Amongst the cascade of sexual assault charges hitting the news, the strangest may be a lawsuit that accuses Paul Pressler of sexually assaulting a teenage boy. What makes this particular case noteworthy is that the lawsuit lays the blame for the alleged sexual assault at the feet of Calvinism.
An ex-judge who is also highly influential within the Southern Baptist Convention, Pressler is alleged to have sexually assaulted Gareld Duane Duane Rollins, Jr. over the course of several decades. Rollins, who is in his 50s and has a lengthy rap sheet, says the abuse first began during a Bible study led by Pressler. In the lawsuit, Rollins is seeking $1 million. Paul Pressler unequivocally denies the allegations.
Where the lawsuit and allegations take a weird turn is in the naming of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and its president, Paige Patterson, as defendants, too. The lawsuit then goes on to allege that the abuse can be directly traced to the system of theology called Calvinism. Never mind that none of the defendants named are Calvinists.
Paul Pressler and Paige Patterson are two of the leading figures in what’s been named the Conservative Resurgence of the Southern Baptist Convention. Wresting control of the SBC from liberals, an important part of Pressler and Patterson’s agenda was the Convention’s return to the embrace of Biblical inerrancy — the belief that the Bible is divinely inspired and without error in the original manuscripts.
However, the lawsuit claims that the “Plaintiff contends that the intellectually and scientifically discredited notion of ‘inerrancy’ are not what the so-called ‘Conservative Resurgence’ is really all about. Plaintiff will show that it is a smoke screen for one of the most pernicious philosophical and theological dogmas afoot in this country.”
And what is this dangerous theology that’s “afoot?” Well, in the words of the lawsuit, “It is known as ‘Calvinism.'”
In the issue of full disclosure, I should point out that I am a Southern Baptist who is also a Calvinist. This gives me a unique perspective, especially since Paige Patterson is a known “enemy,” if you will, of Calvinism. In fact, anti-Calvinism is a well-ridden hobby horse of his. To see Paige Patterson accused of “Calvinism” in a lawsuit causes me to question the validity of the charges. That accusation is ridiculous.
That being said, even if Patterson and Pressler were Calvinists, the lawsuit would still be filled with laughable absurdities.
For example, “Plaintiff contends that [Calvinism] is a philosophy that one can do no wrong.”
Before I offer a paraphrase of the lawsuit’s argument, I want to encourage you to read it yourself (linked here). If it weren’t so sad, it would be incredibly funny. I mean, if I didn’t know better, I would’ve thought it was a Babylon Bee article.
The lawsuit is claiming that since Calvinists believe that only God’s elect, those who are predestined from before time began, are saved and cannot lose their salvation, God’s elect can essentially do no wrong. Once in, always in; so if you’re one of God’s elect, it doesn’t matter what you do. May as well molest underage boys.
Even if you are a full-fledged Arminian (the opposite of Calvinism within Protestant theology), you know that’s a complete mischaracterization of what Calvinists believe and teach (again, neither Paige nor Pressler are Calvinists to begin with).
For a Calvinist, the presence of unrepentant, continuous sin (like molesting someone over several decades) is
probably most likely evidence that you are not a Christian. Calvinists believe that once an individual repents of his sin and places his faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Holy Spirit continuously works in that person’s life, making him more like Jesus.
In fact, the Apostle Paul deals with this very thing in Romans 6. He opens the chapter asking the rhetorical question, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” In the next verse, Paul emphatically answers, “By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”
Chapters 6 through 8 of Romans expounds on how Christians have been released from the slavery of sin and are now under Jesus. Romans 8:30 reveals that “those whom [God] foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.”
Every Calvinist I know (which is a lot) would utterly repudiate the claim that being one of God’s elect means that we can do whatever we want. Being a child of God prompts us to desire to live a life of thankful obedience that turns from sin. The fact that this lawsuit claims that Paul Pressler and Paige Patterson are Calvinists make it laughable enough. That the lawsuit completely misunderstands and misrepresents Calvinism is cause for people to disregard it as the blathering of an opportunist.