Southern Baptists agree to disagree on Calvinism

Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Charlie Butts (

Southern Baptists are gearing up for their 2013 convention in Houston and will be dealing with Calvinism, which has been a topic of debate within that denomination for quite some time.

Calvinism, a Protestant theological teaching that emphasizes the irresistibility of grace and the doctrine of predestination, has stirred controversy within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) - and the debate has been present since the denomination's beginning. Dr. Richard Land, who soon takes over as president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina, explains the teaching named for 16th-century theologian John Calvin.

"Basically, this belief is that God is so sovereign that he elects those who are going to be saved, and they ultimately have no choice in the matter," he offers. "They are the subject of 'irresistible grace' and they will be saved; and those who are not the objects of 'irresistible grace' can't be saved and they won't be saved."

Land, Dr. Richard (SBC, ERLC)Land, who is not a Calvinist, says a serious Calvinist voice, but not a dominate one, exists within the SBC. A report developed by a 19-member advisory committee representing both sides of the debate will be presented at the SBC Annual Meeting next week (June 11-12). That report - "Trust, Trust, and Testimony in a Time of Tension" - urges Southern Baptists to "grant one another liberty" in the debate.

"I think the report will be a positive step in the right direction," Land tells OneNewsNow. "But if you mean 'dealt with' that it's going to go away, no; it will be addressed, but the debate will continue. It's been going on for a long time in Southern Baptist life and it will continue to go on." And he does not believe the issue will split the denomination.

Land points out that Calvinists and non-Calvinists do not disagree about what the Bible is. They do disagree, however, about what it says about some issues - including "who can be saved and how they are saved," he concludes.

Indeed, according to Baptist Press, the report lists a series of areas of disagreement, such as: "[W]e agree that God loves everyone and desires to save everyone, but we differ as to why only some are ultimately saved." But such differences, adds the report, "do not constitute a sufficient basis for division and must not be allowed to hamper the truly crucial cooperative effort of taking the Gospel to a waiting world."

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