On Calvinism

May 1, 2008

On Wednesday nights I have been teaching a class on “what Baptists believe” and have been going through the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 – the official doctrinal statement of the Southern Baptist Convention.

After teaching on Article IV – Salvation and Article V – God’s Purpose of Grace, I felt that it would behoove all of us to take a week to talk about the issue of Calvinism. Calvinism, also known as Reformed Theology, has been a hot topic for several years now in the convention. A recent survey showed that some 10% of Southern Baptist pastors would consider themselves Calvinist. However, another recent survey showed that 30% of recent seminary graduates would consider themselves Calvinist. Obviously, the convention is becoming more Calvinist in its beliefs.

As someone who refuses to box my theology into a certain theological system (such as Calvinism or Dispensational Theology) let me share my personal thoughts on the subject of the “doctrines of grace.”

1. Any system of theology that exalts Christ and leads to Christ-centered ministry and methodology is a positive. Healthy Calvinism does this.

2. Any system of theology that exalts the sovereignty of God and lessens the enlightenment element of exaltation of man is a positive. Healthy Calvinism does this as well.

3. Any system of theology that seeks to bring the church to a healthy status in terms of membership, discipleship, and leadership structure is a positive. Again, healthy Calvinism does quite well at propagating these ideas.

4. However, any system that seeks to explain the relationship between God’s sovereignty and His will juxtaposed with man’s responsibility for sin with logic and not clear Scriptural teaching is dangerous. I feel that it is at this point that many people who claim Calvinistic beliefs go too far. Contrary to some Calvinistic public opinion, I do not believe the Bible is at all clear about whether or not God has created some people to reject Christ and go to Hell and others to accept Christ and go to Heaven. I think that no good comes from this discussion and the mere mention of it is simply a distraction to the mission of the church.

My advice to all Christians, whether pastors, church leaders or new believers is for us together to accentuate the positives that Calvinism brings and eliminate the potential negatives while always keeping our eyes on Jesus and his Great Commission mandate.

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