One of the more hotly debated issues in the contemporary SBC is Calvinism. Unfortunately, our intradenominational discussions about topics like predestination and the extent of the atonement have often generated as much heat as light. Both Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike have been guilty of dealing with their fellow Southern Baptists in less than charitable ways. This does not reflect well on Southern Baptists. More important, it does not please our Lord Jesus Christ.
In November 2007, Southeastern Seminary co-hosted a conference titled Building Bridges with LifeWay Christian Resources and Founders Ministries. The speakers included both Calvinists and non-Calvinists. The purpose was to model a better way to engage in spirited, though Christ-like dialog about this important issue. You can listen to the presentations here, or you can read the proceedings from the conference in Calvinism: A Southern Baptist Dialog (B&H Academic, 2008).
Between the Times is attempting what might be called an “exercise in bridge-building.” Alvin Reid teaches evangelism at Southeastern Seminary. Alvin is not a Calvinist. Nathan Finn teaches church history at Southeastern. Nathan is a Calvinist. These two men are not just colleagues, but they are good friends who truly want to see Southern Baptists discuss this issue, but do so in a better way than has too often been the case.
Over the next several days, Between the Times will publish at least three more articles about the Calvinism debate in the Southern Baptist Convention. The first will be an open letter from Alvin to Calvinists in the SBC. The second will be an open letter from Nathan to non-Calvinists in the SBC. These letters reflect the content of some of the conversations these two brothers have had with each other off and on over the past two years. Both men speak candidly, but from a spirit of genuine love rather than malice or competition. Our prayer is that their letters will be received in the same spirit they have been written, for the glory of God and the good of the SBC.
Lord willing, the series will conclude with a jointly authored article suggesting some points of consensus among Southern Baptists who disagree about the five points of Calvinism. It is our hopes this series will help further the cause of a Great Commission Resurgence in the SBC.