The Baptist state college in Louisiana, Louisiana College, has been going through a good deal of turmoil of late with the announcement that 8 professors [correction: that should read THREE professors, NOT 8] would not have their contracts renewed. The strong speculation is that this is because they are Calvinists and Louisiana Baptists, led by David Hankins, and Louisiana College, led by Joe Aguillard, are not in favor of the influence of Calvinism in the SBC, to say the least. Dr. Aguillard said as much in his most recent letter from his office to the LC community when he stated that he wanted to curtail the influence of Calvinism at his school. I will not get into all of the details here, but you can read more about the situation, if you like on this compilation of posts:
I do not have any first hand information on what is happening at LC, but I do have a few observations after spending years observing and writing about Baptists, their politics, and the way these things go down. Do these observation apply to Louisiana College? I have no idea. But, they have applied almost every time I have seen a move like this over the past 15 years. If they don't apply here, then I am glad.
1. I do not believe that Calvinism is the real issue. It almost never is. Calvinism has been a part of the SBC since the very beginning and it remains a part now. It is a theological perspective allowed in our confession of faith, the Baptist Faith & Message 2000. I hear a lot of people warning about the dangers of Calvinism and that is fine. People have their own opinions. But trying to get rid of Calvinists is a losing proposition in the SBC. There should never be an attempt to do so as Calvinists have been part of the SBC since the beginning - unless there were to be some kind of realization tnat the perspective is heresy. I think that something else is going on.
2. If Louisiana Baptists, led by Dr. David Hankins, want to make moves against Calvinists in their state by firing professors who are Calvinists, then they are essentially saying that they want to de facto withdraw from the SBC altogether. Are they going to defund Southern Seminary? Southeastern? New Orleans Seminary? The IMB? NAMB? Disavow Lifeway? All of those entities have known Calvinists in leadership. If you are saying that you can't have Calvinists at Louisiana College (a Southern Baptist institution) so you are going to fire them all, then why send your Cooperative Program money to SBC entities that knowingly hire Calvinists and put them in places of leadership? A move against Calvinists in Louisiana is a declaration that it is a theological perspective that is outside the realm of cooperation. A move against Calvinism anywhere is a move against Calvinism everywhere. To be consistent, you need to apply that nationally as well. I think that Drs. Hankins and Aguillard should be consistent and tell Louisiana Baptists to stop funding missionaries, stop collecting for Lottie and Annie, and don't send their ministers to ANY SBC seminary that hires Calvinists. Will they do that? If not, then they should probably back down on their purge against Calvinism in Louisiana. But, my bet is that Calvinism is not the real issue. I think that something else is going on.
3. SBC politics can be dirty business. I have seen this close up. SBC leadership is not always full of godly men who always tell the truth and treat others with dignity and fairness. Power grabs and manipulations happen. People stand before rank-and-file Southern Baptists and make declarations that they are acting to protect the Bible or the Gospel and they then sometimes act in unbiblical and anti-gospel ways as their ends justify their means. Pragmatism is abundant and there is often a hidden agenda as things are not always as they seem on the surface. I don't know all that is going on at LC, but my guess is that Calvinism is not the real issue, especially since it has been known for 8 years that the professors in question are Calvinists. Why the big push now? What has changed?
4. There are people in SBC life who want power. They want a seat at the table. They also want people who disagree with them to be out of power and to sit somewhere else. I do not know the motives of Dr. Hankins or Aguillard. Perhaps they are not like this at all. I honestly have no idea. But, I do know the political climate in the SBC and I know that there is often more to what we see than meets the eye. A big name leader wants his protege to get a teaching position or to get a pastorate or SBC office, so he pushes for that. But, the position gets filled by someone who is not of his "group" and the "big name leader" is shut out of control of the church/seminary/entity because his "proxy" doesn't get the job. When that happens enough times to enough "big name leaders" they start getting together and discussing this "problem." They see that the people getting jobs are Calvinists or of some other camp. So, instead of saying that they are upset that "their" people are not getting the positions, they go to war with Calvinism or Charismatic theology or megachurches or younger Baptists or, well, you name it.
Southern Baptists have a confession of faith, the Baptist Faith & Message 2000. Calvinism is allowed within it. Why should Baptists divide over such things? It is fine if you reject Calvinism. I, myself, do not ascribe to it as a theological perspective. But, I will defend the right for Calvinists to participate and prosper in the SBC because I understand that it is a doctrine that exalts Christ. I also understand that everyone does not have to agree with me and I also get that I might be wrong. We need to partner together in the gospel. There is enough trouble in the world without us adding to it over unnecessary divisions.
Praying that Louisiana College gets the message.