For it is by grace you have been saved...

Monday, June 4, 2012

My Two Cents re: "A Statement of Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God's Plan of Salvation"

Actually, two cents might be overestimating the value of this, but a couple folks asked for my response, so here it is.

You may or may not be aware of this “statement” regarding the nature of salvation, but it purports to be the view of the “majority” of Southern Baptists.  In short, it wants to show how anti-“Calvinist” Southern Baptists are by denying what it labels as a Calvinistic understanding of salvation.  The statement consists of several articles which combined simply deny God’s sovereignty in salvation.

I don’t have time, or heart to be honest, to respond point by point.  Tom Ascol is writing a series of articles doing that and I’d encourage you to read those if you’re interested.  As for me, here is a brief overview response (it is only two cents worth, remember).

1.  This statement is unhelpful.  It leans on labels and labels, while sometimes useful, are ultimately unhelpful.  Calvinism is the big word we’re supposedly against here.  But as a friend of mine once said, labels like Calvinist are “bag words.”  If I give you a bag with the logo of Chik-fil-a on the outside and ask if you want to eat it, if you’re smart you’ll refuse.  As big a fan of the chicken sandwich as you may be, you may want to see what I’ve actually packed into the bag before you agree to eat it.

Labels are the same.  What you mean by Calvinist may be different that what I mean, which in turn is different than someone else.  I could say that the author of this statement is Arminian and even Semi-Pelagian, and I could believe it to be true.  But in fact, the author is probably no more a “follower” of Jacob Arminius or Pelagius than I am of John Calvin. And honestly, most folks don't know who Arminius or Pelagius even are, and truly don't know Calvin either.  We just know the "bag word" associations with them.  Unhelpful.

I like the way the great Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon put it.  I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist...I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist…but if I am asked to say what is my creed, I think I must reply — “It is Jesus Christ.”

To build a straw man which you call Calvinist and then knock it down is unhelpful, and quite frankly dishonest.

2.  This statement is unnecessary.  Southern Baptists already have a statement of faith.  It’s called the Baptist Faith and Message and you can go to the official Southern Baptist website and read it.  If you want further comment on that statement, you can go to the bottom of that page at the official Southern Baptist website and read a series of “commentary” articles written by various SBC folks.  

Our official statement of faith wasn’t written by one or two people and posted on the internet.  It was hashed out by a committee, then presented to and approved by the Convention as a whole.  It’s based on a string of historical documents which Baptists have produced, most notably the New Hampshire Confession and the Second London Confession.  Read those documents if you want to know what historic Baptist principles are.

And if you do read our current BF & M statement regarding salvation, you’ll read things like this from Article V: Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God's sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.

Ah yes, that dreaded word “election.”  It’s a shame the Bible has to use that word, isn’t it; and cause all this consternation about “Calvinism.”  Again, we have a statement of faith and don’t need a “petition” drive to form a new one.

3.  This statement is unhealthy.  As I just said, this amounts to nothing more than a petition.  It’s written/promoted in part by one who is running for office in the SBC.  It’s been released just prior to the national Convention meeting and asks people to “sign on” if you agree.  It amounts to nothing more than politicking.  If someone were to post online a rival petition extolling the virtues of the Baptistic understanding of the Doctrines of Grace, we could likewise garner a host of signatures of equal “standing” in SBC life.  

All this statement does is polarize and divide.  It uses labels and straw men to define “them” and places “us” in opposition.  All that can result from such efforts is division, and unless I’m in error because of my “Calvinistic” interpretation, Romans 16:17 says “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.”  

4. This statement is unbiblical.  Again, I don’t want to go into a line by line response, but the overall nature of the articles in this statement outright denies the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice.  Here it is in its own words: We affirm that the penal substitution of Christ is the only available and effective sacrifice for the sins of every person.  We deny that this atonement results in salvation without a person’s free response of repentance and faith.

Do you see that?  We deny that Christ’s sacrifice achieved anything unless you add the faith of the individual to it.  So Christ’s claim on the cross that “it is finished” means nothing.  He didn’t achieve salvation, apparently, but only the potential to be saved if you really believe hard enough.  Heresy! 

The statement denies original sin as well.  Here is 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.

You aren’t born into sin, according to this.  You are only guilty after you sin yourself at some point.  Folks, this is outright heresy, denying thousands of years of Christian orthodoxy.  

Well, I’ll let you read the rest for yourself, and again read Tom Ascol’s responses if you’re interested.  But that’s the summary. This statement is unhelpful, unnecessary, unhealthy and frankly unbiblical.  If Southern Baptists are wise, it will also go unheeded.  Yet, given this day and age where emotion and hype and feel good theology often trumps sound biblical doctrine, I have a feeling that wisdom may not appear.  

This is a sad, sad day for Southern Baptists.  We have such a rich heritage of sound theology and worldwide missions, seeking that the name of Jesus be exalted among the nations.  I can’t help but see this sort of thing as harmful to both.  

As for me and my house, we will continue to serve the Lord, continue to teach the Doctrines of Grace as so clearly presented in Scripture, and continue to seek His glory in all things.  Soli Deo Gloria. 

1 comment:

Gregg said...

Your are probably wise for not going into a line by line, blow for blow, dissertation on this statement. First, others have done in before, second, it won't change closed minds. Good thoughts here brother.