Southern Baptists and Calvinism

The conversation concerning Calvinism continues among Southern Baptists. At least that is a part of Steve Lemke’s aim in an April 2005 paper titled “The Future of Southern Baptists as Evangelicals” (pp. 12-17). Among other things, Lemke makes the controversial suggestion that the Calvinism outlined in the popular acrostic TULIP amounts to hyper-Calvinism (p. 14). He writes, “While we all know five point Calvinists who are effective evangelists and missionaries, it is a common intuition that those with a theology of hard Calvinism are not apt to be as evangelistic as others” (p. 16). Lemke is the Provost of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

Joe Thorn responds to Lemke’s essay on his blog in a post titled “Hyper Calvinism Criticism.” He basically argues that the Calvinism of the TULIP acrostic “is not what has been historically understood as hyper-Calvinism.” His is a good summary of the concerns contained in Iain Murray’s Spurgeon v. Hyper-Calvinism: The Battle for Gospel Preaching. Also, Tom Ascol has posted part one of his response to Lemke’s paper. Ascol has a substantive piece, but it has a decidedly acerbic tone.

Jim Hamilton has posted some pointers to help Baptists debate this issue more peacefully. His thesis builds upon R. Albert Mohler’s notion of theological triage, a theme I have addressed in this blog on more than one occasion (here and here). Hamilton contends that the difference between Calvinists and Arminians is not one that should divide Baptist from Baptist. The title of his essay reads as follows: “Calvinism and Arminianism: A Debate over First or Third Order Issues?” Hamilton is an assistant professor of biblical studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.


  • The Hoodlum

    Such a juicy issue to discuss. And something Denny is all too familiar with…Louisiana College…the wreck in the Sentra!

    I still contend that 90% of all Armenians are “violently” opposed to Calvanism because of a fundamental lack of understanding. They know just enough about it to believe that they know everything about it. The problem is they really only know hyper-Calvanism…and label it Calvanism. A fundamental lack of understanding.

    And for the last time…the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon was named after John and Thomas…that’s right Denny…you better believe it!

  • A.J.

    I think Calvinism is too wideley misunderstood by Arminians today. It is seen as a hinderance to preaching the gospel, rather than the hope for preaching the gospel. Hyper-calvinism seems to then be the only answer to this problem, only because of a lack of understanding from the Arminian viewpoint.

  • Allen Smith

    Just recently I was talking to a prospect baptist missionary to Mexico. After he found out that I too was a presbyterian (PCA) missionary in Peru, he asked, “So you must not be the Calvinistic type.” I have forgotten how wide-spread is this false notion of Calvinism.

    I proceeded to explain how our call to missions came through the biblical and reformed understanding of salvation. Also, I mentioned how almost all of the missionaries that started the modern movement were Calvinists (Carey, Judson, Paton, Duff, etc.). I forgot to tell him that it is interesting that the PCA has more missionaries per capita than the Southern Baptists (not illustrating pride on my denomination, but the simple fact that Calvinism does not stifle missions and evangelism).

  • Ron Dodson

    Jack Graham, pastor of The Repentagon, recently showed amazing ignorance of Calvinism in a much-ballyhooed “sermon” (I use that term jokingly when referring to said “pastor”). So, I echo the sentiment that ignorance is the breeding ground of the aforementioned fear. However, I also think that without a robust covenantal view, Calvinism CAN devolve into a rationalistic fatalism. The hardcore supras can be like that. Just an FYI, I am a hardcore 5-pointer.

  • Dr. James Willingham

    Sirs: All of the doctrines of grace are invitations to be saved. Predestination is an invitation. Our Lord Jesus preached total depravity, total inability, even reprobation as an invitation to be saved, to trust in Him which is salvation. Just look at His use of the term “dogs”. The woman of Canaan treated as such (Mt. 15:21-28). She said, “Truth, Lord, but even the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Jesus said HER FAITH WAS GREAT. The same could be said about every point.

  • Dr. James Willingham

    The interesting thing about the sovereign grace truths is that they were the theology of the First and Second Great Awakenings and of the beginnings of the Great Century of Missions. Luther Rice, the Father of Baptist Missions, stated, “Predestination is in the Bible, and you had better preach it.” Your missions and evangelism will lack key elements of the Gospel, if you don’t. For example, I have been attending an evangelism clinic. What is sad about it is that it does not address some of the most pressing issues, e.g., human inability. Jesus did. He said to one man, Mk.9:23, “If you can believe….” Why call attention to the problem? The answer is in the response that the man made. Mk. 9:24, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.” In other words you lead a person to realize their inability in order that the might use it to appeal to God for help. Interesting isn’t it? The man got help, when he appealed to Jesus for help with his problem of unbelief. That help wasn’t the man cooperating with the Son of God; it was the cry of desperate person who could not make it and had to have help that could lift him up, empower him so that he could believe. Paradoxical intervention??? I think so.

  • Mike W

    Once saved always saved? Could you reconcile the following scriptures to this position?
    Exodus 32:32-33
    Psalm 69:28
    Revelation 3:5
    They apparently indicate that name may be removed from the Book of Life.
    Also Paul reiterates this principle in Romans 11:13-25 especially at verse 21-22.
    I eagerly await your responce.

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