Saturday, March 6, 2010

Reformed Red Flags

Within the Southern Baptist Church the Calvinist/Arminian debate is heating up.  A group in Tennessee is advocating what appears to be little more than a witch-hunt to expose and remove pastors who have calvinistic leanings. One document that has circulated advises churches about "Reformed Red Flags" to watch for in their pastors.
"Reformed Red Flags"
  • Lack of passion in the public invitation for the lost to repent and receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, or no Gospel invitation is extended.
  • Lack of salvation sermons or evangelistic (revival) preaching.
  • Use of the ESV Study Bible.
  • Lack of participation with other churches in evangelistic campaigns in their city, county, region.
  • Adding other belief statements or confessions to what their church believes, such as 1st London Baptist Confession, New Hampshire Confession, Abstract of Principles.
  • Moving the Church to elder rule.
  • Focused on creating the "true" church.
  • Strict Church discipline is sought to grow the church down to the "true" church.
  • Members of the Founders movement and attend their annual meetings.
  • In their sermons they quote from men such as John Piper, R.C. Sproul, James White, Jonathan Edwards and others.
  • They will call other Calvinists to join them on their church staff.
  • They will methodically employ a strategy of "converting" members to the Doctrines of Grace. As the circle widens, the movement grows bolder within the fellowship.
  • Tendency towards a highly logical systematic theology where all the questions about life and God have answers and fit neatly and nicely into a theological box.
  • The love to write and blog about their reformed theology.
  • Tendency to use their pastoral authority against any member that questions their reformed theology or direction.
  • Tendency to be evasive about their theology during the pastoral search process.
Much of these are obviously silly and many are little more than nonsensical distortions of the Calvinistic/Reformed positions. One wonders of the author of this list has ever even read Hodge, Warfield, or Edwards.  Who could honestly accuse Bavinck, who wrote extensively about the absolute sovereignty of God, of putting God in "a neat little box"? Who could honestly accuse Edwards or Spurgeon of lacking in zeal to see the conversion of sinners? And didn't the Baptist church movement begin with a passionate desire to have a regenerate, New Testament, "true" church?

Another document  is called the "Pastor's Pledge". The pastor is asked to sign a statement that reads, in part:
"I wish to state that I do not hold to a reformed or Calvinistic doctrine and the Pastor Search Committee has questioned me comprehensively in this area. With integrity of the heart, I have heard the statements of the Pastor Search Committee and can say with certainty that if my theology ever changes to a Calvinistic doctrine, I will share with the Deacons my new beliefs and work with them and the personel committee in transitioning me and my family to a new place of ministry that is more in line with my new theological stance."
Blowback against good biblical teaching is, of course, to be expected. Jonathan Edward noted that during his time Calvinist theology was generally despised. Little has changed.  Yet what alarms me the most is that many Calvinistic pastors will simply dismiss this list as the writings of a poorly-read, uneducated Arminian-zealot. But to do so only allows the document to have a seed of credibility.  Rightly or wrongly, distortion or partial-fact, this is how Calvinistic are seen.  Now is not the time for a point-by-point theological response.  Shouldn't we instead simply get busy doing Christ's business?  Evangelizing the lost, preaching the Gospel, loving the Body?
Calvinists must be the most loving, the most patient, the most evangelistic, and the most joyous of all Christians. Anything less, and we will only see more of these letters.

HT: Tom Ascol

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