In recent years, Southern Baptists have been debating Calvinism’s role within the convention. Over the last couple of decades there’s been a resurgence of Calvinist theology in the SBC which some members have not welcomed. Though there are many points of tension, predestination is the most controversial doctrine.
Last year some SBC Calvinists felt attacked when other Southern Baptists attempted to redefine the boundaries of Southern Baptist life to exclude Calvinism. The document that stirred the pot was called “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.” This document explicitly repudiates Calvinism, and a number of influential Baptist leaders signed it.
At the SBC’s annual meeting in 2012, the Calvinism Advisory Committee was formed to address the role of Calvinism within the SBC. The committee included prominent Calvinists and non-Calvinists. After a year of work, they just released their statement.
The statement is a call for Baptists to remain united in purpose in spite of their diversity in theology. It admits that tensions exist within the convention, but it calls for Baptists to affirm the truth of Scripture and trust one another. It reaffirms the central purpose of the Baptist Faith and Message as the SBC’s statement of faith, a faith statement broad enough to include both Calvinists and non-Calvinists.
The Calvinism Advisory Committee’s entire statement is worth reading, but I feel this passage is the most important:
We affirm that Southern Baptists stand together in a commitment to cooperate in Great Commission ministries. We affirm that, from the very beginning of our denominational life, Calvinists and nonCalvinists have cooperated together. We affirm that these differences should not threaten our eager cooperation in Great Commission ministries.
We deny that the issues now discussed among us should in any way undermine or hamper our work together if we grant one another liberty and extend to one another charity in these differences. Neither those insisting that Calvinism should dominate Southern Baptist identity nor those who call for its elimination should set the course for our life together.
We affirm that The Baptist Faith and Message, as adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention in 2000, stands as a sufficient and truthful statement of those doctrines most certainly held among us. We affirm that this confession of faith is to serve as the doctrinal basis for our cooperation in Great Commission ministry.
We deny that any human statement stands above Holy Scripture as our authority. We also deny that The Baptist Faith and Message is insufficient as the doctrinal basis for our cooperation. Other Baptist Confessions are not to be lenses through which The Baptist Faith and Message is to be read. The Baptist Faith and Message alone is our expression of common belief.
I think the committee’s approach is a good one. I appreciate the amount of humility and cooperation that the members must have exhibited in coming up with this statement. I pray that the Southern Baptists will continue to preach the gospel and seek truth in a spirit of cooperation.
[HT Denny Burk]