The Traditionalist Statement of Faith (Part I)



Relatively new movement in the SBC over a growing concern of rising Calvinism (Neo-Calvinism-- YRR).


It is an explicitly anti-Calvinistic movement.


They’re gaining an increasingly louder voice, and they claim to be the dominant perspective in the SBC. They want to try to keep the SBC like it was for the last few decades but the problem is that the SBC is too often made up of a mishmash of theological ideas.


It was not always this way but the efforts to move the SBC back to its true roots has been met with much resistance.  This document is one key tool to elicit resistance.


A statement was drafted of affirmations/denials.


Preamble begins: they are concerned over the “impact on contemporary missions and ministry.”


“Every generation of Southern Baptists has the duty to articulate the truths of its faith with particular attention to the issues that are impacting contemporary mission and ministry. The precipitating issue for this statement is the rise of a movement called "New Calvinism" among Southern Baptists. This movement is committed to advancing in the churches an exclusively Calvinistic understanding of salvation, characterized by an aggressive insistence on the "Doctrines of Grace" ("TULIP"), and to the goal of making Calvinism the central Southern Baptist position on God's plan of salvation.”


“While Calvinists have been present in Southern Baptist life from its earliest days and have made very important contributions to our history and theology, the majority of Southern Baptists do not embrace Calvinism.”


In other words, the original theology of SBC was decidedly Calvinistic.


In fact: The Traditionalist can’t deny this... They say:


“We propose that what most Southern Baptists believe about salvation can rightly be called 'Traditional' Southern Baptist soteriology, which should be understood in distinction to 'Calvinist' soteriology. Traditional Southern Baptist soteriology is articulated in a general way in the Baptist Faith and Message, "Article IV." While some earlier Baptist confessions were shaped by Calvinism, the clear trajectory of the BF&M since 1925 is away from Calvinism.”


The problem is the convention started in 1845. So for 80 years it was decidedly Calvinistic.


So “Traditionalism” is a less than genuine name. It gives the idea that non-calvinistic theology was the original SBC position.


It gives the sense they’re trying to recover the original views of the SBC, though they know Calvinism was the original position.


Abstract of Principles (1858) - Explicitly Calvinistic in their statement on Regeneration-- Regeneration precedes faith.


First BF&M (1925) - Based on 1833 New Hampshire Confession.

States faith precedes regeneration.

This is a non-Calvinistic position (in terms of soteriology). The Calvinistic position is that regeneration precedes faith.


1963 - the confession went back to a confession indicating that regeneration precedes faith.


2000 - Regeneration precedes faith is again reaffirmed.


Essentially, from 1925-1963 it was less Calvinistic.

But before 1925, and after 1963, the soteriology was Calvinistic.


So the name “Traditionalist” is misleading, and I think they know that. Anyone who reads the BF&M’s knowns this.


Regardless, the majority should never be the basis for right theology.

We don’t truth to a vote.


What makes this a bad document is its desire to preserve the current state of the SBC theologically, rather than examining it biblically.


Beyond this, many reformed baptists (which is what we are)  shouldn’t be overly concerned with trying to make the SBC embrace a theological concept called Calvinism, because true Calvinism is not consistent with Baptistic theology such as baptism for believers.


The Traditionalist document rightly sees that the issue is soteriology, but that is also the rub.

This is not a non-essential point.


What is at issue is what the bible actually says about salvation (and how it’s accomplished).

**We’re going to go through the affirmations/denials and state what we agree and disagree with.


Article I: 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.”


Agree.

We agree salvation comes through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ-- no one debates this.


Disagree.

According to this, the gospel is not the work of God, but the idea of a “way of salvation.”

This is not a quibble, it sets the tone of the whole document.  The gospel is expressed in its most basic sense in 1 Cor 15.


All genuine Christians will affirm that passage no matter what their theological position may be.

It is the grand indicative.


The key phrase for them is the opening of “a way.”  At this is at the root of the debate and worth noting.  What exactly did Jesus do on the Cross? What did He actually accomplish?

Did He actually take away sin? Or only potentially do so?

Did He actually save?  Or only potentially do so?


The only way this can be answered properly is via the Scripture, not theologically.


For a Calvinist the bible is clear that Jesus actually bore away our sin.  He actually redeemed His people. He actually saved them.


For the Traditionalist this is not true.  Jesus only opened the way for people to be saved if they are willing to be saved.  For the Traditionalist, Jesus’ work was not salvific.


Proof texts:

Psalm 2 is not dealing with the gospel.  Nor is Ezekiel 18. Luke 19:10 states the purpose of Christ’s work and makes no statement supporting the Traditionalist concept here.


Luke 24:45ff actually is a good text against their view.  Jesus had to open their minds to the Scripture. Then He gives the disciples the mandate to proclaim the gospel (Christ death and resurrection) and call for repentance.  Nothing here speaks to merely a way.


John 1:1-18  Most likely they are trying to point to vss 12-13.  But the grammar of this passage is quite the opposite of what they want to prove.  The reason people “receive” Jesus is because they were born again via the will of God rather than the will of the person.  

The passages used in Romans all describe the gospel but they do not describe some opening of a “way.” It is also worth asking who are the “us” in chapter 5 and 8.

2 Cor 5:17-21 is an interesting choice by them.  It is usually used by universalists to say that everyone is reconciled to God through Jesus. Since they do not actually deal with the passage I can only assume that the point they would make is that the call of evangelists is to tell people o be reconciled to God.  Unfortunately this does not say “how” one is reconciled and so it does not move their argument forward.


The same is for Gal 4:4-7.  Nothing about the way one is redeemed.


1 Tim 2:3-4 is a very common proof text.  However it is worth noting that it expressed God’s desire but never does it state how one is saved.  Only that there is one mediator, Jesus.


Hebrews 1:3-4 again make no statement about “how” but it does make a clear statement of what Jesus actually did on the cross.  He made a purification of sin. Note it is not potentially a purification based upon your willingness to ask Him at a later point to do so.


Heb 4:14-16 is not a salvific passage.  It speaks to the sufficiency of Christ as our High Priest (note that he is writing to professing believers) and to come to the Father for grace.


2 Pet 3:9 is another classic passage that is used to say that God is trying to save everyone.  A couple of points to make here.


First, grammatically you must ask who is in view with the pronoun “any.”  it is not stated in that passage so you must work backwards to the antecedent that defines it.  The nearest antecedent is “beloved” in verse 1 which is referencing believers/Christians. God is still saving His beloved and until He is done He will not bring the end.


Second, to try to make this say that God is delaying the end because He wants everyone to come and be saved is simply not supported in the bible.  Think of the countless who perished in the flood who were young. Think of the Egyptian army or the first born of Egypt who were killed. Think of the slaughter of the inhabitants of Jericho. Or the infants up to 2 years of age in Matthew.


He did not let them live a full life where they were hearing of the one true God.  They just died.


Here is the point: this is the foundation of the whole document and they can’t even really just give the gospel truths.  They instead are trying to somehow set the stage that merely a way of salvation came through Jesus but they cannot remotely support it.  These are their best passages and they should be embarrassed. But what is really bad is then they try to hold to a specific understanding of the atonement in the late on that cannot be sustained by their statement on the gospel.

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