The following is an excerpt of Dr. Mohler’s inaugural address for Dr. Jason Allen who is the new president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri.

“Theological education is a deadly serious business. The stakes are so high. A theological seminary that serves faithfully will be a source of health and life for the church, but an unfaithful seminary will set loose a torrent of trouble, untruth, and sickness upon Christ’s people. Inevitably, the seminaries are the incubators of the church’s future. The teaching imparted to seminarians will shortly be inflicted upon congregations, where the result will be either fruitfulness or barrenness, vitality or lethargy, advance or decline, spiritual life, or spiritual death.

How does this happen? Rarely does an institution decide, in one comprehensive moment of decision, to abandon the faith and seek after another. The process is far more dangerous and subtle. A direct institutional evasion would be instantly recognized and corrected, if announced honestly at the onset. Instead, theological disaster usually comes by means of drift and evasion, shading and equivocation. Eventually, the drift accumulates into momentum and the school abandons doctrine after doctrine, truth claim after truth claim, until the pattern of sound words, and often the sound words themselves, are mocked, denied, and cast aside in the spirit of theological embarrassment.”

I appreciate Dr. Mohler’s statement because it confirms what I have been saying all along with respect to the influence that not only the seminaries hold in affecting the future of the SBC but the other entities of the SBC as well. Many have dismissed this argument saying that I have been exaggerating the importance of their influence. Many have attempted to dismiss the obvious connection between the theological underpinning of these entities and the potential influence they hold that will as Mohler admits, “be inflicted upon congregations where the result will be either fruitfulness or barrenness, vitality or lethargy, advance or decline, spiritual life, or spiritual death.” I am glad that Dr. Mohler has himself set the record straight admitting that he fully understands the value of making sure the theological position of the various entities is essential to determining the future direction of the SBC.

My question is still the same; do we as Southern Baptists want the direction of the entities to be determined by Calvinist theology, that says God and God alone determines who will and will not be saved or do we want those entities to continue to be identified by a “whosoever will come” theology? Understand the future of the SBC is clearly at hand for the entities as well as the seminaries “are the incubators of the church’s future. The teaching imparted to seminarians will shortly be inflicted upon congregations, where the result will be either fruitfulness or barrenness, vitality or lethargy, advance or decline, spiritual life, or spiritual death.”

I believe our world is better served by a SBC that presents the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to ALL WHO BELIEVE: not all that God gives the ability to believe. May God continue to bless the SBC for His glory and the world’s benefit!

Dr. Mohler’s comments can be read in their entirety by clicking here.

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The following is an excerpt of Dr. Mohler’s inaugural address for Dr. Jason Allen who is the new president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri.

“Theological education is a deadly serious business. The stakes are so high. A theological seminary that serves faithfully will be a source of health and life for the church, but an unfaithful seminary will set loose a torrent of trouble, untruth, and sickness upon Christ’s people. Inevitably, the seminaries are the incubators of the church’s future. The teaching imparted to seminarians will shortly be inflicted upon congregations, where the result will be either fruitfulness or barrenness, vitality or lethargy, advance or decline, spiritual life, or spiritual death.

How does this happen? Rarely does an institution decide, in one comprehensive moment of decision, to abandon the faith and seek after another. The process is far more dangerous and subtle. A direct institutional evasion would be instantly recognized and corrected, if announced honestly at the onset. Instead, theological disaster usually comes by means of drift and evasion, shading and equivocation. Eventually, the drift accumulates into momentum and the school abandons doctrine after doctrine, truth claim after truth claim, until the pattern of sound words, and often the sound words themselves, are mocked, denied, and cast aside in the spirit of theological embarrassment.”

I appreciate Dr. Mohler’s statement because it confirms what I have been saying all along with respect to the influence that not only the seminaries hold in affecting the future of the SBC but the other entities of the SBC as well. Many have dismissed this argument saying that I have been exaggerating the importance of their influence. Many have attempted to dismiss the obvious connection between the theological underpinning of these entities and the potential influence they hold that will as Mohler admits, “be inflicted upon congregations where the result will be either fruitfulness or barrenness, vitality or lethargy, advance or decline, spiritual life, or spiritual death.” I am glad that Dr. Mohler has himself set the record straight admitting that he fully understands the value of making sure the theological position of the various entities is essential to determining the future direction of the SBC.

My question is still the same; do we as Southern Baptists want the direction of the entities to be determined by Calvinist theology, that says God and God alone determines who will and will not be saved or do we want those entities to continue to be identified by a “whosoever will come” theology? Understand the future of the SBC is clearly at hand for the entities as well as the seminaries “are the incubators of the church’s future. The teaching imparted to seminarians will shortly be inflicted upon congregations, where the result will be either fruitfulness or barrenness, vitality or lethargy, advance or decline, spiritual life, or spiritual death.”

I believe our world is better served by a SBC that presents the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to ALL WHO BELIEVE: not all that God gives the ability to believe. May God continue to bless the SBC for His glory and the world’s benefit!

Dr. Mohler’s comments can be read in their entirety by clicking here.

An Open Letter to Drs. Thom Rainer and Ed Stetzer and Lifeway Trustees

The following letter was delivered to the leadership of Lifeway’s trustee meeting held in Nashville, February 13 and 14.

An Open Letter to Drs. Thom Rainer and Ed Stetzer and Lifeway Trustees,

I have been a Southern Baptist since my earliest of days. I was saved at the age of 10 at a revival meeting in a Southern Baptist church in West Tennessee. I graduated from Union University in Jackson, Tennessee and attended Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. I am a proud product of Cooperative Program giving. I have been proud of my association with the SBC because of the Cooperative Program and the opportunity it affords so many to partner in sharing the Great Commission in so many ways. Sadly, this attitude is swiftly changing.

I am very concerned over the publishing of a project that Lifeway has undertaken and is now in the process of promoting titled, “The Gospel Project.” The recent Baptist Press article introducing this project really spoke volumes. Consider the following comment, “This is more than curriculum,” said Trevin Wax, managing editor of The Gospel Project. “The goal is to provide a theologically driven study that points people to Jesus. It’s easy to come to Scripture looking for just new information or immediate application. We can even have Bible knowledge and not be focused on Christ,” Wax said. Add to that Dr. Stetzer’s comment and my concerns are amplified; “Going ‘deep’ means different things to different people.” Stetzer could not have been more accurate in his statement.

The list of contributors to this project is indeed telling. In looking over the list, it is obvious that there is a clear bias in this group that lacks any theological diversity and it is virtually reformed to the core. In reading Dr. Stetzer’s comment regarding the direction and input from those who are serving the local church, it is unclear to me who Stetzer is referring to. If Dr. Stetzer is indicating an expressed need for a Reformed theological project of this magnitude, then it might be considered a prudent move to undertake such a bold project. It is clear to me in Stetzer’s comments that this particular group was carefully selected, for whatever reason, to “speak into this project at the outset,” and help them “think through important high-level issues at the outset of the curriculum’s development,”

If it is true that there was a demand from local churches for such a special project as this, my strong suggestion is to title this project, “The Gospel Project: A Reformed Perspective.” In this way, those in the local church who have expressed the need and desire for such a project will know that this project has been developed for them. If that is not the case and there was no specific demand for a “Reformed perspective” as such, then the question begs to be answered, “Why such a radically theological leaning advisory board and writing consortium?”

There is no shortage of widely publicized jargon that makes it perfectly clear that those in this carefully selected group consider the Doctrines of Grace and the Reformed position of soteriology the most consistent form of Christianity and the purest presentation of the Gospel. It is also absolutely clear from Dr. Stetzer’s own statistical data, that the SBC is overwhelmingly non-Reformed in their soteriology, no matter how “shallow” their understanding of the deep theological truths concerning the things “God has accomplished in the Gospel for us,” may or may not be. In speaking for myself, I do not desire to have a project of this magnitude produced by Lifeway that has any appearance of attempting to reform the people who attend the average Sunday School classes in non-Reformed churches. Lifeway ought to be diligent with respect to the products it produces to make sure this does not happen. That is not the case with “The Gospel Project.”

Why this expressed concern for “The Gospel Project”? Unless there is indeed a call from church leaders across the SBC for a Reformed Curriculum then it can only be assumed that Lifeway has produced “The Gospel Project” with the expressed purpose of reforming the shallow and incorrect understanding of just what the true gospel is within our autonomous Southern Baptist congregations. While I believe in my heart that there is no real demand for this kind of project from the typical SBC church, I have no problem with churches purchasing this kind of literature as long as they understand up front what it is that they are buying.

I do have serious concerns with Lifeway’s labeling this project simply as “the Gospel Project” with no reference to its theologically leaning perspective. The administration of Lifeway knows full well that Baptist churches have looked to Lifeway for decades for theologically pertinent literature for their members. Many churches will see the promotional information on the “Gospel Project” that is new and exciting and Lifeway knows churches will purchase the literature. There is absolutely no doubt that this project will have a Calvinistic leaning perspective; otherwise there would be no reason to choose such a tightly knitted theological group.

Here comes the anticipated two-fold defense. “This is not a theologically biased project.” That argument is an argument from naivety, ignorance, or intentional cover-up. To attempt to even make this kind of argument, in my opinion, a brazen insult to this group of writers who were carefully selected for this project. No one should expect them to set aside their strong theological persuasion to produce a project of this magnitude and not be biased in their understanding of the synonymous position that the “true gospel” is Calvinism. It was their own admission and original purpose to make this project “Christ-centered, mission-driven, shaped around the narrative of God’s redemptive plan.” For this select group of writers that plan is best set forth in the Doctrines of Grace and Calvinism.

The second anticipated response is, “There is no hidden agenda on Lifeway’s part to put this project into churches to help ‘reform them’.” Great. Label the project’s title as “A Reformed Perspective” and all will be kosher. This is a simple request. Anything less, will shed serious doubt on Lifeway’s intentions and its ongoing ability to provide theologically pertinent literature to the mainstream Southern Baptist church. This potential problem MUST be avoided. According to Dr. Stetzer’s 2006 research 90% of SBC churches are not Reformed in their theology and as such, I suggest that they are not very likely to be looking for literature to move them in that direction any time soon.

Respectfully submitted,

Bob Hadley
Pastor, Westside Baptist Church
Daytona Beach, Florida

NIV To Remain on Shelves at Lifeway

See Full Article from Lifeway HERE
by Marty King on Wednesday, February 15, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Trustees of LifeWay Christian Resources voted to continue selling the new NIV Bible in LifeWay stores, approved a new vice president for its largest division and elected new board officers.

Meeting Feb. 13-14 at LifeWay offices in downtown Nashville, trustees heard a report from a special task force appointed to follow up on a non-binding resolution approved by the 2011 Southern Baptist Convention that requested LifeWay consider not selling the New International Version (NIV) 2011 Bible in their stores.

Committee chairman Adam Greenway, a member of First Baptist Church, Mt. Washington, Ky., told the board “vast amounts of scholarly research and other relevant information was gathered and studied … and a number of subject matter experts addressed the task force.” Greenway said LifeWay received support for continuing to carry the 2011 NIV from Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Jimmy Draper, former president of LifeWay; George Guthrie, Union University; and Douglas Moo, chairman of the Committee on Bible Translation which translated the new NIV.

Greenway, who serves as senior associate dean of the Billy Graham School at Southern Seminary, also told trustees, “Messengers to the 2011 SBC annual meeting were encouraged to vote for the resolution based on incorrect information.” As an example, Greenway said the 2011 NIV contains no gender-neutral wording for the names of God.

Emphasizing that LifeWay is not endorsing the 2011 NIV, Greenway said, “It is not that we are endorsing the 2011 NIV. We endorse what we publish, and the translation we publish is the Holman Christian Standard Bible. That is the translation that we endorse.” Greenway told trustees, “We do not believe the 2011 NIV rises to the level to where it should be pulled or censored or not carried in our retail chain.”

The task force and the trustee executive committee both unanimously approved the following recommendation: It is recommended that trustees reaffirm the decision of LifeWay to continue to carry the 2011 NIV alongside other versions of the Holy Bible.

After a few minutes of discussion, the motion was unanimously approved.

So much for the vote of the convention delegates. “Messengers to the 2011 SBC annual meeting were encouraged to vote for the resolution based on incorrect information.” “LifeWay received support for continuing to carry the 2011 NIV from Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Jimmy Draper, former president of LifeWay; George Guthrie, Union University; and Douglas Moo, chairman of the Committee on Bible Translation which translated the new NIV.”

4000+ delegates voted to have Lifeway take it off the shelves and 4 men recommended that it stay. The “sheeple” loose.

Signs of more to come?

Changes Coming to the Southern Baptist Convention

The Southern Baptist Convention is being changed. As I look at the rich history of the SBC, our strength has been our unity that has been centered around the Cooperative Program. While there have been significant differences in our theological positions, we have always been able in varying degrees to work together for a common cause of taking the gospel message to our neighborhoods and then to the world.

Today things are decidedly different. Theology and not cooperation is now the focus. The problem the SBC is facing is not Calvinism or Arminianism. It is not inerrancy or liberalism. The problem the SBC is facing today is not theology; the problem we are now facing is the need to define who we are today and who we will not be tomorrow. While theology itself is not the problem, it will be the focus of the identity problem that is inevitable. We as a convention have managed to cooperate for missions and all the while, theology has been for the most part a secondary issue. Today theology has moved to the forefront and cooperation has taken the back seat and that is the problem. Before the scud missiles begin to fly, remember something. The SBC is not a church. While theology is essential to the church, that is not necessarily the primary focus of the SBC, The primary purpose of the SBC is to do collectively as a convention of churches what individual churches cannot do on their own. While theology is important to the SBC, cooperation is the principle characteristic that holds it together. This theological battle that the SBC is embroiled in now will see as an unanticipated result, a convention that will begin to force limits on its ability to cooperate together and that is the real problem we are facing as a convention.

I have looked at this theological issue and have said, “Calvinists cannot continue down the road they are headed for if they are allowed to do so, the face of the convention will be forever changed.” Here is the reality of it all. Calvinists have managed to do the same thing today the Liberals did in the 70’s and 80’s. This liberal group of Southern Baptists saw the Scriptures differently than the majority of Southern Baptists. They were able to position themselves in the seminaries and graduates were becoming more liberal in their interpretation and application of the Scriptures. This became unacceptable to many and a few took the reigns to lead a conservative resurgence to get “Back to the Bible” and to establish what they decided would be an inerrant view of the Scriptures. Calvinists led with non-Calvinists in this resurgence. Liberals were expelled from the seminaries and entity positions and Calvinists stepped up and gradually over the next 20 years took their place in the seminaries and then began to fill key positions in SBC entities just as the liberals did a couple decades before. This in and of itself is not even the problem. Many today argue, Calvinists have always been a part of the convention and they deserve to lead as they believe God would have them do. While I do not agree with Calvinism, I do agree with this sentiment.

Many, including myself have looked at Calvinism as a threat to the current landscape of SBC. I am beginning to realize that this in and of itself is really not the case. So, what is the problem? The problem as I see it, is the inevitable move that the SBC must now take to identify itself theologically, namely Calvinist or non-Calvinist. This will have an indelible effect on the most basic Baptist identities of the priesthood of the believer and the autonomy of the local church, for this move of the convention to identify itself will have its effect on those who choose to cooperate. The move to establish just who the SBC will be in the future will almost definitely isolate those who lose the identity battle. I have argued that this would definitely be the case if the Reformed position continued it current course. Those leading the reformed revival are obviously not at all pleased with the non-Calvinist position that still virtually dominates the SBC today. One argument is that as the Reformers manage to gain control of the convention, it can be expected that those leading the charge will make changes that will solidify the Reformed position so that this problem will never again be repeated. I would expect nothing less. This is the fear that originally caught my attention.

If the non-Calvinist contingency were to manage to hold onto the convention, the same problems would still exist. In this case, the convention would almost by necessity be forced to identify itself in non-Calvinist terms so that it would be more difficult for Calvinist leaders to be able to hold key positions of leadership and influence in the convention. Either way, the ramifications of the convention’s attempt to settle this theological battle will have disastrous results.

The BF&M is headed for change. That is now inevitable. It will be changed to settle the issue of regeneration with respect to repentance and saving faith. Some will suggest the issue of church government must be addressed. Once this step is taken, the SBC will be forever changed because the priesthood of the believer and autonomy of the local church will be usurped by the convention’s new theological stance. One could argue against this citing the conservative resurgence and the battle of the 80’s. The liberals did leave the SBC and it survived. The major difference can be seen in the battles themselves. Inerrancy was a winnable battle for Southern Baptists. The issue we are currently embroiled in is much more detrimental and controversial. The battle lines are not so clearly defined. Calvinists cannot even decide among themselves who is or is not Reformed enough. Non-Calvinists have never really cared. Once the SBC takes a stand on this issue, everyone loses.

Following the release of the BF&M 2000, there was a move by some to modify it because of some of the language use and it is my understanding Dr. Al Mohler stood at the convention and in effect said, if we start changing the BF&M people, especially our critics in the world, will see us as unstable and unsure of what we actually believe. (My interpretation of his retort.) His argument or that argument in general, whether he made it or not, is exactly where the SBC is today.

The only possible caveat may be what some call the apathy in the pew. There is an argument that regardless of what takes place with respect to control of the entities of the SBC, the people in the pew will adapt and churches will conform and the CP will continue to work as it has always done. I do not believe that will be the case this time. This divide is too deep and too ill defined and this inevitable attempt at a resolution will be disastrous and those who feel polarized will in all likelihood lead their churches to leave the convention. Those who remain will have no choice but face an endless barrage of ongoing theological nuances that will no doubt continue to plague the convention as new power players seek to lead the convention and force further division among its churches and the people who are in the pew. Actually, this problem will plague both sides as each seeks to establish itself in its new found attempt to maintain a viable identity.

Richard A. Spears in McGraw-Hill’s Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs speaks about Matthew 26:52, “Live by the sword, die by the sword” and he warns, “You can expect to become a victim of whatever means you use to get what you want.” I am afraid this statement tragically describes the inevitable plight of the SBC. I for one am saddened by these prospects and hope that I am wrong.

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Here is an editorial note on the day after this post.

The following is a personal response to a series of questions posed by Dave Miller at SBC Voices. Dave’s article can be accessed by CLICKING HERE.

Is the Southern Baptist Convention a united community filled with people with a passion to serve Christ, honor him and walk in the fruit of the Spirit?

We are not a united community. That is sad but true. Are we a community with a passion to serve Christ? I believe we have a number of churches in our convention that this would describe. I also believe there are unfortunately a large number of churches who do not have this “passion”. They have other priorities and would admit they need this passion but they have simply not be taught the importance of walking and talking with the Lord and establishing a personal relationship with Him as a goal for their lives and the life of their church. The truth a lot of churches are more focused on what goes on inside the church than they are outside the church. The problem plagues churches of all sizes and theological underpinnings.

Is the Southern Baptist Convention focused on the Great Commission and our divinely-ordained purpose to bring the gospel to the world?

I believe for the most part, that has been the overarching priority of the SBC in years past. That priority was cooperation. As long as the primary focus of the SBC was cooperation, I believe the potential was there for the purpose of carrying the gospel to the world. Have we done the most with what we had? No. Have we made mistakes in administrating the task set before us in our convention entities? Yes. Has the SBC been diligent in attempting to accomplish this task, yes.
Is the Southern Baptist Convention holding the line on theological orthodoxy?

I discuss this question in detail in an article I posted last night at SBC Issues. I believe this move to “hold the line on theological orthodoxy” has usurped the cooperation priority and that in and of itself has now moved the convention into uncharted waters that I am not sure it can navigate its way out of.

The convention is NOT a church; it is an organization that exists to assist churches in doing together what individual churches cannot do on their own. The theological positions of the convention itself are not as big a factor as some I believe might suggest, because the churches who cooperate together determine their level of cooperation, not the convention. It is the responsibility of the churches to direct the convention and not the other way around and that is now the troubling aspect of the current theological climate that exists in the SBC today.

As individuals and churches, we do not have today nor do we want tomorrow a convention that decides for us who we will be or what we will believe in order to cooperate together to accomplish the Great Commission. I know there are already very broad statements that we must adhere to and that is necessary. There is a major difference in what exists today and the call for “holding the line of theological orthodoxy” as a convention.

After thinking about Dave’s questions and my response, here is a second response I felt led to make.
As I think about these questions raised I am realizing the importance of putting some things in their proper perspective. Blogs give us the ability to be vocal, we sometimes take the mistaken idea that it also makes us experts. I have been abundantly guilty of this and I know better. We are all basically working things out in our own minds as we speak our minds and hopefully benefit from things others say as they are doing the same.

Here is the problem we all need to remember. Our opinions are like those of a 6 year old when it comes to asking what our priorities ought to be in our lives as adults. The 6 year old can no doubt give us a heartfelt honest and sincere answer; the problem is his perspective is way too limited. What we are arguing about is not really theology, at least where the SBC is concerned. We are looking at things like a 6 year old might. We have no real idea what the overall ramifications would be to the suggestions we are making because of our limited perspectives concerning what the reality actually is concerning what the SBC is and what it is doing.
In essence I am seeing some of these things as I write this comment. What we are actually doing is this; we are bringing our input into discussions that have been taking place in the Executive Committee and trustee meetings of the various entities for decades. The questions that we are really asking have more to do with the entities of the SBC and what they do and how they do it than anything. Who is qualified to lead them; who is qualified to go; what should they do when they get there and how should they do it?

We can all be great mail room managers; that does not qualify us to be the CEO. We all have opinions about play calling in our favorite sports and can be expert arm chair quarterbacks and coaches. That does not qualify us as experts on the field and in the game where it all counts. I suppose the same thing needs to be said in our discussions regarding the SBC and how it ought to operate and what is ought to be.

Do we have a right to have a say in what takes place and do we have a right to be critical, maybe. The problem with our answers to both of these questions again must be kept in check because of our limited perspective of what is actually going on as opposed to what we think ought to be going on. I may do things today that appear to be leading in one direction but in reality it is only a step that is necessary to get me from where I am today to the place I want to be in the future. Sometimes, we have to go south to get on the interstate to go north.

I need to remind myself of that fact as I speak my mind especially where I am being critical in analyzing what I see as the “priorities of the SBC” and the ramifications of decisions and actions being taken by it. One thing is consistently true; Things are almost never what they seem.

It is easy for any organization to get off track. It is easy as individuals to get off track. It is easy for us all to lose our focus and our overall best intentions. Hopefully we can all learn from each other and benefit from one another even with our differences and know that we all share a common bond in Christ and a love for and an adherence to His precious Word.

That is my prayer for us all!

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The Future of This Ole Ship, The Southern Baptist Convention

The SBC is embroiled in a politically charged environment that is not going to go away. At stake is the direction this old stately ship is going to sail in the future. Everyone knows that this is the case. There are many who do not mind and support the direction the rudder is facing today. That is part of the process. It is one of the difficult aspects of being so diverse. It will work itself out.

While I have been criticized for being so critical of what I see taking place, I am trying as best I know how to be as fair as I can, given the information I have to go on and things that I see taking place that I do not approve of. I clearly recognize the responsibility of those who disagree with me to express their concerns and opinions accordingly and welcome and respect those opinions. if I did not, I would not be posting here.

It is helpful to read those who have differing opinions, or else the whole concept of blogging would be a waste of everyone’s time. All the Calvinists would just gather over at “The Voices” and rant and rave about the non-Calvinists that gather to rant and rave at Peter’s Place. The interaction I think can be helpful to some degree. However, this propensity to refuse to acknowledge a dissenting opinion and perspective and marginalize the one who is making it, it petty and unbecoming to everything we should be here to do.

I have made statements that fall into that category as well and have apologized for doing so and will apologize again. I would love nothing more than to find a comfortable balance here but I do not believe that is possible and I also am becoming increasingly more aware of the fact that the Calvinist agenda may well now be so far along that the convention’s future will no doubt look much different than it did yesterday. That is a compliment, for the record.

I will continue to express my opinion and solutions as I see them to avoid what I believe will be the inevitable change that appears to be coming. Do I have a crystal ball, no. Do I believe everyone always says what they mean and mean what they say, no. Sorry; no one else here does either. So with that being said,

May God lead and guide and direct the future of the SBC and may He maintain the glory in all we undertake to do. The SBC needs God; God does not need the SBC.

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A Response to Trevin Wax and His Remarks Concerning the Gospel Project

Dave Miller has posted an interview with Trevin Wax, the managing Editor for Lifeway’s newest intensive Bible study, titled, “The Gospel Project” at SBC Voices, a SBC Blog site to help keep Southern Baptists informed on current issues. You may read Dave’s interview and Trevin’s answers
by clicking HERE.

I want to respond here to a number of comments Trevin makes. First of all, I have no problem with the production of the project if there was a legitimate need expressed for such a project as this. I do have a problem with the way it is being marketing and that is the extent of my issue. I will address that in more detail at the end of this response.

Statement #1… “How do we encourage people to study the Bible in a way that shines light on the supremacy of Jesus Christ in all things?” Supremacy as in soteriology and conversion, which are the heart and soul of Reformed Theology and we can expect this select group of writers to “go soft on unconditional election and irresistible grace?” I would not expect anything of the sort from this group.

Statement #2, “We are driven by this same approach to the Scriptures — one that has a long heritage in Baptist life.” Given the strong historical underpinnings of Reformed Theology in the storied history of the SBC and the only more recent shameful move away from it, I would certainly expect to hear more from some guys than others. Hey, history is history, right? Ask the Jews about today’s historicity of the Holocaust. Seems the significance of history is all too often in the eye of the beholder, or in many cases the eye of the writer.

Statement #3, “(In fact, one of the quarters in the 3-year cycle is called “Atonement Thread.”) The goal is to show how all the stories of the Bible are telling one overarching story of redemption through Jesus Christ.” The interesting focus here is the “one overarching story of redemption”. Let’s see, reservations go up or go down?

Statement #4, with respect to the “gospel”, Trevin wrote, “This announcement calls for a response: repentance (mourning over and turning from our sin, trading our agendas for the kingdom agenda of Jesus Christ) and faith (trusting in Christ alone for salvation).” I am sure the role of regeneration will come up somewhere in this presentation.

Statement #5, “The uniqueness of The Gospel Project does not mean other curriculum options are not theological or gospel-focused – any more than calling your congregation Life Baptist Church means that the other churches in town are all dead.” That was an interesting illustration to say the least. Seems like I have heard similar remarks about folks who differ on what the true gospel really is.

Statement #6, the nitty gritty, “No. When we put together the initial advisory group to give us some initial insight into the scope of topics we should cover, we invited people who were known for emphasizing the Christ-centered nature of the Scriptures. The advisory council is made up of people who think that way (and most were connected with Ed in some way).
But this “Christ-centered” emphasis is not exclusive to Reformed folks. That’s why eight of the eleven council members are Southern Baptist. The other three are Baptist, but not SBC.” Who can argue against folks who are promoting “the Christ-centered nature of the Scriptures”? After all, SB’s are people of the Book! The obvious problem is where we center Christ in our theology. We all are Scripturally based. Interesting choice of words here. Trevin says being Christ-centered is not exclusive to Reformed Folks so as to include non-Reformed folk but notice his next statement, that is why 8 are SB and 3 are just Baptist; failing to mention that ALL are decidedly Reformed, especially the 3 non-SB folk. I am sure that was just a slip of the tongue there.

Statements 7 and 8 are very interesting. #7, “As far as how many are Reformed or not, I honestly do not know how many points people claim.” Nice touch. Reformed, absolutely; how reformed, who knows! #8, “That (the indoctrination of the DOG in SB churches) wasn’t a question or even a topic of conversation that came up in those initial meetings, as far as I can recall. The conversations were about how we could structure this curriculum in a way that points to Christ, not Calvinism.” Here is the real problem I have with this project. It is a Calvinist project that points to Christ. Any way you slice it, that is what it is. Man up! Anyone who has half a brain KNOWS that this is the case. Otherwise this last statement would have been moot. It is what it is. That is the problem.

Statement #9, “We think it is great that leaders like D.A. Carson, Matt Chandler, James MacDonald, and Danny Akin would take the time (without compensation) to give us their input in how to shape a curriculum. That’s a dream team for us.” These three gentlemen are card carrying unapologetically Reformed in their theology. Nice Dream Team for some; not “all of us”.

Statement #10, “Yes – at least I think so. We’ve never asked anyone if they were Calvinists. We ask them about the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.” I believe Trevin is telling the absolute truth when he said, “we never asked.” I believe that 110%. The BF&M 2000 has most certainly garnered much more mileage than it was ever intended to get in today’s SBC! That is a fact.

Statement #11, Response to the question, will we hear about the TULIP, regeneration etc, Trevin;s response, “I don’t think so, but it depends on the non-Calvinists. We are not going to bring a doctrinal system to the text, but we do have convictions about the text as Southern Baptists.” In otherwords, while the terms are left off, the concepts are no doubt there. My contention all along has been, I would expect no less from these individuals who have both the responsibility and obligation to themselves and to the God they serve to write from the depths of their hearts and conviction. I would be sorely disappointed if they did not.

I will conclude my comments with the following statement from Trevin. “In the end, many people will not prefer this curriculum because it is confessional at the core. For those who are inside our denomination, I think there will be two groups who will not like this curriculum: SBC Calvinists who believe their soteriological system IS the gospel and want to push Calvinism rather than Christ, and anti-Calvinists who think any inclusion of Reformed writers (or someone who once met or even read a Reformed writer) entails a conspiracy or agenda to push a particular view of soteriology.

First of all, everyone and I do mean EVERYONE knows that good Calvinists do believe “there soteriologal system IS the gospel” so that is correct but everyone also knows that no good Calvinist pushes Calvinism over Christ. Is that not a great definition of a Strawman or what? Second, all those anti-calvinists out there ‘who think any inclusion of Reformed writers (or someone who once met or even read a Reformed writer) entails a conspiracy or agenda to push a particular view of soteriology.” Another nice little condescending touch; after all, anyone who is not Reformed is illiterate or incapable of being theological so the only objection they could possibly come up with is “the writers association with reformed Theology.” Why should I be alarmed? Silly me.
“Both of these groups are misguided.” We may not be as misguided as Trevin thinks.

Once final comment for Trevin. I have suggested and will continue to do so, the following simple solution to this whole issue. Name the project, “The Gospel Project: A Reformed Perspective.” Perspective is certainly fair and is not necessarily suggesting that it is “fully reformed” if your contention is that it is not. Most of the folks that I have talked with would be relatively satisfied with that modification in the title.

Here is why I believe it is fair and responsible on Lifeway’s part. If the demand was to produce a piece with this theological leaning, then identify it as such so those looking for it till know that is what it is. The only possible objection would be, it will not sell. If that is the case, then it ought not sell. It would be highly unethical for Lifeway to intentionally sell a program to churches that do not want a Reformed perspective in their literature. While I know that has already been done to some degree, this move is unprecedented in Lifeway’s history. Lifeway is aware of the relationship SB churches have with it and they are also aware of the connotations the phrase, “The Gospel Project” will garner in the marketplace. Seems to me the Reformed effort to “hijack” the term gospel is similar to their doing the same thing with grace. It is a highly effective move and will continue to be so.

Lifeway’s refusal to market this project for what it is will only lend to the argument that this project has been produced to help reformed pastors who go to pastor non-Reformed churches do the tough work of reformation. That is a fact and once again, everyone knows the stakes. I implore you to do the right thing and convince Lifeway to correctly label this project that you all ought to be proud of and do not cheapen its impact by refusing to label it for what it is.

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