Calvinism: Mohler, Hankins hold 'conversation' [Excerpts]
Southern Baptists need to "learn the table manners of denominational life" when discussing Calvinism, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said during a "conversation" with Mississippi pastor Eric Hankins at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, and Hankins, pastor of First Baptist Church in Oxford, Miss., co-chaired a 19-member Calvinism Advisory Committee that issued a unanimous report in May to Executive Committee President Frank Page, who assembled the group. While acknowledging tension over Calvinism within the Southern Baptist Convention, the report urged Southern Baptists to "grant one another liberty" on the doctrine while joining arms for the Great Commission.
Mohler invited Hankins to hold a public conversation before students and faculty in order to model how Southern Baptists who differ on Calvinism can dialogue with each other while remaining committed to working together. Hankins also preached in Southern Seminary's chapel earlier in the day.
The Southern Baptist family is made up of Calvinists and those who are not, Mohler said. "The decision to be a Southern Baptist is the decision to work with the people" on both sides of the debate, he said.
Hankins said, "There's been too much ugliness," noting that a friend warned him before issuing the "traditionalist" statement that "Calvinists will maul you. … And he was right."
"That goes both ways," Mohler responded, to which Hankins replied, "I absolutely acknowledge that."
Hankins flatly rejected the term "Arminian" to describe his theology due to Arminianism's rejection of eternal security of the believer, among other reasons....he used "traditionalist" to attempt to describe his views in contrast to Calvinism, although he acknowledged the term is offensive to some Calvinists.
Hankins said most Southern Baptists who hold to less than four points of classical Calvinism do not consider themselves Calvinists. Mohler noted that Southern Seminary's confession of faith, the Abstract of Principles, only requires adherence to three points of Calvinism: total depravity, unconditional election and perseverance of the saints. The other two points of Calvinism are limited (or particular) atonement and irresistible (or effectual) grace.
"So it is a very interesting thing in that I think most people would look at the Abstract of Principles and say it was Calvinist, and I think that would be right," Mohler said, adding that "from the very beginning" of the seminary, there were faculty "who were more or less Calvinist on some of these very questions."
Hankins said a "real problem" is Calvinists who consider his soteriological views to be "deficient." That attitude "propelled me to say something," responding to what he considered to be a new "tone" among Calvinists.
Mohler responded, "Well, I do think your soteriology is deficient," while adding that in truth Hankins would say the same about his soteriology.
Mohler asked Hankins to outline areas of Calvinist "misbehavior." Hankins said Calvinists should not dismiss those who disagree with them as "stupid." Some young, aggressive Calvinists make older pastors who reject Calvinism "feel inadequate."
Hankins noted, "Those who hold to non-Calvinism can do so with a robust seriousness about the sovereignty of God, a robust seriousness [about] the absolute ruination of sin over humankind, and the singularity of the Gospel in bringing about salvation and the absolute necessity of the prior working of the Holy Spirit to bring about salvation."
Another problem, Hankins said, involves Calvinists who fail to disclose their convictions when under consideration by pulpit committees.
Hankins said his hope for the future of the SBC is based on cooperation to carry out the Great Commission.
[TBC: Hankins and Mohler have a lifelong occupation in finding a middle ground between Calvinism and those who consider themselves "Biblicists." As Dave Hunt noted regarding his decision to write What Love is This?, "we began hearing of more and more arguments, churches splitting, people aggressively saying Calvinism is THE gospel and I quote a number of evangelical leaders of today saying this is pure Christianity, this is the gospel, and some of them even saying that if you don’t preach the five points of Calvinism, you are not preaching the gospel."]