Morris Chapman has been at the center of controversy for the past month or so. First, he openly criticized the Great Commission Resurgence document. This he has a right to do so, but the Southern Baptist Convention overwhelmingly approved this document at the annual SBC meeting in Louisville in June.
Then Chapman spent his podium time at the annual meeting on the attack. My displeasure was his attack on Calvinism. He presented a caricature of Calvinism rather than what Calvinism actually is.
Then he created a real firestorm by asking for the immediate resignation of Clark Logan. Logan is a respected denominational leader who apparently did not deserve this sort of HR move.
Yesterday Chapman issued of “Clarification of Intent” on his website. His clarification further demonstrated that Chapman does not get it. Here are my issues with Chapman’s clarification.
My Issues with Chapman
1. Chapman seems to take a swipe at internet commentators who questioned his attack on Calvinism. While my article was not widely read, I posted my concerns soon after he went on the attack.
It has become fashionable to blame the internet commentators, and Chapman has followed suit. The irony is that Chapman takes his swipe on his own internet post.
2. During his convention address, Chapman set up a false dichotomy of debating theology versus doing evangelism. Again this was highly ironic in that Chapman was the one debating theology.
His clarification continues that debate. In his letter he suggests that the controversy might have been avoided had he “spoken with greater technical precision.” This is debate verbage. Perhaps Chapman should take his own advice and avoid theological debate and focus on doing evangelism.
3. His explanation as to why Calvinism is growing is stunning. He attempts to link Calvinism’s growth as a reaction to moderate led seminaries and to open theism theology.
If Calvinism was a new theology, I might buy that argument. Yet since Calvinism was around long before Baptist seminaries were moderate led and before the open theism debate, his rationale does not hold up.
In his letter he spoke of being accused of setting up strawmen. This new letter actually plants two more strawmen. He knows that most Baptists will gladly line up against moderate led seminaries and open theism.
4. Near the end of his letter he describes two dangers of Calvinism. His arguments are simply absurd.
First, Chapman asserts that Calvinists destroy healthy churches. Wow! If this gets said long enough and loud enough, some people will believe it. Where is the data to back up such a claim? I am sure that some leaders with a Calvinistic theology has damaged churches. I am also sure that some without a Calvinistic theology have done likewise.
Second, Chapman asserts that 2nd generation Calvinists might not have the evangelical warmth of those before them. This is the very definition of a strawman. Surely it could be said that 2nd generation anything might not have all that the first generation had.
My recommendations to Chapman:
1. It is time to resign. I have had great respect for his leadership in the past, but he is leading in the wrong direction. His dangers of Calvinism above could be identified as dangers of division and lack of evangelistic warmth. Rather than the Calvinists posing these dangers, it is Chapman himself.
2. He should add clarification to what is not clear instead of what everybody already could see. We did not need further clarification on his opposition to Calvinism. We need clarification on the Clark Logan situation.
3. He should heed his own advice by leaving the theological debate arena and focus on what he sees as priority.