Yesterday after our fourth and final on-campus worship service I met a family of four in the Guest Reception. They lived forty miles away in another city but had come to Emmanuel for three consecutive weeks and were asking about becoming members. When I asked what attracted them to Emmanuel I received a startling response: "We just want to attend a Southern Baptist church where the focus is not on getting the saved unsaved so they can be saved again." I questioned the very nice husband and father of two as to what he meant. He explained that he wished for his wife and children to attend a church where they could be taught of Christ, what it means to draw life and joy from a relationship with Him, and not hear the pastor try to convince believers that they really are not saved as he continually and repetitively pleas for people "to walk the aisle" to be saved. He announced he and his family had, indeed, found a spiritual home at Emmanuel.
Gerald Harris of the Georgia Index, the newsletter for Southern Baptists in Georgia, has written an editorial, opining on the negatives of what he calls the "rise of Calvinism" in the Southern Baptist Convention. Gerald slams what he perceives as less than enthusiastic evangelism and unhealthy church plants in the SBC, both a result of the resurgence of Calvinism. Gerald conjectures that the proposed new name for the Southern Baptist Convention will be the Great Commission Baptist Convention, but closes his editorial by stating, "If that is the suggested name and if we dare vote for it to be our new appellation we dare not defame it with half-hearted evangelism and church plants that wither away in five years."
Gerald, you and I have never met, but we both are probably not on the friends list of Southern Baptist Calvinists. I disagree strongly with their view of women, their congregational polity de-emphasis, and their seeming fear to fully implement New Covenant teaching in their churches. Many of those whom you oppose in the SBC do seem to me to be more Presbyterian in polity and practice than historic Baptist.
However, we should at least thank our Calvinist Southern Baptist friends for one thing they have done. They are rooting out the destructive 19th century Finney decisionism theology that has rotted the foundation of the Southern Baptist Convention like wormwood and/or gut rot. People are absolutely tired of Southern Baptist preachers who use formulaic evangelism during worship services and turn Southern Baptist churches into liturgical halls of decisionism. "Sir, we would see Jesus," is the plea of our people, and the one thing we can thank our SBC Calvinistic friends for is that their focus has been more on God's commitment to us than our commitment to God. True life and real joy come from Him. Jonathan Edwards got it right when he surmised that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. It is impossible to be satisfied with Him when we constantly turn the gaze of our eye within.
Be careful Mr. Harris. I am in agreement with you that Calvinism presents a problem within the Southern Baptist Convention, but you are making a wrong diagnosis. The problem is church polity, gender equality, and pastoral accountability. It's not evangelism. We should give our SBC Calvinist friends a big bear hug for helping Southern Baptists see that getting the saved unsaved so they can be saved again is equivalent to spitting in the face of Jesus Christ and trampling on the blood of the New Covenant.