Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Smoking Out Calvinists

I’ve heard for several years that among the various Directors of Missions for local Southern Baptist Associations there were some who took it upon themselves to weed out “Calvinists”, keeping them from consideration for pulpit supply or for open ministerial positions.

I’ve also heard for several years that consultants from state Baptist conventions help train pastor search committees to avoid hiring “Calvinists.” One Director of Missions suggested to me that because of what school I attended (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), I should include on my resume my understanding of the “Five Points of Calvinism.”

Now I hear it reported that at least some Tennessee Baptists have taken up the cause of culling Calvinists in organized fashion, creating written guidelines and conducting training sessions. Tom Ascol, of Founders Ministries, has written about it here. In his article Ascol reprints the documents supposedly used to root out hidden Calvinist preachers. These documents are obviously full of stereotypes, simplistic assessments, and mischaracterizations of Calvinism, Reformed doctrine, and the Doctrines of Grace.

I agree with one thing that “Reformed Red flags” says: pastor search committees act according to the “sacred duty their church entrusted to them.” However, a search committee’s duty is not ultimately to the church that charges it with finding a new pastor, but instead its duty is to serve God and find the man that He has called.

It is, indeed, a serious matter to call a pastor. So I agree, for the most part, with churches seeking to explore a prospective preacher’s doctrinal bent before he walks into the pulpit. In my work as a church consultant, I have grown to lament the fact that search committees are not concerned enough to explore a prospective pastor’s theological leaning, and, perhaps as important, how those leanings actually tend to affect his practical ministry.

Can search committees ask a prospective pastor about his “Calvinism”? Sure. Are “Reformed Red flags” and other tools valid for applying a label to a man and rejecting him? I’ll address that next, in “Making Labels (Smoking Out Calvinists, Pt 2)”.

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