What should we discuss for an encore?

My previous post on the presidency of the SBC (“Johnny Hunt to be nominated for President of the SBC“) generated such interest that I have wondered what should be discussed next. Actually, I would like to continue (or recapture) the main points that I originally raised in that post and the one that followed it.

Contrary to what will most certainly become a cyber-legend, I did not intend to start a war of words between Calvinists and non-Calvinists. In fact, you will search in vain to find me make a reference to Calvinism anywhere in the original post. That subject was introduced by an innocent-enough question raised by deacon in the comments. He asked, “Not to get too far off track, but [are] the rumors true that Hunt is extremely anti-Calvinistic?”

I think several observations are worth making in light of the dialogue that (to date) has stretched over 240 comments.

1. There is obviously a great deal of interest in discussing the upcoming SBC annual meeting and the election of a new president. This is a good thing. We need to be thinking and talking about this. What kind of person do Southern Baptists want? What kind of person would serve us well? These questions should be asked and debated and they should be considered without acrimony or personal attack against those whose names get tossed around in the conversation.

2. It seems to be unsettling to some that faithful, conservative Southern Baptists could even entertain the possibility of voting for someone other than the person who is publicly endorsed by well-known conservative denominational leaders (although others–OK, actually one–seem to relish the thought of someone else being nominated for the sheer anticipated enjoyment of watching him get thoroughly trounced).

3. The issue of Calvinism is not going away in the SBC. It can’t be ignored and those who caricature it can rarely get away with their misrepresentations going unchallenged anymore. It is time for serious convention-wide conversations on this subject to be held. Perhaps the breakout session with Drs. Patterson and Mohler where they will acknowledge their different views of election will be a starting point.

4. There are issues on which Southern Baptist Calvinists and non-Calvinists agree, and these must not be overlooked when discussing our differences. We agree that Jesus Christ should be preached to all people. We agree that we should seek the salvation of all people. We agree that the Bible is God’s Word written. We believe in the autonomy of the local church. We agree about the wisdom of cooperation. We agree that God is worthy all praise, glory and honor.

5. There are issues on which Southern Baptist Calvinists and non-Calvinists OUGHT to agree, such as the necessity of discipline in the life of a local church. The illegitimacy of non-resident and inactive members. The lack of integrity in inflated membership rolls. The deadliness of denominational pride. The cheapening of grace through shallow evangelism. The lack of compassion for the lost. The need for churches to break out of cultural captivity.

The next few years will be pivotal, it seems to me, in setting the course for the future of the SBC. The issues listed above will be among those that, depending on how they are addressed, will help determine the trajectory of that course.

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.
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