November 17, 2007

The Arbuckle Association, Calvinism, and Christian Attitudes

There's been much said in Reformed circles about the recent resolution condemning Calvinism that was passed by the Arbuckle Baptist Association in Oklahoma. I've held off, simply because so much has been said elsewhere that I figured my comments would get lost in the clamor. But I really think that we need to look at this resolution as an opportunity to learn for both Calvinists and non-Calvinists, because there seems to be more to this issue than just a misunderstanding about what Calvinism is, and the differences between Calvinism and hyperCalvinism.

Wes Kenney has a bit of an insider's view of the issue, and makes some good points in his article about the controversy. One thing that he writes was very telling, to me, anyway.

The pastor who was the driving force behind this move, Dr. Joe Elam of First Baptist Church in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, had until about eighteen months ago a Calvinist staff member who did much, both before and after he separated from the church, to undermine Dr. ElamÂ’s leadership of that church.

Someone seems to have been creating division in that church in the name of Calvinism. And if you read many "cage-stage" Calvinists, you can understand why people might react in just this way. So what's the solution?

Charity. Disagree with people, but don't undermine their authority or ministry because of that disagreement. If you find that you cannot work with someone else because of their theology, then don't work with them. Leave -- don't try to tear apart a church or tear down a ministry because of it. If you've ever wondered why so many Southern Baptists don't seem to want to work with Calvinists, maybe it's because so many Southern Baptists encounter Calvinists that won't work with anyone else.

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