The Pen

Calvinist Bogeymen – The Ongoing Dreyfus Affair of Evangelicalism

“It’s too easy to criticize a man when he’s out of favour, and to make him shoulder the blame for everybody else’s mistakes.” Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

In 1894, a French military officer of Jewish descent named Alfred Dreyfus was convicted of treason for communicating military secrets to Germany.  Unfortunately, for Dreyfus, he was innocent of the charges.  His conviction was driven by the day’s rampant anti-Semitism and was in no way based in fact.  Thankfully, Dreyfus was later cleared of all charges.  This miscarriage of justice lives on in infamy; till this day school children study the Dreyfus Affair and learn about the inherent moral danger of treating certain groups as scapegoats.  Some members of the “traditionalist” crowd haven’t seemed to have learned this lesson very well.   The modern day scapegoat for many evangelical political leaders and their henchmen is the Calvinist.  This wicked theological shyster lurks in your church’s Sunday School rooms secretly trying to split the church apart with the Doctrines of Grace.  He wants to ban all evangelism and possibly even sprinkle your babies.  Anyone who disagrees with him is subjected to theological bullying.  Everything bad that happens is his fault.  He preaches a different gospel.  He is the bogeyman and he is everywhere.

The latest incident of scape-goating the Calvinist Bogeyman was perpetrated by Joni Hannigan of the Christian Examiner.  Hannigan labeled the objection that Bart Barber of Baptist 21 (and others) had to Seventh Day Adventist Ben Carson being invited to the SBC Pastor’s Conference as “Calvinist Criticism”.


As others have pointed out, the objection to inviting a political candidate, especially one who professes a false religion, to an SBC Pastors conference has nothing to do with Calvinism.  Neither does

  • The unethical and secretive actions of the administration of Louisiana Baptist College, which were obfuscated by claims of Calvinist Bogeymen.
  • The unethical and deceptive actions of the charlatan Ergun Caner and his protectors, which were obfuscated by claims of Calvinist Bogeymen.

To make Hannigan’s latest bogeyman accusation more egregious, Dave Miller has revealed that his friend, Bart Barber, is not even a Calvinist in a recent article at SBC Voices.   If she was interested in a fair and balanced report, Hannigan, who has worked as a High School Journalism Teacher, could have picked up the phone or an email machine and contacted Bart Barber, whom she accused of being a bully, to ask him if Calvinism contributed to his objection to the invitation of Carson.  She apparently did not.[1]   She contacted Willy Rice, the President of the SBC Pastors conference, whom Barber criticized, but not Barber.  Her sourcing seems obviously one-sided.

David Uth

If one digs deeply enough to Hannigan’s personal associations, he will find the type of power-broker cultural warrior Baptists (such as David Uth) who are all too interested in mixing religion with national secular politics.   This is an objectionable mixture.  For far too long conservative Baptists have tried to advance their cause through politics. Using a Seventh Day Adventist to speak at the Pastors Conference would have been a new low.  It makes sense that Hannigan would try to use the Calvinist Bogeyman to distract from the serious offense perpetrated by Willy Rice.

One doesn’t have to be a Calvinist to exercise doctrinal discernment or common sense.  I am not a Calvinist and I objected to the decision to invite Carson to speak at the Pastors Conference. I think because Calvinists are very cognizant of systematic theology that they tend to see doctrinal conflicts faster than others.   Perhaps that’s why it seems that they exercise discernment more often.  The Carson issue is not a Calvinism issue, it’s a Christian issue.   Many people are so mis-educated about Calvinism, that they will take the type of bait Hannigan dropped in the water and fix their eyes upon the Calvinist scapegoat.

Allow me to educate you if you’re still wary of Calvinists.  There is nothing sinful or wrongheaded about their soteriology or systematic theology.  All of the Calvinistic Baptists that I know have a high view of scripture and have an evangelistic mindset and lifestyle.  I have been taught theology, philosophy, apologetics, and preaching method by Calvinists.  My Calvinist teachers have been fine men and my denomination is blessed to have them in its service.

There is no true Calvinist bogeyman.

The power brokers of evangelism rose to the top of the political ranks on the shoulders of Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority and the Conservative Resurgence of the Southern Baptist Convention.  In those days, there was a very real bogeyman, the theological liberal.  Those bogeymen are gone.  For those who still need a war to wage, to justify their statuses as denominational generals, an enemy is needed.  The Calvinist has been chosen.  Yet he is as innocent as Alfred Dreyfus.

[Contributed by Seth Dunn]

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

[1] As a matter of full disclosure, Hannigan once wrote an article critical of me.  Bullying was a subject of that article as well. Her article was written as a response to a critical article I wrote related to Ergun Caner on my, admittedly obscure, personal blog.  I later found out that Caner was a personal friend of Hannigan.  She did not contact me to ask about my motives for writing what I did or for clarification of my opinions before writing about me.  She did contact several other sources for her article, but not me.

Seth Dunn

Masters of Divinity in Christian Apologetics, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Member of the Evangelical Theological Society Certified Public Accountant