JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–Are Southern Baptists Calvinists? Yes and no, said David S. Dockery, president of Union University. Yes, because some Southern Baptists subscribe to Calvinist beliefs in some form; no, because all do not.
Dockery told church leaders at a PreachingPoints Conference at the Jackson, Tenn., university Feb. 10 that a renewed interest in Calvinism and Arminianism in the Southern Baptist Convention could lead to divisiveness if the issues are misunderstood.
“If we get hung up on these questions, rather than concentrate on a lost world,” he said, “we have missed the boat. We must find areas of commonality and then give freedom in some areas where we disagree.”
Dockery urged Baptists to consider the issues in their historical context. He traced the history of Calvinist and Arminian thought from the 16th century to today and emphasized the rich Calvinist heritage in Southern Baptist history, including the contributions of James P. Boyce and B.H. Carroll and the modified Calvinism of E.Y. Mullins, W.T. Conner and W.A. Criswell.
“The final fault line between the two is eternal security,” Dockery said. “If you believe in eternal security, you are probably a Calvinist in some form as opposed to an Arminian. Are you a four- or five-point Calvinist? Maybe not.”
The two overarching issues, Dockery said, are God’s sovereignty and man’s freedom to choose, which could be considered contradictory. He said he did not believe the ideas were a contradiction but were, instead, an antimony, which is defined as a combination of two thoughts or principles, each of which is true but seem incompatible.
“There are issues we will not be able to fully grasp,” Dockery said. “A lot of it remains a mystery to us. These questions have not been discussed only in Baptist life but also in other denominations as well. However, if you believe there are people in the world who are sinners and need salvation, that God initiates salvation and that the means for salvation are necessary within the sovereignty of God, then we have common ground.”
The Gospel is intended for all, Dockery said, but only effective for those who choose to accept it.
“I believe that God saves believers and that He does this through men and women who take His Gospel and share it. We cannot lose sight of that.”
More than 250 church leaders attended the conference. The next PreachingPoints Conference is scheduled for Feb. 26 on the topic of “Evangelism Outreach” and featuring Chuck Kelley and Jerry Tidwell.
Kathie Chute is associate vice president for university relations at Union University. More information about Union’s PreachingPoints Conferences and availability of tapes or compact disks of Dockery’s remarks can be obtained by calling (731) 661-5160.