The Current SBC Calvinism Debate: Observations, Clarifications, And Suggestions -- By: David L. Allen

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 09:2 (Fall 2012)
Article: The Current SBC Calvinism Debate: Observations, Clarifications, And Suggestions
Author: David L. Allen

The Current SBC Calvinism Debate: Observations, Clarifications, And Suggestions

David L. Allen

David L. Allen is Dean of the School of Theology, Professor of Preaching, and George W. Truett Chair of Ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

The release of “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation” in the summer of 2012 engendered a Convention-wide discussion and made nation-wide news. Tongues wagged and fingers pecked computer keyboards ceaselessly in subsequent weeks. The Traditional Statement (TS) has received both acclaim and criticism. In reflecting on the tsunami of words, and as a conversation partner along with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, I have asked the Lord to help me be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove. I hope the following thoughts will be helpful as we continue the conversation in the days ahead. By way of brief personal background, I served in the local church for twenty-six years; twenty-one of those years as a senior pastor of two churches. I have served two theological institutions in the classroom since 1985. In addition, I served on the Board of Trustees at one of our SBC Seminaries for 12 years. In my current role, I preach regularly in Southern Baptist churches.

Two things are crystal clear. The issue of Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Convention is not going away, and finding our way forward is not going to be easy. Calvinism is viewed through many prisms in the SBC. Some see it as absolutely vital to the health and prosperity, both theological and otherwise, of the SBC. Others view it as theologically flawed, a niggling nuisance spawning various levels of problems, including divisiveness, in the churches. Regardless of which camp you are in, or somewhere in the middle, Southern Baptists need to proceed with caution in the days ahead. When it comes to Calvinism in the SBC, a fair amount of misinformation, misinterpretation, misunderstanding, and misrepresentation characterizes the current climate. This makes it difficult for most to cut through the discrepant fog.

The first place to begin, it seems to me, is with our common ground. As Southern Baptists, our agreements outnumber or disagreements. We agree: 1) on the BFM 2000. 2) on the Lordship of Christ. 3) on the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture. 4) on the exclusivity of the gospel and the lostness of humanity. 5) that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, not to mention a host of other issues on which we agree. Virtually all of us recognize that Southern Baptists are not going to agree on Calvinism. However, that does not mean that this discussion should not happen! While the debate about Calvinism is necessary, it is absolutely es...

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