April 26, 2008

The John 3:16 Conference

This November at FBC Woodstock (a huge, iconic church in the SBC, and very influential nationally), they're having the John 3:16 Conference - a non-Calvinist's response to the Building Bridges Conference. I'm not going to criticize FBC Woodstock, or Jerry Vines Ministries -- I've been blessed by the ministries of both, and know people whose lives were changed by both. I want to look at both these conferences, though. There are some telltale differences between the two, and I think it's important to note them.

One of the things I noticed about the Building Bridges conference is that the speakers represented a broad range of opinions, and not all of them were Calvinists or favorable to Calvinism. Non-Calvinists presented on reasons that they were concerned with the increase in Calvinism in the SBC; Calvinists presented on why they thought that was a good thing. Theology was discussed, alternate viewpoints were presented, and a healthy debate was encouraged. Above all, cooperation was emphasized -- the last two sessions were on "Working Together To Make Christ Known." AND each session is available (for free) on the internet, to encourage the discussion to continue.

The John 3:16 Conference looks to be a fisking of the five points of Calvinism. I don't see any Calvinists listed as speakers, just the assertion that "This conference is not going to be a "Let's bash the Calvinists" conference. This conference is going to be a biblical and theological assessment of and response to 5-point Calvinism." It appears pretty one-sided in it's scope. And "There will be no live or archived audio or video of this conference via the Internet."

That is disappointing. It shows me that discussion and debate is not going to be encouraged in this conference - it's going to be a lot of "Here's what we say, you'd better learn it and learn to repeat it, because we're smarter than you are." It reminds me of the problems with the Ascol-White/Caner debate that was scheduled last year, that fell through at the very last minute.

People on both sides of the debate were encouraged by the Patterson/Mohler discussion at the Pastor's Conference at the SBC in Greensboro. There was potential there that both sides could learn to work together, and stop vilifying and misrepresenting each other. It looks to me like the John 3:16 Conference represents a giant step backwards.

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