On 30 May 2012, a document was published on SBC Today entitled “A Statement of Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.” The drafters of this document make no qualms about asserting their disagreement with the “5 Points of Calvinism,” otherwise known as the Doctrines of Grace. The preamble of this document states its intended purpose quite clearly. It reads in part:
Every generation of Southern Baptists has the duty to articulate the truths of its faith with particular attention to the issues that are impacting contemporary mission and ministry. The precipitating issue for this statement is the rise of a movement called “New Calvinism” among Southern Baptists. This movement 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.
While Calvinists have been present in Southern Baptist life from its earliest days and have made very important contributions to our history and theology, the majority of Southern Baptists do not embrace Calvinism….
We propose that what most Southern Baptists believe about salvation can rightly be called “Traditional” Southern Baptist soteriology, which should be understood in distinction to “Calvinist” soteriology….While we are not insisting that every Southern Baptist affirm the soteriological statement below in order to have a place in the Southern Baptist family, we are asserting that the vast majority of Southern Baptists are not Calvinists and that they do not want Calvinism to become the standard view in Southern Baptist life. We believe it is time to move beyond Calvinism as a reference point for Baptist soteriology.
In the few days since its appearing, numerous responses have been formulated. Two of the most comprehensive discussions have been offered by James White of Alpha & Omega Ministries and Tom Ascol, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Florida.
White dedicated 90 minutes on his Radio Free Geneva show to discuss this topic. That show can be accessed at this link.
Ascol offers an even more detailed response as he intends to dedicate a separate article to each of this document’s ten affirmation and denial statements. Thus far he has written five posts in this series on his Founders Ministries blog. Of this document, Ascol writes:
I believe this document to be unwise. As I have stated previously, I think it has more potential to provoke serious division than anything else I have read on this issue coming from within the Southern Baptist camp. Given some of the debates and shenanigans that have gone on in the attacks and counter-attacks on Calvinism over the last ten years, that is a bold statement. However, I believe that the potential divisiveness might, by the grace of God, be negated and that the ensuing result could help clarify the attitudes and convictions of several key Southern Baptist leaders. Words have meaning and are a reflection, Jesus said, of what’s in the heart. Source
With the SBC Annual Meeting scheduled to take place later this month in New Orleans, no doubt many will continue to closely monitor this debate.