May 19, 2009

The IFB & Calvinism: Flashpoint!

This issue, Calvinism, has been bubbling just under the surface for better than ten years. In April it came to a flash point.

The trigger was pulled at the *Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International (FBFI) regional conference. At this conference one of the main speakers delivered a message in which he expressed his rejection of Calvinism in very stark terms. The message was titled, Young & Restless by Dr. Dan Sweatt. You can listen to the audio and/or download a transcript by clicking on the message title. Many of our Reformed IFB brethren were stung to fury by this message, reacted sharply and with great indignation.

Today the FBFI President and Chairman of the Board published a response, which predictably did little to quell the uproar coming from the Reformed community. This current controversy is going to continue to play itself out. IMO, it will be a hot-button topic for discussion at the June 2009 FBFI National Conference that I will be attending, Lord willing.

In the opinion of some, the IFB camp is close to a split across lines drawn over Calvinistic theology. There is way too much for me to share and further clarify, but the issue is a serious one in the IFB camp. Passions are running high with some and this fueling the debate to sometimes harsh personal levels.

Just before I publicly dropped my membership (06-08-2009) at the pseudo-fundamentalist Sharper Iron (SI) site I contributed nearly 50 comments to various threads. The original threads were:

I Cannot Help But Hear His Message…

Time to Speak Up

Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals

Remembering Who the Enemy Is

Many of you who visit here frequently may not be very familiar with the current debate and SI in particular. A preliminary thought for your consideration. SI alleges to be a place for IFB people. SI is, however, dominated by participants and moderators who are Calvinistic in their theology and strongly biased in that direction. You will note a heavy preponderance of comments for and on behalf of the Calvinist view in the current controversy. Most are fair, balanced and charitable, others not so. You will furthermore note that the SI site is heavily skewed toward to promotion of the so-called conservative evangelicalism- its star personalities and fellowships. This is a fact based observation of SI for your information if you choose to lurk and/or read there.

In the next few days I will be posting two or more new related articles. One is going to be in regard to the current IFB Calvinism controversy and what some may consider the best and possibly inevitable solution. A possible solution that has great potential to further the cause of Christ through the Fundamentalist community more so than we are seeing today in its present (sometimes volatile) form.
For a continuation of this discussion please read, A Call for Removal of Dr. Kevin Bauder from the Platform of the FBFI Annual Fellowship.


*I am an active member of the FBFI.


  1. Thanks for sharing this post and the links. One day we all will realize that all who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God are actually on the same side. The Spurgeon - Moody friendship will serve as an example. Once again I want to thank you for your tireless and costly efforts to expose the Hodges/Wilkin heresy. We Calvinists aren't all that Bad, you know. :-)

  2. Mark:

    Thanks for the kind remarks.

    I enjoy a cordial realtionship with a number of men in the IFB community who are Calvinistic in their theology. We will never agree on the debate, they would not be likely to host me as a guest speaker in their pulpit, but we can be and are charitable toward one another.

    There are, however, always a few in every camp that just can't be gotten along with.

    Thanks again and I will continue to do what I can to make sure the GES Crossless Gospel does not make any new inroads into the Church of Jesus Christ.


  3. This raises an interesting point for me. As someone who relatively relinquished the Calvinist title, I have to admit that I do not understand the very strong feelings of some within FG against Calvinism in general. Some of FG's most prominent members have been "Calvinist" to a degree, Charles Ryrie is one example and I believe Chafer was considered and/or proclaimed himself to be a moderate Calvinist. So, what's the FG rub with Calvinism exactly? The disagreement seems disproportionately tense to me, but would appreciate some history on this if any is to be had, thanks.

  4. Stephen:

    Thanks for the input from your perspective.

    Why the rub? Depends of who you ask, it runs the gamut. The debate is soteriological in nature and that typically causes emotions to run high.

    I am not the one to offer a history of Calvinism in the FG camp. We all know that the debate has been going on for centuries and IMO it will never be settled this side of Heaven.

    Passions, however, tend to run high, primarily among the younger generations. Most of the older guys (which I am becoming) realize the futility of trying to settle it once and for all. We’ll settle for making our case to as many as will listen and with the Calvinists, simply agree to disagree charitably.

    Some from all camps have an axe to grind for or against Calvinism. I have seen some very harsh rhetoric over the years. Alvin, from the GES Crossless gospel camp, posts some of the most brutal and harsh personal attacks on Calvinism and Calvinists I have ever had the misfortune to read.

    Well, that is all for now.


  5. That was a great sermon! Unfortunately, Sermon Audio cut it off before it was finished.

    I wish there was a preacher like that in my area.


  6. Lou,

    I specifically sought out your site after stumbling across this controversy over at Pyromaniacs.

    Whenever I want to read a balanced fundamentalist perspective I read here or else I peruse SI, and I don't think I'm alone.

    Many Reformed/Calvinistic bloggers and apologists are watching this situation very closely, because many, if not most of us, hold a soft spot in their hearts for our fundamentalist brethren of all stripes.

    May the Triune One True and Living God be exalted as this event unfolds.

    In Christ,

  7. Dear CD:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about the current issue being discussed among those of us in Fundamentalism.

    Here at my blog I do not often engage Fundamentalism directly, but this latest dust-up is significant. Passions have been running pretty high, but seem to be abating a bit now.

    IMO, however, the issue will dominate the discussions around the break times at the June FBFI National Conference.The message by Dr. Sweatt simply IMO brought to the forefront an internal “flashpoint” that has been simmering for quite some time now.

    In the next few days I will be posting two or more new related articles. Thanks again for stopping by. Pray for a resolution that will honor God and advance the cause of Christ.

    Yours in Him,


  8. Lou, as a young fundamentalist Calvinist who attends a church involved in the FBFI and was disappointed with Sweatt's message, let me suggest that you might be missing the point of our outrage. I don't think this is so much a rift over Calvinist/Non-calvinist lines as it is a break between homiletical approaches. It wasn't that Sweatt disagreed with Calvinism. I know plenty of guys that disagree with Calvinism, even pastors of my own church, and we still fellowship and minister together. The problem was that Sweatt's sermon is typical of a type of fundamentalism that many of us younger guys are reacting against. He paid lip service to the text by using it as nothing more than a launching point for his tirade. He didn't do any exposition of Scripture. He didn't do any due diligence to try to understand his opponent's arguments, but rather offered up a ridiculous caricature that was full of outright deception, whether that was his intention or not.
    So don't try to make this out to be about Calvinists vs. non-calvinists. That's too simplistic. I think what we younger guys really want to see is whether a group like the FBFI will stand for a high view of Scripture and expository preaching, honest scholarship, and charitable discussion over areas of disagreement.

  9. Hello Mark:

    Thanks for the follow-up. I’m at work so I can’t do much today in reply.

    For now I want you to know I understand that the issue is not simply a Calvinist vs. non-Calvinist issue. I am also aware of the high view…expository…scholarship…charitable issues.

    May I suggest, however, that although Brother Sweatt’s did cross lines, you might consider narrowing the expression of your concern. Not that you did totally or intentionally paint all the non-Calvinists with the broad brush, but that last paragraph could be interpreted as such. Many of the FBFI men who reject Calvinism do meet all the criteria you are rightly calling for. I reject all 5 points of Calvinism as I understand them, but I’ll discuss my area of disagreement in honest, charitable terms.

    I also understand the outrage had I been in your shoes. Now, I am not trying to brush aside your outrage, but an outside or causal observer reading some of the outrage expressed over the last week might have thought Dr. Sweatt had undermined the virgin birth or deity of Christ. You can reply with indignation. Some you might agree that of the reaction to Sweatt’s message crossed the line of charitable debate. And I understand that too. It’s hard to rein it in when we feel we have been unjustly dealt with, especially our theology.

    In any event, whether we like it or not, Calvinism in and of itself is a dividing line and contributing to what appears to be a widening fracture in IFB circles.

    Finally, I understand the hunger for, “…a high view of Scripture and expository preaching, honest scholarship, and charitable discussion over areas of disagreement” in any venue.

    I think you’ll agree there is going to be plenty of that at the June FBFI National Conference. That is what I expect when I read the list of men slated to speak in the various sessions and workshops.

    Well, I‘d like to give you much more because I appreciate your comment above, but duty is calling.

    Take care,


  10. Lou,
    Thanks for the reply. I know your busy today, so I don't want to take up too much of your time. I certainly didn't mean to broadbrush non-calvinists and I'm sorry if it came across that way. Like I said, I have non-calvinists who are pastors in my church and we have a great relationship in the ministry.
    I agree that calvinism is becoming somewhat of a dividing line in fundamentalism, but I would argue that it is not the Calvinists that are the cause of that. In this case, we wouldn't even be having this discussion if a non-calvinist had not accused calvinists of degrading the holiness of God, or subtly denying the inerrancy (or really, perspicuity) of Scripture.
    In my experience, which I admit may be a bit narrow, it has been the non-calvinists in my church that have called for my removal as a teacher in the church and school simply because of my calvinism. I and other calvinists in the church have sought to have an honest, charitable discussion in the church, but there are certain members who view calvinism as evil and want to have nothing to do with it. I have heard from several of my friends who have found themselves in the same position around the country.
    So, in my experience, it is not the Calvinists looking for this split. Let's not divide over this issue. I think we have enough in common to battle real heresy (like Hodges/Wilkins). That's what fundamentalism is supposed to be doing anyway, isn't it?

  11. Hi Mark:

    You wrote, “I certainly didn't mean to broadbrush non-calvinists and I'm sorry if it came across that way.

    I felt strongly that was not your intent. In these blogs people write a comment and move on. Someone comes along, may not read carefully or read into a comment something that is not or was not meant to be there. So, once in a while, I like to provide a little neutral cover, which is what I did for you.

    You wrote, “…I have non-calvinists who are pastors in my church and we have a great relationship in the ministry.

    Me too, but my pastors are the non-Calvinist variety. ;)

    You wrote, “I agree that Calvinism is becoming somewhat of a dividing line in fundamentalism…

    That’s all I’m saying for now.

    On what is going on in your local church- engage charitably if you must, watch your testimony, pray for and let the pastor sort it out. But as I noted before we are always going to have a debate over Calvinism whenever and wherever folks for or against get together. I don’t really debate it, I know what I believe and why I believe and will charitably disagree with my Reformed brethren. I will say, however, say that if someone or a group attempted to broadly introduce and/or promote Calvinism in my church, passing around papers to promote and encourage other members to adopt Calvinism in my church, which is not favorable toward Calvinism, I’d have to take a more active role. I know our pastor would beat me to it, in a charitable way, of course.

    You wrote, “Let’s not divide over this issue.”

    Whether we like it or not there may be some division coming. We’ll see and it may not necessarily be a bad thing. One of the new articles I’m writing will touch on this theme.

    You wrote, “I think we have enough in common to battle real heresy (like Hodges/Wilkins). That’s what fundamentalism is supposed to be doing anyway, isn’t it?”

    Two responses:

    1)The field of play upon which I have been in “battle” over the reductionist assault on the content of saving faith coming from Hodges, Wilkin and GES Crossless Gospel has been pretty lonely. Haven’t seen many of the guys in our IFB circles take up sword, pen or blog in recent years.

    2)In fairness I have to let you know, which you may already, I am also troubled by the Lordship Salvation interpretation of the Gospel.

    The links are to a single, brief article on each as an FYI to you and others who may be lurking. There are dozens of articles on both here at my blog.

    Kind regards,


    PS: Let’s keep this thread reserved for the IFB issues going on; OK.

  12. Lou said: In any event, whether we like it or not, Calvinism in and of itself is a dividing line and contributing to what appears to be a widening fracture in IFB circles.Why do you think this is happening, Lou? Clearly doctrine divides, but your commenter Mark touched briefly on an important point, one that I think bears further reflection.

    Admittedly I don't have statistics, but I think anecdotal evidence and history bear out the truth that more often than not the non-doctrines of grace folks (non-Calvinists) launch attacks (e.g. diatribes like Sweatt's) against their Calvinistic brethren's theology attempting to marginalize, mischaracterize, or in some cases even demonize their brothers in the Lord.

    In fact the 5-points of Calvinism were formulated in response to an assault upon the doctrines of grace launched by one Jacobus Arminius.

    I think this is both sad and counterproductive, especially when words ad hominem, emotionally laden tirades like Sweatt's are bandied about. It's one thing to disagree, it's another thing to throw around charges of "cultism", as some have (not Sweatt that I know of).

    I hope the FBFI will speak out on the matter publicly, and make their vision of the future of fundamentalism clear to their congregants.

    Sweatt has thrown down the gauntlet, and many will be watching for an official response. So far I've seen some promising commentaries, such as Dr. Kevin Bauder's..

    Although you and I disagree profoundly in our theology, we still serve the Risen Master.

    I pray that you'll continue earnestly contending for Him, brother.

    In Christ,

  13. CD:

    Thanks for the comets above. I appreciate your concerns.

    We all need to recognize that the on-going debate over Calvinism, Arminianism is never going to be settled this side of Heaven. I have one friend who likes to call himself a “Calminian.” I chuckle at that.

    We all need to get used to having some men in Christian circles preaching or print something we are not going to appreciate at all.

    That is never going to end. I did not care much for some elements of Sweatt's message and would have been squirming a bit if I were in attendance. The reaction, however, was such that you’d think the deity or virgin birth of Christ had been brought into question.

    And for the official response” is concerned, the FBFI already posted it. See Speaking the Truth in Love at the FBFI site.

    I have to be honest though in regard to Dr. Bauder. I am becoming increasingly less enthused with his manner of addressing the current issue. If he had limited his commentary to that article you linked to I would be satisfied even though in it he took a swipe at my home state Illinois, referring it to as having a “toxic climate” for Fundamentalism.

    However, he followed with another that was peppered with what some of us feel was an inflammatory and needless personal attack against the late Dr. John R. Rice. Of course, Bauder refuses to interact and/or answer questions about why he felt it necessary to single out Dr. Rice for harsh criticism when passions are running so high at the moment.

    In light of the current controversy one wonders how Bauder feels what he just did will promote heeling in the IFB community. I posted this question to Bauder, but of course we will never hear from him.

    The grandson of John R. Rice (John Himes) raised objections to the caricatures that Bauder painted of Dr. Rice. The SI team did not sympathize with Himes. Instead you have them trying to legitimize the rhetoric and defended Bauder’s inflammatory remarks.

    You might read, the Nuff Said thread at SI for details.

    Unfortunately. The SI team shut down the thread before John Himes could reply to numerous comments directed to him by SI mods and others defending Bauder’s remarks about Dr. Rice in the latter half of the now closed thread.

    IMO, that as censorship by omission to shut it down before Himes could deal with the many comments defending and legitimize Bauder’s criticism of Dr. Rice. Himes also feels that the SI site Publisher (who I believe is to remain neutral) took sides with Bauder's article and his supporters.

    His having been subjected to that kind of moderation I suspect Brother Himes will probably never post at SI again. Thats is too bad.

    IMO, the SI team should allow Himes to reply, then close it, but I suspect they will not allow him the privilege

    Again, thanks for the comments, let's move ahead; OK?


  14. Dear Guests:

    At the Pyromaniacs blog I read some reaction to the current flap in the IFB community. After reading I decided to submit two comments for consideration there.

    You can read my comments-

    Here and Here.FWIW,