Calvinism, Cynicism, Corporatism: A Three Headed Monster

When we come to the sum of the scriptures pertaining to the foe of the Christian, we always wind up recognizing that we fight a three fronted war; the world, the flesh, and the devil.  We also know from scripture that the devil will always use one of his same three weapons against us as individuals, “lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.”   Our enemies, our temptations, and our difficulties seem to have an affinity to the number 3. Of course that makes it easier to preach, when it is outlined so simple for us.

That being said, it is no wonder to me, that there are three major “moods” within the Baptist world today, that are dividing, diminishing, and distracting the work and workers of the Kingdom.  One is doctrinal, one is personal, and one is practical.

Now the Bible makes it clear beyond confusion in Proverbs 13:10 that  “Only by pride cometh contention.”  It is pride that will not accept sound doctrine, it is pride that will not admit self righteous arrogance, and it is pride that refuses to consider self-wrongs.  Amidst all of the varied nuances, flavors, and types of conflict in the kingdom, the one infection that is common to them all, somewhere behind the verbage will be pride.   In my own estimation, I see three deadly distractions that are fighting against the kingdom:

1.) The Rise of Calvinism. – I understand that there are many good people who are Five Point favorites.  I have nearly all of John MacArthur’s books.  I have listened to Mohler preach many times.  While these men are solid on other Biblical issues, they present a division on others, that simply make a whole hearted embracing of them incompatible with Gospel evangelism.  The Gospel message is that Jesus died for all men everywhere.  To say otherwise is another gospel.   The New Testament can be no clearer than to state that “one died for all;” and that He died not for our sins only, but for the sins of the whole world.

It is this message  of limited atonement that has worked it’s way into acceptance by many Baptist churches that has begun to divide friends, pastors, and churches.  It is not Biblical.  It is not acceptable, and when friends and brothers accept that which is unacceptable, doctrine is to be thicker than blood.  It is not the “non-Calvinist’s” that are causing the dilemma’s.  It is those who have begun to hold to this deformed theology that have come into “non-Calvinistic” churches, and schools with this false message causing great divisions among New Testament churches.

The First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, recently had one of it’s associate pastors resign.  It was rumoured by some, (I emphasize pure rumor, those in the inside know if it’s true or not) that secretly he was asked to leave because he had become increasingly Calvinistic in his theology.  In the same rumor, Mac Brunson the Senior Pastor was criticized for presumably asking him to leave.  I do not know if that was true or not.  I do know this.  I would have done the same thing.  Unless you believe that Jesus died for all of mankind, you cannot rightly proclaim the gospel.  I cannot remember who said it, but they said, “if you cannot look any man in the world in the eye, and say to him ‘Jesus died for you;’ then you do not have any place on our staff;” to which I have to second that motion.   Calvinism has become a divisive and distracting foe among brethren.  Whosoever will may come!

2.) The Spirit of Cynicism – Social media has changed the landscape of Christian relations.  The anonymous blog and anonymous commenting has enabled two terrible things:  a.) the abandonment of respectful dialogue; and b.) the disconnection from being responsible for what we say. 

For those who have embraced it, they have said that empowers the powerless.  To which I would go on to say that may be true, but it has also emboldened the ruthless.  There is a difference between criticism, and cynicism.  Criticism addresses a problem, with the right spirit, to the right person, the right way, at the right time. (Paraphrase of Adrian Rogers – give credit where credit is due)  Cynicism focuses on an individual, with a negative spirit, to any person, in any way, at any time.  The Bible calls it Murmuring, and condemns it. 

As a matter of fact, 1 Corinthians 10:7-10, places murmuring the same category as fornication, idolatry, and tempting Christ.  The problem is not that there are so many problems in churches; where there are people there are problems; the real problem is in how some are dealing with those problems; choosing to grumble and complain about their pastor, their church, their neighbor, to anyone who will listen, and even to some who won’t.  That’s not to say that they do not have a just argument, but they nullify their cause, by vilifying, and slandering one another.

Life lesson number one: – What’s right does not always work.  Cynics cannot live with that.  When right doesn’t work, something else will, and so they will do what is necessary to win their point.  Following the Biblical procedure for things will not always produce satisfactory results.  When going in the right spirit to the right person at the right time about the right thing doesn’t produce the result that you want, then it is time to quietly part ways.  The cynic refuses to do that.  The cynic will not be “wronged” and let someone get away with it. Ignoring altogether the principles of 1st Corinthian 6:7. 

It is not only the rise of Calvinism, but also the Spirit of Cynicism that is dividing and distracting our work.

3.) The Face of Corporatism – One of the reasons that cynics abound is that there is much to be cynical about.  Churches, even the non-mega churches, have begun to look more like corporations with a high executive structure, than they do New Testament churches.  We are gaining the tendency to think more like Madison Avenue, than we are the Damascus Road, “Lord what will thou have me to do”.   I am not opposed to mega churches, I would love for our church to grow so large, but sometimes they look more like an organization than an organism.  The greater danger of that is the trickle down effect.  Whatever is new in the mega churches today, will be in the smaller churches tomorrow, complete with executive language, and administrative ideas and main street marketing.  In short many churches today are run more like a downtown business, rather than a knees down, Bible believing, Jesus preaching assembly.

I hear of people complaining today about “nepotism” in the churches, which has to be the most ludicrous thing I’ve ever heard.  Any pastor who has a secretary either needs that secretary to be his wife, or another man.  The entire Levitical system in the Old Testament, was nothing but one gigantic group of fathers, brothers, and sons.  Nepotism is an “outside world” issue, not an “inhouse no-no.”    Nepotism, “favoritism” is enocouraged within the scriptures, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” – Galatians 6:10.

Pastors need not look so much like Bank CEO’s and more like dedicated teachers, and preachers of the texts of the scripture.  Real pastors love to see lost people get saved, and saved people get serious about their faith and walk with the Lord.

All of that being said, “Calvinism, Cynicism, and Corporatism” are three divisions and distractions that are hindering the collective gospel work among Baptist churches.  My heart hurts when I see churches crumbling under the loads of controversy stirred up, and prideful spirits that won’t bow down.  When God’s people begin worrying more about obeying God through a conflict, than they are winning that conflict they are on the road to many changes that are worth making.


10 comments on “Calvinism, Cynicism, Corporatism: A Three Headed Monster

  1. Tom R says:

    Jeff – the Smyrl demotion and departure may have been about Calvinism, but then why is FBC Jax sponsoring a church plant in Columbus, Ohio by one of the FBC Jax staffers that is of reformed theology also? It doesn’t make sense. Smyrl’s departure may have had more to do with something besides Calvinism. Brunson I believe is one of the few pastors who sees both sides of the Calvinism issue, and he does NOT have a problem with Calvinists. He invited Matt Chandler to speak at the FBC Jax pastor’s conference, as an example.

    And I don’t understand at all you saying you would have done the same thing. For all the faults of Smyrl that I have blogged on my blog, one thing is for sure: there is not a stronger advocate for personal evangelism, and foreign missions at FBC Jax than Jim Smyrl! You and others have this mindset that somehow someone of reformed theology won’t spread the gospel with great fervor. I don’t get it. Your attitude toward “Calvinists” and advocating their firing is absolutely ridiculous and without merit. It is another example of fundamentalists demanding conformity on tertiary matters.

    Now I do have a problem with a guy coming to a church and not disclosing his theology and then working to change the church governance structure once he gets there. That is not right. But saying you would fire someone because they are Calvinist is not right. And I am not a Calvinist.

    And I absolutely love your assertion that the Bible advocates nepotism. You certainly don’t understand how devastating nepotism can be to an organization, any organization, including a religious one like a church. Nepotism is not an “outside” issue. That is like saying child molestation, or fraud, or abuse, are “outside” issues and not church issues. Man is sinful and so any ills that can affect a secular organization can also affect a church organization.

    Just my two or three cents…

    Tom R.

  2. Tom,

    Thanks for your comments. I certainly did not know that the FBC JAX was sponsoring a church plant in Ohio with a reformed staffer. That certainly would mitigate against Smyrl being fired, or demoted for such a cause. As I said in my post, that was merely part of the rumor.

    However, I do not think Nepotism is as big a deal as you do, and you do not think “Limited Atonement” is as big a deal as I do.

    My wife is my personal secretary at our church, for purely integrity reasons. I would not have it any other way, I’ve seen too many men “in the wrong situation”, and right, wrong, or indifferent, it affect their ministry.

    James and John were brothers, Peter and Andrew were brothers, and of course you have the Lindseys that you are familiar with. I do not see what Nepotism has to do with “child abuse, molestation, and fraud.” Those are certainly “inhouse” and “outside” issues that must always be stopped. I assume your assertion is that one brother, father, son, will not disclose another family members misdeeds out of loyalty to them. That is the only connection that I can see you make from Nepotism to Molestation, and Fraud, etc. One doesn’t have to be related for that kind of loyalty to exist. I think you are assuming that “inordinate loyalty” has “relationship” at it’s core, and I would assert it has “fellowship” at it’s core. I do know brothers as do you that would turn each other in, in a heart beat. It is those who are deep in fellowship with one another that represent the greatest opportunity to cover for someone. The problem is that is exactly what we want, is a deep abiding sweet fellowship, but not one that allows serious wrong doing to go on. – No one has to be related
    in order to cover for someone else.

    As for the tolerating of “limited atonement”, I do not think we cannot hide behind, “they emphasize personal evangelism as much as we do.” – So do the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their zeal is not in question, their message is. My issue is not that they will not spread the gospel, my issue is “WHAT” they will spread with/as the gospel. The gospel message is that Jesus died for all men, and whosoever will may come. Someone who believes in Limited atonement cannot truly preach, or teach that message as I understand their doctrine.

    Thanks again for your comment. – Jeff

  3. Tom R says:

    Jeff – my point in raising molestation, fraud, abuse, etc. with nepotism is only that they are bad things that are in churches that churches must guard against because they hurt people and they hurt ministry. That is the only connection I inferred.

    Your wife being your secretary is not necessarily “nepotism”. You need to research what “nepotism” is, Jeff, and what damages it can cause to an organization, then you need to consider how it could be damaging to a church and its mission and to employees of the church who are called to minister. To just say “it is a world thing” makes absolutely no sense at all. One of the most ridiculous things I’ve heard you argue.

    I’m shocked that you bring up Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses in an argument about the message of a Calvinist. That is utter nonsense as well. Jim Smyrl and other reformed Christians preach the same gospel. My word, is it to the point now that Calvinists need to be fired and thrown out because their doctrine is not exactly the same as you?

  4. Tom,

    Maybe we are operating from a different definition of nepotism. I will “double-check” my own understanding of it because it does seem that we may be talking about two different things.

    There is a difference in saying that “Jesus died for the elect” and that “Jesus died for every man.” – One is Biblical, the other is not. My point with the Mormon’s and JW’s is the fact that too many people “justify” the Calvinist doctrine by saying, “They’re still evangelistic”, as though that justifies their wrong teaching. “Church of Christ” are evangelistic, but they preach another gospel.
    Rather than merely being satisfied that “Calvinists” are evangelistic, WHAT their message is matters. – That is my point.
    – That Jesus died for EVERY MAN is as much a part of the message of Christ as “Grace alone, Faith alone, and Christ alone.” – John Calvin. – (But I’m sure you knew that.)

    You said, “is it to the point now that Calvinists need to be fired and thrown out because their doctrine is not exactly the same as you.” Does it really shock you that Baptist preachers reject Presbyterian Doctrine?

    This may come as a shock to you, and I do not say this to provoke you in any way, but I will tell you that in the national body (Of Baptists) that I am associated with, Calvinism is not something that is debated, or discussed, it is declared to be outright unbiblical. My point is that this conviction of “No” to Calvinism is not merely some off brand of a baptist preacher. It is the stand of an entire body of Baptist churches, scattered throughout the world. I do not say that to put weight behind my stand, I only say that to let you know I am not merely some leather sniffing windbag with a great big belly and short little tie, adding a “da” to “Gawd” every time I preach, and speaks in the King’s English. (I’m not a lone nut – is what I”m saying.)

    The gospel message is that Jesus died on the cross for the sins every man and whosoever will may come. If a man can preach that and still call himself a calvinist, then we have no issue. If he can’t preach that, then he will not be able to serve at our church.

    One of the quirks of a missionary Baptist . . . if you don’t preach what we preach on fundamental doctrinal issues, then you won’t preach. As I said in a previous article, we are not “Big Tent Baptists.”

    Thanks again for your comments, hope your family is doing well.

  5. Tom R says:

    Jeff – so Calvinists don’t preach the gospel. Al Mohler? D. James Kennedy, a Presby, preached another gospel?

    Those of us common folk that aren’t seminary trained see both sides of the Calvinist/Arminian and understand that both are right.

  6. Tom,

    They are solid on Faith Alone, Grace Alone, and Christ Alone, which is what transforms a man from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of the Son.

    They are inherently UNBIBLICAL, and in serious error, by demanding that Christ did not die for every man. THat cuts into the atonement of Jesus and His work on the cross.

    God is totally Sovereign AND man is personally free, at the very same time. The work of Christ on the cross is the heart of this issue, and those who hold to the limited atonement are denying the fullest nature of the gospel message. The message that Christ died for the elect is just not true, it is false; and I cannot knowingly say, “well it’s okay, they’re just different.” It isn’t a matter of “difference” it is a matter of what is factual, and what is false, and that message is false.

    Second – I did look up “Nepotism”; and what I found was that it does not have to be a relative, but can be a friend as well. The definition that I read said that it is “Showing favoritism to relatives and friends without merit.”

    Based on that definition, I fully agree, that there should be no “hiring without merit.” But my other contention is also true, that it is the “fellowship” between people and not the “relationship” between people, that pose the potential for a cover-up of wrong doing.

    Now you may have a diffferent definition, but this did enlighten my understanding of the term.

    But I will continue to insist that any person who would work with me be a “brother.” 🙂

  7. Tom R says:

    Jeff – I’m not just speaking of the definition of nepotism, but what are the damages it can cause to an organization, and why so many organizations including private companies and governments – have strict policies regarding the hiring of friends and family members. When you understand this, you can understand why it should be guarded against in the same manner at churches where there are sizeable staffs.

    Unlike you, I would never insist that any person that works with me be a “brother”. Most of the people I work with don’t share my faith, and they are wonderful people that I count it a privilege to work with, that are my friends, that I learn from, and that have great morals and family values.

  8. Tom,

    I’m not sure that this was on the forefront of your mind, but I would remind you that I am a Pastor. You said, “Unlike you I would never insist that any person that works with me be a “brother.”

    I think I can say with all confidence that we would never hire a “non-Christian” to be on the pastoral staff at Pinecrest.

    My point is that whatever danger you think Nepotism brings to the church, is still there even when hiring friends and family is ruled out.

    Just as you said, “Most of the people I work with . . . are my friends.” Whether they were hired that way, or became that way, friendship is friendship, and loyalty is loyalty, and I find that I work much better with my friends than I do, where the fellowship is strained.

  9. Sonia says:

    Please, in detail, explain how corporatism works in a church. Example: is it where the Board of Directors have authority over the church. If the Pastor feels he has authority over them is that reason to ask for his resignation.

  10. Sonia,

    Thanks for your reply.

    There are probably as many answers to that question, as their are people to ask.

    In my own view, Coroporatism is not a structural issue, but a philosophical one. Corporatism as I use the term speaks of any time that “Business, and Corporate principles and precepts” replace, or override the leadership of the Bible and the Holy Spirit.

    The Bible does give the NT church a structure to follow, and it gives it room to function within that structure. While we are required to be good stewards of all the resources the Lord gives, it is to primarily be the leading of the Spirit, and the guidance of the scriptures that lead in that functioning, and not the principles of Corporate America.

    Sometimes, the right Spiritual decision, is not a logical fiscal decision. (ie – the alabaster box of ointment) As I see things now, ( I may not see clearly ) but as I see them, I see more “fiscal” decisions being made than “spiritual” decisions, and they are not the same.

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