Recently another of the elders at the church I serve called my attention to information posted on Pastor Tom Ascol’s blog, Founders’ Ministries Blog, regarding documents that are circulating among Southern Baptist Churches in western Tennessee. These documents are intended to teach people in those churches how to determine if any of their church staff are Calvinists and then get rid of any that they may find. You can view them here. This information is apparently being spread by individuals who consider the doctrines of grace to be heresy.
The first document is titled "Reformed Red Flags" and it contains a list of 16 "behaviors" to look for when seeking to determine who the Calvinists pastors may be. Some of these “behaviors” are quite surprising. Included on the list are:
“Use of the ESV Study Bible” – This is simply another way of promoting the KJV Only position. Prior to the emergence of the ESV, most of the KJV Only proponents directed their assault on the NIV, but now that the ESV has become widely accepted among reformed evangelicals, they are now redirecting their slander on this fine translation.
“Moving the church to be under Elder Rule” – Perhaps these folks should go back and read Titus 1:5 where Paul clearly instructed Titus to appoint elders in the churches in the cities of Crete. Apparently God, who inspired Paul to write that instruction, believes that elders are to be the leaders of the church rather than the congregation.
“Focusing on creating the ‘true’ church” – Clearly this is aimed at Grace Life Church of the Shoals in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, a strongly Calvinistic Southern Baptist church which holds an annual “True Church” conference. Closely related is another statement regarding the use of church discipline. The unknown author considers the purpose of church discipline to be an attempt to purge the church of anyone who is not part of the “true” church. While that is never the primary intent of church discipline, the purification of the church is a secondary result. Apparently those circulating these documents consider that to be a bad thing.
“Look for the men they quote in their sermons; do they mainly quote Calvinists such as John Piper, R. C. Sproul, James White, Jonathan Edwards, and others?” – Wow! Some of America’s greatest theologians and teaching pastors whose ministries have led countless hundreds and thousands to saving faith in Jesus Christ are persona non grata to these people.
“Tendency toward a highly logical systematic theology…” – I think it’s clear that they prefer a highly illogical disorganized theology in which anything and everything is up for grabs.
The second page of the document purports to explain the theological differences between what the author describes as “Traditional Southern Baptists” and “Extreme Calvinists.” For me, the most interesting statement had to do with God’s knowledge. The writer states: “Traditional Baptists believe in an all knowing God, but they are not determinists, because they do not believe God has planned everything that happens (emphasis mine). Through His eternal foreknowledge, He knows what is going to happen, but He doesn’t over-ride man’s freewill.”
This statement clearly shows that the distance from Arminianism to Open Theism is very short! I’m not sure what they believe the things are that God has not planned, because He stakes claim to both the good and the bad events of our lives and this world (Amos 3:6, 4:6-13; Job 1:12-22; Isaiah 45:7; Lamentations 3:38). So the writer’s view isn’t significantly different than the Open Theist whose God sits in heaven, captive to the decisions of man, reacting only after man has exercised his sovereign freewill.
Notice that the writer says that man has the ability to exercise freewill and that God knows what man will choose, but doesn’t override it. The problem with such a view is that unregenerate man’s will is not free; it is enslaved to sin (Romans 6:6-20). So man’s “freewill” really isn’t free. And since the pursuit of sin is his nature, he will pursue sin. A pig acts like a pig because it is the nature of a pig to do so. And the same principle applies to sinful man. And unless God steps in and overrides man’s will, drawing him to Christ, that man would never choose to believe.
So what’s my conclusion? Simply this: It’s very, very sad when churches reach the point that their greatest concern is not making sure the Gospel of Jesus Christ is proclaimed, souls are rescued from eternal hell, and God is glorified, but rather that they root out the dangerous Calvinists who might be lurking in their pulpits! I pray that God will protect other churches and believers who might be tempted to fall into the same dangerous trap as have these men.