I recently received this question from a loyal listener, who also happens to be a pastor:
“Professor Flowers, I greatly appreciate the cordiality with which you approach our differences with the Calvinistic brethren, but I have a specific concern. You often speak of not wishing to “run off the Calvinists” or “kick them out of the convention,” and typically I’m in full agreement with this sentiment, as I have good Calvinistic brethren in my own church who I want to stay actively involved. But, the Calvinists I’ve been use to in the SBC are those like David Platt or Matt Chandler, who regularly affirm God’s universal love and sincere desire for everyone to come to repentance and faith (they don’t try to reinterpret John 3:16, 1 Tim. 2:4 or 2 Peter 3:9, etc).
But, this new “young restless and reformed” (neo-Calvinism) we are seeing rise up seems set on redefining “whosoever will” by making “the world” out to mean “the world of the elect”…Or “God’s desire for all” to be “God’s desire for all kinds.” (BTW, I love the quote from Spurgeon you read debunking that interpretation of 1 Tim 2:4).
This brings me to my question. Where do we draw the line? With the ‘moderate’ Calvinistic teachers in my church, those who affirm God’s love and desire for all, the typical layperson doesn’t even notice their Calvinism (unless they know what to look for). I really don’t have too much beef with these kind of Calvinists. But the harsher, higher form of Calvinism seems to be seeping into my church. I cannot in good conscience allow for people to teach that God doesn’t really love all people and desire for their salvation. I have to draw the line somewhere and I’m not waiting for hyper anti-evangelism to draw it, I think I must draw it at the denial of God’s universal love and desire. What do you think?”
This is a great question and one I have had to grapple with myself. I certainly believe respect and cordiality must extend to all types of Calvinists, but I do not think it unwise to “draw the line” at requiring teachers to affirm God’s universal love and desire for every individual. If the church has a Statement of Faith which affirms this clear biblical teaching (as does the BF&M), then it is the pastor’s responsibility to ensure that all teachers hold to that standard.
If my pastor knew a teacher in the youth ministry was telling my three teenagers that God did not love and desire everyone to be saved and he did nothing to address it, I would be upset. Most Baptist parents would!
Now, if I was attending a Presbyterian church with a Statement of Faith that denied God’s universal love, I would expect this, but as a Southern Baptist I would insist correct Baptist (biblical) doctrine was upheld. That truth can be defended with firm conviction but still with a loving and gracious spirit.
What are your thoughts? Where do we draw the line with differences on theological perspectives?