Conservative resurgence and the slippery slope right back down the path toward theololgical apostasy


The conservative resurgence that we have witnessed in the SBC will not last without ongoing spiritual and theological renewal. When noted inerrantists make statements that condemn the teaching of God’s Word as expressed in confessions of faith long esteemed by Southern Baptists (and I am not talking about the Philadelphia or Charleston Confessions here, the Abstract of Pinciples and even the Baptist Faith and Message will do), then they demonstrate that something other than true reverence for God’s Holy Word is driving their agenda. I am not suggesting that Jack Graham and others like him need to be Calvinists in order to prove their commitment to Scripture’s authority, but I am saying that when such guys say that the battle in the SBC was strictly over the Bible and yet they go on to castigate fellow inerrantists and the teachings of confessions of faith that seminary professors have signed saying that they believe and will teach “in accordance with and not contrary to,” then the evidence indicates this sad truth: something other than inerrancy is their real concern.

If this kind of mentality obtains in the leadership of the SBC and spreads to others, then the gains for the cause of biblical authority will be short-lived.

We need to have conversations about conserving the conservative resurgence. Perhaps the attacks on the doctrines of grace will provide such an occasion. I certainly have further thoughts on this subject.

I am currently in the great Pacific Northwest for the Alpha-Omega Conference on Scripture. I hope to blog while here, but given all the travel and communication challenges of the last 2 days, I hesitate to say that it should be easy to do.

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24 Responses to “Conservative resurgence and the slippery slope right back down the path toward theololgical apostasy”

  1. Tom,

    I am in total agreement! I believe that the place to start is with individual pastors of individual churches emphasizing their own church’s confession of faith. I am convinced that Baptists are confessional people. Baptist churches have always been organized with at least two founding documents: a Confession of Faith and a Church Covenant. These two documents respectively indicate what beliefs we are united under and how we have chosen to exercise the “one another” commands in Scripture in the community of the saints.

    Many pastors, however, rarely (if ever) refer to these founding documents. Confessions of Faith define who we are as Baptists. To affirm the inerrancy of Scripture then refuse to say this is what we believe the inerrant Scriptures to teach borders on dishonesty at worst and spiritual negligence at best. As we all know, every heretic has his or her (see, I’m gender inclusive) favorite verse. It is not enough to merely say we believe the Bible. We must say that, but we must say more than that. We must say this is what we believe the inerrant Scriptures to teach in regard to its essential teachings.

    Sorry to go so long. I believe this to be a very important topic and I agree that this is a conversation is worth having! Let the conversation begin!

  2. Well, for starters (ok, I’m the second responder…close to starters), I have a question about which doctrine out of the BFM was getting attacked by Jack Graham specifically. I have a post on another thread of what I suspect that is, but Dr. Graham’s sermon pretty much attacked a lot of things, so I wanted to ask for clarity and to make sure we’re on the same page.

    Dave Hewitt

  3. I’m not sure that Baptists remain as much a confessional people as a pragmatic people. Doctrine has long taken a back seat to moralistic and “get it done for Jesus” preaching and leading. I would like to be proved wrong on this.

    There are many, though, who look at the prevailing pragmatism with chagrin, and many of these are pastors and students who are unknown in the Convention. They refuse to sacrifice biblical integrity and their doctrinal heritage for a bowl of statistical porridge. May God be pleased to bring an awakening within our own conservative Convention.


  4. I think that the BF&M definition of election is broad enough to include both Jack Graham’s view and that of 5-point Calvinists. A big part of the problem with Graham’s sermon is that it implied that Calvinists are not welcome in the SBC “big tent.” I was particularly offended that he said the Calvinist view of God is “blasphemous.” That really implies that we are heretics. Now, I think that Jack Graham’s view of God is inaccurate, but I would never say that it is “blasphemous.”

    Another problem with the recent critics of Calvinism like Graham, Bobby Welch, Steve Lemke, Paige Patterson, etc. is that they are mostly negative. They spend most of their time attacking Calvinism, but they fail to articulate their own coherent doctrine of election.

    What is needed in this debate is more charity, less ad homenim attacks, a greater attempt to understand the opposition’s view accurately, and a focus on exegesis. Unfortunately, when Southern Baptists debate election and predestination, the discussion tends to get nasty and ugly in a hurry.

  5. I have a pretty good track record on having my letters published in NC’s Biblical Recorder. Even though the editor is a moderate, he’s been very good about publishing letters for all parties. I put this together today. I have a 300 word limit. What do you all think?

    Dear Biblical Recorder,

    Numerous pastors of churches across the Convention have recently increased denunciations of Calvinism, including President Welch and several past presidents. They begin by saying they understand Calvinism, but these attacks largely present, more frequently than not, straw men, shallow exegesis, and incoherent articulation of both soteriologies. President Welch, citing a paper by NOBTS Provost Steve Lemke, deliberately labeled Convention Calvinists “hyper-Calvinists,” though they believe in the free offer of the gospel and multiple confessions and theological texts disprove this assertion. Jack Graham has even stooped to labeling Calvinism “blasphemy” in one of his recent sermons. Spurgeon would be shocked. Though not now the majority’s view, Reformed soteriology was the majority view of the Convention’s founders. Comparing these recent attacks to any mainstream Reformed theological writing in print or the internet reveals a stark contrast between the picture presented and the reality of what Calvinists believe and teach. It has a long, distinguished missionary and evangelistic history and is rooted firmly in biblical exegesis. Like these pastors, Calvinists are inerrantists and support the conservative movement. They are concerned for truth, and they do not, as some critics’ allege, wish to turn us Baptists into Presbyterians. Unlike them, Calvinists are providing comprehensive, coherent biblical exegesis for their soteriology and presenting their opposition fairly. Distorting truth about others and their beliefs disrespects God, His Word, and the whole Church. Pastors are free to try to refute Calvinism from their pulpits or teach it is true, but, when doing so, must coherently articulate their positions, meaningfully engage their opponents’ counter-exegesis, and avoiding violating the Ninth Commandment. Predestination and election are biblical words and categories. Baptists should discuss them with charity and clarity not vitriolic misrepresentations and hold leaders accountable for failing to do so. God honors neither shallow theology, nor dishonesty from any pulpit.

  6. ^Oops, found one spelling error.

    and avoiding violating the Ninth Commandment.

    should read:

    and avoid violating the Ninth Commandment.

  7. Why do Graham, Rogers, Patterson, Welch, Lemke, Vines, and others who PERSIST in confusing Calvinism with hyper-Calvinism – and then causticly (and falsely) criticize Calvinists (of whom there are many in the Southern Baptist Convention)
    hope to gain?

    Those who do not know more than these so-called “big guns” about the SCRIPTURAL doctrines of sin, election, substitutionary atonement, effective grace, and the perseverance of all the truly saved (John 6:37, 44, 65) are
    shooting some of our Lord’s finest soldiers. Is this Christian?

    Each time some of us have appealed to them to examine the scriptures (Acts 17:10-12) they have arrogantly declined. WHY?

    It is almost to the place where we must conclude that they are afraid of the TRUTHS of the inspired, infallible, inerrant, authoritative
    Book of God commonly called the BIBLE. How sad! How tragic!

  8. “What do Graham, Rogers, Patterson, Welch, Lemke, Vines, and others who PERSIST in confusing Calvinism with hyper-Calvinism – and then causticly (and falsely) criticize Calvinists (of whom there are many in the Southern Baptist Convention)
    hope to gain?”

    I don’t think that any of these guys have ulterior motives. From their perspective, they are sincerely defending the truth as they see it. You have to remember that most of these guys are over 55, and the worldview and theology of most pastors is usually set in stone by the time they are 30-35. Although Calvinism was definitely the theology of the SBC Founders, in recent years it did not really attract any attention in the SBC until 1994 (although the Founders Conference was flying under radar beginning in the early 1980s). When Graham, Rogers, Patterson, Welch, Lemke, Vines, and others went to SBC seminaries, all they heard was a bunch of Arminianism and neorthodoxy. They rarely heard Calvinism mentioned, and then only in the most negative terms. When they became pastors, they adopted the usual synthesis of dispensationalism, a Finneyite methodology, and a Keswick view of sanctification. Even though these three theologies are really 19th century innovations, they are the hallmarks of Christian orthodoxy according to the myopic historical perspective of many SBC leaders.

    That generation of leaders – Graham, Rogers, Patterson, Welch, Vines, and others will probably never change their views. But they are all over 55, and they will all be retired in 15 years and dead in 30 years.

    SBC Seminaries right now are introducing Calvinism to a whole new generation of leaders. The seminaries are forced to hire Calvinists, because they can’t find many Arminian inerrantists with Ph.D.s. John Piper’s influence is huge among younger generations (and many of the “Passion” musicians are putting his theology to music). Calvinism is pretty popular among twenty- and thirty-something Southern Baptists in Texas (that is probably what Jack Graham was responding to). So I am hopeful about the future.

    Graham, Rogers, Patterson, Welch, Vines, and others are probably trying to create difficulty for young Reformed SBC pastors. The good news now is that most SBC laypeople simply ignore the leaders – they don’t read the state newspapers anymore and don’t know what is being said.

  9. These men are selectively reading the BFM. I have long suspected many of them pushed for a new BFM for Article One and not the whole thing. I seem to recall that when the Convention discussed the BFM after it was ready, all but one question was about Article One. Remember that year? That was the year Daniel Vestal said, “The Bible is just a book,” and even the moderates stared in disbelief that somebody had actually said it. I remember it well, because the next comment from the moderator was “There you have it, folks. This is what’s all about.”

    Unfortunately, the Good Ol’Boys must have been too busy with Article One to look at Article 4. I believe a Reformed brother had a hand in drafting it.

    It reads:

    A. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.

    Notice the wording. Faith and repentance are the response to regeneration not the cause of regeneration. This is exactly contrary to what these men teach when they present these attacks. I know some small churches where the members are allowed to raise their hands and ask questions during presentations about theological issues like this. It makes the pastor accountable. Unfortunately, these pastors don’t seem to have the desire to open up their views for discussion and prefer the bully pulpit. Truly, this is a sad day.

    I agree, it is no accident that this has happened after the recovery of the Scriptures. Neither do I believe that these attacks are happening right now with out more motivation than is being let on by these folks. They are the ones making the attacks, and, just as Jeff said, this generation is retiring and dying off. They seem to be attempting to fill the vaccuum with men of their own making. Let God decide, and let God decide through chartiable and clear discussion and debate of these issues without resorting to rhetoric and falsehood.

    BTW, I emailed the letter today. I pop into a comment thread and let y’all know if it gets published in a week or so.

    Godspeed, brethren.

  10. I am a graduate of Golden Gate Seminary at the Rocky Mountain Campus in Denver–I had James White as a professor, and most of the adjunct professors have all been Calvinistic if not 5-pointers. Being out here in Colorado, we are not in the hotbed of this controversy because we don’t have “big gone” preachers or churches. Yet, I am encouraged how many of us young people are actually embracing the doctrines of grace. The group Caedmon’s Call is our voice in music for Reformed Theology as well as John Piper, James White, the Founders movement. I am thankful for the influence of these on my own personal theology. I have been exposed to more books outside of seminary through my own personal exploration than in seminary. I am a first hand refugee from the dispensational, Finnyite, Keswick movement through studying Packer and Mike Horton and others. I am alarmed at how many people my age (late 20’s early 30’s) do not participate in denominational pursuits. After all we are living in a post-denominational era. I am afraid that if we as the younger generation who embrace the doctrines of grace are not welcome at the SBC table, our convention will slip into an even deeper menage of Finnyism, dispensationalism, Keswick sanctificatoin, and witch hunts agains “hyper-Calvinists”. When reputable leaders begin to call us blasphemous or heretical something is seriously wrong. Have they no clue to our history as Southern Baptists and have they even read the BFM? I am a young pastor concerned in Colorado.

  11. Let me get this straight from Dr. Graham’s sermon.

    Romans 12:3 means that all men extensively have a measure of faith. No argument is given.

    Since this all one needs to do to establish one’s position as true, I take it all I need to do is quote Scripture too.


    2 Thess. 3:2…we will be rescued from perverse and evil men, for not all have faith.. All means all on his yardstick, and since I don’t have to exegete that, I guess we have ourselves a bona fide stand-off.

    Honestly, if this is what passes for an argument or a sermon, something is seriously wrong. I’ve nominated this sermon for the first Arminian hall of fame award at the Calvinist Gadfly’s blog. It does serve one use. He goes through every typical Scripture quotation the other side uses, including some irrelevant ones.

  12. It thrills me to read all these comments from these YOUNG scripture searchers. May their tribe increase and I am confident that it will happen!

    While traveling the nation and world with the good news of God’s sovereign, saving, sustaining grace
    I find MANY Bible believing Calvinists in and out of the Southern Baptist Convention.

    It was not that way when I was studying at the world’s largest Baptist university and seminary many years ago.

    This scripture searcher came to embrace the TRUTH of Calvinism (not hyper-Calvinism!!!!!) by reading the New Testament 52 years ago. (Acts 20:24)

  13. I felt that it would be helpful to comment on the young Calvinists that seem to be on the rise within SBC life. It is encouraging to see many young people that subscribe to reformed theology, yet it is discouraging to see them embrace, without discernment, the pragmaticism of SBC life. Pastors, make time for these young people. Yes, through the influence of people like John Piper and Caedmon’s Call many young men have been influenced positively by reformed theology, but it is up to their pastors to teach them how to do church, rather than the from the pragmatic huckster’s of Lifeway. Because I sit next to these young men in class, I am also encouraged by many of the books that they choose to read. However, many seem unconcerned with how the church should function biblically. But I feel that this is mostly from a lack of teaching rather than obstinance. If there is any hope for the future of the SBC we must not overlook this opportunity to assist them in the area of worship that is honoring to the Lord Christ.

  14. I agree that the conservative resurgence is in danger of being inconsequential, however, for different reasons. Certainly the BF&M was termed in language broad enough to allow for the differing views on soteriology, but congregants are rarely educated enough to know the difference.

    I believe the conservative resurgence will be inconsequential as long as pastors preach and teach the scriptures in the normal shallow methodolgy they were taught in the liberal seminaries. The resurgence will be a “leadership only” resurgence unless they acutally start preaching and teaching the Word of God in all its complexities–praise God for those few who do! But Folk Theology reigns in the pews where the theological apostasy has ruled for years…

    Very few congregants know the importance of the recovered doctrine, much less realize its importance and impact on life.

    I was graduated from the Criswell College three years ago with my BA and MA. However, I have not been able to find a church to serve at because my stong convictions on the full sufficiency of Scripture and my strong Reformed theology. Most search committees I have spoken with are interested in following Rick Warren more than the Scriptures or Christ, and want a social program upon which to build the church, not the Bible–and these are SBC churches or churches that belong to the conservative SBC conventions in Texas and Virginia. This has been extrememly frustrating…

    I have a much longer and more detailed explanation on my website at . I am currently a member of an Independent Baptist church because I could not find a Bible preaching, Scripture teaching SBC or SBCV church here in Fredericksburg, Virginia. This even though many of the churches in the area were heavily involved in the split from the more liberal state convention…

    Revival will begin when more SBC pastors start living out thier views on inerrancy by actually teaching and preaching the scriptures. Only the Sovereign God knows if this will ever happen.

  15. “Perhaps one of the greatest heresies of our day arises from a theological ignorance with respect to the Bible’s teaching on sanctification. While .. Many (Falsely) simply operate under the assumption that obedience, repentance, love for God’s law, and mortification of sin are unnecessary addendums to true faith, reserved for a special class of “spiritual Christians”, yet still optional for those “carnal Christians” who embrace Christ as Savior but refuse Him as Lord. How does (anyone,) Ryrie respond to the New Testament texts, especially in the gospels, which so obviously teach that both a change of mind and heart are necessary consequences of justifying faith? … While inconsistent dispensationalists can and do believe in the necessity of repentance, the logical conclusions of classic dispensationalism yield the kind of devastating errors which sees faith as nothing more than a change of mind with regards to the facts of the gospel. ”

    Ongoing continual personal repentance foir sins is not optional.. a necessary subjection

    (1 Cor 9:27 KJV) But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway. (Heb 12:9 KJV) Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?

    (Eph 5:24 KJV) Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

    (1 Pet 3:1 KJV) Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; (1 Pet 3:5 KJV) For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:


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