Dr. Al Mohler is in a very tough spot. Several prominent leaders in the SBC have signed the recent statement that tries to put Calvinism in its place. As the president of one of the big SBC seminaries, he needs to be respectful and have political tact in his response while making the document’s shortcomings clear. I think he does a great job!Mohler is kind enough (or maybe ‘political’ enough) to treat the document as an invitation for SBC leaders to have dialogue about Calvinism. But the statement nowhere mentions such a conversation. The Statement instead makes it clear that Southern Baptists have never been Calvinists and suggests that they never will be.
After he acknowledges that the proclaimed Gospel really is how God brings people to salvation–it’s incredible that he would actually have to mention that!–Mohler makes some great points:
-“Indeed, 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. Clearly, some Southern Baptists do not want to identify as either Calvinists, non-Calvinists, or Arminians. That is fine by me, but these theological issues have been debated by evangelicals for centuries now, and those labels stick for a reason.”
A fabulous point that represents one of the biggest concerns of SBC Calvinists for a long time. Calvinists are concerned about heresy which blinds and binds the believer. While Arminianism is a legitimate theological option, any form of Pelagianism has always been considered a serious heresy in the church. The fact that the Statement has some semi-Pelagian points should concern us all. The fact that many former SBC presidents have signed this document is cause for great alarm.
Another great comment:
-“…we must recognize and affirm together that we have already stated where Southern Baptists stand on the great doctrines of our faith. The Baptist Faith & Message is our confession of faith, and it binds us all together on common ground. The BF&M does not state doctrines comprehensively, but it defines our necessary consensus. Every Southern Baptist is free to believe more than the confession affirms, but never less.
“…Both Calvinists and non-Calvinists have a legitimate claim to represent the ‘traditional’ Southern Baptist understanding. “
Yes! So much for autonomy, right? I believe the statement is actually an addendum to the BF&M article on salvation. Whether you’re an Arminian (and that’s what it is!) or a Calvinist, the BF&M is a document you can embrace. It seems the Statement signers disagree. That’s promoting a tribalism that concerns a lot of folks.
I encourage you to read the rest of Mohler’s post. It great, even though I think he’s holding back because he doesn’t want to be divisive himself.
As I’ve mentioned a few times already, it’s not just a little troubling that many SBC leaders have signed this statement. These guys are the leaders, and they can’t recognize that they’re championing a document peppered with serious heresy. Time and time again, they prove that they don’t really understand Calvinism, the thing they are so eloquently denying. It’s not based on knowledge–it’s prejudice. In my book, it spells real trouble for the Convention. If you know anything about the tenacity of SBC leaders, then I’m sure you’ll understand why.
This is gonna be ugly.