Tonight I will be giving a short testimony of my journey in and out of Calvinism to a group of around two hundred pastors, educators, scholars and leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention. This group, of which I now consider myself a supporting member, calls itself “Connect316.”
There is something powerful about being with others of like-mind. I had this in abundance as a Calvinist, but honestly I felt very alone for quite some time after recanting TULIP. Calvinists have online boards, conferences, cool speakers, provocative authors and even rap artists. They have an easy to explain 5 point system, an established label and an abundance of resources for every age level. I walked away from that to find…well…how do I put this in a nice way….
…I found many who just want to get along. They want to avoid conflict at any cost. Sure, they reject the claims of Calvinists, but they see this whole debate as a fringe issue that for the most part should be brushed under the rug. Maybe they are right? Maybe we shouldn’t confront the Calvinistic teachers, singers, leaders and scholars as they teach the future generations that God does not really desire for all to repent unto salvation? What harm is done if all our seminaries become Calvinistic? So what if a majority of our pastors graduating from these institutions do not believe God self-sacrificially loves and provides salvation for every person? I suppose to some people that is not a concern worthy of a brotherly confrontation.
However, for those who see that this is a point worthy to be addressed, where do you turn? Are their others of like-mind? Yes. There are other SBC ministers who are concerned about the Calvinistic resurgence and desire to promote an age-old robust biblical soteriology that has too often been overlooked by this generation.
I am not any kind of authority or spokesman for this group, but if I were to summarize the uniting focus in one sentence it would be this:
“Those who believe God genuinely loves, desires, and thus provides for the salvation of every single person.”
This group of scholars, ministers and laymen, while still affirming man’s sinful condition from birth, insists that every individual is personally responsible for their own choices in response to God’s gracious provision and loving appeal to be reconciled (2 Cor. 5:20). In other words, this group denies the concept that mankind is born unable to willingly respond to the powerful, Holy Spirit wrought gospel truth.
This group is not afraid of the word “election.” They simply refuse to accept the gnostic influenced interpretation of this biblical concept first introduced in the 5th century by a former Manichean philosopher from Africa who did not know Greek.*
They believe God unconditionally elected Israel to bring the light of salvation to the rest of the world, so that whosoever turns to that light will be reconciled to God.
They believe God’s atonement is provided for all but only benefits those who choose to believe and repent in light of God’s gracious appeal to do so.
They believe God is abundantly gracious in providing redemption through His Son, revelation by His Spirit through the word, and fellowship in His Bride, but no one will be compelled against their will to partake in this gracious provision. Nor shall anyone’s “will” be irresistibly altered by some divine mystical force. No, man alone is responsible (read “able to respond”) to God’s self-revelation and appeals for reconciliation. There is no biblical reason to suggest that a fallen man is born incapable of responding to God’s own gracious appeals to be reconciled from that fall.
This group believes God has predestined all who are in Christ to be made holy and to be adopted on the day of redemption (Eph.1:4); something all believers eagerly await (Rm. 8:23). And how does one come to be “in Him?” Paul tells us quite clearly:
“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” (Eph. 1:13-14)
We are not included “in Him” before creation, but only after we hear the message of truth and believe.
Now, this is a group of the SBC with whom I’m proud to be associated!
*Loraine Boettner, Calvinism in History: Before the Reformation (a Reformed Historian and Theologian): “It may occasion some surprise to discover that the doctrine of Predestination was not made a matter of special study until near the end of the fourth century. The earlier church fathers placed chief emphasis on good works such as faith, repentance, almsgiving, prayers, submission to baptism, etc., as the basis of salvation. They of course taught that salvation was through Christ; yet they assumed that man had full power to accept or reject the gospel. Some of their writings contain passages in which the sovereignty of God is recognized; yet along side of those are others which teach the absolute freedom of the human will. Since they could not reconcile the two they would have denied the doctrine of Predestination and perhaps also that of God’s absolute Foreknowledge. They taught a kind of synergism in which there was a co-operation between grace and free will. It was hard for man to give up the idea that he could work out his own salvation. But at last, as a result of a long, slow process, he came to the great truth that salvation is a sovereign gift which has been bestowed irrespective of merit; that it was fixed in eternity; and that God is the author in all of its stages. This cardinal truth of Christianity was first clearly seen by Augustine, the great Spirit-filled theologian of the West. In his doctrines of sin and grace, he went far beyond the earlier theologians, taught an unconditional election of grace, and restricted the purposes of redemption to the definite circle of the elect.”– quoted from: http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/boettner/boettner_calvinism.html [date accessed: 3/12/15]