The Soft-Petal SBC Calvinists

The CT article on Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Convention is now online.

My favorite quotation was "We're not the kind [of Calvinists] who are off in a Grand Rapids [read: ethnic Dutch] ghetto crossing our t's and dotting our i's and telling the world to get their act together. We're in the New Orleans slums with groups like Desire Street Ministries, raising up black elders through Reformed theology from 9-year-old boys who had no chance." (Although, I was under the impression that Desire Street was actually a PCA mission.)

But notice that the predominant attitude among these SBC Calvinists is that as it concerns spiritual life, gospel truth is "best," but optional. This comes across in Mohler's panel discussion with Patterson at the SBC pastor's conference this year. The gospel will only shake things up in the SBC when it is understood that it should divide churches. Perhaps some of these SBC Calvinists will embrace the perspective of Spurgeon who famously said,
"And what is the heresy of Arminianism but the addition of something to the work of the Redeemer?... [T]here is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispens[ing] grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption [ie, "limited" or definite atonement] of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross..."
The gospel cannot be optional. Biblical grace is not a secondary, inessential teaching only for the mature. It is the foundation. And there is not a true church apart from the profession of this gospel.

The research department of LifeWay, the "products and services" provider of the SBC and publishers of the Holman Christian Standard Bible, has conducted a survey of SBC pastors and found that about 10% consider themselves Calvinist, with (surprisingly) no present correlation to age of the pastor. With about 42,000 congregations and 10,000 missionaries, a conservative estimate would equal about 5,200 self-identifying SBC Calvinist pastors. Of course, the percentage and correlation with new (younger) pastors may be growing. A similar survey in a decade would be enlightening.

On another note, I suspect that some SBC'ers and other "Evangelicals" have been attracted to the Reformed faith, not only by its explicit teaching and meaning for church life, but also by its implications for worldview and approach to culture. Reformational Baptist David Naugle is the "Piper" or "Mohler" (ie, main promoter) of neocalvinism in Baptist and Evangelical circles. Read his pdf Intro to Reformational Worldview.


Framing The Debate

How could I disagree with John Frame on almost every Reformed in-camp debate? I think he has been wrong about Dooyeweerd*, wrong about the regulative principle of worship, and wrong about the nature of doctrinal controversy itself, and many other important issues. I hope to offer my reasons for disagreement with him on these issues in the future. However, in a recent article he attempts to characterize two opposing sides in a debate about the Christian approach to civil government. I want to touch on this briefly, because it has culture-wide implications.

The larger question at stake is whether there is a distinctively Christian (ie, Calvinistic) perspective on and approach to culture. In other words, 1) is it possible to understand and do culture Christianly. If so, then 2) how and where can we discover, learn, and/or develop such an approach? And 3) what exactly is that approach, and what makes it distinctively Christian? Those who answer the first question in the negative must still address "how, then, shall Christians live culturally?" (if not in a distinctively Christian way). But those who answer the first question affirmatively (as most, if not all, genuine Calvinists do) may answer the second in reference to God's revelation.

Revelation is given in two basic kinds, often called "general" and "special" revelation. A lot can be said about these two kinds of revelation, and what is said has crucial implications for the third question. But basically, general revelation is what God reveals through the created temporal order, and special revelation is what God more particularly reveals by (what we now know as) Holy Scripture. The relationship between general and special revelation is decisive for the second and third questions too.

In any case, Frame says that there are Kuyperians and then there are Klineans. Klineans, he says, do not believe in the necessity of special revelation for civil government (nor, one can infer, for "Christian culture"). Now, as both a Klinean and a Kuyperian (a Kuyperian-Klinean, or vice versa, if you will) I cannot agree with Frame's mischaracterization. Kline is himself both "Vosian" and "Vantilian". Certainly there are some differences between Vos' and Kuyper's views, but not disagreements on this issue. And Kline follows both Vos and VanTil in agreement with Kuyper concerning the sufficiency of general revelation, the necessity of special revelation, and the correlation between both kinds of revelation. Dooyeweerd, by the way, also agrees with Kuyper, Vos, VanTil, and Kline on this.

The specific meaning of sufficiency of general revelation, necessity of special revelation, and their correlation, and how they are articulated is crucial. I hope to address this in detail at some point. There are, of course, differences and disagreements between the views of these important thinkers, and some of those are relevant to this debate. Historcial development of the issues should also be taken into account. But Frame's (mis)characterization is inaccurate and is a detriment to clarity and to moving the discussion forward**. Some comments on Hegeman's blog [1, 2].


In The Papers

This week, The Baltimore Sun paper did an article about blogging. Who do they think their audience is that they frame blogs as something new? I mean, if your own mayor has had one for over a year, it really can't be "news" anymore. Well, I suppose regular print-newspaper reading types are less likely to be familiar. But I think they could have just assumed familiarity and written about local bloggers.

In any case, poet and friend, Salimah Perkins, un-anonymotizes herself, being interviewed for the article. Listen to the Sun mp3 podcast interview with her HERE. (I'm genuinely impressed with her interviewee skills.) The Sun, surprisingly, has a number of podcasted features.


Heretical Friends

I recently met neopelagian christi-anarchist community developer Dave Andrews. We had some good discussion, and later he gave a presentation on his centered-set approach to community.

In the mid 70s Paul Hiebert popularized the concepts of bounded-set and centered-set definitions of social groups. Roughly, the bounded-set defines group membership by position relative to a boundary. The centered-set defines group membership by movement relative to a center. I think both forms of definition are helpful in describing Christian life and community, my objections are to a theology that defines people as other than ("original and total") sinners, and Christ as other than ("substitutively atoning") Savior.

Nevertheless, I look forward to benefiting from Dave's writing on community work [1 & 2].