Friday, June 1, 2012

Calvinism Conference Questions, Part 4

This is the fourth post in this series.

The Kentucky Baptist Convention will host a Calvinism Conference in August. Speakers include David Dockery, Steve Lemke, Frank Page, and Hershael York. It looks FASCINATING to me. Color me intrigued.

Paul Chitwood, KBC's Executive Director, is the mastermind behind this conference. He has agreed to participate in a Q&A session here on my blog regarding this conference. His answers will post sometime next week, probably. In the meantime, before you see his answers, I've decided (with his permission) to post some of the more pertinent and vexing questions and let my readers have at them in advance of Chitwood's reply. I'll stretch this process out among multiple posts.

4. How has the conversation about Calvinism come to have such generational overtones in the Southern Baptist Convention?


B Nettles said...

I don't understand what you mean by "such generational overtones." Are you talking about Particular and Free Will conflicts?

Bart Barber said...

I'm talking about the YRR phenomenon, in which "Young" has wound up being yoked together with "Reformed."

Anonymous said...


I believe this is a particularly important question.

The youth aspect of a renewed interest in Reformed theology is particularly vexing, I believe, to many (not all) of Reformed theology detractors.

Youth involvement is often an indicator of a future direction.

Youth involvement is also an indicator of what is perceived as "trendy" and culturally attractive.

T4G and other meetings that showcase Reformed theologians and Reformed theology attract large numbers of young, educated pastors.

I have speculated on other sites that the resurgence in Reformed Theology may, in part, be affected by the continued movement of U.S. Society and the West away from the Christian faith.

Reformed theologians tap into the idea that this is happening because of God's providence. Christians cannot stop this. Improved evangelism techniques or more meetings will not change things, they believe.

Non-Reformed theologians typically find something that the church has failed to do or is not doing as the reason or cure for continued cultural apostasy. They double down on evangelism. More pressure is brought to churches and Christians. Evangelism technique (e.g. the seeker movement) is often discussed. Reformed theologians basically laugh at all the seeker stuff.

Simply put, I believe that many young ministers today see much of the culture around them leaving or ignoring the Christian faith. This begs for an explanation because all the evangelism in the world does not seem to be stemming the tide.

A renewed acknowledgment, as a starting point, that God is sovereign in these things is very appealing.

In the 1940s, 50s and 60s, the SBC saw a great increase in numbers. Evangelism crusades flourished in the U.S. and other countries.

It is understandable that in those years there would be more interest in man's work and the evangelistic calling, instead of God's sovereignty.

No one seems to be taking me up on this, but I believe I am right.


Chris Poe said...

These comments apply to evangelicalism and conservative Christianity in general as opposed to being limited to the SBC (which, however, doesn't exist in a vacuum.)

I'm not looking to pick a fight here, but I think a big part of it is that it is largely Calvinistic authors who are putting meat on the table today when it comes to publishing. With the exception of a few notable elder statesmen, in most broadly evangelical bookstores, (which I think is a fair reflection of current trends) you see the shelves lined with a combination of charismania and evangelical Calvinist authors like MacArthur and Piper. This phenomenon isn't that "New" and goes back at least to the late 1990's when I first started seriously considering evangelical Christianity. It's likely why I swallowed 5 point Calvinism whole when I was converted because that's the material that was most accessible at the time despite the fact that my background was liberal Methodist. All the other evangelical churches (including SBC) in my area seemed to be doing 40 Days and things that were of less depth than that, so the alternative looked pretty good to me. Agree or disagree, but I think this is where the Mohler comment about Calvinism being the only option comes in. That's my educated guess, anyway.

On the other hand, in the 80's and previous decades, Dallas Seminary type dispensationalists like Walvoord and Ryrie were arguably the most prominent in publishing both academic and popular works.

A couple of years ago I related this observation contrasting who is putting meat on the table then and now to a pastor who is a Dallas Seminary grad and he agreed with me. This is also a big factor in the decline of dispensationalism generally among evangelicals as well as in the SBC.

Now with regard to Louis's comment, I am compelled to disagree with much of it other than the anxiety that many have over the direction that young people and thus the SBC appear to be headed. The only people I know of the mentality that he describes are the types who retreat to a backwoods hideyhole someplace and would even consider something like T4G compromised on some level, whether it be music, charismaticism, SBC involvement, Presbyterian involvement, etc. I'm being a little hyperbolic there but not much as I once fellowshipped with some brethren who were basically of that mentality. One could just as well and perhaps more accurately place the decline of Christianity (with regard to societal prominence, etc.) in the USA at the feet of mid 20th Century dispensationalism which taught not to polish the brass on a sinking ship, etc.

I was in explicitly Calvinistic circles for a decade. Most Calvinists I've known would say that the decline of America and the West generally is due to the widespread abandonment of Calvinism around 100 years ago, give or take. Thus, the loss of sound doctrine (or the loss of the Gospel, as you've heard) has led to where we are today from their perspective.

I do "laugh" at much of the seeker stuff. Weeping might be a more appropriate response. If that and charismania and out and out legalism would have been the only evangelical or fundamental Christianity I was familiar with, I likely would not be a Christian to this day. That's because types of ministries are often incapable or unwilling to answer deeper questions from those who aren't already inclined to get involved for one reason or another. The seeker movement is based on the homogenous unit principle and if you don't fit the mold that they are targeting, they often really aren't that interested.