Blame Calvinism

It works for so much of life if you do.

In this case, journalists might ponder the coincidence of declining baptisms and church membership among Southern Baptists and the rise of New Calvinism in SBC circles:

For several years, membership in Southern Baptist churches has been in decline. The American denomination hit its peak in 2005 with 16.6 million members, and since then, communities have seen a steady drop, hitting 15.8 million members in 2012. That’s nearly one million members lost in roughly a decade—a period during which the overall U.S. population grew by more than 18 million.

But arguably, the more significant decline is happening within church communities: They’re not performing as many baptisms anymore. The top baptismal year was 1999; since then, the ritual has become more and more infrequent, dropping by about 25 percent.

After all, if there is any way to kill the buzz of evangelism, just become a Calvinist (though why Lutheranism gets a pass on the evangelism test I don’t know).


13 thoughts on “Blame Calvinism

  1. I predict the unwashed babdists will blame groups like TGC (pretty much New Calvinism, Inc) for being cooler than thou and stealing their evangelical thunder. It may be more about powerful figures playing footsie with presbys, other babdists and non-denoms than doctrine per se, which most of them don’t understand anyway. They could just call in their boy Steven Furtick. He has the “bump up your baptisms” thing figgered out. And he graduated from Southern under Mohler…


  2. I have two points (since I’m not a Baptist, I cannot give you three points and an altar call):

    1) The Calvinism card cannot be played by non-Calvinistic Baptist churches, since those churches do not teach Calvinism. In other words, why is there a lack of high baptismal rates even among non-Calvinistic Baptist churches? One would imagine that the low rates would come only from Calvinistic churches, if their complaint about Calvinism is valid.

    2) Many non-Calvinistic SB churches also hold to a pre-tribulational end-times scheme that clearly accounts for lack of conversions and baptisms: there will be a great falling away, and thus they should actually expect what is happening with regard to low numbers. After all, they continually tell us that the rapture is imminent, and the end of days is upon us. If so, then are they not a bit inconsistent to be whining about lack of baptisms?

    Just a couple of thoughts from an Arminian viewing the shenanigans of some Southern Baptist folk.


  3. It’s amazing that none of these dire studies on church decline ever mention the elephant in the room: birth control. Perhaps it’s hard to put an evangelistic spin on making babies.


  4. Nick, what would babies have to do with Baptists’ baptismal practices?

    Do you really think it’s mainly a question of fertility? If the SBC kept their young, wouldn’t they still be growing with couples producing 1.6 kids?


  5. Southern Baptist are notorious for reporting inflated numbers in church membership. If you’ve ever listened to James White, he mentions every so often how his former SBC congregation had a certain number of people on the rolls, but you could only find a fraction of them. This is known to occur in a number of churches. Perhaps the SBC is now reporting numbers closer to what is actually the case.

    Secondly and for humor, if they were really Calvinists, they would have an exponential increase in baptisms. You would see lines of parents holding their infants and small children for baptism. That would be a kind of Calvinistic revival.


  6. Alberto, I have heard that some monergistic predestinarian sovereigntists in the SBC are referred to as deep-water presbyterians, which shows how little the rabble understands of presbyterianism.


  7. Darryl, it goes something like this. If there are fewer people and SBC members are some fraction of that, then there will be fewer SBC members.

    Interestingly, while you still hear plenty about the population bomb and that the earth is beyond its carrying capacity, there are many “futurists” beginning to worry that various population control measures (as well as development and education–especially of women–and the accompanying reduction in birth rates) will result in significant population declines in the next century or two.


  8. I don’t blame Calvinism atall. Especially you “Two Kingdom” types, Dr. Hart.

    According to your religion you’re already going to heaven [“Elect”], so the hell with the rest of us. You can’t save us or convert us, so you’re quite harmless with that obnoxious “evangelical” thing those other Christians do.

    And you keep your religion so safely self-segregated from your politics, except in the privacy of the voting booth. How principled! And there are so few “real” Calvinists left that really who gives a spit anyway? Vote for Ron Paul or something. Quietly, so as to not trouble the rest of us. We admire your principles!

    Thank you. Such a good little Calvinist. Wish all those Christians were more like you! You’re such a credit to your religion. You must be very proud.


  9. A number of generations of future baptism worthy adults have come and gone since birth control came around. I’m not saying it explains everything; I just think it’s weird that it’s rarely mentioned.

    Also, perhaps we’re teaching our 1.6 kiddos that any more siblings would hinder our (all about us) lifestyle, and they act accordingly.


  10. tvd—so the hell with the rest of us

    mark: So are you saying that according to your religion, God is going to save everybody from God’s wrath? Or that God would like to, but can’t?


  11. Hmm. Let’s see. Baptisms started declining half a decade before membership started to shrink. Calvinism has been on the “rise” (whatever that means) in the SBC. Therefore, Calvinism is causing the decline in baptisms and membership. Riiiight. Hence, we see the result of the abandonment of logics training in education. It makes about as much sense as “Blame Canada,” which is a lot more fun.

    We have “increasingly provided programs for children, students, and young adults” without much success. No mention of the rightful preaching of the Word, the administration of the sacraments, and the exercise of church discipline. Nope, what we need is “Xtreme Youth” programs having pizza parties for that “cool Jesus dude ” who really just wants us to be good to one another and help us get through our personal problems when we can’t handle them ourselves. All this for only about 2 hours a week at church since catechetical instruction has completely collapsed at home. With the decline of immersions at church, we can spend the other 166 hours a week immersed in the humanistic nihilism of government education and popular culture.

    Yep. It must be Calvinism.


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