Founders negative rhetoric has been non-stop since the first week of November when the John 3:16 Conference was held in North Georgia. Both Tom Ascol and his associate, Timmy Brister, have led the charge in assuring the conference has been labeled, to their satisfaction, as nothing more than misrepresentation, caricature, and, of course, anti-Calvinist.
Timmy Brister published his most provocative post to date building on a "taxonomy" offered by Nathan Finn, a professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In Brister's extended version of Finn's piece, he added some bells and whistles, including placing names within each of the four categories Finn developed. The predictable result was a nice and tidy way of seeing things specifically from a Founders Calvinist perspective. My first response to Timmy is here.
Under Finn's Category 1 (non-cooperating non-Calvinists), Brister listed a who's who in Southern Baptist life including former presidents of the Southern Baptist Convention, current presidents of seminaries, eminent professors at our institutions, and successful, prominent pastors of Southern Baptists' most vibrant churches. However, not content with Finn's category, Brister must be even more provocative. All these men, Brister insists, are non-cooperating anti-Calvinists.
One such servant Brister smeared as a non-cooperating anti-Calvinist is Dr. Steve Lemke, Provost, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS). While Brister has not finished one year in his very first post-seminary ministry position, Dr. Lemke has served our Lord in ministry for over 35 years, twenty-five of which has been in teaching, with eleven of those serving as Provost at NOBTS. Yet young Brister brazenly blasts Lemke as a non-cooperating anti-Calvinist.
From my side of the street, that just doesn't make a lot of sense. Nor does it portray the kind of future leaders for which older Southern Baptists like myself yearn.
Know also that there are other things that just don't quite add up. For example, consider the following and see if you can conclude with Founders rookie Southern Baptist, Timmy Brister, that Dr. Steve Lemke is a non-cooperating anti-Calvinist:
- In the eleven years since Dr. Lemke has been a Provost at NOBTS, he and Dr. Chuck Kelley* have brought at least 11 faculty members whom they specifically knew were 4 or 5 point Calvinists. I wonder why they would do that if they were non-cooperating anti-Calvinists?
- Steve Lemke interviewed Tom Ascol on his blog, in a format that asked questions--including questions about Calvinism and the SBC--but gave him the privilege of amending, deleting, or adding any questions he wanted, and Lemke posted his answers without any refutation or critique. He also interviewed (in the same format) Wade Burleson, Rudy Gray, and Ed Stetzer, all of whom are identified as Calvinists. I wonder why Steve Lemke would do that if he was a non-cooperating anti-Calvinist?
- In the same issue of the Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry that Dr. Lemke wrote about what distinguishes cooperating Baptists from Presbyterians, he included responses from a panel that included criticisms of his position, and, from what I gather, intentionally chose panelists who would do just that. These criticisms were posted without counter-argument, refutation, or rebuttal. I wonder why Lemke would do that if he was a non-cooperating anti-Calvinist? I further wonder when the last time either Ascol or Brister on their blog or in Founders Journal invited a non-Calvinist to either write or interview without offering counter-argument, refutation, or rebuttal? Could we conclude that Founders advocates Ascol and Brister are non-cooperating, anti-non-Calvinists?
- Also, in the couple of other issues of the Journal that have come out since Lemke has served as interim editor of the Journal, Dr. Lemke solicited and printed articles by (among others with Calvinistic leanings) Jim Elliff and Al Mohler. As I recall, Elliff is the one who has publicly denounced the Southern Baptist Convention as unregenerate and may be the greatest critic among Southern Baptists of evangelistic invitations and "altar calls." I wonder why Lemke would do that if he was a non-cooperating anti-Calvinist?
- From information I've gathered, in Lemke's 25 year teaching career and 35 years in ministry, Lemke has only addressed Calvinism publicly three or four times. I wonder why Lemke would do that if he was a non-cooperating anti-Calvinist? I further wonder how many times has Founders addressed publicly the theological inadequacies of non-Calvinism? How many times have non-Calvinists been accused of embracing man-centered evangelism? Man-centered faith? Being Arminians? Denying their theological roots? Rewriting Baptist history? Ridiculed simply because they do not want their theology identified with a particular man and instead would like to be referred to as Biblicists?
Yet, for all this, Founders youngest Southern Baptist spokesman, Timmy Brister, brazenly announces to all the world that Steve Lemke--one of many in his non-cooperating anti-Calvinist category--needs to pipe down about Calvinism or part ways with another denomination.
Here is the truth of the matter as I see it: Founders Ministries envisions reforming the Southern Baptist Convention by promoting the doctrines of grace--that is, The Five Points of Calvinism, including the biblically bankrupt idea of being "born-again before faith"--as the exclusive, biblical, orthodox Christian faith; and they seek to do this by reforming one church at a time. This is a fact. Read their material.
Given such an all-encompassing vision, it's understandable that, perhaps out of desperation, smearing good servants like Dr. Lemke, falsely tarring him as a non-cooperating anti-Calvinist, may promote one's agenda in the short-haul. Granted.
Such ill-conceived propaganda, however, cannot be sustained among thinking Southern Baptists. Nor does such questionable moral judgment escape the ever-seeing eye of our Lord Who judges all things justly.
With that, I am...
*Dr. Kelley was not listed in Brister's smear with Dr. Lemke. It should be noted that President Kelley has been the brunt of Founders Calvinists' harsh criticisms since the J316C.