Baptists baptize. Such a self-evident statement might be considered incontestable if not for the curious trend described in this essay. If you will pardon the expression, Southern Baptists are watering down our doctrine of baptism. Today, a number of Southern Baptist Churches are accepting Christians into full membership who have never been scripturally baptized by the mode of immersion. In doing so, they are creating a class of sprinkled Southern Baptists—a development presenting us all with a host of denominationally defining implications.
I’m sure the first association did not envision a large bureaucracy that many denominations have today. The fact that churches have increased of course have necessitated larger organizations to handle missions and working in a more efficient way. The simple roots of the Philadelphia association must be remembered by all however to see how far God has brought Baptists and what it was that made our churches strong and stable in the beginning of the movement here in America.
New Calvinism presents us with a duty and an opportunity to more carefully express what is generally believed by Southern Baptists about salvation. It is no longer helpful to identify ourselves by how many points of convergence we have with Calvinism. While we are not insisting that every Southern Baptist affirm the soteriological statement below in order to have a place in the Southern Baptist family, we are asserting that the vast majority of Southern Baptists are not Calvinists and that they do not want Calvinism to become the standard view in Southern Baptist life. We believe it is time to move beyond Calvinism as a reference point for Baptist soteriology.
The First Baptist Church of Charleston and the General Baptist Movement led by Shubbal Sterns and Daniel Marshall was used of God to populate the South with Baptist churches everywhere in the succeeding centuries. Screven’s move and the Sandy Creek awakening under Sterns cannot be minimized for the success of Baptist work in the South.
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.