Following "Al Mohler says to state editors: you must cover Calvinism (part I)" is the final section below (not included here is the Q/A session). As before, while the words summarize sections from his address to Southern Baptist editors, the words are his own words (no commentary is added other than an occasional implied subject in brackets for clarity). I've sought to be true to the context. However, the reader may be pleased to know a transcription of his entire speech is available >>>
Dr. Mohler discussed four major headings in his speech respectively divided into four current controversies1 he believes are creating tension in the Southern Baptist Convention. The first three controversies--contextualization, congregationalism, and confessionalism--constitute Part I. Calvinism as the fourth controversy follows:
The Calvinist debate in the SBC would be inconceivable prior to the Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention. It would be inconceivable because it requires a certain doctrinal attentiveness within a more limited theological terrain than was represented by the SBC prior to the Conservative Resurgence.
...I mean if you look at the inerrancy debate, you look at the conference that was held at Ridgecrest, where did we get these people? Well, from conservative Protestantism. They were conservative Anglicans and conservative Presbyterians, and conservative others who came in... The only people who really cared about inerrancy were conservative Protestants.. You do not find defenses of biblical inerrancy that do not come from some kind of Reformation-based Protestantism. They just do not exist...
So if you’re looking for where the SBC fits, there is no kind of all of a sudden just Baptist neutrality here. There is no neutral ground. We certainly have Baptists who were participants in this debate, but biblical inerrancy as an affirmation was tied to an understanding of biblical authority and the plenary verbal inspiration that were meted out in the debates of the Reformation and the post-Reformation period. Which is to say that Baptists were all of a sudden reconnecting with a lot of our roots... . Our confessions of faith were deeply rooted in the Protestant confessions of faith. The Philadelphia Confessions was a rescission of the Westminster Confession. The Charleston Confession or the Centennial Confession was a recension of the London Confession, which was a rescission of the Westminster Confession.
And so by the time you look at the confessions of faith held by the majority of associations in the SBC when it came together in 1845, they were basically historic Protestant Reformation-based confessions. Even the New Hampshire Confession of Faith was again a modification of these things that became the foundation, of course, for the Baptist Faith & Message. So in other words, there is no island of Baptist genealogy or of Baptist existence that isn’t in constant conversation with these things. And in order to connect with a defense of the faith once for all delivered to the saints, Southern Baptists even in the midst of the inerrancy controversy had to go back and reconnect with sources.
Someone wrote years ago that I was at the birth of Calvinism in the SBC, the founding of the Founder’s Movement. I think I would have been 11; I wasn’t there.
...Calvinism is the shape of the future, because the options otherwise don’t very much exist. Now if you just quote me on that and put that in the paper it’s going to make people mad. And it’s not tribal language. It is because when I say Calvinism here, I’m going back to 1845, I’m going back to 1925, I’m going back to 1963, and I’m including all of you in that. Now if you’re offended by that just realize that any outside observer looking at the SBC, looking at our confessions of faith, would put us on the Calvinist side of the ledger.
Now I want to tell you I am a five-point Calvinist, all right? I never write about that, I don’t speak about that. If you want to know that there you have it. But I am at home in the Southern Baptist Convention of the Baptist Faith & Message... The whole SBC, the Baptist Faith & Message and the New Hampshire Confession is clearly out of the basically Calvinist direction. Now that’s tribal. And one of the problems with this is people hear that as tribal ... And to hear that as five-point Calvinism, look, that is, that’s not what I’m talking about here. There are amongst us those who are more Calvinist and those who are less. But the Baptist Faith & Message excludes Arminianism. The SBCs founders identified Arminianism as a heresy they sought to confront.
...I don’t want us to become Lutherans for all kinds of reasons. I don’t want us to become Presbyterian. I gave the order of the concerns that I mentioned here intentionally, because I do think that there is a creeping Presbyterianism amongst us. I do think there’s a creeping Episcopalianism amongst us. I think there is a creeping you could name it amongst us as we’re losing our polity in the midst of all kinds of missiological and other kinds of adaptations.
In terms of Calvinism, the younger generation is increasingly Calvinist because they have to fight for everything... They’re having to tie themselves to a far deeper and more substantial doctrinal conversation and theological conversation, and cultural Christianity having disappeared in their experience they have to fight for everything all the time... I didn’t have to fight sexual morality as a policy matter as an adolescent. They do... And they’re going to do it only because they’re standing in something, on something, around people, within the context of people who have believed these things and known these things and can tie it to a comprehensive worldview... . It still remains that most of the people who are writing on these things come from some kind of Calvinist identification. It still remains that most of the scholars that they are most attracted to come from some.
...And even from those who don’t identify that way, even some of those who resist that kind of designation, that’s still who they are. Because any observer looking from outside would say, “If you believe in God’s initiative in salvation, if you believe in God’s perfections in terms of his attributes.”
...There are people in the SBC who in the SBC are called anti-Calvinists, or non-Calvinists, who in many larger contexts would show up and be recognized as Calvinists... . But in our context we’re talking about more and less Calvinist. We’re talking about card-carrying five-star Calvinists, and those who don’t want to be Calvinists of any stripe that still believe you can’t lose your salvation, and that God keeps those whom he has redeemed to the end, and still believe in what the Baptist Faith & Message describes as God’s purposes of grace.
There’s going to be ongoing tension points. I’m glad to talk about any of it...On the other hand, we shouldn’t expect to find unanimity. That’s not what we should look for, and that’s not what we should aim for. We should aim for consensus that enables us to work together, not just because we’re willing to work together; because we’re eager to work together. I think that’s the greatest danger for the SBC...
In terms of how to cover it [Calvinism], I’d prepared an entire session, but quite frankly I’m speaking to the converted here. I just want to say maybe three or four things. Number one, cover it. One of the problems in the SBC is that we still have a reflex against dealing with theological issues directly... Don’t be afraid of it. Don’t be afraid that you’re going to make somebody angry, because, well you guys make enough people angry anyway. Make ‘em angry for good reasons...
The second thing is, you know, deal with it honestly; you know that. But in a theological context to deal with it honestly means you don’t just cover the most obvious things that someone says that might make the news. You try to figure out where did this come from? What does it belong to? How does this fit in the larger context? Obviously you want to use the best authorities... be kind... . If we can’t handle it, then we’re not going to be able to handle modernity
With that, I am...
1Dr. Mohler added a fifth during the Q/A: Conversionism
2for privacy sake, there are two places in the transcription which state sensitive information and are blacked out for that reason