Selective Thoughts on Articles 1 & 2 of the “Statement” on Soteriology by SBC Non-Calvinists
As I attend an SBC Church I want to record a few observations on the first two Articles of Eric Hankins’ “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.”
I shall run the proof-texts through the “Rules of Affinity“
Article One: The Gospel
We affirm that the Gospel is the good news that God has made a way of salvation through the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ for any person. This is in keeping with God’s desire for every person to be saved.
As a statement in favor of the view that Christ died for all sinners (which I believe is what Scripture says), this is clumsy. It could easily be interpreted as a statement for universalism. What needs to be added is a line about salvation being effective only to those who believe.
We deny that only a select few are capable of responding to the Gospel while the rest are predestined to an eternity in hell.
Awful wording! The plain fact is, nobody is “capable of responding to the Gospel” unless God draws them to Himself. What appears to be meant here is that they deny double predestination.
N.B. The category designations assigned to the texts below reflect how they relate to specific propositions within the Article. As can be seen, the affinity between statement and text is generally quite weak.
Genesis 3:15 C5; Psalm 2:1-12 C5; Ezekiel 18:23, 32 C2; Luke 19.10 C3; Luke 24:45-49 C3; John 1:1-18 C3, 3:16 C1; Romans 1:1-6 C3, 5:8 C3; 8:34 C4; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 C3; Galatians 4:4-7 C3; Colossians 1:21-23 C3; 1 Timothy 2:3-4 C1; Hebrews 1:1-3 C4; 4:14-16 C4; 2 Peter 3:9 C1
Article Two: The Sinfulness of Man
We affirm 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. Each person’s sin alone brings the wrath of a holy God, broken fellowship with Him, ever-worsening selfishness and destructiveness, death, and condemnation to an eternity in hell.
This again is poorly worded. Taken at face value, the first sentence is a rather tame assertion of our fallen nature. True, our nature is “inclined toward sin,” but it is decidedly so! The whole nature is drastically affected by sin and its fallout. Further, the environment is not “inclined toward sin.” It is affected by it, and it is cursed for man’s sake, but the environment itself (by which I assume is meant the creation) is not in rebellion to God. The way this is written makes it look as though our fall and the earth’s “fall” are the same thing.
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. 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 through the Gospel.
Yuk! The first sentence is Semi-Pelagianism loud and clear. Neither a Classical Calvinist nor a Classical Arminian would acquiesce to it. I count myself as neither, and I don’t agree with it. There is precedence for this view in the theology of E. Y. Mullins, but it does not reflect what I would think most non-Calvinist Baptists believe. Our will’s are enslaved to sin and in need of God’s rectifying grace, however that is understood. The matter of imputed guilt is more difficult theologically (e.g. W.H. Griffith Thomas, an influential Anglican, rejected it), often dependent upon careful definitions of “guilt” terms.
The second sentence could be countenanced by many with Calvinistic leanings, although with some qualification of the term “free response.”
Genesis 3:15-24 C4; 6:5 C2; Deuteronomy 1:39 C3; Isaiah 6:5 C2, 7:15-16 C4;53:6 C2; Jeremiah 17:5,9 C4 & C2, 31:29-30 C3; Ezekiel 18:19-20 C2; Romans 1:18-32 C2; 3:9-18 C1, 5:12 C3, 6:23 C2; 7:9 C3; Matthew 7:21-23 C4; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 C3; 6:9-10 C3;15:22 C3 (as a C1 this would militate against the second sentence of the affirmation); 2 Corinthians 5:10 C5; Hebrews 9:27-28 C3; Revelation 20:11-15 C3
N.B. It is vital to see that although the texts above do corroborate some assertions made in the Article, there are many assertions (e.g. about the inclination of our environment towards sin, and the denial of the bondage of the will), which are not supported by these texts.
I am frankly amazed by some of the signatories to this document. I can only conclude that some of the theologians among them did not read the affirmations and denials closely. Although I agreed once or twice with some of the remaining statements, it is clear to me that some of the other articles are framed in such a way as to give a false impression of Calvinism.