Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Response to A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God's Plan of Salvation, Part 5

[Part 1 of this series]
[Part 2 of this series]
[Part 3 of this series]
Could W.A. Criswell have signed this statement?
[Part 4 of this series]

Article Two: The Sinfulness of Man

We affirm that, because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin and that every person who is capable of moral action will sin. Each person’s sin alone brings the wrath of a holy God, broken fellowship with Him, ever-worsening selfishness and destructiveness, death, and condemnation to an eternity in hell.
We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s 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 Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel. 
Genesis 3:15-24; 6:5; Deuteronomy 1:39; Isaiah 6:5, 7:15-16;53:6; Jeremiah 17:5,9, 31:29-30; Ezekiel 18:19-20; Romans 1:18-32; 3:9-18, 5:12, 6:23; 7:9; Matthew 7:21-23; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 6:9-10;15:22; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 9:27-28; Revelation 20:11-15
The affirmation reflects the authors' and signers appreciation of the 1963 revision of Article III in the original Baptist Faith and Message of 1925. When examined together, the significance of the revision is obvious.
1925 BFM Article III: He was created in a state of holiness under the law of his Maker, 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 in bondage to sin, are under condemnation, and as soon as they are capable of moral action, become actual transgressors (emphasis added).

1963 BFM Article III: By his free choice man sinned against God and brought sin into the human race. Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original innocence; whereby his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin, and as soon as they are capable of moral action become transgressors and are under condemnation (emphasis added).
The bold portion highlights the change. In 1925 Southern Baptists acknowledged that Adam's sin left humanity with a corrupted nature that is "in bondage to sin" and also "under condemnation." The 1963 statement (which remains virtually unchanged at this point in the 2000 revision), reflecting the doctrinal downgrade of the SBC in that era that ultimately necessitated the conservative resurgence that began in the next decade, reduces the impact of the fall from leaving man's nature enslaved to sin to leaving it, along with his environment, "inclined toward sin" (Mark Coppenger addresses this in a helpful article documenting "The Ascent of Lost Man in Southern Baptist Preaching"). More significant is the removal in 1963 of the idea that people are because of their inherited sinful nature "under condemnation" (1925), though such culpability is acknowledged to be the case after they "become transgressors." This significant change cuts in half the authors' claim in the Preamble that their view of soteriology has been held by Southern Baptists for "almost a century."

As with many of the statements in these 10 Articles the first sentence of this affirmation is problematic not for what it says but for what it leaves unsaid. It is true that the fall has left people with a nature and environment "inclined toward sin" and that "every person who is capable of moral action will sin." But there is much, much more related to this that is true and that has historically been affirmed not only by Southern Baptists, but by Protestant orthodoxy in general. Rather than leave the point ambiguous, as the 1963 and 2000 BFM do, the second sentence of the affirmation rejects a key point of that orthodoxy when it states that "each person’s sin alone brings the wrath of a holy God ..." (emphasis added).

The Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (published in1689, which is essentially the same as the 1742 Philadelphia Confession and the Charleston Confession of 1767) along with the Savoy Declaration (1658) and Westminster Confession (1646) all take a position that is contrary to the authors and signers of this statement. In what is Article 6, paragraph 3 in each of those confessions the imputation of sin and guilt from Adam is asserted. The Baptist version is more elaborate than its Congregationalist and Presbyterian counterparts at this point:
They [our first parents] being the root, and by God's appointment, standing in the room and stead of all mankind, the guilt of the sin was imputed, and corrupted nature conveyed, to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation, being now conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, the servants of sin, the subjects of death, and all other miseries, spiritual, temporal, and eternal, unless the Lord Jesus set them free.
Similarly, the first official confession of faith that Southern Baptists produced and which is still used at two of our seminaries, the Abstract of Principles, says that Adam's "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" (emphasis added). I do not understand how anyone could, with integrity, sign this statement as well as this new document on "traditional" Baptist soteriology. At this point, they are mutually exclusive.

The authors and signers of the statement under review flatly reject the historic Southern Baptist position on sin as reflected in our earliest and most influential confessions. In fact, the second sentence of this Article Two's affirmation is actually much closer to the Mormon view of sin, which says, "We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgression." While no evangelical denies that sinners are guilty before God and liable to His wrath by virtue of their own sins, when the authors of this statement add the word "alone" to that point, they transgress the bounds of Protestant orthodoxy.

The key biblical text that must be considered at this point is Romans 5:12-19. Five times in this passage (12, 15, 17, 18, 19) the universal judgment of condemnation and death on all men is attributed to the one sin of the first  man Adam. There is an undeniable solidarity between the first Adam and his posterity. Death is the penalty for sin and it has "spread to all men" (12) as an act of justice. Unless the penalty has been unjustly executed it is inescapable that all men are regarded guilty when the sentence is pronounced, which was at the point of Adam's sin. The last phrase of verse 12, when seen in the light of the whole passage, forcefully makes this point. Death spread to all men "because all sinned" (ep ho pantes hamarton). This raises the question, "How and when did all men sin?" The context gives the answer.

In verse 18 Paul clearly joins the sin of Adam to the condemnation of all men. Verse 19 identifies Adam's disobedience as the cause of many being "made" (katestarthesan) sinners. Adam’s sin is constitutive of the sinfulness and condemnation of men. Universal judgment and death are inextricably bound to the sin of the original man in verses 15-19. The thematic integrity of the pericope indicates that Paul is dealing with the same issue in verse 12 that he con­siders in verses 15-19, namely, the origin of death and con­demnation. In verse 12 he charges the death of all men to the sin of all men. In verses 15–19 he attributes death and condemnation to the sin of Adam.[1]
   
In Paul’s mind there is a union of some sort between the sin of Adam and the sin of all. Historically, Baptists like Andrew Fuller, Charles Spurgeon and R.B.C. Howell (following the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith) have argued that this relationship is rooted in the federal union of Adam to the race of men. Because he is the representative of the race, Adam’s sin is imputed to all his offspring. We are not sinners because we sin; rather, we sin because we are sinners.

The statement of denial is one of the most problematic in the whole document. I have tried to understand, from the texts cited, how the authors and signers have concluded that there is no "incapacitation of any person’s free will" as a result of the fall. Statements by our Lord (John 6:44, 65) and by the Apostle Paul (Romans 8:7-8) clearly teach that there is an inability on the part of natural men to come to Christ or repent and believe. What is this if not an incapacitation of the will? Furthermore, if it is inevitable that "every person who is capable of moral action will sin," what is the source or power of that inevitability? Adam lived for a while without sinning. Is it not, then, possible, than someone might possibly live--at least for a little while--without sin? The dilemma that I suspect the authors are trying to avoid by their protection of a free will that is in no way incapacitated by the fall is not resolved by their deterministic language.

This article also raises questions about the roots of the authors' and signers' theological convictions. The self-described "Classical Arminian" and highly respected Roger Olson has weighed in at this point raising serious concerns about their denial "that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned." Olson gave a glowing review to the book, Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism, which was edited and written by many of the promoters of this statement. His concerns, therefore, come as one who is very sympathetic to the theology of many of the advocates of this document and should be weighed heavily.
A classical Arminian would never deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will. Classical Arminianism (as I have demonstrated in Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities) strongly affirms the bondage of the will to sin before and apart from prevenient grace’s liberating work.
Now, perhaps this is the point of the statement’s mention of “the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel.” But that, too, can be interpreted in a semi-Pelagian way. Semi-Pelagians such as Philip Limborch and (at least in some of his writings) Charles Finney affirmed the necessity of the gospel and the Holy Spirit’s enlightening work through it for salvation. What made them semi-Pelagian was their denial or neglect of the divine initiative in salvation (except the gospel message).

The problem with this Southern Baptist statement is its neglect of emphasis on the necessity of the prevenience of supernatural grace for the exercise of a good will toward God (including acceptance of the gospel by faith). If the authors believe in that cardinal biblical truth, they need to spell it out more clearly. And they need to delete the sentence that denies the incapacitation of free will due to Adam’s sin.

Leaving the statement as it stands, without a clear affirmation of the bondage of the will to sin apart from supernatural grace, inevitably hands the Calvinists ammunition to use against non-Calvinist Baptists.

It doesn’t matter what “most Baptists” believe or what is the “traditional Southern Baptist understanding.” For a long time I’ve been stating that most American Christians, including most Baptists, are semi-Pelagian, not Arminian and not merely non-Calvinist.
Calvinists and Arminians stand together, with Scripture, against semi-Pelagianism. (Romans 3:11 and 1 Corinthians 4:7 to name just two passages.)
I fear that Olson may be correct in his evaluation that "most American Christians, including most Baptists, are semi-Pelagian." My hope and prayer are that the Southern Baptist brothers who have signed on to this statement will rethink what they are saying and offer clarifications if not retractions that show they are indeed in step not only with "traditional" Southern Baptist understanding but also historic, orthodox Protestant understanding, and even more importantly, with biblical teaching regarding the nature of sin and the fall.

Continue to Part 6


[1]John Murray, Imputation, pp. 7–8, 19–21; idem, Romans, 1:179–86; cf. John Owen, Works, 5:324–29; Lumpkin, Baptist Confessions, p. 259; Ross, Westminster Confession, pp. 39–40.

31 comments:

Brent Hobbs said...

"The statement of denial is one of the most problematic in the whole document."

Absolutely. This this article (II) and the one on regeneration (because it contradicts the BF&M 2000) were the ones that really set off warning bells for me. I find it hard to believe some of these well-known names lent their signature to a document with these kinds of problems.

Unknown said...

Excellent and gracious critique. I pray for good and "ruthless" Biblical discussion makes more of Christ than us.

James Hammack

Aaron Turner said...

Their erroneous thinking on this point forms the foundation for the rest of their logic. Excellent insight in exposing this error.

Thank you for your work in this my brother!

Scott said...

It is well worth noting that, for many generations of Baptists (and Christians of all biblical traditions), the denial of original sin found in Article 2 would be classified as heresy. I am not trying to be harsh with that statement, or pass judgement on these men themselves, but this terribly worded statement is deeply troubling and flirts disastrously with a Pelagian view of salvation.

Matt Privett said...

Tom,

I want to thank you for the thorough and gracious manner in which you are going about this. It is much needed and I hope that the people who need to read it are doing just that, even though the comment threads don't seem to give that indication. Anyway, thank you for what might be the most important blog posts I've read at your site.

So don't take this the wrong way when I say I wish it wasn't you doing this. I feel these posts are and will be dismissed out of hand by the framers of the "traditional Southern Baptist" statement because of who you are with regards to Founders. They need to be reading exactly what you've been writing from the keyboard of Albert Mohler or another high profile Calvinistic brother in the SBC. While I very much appreciate what he has to say when it comes to SBC engagement on social and cultural issues, his and others' silence when this debate comes up saddens me.

That's my long way of saying "thank you very much" for what you are doing. I'm reposting all of these on Facebook with the hopes of as many Southern Baptists reading them as possible.

To God Be the Glory,
Matt

Tom said...

Thanks for the encouragement, brothers. I, too, hope that the open and frank discussion of these issues will prove helpful to all of us and point the way forward to making much of Christ!

Matt, I get your point. :)

ta

Bill0615 said...

Tom, in J.C. Ryle's classic work on "Holiness" he gives a strong warning to those whose doctrine of sin is not rooted in the Biblical teaching on sin:

"The plain truth is that a right understanding of sin lies at the root of all saving Christianity. Without it such doctrines as justification, conversion, sanctification, are 'words and names' which convey no meaning to the mind. The first thing, therefore, that God does when He makes anyone a new creature in Christ is to send light into his heart and show him that he is a guilty sinner. The material creation in Genesis began with 'light,' and so also does the spiritual creation. God 'shines into our hearts' by the work of the Holy Spirit and then spiritual life begins (2 Cor. 4:6). Dim or indistinct views of sin are the origin of most of the errors, heresies and false doctrines of the present day. If a man does not realize the dangerous nature of his soul’s disease, you cannot wonder if he is content with false or imperfect remedies. I believe that one of the chief wants of the contemporary church has been, and is, clearer, fuller teaching about sin." [Ryle, J. (1996). Holiness : It's nature, hinderances, difficulties and roots (electronic ed. based on the Evangelical Press reprinting, with new forward, 1995.) (1). Simpsonville SC: Christian Classics Foundation.]

The position these fellows have taken on the matter of sin (i.e., we become sinners when we sin) is both sad and shocking. Thanks for your commitment to the text of Scripture, and your unwillingness to wink at the traditions of some people who imagine that they speak for the majority of Southern Baptists.

jbboren said...

Get busy, Tom. Finish these. This needs to be a book, and it doesn't need to wait a year for publication.

Jerry said...

Get original sin wrong and your entire soteriology falls like a house of cards.

I have to wonder, however, if enough Southern Baptists are aware of the importance of this doctrine, and the problems that this document poses.

downshoredrift said...

Tom,

When I first read the document last week, the denial in Article 2 is what stood out to me. I began to question it and actually said that it seemed to lean toward Pelagianism to me. I gave them the benefit of the doubt and just asked that they look at the language and try to clean it up. I really did not think that it was their actual position, but that is how it read to me.

And, I am not a Calvinist, as you know. But, it struck me that way.

To my surprise, the Denial in Article 2 was defended. No one said that I had a point, and actually, they proceeded to show me how that statement was Biblical. At that point, I told them that I felt that they would lose the "majority" of Southern Baptists that they claim to speak for.

I am not saying that the signers of that document or Pelagians or even semi-Pelagian. I am submitting that the language in Article 2 causes one to think that we could be headed in that direction. If we are not, then they should hear the concerns of others and clarify what is meant. This is why we do this kind of thing in community and not in a vacuum. As it now stands, it appears that they are doubling down on it, which is a curious position.

Paul Dohse said...

Tom,

What you deliberately and deceptively leave out of the argument is the fact that Reformed theology holds to the idea that mankind remains totally depraved after salvation, and ALL righteousness remains outside of the believer in sanctification. This was the crux of Reformed theology, and many early Baptists rejected this idea. In Reformed theology spiritual growth is a manifestation of obedience that is not our own, but rather manifestations of Christ's active obedience secured as part of the atonement. So, double imputation in Reformed theology is not an imputation of God's righteousness and our sin imputed to Christ, but rather Christ's righteousness and His active obedience imputed to us for sanctification. When are you going to start being honest about what the Reformers really taught?

R. Cofield said...

Having trouble finding a full disclosure of the names of the framers of this document. Can someone help me here?

Bob Cleveland said...

Natural man cannot perceive things of the Spirit .. neither can he know them. That sort of puts the corn down where the hog can get at it. you don't have to know much about much to get that...

UNLESS .. God does a work in man, who is UNABLE .. prior to .. which would ENABLE him to be saved.

It seems like folks all up and down the theological and educational ladder can find all sort of stuff at which to be amazed in the Statement, and at the people who signed onto it.

And that's not even going to the fact that this is a statement obviously aimed at telling good solid Bible-believing and Bible-preaching followers of Jesus what they should not believe, thus stomping all over the BF&M and things like priesthood of the believer.

Do "enough Southern Baptist" understand all this? Goodness, no. I've yet to find one who could tell me why you had to be Baptized to join a Southern Baptist church. And that included members, teachers, Deacon bodies, and pastors.

Tom said...

Paul,

Welcome to the blog. Would you be so kind as to document your accusations as plainly as you have made them? You might start by examining chapter 13 of the 1689 Baptist Confession. Until you back up your charges they remain simply gratuitous assertions and are not worth engaging.

R. Cofield said...

Tom,

Having trouble finding a full disclosure of the names of the framers of this document. Find that rather strange. Can you give me some direction here?

Many thanks for your gracious analysis of this statement.

Tom said...

R. Cofield,

Go to ww.sbctoday.com

All the signers are listed there.

R. Cofield said...

Tom,

Yes, I saw the list of signatories. Looking for a list of those who actually wrote the document. The doc itself only refers to Dr. Eric Hankins and "others." Seems to me if they are going to speak on behalf the "majority" of SB we should at least know who the "others" are.

Thanks

Tom said...

I have not seen that list, but would be interested, too.

kennethclayton said...

Thank you for this post, after reading the document this article was the one most concerning to me, I didn't realize that non-calvinist in the SBC where denying this orthodox understanding of original sin. If they deny that we are under condemnation because of our first parents sin then they may have trouble realizing that we are justified by the 2nd Adam's atonement and righteousness for us, not because of something we did.

D.R. said...

I believe the work was wholly produced by Eric Hankins, who is running for 2nd VP of the SBC. He produced a series for SBC Voices a few weeks back in which he set forth much of what we find in this document. Though a good many debated with him, it appeared throughout that his desire to maintain his philosophical viewpoint of libertarian free will was the dominating factor in his theology.

thomastwitchell said...

Scott said... the denial of original sin found in Article 2 would be classified as heresy...

Lemke thoroughly explained their position, and you're right it is heresy. Some of the things I have written examining Lemke and his accomplices can be found here. Don't get all excited that any might call them on it... if Keathley's Molinism can stand without condemnation in the SBC, the heretical teachings of other seminarians, officials and pastors won't be condemned either.

Cap Pooser said...

Tom, the preamble of the 1963 BFM said there was no intention to change the contents of the 1925 BFM. Seems like they did. Cap Pooser

Tom said...

Astute observation, Cap!

DoGLover said...

Tom, thank you for your gracious humility & balanced wisdom. Jesus said, "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Mt. 5:11-12).

We stand in a long line of witnesses to God's grace. Stand firm, dear Brother.

Chris

Tom said...

Thanks, Chris!

Manfred said...

I am most thankful for the thoughtful, gentle yet firm, biblical stance you are taking. I fear those who signed that document only a Pelagian could love are not likely to be turned away from their idol of man's will so easily, however. My former "pastor" from my former church is one of these - and used by God to cause me to see the importance of His sovereignty and the doctrines of grace we call Calvinism.

Press on for the prize that will not tarnish!

Tony said...

I want to play tribute to the pastor under which I was called into the ministry. He was definitely not a Calvinist but he clearly preached total depravity. His theology was clearly superior to those who drafted this document.

pioneerbc1 said...

I just noticed that the "traditionalist" statement does NOT include Romans 5:19 as part of the proof texts. :-)

Kyle Mullaney said...

Bro. Tom I was impersonally introduced to you by my roommate in college through his subscription to the founders magazine any how I am very confused.

I understand that the document's author is running for an office at the convention. That said I have to wonder what this is about.
Article two on its surface is clearly inconsistent with scripture and I cannot believe that the top signatories truly believe that we are born without a sin bound volition or nature or at least a small enough amount of sinfulness, save this statement is impossible, to not be guilty and condemned. I just don't understand what they are driving at. It is like we are tinged with sinfulness but that sinfulness does not merit guilt until it is acted on. The implications of the assertions in article two are astounding. Children, or any, who are "not yet capable of moral action" would thus be in perfect fellowship with God.
"Each person’s sin alone brings the wrath of a holy God, broken fellowship with Him, ever-worsening selfishness and destructiveness, death, and condemnation to an eternity in hell."

It seems they claim it is the act of sin that brings upon a person broken fellowship. So prior to a persons first sin act, which can only be committed when a person is "capable of moral action", that person enjoys peace with God; emnity cannot exist in that relationship. Fellowship is unbroken. Also, that person is immortal prior to their first sin act?. Clearly this can only mean that they are spiritually alive which begs the question, "How is a spiritually alive person, who has not been regenerated be the holy spirit, they have no need having not yet died as Adam - save Paul's deceleration as you pointed out - , 'inclined toward sin'?". Also, it seems, these wouldn't be in need of grace, they have nothing of their own which requires atonement.

Am i readng is correctly? Or is it just that unclear. It has to be. I hope I am seriously confused.
Could this all be a way of getting the author's name out among the people by creating a stir and showing him to be the leader of an anti-Calvinist faction so as to solidify support at the convention?

I made a couple changes. Sorry!

Bob said...

Southern Baptist heritage: Cooperation

“Christ’s people should, as occasion requires, organize such associations and conventions as may best secure cooperation for the great objects of the Kingdom of God. …. Christian unity in the New Testament sense is spiritual harmony and voluntary cooperation for common ends by various groups of Christ’s people”

– The Baptist Faith and Message 2000).

There are two issues which divide us in spite of the call for unity and cooperation. There are those who emphasize limited atonement (historic Calvinism), and those who emphasize man’s free will (historic Arminianism).

Arminians believe men are born in sin but have the “capacity” to choose Christ of their own free will regardless of regeneration. Calvinists believe God regenerates a soul, giving a person the ability to believe. The Arminian believes therefore God regenerates him. Yet despite these differences there are many doctrines we can agree on. It is critical to our unity that we still work together for the Kingdom of God despite these differences. There is historical precedence among Baptists for just this attitude:

“We care far more for the central evangelical truths than we do for Calvinism as a system; but we believe that Calvinism has in it a conservative force which helps to hold me to the vital truth, and therefore we are sorry to see any quitting it who have once accepted it.” [Sword and Trowel, April 1887, p 196]

We can agree with Charles Spurgeon. In light of the Gospel, this difference matters not. We are after all organized to aid in spreading the Gospel around the world, not to police one another.

It is healthy for us to study the Scriptures and have debate, but we should not slander our brothers in Christ or in any way undermine other’s efforts. Our communications with each other should be redemptive and kind (Eph. 4:32). Maintaining doctrinal integrity within the historic beliefs of Baptists is critical, and the acknowledgement of Calvinist doctrine is warranted given that history.

Some definitions may prove helpful.

Hyper-Calvinism emphasizes divine sovereignty to the exclusion of human responsibility. The doctrine of hyper-Calvinism would tell us that there is no need for the believer to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to others because God has determined whom He would save and He will save them without our help. The result of this error is a “sit and wait” mentality. It is to be rejected.

A Calvinist Baptist like Spurgeon understood the great responsibility to preach the Gospel and support missions. Other Calvinist Baptists that were not hyper in doctrine were Broadus and Manley, where we get our “Broadman Press,” William Carey, that great missionary, Adoniram Judson, John Bunyan, B. H. Carroll, Alvah Hovey, A. H. Strong, J. P. Boyce, John L. Dagg, Richard Fuller, Jonathan Edwards, Luther Rice, Andrew Fuller, George Whitfield, and Lottie Moon. All of these worked with other Baptists who differed with them, and they accepted each other in communion. We have historical precedence for difference of belief yet cooperation for the Kingdom of God. It is our Baptist heritage.

Bob said...

Easy-believism is the notion that salvation entails a mere assent to the facts of the Gospel message. It has been termed Decisional Regeneration or Decisionism for short. Decisionists believe that all that is needed for someone to be saved is to affirm the truths of the Gospel as presented. Decisionists exclude the sincere necessity for the conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit and the responsibility for man to repent and believe unto the saving of the soul.

The Invitation System: While many Baptists who hold invitations would never agree to the above definition of easy-believism, it is also easy to witness the actual methodology of those who do being practiced in some of our Baptist churches today. While most all degrees of Calvinists in our association would insist on a clear call for sinners to repent and believe and for believers to examine their lives, some would also insist that there are other ways to extend that call than to ask people to “come down the aisle.” We have no record of any form of the modern invitation being given in the church for 1800 years, but there has always been a clear invitation given for sinners to repent and trust Christ. We all should insist on a clear call for sinners to repent and believe and for believers to examine their lives. There may be some who would also insist that there are other ways to extend that call than to ask people to come down the aisle, but we should also recognize that there is historical precedence for not accepting the invitation to walk the aisle model as conversion proof.

The resurgence of Calvinism is populated by the same people who were either brought up in some type of easy-believism, or once practiced it themselves. Some have been tempted to classify Baptist ministers who adhere to neither a system of easy-believism or Calvinism as belonging in the easy-believism camp. This divisional language is not fit for the redemptive language that should be a part of our lives (I Cor. 3:3).

Many Baptist churches hold invitations, and are prayerful and careful in their counseling. There are times when souls are genuinely converted at the front of a church. The Holy Spirit is more than able to finish any work that He starts. The problem that needs to be addressed is when there is no apparent conviction, no desire to forsake sin and no real faith in the finished work of Christ, but simply a desire to escape hell, and by going through some simple predefined steps the sinner comes out on the other end more fit for hell than when he first started down the aisle.

Baptist Calvinists have legitimate concerns when it comes to the invitation system, but it is not a Calvinist concern. It is a Baptist concern. There are concerns enough for us all.

Hyper-calvinism is dangerous to our unity and should be rejected. The desire to defame, destroy or undermine Baptist brethren should also be rejected. Easy-believism should not be defined by whether you have an invitation or not, but by how the response is made to the Gospel. Any response other than genuine repentance and faith is to be rejected.

The habit of divisiveness if left unchecked becomes a necessity, and once a necessity our house will fall. The time has come for healthy dialogue. And from healthy dialogue let us move forward and urge all men everywhere to repent and trust our Wonderful Savior. (Bob Schembre A Pastor at Rockport Baptist Church, Arnold.)



Having thought further about this recent controversy, I am waiting to see what comes of the SBC convention and what direction it will go with the SBC Today, Statement. If there is a consensus, I am afraid it may be time to ....well, pray about what to do now.