However, neither of these constituted fatal infractions. I co-sponsored an education in 2004, but preached at the SBC in 2005. I stood against YM for years and while many were uncomfortable, I was still part of the gang. That is, until I came out of the closet. No… I’m not gay. It’s far worse than that. I’m a Calvinist! That’s right, I’m a fire-breathing, TULIP believing, five-point Calvinist. That, my friends, is the unpardonable sin in contemporary Southern Baptist life (unless your name is Al Mohler and you’ve been President of the flagship Southern Baptist Theological Seminary since you were in your early thirties and happen to be the most intelligent, articulate, winsome public face the Convention has).
I was ‘outed’ in 2006 when I preached at the Desiring God National Conference. Prior to that I had preached at Alistair Begg’s conferences, but Desiring God was the fatal blow. After that the questions began to swirl. After preaching a message in a Pastor’s conference in 2006 a dear friend approached me (he is a well-known Calvinist whose name I won’t mention… TOM ASCOL …and I was going to be preaching in his church the next day). He was laughing about a debate he overheard between two pastors. The issue? Whether or not I believed regeneration precedes faith! These brothers had begun to put two and two together but they just knew it couldn’t be four. It was as though I had contracted AIDS. These guys were actually mourning! “I had him in my church!” one of them lamented. I could have done a lot of things and been just fine. However, the dreaded “C” word has become a death sentence in “mainstream”
Southern Baptist life. Some may say that’s not it at all. Perhaps I’m simply too controversial, or vitriolic. Really? Then explain Ergun Caner (whom, by the way, I consider a friend even though we differ on this issue). Caner has been on of the most vitriolic voices in recent SBC history. However, his vitriol has been pointed at the enemy, Calvinism. Jerry Vines called the Prophet Mohammad a “Demon-possessed pedophile” and brought scorn on the entire Convention, but he hosts conferences with some of the top names and institutions in the SBC. Jerry Fallwell made a career out of vitriol and controversy and the SBC gave him the Keys to the Kingdom when he joined. No, I don’t think vitriol is my crime. My crime is being a part of a movement the SBC sees as a threat to evangelism, and our already declining baptismal numbers.
Calvinists can be an easy target when it comes to evangelism and baptism. Never mind names like Augustine of Hippo, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Adonirum Judson, William Carey, Charles Spurgeon, Richard Baxter, Matthew Henry, John Bunyan, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Arthur Pink, Boyce, Andrew Fuller, Luther Rice, J.L. Dagg, Daniel & Abraham Marshall, D. Martin Lloyd-Jones, J.I. Packer, Ian Murray, D.A. Carson, John Piper, James White, Tom Nettles, Tom Schriner, Tom Ascol, Timothy George, Mark Dever, and Al Mohler. The strawman (who doesn’t believe in evangelism because he believes in election) that was beaten about the head and shoulders at the John 3:16 Conference is a much easier target. Can you imagine that conference with the living members of the aforementioned list sitting there defending themselves? I’d pay a pretty penny to see that!
Instead, guys like White get hammered for not believing in evangelism while out doing evangelism! Good thing we’re protecting the Convention from the likes of him. If not we might start having bus tours with slogans like “Everyone Can”. Convention leaders with churches that boast memberships of 10,000 when their actual attendance (resident, participating, regenerate, ‘real’ members) is well under 2,000. Or fire engine baptistries to coax children into the sacred waters (Paige Patterson called this “blasphemy” right before calling Southern Baptists “some of the worst paedo-baptizers there are”). If we don’t rid ourselves of guys like White, we may end up adding a category in our baptismal reports for “Under Age 6,” or have a pastor join the Youth Ministry at the beach and have himself and staff ‘re-baptized’ in an effort to ‘prime-the-pump’ and get the baptismal numbers up for the annual beach retreat (true story!). Or who knows, if the likes of James White are not stopped, we may have non-Trinitarians like T.D. Jakes come and teach at our conferences.
Of course anyone paying attention knows these atrocities are actual occurrences in our beloved Convention and they are the types of things Calvinists (like White) bemoan. Moreover, our Arminian and Amyraldian brethren also despise these things (funny how people berate Calvinists for “following doctrine named for a man” when the various other positions are named for men as well). Unfortunately, they don’t despise these atrocities quite as much as they despise Calvinism. So where does that leave me? Still here. Sill lovin’ the brethren. Still holding to the Doctrines of Grace. Still in the SBC. No longer considering a future of any significance in the Convention. Praying for reconciliation, revival and reformation. Grieving over the status quo. Still holding to the Fives!