Jun

06

2012

Joe Carter|2:14 AM CT

The FAQs: Southern Baptists, Calvinism, and God's Plan of Salvation

Note: The FAQs is TGCs new series in which we answer your questions about the latest news and current events.

What's the controversy?

Two weeks ago a group of current and former Southern Baptist leaders signed and posted a statement which attempts to draw a clear line between Calvinism and what they call the "traditional Southern Baptist" of soteriology. The document has attracted a considerable number of supporters and critics and sparked a vocal debate about the role of Reformed theology within the Southern Baptist Convention.

If I'm not a Southern Baptist, why should I care about this debate?

Because the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is the largest Protestant denomination in America, both the controversy and the debates about Calvinism are likely to spill into other non-reformed denominations and parachurch ministries and have an influence on the larger evangelical community.

What is the document and how was it introduced?

On May 30, the original signers of the statement, titled "A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God's Plan of Salvation," posted the document on the website SBC Today.

As SBC Today notes, the format and subject matter of the statement is similar to that of the Together for the Gospel statement, which was signed or affirmed by some Southern Baptist leaders who embrace Reformed views.

Who signed the statement?

The document was originally endorsed by six former SBC presidents (Morris Chapman, Jimmy Draper, Paige Patterson, Bailey Smith, Bobby Welch, and Jerry Vines), two seminary presidents (Chuck Kelley of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and former SBC president Paige Patterson, who now serves as the president of the denomination's largest seminary, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary), and five state executive directors (Jim Futral of Mississippi, David Hankins of Louisiana, Mike Procter of Alaska, John Sullivan of Florida, and Bob White of Georgia).

To date, over 350 Southern Baptists serving as denominational leaders, pastors, evangelists, church staff members, Baptist seminary and college personnel, and lay leaders have also added their names to the statement.

What is the impetus for the document?

Although interest in Calvinism has been growing within the SBC for almost 30 years, the issue has become more divisive within the denomination over the past decade. In a blog interview last October, Frank Page, President and CEO of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, identified the theological divide of Calvinism and non-Calvinism as one of the greatest challenges facing the SBC. "At some point we are going to see the challenges which are ensuing from this divide become even more problematic for us," said Page. "I regularly receive communications from churches who are struggling over this issue."

(Page told Baptist Press News that he has chosen not to sign this current document.)

Southern Baptist leaders have also hosted two different conferences to address the issue. The first in 2007 was entitled "Building Bridges Conference: Southern Baptists and Calvinism," and was sponsored by Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) and Founders Ministries and hosted at Ridgecrest Conference Center by LifeWay Christian Resources. Approximately 550 attendees participated in the three-day conference.

The second was "The John 3:16 Conference" in 2008, sponsored by Jerry Vines Ministries, and co-sponsored by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, Luther Rice Seminary, and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. It was hosted by First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Georgia, with about 1,000 attendees at the two-day conference.

What is the SBC's official view on Calvinism?

According to the denomination's website, "The Southern Baptist Convention has not taken an official stance on either Calvinism or Arminianism."

How many Southern Baptists are Calvinists?

Surveys by LifeWay Christian Resources and the North American Mission Board found that about 10 percent of Southern Baptist leaders identify themselves as five-point Calvinists, while about 30 percent of recent seminary graduates identify themselves as such.

If the signers reject Calvinist soteriology, do they embrace Arminianism?

Although the views expressed in the document are largely indistinguishable (see update) from classical Arminianism, many of the signers appear to reject or avoid that label, preferring to simply be classified as "Traditional Southern Baptist soteriology." The document itself does not use the term Arminian.

As Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says in regards to this document, "Clearly, some Southern Baptists do not want to identify as either Calvinists, non-Calvinists, or Arminians. That is fine by me, but these theological issues have been debated by evangelicals for centuries now, and those labels stick for a reason."

UPDATE: In a question below, I raise the concern some critics have about the document being semi-Pelagian. Changing that line to acknowledge the role of prevenient grace would, I believe, shift the document from a presumably unintentionally semi-Pelagian view to one more in line with standard orthodox Arminianism.

Is the "Traditional Southern Baptist soteriology" the traditional view within the SBC?

The view has only been "traditional" since about 1963. As the preamble of the statement admits, "While some earlier Baptist confessions were shaped by Calvinism, the clear trajectory of the [Baptist Faith and Message] since 1925 is away from Calvinism. "

Many of the documents critics dispute the 1925 date since the document's position is based on a revision to Article III made in 1963. As Tom Ascol of Founders Ministries says,

In 1925 Southern Baptists acknowledged that Adam's sin left humanity with a corrupted nature that is "in bondage to sin" and also "under condemnation." The 1963 statement (which remains virtually unchanged at this point in the 2000 revision), reflecting the doctrinal downgrade of the SBC in that era that ultimately necessitated the conservative resurgence that began in the next decade, reduces the impact of the fall from leaving man's nature enslaved to sin to leaving it, along with his environment, "inclined toward sin" . . . More significant is the removal in 1963 of the idea that people are because of their inherited sinful nature "under condemnation" (1925), though such culpability is acknowledged to be the case after they "become transgressors." This significant change cuts in half the authors' claim in the Preamble that their view of soteriology has been held by Southern Baptists for "almost a century."

[. . .]

T]his document would more accurately be called "A Statement of Modern Southern Baptist Understanding of God's Plan of Salvation." The understanding of salvation that was prevalent throughout the convention at its inception and for many decades afterward was nothing less than historic, evangelical Calvinism.

Historian Thomas Kidd makes a similar point,

[T]he authors [of the document] note that Calvinism has played a role in Southern Baptist life from its "earliest days," although they do not say whether they mean the emergence of English Baptists in the early 1600s, or the founding of the SBC in 1845. In either case, Calvinists have always been a major factor, but especially if you include the first two hundred and fifty years of the movement, Calvinism arguably has been the dominant theology among English and American Baptists.

What are the primary criticisms of the document?

Critics of the documents---including both Calvinists and Arminians---have presented three general criticisms:

1. The document's primary argument relies on an appeal to the masses rather than careful exegesis of Scripture --- The statement's primary contention for rejecting Calvinism appears to be based on the fact that the majority of Southern Baptists have already rejected Calvinism: ". . .we are asserting that the vast majority of Southern Baptists are not Calvinists and that they do not want Calvinism to become the standard view in Southern Baptist life." Like most other evangelicals, members of SBC churches are unlikely to be able to distinguish between Calvinism, Arminianism, or heretical views of soteriology. Basing the claim on what the "majority" view is not an adequate foundation for settling the issue.

2. The document makes erroneous claims about the "traditional" Baptist view of soteriology. --- As noted above, the signers of the document overlook the historical view in favor of one that is less than 50 years old.

3. The document endorses a semi-Pelagian view of soteriology --- The most serious charge made by critics of the statement is that it is semi-Pelagian, a view that claims human beings retain the ability to desire God, to seek God, and to pursue salvation through an act of the free will without God first operating on the human heart.

The passage that raises concerns is the denial in "Article Two: The Sinfulness of Man":

We deny that Adam's sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person's free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned. While no sinner is remotely capable of achieving salvation through his own effort, we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit's drawing through the Gospel.

As the Arminian theologian Roger Olson points out,

Semi-Pelagians such as Philip Limborch and (at least in some of his writings) Charles Finney affirmed the necessity of the gospel and the Holy Spirit's enlightening work through it for salvation. What made them semi-Pelagian was their denial or neglect of the divine initiative in salvation (except the gospel message).

The problem with this Southern Baptist statement is its neglect of emphasis on the necessity of the prevenience of supernatural grace for the exercise of a good will toward God (including acceptance of the gospel by faith). If the authors believe in that cardinal biblical truth, they need to spell it out more clearly. And they need to delete the sentence that denies the incapacitation of free will due to Adam's sin.

Calvinist Chris Roberts, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Panama City, Florida, draws a similar conclusion:

The statement affirms that there is corruption (inclined toward sin), but denies that there is inability. The statement elsewhere affirms that we need salvation through Jesus Christ alone, but repeatedly asserts that salvation is found through a free response of the human will, a will which is here claimed to be inclined toward sin but not incapacitated by sin. If that is not semi-Pelagian, what is?

It should be noted that most of the critics would likely agree that the document's endorsement of semi-Pelagianism is due to sloppiness on the part of the drafters rather than endorsement of heresy by the endorsers. I believe that Albert Mohler expresses the views of many of the statement's critics when he says, "I do not believe that those most problematic statements truly reflect the beliefs of many who signed this document. I know many of these men very well, and I know them to be doctrinally careful and theologically discerning."

I'm still confused by some of these theological terms. What is Calvinism, Arminianism, soteriology, and semi-Pelagianism?

Arminianism --- a set of doctrines, first elucidated by Jacob Arminius but based on exegesis of scripture, that concludes that unaided by the Holy Spirit, no person is able to respond to God's will, yet salvation is conditioned on a person's willingness to freely place their faith in Christ. For Arminians, the offer of grace by the Holy Spirit is resistible.

Calvinism --- a set of doctrines, first elucidated by John Calvin but based on exegesis of scripture, that conclude God alone is responsible for every aspect of salvation, from beginning to end, election to glory, and man contributes nothing to it. For Calvinists, the offer of grace by the Holy Spirit is irresistible.

Soteriology --- the study of the doctrine of salvation, how the Triune God ends the separation people have from God due to sin by reconciling them with God's self.

Semi-Pelagianism --- As defined by Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck in volume III of Reformed Dogmatics:

According to semi-Pelagianism, the consequences of Adam's fall consisted for him and his descendants, aside from death, primarily in the weakening of moral strength. Though there is actually no real original sin in the sense of guilt, there is a hereditary malady: as a result of Adam's fall, humanity has become morally sick; the human will has been weakened and is inclined to evil. There has originated in humans a conflict between "flesh" and "spirit" that makes it impossible for a person to live without sin; but humans can will the good, and when they do, grace comes to their assistance in accomplishing it.

 

Other Posts in this Series:

Are Mormons Christian?

The Contraceptive-Abortifacient Mandate

Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?

Joe Carter is an editor for The Gospel Coalition and the co-author of How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator. You can follow him on Twitter.

  • http://rockedbygrace.blogspot.com/ Mike

    I could be reading it all wrong, but It looks to me like these guys are denying double imputation. I am amazed that anyone could come to that conclusion after reading Romans 5.

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      You're right.

    • Timothy

      It is generally recognised among Pauline scholars that double imputation is nowhere explicitly taught anywhere in Paul's letters, not in Romans 5 or anywhere else. Some do accept it as a good way of summarising Pauline teaching across a range of passages but there is no passage that explicitly teaches it. So it is more remarkable that Mike can find it amazing that someone can fail to see it in Romans 5 when it is never explicitly taught there.

      • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

        I know a scholar who wrote a Ph.D. dissertation on Romans 5, and defended double imputation (I believe). I preached on it recently and I believe Romans 5 clearly teaches double imputation.

        • Timothy

          Did the guy get the doctorate? Can you give me a reference as it would help me as I am interested in writing on Romans?

  • http://www.forumfaith.com/blog Jacob

    When I read the original statement, I was shocked... how could an entire board of Bible reading, God fearing, historically informed SBC leaders come to let it pass? Did they even discuss it? Maybe they just glossed it over while talking about the upcoming NFL season or something? Was there overwhelming pressure from their peers or senior leaders? Or were they wanting to please the current culture?

    Sorry to seem cynical or lacking respect, but man...

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      As someone with multiple theological degrees myself, including a Ph.D., don't underestimate the power of emotion to trump reason, even in scholars.

  • http://onceforalldelivered.blogspot.com/ Todd Van Voorst

    It seems ironic to publish a statement of doctrinal belief that is based primarily on the foundation of current mood or temperature. To state the obvious: if it is doctrinal, should it not be rooted in Biblical doctrine as its primary bedrock?

    http://onceforalldelivered.blogspot.com/

  • John

    "Although the views expressed in the document are largely indistinguishable from classical Arminianism..."

    The sentence quoted above is not true: classical Arminians would join Calvinists in rejecting this statement's claims. That's what Roger Olson does in the link you provided--he calls is semi-Pelagian, and distinguishes it from classical Arminianism.

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      I think he was referring to the "free will" aspect of it but . . . you're right. Arminians wouldn't claim that people only have a "free will" to choose to Christ but then deny the free will to reject Christ (after salvation). To assert free will of the sinner but then deny it to apostatize is an absurdity.

    • Joe Carter

      ***The sentence quoted above is not true: classical Arminians would join Calvinists in rejecting this statement's claims.***

      That's what I meant by "largely indistinguishable," but I see how it might be confusing so I'll change that wording. As Olson says,

      "Let me say first that among the authors and promoters of the statement are Southern Baptist theologians who have been adamantly denying that they are Arminians even though they are not Calvinists. I have thought, upon reading some of their writings (e.g., Whosoever Will), that they are Arminians who just don’t want to wear that label."

      I could be wrong and there may be other problems I didn't catch, but I think that if they were to change that one line, they'd shift from heretical semi-Pelaganism to standard Arminianism.

      • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

        Hi Joe,

        I think your original statement is true in the broader, non-technical understanding of Arminianism, as referring to those who reject Calvinism on the basis of the supposed "free will" of the sinner. Theologians would nit-pick but generally you were right.

      • John

        Thanks for the clarification!

  • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

    Current Southern Baptist ideas about salvation are a hodge-podge of contradictory propositions, each geared to elicit the best numerical response at an altar call. Their ideas emphasize the need of an immediate decision to their message, which anyone is capable to doing, which grants an eternal reward that can never be lost. The lost sinner has a free will to choose for Christ but the person who's prayed the "sinner's prayer" has no free will to apostatize. To call their theology "Arminian" would be an insult to the intellectual consistency of Arminianism.

    • Wesley McCoy

      Yes, your comments are dead-on! I sojourned amongst the SBC for a number of years, a former Methodist (Wesleyan Arminian). I felt that the Southern Baptists were better 'Arminians' than I ever was in that they consistently emphasized the cooperative effort in salvation between God and man, which I came to reject based on Scripture. The SBC from a theological standpoint would be better off returning to the 1689 Westminster Standards adopted by English Baptists, but that won't happen because of their synergistic (cooperative)view of salvation.

    • http://Pneulife.wordpress.com Chad Wollenberg

      As a young, reformed southern baptist minister i have to very sadly agree with you. But I would say that there is a growing movement to change this aspect of southern baptist culture from the inside out. I pray that this changes. And I have faith they it will :)

  • http://www.wsbchurch.com Scott Brown

    James P. Boyce founded the Southern Baptist Seminary, and his theology was definitely reformed. I have his "Abstract of Systematic Theology" sitting on my shelf, and used it for a seminary paper on "The History of Calvinism within the Southern Baptist Convention." This article makes a good point that the statement's title, "A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God's Plan of Salvation" is inaccurate and misleading. Also based on my research, the rise in reformed theologians within the SBC is much higher today than reflected by the Lifeway survey that was done several years ago. Today it's closer to 30 percent of SBC leaders, and 50 percent of recent seminary grads. Thanks to the ministries of T4G and the TGC!

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      Perhaps also there is simply more seriousness about theology. I got a BA in Religion at a Southern Baptist college in the '80s and it was mostly devoid of any theology. Danny Akin, of SEBTS, complained that the education he got at Southwestern was mostly empty theologically. Part of the way that Southern Baptist institutions remained neutral was simply to make very few theological claims at all. And so, when they feel challenged to do so, such as in this statement, they show themselves to be embarrassingly ill-prepared.

  • http://www.stevekmccoy.com Steve McCoy

    Joe, this was helpful. Thanks for putting it together in one post.

  • stephen c.

    "calvinism- a set of doctrines, first elucidated by John Calvin"

    im not sure this is very helpful, or even accurate statement. calvin was already dead when the "5 points" where systematized as a response to the remonstrance at the synod of dort.

  • Anthony Smith

    Disunity caused by a disagreement concerning a doctrine...where is the discussion? Was Paul not largely concerned with unity in his letter to the Philippians? No wonder much of the intellectual world views Christianity as bigotry when pride causes us to separate over such issues...
    Here's a site I've found that deals with issues relevant to this: http://sbcheritage.com/

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      Hi Anthony,

      Actually The Gospel Coalition did a blog on just that topic (unity and theological convictions) this Monday: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/06/04/lets-get-our-theological-priorities-straight/.

      But, that you so quickly dismiss the entire discussion as a "disunity" caused by "pride", etc., shows just what is wrong with the SBC and much of wider evangelicalism: one cannot discuss serious theological matters without someone denouncing the entire discussion as at least a distraction and at worst a sin. It is as though to love one another, we have to refuse to love God with our minds. The result is that we have significant SBC leaders who can't draft a theological statement that doesn't fall into serious theological difficulties, self-contradictions, and double-talk. See my statement above about the emptiness of theology in the SBC.

      • http://www.wsbchurch.com Scott Brown

        Reminds me of a discussion I had with a college student who said, "Doctine divides, love unites... we should just love God and love each other!" My response, "Without doctrine, how can you know you if are loving the One True God, or loving others in the right way?" You make a good point. We should be mature enough, and objective enough, to engage discussion (even debate) about tougher theological issues without being unloving. Jesus certainly never shied away from making bold statements ("eat my flesh and drink my blood") and he was always loving. Thank God for people who are willing to proclaim the truth in this postmodern, pluralistic, "doctine divides" age.

        • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

          I'm looking for the "like" button to click!

      • Anthony Smith

        John,

        My apologies for not being specific enough. I am by no means dismissing the entire discussion. In fact, my main point was to say that we need to discuss the issues (even debate(as Scott said)) because the SBC is not actually discussing the issues and considering that their view may be wrong. They are simply using tradition and a majority number of people to defend their side without confronting those with a Calvnistic approach. They have inconspicuously left those who may disagree with them in the dust and thus are creating disunity. Again, I am in agreement with you and am not discrediting discussion; rather, I am encouraging it so as to cause unity and brotherly affection within the church! If there is no discussion, the SBC will split and I'm afraid they will become ignorant theologically and lean only the Spiritual side while throwing intellectualism into the wilderness.

        • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

          Oh, then we're agreed then. I misunderstood where you're coming from.

          As for "discussion", I know that the "John 3:16 Conference" a couple of years ago was not a good-faith attempt at understanding or discussing.

          • Anthony Smith

            You're precisely right, and I think the conference was set up with no real intent to have discussion; rather, to give the appearance of a discussion, which, ultimately, was nothing more than a predisposed display of opinions.

  • http://keywrd-power.com Lamar Carnes

    One comment made about the meaning of Calvinism mistakes John Calvin as the promoter or perhaps the initiator of the doctrines of grace. He did preach them but he did not start this teaching it had been around going back to the Synod of Dort, Martin Luther, on back with other Church fathers, to Augustine and back to Paul. So, the correct background on the term should be given. Armenius's followers tagged John Calvin on the doctrines of grace taught, but that was done because they hated Calvin and Presbyterians. If we use the term Calvinism I urge the proper development be given because otherwise folks get a wrong perception of the entire matter. Also, as I have read and listened to men in the SBC who speak against the doctrines of grace from the word of God, they misrepresent the teachings by not properrly teaching what the Bible say's or we who embrace the doctrines teach. I wish they would not evaluate things if they can't clearly define things correctly. Also, a BIG ONE, FOLKS, is that the SBC was founded by so-called Calvinists and if they would only read J. Boyce, and the others who founded the movement they will see clearly they have LEFT their founding fathers understanding of the subject. That doesn't seem to bother any of the Armenian guys at all. But it is important. It can be proven easily by picking up their books and reading all about it. It is embarrassing through the years to know the SBC leadership and Pastors do not follow their founding fathers. It reminds me of those who do not like the Constitution and Bill of Rights of the U.S. and seek to not follow those laws and principles because they don't like them. That is the current situation - either follow our founding fathers doctrines as SBC members and the Bible as it clearly teaches these matters or admit you are not one and change into something else perhaps a Penecostal, or a Arian type such as Islam or some other religious movement but quit messing with the SBC and its founding documents and the Bible itself by preaching false doctrines!

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      Hi Lamar,

      You're right that Calvin didn't originate the "doctrines of grace". Two corrections: (1) the Synod of Dordt met in 1618-19. Calvin died about 1564, so over 50 years earlier.
      (2) "Armenian" refers to an ethnic group south of Russia. Arminianism refers to the theological movement derived from James Arminius.
      But agreed over all! :)

  • Sam

    Very helpful overview of some of the theology at hand:

    http://visualunit.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/extent_atonement3.jpg

  • http://lettheshepherdlead.wordpress.com Steven R. Owensby

    While I agree that the majority of the signers of the doccument as well as the majority of SBC members would not readily affirm the heretical semi-pelagian thinking in this doccument if they recognized it; Eric Hankins who authored the statmentI developed this heretical semi-pelagian viewpoint over several years. In a series of articles at SBC Today as well as a published paper in the Journal of Baptist Theology and Mission (JBTM 8.1 Spring 11 pg. 94 fn 18) of the same name he presents a more precise theological argument "refuting" both Calvinism and Arminianism in order to replace them with his "Baptist soteriology". While arguing for what he acknowledges in a footnote as the synergistic semi-pelagian viewpointt, Hankins simply dismisses the seriousness of the issue by making the unsubstantiated claim that monergism and synergism as well as Calvinism and Arminianism are outmoded categories. Hankins consistently says to commenters on his posts as well as to the statement that he wants Calvinsts and Arminians to live up to the logical implications of their theological systems. Mr. Hankins needs to follow his own advice. The logical implications of his "Baptist Soteriology" necesarily places him in the camp with Pelagian and semi-pelagian heretics.

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      Interesting and . . . alarming. I believe in the value of thinking hard and clearly about one's beliefs but recognize that some people are better off staying in their muddled hodge-podge of beliefs because when they start being consistent, they often end up going the wrong way.

    • Andrew

      Per this comment, he also spawned this very recent blog, precipitating what he published in the statement where he attempts to find "middle ground" and then came out with a statement that was no where near the middle but simply divisive...

      see this blog on the SBC site: http://sbctoday.com/2012/04/10/beyond-calvinism-and-arminianism-toward-a-baptist-soteriologypart-2-philosophical-presuppositionsabout-freedom-and-determinism/#comment-20030

      Also thought you all would find this valuable:

      The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith (fully Calvinistic):
      Chapter 3: Of God’s Decree
      1. God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken way, but rather established; in which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree. (Isa. 46:10; Eph. 1:11; Heb. 6:17; Rom. 9:15, 18; James 1:13; 1 John 1:5; Acts 4:27, 28; John 19:11; Num. 23:19; Eph. 1:3-5)
      2. Although God knoweth whatsoever may or can come to pass, upon all supposed conditions, yet hath he not decreed anything, because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions. (Acts 15:18; Rom. 9:11, 13, 16, 18)
      3. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated, or foreordained to eternal life through Jesus Christ, to the praise of his glorious grace; others being left to act in their sin to their just condemnation, to the praise of his glorious justice. (I Tim. 5:21; Matt. 25:34; Eph. 1:5, 6; Rom. 9:22, 23; Jude 4)
      4. These angels and men thus predestinated and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished. (2 Tim. 2:19; John 13:18)
      5. Those of mankind that are predestinated to life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to his eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will, hath chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, out of his mere free grace and love, without any other thing in the creature as a condition or cause moving him thereunto. (Eph. 1:4, 9, 11; Rom. 8:30; 2.Tim. 1:9; I Thess. 5:9; Rom. 9:13, 16; Eph. 2:5, 12)
      6. As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so he hath, by the eternal and most free purpose of his will, foreordained all the means thereunto; wherefore they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ, by his Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power through faith unto salvation; neither are any other redeemed by Christ, or effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only. (1 Pet. 1:2; 2.Thess. 2:13; 1 Thess. 5:9, 10; Rom. 8:30; 2.Thess. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:5; John 10:26, 17:9, 6:64)
      7. The doctrine of the high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, that men attending the will of God revealed in his Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election; so shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God, and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the gospel. (1 Thess. 1:4, 5; 2.Pet. 1:10; Eph. 1:6; Rom. 11:33; Rom. 11:5, 6, 20; Luke 10:20)
      http://www.austinsquare.com/2nd%20London%20Confession.pdf

      My great concern for these brothers, who collective, as part of the bride of our Lord, need our prayers rest in a few areas:

      It is fearful to see how precisely this man centered stance squares with Roman Catholicism and particular the battle of the reformers who exposed it (see Luther's bondage of the will, and any commentary Calvin makes regarding salvation by grace)

      It is fearful to see that these brothers, and their approach to soteriology will make a significant contribution to the false church that falls away because it was always about man and not Gods true work.

      It is fearful to think how these errors and rejection of clear, hard to comprehend, but not hard to understand truths will shape a completely distorted and ignored eschatology. How can one begin to understand Gods purpose withIsrael, His work in the building and stumping of Babylon, and His working in bringing the tribulation together against His bride and Him...

      And the message of sin that this article suggest is one of some sinners are not as bad as other sinners because some sought after God, the better sinners, and some didn't, the bad sinner...let's be clear, in no uncertain terms, this is simply a cover for a man centered view of self righteousness that is held deep in the hearts of these men...but why?

      I believe it is because they have countless souls in their churches, in their homes, and in their families who have made a decision for Christ but reveal no life, no true regeneration, no true love for the Lord and His word...these are very personal, fearful concerns their souls see at the heart of their families, loved ones and the work they believe they have done for the Lord...fearful brothers...please pray for them. This draws so very near to the pain and sorrow I have for my Catholic loved ones and the countless souls deceived by false religion, all of which is a consequence of their own unbelief.

      Thank you and sorry for the long note to my brothers in Christ by Him and I'm alone....

  • Elle

    The SBC stance to not take a stance on Calvinism and Arminianism really bothers me.

    I am SBC, and work at a SBC church, yet I've always thought it was strange to allow local church autonomy (which, I believe is related to this matter). SBC churches can be radically different, not just in worship style, preaching style, organization, or flavor but also in doctrine, which makes it difficult when congregants ask about church recommendations after a move (for example). My pastor always says, "Look around until you find a fit. Find a Bible-believing church, whether it's SBC or not." It also means that the SBC doesn't have to take much, if any, responsibility when certain SBC pastors or churches do shady things. They can condemn an action, but use the "local church autonomy" blanket to save themselves.

    I love my church family, I love working in ministry, and I love certain things about the SBC (emphasis and support of missions and missionaries, for example). I'm just saying that it would be much easier to be a part of a denomination that held all churches within the denomination to a specific creed and picked a side in the Calvinism/Arminianism debate, at the very least.

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      But they might pick the wrong side!

    • Bill

      I would agree. I was a member of an SBC when one pastor had a certain view, and essentially was forced out when the next pastor had a different view. When I look back at the experience, I believe this particular church would be stronger and more stable had it followed a consistent doctrine all along, even though its not the doctrine I subscribe to.
      In other words, I would have more peace knowing they were bringing more people to Christ with a firm and consistent doctrine (that I don't entirely agree with), than causing division and declining numbers by problems due to autonomy.
      If you are SBC, claim a doctrine and stick to it. And for those of you against the idea of "doctrine" and "theology", let me remind you that every church has one, like it or not. If you go to the "what we are about" page on a website and see anything other than direct copy-and-paste of scripture, that's a doctrine.

  • http://www.theradicaljourney.com Nick McDonald

    I think the problem with Semi-Pelagianism boils down to a view of mankind, that:

    1.) Mankind is part evil, part good,

    2.) Therefore, Mankind can choose good or evil,

    3.) Therefore, Mankind can choose salvation,

    4.) Therefore, Mankind is responsible for their own salvation.

    It's similar to Arminianism, but Arminians don't hold that man is part evil and part good, and that's a very important distinction.

  • Bogard

    Is it just me or does the document in question read like a kid on a playground who because he is annoyed, spoiled or just jealous says "I'm taking my toys and going home". I am now seminary grad or do I even understand this all (I am working on that part) but it just seems as if they are irritated because the other kids toys are much cooler than their own.

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  • Keith

    Wow. Just wow.

    Your friendly neighborhood atheist here. (Raised Arminianist, and as an old guy, I may be unique in that I've actually had the Confession of 1853 preached at me. Funny how times change, but at the time, it was a concern in the Baptist congregations.)

    If god actually existed, would you not anticipate some clarity on how the whole salvation thing works? I mean, seriously, you're god incarnate, you're writing a book, focused on salvation, you already know the controversies that will justify this or that heretic burning for the next 2,000 years. Knowing all this, you find room for a discussion on slave ownership, but provide no clarity at all to explain how salvation works.

    Why doesn't that bother you?

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      There is clarity. In fact, it's so clear it's contained in the meaning of the name Yeshua (Jesus): the Lord is salvation. That is, the Lord saves. Everything after that is commentary and those who want to interject that "the Lord saves with our help, etc" are the ones muddling it. Don't mistake the refusal of some people to believe with a lack of clear communication.

      • Keith

        And if someone refuses to believe the clear communications of god himself: didn't Jesus say that men should "gather them" and "cast them into the fire"?

        I am always amazed at the certainty people have in their parsing of language that is anything but certain.

        After the huge, undeniable doctrinal and ethical missteps of the founders and leaders of the historical church, you'd think the church would have a standard policy of starting every single theological statement with the phrase "We could be wrong about this, and probably are, but we have reason to believe...".

        • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

          There is clear, certain language about the essentials of the faith in the Bible. For example, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." The name of the Lord, being "Jesus."

          There were not "huge, undeniable doctrinal and ethical missteps of the founders and leaders of the historical church." If you're referring to the Apostles, that's just wrong.

          But, your first statement is true: if someone refuses to believe the message it is because they are "suppressing the truth" (Romans 1); their suppression of the truth is an expression of their rebellion against and hatred of God for which they will suffer judgment.

          • Keith

            Sam Harris said it as well as anyone: “It was even possible for the most venerated patriarchs of the Church, like St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, to conclude that heretics should be tortured (Augustine) or killed (Aquinas). Martin Luther and John Calvin advocated the wholesale murder of heretics, apostates, Jews, and witches. You are, of course, free to interpret the Bible differently—though isn’t it amazing that you have succeeded in discerning the true teachings of Christianity, while the most influential thinkers in the history of your faith failed?”

            • http://www.wsbchurch.com Scott Brown

              Keith, Luther and Calvin were sinners in need of a Savior. So am I. So are you.

              And why would a "friendly" neighborhood athiest want to engage in a discussion related to monergism and synergism anyway? Unless you are misrepresenting yourself?

              Monergism - God has not willed you to believe. Synergism - you subbornly refuse to believe in spite of the reasonable evidence. Either way you are doomed.

              Are you just trying to be antagonistic, or are you searching for a more rational explanation for life than "it all just happened by accident"? Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

            • Keith

              Hey, Scott. I was raised Southern Baptist, and these questions were central to my religious experience: the SBC, Calvinism, Arminianism, TULIP, all normal dinner conversation. Not trolling at all.

              The phrase "it all just happened by accident" isn't a fair description of my beliefs. I believe "we don't know".

              For example, the Big Bang: we can be relatively sure (as these things go), there was a huge explosion that began the Universe as we know it. Different experiments in different areas of science reinforce the idea that's what happened. For example, the Big Bang explains the white noise you see when you tune a television to a non-existent channel. Without the Big Bang, why do we have the white noise? That's the cool thing about science, it has testable answers to questions. So, I believe the Big Bang happened, because there's evidence to support that theory.

              Why did the Big Bang happen, what caused it to happen, does "cause" even have a meaning with respect to the event, did something come from nothing? Nobody (as far as I know), has any evidence, let alone answers, and we may never know the answer. But "we don't know" isn't the same as "it just happened by accident", and saying "god did it" isn't useful absent actual evidence that god both exists, and did it.

            • David

              Hi Keith,
              Your friendly follower of Christ here. I appreciate your thoughtful and friendly comments. You mentioned it unfair to some up your beliefs with "by accident." I sort of felt the same with the first comment that God doesn't exist because there isn't "some clarity" on salvation. I think that is an unfair attack on God just because man wrestles to understand things and fallen man attacks one another instead of being gentle kind and humble. I also think a friendly agnostic might better suit you than an friendly atheist. The first thinking we can't know for sure with a kind smile, the second stating absolutely God doesn't exist still a kind smile. In my thinking basic logic shows that all things around me that have design had a designer. This fact atleast demands the possiblity that when we see design in the cosmos and DNA, that there may indeed be a creator.

              As for me why I believe, I cried out to God if he was real to show me and after a year of crying out. I heard the gospel and then God spoke to me clear as day and said that it was true. And that I need to leave my sins. I was shocked of his love and compassion toward me a sinner I repented. I believe there are other reasons and facts for believing the gospel. But I hope my post shows that just because we believe in an Almighty Star breathing God, that it doesn't mean we check our minds at the table, swimming in ignorance like blind sheep, or are evil as much of the common thought of our day charges us with. As for the mistakes of Calvin and Luther, we each will have to give an account to God for ourselves. I do thank God for his blood and love which covers a multitude of sins. And for the perfect example of Jesus who loved his enemies. His love helps me to be kind to others, even those who have differing views than I do. We do will to fix our eyes on Jesus and not Peter or even Judas.
              God bless.

          • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

            Hi Keith,

            You're wrong and confused. Luther and Calvin didn't fail to ascertain the true teachings of Christianity and you don't understand them or their times. And your arguments are trite and ignorant.

            • Keith

              If you believe Luther represents the true teachings of Christianity, you are either unfamiliar with his writings, or you're a scary Christian.

              Ignore Luther's belief in burning witches, Jewish genocide and devil/human half-breed children; focus on the fact that Luther rejected the books of Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation.

              Let me restate that: Luther read your bible and rejected 4 of the canonical NT books, including books primary to evangelical thought; further, Luther rejected them for theological reasons. By definition, if you and Luther cannot agree on the content of the canon, one of you has failed to ascertain the true teachings of Christianity.

              To the point that I don't understand Luther or his times: the raison d'etre of Christianity is its access to timeless truths, its explication of god's revelation to man. If Luther himself was so clearly unable to discern those timeless truths and revelations, how can you believe you're going to do better?

            • zilch

              Another friendly neighborhood atheist here, and I must second Keith. Not a scholar, but I'm probably one of the only ones here who has read the Luther Bible and Von den Jüden und iren Lügen in the original. Luther started out tolerant, but he ended up bitter and hateful.

  • http://notesischite.wordpress.com/ Dan B.

    most of the critics would likely agree that the document's endorsement of semi-Pelagianism is due to sloppiness on the part of the drafters...

    Dr. Jerry Vines: I strongly disagree with Dr. Mohler's assertion that "some of the statements appear to affirm semi-Pelagian understandings." I wonder if Dr. Mohler thinks some of us aren't theologically astute enough to recognize semi-Pelagianism when we see it!

    So much for that, no (at least with regard to the big names)?

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      Hi Dan,

      I think what several people here are saying (including myself) is, Yes, we don't think you are theologically astute enough to recognize semi-Pelagianism when you see it! See my comments above about the theological vacuity which was characteristic of SBC institutions.

      One of the problems with theological discussion is that someone can just deny the obvious -- "I'm not semi-Pelagian" -- and then immediately describe a theological system that is exactly the same as what they just denied they were. They think they're being sophisticated when in reality it is double-talk and then starts to go beyond a theological deficiency to a character problem, that is a lack of integrity by refusing to be honest about what one really believes and the trajectory of ones thoughts.

      • http://notesischite.wordpress.com/ Dan B.

        Dear sir, I happen to agree with the substance of your comment ;-)

        I was merely pointing out that Dr. Vines rejects the sloppiness claim.

        • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

          HI Dan, That's good; thanks for the clarification. I wasn't really criticizing you. The "you" I was addressing in my post was Jerry Vines.
          Thanks for your contributions.

    • http://www.forumfaith.com/blog Jacob

      The thing that dropped my jaw was that these people SHOULD BE theologically astute. They are the leaders of our denomination.

  • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

    Actually, I'm having second thoughts whether the statement is really "Semi-Pelagian". I just looked at this statement from it:

    "We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned."

    Is that not "Semi-" but pure, rank Pelagianism?

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  • http://www.michaelruffin.com Michael Ruffin

    Jesus loves me, this I know; for the Bible tells me so...

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      Unless you're Esau! :)

      • http://Pneulife.wordpress.com Chad Wollenberg

        **like button*** hahah

  • John K.

    Glad this conversation happened after God brought me into Faith. It would have been a greater struggle with God knowing this divisive division existed. It is not a question that we have different views in interpretation of scripture, I know God wanted it that way. What concerns me is how we address each other and I know this concerns God also. We need to check our egos and recognize Gods sovereignty. He did not give us all the answers and we need to stop acting like He did. Yes I have opinions but I do not know all of Gods mind, and I hope we can all agree on that.

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  • http://everywordthatproceeds.blogspot.com Emily

    Thanks for sharing this. As a reformed Southern Baptist married to a 3-to-4 point Youth Pastor, this Traditional Statement on Southern Baptist Soteriology is of great concern. I ask everyone to please pray for Southern Baptists and for the leadership that will be meeting at the convention this summer. I would like share a few things from my personal experience and perspective on this situation: I became reformed when I was in seminary, but my husband is not. He's between 3 and 4 points. We've been married 10 years and have been able to make it work so my hope is that Southern Baptist leadership will somehow make it work too. Although my husband thinks I am too dogmatic with regard to soteriology, he trusts me implicitly when I teach and speak - this is because he does not see Calvinism as heresy. Unfornately not everyone in the SBC feels that way.

    Knowing the history of the debate of Calvinism in the SBC, I think this "Statement" is ultimately a power move. Reformed Theology is becoming more & more popular, especially among younger generations. John Piper and the Passion Movement I think had a lot to do with it. Then came David Platt, and other non-baptists like Matt Chandler, Mark Driscoll, etc. I think there are alot more Calvinists in the SBC than most people realize. The authors of this traditional statement are scared. They know their theology is losing some ground and they want to stop that from happening. My hope and prayer is that unity will prevail. Southern Baptists need Calvinists. I cannot imagine an SBC without them. And selfishly, if the SBC ever decided to officially denounce Calvinism (God forbid!), I don't know where that would leave people like me and my husband. I mean, if were we both reformed, we could find a home in another denomination or go non-denom and make it work. But since we aren't, I'm not sure what we'd do. This definitely has huge ramifications for his future ministry opportunities, as well as mine. Please pray for our denomination's leadership.

    • http://Pneulife.wordpress.com Chad Wollenberg

      Matt chandler is baptist!

      But yeah I agree with you, however, I think there are enough Calvinists in the denomination that they would never denounce calvinism.

      • http://everywordthatproceeds.blogspot.com Emily

        I know Matt Chandler grew up baptist, but are you sure his church is? I have never checked their church's website, but from the way he preaches, it has always sounded like the "came from" baptist roots, but that his church was non-denom. I mean, their doctrine is similiar, but different in a lot of ways too. Please let me know if I am wrong about this.

        • http://Pneulife.wordpress.com Chad Wollenberg

          I could be wrong, but I think it is. I say that because I think when he came to that church it was called "the village first baptist church" and when they replanted they changed the name. I'll look and comment back :)

          • http://Pneulife.wordpress.com Chad Wollenberg

            You may be right. I can't find it... But for some reason Im convinced he is... I guess it calls for more research!

            • Bogard

              Matt Chandler is Southern Baptist. You can hear him talk about it during his April 29th sermon here: http://www.thevillagechurch.net/resources/sermons/

              I really appreciate what this particular line. I am also a reformed Baptist. I was really disturbed by some of the comments coming from the sbctoday.com bloggers about how calvinist could not be Baptists. This is my full attention at the moment.

            • http://everywordthatproceeds.blogspot.com Emily

              You are correct! I found this link:
              http://www.thevillagechurch.net/mediafiles/whatisourdenominationalaffiliation.pdf
              This link is from 2007, but I guess it's still accurate. I also see their financial statements are available online and they indicate their are still affiliated with the SBC.

              I learned something new today! :)

    • David

      Jesus prays for us that we would be one. Like you Emily, My wife and I have two differing views on this topic and yet we are one. I will be praying for wisdom for SBC leaders and rememberance of what brings us together.

      I think what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3 is helpful here. Today it might have read something like this,"some say I follow Arminius, other Calvin, still others Piper or Rick Warren. Let me ask you this, whose name were you baptized in and which one died for your sins." Paul stresses that it is a bleif in the death burial and ressurection of Christ that unites us.

      In Ephesians 4 on the topic unity. He asks us to bear with one another in humility and gentleness. Then describes what bonds us in perfect unity with the 7 ones: One body, One Spirit, One hope, One Lord, faith,One baptism, One God.

      There are great thinkers and godly believers on both sides of this issue.I believe it was Boyce, in view of a possible divide between this very topic, who coined the phrase, "in the essentials unity, in the non essentials clarity, and in all things charity." We do well to remember a house divided against eachother can not stand. The enemy wants to divide and conquer. May God bless us all and give us greater unity in the years ahead to the glory of the Father and the oneness of is bride. Even when it is hard may the Spirit that bears with one another in gentleness and humility previal. God bless you all.

  • Leslie

    Jesus never put emphasis on this. Teach and live out the Gospel. Leave the details to God.

    • Keith

      There's a quote from Thomas Bergler's "The Juvenilization of American Christianity" that I ran across in Kevin DeYoung's blog this morning. I read Bergler's book awhile ago, but the quote crystalized for me in the context of the SBC conversation. Anyway, Bergler says: "Many [Christians] would be uncomfortable with the idea of believing something just because the Bible, the church, or some other religious authority teaches it."

      Why would we “believe something just because the Bible, the church, or some other religious authority teaches it”? If we learn nothing else from the history of the church, we learn the Bible can be read in an infinite number of ways, to an infinite number of conclusions, and because “religious authority” is invariably connected to secular power, it should always be mistrusted.

      And that means we must mistrust our own biblical interpretations, not just everybody else's.

      After 2,000 years of missteps, can there be any theological question on which we can justifiably claim certainty?

      (And please don't reply with "Yes, of course, except we know [fill in the blank], and if someone doesn't believe that, they aren't a Christian". Trust me: sometime in the last 2,000 years, a group of devout Christians has, with utter conviction and total sincerity, disagreed with you over the absolute truth you're describing, including the virgin birth, physical resurrection, Jesus' divinity, blood atonement, Satan's existence, ordaining women, biblical inerrancy, whatever. You name it, and some people carefully thought about the issue and then disagreed with you.)

      And finally, once we admit our uncertainty, does it really matter so much where we differ?

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  • MIke

    Three points concern me.

    1st – This document is misleading and reflect a poor understanding of reformed theology in the SBC. The very first charter of the Southern Baptist Seminary was distinctly reformed and many others, not to include hundreds of main leaders.

    2nd – Since when have SB denied the federal headship of Adam without being thrown under the bus. This is a surprising stance.

    3rd - This document is not worthy of substantive debate. I am surprised that men of such theological training would sign such an inaccurate and misleading document.

  • whynot

    All Southern Baptists should become Pelagians.Why be satisfied with only 51%of the glory.Take 100%. Go for the gold.

  • carl peterson

    I was a Southern Baptist from early childhood until I graduated seminary at Southwestern Baptist theological seminary (Paige APtterson president). I respect many of those who signed this document. Not all but amny of them. I always thought one of the biggest stregnths of SBC was also one of their biggest weaknesses: the SBC has always been Calvinisitc and Arminian. Most I knew were 3 point calvinists (if you can say that). The documetn recently published and endorsed does not seem to jive with much of the theology of most of those I knew in Seminary and in SBC churces that I attended. And I never attented a Reformed Baptist church. I think this document is more about politics than theology and Patterson is right there in the middle of it.I think it is a sad day for Southern Baptists. A denomination I still love (Now I go to an Evangelical Presbyterian church) and many of its leaders and seminary profs. I stil lgreatly admire and respect. It is a sad day indeed.

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      I've never seen proof that the SBC was founded partly by Arminians. Maybe it's true but the founding statements of faith of seminal institutions like Southern seminary are Calvinistic. The "Founders" ministry insists that the SBC was founded as Calvinistic.

  • Hoyt Roberson

    The Eastern Orthodox constellation considers the Reformation and its plethora of denominations as simply the result of Western Christiandom's heresies. They do not accept Augustinian Original Sin, nor total depravity or unconditional election. They accept what you might call a semi-Pelagian approach to the salvation process. It does, according to them, include both God's participation and Man's (free will). And so, a "Pelagian heresy" that allows for a joint endeavor is not truly a heresy in the East. It only appears as one in Western Christianity, and as a result of Augustine's mistaken arguments. A Pelagian-esque view of salvation is older than Augustine, and considerably older than any Reformation thinker.

    • http://Pneulife.wordpress.com Chad Wollenberg

      Just because eastern orthodox, semi pelagianism is older than Augustinian thought doesn't mean it's biblical.

      • Hoyt Roberson

        Well, you're right.

        Of course, it doesn't mean it isn't either. My point was that a perceived Pelagian heresy is, in the view of those who have as long a history as Western Christianity, an unBiblical view out of step with Tradition.

        And, as I understand it, they are as theologically literate as us Westerners.

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      Eastern Orthodoxy is itself heretical, with the widespread use of idols and it's doctrine of deification. The issue is not about Augustine but about whether the doctrines of salvation laid down in scripture, particularly Romans 5, are properly reflected in the SBC statement. They are not. That they are also not held to by the Eastern Orthodoxy is just another problem with that tradition that went astray a long time ago.

  • W B McCarty

    If I rightly understand Dr. Harwood, one of the signers of the proposed statement, the statement is intended to affirm God's initiative in salvation only to the extent of God's design and implementation of the plan of salvation. Thus, the statement denies prevenient grace and other any sort of enabling grace preceding the Gospel. That is, the Gospel itself is affirmed to be the entire extent of God's initiative and every sinner is affirmed as capable of exercising the faith necessary to believe the Gospel and apprehend its promises. I very much hope that I am wrong, but it appears to me that the position is fully Semi-Pelagian.

    • W B McCarty

      My impression has been modified due to remarks by Dr. Reynolds, a defender of the statement who wrote in its defense on SBCToday, who offered the following comment: "BUT, the ability to TRUST in GOD was lost in the fall so that man is now unable to TRUST in GOD . . . without God’s grace [emphasis original]." It now appears that it was the clear intention of the drafters to affirm the necessity of initial grace and therefore avoid Semi-Pelagianism. In my opinion, they were much less than clear on this point. I hope that they will take opportunity to correct the ambiguity of the statement.

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  • Connie

    Wow, I'm not as learned by men as most of you all. However, I have loved Jesus, relied on the Holy Spirit, and read the scriptures for most of my life. All this disagreement just seems to muddy the waters. Who are we supposed to believe? I don't believe in a conspiracy theory, except from Satan. I don't believe that pastors and godly men and women that I've known were driven by alter call numbers. It's contradictions like this that push people away from God. Why can't we all just be man enough to say that we don't understand everything, but we love Jesus and want to share His love with all mankind. Some scriptures are simply confusing, but it's the Person of God, His Character that we must rely on. What do the scriptures say to you? Go with that and the Holy Spirit will reveal the Truth in do time.

  • http://plushcarpetcleaning.com.au/ Caleb

    Jacob Arminius believed in total depravity but also believed in the goodness of God. He was seeking to exalt the character of God rather then exalt mans free will. Though man was totally depraved God, through His prevenient grace, draws their hearts and minds towards him giving him desires for reconciliation with God. This grace is resistible, but if it is not resisted then God continues to draw him into repentance and faith. http://plushcarpetcleaning.com.au/

    When Moses sought grace for Gods people in Exodus 33-34 God at first said he would send an angel before them to take them into the promised land (material provision) but Moses did not consider that to be Gods grace. Moses pleaded for God to go with them and God eventually agreed, but Moses wanted to see Gods presence as proof he would go with him. God agreed that he would make his goodness pass before him and when he did God proclaimed "The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty".

    This phrase was understood by the prophets to be Gods desire to redeem men from their sins:

    Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God? Joel 2:11-14

    The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. Psalms 103:8-12

    But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry. And he prayed unto the LORD, and said, I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil. Jonah 4:1-2

    This is also applied by the Psalmist David:

    The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works. Psalms 145:8-9

    So God clearly has a desire to save all men from their sins and the judgment.

    And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. 1John 2:2

    But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
    Hebrews 2:9

    The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. John 1:29

    I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
    John 6:51

    But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. 2Peter 2:1-3

    “He who says that the saviour was not crucified for the redemption of the whole world, has regard, not to the virtue of the sacrament, but to the case of unbelievers, since the blood of Jesus Christ is the price paid for the whole world. To that precious ransom they are strangers, who, either being delighted with their captivity, have no wish to be redeemed, or, after they have been redeemed, return to the same servitude.” - Jacob Arminius

    “With respect to both the magnitude and potency of the price, and with respect to the one general cause of mankind the blood of Christ is the redmption of the whole world. But those who pass through this life without the faith of Christ, and without regeneration, are utter strangers to redemption – So likewise is the opinion of all antiquity” - Jacob Arminius

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