Ray Van Neste on Steve Lemke’s article


The Lemke/Welch misrepresentations of Calvinism and Founders Ministries have provoked responses in many different blogs. I have read some and had many more recommended to me. There are many excellent blogs out there that are worth reading. One of them is Locust and Wild Honey. Another is Words of Grace.

Dr. Ray Van Neste has recently replied to Dr. Lemke on the latter of these. Dr. Lemke defended his paper from criticisms leveled by comments on that blog and Dr. Van Neste responded to his defense. Dr. Van Neste’s comments are so clear, kind and to the point I asked for and received permission to post them here. Pray that Dr. Lemke will take them to heart.

Dear Steve,

I had set out to write at more length in response to your response but other guys on this site have addressed some of the issues (these guys are quick!). I have not yet read Tom Ascol’s response. But I wanted to write briefly to say in essence; “Come on!” You put a very positive spin on your paper in the response posted here, but it does not seem to fit with the actual paper. I read Bobby Welch’s piece and your paper when all this came out. I think Welch understood you the way any reader would. Others here have pointed out in detail the error of calling belief in the TULIP hyper-Calvinism. They are absolutely correct and you should have been more careful here. If we want to foster good discussion and avoid fracturing we must avoid unfair, untrue generalization like this. In fact this generalization is slanderous. No one in the leadership of the Founders is a hyper-Calvinist though your paper makes it sound like they are. This is damaging and should probably require a public clarification. Though you set out to clarify that you only have a certain type of Calvinism in mind, your description then covers most people who affirm Reformed soteriology (T George is not refuting the typical understanding of TULIP but restating in a way to clarify).
Here are some points from your paper.

1. You ask if Baptist Calvinists will distinguish themselves clearly and definitively from hyper-Calvinists. They already have done so, clearly, directly, and often. It will be important for those who are going to criticize or even worry about (the category of your paper, perhaps) Calvinistic Baptists to actually read the writings of such people. Then your answer would be clear.

2. You also wonder about continuing “on the current trajectory”. What is this trajectory? Simply the wording here suggests that anti-missional Calvinism is on the rise. If so where is it? I am sure you could find it somewhere (you can find almost anything somewhere in Baptist life!), but I have not seen it. In fact some of the most passionate young pastors we have would describe themselves as Calvinistic. I am worried that careless talk like this will continue to drive them away from the SBC. This line is continued later when you ask whether this newest generation of SBC pastors will “continue moving toward hyper-Calvinism.” Continue? These kinds of charges continue to be thrown around without any real justification. This is not helpful.

3. Just in passing you state that you do not believe that the SBC will ever require belief in the five points. Does anyone else believe this?! Is anyone seeking this? No one I know of.

4. Lastly, in your response you suggest your data on baptismal ratios, etc. are really no surprise and no big deal- “Was anyone really under the impression that the Founder’s Fellowship churches were coextensive with the Mega-metro churches?” But if this is the case, why did you in the paper describe the results as “startling” (p. 16)? Why did you include this inflammatory statement:
“But do churches who emphasize hard Calvinist theology tend to be less evangelistic? Look at the hard evidence and you be the judge!” (p. 17)

What is this? Note the exclamation point. Why would anyone not read this as a warning against ‘those Founders people’? You must know that Reformed thinking Southern Baptists are a much maligned group and that therefore such careless talk will lead not to healthy conversation but bashing by others–whether intended by you or not. There is a high responsibility for carefulness with our words here. You seemed to lightly chastise these guys on the blogs for casting stones, but this paper sounds like stone casting to me.

I heartily agree that we need to keep talking rather than throwing stones. With good, careful conversation we can see growth rather than division.

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6 Responses to “Ray Van Neste on Steve Lemke’s article”

  1. >>>>But do churches who emphasize hard Calvinist theology tend to be less evangelistic? Look at the hard evidence and you be the judge!

    This is precisely where my biggest problem with his paper and Welch’s attitude lies. They are conflating theology and utility. These are two conceptually different ideas. I could easily turn their statements around to say that their utilitarian theological method is a reflection of the current trend in society, not anything the Bible actually teaches. The issue at hand is not “Is Calvinism good for raising numbers?” The issue at hand is, “Is it ‘biblical’ and exegetically correct?” In a denomination that prides itself on having “rediscovered the Bible” in recent years, many of us are good at letting tradition define our exegesis and tradition define the meaning of “results.” If we want to put up “numbers” as the sine qua non of what is “biblical” then we should all either adopt the Saddleback model and those like it or cross the Tiber.

    >>>Just in passing you state that you do not believe that the SBC will ever require belief in the five points. Does anyone else believe this?! Is anyone seeking this? No one I know of.

    When I first read Lemke’s paper on this, his statement struck me as a textbook example of mirror-reading coming from one who (along with a lot of us) could be said to be on the side of the Convention that “took it over” to borrow jargon from the moderates. While I’d just as soon be in a church that uses the LCBF2 as its confession and is a cooperating member of the SBC, I’m not teachng, preaching, or believing that all our churches should hold to it, nor the five points of Calvinism, nor a particular eschatology. Why would anybody say such a thing if they weren’t trying to make an emotional plea that Calvinists were trying to “take over” the Convention the way that others have “taken over” the Convention in the past?. If the Reformed pastors were to get together, organize, and put up a “Reformed” candidate for SBC President and set about appointing only Reformed folks on the boards, etc, that might be a concern. Since we don’t believe reformation occurs that way, that’s not something we espouse.

  2. All I’ve got to say is ditto, and ditto. You guys covered the issue very well.

  3. “The only multiplication of the Church of God that is to be desired is that which God sends: ‘Thou hast multiplied the nation.’ If we add to our churches by becoming worldly, by taking in persons who have never been born again; if we add to our churches by accommodating the life of the Christian to the life of the worldling, our increase is worth nothing at all; it is a loss rather than a gain. If we add to our churches by excitement, by making appeals to the passions, rather than by explaining truth to the understanding; if we add to our churches otherwise than by the Spirit of God making men new creatures in Christ Jesus, the increase is of no worth whatever” (C. H. Spurgeon, sermon on Isaiah 9:3, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Volume 38, p. 339).

  4. Plowman

    Well done guys. As a sidenote, I can think of at least two Mega-Metro churches (Dallas, Atlanta regions) having pastors that are sons of former SBC Presidents. This is part of the problem, and something that current SBC leaders of the Arminian stripe fail to realize – or comment on.

  5. plowman…neither Andy Stanley nor Ed Young of Fellowship Church attend Mega-Metro. Just because their two churches are huge doesn’t necessarily mean they go to the annual Mega-Metro conference.


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