Today’s Discussion Topic:
Article Four: The Grace of God
of “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist
Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”

June 6, 2012

A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of the Plan of Salvation,” authored by Eric Hankins and others, has drawn strong interest. It has been referenced in a recent Baptist Press article, multiple blog posts, and many dozens of posts in Facebook and other social media. The statement has been accessed over 20,000 times in the last few days. Nearly 1,000 comments have been posted in SBC Today about the statement, and over 350 persons have signed the document (including some key leaders from every level of Southern Baptist life). You can sign it also by following these  directions.

To structure the discussion, we are focusing the comments on the affirmation and denial statement of one article of the statement at a time. Today’s discussion will address the Southern Baptist doctrines of grace in Article 4: The Grace of God. Keep in mind that each of the affirmations and denials in the articles complement each other, not unlike the Together for the Gospel statement signed and/or affirmed by some Southern Baptist leaders who embrace Reformed views.

Please confine your comments to the article being discussed that day, not general comments about the statement. If you want to comment on other things, follow the links to other discussion threads:

Thank you for your comments on these theological issues!

The Editors of SBC Today


Click this link to see the full statement of “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”
Right click to download
A Statement of Traditional Southern Baptist Soteriology SBC Today.pdf
Click this link to see the list of signers of “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”
Email sbctoday@gmail.com to join the movement and sign “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation” as follows: 

Name, Position, Organization/Church, City, State

For example: John Doe, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Anytown, LA or
Jane Doe, member, First Baptist Church, Anytown, LA or
Jamie Doe, Professor, Some Seminary, Anytown, LA


Discussion of Article Four: The Grace of God in “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”

Note: As we discuss each article of the statement, today’s comments should focus on the affirmation and denial in Article 4. Please limit your comments here to Article 4.

Article Four: The Grace of God

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

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Jeff White

Regarding the AFFIRMATION of Article IV: I don’t think I disagree with anything this statement says, but I do think it doesn’t go far enough, and would prefer that it at least stated that grace is undeserved and unmerited by the sinner. A true Calvinist believes in the free offer of salvation to everyone who will come to Christ in true repentance and saving faith. A hyper-Calvinist will not agree to the free offer of salvation to everyone. A true Calvinist will maintain that God’s Gospel and grace, and Jesus’ atonement, are SUFFICIENT for all, but are EFFICIENT only for the elect. We do not know who the elect are, therefore, we are to share the Gospel with everyone and leave the results to God.

Regarding the DENIALS of Article IV: I agree totally that saving faith is NOT a meritorious act earning or deserving of salvation, but that is because saving faith is a GIFT from God given only to the elect. It is not the product of human effort or human will (John 1:13, Rom. 9:16), which would make it a human work which God would have to reject. Calvinist do not teach that there is NO response on the part of the sinner to the Gospel, but rather, that the response is produced in and through the sinner by God who opens their hear to respond (Acts 16:14), regenerating their heart, and giving them saving faith and genuine repentance as gifts of grace. Calvinists also do NOT teach that grace cannot be resisted in a TEMPORAL sense. Truly, all of us are born resisting and rejecting God and His grace. But, rather, Calvinists believe that grace is irresistable in an ULTMATE and ETERNAL sense. All that the Father has given to the Son as a love gift in eternity past, will come to the Son and be saved. And, God will make sure they get the Gospel, one way or another. God not only predestinates the end, but also the means to the end.

    volfan007

    Jeff,

    In all reality, when you believe in regeneration before faith, there’s no real choice made. Thus, I know technically that Calvinists say that a person has to respond in repentance and faith to be saved….but, thier idea is one of no real choice on the part of man. It seems to be fatalism to me.

    David

      Jeff White

      David,

      Thanks for responding. Salvation is an instantaneous act including conviction, calling, regeneration, conversion, faith, justification, repentance, positional santification, etc. In other words, chronologically speaking, they all happen at the same moment. So, in my comment above, I was not trying to state a CHRONOLOGICAL order, but rather, a LOGICAL order. Thanks.

      Jeff

        volfan007

        Jeff,

        So, if they all happen at the same moment, then what made the person get saved? If regeneration happens at the exact moment that a person puts their faith in Jesus, which I believe, BTW; then, in your view, what makes the person believe? I mean, as a Calvinist, who believes in irresistible grace, what do you believe makes a person choose to be saved?

        David

    Max

    Jeff – As a non-Calvinist, I don’t agree with the tenet of reformed theology you note in regard to human will / human work. However, I wanted to take the opportunity when I saw your post to thank you for being honest about your theology as noted by painting “Reformed” on your church sign and clearly stating your position in the what-we-believe section of your website. This is not the typical practice by SBC young reformed pastors when they plant churches in my area. I appreciate your integrity in this regard.

      Jeff White

      Max,

      Thanks for the compliment. We do try to be totally honest about who and what we believe and are about at the church where I pastor. I, along with a pastor friend, planted that church 9 years ago, and that’s how it’s been since day one.

      Regarding the above statements on the “will” of man. I guess for me it comes down to this: What can a dead man do? Nothing but stink. HAHA!! A spiritually dead person isn’t just ill or sick, but dead. No more able to relate and respond to God spiritually on their own, than a person dead physically can relate or respond to physical stimuli in their situation. The lost with a will enslved to sin and not free (John 8:30-32, Rom. 6:6, Acts 8:23), can only respond as enable by God’s grace. We can’t even receive Jesus unless God allows it (John 3:27, John 1:11-13). It’s not the man who runs or the man who WILLS, but God who shows mercy (Rom. 9:16). Thanks.

      Jeff

Bruce

I am sure that we can amass an enormous emotional response to things we like or against the evils we are quick to label as “the other side,” but I would think we could look past the rhetoric to the foundational issues. In this case and for this point alone—I admit that this is the first time for me to look at this site—I am concerned about the choice of scriptural affirmations following the article. What does Ezra 9:8 have to do with saving grace? Is the Old Testament use of “grace” like that of Proverbs 3:34 the same as is stated in the article concerning saving grace? Matthew 19:16-30 as a proof text does not seem to point to “grace” but to works—vv. 27-30 “inherit eternal life?” If one would read past Luke 10:1-12, it would be clear that a predetermined curse had already been pronounced on the people by Jesus himself. I would appreciate a little explanation as to the reason these verses were chosen.

Ken Silva

“Traditional Southern Baptist”

In actuality, in this denomination, autonomy negates any such thing.

    Tim Rogers

    Ken,

    When you find “the autonomy of the individual” in the Bible we will be glad to engage it. Wc can find “priesthood of believers” but can’t really find where we are free to do whatever we want.

    Please do not take my above statement as sarcastic, it just appeared that your statement was a “tongue in cheek” statement.

      volfan007

      I just find it hilarious that so many have a problem with the “name” of this view. Its getting them fired up about the name Traditionalist. lol. Wow.

      At least we didnt call ourselves the Founders.

      David

      Patrick

      I’ve been reading this blog for some time, and have been particularly interested in the past week in the discussion that is taking place, and interested in hearing both sides of the issue. However, I’m struck by every comment that I’ve read in the past week from you, Tim, has been sarcastic, mean-spirited, and completely unhelpful to any meaningful discussion. Rather than someone who actually wants to engage in theological discourse, you come off as a first-class jerk, yet at the same time, you seem to be the first one to complain or accuse others of belittling you and your positions. I pray for those who are members of your church – and that I don’t mean tongue in cheek.

Kyle Thomas

There is a puzzle in putting together this statement with Article 10.

Article 4: “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.”

Article 10: “We deny that salvation is possible outside of a faith response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

What do we do with those who die without ever hearing about Christ? If God knew that certain individuals would live and die without having the opportunity to respond in faith to the gospel, then in what sense can Article 4 be true – that salvation is for all?

I don’t want to cause too much speculation on these matters, since it ought to motivate us to mission, not debate. But this does present a quandary for this document. God does not predestine individuals, and yet those who never hear the gospel perish (article 10). How do we reconcile the denial of predestination with the fact that God has created people He knew would never hear the gospel?

Genuinely curious.

    Jim G.

    Hi Kyle,

    The question you asked is indeed a quandary for this document, and for every other system of theology. No one is immune to this question. It is a difficult one and I (for one) do not have very many constructive answers.

    Jim G.

      Kyle Thomas

      Agreed. Calvinists have problems with this quandary too. And yet the Scriptures do not allow us to take the inclusivist position or pluralist approach.

      I just wonder how Traditionalists would answer the question when raised.

        volfan007

        Kyle,

        I can only answer for myself, and I’ve been asked this type of question in different ways before. But, salvation is for all people, everywhere…and all people have some light….the light of nature, which declares that there’s a God, who created everything….and the light of a conscience, which declares that man must answer to this Creator God; that there are rights and wrongs; and judgment. Just look at the tribes in the darkest jungles of S. America….they all have a sense of right and wrong, even though its flawed by the sin nature of man. And, they all worship something….the Sun, the Moon, the Great Spirit, etc. So, man has enough light shed upon him that he should respond that light….to wanna know this great, holy, Creator God. But, he doesnt. He loves his sin. He loves the gods of his own making. BUT, I PERSONALLY believe that if someone in those jungles truly wanted to know this Creator God, then God would move Heaven and Earth to get a missionary to go to those people; people that He loves; people that Jesus died to save.

        But, your question also demands that we also see part of the motivation for missions. We must take the Gospel to the people of the world, so that they can have the best light…the Gospel. People cant be saved apart from hearing the Gospel. And, we should do whatever we can do to make sure that the people of the world hear the Gospel….so that there’s more light shed upon these people, for whom Jesus died.

        So, even though, of course God knew that some people in Mongolia, or in the mountains of Chile, or in the darkest jungles of S. America would never hear the Gospel…they still have light…BUT, of course, they need more light. Just because they havent heard the Gospel, doesnt mean that God still didnt love them, and provide salvation for them.

        David

        Max

        There is much in the Bible about the sovereignty of God and Scripture speaks much about personal responsibility. It all comes together in a way that is beyond human comprehension or theological reach of men.

        As I ponder the question you raise, I rest in the truth that only Jesus justly judges and graciously saves. Thus, I can look every man in the eye and honestly say that God loves you – Jesus died for you. And will continue to do so while men argue and debate. Debating is not preaching the Gospel.

Dale Pugh

What’s this?! Article 4 was posted on the 6th and it is now the 10th. Only 16 responses so far. I would think that this article would have us swarming like flies (No disrespect to flies intended…….Relax. I’m joking.)
Do we have nothing more to say about Irresistible Grace? Has it all been said? Or have we just lost interest in the argument?
Scripture teaches that grace is a gift. Am I right about this?
The gift can or cannot be received. A choice. Made by me. Thus, I can resist the freely offered gift. True or false?
This article is central to the debate, in my estimation. Is grace irresistible or not? We can’t have it both ways, so one or the other must be truth. Where will we stand?

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