Southern Baptists and Calvinism

The conversation concerning Calvinism continues among Southern Baptists. At least that is a part of Steve Lemke’s aim in an April 2005 paper titled “The Future of Southern Baptists as Evangelicals” (pp. 12-17). Among other things, Lemke makes the controversial suggestion that the Calvinism outlined in the popular acrostic TULIP amounts to hyper-Calvinism (p. 14). He writes, “While we all know five point Calvinists who are effective evangelists and missionaries, it is a common intuition that those with a theology of hard Calvinism are not apt to be as evangelistic as others” (p. 16). Lemke is the Provost of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Joe Thorn responds to Lemke’s essay on his blog in a post titled “Hyper Calvinism Criticism.” He basically argues that the Calvinism of the TULIP acrostic “is not what has been historically understood as hyper-Calvinism.” His is a good summary of the concerns contained in Iain Murray’s Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching. Also, Tom Ascol has posted part one of his response to Lemke’s paper. Ascol has a substantive piece, but it has a decidedly acerbic tone.

Jim Hamilton has posted some pointers to help Baptists debate this issue more peacefully. His thesis builds upon R. Albert Mohler’s notion of theological triage, a theme I have addressed in this blog on more than one occasion (here and here). Hamilton contends that the difference between Calvinists and Arminians is not one that should divide Baptist from Baptist. The title of his essay reads as follows: “Calvinism and Arminianism: A Debate over First or Third Order Issues?” Hamilton is an assistant professor of biblical studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.


4 thoughts on “Southern Baptists and Calvinism”

  1. Such a juicy issue to discuss. And something Denny is all too familiar with…Louisiana College…the wreck in the Sentra!

    I still contend that 90% of all Armenians are “violently” opposed to Calvanism because of a fundamental lack of understanding. They know just enough about it to believe that they know everything about it. The problem is they really only know hyper-Calvanism…and label it Calvanism. A fundamental lack of understanding.

    And for the last time…the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon was named after John and Thomas…that’s right Denny…you better believe it!

  2. I think Calvinism is too wideley misunderstood by Arminians today. It is seen as a hinderance to preaching the gospel, rather than the hope for preaching the gospel. Hyper-calvinism seems to then be the only answer to this problem, only because of a lack of understanding from the Arminian viewpoint.

  3. Just recently I was talking to a prospect baptist missionary to Mexico. After he found out that I too was a presbyterian (PCA) missionary in Peru, he asked, “So you must not be the Calvinistic type.” I have forgotten how wide-spread is this false notion of Calvinism.

    I proceeded to explain how our call to missions came through the biblical and reformed understanding of salvation. Also, I mentioned how almost all of the missionaries that started the modern movement were Calvinists (Carey, Judson, Paton, Duff, etc.). I forgot to tell him that it is interesting that the PCA has more missionaries per capita than the Southern Baptists (not illustrating pride on my denomination, but the simple fact that Calvinism does not stifle missions and evangelism).

  4. Jack Graham, pastor of The Repentagon, recently showed amazing ignorance of Calvinism in a much-ballyhooed “sermon” (I use that term jokingly when referring to said “pastor”). So, I echo the sentiment that ignorance is the breeding ground of the aforementioned fear. However, I also think that without a robust covenantal view, Calvinism CAN devolve into a rationalistic fatalism. The hardcore supras can be like that. Just an FYI, I am a hardcore 5-pointer.

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