Friday, January 25, 2008

Calvinism, Honesty, and the SBC

This article details a subtle shift in what has previously been reported from SBC President Frank Page, in regards to "honesty" in the whole process when a Calvinistic pastor applies for a position at a church that has no particular, expressed preference with regard to Calvinism vs. Arminianism.

I mean, previously, Page has been reported as putting the onus for honesty on the man who holds to Calvinistic soteriology, and at least implied that some Calvinists have deceived their way into pulpits by not being up-front about their theology in the interview process. The notion has been that a Reformed man should bring it up and make it plain to pastor search committees from the get-go that he is Calvinistic.

But in this article, while rehashing some of that same ground, note the shift in emphasis. Page is quoted as saying,

"When pastor search committees approach pastors and seminary graduates about possible positions, they need to be very honest with these individuals about what they will allow regarding teaching in this area."

I am happy to see this. Surely, Page is not releasing the Calvinist from his responsibility to exercise integrity, but it is nice to see him acknowledge in this statement that the search committees should in fact shoulder some of the theological burden in the process.

But, the more I think about it, the less enthused I become. And the reason is this: I know too many Southern Baptist laymen.

Not one in a hundred gives a rip about theology. I mean, who are we kidding here?

I would love for search committees to do the heavy lifting involved to at least introduce themselves to theological issues, but I despair of ever witnessing a spectacle like that.

The most you will ever get is a committee that is chaired by a guy who read Dave Hunt's What Love is This, or Page's own Trouble With the TULIP, and now thinks he's all up-to-speed on the issue.

The other bit that troubles me is this part, from that quote above:

Page thinks the committee should let the preacher know "what they will allow regarding teaching in this area."

Yes, please do. Yes, Mr. Deacon, who attends maybe two out of every four Sunday services, and thinks the Left Behind series qualifies as a commentary on the Revelation; please do tell me what you'll allow me to preach. What a load that'll take off my shoulders: here I was thinking I was going to have to answer to God for all that.


Rhett said...

You nailed it Gordan.

(Love the pic!)

Jonathan Hunt said...

Made me laugh out loud. Sad but true reflection of affairs. Deacons run churches and dictate doctrine. Even here in the UK it happens!

gordan said...

Indeed, Jonathan.

Democracy can turn tyrannical and despotic, if fifty-one percent of the voters go all loony on us. The form of government won't protect anyone for long.

I'd rather attend a church run on the episcopal model, where the sole elder was in submission to the Word of God, than a church with congregational/deaconate rule where everyone does what is right in their own eyes.

All things being equal, though, my pastoral experience (such as it is)is driving me even further toward rule by a board of elders (which I think is quite biblical anyway.)

kelly jack said...

I think I had that same conversation minus the picture last week. The situation just stinks(:

Fred said...

OK, Let's be quite honest Dr. Page. Let's tell all those church's giving to the cooperative program that the doctrinal statements that Seminary professors are to sign are Calvinist (I'm sure of two Seminaries where this occurs.)

Let's be honest Dr. Page. Let's ask those who are signing the document if they really believe in what their signing. (Think Caner and Southeastern. Where's my Tazer?)

Let's be honest Dr. Page. Should we also ask the women what we should teach about feminism? Should we ask the inactive church member if we can teach about perseverance? (sure I know they wouldn't be there but once they heard it from someone else they might show up.) Should we ask the worldly members if we can teach church discipline? Should we ask those on our roles who care nothing for the kingdom if we could share the Gospel with them because the evidence tells us that perhaps they are lost?

Let's be honest Dr. Page. You yourself have misrepresented Calvinism. So tell me who will teach search committees what the doctrines of Grace really are? Jerry Vines? He's from the country where all means all. Nelson Price? He missed the bus.

Let's be honest Dr. Page. If these men along with you have misrepresented Calvinism, how can we expect search committees to have it right when they question us?

Gordan Runyan said...

Fred, you da man.

It's good to get all fired up like that before Sunday morning.

Fred said...

Gordan, don't forget that it was you who started the fire!

I did forget one above. Let's be honest Dr. Page. Tell the Arminian preachers to look at their church's doctrinal statement and if it's Calvinist let him tell the church he won't preach in accordance with the founding doctrines.

Joshua A. Hitchcock said...

I have enjoyed reading all of this. Gordon, your article nailed it. All I need to tell a search committee is that I am going to be faithful to the scriptures and preach them to the best of my ability under the authority of Jesus Christ!

kangaroodort said...

Is that a picture of a Sasquatch dropping?

Gordan Runyan said...

I thought it was a cinammon roll myself.

Gordan Runyan said...


Yeah, I wouldn't see a problem with that tactic.

Fred said...

Gordan, you must get control of your diet. If that looks like a cinnamon roll I'd like to sign you up for the show Intervention.

Rhett said...

Paint that "pile" yellow and you'll understand what kind of diapers I've been changing for the last 8 days!

Hope said...

I think you are overlooking something very important. Most people who have been reared in SBC churches have been taught what you call sola scriptura. They have not looked outside of the bible for commentary or exegesis because they believe that none is required. I would say that 99% have not heard of "Calvinism" by that name.

Do you have half-hearted members in your church, ghostly members who show up at Christmas and Easter only and yet think they have a right to dictate church policy? Yes. But you also have Godly members who serve the Lord, study their faith and who deserve honesty.

Gordan Runyan said...

Well, Hope, I agree that we need to be thankful for the sorts of folk you describe in that last sentence. I have one in my congregation, and I'm glad she's there.

She didn't get placed on the pastor search committee, however. When I was hired, the total number of questions I was asked about my theology was zero.

I completely agree with you that search committees deserve honesty. No one here is advocating differently.

I think what we are upset about is that the clarion call for honesty is coming from the very people who persist to this day in slandering those of us who are Calvinistic, and flat-out lying about what we believe. They appropriate to themselves the right to say all manner of falsehood about our doctrines from very public, high-profile pulpits, and denominational printed media; and then they demand that we own up to that mischaracterization when we're looking for churches.

May the Lord grant us all honesty! Amen. On both sides, not just one.