Dr. Akin Is a Brave Man
Since I started blogging some 20 months ago, there have been more attacks against Reformed doctrine than I could possibly begin to recount on this blogpost. Most recently, the inflammatory articles have come with increasing force and greater frequency from key politicians in the SBC. The argument made by many that Calvinism has become the “whipping boy” of the SBC has proved to be unfortunately true. During this period I have oft wondered where all the Baptist theologians and historians have been in the midst of such gross inaccuracies and mischaracterizations. One can surely understand why they would want to stay out of some issues which are considered controversial or even petty, but the issue of Reformed theology in our Convention is a big deal, and the vitriolic responses against it have been boiling over. It is in that context I am most grateful to read the words of Dr. Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in his recent letter to his students and faculty. Dr. Akin has stood in where many SBC leaders I suspect have feared to tread. Himself not a five-point Calvinist, Dr. Akin has greater concern for theological integrity and faithfulness to the exposition of Scriptures (something which many anti-Calvinists are seriously neglecting). Furthermore, Dr. Akin directly addresses the words of recent irresponsible comments from Dr. Bill Harrell, chairman of the Executive Committee of the SBC, Ergun Caner, dean of Liberty Theological Seminary, and Dr. Nelson Price, a leading influential figure in Georgia Baptist life. As I stated in my response to Dr. Price, the center of my contention is not that Southern Baptists are not Calvinists but that they are not being biblical. Furthermore, they have misrepresented Calvinism with reckless and inexcusable comments which should be abandoned no matter what theological stripe you bear. Finally, most if not every attempt to refute Calvinism has been without exegesis but rather stories, illustrations, and proof texts taken out of context. With that said, I want to express my appreciation to Dr. Akin by calling for fair treatment of one another as well as a renewed commitment to developing pastors and ministers as theologians and sound physicians of souls. Below is the public letter sent out to the Southeastern family. I hope it finds wide readership and is received by all those who are feeling tempted to write yet another “ill informed and sloppy” article.
Now, those of you who know my theology know I am not a five-point Calvinist. I believe Unconditional Election is not incompatible with "the free will and responsibility of intelligent creatures" (Abstract of Principles, art. IV), I affirm a Universal Provision with a Limited Application as it pertains to the Atonement, and I believe Effectual Calling to be a much better way to describe a significant aspect of the salvation process than Irresistible Grace. Further, anything that weakens the missionary passion of the church and the evangelistic favor of an individual is both dangerous and useless to the Church. Perhaps what some mean by "hyper-Calvinism" is extreme Calvinism or Calvinists with an attitude. I have met more than a few in my lifetime and to be sure, they were not of much value when it comes to the health of the church and reaching the lost. Still, we need to be honest with history and accurate with the facts. Mischaracterizations are of no value on any level.4) Calvinists are worse than Muslims. The irresponsibility of this statement is tragic. It is one thing to disagree with your brothers and sisters in Christ on a point of theology. It is incredible that you would place them in the category of unbelieving militants who murder innocent victims in the name of Allah. 5) Jesus was a Calvinist. Theological foolishness is not limited to one theological perspective. In a Pastor's Conference a few years ago one of my pulpit heroes made this statement. Recently a friend of mine wrote a book with one of the chapters entitled, "Christ, The Calvinist." Such statements are wrongheaded, and yes, again irresponsible, at several points. First, the statement is historically anachronistic. Second, it is Christologically disrespectful. Jesus is the Lord. He is the King. He is God. Our Savior is the grand subject of Christian theology. So whether it is Whitefield, Boice (men I greatly love and admire), or whomever, to call Jesus a Calvinist is theologically misguided and pastorally dangerous. Yes, Jesus believes God is sovereign but He also taught man is responsible. Yes, Jesus taught, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him" (John 6:44), but He also gave us the Great Commission (Matt 28:16-20). 6) You cannot teach your young people theology. I have a simple and direct challenge: try it. Try it and see what happens. I suspect you will be wonderfully surprised. I suspect some of you will be significantly put to the test! Though I could say much more let me conclude with a simple but helpful beatitude: "Blessed are the balanced, for they will avoid unhealthy extremes." This is true in doing theology. This is true in our speech. This is true for all aspects of the Christian life. I love you and thank God for you. May you and your family have a wonderful and blessed Christmas. Daniel L. Akin