Is rising trend of Calvinism in SBC seminary graduates long-term or just a passing fad?

Why is Calvinism making a comeback?   According to data presented at the opening session of a conference on Reformed theology in the Southern Baptist Convention, a survey found that nearly 30 percent of recent Southern Baptist seminary graduates identify themselves as five-point Calvinists.  This trend is rising.  Most recently, this figure was 34 percent! Full article.  As a Lutheran with Calvinistic tendencies, I find this trend exciting.

That’s an incredible change from Southern Baptists, which are historically known for being dispensationalist and Arminian.  I wonder how this is going to affect the future of the Southern Baptist Convention?  And is this comeback in Calvinism a long-term thing or is it just a passing fad like the Emerging church that is fading away in less than ten years? I think this is still hard to tell because this trend is still on the upswing and in its early stages.

Regardless of where this new Calvinism is going, for me personally, I would say that Calvin and Luther have been my two biggest influences in my Christian life in the last five years. Previous to my seminary education, I felt like I was floating somewhere in evangelical space but after I got a taste of Luther and Calvin, there was no turning back. So what is it that attracts people like others and me to Calvin specifically? I’m not sure and can’t put a finger on it. Maybe it’s all this hype that has been building as we crept up to Calvin’s 500 anniversary? Maybe. But it’s unlikely. It’s probably due to our increased understanding of the depth of Calvinist theology.

Amongst the Calvinists most of us know of are preachers and teachers, R.C. Sproul and John Piper, and academics, J.I. Packer and Alvin Platinga. These people are probably today’s movers and shakers in the world of Calvinism.  They are well-respected  and are making an impact on many evangelical Christians today.

17 thoughts on “Is rising trend of Calvinism in SBC seminary graduates long-term or just a passing fad?

  1. kevin – i think this calvinism you are seeing is not that of john calvin but rather what scot mcknight calls the neo-reformed – its an aggressive and arrogant form of calvinism not in line with that of it’s founder (though it was pretty aggressive himself). To be honest, I kind of find the trend somewhat disturbing.

    Have you read through Billy Birch’s blog at all? – I think he is putting forward some pretty good arguments.


    1. Brian, I agree there are some of the neo-reformed who can be aggressive and arrogant. Keep in mind that when someone tries to make an argument for something, they might be easily perceived, therefore, accused of being arrogant.

      I’ve come across Billy Birch’s blog before. Thanks for the info. Arminianism does make a good argument. I’ve realized that every theology has scriptural support–even theologies that make us irk and give us wierd feelings. As long as we can support its arguments from scripture, one can make a case for it or against against it. As a former Arminianist, know there’s a very good scriptural case for Arminianism but after comparing the two theologies, I’ve become more Calvinist.

      I presume you’re Arminian?


      1. Kevin, while I can respect the various parts Calvinistic thinking, I do tend more towards Arminian thinking in terms of theology – and Billy’s has been good for me to read in that regard – refreshing really.

        I’ll be honest, I haven’t met or come across a lot of arrogant arminians….


        1. I’ll be honest, I haven’t met or come across a lot of arrogant arminians….

          Brian, hehe. I find your comment funny in a good way. I have to agree because I used to be arminian in my thinking. I love arminians.


  2. Grassroots are probably right in the middle of the great C/A debate. Once saved, always saved, but everyone has the opportunity.

    I’ve met an amazing number of people that have not heard of either side, but know what they believe.

    As an aside, I don’t know that we can always tell unless someone comes flat out and says where they fall. I am sure my pastor and the assistant pastor are Calvinists. It’s subtle, but it’s there, and they link to people like Piper and Sproul on their blogs. An acquaintance at church who is Arminian in his beliefs does not think they are calvinistic at all. We’ve heard the same sermons, read the same articles and yet leave with polarized information.


    1. I know baptists (of various denominations) who stand on both sides of the C/A debate too and they all love Jesus; and I love them all. But I wasn’t aware that this issue was such a big deal at the grassroots level in the church.

      During my undergrad days, a Campus Crusade for Christ counselor, who happened to be baptist, tried to convince me of the “once saved, always saved” idea but I was undecided at the time because my theology was still undefined and I never really gave it much thought. Now I wish I could tell him: “Yes, now I get it!”


  3. Bitsy, what’s your opinion of grassroots SBC? Do you feel there’s more Calvinists in the SBC than not, or is it just the crowd you hang out with?


  4. Kevin, I am very proud of him. He went to Texas and stayed 😦

    You may be right about sitting under the movers and shakers, but I probably know more Calvinistic SBC than not.


  5. Bitsy, congratulations! You must be proud of him. Was that a seminary close to home?

    Calvinism will mostly influence those who come under the teaching of the movers and shakers but I kind of doubt it would be felt within grassroots Southern Baptists.


  6. My son is a recent graduate from an SBC seminary – he’s definitely NOT Calvinistic. I never got the impression from what he said that most of the faculty was either – maybe half, but I think his stories would have been different if it were most.


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