Most folks outside of Westside Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, FL, where Bob Hadley pastors, probably don’t know who Bob Hadley is. That’s not a put down because most folks outside of West Main Baptist Church in Alexandria, TN, where I pastor, don’t know who Ben Simpson is. Bob Hadley and I are like the great majority of pastors in the world: we pour our lives out before the Lord to our congregations, serving faithfully in relative obscurity.
Nevertheless, the internet in general and the blog world in particular have given avenues for men like Hadley and myself to voice our opinions to wider audiences. Bob is a frequent commenter on several of the prominent Southern Baptist blogs and even writes for three of his own—SBC and Calvinism, Transformed Theology, and SBC Issues. It is Bob’s recent article at SBC Issues that warrants response.
On May 22, 2013, Bob posted an article entitled, “Calvinism in the SBC: A Point of No Return.” In it, Bob laments “the divide that calvinism [sic] is causing in the SBC.” Certainly, division is always lamentable because it undoubtedly grieves the heart of God! However, I’m not sure that Calvinism is causing the division, but let’s just give Bob the benefit of the doubt here, and go with his theory.
He boils the division down to one simple dichotomy: “Either God is the One who solely determines who is or is not saved or His decision on my eternity is based on my decision with respect to Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection. Either God decides who spends eternity in heaven or His decision is based on my decision.” That certainly is one area of contention in the soteriological debate within the SBC. Although he could have been more precise in his either/or proposition, Bob has indeed hit the nail on the head, at least with a glancing blow. To be more exact concerning the doctrine of election, we should say that the first cause of a sinner receiving grace unto salvation is either the person’s choice of God or God’s choice of the person. Those indeed are the positions being debated, and nobody who has followed Bob in the blogosphere in the least bit is ignorant of the fact that Bob emphatically believes the first cause of a sinner receiving grace unto salvation is the person’s choice of God.
Bob then continues on in his article and correctly asserts about the diametric nature of the positions, “At best, one of these two positions is true and the other false. It is entirely possible that BOTH could be wrong but one thing is absolutely true: both of these positions cannot be correct.” I agree with that statement 100%.
Unfortunately, Bob’s article then takes a turn for the worse. He states, “I believe the SBC is going to have to determine which side it wants to stand on, where the issue of calvinism [sic] in the SBC is concerned.” Excuse me? The SBC has been home to Calvinists and nonCalvinists alike since 1845 when it was established. They’ve coexisted for nearly 170 years in the SBC precisely because the SBC has determined its stand: the doctrine of election is not a dividing issue. Why must the SBC now change its position by choosing a side in the debate?
Bob continues, “The issue has escalated, like it or not, to a winner take all position and it is time for that decision to be made.” First of all, has the issue really become that escalated? Hardly, Hadley! Second, Bob seems to think that Calvinists and nonCalvinists are in a competition with each other. “Winner take all”? That statement in itself shows the worldly and mistaken mindset of Bob concerning this denomination. The SBC churches and leaders are not in a competition, but rather a cooperation. We are to work together, Calvinist and nonCalvinist with linked arms, to expand the kingdom of God on the face of the earth through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Both groups within the SBC agree that God has called us to work to see sinners saved through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Both groups agree that nobody is saved unless they hear the gospel and believe on Jesus. Both groups agree that we must take the gospel to every corner of the planet with haste. Both groups agree that every person who wants to be saved will be saved. Both groups agree that the proof of a person’s election is their faith in Jesus Christ. My goodness, there’s a lot we agree upon concerning the task of evangelism! In this task, we’re not in competition. We are in cooperation!
Bob had already run off the road with those last statements but sadly didn’t have the sagacity to hit the brakes before running right off the metaphorical cliff. In fact, he put the pedal to the metal by going on to say, “We cannot co-exist [sic] as a denomination at this point.” What an absurd statement! Despite the fact that we have coexisted as a denomination up to this point, Bob is convinced that we cannot any longer. By making that statement, Bob has just placed himself in the extreme minority of the SBC. While the majority of Southern Baptists are nonCalvinists, the vast majority of that majority is also willing to cooperate with Southern Baptist Calvinists, like has always been the case, for the sake of the SBC mission, which I believe is the mission of Christ.
Unfortunately, with that last statement, Bob has put himself outside of the SBC circle because the very essence of the Southern Baptist Convention is to cooperate with every person who affirms the Baptist Faith and Message and is willing to engage in the Cooperative Program. No, there is not complete agreement on every nuance of doctrine, but that was never the point. The point was to make a tent just big enough to where all sorts of Bible-believing, evangelical Baptists could join together to do great things for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. Bob’s spirit of uncooperation flies right in the face of everything SBC!
When Bob says, “We cannot co-exist [sic] as a denomination at this point,” he has a decision to make. The Calvinists aren’t leaving the SBC. The nonCalvinists who are willing to cooperate with the Calvinists aren’t leaving the SBC either. If Bob and his minority cohort cannot coexist in this denomination with Calvinists, then perhaps the SBC is not for them anymore. I’d rather see him change his mind and coexist in cooperation with Calvinists, but if his conscience will not let him, then he should leave the SBC, along with his cohort, and either lead his church to become independent or work to construct a smaller denominational tent where there is more doctrinal unity. If he’s convinced that coexistence isn’t possible in the SBC and if he’s a man of integrity who’s not just running off his mouth with sensationalized rhetoric, then that’s just what he’ll do.