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Calvinism at Southwestern Baptist Seminary?

Christianity Today provides another summary of the tensions existing at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The tensions are basically this: the SWBTS President is not a Calvinist and many Calvinist professors are reporting that their theology has been under scrutiny and removal seems possible.  I have a few problems with this, but here is the big one:

Here is the quote from the article that bothers me: “Although [President] Patterson has publicly expressed concerns about Calvinist tenets that he thinks might hurt evangelism…”

The President is rightfully concerned about evangelism.  I appreciate his passion for evangelism.  But what, may I ask, in Calvinism hurts evangelism?

The CT article implies that a belief in limited atonement (the belief that Jesus died only for the elect) hurts evangelism.  I disagree.  To prove my point, I urge President Patterson to read the Canons of Dort (the original source for the five points of Calvinism):

From point #1: Unconditional Election: “In order that people may be brought to faith, God mercifully sends proclaimers of this very joyful message to the people he wishes and at the time he wishes. By this ministry people are called to repentance and faith in Christ crucified. For how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without someone preaching? And how shall they preach unless they have been sent? (Rom. 10:14-15).”

From point #2: Limited Atonement: “Moreover, it is the promise of the gospel that whoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish but have eternal life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be announced and declared without differentiation or discrimination to all nations and people, to whom God in his good pleasure sends the gospel.

From points #3/4: Total Depravity/Irresistible Grace: “What, therefore, neither the light of nature nor the law can do, God accomplishes by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the Word or the ministry of reconciliation. This is the gospel about the Messiah, through which it has pleased God to save believers, in both the Old and the New Testament.”

From point #5: Preservation of the Saints: “And, just as it has pleased God to begin this work of grace in us by the proclamation of the gospel, so he preserves, continues, and completes his work by the hearing and reading of the gospel, by meditation on it, by its exhortations, threats, and promises, and also by the use of the sacraments.”

The necessity of evangelism is found in all the five points of Calvinism.  No Calvinist, who truly holds to the five points of Calvinism, will ever shirk their responsibility to tell the lost about Jesus Christ.

Categories: Brian's Blogs, Theology
  1. mikewittmer
    March 12, 2009 at 10:17 pm


    My translation of the Canons of Dort has the section on limited atonement say that the gospel must be preached “promiscuously”. I like that. So if anything, Calvinists are guilty of dirty evangelism.

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