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.