Calvinist, non-Calvinist: United as Southern Baptists?

Calvinist, non-Calvinist: United as Southern Baptists

by Mark Kelly (LifeWay Press Release, November 30, 2007)


RIDGECREST, N.C. -- Calvinist and non-Calvinist Southern Baptists have plenty in common to work together in a "Great Commission Resurgence," participants were told Nov. 28 at a conference on Reformed theology and the Southern Baptist Convention.

The three-day gathering, "Building Bridges: Southern Baptists and Calvinism," was co-sponsored by Founders Ministries and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and held at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina. "This has been a historic gathering," said Tom Ascol, executive director of Founders Ministries, during the closing session. "I pray, as I know you do, that good will continue to ripple out from this over the months and years ahead. One of the things I am so encouraged about ... is the way we have been able to come together and talk about these kind of substantive issues, even where we disagree strongly, and to do it in a kind way that doesn’t water down convictions ... and isn’t acrimonious."


Challenges to cooperative unity

Ascol said Southern Baptists face numerous challenges to their cooperative unity in working together to make Jesus Christ known to an unbelieving world. "Mere denominational affiliation can no longer sustain such cooperation, if indeed it ever could," he said. "If Southern Baptists are going to work together in any kind of meaningful way, we must find common ground on which we can stand so we can link arms legitimately, and with integrity, for the sake of making Jesus Christ known."

Ascol said Southern Baptists must come to an agreement on three doctrinal issues about which they can no longer assume agreement: What is the Gospel? What is a Christian? What is a church? He also said Southern Baptists must be willing to obey the truth and learn to live in love.


Why and how?

In the closing address, Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., said Southern Baptists -- Calvinist or not -- can work together toward a "Great Commission Resurgence" because they agree on seven issues:

  • A common confession, the Baptist Faith & Message 2000
  • The inerrancy, infallibility and sufficiency of the Bible
  • The necessity of a regenerate church membership
  • The exclusivity of the Gospel
  • The sinfulness and lostness of humanity apart from Christ
  • Salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone
  • The Great Commission as a divinely mandated assignment

Southern Baptists -- Calvinist or not -- can come together for "Great Commission Resurgence," Akin said, if they focus on five truths:

  • Sound theology is needed, not a soft theology or a straight-jacket theology.
  • Biblical theology must drive and determine systematic theology.
  • Authentic expository preaching will lead Southern Baptists to be a genuine "people of the Book."
  • The balance of a Great Commission theology is needed--recognizing the urgency of missions within the learning of theology
  • Southern Baptists must love each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, even though they are not in complete agreement on every point of theology.

‘We agree on more than enough’

"The modern missionary movement was birthed out of evangelical Calvinism, both in Great Britain with William Carey and in America with Adoniram Judson," Akin said. "Would it not be a remarkable providence of our sovereign God if a conference on Calvinism was the genesis of a Great Commission Resurgence among Southern Baptists?

"I believe our Baptist fellowship is big enough in all the right ways," Akin added. "We may not agree on everything, but we agree on more than enough to work together for our Lord Jesus in fulfilling the Great Commission.

"Will we come together for life or fracture apart in death? I’d make my choice for life. It is my hope and my prayer that you will join me in doing the same." Audio podcast downloads of all the presenters are available at . (emphasis added)


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