Bill Wagner: Calvinists are “less missional”

SBCtoday has posted another of their informative interviews. This time it is with Dr. Will Wagner, former IMB missionary and professor at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. He was the first person to announce his candidacy for the SBC presidency to be decided in upcoming convention meeting this June.

Among the many questions Wagner addressed, one had to do with the resurgence of Reformed theology in the SBC. His answer was rather convoluted. After acknowledging that he finds the question “very interesting,” he offers what he hopes is a “blunt” response.

I feel that we as Southern Baptists are a very large organization. And there is ..
There is plenty of room for Calvinists and Armenians [sic] within the Southern Baptists. I think tha we should not really make this that much of an issue.

However, I have spoken to a lot of our missionaries overseas and its a very strange thing because our missionaries have said that we are beginning to get more and more people out on the field who are Calvinistic in their theology, and it is strange, but those that are Calvinistic are not nearly as desirous of winning people to Christ as they are about talking about theology. So I am little bit fearful, that if Calvinism begins to have too much influence, that we might go the way of some of the other Protestant denominations have gone and that is to deemphasize our missions.

Now, I know of a lot of tremendous missionaries who are Calvinists. But I say, by and large, Calvinists have a tendency to be less missional in their approach.

Dr. Wagner seems like a very nice man. He has some thoughtful responses to the questions that he was asked. I appreciate his candor in responding to this one. My own experience has been far different from what he has described. Most of the Southern Baptists I know who are Calvinistic are very evangelistic, and most of the missional guys I know are rather Calvinistic. That holds true for those who are in the states and those who are serving in other countries.

Missionaries from our church helped plant the first church among an unreached, overwhelmingly Muslim people. We have another family preaching the Gospel at one of the international crossroads of Muslims who come from some of the most restricted countries in the world. Another of our families is researching and trying to chart information on unreached peoples that have been overlooked or unknown to modern missiologists. God has recently opened a door for our church to become aggressively involved in evangelistic and church planting efforts among one of the most unreached people groups in the world. We are partnering with other Southern Baptist churches who share our theological and missional convictions.

Again, this may simply be a difference in relationships and experiences between Dr. Wagner and me. However, his suggestion that the SBC may go the way of liberal mainline denominations is, at best, terribly ill-informed. Even a superficial reading of history shows that it is the lessening of Calvinistic convictions, not their resurgence, that has led to spiritual and doctrinal decline among Baptists and other evangelical groups. Listen to Tom Nettles’ presentation at the Building Bridges conference or read his article in the soon-to-be-mailed issue of the Founders Journal on, “Why Your Next Pastor Should Be a Calvinist.”

I am grateful for Dr. Wagner’s willingness to address the question with such a charitable spirit. Obviously, I do not share his fears. The resurgence of Calvinism within the SBC bodes well for our churches and missional efforts. It is leading to a reexamination of what the Gospel actually is, which is leading to a recovery of that Gospel and a more thoughtful, biblical approach to proclaiming it. And that is the foundation of reformation and revival.

Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
Get Founders
in Your Inbox
A weekly brief of our new teaching resources.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Teaching BY TYPE
Teaching BY Author
Founders Podcasts