Connellism Versus Calvinism: You Be the Judge

Tim Brister —  June 5, 2007 — 83 Comments

[UPDATE]: “davethepastor” wrote yesterday in the meta, “I got a 4 DVD copy of Jerry Vines sermons against all the evils affecting the SBC in today’s mail, free of charge. Paid for with CP dollars? From the exec director of the Florida Baptist Convention. And yes, Calvinism is one of the evils.”  Well, Tom Ascol has just verified that Dr. John Sullivan, Executive Director of the Florida Baptist Convention, has indeed mailed Dr. Vines’ messages to every pastor in the state convention – paid for with what?  Yes, God’s money!  Talk about cooperation!  Unprecedented?  You would think.  But Dr. Roy Fish preached a message at Cottage Hill Baptist Church (Mobile, AL) on August 11, 1997 called “The C-Word” which was distributed at the 2005 Missouri State Pastor’s Conference.  Watch, my friend, the desperate tactics of SBC politicians.  And they wonder why my generation have no heroes in the SBC . . . [/UPDATE]

Some of you may remember last year in Greensboro a motion was made to Bobby Welch requesting that “Calvinism’s current impact on SBC churches as well as its implications for the future of the great Convention.”  The man who made this notion is Dr. John Connell, pastor of Calvary Baptist Temple in Savannah located in Savannah, Georgia.  Dr. Connell is also superintendent of Calvary Day School, the k-12 private school of Calvary in Savannah.  Statewide, Dr. Connell is also an influential Georgian Baptist as he has written Sunday School lessons for The Christian Index (GA’s Baptist state paper) and will also be one of two “tellers” for the state of Georgia at the 2007 Annual Meeting in San Antonio. 

Like other influential Georgian Baptists, including the likes of Nelson Price (Evangelical Calvinism Is an Oxymoron) and Johnny Hunt, Connell has developed a strong anti-Reformed agenda.  Last year (copyright 2006), Connell wrote a 73 page book essay which he entitled “The TULIP in the Garden: Pruning the Petals of Calvinism” which he gives to his students who attend either Presbyterian or Reformed Baptist churches.  In summary, Connell blasts Calvinism at every point while offering an alternative view of God which he calls “Connellism.”  So what exactly does “Connellism” teach?  Let me first share with you some quotes from his book against Calvinism:

“Calvinists see man as totally depraved. I see man as mostly depraved.” – page 8

“I vehemently decry the thought that God, in any way, chooses some to be saved and some to be lost.” – page 9

“[T]he Bible is clear that Jesus died for everybody in the world, for all ages, for all time…” – page 10

“That is, Christ’s death on the cross paid the price for all human sin in all human ages.” – page 18

“I reject irresistible grace […] Choice is what God wants. If you’ve got a problem with that, then talk to God, not me.” – page 12

From these quotes, Connell appears to reject Calvinism at every point.  In fact, Connell’s alternative acrostic to TULIP, which he calls “Connellism” goes like this:

A – All encompassing love
C – Creative purpose
C – Choosing autonomy
E – Evangelistic initiative
S – Security of the believer
S – Separation of the unbeliever

Now, if that is not bad enough, let me provide a smattering of his ad-hominems: 

“Calvinism can lead to arrogance and elitism.” – page 37

“Calvinism naturally leads to depression and despair.” – page 38

“[Calvinism leads to] a life void of evangelistic fervor.” – page 38

“My experience with many five-point Calvinists is that they are militant, that they are more concerned about you becoming a Calvinist than they are about their neighbors coming to Jesus. […] Large numbers of five-point Calvinists aren’t interested in discussion but only in doing battle with the hopes of making another convert to the TULIP.” – page 64

After having read these quotes, let me remind you who is “pruning the petals” if you want to call it that.  The same man who wrote these words is not only the superintendent of the Calvary Day School, one of two “tellers” for the state of Georgia this year at SBC’s Annual Meeting, a writer for GBC Sunday School material, and the one behind the motion to examine the impact of Calvinism in the SBC.  If it doesn’t make sense and clear things up, allow me to have Connell speak for himself.  He writes,

“Twenty-five years ago we had some courageous men to stand up and lead the way in preventing the Southern Baptist Convention from being swept away at the hands of moderates/liberals. […] I predict that in the next 10-20 years a group of men will have to do it all over again – not with moderates/liberals, but with Calvinists. I detest convention politics, but the greatest mission program in the world is at stake. Calvinism will ultimately destroy that mission program.”

There you have it.  Calvinism destroys the mission program, therefore the Great Commission is at stake unless we eradicate Calvinism from the SBC.  I suppose the dozens of Calvinists I know on the mission field didn’t get that memo, neither did the NAMB church planters.  So this leads me to turn his alarming statement into a question.  “Who in the next 10-20 years will fight to keep the Convention from being swept way at the hands of Calvinists?”  Who are the leading Arminians of this younger generation of Southern Baptists?

Well, I guess I have to go and update my chronological compilation now.  While 2007 has been a relatively quiet year for wild and crazy rants against Calvinism, I suppose we will just have to wait and see what San Antonio will “tell” us.  Till then, let us Calvinists be about serving God’s people and reaching our world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

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  • Timmy,

    My family and I recently returned to the USA from the mission field due to medical reasons. We were serving with the IMB in a restricted country. We moved home to Savannah, GA because my family is here.

    We are 5-point Calvinists, and I must admit that Dr. Connell’s rhetoric is tiresome. He pastors the biggest church in Savannah, and therefore has quite a bit of influence here. We Calvinists are definitely in the minority in GA.

    As for missions, I didn’t realize that my Calvinistic beliefs would kill my passion for evangelism. Believing in God’s sovereignty did not keep us from moving to the other side of the world. I know many others, as do you, who feel the same way.

    Honestly, I am just tired of the accusation that Calvinism hurts evangelism and missions. Would someone (Dr. Connell?) please present some concrete evidence that shows this to be the case? Could I see some numbers please?

    From the vantage point of living in Savannah, Dr. Connell is a lot of bluster. I just hope he doesn’t have much impact on the SBC as a whole.

  • Mike Lee

    I’ve been Southern Baptist all my life (now 44 years!). I have to admit that I’m a bit tired of leaders looking to “blame” someone for the condition of the SBC. The leaders of the SBC are quick to look outward instead of humbly looking in the mirror. Calvinism/reformed theology has only come to the forefront recently…and according to LifeWay Research, it is a minority position among pastors. Yet, some conservative leadership want to make it the “boogeyman” while 27 years of the conservative resurgence (and non-Reformed at that) hasn’t produced any marked improvement in baptisms.

    Why don’t we hear any of the conservative leaders of the resurgence boldly proclaim that the conservativism that has been promoted over the last 27 years has failed to impact a lost generation…has created a greater number of church members but fewer disciples…has courted a marriage with Republican politics while seeing more people die without saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ…has seen the church equal the lost society in the number of divorces?

    We can blame any number of influences we want, but I am personally ready for the “blame game” to end and for our leaders to truly lead. Let’s quit throwing stones and let’s band together to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ who alone can change hearts of stone into hearts of flesh and breath new life into dead bones.

    I have appreciated your blog from a distance, Timmy. Thanks for your courage.

  • Mike,

    For the Calvinists to be so little in number, they do get blamed for the decrease in baptisms, the splitting of churches, the killing of evangelism, etc. On average, some 10,000 SBC churches don’t baptize a single person every year. I suppose we are to assume that they were all Calvinists. 😉

    As you mentioned, the Conservative Resurgence needs a reassessment. Why,since we recovered inerrancy and by and large are conservative throughout, have we not seen a change in our churches, in evangelism, in baptisms, in the moral framework of society in the family? I think these are legitimate questions that we must start asking, and stop pointing the finger at straw men.

  • Eric,

    God bless you brother and the work your family has been doing on the mission field. Almost all my roommates from college (all “five point Calvinists”) are either overseas with the IMB or planting churches here in the states. I would love to have Dr. Connell come with me to UPS in the early hours of the morning and help me share Jesus with my 5,000 coworkers who need the gospel.

    The evidence is that the modern missions movement was started by a Calvinist – William Carey. The founders of the SBC were Calvinists – W.B. Johnson, James P. Boyce, John A. Broadus, Basil Manly Jr., etc. What shall I say of men like Andrew Fuller, Charles Spurgeon, and Adoniram Judson? Jesse Mercer, John L. Dagg, or P. H. Mell?

    It is important to note, as I stated in my article, that this is the man who made the motion last year to “examine Calvinism” in the SBC. Perhaps “The TULIP in the Garden” and “Trouble with TULIP” (a la Frank Page) can be the required theology textbooks in our seminaries to replace Grudem’s and Erickson’s Systematic Theologies.

  • Eric,

    You said, “We Calvinists are definitely in the minority in GA.”

    I find this a very ironic statement since I know that the person who planted the first Baptist church in GA and spearheaded the formation of the Georgia Baptist Association was a Calvinist. His name was Daniel Marshall.


  • Timmy,

    Although I often hear this same “tired line” that Calvinism splits churches and kills evangelism… It has had the opposite effect that men like Dr. Connell desired…
    It has had the effect of holding Calvinist Baptist accountable to do more missions and evangelism than they probably would have done if these false charges were not out there…

    So thanks to men like Dr. Connell we now have an army of highly motivated young Calvinist going onto the mission field and planting new churches…

    By the way, it has been my experence that “Hatred” for Calvinism has split most of the churches that get blamed on Calvinism…

    Grace to all,

  • Timmy,

    God bless you in your work at UPS. I worked at the Raleigh, NC UPS hub for 4 years while in seminary. I know what a blessing that UPS mission field can be, and what a struggle it sometimes is.

    As for Dr. Connell, I just can’t understand the statement about Calvinism hurting evangelism and missions. His statement is simply not backed up by the facts.

  • Les,

    What I’m referring to is that the vast majority of pastors here in GA are not Calvinists, the laypeople are mostly not Calvinistic, and the “Georgia Index” in far from Reformed.

  • Here’s a historical tidbit for those of you who live in GA:

    “Georgians drew on a long tradition that reached directly back to John Calvin, the sixteenth-century Geneva reformer whose teaching emphasized the sovereignty of God and the primacy of Scripture. . . . Despite pockets of Arminian or freewill sentiment among Baptists in the South, few southern Baptists embraced Arminianism before the twentieth century. As early as 1800, most Arminian Baptists in the South had either died or been converted to Calvinistic ideas. . . . By 1846, Arminian Baptists numbered almost 2,000, but accounted for only 3 percent of Georgia’s 58,000 Baptists. By 1870, of some 115,000 Georgia Baptists, only 808 were members of Arminian churches. Late into the nineteenth century, pastors could still expect the approbation of their colleagues for boasting that their church was ‘perfectly sound in doctrine, especially Calvinistic.'”

    – Gregory A. Wills, Democratic Religion: Freedom, Authority, and Church Discipline in the Baptist South 1785-1900. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997, 102-03.

    My have we fallen from our roots.

  • davethepastor

    Not being reformed myself, but appreciating the work among the SBC of Mohler, Dever, Ascol etc. I really am not surprised at hearing the heat is being turned up in GA. I got a 4 DVD copy of Jerry Vines sermons against all the evils affecting the SBC in today’s mail, free of charge. Paid for with CP dollars? From the exec director of the Florida Baptist Convention. And yes, Calvinism is one of the evils.

    It seems that this is the beginning of the new-new conservative resurgence. Where the SBC turns on itself yet again and devours its young.

    I’m really not wanting to go back to 1846 or 1966. 2007 and beyond is where I can make a difference for the Kingdom. Thanks Timmy for calling these guys out.

  • Hutch


    You mention the threat of Calvinism being eradicated from the SBC. What would this actually involve? How would it happen? What would be the process?

    (1) Kicking Calvinist churches out of the SBC? Probably not. Even after the conservative resurgence, most moderate/liberal/CBF churches are still part of the SBC, unless they left voluntarily. Usually the SBC never expels churches unless they are pro-gay (ordain homosexuals, etc.). The SBC needs money too bad to kick out a whole lot of churches. It is more likely that some associations will expel Calvinist churches, but that is no big deal, since geographic associations are becoming irrelevant anyway.

    (2) Purging the seminaries of Calvinists? This is possible. The problem with this option is that a large number of inerrantists with Ph.D.s are Calvinists. That is why there are so many Calvinists teaching at the seminaries in the first place. If the seminaries purge all the Calvinists, they will have a hard time putting together academically-qualified faculties. Most Arminians become liberals when they get too much education.

    (3) Use all the denominational public relations entities to distribute anti-Calvinist propaganda to the local churches and make life difficult for Calvinist pastors and church members? Yes, they will try this. This will work to some extent at some churches, but it will not work as well as the anti-Calvinists think. Fewer and fewer Southern Baptists read the state newspapers and other SBC publications. Younger Southern Baptists are more likely to search for news and insight on the internet where Calvinists dominate.

    (4) Write scholarly books to refute Calvinism and actually make a POSITIVE statement for their own view of election? Not going to happen. Why do that when it is so much easier just to rely on ad hominem attacks and shallow prooftexting?

    (5) Preach against Calvinism loudly at their pastor’s conferences? They will do that, but it won’t be very effective, and it will not have very effective results. A friend of mine went to the pastor’s conference at First Baptist Jacksonville, and he said that he saw very few pastors there under 50 years of age. In contrast, when I look at the pictures of Together for the Gospel, it is a bunch of 20- and 30- something guys.

    (6) Deny Calvinists appointments to trustee boards and executive committees? This will probably happen, but it will be no big deal. Calvinists don’t really care about these kinds of things anyway.

  • Hey Dave,

    Those DVD’s? Are they the “Baptist Battles” sermons he recently preached at Woodstock, or are they from something else? Just curious. The titles went something like, “The Baptist and His Election,” “The Baptist and His Booze,” “The Baptist and His Bible” . . . And for clarification, are you saying that you got these from the executive director of the Florida Baptist Convention, or that he is simply against Calvinism, or both?

    Amen to making a difference in 2007. As far as devouring the young, I plan on posting something about that pretty soon, entitled “The Outsourcing of the SBC.”

  • Hutch,

    The threat I referred to is directly from Dr. Connell. His examination motion last year is connected to his desire to remove Calvinists from the SBC plain and simple. So long as men like Dr. Connell have influence and a microphone in the SBC, we will continue to go backwards, inwards, and downwards.

    I agree with all six points you made, except maybe purging Calvinists from the seminaries. To do would serve as the death knell of the future of the SBC. Not only are the profs inerrantists, but most if not all conservative baptist historians I know are Calvinists. There would be a gaping whole of theology and ecclesiology–both which have historically defined Southern Baptists.

    The there are three options/ways I think they have before them:

    1. Money – deny financial assistance to church plants or churches that are Calvinistic; deny appointment of Calvinistic SBCers to IMB

    2. Politics/Propaganda – state papers, convention addresses, conference messages/attacks, resolutions, etc.

    3. Powerplays – By this I mean having the right to make up the terms, define them themselves, and sell it to the people.

    Notice, truth, the church, history, or the Bible is not included in the equation. But then again, it’s been this way for years, so what’s new?

    Oh, and the last positive book was by Roger Olson (Arminianism Revisited or something like that), who many argue, does not present historic Arminianism in his book but a version that he likes for it to be. He is also sympathetic to Open Theism too.

    You are right about the age difference in conferences. I don’t know of any young guy who will opt to go to a SBC conference over say Shepherds Conference (MacArthur), DG Conference (Piper), T4G Conference, or Ligonier Conference (Sproul)–all of which are Reformed. But then again, I am in the “Reformed hotbead”, right? 8)

  • They are rather openly desiring to go after SBTS. I think that’s pretty obvious. Mohler is likely to be quiizzed about his Calvinism this year at the SBC. Dr. Akin is an Amyraldian. He’s taken flack for his statements on Calvinism too.

    What we’re seeing is, IMO, a regional fracture in the SBC. Look at the issues @ the IMB. Those issues are issues that primarily arise from TX and AR Baptistery. SWBTS is showing a decline too.

    Speaking of SWBTS and TX Baptists, take a look at the connections between let’s say Emir Caner and Paige Patterson. I believe they are in the same church as well as the same institution.

    I believe that we’re also seeing a systematic rewriting of Baptist history too to counter the prevailing Whitsittite theory of our origins. Emir is connecting Baptists to Continental Anabaptistery. So is Ergun. Further, Estep comes from TX Baptistery. His book on Anabaptistery is the standard in Anabaptist studies, and he despises Calvinism, just like those he regards as our forebears.

    What we are seeing in the SBC is a desire to craft a working confessional theology around “historic Baptist principles.” The Moderates talked about soul competency and religious liberty. These anit-Calvinist conservatives are talking about ecclesiology, and, by tying us to Anabaptistery, a denail of Calvinist doctrine. This is all part of the same thread of thinking. They are trying to define “Baptist tradition” and then accuse anybody who does not match up to their ideas about Baptist tradition of a failure to measure up. Thus, RB’s are an anomaly on this view, not the historic origin of Southern Baptists. SBTS teachss a version of Baptist history (through Dr. Nettles) and dare I say Reformed dogmatic history (via Dr. Wells) at variance with these people. If they can go after SBTS, that’ll open the door. IMO, SEBTS isn’t that big a priority for them, since Dr. Patterson’s legacy is still there.

    The Resurgence taught us that to change the churches you have to change the seminaries. That’s how liberalism entered the SBC, and that’s how Calvinism is entering the SBC.

  • Hutch

    It will be interesting if the anti-Calvinists go after Mohler. So far, in the current controversy, the SBC has divided up like this:

    (1) Paige Patterson fundamentalists – revivalists, Landmarkists, dispensationalists. cessationists – Paige Patterson, Malcolm Yarnell, Jeremy Green, IMB trustees, Joshua Convergence, older megachurch pastors.

    (2) “Younger Leaders” – smaller groups united by the common threat of exclusion – Calvinists, emerging church guys, charismatics, innovative church planters, Patterson-haters – Wade Burleson, Benjamin Cole, Marty Duren, Tom Ascol, Steve McCoy, Joe Thorn, Ed Stetzer.

    (3) Culture Warriors – Usually Calvinists who are obsesseed with applying a Christian worldview to every possible implication so that they can fight against the secular culture – Al Mohler, Russell Moore.

    So far Russell Moore has aligned himself with the Paige Patterson fundamentalists, missing no opportunities to attack the Younger Leaders. Al Mohler has kind of floated above the current controversy in the SBC, but it is clear that he sympathizes more with the Paige Patterson fundamentalists (his endorsement of Ronnie Floyd, the SBTS alcohol forum). So what happens if the Paige Patterson fundamentalists go after Southern? What will Russell Moore do?

  • Gene,

    What about the NOBTS connection? If there is an anti-Reformed epicenter, to me I think it has been there. I don’t know if it still is, but for many in the southern states, their seminary education came from NOBTS. A centerpiece of that faculty was Fisher Humphreys (now at Beeson) who wrote the deplorable book, God So Loved the World. Have you heard his arguments for “traditional” baptists versus Calvinistic Baptists? Let’s just say that it was odd to come from a scholar of baptist history.

    So the Patterson stream gave up on the “two-stream” theory with Sandy Creek revivalism. Plan B is the Anabaptist movement. BTW, did you hear his lecture at the Baptst ID conference, “What the SBC can learn from the Anabaptists?” (paraphrased)

    So Estep/Caner on Anabaptists and Yarnell against Calvinists . . . sounds like a tag-team effort to me.

    It would be tragic for SWBTS to go after SBTS, but if they do, SBTS will have to find more parking. It’s a long walk as it is to class.

  • Hutch,

    I am not totally sure that the division is that clean. For example, I don’t think Steve and Joe would consider themselves “young leaders” (perhaps by others, but less likely by them). I don’t know how young Wade and Marty are, but Tom is not that young (sorry Tom!). Also, the “Patterson-haters” need to be delineated from the rest of the group you mentioned in that list.

    Here’s how I might look at it. Last year there was the Joshua Convergence groupee (Brad Reynolds, Jeremy Green, et al) as well as the Memphis Declaratoin groupee (mostly young guys). Apart from these groups arose a caucus of guys who consider themselves in neither camp but are committed to the SBC. I see in this group guys like Nathan Finn, Joe Thorn, Steve McCoy, Steve Weaver, and I guess myself.

    As far as the older group, there are those seeking renewal and reform in baptist identity (constructive – gospel-centered, confessional, etc.), while there are others wanting to tell everyone everything that we are not in hopes of finding out identity (deconstructive – against alcohol, against Acts 29, against Calvinism, etc.). The refomers are calling for local church reform; the antagonists are called for Convention politics. Two different outlooks; two different strategies. Now, all this needs a litle qualification and alot of elaboration, but that’s my take off the cuff.

  • Timmy:

    The DVDS davethepastors mentioned are the Baptist Battles series that Dr. Vines preached at Woodstock. They were mailed by Dr. Sullivan to every Florida SBC pastor. I have just commented on it on my blog.

    Thanks for your careful treatment of this issue with Dr. Connell. Keep the light turned on. If there are those among who genuinely believe this way, then let their beliefs be held up to the scrutiny of full observation

  • NOBTS students and their faculty are at odds in that regard. I know several Calvinist and Amyraldian students grad and post-grad. Further, there are Calvinists who are adjuctive faculty, and NOBTS has some Calvinsits on staff. I gather that they can express their view freely. By way of contrast, I gather that Calvinist faculty @ SWBTS have to keep a fairly low profile. Also, to speak out against a sister institution is a no-no there. Which is rather ironic, considering Patterson feels quite at home criticizing sister SBC agencies from behind closed doors when it suits him. But, remember what happened to Dwight McKissic. If Yarnell is not reprimanded for his criticism of Lifeway, then that SWBTS policy will have been exposed as a double standard.

    Also, if my memory serves GGBTS’ president signed off on the Memphis Declaration. Everybody forgets about them. Also the MO convention is heavily weighted with Calvinists, which might affect MWBTS. I don’t know anything about that seminary.

    What we’re seeing is a regional shift back toward the Eastern states in the SBC and the reaction to it. TX Baptists have always been vocal, and they have a nasty tendency to think everybody else believes as they believe and if not they should. Back in my day, SWBTS was where you went to get a “conservative” education. Now, you go to SBTS or SEBTS to get a “balanced,” but conservative education and SWBTS to get a “fundamentalist” education. SBTS has always had a reputation for academics. If I wanted to teach in a university or seminary, I would go to SBTS over the others. NOBTS seems caught in the crossfire. The other two stay out of the fray. What the SBC may want to consider is creating “magnet seminaries,” like “magnet schools” in local school systems, that specialize in one or more disciplines.

    One of the problems, IMO, at SWBTS right now is the divisiveness. When Patterson came to SEBTS, the divisive period was largely over and the seminary was rebuilt quickly, but Hemphill (who hails from my home church no less), was a fellow conservative, and Patterson took over at a time in which people were very, very tired of divisiveness and politicking in the SBC, and that’s true generally. The great SBC middle is simply tired of all the fighting now and they want to get on with it.

    What we’re seeing as the generations change is not only a shift in theology (reforming) and region (moving East), IMO, but a general shift that is characteristic of revolutions. If a pendulum swings too far, you get Robespierre in France and then Napolean; but eventually it swings back. If the pendulum is arrested from that far swing, you get the US under the Constitution. There are those who are trying to arrest the pendulum’s swing. Last year was a first step, but it will take at least 2 or 3 more of those sessions to do it. To their credit, and unlike those who participated in the first Resurgence, the people who have tried to do that have largely stated they do not wish trusteeships, etc. and would turn them down if asked. That alone makes them, IMO, credible persons. Probably the greatest flaw of the Resurgence was the nepotism that accrued over time. Last year’s Comm. of Nominations did an excellent job compared to years past. However, look at the Pastor’s Conference in past years, and you can see the nepotism dripping from it. The same faces @ the conference have been often those up for office or in office or nominated for office. It was quite evident that if you wanted to play, you had to be part of that crowd. That time is coming to an end. Last year, Johnny Hunt’s speech for Ronnie Floyd was basically “he’s one of us.” That’s no longer enough. People have gotten wise to it. People want substance to the office of President. They want to know that he can lead by example. They want to know that he can disagree over theology and still be fair. They want somebody who is more than “one of us” (eg. one of the “Good Ol’ Bioys”) they want somebody who can actually lead and who will actually listen. They are tired of politics that smack more of the Old South, where Big Daddy ran the town and white men sat on the juries. They are ready for “the New South” where you have to be qualified for office and the jury of your peers really is a jury of your peers.

  • Gene,

    Thanks for your insightful reply. I think that last year showed that no matter how popular you are or how close you are to the Kingmakers, if you don’t believe and give to the Cooperative Program, you will very likely not win. It’s also wise to not say that you were “supernaturally drafted” either (then not get 25% of the vote).

    But on to the shift in the SBC, the generational shift is indeed theological, regional, and methodological. However, I just am not sure how much of our generation will hang around long enough to see the manifestations of that shift. I am by nature rather optimistic and hopeful, but the more I see and hear of stuff like Dr. Connell and as Tom reported, of Dr. John Sullivan of the Florida Baptist Convention, the more ashamed I am to tell people I am Southern Baptist. These are my brothers, but they would not want to cooperate with me in advancing the gospel in our world. What they want to do is bid us farewell and celebrate a declining convention of churches that don’t drink alcohol.

  • Oh, and for what it’s worth, I did a little checking up on the bio’s of Drs. Connell and Sullivan.

    Connell’s theological education comes solely from NOBTS. Go here for details:

    Sullivan’s theological education comes from SWBTS and taught for ten years at NOBTS. Go here for details:
    Just a note since we have been talking about schools and all . . .

    Sullivan is also a member of FBC Jax where Dr. Vines was pastor.

  • Thank you Tom for your post today. I have updated my post to reflect the developments you mentioned. It’s too bad that we can’t have Spurgeon’s Defense of Calvinism in the hands of the same pastors. A little balance wouldn’t hurt.

    I just hope that Southern Baptists will see all this for what it is. I have more faith in the rank and file Southern Baptists than I do our leaders these days. If Greensboro was a statement of the grassroots messengers, perhaps they can send another message in San Antonio to the propagandizers of the SBC.

  • Jim Shaver

    We can expect “Blame” as Calvinists in direct proportion to the SBC’s contininuing failure to reverse the denomination’s decline into irrelevancy.

    The smart thing for the Convention to do would be declare that SBTS is “officially” our Calvinistic Seminary and stop all the anti-Calvinistic rhetoric. That will not happen.

    The smart thing for us Calvinists in the SBC to do would be to start planning for a future apart from the Convention, while we still have a choice in the matter and before all the young Calvinists depart on their own. I fear that will not happen as well.

    To me our choice is simple. Do we go down with the SBC ship or bail out before she sinks?

  • Timmy:

    Correction: the mailing from Dr. Sullivan are CDs, not DVDs, as I originally thought.

    -the old man

  • “Calvinism naturally leads to depression and despair.” – page 38

    Wouldn’t Connellism cause this since it all up to me, a totally (excuse me, “mostly”) depraved individual?

    “C – Choosing autonomy . . .
    S – Security of the believer”

    So, does God take away your blesséd free will after your saved?

  • A. How can one “choose” autonomy? Aren’t we all autonomous anyway according to libertarians? Try pressing a libertarian on why, given the same circumstances, agent A believes and Agent B does not believe. They will either run to circumstances and give no answer or start talking about “reasons,” but that’s not a libertarian argument.

    B. “Calviinism only “naturally” leads to depression when you start contemplating the secret will of God. He’s saying that Calvinists have no assurance of their salvation. However, how is this true? If your faith is in Christ is that not assurance? Our doctrine of assurance is not different from theirs, unless they are antinomians who believe that you can apostatize ans still be “saved.” Personally, I like to press for that when discussing that, because the antinomians need to be pointed out and marked.

    I see that the Magisterium in Florida has made its will known in the mail. This sort of thing strikes me as proof that the SBC is fast becoming the Romanist Baptist Convention. Those in power are now abusing their power and acting like Rome during the Reformation. But we should thank them for doing us this service. This is the very sort of behavior that the SBC Middle has come to despise in recent years. Actions like this have a way of backfiring. It’s also proof positive that its not Calvinists that are wanting to have a monologue, and it isn’t we who are dividing churches, and it isn’t we who are tying to, borrowing a turn of phrase from Connell, trying to convert people to our five points. People wonder why Calvinists get so defensive and want to debate, well here’s the reason…because people like Director Sullivan want a monologue and will not countenance a dialog.

  • Dan

    A note on Calvinism and missions:

    I grew up in a church-planting family in Sinaloa, Mexico. It has been my experience that Calvinism has been one of the most encouraging factor in my family’s ministry. It gives reassurance and comfort when people seem unresponsive. If it is our ministry to preach the truth and present the call to repent, then it is in God’s hands to bring the fruit. I cannot fathom what it would have been like should our family have depended on “convincing” people to be saved – it would wear any missionary giving it his all to a frazzle. It’s like drinking a spiritual “rockstar” to realize that knowing the truth and preaching the truth in a clear, lovingly direct, and unwavering way is what God requires on our part.

    The biblical doctrines that Calvinism represents is vital to stamina in a hard-hearted mission field.

  • Dan,

    Thank you for bringing this up. I probably should have elaborated on this in my post, but I was trying to keep it short.

    When we are praying for a lost person to come to Christ, we pray like Calvinists, whether one admits it or not. What an encouragement and impetus to go to the hard places, to the unreached people groups, to the restricted areas, knowing that before the foundation of the world God has chosen and appointed for some to believe! God, who is the Author and Finisher of faith will be drawing people to Himself from the four corners of the earth, and He, through the instrumentality of His Word and agency of His Spirit brings new life. We get to join in this glorious mission of bringing worshippers to our Savior’s feet by proclaiming the gospel to them, calling all men everywhere to repent and believe. If they repent and believe, mark it: it is all of God, all of grace.

    Also, Calvinism asserts that God does not merely make salvation possible through the atonement of Christ but actually accomplishes salvation for His people. All this talk about limited atonement. Arminians limit the atonement because they argue that it does not effectually purchase the Redeemed, but simply makes it possible, and the sinner becomes the final cause by then choosing Christ out of a libertarian freewill. If I believed that, I would be in ultimate despair and depression, because the ultimate decision lies not in the hands of God but unregenerate, rebellious,and depraved man!

    I could go on, but I think I am making my case here. Calvinism is the doctrines of grace whereby the sovereignty of God is displayed in salvation and the assurance of the believer is found not in himself but in the work of Jesus Christ. From beginning to the end, salvation is of the Lord, and contrary to Connell, Patterson, Estep, Caner, etc., Calvinism exhibits a display of God’s sovereignty which propels the Christian to not discriminate or evaluate a sinner’s goodness or badness, for God’s almighty arm can reach down and pull the wretch of all wretches (including me) and bring him to glory. Evangelism and missions is robust and vibrant in the safe arms of a sovereign God.

  • Jim,

    The only way to save a sinking ship is to plug the holes. I am wondering, however, if the statemen in the SBC will be willing to do that. The water is rising, and the silence is deafening.


    Right. It is ironic that someone speaks so authoritatively about Calvinism who knows nothing of it. Arrogance and elitism? How about naming a belief system after yourself?

  • People attack what they are afraid of. This is, in-a-round-about-way, good news. This indicates that they see Calvinism (or dare-I say “truth”?) as a threat to their gospel. Maybe I run in the wrong circles, but it seems to me that the non-Calvinists are much more polemical than Calvinists.

    Personally, although unafraid to use the term Calvinist, I much prefer the term Reformed. I don’t like the implication that the truth of the doctrine is attributed to one man. As an SBC’er, I am concerned for other SBC’ers of like mind and faith that may be dependent upon CP funds for mission work (local and abroad) that might come under scrutiny for their understanding of the gospel. However, on the other hand, I could just as soon split from the SBC and claim independence.

    Finally, as these random thoughts continue, I must have compassion for those opposed to Reformation theology in considering each individuals personal history and exposure. I have personally met Calvinists (and proud of it) who would give the theology a bad name because of their arrogance and behavior. This is often the problem in relating the gospel to a world of people that have seen the misrepresentation of it from a plethora of avenues.

    As a final thought, although I have seen the example of it, I cannot understand how Reformation theology leads to pride. For me, it is the exact opposite. I don’t think I was something special so that I was elected or chosen by God; rather I am humbled by the fact that in spite of who I am God could love me. It is the lack of this understanding that leads to pride and self-sufficiency when we are mislead into believing that we chose God to be our Savior. “God, I consider your offer worthwhile, and after much consideration, I’ll invest in Your plan; (you sure are lucky to have me)” [maybe that’s extreme]

  • Gene,

    The only way I can take the “choose autonomy” is to prefer man’s free will over God’s free will. That’s what it comes down to, right? We don’t want God to have a free will. It’s ours, and we must choose him because he “took the fall and thought of me, above all”. In our natural proclivities, we don’t want God to be deterministic. We do. That is the individualism and independency of depraved man. And that is why grace is so contrary, so humbing, so dethroning. It is not about you, about your good works, about your presumed worthiness/goodness. Grace says you are miserable, wretched, blind, deaf, dead. Grace reminds us that we deserve judgment, damnation, punishment for our sin. Grace shows us that if Chirst be ours and heaven our home, it is because of the work of Another, who demonstrated His love to us while we yet sinners and drew us to Himself.

    So to choose automony is to strive against grace and challenge the wisdom and decree of Sovereign God.

    As far as the Romanist tendencies in the SBC, this indeed is scary to think about. Baptist Press gets upset that we call them out on their propaganda, and we get criticized for calling out the Sullivan’s and Connell’s by pushing for accountability and bibical fidelity. And when I call upon leaders in the SBC to speak up, I am told they are too politically invested in the SBC to do such a thing.

  • Timmy,
    I appreciate your passion for evangelism. In fact, the following words appear on page 64 of my “TULIP” manuscript, “The bottom line is this. No matter what you believe about Calvinism, if you say that you’re serious about evangelism then you go at evangelism with all your heart and I’ll evangelize with all my heart, and we’ll leave the rest to God. . . . In the end, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Calvinist or a Connellist. What matters is that you share the good news of Jesus Christ.”

    It’s obvious that none of those who posted comments on your blog have read my manuscript, but only the few lines that you provided regarding my opinion as to the future impact of Calvinism on the SBC at large. More to the issue are the three chapters that deal with the theology of election and predestination. That’s where the water truly hits the wheel. However, I did not read a single comment on the scriptural evidence I presented as to my position on those topics. (I did read several negative comments about me personally from folks who don’t know me personally.)

    I am truly interested in engaging in contextual dialogue. That’s why I wrote the manuscript. However, I am not interested in responding to snippets thrown to the wind.

    By the way, a woman from New Hampshire called me this morning. Somehow, she had obtained a copy of my manuscript and wanted to thank me for its content. According to her, the Baptist church she attends in Hampstead was once the second largest Southern Baptist Church in the state. In the last 4 years, the church has shrunk to 1/3rd its former size. The downward spiral began when a new pastor came to the church and began espousing Calvinism. It’s not that non-Calvinistic churches don’t decline and die. They do, and they do for a variety of reasons. However, the trigger for that particular church’s demise was pulled by a pastor who has been insistent on proclaiming Calvinitic doctrine.

    I’m sure that there are Calvinistic churches that are growing. Some of this nation’s largest churches are Presbyterian. However, at those churches there is a concensus of agreement on Calvinism. In Southern Baptist churches there is not a large affinity for Calvninism (as per your blog) — and that’s the problem. Most Southern Baptists today aren’t Calvinists and don’t want to be Calvinists. Therefore, when pastors of Calvinistic persuasion (such as those now coming out of Southern Seminary) began leading Southern Baptist churches there is going to be fall-out. What’s going on in Hampstead, New Hampshire is occurring more and more often.

    My purpose in writing “The TULIP in the Garden” is not to persuade Calvinists to change their minds. This manuscript was written for two reasons: 1) to call attention to Calvinism as a growing theologial issue in Southern Baptist life (The manuscript states why I asked the Executive Committee at the Greensboro Convention to appoint a study committee, and who knows, perhaps this committee will demonstrate that my fears are unsubstantiated.), and 2) to put in words what the average Southern Baptist layperson is feeling right now and to give that layperson a handle on what they believe theologically but aren’t sure how to express it.

  • Nathan,

    Nicely said. I especially appreciate your emphasis on being sensitive and compassionate to those opposed to Reformed theology. Your thoughts on the humility that sovereign grace produces is spot on.

  • Dr. Connell,

    Thank you for taking the time to reply on my blog. As always, I hope you feel welcome to share your thoughts on this open discussion.

    You are right that I do not think that the majority of those reading my blog have read “The TULIP in the Garden: Pruning the Petals of Calvinism”. I think it would be great idea to make your book available so that people can read it. Would you consider making a PDF version of it online for people to download? Or, if that isn’t possible, could you direct people as to how they can obtain a copy for themselves?

    As for Calvinism in the SBC, I would have to disagree with your assessment that there is not a large affinity for Calvinism. If that is the case, then why have three state conventions distributed sermons to pastors who are non-Calvinists in attempt to persuade their colleagues to reject it? Why hsa there been, as you will see in recording of the controversy, so much attention paid to Calvinism in the past ten years? And why has Southern Seminary, of which I am a proud student, seen record enrollment (and now the largest seminary in the country) while it is confessionally Calvinstic? I could go on, but these questions seem to justify my disagreement with your assessment.

    You said that your purpose was not to persuade Calvinists to change their minds. I never thought that either. But what about this statement:

    “Twenty-five years ago we had some courageous men to stand up and lead the way in preventing the Southern Baptist Convention from being swept away at the hands of moderates/liberals. […] I predict that in the next 10-20 years a group of men will have to do it all over again – not with moderates/liberals, but with Calvinists. I detest convention politics, but the greatest mission program in the world is at stake. Calvinism will ultimately destroy that mission program.”

    Is not your purpose to remove Calvinists from the SBC? Are you not wanting us to go to Presbyterian churches?

    You argue that you are putting into words what the average Southern Baptist layperson is feeling right now. How do you know this? Have you canvassed the SBC and personally talked to the rank and file Southern Baptists? I have several hundred who read my blog everyday, and I hear from them both in the comments and via email. I can assure you that your book does not represent what the average Southern Baptist layperson is thinking right now. I find that purpose quite presumptuous in my opinion.

    Finally, let me address something here about Southern Baptist churches. You talk as though Southern Baptist churches have always been against Calvinism. A brief historical assessment would show you that the SBC was predominantly Calvinistic up until the late 19th century. In the 20th century, we have seen the Arminianizing of the SBC through Mullins, Moody, and Hobbs. Your argument could just as well be used against them by saying that these churches who were Calvinistic should not allow someone who is Arminian to come in and pastor their churches. The truth is, the graduates of Southern Seminary are more in line theologically with the Founders of our Covention than our preceding generation. Young Calvinists are darned if they do and darned if they don’t. If they don’t go out and wear Calvinism on their sleeves, they are told they are being deceitful and dishonest. If they do, they are told they are trying to convert everyone to Calvninsm and more interested in “five points” than winning people to Jesus. The only politically correct position of a Reformed Southern Baptist is, according to Patterson, Chapman, and others, is to be ashamed that you are one.

    I appreciate your interesting in dialgoue. I certainly would like to possible discuss your chapters on predestination and election in your book, should they be made available for others to read as well. Thank you for taking the time to comment, and I hope we can discuss these matters further in the future.

  • Dr. Connell,

    I can understand the decline in the New Hampshire church you’ve illustrated. It does nothing to prove a point. I would hope those that have left have migrated to a church that they feel comfortable worshiping in. I can only imagine that the same decline would be seen in a church that was predominantly Reformed whose pastor determined to preach contrary to that theology. This is the problem with anyone who is so set in their ways as to even think. We’ve been so accustomed to being spoon fed that we lack the ability to feed ourselves and actually reason with these trying doctrines to establish what is truth. This happens on both sides of the coin and would prove this illustration to be moot.

    I’m not in favor of a “can’t we all get along” mentality in all things, but I beg for it here in this matter of theology. Regardless of how important I believe this understanding is, it is not my role to persuade you or anyone else to the same understanding I have. I frown equally on Calvinists that are aggressive in persuading non-Calvinists. It is not relativism that I seek but compassion. Calvinism is not a cancer; and such implication that it might be is an insult to many great men that have embraced such theology.

    What happened to autonomy? My local church, does not desire to use the Convention to push an agenda to force any other church in what to believe. I certainly believe there needs to be some bounds set in the dispersion of Cooperative Funds, but that needs to be settled for broader aspects of the gospel. I don’t believe that someone turning from sin to follow Christ in a Calvinistic church has any more claim to salvation than someone from a non-Calvinist church. I am a result of the latter, and I’ve never questioned the legitimacy of my salvation. If you see this differently, then there is room for more discussion. I respect you and your understanding of the Scriptures, even if I think you have missed a few points. I think the Presbyterians have it wrong about baptism, but I can agree with them on the broader aspect of the gospel. Could you do the same and withdraw the polemic against Calvinism; while throwing in a measure of respect and compassion.

    For the Fame of His Name,

  • “…she had obtained a copy of my manuscript and wanted to thank me for its content. According to her, the Baptist church she attends in Hampstead was once the second largest Southern Baptist Church in the state. In the last 4 years, the church has shrunk to 1/3rd its former size. The downward spiral began when a new pastor came to the church and began espousing Calvinism. It’s not that non-Calvinistic churches don’t decline and die. They do, and they do for a variety of reasons. However, the trigger for that particular church’s demise was pulled by a pastor who has been insistent on proclaiming Calvinitic doctrine.”

    a. Perhaps the church was like another one here in NC where the pastor came and started preaching Calvinistic doctrine. It had 900 members, 600 in Sunday School, but only 300 showed up on Sundays. The church roll later shrunk because the double enrollees who were in other churches were removed and the truants were excised. Let’s not mince words here. Calvinists seem to have a better handle on church discipline than others, and this is a key reason their churches shrink when they come.

    b. And if we were to apply your logic, sir, to the church pastored by Dr. Bobby Welch, we would find some interesting data.

    27905 members
    21555 resident members
    982 baptisms
    720 other additions
    9035 primary worship attendance

    28325 members
    21686 resident members
    801 baptisms
    9186 primary worship

    28837 members
    21987 resident members
    774 baptisms
    652 other additions
    8828 primary worship attendance

    22189 resident members
    774 baptisms
    667 other additions
    9168 primary worship

    In 4 years, according to the ACP, this church baptized 3331 people and had 2720 other additions. This means that 6051 people joined the church from 2001-2004. Yet, the primary worship attendance in 2001 was 9035 and in 2004 was 9168 or a total increase of 133. The resident membership increased from 21555 in 2001 to 22189 in 2004, a total of 634. And look at the deficts between members enrolled and attendance. If we’re going to talk about Calvinist churches and the health of churches, let us be honest.

    c. If a pastor entered a church that had been teaching against inerrancy for years and the church roll was to get smaller, we all know you’d commend that pastor and egg him on for standing for the truth, even though his members can’t stomach it. So, why is “Calvinism” the bully here? That’s a double standard. All you’ve done is beg the question in your favor, sir.

    You say: I’m sure that there are Calvinistic churches that are growing. Some of this nation’s largest churches are Presbyterian. However, at those churches there is a concensus of agreement on Calvinism.

    There is some truth to this, but then there is some truth that you aren’t telling. To be an elder or deacon in a Presbyterian church, you must be a Calvinist. However, to be a member, you can be a rank Arminian. You can even be a credobaptist. So, the “consensus of agreement” is not in the membership, it is in the presbyters. I would add that it is no secret in the PCA that a great many of their incoming members are from SBC churches where the Calvinists have been alienated. They are willing to put aside their beliefs on baptism for the sake of being able to function as members in good standing in a local church. If you were in touch with the layperson, you would know this too. There are Southern Baptists who are leaving their churches because of the rhetoric coming from the pulpits of men like Johnny Hunt, Jerry Vines, and many others.

    You write: In Southern Baptist churches there is not a large affinity for Calvninism (as per your blog) — and that’s the problem. Most Southern Baptists today aren’t Calvinists and don’t want to be Calvinists. Therefore, when pastors of Calvinistic persuasion (such as those now coming out of Southern Seminary) began leading Southern Baptist churches there is going to be fall-out. What’s going on in Hampstead, New Hampshire is occurring more and more often.

    Really? In which churches? Where are they? This keeps getting stated, but nobody ever substantiates it. It seems we are to conclude your rule of faith for the local church is majoritarian. However, your booklet portrays a negative picture of Calvinism. So, you’re not simply trying to get people to think about the issues, you are intentionally portraying Calvinism in a negative light, and discussing majoritarianism and traditionalism. There are two fallacies here. 1: You’re appealing to majoritarian tradition to validate tradition. 2. The question of who is true to tradition begs the question in favor of tradition, and only pushes the question back step. I can be true to tradition without tradition being true.

    Is your intent is truly to “not to persuade Calvinists to change their minds? You said:” This manuscript was written for two reasons: 1) to call attention to Calvinism as a growing theologial issue in Southern Baptist life (The manuscript states why I asked the Executive Committee at the Greensboro Convention to appoint a study committee, and who knows, perhaps this committee will demonstrate that my fears are unsubstantiated.), and 2) to put in words what the average Southern Baptist layperson is feeling right now and to give that layperson a handle on what they believe theologically but aren’t sure how to express it,” as you say, then why are you giving it to students in Reformed Baptist and Presbyterian churches, where you say there is already consensus on Calvinism? Why are you making remarks like “Calvinism kills missions,” and “Calvinism naturally leads to depression?” Do you have statistics that bear the former out? The grandest sermon I have ever heard on missions from Romans 11 was given at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Winston-Salem, NC two years ago. Do you have clinical statistics related to Calvinism and depression?

  • Dave

    I am a bit confused. I thought the study which Dr. Connell was referred to Lifeway. I also though the results of that study had been published. (10% of SBC pastors claim to be five point calvinists) Am I mistaken?

  • Where can I get a copy of this in-depth analysis of Calvinism in 73 pages by this guy? The arrogance of thinking someone can provide a coherent refutation of biblical doctrine in 73 pages boggles the mind.


  • Dave,

    I thought the same thing. My understanding that the LifeWay research on “five point Calvinism” was in response to Dr. Connell’s motion.


    I am hoping that Dr. Connell will choose to make his writings available to the general public.


    If I did my math correctly, for every one member FBC Daytona retained during those four years, they lost 45. In other words, for every 100 that stays, it loses 4,500. Thanks for putting the spotlight where facts can speak for themselves.


    Though your comment is directed to Dr. Connell, let me say that the point on the autonomy of the local church is key. The turn to being Romanist is indicative when decisions and mandates are made from the top down. The Convention and its leaders are to serve the local church, not dictate what goes on in the local church. What Dr. Sullivan is doing, for example, is about as un-baptistic as it gets, and it has been done already in the Missouri and Texas Baptist Conventions as well.

  • You can recieve a copy of Dr. Connell’s assesment of Calvinism by contacting him in person, via Email. Thats how I did it. Simply goggle search “Calvary of Savannah.”

    Or look here:

    Dr. John S. Connell, Senior Pastor

    Calvary in Savannah

    4625 Waters Avenue

    Savannah, GA 31404

  • D. Taylor Benton

    I wonder what Dr. Connell and the others like him have to say about Sovereign Grace Ministry Churchs that are exploding accross the US with a very Reformed Calvinistic Doctrine? In my humble opinion, they have one of the most healthy views of the church including that of the SBC.

  • How come most of these Calvinist attacks are coming from Georgia? I just moved to Louisville, KY from Georgia, and so I have read everything printed in the index, personally talked to Bill Harrell who sent me Dave Hunt’s book and Laurence Vance’s book. While there are attacks coming from Georgia, there are some solid reformed guys in Georgia as well. Hopefully when I finish seminary in 4,000 years the Lord will lead me back to Georgia to help reform the GBC. May we stay true to the doctines of the historical baptist theology, the doctrines of the reformation, the doctrines of the Bible! Timmy…are you a Southern Student? I would like to know, because I just moved here.

  • John Fariss

    As a non-Calvinist (at least a non-five-point-Calvinist), I see this whole anti-Calvinism movement in the SBC as terrible. It seems to be to be more of the same “my way or the highway” mentality which has come to characterize the SBC in the past few years. Let me refer you to John Leland, who referred to a split within the Separate Baptists in Virginia in 1775. It was apparently brutal and ugly (at least by their standards–I wonder how they would view ours today?). LeLand says, “After both parties had contested till their courage grew cool, they ceased their hostilities, grounded their arms, and formed a compromise upon the middle ground, of ‘think and let think;’ and ceded to each other its territiry and liberty.” My question is: can we find the wisdom of Baptists of 200+ years ago?

    Without addressing whether there was a need for the CR back in 1979, or making any value-judgment about it, it is a fact (in MHO) that the means by which it was carried out set a certain amout of president within the Convention. Things like “going for the jugular” and “pickle theology” have become set, almost part of our collective DNA. I refer here not to our belief systems, but rather to the way we engage one another. In other words, we have adopted a dysfunctional way of relating to one another, and this goes beyond Calvinism, Arminism, Neo-Evangelicalism, Neo-Orthodoxy, Process Theology, or any other Systematic Theology to which one ascribes. It goes to Practical Christianity, to the Book of James more than to any interpretation of Paul’s writings.

    To me, the real question is, “Can our present dysfunctional way of relating be overcome?” As most any Christian counselor will tell you, the answer is, “Yes.” However, this is never easy. It requires intentionality, courage, time, resources, and energy. Who is up to the challange? Who ALL are willing to make this their cause?

  • Hutch

    It has been pointed out that a lot of the recent attacks on Calvinism have been originating in Florida and Georgia. Is this because these states are the center of anti-Calvinist sentiment in the SBC, or is it because Calvinism is so strong in those states that it has provoked a counter-attack?

  • D. Taylor Benton,

    I have great apprecation for Sovereign Grace churches and the balance of their ministry under C.J.’s leadership.


    Yes, I am in Louisville, living on the east side baby! We’ve been here since August 2004.

  • John,

    I certainly hope that all of us who care about the SBC are up to that challenge. Making this our cause will require setting aside personal agendas, political motivations, and other accusations and attacks must go. I think this is where we need to begin–with our own repentance and willingness to see Phil 2:1-4 our protocol.

    My fear is that this generation, who Mohler mentions in his World article, that were playing Little League during the Conservative Resurgence (I was still in diapers) have lived their entire lives in a war-torn SBC where they are seeing the fight coming to them. Once the Conservative Resurgence was over, the fight has turned into conservative versus conservative. Have you noticed that in the SBC we are not like other denominations that are fighting homosexuality, women in ministry, and heretical doctrines. Yet our fight is more intense, and it is over less significant and non-essential issues. For things to be adiaphora, for some it has become euphoria.

    I hope that we can be known more for our commitment to the gospel than our pronouncement against alcohol, more for our love for the brethren than our prevailing triumphalistic attitudes, more for a unity in essentials than our differences in non-essentials, and more committed to building healthy local churches than trying to control a convention through politics and propaganda. I pray we see that day. Soon.

  • Hutch,

    I think it is fairly widespread in the SBC, that is, in the South.

    I am from Alabama, and our state has been getting it for a long time. Churches have in the past received free copies of Fisher Humphreys’ God So Loved the World from the State Convention which has been used to remove Calvinistic pastors from the churches, sometimes resulting in splits. Last year, an AL pastor preached in chapel at the NOBTS extension in a chapel service twice attacking Calvinism.

    In Tennessee, the editor of the Baptist and Reflector, Lonnie Wilkey, said that Calvinists are not like Jesus because they have no urgency in evangelism and preaching the gospel.

    In Louisiana, Steve Lemke’s white paper criticized Founders churches in the SBC, which Bobby Welch concluded that Calvinism is contrary to the Great Commission.

    In Texas, Malcolm Yarnell, also in his white paper, argued that hyper-Calvinism is a real threat in the SBC without the ability to back up his claims.

    In South Carolina, Frank Page writes his book Trouble with TULIP.

    Anyway, that’s a few examples off the top of my head. I am sure there are others. But yeah, I would say GA and FL are hot spots right now. I don’t know what or if there is a counter-attack within the state, as I am somewhat limited to the blogosphere. Years ago, stuff like this (and what Dr. Connell is doing for example) would go on unnoticed and unchecked because people didn’t have a medium to communicate their concerns or offer a rebuttal. Needless to say, the times, they are a changin’.

  • As an update on the FL situation with Dr. Sullivan, let me point you to a couple of links.

    To view Dr. Sullivan’s letter to the pastors which include the DVD’s of Jerry Vines, go here.

    Bill Lollar has written on the controversy in FL, providing some pictures of the DVD’s being given to the pastors.

  • John Fariss

    Amen, Tim.

    I’m 54 now, so I was was around when the CR began. However, I was a brand-new Christian at the time (at the ripe old age of 28+), so I have no personal knowledge of what went into the mix. I have little doubt that there were some in the convention who leaned to the left, but I am also convinced that there were many who were more conservative than anything else, yet were painted with a wide brush. But that is neither here nor there; my point, like yours, is that this battle is not about the CR–except perhaps in the sense of learned behavior in our relationships. As we should have learned from Iraq (twice now), the peace is harder to win than the war. As I have gotten older, I have come to believe that our actions in and for Christ speak much louder than our words of what we believe about Him. It reminds me too of something my best friend (who has a BS, I think four Master’s degrees, and a Ph.D) said, that “grad school is about studing more and more about less and less.” I think the same could be said about our SBC battles today.

  • Apparently, there is even more going on in FL. See today’s Founder’s Blog. It bothers me that there are sixw witnesses who have confirmed the notes of the meeting are accurate and the person involved is denying them. It also strikes me as a classic case of betraying one’s weak hand when you have to constantly say, “Are you calling me a liar.” I’m not as nice as some. If I had six witnesses, I would say, “Yes, I am, and you need to repent.” I believe Brother Dustin Segers would too, but that’s just us. He keeps saying there have been complaints, but, like the folks at Baptistfire used to do, he doesn’t tell anybody where the complaints are coming from. This behavior is ungodly by any measure.

    There are non-SBC churches watching these events and they are wondering if it is worth joining the SBC. They won’t if this goes on, and it’s nobody’s fault but those who are doing this sort of thing.

    And I can’t help but wonder at those who claim “Calvinism is causing division” aren’t right. Yes, it is, because the anti-Calvinists start ranting and raving. It’s not the Calvinists who are running around passing out the sort of literature that Dr. Connell wrote and sending mailings of Dr. Vines’ sermons. We only get involved when they throw the first punch. We reply, as we have at SBF, and then we are the ones who get blamed for causing divsions. So, we must conclude that the definition of “causing division” is “responding to an attack.” It”s like we’re getting mugged in the street and when we fight off the mugger, we’re the ones that the police arrests!

  • For a convention of autonomous churches, Many S.B.C. churches sure act and look similar. and strangely enough many have some similar problems that go way beyond “calvinism” as I know it.

    Many of these churches do not actually present a New Testament gospel. They present a “moral” gospel ( People need to stop smoking, drinking, and skipping church)

    Many present the “felt-needs” gospel ( Not happy? Marriage struggles? Jesus is all about fixing you!

    There a few more versions of this, all strangely interwoven. Man yspeak of the Gospel, yet never define it. Many Many think that people do not get saved unless they walk the aisle, and many assume that when that happens people are born again….Many also are never told of spiritual disciplines and the responsibility of the believer to continually repent of sin and keep focused on Christ.

    Are more baptisms the answer? Are more “decisions” the answer?

    So….the real threat is not Calvinism, but the loss of the New Testament Gospel.

    Pastors, believing the Bible is inerrant is not enough. Teaching about justication, sanctification, and a body of believers that are not saved through works but unto works for the Glory of God in Christ is even better.

    Sorry for the criticism. its just that I love Jesus and hate confusion. Lets pray so that we who love the Gospel do not resort to fighting battles in the flesh as many do. We have a weapon that is much better.

  • John Fariss

    BTW Tim: what part of Alabama are you from? I am originally from Talladega, lived in Birmingham & Montgomery, & my wife is from Wetumpka, though she lived at times in the Mobile area. I have distant kin in Anniston, the Huntsville area, and Arab. We left in 1984 for seminary, and just kep getting farther north–but maybe in about 8 or 9 more years. . . .

  • John,

    I was born in Florida, but lived most of my childhood in North Alabama – Athens to be exact. I lived in Mobile for four yeras when I attended the University of Mobile. Given that they are the extremes of Alabama, I have traversed much of the state and have many ministerial friends throughout.

  • Gene,

    Thanks for the heads up on Tom’s new post. Everyone who is reading this right now needs to take a moment and read it for yourself.

    This is precisely what I have been arguing for almost three years. I said it at the Baptist Identity Conference, and I will say it here. The problem in the SBC is not that we have too many Calvinists in the Convention but that we have too many liars in the Convention. Brothers, whether you agree with Calvinism or not, we must agree that we must be people committed to the truth, to being truthful people, and at all costs, maintain the integrity of visible church which is the pillar and buttress of truth. If what Roger Moran is allowed to say and do what he wants in MO and Sulivan/Seagle in FL, there will be no questions why churches are dying and Southern Baptists are leaving.

    All of us, regardless of where you stand soteriologically, must work together to build bridges to communicate the gospel of Jesus Christ to our world. But that is not enough. We must also protect the ones that still exist. There are those in the SBC who are on a bridge-burning mission who will recklessly lob grenades in hopes that their party can achieve more power and the SBC become more divided. It comes even at the expense of the truth.

    Not only must there be a cease fire, there must be a calling out of such tactics and exposing them for what they are. Gene is dead on. Calvinists have not instigated all this. Those of us who have written on it are only responding to what has already happened. Those exposed cry foul because they got caught. While we must always extend the right hand of fellowship to one another, though we may disagree on things, we must also be willing to have the backbone and courage to denounce the divisiveness plaguing the Convention. If we don’t, the legacy of the SBC might be the smell of smoke rather than the handing of another brick.

    So what will it be, SBC?

  • Dave

    Timmy did you happen to read this: Dr. Richards is at least honest about the history of Calvinism in the SBC.

  • Dave

    A couple of years ago, by accident, I ended up having lunch with Jim Richard’s and Ed Stetzer.They were both likeable Christ-like individuals.

  • Dave,

    Yes, I did see that interview. His comment is fair, and I think I understand where he is coming from. My problem is that his comment is typicallly biased against Calvinists. He warns against Calvinists who are more interested in converting people to Calvinism than winning people to Jesus, and I agree. But I personally don’t know such a man.

    What I do know is that non-Calvinists are making this a constant battle and will not stop until Calvinists are no longer in the SBC. Why can’t any SBC leader speak to this? Why is all the attention given to straw men and no attention is given to a whole host of men with an anti-Calvinist agenda?

    That’s the bias I am talking about. I hope that makes sense.

  • Oh, if I am not mistaken, Stetzer is a Calvinist.

    I thought I should mention that Dr. Tom Nettles has addressed Dr. Connell in his updated and revised edition of <i>By His Grace and For His Glory</i>. Let me provide you with some of Nettles’ summary of Connell’s book:

    [Connell] lists the dangers of Calvinism as arrogance and elitism, depression and despair, and a life void of evangelistic fervor. On the doctrine of election, he taught that “everybody is elected,” and “God draws everyone.” He does this through the image of God in man, His revelation in nature, His Word and Spirit, and personal messengers. God “chooses us all,” that is, election is universal. It is ineffective, however, unless you “choose your election. God has chosen you, now you’ve got to turn around and choose God right back.”

    Let me inject to say that universal election leads to two conclusions: one, God is either powerless to save and therefore you must become the final efficient cause of your salvation (thus becoming a work, not a grace), or two, God effectually saves everyone, which is universalism. Alas, let me continue on with Nettles’ summary:

    Election means God chooses every individual in the world, and predestination means that all the individuals that choose God will in fact reach a predetermined status as God’s sons. We can rely on this because God knows it. For Connell, the bookf of Ephesians means that God has taken the initiative to make salvation available to everyone through Christ alone. Now it is up to us. Connell ended his book by calling for a purging of Calvinists from denominational institutions. In this confrontation “the screams of the five-point Calvinists will make the howling of the liberals seem like whimpers.” . . . The Baptist tent cannot hold five-point Calvinists. Along with Calvinists leaving, Connell believed that the Abstract of Principles, the confession that has governed Southern Seminary since 1859, should be dismantled since it teaches unconditional election. . . . Should Calvinists win the day, Connell vowed to leave along with “huge numbers of people” that feel the same way. It is a situation that demands immediate attention.”

    – Thomas J. Nettles, By His Grace and for His Glory: A Historical, Theological, and Practical Study of the Doctrines of Grace in Baptist Life. Revised and Expanded. Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2006, 273-74.

    No kidding it demands immediate attention! Connell wants to remove the Abstract of Principles because, if he can remove the Reformed confessional roots from the SBC, then the fruit of that, namely Calvinists, will go too.

    Dr. Connell’s soteriology is far from doxological. It is about as man-centered as it gets. It caricatures God as though He has to wring His hands in utter helplessness because He cannot save His people. It is all up to us. Poor and pitiful God! Such a portrait is representative of a beggar, not a king. God does a part of salvation (make it possible), but you must save yourselves because God’s purpose in grace is not effectual or particular.

    My Bible says that “let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” For when we consider our calling, God chose the weak, the things that are not, the despised for Himself. My Bible says that “it is not of works, lest any man should boast.” From beginning to end, it is all of grace, for salvation is of the Lord, the Author and Finisher of our faith.

  • gee, and here i was hoping that we could all just get along…


  • Michele,

    I am not aware of how familiar you are to the recent history over this issue in the SBC, but perhaps this document I created could shed some light on the subject.

    I, too, would like for us all to get along. But for that to happen we must walk in the light as He is in the light, that we may have fellowship with one another (1 John 1). We can only fellowship when the lights are turned on, that is, on all of us, including myself who is accountable to loving the brethren yet holding fast to the truth of the gospel. If there is anywhere that we must come together, it must be around the cross and its message of redemption to hell-deserving sinners like you and me. I am hoping and praying that is where the SBC will find ourselves – that is, not on another hill on which to die, but on Calvary’s hill where One has already fought the battle, died, and won the victory that we might be one.

  • Moses Toole


    I too have been one who has been reading your blog, from afar. I have appreciated your ‘balanced’ zeal for the Truth and brotherly love. Being a reformed and Baptist preaching pastor near Savannah, GA. I, and the church I pastor, have personally experienced many vicious attacks from local arminian pastors. Some of these pastors have refused to recommend the classical Christian school on our campus to Christian parents in their churches. The reason? We are reformed. Of course, we are accused of being elitists, against missions, opposed to evangelism, antinomian, etc., etc., What’s sad is that not one of these local pastors have requested a meeting with us for the purposes of clarification as to what it is we believe the scriptures to teach. Nor have they sought to learn from us what we “practice” (methodology), as a result of our “beliefs” (theology). Though we are not an SBC church, we are evangelical, Baptist, and reformed. Being an ARBCA (Association of Reformed Baptist Churches in America) affiliated church we nevertheless have a good working relationship with both the Founders and Nine Marks ministries. Our hopes have been high for the SBC. We recognize the great potential that the SBC has in holding forth the truth of God’s Word in the post Christian society in which we live. Our prayer is that, by God’s grace, the SBC will rally around the Word of God before more churches are destroyed. I realize that this is a shocking statement and, therefore I would like to address my reasons for making it in the following paragraph.

    As stated earlier, I am reformed. I see, clearly, that the Word of God proclaims what is often referred to as the “doctrines of grace”. Because of this, I strongly disagree with arminian doctrine and view it as great error. Having said this, I am no less opposed to hyper-calvinist doctrine. It, no less than arminianism, is a great error. Yet, I can disagree with professing brothers ‘lovingly’. I can debate them with great energy and passion, but with compassion. I can refuse to assume what it is they believe and practice without having ever personally discussed those matters with them. It seems to me that a great failing among we pastors and leaders is that of ‘loving one another’. Convention politics and positioning for places of power supercedes Christ’s command that “we love one another even as He has loved us” — so that all men will know that we are His disciples. Here then is my great concern. It is that, while blood is shed between arminians and calvinists — easy believism and antinomianism will utterly destroy the very foundation upon which the church of our Lord is built. Arminians and calvinists alike must admit that many of todays church members live in this world as if obeying Christ, as Lord, is optional! Both Arminians and calvinists must also admit that many in our pews do not tremble before God’s law! I pleade with both camps, those of us who are reformed, as well as those who are arminian — to recognize what is happening at lightening fast speed to our churches. Many of them have a large number of ‘fleshy’ people in membership — there is no biblical accountability one to another — church rolls are inflated with high numbers, but faithful attendance is only a fraction of the membership. Why? Easy believism, antinomianism, optional Lordship! Should we vigorously debate our differences in doctrine,? YES! “Earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all time delivered to the saints”? YES! But in doing so it is vital that we ALL (arminian and calvinist alike) with the strength that God’s gives, attack those sickening heresies that threaten to undo many of those places that once served as a light on a hill. May the Lord grant us great favor, clear minds, and loving hearts.

    Moses Toole, Preaching Pastor
    Ephesus Church, Rincon, GA.

  • Amen Moses.

    The point I and others are trying to make about the Conservative Resurgence is that it was a political takeover that has not translated into more healthy and biblical churches. Yes, we believe the Bible to be inerrant, but as one quickly look at some of the decisions and resolutions being made, one has to wonder if we believe it is sufficient.

    In the SBC, we have got to take our attention off the Convention and put our focus on local, individual churches. How can we help pastors develop the marks of a true church? How can we see regenerate church membership, church discipline, and the ordinances treated with greater biblical fidelity? How can we help develop church leadership to tackle the leading theological issues that are infiltrating the minds of our lay people, whether it is antinomianism, inclusivism, or Open Theism? What can we do to see our churches reproduce themselves in planting other churches while training and developing leaders from within their own ranks? These are but a few questions that come to my mind when I think about Baptist renewal in the SBC, not resolutions, politics, conferences, or bully pulpits spreading personal agendas.

    As our society continues to become more narcissistic, more individualistic, more fragmented, more therapeutic, and more commercialized, we have to realize what such a cultural ethos is doing to how our people think about church and living in covenant community with one another. Confronting theological error is but one front in this onslaught against Christ’s bride. Yet it is a front nonetheless. While we have focused our attempts to reach an arbitrary goal in baptisms, we have failed to see that we are becoming more and more marginalized and removed from the world we hope to reach. The ever-widening gap of secular America and the cultural naivete of many in the SBC is alarming to me, perhaps on par with some of the other concerns which seem to demand our time and attention. For, even if we believe in inerrancy and recover the gospel, to whom are we going to deliver it? How are we going to do that?

    Anyway, I really appreciate your thoughts. I hope that all of us, SBC or not, will work together to contend for the faith once for all handed down to the saints while at the same time seeking to become all things to all men for the sake of the gospel. God bless you and your ministry brother.

    Timmy Brister

  • The chronology is a good read Timmy. Thanks for the heads up.

    “…the word of God is not bound.”
    –2 Timothy 2:9

  • You’re welcome Josh. There are several corrections and additions I have made to it. I was going to post a revised copy, but I thought I should wait until after the Convention next week, as I am likely going to need to update it again. Be looking for it in a couple of weeks.

  • Moses,

    Good words, brother! Russ just told me of your comment. I will see you all again next time I visit. If I were ever to move back to Rincon I would definately have my family at Ephesus.


    Thanks for this post. We talked about this Connellism stuff late last year. I would like to get a copy of this manuscript myself.



  • Jim Shaver stated, “The smart thing for us Calvinists in the SBC to do would be to start planning for a future apart from the Convention, while we still have a choice in the matter and before all the young Calvinists depart on their own. I fear that will not happen as well.
    To me our choice is simple. Do we go down with the SBC ship or bail out before she sinks?” I hate to admit it, but I think he is correct.

    There was a mailout here in Texas last year (April 2006) by the SBTC. It included the “C-Word” sermon by Dr. Fish and a presentation by Paige Patterson. An apology was issued eventually for the mailout, but a great deal of mistrust and hurt had already been inflicted.

    This topic isn’t going to go away…

  • Moses Toole


    Thank you brother for the kind comments. And — should you ever return to our area we would be most blessed to have you!


    Thank you brother for your comments in response to my post. You are absolutely right on. My prayer is that more brothers would see the facts so clearly, and soon, for the sake of Christ’s glory and church. In the end, the “Truth” — God’s precious Word, is always that which is under attack. Oh, that all men and women of God everywhere would recognize that the church of Jesus Christ, the pillar and support of the Truth, is under great satanic assault. It seems that I am hearing more and more often of churches splitting, crumbling, bickering, confused and generally in disarray. It is as you stated, not only is the Word of God inerrant, it is sufficient. May there be a re-claiming, a new embracing, of the complete sufficiency of scripture — for what we believe and what we do. Until such time the current ‘weak as water’, American version of Christianity will prevail. May the Lord God grant His bride a collective repentant heart and a renewed love for His Holy Word in these days.


  • Cap Pooser

    It would be interesting to learn what the published doctrinal statement of the New Hampshire Baptist church is. Most of the oldest churches have Calvinistic doctrinal statements.

  • Cap,

    I don’t know if this would interest you or not, but check out First Baptist Woodstock’s (Johnny Hunt is pastor) constitution at the link below. See especially article 3 and 4 which speak to total depravity and unconditional election.


    Great word brother. Thanks for the encouraging comments!


    It seems that the state conventions have no shame, do they? Just like our state schools have little to no doctrinal accountability (hello Baylor, Belmont, and Samford!), so our state executives have freedom to do what they want, so it seems. The ramifications of all this, however, will not be limited to that particular state. The whole Convention will feel it, and that’s what all the more pressing about this problem!

  • johnMark,

    You’re welcome, and I will try to see if there is anyway Dr. Connell would be interested in making his book available for the public.

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  • Correction:
    FBCD statistics are

    3506 members
    203 baptisms
    253 other additions
    2200 attendance (primary worship)

    296 b
    190 o.a.
    2100 p.w.

    4011 m
    209 b
    137 oa
    2031 pw

    4163 m
    1874 pw

    Would this church meet Brother Bill’s criteria for “declining?” It went from a counted Sunday morning worship attendance of 2200 in 2001 to 1874 in 2004. If my math is correct, that is a 15% decline.

    Granted, they have baptized 945 people during that 4 year period and they have added 784 people by other means. But the church membership only grew by 657. It took 1729 new members for the church to grow by 657 members.

    In addition those 1729 new members resulted in 326 fewer worshipers!

    They only get 45 % of their members in church on Sunday.

    Those above, are, I believe from Bellevue or FBC Jax.

    This is by no means a Calvinist church. Before those in Jax cast stones, they need to tend their own backyard.

  • Gene,

    Thanks for the correction and analysis.

  • kevin

    I appreciate your comments and affirm your position. If you haven’t already, I thought you might find it interesting Calvary’s “gospel” appeal they have on their website:

  • Kevin,

    When I was first investigating the situation, I did see that gospel presentation and found it really alarming. But at that time, I was simply looking for factual data regarding the church and Dr. Connell. But now that you pointed me to it, I see why you brought it up here. In light of this, I think it would be worthwhile to address this presentation, at least until the book is made available. If I deal with it, I will take it over to Strange BaptistFire, since it is our default blog for treating stuff like this. Here’s the link:

  • kevin

    I realize this is a bit off the subject, but do you know of any live blogging that will be taking place at the SBC Pastor’s Conference?

  • Kevin,

    Check out the following blogs:

    Art Rogers

    Tom Ascol

    Wade Burleson

    Bart Barber

    Marty Duren

    Steve Weaver

    Wes Kenney

    Micah Fries

    Oh, and Baptist Press now as a blog, but they haven’t posted anything yet.

  • Mike Yarbrough

    While I am not a calvinist, I do agree that calvinism is not the cause in the dearth of baptisms or lack of discipleship…the problem as I see it is a lack of response from people to do what God has called them to do…a preacher can preach with passion and fervor about reaching the lost, can lead out in visitation of the lost and sharing the goepel, but if the church he leads will not follow, there will be a decrease in baptism, which we have seen…certainly in some cases, pastors are more interested in moving to larger churches with larger salaries, or promoting agendas other than God’s, but that is not the whole story…
    As for Calvinist, I just can’t get past the verse in Peter’s epistle that tells us that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all would come to repentance…I had a friendly debate with a dear brother who holds to calvinst teachings…I asked him about about man’s free-will…he said that man had free will but lost it in the garden when man sinned…I then asked him, “What about cain? Didn’t God show us that Cain could have given a proper sacrifice but chose not to?” he said…I guess you have me there…All I’m trying to say is why don’t we forget this debate and just get about the Father’s business and win souls to Christ?

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  • Dear Brothers/Sisters:

    I agree that Calvinism is deadly to evangelism. It started sweeping the SBC years ago and will probably tear whats left of the convention apart.

    My advise is get in a Bible Believing Independant Baptist Church. Heres what you will get in return:

    1) A return to door to door evangalism as is the biblical pattern.
    2) No more watered down bible versions with 20,000 omissions and changes.
    3) A return to seperation.
    4) Godly music
    5) Solid preaching – no more fluffy preaching like you have in SBC churches.

    Independant Baptist Churches are the last line of defense. The Southern Baptist Convention became liberal decades ago.

    Billy Graham was a friend of Roman Catholism. If you don’t beleive do some research. Not one Southern Baptist Pastor said a word about it

  • Paul,

    I have a few questions for you:

    1. Could you elaborate on the biblical pattern of door-to-door evangelism? I am not familiar with that one.

    2. Does your church have a website?

    3. Is the Bible translation you are talking about the Septuagint, popularly called the LXX?

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