Posted by William Nunnelley on 2001-02-12
Samford University religion professor Fisher Humphreys has co-authored a book on the renaissance among Southern Baptists of Calvinism and its belief in predestination.
God So Loved the World: Traditional Baptists and Calvinism, co-written with New Orleans Baptist Seminary professor Paul E. Robertson, was published by Insight Press of New Orleans.
It discusses various aspects of Calvinism, the belief that God predestines some people to be saved and others to be damned. Calvinism takes its name from 16th century Christian reformer John Calvin, an early Protestant leader.
"We wrote the book to explain clearly what Calvinism is, to assure readers that Calvinism is not evil, and to say why it is not necessary for traditional Baptists to become Calvinists," said Humphreys, Professor of Theology in Samford's Beeson School of Divinity.
"We did not write a polemic against Calvinism," he added. "That would have been a very different book, and not one we would have interest in writing."
Their position, says Humphreys, is "that God's love for all the world (as cited in John 3:16) means that God would not predestine anyone to be damned." This reflects the belief of traditional Baptists, he says.
Calvinists "are guided by their convictions that nothing is more important than asserting the sovereignty of God and that God is fully sovereign only if everything that happens is God's sovereign will," said Humphreys.
Traditional Baptists reject that approach, he says, because of their belief "that God loves the world so unconditionally and so sacrificially that God would never will or decree the damnation of a single person."
Calvinists believe that Calvinism is the primary Baptist tradition, and point out that such influential Baptist leaders as John Bunyan, Roger Williams, William Carey, Charles Haddon Spurgeon and others were Calvinists.
Still, the first Baptists were not Calvinists, and the "vast majority of Baptists today are not Calvinists," according to Humphreys and Robertson.
Traditional Baptists and Calvinistic Baptists have debated the merits of Calvinism for more than three centuries. And yet, the discussion remains as alive in today's Baptist church as ever, say the authors.