29
Jul
12

Southern Baptist “understanding” of God’s salvation plan

I recently read “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.”

http://sbctoday.com/2012/05/30/an-introduction-to-“a-statement-of-the-traditional-southern-baptist-understanding-of-god’s-plan-of-salvation”/

Though I was surprised by a couple of statements that I will discuss below, I found most of it quite accurate. Most Southern Baptists are ignorant of the Bible’s teachings and of theology. This statement generally contains the same anti-biblical drivel that one usually finds from most Southern Baptists on this subject. The truth is, their “Understanding” of God’s plan doesn’t exist. They are generally clueless. The only statements they make in this document that are accurate are those over which Calvinists and Arminians have no argument. They speak as if it is some grand, earth shattering revelation that we should proclaim the gospel to all people and that all are responsible to believe it.

Though I found this statement banal and hardly worth reading, I probably found greater problem with Al Mohler’s response to this statement (http://www.albertmohler.com/2012/06/06/southern-baptists-and-salvation-its-time-to-talk/) than I did with the statement itself. I certainly agreed with his suggestion that this presents an opportunity to open a discussion about these issues. What I wondered was if he was a good friend to these people, had a relationship of mutual respect with them, walked arm in arm with them and all that stuff, why haven’t they been discussing these matters all along. Now if they have discussed these matters, it appears their discussions have been totally unfruitful, so why waste time playing nice with them? Just agree to disagree and join a group that truly believes the teachings of Scripture. Oh, sorry! I forgot that being Southern Baptist is more important than any other consideration in the world. Silly me. These people obviously know nothing of biblical exegesis or they would never make the outlandish statements they make.

What I found a huge problem with was the lack of care Dr. Mohler showed in responding to some of their statements. One would have thought a leader among Southern Baptists would have been more careful about his statements. For example, he wrote, “It is certainly correct in denying that any person is regenerated ‘apart from hearing and responding to the Gospel.’” Just to give him the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he means it is impossible to be regenerated without responding in faith and repentance. If, on the other hand, he agreeing with this statement in full, Dr. Mohler is denying the plain statement of the Baptist Faith and Message [not to mention denying the clear teaching of the Scriptures] which states. “Regeneration. . . is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” The full statement of these typical Southern Baptists is a follows, “We deny that any person is regenerated prior to or apart from hearing and responding to the Gospel.”

Either sinners are regenerated in response to their faith or they respond to God’s work of regeneration by believing and repenting. It can’t be both ways. That is, we either believe because we are regenerated or we are regenerated because we believe. Neither Dr. Mohler nor the framers of this statement can both believe the above statement and subscribe to the Baptist Faith and Message at the same time. These statements absolutely contradict one another.

Dr. Mohler also wrote,

Fifth, we must recognize and affirm together that we have already stated where Southern Baptists stand on the great doctrines of our faith. The Baptist Faith & Message is our confession of faith, and it binds us all together on common ground. The BF&M does not state doctrines comprehensively, but it defines our necessary consensus. Every Southern Baptist is free to believe more than the confession affirms, but never less.

My friend, they cannot honestly affirm what the BF&.M states because they don’t believe it. They clearly believe less than it affirms. As insipid and vague as it may be, it still affirms Calvinistic not Arminian doctrine.

The truth is, there is little common ground between what these men have written and the Baptist Faith and Message. Granted, the BF&M is so ambiguous in places as to be without significance. Still, there are statements that if properly understood, clearly contradict what these men have written. The BF&M does not “define our necessary consensus.”

The very language of the BF&M is in keeping with the Calvinist’s position. For example, the statement these men have written makes it clear they believe Jesus died equally for all sinners. They could not rightly affirm that he died to obtain the salvation of any sinner in particular. According to their view, his death, in and of itself, no more obtained salvation for believers than it than it obtained salvation for those who will perish for eternity. Yet, the BF&M states, “. . .Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, who by his own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer.” If Jesus’ death did no more for the believer than it did for those who will perish, his death did not OBTAIN redemption for anyone.

Additionally, they could not agree with the above statement on regeneration. According to their statement, God must wait for the sinner’s “free will” decision before he can regenerate anyone. That clearly contradicts the BF&M.
The BF& M also states that election is the “gracious” purpose of God according to which he regenerates etc. then states that “it is the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness. . . .” These men simply cannot, in good conscience, subscribe to the BF&M if they have any understanding of what words mean. When it states that election is the “gracious” purpose of God, it does not merely mean that God was being nice and kind when he formed his purpose to save anyone who would make a free will decision. It means God’s choice of certain sinners was not based on anything God foresaw in them but was based on his grace, i.e., his unmerited favor toward those who have merited his wrath and curse. These men have neglected even to deal with the fact that the words translated, “election,” “elect,” “chosen” etc. have a meaning. The Scriptures do not teach that God chose a plan, but that God chose people. Where is the consensus here based on the BF&M? The writers of the BF&M were no doubt thinking about verses like Romans 11:5-6 where Paul wrote, “So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it [i.e., election] is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be by grace.”

It is interesting that the BF&M speaks about “free agency” but this new statement speaks of “free will.” One we affirm, the other we explicitly deny. It is true, sinners have free agency in that God does not constrain us outwardly in the decisions we make. When we act, we act freely according to our natures and are completely responsible for our decisions. What we deny is that sinners are able to act contrary to our sinful natures. By sinful nature, we do not seek God out. If we should argue that the Holy Spirit gives preceding grace to all sinners alike, we are still left with the question, “Who makes you do differ from another” (1 Cor. 4:7). Someone must ultimately make one sinner differ from another; if it is the sinner who makes the ultimate difference, does he not then have a ground for boasting before God? The apostle Paul tells us it is God’s doing that we are in Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 1:30).

I must confess I was surprised that anyone who claims to believe in the inerrancy of the Scriptures could deny the doctrine of the imputation of Adam’s sin to all his posterity, a doctrine that is so clearly set forth in Romans 5:12ff. The reality is that since Paul, in that passage, calls Adam a “type” of the coming one, in denying the imputation of Adam’s guilt to all who are in him, they have also effectively denied the imputation of Christ’s obedience and righteousness to those in him. That is the very heart of the apostle’s argument in that passage. Without that, we have no gospel to preach. Just as the actions of our first representative head, Adam, were the ground of our condemnation, so the actions of our second representative head, Jesus, are the ground of our justification and provide the assurance of our final glorification. There is a necessary parallel between these two representatives. If we should argue that we are not condemned because Adam’s guilt is imputed to us but because since his nature is imparted to us, we have acted in ways that cause God to condemn us, the parallel would destroy the gospel. The corresponding thought would be that we are justified before God because Christ’s nature has been infused to us enabling us to obey in a manner that would cause God to declare us righteous. This is Roman Catholicism pure and simple. Paul’s argument is that just as we are condemned because of Adam’s guilt, even apart from any actions of our own proceeding from the impartation of Adam’s fallen nature, even so, we are justified through faith, based on the imputation of the obedience of our new representative head, Jesus Christ.

This isn’t a matter of minor disagreement among people who believe the gospel. Rather, the purity of the gospel depends on it. Apart from imputation, there is no good news.

One could have expected such a statement from an ignorant Southern Baptist pew-dweller [admittedly, that is probably a prodigious redundancy], but it is unconscionable that those who are leaders should display such biblical and theological ignorance.

Dr. Mohler needs to stop trying to prevent a split in the SBC and just be honest. The truth is, this statement is a huge pile of manure.

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1 Response to “Southern Baptist “understanding” of God’s salvation plan”


  1. August 8, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    Yesterday, a man named Hugh sent me an email regarding the willingness of certain Calvinists to peacefully coexist with the Semi-Pelagians in the convention. The article he suggested to me by Tom Ascol seemed to illustrate well my assessment that to Southern Baptists, little is so important as being “Conventional.” It doesn’t seem to matter what we believe as long as we are loyal to the SBC. In my view, it is time for those who believe the truth to go their way and leave the rest to their superficiality.

    Since my email response to Hugh continued to be undeliverable, I am posting it here.

    Thanks for your email and for visiting us. I think toleration is a fine idea if it means we acknowledge those who disagree with us as valuable human beings who have, like us, been created in God’s image. If it means we are to join hands with them in the work of the gospel, that is another matter altogether. The idea that Jesus died equally for all sinners, but they must add their “free will” decision to his work to render it efficacious, is not the gospel. That would mean sinners are justified by a combination of Jesus’ work and their faith. The biblical teaching is that sinners are declared righteous in God’s presence, based on the redemptive accomplishments of Christ alone. These are not peripheral issues.

    Those who contend for the faith must be articulate in their statements, gracious in their defense of truth, and loving in their dealings with others, but we must never give any place to the wicked one whose design it is to corrupt the purity of the gospel.

    Thanks again for your email.

    By free grace alone,

    Randy


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