Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Calvinism Leads SBC into Decline

While Oklahoma's Baptist Messenger is publishing popularizations of the Calvinist inspired Dominion Theology, Lifeway Resources is publishing news that for the first time in its history the membership figures of the Southern Baptist Convention reveal that the denomination is in decline.

Total membership for the SBC fell by more than 39,000 members from 2006 to 2007.

Mainstream Baptists have been predicting for decades that the Calvinism being taught in the SBC's fundamentalist dominated seminaries would have an adverse impact on evangelism. Now those concerns have been confirmed.

This decline comes entirely on the watch of the fundamentalists who seized control of the SBC in the 1980's. Moderate Baptists never experienced a single decline in membership during their tenure of leadership over the Convention.


ABClay said...

Sir, you wrote:
"This decline comes entirely on the watch of the fundamentalists who seized control of the SBC in the 1980's. Moderate Baptists never experienced a single decline in membership during their tenure of leadership over the Convention."

The Gospel needs to be presented with clarity and truth, and this still needs some work, but I think that what we are seeing, to some degree, may be the "Wide Gate" theology of the pre-takover leadership contrasted with the somewhat Narrower Gate that results from a correct assessment of the Inerrant, Sufficient Word of God.

Grace and Peace...


Stan McCullars said...

Post hoc ergo propter hoc.

Don't they teach that in school?

Dr. Bruce Prescott said...

It appears that the Calvinists have arrived.

You are welcome to your opinions.

Rhology said...

Indeed, Stan, pretty simplistic view of things. No way this is b/c of laziness resulting from too much money and fatness in the church. Or seeker-sensitivity by which ch members are lulled into thinking that the ch staff will take care of all the evangelism that needs to happen by thinking up snazzy programs to bring in the unregenerate to church and then lollipop them to Jesus.

Aren't the Calvinists generally in the forefront of those who lead the push to trim over-gorged ch mbrship rolls? W Burleson is a Calvinist, for example. That alone would easily acct for such a "decline". 'Twould be a decline among "those who have their name on a church list but haven't attended, much less participated, there one time other than Christmas and Easter in the last 7 yrs." What a tragedy indeed!

Dr Prescott, have you written a post in the last couple of years referring to some logical connection between Calvinism and zeal for evangelism? I'd like to read it if you have. Not too many hyperCalvinists around in the SBC, you know.

And we're always around, Dr Prescott, just lurking. BoooOOOOoooooOOooooo... ;-)


Mike Hall said...

Dr. Prescott,

Let me first thank-you for wisely being concerned about the decline in membership that Lifeway Research has reported. We would all do well to be sobered by this decline. Even in this decline, however, there is perspective to be gained but I think your comments about "calvinists" and "fundamentalists" impede our ability to find such perspective.

Consider that not all decline is bad. In John 6 Jesus proclaimed to his followers that "unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and "drink his blood, you have no life in you" (John 6:53). According to verse 66 of this same chapter "After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him." So here we see a great decline in membership but the reason for the decline is a refusal to acknowledge Truth. If by preaching the whole counsel of God as found in His word our membership declines is this a bad thing? Should we refrain from preaching the whole counsel of God in order to keep our numbers up? We can blame and point the finger at this group or that for this decline in the SBC, but I would rather stand before the Lord with the plea of Paul in Acts 20:26-27:

"Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God."

Dr. Bruce Prescott said...


To every generalization there is an exception.

In general, I take it as historically self-evident that Calvinists are generally more concerned with purity than with people, more concerned with doctrine that with discipleship (I make a distinction between discipleship and church discipline), and more concerned with power than with love.

When carried to extremes, that combination of traits tends to turn the "good news" into "bad news" and evangelistic efforts are adversely effected.

Rhology said...

Ah, well, who can argue with disagreement by anecdotal generalisation?

Rigorous treatment of issues like this doesn't seem to be the norm around here anyway, so, cool.


Asinus Gravis said...

ABC your comment suffers from a fundamental confusion. You confuse (1) your belief that there is an "Inerrant, Sufficient Word of God," with (2) the actual fallible, frequently erroneous, sometimes contradictory, Bible. Perhaps the confusion stems from the idolatry of worshipping the Bible.

Stan McCullars said...

Asinus Gravis,
You pulled the "idolatry of worshipping the Bible" card.

How clever.