by Brad Reynolds, Ph.D.
Vice President for Academic Services
Professor, Christian Studies
The following assumptions are held regarding the affirmations: First, most Southern Baptists would agree with the affirmations in Article 4 (of the Traditional Statement). Second, some who agree with the affirmations think they do not go far enough. Instead, they would add to them. Third, many who would deny them would do so on the basis of the phrase “any person.” Thus, the affirmations concerning the grace of God are a minimal statement. Some of the supporting biblical passages will be considered below.
“But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are” (Acts 15:11 NASB).
John Polhill states regarding this passage, “God’s acceptance of the Gentiles has drawn a basic lesson for the Jews as well. There is only one way of salvation – ‘through the grace of our Lord Jesus.’” One could never earn one’s way into heaven. Our greatest works are filthy rags to a Holy God. Amazing grace is the sole vehicle God uses to offer life to man.
Were I to make the statement “Calvinism is heretical” and then claim “Traditionalists and Calvinists need to work toward unity and cooperation in the Southern Baptist Convention,” my Calvinist brethren could rightly question my sincerity concerning unity and cooperation.
There are certainly some non-Calvinists who believe Calvinism ultimately leads to God foreordaining men to evil, which was condemned at the 2nd Council of Orange.1 However, to claim Calvinism is heretical would be a stretch most of us are unwilling to make.2 There is a major difference in addressing: 1) the belief that God foreordains men to evil as heretical; and 2) calling all Calvinists heretical. The former I would gladly affirm; the later I would wisely avoid.
A Commentary on
Article Four: The Grace of God
of “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”
Article Four of our Traditionalist Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation says:
We affirm that grace is God’s generous decision to provide salvation for any person by taking all of the initiative in providing atonement, in freely offering the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit, and in uniting the believer to Christ through the Holy Spirit by faith.
We deny that grace negates the necessity of a free response of faith or that it cannot be resisted. We deny that the response of faith is in any way a meritorious work that earns salvation.
Ezra 9:8; Proverbs 3:34; Zechariah 12:10; Matthew 19:16-30, 23:37; Luke 10:1-12; Acts 15:11; 20:24; Romans 3:24, 27-28; 5:6, 8, 15-21; Galatians 1:6; 2:21; 5; Ephesians 2:8-10; Philippians 3:2-9; Colossians 2:13-17; Hebrews 4:16; 9:28; 1 John 4:19
I will begin by stating my assumptions regarding the affirmation: 1) Most Southern Baptists affirm the affirmation. 2) Many who affirm the affirmation may not think it went far enough (that is, they would not disagree with it, but would add to it). 3) Many who would deny it do so on the basis of the phrase “any person.”
Since Dr. David Allen has already addressed the third assumption concerning universal atonement it would be redundant for me to do so. Thus, the affirmation concerning the Grace of God is either agreed upon as a minimal statement or the disagreement has already been addressed. Yet, it would prove beneficial to view some of the passages referenced.
“But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.” (NASB)
I agree with what John Polhill states, “God’s acceptance of the Gentiles has drawn a basic lesson for the Jews as well. There is only one way of salvation – “through the grace of our Lord Jesus.”” (Acts, New American Commentary, Broadman, 2001, p 327). One could never earn one’s way into heaven. Our greatest works are filthy rags to a Holy God. Grace, Amazing Grace is what brings our spirit to life.