That doesn’t make you a Presbyterian 

That doesn’t make you a Presbyterian 

If you are a Southern Baptist and a Calvinists then you may disagree with Dr. Patterson on the quote below.

Simmering tensions over what some say is a disproportionate Calvinist influence in the nation’s second-largest faith group behind Roman Catholics came to a boil Nov. 29 when a chapel speaker at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, called Calvinism a “Trojan Horse” leading away from Southern Baptist beliefs toward Presbyterian theology.

After a small group of students walked out in protest, seminary president Paige Patterson advised: “I know there are a fair number of you who think you are a Calvinist, but understand there is a denomination which represents that view. It’s called Presbyterian.”1)Baptist Press Article, Accessed December 17, 2016. Online: https://baptistnews.com/article/former-sbc-agency-head-says-calvinism-debate-goes-deeper-than-a-failure-to-communicate/#.WFYKGFQ8KJK

Since when do former Southern Baptist Presidents not understand a major denomination? The comment does not seem to be light hearted banter but not so subtly disdain for a belief they do not like. Are Presbyterians really that terrible of a group of Christians? I for one think they are pretty awesome and I am a former Southern Baptist pastor and church planter.  Granted, we do have some rather pesky problems of over confounding our freedom in Christ with licentiousness and worldliness. Those radical grace proponents probably do not get that good works are a gift of God for his glory. As a man that was ordained and still follows the SBC branch of Christianity, I can see that licentiousness and worldliness in the SBC as well. Why make a boogie man out of Presbyterians? I became a Presbyterian while reading through the book of Acts. The second chapter made it clear to me that children of the elect are included in the New Covenant. I studied at my much loved seminary Southeastern which Patterson for a long season was the President. I respect Patterson a great deal. I thoroughly though disagree with his lack of charity towards his Reformed brethren. Maybe Patterson is afraid we may be right in some of our theological convictions but that is merely conjecture on my part.

I know this may be hard to believe for those that would prefer to simply caricature  Presbyterians but our understanding of the faith is much more than our awesome understanding of ordo salutis (order of salvation) and ecclesiology (order of church). Also how does a Southern Baptist Seminary President not mention the difference in the Reformed Baptist version of Calvinism and it’s thoroughly Baptist view of credo-baptism by immersion?

I do believe the SBC could learn from both doctrines mentioned above. Those are indeed hallmarks of the Presbyterian view of Church but that is not the issue here. The issue here is that Patterson and whoever was speaking at that chapel service either ignored the development of Reformed thought in church history or simply chose to ignore it.

Long before Patterson, many famous Baptists such as Spurgeon adopted a form of Calvinism filtered through the Baptist traditions. Patterson and his modern contemporaries worried that the SBC is going to be over run by Calvinists in their arenas are forgetting that the Particular and Reformed Baptist form of Christianity in Britain and the Americas in the 1700s developed in reaction to the Presbyterians, Anglicans, and Non-Conformists churches and worked hand in hand with the Revivalist and Sandy Creek Tradition of Baptist. Most Reformed Baptist are also very limited version of Calvinists. 2)These dear brothers and sisters in Christ would affirm Theodore Beza’s basic summary of TULIP, Total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints. They would not agree with much of Calvin’s view of Anabaptist or his disdain for credo-baptism as taking away from the sufficiency of Christ work for the offspring of the elect. It would be better to call them Spurgeonists as they are much more likely to study and quote Spurgeon than Calvin. Spurgeon Calvinist affirm the Calvinist TULIP 3)TULIP of course was not created by Calvin but by his disciple Theodore Beza. It is a counterpoint to the Remonstrance which would lead to the eventual creation of Methodist. There is actual debate amongst Calvinist scholars if Calvin would actually consider himself a Calvinist. but also affirm much of Baptist theology especially credo-baptism. These Spurgeon Calvinists in the SBC are not willing to change their view on credo-baptism (personal profession as opposed to covenant theology) and baptismal methodology (immersion only vs dip, sprinkle, pour, super soaker). They are certainly not going to be comfortable in the wider world of Reformed thought much less the heart of Presbyterian theology which is built in large part on covenant theology.

The heart of Presbyterian theology is a awe struck dependent on God’s grace, mediated through Jesus and experienced through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, in all aspects of our redemption. This is the heart of covenant theology. Presbyterians understand Jesus choice as preeminent. It triumphs over everything else. Presbyterians see God’s grace in Jesus choosing us first, despite our natural state of rebellion, to by his cosmic act of mercy and grace. In the New Covenant we are integrated in to his redemption story which is bigger, deeper, and wider than our personal decisions, aspirations, and efforts. Presbyterian Calvinists are not merely monergists in salvation but also in sanctification and experienced in the sacraments. It is all God’s work in its totality which means that baptism and covenant are inseparably linked. Presbyterian Calvinists seek Jesus to be the author and finisher/perfecter of our faith. Jesus does it all so we can share in his joy and enjoy him and God’s glory in all things forever (see Romans 8:28-30, Hebrew 12:1-2). Our baptism is an actual sacrament instead of a joyful yet ultimately dutiful commanded ordinance as Baptist believe. The Westminster Catechism phrases the heart of Presbyterian though in the first question and answer.

“Q1: What is the chief end of man?

A1: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever.”

Succinctly put Presbyterian Calvinism is grounded first and last in God’s sovereignty in all good things especially his covenants.

Now speaking only for myself I’d love every Spurgeon Calvinists in the SBC to join a Presbyterian denomination. Why? Because those people as a rule really love Jesus! I’d love every Spurgeon Calvinists to become a Calvin Calvinists and celebrate covenant inclusion and marvel at the grander of Jesus in every aspect of redemption and get right on the significance and scope of the sacrament of baptism. I have some friends I would love and celebrate joining the Presbyterian denomination.

Yet, I doubt that is God’s will. These dear brothers and sisters are convinced, more or less, that covenant baptism also called infant baptism is biblically wrong. These Spurgeon Calvinists need to be faithful to where they are as they pursue God’s calling on their lives and ministry. If they are pressured out of the SBC that is a terrible pity. They will merely form new associations which is ironically the heart of baptist associational thought.

I hope that Paterson and the speaker leads Spurgeon Calvinist to explore real Presbyterianism and not just a caricature version. I think some may just see it as a method of fulfilling Scripture such as Acts 2 “the promise is for you and your children”. Maybe Paterson may send a few to become fully Presbyterian. I for one will welcome those brothers and sisters in to Jesus pasture called Presbyterianism, even though I know he has sheep in other folds and fields.

If you know of a wandering Spurgeon Calvinists then point them to the EPC (Evangelical Presbyteian Church). It is an awesome version of Presbyterianism. We will offer them sanctuary and maybe even graciously discuss where we believe Spurgeon misinterpreted Calvin. 🙂

References   [ + ]

1. Baptist Press Article, Accessed December 17, 2016. Online: https://baptistnews.com/article/former-sbc-agency-head-says-calvinism-debate-goes-deeper-than-a-failure-to-communicate/#.WFYKGFQ8KJK
2. These dear brothers and sisters in Christ would affirm Theodore Beza’s basic summary of TULIP, Total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints. They would not agree with much of Calvin’s view of Anabaptist or his disdain for credo-baptism as taking away from the sufficiency of Christ work for the offspring of the elect.
3. TULIP of course was not created by Calvin but by his disciple Theodore Beza. It is a counterpoint to the Remonstrance which would lead to the eventual creation of Methodist. There is actual debate amongst Calvinist scholars if Calvin would actually consider himself a Calvinist.

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