Last Wednesday, May 30, a group of Southern Baptist leaders, among others, made public A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation on the SBCToday website. This statement attempts to confirm and proclaim what “traditional” Southern Baptists believe regarding the plan of salvation.
Simply put, it states that most Southern Baptists are not Calvinists and that the statement is necessary because of
the rise of a movement called “New Calvinism” among Southern Baptists. 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.
There has been response regarding the statement. Joe Carter posts a very informative article entitled, The FAQs: Southern Baptists, Calvinism, and God’s Plan of Salvation. Thomas Kidd, at Patheos, presents the historicity of the Baptist view of the Doctrine of Salvation in his post, “Traditional” Baptists and Calvinism. Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, presents his response to the statement in Southern Baptists and Salvation: It’s Time to Talk. And, if you have looked at the SBCToday website, you can read a response to Mohler’s response.
As you read each article, remember this.
1. The Baptist Faith & Message is the current confessional statement for Southern Baptists, and it provides clarity regarding salvation and election.
2. There have been other confessional statements adopted by Baptists in its history. The New Hampshire Baptist Confession (1833) and the London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689) are precursors to the Baptist Faith and Message.
3. Baptists have a 400+ year history. Emerging from the English Separatists in the 1600’s, the Baptist denomination emerged almost 100 years later and was decidedly Calvinistic in its salvation beliefs.
4. While discussion and debate may help us land on one side or the other, it is important to remember the we are all Baptist for a reason. That reason, too, is spelled out clearly in the Baptist Faith and Message.
5. While our theology and doctrine will have secondary or tertiary levels of agreement and disagreement, let us remember the primary things we all must agree to. Those are the fundamentals of Christian faith that make us, above all, followers of God, co-heirs with Christ, dependant upon the Spirit.