Many years ago I heard my good friend, Dr. Dean Register, make a statement which clearly expresses my feelings. He said, "I'm Baptist-Born, Baptist Bred, and one day when I die, I'll be Baptist Dead! In fact, were you to cut me, I'd bleed the Cooperative Program." I love Baptists, being a Baptist, and I especially love the Southern Baptist Convention. Yes, we have our faults and failures, from time to time we have fought among ourselves like siblings, and yet, evangelism and missions have remained at the forefront of our "denomination."
For all of my years as a Southern Baptist, "Jesus" has been our focus. Yes, this sounds simplistic and does not resound with intellectual elitism of which we are becoming accustomed, but for Baptists, "Jesus" has always been the 'name above all names.' As I have prayed, studied, and diligently read God's word it seems to me that anytime we give blanket adherence to any other beside our Lord Jesus we can expect to happen what we see happening.
Some call this division among Southern Baptist "A New Day", "Another Reformation", and even "The Changing of the Guard." Yet, while any spiritually sensitive believer recognizes the need for a "renewal" within the ranks of the SBC, the question which comes to my mind is "What exactly is it that we are attempting to renew?" Additionally, how do we renew that which has seemingly been forgotten?
Admittedly, I am a simple person with a very simple mind, but the struggle within our ranks seems to wear a name. Today, from many in the upper echelons of our convention's leadership and those who have seemingly become convention spokesmen we hear the name John Calvin more that we hear Jesus Christ. For me, Calvin is simply one more teacher of days past who deserves our study but does not rise to the level of 'deity' which some have given him. Although I am aware that daring to write the words which follow will give me a label for the rest of my ministry, I am compelled to state that John Calvin holds no more prominence for me than does, Charles Spurgeon, Martin Luther, John Wesley, or even St. Augustine. Now that I have "dared" to write this, let me dig my own 'theological grave' (among the SBC) a little deeper.
Let's consider Calvin's Testimony of conversion as he relays it in his Preface to the Psalms (and which is recorded multiple places); "God by a sudden conversion subdued and brought my mind to a teachable frame." Honestly, if someone were to come down the aisle next Sunday with this type of testimony, we would move them to a counseling room to see if they understood what "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ" actually meant. While we know that salvation is of, from, and by Jehovah God, we also recognize that God sent Jesus as the doorway to salvation and the Throne of Grace. Without Jesus in the equation, there can be no salvation.
When I look at Calvin's Tulip, it seems flawed from a Biblical interpretation. For years we have all heard about Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and the Perseverance of the Saints and yet, it would seem to me that "IF" this is truly a Biblical Basis for mankind, that evangelism and missions are a moot point. Admittedly, from my personal study the first and the last of these five points are completely within the bounds of Biblical theology. So, I submit an alternate TULIP.
- Total Depravity – it is true that sin has affected all of man, every part. The heart is above all thing deceitful. Scripture clearly teaches "fallen man."
- Unconditional Love – This is the most basic and is found in too many scriptures to quote.
- Limitless Atonement – The blood is Jesus is given for "ALL", for "THE WORLD", for "SINNERS". These words appear repetitively in Holy Scripture.
- Invitational Grace – This picture is given in the "WHOSOEVERS" of scripture and speaks to the responsibility of man. Jesus said, "Whosever will, let him come."
- Perseverance of the Saints. – In Christ, we are saved, sealed, and secured for all eternity. John, Romans, and Ephesians are only three of the places where we find assurance of this truth.
My prayer is this; that we can return to the Bible as our source, Jesus as our Savior, and Jehovah God as our Strength, and lay aside the names and labels which we give to each other. God knows that while we are debating over 'debatable issues' we are losing our country to the darkness. Let us take our deadly weapons, rearm them with the manifest power of the Holy Spirit, 're-aim' them at our real enemy, and not make one man (except the Lord Christ) our dividing point.
An old preacher once told me, "You can't rock a boat and row a boat at the same time." Let us hear these words and right our ship. To not do so, could have a devastating impact on the future of the SBC and more importantly, the gospel.