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Baptist identity and Calvinism


Since SBC Executive Committee Chairman Bill Harrell has expressed that “our Convention leaders need to make a more definitive statement about … who we are as Southern Baptists” – let me say that I couldn’t agree more. But to start making this “definitive statement” about our identity we must begin with our history: Where did we come from? What did we believe?

When these questions are honestly answered, I’m afraid that the disparaging remarks that Bill made about Calvinism will have to be seriously reconsidered. I say this for the simple reason that the Southern Baptist Convention was rocked in the cradle of Calvinism.

For example:

• the 293 delegates who formed the SBC in 1845 all came from Baptist churches and associations who held to the Philadelphia/Charleston Confession of Faith (which is a reformed Baptist document);

• the first five presidents of the SBC were staunchly Calvinists and unashamed of these convictions;

• the first SBC seminary (Southern) was founded by a Calvinist and its first faculty were confessionally Calvinistic;

• and The Christian Index in 1839, under the editorial helm of Jesse Mercer, published (over several issues) all 32 chapters of the Second London Baptist Confession of 1689 – calling it “our old Baptist confession.” This confession is of course Calvinistic to the hilt.

My point with these examples is simply to show that the present rise of Calvinism in the SBC is nothing more than a return to our theological roots and thus recapturing our original identity as Southern Baptists. Now I am not saying that every Southern Baptist must become a Calvinist because of our history in Calvinism.

However, what I am saying is that being a Calvinist and being a Southern Baptist is not an oxymoron. Henceforth, the knee-jerk reactions of SBC leaders to Calvinism is simply uncalled for and an unwitting denial of our heritage.