Points of agreement with “the Southern Baptist understanding of god’s plan of salvation.”

Yesterday, I posted an article about a recent statement by a group of Southern Baptists concerning God’s plan of salvation. You can find this statement at http://sbctoday.com/2012/05/30/an-introduction-to-“a-statement-of-the-traditional-southern-baptist-understanding-of-god’s-plan-of-salvation”

I want to make it clear I have nothing against these men personally nor do I doubt their sincerity. I truly think they believe what they have written. I am truly sorry that I cannot say with Dr. Mohler that I have respect for them, but the reality is, I just don’t. I am of course assuming these men have been seminary trained. If they are merely a group of theologically untrained men, I can cut them a bit more slack. If, on the other hand, they are seminary trained, or worse yet, trainers of aspiring pastors and theologians, their statement is inexcusable. Before they wrote, they should have at least acquainted themselves with the real issues that divide “free grace believers” from “free will believers.” Unfortunately, they seem to be no better acquainted with the issues than they are with the Scriptures.

I purpose to write a series of brief articles about each of their “Affirmations and Denials” over the next few days. But, first I thought it would be helpful to point out the areas in their statement with which we agree. When I say “we” I am speaking of those who believe God is in absolute control in the matter of the sinner’s salvation. I don’t profess to speak for all in this group. Some of them will, no doubt, disagree with some of my statements. The one matter on which we are all in agreement is that “Salvation is of the Lord.”

1. Regarding Article One: The Gospel–We agree that the gospel is for any person who wishes to be right with God in God’s way not in his way. The same Bible that informs us that God has a chosen people whom he infallibly intends to save, also informs us that “whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” There are no limitations to the free offer of the gospel.

We also deny with them that “only a select few are capable of responding to the gospel while the rest are predestined to an eternity in hell.” We deny this on at least three grounds: 1. We don’t believe any in a state of sinful nature are capable of responding to the gospel, few or otherwise, 2. We believe those whom God enables to respond favorably to the gospel are a multitude that no man can number. Where did any Calvinist ever write that the elect of God are few in number? 3. Though some Calvinists believe God decreed to elect and reprobate before he decreed to create, that is not necessary to the Calvinistic position. The reality is, God does not consign anyone to an eternity in hell who does not freely choose to reject God’s revelation of himself, wherever he finds that revelation. There will be no one in heaven who deserves to be there, and there will be no one in hell who doesn’t deserve to be there. If anyone finds himself in hell for eternity, you can be certain he is there, not because God has predestined to send him there contrary to what he otherwise would have chosen, but because he has persisted in his wicked rebellion against the Sovereign who rules heaven and earth.

2. Article Two: The Sinfulness of Man

We, of course, affirm with them that “because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin and that every person who is capable of moral action will sin.”

With them, we also deny that “ While no sinner is remotely capable of achieving salvation through his own effort, we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing [we would substitute “the Father’s drawing” since the Father is the one who is said to call or draw] through the Gospel.”

Article Three: The Atonement of Christ

We would affirm with them that the penal substitution of Christ is the only available and effective sacrifice for the sins of every person. The issue is not the availability of Christ’s penal substitution. The reality is that if every sinner believed the gospel, every sinner would be saved by Christ death. This issue is God’s design in sending his Son to die as a penal substitute. Is he a real substitute or only an available substitute?

We deny with them that this atonement results in salvation without a person’s free response of repentance and faith.

Article Four: The Grace of God

We affirm with them [though we would add a great deal more] that grace is God’s generous decision to take all the initiative in providing atonement, in free offering the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit, and in uniting the believer to Christ through the Holy Spirit by faith.

We deny with them that grace negates the necessity of a free response of faith. We also deny that the response of faith is in any way a meritorious work that earns salvation.

Article Five: The Regeneration of the Sinner

We affirm with them that the moment a sinner believes is the moment he enters into eternal life.

Article Six: The Election to Salvation

Lamentably, I can agree with almost nothing they have written here. Election does not refer to a plan but to people. God has indeed planned to have a people but he has assured the realization of that plan by choosing for himself certain favored sinners whom he intended to give to Christ that he might redeem them and call effectually, according to his purpose (see– Romans 8:28).

Article Seven: The Sovereignty of God

Although I can affirm with them what they have affirmed, I don’t believe, in the light of their other statements, they can truly affirm the following statement. “God’s eternal knowledge of and sovereignty over every person’s salvation or condemnation.” That is precisely the issue on which we disagree. Is man and his free will decision sovereign in the matter of salvation or is God sovereign. In other words, who is in control. We affirm that God is in control. Ultimately, they affirm that the matter depends on the sinner’s “free will.”

We deny with them that God’s sovereignty and knowledge require him to cause a person’s acceptance or rejection of faith in Christ. If God is a holy sovereign, the only consideration that can “require” him to do anything is his holy character. Additionally, God never needs to “cause” any person’s rejection of faith in Christ. Sinners reject Christ by nature.

Article Eight: The free will of man

We can discuss whether sinners are free agents and responsible before God or not, but we cannot discuss a concept that is alien to the Scriptures. Do sinners have the ability to make responsible choices? Of course they do. Do they have the ability to choose what they have absolutely no desire for? Not in a million years. That is the issue.

We would, however, deny with them that “the decision of faith is an act of God, rather than a response of the person.” It is not God who believes but the sinner. We have never denied that when sinners come to Christ, we do so freely and willingly. Faith is the sinner’s response to God’s work of regeneration. God opens our hearts; we believe the gospel.

Article Nine: The Security of the Believer

Though we would affirm all they affirm and deny all they deny under this head, they have missed the issue that usually divides Southern Baptist from those who believe the Bible. What they really seem to believe is if a person walks the aisle and registers his decision, it doesn’t make any difference how he lives from then on, the possibility of apostasy does not exist. The biblical doctrine is that all God’s elect, redeemed and called people are more than conquerors through him who love us. That is, all God’s true people will persevere in faith and obedience to the end. In other words, we not only believe in the preservation of the saints, we believe in the perseverance of the saints.

Article Ten: The Great Commission

We affirm and deny everything they affirm and deny under this point.

I hope this has been helpful in defining the debate. There are still formidable issues to be discussed, but perhaps if we can lay these “straw man” issues to rest, we can make greater progress in discussing issues that divide us. In my next post, intend to identify those issues in this statement that cannot be reconciled in any universe. The reality is that they are tenets of two different religions. One is monergistic, i.e., God acts alone in saving sinners. the other is synergistic, sinners cooperate with God in obtaining their salvation. God provides the grace and they provide the faith. Please feel free to comment.

3 Responses to “Points of agreement with “the Southern Baptist understanding of god’s plan of salvation.””

  1. July 31, 2012 at 9:49 am

    I have been suggesting to a few folks that they take a seruous Biblical look at the will of fallen man. Seems to sort things out rather nicely, albeit often slowly,to open minds and hearts.

    • July 31, 2012 at 1:07 pm


      I think that is exactly the right approach. Once a person understands that sinners are unable to choose that for which they have no desire and to which they are absolutely averse, they cannot reasonably cling to the Arminian system any longer. Sinners in a state of nature can choose anything they like; the problem is in what they like. Thanks for commenting.

      • July 31, 2012 at 2:41 pm

        I have numerous times suggested reading Luther’s ‘Bondage of the Will’ and Edwards’ ‘Freedom of the Will’. Two approaches to the same conclusion.

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