The Calvinists: a Reply to Gerald Harris Part I

Gerald Harris, editor of the The Christian Index, the Georgia Southern Baptist newspaper, recently published the article “The Calvinists are here.”1 There have been two immediate responses to Harris’ piece including one by former Calvinist William Birch2 and an article in the Baptist Press in which some of the people mentioned by Harris answered his concerns.3 Harris’ article seems to be pieced together without a thesis. The article seems strung together by insinuations built upon a connect-the-dots type of guilt by association. In short, there is a lot to untangle in Harris’ article.

In the following response, which has been broken into two parts, I will attempt to untangle some of Harris’ insinuations and point out that his his dots do not actually connect to support insinuations that Calvinism is a problem. Sections of Harris’ article will be quoted and interacted with so this article will be long, but necessary.

Why is this response necessary?

This response is necessary for the sake of encouraging Southern Baptists from differing theological perspectives to move beyond casting judgements based upon personal bias. The response is necessary to encourage continuing working together for the sake of the gospel while embracing one another in Christ without questioning each others motives every step of the way. Remember, love bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things (1 Cor. 13:7) and love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). I hold Mr. Harris as a brother in Christ who has served the body of Christ through the SBC for many years. Being the editor of a state Baptist paper, Mr. Harris has a large reach. I pray that his reach be better used to serve Southern Baptists in building bridges rather than widening gaps. Instead, what Harris has offered at this point does not help build up the body of Christ. It would be more beneficial if we Southern Baptists would start talking to each other instead at and past each other.

This article will  attempt to give another perspective of what Harris insinuates as problematic for the SBC by examining the rest of the story.

The title of Harris’ article, “The Calvinists are here” may be the closest the reader comes to getting a thesis statement. Is Harris merely observing based on the title that Calvinists are present in the Southern Baptist Convention or Christendom? Were Calvinists absent for some time? Is Harris personally pro-Calvinist, anti-Calvinist or Calvinist neutral? Since his article is an opinion piece, what, exactly, is his opinion?

Mr. Harris begins his article by mentioning influential theologian John Calvin and the popularity of Calvin’s doctrine of predestination which Harris claims to be the foundation of Calvin’s theology. Whatever one believes about the foundation of Calvin’s theology is should noted that he wrote extensively on the topics of prayer and on the Holy Spirit.

Harris then summarizes the five points of Calvinism which arose after Calvin had gone to be the the Lord. As a Southern Baptist writing in a Southern Baptist paper, it may have served his fellow Baptists better had Harris pointed readers to the theology of the Southern Baptist Founders, some of whose work may be found online.4 This is not to say that Calvin did not influence both early and modern Southern Baptists, but the whole Protestant movement has influenced Southern Baptists.

In other words, why not start with the theology of those who actually started the Southern Baptist Convention? Is there a fear that informing Southern Baptists about SBC beginnings may possibly lead to people considering the theology of many of the Founders? Maybe Calvin is an easier example from which to encourage Baptists to distance themselves since he was a paedobaptist.

There are also those who hold to Reformed theology who believe limited atonement means that the death and resurrection of Christ is the substitutionary payment for the sins of only those who are God’s elect children, but not the entire world.

This statement is somewhat nuanced. Regardless of one’s theology, only the elect, i.e. those who believe the gospel, are ultimately the only ones to whom Christ’s substitutionary atonement will be applied. Granted, there are different understandings of how one is elected. Whether one believes, as James P. Boyce, that election is based on God’s will and not on foreseen faith; or that election is based on foreseen faith, the atonement will ultimately only be applied to the elect, universalism not withstanding.

Many who embrace Reformed theology are motivated to allow it to influence their church polity by substituting congregational church government with an elder system of church government.

This statement on church polity is also nuanced. This statement may lead readers to believe that any church with elders is operating like a Presbyterian church which is not the case. I have pointed out that current SBC President Bryant Wright, who is not a Calvinist, has an elder system of church government.5 Since it is not Reformed theology, what then is Wright’s influence for having elders in the local church? Why were no alarms sounded when he was first elected president? Even mega-church pastor Andy Stanley, son of famous Southern Baptist Charles Stanley, who could hardly be labeled as Reformed, serves North Point Community Church which has elders. Also, note that even early Anabaptists, with whom some Southern Baptists feel a spiritual kinship, had elders within their church polity.

While that works well for some churches, James MacDonald, a self-proclaimed Calvinist and member of the advisory board for LifeWay’s new Sunday School curriculum, writes, “Congregational government is an invention and tool of the enemy of our souls to destroy the church of Jesus Christ.”

First, James MacDonald recently shared that he was “never entirely comfortable with the title ‘reformed’” and would score no higher than 3.8 out of 5 points on the Calvinist test.6 MacDonald certainly did say that congregationalism is of Satan.7 Myself and several others reacted publicly to this charge on social media networks such as twitter. The most immediate and thorough response came from Calvinist writer Jonathan Leeman at the 9Marks blog.8 Many of MacDonald’s most vocal critics of have been Calvinists. Connecting the dots from MacDonald to Calvinism in an effort to seemingly discredit Calvinism does not hold. Therefore, Harris should not have a problem with Calvinism, but with MacDonald and LifeWay.

Let’s further consider the connection between MacDonald and LifeWay. I do not know why MacDonald was involved with LifeWay’s new curriculum. Hiring him is not something I would have done, but Harris seems to have missed something on his radar. See, 3.8 point Calvinist, MacDonald, along with Church of Christ pastor Max Lucado, are individually among the top-selling authors at LifeWay.9 Assuming Harris is worried about the theological content LifeWay makes available, it would seem that he would have been concerned prior to the new curriculum. Of course, the new curriculum is material printed with LifeWay’s name on it, but nonetheless LifeWay is a conduit for getting particular Bible studies in the hands of many Southern Baptists regardless of who publishes them. The average Southern Baptist who shops at LifeWay may be influenced by any and all products sold. Could there be any theological issues with certain authors due to their non-Calvinistic positions?

Harris next mentions Mark Dever’s article “Where’d All These Calvinists Come From?” which gives ten reasons Calvinism is re-emerging. Harris writes nothing else about Dever’s article other than to point it out. This may be one of the reasons why Harris’ article has been criticized as being pieced together. He then moves to Frank Page who said the following.

“I think the challenges confronting the SBC today are different than they have been in decades past. I think one of the issues, which is a tremendous challenge for us, is the theological divide of Calvinism and non-Calvinism.”

“Everyone is aware of this but few want to talk about this in public. The reason is obvious. It is deeply divisive in many situations and is disconcerting in others. At some point we are going to see the challenges ensuing from this divide become even more problematic for us. I regularly receive communications from churches who are struggling over this issue.”

The divide will continue if articles like Harris’ continue. Who is making Calvinism the divisive issue, Calvinists or non-Calvinists? Harris’ article should give the readers a hint.

Jerry Vines is quoted next with what seems to be contradictory positions on Calvinists. Since Harris is quoting Vines, does he hold the same opinion that Vines shares in the following quotes? The following replies are to Vines’ with Harris in mind as one who tacitly agrees.

“Theologically, will the issue of Calvinism create further division in the SBC? I have been an SBC preacher over 50 years. I have worked quite well with my Calvinist friends, many of whom I invited to preach for me. I have no desire to run all Calvinists out of the SBC; I think it would be divisive and wrong.”

Jerry Vines’ statements have drawn recent responses.10 Note that Vines has worked “quite well” with his Calvinist friends so why not model for the rest of us how to do so? While he states that has no desire to run all Calvinists out of the SBC, does he desire to run some of them out? Which ones and why? Would running only some Calvinists out of the SBC also be divisive and wrong?

Harris continues quoting Vines.

“But, current attempts to move the SBC to a Calvinistic soteriology (doctrine of salvation) are divisive and wrong. As long as groups and individuals seek to force Calvinism upon others in the Convention, there will be problems. There is a form of Calvinism that is militant, hostile and aggressive that I strongly oppose. I have stated before, so it’s not new news, that should the SBC move towards five-point Calvinism it will be a move away from, not toward, the Gospel.”

Who is attempting to move the entire SBC to a Calvinistic soteriology? I’m sure there is a form of militant, hostile and aggressive Calvinism, but who in the SBC is promoting such an animal? Is it also divisive and wrong, or possibly hostile and aggressive, to claim that a move toward Calvinism, a theology in which the SBC was rooted, is a move away from the gospel? What if someone started as a “one-point Calvinist” and gradually moved to two, and then three points? Does the acceptance of each point move this person further away from the gospel? Is it amazing to Vines/Harris that anyone is even saved in a church with a Calvinist preacher?

I digress. Harris continues.

According to LifeWay Research, the SBC’s, statistical arm, 10 percent of all SBC pastors now identify themselves as Calvinists and a third of recent graduates from SBC seminaries espouse Reformed doctrines, with Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY, a particular source.

The best I can tell is that the research to which Harris alludes is from a 2006 LifeWay study and a 2007 NAMB study.11 According to the studies, there are no percentages given to compare the differences by which each seminary is graduating Calvinists. Actually, on page 14 of the surveys, the SBC seminaries are listed in descending order in proportion to their graduates who are Calvinists. While Southern tops the list in the 2007 NAMB study followed by Midwestern, Golden Gate, Southwestern, New Orleans and Southeastern; the 2006 LifeWay study has Golden Gate leading the way followed by Southeastern, New Orleans, Southwestern, Midwestern, and, finally, Southern.

It would be surprising if The Gospel Project, a Sunday School curriculum for all ages that LifeWay will soon be rolling out, were not marked by an unmistakable Reformed theology…The advisory council and writers for The Gospel Project (including D.A. Carson, Matt Chandler, James MacDonald, Eric Mason, Joe Thorn, Juan Sanchez, Collin Hansen, former North American Mission Board missionary to the Internet Afshin Ziafat and Geoff Ashley – for the most part looks like a Who’s Who of Reformed theologians.

Why would it be surprising if The Gospel Project were not marked by an unmistakable Reformed theology? Trevin Wax, managing editor of “The Gospel Project” answered questions that speak to Harris’ allegations.12 One may either distrust Wax’s answers and believe he is lying or one may graciously accept that Wax is being truthful and is not trying to promote Reformed theology.

Speaking of divisiveness.

For what it’s worth…


P.S. Part II is here: The Calvinists: a Reply to Gerald Harris Part II. And a full pdf copy here: The Calvinists: a Reply to Gerald Harris.

tagged as , , , , , , , , , , , in Arminianism,Baptist,calvinism,Church Issues,Southern Baptist,theology

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jim Gifford February 17, 2012 at 2:21 pm

Hi Mark,

I think your article is well done. I think something you missed that would have made it better is to criticize Harris on his Driscoll inference. I thought that would be a very easy way to critique Harris. I do have three other points to analyze.

I know you cannot answer for James MacDonald, but are you going to give him a pass when he says he’s a “3.8” point Calvinist? I have no idea how one can be a 0.8 on anything. Either one believes in, say, unconditional election, or he does not. It’s either a full point or a zero in my book. Given that, I think I will round him up to 4, assuming he denies limited atonement. (That is an assumption on my part, as I don’t think it is possible to affirm limited atonement and deny either U or I).

Second, there is a group in the SBC who answers this question you posed “I’m sure there is a form of militant, hostile and aggressive Calvinism, but who in the SBC is promoting such an animal?” Answer: the Founders. I imagine you will say that Ascol has not been active lately, but has the mission statement, which is in full public view, changed? If Founders still exists (and it does) and the mission remains unchanged (and it does), then there is your answer.

Finally, with Wax, I don’t think he lied. Dave Miller, for some odd reason, did not press him enough in the interview. He let Wax’ statement that no one asked whether or not anyone was a Calvinist before working on the GP to remain unchallenged. I showed that of the 8 people publicly involved in producing the curriculum, all 8 were Calvinists and at least 7 of them had direct ties to the oversight committee. So the question did not need to be asked. I don’t know why this question was not asked in the interview. I would love to see Wax’ answer.

Now let me ask you an honest question, Mark. I know you are Reformed-leaning, which is fine. If you were designing a theologically-in-depth SS curriculum, and you were doing a lesson on atonement, election, or grace, could you in good conscience, given what you believe and hold true, consciously avoid Reformed-leaning outlooks on those topics? I doubt you could. I know I couldn’t. If you and I were partnering on the project, we could work together and present both views, knowing that the opposite view would at least be argued fairly. We don’t have that sort of security with GP, because all involved (as far as can be publicly ascertained at this point) are Calvinist or lean heavily that way. At least I hope you see my point, even if you don’t agree with it.

Jim G.

2 Tom Shelton February 17, 2012 at 2:44 pm


I think it is interesting that I haven’t heard of any Calvinist advocating that all non-Calvinists being run out of the SBC. It could be happening somewhere but I have not seen it yet. All the Calvinists I know and read seem to be saying we can co-exist and work together for the advancement of the Gospel in the SBC. So I want to echo your concern for where the divisiveness is coming from. It is not from the Reformed side……

3 Les February 17, 2012 at 3:33 pm

Good response Mark. Well reasoned.

4 Frank Gantz February 17, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Jim, “militant, hostile and aggressive” to describe Ascol? Using terms like this is part of the problem in the SBC.

5 Mark February 17, 2012 at 4:56 pm

Hi Jim,

Thanks for stopping by again. Don’t worry, I didn’t miss Driscoll. He will be addressed in part II. Where the quotes from Harris’ article end in part I is where part II will pick-up.

I was letting MacDonald speak for himself. Since he recently resigned from the Gospel Coalition, which I did not note above, he has moved further from regularly partnering with Calvinistic Christians. He received a lot of flack from Calvinists in the Coalition for some of his theological affiliations as I understand it.

Since you named Tom Ascol and the Founders as being representative as “militant, hostile and aggressive Calvinism,” would you mind providing examples of them being militant, hostile and aggressive?

As for Trevin Wax’s answers, are you saying that he did not answer Harris’ charge? Remember, I am not asking what you, Jim G., want answers to, but I am addressing Harris.

If I were assigned a theologically-in-depth SS curriculum could I consciously avoid Reformed-leaning outlooks on those topics? It depends on the parameters of the curriculum. Depending on who the lessons are for may determine how deep one teaches about a particular doctrine. For example, I’m not sure any of us gets a full systematic theology lesson very quickly after becoming a Christian. When someone is hired or assigned a task to write teaching material and there are parameters set in the beginning I would expect those writing the material to follow those set parameters, especially, Christians. So, if people are writing for LifeWay and the parameters set is the BFM then I expect the material to conform with the BFM just as Trevin said it would.

Now let me ask you an honest question, Jim. Can you, in good conscious, accuse another Christian, without proof and against their words, of writing a curriculum with a particular agenda?

6 Mark February 17, 2012 at 4:57 pm

Tom and Frank, I agree.

Les, thanks for the kind words. I hope part II follows suit.

7 Les February 17, 2012 at 5:06 pm


You said partly quoting Mark, ““I’m sure there is a form of militant, hostile and aggressive Calvinism, but who in the SBC is promoting such an animal?” Answer: the Founders.”

I have never met Tom Ascol. I have met and know well several others who identify with the Founders. Some would be considered leaders in the Founders. To a man none of them could even come close to being classified as “militant, hostile and aggressive” Calvinists. Is it possible that there are some out there who are associated with the Founders who would fit that description? Sure. But I’ve seen this tossed out there many times and no names have been provided.

8 Paul M February 17, 2012 at 5:59 pm

@ Jim G. – Why are you so militant on what you think, and hostile, and agressive towards those who hold Biblical Historical Doctrines?

Since you asked a question to Mark about the SS. Let me ask you a question:

Do you often ask for prayer in church for the salvation of an unsaved friend, relative, or neighbor who is not a Christian? Which (if you are a Christian) I think you probable do. Then, Why are you a Calvinist when you pray? Is it because you know about the human complete depravity and complete inability to come to Christ? and you know that Salvation is a Sovereign Divine work, and none is looking for it, right?


9 Jim Gifford February 17, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Hi Mark (and Les),

Thanks for replying.

I thought Driscoll would be “too easy.” I’ll await part 2.

MacDonald deserved all he got and then some. It’s fine to disagree with congregationalism. Calling it satanic ratchets up the rhetoric to an unacceptable level. But are you willing to give him a pass at 3.8? You didn’t answer my question.

Yes, I do believe Founders to be quite militant, hostile, and aggressive. It may be in the eye of the beholder, but I find their mission statement to be quite aggressive and hostile. They plainly say the church needs reformed and that reformation is tied directly to the 5 points. Anyone who wants to read it can – it’s there. I thought using the cyber-squatting was pretty militant, if you ask me, especially when their webmaster called it Founders’ “secret weapon.” Their use of the word “weapon” is by definition militant. Finally, Les, one name is Ernest Reisinger. In chapter 4 of “A Quiet Revolution,” he advocates preaching Calvinism by stealth, so that it will not cause trouble. I find this very statement to be deceitful at best:

“In the pulpit, don’t use theological language that is not found in the Bible. Avoid terms such as Calvinism, reformed, doctrines of grace, particular redemption, etc. Most people will not know what you are talking about. Many that do will become inflamed against you. Teach your people the biblical truth of these doctrines without providing distracting labels for them.”

Now you have seen a name tossed out there. He’s not insignificant, because he is the driving force behind the founding of Founders. And his book is still prominent on their website.

As for the curriculum, let’s just say I am skeptical. I did not accuse. I said I’m skeptical. You read my posts at Voices. I’ll tell you what…when the curriculum comes out for full public view, if my skepticism turns out to be unfounded, I will come on this blog and personally admit my error in plain language. But if my skepticism is right, will you do the same?

Jim G.

10 Jim Gifford February 17, 2012 at 6:25 pm

Hi Paul,

Thank you so much for the warm, caring and considerate greeting and question.

Why, yes, I happen to be a believer. And, yes, I do very often pray for unsaved friends and loved ones. I even do it outside of church! I am aware of human depravity. I think I read about it once.

However, I am not a Calvinist when I pray. I am not militant toward Calvinism. I love my Calvinist friends and believe them to be sincere brothers and sisters in the Lord. I may disagree with their soteriological stances, but I do not let that hinder my fellowship with them.

Since you asked so nicely, Arminianism and its free-will forbears are just as “biblical” and even more “historical” than Augustinian-Calvinism. My whole point in all this is that we can exist side-by-side in compassion and understanding for one another. We don’t have to try to assert the superiority of our systems. Silly me for thinking such nonsense.

Jim G.

11 Cathy M. February 17, 2012 at 6:54 pm

I didn’t even know what Calvinism was until I was accused of being one. Several years ago, I inadvertently made a comment which apparently sounded calvinistic. I was attacked like a three-legged cat in a pack of dogs. From my perspective, it’s not the Calvinists who are agressive and hostile… at least not in my Church. I look forward to reading the next installment of this article.

12 Paul M February 17, 2012 at 7:55 pm

@Jim G. – I am glad you try to establish bridges between different sides, but you still sound hostile when you talk about the militant armies of Calvinism.

I think that you did not get to the heart of my question – If you pray for unsaved people, what is the purpose of your prayers then? what is the point if according to your humanistic position you are praying to a God who cannot actually save anyone?

13 Jim Gifford February 17, 2012 at 8:18 pm

Paul, you know nothing about me, so quit assuming. The pejorative tone you are using is wearing thin. If I didn’t think God could save, I wouldn’t pray.

I never said anything about “the militant armies of Calvinism.” I think Founders is militant. I think others are in the SBC are militant and Calvinist, but I am not convinced they are militant to “Calvinize.” The SBC is weak and there are factions who want the big pie. I don’t think Calvinism is at the heart of the militant spirit in most cases. I think lines are being drawn to determine the future of the world’s largest Protestant denomination. Calvinists are players, but Calvinism for the most part isn’t the main issue.

Jim G.

14 Les February 17, 2012 at 9:24 pm


I hear what you are saying, but you are talking about the organization being militant and aggressive and about one man, who…is he still around?

Look, all I’m saying is I keep hearing about all these aggressive and militant Calvinists and I can’t find any and no one produces names (plural).

And saying Founders is militant and aggressive without producing scores or more of men actually doing these things just doesn’t seem to work.

I might add this. I discovered this and some other SBC blogs over the last 6 months. I will have to say that by and large the aggressive ones have been mostly non-Calvinists. A number of them seem to be almost hysterical. Names…Bob, David, Peter to name three.

15 Jim Gifford February 17, 2012 at 9:42 pm

Hi Les,

You said “no names have been provided.” I provided a name (who is no longer living by the way. I’m not sure when he died, but I think it was not too long ago). Reisinger’s ideas are still influential. If dead men’s ideas don’t matter, then why should Founders want to return the SBC to the beliefs of men long dead?

Now you want scores of names. I can’t provide that. The ante went from “a name” to “scores of names.”

If you don’t believe the Founders are militant (even by their own cyber-squatting admission of a secret – I’ll say it again -“weapon”) and aggressive (“the recovery of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in the reformation of local churches. We believe intrinsic to this recovery is the promotion of the Doctrines of Grace in their experiential application to the local church” – from the FM mission statement) already, then I’m pretty sure I won’t convince you.

I find it funny that people call me militant.

Jim G.

16 Les February 17, 2012 at 10:18 pm


I suppose he is still influential. But how much? As I said above, I know several rather notable Founders men and they are nothing like the stereotype I see discussed.

Scores? I was using some hyperbole there. But a few would be helpful. Also, if here really was a concerted effort to take over the SBC it should be pretty easy to find several of them at least.

I just don’t see hoping for a reformation to what is arguably the founding theology of the SBC as a bad thing. Now stealth, if there is such, is wrong.

Question: do you see any aggressive non-Calvinist on these blogs or other places?

And for the record I have not called you militant.

17 anthony clay February 17, 2012 at 11:23 pm


Your proof of Militant Calvinism?

“Teach your people the biblical truth of these doctrines without providing distracting labels for them.”

Oh that all the pastors of the SBC were as diligent to the truths of the bible.

18 C.L. Bolt February 17, 2012 at 11:56 pm

Ever since I moved from an area where Calvinists were a small minority to an area where most people are Calvinists I have heard much, much less about Calvinism and much, much more about the Gospel. In my experience, Arminians, and those who wish to label themselves “Biblicists” rather than “Calvinists” or “Arminians,” are generally obsessed with the debate over Calvinism. It comes up all the time at the slightest hint that something, anything, whether a comment or a verse of Scripture may pertain in some way to Calvinism. It turns the stomach.

The fact is that most Calvinists, especially those in Reformed contexts within the SBC, think there are a lot more important things to talk about than Calvinism. An emphasis on the Word of God, expository preaching, sound biblical counseling, evangelism, families, and church discipline are much higher on the list of priorities than Calvinism. I rarely even hear that word anymore, and frankly, I’m glad.

Calvinists who are so concerned about the difficulties Calvinism presents in the SBC are not Calvinist enough with respect to their understanding of Providence in the Church, and non-Calvinists are getting distracted from kingdom work. Oddly enough, non-Calvinists are also assuming something like a Presbyterian understanding of ecclesiology rather than focusing on the alleged problem at the level of the local church in traditional Baptist style.

19 prchrbill February 17, 2012 at 11:57 pm

Sorry to be obvious, but it seems to me that anti-calvinists are more militant than the folks. I never see campaigns to ‘kick out’ the non-calvinists. I don’t see blogs complaining about ‘non-calvinist’ Sunday School literature being used. I have never seen anyone stand behind a pulpit during a Convention and boldly proclaim , “Folks, Jerry Vines is a hyper-arminian…”. I have never seen any Calvinist go on a campaign to try and prevent an ‘anti-calvinist’ from ever teaching again at a SBC seminary.

I think your vision is skewed or purposely blinded to what is actually going on.

With that, I am …

20 Jim Gifford February 18, 2012 at 12:02 am

I know you didn’t, Les. But I’ll bet it won’t be long until I am one!

I’m glad the men you know are honest and upright. We need more of those across the entire theological spectrum. And, yes, I think there are some pretty vocal non-Calvinists that inhabit the blogosphere. And yet not one of them are trying to “anti-Calvinize” any Calvinist-leaning SBC churches. Not one of them sees the “recovery of the gospel” to try to remove the 5-points from any local church to my knowledge. Not one of them is trying to accomplish in reverse what Founders is openly trying to accomplish.

Some of my non-Calvinist brethren are very vocal. But vocal is where it stops. There is a huge difference between being loud (or repetitive) and being militant. Someone who starts up (or joins in) a blog and spouts off is not necessarily militant or aggressive. He may just be loud (and perhaps annoying). But man (or an organization) with a plan and the (perhaps secret) weapons – now there is militant for you.

Jim G.

21 prchrbill February 18, 2012 at 12:12 am

If it is a secret, by definition, no one but those involved know about it.

If you know about it, it is no longer a secret.

Since the only folks that know about this secret calvinist take over are the non-calvinists, it therefore is a not a secret plan, but an imaginary plan.

Imaginary meaning, it only exists in the minds of those who fail to grasp the reality of the moment.
Once the imagination takes hold, it is hard for those trapped in the delusion to not see anything but what their paranoia has manufactured.
“I think the Calvinists are too vocal.” to “The Calvinists are militant.” to “The Calvinists are trying to take over.’ becomes “Down with Calvinists.” However what is missing from this story is ANY ACTUAL PROOF THAT THEIR IS A TAKEOVER PLAN!.
Produce an email, a document, a misplaced note, perhaps hire a psychic to read Tom Ascol’s mind, but in any event, stop pretending you are battling giants when you really are just poking windmills with a stick.

With that, I am ….

22 Jim Gifford February 18, 2012 at 12:12 am

By the way, Mark,

We are both critical of MacDonald’s stance on congregationalism. That much we at least agree on.

If the GP is so strict about adhering to the BFM, as Trevin Wax said, why do they still have MacDonald on the advisory council, since he obviously views Section 6 of the BFM as not only wrong, but satanic? The GP is not overly concerned about the BFM, because they allow MacDonald to help advise the project, and he thinks Baptist polity is a work of Satan. So if the advisory council is not held to BFM standards, do you blame me for being suspicious that the curriculum might not be completely faithful to it?

Jim G.

23 Mark February 18, 2012 at 12:17 am


I bought a house today so I’ve been in and out and my thoughts consumed with the coming future.

What I don’t quite understand is how the things that Vines and Harris, for example, mention about Calvinists are seemingly overlooked due to how some feel about the Founders Ministries. Whether or not Vines and Harris are correct about some of their thoughts on Calvinism should not be contingent upon what people think the Founders are doing. You have not stated that this is directly the case, however, many of the arguments implicitly default to what the Founders are doing as if that gives Vines and Harris a pass.

I’m still having trouble with the militant charge (actually all of them) against the Founders. Can you give your connotation of militant?

If The Gospel Project ends up being explicitly Calvinistic against what Trevin claims it to be, then I will publicly respond. Of course, we’d have to agree that such teaching had been presented.

According to Vines’ statements about running Calvinists out of the SBC, do you think he desires to run some Calvinists out of the SBC?

24 Jim Gifford February 18, 2012 at 12:21 am


Do me a favor… go back and reread everything I have written this evening. Produce one place where I even uttered the word “secret” in any comment above. Speak to what I have written. Don’t misrepresent what I have said.

I think I have repeatedly said things that are in plain sight and can be verified by anyone. If you draw different conclusions, well, I guess that can happen.

By the way…I’m starting to feel some anger directed toward me here.

Jim G.

25 Mark February 18, 2012 at 12:24 am


I don’t know why MacDonald is on the advisory board. I am pretty sure he blocked me on twitter though. 🙂

Maybe he is on the board because he was already a best-selling author at LifeWay and being promoted as such. MacDonald is very inconsistent, IMO, as can be seen by his affiliation with TD Jakes. Since MacDonald believes as he does about congregationalism I have no idea why he chooses to work with a congregational denomination. Nor do I know why congregationalists would select him. However, this does not mean he will write lessons on church polity and he may still be able to advise on lessons within the BFM.

26 Jim Gifford February 18, 2012 at 12:38 am

Hi Mark,

Congrats on the house. I hope it becomes home in no time.

I think that the wisest thing we could all do is try to work together. I’ve said this a zillion times (and you know it) that I think the SBC is stronger with both Calvinists and non-Calvinists working side-by-side for the upbuilding of the Kingdom of God. I reread the quote of Vines in Harris’ article. I even reread all of Harris’ article. I’m giving no one a pass, but it seems in my reading that Vines is not speaking against Calvinism per se, but the militant brand that your fellow readers deny exists.

It all comes down to this: do you think that the SBC should become Calvinistic? If you do and it becomes a reality, then what happens to all the non-Calvinists? They will either need to convert or leave. There won’t be room for us. I believe that the SBC should not become Calvinistic, but each side should work to live in harmony with the other to do the kingdom work. I want the Calvinists to stay. But those who equate the true gospel with the 5 points all the while thinking that those of us who disagree are in some way substandard Christians (as I have been accused of above by Paul M.) likely won’t be satisfied with folks like me hanging around. That is the Founders mentality and what I believe Vines was addressing.

Jim G.

27 Jim Gifford February 18, 2012 at 12:43 am

Hi Mark,

You know, I’ve never used twitter and have no idea how it even works. Must be the hillbilly in me.

At least we agree on old MacDonald. I think we agree on Lifeway too. They want to make money. If his stuff is selling, then sell it! :0)

You are more trusting than I am. I see his presence as a real red flag that the BFM will be taken seriously. I hope I am wrong. And I am a man of my word. If I am wrong, I’ll stand behind it.

Jim G.

28 Les February 18, 2012 at 9:41 am

Jim, and maybe others,

I take its Jim that you are not a Calvinist nor Reformed leaning. But here is an honest question,

Could you affirm the five Solas of the reformation? I would think you could. It would seem that with regards to the Calvinist/non-Calvinist divide maybe those five Solas would be SOMETHING we can agree on.

29 prchrbill February 18, 2012 at 1:27 pm

You misrepresent yourself, here is a quote from right above where I answered you:

“Some of my non-Calvinist brethren are very vocal. But vocal is where it stops. There is a huge difference between being loud (or repetitive) and being militant. Someone who starts up (or joins in) a blog and spouts off is not necessarily militant or aggressive. He may just be loud (and perhaps annoying). But man (or an organization) with a plan and the (perhaps secret) weapons – now there is militant for you.

Jim G.”

Wow, the word SECRET is right there

With that, I am…

30 Jim Gifford February 18, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Their words, prchrbill, not mine. Read in context.

Jim G.

31 Jim Gifford February 18, 2012 at 4:31 pm

Hi Les,

I affirm them as slogans. I think like all such slogans, they need some interpretation, but I can say that I affirm them.

Jim G.

32 Les February 18, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Jim, I figured you could affirm them. And you’re right that they will usually need some interpretation. And that’s true these days for almost every word we use to ID ourselves. Evangelical, Calvinist, non-Calvinist, Arminian, fundamentalist, SBC even needs qualification as does PCA. Biblicist doesn’t say much really at all as well.

Anyway, God bless.

33 Jim Gifford February 18, 2012 at 8:58 pm

Hi Les,

Yes, all these terms are, so to speak, in the eye of the beholder. In order to have meaningful conversation, we really need to know one another well, so that we have an idea of what all the labels and slogans mean in the specific context. That is why blogs are difficult. It’s so hard to type out all those things that can be said face-to-face in a matter of minutes.

I tend to think, though, that “Biblicist” is particularly empty. Everybody who tries to follow the Bible is a Biblicist in some sense, which would obviously lump Evangelical Christians side by side with Jehovah’s Witnesses. That doesn’t work, so we must inject the idea of what I call tradition-1, which is the great tradition of the Christian faith. So what we really mean by “biblicist” is one who views the Bible through the lens of tradition-1. This is not as neat as we would like, though, because the great tradition splits on the twin issue of sovereignty/responsibility. There is the Augustinian/Calvin sovereignty-leaning side of tradition-1 and the free will/Arminian responsibility-leaning side of tradition-1. This split goes all the way back to the anti-Pelagian writings of Augustine almost 1600 years ago.

Baptists have historically been represented in both streams of tradition-1. I think that gives Baptists a good balance. Both sides are fully “biblical,” but there is a tradition-1 difference through which the Bible is read on this issue. I hope that in my lifetime I will see an SBC that can display a healthy respect for both streams of the tradition – healthy enough to realize we are stronger with both streams represented.

Jim G.

34 prchrbill February 19, 2012 at 12:41 am

Your challenge was:
“Produce one place where I even uttered the word “secret” in any comment above. ”
Nowhere in your statement do you attribute those words to anyone, in fact by the context, they appear to be your words.

I answered the challenge as you proposed, I produced where you used the word secret.

With that, I am…

35 prchrbill February 19, 2012 at 12:44 am

Since I was willing to back up what I said, and answered your challenge as you prescribed it, will you now please answer the challenges that have been offered to you and that is show us the evidence of a militant movement of calvinism by the Founders or anyone, and in doing so please provide what you mean by ‘militant’.

With that, I am…

36 Jim Gifford February 19, 2012 at 2:01 pm


I sincerely hope that if you indeed are a preacher, you take more care to investigate the Word of God than you have taken to read my words. The word “secret” was quoted by me. The original source was the webmaster of Founders. He described his practice of cyber-squatting as their “secret weapon.” I’m not saying it was secret. They did.

My words are a follow up to what I wrote a couple of weeks or so ago on SBC Voices. Since I have seen you there, I assumed you knew what I was talking about. If that was unclear, that was my error and I am sorry. But it was the webmaster of Founders who called the cyber-squatting web address their “secret weapon.” SBC Tomorrow has a screen shot of it, dating back to January of 2011.

I hope this clears it up for you.

Jim G.

Jim G.

37 SAGordon February 21, 2012 at 1:54 pm


I sincerely thank you for writing this…and the part 2 to which I will attend shortly.

I am highly troubled by writings such as these which seem to come out about this time every year. This ‘stirs the pot,’ as it were, as SBC (or is it GCB or SGCBC or…now I digress) messengers begin our gear up to the convention meeting this summer. I tire of the annual search for the Calvinist Bogeyman, or Bogeymen (thanks to Ed Stetzer for his timely post on that!). I have yet to see the annual gear up of the Founders et al. in such hit-piece postings.

What is equally troubling is that the types of items to which editor Harris refers are seeming echoes of the unaccountable positions taken by men who wish to utilize them to lay charges to other highly respected leaders in our convention. I do not believe any of our convention leaders to be infallible, nor do any of them speak ex cathedra to our convention. I do, however, believe they deserve more respect than they receive from the anti-Calvinist segment. Imagine the uproar if certain Calvinist-leaning pastors were to charge Dr. Vines of leading a more pure ‘Biblicist’ crusade via publishing some non-Calvinistic Bible study materials. The charge would be spurious.

My challenge, which I thank you again for reminding us all…to be strongly convicted in my beliefs while gracious in fellowship and partnership with my brothers for the sake of the Gospel. I’d like to think I’ve got it down perfectly. Too many times I fall short of where I must be.

Sola Gratia!


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