Consider these topics:
- For Whose Sins Did Jesus Die?
- What Did We Inherit From Adam?
- Does Regeneration Precede Faith?
- What Were the Early SBC Leaders' Views on Salvation?
- Who Are the Elect?
- Is the Sinners' Prayer Biblical?
Indisputably, these topics--and/or subtopics spawned by these topics--are among the most talked about, blogged about, argued about, shouted about, and wondered about over the internet amongst websites and personal blogs in the circle of those connected with Southern Baptists. Some blogs have repeatedly ruled these topics off their radar screen only to later reinstate the subjects with a vengeance. Other blogs conclude how useless or irrelevant the subject is to our health but nonetheless continue to sing songs about the subject citing the clear "truthfulness" of the Calvinistic answers to many of the questions raised by the topics/subtopics. For them, the issue is settled and therefore mostly irrelevant.
While it's true there is a sense in which the questions raised in the topics/subtopics above have been thoroughly pillaged by friend and foe alike, we wrongly assume that what is an "old hat" to us--and if I may employ yet another worn-out cliche, a been-there-done-that type of subject--we do well not to assume the questions have been thoroughly exhausted amongst those millions of Southern Baptists who attend our 44K+ churches every week. To the contrary, the exchanges we've experienced over the topics above haven't made it to the popular masses of Southern Baptists. If we think they have, we grossly overestimate the effect SBC blogs have had on grassroots Southern Baptists. While many may have our RSS feed in another blogger's google reader, I assure you, the overwhelming majority of Southern Baptists have no clue what the blogs have been arguing about for years.
In short, while many may claim they are "sick and tired" of the Calvinism debate in the SBC, the reality is, the debate hasn't even happened yet--that is, in the SBC. Equating what's happened on blogs with what's happened in the SBC is fundamentally mistaken. You're "sick and tired" mainly because you read blogs. Mainstream, grassroots Southern Baptists don't habitually read blogs; and if they do, it's only occasionally. I find that when the subject is mentioned in my real world outside cyberspace, people's responses immediately indicate to me they are interested in the issues I've just mentioned. Far from being "sick and tired" they crave information about the issues we've endlessly pillaged.
I'm suddenly reminded of Jeremiah–
“If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?” (Je 12:5)
As Huey says of this proverbial answer God offers Jeremiah about his lament concerning the persecution he'd experienced at the hands of the men of Anathoth,1 “by means of gentle irony, he warned Jeremiah that if he could not cope with difficulties he was then experiencing, he should consider what he would do in a really serious situation.”2 Or, in more colloquial language, "Jeremiah, get a life. You ain't seen nothing yet!" If we are "sick and tired" of this subject now, what will we do when the masses of Southern Baptists actually deal with these issues on a local church level?
For this reason, I'm glad for conferences like The 2013 John 3:16 Conference (J316C). The topics at the beginning are the very topics the conference will pursue. Though not the final answer for settling the issues surrounding the topics/subtopics we've mentioned, J316C heads us in the right direction by taking the issues from the bloggers who continue to suggest they are "sick and tired" of the subject and offering it in a venue where settling the issue is actually possible--off the internet and in the local church.
Furthermore, it will be good to hear from scholars and speakers not typically cited by the ubiquitous young, restless, and reformed community so vigorously involved in the internet discussion, scholars like Eric Hankins, Adam Harwood, and Jerry Vines among many others. And, while conferences like this can only go so far in reaching the grassroots among us since these conferences are restricted to those who register, it nonetheless remains a good start in reaching what constitutes the overwhelming majority of Southern Baptists with the issues concerning which so many of us register we're "sick and tired"--whether the neo-Calvinistic resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention is a good thing for our churches.
The fact remains, if the masses of Southern Baptists get in on the issues most talked about, blogged about, argued about, shouted about, and wondered about by Southern Baptists on the internet, the masses will be in a position to do something about it—namely, they can actually settle it so far as their local church is concerned.
And, so far as I am concerned, that would be a good thing I think.
1"The injuries done thee by the men of Anathoth (“the footmen”) are small compared with those which the men of Jerusalem (“the horsemen”) are about to inflict on thee. If the former weary thee out, how wilt thou contend with the king, the court, and the priests at Jerusalem?" Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), Je 12:5.
2F. B. Huey, vol. 16, Jeremiah, Lamentations, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 140.