April 7, 2008 22 Comments
The fact of the matter is, Calvinistic Pastors are infiltrating unsuspecting Arminian or Semi-Arminian churches. They know that there is every likelihood that the typical church holds to unlimited atonement and would be shocked to hear of someone believing otherwise. Yet they don’t divulge the fact that they believe in limited atonement when talking things over with the pulpit committee.
This is not ethical.
This comment was made by Rev. James M. Leonard in the comment section of his post entitled Churches Beware! Calvinism on the Sly! His blog is Arminian Baptist. In the post, Rev. Leonard makes the case that Pastors who hold the reformed position are being dishonest about their beliefs and trying to secretly teach them to the congregations who hired them. In some cases this may be happening (probably very few cases actually) but you can’t say that it is happening in all cases. He cites an example of a church where he was employed as interim music director and their new pastor.
The average Southern Baptist Church has less that 100 in membership. There is usually only one elder (the Pastor). There is usually not any other member who has any theological training. The search committee, which comes from the leadership and congregation, will not know what questions to ask to determine what the Pastor believes and will teach. If they have some questions, from some outside source, to ask the prospective Pastor they will most likely not understand the answers he will give them. This may be a more damaging alternative than not asking any theological questions at all.
Rev. Leonard says that churches should protect themselves by asking various questions to the prospective Pastors during the interview process. I agree with this. He also says that churches should require a covenant from the Pastor that he will not teach anything contrary to what the congregation believes. Here are his own words:
Moreover, congregations should protect themselves by requiring a new pastor to enter into a covenantal agreement that would require a resignation if the pastor’s theology were to change significantly during the course of the pastorate. This should apply to any theological issue, not just Calvinism and Arminianism.
This sounds good on the surface but upon further examination there are several problems with this proposal. First, God is the head of the church and He chooses to lead through the Pastor not the congregation. So it is the Pastor, being submissive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, who decides what is to be taught and when and how in the church. The congregation’s job is to test what the Pastor is teaching by the Word of God. If the Pastor is teaching something that is contrary to God’s Word, then they, through the other church leaders, are to call him back into a correct relationship to God and God’s Word in his teaching.
Second, we must remember that Pastor’s are human and can be in error in some area as to what the Bible teaches. If that is the case and the Pastor becomes convinced that his prior understanding of some doctrine or topic was in error then he is compelled to change his thinking and teach from his new understanding. This suggestion would require the Pastor to resign in a case like this.
Lastly, who is to be the decision makers as to what a significant change is? In most SBC churches, the congregation is not learned in theological issues, let alone, what would qualify as a significant change. With this being the case, we could be on a very slippery slope.
Now, having said all that I want to say that, in general, I agree with the premise of Rev. Leonard’s post. Pastors should not be teaching something secretly. If they have to teach something secretly then there are larger issues in that church that need to be addressed. Also, it calls into questions the Pastor’s integrity and motives. This is not a position any Pastor wants to find himself. Ultimately, the Pastor must be faithful to the leading of the Holy Spirit and to his understanding of the doctrines of the Bible. If he does that, God will be glorified and the kingdom will be expanded.