Not New But Laodecian Calvinism

Trevin Wax argues for yet another third-way that keeps Calvinists and Arminians together in the big tent also known as the Southern Baptist Convention. As the second largest communion (if a convention qualifies) in the United States only behind Roman Catholics, forgive me if I seem to yield to the temptation of membership envy.

What if such girth comes precisely because ministers and congregations are free to follow their own theological convictions? In other words, how big would the SBC be if it had to choose between Calvinism and Arminianism?

But Wax doesn’t think that decision is necessary. He even thinks that kind of variety will make the SBC stronger (as in iron-sharpening-iron, I guess):

In the past, I’ve surmised that God may be using our Southern Baptist diversity on this issue for our overall health. I know many disagree with the idea that our diversity may be a good thing. Some Calvinists believe the SBC would be stronger if everyone shared their soteriological views and other Southern Baptists believe the SBC would be stronger if there were no Calvinists at all. I understand these perspectives, but my strong belief in God’s sovereignty gives me confidence that God will use our differing conclusions for the good of His people.

Not to sound patronizing, but Wax clearly ignores Calvinist history. Calvinists and Arminians don’t coexist. Think Canons of Dort. Think Dutch-American Calvinist disdain for “methodism.” Think Orthodox Presbyterian and Christian Reformed Church rejection of invitations to join the National Association of Evangelicals.

Of course, someone could argue that Calvinists and Arminians should put aside their differences and work together within the same commvenion. If I were Wax, I would not want to be in that land of doctrinal goo because the precedents for doctrinal toleration (or indifferentism) are not good. Contrary to Tom Nettles, it’s not departures from Calvinism that lead to liberalism (though positive estimates of human agency generally undermine Christianity). It’s actually calls for people who disagree so fundamentally to “get along” that produce the flabbiness that is Protestant liberalism.

15 thoughts on “Not New But Laodecian Calvinism

  1. I’d expect TGC (which increasingly looks like a wholly-owned subsidiary of the SBC) to continue moderating along these lines, downplaying use of the R-word (and not because of conscience issues over truth in advertising), apologizing for congregationalism, and carrying water for the missional bigs.


  2. And re: your title — I always expect to drive around an east Tennessee backroad curve and see among the many baptist church names which speak to past splits (Union, Friendly Welcome, New Friendly Welcome, etc) a Laodicean Baptist Church — finally some continuity/succession!


  3. Very good Darryl. I have mixed it up with Trevin over this EXACT thing. Exactly. Mushy, colorless, odorless, tasteless ecumenical, Christianity Today eclecticism. Don’t forget though, it was your pingback from his blog that brought me here the very first time 😀 Aren’t you just thrilled to death about that?

    I like Trevin, but guys like him drive me outta my mind. He’ll preface a several installment blog series using a new perspective guy’s book by saying:

    “This man is an egalitarian, who denies inerrancy and is an evolutionist who probably doesn’t believe in a historical Adam, but this is a great book so let’s get started” (paraphrase, but true story)

    Arminianism is a downgraded gospel, if there can be such a thing. Arminians are only saved because so called Calvinism (Calvin would have hated that label), is true.

    “(though positive estimates of human agency generally undermine Christianity). It’s actually calls for people who disagree so fundamentally to “get along” that produce the flabbiness that is Protestant liberalism.”
    There’s something here, but I believe that the abandonment of the full authority of scripture precedes even this.


  4. Does Tdubs have nothing to learn from paedos? I’m sure our differing conclusions could be used by God.

    Also couldn’t this argument be used to talk about the great things we can learn from legalists (look how nice they are) and charismatics (look at how they emphasize a totally made up role of the Holy Spirit)?


  5. Have you been in the denomination of Richard Gaffin so long that do NOT YET know that all things are gray, in this age of NOT YET. We cannot do antithesis as you want, but must co-exist because none of us knows what God knows. If we don’t learn co-existence, we become sectarians who won’t even accept the Trinitarian water of Rome…

    Scott Clark —–“Against the free or well-meant offer (the idea that God also desires the salvation of the non-elect) , it has been argued that we cannot speak of God’s will in two aspects or in two ways, that we must speak univocally. Univocity, however, assumes an intersection between the divine and human intellects, and that is a form of rationalism…..We must deal honestly with God’s Word and recognize that, given the hiddenness of the divine decree, there is a genuine and true sense in which God must be said to will the salvation of all. It is in light of this sort of BIBLICAL language that the Reformed faith has historically taught the substance of what has come to be called the “free” or “well-meant” offer of the gospel….. all divine revelation is accommodated to human finitude, and that we humans have only analogical knowledge of God. Because of that fact, we cannot go behind the revelation of God in Scripture to some other a priori truth by which to leverage Scripture that reveals God as not willing the death of sinners….”


  6. Ray Ortlund explains to dgh— “This is the acid test of a truly Reformed ministry – that other believers need not be
    Reformed in order to be respected and included in our hearts. Whatever divides us emotionally from other Bible-believing, Christ-honoring Christians is a “plus” we’re adding to the gospel. It is the Galatian impulse of self-exaltation. It can even become a club with which we bash other Christians, at least in our thoughts, to punish, to exclude and to force into line with us. What unifies the church is the gospel. What defines the gospel is the
    BIBLE…. What proves that the gospel hermeneutic has captured our hearts is that we are not looking down
    on other believers but lifting them up, not seeing ourselves as better but grateful for their contribution to the cause, not standing aloof but embracing them freely, not wishing they would become like us but serving them in love My Reformed friend, can you move among other Christian groups and really enjoy them? Do you admire them? Even if you disagree with them in some ways, do you learn from them? What is the emotional tilt of your heart –
    toward them or away from them? If your Reformed theology has morphed functionally into Galatian sociology, the remedy is not to abandon your Reformed theology. The remedy is to take your Reformed theology to a deeper
    level…. The proof that we are Reformed will be all the wonderful Christians we discover around us who are
    not Reformed. Amazing people. Heroic people.”

    D.M. Lloyd-Jones from “The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors”:—“Is there not a real danger of our becoming guilty of a very subtle form of Arminianism if we maintain that correct doctrine and understanding are essential to our being used by the Spirit of God? It is sheer Arminianism to insist upon a true and correct understanding as being essential. The case of the young Harris disproves this. For eighteen months he was used in this mighty manner while still not merely confused, but actually wrong in his doctrine. The same, of course, is true in the case of John Wesley.”

    MLJ— “John Wesley was to me the greatest proof of Calvinism. Why? Because in spite of his faulty thinking he was greatly used of God to preach the gospel and to convert souls! That is the ultimate proof of Calvinism – One of the greatest proofs of the truth of the doctrines emphasized by Calvin, what is known as ‘Calvinism’ – though I have already said I do not like these terms – is John Wesley. He was a man who was saved in spite of his muddled and erroneous thinking. The grace of God saved him in spite of himself. That is Calvinist! If you say, as a Calvinist, that a man is saved by his understanding of doctrine you are denying Calvinism. He is not. We are all saved in spite of what we are in every respect. Thus it comes to pass that men who can be so muddled, because they bring in their own human reason, as John Wesley and others did, are saved men and Christians, as all of us are, because it is ‘all of the grace of God’ and in spite of us.”

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  7. William Smith—–“Once it is acknowledged that there is much more to Calvinism than the five points, and that one can affirm the Five Points and not be Reformed, the question has to be asked: Can one who does not agree with the substance of the five points (if not the terminology) be regarded as holding the truly Reformed faith? Dr. Stewart wants us to understand that Calvinism is much more open to revivals renewal than we might think.

    Now, as one of a small minority who have some criticisms of “experimental Calvinism” and revivalism, but who could hold of convention of likeminded folks in a phone booth (if he could find one), I ask why Dr. Stewart thinks that….“Calvinists take a dim view of revival and awakening.”. Those such as Nevin of an earlier age and Clark and Hart of the present day seem to be assigned to the cranky edge of Reformed faith and practice. It seems to me incontrovertible that this supposed myth is no myth at all… In the end one wonders why this book was written. It seems it will serve to cause those who favor a broader, softer Calvinism to say, “Amen.”

    Meanwhile, this book will not cause those who hold a more defined and robust Calvinism to change their minds. The book does little to advance serious discussion and debate among those in the Calvinistic tradition. It poses another problem for confessional Presbyterians. It really is not an academic book which would provide a better understanding of varieties of Calvinism. It rather is an advocacy book. And what it advocates is going to a place no one bound by vows accepting the Westminster Standards as teaching the system of doctrine taught in Holy Scripture may go.


  8. Zrim says: But, Greg, aren’t you good with Baptists in your midst?

    Zrim. Hello. I think DG’s exhortation is to laodiceans, not entire peoples, but to laodiceans – you know, those perhaps planning to come to the wedding feast dressed in their own clothes; maybe those rich ones, who thank God they are not like other people; or those who might think something other than Jesus settles everything; or those maybe thinking passion for the Lord is overrated. It is to those particular ones He says: “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.


  9. Ah yes. I forgot that rule: when in doubt, the rebuke applies to the meanies, not those who try super hard. And there’s no way zeal can be about doctrine. It’s definitely about manners and asking people to pray for their big toes.


  10. Ali, I’m not sure what your point is but mine was simply if Greg can be so tolerant of Baptists in his Presbyterian midst then why does he give the ecumenical para orgs the headlock?


  11. Zrim says: Ali, I’m not sure what your point is

    Main point Zrim: blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

    related point: please don’t encourage Greg wrongly, you know about, ‘types’ and ‘kinds’
    Greg says: I like Trevin, but ‘guys like him’ drive me outta my mind.


  12. Memo to New Calvinists: this doesn’t apply to you:

    The experiential Calvinist is content and satisfied with scriptural worship. Submission to the unconditional sovereignty of God is seen practically in submission to the authority and sufficiency of his holy Word. This means that the experiential Calvinist seeks to have his life and the church’s life contoured by “every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord” (Deut. 8:3). This means that our worship can (and must) never be shaped and informed by the fads and fashions of the moment, but by the abiding precepts and principles of God’s Word. Historically, this has come to be known as the regulative principle.


  13. ok, bait taking once again: new Calvinism = revival; returning to emphasis on the authority and teaching of Scripture, to faith fundamental truths and to the (daily!) regulative principle of worship (ie regulated by the authority of Scripture) -worshiping with sincere hearts and minds, drawn near to our first Love, zealous and repentant, not naked, nor honoring Him with mere words and lip service, but in spirit and truth, for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.


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