Tom Ascol posted an article on the Founders Ministries Blog about an effort that is being pushed by some in Western Tennessee to aid Southern Baptist churches in that area to identify and remove pastors who are Calvinistic or reformed in their theology. Tom’s article can be found by visiting this link. It appears as though this theological witch-hunt is not being carried on by official denominational workers, but by some who view the doctrines of grace as heresy. This is taking place via seminars being held in local churches for the purpose of teaching those churches "how to find out if any of your staff are Calvinists and how to get rid of them." At least they are not hiding their agenda,which is about the only positive thing I can say about all of this. It is just this sort of thing that makes me glad that I am no longer in a Southern Baptist church. It also reminds me that conservative Southern Baptists fought the battle over the inerrancy of Scripture and ultimately prevailed over the liberals in that matter, but they somehow forgot the matter of the authority of Scripture. It is right and proper and necessary to declare that all Scripture, which is God-breathed [2 Timothy 3.16], is inerrant, but it is also necessary to submit to those same Scriptures. What is taking place in Tennessee is yet another example of how some Southern Baptists have failed to do the latter. Let me show you what I mean by that by taking a few points from documents produced by the anti-Calvinist group and expose them as both inconsistent and unbiblical.
One document contains a number of bullet points of certain behavior to look out for which if seen will expose a man as one of those dreaded Calvinists. The first of those bullet points states as follows:
Lack of passion in the public invitations for the lost to repent and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior or no gospel invitation is extended.
To begin with, there is absolutely nothing in the New Testament that even remotely resembles the public invitations that are put forth in many, perhaps most, Southern Baptist churches. The sentiment seems to be, "We are going to keep in singing Just As I Am until someone comes forward and prays the sinner’s prayer." What winds up happening is that stanza after stanza of that hymn are sung until finally the one extending the invitation has been able to manipulate the emotional setting so that someone comes to the front of the church, takes the preach by the hand, and prays the prayer asking Jesus into his/her heart. Again, you will not find such a scene in the New Testament. I know that those who promote the public invitation system claim Acts 2 as their biblical support, but an accurate exposition of that passage will reveal that the preach on that occasion–Peter–did not invite his listeners to do anything, much less come to the front and pray a prayer. It was some in the crowd who heard Peter preached and who were pierced in their hearts by the Holy Spirit who interrupted Peter and wanted to know what they were to do in light of what he was telling them [Acts 2.37]. Peter told them to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins [Acts 2.38]. Peter did not extend a public invitation, nor did anyone else in the New Testament. It is a matter of historical fact that the public invitation system is a relatively recent invention. Its origins can be traced back to the ministry of Charles Finney and a few of his contemporaries.
The pattern of the New Testament and the pattern that ought to be practiced today is this: evangelism is done by going into the world with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, not by taking a gospel appeal on to the end of a public worship service. As has been pointed out by many, the church gathers for worship [as well as edification, encouragement, and equipping] and scatters for evangelism. My question for those who are behind the plot in Tennessee to search out Calvinists in Southern Baptist churches is this: are you going out into the world with the gospel? Are you taking the gospel to your communities by going door-to-door and seeking opportunities to share the gospel with unbelievers? That is what Jesus sent His disciples to do [see Luke 9.1-11 and Luke 10.1-16], is that what you are doing? If you think that you are fulfilling the Great Commission [Matthew 28.18-20] by extending a public invitation at the end of a corporate worship service or by means of so-called revivals, you are sorely mistaken. You are no different from the religious leaders with whom Jesus had to contend–you reject the commands of God and replace them with the traditions of men. You like to accuse Calvinists of being non-evangelistic, but how evangelistic are you when what you do is held up to the light of Scripture?
One other of their bullet points that I will mention has to do with church government. They write that a sure sign of the deadly disease of Calvinism is a move to "Elder Rule". I suppose that must make Paul a Calvinist because he told Titus to appoint elders in every city [Titus 1.5] and in Titus 1.5-9 and 1 Timothy 3.1-7 he set forth the biblical qualifications for elders. The only form of church government that is set forth in the New Testament is that of elder leadership [or rule, if you prefer]. The church is to be led by a plurality of Godly men who are given the title of elders. By the way this used to be the common practice in Baptist churches. Now, however, according to some in Tennessee, this is a hallmark of heresy. Just think about that: you follow what is put forth in the New Testament and you are a heretic. There is something sadly wrong with that logic, or should I say, illogic; for that line is reasoning most certainly is illogical.
The saddest part of all of this is that this sort of thing tends to be very, very destructive. The Southern Baptist opponents of Calvinism like to say that Calvinism is destructive and that it tears apart churches, and I know that some who embrace Calvinism exhibit far more zeal than humility and thoughtfulness in what they say and do, but it cannot be denied that what those in Tennessee [and anyone else who follows their lead] are proposing is just as damaging. It tends to perpetuate fear, ignorance, and a very vindictive spirit. I pray that this mindset does not take root in Tennessee for I fear that if it does, great harm will be done to the name of Christ. I pray that the good folk of Tennessee will see all of this for what it is and they will refuse to take part in such foolishness. I further pray that God will raise up clear voices to speak the truth on these matters and will use episodes such as this for His glory and honor.