Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Peace at What Price?: Why the FBFI Tent Isn't Big Enough for Sweatt and Calvinists

Kevin Bauder wrote:
Besides attempting to deflect the criticisms of the younger fundamentalists, Pastor Sweatt engages in an astonishing diatribe against Calvinism. He actually suggests that Calvinism is going to force a reopening of the question of biblical inerrancy. He argues that Calvinists refuse to acknowledge the authority of Scripture because they do not believe the Bible until it is interpreted through their theological system.
Sweatt's implication that Calvinists cannot affirm the inerrancy and authority of Scripture raises momentous obligations for FBFI members, most particularly Sweatt himself. The basis for those obligations is nothing other than the FBFI's own statement of faith, which contains strong statements, quite naturally, on inerrancy, biblical authority, and separation from false doctrine.

So if Sweatt refuses to recant his allegations, then the FBFI is faced with a problem. Here's the logic: 1) The FBFI statement of faith demands that all members affirm inerrancy. 2) One of its members believes that Calvinism is incompatible with inerrancy. 3) According to an FBFI board member, some of its members are Calvinists—5 point Calvinists, in fact. 4) The FBFI statement of faith requires that members "abstain from fellowship with all that is ungodly, worldly, or otherwise contrary to the Word of God."

Those four observations form an argument that the FBFI cannot simply move on with affirmations of a tent of fellowship big enough for Calvinists and anti-Calvinists. Calvinism itself is not the pressing issue. The question is whether the FBFI has a big enough tent for those alleged to undermine inerrancy and their accuser.

Bottom line: It seems to me that if the Calvinists won't recant their Calvinism or resign their FBFI membership, and the FBFI won't expel them, then Sweatt has to recant his accusation or resign himself. If he really believes what he said is right, then he needs to do the honorable thing and back up both his convictions and his obligations as an FBFI member. He needs to separate. He can't continue to affirm the statement on separation if he remains in an organization that won't expel those he deems to be in opposition to the organization's statement of faith.

And if Sweatt won't resign, then the organization itself is faced with a crisis: It has to enforce its statement of faith. That means it has to deal with Sweatt's accusation as if his words meant something. So even if the FBFI finds Sweatt's accusation to be groundless, it still can't permit a man to remain in membership who refuses to separate himself from what he understands to be false doctrine.

Well, there I go, saying what the FBFI has to do. But I speak as a fool. The organization can (and will) do whatever it wants, and right now I suspect it wants peace. It wants the problem to go away quietly, and so does everyone else who's trying to hold together this fundamentalist movement that's hopelessly fracturing along theological lines. Others care more about the great idea of fundamentalism than the disintegrating movement. Perhaps they'll have their say at the June meeting. Anybody want to cover expenses for a liveblogger?


Jim Peet said...

We can help (a bit)

Liveblog FBFI

James Kime said...

It will certainly be interesting to see if the FBF leadership has the courage to do more than lob grenades at those on the outside.