Factors Contributing to the Resurgence of Calvinism Among Baptists (Leon McBeth)

65690_w185Mind you, Leon McBeth is publishing this in 1987. Much, much more resurgence of Calvinism among Baptists has occurred since then. …

And overlooking his unfortunately caricaturization (to assume the best: simplifications for ease of understanding) of Calvinism as something like fatalism…

I found McBeth’s comments here, specifically his third and fourth points, rather interesting. And I thought I’d share. These “points” are included in a brief section where McBeth addresses “factors” that have “contributed to the recent resurgence of Calvinism among Baptists. This occurs in famous work The Baptist Heritage (pg. 774-776).

1. “The Calvinists feel they are going back to original Baptists roots.”
2. “The Calvinists react against what they consider shallow evangelism.”
3. “Calvinism represents to some extend another expression of the contemporary fundamentalist movement.”

One of their historians said, “Most Particular Baptists used to be Fundamentalists”; ‘the evidence confirms that many come to Calvinism by that route. Modern Calvinists embrace many of the views that bind modern Fundamentalists, such as extreme local church independence, biblical inerrancy, and a sense of alienation from the world. Calvinists do not generally hold premillennialism, as most Fundamentalists do. However, links between Calvinists and Fundamentalists, both past and present, cannot be avoided.

4. “Calvinism probably reflects emphases from contemporary society.”

That religious teachings may be influenced by environment is beyond doubt and can be documented throughout history. Calvinism includes an emphasis upon the inevitable; some have understood this in an almost fatalistic sense. The Calvinist who really follows the Geneva Reformer must believe that each person’s eternal fate is determined before birth and that no human decision can change that predetermined destiny.

Calvinism faded in the optimism of the nineteenth century, when American society seemed so hopeful. Americans were busy carving an empire out of the wilderness, developing an economy and standard of living to amaze the world, winning all their wars, and early in the twentieth century, fighting a “war to end all wars” in order to “make the world safe for democracy.” In that heady optimism, liberal theology and the Social Gospel flourished. Since then, however, storm clouds have darkened the American dream. America has lost recent wars, suffered economic reversals, faced massive and seemingly insoluble problems of crime, pollution of the environment, racial tension, and erosion of traditional values. The bright optimism of the past has been chastened by present reality. It seems that we have little control over our world.

Religion has responded to these changes in different ways. The old liberalism and Social Gospel faded quickly, to be replaced by more sober, if still liberal, views. Fundamentalism arose to reassert what it regarded as unchanging truths for changing times. The resurgent Calvinism fits the new environment. The secular society seems beyond human control; Calvinism provides a religious doctrine that says the same of eternal destiny. This is not to reduce religion to sociology, nor to overlook the theological content of the Calvinist system. It does acknowledge, however, that religion is influenced by its environment and that the recent American environment has created conditions in which doctrines of human helplessness can flourish.