By Dr. Jerry Vines, President of Jerry Vines Ministries,
Pastor Emeritus, First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, FL, member of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 Committee, former President of the Southern Baptist Convention
I was interested to read Dr. Mohler’s response to “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation,” which statement I gladly signed. His response was thoughtful, kind and forthright. I consider Dr. Mohler a friend. It has been my privilege to fellowship with him on many occasions through the years. I had him preach often at the Pastors’ Conference in Jacksonville, and he used to have me speak at Southern. In the same spirit he has demonstrated, permit me to offer a response.
When I was sent the statement primarily authored by Dr. Eric Hankins, assisted by other notable Southern Baptist theologians, I was pleased with it. So much so, that I gladly added my name to it and emailed a number of my friends suggesting they might also like to be an original signatory. Indeed, many of them did sign. The growing list of signatories includes past SBC presidents, current SBC seminary presidents, denominational ministers, pastors and lay people. This is an impressive list and should not be taken lightly, as Dr. Mohler has not.
In that email I stated that I was in general agreement with the statement and would not attempt to nuance its content. As I view it, this statement is intended to start a much needed debate and, like the BF&M, is not intended to be the final word on all things soteriological. I strongly disagree with Dr. Mohler’s assertion that “some of the statements appear to affirm semi-Pelagian understandings.” I wonder if Dr. Mohler thinks some of us aren’t theologically astute enough to recognize semi-Pelagianism when we see it! My response is not intended to engage this, however. I understand that the primary authors of the statement will submit a response to Dr. Mohler’s blog. So, in a spirit of brotherhood and a humble search for truth, let the discussion begin.
I am concerned on another level. Through the years I have had wonderful fellowship with a number of men who are Calvinists. Many of them are my friends. I have had them preach for me: Dr. Mohler himself; Dr. John MacArthur; etc. And I have preached for them at Southern, The Shepherd’s Conference, etc. There has never been any problem. But, there is now a new kind of Calvinism among us. As I stated at Southern Seminary, in the presence of Dr. Mohler, faculty and students, there are some, not all, new Calvinists who are hostile, militant and aggressive. This kind of Calvinism is troubling our churches, hindering evangelism and missions, and disrupting the fellowship of our Convention. I would hope that men of good will, whether Calvinist or not Calvinist, would repudiate that kind of Calvinism.
I have no desire that any Calvinist be unwelcome in the SBC. I do desire that we can live together as brothers, openly and lovingly affirming our theological positions without trying to force them upon others who take another view. And I pray we will be willing to join hearts and hands with those who may view theological matters somewhat differently than we do, within the framework of our BF&M.
It is now clear that this is not an issue that is going to go away. I have no stomach for a battle. I have been in enough battles for two lifetimes. I have no desire for a battle with friends I love. But, the time has come to admit we have a problem, seek God-honoring solutions and move forward to do our part as Southern Baptists to fulfill the Great Commission.
It is no longer possible to deny the elephant is in the room. Let’s talk about it.
Prayerfully and hopefully,