Southern Baptists have long had mixed feelings about Calvinism. On the one hand, you can’t honor the Scripture as God’s Word without submitting yourself to doctrines also affirmed by Calvinists. On the other hand, the rationalistic zeal of some Calvinists leaves many people cold. Some of them leave you with the distinct impression that their theological system is lord over Scripture, rather than the other way around.
The conference was a breath of fresh air in a debate that usually reeks of misinformation, misrepresentation, stereotyping, caricaturing, arrogance, and name-calling. If you are at all interested in sorting out the issues of atonement or election, or if you would like to understand more about how Calvinist theology has influenced Southern Baptists, I would commend the podcasts from the conference, which you can find here.
Akin, who identifies himself as a compatibilist (someone who affirms the majestic mystery of both divine sovereignty and human responsibility) read a fairly lengthy quote from Charles Spurgeon, the great pastor/theologian well-known as a Calvinist with a heart for lost souls. The quote poses a great challenge to the either/or mindset of so many who argue over whether people are predestined to heaven/hell or free to choose our own fate.
I see in one place, God presiding over all in providence; and yet I see, and I cannot help seeing, that man acts as he pleases, and that God has left his actions to his own will, in a great measure.
Now, if I were to declare that man was so free to act, that there was no presidence of God over his actions, I should be driven very near to Atheism; and if, on the other hand, I declare that God so overrules all things, as that man is not free enough to be responsible, I am driven at once into Antinomianism or fatalism.
That God predestines, and that man is responsible, are two things that few can see. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory; but they are not. It is just the fault of our weak judgment. Two truths cannot be contradictory to each other.
If, then, I find taught in one place that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find in another place that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is my folly that leads me to imagine that two truths can ever contradict each other.
These two truths, I do not believe, can ever be welded into one upon any human anvil, but one they shall be in eternity: they are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the mind that shall pursue them farthest, will never discover that they converge; but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring.