The Economist has published an article on Calvinism and Southern Baptists. From the title, Southern Baptists – The New Calvins: Tensions inside one of America’s most successful churches to the content, it is clear that the writer of this article is not a very savvy theology writer.
Putting that aside, the article does quote Southern Baptists Wade Burleson and Richard Land. I am hoping that the writer did not accurately portray Land’s sentiments. If the article is accurate, then Land is guilty of two offenses.
1. Land is directly quoted with a statement that is a classic example of building a straw man only to knock him over.
People try to argue that Southern Baptists have always been Calvinist and we’ve departed from the way in the past 80 years. That is demonstrably false.
I know of nobody who has either argued or tried to argue that Southern Baptists have always been Calvinists. Historian Tom Nettles was one of the first in our times to present the case that in Southern Baptist history, there was a strong Calvinist segment from the beginning. That is vastly different from saying that Southern Baptists have always been Calvinist.
Did you see what Land did in his statement? He presented an argument which does not exist, and then declared that the argument is false.
2. Land is indirectly quoted with a statement that assassinates the character of Calvinist pastors.
He says Calvinist seminary graduates keep their beliefs below the radar when they’re out applying for work, only to uncover them once safe in a job.
Wow! I hope this is not what Land intended to communicate. I am pretty sure he did not use the terminology “applying for work.” Baptists churches usually have what is called a pulpit committee that looks for and interviews candidates for the pastoral position in that church. In the past, I interviewed with several of these committees. Not once did anybody ever ask me about being a Calvinist. I was never evasive in my answers to their questions nor did I try to keep any beliefs below the radar. I spelled out my core beliefs and my philosophies of ministry. During those years, I experienced wonderful relationships with the churches I served. In fact, Richard Land preached for me in my absence in one of those churches.
Perhaps somebody has been guilty of what Land asserts, but it would certainly be the exception and not the rule. I think he knows that. If he does, then why is he the head of the Southern Baptist agency that deals with ethics? If he does not know, then he should not be speaking about it. Either way, Land needs to clarify his comments.