Neither Calvinists nor Arminians but Baptists, 3/3

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If you missed part 2, click HERE.

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But Baptists!

At this point, we would like to affirm more clearly who we are from a positive perspective. Please note that as we make these affirmations we are not saying that Calvinist Baptists and Arminian Baptists are not truly seeking to be Baptists. We certainly believe that Baptists can be Calvinists and they can be Arminians, but we prefer not to allow ourselves to be defined by either of those great positions, because we see something even greater, something that deserves more attention and requires a higher allegiance. Likewise, theologians open to Molinism, such as Bruce Little and Ken Keathley, do their work with a firm commitment to evangelical Baptist convictions. What we are saying is that our own passion for God’s Word, for Christ and for His Great Commission necessarily places every desire for settling the long-running and seemingly intractable Calvinist-Arminian debate to the side. We recognize this is a debate that will continue to be held and should be held in certain restricted venues. However, the debate itself is trumped by our need to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ, to proclaim Scripture, and to obey His Great Commission. Moreover, we believe our position is the mainstream Southern Baptist position, as Richard Land said in his chapter, “the Separate Baptist Sandy Creek Tradition has been the melody for Southern Baptists, with Charleston and other traditions providing harmony” (50). Here are our thoughts about these interwoven, mutually reinforcing and majoritarian priorities:

1. The Lordship of Jesus Christ
We believe that Jesus Christ is Lord. Salvation consists of this fundamental and profound affirmation in heart and mouth. To believe and say that Jesus is Lord is to affirm that God in Christ took upon Himself human nature. True faith is impossible apart from the work of the Spirit of God with the Word of God. Born of a virgin, the Word became flesh. Jesus Christ taught us and worked great miracles, and then he died on the cross to atone for the sins of all humanity. He then arose from the dead on the third day, ascended to the right hand of the Father, and will one day return to judge the living and the dead. As our Lord, He saves us now through faith in Him. As our Lord, He has the right to command us and we have the responsibility to obey Him entirely and according to His order. As our Lord, He preserves us as we carry the cross He has given us through this world. As our Lord, he reigns over us even through death itself and brings us victoriously into eternal life with Him. We come to God the Father through God the Son in God the Holy Spirit. Jesus is Lord!

2. Biblical Proclamation
We believe that the Holy Spirit inspired the Bible, including every word in the entire canon of the Old and New Testaments. As a result of divine inspiration, the Bible is the Word of God and is without error and sufficient for every aspect of the Christian life, from regeneration to proclamation. The Word of God is living and active and will accomplish that for which the Lord sent it. As a preacher proclaims the Word of God, the Spirit opens the ears of the hearer to listen and perceive the Word. The preacher of the Word has been chosen as a necessary instrument by God to proclaim His Word and that Word may not be separated from Scripture; therefore, the Christian minister’s powerful task is to proclaim the Bible in its depth and its fullness. As a result of these truths, we believe that expository preaching of the Bible is the means God has revealed to bring about the salvation of new believers and the growth and comfort of all Christians.

3. The Great Commission
We believe that the Great Commission is the commandment of Jesus Christ. As the Lord’s final and all-encompassing command to His disciples, the Great Commission must be heard and obeyed with utmost seriousness. The Great Commission is primarily focused upon the making of disciples and is inclusive also of going to the nations, baptizing new believers and teaching them all that Christ commanded. The Christian’s entire life and the church’s entire effort must be submitted to obeying this commission. This entails the effort to evangelize everyone in our hearing through bringing our voice to everyone, everywhere, at all times. This entails following the order of His commission through baptizing people only after he or she has truly become a disciple of Jesus Christ. This entails baptizing a person in the name of the one God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This entails teaching all of Christ’s commands, which means teaching all of Scripture. The Great Commission will not be completed until all nations have been reached and all people have been confronted with the call to follow Jesus, until He comes again. Baptists view the conundrum of divine sovereignty and human responsibility through the lens of the Great Commission. As we wrestle to apprehend the Bible’s simultaneous affirmation of both truths, whether we lean toward Calvinism or Arminianism or neither, we do so in such a way as to always promote the great work of evangelism and missions.

With these three positive Baptist affirmations in mind, we ask that people identify us neither as Calvinists nor as Arminians, but as Baptists. We know this may not provide a certain intellectual satisfaction for solving theological conundrums, but we really think there is a greater question than, “How do you reconcile divine sovereignty with human freedom?” This greater question needs to be answered because it is more important than any other. There is no greater question for the Christian to answer at this point in God’s plan for His creation, and it has to do with His redemption of creation. That question is, “How are we, His chosen instruments, going to obey our Lord and proclaim the good news of His Word—the gospel of His death for the sins of the world and His resurrection for our sakes—to everyone, everywhere and at all times, until He comes again?” This question defines us. This is why we want to be known simply as “Baptists.”

 

David L. Allen
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Fort Worth, Texas

Ken Keathley
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, North Carolina

Richard Land
Southern Evangelical Seminary
Charlotte, North Carolina

Steve Lemke
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
New Orleans, Louisiana

Paige Patterson
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Fort Worth, Texas

Jerry Vines
Jerry Vines Ministries
Atlanta, Georgia

Malcolm B. Yarnell III
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Fort Worth, Texas