Salvation in the eyes of the local church
Dr. Emir Caner, president of Truett-McConnell College — addressed issues surrounding varying understandings of salvation within SBC churches, particularly in the discussion of Calvinism. He stated that the understanding of salvation impacts the local church and its effectiveness in fulfilling the Great Commission.
Because of the many differences that create what Caner referred to as “quiet revolutions” in churches today, it is necessary for the leaders of these churches to be clear about their theological beliefs. This prevents theological confusion in the congregation and solidifies the church’s ability to accomplish its purpose.
Caner stated four areas of theological transparency for the church: biblical exposition or hermeneutics, theological issues, church polity or ecclesiology, and evangelism/discipleship. Within these categories he cited theologians, gave general definitions, and prescribed questions to be asked by pastoral search committees of their candidates.
In the matter of biblical exposition, Caner stated, “Salvation’s enablement is not based in the sufficiency of man or in the secrecy of God. It is found in the sufficiency of God’s word.” He added that upholding a belief in both the hidden and revealed will of God undermines His unity. Questions to encourage theological transparency in this area deal with word-defining in particular passages of Scripture, and differentiating between theological systems and the Gospel.
Caner referred to theological issues, posing questions concerning salvation, free will, predestination, the purpose of man, and God’s judgment. These questions necessitate specific and clear answers, which must be supported by biblical foundation.
Concerning the third area, church polity or ecclesiology, Caner stated, “The church is not a conclave of bishops but the manifestation of the Holy Spirit.” This statement reflects his opinion that pastors should establish their view of the church concerning authority, leadership, church discipline, confessions of faith, and curriculum.
Evangelism and discipleship exist together in the final area of theological transparency. These two elements are necessary to the life of the local church in fulfilling the Great Commission. Because of this, it is necessary for church leaders to outline their positions on the subjects with questions concerning salvation, methods of evangelism, and elements of church services. These things should be evaluated through Scripture alone.
In conclusion, it is evident that the local church’s view of salvation is necessary to fulfill its purpose. However, Caner expounded on his original thesis statement saying that, “ultimately the question really is: how will it impact souls that surround our local churches? The local church is the most important organism, other than the family.”