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Nov 15, 2006


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PETER: Having read Bill Curtis's open letter to we Southern Baptists, I am having a bit of trouble discerning which Bill is hitting below which Bill's belt by the letter penned by Bill Curtis to all Southern Baptists.

I've been following the bantering and bellowing regarding Bill Harrell's initial statements for which Mr. Curtis is now addressing. I thought Harrell's intended meaning was finally buried in the sea of "Oh, I see you meant it another way than what we've been interpreting you to have said."

Several people, Calvinist and non-Calvinist called Bro. Harrell and got clarification of what he meant. And everyone had a field day posting what a nice guy he was and how amiable their discourses were. Now this from Mr. Curtis.

I am a pewgirl. I sit in the pews every Sunday. I'm just beginning to wade into the waters of what Calvinism is and how the theology relates to my understanding of God.

Somehow, Bro. Curtis's open letter to me boggles my mind. It's like a SBC blog to the SBC on how we all need to get along and love each other. And I agree with so much of what he says that it's hard to bring up the fact that he makes all his points by picking apart a fellow brother--namely Bill Harrell. It doesn't sound like Curtis even talked to the man that all the other folks have been blogging about and chattering about over coffee in the local Starbucks. This is sad.

And while I don't know either Harrell or Curtis, I do know Jesus. And it really bothers me when our leaders who profess to love our Lord, can't refrain from making points about mudslinging without dipping their hands in the hogpens themselves.

On the final point, "evangelistic Calvinism". What is that?

I've been studying the TULIP thing. And I'm not in agreement with a bunch of it. But I have not heard the term "evangelistic Calvinism" from any of the Calvinists that I've been reading. Would "evangelistic Calvinism" be going forth into all the world to evangelize? "making disciples of, teaching them to observe all things, and baptizing them" in the name of the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit and Calvin? I just want to know what is going on and what Bro. Curtis means by that term. And do Calvinists have that term in their vocabulary of words. I hadn't heard it used till I read it in Bro. Curtis's open letter in the Baptist Courier. Just wondering how I'm suppose to cooperate with that. SelahV


A few random thoughts (this could be dangerous):

1. Evangelistic Calvinism - I suppose some of my Arminian brethren would call this an oxymoron. It seems like the author wants to make it clear that that Calvinists are in fact evangelistic and that a lack of evangelism is a real problem within the SBC as evidenced by the statistics he cites. So whether he has created a new term for our lexicon is not in my opinion an issue. He could just as easily have said "evangelistic Christian" or "evangelistic Arminian".

2. I don't condemn Curtis for his public comments and for taking Harrell to the woodshed. First, I thought his comments were fairly mild compared to most cyber space musings and debates. Certainly they seemed no more inflammatory than Harrell's initial comments. Second, if Curtis was wrong for going public in his criticism, could we not make the same charge against Peter? Third, Harrell's comments were made in an official capacity, in a public way, by a person in leadership position. I don't recall - and I may have missed this - him making a public retraction or clarification of his statements. Yes, others have contact him and asked him for clarification on certain aspects of his statements, but that is a far cry from him making those statements for public consumption. My point is that when leaders make public statements in an official capacity, a public response by others is not automatically inappropriate. I don't know what transpired in the communication between Harrell and Curtis, but apparently Curtis believed he still needed to make a public statement. Again, I didn't find it particularly venomous. Maybe I should reread it. It reminds me of Paul confronting Peter publically for his hypocritic behavior in Galatains 2. Could he have spoken to Peter privately? Absolutely. Did he? Maybe, but apparently Paul believed it warranted a public rebuke. Don't get me wrong, I'm not charging Harrell with false teaching or hypocricy. He made certain statements public that others believe needed to be addressed in the same form. I don't see it as anything more than that. The fact that some people needed to contact him for explanation speaks volumes.

I have previously posted my distaste for much cyber space arguing and personal attacks. I just don't see Curtis' response as an attack. I see him defending minority groups within the SBC who can in good conscience sign the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message Statement. At the risk of being repetitive, I do believe public statements made by public leaders are open to public criticism. Harrell opened the door with his comments.


Scott: Publicly chastized and duly noted. I now publicly apologize for anything I may have said that shouldn't have been said. This is the most confusing climate I've ever witnessed in my 51 years of SBC life. And for the life of me, I wish we, and others, could talk privately to each other. But somehow I think unless we are monks with vows of silence, this is going to go on and on and on. Sincere blessings to you Scott. SelahV


Dear Scott,

Thank you for your comments. First, it very much is significant, if I may disagree, my Brother, to imply as did Curtis of Harrell for critizing "evangelistic Calvinists" when he did no such thing. As the Index even noted, the thrust was the divisiveness of shady guys who cover their Calvinism until they're in position. Then they begin the "reform". And, my Scott, if you cannot see the distinction between the two, oh, well, let's just move on.

As far as 'attacking" goes, try this on for size, my Brother Scott: "Today, one of the most popular targets is evangelistic Calvinism...there are some who are trying to identify it as heresy. Regardless of these claims, made by Bill Harrell and others, evangelistic Calvinism does not fall into this category." The insinuation I sense here, Scott, is that Harrell called "evangelistic Calvinism" heresy. That charge is simply skewed at best.

As for the implication that I condemned Curtis by my words, I will just leave that to the judgement of every one else. I must note, however, that my letter to the editor was not at all the same as Curtis' public scolding of Harrell. You yourself offered the obvious distinction between Curtis, Harrell and me. You write: "Harrell's comments were made in an official capacity, in a public way, by a person in leadership position."

I do not know what position you hold in a leadership role, Scott, but I can tell you the first first rule of conflict between colleagues in my view: don't publickly chastise your fellow servant. Every body loses--especially the one doing the chastizing.

I am not a Chair, Scott. But Curtis sits in one of the most powerful positions in the SBC and publicly rebukes--"in an official capacity", you rightly observe--an equally powerful Chair in the SBC. From my view, about the the only result will be frustration, people taking sides and more rhetoric. Personally, I do not think that is good for us.

Have a good afternoon. With that, I am...



PETER: Oh how I love the way you rebut.

SCOTT: I've re-read your earlier comments on this thread, and want to say something to one thing you said regarding Curtis' new phrase "evangelist Calvinist". I quote you: "So whether he has created a new term for our lexicon is not in my opinion an issue. He could just as easily have said "evangelistic Christian" or "evangelistic Arminian".

In my opinion, as a simple lay person who is trying to figure all this out, do consider it an issue. Curtis could have said evangelistic donkey, but he didn't, he said Calvinist. And he said it repeatedly.

And thus far in the past two months of my intercommunications with Calvinists on the subject of evangelism, I have yet to have one person explain how it (evangelism) is done by the Calvinist community. It appears that either I'm not smart enough to "get" their theology, or am not "chosen" to understand it. No one tells me. The just keep sending me links to other people's sites which still don't explain it.

Either way, Curtis has opened a huge can of worms for me and others (people without theological degrees) who want to know what all the riff is about.

It does concern me and it is an issue with me, if infact, an "evangelistic Calvinist" is a Calvinist who evangelizes their 5-points to uninformed, baptized believers of Jesus Christ who trust their profession in Jesus and reliance on Him and not a set of points which are more than debatable than the Iraq war. Again, blessings to you, Scott. Thank you for your replies and your contribution to this dialog. selahV



I honestly was not thinking of your post. I was just responding to Peter's post and letter.

I have learned a valuable lesson.




Thanks as always for your comment. It is probably not fruitful to parse every word spoken by Curtis or Harrell, or even those on the blog. From my perspective Curtis was within reason in responding publically. Harrell did not call Calvinisism a heresy, but he did make some comment about it being biblically indefensible or something like that. Of course those within the SBC who can sign the Baptist Faith and Message are told by an SBC leader that , they will likely be offended. Perhaps there was a better way for both Harrell and Curtis to deal with the issue. As they are sinners like you and I, this is undoubtedly true.

By the way, by no means did I think you were publically scolding Curtis.

Grace and peace,




I believe Curtis' use of the term "evangelistic Calvinism" was designed to deflect criticism that Calvinist's don't preach the gospel to the lost. I don't think it had anything to do with Calvinists trying to convert non-Calvinists to their way of thinking. Of course I may be wrong and I may have misunderstood your post as well.

Isn't it a blessing knowing that the Lord knows not only our every thought, but the intentions of our heart?



Just one more comment, I promise. Back to the title of the post: "When Do We Publicly Chastize our Brothers?"

I have held numerous leadership positions in the military, ministry and business; like you I have held to the adage "Praise in public, rebuke in private." Like most adage this one has exceptions. There have been times when it is necessary to rebuke in public; although, I have endeavored to rebuke the action or behavior, not the person in such situations. It is interesting when we look at Scripture for guidance. Jesus publicly rebuked the Pharisees, Paul chastized Peter in public, Paul's epistles often aired dirty laundry, he instructed Timothy that erring elders were to be rebuked in front of the congregation, and our Lord's instructions in Matthew 18 regarding discipline include a public rebuke.

None of us is the Lord, and none is an apostle, yet there is clearly application for us today. Do these passages apply only within the context of the local church? What about the larger context of a denomination such as the SBC, or the even larger context of Christendom? Do they apply only to cases of false teaching or unrepentant sin? Interesting questions. Your thoughts?



Good morning, my Brother. I trust your night well. As for your series of questions, I think they are excellent and surely deserve careful consideration.

I feel with you, Scott, that while we employ the "rule of thumb" about publickly rebuking others, that we must also remember it is only a "rule of thumb". Consequently, there are exceptions.

The difficulty will ever be discovering which situation calls for the exception and, when we do sense public expose is in order, how shall we proceed? For me, I simply suggest that Curtis fired too early (and, a little unfairly).

Frankly, I do not know if there is a solid, forged process for actually doing such. Scripturally, as you point out, Jesus surely practised public rebuke of others as did Paul. Also, Elders were to, after being found guilty by two-three witnesses, be rebuked "before all the assembly" (1Tim 5.19-20).

For my part, I do not see these passages specifically offering guidance in situtions like the Curtis/Harrell dispute. Jesus' rebuke of the Pharisees was not "brother to brother" but "Lord to enemy." Paul's case is closer but still it is "Apostle to Apostle", plus the fact that the core of the Gospel, from Paul's standpoint anyway, was at stake (Gal 2.14).

We must also notice that in the very same letter he tells of his confrontation with Peter, he also says "Dear Brothers & Sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly, should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path" (Gal.6.1) Paul's advice here sounds particularly close to Aquila & Pricilla's strategy with correcting Apollos (Acts 18.26). From my perspective, these verses puts more teeth into our current topic.

As for the passage on Elders' rebuke (1Tim.5.19f), I really do think that may exist only on the sidelines for the simple fact that it is specifically given for local Church matters.

And the MT 18 passage about Church Discipline, I have to say, from my view, stands as one of the most abused passages we quote for confrontation. For me it fits solidly into the same category as "let him who is without sin cast the first stone" slot, that so many who, when caught in sin, employ to rationalize their activity. How many times I've heard the MT 18 passage quoted just so a person could give another a piece of their mind stands innumerable.

Thus, in this particular case, Curtis would, if MT 18 is taken seriously, necessarily have to be the "personally offended one" for it to work. I don't think he had that in mind when he wrote this.

In the end, I honestly think we're down to "loving one's neighbor as oneself" or even more applicable for us being children of God, as our Lord notes, "...loving others as I[Jesus]have loved you".

The crux for me in the Curtis letter to all SBs is:
1) the OPEN letter to ALL
2) the fact that Curtis could have said everything substantial in his letter WITHOUT mentioning Harrell by name
3) the fact that he lumped Harrell in with others (?) who call Calvinists heretics (by the way, saying 5 Point Calvinism radically interprets or ignores NT passages is, from my standpoint, definitively not the same as saying Calvinists are heretics. Humorously, Scott, while I am unaware of any widespread charges by "arminians" that Calvinism is heresy, need I even mention the widespread charge that "arminianism" is?)
4) One Chair flogging another Chair

Given that, I think the SBC would have been better served had Curtis and Harrell sat down over a cup of Starbucks (actually Batdorf & Bronson is better but few know what that is:) and worked it out.

Thank you Scott, for your participation in our dialog. You always bring a lively perspective with spirited engagement, yet without the obnoxious language I have experienced on some other sites. And that, my Brother, is refreshing.

Have a great day. With that, I am...



Scott: Love your input.
Peter: I bow to your understanding of these passages and pray I will get deeper understanding once I've taken them one by one for personal study and meditation. You said exactly what I was thinking, but I, being one who capsulizes principles from scripture and then forgets which scripture I got the principle from....well, you know the rest. I've always said you were my walking concordance. How I miss having you and your hun upstairs or 50 miles away. Very good points to this discussion thread. SelahV


i am proud to be a tn baptists again. great things happened at the tbc this year. glory to God! one of the biggest....imho...was that we adopted the b,f, and m 2k as our statement of faith. wow! the liberals were mad as hornets.

from the hills of tn,




Glad to see you back, Volfan. We've missed you (well, some of us, anyway:)

Have a great day, I am...



Welcome home, VOLFAN!...I wanted to go to the Oklahoma Convention, but alas, I don't always get what I want. So very happy to hear you enjoyed your convention. Anyone in particular divide the Word and serve you a slice to replenish your spirit? selahV


jr. hill preached a great message. he is a very good preacher. heard other good messages and good singing. it was a truly blessed time.


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