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Calvinism: The latest Southern Baptist reason to fight

John Calvin

Southern Baptists, well known for their infighting, are going at it tooth and claw over Calvinism.

Calvinism is also called Reformed Theology. Calvinists believe that some of are elected by God to be saved, and others are not.

Those who aren’t Calvinists say this view reduces the drive for evangelism, which is a traditional Southern Baptist emphasis. Whereas Calvinists say evangelism is important, although it is God who saves people, not the efforts of evangelists.

Calvinism has been growing in influence within the SBC.

The president of the flagship seminary is a Calvinist and a 2007 survey reported that 30 percent of recent seminary graduates were Calvinists, while only 10 percent of then-practicing pastors held Calvinist views.

In 2006, two high-profile Southern Baptists met for what was first thought to be a debate, which matured into a dialogue about Calvinism within the Southern Baptist Convention.

One debater was Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky, and a Calvinist.

The other debater was Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas, who is not a Calvinist. Baptist Press, which is controlled by the Southern Baptist Convention, reported on the meeting, as did the independent Associated Baptist Press news service.

At the time, the two seminary presidents said they hoped they could be an example of how to discuss differences and remain friends.

Two years later, the discussion is getting less and less friendly.

The Founders Ministries, a group of Calvinists who maintain that the founders of the SBC were Calvinists, lists three recent examples of conflicts that are dividing the Southern Baptist Convention.

Wade Burleson, a Calvinist and a prominent blogger, cites those Founders Ministries examples when he warns that a line has been drawn in the sand and Calvinists are being targeted.

That line in the sand harkens back to a battle for control of the SBC waged from the late 1970s through much of the 1990s. The winners were those who called themselves conservatives, but who are known as fundamentalists by their adversaries. They defeated those who call themselves moderates, but who are called liberals by the conservatives.

When it became clear that conservatives were going to win, moderates predicted that conservatives would soon begin fighting among themselves, because of the nature of fundamentalism.

The battle over Calvinism means that prediction may be coming true.

December 2, 2008 Posted by | Religion | , , , , | 1 Comment