“A Statement of the Traditional Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”: A Brief Response

Recently, a group of Southern Baptists published a document titled “A Statement of the Traditional Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.” The statement, which has been signed by several Southern Baptist leaders, is intended to offer an alternative to a more Calvinistic understanding of salvation. Supporters of the statement believe their views represent the best of the Southern Baptist tradition and accurately reflect what most contemporary Southern Baptists believe about the doctrines of grace. Though these claims are up for debate, we appreciate an effort by thoughtful, committed Southern Baptists to clarify some of the most oft-debated doctrines among us.

We are already aware of several Southern Baptists who have offered critiques or defenses of the statement. No doubt more will be written in the coming days. It is not our intent to wade deeply into this discussion, which we feel will potentially distract Southern Baptists from our primary task of proclaiming Christ and planting churches among the unreached and underserved peoples of North America and the wider world. Nevertheless, we do share some concerns about the statement and its helpfulness at this moment in Southern Baptist history. We would refer you to Baptist 21, where Jon Akin has articulated many of the same concerns we would voice about this document.

It is our conviction that Southern Baptists who affirm the evangelical understanding of salvation summarized in the Baptist Faith and Message (2000) can and should lay aside their differences on secondary and tertiary matters for the sake of the Great Commission. Our confessional consensus is broad enough to include most any Southern Baptist who isn’t a hyper-Calvinist or a Wesleyan Arminian. Since we believe a tiny number of Southern Baptists affirm these two aberrant positions, we remain convinced that almost all of us can and should unite for the sake of the gospel. This is our vision for the future of the SBC when it comes to the Calvinism debate and many other similar debates. We would invite you to join us in this Great Commission vision for our convention of churches.

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  1. 5 Points   •  

    I’m happy to see that no one from SEBTS signed this silly document.

  2. Eric Carpenter   •  

    The document seems unnecessary and pointless. I’m sure that many hours went into crafting the exact wording, but to what end?

    I’m glad that no one currently at SEBTS signed the document. However, I’m disappointed and saddened to see a number of former SEBTS faculty members on the list.

  3. Chad   •  

    Isn’t this the kinda thing that pushed all the 20 somethings out of the SBC to begin with? Well, stuff like this and the continual notion that traditionalism is more important than the Gospel.

  4. Tom   •  

    Doctrine does matter and what we believe about the nature and manner of salvation is of the utmost importance.
    It matters when a church calls a pastor and that pastor does not believe that Christ died for the whole world and not a chosen few.
    It matters when members become disinfranchised from their church ( yes this has happened and is happening)
    because they take a stand against a doctrine that is alien to their spiritual and world view.
    Often I get the impression that the Calvinist camp wishes for us to all just get along (until they have coopted the majority of SBC churches).

    Knowledge is power and SBC churches that are traditional evangelical do not need to be paranoid about Calvinism but need to be reasonably alert to the differences in theology and the fact that for a traditional evangelical, Calvinism is not the theology they will likely feel comfortable with in their church

  5. Robin Foster   •  

    With this said, I am sure that SEBTS, along with Southern, would be willing to drop the Abstract of Principles?

  6. Robert Campbell   •  

    I have been reading many of the blogs concerning the statement by a group of Southern Baptist. While I am in complete agreement with what they have written, & their motives, it is sad indeed when others who disagree take them to task in disagreement. When it comes to salvation, how in the world can it be said that it is tertiary or 2nd or 3rd in importance. If people would just follow the Bible statements on Salvation, this discussion would never be happening. Dr. Adrain Rogers told me: “Calvinism is not mentioned in the BF&M. I told Mohler he needed to put that on the back burner & forget it.” I said then & now: “Amen & Amen”!!

  7. David Krueger   •  

    Love him or hate him, Mark Driscoll characterizes the “New Calvinism” as:
    1.Old Calvinism was fundamental or liberal and separated from or syncretized with culture. New Calvinism is missional and seeks to create and redeem culture.
    2.Old Calvinism fled from the cities. New Calvinism is flooding into cities.
    3.Old Calvinism was fearful of the Holy Spirit and generally cessationist (i.e., believing the gifts of the Holy Spirit such as tongues and prophecy had ceased). New Calvinism delights in the Holy Spirit and is generally continuationist with regard to spiritual gifts.
    4.Old Calvinism was fearful and suspicious of other Christians and burned bridges. New Calvinism loves all Christians and builds bridges between them.

    Now, I can’t speak authoritatively on #3, but aren’t the underlined parts of #’s 1, 2, and 4 the core of GCR? If Driscoll’s analysis of the New Calvinism is correct, aren’t these the kind of pastors, congregations and churches we want in the convention? If so, why this declaration on “traditional” Baptist soteriology now? Is it a preemptive strike against the new Sunday School literature—The Gospel Project—coming out this fall? Is it a criticism of our seminaries; that they are turning out too many graduates who are 5-point Calvinists in their soteriology? Is it a “shot across the bow” of the Calvinist-leaning segment of the convention warning us not to be too uppity? Is it a subtle threat? I.e. “You Calvinists are killing the evangelistic and missionary spirit of the convention: STOP IT!”? What is it exactly that the signers of this declaration are concerned about?

    They say: “This movement is committed to advancing in the churches an exclusively Calvinistic understanding of salvation, characterized by an aggressive insistence on the “Doctrines of Grace” (“TULIP”), and to the goal of making Calvinism the central Southern Baptist position on God’s plan of salvation. I’d like to see the specific evidence for this brazen statement. Granted, I live a somewhat sheltered life having only pastored here in Missouri. However this statement defines NONE of the Calvinists I know here in Missouri: None, Nadda, Zip, Zero.

    The Calvinists I know are:
    •Deeply theological—This is bad for our churches and the convention?
    •Passionate preachers—This is bad for our churches and the convention?
    •Doctrinally conservative—This is bad for our churches and the convention?
    •Inerrantists, who are committed to the authority and the sufficiency of the Scriptures—This is bad for our churches and the convention?
    •Willing to pastor small, out of the way churches—This is bad for our churches and the convention?
    •Committed to the sovereignty of God over the lives of Christians, His Church, and His creation—This is bad for our churches and the convention?
    •Believe in, practice, and preach holiness of life: The Christian experience is about faith and practice—This is bad for our churches and the convention?
    •The “New Calvinism” is found most among young Christians who are wanting to move past the surface Christianity that has characterized Evangelical Christianity for 30 years—This is bad for our churches and the convention?
    •Evangelistic and missional—This is bad for our churches and the convention?

    The BFM is a document that unifies Southern Baptists. This new declaration is a document that will divide Southern Baptists. It is unfortunate that it has been published. It’s clear purpose is to denigrate the 5-pointers within the convention and to marginalize them.

  8. Pingback: The SBC and Calvinism | The Battle Cry

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