Today at SBCtoday.com, which is maintained by Truett-McConnell College (the new “Traditionalist” intellectual Zion in the SBC), Dr Jerry Vines gives a written interview in an effort to promote his upcoming John 3:16 Conference, part deux. As everybody knows who has been following the soteriological debate in the SBC over the last decade, Dr Vines is no fan of the doctrines of grace and what has been styled “New Calvinism,” which is nothing more than a resurgence of evangelical Calvinism.
In his interview, Dr Vines makes clear that his motive in planning the John 3:16 Conference is “to offer a response to the 5 points of Calvinism” and to promote an “ongoing conversation relative to New Calvinism” (Questions 1 & 2). He feels there must be a response because he sees it as a threat to the life and orthodoxy of the SBC. Dr Vines has repeatedly gotten wind “of our churches being adversely impacted by New Calvinism,” (Question 5). I bet there’s another opinion on the impact New Calvinism has had on those churches!
Furthermore, Dr Vines is wary of New Calvinism because he believes that “if [New Calvinism is] left unchecked, the result will be what Baptist churches experienced in the 1830s. Those that were 5-point Calvinists in their theology became what we call today Primitive Baptists. The lack of evangelism and the decline in membership of Primitive Baptist Churches is evident,” (Question 5). That’s where Dr Vines goes fundamentally wrong. He tries to connect New Calvinism to HyperCalvinism, which poses that evangelism and believing on Christ are unnecessary for salvation. That’s a false connection and has been corrected innumerable times. I think I understand why Dr Vines tries to make that connection and am afraid that this mischaracterization doesn’t reflect very highly on him.
New Calvinism is intensely evangelistic and doggedly missions-focused. In fact, a 2006 LifeWay study found that in the SBC, Calvinist pastors baptized people at a higher rate than nonCalvinist pastors (there’s a growing trend in the SBC for nonCalvinists to call themselves “Traditionalist”). The study shows that Calvinist pastors averaged a baptism rate of 7.59 per 100 attendees while nonCalvinist pastors averaged a baptism rate of only 6.71 per 100 attendees. If baptism rates are an indicator of how evangelistic a pastor is, then the Calvinists are more evangelistic than the nonCalvinists in the SBC.
Whatever the case may be, one can say with great certainty that the Calvinism that is resurging in the SBC is NOT HyperCalvinism. In fact, SBC Calvinists hate HyperCalvinism. At least this one does. We love to preach the gospel far and wide, calling on every person to repent and believe on Jesus and then giving God every ounce of the glory when they do!
I’m thankful that Dr Vines desires to have a conversation about soteriology in the SBC because it’s a conversation worth having, but I pray that in an effort to “win” the conversation, he doesn’t resort to mischaracterization.
Now it’s your turn to respond. Am I correct in concluding that “New Calvinism” is not HyperCalvinism? How is mischaracterization like Dr Vines has shown in the interview detrimental to SBC cooperation? Do you believe that the John 3:16 Conference is going to further cooperation or division?