Had I thought they'd understand me back in high school, I could have legitimately asked those Baptists who asked me if I was saved how they knew they were.*
Nearly 35 years after conservatives launched a takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention, a new divide is emerging — this time over the teachings of 16th-century Reformer John Calvin — that threatens to upend the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.
When Southern Baptist delegates gather for their annual meeting next week (June 11-12) in Houston, they’ll be presented with a report, “Truth, Trust, and Testimony in a Time of Tension,” that focuses on the growing popularity of Calvinism among Southern Baptist pastors and seminaries.
At stake are fundamental beliefs on who can be “saved,” the need for evangelism, and whether Baptists will retread familiar battlefields on the proper roles of men and women.
Calvinism, which is traditionally the domain of Reformed churches like Presbyterians, differs from traditional Baptist theology in key aspects, particularly on the question of salvation. The report concludes that those aspects, while important, should not divide Baptists.
About 30 percent of Southern Baptist pastors consider their churches Calvinist, according to a poll last year by SBC-affiliated LifeWay Research, but a much larger number — 60 percent — are concerned “about the impact of Calvinism in our convention.”
Calvinism is already shaping the next generation of Southern Baptist pastors through the influence of R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the SBC’s flagship seminary in Louisville, Ky., and popular charismatic speakers like Minneapolis author John Piper and Seattle’s Mark Driscoll.
Ascol embraces one of the aspects of Calvinism that makes traditional Baptists deeply uncomfortable: the idea that Jesus died on the cross only for humans whom God had elected to save, and not for everyone.
Calvinists call this the doctrine of “predestination” — the idea that a person’s salvation already has been determined. More traditional Baptists say if Jesus died only for the elect, then Baptists’ trademark evangelism becomes pointless.
Eighty percent of SBC pastors disagreed with the idea that only the elect will be saved, according to last year’s LifeWay poll, and two-thirds disagreed with the idea that salvation and damnation have already been determined.
“It is obvious that we all cannot be right,” Ascol wrote on his blog. “At least one of us is wrong. It may be that we both are wrong. … In other words, our differences are real. But they are differences within the family.”
Part of the doctrine of the elect is that you don't know if you are one. And honestly, the proper theological stance is to consider that you could both be wrong.
And no, despite my childhood, I'm not a fan of Calvinism. Unless you mean combined with Hobbes.
ADDING: the distinction here is between those who are "saved," and those who are really saved.
And that was, IMHO, never meant to be the point of the exercise, at all. Reminds me of the congregation which split over whether or not to buy new carpet for the sanctuary (a true story).
*esprit d'escalier, and yes, real life really is just like high school.