Monday, June 4, 2012

In Between Traditionalist SBC and Calvinist

A large group of Southern Baptists recently signed a statement that defines their beliefs and opposes Calvinism. (link) It takes the name “Traditionalist” which ruffles feathers with Calvinists in the SBC, but at least provides a helpful title other than non-Calvinist. Overall, this may help slow the spread of Calvinism within the SBC by putting names and faces to the opposition to Calvinism and providing an alternative. So overall I think the move is helpful and a good thing.

However, I find my own understanding of scripture somewhere in between this traditionalist statement and Calvinism. For example, Article 2’s statement says: “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.” I do hold that we were condemned in Adam. The denial of “incapacitation” was carelessly worded but based certain statements about the need for grace through the rest of the document; I will give the traditionalists the benefit of the doubt that they are not semi-Pelagians.

Another example is article 6, which states: “We deny that election means that, from eternity, God predestined certain people for salvation and others for condemnation."  I am all for corporate election, but not to the exclusion of individual election.” Election is primarily corporate, but it is secondarily individual. If they had said “unconditionally predestined certain people” I would agree wholeheartedly, but they seem to rule out conditional individual election as well. Also article 8’s denial of the distinction between a general call and an effectual one is less than clear and could be problematic.

Finally and perhaps most surprisingly Article 9 states “we deny even the possibility of apostasy.” To my knowledge, no confession (Protestant/Non-Protestant, Calvinist/non-Calvinist) has ever said this. This is a ground breaking statement. Most Calvinists confessions simply say true believers will never lose their salvation but this statement goes beyond that to deny we have the ability to stop believing. While I hold to eternal security, I don’t agree with that statement.

Maybe I am nitpicking, but I would love it if these minor points were changed so I could sign up. Meanwhile I am still somewhere in the middle, which is not all that bad of a place to be.

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