Monday, December 24, 2012

Bad SBC, Bad!

I’m late to this, but it occurred during my blogging hiatus. So let me cut to the chase: The Southern Baptist Arminians don’t know jack about Calvinism.

Earlier in 2012 the SBC released a poorly-researched document discussing the tension in the SBC between the Arminians and the Calvinists. The errors of fact or, even more egregiously, by intentional misrepresentation, begin to accumulate in the preamble. There we read:
For example Even the minority of Southern Baptists who have identified themselves as Calvinists generally modify its teachings in order to mitigate certain unacceptable conclusions (e.g., anti-missionism, hyper-Calvinism, double predestination, limited atonement, etc.).
But anti-missionism, hyper-Calvinism and double-predestination are not “conclusions” of Calvinism, they are anti-Calvinistic distortions. This is equivalent to saying that Pelagianism is an “unacceptable conclusion” of Arminianism.

Limited atonement doesn’t even belong here. It’s the perennial scapegoat/whipping boy of Calvinism—somewhat silly given that the SBC Arminians and Calvinists agree that the Atonement is indeed limited to those who have a saving faith in Christ. Only Universalists truly preach an unlimited atonement. There is no such thing as a four-point Calvinist. There is really no such thing as a five-point Calvinist either. There are only one-point Calvinists: Total Depravity. On that single foundation the U, L, I, and P stand or fall together.

In contrasting Arminian soteriology with that of Calvinism, the SBC writes:
Traditional Southern Baptist soteriology is grounded in the conviction that every person can and must be saved by a personal and free decision to respond to the Gospel by trusting in Christ Jesus alone as Savior and Lord.
So does Calvinism. Calvinism teaches that the elect respond with a free decision. Now, I allow someone who acquires his full knowledge Calvinism on Wikipedia might come away with a "God-the-puppet-master" view (I've seen it happen many times on atheist blogs) but not an educated committee of the SBC. At least I would have hoped not.

So guys, here it is in a nutshell:


  • Step 1: Salvation by a personal and free decision to respond to the Gospel.


  • Step 0: God sovereignly gives some men a new heart so they are then in position to complete the next step, i.e.,

  • Step 1: Salvation by a personal and free decision to respond to the Gospel.

In a certain sense, Calvinism states nothing more than the belief that God changes some to be in the very position to which Arminianism supposes they are born. But after that,  the choice is just as free.

On to the Articles

Here I lay out the ten affirmations and denials of the SBC and offer a very quick comment.

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.

We deny that only a select few are capable of responding to the Gospel while the rest are predestined to an eternity in hell.
Calvinists share the affirmation of Article One.

The denial is some sort of gratuitous slap at the SBC's cartoonish Calvinistic strawman. What is with the "select few"? Calvinism states nothing about the population of heaven. Indeed there are many postmillennial (and optimistic amillennial) Calvinists who argue that Revelation teaches of a crowded heaven. Substituting the word "elect" for "select few" would have been much more accurate--but of course elect is a word that appears in scripture exactly in the manner Calvinists use it--so I guess it is wise to avoid reminding SBC readers of that inconvenience.

Finally, the SBC statement begs-the-question by sending the message that double-predestination is a Calvinistic fait accompli. But non-caricatured Calvinism (i.e., "real" Calvinism) does not teach that the reprobate are predestined to hell by an active decree of God, but rather they condemn themselves.
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.

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.
Wow, just wow. I have to assume the writes just had a senior moment. The denial that Adam's sin rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinnedcomes close if not actually achieving denial of the doctrine of Original Sin. I don't believe that the SBC is this liberal. At least not yet.
Article Three: The Atonement of Christ

We affirm that the penal substitution of Christ is the only available and effective sacrifice for the sins of every person.

We deny that this atonement results in salvation without a person’s free response of repentance and faith. We deny that God imposes or withholds this atonement without respect to an act of the person’s free will. We deny that Christ died only for the sins of those who will be saved.
Everything is fine (and in no conflict with Calvinism) up to the final sentence. Of course Christ did not die for the sins of the lost--if he did, why are they still lost? This is to make a liar out of God--and to accuse him of double billing. If Christ died for the sins of the lost then he paid for those sins. This denial then implies that the lost will also pay for those sins. May it never be,
Article Four: The Grace of God

We affirm that grace is God’s generous decision to provide salvation for any person by taking all of the initiative in providing atonement, in freely 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 that grace negates the necessity of a free response of faith or that it cannot be resisted. We deny that the response of faith is in any way a meritorious work that earns salvation.
Really? Well congratulations then, you're a Calvinist.
Article Five: The Regeneration of the Sinner

We affirm that any person who responds to the Gospel with repentance and faith is born again through the power of the Holy Spirit. He is a new creation in Christ and enters, at the moment he believes, into eternal life.

We deny that any person is regenerated prior to or apart from hearing and responding to the Gospel.
Calvinism shares in the affirmation. As for the denial--at least you show some understanding of the Calvinism here. I assume that if you believe at least some dead babies are saved, as well as at least some who are cognitively handicapped, that you have an explanation as to how they first heard and responded to the gospel?
Article Six: The Election to Salvation

We affirm that, in reference to salvation, election speaks of God’s eternal, gracious, and certain plan in Christ to have a people who are His by repentance and faith.

We deny that election means that, from eternity, God predestined certain people for salvation and others for condemnation.
Here you affirm one thing and then turn around and deny it--apart from sneaking in, once again, double-predestination.
Article Seven: The Sovereignty of God

We affirm God’s eternal knowledge of and sovereignty over every person’s salvation or condemnation.

We deny that God’s sovereignty and knowledge require Him to cause a person’s acceptance or rejection of faith in Christ.
Here you affirm one thing and then turn around and deny it--apart from sneaking in, once again, the "God as a puppet-master" distortion of Calvinism.
Article Eight: The Free Will of Man

We affirm that God, as an expression of His sovereignty, endows each person with actual free will (the ability to choose between two options), which must be exercised in accepting or rejecting God’s gracious call to salvation by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel.

We deny that the decision of faith is an act of God rather than a response of the person. We deny that there is an “effectual call” for certain people that is different from a “general call” to any person who hears and understands the Gospel.
This contrast is mostly fair, except that these guys can't resist suggesting distortion of Calvinism. Calvinism does not deny man's free will. As I have said many times, Calvinism actually grants man the most libertine of free wills and the only workable model of free will--that we always choose what we want most.
Article Nine: The Security of the Believer

We affirm that when a person responds in faith to the Gospel, God promises to complete the process of salvation in the believer into eternity. This process begins with justification, whereby the sinner is immediately acquitted of all sin and granted peace with God; continues in sanctification, whereby the saved are progressively conformed to the image of Christ by the indwelling Holy Spirit; and concludes in glorification, whereby the saint enjoys life with Christ in heaven forever.

We deny that this Holy Spirit-sealed relationship can ever be broken. We deny even the possibility of apostasy.
We are in general agreement.
Article Ten: The Great Commission

We affirm that the Lord Jesus Christ commissioned His church to preach the good news of salvation to all people to the ends of the earth. We affirm that the proclamation of the Gospel is God’s means of bringing any person to salvation.

We deny that salvation is possible outside of a faith response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I would only argue that the faith response is the normative one. Even here you cannot put God in a box. He will have mercy upon whom He will have mercy. Again, Arminianism has a serious problem with dead babies-- who are not capable of responding (Well nobody is apart from regeneration--but it is painfully obvious for dead babies) as Arminianism demands. If any dead babies are saved--and the bible gives us reason to believe that some are--then they exemplify what was denied by the SBC in Article Ten--apart from doing violence to what is implied by a "faith response."

I understand that there is a "Calvinism problem" in the SBC. However, I would have though that they'd put together a more scholarly response.

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