Building Bridges Conference: Calvinism & Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)

After months of anticipation the Building Bridges Conference: Calvinism & Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has finally begun. I don’t know of any Said At Southern Network bloggers who are there. You can keep up to date and from:

Since Timmy has offered his $0.02 Contribution to the Building Bridges Conference, I’ll post my initial thoughts – guaranteed to be 49% inaccurate. While a great many people are hopeful about this event, I am skeptical. This may turn out to be a watershed event for the anemic theology of Southern Baptists. Maybe God will bless this conference in ways beyond what we hope. But I’m still weary. Here’s why:

  • I will be in Louisville tonight taking a final exam for Theology class. Why? Because despite all the “historic” ramifications of the Building Bridges Conference they scheduled it on finals week. Can anyone pretend they wanted the young leaders of the SBC to get involved if they don’t think, “Oh, maybe some seminary students might come to this thing.” I don’t know if this is incompetence, conspiracy or simple oversight. Either way, no one likes being left out of the party.
  • The rumors that LifeWay will be selling this thing as a book is bad news. Get ready to talk a lot of Calvinism with your Sunday school director.
  • Many of the most committed and vocal anti-Calvinist figures in SBC life won’t be speaking at the conference.
  • Calvinism or Non-Calvinism will not be the nail in the SBC coffin. This is one messy issue among many. Despite the peace talks in Ridgecrest this week, the SBC continues to rely on pragmatic unity around shared cultural and programmatic interests. Here are some conferences that I would get excited about:
    • Patching Flat Tires Conference: Southern Baptists and Membership. A conference designed to find those 10 million missing members.
    • Backseat Driver Conference: Southern Baptists and Local Church Authority. A conference on the dignity of the local church and reducing denominational bureaucracy.
    • Leaving The Driveway Conference: Southern Baptists and Evangelism. A conference designed to remind us that only Pharisees think the world will come to them for salvation.
    • Stop Honking Conference: Southern Baptists and Pride. A conference designed to help Southern Baptist pastors and employees stop tooting their own horn.
    • Improving Fuel Economy Conference: Southern Baptists and Making Mission Money Count. A conference designed to help Southern Baptists entities spend ‘missions’ money on real missions rather than administration.

So, what do you think?

Will this conference promote theological unity around the Gospel?

Will the Building Bridges Conference: Calvinism & Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) live up to the marketing?

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14 Responses to Building Bridges Conference: Calvinism & Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)

  1. I think what gets me is why is this such a big issue? I realize that many think (some even act) that Calvinists and Arminians believe in two different gods. To be honest, I sometimes struggle with the authenticity of Arminian theology. What bothers me the most is those who feel it necessary to convert their friends to Calvinism. I have yet to meet a single Calvinist who was not an Arminian at one point or another. I have also yet to meet a Calvinist who will not say that at some point in their past, they responded to a gospel call whether it was an alter call or someone sharing the gospel with them.

    I am currently discussing this with my mother in the faith through email. The only reason I am even doing this is because I want to be able to defend my position better. My “mom” wants to show me where I am wrong.

    I guess what I am really trying to say is if we would take the effort both sides put to this debate and apply that same effort to missions and evangelism, this world would be a much better place to live. That being said, I am looking forward to the audio from the conference.

  2. Don’t do that, man. My nose hurts from snorting my Coke out my nostrils.

    I’d like to see one on Southern Baptist Pastors and Church Councils, but I don’t know what to call it that would do justice to the funny titles you’ve got here.

  3. Jason Vaughn says:

    I like the idea behind this conference. For one its a conference actually based on theology and not simple pragmatic efforts. Though a friend of mine did bring up a good point. How many non-calvinist will actually attend this conference? All the coverage I’ve seen is really from the reformed side. I know if the roles were reversed I doubt i’d go to an Armenian conference.

  4. Marc Backes says:

    To The Distinguished Kummeropolis….

    Thought I’d pop in on this one. Also, looking forward to seeing you in April at T4G…

    Anywho, have you seen or read any of the coverage out of the Missouri Baptist Convention and the state meeting three or so weeks ago…

    Obviously you’ve read what’s happening in OK, FL, and other places…

    I just think we’re headed for REALLY choppy waters. The young, reformed, Acts29 ish type guys are not going to sell out to what they believe is consumeristic Christianity and the old guard is not going to give ground to guys they perceive as young punks who are just rebellious and misguided…

    But I do think that these kind of discussions are helpful. I also think MAJOR grace and willing hearts and spirits to talk are going to be a necessity (on both sides) if the SBC doesn’t want to experience a seismic split in the next 10 – 15 years…

    I don’t think it will be the end all be all, but I also don’t think it’s wasted time….

  5. laura says:

    Way to stay with the vehicular metaphor… I’m pretty glad I finished lunch before reading this post, or my computer screen might have gotten a few Chinese food accessories. Good stuff.

    I too question how well a conference can address something that’s Greek to most pew-dwellers in a way that’s satisfying to the academics who call Arminians “pagans” or “heretics,” while leaving out the young bucks and the vocal opponents of Calvinism. It seems to me that a conference like this appeals to the already-irenic, not to those who most need to be convinced to quit being boneheads. Carrying coals to Newcastle.

  6. Brother Hank says:

    I just got finished listening to Dr. Nettles talk, and it was quite informative. He did a stellar job tying in the historical Calvinistic Baptist views on the Trinity, Christ, and the inspiration/authority of Scripture. It was definitely worth the listen…

  7. Caddiechaplain says:

    I am looking forward to the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation (2017) in Wittenburg, Germany. I already have a travel agent in my church working on it. See you there . . . . .

  8. Greg Alford says:

    Marc said,

    “I just think we’re headed for REALLY choppy waters. The young, reformed, Acts29 ish type guys are not going to sell out to what they believe is consumeristic Christianity and the old guard is not going to give ground to guys they perceive as young punks who are just rebellious and misguided…”

    I think you are “spot on” with this comment… I would just add that the “Hyper Anti-Calvinist” are not going to give one inch of ground in their efforts to protect their SBC from these young reformed punks… I fear that their hatred of Calvinism is so great that there is no price to high for them in this fight, including splitting the convention wide open…

    We know from Lifeway’s survey reported at this conference that 30% of the younger Southern Baptist punks (pastors) consider them selves to be 5-point Calvinist… I would be very interested to know how many Southern Baptist pastors (from various age groups) consider themselves Anti-Calvinist?

    I think this is a very important question… as the Calvinist are fighting for their right to “Remain In The Convention” and the Anti-Calvinist are fighting to “Purge the Convention of all Calvinist”. Therefore knowing the number of Hyper Anti-Calvinist in the Convention would help us to know just how choppy the waters are going to get.

    Grace Always,

  9. By the Reformation 2017 celebration there will be no need for one, for we will have rejoined the Roman Church if Yarnell has his way and the SBC adopts the heresy of Molinism as its central teaching.

    I’ve got questiond for j’yal. When the news finally gets around to all of us pew-dwellers that 30% of Pastors coming out of seminaries are Calvinists, do you think that they will begin to question if cooperative monies are going for good purposes. Money drives this beauracracy known as the SBC, and it is quite obvious that politics has deeply corrupted accountability for the things said, done and believed by leaders (especi/specifically those of the anti-Calvinist stripe, hate that new PC term “non-Calvinist” don’t you? It sounds so, well, soft). Do you think that not only the giving to the cooperative program may be imperilled by the bad new of the Calvinist leprosy that is eating away at the corpus arminii? Who wants to send their charges to a corrupt Seminary? An attendant question is, if the graduates are indeed graduating from an SBC seminary, by what credible standard does any local church use Calvinism as a disqualifier? If the Calvinist is being ordained by the SBC and the SBC sanctifies their beliefs by such, how does a local such justify not accepting a Pastor based on their theological orientation except by declaring it sinful and unacceptable? Unless, of course those pew-dwellers really are aware and it is not just Greek to them, and they really do have predjudiced theologies which they understand and can by that declare others anthema.

  10. Ron says:

    “When the news finally gets around to all of us pew-dwellers that 30% of Pastors coming out of seminaries are Calvinists, do you think that they will begin to question if cooperative monies are going for good purposes.”

    I agree. In Norman Jameson’s frustrating piece from the Biblical Recorder, there is clearly a shot being fired across the bow of the Southern Seminary ship and plainly at Dr. Mohler.

    Despite Ed Stetzer’s actual statistics (to the effect that calvinists are being graduated from many seminaries), there is a perception among the less calvinistic SBC participants that Southern is a hotbed of pure and blatant indoctrination for Calvin’s teaching. I have also heard more rumblings than I can count from such rumblers that it’s only “safe” to send young preachersboys-to-be to any seminary other than Southern. I was encouraged by two faculty members at a State Baptist University to put Southern firmly at the bottom of my list when looking for a seminary, for just such reasons.

    At any rate, it seems that Timmy Brister just might be updating a certain PDF file in perpetuity!

  11. In my last response I mistakenly used Yarnell instead of Keathley. Sorry, all.

  12. Greg Alford says:


    If Southern is at the Bottom of everyone’s list can you explain to me why their enrollment is up so dramatically?

    Actually Southern has experienced a remarkable “Rebirth” as our flagship seminary under the leadership of Dr. Mohler? The expansion and growth of the last few years has been nothing less than phenomenal…

    And from what I hear the BOT at Southern Seminary (you know the guys who actually selected Dr. Mohler as their president) are pretty pleased with his leadership…

    I think, to your horror, that you will find plenty of pew-dwellers in the SBC who will be very happy to know that our seminaries are turning out Pastors who are “Bible Believing Baptist” (both those of lesser and greater Calvinistic beliefs) This is a huge improvement over what was happening before the CR… and for the record I actually think the number of Calvinist being turned out is higher than 30% as Southern Students were not included equally in the lifeway survey (o the horror of it all)…

    At any rate there is more than enough Bible Believing Churches and Pastors in the SBC to make sure the Southern Seminary remains fully funded regardless of what the Hyper Anti-Calvinist crowd does with their CP giving…

    By the way, where have you been? This is not new news that the President of Southern Seminary is a Calvinist; this has been known for many years. … And guess what? Southern is not the only Seminary in the SBC that has a President that is a Calvinist… “I wonder who the others are?”

    And Calvinistic Presidents are not the end of it, I can assure you there is no shortage of Professors on staff at “ALL” our SBC Seminaries who hold to some degree of Calvinistic doctrine… not to mention that the BFM, which all our seminary professors are required to sign, is considered by most to be a Calvinistic confession of faith (you and your good buddy Norman might want to actually read it sometime?) …so good luck finding a Seminary in the SBC to your Anti-Calvinist liking.

    Lastly, I really doubt that Dr. Mohler and Southern Seminary are trembling at Norman Jameson’s “shot across the bow”… Laughing out loud at that one…

  13. Dr. James Willingham says:

    Dear Sirs: On reason why “Calvinism,” really, “Sovereign Grace,” is coming back is that many have been praying for another Great Awakening. I have been praying for one for 35 years. Another fellow has been praying for one for over 50 years. Being kind of weak, my prayers take a long time to get answers. If you all will take time to study Baptist History, you will find that “Calvinism’ or “Sovereign Grace,” gnerally arrives first, preceding, leading t, and being the decisive theological factor in a Great Awakening. E.g., in 1755 two preachers from te Philadelphia Association in PA (Peter Peterson Van Horn & Benjamin Miller) came to North Carolina & persuaded some General Baptists, “Christ died for all,” who were neither evangelistic nor missionary to become Regular Baptists, “Christ died only for the Elect,” who were evangelistic and missionary. Forty-six years later, 1801, those formerGeneral Baptists who after their turn baptised 25-30 per year, experienced the Second Awakening & baptised 872 in that one year. I had hoped to write my Doctoral Dissertation on the THEOLOGY OF THE AWAKENINGS for the Univ. of S. Africa, showing that Sovereign Grace or Calvinism (I don’t like this term as people were suffering for the doctrines of grace long before Calvin was ever converted or even bon). Unfornately, I did not have th money, but I have done enough research in church history and especially Bapist History to tell you that THERE CAN NO DOUBT ABOUT IT: SOVEREIGN GRACE, THE TULIP OUTLINE IS THE THEOLOGY OF THE GREAT AWAKENINGS AND THE GREAT CENTURY OF MISSIONS.
    I must also insist that the doctrines of grace, including especially particular or purposeful redemption and even reprobation, and, of course, predestination are all doctrines of INVITATION, INVITING THE SINNER TO BEGIN HIS OR her SPIRITUAL PILGRIMAGE.
    And wait until you fellows find out that THE MOST LIBERAL AND RADICAL THEOLOGY OF ALL IS SOVEREIGN GRACE. Did you know that Shubal Stearns HAD ELDRESSES IN THE SANDY CREEK CHURCH. THAT THE BAPTIST HISTORIAN ORGAN EDWARDS WAS EVIDENTLY WON OVER TO THAT POSITION, THAT SOME PURITANS EVEN PROVIDED BIBLICAL JUSTIFICATION FOR THAT POSITION? A great awakning is the most terrifying ane terrific event; it is woeful and wonderful, grievous & glorious, miserable and marvelous. GET READY FOR SEVERE STRAINS AND STRESSES, GETTING ALL BENT OUT OF SHAPE. THE TSUNAMI WAVES OF THE GREATEST AWAKENING OF ALL ARE BEGINNING TO LAP AT YOU DOORS. You don’t believe me? You should read Edwards’ Humble Attempt, etc. It led to the Second Great Awakening and the Great Century of Missions. Get ready for some blessed excitement. Read C.S. Lewis Science Fiction work, THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH. He, without knowing it I think, defined or described the greatest awakening all “They pull down upon their own heads deep heaven.” Have fun.

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