The Southern Baptist Convention is in the midst of yet another controversy. According to the Christian Post, the president of the convention is trying to treat the minority fairly:
The head of the largest Protestant denomination is not a Calvinist. But in response to ignited discussions over the rising influence of Calvinism, Southern Baptist Convention president Frank Page has clarified that he is open for dialogue.
“Most everyone who knows me knows that I am not a Calvinist,” said Page in a column on Baptist Press this week. “However, I have made it clear that I would be fair to those who are Calvinists in appointments in our convention. I have been true to my word.”
Page was responding to a LifeWay Research study that showed a growing percentage of Baptists are affirming the five points of Calvinism – total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints. The study was released in November.
While only around 10 percent of SBC pastors overall say they are Calvinists, nearly 30 percent of recent SBC seminary graduates now serving as church pastors indicate they are Calvinists, according to the research.
Why does this matter? It’s all about evangelism:
While some Southern Baptists are embracing the doctrines of grace–five points of Calvinism–others see it as a threat to the convention, especially to their evangelistic efforts.
I’ve never quite understood this. If Calvinists were simply rationalistic fatalists, I could see the point. But Calvinists believe the Bible every bit as much as Arminians do, and that includes the Great Commission. God has chosen to use His people as the means through which to reach the world with the good news, and that means we can’t just sit around and claim that God will do all the work. God does the saving, but we are instruments in the process. Some of the great evangelists have been Calvinists (e.g., Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, Charles Spurgeon, William Carey, etc.). So Southern Baptists really needn’t worry that all those Calvinist pastors are going to turn the convention into some kind of quietist sect.