Monday, June 04, 2012

Response to A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God's Plan of Salvation, Part 4

[Part 1 of this series]
[Part 2 of this series]
[Part 3 of this series]
Could W.A. Criswell have signed this statement?

The authors offer 10 "Articles of Affirmation and Denial" in setting forth what they believe "most Southern Baptists" will find acceptable and true to the teachings of the Bible on the nature of salvation. Obviously, the articles should be understood as summary statements and not detailed explanations of the doctrinal positions asserted. An impressive array of Scripture citations follows each one. A suggestion that I would make to the authors and signers of the document is that they provide a document that includes exegesis of the texts cited. This would further promote understanding of their views by and demonstrate the interpretive approach that has led them to their doctrinal positions. It would also provide opportunity for further dialogue by allowing those who differ with some of their positions to interact with their interpretation of Holy Scripture.

I will give my thoughts on each of the 10 articles, noting areas of agreement and elaborating the points of disagreement.

 

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.
Genesis 3:15; Psalm 2:1-12; Ezekiel 18:23, 32; Luke 19.10; Luke 24:45-49; John 1:1-18, 3:16; Romans 1:1-6, 5:8; 8:34; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Galatians 4:4-7; Colossians 1:21-23; 1 Timothy 2:3-4; Hebrews 1:1-3; 4:14-16; 2 Peter 3:9
I also affirm that the gospel is good news that God has made a way of salvation through the person and work of Jesus though I think that statement stops short of declaring what the gospel actually is and does. I affirm that God has actually provided salvation for sinners through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The language of this article seems to lean away from an objective provision of salvation and toward a mere potential provision of a "way" of salvation. It is the difference between clearing a road in the jungle so that any who are lost may find their way home by it and actually going to those who are lost and bringing them home along the road. Jesus did not merely make salvation possible. He actually accomplished salvation by His life, death and resurrection.

Paul speaks in objective terms about the gospel when he defines it in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 by asserting "that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures." "For our sins" indicates an objective accomplishment. Similarly, in Romans 1:16 Paul calls the gospel "the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes." Not potential power "for any person" (as article 1 states), but real power to all who believe. Certainly, "any person" who believes the gospel will be saved, though the article does not qualify their affirmation that way.

I can also affirm "God's desire for every person to be saved" though I suspect that my reasons for doing so would differ from those who have framed this document. In His law God commands everyone to have no other gods before Him (Exodus 20:3) and in His gospel He "commands all people everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30). This revealed "desire" of God in no way mitigates His eternal purpose as expressed, regarding salvation, in the doctrine of unconditional election. This latter doctrine involves the "secret things that belong to the Lord our God" while the former "desire" is part of "the things that are revealed" which "belong to us and to our children" (Deuteronomy 29:29). God has revealed His will that all people be saved but He has purposed that His chosen people will infallibly be saved.

The denial seems to have in mind the following idea which I have never heard anyone assert as a conviction: that only a select few (the elect?) are capable of responding to the gospel while the rest are predestined to hell. Assuming that by "capable" the authors mean "the spiritual ability to repent and believe" (which is the only saving response to the gospel) then I think they have denied too little. Scripture teaches that no sinner has the innate ability to repent and believe the gospel. Jesus said, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day" (John 6:44; cf. 6:65; emphasis added). Paul said, "the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:7–8; emphasis added). Faith pleases God. "Can" (dunatai) is a word of ability. These verses teach that no unconverted person--regardless of whether he is predestined in any sense to any destination--has the spiritual ability to respond to the gospel by his own free will. This is at variance with the denial which necessarily implies everyone--and "not only a select few"--has the ability to repent and believe.

This first article signals the authors' and signers' understanding that the human will was not terribly affected by the fall. Their views on this are stated more plainly in Article Two.

Continue to Part 5

9 comments:

olan strickland said...

A suggestion that I would make to the authors and signers of the document is that they provide a document that includes exegesis of the texts cited. This would further promote understanding of their views by and demonstrate the interpretive approach that has led them to their doctrinal positions. It would also provide opportunity for further dialogue by allowing those who differ with some of their positions to interact with their interpretation of Holy Scripture.

Amen Tom. However, that is probably asking too much.

Nice touch on the preceptive and decretive wills of God.

Martie said...

Full of grace & truth. Thanks!

Lasaro Flores said...

Amen, dear brother. Although I believe that all things are possible, by God's grace, in changing one's mind for their good, but I'm afraid that it might be too late as far as the SBC is concerned. Generally, my experience has been these past few years that most of them, perhaps the very great majority of them, do not care and are not interested in the glorious truths of the Gospel of the grace of God. Could it be a manifestation of the apostasy that is already here? Truly it is very solemn to read that "because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thess.2:10-12). On the other hand, "But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (vv.13,14). But as Paul exhorts us: "Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle" (v.15). Amen.

Jay Beerley said...

I am loving your blog posts. God bless your faithfulness to the Word and the genuineness and compassion with which you are offering correction. Thank you for being an SBC voice that is promoting the truths of the Word and the proper response to it, not promoting some political "agenda" or whatever these guys are up to.

Article 2 greatly distresses me. Can't wait to hear your thoughts.

As a side note, what do you think the Convention ramifications will be this month? I suddenly wish I was going to be in New Orleans.

Jerry said...

Thanks brother for both your clarity and your charity in addressing this issue.

Tom said...

Thanks for your encouraging comments. Jay, I don't know if all of this will have any bearing on the SBC meeting in NOLA. There are some resolutions that have been submitted on the "Calvinism divide" but they were submitted prior to this document coming out. It is my understanding that there may be an effort from the floor to get the convention on record in some form against particular redemption.

Who knows what will ultimately happen or how it will play out? Not me!
ta

Richard said...

Tom, your last comment there has me a little shocked. What would happen if a resolution against particular redemption were to be accepted? Seems like a really big deal for all of us who hold to that doctrine.

Tom said...

Richard,

A resolution is highly unlikely because they are vetted through the Resolutions committee. To get a resolution before the convention from the floor is very difficult. Trust me, I know! ;-)

Furthermore, a resolution has no binding authority on any church, agency or institution of the SBC. It is a statement of what the convention thinks at the particular gathering where it is passed.

A motion that contains some kind of directive to an agency or institution, if it passes, carries some authority (though not over local churches). Most, if not all such motions, are referred to the Executive Committee, but the convention could overrule such a procedure and call for a vote of the messengers.

I think it would be highly unlikely for any such motion to be passed by the convention, mainly because I believe that the aggressive kind of anti-Calvinism that would back such a move is not representative of most Southern Baptists who do not agree with all of our views. I would hope that such "non-Calvinists" (for lack of a better term) would stand against any such move.

Just my thoughts.
ta

Jay Beerley said...

Tom,
What I feel more concerned about is, whether or not any particular resolution is brought forth, that more emotion and "venom" so to speak will spread just in people gathering together to talk about it. I don't want to see these dividing lines. That's one thing that has me so appalled not only at the document itself but the call for people to sign it, like you have to take a "side." It's very sad they are making an issue of it.

And here's just my honest feelings on the matter: if it goes to debate I believe the people who crafted and hold to that document would get crushed. I really appreciate the comments about the hermeneutics of the matter. That's why they typically avoid any debating, just rhetoric with no accountability. I mean, is that one of the results of no genuine structural accountability within the convention?