Southern Baptist Convention headed for schism

Editor’s note: This is not related to football, so skip it if you don’t care about theology or denominational business. I’m posting it here because I am tired of keeping silent while serious issues fester within my extended family.

Trustees should be seen and not heard. Seriously, that is the best advice one could give an SBC trustee after reading the uncharitable remarks one IMB trustee made.

On a blog post about David Platt and anti-Calvinist criticisms of Platt’s appointment to head the IMB, Hershael W. York wrote, “A few months or years from now, people will grow tired of talking about how much his church gave to the Cooperative Program, and his relentless drive to reach the nations will swamp and drown those driving the chariots of anti-Calvinism in a sea of irrelevance.”

Chariots? Swamp? Drown in a sea? Vivid.

Also, disgusting to use language about anti-Calvinists that makes everyone’s mind run to the biblical story of an evil Pharaoh who pursued to his own ruin the people of God.

If this is a reflection of how IMB trustees think, then there is a real problem.

I must confess I don’t know who this guy is. I know he is a pastor, a good writer and trustee. There is no doubt he will do more to further the Gospel than me, but I do worry about the tone of his post as a broader reflection of a problem in the SBC.

In all my 40 years I have never seen such a statement directed at brothers and sisters. Well, I take that back. Since I’ve been on the Internet paying attention to Baptist theology, I’ve been called “Pelagian,” “semi-Pelagian,” “heretic” and simply “too stupid to understand.” All those labels were tossed by Calvinists at my lack of getting why they were right.

What highlights the problem of an intense group-think and good-old-boy club is that this comment was apparently met with approval from Denny Burk. Burk is a professor at Boyce College of Southern Seminary. I wouldn’t have read York’s comment if not for Burk excerpting the most offending portion. Burk didn’t repudiate such divisive words, and he appeared to endorse the comments by penning this comment, “Southern Baptists who have had such concerns should read what York has to say. His commendation and exhortation at the end are particularly relevant.”

I read Burk’s blog often and appreciate his blog and formal scholarship. However, there is a growing problem in the SBC, and I wonder if Burk is even aware of how York’s post appeared to those outside the narrow circle of SBC politics?

I have no doubt that God will use David Platt to make the IMB better and to accomplish much for Christ. I have serious doubts about the process that led to Platt’s selection, and greater concern about the entire direction of the Southern Baptist Convention. It is often said that SBC politics functions like a club. With the consistent selection of Calvinists to key positions, and the triumphalist pro-Calvinist/anti-anti-Calvinist remarks coming from the likes of trustees, the Southern Baptist Convention is headed for schism.

I have avoided writing about this to a broader audience on this website for over two years. But, this level of rhetoric requires saying something. I know another Internet post regarding Baptist and Calvinists will yield little (or no) benefit. Yet, if I do not say something about such a mean comment, then there is little hope that the SBC can continue to work together as an effective force to reach the nations for Christ.

22 thoughts on “IMB trustee Hershael York should be called out for his hateful remarks”

  1. While I agree that inflammatory language should be avoided especially between fellow Christians, I don’t quite see the degree of offense in the words cited. It appears your problem is with Calvinism in general and those who hold to reformed doctrines otherwise called Calvinism and not so much the words. I am a Calvinist because I believe that it is biblical. We are all entitled to interpret scripture as our conscience dictates but we must be able to demonstrate biblical support for our interpretation. If Calvinism is biblical you should be glad to see the SBC moving that way. If it is not you must demonstrate that. Otherwise objections are an exercise in futility.

    1. Richard,
      Thanks for your comment. Honestly, the problem I have is not with Calvinism or those who hold to that viewpoint. I don’t know of many SBCers that I respect more than Dr. Mohler. What I don’t like is the general attitude and lack of civility on display too often these days. (Particularly on the Internet.)

      I think those comments are an example of much of what is wrong. I’m shocked at the words used in an attempt to attack those who opposed Dr. Platt. I contrast those words with the kind, healing words penned by SWBTS president Paige Patterson.

      Regarding objections to Calvinism or other soteriological views, the Internet is rife with them and so are the theology textbooks, etc. We Baptists aren’t going to convince very many people to shift their opinions. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have those conversations, but if non-Calvinist voices are marginalized like this trustee has attempted to do….there will be serious damage to the SBC and its institutions.

      1. I have been debating this topic for 40 years since I was a freshman in Bible College in 1976. As I’ve gotten older and wiser, I’ve come to the conclusion that charity and unity among brothers is a lot more important than theological purity in secondary things which lay outside primary orthodoxy (Trinity, Gospel, Bible, etc). This has moderated my willingness or need to fight about Calvinism, but I still find the objections to Calvinism lacking and always resting more on humanistic versus biblically arguments, and errors in theology even small ones will eventually cause problems. I think what we’re seeing in the modern church is the consequences of bad theology and a lack of theological education in the public. “As a man thinketh, so is he,” applies to errors in theology. The culmination of even small errors will eventually cause the train to derail and we are seeing that now even in my own supposedly “reformed” denomination, and the SBC is full of pastors who have rejected biblical inerrancy and replaced it with a feel good gospel. With that in mind, agree or not with the theological particulars, I rejoice at someone with a commitment to the Bible finding a place of influence in the SBC. Ultimately what we believe about God and man will determine our effectiveness in the world and the modern church has for the most part abandoned historic biblical christianity and this is why we have lost most of our influence in the culture.

        1. Richard,

          I’m the reverse. I find Calvinism appears to be based more upon man’s intellect than a full appreciation for the entirety of God’s Word. I signed the Traditional Statement

          I know that statement isn’t perfect, but I feel it fits far better in accord with the Bible than other systems.

          Anyway, there were good arguments against Dr. Platt and good arguments for him. The entire problem in this case boils down to a few influential Calvinist voices attempting to marginalize the non-Calvinists. York’s blog post is the perfect example of this type of thinking. If it continues, it will lead to serious consequences in the SBC.

          1. You know better than I do what is happening in the SBC. The one statement that you highlighted didn’t seem to be an attempt to marginalize as much as it was a statement of belief — a doctrinal statement if you will. I don’t have any problem with a person standing up for what they believe. Wouldn’t you agree that if your position is scriptural then Calvinism by default cannot be and should be addressed as such and the opposite is true as well. If Calvinism is scriptural the opposite cannot be. I simply think that whatever one believes should it should be supported scripturally and quite frankly your statement did not address the pertinent scripture passages that support the sovereignty of God in salvation or in general. For instance,

            “We deny that election means that, from eternity, God predestined certain people for salvation and others for condemnation.”

            Where is the treatment of the following verses? It isn’t enough to simply say,

            “we reject…”

            You must demonstrate why the following passages don’t say what they plainly appear to say. This is just a sampling. A careful reading of the bible will reveal God’s sovereignty is present from Genesis to Revelation.

            Man is dead in his sins. Without God’s sovereign, irresistible election, no one would be saved.

            Matthew 24:31– “And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.”

            John 15:16

            “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.”

            Romans 2:29

            No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit.

            Romans 8:28-33

            “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[i] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

            31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.”

            Romans 9:11-25

            11 Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: 12 not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.”[d] 13 Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”[e]

            14 What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15 For he says to Moses,

            “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
            and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”[f]
            16 It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17 For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”[g] 18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

            19 One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” 20 But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”[h] 21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?

            22 What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23 What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24 even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? 25 As he says in Hosea:

            “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people;
            and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,”[i]

            Romans 11:5

            It is the same today, for a few of the people of Israel[c] have remained faithful because of God’s grace—his undeserved kindness in choosing them. 6 And since it is through God’s kindness, then it is not by their good works.

            Romans 11:28

            “As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, 29 for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable”

            Romans 16:5

            5 Now all glory to God, who is able to make you strong, just as my Good News says. This message about Jesus Christ has revealed his plan for you Gentiles, a plan kept secret from the beginning of time.

            Ephesians 1:4-11

            “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he[b] predestined us for adoption to sonship[c] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he[d] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. 11 In him we were also chosen,[e] having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will,”

            2nd Thess 2:13

            “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.”

            James 1:18 “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”

            It is clear from the plain reading of scripture that God chose us before the foundation of the world. We did not chose Him. We couldn’t. We were dead and dead men can’t do anything to help themselves.

          2. “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.” Matthew 10:32

            Whoever is the Greek pas–meaning all, the whole, every kind of, according to Strong’s.

            “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God.” Luke 12:8

            Same whoever.

            Baptists like me do not doubt election. We affirm it. What constitutes that election? It is harder to say, and unlike the Calvinist, I’m not going to speak in absolutes. Clearly, God is sovereign. However, what does that mean and how does he operate in this situation? We know he hardened Pharaoh’s heart (and apparently, mine if York is accureate!). Yet, we also see something else at work when Christ testifies,

            “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” Matthew 23:37.

            So, God wanted to do this, but did not because the people were unwilling.

            Putting that into perspective, “In fact, the Greek sets the contrast off even more sharply than the English does because forms of the same Greek verb thelo (to will) are used twice in this verse: “I willed . . . but you were not willing.”26 Schrenk describes this statement as expressing “the frustration of His gracious purpose to save by the refusal of men.”27 Note also that His lament concerns the entire city of Jerusalem, not just a small number of elect within Jerusalem. Indeed, Jesus is concerned about not only the persons living in Jerusalem at that particular time but for many generations of Jerusalemites.” See Allen, David L.; Lemke, Steve W (2010-04-01). Whosoever Will (p. 120). B&H Publishing. Kindle Edition.

            Anyway, we can pull texts out and ask one another to jump through exegetical hoops, but the reality is that we are going to disagree. Honestly, I fully believe you have good reasons for your position. Yet, this isn’t why I posted this. The issue I have is the attempt to mute non-Calvinist voices within the SBC. I think York’s piece was a sample of that. Or, perhaps my chariot is headed for the red sea now?

  2. While I agree that inflammatory language should be avoided especially between fellow Christians, I don’t quite see the degree of offense in the words cited. It appears your problem is with Calvinism in general and those who hold to reformed doctrines otherwise called Calvinism and not so much the words. I am a Calvinist because I believe that it is biblical. We are all entitled to interpret scripture as our conscience dictates but we must be able to demonstrate biblical support for our interpretation. If Calvinism is biblical you should be glad to see the SBC moving that way. If it is not you must demonstrate that. Otherwise objections are an exercise in futility.

  3. I was invited to a Catholic Church service today and I declined… lets just say I deferred to the second half and I will take the wind at my back

  4. There is no doubt that the SBC is headed toward a split between the Calvinists and the anti-Calvinists – aka Arminians.

    The loudest rhetoric over the years has come from the Arminian side – Johnny Hunt, Ergun Caner, Paige Patterson, and Steve Gaines.

    It is amazing to me that the anti-Calvinist side wants to bury / ignore the Southern Baptist historical record of strong evangelistic Calvinists.

    It is also amazing that the Arminian side don’t want all of the Arminian views (losing one’s salvation) but also can’t fathom a God who as the pottery maker chooses whom He wills. (This is where they insert the human free will apart from God’s will that makes the decision that God wants them.)

    I once heard Jerry Falwell (strong anti-Calvinist – aka Arminian) say that he thought a novel way of witnessing to the lost would be to ask them if they were a ‘whom’ and if so – to get on board.

    This way of witnessing is what drives Calvinist evangelizing.

    1. I’m not an Arminian and neither are most of the people you mentioned. There are other soteriological viewpoints than those two.

      I’m sick and tired of Calvinists attempting to say it is anti-Calvinists who are trying to silence them. In fact, I think it is the other way around. Seriously, who can read York’s comments and come to any other conclusion. He basically equated anti-Calvinists to Pharaoh. This type of triumphalism is the problem—more so than Platt’s appointment because I think we can all agree Platt will do a good job and falls within a general outline of biblical orthodoxy.

      There will be a split unless all of us grow up in our rhetoric and realize that both sides of this theological divide have important things to contribute to Baptist life. Right now, non-Calvinists make up most of our church membership and most of our pastors, but it seems the top-level leadership positions at our entities are drifting toward a policy of Calvinist-only should apply.

  5. I read Patterson’s comments and I have a hard time seeing how his comments can be construed as “the kind, healing words” you describe them. On the contrary, I find Patterson’s words divisive, and isolating when he starts his column with these words: “Many are aware that Dr. David Platt was not my choice for the presidency of the IMB” Patterson always finds a way to start with the negative and giving his opinion on what he finds wrong with a person or situation. On the other hand, you fail to acknowledge York’s words when he says, “I’ve been in ministry all of my adult life. I’ve known Adrian Rogers, W. A. Criswell, Stephen Olford, John Stott, and many truly great men of God. I say this carefully and reverently: I have never met anyone on whom the anointing of God rests as powerfully and comfortably as David Platt.” Those are kind, thoughtful words.

    1. Come now John, you are kidding right?

      Seriously, it was well known Patterson opposed Dr. Platt’s candidacy. Yet, he dealt with that common knowledge and because of his opposition his words carried greater force as he urged those on his side of the theological spectrum to Christian fellowship.

      York did say those things about Dr. Platt. Howevever, he then goes on to attack non-Calvinists.

      You may think those kind, thoughtful words, but I find them nothing more than him pushing his agenda and telling the rest of us to keep our mouths shut or else.

      One could also be forced to wonder why we must compare Platt to other Christians? Is this not more celebrity-driven promotion that is a symptom of our celebrity-obsessed culture?

      1. This is a very interesting discussion. My first reaction is that everybody involved ( and I mean EVERYBODY) should take a deep breath and think about what is really important. It is all fun and games until someone gets hurt. I am very interested in this…..

      2. I can’t pretend to understand all of this fully, but I do find it interesting. Coincidentally I just watched a documentary about Peter and Paul from the Bible. These kinds of debates started a long time ago… can uncircumsized men go to heaven is it okay to eat at an un-kosher table?

        I have never understood how denominations of Christianity can be so at odds at times???

  6. Also I am a jokester but this is very serious it means a lot to a lot of people and will shape policy for a lot of people and many people will be effected/affected

  7. Oh Goody !! Another debate almost as good as the Alabama vs Auburn debate !!

    Mr. Capstone – I have seen it in many other blogs – whenever the Calvinists and anti-Calvinists – aka Arminians, Pelagians, semi-pelagians start debating – it really is as passionate as an Alabama vs Auburn debate with a pinch of Tiger Rant thrown in !!

    I can’t wait until we get into lapsarianism: supralapsarianism, antelapsarianism, infralapsarianism, sublapsarianism and postlapsarianism !!!

    Who would have ever thought that passionate Alabama fans are also passionate about theology ?!?!

    God really is an Alabama fan – right ??

  8. Of course they were unwilling. That is the point. We are all unwilling because we are dead in our sins. In terms of our spirituality, that’s what “dead” means. Dead does not mean alive enough. It means dead. If you put the cure for cancer next to his coffin, a dead man cant reach up and get, can he? He can’t. He’s dead. When God says that we are “dead” in our sins, He isn’t being hyperbolic. We are as dead as Lazarus was. There was nothing Lazarus could do to help himself and there was nothing he could do to resist the call of our Lord to rise from dead.

    None of the verses you quoted preclude God from sovereignly choosing the elect and calling them from death to life just exactly like he called Lazarus out of the grave. Quite to the contrary, the verses I posted do preclude free will. If man is able to choose God then the Bible contradicts itself because the Bible clearly says that man does not choose God and that God chooses man and brings him to salvation. Yes there is a general invitation to come but man cannot come so God must call him from the grave like Lazarus.

    “For many are invited, but few are chosen.” Matt 22:14

    “…But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen…” Mark 13:20

    From the humanistic perspective, it appears that we are choosing God but we are not. Romans 8 covers every base from the before time to eternity and there is no “me” there. There is only God. There is no disputing the plain language of scripture. Either God does the choosing or the Bible is in contradiction. There really is no in-between.

    Trust me, I have been thinking about this for a long time and have tried to look at it from every angle. There is no other angle. Man died in the fall and God does all the work of redeeming a people for eternity.

    This will be my last post on the topic. I am proud to count you and all Baptists as my brothers in Christ and while this is a crucially important topic and has consequences in the culture and the church, it is more important to focus on what we have in common and how we can affect the culture for the Kingdom of God.

    God Bless you my friend and Roll Tide.

    1. I did want to add one more thought that I forgot to mention in the post above.

      It is a very good thing that Baptists are wrestling with these doctrines and they do require that one wrestle with them because the points you mention are valid points that must be addressed. It is only in bowing to God’s infallible word that we begin to have a glimpse of understanding but we can never fully understand something so profound — perhaps not even in eternity. When Joseph met his brothers who hated him and tried to murder him, he said,

      “You meant it for evil but God meant it for good..”

      How can that be? How can even the evil of man be in the good will of God? I don’t pretend to understand but I do accept that God is ALL-mighty and much bigger than we can possibly conceive, and that revelation is the result of wrestling with these doctrines. They reveal a God much bigger than most people conceive. Again, God bless.

      1. All these responses are “heady” and intellectual, and certainly would allow for a healthy debate.

        My question simply put….”what has any of this got to do with the University of Alabama, the athletic programs of that school, and the student athletes that represent our University?.

        When did this become a religious forum?

        By the way, the whole world isn’t Christian, so what stick to the subject matter at hand, and not get off on some rant about something that has no place in this column

        ROLL TIDE

Comments are closed.