In 1962 the Southern Baptist Convention was in the midst of a struggle which Herschel Hobbs took head on in his President’s Address, “Crisis and Conquest.” In this address he calls for unity in the convention and he first references Scripture as he quotes the apostle Paul:
The apostle Paul gives us the answer. “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” (1 Cor. 14:8). The present-day religious scene finds too many gospel trumpets giving forth an uncertain sound.
He adds later:
God has not left Himself without a witness. I would challenge Southern Baptists to be that witness. To do so we must blow with a certain sound the trumpet of the gospel of Christ.
Hobbs called for Southern Baptists to proclaim the gospel in uncertain times. It was in the midst of theological controversy that he called for greater unity around the gospel. These words have relevance today.
Last week, Dr. Joe Aguillard released a statement declaring his “Position on Calvinism.” In this statement, he too references 1 Cor. 14:8. For Dr. Aguillard, however, this “certain sound” is not the gospel of Christ, but his position against Calvinism. He writes:
This is the “certain sound” that continues to represent my position as President of Louisiana College regarding Calvinism. My love for all Baptists including Calvinists, does not constitute our approval of its being advocated at Louisiana College.
At first glance, this statement seem general and inoffensive. Understanding the context from which these statements flow is another story.
Approximately two weeks ago Dr. Jason Hiles, Associate Dean of the Caskey School of Divinity, was given a letter stating his contract expiring this summer will not be renewed. This letter gave no explanation for Dr. Aguillard’s decision.
Days later the “Position on Calvinism” quoted above appeared on the Louisiana College website. Viewed independently, each event seems rather routine. Colleges shake up personnel rosters often and Southern Baptists are frequently discussing Calvinism. When paired together these actions bear careful attention.
It would appear that Dr. Aguillard is wishing to drive the conversation along the lines of the Calvinism debate. He references it twice in the article, once in his recap of 2012 and then in the quotation above.
Herschel Hobbs in his address referenced earlier understands the importance of unity of Southern Baptists around the gospel. In the same address reference earlier he states:
What, then, is the cohesive force which holds Southern Baptists together
doctrinally? It is their time honored principle of unity in diversity.
Hobbs saw that for Southern Baptists to be effective, the need to remain united around the gospel was imperative. Diversity was inevitable without a binding creed but Hobbs understood diversity as something to be championed as long as it was handled rightly. Hobbs says:
What, then, is the cohesive force which holds Southern Baptists together doctrinally? It is their time honored principle of unity in diversity. This does not mean doctrinal indifference nor a theological hodge-podge. It means that each Southern Baptist extends Christian Charity to those with whom he differs. It means that he recognizes the integrity of those with whom he honestly disagrees. By this principle Southern Baptists have been agreeable in their disagreements. They have resolved their differences in the greater unity of purpose as stated in their Constitution…
Southern Baptists have always seen a need to cooperate together for the sake of the Gospel. Southern Baptists have always found a way to overcome diversity and work together. Dr. Aguillard declaring that Calvinism is not welcome at Louisiana College after he hired a faculty consisting of 60% Calvinists really makes one ponder true motive. Make no mistake, Dr. Aguillard’s lack of desire to work with “those whom he honestly disagrees” is very un-Southern Baptist.
Image Credit: Hobbs- SBC.net; Aguillard- lacollege.edu
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