helpful nonetheless.

    Thanks for the comment, Scott, and I hope to be able to write more on such issues as the semester comes to a close.


  • Sorry to post over you Guillaume! I think we were typing at the same time. Now what was it you were going to say about my post you hard-core fundy?

  • G. F. McDowell

    It is time to issue the call: We must attend the annual meeting. All of us. This is more important than last year. The committee to investigate the effects of Calvinism on the SBC will be giving its report. This could be the beginning of a very dark hour in the SBC. The Burleson thing was a distraction. The Firetruck-Font pastor was a distraction. We need to get back to the gospel, and double-quick. A loss of the gospel in the “conservative” direction is far more damaging to the flock than a loss of the gospel in the liberal direction, because liberal theology is just so wrong on its face, and easy to discern. When conservatives lose the Gospel, look out!!!

  • G.,

    Should the SBC go the route to marginalize or remove Calvinists from the SBC, the SBC will left with very little of their offspring. I sincerely hope that the SBC can stop the splintering and factious spirit which is so contrary to the heart of Christ in his prayer that we may be one. We need leaders who can chart a new course with a new map, setting the sails while plugging the holes of a sinking ship. If this doesn’t happen, we will become shipwreck by the storms we ourselves have caused. This is the fate of fundamentalism – a fate I hope doesn’t become ours.

  • G. F. McDowell

    Timmy, I just read the article, and Storms seems to think that Women pastors is an issue on which the bible is silent. I may be able to eat his meat and spit out the bones, but that is a big bone. I don’t like the soft approach the Burleson crowd seems to have toward women in ministry. The bible is explicit on women not being allowed to teach or have authority over men in a church setting. It cannot be more clear. We may disagree with scripture, but we should not say it is silent on that issue. I sense a softness throughout the SBC on the issue of women in ministry. The failure to get WMU to fish or cut bait in Greensboro is the tip of the iceberg. Sure, there is a statement about women in ministry in the BFM 2000, but if southern baptists read that document, there would be no Calvinism debate today. Let’s get southern baptists to read their statements of faith and their bibles. Then let’s debate.

  • G. F. McDowell

    Timmy, the sbc is in a precarious position now, and we didn’t start the storm. If published numbers are to believed, the SBC is growing at a smaller rate than the population. It is precarious because we are shrinking and nobody recognizes it. A flawed conversion paradigm of easy-belief-ism has undermined the concept of regenerate church membership, but the only solution I heard was more of the same. Their bogus conversion paradigm is what is killing our denomination. Neither our desire to peacefully coexist as Calvinists in what was once a calvinist denomination, nor our desire to return our churches to the historic Baptist faith should be seen as a threat. Quite the opposite.

    How are we the ones who started the storm? How can an act of self-preservation at this year’s annual meeting cause a storm? Just look at how closely Mark Dever lost the race for 1st VP, and how they had a snap-runoff between business sessions. A few dozen concerned people can make a big difference in the ballots.

  • G.,

    First, when I mentioned “we,” I had in reference the entire SBC, not Calvinists. Sorry for the vagueness. No, as I mentioned to someone in the media today, Calvinists are not on pushing Calvinism; they are on pushing back against the caricatures, straw men, etc. Some chrnological analysis and document would verify this. I was speaking of the “fighting” mentality which is so pervasive in the SBC. We will fight over almost everything, even fighting for the right to fight.

    Speaking of conversion paradigms, if you have any interest in this, you should check out an upcoming post where I will be live-blogging with the theme being “the miracle of conversion.” Let me know if you have any interest.

    Regarding women in ministry, this is a big issue, and one that I cannot adequately speak to in this comment. I will just say that I share your concerns. One of the practical issues comes where churches are being planted in regions of the world where there are no men to lead the “church.” The issue of women elders is much more relevant on the mission field than the immediate context of traditional SBC churches. My guess is that there are several church plants in regions of the world that are being led by women because there are no men to lead.

    Finally, how many Southern Baptists have actually read the entire BF&M you think? I would say that, if out of 16 million we have 6 million in church on Sunday, we have less than 5% of that crowd who have read it. How many in the SBC could articulate a basic understanding of the doctrines of grace? It may be true that only 10% of the SBC are “five-point Calvinists”; but it may be equally be true that 80% of Southern Baptists are uninformed (if not misinformed).

  • G. F. McDowell

    Interestingly, I think the issue of glossolalia/ cessationism is far more important on the mission field than in a local church. I can accept a non-cessationist in my local church, but I would never send him out to the unchurched. I have seen firsthand in unchurched Quebec, Canada how not taking a firm line on the gifts of the Holy Spirit has obliterated at least one church plant. When the original church planters left after a year or so, a false prophet, who claimed to be receiving revelations directly from God, infiltrated the congregation, and within three months there was no longer a church there. Those sheep were susceptible to what even a non-cessationist would recognize clearly to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, because their former pastor had been soft and amorphous on the issue of the Holy Spirit, and these were babes in the faith, who figured that if God could reveal himself in a direct way 2000 years ago, why not today, as well? We are in a spiritual battle here against a mortally wounded, cornered Serpent whose head has been crushed, but is enraged and trying to take as many souls as he can with him to Hell. We do not send our weakest men to fight a war, but our strongest. Non-cessationism presents a unique set of challenges in a missions context, and is particularly vulnerable to the onslaughts of the Evil One. I agree with the decision to exclude them from missions, even if I would include one in my local church. I think the way the IMB has gone about it is completely wrong-headed and amounts to the heresy of Donatism. Believer’s Baptism is based upon the faith of the one baptized, and not upon the faith of the man (!) administering the sacrament. Otherwise, when a pastor apostasizes, his whole church would presumably have to be re-baptized.

  • Brittney

    Tim, I totally agree with this guy.

  • Timmy,
    I just started another fire – I hope – on the Said At Southern blog. Here is the link since it definitely relates to this post:
    Handwriting On The Wall – Do declining Baptisms signal the doom of the SBC?

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