Were the Early Southern Baptists Primarily "Calvinists"?

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by Rev. G, Sep 17, 2002.

  1. Rev. G

    Rev. G
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    There has been much recent discussion, particularly in Baptist Press articles, dealing with the issue of "Calvinism." I realize there is already a section for discussing Calvinism and Arminianism. That is not the discussion I want to hold here. Rather, my question is whether or not early Southern Baptists were primarily Calvinists. There is a group within SBC life (Founders Ministries) that claims that early Southern Baptists were primarily of "Reformed" stock. Others argue against them that this is not the case, but that early Southern Baptists were a "melting pot" of theology who concentrated mainly on missions.

    So, what do you (Southern) Baptists think? Please do not argue from 'emotion' or 'cliche', but from some historical evidence. Thanks!

    Rev. G [​IMG]
     
  2. KenH

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  3. Rev. G

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    Thanks, Ken. I think the article is helpful in explaining the "Sandy Creek" tradition, which is quite relevant to this discussion.

    Rev. G

    [ September 17, 2002, 02:17 PM: Message edited by: Rev. G ]
     
  4. rlvaughn

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    I would say that the ancestors of the Southern Baptists are mainly of "Calvinistic" stock. The earliest Baptists in America were probably General Baptists from England, but their impact on what would become the Southern Baptist Convention would be minimal. The dominant and most influential strain of Baptists in America would be the Particular (later called Regular) Baptists whose ancestry would be the Particular Baptists from (mostly) England and Wales. That they were strictly Calvinistic may be seen in the Confession of Faith issued by the Philadelphia Baptist Association (copied from the London Baptist Confession with the addition of two articles). The Philadelphia Baptist Association may have been more important in influence in its day than the Southern Baptist Convention is today. The other branch of the Southern Baptist tree would be the Separate Baptists that arose out of the Great Awakening. They were Calvinistic as well, but their practice was different in many ways from the Regular Baptists. They were more theologically diverse, and much more open and "enthusiastic" in their gatherings. They allowed those who preached "that Christ tasted death for every man" to not be barred from fellowship. Most Regular and Separate Baptists agreed on terms of union in the late 1700's/early 1800's and became called United Baptists. From these United Baptists would come the people who formed the Southern Baptist Convention. The Separate Baptist practice and doctrine laid at least part of the foundation for the drift away from a strictly Calvinistic theology among Southern Baptists. I think it can be documented that the early leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention were usually 5-point or 4-point Calvinists (Fullerites).
     
  5. rsr

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    Check out the Abstract of Principles of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, from 1858.

    http://www.reformedreader.org/ccc/aop/english.htm

    Looks pretty 5-point.

    And here's some info from the first president of the convention:

    http://www.founders.org/library/sermons/bio_johnson.html

    I realize these are from a Reformed site, but I think they speak for themselves.

    To be totally eclectic, here's a 1907 article from The Catholic Encyclopedia that discusses the Particular and General Baptists in America:

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02278a.htm

    [ September 17, 2002, 07:37 PM: Message edited by: rsr ]
     
  6. Rev. G

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    I appreciate the input you gentlemen have offered.

    I wonder... IS THERE ANYONE OUT THERE WHO WANTS TO REFUTE THE POSITION THAT THE EARLY SOUTHERN BAPTISTS WERE CALVINISTS? Or does all the evidence point out that the early SBC was "Reformed"?

    Rev. G
     
  7. rsr

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    It's dangerous to geneeralize too much about Baptists. The Reformed sources, at least, are easy to find, while contrary sources are scarce, at least on the Internet.

    Baptists and Their Theology by Fisher Humphreys, "Baptist History and Heritage."
     
  8. Rev. G

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    I've read F. Humphreys, yet I question his conclusion that the Separate Baptists modified their Calvinism. When? How? Where? The only "proof" given is that they were evangelistically zealous, yet that is far from proving that they modified their Calvinism.

    Rev. G
     
  9. rsr

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    I don't necessarily agree with him, but in many ways he echoes rlvaughn's analysis.

    On the frontier, I suspect, there was quite a bit of cross-pollination from the Methodists and Campbellites, which tended to blur the edges of doctrine, especially in a revivalist culture. I admit it's speculation on my part, but it seems to make sense.

    Still looking for better sources.
     
  10. rlvaughn

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    I personally think Humphreys is a little too zealous to prove that the Separates were "near Arminians", which leads him to "exaggerate" certain points (particularly in the last paragraph quoted above). Yet it is apparent that the Separates tolerated some non-standard theology. This is easily seen in two areas - that the Regulars remained skeptical and stand-offish toward them for some time, and that the Separates said that "preaching Christ tasted death for every man" would be no bar to fellowship. These two things can be found in most standard histories of Baptists in America. But to conclude that the Separate Baptists were not Calvinists simply is not true to the facts, in my opinion. The majority of descendants of the Separates (missionary Baptists in the South, for example) would modify their Calvinism of all but 2 points. Other descendants (the present day Separate Baptists) would become full-fledged "Arminians." The Separate tendency away from creeds and confessions probably also laid some of the foundation for greater theological diversity among their descendants - probably more so than their evangelistic zeal.
     
  11. Son of Coffee Man

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    Not a SBCer but here is a thought:

    What does it matter?

    If you say it adds weight to the Calvinized position then you are no better than the Catholic church who would indoctrinate many with arguments of numerical superiority.

    If this is not the reason you (anyone) is asking then I would like to know what the significance is or is this just "useless geneologies"?

    SoCM
     
  12. Rev. G

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    SonofCoffeeMan:

    It is no wonder you don't see the significance of this since you aren't a Southern Baptist. This is a very serious issue for the well-being and unity of our (Southern Baptists') denomination.

    Other than that, this question could be asked on a much broader scale. Such as, "Was the Reformation 'Reformed'?" This is an important question, if you truly understand your history, because the doctrines advocated by the Reformers were cohesive. They believed that the doctrine of election was vitally linked with the doctrine of sola fide . If that is so, then this touches upon the Gospel itself, and is very important.

    Rev. G
     
  13. go2church

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    The most effective years of the SBC have been when there is a balance between particular and general theology. Were Southern Baptists Calvinistic? Yeah, but no more then they were Arminian. You pull out a book saying they were Calvin lovers I pull out a book that says they hated Calvin, what really has been proven?
     
  14. rlvaughn

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    SonofCoffeeMan, aside from the specific historical discussion here about the SBC, let me address studying church history in general. I have a number of friends and acquaintances that seem to feel, to which you made reference, that the study of history is useless genealogies. By studying church history, we acknowledge that God has not only spoken to us, but that He has spoken to our fathers as well. We are not the first Christians, but are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Historical Christians of these two millennia are part of the building, part of those faithful men who taught others so they could pass it on to others who would be able to teach it also. That is how the teachings have been handed down to us. It is a mistake to take the "fathers" and church history and precedent and overrule the Scriptures. The Bible is our sole rule of faith and practice. But in our own attempts to understand the Scriptures, our forefathers, being dead, yet speak.

    go2church, it is true that the SBC has had a mix of both Calvinism and Arminianism. I would also say that, considering their entire history (1845-2002), that they have been "more" Arminian than Calvinistic. But in their early years, closer in time to their Particular/Regular Baptist origins, they would have to be considered Calvinists (taken as a whole).
     
  15. Son of Coffee Man

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    rlv,

    Granted what you say is true. I gladly fall under the name of baptist and hope that some day, if the Lord sees fit, I can face persecution as bravely and faithfully as those "fathers" of the Baptist faith before me that I have learned about through studying such history. However, my point was why does it matter if they were calvinists?

    My reasoning is that if they were not then it does not prove that calvinism is faulty (although I think it adds weight to the argument) but if they were then it proves nothing cuz they could have been wrong. I will follow again with this question:

    Why is it significant if church fathers were Calvinists?

    SoCM
     
  16. tyndale1946

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    I'm not of the SBC but of the Primitive Baptist brethren and I agree with what Brother Robert said. The Primitive Baptist are of the Calvinist but our application of the TULIP is somewhat different than full Calvinist. The only question I have is when did the SBC come into existence because according to our history there was a split between Baptist in 1832. Not only did the split define Primitive Baptist but defined other Baptist of the following ages... Which I would like to look into in another thread... Brother Glen [​IMG]

    [ September 20, 2002, 02:21 PM: Message edited by: tyndale1946 ]
     
  17. rsr

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    Bro. Glen:

    The SBC was officially founded in 1845.
     
  18. tyndale1946

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    13 years after the Baptist split :eek: ... Brother Glen [​IMG]
     
  19. rlvaughn

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    Brother Glen, 1832 is a general date used to give a time for the "primitive/missionary" split. 1832 is the year of the Black Rock meeting and Black Rock address. That is probably one of the main reasons that year is commonly used. But it would take several years for the practical workings of what was declared at Black Rock to take place. The Triennial Convention was formed in 1814 and I think this laid much of the groundwork for the split. It would have met only twice before John Taylor, Daniel Parker, and others began to protest in writing against this extra-scriptural organization. The divisions between the two groups (for & against the Foreign Mission Society) grew and eventually led to splits in churches and local associations, and to associations dropping correspondence with one another. These occurred at different times and at least as late as the mid-1840's. For example, in Texas, Americans were settling here at about the same time of this controversy. I would say it was not really well sorted out here until nearly 1850. Since there were no national organizations like the SBC or ABC, there is no "one" time that the split occurred. The Triennial Convention was only a missions organization. Of course, there were other issues than the Triennial Convention, but it was probably the major and leading cause.
     
  20. rlvaughn

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    This is probably best answered in the context of this thread by someone who is in the SBC. That is why I answered as above in general rather than specifically (I am not in the SBC). It is not significant if we are looking for proof of right or wrong. Whether they were Calvinists or Arminians, they would be wrong if their theology does not agree with the Bible. If I were a Calvinist in the SBC, I would probably find it significant in that it proves that on which the convention was founded. I would go on from there to say that since "we" were founded by Calvinists, the burden of proof is on the Arminians to show that on which "we" were founded is/was wrong. Just some thoughts, but certainly inexact, since, not being a Southern Baptist, I'm not sure how to think like one.
     

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