Update 12.05.08 :: 11:30 p.m. Having been away most of the day with family outing and then church planting meeting, I have not been able to follow the comments of this post. Upon reading them, I have become discouraged by the direction of the commentary and chose to dump all existing comments, including my own, into the moderation pool. I will follow up with my thoughts soon, Lord willing.
Whenever controversy arises in the SBC, it is always helpful to understand the agenda on both sides. Regarding the current controversy over Calvinism, it is important to note that the agenda has often changed. Earlier in the debate, the goal was to (1) discredit and debunk the doctrines of Calvinism (take William Estep’s 1997 article Doctrines Lead to Dunghill for example). The most devastating blow to Calvinism would be, of course, to show that it is unbiblical. However, non-Calvinists have not dealt with the biblical texts, and as the John 3:16 Conference reveals, very little exegesis was offered for their rejection of the doctrines of grace.
When it became apparent that Calvinism could not be stopped by proving the doctrines were unbiblical, the next step (2) was to argue from pragmatism. Calvinism, they say, is contrary to the Great Commission and would result in less baptisms and fewer people being saved. LifeWay Research last year proved that this claim to be false much to the behest of Steve Lemke and some SWBTS professors. Ed Stetzer has just posted a response to those challenging and questioning the research methods and approach regarding the Calvinism study by LifeWay/NAMB Research.
Furthermore, when pragmatism couldn’t snuff it out, the next thing on the agenda (3) was to police Calvinism. In other words, if you can’t beat it, try to control it and marginalize it. This was seen in the denominational talking point of the pastor search committee and Calvinists putting all their cards on the table. Calvinists who are (and should be) up front with Calvinism have to plow through the caricatures and misunderstandings that have been perpetuated over the years. With transparency and integrity as guiding principles, they are told that they should not be wearing Calvinism on their sleeve, that their willing admission therefore constitutes one who is “aggressive and militant.” On the other hand, Calvinists who are perhaps “softer” and less outspoken about their soteriology simply preach the Bible and love the people, but should it be known at a later time they are Calvnists, they are deemed “deceptive, dishonest, and disruptive to our churches.” In some state conventions (Florida, Texas, and Missouri to be specific), non-Calvinist literature was purchased and sent to every pastor in their states in an attempt to sway ministers against Calvinism. Denominational platforms from convention speeches to Baptist state papers to academic “white papers”, the policing effort was rather comprehensive.