By Steve Lemke, Provost, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics, McFarland Chair of Theology, and Director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
For over a year and a half, I have had the privilege of assisting a team of contributing editors in posting articles in SBC Today, in order to continue this blog that had previously been discontinued for some months. Although some may have perceived my role at SBC Today to be greater than it actually has been, I have played a role in it for these many months. It has been quite a ride! Through many ups and downs, SBC Today has gone from being an inactive blog to among of the highest ranked Religion blogs in the Technorati blog rankings (especially in recent days during the discussion of “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”).
This experience in blogging has taught me much. From a personal perspective, I am appreciative of the many affirmations that have come my way through this experience. On the other hand, it has been surprising and disappointing for me to see the mean-spirited remarks by fellow believers about some of the articles and the persons who wrote them. There is a basic problem when our doctrine drives us to be divisive, mean-spirited, and unChristlike in our comments. That phenomenon is not true just in this blog, of course. There is part of the bloggerworld that plays to the fleshly nature, and many there be who fall into its trap. Among other things I have learned are a clarification of what others believe and a recognition on my own part of the need for me to write more precisely.
However, the main thing that I learned is that I don’t have the time to continue having such a demanding role for a high readership blog. The time demands of my regular responsibilities, along with some new responsibilities that I have recently accepted, make it impossible for me to continue my involvement at this level. I have not had time to contribute a new article of my own in SBC Today since February, and we have had to rely almost completely on our contributing editors. As some of you know, I have been seeking a likeminded person or group for a number of months who could take over the leadership of SBC Today. After a few earlier possibilities did not work out, I am happy to say that a suitable new owner has arisen to whom ownership of SBC Today will be transferred from its current private owner.
The following are a collection of a few blog posts out of the hundreds of posts responding to the SBC annual meeting and the issues arising from it. These are listed simply to pull these diverse posts into a single forum (since most people probably missed at least some of them) to facilitate further dialogue. Of course, SBC Today does not (and could not possibly) endorse all of the diverse perspectives presented in these posts.
About the SBC in New Orleans
A Biblical Critique of Calvinism
Part 1c: The Inclusivity of the Gospel Invitation
by Dr. Michael A. Cox, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Pryor, OK
and author of Not One Little Child: A Biblical Critique of Calvinism
Paul’s second epistle to the Corinthians maintains that Christ died for all (2 Cor. 5:15). Paul believed that Christians had been given the ministry of reconciling all to Christ (2 Cor. 5:18), not just a select group. Further, Paul echoed the words of Jesus found in John 3:16 when he wrote that God was in Christ reconciling the entire world to Himself (2 Cor. 5:19).
Paul’s letter to the Colossians discloses that the apostle pleaded with everyone he could to come to Christ (Col. 1:28). If language means anything, Paul taught everyone that he or she could come to Christ (Col. 1:28), and passionately desired to present everyone complete in Christ (Col. 1:28).
The writer of the Book of Hebrews said that Christ is the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him (Heb. 5:9). In Heb. 12:15 the same writer admonished his readers to exhaust all resources to see to it that no one misses out on the grace of God. This insists that people pursue the grace of God. Evangelical Christians then must strive to see to it that nobody comes short of the grace of God, for we are our brother’s keeper. To rely on one’s own works is to come short of God’s grace. The writer to the Hebrews knew well that to become aware of God’s grace in Christ and still revert to the temple sacrifices would spell disaster. To rely on anything other than the blood of Christ is to come short of God’s grace. God’s grace is tall, man’s works are short. God’s grace is deep, man’s works are shallow. God’s grace is free, man’s works are costly. God’s grace brings cleansing, man’s works leave filthiness. We must be active evangelistically such that we do all that is within our power to see to it that every person has the opportunity to experience God’s grace. And it is plainly possible to reject God’s grace. We must allow no root of bitterness to spring up, cause trouble, and defile because bitterness rots the bones. Bitterness, like sin itself, is contagious. We are herein told to uproot bitterness in our life. When the weed of bitterness rears its ugly head it poisons everyone around it. We must prevent this. Does this verse not demonstrate that God’s grace is both resistible and accessible to all? I believe that it does.
Article Seven: The Sovereignty of God
We affirm God’s eternal knowledge of and sovereignty over every person’s salvation or condemnation.
We deny that God’s sovereignty and knowledge require Him to cause a person’s acceptance or rejection of faith in Christ.
Genesis 1:1; 6:5-8; 18:16-33; 22; 2 Samuel 24:13-14; 1 Chronicles 29:10-20; 2 Chronicles 7:14; Joel 2:32; Psalm 23; 51:4; 139:1-6; Proverbs 15:3; John 6:44; Romans 11:3; Titus 3:3-7; James 1:13-15; Hebrews 11:6, 12:28; 1 Peter 1:17
Article 7 of “A Statement of a Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation” addresses summarily the issue of God’s Sovereignty juxtaposed to human responsibility. Although we do affirm God’s knowledge of and sovereignty over every person’s salvation or condemnation, we do not embrace the assertion that God’s sovereignty and knowledge requires Him to cause a person’s acceptance or rejection of faith in Christ. In short, we do not embrace the understanding of God’s sovereignty as proffered by our Calvinistic brothers.
Before you take this as an attack, please understand that many who embrace this understanding are friends. By no means should this be construed as an attack on them, but rather an attempt to reconsider and clarify the meaning of God’s self-revelation in Scripture. When the proverbial dust settles, the bigger issue is our quest to understand who God is and what He has communicated.
In every attempt to understand Scripture, we must ask “What does it say? What does it mean? And, What do I do about it?” All the while, we must keep in mind both the genre and the context.
In order to avoid the accusation that I am addressing an issue that is not really a concern, or that my understanding of the issue is not really what our Reformed-oriented brothers are saying (or believing), permit me to interact with a text I have read multiple times and actually used as a required text when I taught evangelism, Packer’s Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God.
I Never Ate the Apple
A Defense of Inherited Sinful Nature Without Inherited Guilt
I must confess at the outset I have always been rather sympathetic toward Adam, for although he is not the only man in history to do whatever a naked woman told him, he does have the distinction of being the first. I do not presume for a moment that if it had been me in the garden things would have turned out any differently. I am a sinner who is guilty of my own sin–and no one else’s. To my shame, my sins have brought plenty of guilt upon myself without borrowing any of the guilt Adam’s sins brought upon him.
In a previous article, I dealt extensively with the subject of inherited guilt, responding to a fellow Southern Baptist who rejects the current confessional position of The Baptist Faith and Message on this issue. My treatment was limited to arguments rooted in the various versions of our confession, along with a discussion of the positions espoused by certain theologians and other religious groups. A few of the reactions to my response indicated a desire for a more thorough biblical and theological treatment, which is the purpose for this article, no longer shackled by the chains of a polemical response to the aforementioned brother, but now able to provide a more freestanding exegetical essay.
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all men, because all sinned. (Romans 5:12)
Let me disclaim any suggestion that my view on the effects of the fall diminishes the existence of original sin. Because of the fall, we all inherit from Adam a sin nature and the inclination to transgress. Fallen, we will all sin. The issue I am addressing is not sinful transgression, but guilty condemnation. Adam’s sin spread to me and inclined me to transgress, but I am only guilty of sin “because all sinned,” including, of course, me.