In Part I, I recorded the first of two examples indicative of unhelpful criticism--and in some cases, irresponsible and even slanderous criticism--some of the more rigorous Calvinists lobbed toward The 2013 John 3:16 Conference. Montana pastor, J.D. Hall, claimed Truett-McConnell College was "theologically raping" the students, while indicating one of its professors, Adam Harwood, was much to blame. And, while Hall at first defended his words when some of his Twitter followers protested, he nonetheless offered a clear word of regret and publicly apologized for his "harsh" language, conceding Trevin Wax's "rebuke was appropriate. Apologies, to everyone."
Now, I'd like to point out the second example of the type of non-stop, irresponsible criticism toward non-Calvinists coming from many of the aggressive Calvinists in the SBC. It is another tweet aimed at The 2013 John 3:16 Conference written by Ken Fryer, a staff pastor at Heritage Baptist Church, in Shreveport, LA.
According to Fryer's bio, he's actively involved in denominational positions including serving as President of the Louisiana Baptist Pastor’s Conference, Second VP of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, and as trustee for my alma mater, the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Fryer is also currently listed as a "Founders-Friend" in Louisiana. According to Founders Ministries, the largest network of Calvinists in the Southern Baptist Convention, a person who is a "Founders-friend" possesses a "desire to work toward furthering reformation in Southern Baptist life. The purpose of the list is to aid people in finding fellowship in their area with other believers who desire to further the aims of the Founders movement in a Southern Baptist context" (//link). In addition, Fryer's present church (Heritage church, Shreveport) is also listed as a Founders-Friendly church, and its Senior Pastor, Earl M. Blackburn, is not only listed as a "Founders-friend" in Louisiana, but also seems to be a frequent speaker at Founders conferences (//link; observe Fryer is also on the platform).
Those who've kept up with the Louisiana College crisis will immediately recognize the names of both Fryer and Blackburn. One of four articles posted in the Louisiana's state paper last week was penned by Blackburn. Entitled, "Why all the buzz? Further thoughts on the present Calvinism conversation," Blackburn passionately exhorts Southern Baptists:
"So, my dear brothers and sisters, let’s stop the buzz. Let’s stop the in-fighting among us, and let’s get on with preaching Christ crucified and carrying out His last command: the Great Commission" (//link)
We cannot help but agree with Blackburn. We'd like nothing more than laying to rest the "in-fighting among us." Nonetheless, we think Blackburn's exhortation fits nicely into the framwork of Jesus' warning to those who felt others needed to be judged but not themselves: "“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?” (Matthew 7:3-4).
The truth is, Blackburn's participation in promoting the doctrines of grace among Southern Baptists as the non-negotiable, unilateral theological heritage of the Southern Baptist Convention, supporting Reisinger's "quiet revolution" in reforming Southern Baptist churches one at a time, and encouraging Southern Baptists to "recover" the "lost gospel" we allegedly forfeited in the first part of the 20th century, a "lost gospel" found only when we embrace five-point Calvinism, what Reisinger called "biblical Christianity" makes his appeals to Southern Baptists to "stop the in-fighting" sound like, if I may borrow words from the Apostle, "sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal."
What is more, Ken Fryer not only apparently participates in the Founders' cause to "recover" the "lost gospel" (read: five-point Calvinism) among Southern Baptist churches, but along with Blackburn, also has been knee-deep in the Louisiana College crisis. According to Louisiana's Baptist Message, Fryer was one of two students investigated for breaking the student handbook by speaking disparaging words about the school (//link; there actually were three students as a subsequent article clarifies). Consequently, Fryer's blog was reportedly blocked from internet access on LC campus.
And, like his Senior Pastor, Earl Blackburn, who calls us to just "stop the in-fighting," so Fryer voices his desire for us all to get along. In a post entitled "Out of the Stands," an older piece he "updated here due to recent events that have taken place in the Southern Baptist Convention and the Louisiana Baptist Convention," Fryer says:
I love my non-Calvinist brothers. The man whom I consider to be my mentor in ministry is a non-Calvinist. I believe that the vast majority of these men are godly men and attempt to “rightly divide the word of truth.” I gladly join with men of God who faithfully preach the Word and who are passionate about the gospel.
I encourage my non-Calvinist brothers to give us Calvinist brethren the same respect. When we say that we love missions and evangelism, please don’t ask the question, “How can you love missions and evangelism and be a Calvinist?” When we say that we love to see souls come to Christ – believe it; we love to see souls come to Christ!
I also encourage my non-Calvinist brothers to refrain from making Calvinism an issue of contention in our convention. Do not exclude those who cherish the doctrines of grace from denominational service simply because of their doctrinal stance... .
Hence, Fryer says he loves his "non-Calvinist brothers" and think the "vast majority" of them are sincere in attempting to “rightly divide the word of truth.” Thus, Fryer states he will "gladly join" with those who faithfully preach the Word and who are "passionate about the gospel."
However, Fryer rightly calls on non-Calvinists to give the "same respect" he claims he gladly offers them. And finally, Fryer encourages us to "refrain from making Calvinism an issue of contention in our convention."
Example Two: Ken Fryer's Tweet
As with Blackburn, so with Fryer--I could not agree more. We lived peacefully together for over two-thirds of a century without Calvinism being a real issue. The problem is, Calvinists like Blackburn and Fryer appear completely obtuse to their own perpetuation of the conflict over Calvinism in Southern Baptist life. Why can't they see that as long as they support some sort of Calvinization of the Southern Baptist Convention, there will be no peace; at least, there'll be no peace with non-Calvinists like myself who will simply not stand down when aggressive Calvinists like them insist we're theologically a quart low because we're not "Reformed."
What is more, Fryer's flowery description about loving his non-Calvinist brothers, gladly joining them in service together, and pleading with non-Calvinists to refrain from making Calvinism a point of contention in our convention wilts to meaningless mush when it comes in contact with stinging, irresponsible words like these:
Ken Fryer, former President of the Louisiana Baptist Pastor’s Conference, Second VP of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, and recent trustee for my alma mater, the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, claims he loves his non-Calvinist brothers even though his non-Calvinist brothers affirm Pelagianism. Ken Fryer gladly desires to serve with non-Calvinists though we affirm what the church definitively and continuously denounced as heresy. Ken Fryer implores non-Calvinists to refrain from making Calvinism a point of contention all the while he impugns us as not only affirming but teaching a despicable, gospel-less doctrine we find as heretical as he.
Pardon me, my brother Fryer, but I can't hear your call for me to refrain from making Calvinism a contentious point when you keep yelling in my ear that I'm a heretic.