Just about anyone who knows me knows my penchant for the sovereignty God in all things. We see it throughout our study in John and in our Bible Fellowship overview of the Holy Bible. Recently many reports, conferences and articles have been surfacing regarding Calvinism in the SBC. In a recent article, Christianity Today magazine addresses the issue HERE.
We will need to define terms at some point to aid in the discussion. Given the responses I received from a recent solicitation for “hot topics” to be discussed at our Wednesday night Gathering, this issue seems to be alive and well in our church. However, my experience at UBC is very unlike the ones portrayed in many articles today.
Many articles being written articulate the fear (perhaps even paranoia) of some that we have another SBC fight brewing on our hands and it will even potentially divide the convention. I can tell you that UBC has a strong representation of those who hold to reformed doctrine AND those who do not. It would be an UNNECESSARY divide for these differences to divide us for a few reasons:
1) The gospel is at the center of our preaching, teaching and purpose. Regardless of what you believe about God’s sovereign administration of grace, we are human instruments in God’s hands called to be stewards of the gospel by proclaiming Him around the globe. PERIOD! Recent research performed by LifeWay proves that there is virtually NO difference in the baptisms of churches that are reformed and those who are not. Our concern should not be the heresy of hyper-Calvinism (the erroneous view that it is wrong / wasteful to evangelize — this is NOT Calvinism proper). Our concern should be that the harvest of lost souls is much greater than our faithfulness to share the gospel. ALL OF US are failing at personal evangelism and our churches are failing at disciple-making. By the way, it is discipleship that measures our faithfulness in God’s sight, not conversions only (Matt.28:18-20).
2) The Baptist Faith & Message is broad enough to include all of us. The birthplace of our BF&M’s is from the 1833 / 1853 New Hampshire Confession of Faith, which is very reformed in its focus. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary began with (and still uses) the Abstract of Principles, which is a summary document that has a high view of God and His sovereignty (doesn’t mean you have to be a 5-point Calvinist – more later on that – to hold to). The “Abstracts” for your info was the founding statement of faith for UBC from its start in 1953.
3) Our foundation as a convention has always included those who are reformed and those who are not. At times there has been difficulty with this within individual churches and congregations. Either way, it does not have to divide. We have fought battles over the inerrancy of scripture, and they needed to be fought, but our denomination has within it a real autonomy in our churches to interpret scripture as we see fit and cooperate with one another for the purpose of missions.
I don’t know where you may fall on this subject. As the weeks play out, we will discuss some of these things because about 10 of the 53 “hot topics” related to this very issue. I guarantee you this, if anyone allows this issue to become divisive, it is because the gospel is being confused with something else.
You know, I’ve gotta say that I absolutely love the diversity in our congregation and I have never felt so much freedom to teach / preach what I believe to be plain in the text. May God bless us with a spirit of unity in worship and evangelism that makes a radical difference on campus, in town and in our homes for the glory of God!