Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Why I Am Offended By The Statement

I am offended by the recent “Traditionalist” statement on soteriology, not because I have a few differences theologically but because some people were labeled, accused, and judged, and I’m afraid I’m part of that group. And that is disconcerting at least.

The Statement says:
“This movement (“New Calvinism”) is committed to advancing in the churches an exclusively Calvinistic understanding of salvation, characterized by an aggressive insistence on the “Doctrines of Grace” (“TULIP”), and to the goal of making Calvinism the central Southern Baptist position on God’s plan of salvation.”

    Who are these “New Calvinists”? Am I one because I affirm 5 points. I’m not actually a “TULIP” guy anyway, and neither are most Calvinist leaning Bapstists I know. I’m more of a RUDEP guy myself. But this vague accusation opens up many of us for guilt by association. Even if we don’t know exactly WHO IT IS WE ARE associating with.

The Statement says:
And, to their credit, most Southern Baptist Calvinists have not demanded the adoption of their view as the standard. We would be fine if this consensus continued, but some New Calvinists seem to be pushing for a radical alteration of this long standing arrangement.

Once again, WHO? You know what this sounds like?
“To their credit most Calvinists have enough sense to “stay in their place,” But some of these uppity New Calvinists are making us mad!”
What long standing “arrangement”? Who is rocking the boat? Am I a New Calvinist because I don’t hide my beliefs? I’m not even trying to make the church I have pastored for 13 years a “Reformed Baptist” Church. But I preach Grace and Sovereignty from the pulpit. And I preach salvation by Grace through faith and Call people to Christ.
But I also consider it a dangerous doctrine to tell people, if they say a “sinner’s prayer” and are sincere, that they are saved! Sinner’s prayers don’t save! God’s Grace saves through the demonstration of faith. Or, Faith, enabled by Grace, saves. Not a nicely worded but powerless prayer that is not expressed in miraculous, life-giving, God-given Faith!
So now am I a New Calvinist? I’m really wondering what it is that will cross the line of this “long standing arrangement” that I didn’t even know existed.
I have heard the “Traditionalist” view of Salvation all my life. I was a victim of the easy-believism it engendered. I followed suit by telling people whom I led in Sinner’s Prayers, “There, you’re saved now.” May God have mercy on me for all the people I misled into thinking they were saved, who then went about their merry sinful ways thinking they had fire insurance.
NOW, I have the audacity to tell people I was wrong –before- about salvation. That it’s not a simple matter of reciting the right words. But it is something to be sought with fear and trembling, Calling on the Name of the Lord, with faith and repentance, until such time that the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are indeed the children of God.

I’m not trying to change the good gospel preaching of Baptists everywhere around the world or even in my own church. I believe that the “Jesus and His finished work” message being preached is the gospel that God uses as His power “unto salvation.”But I do want to warn the SBC that we have ushered in thousands upon thousands of unregenerate people into our churches with an affirmation of their salvation that we have no right to give.
That’s why I Believe the teaching that humanity is
1.       Radically Depraved- every facet of humankind has suffered under the fall. That is why every person is guilty of sin, as soon as they are morally capable they are morally culpable.
2.       Unconditional Election means that I did nothing to satisfy a “condition” for salvation. I received the salvation that Jesus secured on the cross for me!
3.       Definite Atonement means that God did not leave my salvation to chance, but definitely redeemed me by His own blood 2000 years ago.
4.       Effectual Grace teaches us that God’s grace doesn’t fail. Yes it is irresistible because it is effectual. All that the Father gives to the Son will indeed come to Him.
5.       Perseverance/Preservation of the saints, teaches that the saints will in fact persevere to the end because they are preserved by the Grace of God.
I stated these “5 Points” not to refute the tenants of the “Traditionalist’s Statement” but to go ahead and put the Bull’s Eye on my chest so people won’t miss if they are shooting at me.
Am I one of these terrible “New Calvinists” or not?  If not who are they, and why am I not one?
If it’s because I’m not trying to enforce my beliefs in the 5-points then I would suggest that’s the case of most every mature Calvinistic Baptist out there.

And just maybe, the adversarial language of the “Statement” was mis-directed or even inappropriate. And if so, I think there should be some apologies in the offing.

Below, Please see the two part reply by my friend an Brother in Christ Dr. Adam Harwood of Truett-McConnell College.


  1. Pastor Clark,

    Thank you for sending the link to your web page and for writing me a private note. Yes, brother, I remember you from SWBTS. And I have enjoyed keeping up with you through your posts that run across my Facebook newsfeed. Good to hear from you.

    I am glad to know that VBS is off to a great start at your church this week. I am thankful that you lead your congregation in faithfully sharing the Gospel with children and families in your community.

    I understand that you feel targeted by the preface of the Statement. I regret that. My intention is not to fight with any of my more-Calvinistic brothers on theological differences which we've managed within the Baptist family for more than 400 years. Instead, I support this statement, which articulates the General Baptist-Anabaptist-Sandy Creek-Herschel Hobbs-Adrian Rogers-Tradition on the doctrine of salvation. It is true that Southern Baptists already affirm the BFM 2000. I have no other desire. But I welcomed the opportunity to publicly attach my name to this document which clarifies the distinct tradition to which I belong. I have many friends who are unable to affirm certain articles in the Statement. I respect and expect their conviction. They may share an affinity for another statement, such as the Abstract of Principles (as well as the BFM).

    I affirm much of what you wrote, brother, such as your stated rejection of easy “believism.“ We agree on FAR more than we disagree. And on those points of disagreement, I have no desire to pick a theological fight.

    One unfortunate consequence of the title of the Statement or the verbiage in the preface (or something else, I’m unsure) is that it may lead my more-Calvinistic brothers to understand us to say:

    1. We don’t believe everything you believe.
    2. We affirm #1, #2, #3… #10.
    3. We deny #1, #2, #3… #10.

    (continued on next post)

  2. (...continued)

    Claim 1 is true. And as we learned in Baptist history classes at SWBTS, this has been the case within the Baptist tradition for more than 400 years. And I have no interest in debating my brothers about those theological particulars. I prefer to extend grace on these issues because although I maintain many biblical and theological convictions, I am certain I do not have perfect knowledge. Also, believers have always differed on certain points of theology but agreed to “let it go.” Who wants to pick a fight, for example, with his brothers over the precise sequence and timing of timing of the return of Christ and the Millennium? Not me. As long as we agree on some particular affirmations within that doctrine (for example, Christ WILL return, it will be a BODILY return, etc.), then I’m glad for brothers to hold differing, orthodox views.

    Claim 2 is true. But my fear is that the impression which remains is that the claim is as follows: “We ‘Traditional’ Baptists affirm all the claims in these ten articles. You ‘New Calvinists’ affirm none of them.” That is not the case. That was not what was intended by the document. I do not believe the language of the statement makes such a claim and that was not my intention. But I understand that this emergence of this statement (seemingly out of the blue) can leave that impression. I regret that.

    Claim 3 can be misunderstood in a similar way as Claim 2.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, brother. You have my permission to print this entire letter. I am unable to commit to further dialogue. The last two weeks of my life were swallowed up and I have fallen behind on several projects and prior commitments. I hope you will not take this as a slight. I am grateful that you reached out to the “other side” to discuss your frustrations.

    By God’s grace and strength, my aim in this forthcoming convention-wide conversation is to conduct myself in the way EVERY Christian should act in ANY situation, which is to write, speak, Tweet, or message only those words which I would not be embarrassed to have copied and pasted for anyone in the SBC to read. I agree with James. My tongue is a fire, a world of eviI, and is set on fire by hell itself. Although certain that some brothers will disagree with my assertions, my hope is that I will speak and act in a way that honors the Lord.

    Thanks again, brother. Please message me if you have any other questions or concerns. I cannot promise that I can meet your request but I will attempt to listen to your thoughts.

    In Him,


  3. I felt it was the case, and see in your replies, that there is so much more that we agree on than we often even think about. I, too, have said that there are any number of confessions, creeds, etc. that I would be willing to sign my name to if it helped advance the Kingdom in any way. Statements like the Abstract of Principles, the 1689 London Confession, are surely within my theological scope as are the '25, '63, and 2001 BF&M's.
    I also see that those of a less Calvinistic persuasion may want to do two things in a statement, First, to clarify any doctrine that may be seen to be a bit ambiguous to others, like soteriology for example; and Second, to distance one from being characterized solely by what they are not. I understand and appreciate the urge to say "We are more than "non-Calvinists" or "two-pointers"." As Dr. Yarnell has pointed out (I think it was him) the whole discussion of Baptist Soteriology could stand to move away from Presbyterian language.
    I even welcome he discussion from a standpoint that there are those who haven't decided what they believe about how salvation occurs and we give them the scriptural basis for our divergent Views.
    But none of the Confessions I would sign would, I hope, start off by marginalizing those who are brothers in Christ and with whom I serve and strive for the Gospel. I would hope none of them would set up some vague "straw-man" that can be redefined later as the person the writers want to marginalize further. I would hope I would only sign those confessions that state clearly my understanding of scriptural teaching without maligning the intents and characters of other brothers and sisters in Christ.
    Thats what I'm saying!
    BUT, I will let it go. You, Adam, have said you regret that I felt targeted in the preamble. And I accept that as I know you mean it, sincerely. And I know you didn't write the statement, and did not see how those of us who believe differently would not appreciate the "shotgun" allegations tht were included.
    But I still say, the writers owe us clarification at least, if not an apology.
    PS I say "Shotgun" allegations because while the accusations had precision in detailing what is seen as the problem, they were much more vague in scope as to the perpetrators.


Feel free to tell me and others what you think. You can use the tools of rhetoric but please, be clean and nice.