My Initial Reaction to “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”

I read with great interest this morning “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”. This consensus statement compiled by several Southern Baptist pastors, professors, and leaders has an impressive list of signatories. Many of those who have already signed this document are heroes of mine, some I consider friends. Since I care deeply about the issues discussed in the statement and the individuals who have signed it, I had a number of initial thoughts about the document. I thought it might be helpful to others for me to share my initial reaction to the document.

  • I affirm any individual or group’s right to believe what they think God’s Word teaches.
  • I appreciate any attempt to systematically articulate what one actually believes. This is helpful.
  • I fear “traditional” Southern Baptists have misunderstood “historic” Calvinism at several points.
  • Perhaps some Calvinists have fostered this misunderstanding through their own misunderstanding of historic Calvinism.
  • If this statement is merely a declaration of what some (many, most?) Southern Baptists believe, I don’t have a problem with it.
  • In other words, we can disagree on various propositions, clarify others, but they have as much right to state their beliefs as I trust they would give me to state my own.
  • The perceived need for this statement demonstrates that it is not the historic or confessional view of Southern Baptists.
  • The term “Traditional Southern Baptists” (last 80 years) seems to distinguish it from historic Southern Baptists (first 80 years).
  • As long as this statement is merely an expression of beliefs that (like Evangelical Calvinism) fits comfortably within the Baptist Faith and Message, I don’t have a problem with it.
  • The only possible problem which I foresee is if this statement is going to be set forward as an additional “statement of faith” to the Baptist Faith and Message and made binding upon the entities of the Southern Baptist Convention in any way. The introduction and Preamble seem to rule this out as a motivation. I hope my reading of it is correct.
  • As long as this statement is not going to be made a litmus test for cooperation by churches or hiring by SBC entities, I don’t have a problem with it.

While I disagree with this document at several points, I do not believe that it has to be seen as divisive. The motivation and spirits of the individuals involved on both sides will determine whether this becomes a divisive issue in the SBC. It could be seen as a barometer of the health of the SBC that such important doctrinal matters are being openly discussed. As far as this document allows us to clarify our beliefs through dialogue, it can be a good thing. I think a number of clarifications/corrections of an implied misunderstanding of historic Calvinism are in order and I am sure this will be addressed in due time (perhaps even by me). But for now I’m happy to accept the statement on face value and assume the best about the motivation of my brothers in Christ. I encourage all to approach this issue with a grace-filled disposition.

3 comments

  1. You’re obviously over-reacting. Let’s not take the fun out of fundamentalism with such cynicism. We’re ultimately seeking to serve the Lord’s people. Lets not tear down our SB brothers.

  2. I understand that the document’s author is running for an office at the convention. While we can allow others to have their opinions of scripture where do we draw a line? Article two on its surface is clearly inconsistent with scripture and I cannot believe that the top signatories truly believe that we are born without a sin bound volition or nature or at least a small enough amount of sinfulness, save this statement is impossible, to not be guilty and condemned. I just don’t understand what they are driving at. It is like we are tinged with sinfulness but that sinfulness does not merit guilt until it is acted on. The implications of the assertions in article two are astounding. Children, or any, who are not yet capable of moral action would thus be in perfect fellowship with God.
    “Each person’s sin alone brings the wrath of a holy God, broken fellowship with Him, ever-worsening selfishness and destructiveness, death, and condemnation to an eternity in hell.”

    It is the act of that brings upon a person broken fellowship. So prior before the first sin act, which can only be committed when a person is “capable of moral action”, that person enjoys peace with God; emnity cannot exist in that relationship. Fellowship is unbroken. Also, that person is immortal? prior to their first sin act. Clearly this can only mean that they are spiritually alive which begs the question, “How is a spiritually alive person, who has not been regenerated because they have not spiritually died, ‘inclined toward sin’?”

    I hope I am seriously confused.
    Could this all be a way of getting the guys name out there by creating a stir and showing him to be the leader of an anti-Calvinist faction so as to solidify support at the convention?

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