As most readers of this blog are likely aware, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Founders Ministry recently teamed up to cosponsor a major conference on the role of Calvinism in SBC life. The persons behind the conference recognize that there has been a resurgence of Calvinism in the SBC in recent years, and that there is evidence this is having a polarizing effect within the convention. They were able to gather over 550 SBC pastors, laymen, and educators in an effort to build bridges between those who hold differing opinions on the value of the Calvinistic resurgence.
One of the many highlights of the Building Bridges Conference was Dr. Daniel Akin’s closing address, “Answering the Call to a Great Commission Resurgence.” Dr. Akin’s final words did a masterful job of summing up the themes which had already been discussed throughout the conference. He let it be known that the Calvinism that was in vogue in Baptist circles when the SBC was formed was an evangelical, missions-minded Calvinism. Far from being a threat to evangelism and missions, it actually acted as an impetus to these important emphases. Dr. Akin reminded his hearers:
“The modern missionary movement was launched by a Baptist. It was also launched by a Calvinist. His name was William Carey. He represents the best and healthiest stream of the Calvinist tradition and one I can enthusiastically embrace. Carey did not receive universal support in his desire to get the gospel to the “heathen” as they were called in his day. There was another tributary of Calvinism that was resolute in its opposition to the aspirations of young William. This type of Calvinism was of no value in Carey’s day. It is of no value in our day. I believe significant headway can be made as we depart from this conference if, in heart and confession, it can be said, I am a “Carey Calvinist.” I am a “Judson Calvinist.” I am a “Spurgeon Calvinist.” I am a Calvinist who embraces with my whole being our Lord’s command to take the gospel across the street and around the world.”
As students of Fuller will recognize, he could also have said, a “Fuller Calvinist.” Each of the men he mentioned would have recognized Fuller’s theology as that which informed their minds, warmed their hearts, and moved them to heroic exertions on behalf of the lost. In fact, Fuller’s name came up quite often in the papers presented at the conference. May God grant that the new-found appreciation for Fuller and his theology sparks a renewal in Southern Baptist life as powerful as that which ensued when he lived and worked among British Particular Baptists.