Moody Radio’s Prime Time America is scheduled to broadcast a story today for which I was interviewed. I don’t know when the segment will air but the show starts at 5PM Eastern time. It is about (what else?) the resurgence of Calvinism in the SBC. Phil Fleischman did a great job with the interview and indicated that he also interviewed Paige Patterson for the story. In addition to being heard on Moody stations it will be available on their website and will be archived after the broadcast.
All of the interest in this subject is good for a variety of reasons. First, it is evidence that a doctrinal renewal is taking place within the SBC. That has been obvious to some of us for years, but it has been harder to convince others. Some simply haven’t been too observant, but others, I think, just don’t want to face up to the reality of what it taking place, largely out of fear that is based on misunderstanding or at least incomplete understanding. If I believed some of the popular caricatures about Calvinism and Calvinists then I, too, would be afraid of a so-called “Calvinistic resurgence.” I should also add that if some of the worst examples of those who call themselves Calvinists are representative of the resurgence, then I would also be fearful of it. But the caricatures are simply that and the radical extremists may make a lot of noise but are very small in number and do not represent the movement.
A second reason this attention is a good thing is that it is provoking some serious investigation into what is going on. Collin Hansen, who wrote the famous, “Young, Reformed, Restless” cover story for Christianity Today last year, has a full length book on the resurgence coming out in early April. I have read the manuscript and found it very helpful in putting human faces on the resurgence. Also, Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary’s journal, Theology for Ministry, plans to have an article on this in the upcoming May issue. The more this movement is investigated, the more the caricatures will be exposed and the truth will be brought to light. That is not to suggest that there are no negative realities within the movement. There are, and where they exist, they will be brought to light as well. Anyone who is familiar with the history of reformation and revival knows well that the devil always keeps pace with what the Lord does in seasons of renewal. What is happening today is no exception and those of us who count ourselves a part of this movement should not resist the kind of honest critique that others might make of us. In fact, we need it so that we can be helped to see what we otherwise might overlook or ignore.
A third reason that I believe this kind of attention is a good thing is that it will cause some people to take a fresh look at things the Bible teaches. This is always a valuable exercise. Too often we become perfunctory in our Bible reading. Anything that awakens us to reexamine Scripture with greater care will serve us well.
I have to confess some aversion to being asked about Calvinism in the SBC. By trying to answer some of the questions that come my way I find that some people think that this is all that I care about, or what I am most passionate about. That is simply not true. As I stated to some friends recently, my fear is not the the SBC is not Calvinistic enough, but that it is not Christian enough. My understanding of what is happening is this: the revival of biblical Christianity within the SBC is provoking a resurgence of the doctrines of grace. There are many who are genuinely concerned about the former who are not “five-point-Calvinists,” and that doesn’t bother me at all. What I have discovered is that brothers and sisters in that camp are not fearful about the “resurgence of Calvinism,” either. That kind of mutual respect and common commitment provides the groundwork for genuine unity and healthy cooperation. I am greatly encouraged to see it happening on an ever-increasing scale.