Long before SBC began to mean Slowly Becoming Calvinists, the greatest leaders of our convention espoused Traditional theology. Some of these leaders actually signed the Traditional Statement of 2012 while others who may not have signed it clearly embrace its doctrines. Several more could have embraced the statement if it had existed when they were alive. These are conservatives whose ministries have balanced God’s sovereignty with a robust view of man’s libertarian free will.
Young, Restless and Reformed ministers today are often catapulted by their public relations machines to near rock star status. In the process, a generation of legendary Southern Baptist heroes, upon whose shoulders we stand as a denomination, is in danger of being overlooked as role models. Since the latter did not approach their ministries from a Calvinistic perspective, their names and contributions are fading into the background as we shine our spotlight on the newest reformed superstars.
This list explores 25 of the most influential Southern Baptists in history who have clearly disaffirmed Calvinism. Some leaders highly deserving of this recognition, such as W. A. Criswell and Lottie Moon, are believed to fit within our Traditionalist wing. However, with some amount of soteriological evidence on both sides, we have chosen to leave them off. Many other worthy names could have been listed. Like the heroes mentioned in Hebrews 11, this is a Roll Call of Faith for SBC Traditionalists.
Incidentally, an asterisk identifies all signers of the Traditional Statement. If you wish to identify theologically with the doctrines and ministries of those who are listed, you may register your convictions by signing the Traditional Statement HERE.
25. Adam Harwood *
Harwood’s writings challenge Inherited Guilt and Total Inability, affirming that Christ died for everyone and God’s loving desire is for every person to be saved.
24. Eric Hankins *
The primary author of the Traditional Statement of 2012, Hankins is largely responsible for calling Southern Baptists to discuss salvation doctrine publicly.
23. Malcolm Yarnell *
The theologian who gave us the concept of Baptist Identity, Yarnell challenges Southern Baptists to preserve our distinctives in a sea of evangelical anonymity.
22. Steve Lemke *
The theologian and co-author of Whosoever Will, Lemke has also written the essay What is a Baptist: Nine Marks that Separate Baptists from Presbyterians.
21. David Allen *
The theologian and co-author of Whosoever Will, Allen has also written the essay Recovering the Gospel: Why Belief in an Unlimited Atonement Matters.
20. Junior Hill *
The evangelist who has conducted over 1700 revivals and crusades, Hill has preached for six decades, with his Harvest Days continuing to be in demand.
19. Bobby Welch *
The pastor and co-creator of the FAITH Outreach Strategy, Welch’s Everyone Can American bus tour urged witnessing as his church gave 15% through CP.
18. Henry Blackaby
The pastor and denominational leader, Blackaby wrote Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing God’s Will, selling seven million copies in many languages.
17. Paul Pressler
The judge and co-architect of the Conservative Resurgence, Pressler wrote A Hill on Which to Die and may rank as Christianity’s most influential layperson.
16. Morris Chapman *
The pastor and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, Chapman warned against Great Commission Resurgence language harshly attacking state conventions.
15. Jimmy Draper *
The pastor and SBC President from 1982 to 1983, Draper staunchly supported the Conservative Resurgence and served as Lifeway President from 1991-2006.
14. Chuck Kelley *
The President of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, which is regarded as generally favorable in espousing Traditional Southern Baptist soteriology.
13. James Leo Garrett
One of greatest Southern Baptist theologians of all time, Garrett has established that Southwestern professors have never taught the doctrine of Inherited Guilt.
12. Bailey Smith *
As a former SBC President, Pastor and Crusade Evangelist, Smith is the only SBC Pastor in history ever to baptize 2,000 people in a local church in one year.
11. L. R. Scarborough
President of Southwestern Seminary from 1915-1942, Scarborough founded the first seminary department of evangelism and served as SBC President.
10. Roy Fish *
Longtime professor of evangelism at Southwestern Seminary, Fish was a bold evangelist, brilliant lecturer and passionately devoted personal soul winner.
9. John Bisagno
Pastor of Houston’s First Baptist Church from 1970-2000, Bisagno has written 25 books, baptized 15,000 souls and preached 37 international crusades.
8. George W. Truett
Pastor of Dallas’ First Baptist Church from 1897-1944 and SBC President from 1927-1929, Truett received nearly 20,000 members in his 47 year pastorate.
7. Richard Land *
President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC from 1988 to 2013, Land boldly promotes Christian values and sound traditional theology.
6. Jerry Vines *
Pastor of First Baptist Jacksonville from 1982 to 2006 and President of the SBC from 1988-1990, Vines has spoken in opposition to current Calvinistic trends.
5. E. Y. Mullins
President of Southern Seminary from 1899 to 1928 and of the SBC from 1921 to 1924, Mullins chaired the Baptist Faith and Message Committee in 1925. ++
4. Herschel Hobbs
Pastor of FBC Oklahoma City from 1949-1972 and President of the SBC from 1961-1963, Hobbs chaired the Baptist Faith and Message Committee in 1963.
3. Adrian Rogers
Pastor of Bellevue Baptist in Memphis from 1972-2005 and SBC President for three terms, Rogers chaired the Baptist Faith and Message Committee in 2000.
2. Paige Patterson *
Current President of SWBTS and former President of SEBTS, Criswell College and the SBC, Patterson is the Father of the Conservative Resurgence in SBC life.
1. Billy Graham
Southern Baptist evangelist with a lifetime audience of over 2.2 billion, Graham preached, extended altar calls and urged every sinner to trust Jesus in prayer.
++ While Mullins might not have been able to embrace the Traditional Statement’s Article Six on Election, he would certainly join us in avoiding the extremes of both Calvinism and Arminianism: We are learning to discard both names and to adhere more closely than either system to the Scriptures, while retaining the truth in both systems. (The Christian Religion in Its Doctrinal Expression, 1917, p. vii)