Calminian Baptists

Last Wednesday after our Bible Study I had an interesting conversation with a student who has been visiting with us over the last several weeks. He is learning about us and asked a question I hadn’t heard from someone attending our church. It was in regard to where our church came down on the Calvinism/Arminian divide. This was a good conversation starter and got me to thinking about the larger issues related to this discussion.

I’ve been wary of Calvinism, at least the five point variety. The biggest attraction that I see in TULIP is that it is a logical system that utilizes a lot of Bible. Calvinists also find security in the fact that everything can be explained in relation to the sovereignty of God, which unfortunately can be taken to the extreme by removing the freedom of choice when it comes to our salvation experience. There is a lot more to this presentation, but my reaction to my friend was that our church was neither Calvinist nor Arminian. There may be a few individuals that have differing viewpoints on this spectrum, but I think I’m on target here. We believe in missions too much to take away the freedom of persons to respond to the gospel. I told my friend that we might be better described as “Calminian” a term I heard in seminary that seems to pull in some elements of both views.

God is sovereign, and is Lord over all creation. Human beings also have free will and can decide to accept or reject the gospel. Yes, we are all sinners in need of a Saviour but are not predestined to salvation in the sense that we have no choice in the matter. The “logical” conclusion is that God predestines some to heaven while others to hell. This “double-edged” predestination is what I find particularly dangerous. I cannot imagine a loving God allowing persons to come into the world only to condemn them to hell. This is a difficult axiom to accept and is inconsistant with a loving God. God’s sovereignty must be affirmed along with the freedom of humans to determine their own response to the gospel. This paradox is not logical, but it is biblical.

Nothing is more fundamental than an understanding of what it means to come to faith in Jesus Christ. There is a mystery that cannot be explained away, how God LOVED the WORLD so much that he gave his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Calvinists do not accept the truth that Christ died for ALL persons, but rather he died only for the elect. Dying for the reprobate would be unfair to Christ and he would take on more penalty than he needed to provide salvation for the elect. Here again is another case of being logical but not biblical. Calvinism is very much based on a legal viewpoint of redemption.

There is lot more to the debate, but suffice it to say that Calvinism should be considered a threat to our local Baptist congregations. It is possible to diminish the importance of evangelism with this approach. I suspect this is a growing concern especially for Southern Baptists who will be looking for something to fight about pretty soon. At least in this regard I can agree that church members need to be educated about the perils of this theological system, and regrettably some congregations have found out too late. Some churches have found out the hard way what happens when a closet Calvinist is brought to the pulpit.

Despite our challenges and shortcomings, we ought not allow Calvinism to be one of them. John 3:16 is enough of a response to keep Baptist churches focused on missions and telling people about Jesus.


6 thoughts on “Calminian Baptists

  1. Danny — an old quote, that I will probably butcher goes:

    I am Calvinist enough to believe in the reality and depth of sin, and Arminian enough to have hope in God.

    Dwight Stinnett

  2. I’ve never heard of that one, but it rings true. Fortunately, I don’t deal a lot with Calvinist thought other that to comment on it. Baptists are pretty diverse when it comes to this issue, but when I hear that the first Baptists were Calvinists then I shudder a little bit. If true, we couldn’t have helped it anyway.

    One interesting thing about coming to MO is that I’ve seen Freewill, Bible, and General Baptist churches. One of our newer administrative assistants asked what kind of Baptist I was, and I said “hopefully the good kind.”

    Thanks for dropping by.

  3. Dear Danny,

    Your presentation of this issue is good as it gets for the vast majority of Southern Baptists. I just hate having to be plugged into somebody’s cubbyhole of categorization. On any day I am liberal, moderate, or conservative dependent upon either someone else’s definition of themselves or a particular issue.

    I think the majority of nonReformed Southern Baptist Churches have done a truly lousy job in presenting God the Creator, the law giver, the sin describer, the penalty acceptor– aspects more associated with Calvinism than not.

    At the end of the day everyone of those issues are above, way above my pay grade and are really nothing for which I can change one way or the other.

    But there is one thing central to the Bible that is very difficult to claim a patent on in a particular viewpoint–the character of God. That character was introduced over thousands of years and through the breadth of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Although we can certainly accept any one verse to be true, ie., the ten commandments, the true Character of God is displayed all over history, all over the Bible and all over the creation of which each of us are emersed and a part. All of that cries out for a God who is omnipotent, pure and just at the same time it cries out love and His desire for us to have every aspect of our being nurtured and stimulated through the senses of sight, hearing, tasting, and touching and the spiritual dimension of forgiveness and joy.

    I couldn’t tell you how a stereo works, don’t have a reason to know, don’t want to know, all I can do is know that it is real and it works and all I have to do is turn it on for something beautiful. You don’t need to be an electronic engineer to enjoy beautiful music.

    So here we are somewhere in the middle between Arminians and Calvinists. Reviled by those particularly on the one side for not knowing where we clearly stand. But the best example of describing what we beieved came from a spreme court justice in 1973 dealing with pornography statutes. He said that he couldn’t write down what it was, but he sure knew it when he saw it.
    Forgive me for that example, but I think it expresses what you said and what I believe about as good as any I’ve ever heard.

    Thanks for your observatons

  4. I agree with you about being categorized; I suppose it is necessary for some folks to do this before they can talk to you.

    I am not in the Southern Baptist loop anymore, but my observation is that Calvinism will be a force to be dealt with in the near future.

    There is a paradox when dealing with God’s sovereignty and Human freedom of choice. I affirm both to be true, yet there is a mystery involved when trying to reconcile them. I am choosing to live with the tension and trust God with the results.

    One of the strengths for Calvinists is that they have a logical system which removes any sense of paradox or mystery. I still don’t know how you can affirm God’s love while saying God predetermined persons to heaven and (by logic) some to hell. Tough to swallow that.

    Good to hear from a MS person.

  5. Danny, I know that Google is a click away, but could you give the basic beliefs of Arminians? Ok, well, I will Google it but I’d still like to see your perspective on the Calvinist/Arminian divide.

  6. WHenever I hear about Calvinism the five points come to mind: TULIP. Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, irresistable grace, and perseverence of the saints. The sense is that persons are dead in their sins and don’t even have teh ability to make a faith decision without the grace of God. God chooses to “elect” these persons and his grace cannot be rejected.

    Also, atonement is “limited” in that Christ died only for the “elect” and not for those doomed to hell (the non-elect). Of course, this contradicts Jn 3:16, I Jn 2:2 plus others that speak of God’s love.

    Calvinists do have a serious view of sin, which Arminians do not. I’m not as familiar with this latter approach, and haven’t heard the term utilized in contemporary language. But proponents of this view tend to take an extreme view of God’s love to the point that all persons go to heaven.

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