Seminary president calls Chapman to task
June 24 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

Louisville, Ky. — The president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary called comments in a speech by Southern Baptist Executive Committee President Morris Chapman “disingenuous” and “shameful” during a panel discussion hosted by B21 at an Acts 29 church start.

“I wish to apologize to my Calvinist brothers and sisters who are here for the horrible misrepresentation of your position this morning,” said Akin, one of six participants in a panel to discuss with young pastors the viability of continuing involvement with the Southern Baptist Convention.

B21 is a loose network of persons “seeking to be Baptist in the 21st century.” Acts 29 is a network of church planting churches whose foundational documents are clearly Calvinistic.

Many member churches are dually aligned with both Southern Baptists and Acts 29. Sojourn Community Church in Louisville hosted the panel discussion, attended by 400-500 filling the main meeting space and an overflow room. The majority of participants were the young pastors, leaders and students whose participation in SBC life is coveted by SBC leadership.

Earlier in the morning Chapman brought his annual address to the 8,450 messengers registered at the time for the annual Southern Baptist Convention. Although he never uttered the word “Calvinism” he spoke directly both to it and to the “emerging church” in his remarks.

“Man’s system will be inferior to God’s system now and forever,” he said. “The belief that sovereignty alone is at work in salvation is not what has emboldened our witness and elevated our concern for evangelism and missions through the ages. This is not the doctrine that Southern Baptists have embraced in their desire to reach the world for Christ.

“If there is any doctrine of grace that drives men to argue and debate more than it drives them to pursue lost souls and persuade ALL MEN (his emphasis) to be reconciled to God — then it is no doctrine of our Lord Jesus Christ.

“The sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man both are taught in the Bible. Both are necessary elements in the salvation experience.”

He referenced previous controversies over Baptist identity and said, “While the controversy raged and theologians were arguing about Baptist identity, Lottie Moon was boarding a boat to the distant shores of East Asia.”

“The church did not — upon receiving the Spirit of God (at Pentecost) — write a theology text, or form a committee or establish a bureaucracy or construct a building or engage in idle arguments about the extent of the atonement or the nature of election.”

Akin said the next day that he has never heard a Calvinist say that man’s response to the urging of God’s Holy Spirit is not a necessary ingredient for salvation. He said Calvinist theology has always been present in Southern Baptist life, at varying degrees. The difference between the Calvinist view of salvation and the traditional Baptist view is a matter of emphasis, he said. Both agree God’s sovereignty and man’s response are essential elements of salvation, but each party emphasizes one of those elements.

Meeting June 23 in Louisville, home of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, whose president Al Mohler is a Calvinist and has returned Southern to what he believes are its founders’ Calvinistic roots, the young crowd at the B21 panel discussion likely had a strong Calvinist bent.

After Akin’s opening apology, frank discussion was more about reasons young pastors should stay within the Southern Baptist framework, and financially support a system they do not fully agree with. Panelists included Akin, Mohler, LifeWay Research President Ed Stetzer, Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., host pastor Daniel Montgomery and David Platt, pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala.

Akin, Mohler and Stetzer are trusted figures among young pastors and, with SBC President Johnny Hunt, have done much to invigorate active discussion among them about reasons to stay involved with the SBC.

Mohler told the pastors and students “Don’t look for too much out of the Southern Baptist Convention. Don’t find your identity here.” He encouraged them to minister in their churches, find their identity in Christ and plug into the SBC for connections and resources.

Mohler said the SBC has done good things, but growing up in SBC churches, attending SBC schools and seminaries and moving on to lead SBC churches and entities “produced a tribal identity … rather than a gospel centered identity.”

While Acts 29 is a “fascinating model” Mohler said, he warned the audience against “developing a tribal identity.”

Mohler said pastors “can find many platforms” and it is “wrong to think ‘either or’” when picking a partner. While he said he hoped pastors could identify with the SBC and other ministry partners, “there were hints this morning that’s going to be hard.”

His comment was understood to be in reference to Chapman’s remarks, and to the steady stream of messengers moving to limit SBC involvement with Mark Driscoll, a plain speaking Seattle pastor whom many young pastors admire.

Several panelists declined to answer, “Why should we support our state Baptist convention?” but eventually Mohler said pastors and churches “forfeit the right to speak into the situation if you don’t support it financially.”

 He encouraged them to “make every single contribution you make in terms of mission and ministry support earn that support. Don’t give a dollar you don’t think is well deployed in ministry and then hold us accountable.”

Akin said it was easier to support the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina where Southeastern Seminary resides because “it is moving in the right direction” in terms of “incrementally” providing more Cooperative Program dollars for ministry beyond the state.

Stetzer, who has worked for three national Baptist agencies and has “seen the good, the bad and the ugly,” said he is “not impressed with the Southern Baptist Convention. I’m not getting my identity from it.”

“Now is the time to engage and fix that system,” he said. “But don’t be fooled. The voices of division will become more shrill before we come together.”

Platt, whose church is large and fast growing, reminded the audience that even churches “are not spending money that in every way is accomplishing the Great Commission.” He said he knows that even in his own church money is spent on self serving items.

Montgomery, pastor of the host church, said his church “owed the structure for the existence of our church,” although he said six weeks after it started he was already “taking hits” for doing things differently.

“There is a need for the emerging generation to be schooled in gospel humility,” he said. “There is a need for the generation before us for humility to let us fail.”

He said if Stetzer, who “found” and encouraged him to start a church, had not responded with humility to Montgomery’s early failings, “I would have left the relationship.”

Complete coverage of the 2009 SBC meeting


6/24/2009 9:34:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 8 comments




Comments
Alan Davis
Norm,
That truly is a refreshing article on the work of Mr. Eller. Just the type of thing needed at this time. Will chat later.
6/30/2009 7:35:45 AM
Norman
Alan,
Your giving up on the effective work of cooperating Baptists is premature! Follow the series that began last week with Neal Eller in the Biblical Recorder called Body Parts. You'll find feature stories on the men and women on the Baptist State Convention staff who minister in the churches; and on churches that have directly benefited from that ministry. The first was on Neal Eller http://www.biblicalrecorder.org/post/2009/06/11/No-more-programs-Eller-invests-in-discipling.aspx and the next will be on Johnny Ross.
6/29/2009 9:16:49 PM
Dr. James Willingham
The gentleman who is President of the Divinity School at Wake Forest recently spoke on the issue of the ferment among Baptists in the late 1700s, providing some insight from an Episcopalian. At that time Baptists had just past through the First Great Awakening, were getting ready to experience the Second, launch the Great Century of Missions (Latourette's term for the 19th century). In that ferment they secured Religious Liberty. William Warren Sweet, Methodist Historian, U. of Chicago, said "To the Baptist more than any one else goes the credit for the securing of religious liberty."(my reconstruction from memory is probably rough, but it is not far from what he actually said). They also united the Seaparate and Regular Baptists (1787) stating that "preaching that Christ tasted death for every man would be no bar to communion," (see terms of union). 50 years later a church was founded in MO., the old Sardis United Baptist Church (now the Elston Baptist Church) which the writer would serve as pastor of in 1965-66. A church was founded the west of Casar, NC in the 1850s, Mt. Zion United Missionary Baptist Church where I served as Interim for 3 mos. in 2001. Imagine uniting two groups of Baptists and imagine one fiery Baptist Preacher saying he felt like the gainer thereby (John Leland). And then there was John Gano chaplain in the COntinental Army, thelast man who addressed that army. He would meet with Stearns ad lay the ground work for that union. Also think of Elijah Craig, among others who met with the colonial legislators and made the agreement that in exchange for the liberty to practice their freedom, the Baptist ministers would return to their communities and encourage the young men in themto enlist in the patriots' cause (talk about political!). O yes, did I mention that Gano would preach from the same platform with George Whitefield (whose methodist chickens would become Baptist ducks). Think of Sandy Creek church having eldresses! Think of Baptists working with the most liberal menoftheir day and even securing their commendation. If they could do that in the midst of arguing and fussing, surely, it would not be too much to expect that we would work out a way to work together. I have come to believe that the other person needs to be worried that I am going to infect him or her with my views. It is sort of like when I told a friend named Spurgeon that I believed grace was irresistible, He did not. then he went out and witnessed to a lady about 20. She responded so readily, he was startled and asked her why. She replied, "O, it was so wonderful that I could not resist it." He said that when she said that, what I said popped into hi mind. I asked, "Well,have you changed your mind?" No, but h was thinking about it. That was in 1965-66. Fast forward to 2002-3, he was still thinking about it. BY 2007 he had changed his mind and had come to believe grace was indeed so wonderful that it was irresistible. BY then he had found out that he might be related to the more famous Spurgeon, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. His name is Rev. Dr. Merle Eugene Spurgeon, pastor of the FBC of Cahokia, Illinois. By the way Spurgeon (C.H.) prayed for the whole earth tobe converted and said sovereign grace believers ought to labor to that end. See His Evening Devotions for August 6 and December 24. In in 1973 I began topray for the whole earth to experience the Third Great Awakening. Since then, when I pastored in the Sandy Creek Assn., the scene of the Second Great Awakening, I have begun to pray for 1001 generations that the promies to Abraham might be literally fulfilled. You know descendants by faith as numerous as the stars of Heaven and as the sand by the seashore that cannot be numbered. Mr. spurgeon who believed so dogmatically in particular redemption also believed that Christ died for a number that no man can number. Could it be that the doctrines of grace are like the paradoxical interventions developed by psychiatrists, psychologists, and professional counselors to help people with their problems? Did not Jesus say, where the woman of Canaan could hear him, "I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Then he got even more paradoxical, when he spoke of it notbeing right to take the children's bread and cast it to dogs."(Mt.15:21-28) In the first case she worshipped. In the second, she agree with him that she was a dog, but even the dogs had to eat. Consider his compliment to her, one he never bestowed upon any of His apostles. Could it be that our ferment now is but the precursor of theThird Great Awakening in which the whole world is won to Christ and we learn to live by I Corinthians 13 and agape love. Yep! We got some big problems. But then what could you expect in a hospital of sick persons (a church of sinners)???
6/29/2009 6:12:50 PM
Alan Davis
I just can't help it. Here I am again. This stuff from chapman and others is exactlly why younger pastors are considering the SBC and state conventions totally irrelevent. I have been at the church I pastor for 10 years. When I came here I was a cp guy to the hilt. After seeing the "powers' work and how the system just feeds off of churches I have led my church to do our own thing. (we were giving 9% to coop and now just set amount) There is a LOT of politics in both conventions. I thought the conservitive resurgence would be good but now I understand that we have just traded one set of politicans for another. The conservitives in power just give lip service to the Word. The sbc and the state convention is mainly a DRAIN on the local churches money and resources. We have found out a church can do mission trips, send out missionaries, pastors and start churches WITHOUT the big business of the conventions. We constantly get new mailings from both conventions to have "special offerings". If we took all of these the local church would have to close it's doors. The missionarys of the IMB and NAMB are about all that we get any "bang for our buck" for. They are the real workers in the SBC. The rest are just drawing a paycheck and the "overhead" is dead weight, Chapman included.
6/29/2009 4:38:54 PM
Alan Davis
I would just like to point out that "traditinal Baptist" have been from my studies overwhelmingly strong on the sovereignty of God. The first few presidents of the SBC were calvinists. Charles Spureon was a clavinist. When you really get to looking at our Baptist history before the 1900's one can see calvinism in one form or another in the majority of our leaders. My question is when did the arminians get the hold on traditonal baptist? Seems they have rewrote our traditional Baptist faith.
6/29/2009 4:23:20 PM
Artist28174
Danny Akin, I'd hire a food taster if I were you. Morris Chapman earned his job the hard way, and is unlikely to lay it down willingly.
6/28/2009 4:50:32 PM
Gene Scarborough
I am amazed at how misdirected and obtuse the SBC meeting was. Nothing of any real substance seemed to be addressed.

Calvinism is just another thing to fight over. The Great Commission Resurgence is a weak substitute for what helped us grow in the past: respect for Local Church Autonomy. Until the SBC is willing to partner with Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the official numbers will continue to decrease. The CBF has always made it plain that they are open, but the SBC has made it equally plain: "We don't want you in any shape, form, or fashion."

If you consider both branches of the former SBC in numbers and missions, the whole thing has multiplied by dividing. It is a recreation of the separation of Peter and Paul in deference to getting away from fighting each other and getting on with the Great Commission.

Someone wrote a letter to the editor concerning how awful it would have been to have given President Obama a moment on the program since he is so "sinful" in his efforts. I respond that any invitation to a political leader in the US is a violation of another Baptist mantra: The separation of church and state. They had reason for this position because whenever one interferes with or exercises undue influence on the other, the state usually wins and religious freedom is distorted.

You can use all the excuses you want, but the SBC has made its greatest mistake, in my opinion, by refusing to seriously address the problem of sexual predators among the clergy. They can kick out Broadway for having homosexual members, but they can't deal with sexual predation--GIVE ME A BREAK!

I have commented often in the last weeks, but this is the time when we, once again, see what is up among Baptists of the SBC. It seems what is up is another move downward in stilted theology and no real approach to getting on with our old program of reaching the world for Christ by not being OBNOXIOUS! Unless there is major change, every new church wishing to grow will do so by NOT using the Baptist name in its title. How sad!
6/27/2009 8:54:22 AM
Dr. James Willingham
I was much encouraged by Dr. Akin's remarks to the Calvinistic pastors, some of whom apparently wanted to bolt the SBC due to such harsh comments as those by Dr. Chapman. The founding of the SBC and many of the state conventions, especially the oldest ones, was due to men who believed in Sovereign Grace. The great missionary movement, especially in the South was due to people who were Calvinists. The orgin of Southern Seminary was due to Calvinistic believers. Dr. James Petigru Boyce in his obituary information for the funeral of Dr. Basil Manly, Sr., (the man who suggested the founding of Southrn Seminary, who served as the leader in the convention's effort to found the seminary, who served as the first President of the Board of Trustees, whose son wrote the Abstract of Principles, and whose preacher boy (Boyce) was the first President) called Rev. Manly a "Calvinist." But he also pointed out how gentle Manly was with his views. Boyce held the same views as did Manly.Jr., John A Broadus, and William Williams. Such being the case, Who is out of order? Dr. Chapman needs to go back and restudy our History. NC Baptists were the benficiaries of the First Great Awakening as Stearns a convert of it founded Sandy Creek Church & Assn. Then NC Baptists experienced the Second Great Awakening. Those two events, two of the greatest since the time of Christ, and the origins of the Great Century of Missions were all the work of Sovereign Grace people. The doctrines of grace shut no one out; they do shut a lot of people in. Each one is an invitation to salvation, to take God as He is. Interestingly enough, those early people were some of the most liberal people of their day. They secured religous liberty and had eldresses and went out to win the elect to Christ wherever they might be. And like Mr. Spurgeon in his Evening Devotions for August 6 & December 24, I suppose, they were praying for the whole world to be the elect and to be won to Christ. Amazing. Amazing Grace.
6/25/2009 4:35:43 PM
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