Recent SBC Survey Reveals Equal Numbers of Arminians and Calvinists

Greg Strand – June 24, 2012 Leave a comment

Russ Rankin, “SBC Pastors Polled on Calvinism and Its Affect on Convention,” LifeWay (June 19, 2012).

LifeWay Research conducted a survey (this past April-May) in which they “presented a slate of statements about Calvinism to a randomly selected sample of senior pastors in the SBC to gauge their theological inclination and whether they are concerned about the impact of Calvinism in the convention.” 

With the discussion that preceded the SBC Convention, that continued at the Convention, this provides another important information piece to the SBC puzzle.

The conclusion to this survey?

Nearly equal numbers of pastors in the Southern Baptist Convention consider their churches as Calvinist/Reformed [30%] as do Arminian/Wesleyan [30%], although more than 60 percent are concerned about the affect of Calvinism on the denomination, according to a new survey from LifeWay Research.

Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research notes the following:

It is fascinating how much debate is occurring right now on this topic when most pastors indicate that neither end of the spectrum correctly identifies their church. However, historically, many Baptists have considered themselves neither Calvinist nor Arminian, but holding a unique theological approach not framed well by either category.

Stetzer states that the survey was carefully nuanced avoiding the one-word response of yes or no to “capture some of the complexity of the debate.” For example, the survey contained the following kinds of questions: “Christ died only for the elect, not for everyone in the world.” “God is the true evangelist and when He calls someone to Himself, His grace is irresistible.” “Before the foundation of the world, God predestined some people to salvation and some to damnation.” “It diminishes God’s sovereignty to invite all persons to repent and believe.” “A person can not, after become a Christian, reject Christ and lose their salvation.” (For how the responses to these questions breaks down in percentages, see the report at the link above.)

Stetzer’s summary to this survey:

There appears to be a lot of concern among Southern Baptist pastors on the impact of Calvinism, but the beliefs in these doctrines, at least measured by these questions, show quite a mix of beliefs.

Most Baptists are not Calvinists, though many are, and most Baptists are not Arminians, though many are comfortable with that distinction. However, there is a sizeable minority that see themselves as Calvinist and holds to such doctrines, and a sizeable majority that is concerned about their presence. That points to challenging days to come.

For another response to this survey, cf. Jeremy Weber, “New Research Suggests Calvinists Tied With Arminians In SBC,” Christianity Today Liveblog (June 19, 2012).

Greg Strand

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Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

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