Neither Calvinists nor Arminians but Baptists, 1/3

April 30, 2014

“The primary focus of Christians should be to carry out the Great Commission under the lordship of Jesus Christ according to the guidelines found in the inerrant Word of God.”

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Malcolm B. Yarnell III, Director
The Center for Theological Research Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Fort Worth, Texas

Neither Calvinists nor Arminians but Baptists

Are You Calvinists or Arminians?

There is a question that many professional theologians, pastors and students, as well as theologically-minded Christians in the local churches, are being asked these days: Are you Calvinists or Arminians? More specifically, in our case, are the authors who have contributed to Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism to be identified with Calvinists or Arminians? Because that book is specifically intended to address the type of Calvinism that measures theology according to the five heads of doctrine promulgated in the canons of the Synod of Dort, the idea may arise that the authors themselves are, therefore, Arminian. This idea has been clearly promoted by Roger E. Olson, an articulate advocate of Arminianism, author of a significant text on Arminian theology, a self-proclaimed “classical Arminian,” and a recent reviewer of Whosoever Will. In an academic book review at www.BaptistTheology.org and on his personal blog, Dr. Olson identified the authors as both “anti-Calvinist” and “Arminians.”

Although we might variously appreciate Professor Olson’s claims that the book “contains 11 mostly excellent chapters by Southern Baptist leaders and scholars absolutely demolishing key Calvinist doctrines,” and that it “stands as the scholarly argument against Calvinism by evangelical authors,” we would unanimously, though respectfully, disagree with his characterization of us as “Arminian.” As he notes, the editors do not claim to be Arminians. Here, the relevant words from the book’s introduction seem appropriate to repeat: “none of the authors in this project is Arminian or a defender of Arminianism. None of the authors is a five-point Arminian, a Pelagian, a semi-Pelagian, or a strong Calvinist. . . . Instead, our contributors try to keep the two more extreme positions in balance, learning from both, counting themselves as being in the mainstream of the Baptist theological tradition” (Whosoever Will, 5).

If you were to read more broadly in their works or hear each of them speak in both private and public settings, the contributors themselves occupy a spectrum of views on the controverted points of Calvinism. Some of the authors in Whosoever Will would occupy a position closer to five-point Calvinism while others would occupy a position closer to Arminianism, but none would identify himself with either extreme. Yet other contributors would adamantly maintain that the common practice of measuring theology according to a flawed instrument created by a gaggle of baby baptizing, state church theologians in the seventeenth century is by degrees anachronistic and unhelpful. The purpose of each author in contributing to the book was to provide a critique of some aspect of Dortian Calvinism from a majoritarian Baptist perspective rather than to promote a particular version of Calvinism or Arminianism.

So, why did these theologians address Calvinism? Note these factors: First, a major task for any theologian is to reflect critically upon the proclamation of the church. Second, many of our churches have recently been proclaiming Calvinism with the encouragement of sectors of the Southern Baptist academy. Taken together, these factors require responsible theologians to address an issue that is of growing concern among many of our churches. We are servants of the churches, and when we are constantly bombarded with well-meant queries regarding biblical interpretation in our classrooms, churches and homes, we are compelled to deliver a reasonable response. We addressed Calvinism because we were asked to help our people think through the important subjects that Calvinism raises. For this, we have no regret but a sense of duty.

Logically, because the authors are providing a critique of Calvinism from a biblical-theological perspective, it might be assumed that they are the ideological opposite: Arminians. However, had the authors provided a critique of Arminianism from a biblical-theological perspective (a critique we have not attempted nor perceived the need to address at this time), they would doubtless be identified by some as Calvinists. Indeed, we understand yet another forthcoming book has referred to us as “moderate Calvinists.” While some of the contributors might be comfortable with that designation, yet others would disagree with the characterization of being “moderate” with regard to any theological position, including Calvinism. The same discomfort with regard to certain labels applies to the description of the authors as “anti-Calvinist.” Again, a citation from the book would be helpful: “The contributors are not ‘anti-Calvinist’ and therefore are interested in dialogue, not diatribe. We have no desire to sweep the SBC clean of Calvinism” (9).

So, Then, Who Are We?

So, then, the authors claim they are neither Calvinist nor Arminian, nor anti-Calvinist. Because the authors have been clear as to what they are not and what their agenda is not, we would ask our readers to honor our claims. However, since these claims have apparently left a sense of conceptual vacuum for many readers, we would like to remind our readers of who we are and of what our agenda consists. Rather than allowing others to define us according to a construction not of our own making, we would prefer to fill the ideological space created by certain reactions to the book with our own meaning.

(Please note three qualifications: First, the book itself was not intended to provide a full statement of the way forward but to provide a critique. Please respect the stated purpose of the book alongside the narrow purposes stated for each essay to stand, and please judge them on those self-identified bases. Second, as the writers of this particular response, please note that the undersigned are not the totality of the eleven. We believe the other contributors to Whosoever Will would not disagree with much, if any, of our assessment. Third, in this essay we are not attempting to provide a complete systematic statement of our theology but merely an outline of the focus we believe should provide the way forward for all Baptists, especially Southern Baptists.)

Are we Calvinists? No. Are we Arminians? No. So, then, who are we? We are Baptists. We are majoritarian Baptists in the Sandy Creek tradition, who formulate theology according to the authoritative, inerrant, and sufficient Word of God so that we might better proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to all human beings. We are neither Calvinists nor Arminians; we are Baptists! Please give us a moment of your time to unpack the meaning of this important position. We believe that almost anywhere you stand on the ideological spectrum of Calvinism and Arminianism, or even if you refuse to take a stand on the spectrum itself, you could and should join us in affirming, as some of our leaders have said before: “The primary focus of Christians should be to carry out the Great Commission under the lordship of Jesus Christ according to the guidelines found in the inerrant Word of God” (8). In summary, we are neither Calvinists nor Arminians, but Baptists!
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Part II, tomorrow.
At the conclusion of Part III will be a link to download the entire document,
“Neither Calvinists nor Arminians but Baptists.”

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wingedfooted1

“Are we Calvinists? No. Are we Arminians? No.”

And this has to drive our calvinist and arminian brothers crazy, because in their systems, a rejection of the augustinian/calvinistic doctrine of total depravity/total inability automatically puts one in the pelagian or semi-pelagian camp, which this site has continually proved otherwise.

“Arminians together with Calvinists affirm total depravity because of the fall of humanity in Adam and its inherited consequence of a corrupted nature in bondage to sin.” – Roger Olson: Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities

This is precisely why I maintain that some arminians, especially classical arminians, are in reality 1 point calvinists. Both calvinists and arminians believe that the issue of total depravity (total inability) must first be addressed (by being released from the bondage of sin) before a sinner can believe in Christ. However look at John 8:31-32. And these words are from the Lord himself…..

“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’”

Notice these were believing Jews. Even though they were still in bondage to sin (they had not as yet been “set free”), that did not prevent them from believing him

I remember a previous discussion with an arminian at another blog. This arminian said that the apostle Paul held “arminian” beliefs. Not that arminians held “Pauline” beliefs, but that Paul held “arminian” beliefs. Both hilarious and sad.

volfan007

Amen, Malcolm Yarnell, amen! Thank you for sharing this.

Robert

Wingfooted1 I have appreciate many of your posts (especially those where you presented the problems with Calvinism). However that said, this latest post of yours is problematic.

When it comes to describing a person’s theological stance, it is common to talk about Arminians and Calvinists in the context of people’s respective views concerning TULIP (Total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, perseverance of the saints). Consistent Calvinists tend to affirm all five elements of TULIP (though there are some, sometimes called “four pointers” such as Bruce Ware who affirm four of the elements but do not hold to limited atonement). The sine qua non that gives away a Calvinist is their view of unconditional election (all Calvinists affirm it, all non-Calvinists deny it). When it comes to Perseverance of the saints, most Arminians deny it, though some affirm eternal security (that one cannot lose their salvation). It is a mistake to assume or assert that all Arminians deny eternal security.

When it comes to “T” total depravity. You have to look at each individual’s conception of depravity. It is false to claim that all who hold to depravity are Calvinists. Depravity is the notion that a person cannot come to Christ apart from the grace of God because all are “slaves to sin” and because Jesus said this explicitly in Jn. 6:44 (No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father). The Baptists that I know hold to depravity, just not the same conception as Calvinists. Where Calvinists err in regards to depravity is that they go further and claim that the nonbeliever can never under any circumstances understand spiritual things and that the nonbeliever must be regenerated first in order to have a faith response to the gospel.

Most non-Calvinists who affirm depravity (and this includes both “Arminians” and Baptists) believe that it is true that as nonbelievers we were “slaves to sin”, it is also true that we must be drawn to God in order to believe (we cannot just come to God on our own initiative or without any grace from God: in contrast to Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians who deny the necessity of grace and believe a person is not a “slave to sin”).What most believe is that this grace of God which enables faith in a nonbeliever (without them being regenerated first) is the preconversion work of the Holy Spirit. They believe that this preconversion work of the Spirit is grace (it is not deserved or merited by anyone) that it is necessary for a person to respond with faith to the gospel message (if the Spirit does not work in an individual they cannot have faith) and yet this work of the Spirit while enabling faith does not necessitate a faith response (the person can still choose to resist the grace of God).

To use myself as an example. I affirm depravity but not in the same way that a Calvinist does (we are “slaves to sin” prior to being believers because Jesus said we were; we need to be drawn by the preconversion work of the Spirit to be enabled to have faith, we do not need to be regenerated first to have a faith response to the gospel). I deny unconditional election, limited atonement and irresistible grace U, L, I). I deny Calvinism and believe it to be an unbiblical and erroneous system of theology. In regards to Eternal Security I affirm it and as a Baptist have always maintained that genuine believers can never lose their salvation. Am I a Calvinist? In no shape, way or form.

Only if “Calvinist” is defined in a very idiosyncratic way as someone who holds to depravity.

But again, one can hold to depravity and not be Calvinist. All of the Baptists that I know and hang around with affirm depravity, and they are not all Calvinists by any stretch of the imagination. Most people would label me as “Arminian” because I hold to Arminian beliefs (though I also hold to eternal security). I know some folks who believe that the eternal security doctrine was first held by the Reformers like Calvin in church history: therefore if you hold to eternal security you are a Calvinist (again mistaken as I hold to eternal security and am no Calvinist as everyone who reads my posts here should know).

Robert

    wingedfooted1

    Brother Robert,

    The issue isn’t one of depravity, but of total depravity. Roger Olson’s quote above suggests that arminians and calvinists adhere strongly to “total depravity”. I appreciate your feedback, but I am all too familiar with the calvinistic doctrine of total depravity and what it entails.

    No one is questioning the biblical evidence of depravity or being slaves to sin, but classical arminians, like their calvinists counterparts, take it too far. They both believe the issue of total depravity must first be addressed before a sinner can believe (the gospel). There isn’t one bit of biblical evidence to support this. This is a notion that has been conjured up to resolve the issue of total depravity that both calvinists and arminians affirm (according to Olson).

    Classical arminians and calvinists believe that a sinner must somehow be changed before he can believe the gospel. For the calvinist, its by regeneration. For the arminian, its being released from the bondage of sin. Neither, however, is scriptural as our Lord’s words in John 8:31-32 proves.

    Romans 6:17-18…..
    “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.”

    If we take the calvinistic doctrine of total depravity meaning that as “slaves to sin” all we can do is sin, then wouldn’t that imply that now as “slaves to righteousness” all we can do is righteous? Hardly.

    John 8:7-9….
    So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last.

    Strange response for totally depraved sinners.

    The scriptures are full of biblical examples refuting total depravity starting with Adam and Abel and concluding with Cornelius, Lydia, and Sergius Paulus. All of which, even in a depraved condition, were able to have a relationship with God (Cornelius and Lydia) or even have a desire for the word of God (Sergius Paulus).

    Now can a sinner believe the gospel on his or her own? YES (a complete denial of total depravity). However, God must first open our hearts and plant the seed, the word of God (Luke 8:11-15, Acts 16:14, James 1:21). And faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:7). Faith is simply taking God at His word, which depraved creatures have been doing since Adam.

    I reject the whole TULIP. Every petal. Because, as you rightfully point out, to be consistent, they all either stand together, or fall and wither away together.

    God bless.

      Robert

      Hello wingfooted1,

      Thank you for your post as it provides some very useful clarifications. You may not believe this but we appear to hold very similar views.

      “The issue isn’t one of depravity, but of total depravity. Roger Olson’s quote above suggests that arminians and calvinists adhere strongly to “total depravity”.”

      Ok so here you are making a distinction between (1) “total depravity” (which you believe that Calvinists and “classical Arminians” hold to; and (2) depravity (which you and myself and other Baptists hold to).

      “No one is questioning the biblical evidence of depravity or being slaves to sin, but classical arminians, like their calvinists counterparts, take it too far.”

      Right, so they hold to (1) total depravity or what you would consider to be an extreme conception of depravity.

      Those who do hold to depravity and people being slaves to sin, but not to the more extreme conception held by Calvinists and some Arminians, would be people like Baptists.

      “The scriptures are full of biblical examples refuting total depravity starting with Adam and Abel and concluding with Cornelius, Lydia, and Sergius Paulus. All of which, even in a depraved condition, were able to have a relationship with God (Cornelius and Lydia) or even have a desire for the word of God (Sergius Paulus).”

      Again so in your thinking you distinguish between a more extreme conception of depravity and another conception of depravity held by for example Baptists.

      “Now can a sinner believe the gospel on his or her own? YES (a complete denial of total depravity). However, God must first open our hearts and plant the seed, the word of God (Luke 8:11-15, Acts 16:14, James 1:21). And faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:7). Faith is simply taking God at His word, which depraved creatures have been doing since Adam.”

      If you stopped with just that first line, that tends toward the Pelagian perspective. But you added the second line and said that “God must first open hearts and plant the seed, the word of God.” Agreed. The sinner on their own cannot come to faith in Christ. But God does not leave them on their own, instead the Spirit comes and opens their hearts by means of the Word. Arminians call this “prevenient grace” believing that this is the grace of God that enables but does not necessitate a faith response in the Gospel. God must give this enabling or the sinner will not come to faith. And yet God can (and does) open hearts with the Word and yet some continue to resist this preconversion grace of God and remain unbelievers.

      “I reject the whole TULIP. Every petal. Because, as you rightfully point out, to be consistent, they all either stand together, or fall and wither away together.”

      Are you sure that you reject “Every petal”? One of those petals is “P” perseverance of the saints, the concept that genuine believers can never lose their salvation, they will never end up lost. I thought that you were a Baptist and so you hold to “P” even if you conceive of it a bit differently than a Calvinist. With the Calvinist you agree that we cannot lose our salvation, correct?

      Robert

        wingedfooted1

        Robert,

        You said… “Ok so here you are making a distinction between (1) “total depravity” (which you believe that Calvinists and “classical Arminians” hold to); and (2) depravity (which you and myself and other Baptists hold to).”

        First, I believe it because that is what Roger Olson wrote. Its in black and white.

        Second, are you saying you deny total depravity? Because you wrote elsewhere “you….appear to be denying that the nonbeliever has to be freed from slavery to sin!”

        Precisely. And that is the augustinian/calvinistic/classical arminian understanding of total depravity; hence the designation of being a “1 point calvinist”. The depraved nature of the sinner must first be addressed before the sinner can believe. Being provided with the word of God isn’t enough. For the calvinist/classical arminian the issue of total depravity must be addressed first. However, look carefully at Romans 6:17-18…..

        “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered (delivered from what? Delivered from the bondage of sin.) And having been set free from sin (by believing), you became slaves of righteousness.”

        Romans 10:14-15….
        How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? (They can’t.) And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? (They can’t.) And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? (Again, they can’t. But it has absolutely nothing to do with depravity.)

        Robert, I am not the only one at this site that rejects calvinism’s total depravity (which classical arminians dearly embrace). From what I have read here, most contributors to this site reject total depravity, which separates them from classical arminianism.

        Now regarding the “P” and I want to keep this short. I reject “perseverance of the saints” for a couple of reasons. First, the phrase itself is unnerving because I would hate to think that I had to persevere in order to be saved. Since I can’t earn my salvation, I would hate to think that I would have to maintain it. Second, I reject the “P” because of its affiliation with the other petals. Here is an example why (take from Wikipedia for convenience sake)….

        “The Reformed tradition has consistently seen the doctrine of perseverance as a natural consequence to predestination. According to Calvinists, since God has drawn the elect to faith in Christ by regenerating their hearts and convincing them of their sins, and thus saving their souls by His own work and power, it naturally follows that they will be kept by the same power to the end. Since God has made satisfaction for the sins of the elect, they can no longer be condemned for them, and through the help of the Holy Spirit, they must necessarily persevere as Christians and in the end be saved.”

        I do believe in the eternal security of the believer, but it has absolutely nothing to do with predestination, election, total depravity, limited atonement, or irresistible grace. Thus, I reject “perseverance of the saints”.

        Robert, I find it odd that you don’t share the same venom for total depravity as you do for the other petals of the tulip. Perhaps it is because your classical arminian brothers hold to it so dearly.

        God bless.

          Robert

          Alright I believe we continue to make progress wingfooted1. So your beef is with what you call the augustinian understanding/conception of depravity. Also commonly called “total depravity”. But you do hold to a version of depravity, what could be called the “Baptist view of depravity”. In most discussions total refers to the fact that sin has effected all aspects of human persons, and I agree with this as the Bible clearly presents this reality. I also agree that some who hold to total depravity hold an extreme position on depravity. You asked why I don’t have more venom about differing people’s conceptions of depravity. My reason is that I believe that anyone who is a biblicist, or holds the bible over all traditions and theological systems, does hold to some version of depravity. So it seems to me much more understandable how people could err on depravity. On the other hand, unconditionnal election, limited atonement, irresistable grace don’t have a biblical basis as depravity does.

          Regarding “P” I also took eternal security to mean that the true believer will continue in their faith, so if you want to describe this as they will persevere in their faith, I agree, they will, if they are genuine believers. And persevering in your faith is not earning salvation, rather, it is the nature of salvation that the true believer will persevere, will continue in their faith. Seems to me you don’t like “P” because of its common connection in calvinistic thought to the other petals. I reject U, L, I, but perseverance again if it means eternal security, means the true believer will continue or persevere, does not bother me. I tend to look at concepts rather than words, so if someone uses a different word but the concept is the same as what I believe, that does not bother me. Worse is if they hold a different concept but use the same words! Anyway, seems to me that while Baptists may want to distance themselves from Arminians, except on whether salvation can be lost (though many Arminians deny eternal security, not all do) Baptists hold many classical Arminian beliefs. And if you want to poiont out which view is the most divisive and the one that really needs to be resisted: it is clearly calvinism.

          Robert

            wingedfooted1

            Robert,

            You said….. “So it seems to me much more understandable how people could err on depravity. On the other hand, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace don’t have a biblical basis as depravity does.”

            Understood. But error is still error. Total depravity (and both the calvinist and classical arminian solutions for it) is just as unbiblical as the other petals you mentioned. But try and point that out to the classical arminian and be prepared for a very calvinistic response.

            Every petal of the TULIP should be resisted/rejected (once properly understood since they are all linked tightly together). If you just resist/reject the U, L, and I then you will feel the wrath of the calvinist. But when you resist/reject the T, you will feel the wrath of both the calvinists and the classical arminians as Roger Olson proved.

            “Are we Calvinists? No. Are we Arminians? No. So, then, who are we? We are Baptists.”

            God bless.

Robert

I share these things because wingedfooted1 you appear to have problems with depravity so you mistakenly lump everyone who holds to depravity together as “Calvinists”!

You wrote:

“And this has to drive our calvinist and arminian brothers crazy, because in their systems, a rejection of the augustinian/calvinistic doctrine of total depravity/total inability automatically puts one in the pelagian or semi-pelagian camp, which this site has continually proved otherwise.”

Actually in historical usage those who deny any form of depravity have been labeled as Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians. I reject what you call “the Augustinian/Calvinistic doctrine of total depravity” and yet I do (again as my other Baptist friends do) accept a form of depravity.

Next you mistakenly claim that if someone holds to depravity then they are “1 point Calvinists”:

“This is precisely why I maintain that some arminians, especially classical arminians, are in reality 1 point calvinists. Both calvinists and arminians believe that the issue of total depravity (total inability) must first be addressed (by being released from the bondage of sin) before a sinner can believe in Christ.”

This is an absurd and idiosyncratic definition of what a Calvinist is.

I know many people who view themselves as Arminians, who affirm depravity and yet they would be offended if you said they were “1 point Calvinists”.

There is no such thing as a “1 point Calvinist”, nor has this term been used in theological discussions in this way by anyone except you. Look at Calvinist materials, Arminian materials and Traditionalist materials and no one else except for you is talking about those who affirm depravity as being “1 point Calvinists”.

Wingedfooted1 you also appear to be denying that the nonbeliever has to be freed from slavery to sin! Now it is true that when Jesus used this metaphor (“slaves to sin”) that we should not go too far with the metaphor take it too literally (as if each nonbeliever is literally a slave to a slave master named “Sin”). But Jesus did have a point with this metaphor. His point was that the nonbeliever behaves, acts as if, they are slaves to a slave master named sin (because their whole life is characterizes by sinning and living apart from God). And Paul used the metaphor as well contrasting the believer (who is supposed to be living as if they are slaves of a slave master named “righteousness”) with the nonbeliever (who lives as if they are slaves of a slave master named “Sin”). Again this is a metaphor and yet we do not deny that it speaks of a reality on the part of the nonbeliever (they are separated from God living a lifestyle that denies God, leaves God out of their thinking, living as if they had a slave master named “Sin”). And the nonbeliever has to be “freed” from that sinful lifestyle. That is why the NT writers speak not only of faith when a person comes to Christ but also *repentance* (i.e. turning away from a lifestyle of sin to a lifestyle of righteousness, a lifestyle of obeying Jesus as Lord and Master).

Robert

Robert

Wingfooted1 you appeared to be arguing against the reality that nonbelievers are “slaves of sin” who must be freed from this lifestyle when you attempted to argue against it with:

“However look at John 8:31-32. And these words are from the Lord himself…..
“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’”
Notice these were believing Jews. Even though they were still in bondage to sin (they had not as yet been “set free”), that did not prevent them from believing him.”

You seem to be misinterpreting these verses as if they say that a person can be a believer and as you claim “Notice these were believing Jews. Even though they were still in bondage to sin”. The text says of these people “To the Jews who had believed in him.” If they had believed in him they were no longer “slaves of sin” but were not set free from the nonbelieving lifestyle of sin to serve God and live righteous lives. Jesus also says of these people that what will prove that they are genuine believers, that they are really his disciples is that they will hold to his teaching (or as other translations “abide in My word”). The apostle John in 1 John also gives this as an evidence that a person is truly born again, truly saved, they will abide in Jesus’ word. One of the major problems we have today is folks who claim to be Christians and yet they do not abide in His Word. A true believer will not do so perfectly, but they will abide in His Word, obey him consistently, act like a Sheep not a Goat!

Regarding being set free Jesus is not saying these folks were *still* slaves of sin but had not yet been set free: rather He says something about the nature of His teaching (i.e. those who believe it, accept it, live according to it, will be set free from sin). And it must be kept in mind that being freed from the slavery of sin/the nonbelieving lifestyle, does not mean the new believer is now sinless. They have to grow in their freedom. They have bad habits in thought and deed that do not all instantly disappear the moment they become Christians. It takes time, it is what is technically called a “process of sanctification.” Christian maturity takes time it does not happen instantly.

It is significant that right after Jesus makes the statement that you quote in v.31-32, the unbelieving Jews assert that “We are Abraham’s offspring and have never been enslaved to anyone . How is it that you say, “you shall become free.”” They took it literally. Jesus went on in response “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.” By this definition anyone who sins is a slave of sin. But Jesus came to set people free from the penalty of sin (which is eternal separation from God) and the lifestyle of sin (which is the lifestyle nonbelievers live when they are slaves of sin rather than slaves of righteousness). Again a problem we sometimes have today is that people want “fire insurance” (i.e. to be delivered from the penalty of sin, to avoid going to hell) but they don’t want to be true followers/disciples of Jesus (which means people freed from the lifestyle of sin the nonbeliever lives, free to live a Christian lifestyle where the person obeys God’s Word and grows in their sanctification).

As long as I have been a Baptist we have no hesitancy in saying that nonbelievers are “slaves to sin” who have to be set free from this lifestyle and become disciples of Jesus.

Paul spoke of this transformation in Romans 6:17 “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed.” Notice as nonbelievers Paul describes them as “slaves to sin.” But as believers this is past tense for them and now they have become “obedient from the heart.” Check out all of Romans 6 where Paul discusses this contrast between being a slave of sin and being a slave of righteousness. Granted it is a metaphor, but it is meant to contrast the non-believing from the believing lifestyle. And this also connects with depravity as depravity speaks of how we must be drawn out of and away from this nonbelieving lifestyle.

Baptists have traditionally affirmed depravity, it is just that we do not affirm the Calvinistic conception of depravity (where it is claimed the nonbeliever cannot believe unless regenerated first, where it is claimed that the nonbeliever can never understand spiritual things even when it is the work of the Spirit that is showing him/her things). And Baptists who affirm the biblical conception of depravity are not “1 point Calvinists.” Nor are Arminians who affirm depravity “1 point Calvinists.”

I suggest that we speak of whether a person does or does not hold to Calvinistic or Arminian beliefs. Holding to eternal security does not make you a Calvinist (an Arminian or Traditionalist may hold to eternal security): similarly holding to depravity does not make you a Calvinist (an Arminian or a Traditionalist can hold to depravity without holding the same conception of depravity as a Calvinist does).

Robert

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