Yesterday, Nathan Finn, professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, republished an old post from an earlier blog to the newer site which usually has some good material there. Dr. Finn's post entitled "Some Thoughts on Calvinism and Cooperation" is the product of his "musings about the broader debate itself," the debate being Calvinism in the SBC. Dr.Finn speaks, as he sees it, that "there are at least four different Southern Baptist responses to Calvinism." His four are:
1) Some Southern Baptists are non-cooperative,
2) Some Southern Baptists are cooperative, non-Calvinists
3) Some Southern Baptists are cooperative Calvinists
4) Some Southern Baptists are non-cooperative Calvinists
From the above analysis, it's clear to see that there are two unacceptable extremes and two very workable categories in the middle. Or, if you will, there are good guys/bad guys to consider. Dr. Finn is clear the point he wants to make:
"Here’s the point of the above taxonomy: if Calvinism is to have a future in the SBC, then both extremes have to pipe down and play nicely or leave the Convention to align with other groups."
Hold that thought, now. It will be key shortly.
Today, Founders Calvinists' official public defender, Timmy Brister, linked to Finn's very good post and recommended it. In the process of his recommending, however, Brister decided to flesh out Finn's analysis with some meat of his own. So, instead of leaving well enough alone, Brister feels he must fill in the blanks for Dr. Finn's categories. The result of Brister's brainy idea follows. Read slowly and carefully:
Category 1 (non-cooperating non-Calvinists) would include those whom I have aforementioned as anti-Calvinists, including Jerry Vines, Steve Lemke, David Allen, Malcolm Yarnell, Ergun Caner, Elmer Towns, Bill Harrell, Nelson Price, Jack Graham, Bobby Welch, Paige Patterson, Fisher Humphreys, Norman Jameson, Lonnie Wilkey, John Connell, and Peter Lumpkins (among others).
Category 2 (cooperating non-Calvinists) would include Danny Akin, David Dockery, Johnny Hunt, Thom Rainer, Ed Stetzer, J.D. Greear, majority of SEBTS faculty, and Frank Page (among others).
Category 3 (cooperating Calvinists) would include Tom Ascol (Founders), Al Mohler, Mark Dever (IX Marks), Tom Nettles, Greg Welty, Darrin Patrick, Nathan Finn, majority of SBTS faculty, and myself (among others).
Category 4 (non-cooperating Calvinists) would include (1) those who equate Calvinism with the gospel, (2) argue for Calvinists to leave the SBC (and hold those who don’t as compromisers), and (3) think that non-Calvinists in the SBC who don’t hold to the doctrines of grace are unbelievers and need to be converted."
The above remains precisely why Founders advocates cannot get the ear of the average Southern Baptist. Let me explain by asking a few questions:
1) Why was it necessary to fill in Dr. Finn's categories with human identities attached? What purpose did such serve? Does one suppose it will assist in the discussion or divide further?
2) Note, my name is in the non-cooperating non-Calvinist category. Understand: that I am classed with these men who are there is, for me, an honor. And, being the only blogger listed with these worthies makes it even more humbling. So Brister is welcome to categorize me with these guys anytime.
Observe again, why is Fisher Humphreys name strangely there? Dr. Humphreys is a friend of mine, my former theology professor (No, he did not teach me "arminianism." He did introduce me to J.L. Dagg). I have not talked to Dr. Humphreys in a good long while, but I do know this: Dr. Humphreys is decidedly not a non-cooperating non-Calvinist Southern Baptist because he's not even affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention! He is a member of a CBF church in Birmingham.
3) Look carefully at the names in category 3. Now, I do understand why Tom Ascol must be there. After all one cannot make one's boss look bad. But the deck is beginning to stack a little too neatly if you ask me. All of Timmy's buds are there, along, obviously with Timmy himself, and the entire Founders crew. Just one big, happy family ready to cooperate with anything and everything the cooperative non-Calvinists put forward.
4) A real treat is category 4. These are the non-cooperative Calvinists. What is missing in this category? Names! According to Brister, there are no non-cooperative Calvinists to name! Or, if there are, they're either not worth mentioning or he's scared to death to name them. Either way, this alone casts doubt about Brister's self-congratulating effort in being a sober, sound voice in this discussion. Instead, Brister comes across as a sneaky politician who dare not make his constituents upset by telling the whole truth.
5) By naming the non-cooperative non-Calvinists while leaving the other "extreme" category untouched and out of the equation, Brister lays Founders cards on the table. He's very clear in what he's saying.
Now this is where Finn's point above comes back in. Read carefully what Finn says about the two extremes:
"if Calvinism is to have a future in the SBC, then both extremes have to pipe down and play nicely or leave the Convention to align with other groups."
So what is Brister's conclusion about Jerry Vines, Steve Lemke, David Allen, Malcolm Yarnell, Ergun Caner, Elmer Towns, Bill Harrell, Nelson Price, Jack Graham, Bobby Welch, Paige Patterson, Norman Jameson, Lonnie Wilkey, John Connell, and Peter Lumpkins?
Simple: we are to "pipe down and play nice" or
"leave the Convention to align with other groups." So, let me get this straight:
Brister wants former Presidents of the SBC, presidents of our seminaries,
Executive Committee chairs, accomplished theologians, anointed pastors and just
plain old pew people-Southern Baptists like myself to "pipe down" or leave?
Timmy Brister's self-aggrandizing, contemptible commentary does nothing for this dialog but hinder real communication. Watch for heels to be burrowed deep. Ascol recently posted about three events that widened the divide between Calvinists and non-Calvinists from his perspective.
Now let me give mine: Brister's "pipe down or part ways" post to a group of godly leaders in our convention--in many respects, a who's who in our convention--is the single most damaging piece of rhetoric I have read in the three years I have blogged about this issue. This very well may decimate any hope for genuine understanding in the near future.
For me personally, what Brister has just done is squeeze me into a category I never wanted nor did I ever claim. And, while I still refuse the label anti-Calvinist, I will not from henceforth deny the label anti-Founders.
In addition, I intend to do my part in exposing Founders' unhealthy agenda to all Southern Baptists.
With that, I am...