Southern Baptists Affirm Doctrines of Grace…

Southern Baptists Affirm Doctrines of Grace…

June 27, 2012 @

I have very serious reservations and concerns about some of its assertions and denials. I fully understand the intention of the drafters to oppose several Calvinist renderings of doctrine, but some of the language employed in the statement goes far beyond this intention. ~ Dr. Albert Mohler, President, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

… According to Arminians, Catholics and Other Semi-Pelagians

[Note: I have updated some parts of this post after I read Tom Ascol’s “Traditional Theology and the SBC”.]

The Southern Baptist Convention, by around 80 percent majority, passed a document entitled “Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation,” which affirmed that “repentance from sin and personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ are necessary for salvation… that repentance and faith involve a crying out for mercy and a calling on the Lord, often identified as a ‘sinner’s prayer,’ as a biblical expression of repentance and faith.”

What is this so-called “sinner’s prayer”? The best example is this one from Campus Crusade’s Four Spiritual Laws):

Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be. 1

In addition to rightly affirming that “repentance and faith involve a crying out for mercy and a calling on the Lord,” the document also rightly warns that “a ‘sinner’s prayer’ is not an incantation that results in salvation merely by its recitation and should never be manipulatively employed or utilized apart from a clear articulation of the Gospel.”

But what is this Gospel? The document says it 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 Godʼs desire for every person to be saved” (emphasis added). This is a clear articulation of the Arminian view that Christ did not accomplish salvation for anyone on the cross—he merely made it possible—and that his atonement is for every man, woman and child born in this world.

And how does a sinner come to repentance and faith? Dr. Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, says, “When we attempt to believe, I believe God gives us saving grace. And so when we ask Jesus into our heart, I believe he comes into our heart and gives us saving faith.”

Thus, Land says that a sinner initiates his own salvation. In effect, he saves himself!

Land further adds,

I believe that the Holy Spirit tries to convict all men. If a person is concerned about their eternal destiny, like Woody Allen seems to be concerned with his eternal destiny, that’s the Holy Spirit trying to convict him… [P]eople—like me—who aren’t Calvinists would say the natural man doesn’t understand the things of God for they are spiritually discerned but if the Holy Spirit convicts you and you feel convicted then you can say, “Lord come into my heart” and the Lord will come into your heart.

What confusion! He affirms that Woody Allen, a natural man, “does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14). But then Woody the theologian, unable and unwilling to understand God, hostile to God and hates God, is concerned with his eternal destiny, and “attempts to believe” in God. Huh? There goes the doctrine of total depravity.

A curious comment in the ChristianPost article says, “The sinner’s prayer resolution, [Land] said, is a ‘pushback’ to Calvinists within the SBC who argue that only the Elect can be saved.” Then Land explains that Calvinistic Southern Baptists “are saying you can’t ask Jesus into your heart—you have to wait for the working of God’s grace.” Is he saying that people who are not elect can be saved? And that unregenerate people like Woody Allen really want to be saved, yet God deprives them of his grace because they are not elect? Huh?

Land’s comments are summarized in the document’s Article One (paragraph 2), “We deny that only a select few are capable of responding to the Gospel while the rest are predestined to an eternity in hell.” Talking about caricaturing the doctrines of total depravity and unconditional election! This statement is the equivalent of the misleading formula, “Once saved, always saved,” concocted by those who have no idea what the doctrine of the perseverance and preservation of the saints means.

Another pastor, Steve Gaines, gives as an example the 256 children who recited the sinner’s prayer at Vacation Bible School. He said he believes that all of them became true believers after they were “counseled” and led in the recitation of the sinner’s prayer. Huh? How did he know within a few minutes that the Holy Spirit has given new hearts to every one of those 256 children? Does he see the Holy Spirit? Does he have a special insight into the Spirit’s mind?

Then he adds, “[T]here is a particular, puncticular moment that you cross over from being lost and you’re saved.” Like most Arminians, he probably does not believe that a person can be regenerated inside the mother’s womb, such as Jeremiah (Jer 1:5) and John the Baptizer (Luke 1:44), and that regeneration is only effected by one’s profession of faith.

Gaines also defended the popular exhortation to “invite Jesus into your heart,” pointing out as examples, Jeremiah 31:33, where God says he will write his law on their “hearts,” and John 1:12, where the word “receive” Christ is used. But alas! Jeremiah 31:33 is not about inviting Jesus into one’s heart, but about God giving his people a new heart and a new Spirit (cf Ezek 36:26-27). And in John 1:12, receiving Christ is synonymous to believing in him, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. Gaines also ignores the following words in verse 13, which says that these children of God “were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

"The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul" (Acts 16:14).

Gaines, a pastor for 35 years, also makes this appalling statement, “Nowhere in the Bible does it say that God regenerates you, and then you repent and believe. It’s always repentance and faith are prerequisites—not the products of regeneration—but prerequisites for regeneration.” How can a veteran pastor be so ignorant of God’s Word? Did he ever read about Lydia, “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul” (Acts 16:14). Does it say, “She paid attention to what was said by Paul so the Lord opened her heart”?

Did he ever think about Jesus’ words in John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him”? Or that a dead person cannot give himself life, and then repent and believe, “Even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph 2:5)?

Has he forgotten Jesus’ words about being “born again” by the inner workings of the Holy Spirit?

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit… The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:5-8).

Do these semi-Pelagian Southern Baptists know that they are Roman Catholics in their beliefs about salvation? That what they are affirming is the Catholic prevenient grace, the view that God sends grace to all mankind that pries open the grip of sin on man ever so slightly that it is possible for them to cooperate with this grace and so believe the gospel? In the Council of Trent’s canons on justification, here are a couple of statements about prevenient grace:

Canon 3: If any one saith, that without the prevenient inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and without his help, man can believe, hope, love, or be penitent as he ought, so as that the grace of Justification may be bestowed upon him; let him be anathema.

Chapter 5: The Synod furthermore declares, that in adults, the beginning of the said Justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace of God, through Jesus Christ… that so they, who by sins were alienated from God, may be disposed through His quickening and assisting grace, to convert themselves to their own justification, by freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace…

On the doctrine of man’s sinfulness, the SBC document again affirms the Roman Catholic doctrine. Compare the Council of Trent’s Canons 4 and 5 on Justification:

Canon 4: If any one says, that man’s free will moved and excited by God, by assenting to God exciting and calling, nowise co-operates towards disposing and preparing itself for obtaining the grace of Justification; that it cannot refuse its consent, if it would, but that, as something inanimate, it does nothing whatever and is merely passive; let him be anathema.

Canon 5: If any one says, that, since Adam’s sin, the free will of man is lost and extinguished; or, that it is a thing with only a name, yea a name without a reality, a figment, in fine, introduced into the Church by Satan; let him be anathema.

with the SBC document’s Article 2, The Sinfulness of Man:

We deny that Adamʼs sin resulted in the incapacitation of any personʼs 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 Spiritʼs drawing through the Gospel.

What an eerie resemblance between SBC’s and RCC’s warped doctrine of original sin!

SBC is 😯 percent anti-Calvinist. Whither Founders.org and the “New Calvinism” in the SBC? What most Southern Baptists (and most other Baptists) do not know is that “Calvinism was the theological consensus for the first 70 years of the SBC [founded in 1845]. The convention’s first official confession of faith [in 1858], which was written to provide doctrinal boundaries for our first seminary, reflects this consensus.” 2

No wonder, Dr. Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, though he “wholeheartedly and emphatically agree with some of the statement’s most important declarations,” commented on this errant SBC document:

I have very serious reservations and concerns about some of its assertions and denials. I fully understand the intention of the drafters to oppose several Calvinist renderings of doctrine, but some of the language employed in the statement goes far beyond this intention. Some portions of the statement actually go beyond Arminianism and appear to affirm semi-Pelagian understandings of sin, human nature, and the human will—understandings that virtually all Southern Baptists have denied. 3

Regeneration: no faith without it.

Epilogue:

Here are some portions of the original charter of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary which contained it’s “fundamental laws,” and which was adopted in 1858. The following articles are definitely and outwardly the historic Reformed doctrines of grace: Article V—Unconditional Election; Articles VI—Total Depravity; Article VII—Particular (Limited Atonement); Article VIII and X—Irresistible Grace; and Article XIII—Perseverance of the Saints.

V. Election.
Election is God’s eternal choice of some persons unto everlasting life — not because of foreseen merit in them, but of his mere mercy in Christ — in consequence of which choice they are called, justified and glorified.

VI. The Fall of Man.
God originally created man in His own image, and free from sin; but, through the temptation of Satan, he transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original holiness and righteousness; whereby his posterity inherit a nature corrupt and wholly opposed to God and His law, are under condemnation, and as soon as they are capable of moral action, become actual transgressors.

VII. The Mediator.
Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, is the divinely appointed mediator between God and man. Having taken upon Himself human nature, yet without sin, He perfectly fulfilled the Law, suffered and died upon the cross for the salvation of sinners.

VIII. Regeneration.
Regeneration is a change of heart, wrought by the Holy Spirit, who quickeneth the dead in trespasses and sins enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the Word of God, and renewing their whole nature, so that they love and practice holiness. It is a work of God’s free and special grace alone.

X. Faith.
Saving faith is the belief, on God’s authority, of whatsoever is revealed in His Word concerning Christ; accepting and resting upon Him alone for justification and eternal life. It is wrought in the heart by the Holy Spirit, and is accompanied by all other saving graces, and leads to a life of holiness.

XIII. Perseverance of the Saints.
Those whom God hath accepted in the Beloved, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere to the end; and though they may fall, through neglect and temptation, into sin, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, bring reproach on the Church, and temporal judgments on themselves, yet they shall be renewed again unto repentance, and be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.

Notes:

  1. This prayer is not a prayer of a sinner asking God for mercy, as the contrite tax collector pleaded, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18:13). It’s actually a prayer of thanks for the benefits he is receiving from God, almost sounding like the opening words of the Pharisee’s prayer, “God, I thank you…” (Luke 18:11) It’s a man-centered prayer, telling God how he’s in control of his own salvation, “I open…” and what he commands God to do for him, “Take control… Make me…” Worse than these, Christ is not a helpless God pleading to the sinner to open the door of his heart, a gross misinterpretation of Revelation 3:20.
  2. Tom Ascol, “Traditional Theology and the SBC”
  3. Albert Mohler, “Southern Baptist and Salvation: It’s Time to Talk”

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