Baptists, Calvinists, Doctrine of Election (6)

Current Trends

Some general statistics regarding theological trends show that Calvinism is growing among younger Baptists who are coming out of seminary. [1] [2] The number of Calvinist faculty dramatically increased [starting in the 1980s and] over the next 20 years.[3] Many current professors/faculty earned spots in the more conservative Universities during the Southern Baptists’ “inerrancy battles.” The theologically conservative Calvinists were well-suited for the jobs and their influence has made the “newest generation of Southern Baptist ministers… the most Calvinist we have had in several generations.”[4]While only 10 percent of Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) pastors identify themselves as Calvinists, nearly 30 percent of recent seminary graduates do. [5] Universities and churches are realizing that these Calvinist followers are the most theologically accurate compared to their Arminius colleges.[6] There is a trend for studying the great and former Puritan thinkers and pastors. Part of the reason why college-age Calvinists are excited about dead Puritans is because it is mostly Puritans who have fueled this latest resurgence of Calvinism. Among the Puritans, Edwards is most popular.[7]

With all that said, there is also another trend among some of the SBC leaders. These leaders do not consider themselves Calvinist and are wary of Calvinism. Frank Page worries that extremists could undermine the SBC’s emphasis on outreach. [8] William Estep considers Calvinism “logically anti-missionary.” Estep went on to say that it robs Christians of responsibility for conduct and is marked by intolerance, divisiveness and naughtiness. [9] Elmer Towns, who is cautious like Estep and Page to see Calvinism at work in SBC, gives conflicting data in his article. On one hand, “churches pastored by Calvinists tend to have smaller attendance and typically baptize fewer persons each year.[10]” Then on the other hand, Elmer points out that Calvinists have the same statistics as non-Calvinistic Southern Baptists. There is no significant difference between the two groups. Other research shows that it is not just Calvinist Baptists churches that are “losing zeal for evangelism.” In fact, Evangelical Churches in America failed to gain an additional 2% of population in the past 50 years. No county in America has a greater percentage of churched people for a decade. While the population in America has increased 11%, church attendance has decreased 9% in that ten year time span.[11] The point is that American evangelical churches, as a whole, are struggling with evangelism. It is incorrect for these SBC leaders to put a larger amount of blame on Calvinism, while their own churches are ironically and hypocritically struggling similarly with evangelism in this post-modern age.

There is no significant difference between the evangelism occurring in Calvinist versus non-Calvinist churches. In fact, the research by Ed Stetzer at LifeWay seems to indicate that Calvinistic churches say they are conducting personal evangelism at a slightly higher rate than their non-Calvinistic peers.[12] It is admirable that Towns, Estep and Page are concerned about evangelism. For the most part they desire to fight against extreme views of Calvinism. Elmer Towns is anti-extreme “anything.”


[1]Douglas Weaver and Nathan Finn. “Youth for Calvin: Reformed Theology and Baptist Collegians.” Baptist History and Heritage, Spring 2004.Accessed on July 10, 2009, pg. 40.

[2] Ken Walker, “TULIP Blooming,” pg. 19.

[3] Collin Hansen. “Young, restless, reformed,” pg. 37.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Keith Hinson. “Calvinism resurging among SBC’s young elites,” pg. 86.

[7] Collin Hansen. “Young, restless, reformed : Calvinism is making a comeback–and shaking up the church.” Christianity Today Sep 2006. (September 01, 2006). Christian Periodical Index, EBSCOhost (accessed August 1, 2009), pg. 38.

[8] Ken Walker, “TULIP Blooming.” Christianity Today 52, no. 2. (February 2008): 19-19. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost(accessed August 2, 2009), pg. 19.

[9] Keith Hinson. “Calvinism resurging among SBC’s young elites,” pg. 87.

[10] Elmer Towns, “WHAT SHOULD SOUTHERN BAPTIST DO WITH CALVINIST?,” pg. 3.

[11] Statistic provided by Prof. David Wheeler, presented in His Evangelism 565 class.

[12] Elmer Towns, “WHAT SHOULD SOUTHERN BAPTIST DO WITH CALVINIST?,” pg.12.

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