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Calvary Santa Fe

As I mentioned in an earlier post I spent part of Friday and most of Saturday at Calvary Santa Fe’s Discern 2010 conference, and will be posting excerpts from my impressions of the conference etc. over the course of several days.

Calvary Santa Fe has kind of a complicated history; it is a successor church to a Calvary Chapel in Santa Fe. The original Calvary Chapel was a church plant in the usual Calvary style: a Bible study led by someone from Calvary Albuquerque grew into a substantial church with more than a thousand regular Saturday/Sunday attenders. However, under the leadership of Paul Scozzafava, the current executive pastor, the church took a Calvinist turn and gave up its affiliation with Calvary Chapel.

Calvary Chapel, of course, isn’t officially Calvinist or Arminian, and picks a mix of elements from the usual lists for its soteriology, and has a fairly vanilla pre-trib Dispensationalist eschatology. I don’t know why this is the case; I am guessing it’s what founder Chuck Smith brought with him from his Foursquare background or chose after he left, and will almost definitely be up for discussion once Chuck dies.

As a result of its history Calvary Santa Fe is a church that looks and feels kind of like a Calvary Chapel and from the pulpit sounds like an Independent Baptist church; the doctrinal statement [link] is a hybrid of Reformed soteriology and Dispensationalist eschatology without references to confessions we might expect from a Reformed Baptist church or any creeds whatsoever. The music is a mix of old hymns and new worship choruses played on contemporary instruments (guitars and drums mostly). Dress is mostly casual. Church governance is so far as I can tell entirely local, with just pastors and deacons and no evidence of denominational affiliation or even an external board. I don’t know if the church has members (like a Baptist church) or not (like a Calvary Chapel).

The speakers for the Discern conference [link] sort of run the gamut from Reformed to Baptist to Reformed Baptist: Fisher is a retired Independent Baptist; Rhodes is a Dallas graduate; Mayhue teaches at The Master’s Seminary, and his connection to John MacArthur was underlined for those of us who missed the connection, and White is an elder at a Reformed Baptist church. Soteriology per se surfaced only a couple of times in the talks I heard; of course it was lurking under the surface of the Sungenis-White debate on Predestination, and Rhodes made a passing reference to the importance of “making a decision for Christ” during his talk on cults, and many of those in attendance shifted somewhat uneasily in their seats.

One of the things that has surprised me during my visits to Calvary as they’ve made their move from one soteriological camp to the other is which faces I still see there after all this time. Certainly a lot of folks came and went for reasons having nothing to do with Calvinism, but at least some of them have stayed and migrated along with the church. I was surprised to encounter someone I knew socially at the early debate on Friday who spoke disparagingly of the “Calviminian” Calvary Chapel position vs. the Calvinism he now believes, complete with the apparently compulsory claims: that everyone who isn’t a Calvinist is Arminian; that Calvinism is a haven for relative diversity; that the Reformation was the high point of Christianity; that Joel Osteen is a typical Evangelical; and that every problem is at bottom a theological problem.

I guess I will have to come back to some of these points later. I really have no idea how typical Calvary Santa Fe is of an evangelical church that has taken a Calvinist turn, but I’m fascinated by the story. I get the impression that often a preacher will pick up a theme and stick to it week after week, in liberal or conservative churches, with sometimes surprising results, but I don’t often get to see the Before and After pictures of the same church. The PCA church I attend now, for example, is half-full of people who used to attend one of the more liberal PCUSA churches in the area, but during the Bush administration got tired of hearing politics Sunday after Sunday. Go figure.

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