(RNS) Can’t we all just get along?

That was the question that Southern Baptists, torn between Calvinists and non-Calvinists, seemed to be asking as they opened their two-day annual meeting in Houston.

Frank Page, right, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, leads a panel discussion with members of the President's Council on Calvinism at the Southern Baptists' annual meeting in Houston. RNS photo courtesy Adam Covington/Baptist Press.

Frank Page, right, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, leads a panel discussion with members of the President’s Council on Calvinism at the Southern Baptists’ annual meeting in Houston. RNS photo courtesy Adam Covington/Baptist Press.

This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, created a 19-member advisory committee that produced a report in time for the meeting called “Truth, Trust and Testimony.”

Southern Baptists have been divided over Calvinism since their denomination began in 1845, but Page said Monday (June 10) that disagreements had reached a tipping point.

“The truth is, I see an anti-Calvinism now that frightens me; it’s a vitriol that is nasty,” he said, adding he also has friends who were concerned about “extreme Calvinists.” “So it was my opinion that we need to deal with this. … Trust is hitting a new low.”

Calvinism, based on the teachings of 16th-century Protestant Reformer John Calvin, differs from traditional Baptist theology in key aspects, particularly on the role of human free will and whether God chooses only the “elect” for salvation.

The 3,200-word report calls for mutual respect among the differing factions, saying opponents should talk to each other rather than about each other, especially on social media. Churches and would-be pastors also need to be honest about whether they embrace or shun Calvinism, it said.

“We agree that the Gospel should be proclaimed to everyone, but we differ as to whether or how every hearer will be enabled to respond,’’ the report says.

In a brief presentation on the report Tuesday during the SBC meeting, Page prayed that its message would be heeded.



The 16th century Protestant Reformer John Calvin is perhaps best known as the godfather of Reformed churches, including Presbyterianism. But it’s young American evangelicals who are now picking up his theological torch. Religion News Service photo courtesy Library of Congress

This image is available for Web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

“When we are tempted to talk about each other and at each other,” he prayed, “may we be reminded of your call to Christian civility.”

The document urges Southern Baptists to move beyond arguments to agreement on spreading the gospel.

“We deny that the main purpose of the Southern Baptist Convention is theological debate,” it says, noting that the next generation of Southern Baptists don’t want to wonder if the denomination is “on mission or merely a debating society.”

Committee members with differing views seemed to agree.

“The Lord called us to be one,” said Steve Lemke, provost of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and co-author of a book critiquing Calvinism. “It’s his desire that we be one — one in spirit and mind, one in Christ. He didn’t say we have to be one in theology or one in worship style.”

Added Mark Dever, a pastor in Washington, D.C., and outspoken supporter of Calvinism: “The things that we have in common really are more important than the disagreements that we have.”

Tammi Ledbetter, managing editor of the South Baptist Texan news journal, said it’s really up to individual Southern Baptists to determine what happens next.

“In a way I suspect all the people who really give a flip about this are here right now or listening on the Internet, so it’s really up to all of you as to what happens with this,” said Ledbetter, the sole woman on the committee. “We can talk it to death and I think we probably have. What matters is what you do with your life in the way you relate to other people.”



  1. Why many of us stayed home instead of wasting funds on observing the “leaders” sparring. Why generation after generation refuses to attend organized institutions calling themselves “the Church”.

    • John Macarthur you are ever so right. Jesus did not preach TULIP (and every day Baptists do not .. only the D.D.’s ). Jesus did not preach inerrancy (Bart Ehrman is correct about that!). The Apostles doctrine is plain and simple (like we are — even simpler than Nicea). Calvinism is a perversion (and the scholars know it but still they preach it — and that is heresy).

      • My old country farmer pastor, Brother George Washington Gray, use to preach Sovereign Grace, when I was a child. He baptized, percentage wise, as many as R.G. Lee did at Bellevue, and Dr. Lee believed the same doctrine. This was the founding doctrine of most of the Baptists in the South. Only the Baptists, circa 1780-1800 decided to make an allowance for those who held that Christ tasted death for every man, the reading of the KJV of Hebs.2:9, but the vast majority understood that Christ died only for the elect. Even the church that sent out the first missionary to China, Matthew T. Yates, had it in their articles of faith adopted in 1814 that Christ died for the church with not a word about him dying for the world. This was the theology of the First and Second Great Awakenings, the theology of those who launched the Great Century of Missions, etc. Don’t believe me? Read Luther Rice’s Memoirs published by James B. Taylor of Va. in 1840. He thought Election and Predestination were in the Bible and you had better preach it. Besides all of the doctrines of the TULIP are simply invitations to trust God; they are therapeutic paradoxes designed to promote humility. I commend the committee and Dr. Frank Page for His concern. Dr. Patterson wrote an item for SBC Today last fall on election, and I commented on it in April or May of this year, Paterson’s Points etc..pointing out how he put both the Calvinists and the Traditionalists on the same side, because the doctrine of election promotes humility. Just compare Mt.15:21-28 and Lk.4:16-31 for a contrast in responses, one was humbled by it while the latter was enraged and sought to murder the Son of God.

      • I don’t think he is the “grace to you” “John MacArthur.” I am sure it is a relatively common name.

        It irks me when some baptist fellows demonize reformed guys as if they are heretics. Soteriology is a tertiary issue, and the Baptist Faith and Message is intentionally neutral on this issue (article 5 concerning election especially). It is Inclusive for both camps.

        What makes us Southern Baptist is cooperation. We find commonality on the core doctrines (bfm200), church government (autonomy), and the cooperative program.

        I understand people’s reservations about the so-called Calvinism. I really hate the word and wouldn’t label myself as one. Matter of fact, most would say they are more like 5 point Charles Spurgeonists to accurately reflect how they feel about baptistic theology. Historically the baptist faith is “Calvinistic” and at one point I demonized those who were so called Calvinist because I was ignorant of what they believe, parroted a bunch of straw men arguments that vocally ignorant people used against Calvinism, and because I was very divisive. It is easy to dismiss “Calvinism” when you haven’t done your homework. Jesus and his apostles did teach on the doctrines proposed by Calvin concerning how salvation was accomplished and applied. He also taught inerrancy (Bart is wrong). Just because he didn’t use our terms to convey the concept doesn’t mean he didn’t teach the concepts. We put names to the concepts… Although the word trinity is never used, we believe it is taught by Jesus.

        Also, I will point out that all Southern Baptists believe in some Calvinistic doctrines, especially the perseverance of the saints. You can’t be SBC without ascribing to at least one point, but that one point flows logically and biblically from the rest… Total inability all the way to election, the extent of the atonement, and efficacious grace.

        If you are hung up on this issue then there are conventions you can join outside the SBC. If you are hung up on Calvinism join the reformed baptists. If you are hung up on Arminianism join the general baptists. If you want to cooperate for the same of the gospel, join the SBC and link arms with brothers and sisters in Christ on both sides of the spectrum.

        Augustine said it best: on essential doctrines we must have unity, on non essentials diversity, but in ALL things CHARITY.

    • John Macarthur,
      What are you saying? YOU are a 5 point Calvanist. I’ve listened to your doubletalk and there is no way to describe you but a 5 point Calvanist. The doctrins of GRACE. Come on man

  2. I respect the Southern Baptists (especially the members) but I despise Calvin (it is a false teaching .. narcissism in practice) I am and “Acts” Christian: not affiliated with any “organized” church or denomination (no “isms” of any kind). I do not believe in infalibility OR inerrancy and NEITHER were a tenet preached by Jesus in the gospels or in Acts. Men cannot accept the gospels and so they invent behaviors in their place, but men’s doctrines are Leaven of the Pharisees and false teaching.

  3. Lucy Pevensie

    So how will this play out at the seminary level? Will there be a mechanism to ensure that Calvinists and non-Calvinists are represented equally in the faculty that trains future pastors? For there lies the future of this debate…

  4. David Thompson

    I have to say, I read these articles for the humor. Fringe societies believing they have access to an unknowable, imaginary being, and discussing the place of residence for an imaginary soul. Grown men discussing Santa Claus, fairies, and unicorns to a fever pitch. If Jesus had ever existed, he would be embarrassed by the insanity of what is done in his name. Thank god he was just a myth, like all the rest.

  5. Good to see the SBC is doing some self-examination. Good use of time.

    From the perspective of a recovering Southern Baptist, now an aspiring Zen Quaker.

  6. kenny brenneman

    As a being born unto this life through no choice of my own and being of absolutely no affiliation/belief whatsoever, I inherently seek (a component breathed into all of us) the meaning of why I’m here. When I responded to the hands of Jesus reaching out for me it had absolutely nothing to do with your isms or nonisms or any other label you all prefer to be addressed by. I wasn’t even aware you existed. You are all false prophets as far as I’m concerned because you all now cause me to question whose outward reaching arms I responded to. When I read the bible I don’t see any of your denominations or labels or funny words named after somebody. I see Jesus wanting me to run to him reaching out like a scared little child running to his father or mother. I’m either going to heaven or hell and that determination will be solely based on MY RELATIONSHIP with JESUS. End of story.

  7. I write this, confessing that I am not a biblical scholar, but as a child of God first and a southern baptist second, it concerns me that our leaders in the sbc have “agreed to disagree” on a subject that is so contrary to what God says in His Word. John 3:16 says “God so loved the “world” — not just jim, judy and susie” — that He gave His only begotten Son that “whosoever” believeth in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Either God’s Word is all true or none of it is true. I choose to believe it is all true. How could anyone possibly interpret this verse in any other way? Either you believe it or you don’t believe it. I, too, agree Calvanism is a false teaching. My question is why do the non-calvanist leaders of the sbc not stand up for what God’s Word really says? Is their fear of losing their jobs, more important than the truth?
    “Getting along” can sometimes be put in the same category as “political correctness”. Is God’s Word being compromised so that we might not insult someone with the truth? Getting along with each other is great, but how can two so opposing views on salvation work together to carry out God’s command to “go and make disciples of “all” the nations……” How does this affect our witnessing to someone? Do we say……….”God sent His Son to die for a select few, and maybe you will get to be one of those select–we’re just not sure, but just in case…..” I welcome responses to my comments……

    • g. mitchell,
      it isnt clear above but appears that you are interpreting the words “world” and “whosoever believeth” to mean that anyone or everyone could achieve salvation. It does not say who will or wont believe only says that those who believe will not perish.

      It is the potter who decides what His creations will be. The clay has no role in the decision.

      ROM 9:
      11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) 12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. 13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. 14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. 15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. 17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. 18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. 19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? 20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? 21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? 22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: 23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,

      - neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth
      - Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated (this was before/as they were being born)
      - I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
      - it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy (it doesn’t matter what we do it is all up to God)
      - Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth (again all up to God)
      - who art thou that repliest against God? (or questions who he does/does not elect for salvation)
      - Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? (God the potter made some for good some for bad but all to demonstrate His power and glory)

      • Don't follow any man

        ** How to study and know true Bible Doctrines:
        1) When you study God’s Word you need to study it in light of all of Scripture both Old and New Testament. Don’t just focus on a particular passage and forget everything else that is in God’s Word, (2 Timothy 3:16).
        2) Don’t just listen to “Biblical Teachers” no matter who they are, nor accept what they teach without studying for yourself what is taught in God’s Word – ALL of it, (Acts 17:10-12). How does what they are saying compare with Scripture – in light of all of Scripture.
        3) Do word studies in Greek and Hebrew so you know what you are talking about and what the definition of words were meant by when they were used back in Bible times in the Original Greek and Hebrew. (Remember that God’s Word was inspired in Hebrew and Greek not English, thus seek to learn what God meant from these Languages – not an English Dictionary). A great resource for this is the Complete Word Study Dictionary Old Testament & New Testament (separate volumes), published by AMG Publishers. One can take any Strong’s Concordance and use the numbering system to look up any word in these Word Study Dictionaries (in either the Greek or Hebrew) and study it. You don’t have to be a Greek or Hebrew Scholar to read and understand each word as it is defined and discussed in these great resources (2Timothy 2:15).
        4) What you or I think or feel has absolutely no merit when considering God’s Word. Our opinions mean nothing – the only thing that matters is WHAT DOES GOD’S WORD SAY AND HOW IS IT SAID IN LIGHT OF ALL OF SCRIPTURE in the original languages. God’s Word is supreme – after everything is said and done, trust only in God’s Word (Proverbs 16:2-3; 2 Peter 1:19-21; John 14:6).
        5) Scripture doesn’t teach that UNITY and PEACE is the first primary thing to have in all of God’s Word – Never is unity at ANY COST taught in the Bible (Romans 12:18). “Tolerance” and “Co-exist” are not Bible doctrines – they are worldly doctrines that are used every day for people to excuse their sins before others and God (homosexuality, abortion, living together outside of marriage, cults, etc.). Sound doctrine is to be first and if those around you do not have sound doctrine then what does Scripture tell you to do? Get away from them (1 Timothy 6:3-5; 2 Timothy 3:5).
        6) If you hear teaching that clearly goes against, adds to, or removes part of God’s Word it is wrong (Revelation 22:18-19; 1:3; Ecclesiastes 3:14; Proverbs 30:5-6; Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32). ***This includes how some Bible teachers try to change the meaning of words or explain them out of the English Dictionary, out of translations instead of the original languages (2 Peter 3:14-18). This is why you NEED to study the Bible in the original languages otherwise your learning will be in error. If there seems to be a contradiction, study the passages in their original languages and you will see that there is no contradiction. God never changes (2 Peter 3:8; Hebrews 13:8).

        Now back to your teaching on Romans. Who wrote Romans? The Apostle Paul right? You might want to study Scripture in light of all of Scripture before you take a stand on certain passages. Who wrote 1 & 2 Timothy? The Apostle Paul right? Before you start teaching, you need to do word studies in the original languages, and consider other Scriptures in God’s Word. When considering Romans 9:20-24 you should also consider what Paul also taught and explained to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:20-21, “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. (21) Therefore IF ANYONE cleanses himself from the latter, HE WILL BE a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.” Always study Scripture in light of all of Scripture. Opinions are only as good as the man, his thoughts (Commentaries) are not inspired by God, thus not always trustworthy no matter what Bible Teacher, early church father you seek to learn from. ONLY God’s Word, His teachings are to be trusted. Study them thoroughly, don’t just let others study for you and accept what they think they know to be the basis for your beliefs.
        There are also errors in the other teachings from Romans you have done that I don’t have time to go into.
        May God Bless You as you study His Word and seek Him.
        B. Overholt

      • Edward Chapman

        Ya, ya, we all know the Calvinist talking points. But, we disagree with the Calvinist interpretation of Romans 9 as it relates to salvation, because Romans 9 is not about salvation or damnation.

        Clay is the body, not the spirit. Spirits go to heaven or hell after death, not the body.


    • What is the gospel to the Calvinist? What can it be compared to?

      You receive a letter in the mail. On the outside of that envelope, it states that you have won a million dollars.

      But, when you open up the letter, it states, “If you hold the winning number”.

      So, how do the Calvinists spread the “GOOD NEWS”? You might go to heaven if you were chosen? Jesus died for you, to save you, if….

      I guess if you respond within 30 days, then you are an automatic winner?


  8. Kenny’s reply best describes the heart of Christ and His love for the human race in the form of a relationship. As you read the Old Testament, there is an obvious relationship between God the Father and the Jewish nation. God says, “If you do this, I’ll do thus and so. If you don’t, disaster will overtake you.” And we see based on that phrase, God warning His people over and over again to turn back to Him when THEY went astray. Fast forward, what does the word gospel mean? It is defined as a proclamation of the redemption preached by Jesus and the Apostles, which is the central content of Christian revelation. Another definition says that it is “good news”. Good news to whom? The world! John 3:16-18. I say all of this to say that Satan is very clever and wants to kill and destroy the work of Christ on the cross. I prayed long and hard about these “isms”, because of the division they cause. Then the Lord asked me a question, “What’s the purpose?” He’s right! What purpose are these “isms” trying to accomplish? Are we placing more importance to the validity of the “isms” over the most important death of Christ on the cross? The gospel is simple. Even a child can understand it. The “isms” say, “We have scripture to support our tulips and arms!” And they’re right, but Satan uses scripture too! Jesus was tempted. However, when we read the whole story, a beautiful picture of a loving God in a relationship with His creation takes shape dissolving these arguments to the simplicity of, we are sinners, and we can’t save ourselves. Christ was willing to pay the penalty under the law. If we’re willing to surrender our life of sin to Him, He promises to make us brand new. Please read 2 Corinthians 5:14 – 6:13.

  9. I do believe Calvanism is a false teaching. I also believe that the SBC should stand for the belief that Jesus died for all but each person must decide to follow or not to follow Jesus. The Holy Spirit calls you, but you have the free will to reject or accept the Holy Spirits call. I see that a public stand on this belief would be against the people who believe in Calvanism. The SB would then be persecuted for their beliefs. You don’t have to agree or disagree. Just plain and simple…stand for the truth. Don’t let false teaching in the church.

  10. So I guess the gospel wasn’t enough; we needed Calvin to explain it to us? Why is this even debated? The truth of the gospel is knowable by and through the person of Jesus and no other. Calvinism and Arminianism are two points of view looking at the same story from radically different perspectives and creating a conclusive philosophy in exclusion of the other. That’s just a form of blindness in the end. We can do better.

  11. I can love my reformed friends. I do detest a reformed preacher coming to a Baptist Church which has been Traditional Baptist in its beliefs and worship, only to change that Baptist Church into a quasi Presbyterian Church. Not right, Never will be right…Shame on our seminaries who are sending out zealots like these.

  12. When thinking of this discussion, I am reminded, in the KJV, the two word phrase, “trouble you”. Using biblegateway.com, do a word search for “trouble you”. It is my observation the the Calvinists are “troubling” the traditional Southern Baptists. That is not good news for the Calvinists who are doing the troubling.


  13. we ought to serch for biblical truth more than we do for hidden treasures because a lot has been hidden from us by means of parodoxies, parables and seeminly contradictory texts like Proverbs 26:4-5. God speaks in riddles to us to wake us up, surely your heart uncontralbly sinks whenever you hear some calvanistic truth and their un-traditional view about God’s word. Funny thing is no-one of us denies the omnipotence and omniscience of God which stretches beyond our own feeble understanding. We are all calvanists, we just don’t know it yet, blessings!!

    • how about the Calvinists whose heart sinks when they hear a non Calvinist truth? if theres anything that southern Baptists have ALWAYS preached and believed, it is this–”I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may KNOW that you have eternal life.” YET CALVINISTS DONT KNOW FOR SURE IF THEY ARE SAVED. they even believe God “tricks” people into believing they are saved, “time salvation” (temporal). so they have no problem with what SEEMS to be contradictory verses. they truly believe God contradicts himself evidently

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