Calvinism in the SBC- Some Verses Addressing Evangelism

September 26, 2008

If a Calvinist is a soul winner it is in spite of Calvinism, not because of it.” -Dr. Jerry Vines, a sermon entitled Calvinism: A Baptist and His Election

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” -Acts 1.8

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? . . . So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” -Romans 10.14, 17

For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” -Esther 4.14

Looking back at the debate over whether Calvinism is acceptable in the SBC, I will give the opponents the benefit of the doubt in saying that their main concern is with a Calvinists commitment to evangelism. I agree, if Calvinism leads people to not share the Gospel with the lost nations of the world then it is a thing which needs to be fought against. However, what I am here to say is that, not only is consistent Calvinism not non-evangelistic, but in fact evangelism should be at the core for any Calvinist.

How can I say that, you may wonder, seeing as how the generic mindset of a Calvinist is that “God will save who he will save”? Well, simply because Calvinists do believe that God will save who he will save, and that whomever he has elected he will ensure that they hear the Gospel and are irresistibly drawn to it, the fact remains that the only authorized vehicle ordained by God for making sure people hear the Gospel is by the preaching and teaching of his word. As Peter says in Acts 4.12, “For there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved [than Jesus Christ].” And, if that is the case, then combining this with Paul in Romans 10, we find that the only way people will be saved by that name is by the sending forth of preachers and missionaries to deliver it.

Yet still we are left with that balance: if we are certain that God will accomplish the work, what is it that keeps us from being lazy and just leaving it to someone else to do? Well, the first reason I would give is because what other activity under the sun could be more personally rewarding than seeing a fellow human being come to the knowledge of their Savior through what God does in your personal ministry? The excitement of knowing that God chose you to be the deliverer of the Good News to a soul which no longer has to live under fear of dying and going to hell is a priceless experience that one would have to be a fool to pass up. Still, maybe Calvinists are those fools, what then?

If this were possibly the case then I guess my next retort would be to turn to a passage we just looked at on here, that being Esther 4.14. This is where Mordecai is pleading with Esther to step up and work to secure the preservation of the Jewish people under the hand of her husband Xerxes and he says to her,

For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

To me this statement embodies what a consistent Calvinist should be about when it comes to evangelism. Yes, God will save who he will save. But, is it worth the disobedience to his commands (Matthew 28.18-20, Acts 1.8) to just sit back and let others do it? And, for someone who cherishes the role of God’s providence and sovereign decrees, as any 5-point Calvinist must, who are you to say that God isn’t planning on using you to do his work here?

Simply said, to claim that adherence to the classical 5-points of Calvinism makes a person naturally inclined against evangelism is a faulty argument and one which needs to be considered more carefully if we are to choose to drive a wedge through the SBC over it.