SBC’s two-party system

A two-party system seems to be emerging in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The question is whether the two parties will be divided over Calvinism or a different issue — when/where to stop drawing doctrinal lines.
Both issues have emerged in the SBC in recent years.
The announcement this week that Frank Cox (in photo) will be nominated for SBC president in June brings the divisions into greater light.
Cox, a suburban Atlanta pastor and captain of the Georgia Baptist Convention ship since the fundamentalist takeover, will oppose Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Al Mohler, the most highly identified Calvinist in the SBC.
(Sure, a couple of other candidates will be nominated but attract little attention.)
Cox will be nominated by Alabama evangelist Junior Hill. If you want to find the Baptists most opposed to Calvinism, talk with the evangelists.
But the division into a two-party system is not completely clear.
Calvinism was not the emotionally debated issue at the 2007 SBC meeting in San Antonio. It was whether the narrow doctrinal statement, 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, was narrow enough.
A motion affirming the sufficiency of the statement passed by majority vote. But that has not stopped the SBC International Mission Board from imposing other doctrinal restrictions on missionaries.
Some SBC agency heads (including Mohler) described the Southern Baptist faith statement as a minimalist document for determining acceptable doctrine.
Some of this might be clarified if and when Cox makes a statement about whether or not he — like current SBC President Frank Page — thinks it is unwise to keep narrowing the doctrinal parameters for participation in the Convention.
(Anyone with the slightest knowledge knows, however, that the nature of fundamentalism is to continue tightening the circle of participation. Suspicion once reserved for those on the other side is turned on those once considered within the fold.)
Some say the contested election simply signifies a mild disagreement over whether an agency head should serve as SBC president. But Cox formerly served as vice president during seminary president Paige Patterson’s second term as SBC president.
In his nominating speech, former SBC President James Merritt gave Cox’s full support of Patterson as a top credential. So apparently, the conflict of interest issue is not a big deal to Cox.
Recent research suggests the non-Calvinist candidate would have an edge if that becomes the primary issue of identification for the candidates. That is, unless a whole bunch of young Southern Seminary grads and students show up in Indianapolis this summer. (Younger SBC pastors are much more likely to consider themselves to be Calvinists compared to the larger SBC population.)
So it looks like two debated issues, that have become flash points within Southern Baptist life, are headed for the big meeting this summer. It will be interesting to see which one shows up during the presidential election.
In the usual fashion, these real issues will not be presented openly in nomination speeches. Reality is generally masked by a bunch of spiritual code words.
For some of us, these latest squabbles are only mildly interesting, at best. The SBC got way to narrow for us a long, long time ago.


  1. The undercurrent of viciousness that has been present in the pro/anti-Calvinism debate has been disconcerting…but not surprising. That discussion seems only to shed more light on the attitude of “my way or the highway” that has become prevalent.

    As these types of “discussions” continue and more resolutions are passed, it becomes more difficult for me to understand how this all aids in furthering the kingdom of God.

  2. This stuff has never been about the kingdom of God.

    Perhaps the SBC boys will reap the harvest they have sown so zealously for 30 years.

    Finally an issue where real differences exist is coming forward. The politics should make this a vicious race. I don’t know if they can keep this one contained. Both sides are so certain they are right and are so conversant with gutter politics it would have to come out in campaign stops and literature.

    I will stock up on pop corn. This should be interesting to watch.

  3. It may also be interesting to note whether Frank Page’s presidency makes any difference in the SBC.
    Overall, he has cast a kinder tone. Yet he seems to feel the need to act out on occasion (like bad-mouthing the New Baptist Covenant) to prove that he is really a “conservative”(read “fundamentalist”).
    (John McCain can relate.)
    What’s funny to me is that Page has reached out to include Calvinists (a position he strongly condemned in his book) but not to those who embrace women in ministry (a position he supported in his SWBTS dissertation).
    I know it has something to do with that little creed they passed in 2000. What a messed-up view of “essentials” of faith.

  4. JPierce and friends:
    I have gotten the dander up of a key Memphis Declaration signer, CB Scott at my blog.
    I have created an interesting fog for them cause I do find it interesting to follow the pilgrimage of Ben Cole, as I see him edging toward the Promised Land of David Gushee; and though I don’t have a lot to go on, I have a sense Harry Dent’s daughter, Ginny Brant; have a sense her heart may be open to the kind of insight David Gushee could show her.
    A lot has to do with the messenger.
    As for Calvinism, I still think our crowd generally has failed to address it from the vantage point of Marilynn Robinson in her collection of essays, The Death of Adam.
    Until that time a lot of the musings of the best of our CBF crowd are shallow; but I concede that discussion is a little above my pay grade.
    Would like to see Mercer or Campbell sponsor a dialogue with Bill Leonard, Robinson and Mark noll on the matter.
    Then maybe I could sleep at night.

    All that said, I do like your touche about Cox and Patterson; how it would be hard for Cox to oppose Mohler on Institutional grounds.
    Warm Spring’s Bob is right about the popcorn.
    I would encourage him to save a little for the Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford; rent it doon on DVD and think of some of his favorites in the Pressler gang of the last 30 odd years; and popcorn will be good with There Will Be Blood as well while he is free associatin.

  5. Hope you visit, please, our Reformed web site Here’s our “Mission Statement.” God bless you all – and He does bless us when we OBEY Him.

    John Lofton, Editor
    Recovering Republican

    Mission Statement
    “For the nation and kingdom that shall not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted.” — Isaiah 60:12.

    As Christians, we are commanded by the Lord Jesus Christ to teach all nations — including ours — to observe all things He has commanded (Matthew 28:18-20). This means bringing into captivity to Christ all areas of life and thought. This means destroying arguments that are against the knowledge of God (II Corinthians 10:5). In obedience to these commands of our Lord, this Web site is established. We covet your prayers for our success in obeying Him.

    We are seriously concerned about, deeply grieved by and lament the fact that far too many of today’s so-called “Christian leaders” are a sinful embarrassment and are responsible for the cause of Christ being mocked and ridiculed. By being, first, cheerleaders for the Republican Party, they have dishonored their Lord and sold their Christian birthright for a mess of partisan political pottage. These individuals and organizations are Christian in name only, “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” From such, it is added, we must turn away.

    Secular, Christless conservatism — even when it is supposedly “compassionate” — will not defeat secular, Christless liberalism because to God they are two atheistic peas-in-a-pod and, thus, predestined to failure.

    More than 100 years ago, speaking of the secular, Christless conservatism of his time, the great Southern Presbyterian theologian, Robert L. Dabney, observed:

    “[Its] history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution, to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward to perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt hath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It tends to risk nothing serious for the sake of truth.”

    Amen! And what Dabney says has been proven with a vengeance in modern times, under recent Republican Administrations and Congresses who were supported enthusiastically by individuals and organizations who called themselves “Christian” but who, alas, when judged by their fruits, were not.

    To those who will accuse of us of desiring and trying to bring about “a Christian America,” we unashamedly plead guilty though the accusation is far too modest and somewhat muddled. To be sure, we desire a Christian America, and a Christian world, a Christian galaxy and a Christian universe. And, over time, by His grace, we hope to demonstrate that all these things already belong to the Lord Jesus Christ because He created them all and they are His property. This is why all knees must bow to the Lord and all tongues confess that He is the Lord — because He is!

    Jude 1:3 3

    “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (KJV)

  6. The SBC does not need one anointed candidate for President. Both Mohler and Cox are fine men who are solidly conservative. Neither man will give quarter to turning back the conservative resurgence. Mohler is a great theolgian and spokesman for Baptists. However, no man is more qualified to lead Southern Baptists with a grasp of understanding the denomination like Frank Cox. I could be happy with either Mohler or Cox, but plan to vote Cox.

  7. John Killian-
    Indeed neither Frank nor Al is going take the SBC back to its more inclusive days. What I’m wondering, though, is whether the differing viewpoints over Calvinism OR the ones over “narrowing parameters” create the larger debate.
    It seemed (in San Antonio) that the “parameters” debate gained life after the related motion was already passed. Clearly some sides were taken (Page, MoChap et al for BF&M as enough and Mohler, Land, et al for BF&M as a good start).
    Which of the two issues do think has more interest among SBCers? Do these prez candidates represent those groups?

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This