On May 30th a shot was fired across the SBC Blogosphere in the form of a document entitled A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation. (Actually prior to its hitting the blog world, Tom Ascol had posted an article alerting some that such a statement was forthcoming).
Since that initial article there have been numerous statements for and against. SBC Today has put forth several articles defending the document and there have been a few at SBC Voices defending it as well. There have been over 500 signatures to the document. A good number of Southern Baptists appear to be supportive and generally backing this statement.
Yet, it is not without its controversy. There are several that have responded negatively to the statement. The charge of semi-Pelagianism (or at least appearing to be Semi-Pelagian) has been leveled; and this even by those outside of the SBC. Dr. Mohler has weighed in. Dr. Jerry Vines has responded. It’s a big deal and will certainly spill over into the SBC’s Annual Meeting next week.
You probably know that my soteriological leanings tend towards being Calvinistic. Or to put that another way I prefer TULIP’s over ROSES. But you also know that I’m like John Newton:
‘I am more of a Calvinist than anything else; but I use my Calvinism in my writings and my preaching as I use this sugar’—taking a lump, and putting it into his tea-cup, and stirring it, adding, ‘I do not give it alone, and whole; but mixed and diluted.’
As such I am, honestly, a tad disappointed at the way some of responded to the statement. That’s not to say that I’m not equally befuddled by some of the responses to those responses. For the most part I think that there are significant theological differences but for the most part we are just talking past one another.
Without getting into any of the theological issues at this point, my major contention with “The Statement” deals with the way the entire discussion has been framed. And I believe that this is really why we are doing nothing more than talking past one another, arguing about terms, and really only looking like a dumb dog chasing it’s tail for every passerby to laugh at.
“What is the issue?” That is the foundational question that I want to ask to those that framed and signed the document.
If the issue is doctrine then let’s respond with statements of belief and disagreement. Let’s discuss the issues, determine if it’s a second-tier or third tier issue, and decide how to either cooperate or sadly decide how to amicably part ways. If the theology of Calvinism is the issue and we are discussing whether or not we need to rid the SBC of Calvinists then let’s discuss that.
However, from the document itself it seems like they are saying something different. It sounds as if they are saying something similar to this, “While, we disagree with Calvinist theology it is not the theology itself that has really caused us to write this statement. What has necessitated this document is the rise of a new form of militant and aggressive Calvinists that are wreaking havoc on our beloved SBC”.
And that just confuses me. It confuses me because whenever I deal with any angry and aggressive Calvinist, Arminian, Semi-Pelagian, Steeler-fan, or country music fan I don’t typically engage them with a confessional statement. It may do us a little good to argue about the merits of hating country music--and I would be sure to win that argument--but at the end of the day you aren’t going to “win” a battle with an angry and aggressive adherent to any doctrine (heresy or orthodox). Anger and militancy is a heart issue that won’t be changed by a confessional statement. Such a statement will only make angry and aggressive types foam at the mouth quicker than a seeker-sensitive youth group popping Alka Seltzers.
So, if the Statement was meant to get a group of people together to stop militant and aggressive Calvinists then sign me up. They won’t get them to sign the confessional statement but I bet they could get a whole host of SBC Calvinist to put an end to an angry and aggressive posture. Again, I’m not sure who they are, specifically, but if I find ‘em I’ll do my best to calm them down.
As it stands you have a group of people saying we believe Calvinists and non-Calvinists have worked together for centuries (so the theology itself is not the biggest problem) but we Traditionalists have to fight against this “new Calvinism”, and here is a document showing why Calvinism is in error. Meanwhile we are left to debate terms, the growing influence of nameless people, and somewhere along the way ask what the Bible says about how we come to faith in Christ.
Tomorrow I’ll give my idea for a way forward…