If you have not yet had the chance to read Dr. Mohler’s response to A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation then take go here and take peek and then come back.
As I read through this response I was nodding my head in agreement. I appreciate his posture of not wanting to shut down dialogue but continue this discussion. I further appreciate his reminder that lost people and future generations are observing not only what we discuss but how we discuss it.
I appreciate Dr. Mohler’s response and I am in agreement with him. That probably does not come as a surprise to any of my readers that know me. I’m not a Mohler-bot but I do appreciate the man and his ministry and I’m probably going to read things with less suspicion than others.
Having said that there are two things in this document that I believe those that read Dr. Mohler with suspicion will latch on to.
First, will be this statement:
The more Calvinistic Southern Baptists, and here I include myself, are deeply theological and passionately concerned to get the Gospel right. The Calvinists I know are transforming their beliefs into an absolute renaissance of missionary commissionings and Gospel church planting. At times, however, Calvinists can be tribal and elitist, more concerned with counting points of doctrine and less concerned with pointing us all to the mission of the Gospel. Such a tribalism is inconsistent with the very beliefs we cherish. This goes to show that we, too, can be inconsistent in faith and practice. Of such tribalism we must all repent.
Perhaps because of feeling burned by Dr. Mohler’s prior statements some will read this as if he is saying that “Calvinistic Southern Baptists are more theological and passionate than non-Calvinists”. Yet a careful reading will show that he is merely comparing Calvinistic passion and missions with it’s opposite of tribalism. Non-Calvinists are not even on his mind here.
He is saying something similar to this. I love giraffes. I love watching them eat with their huge necks. I am amazed that a single kick from a giraffe could decapitate a lion. I could sit and watch them for hours. Unfortunately, because I love giraffes so much I can be prone to neglect some of the other exhibits at the zoo. Monkeys are pretty cool too but sometimes I’m too busy watching the giraffes to notice what the monkeys do.
There is nothing in the above that should imply that the reader does not love giraffes as much as he does. Your passion for giraffes or monkeys is not the issue. The point being made here is that a passion for giraffes can lead to a neglect of monkeys. The former is brought up to give emphasis to the latter. And that is all Dr. Mohler is doing in his statement about Calvinistic passion for missions. It is no statement about non-Calvinists.
Second, will be Mohler’s statement directly after stating that it “appear(s) to affirm semi-Pelagian understandings of sin, human nature, and the human will — understandings that virtually all Southern Baptists have denied.” Mohler then qualifies his statement by saying:
I do not believe that those most problematic statements truly reflect the beliefs of many who signed this document. I know many of these men very well, and I know them to be doctrinally careful and theologically discerning. Some of these very men have served most boldly in the defense of the faith, and they have taught me much. We should be honored by the privilege of a serious theological conversation with one another, and we will all speak more carefully when we are respectfully questioned by those with whom we disagree.
Some will read that and be offended because Dr. Mohler is charging those that signed it as not being careful nor discerning in this particular statement. As a whole he believes that they are those things—but this document (whether writing it or signing it) betrays what normally describes them. Once pressed he believes they will back down from this statement and hopefully clarify it’s meaning because as it sounds it appears Semi-Pelagian.
Now, some will accuse Mohler of arrogance here. But I want to consider his options. If after reading the document he believes that Article 2 “appears semi-Pelagian” he has two options. 1) To believe that the signers and writers knew that it was semi-Pelagian. Didn’t care that it was semi-Pelagian and continued down that path. 2) To believe that the signers and writers of the document were simply mistaken or were not careful in the way that it was worded. Perhaps they are meaning something different by terms that are usually used by semi-Pelagians. In this case with further discussion they will show that they are in fact NOT semi-Pelagians.
Given those two options I am glad that he chose the second one. Article 2 appears very semi-Pelagian. There is no way around that. What has to happen now is an explanation of the article. Are you semi-Pelagian and okay with that? Do you deny semi-Pelagianism but need to perhaps reword it for the sake of clarity?
I appreciate Dr. Mohler’s response and stand with him and many others that believe the Baptist Faith and Message is a sufficient document for us to partner together for the sake of taking the gospel to the nations. While going out to reach the lost we can debate in the car how God works behind the scenes to bring about salvation. But when our feet hit the pavement we will stand shoulder to shoulder declaring Jesus Christ the only hope of the nations.