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

June 15, 2012

A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of the Plan of Salvation,” authored by Eric Hankins and others, has drawn strong interest in many social media and news outlets. The statement and the discussion of it have been accessed over 50,000 times and over 100,000 pageviews in the last two weeks. The discussions in SBC Today have evoked thousands of comments, with over 600 persons signing 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 6: The Election to Salvation. Keep in mind that each of the affirmations and denials in the articles complement each other, just as they do in 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 each 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!

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Discussion of Article Six: The Election to Salvation 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 6. Please limit your comments here to Article 6.

Article Six: The Election to Salvation

We affirm that, in reference to salvation, election speaks of God’s eternal, gracious, and certain plan in Christ to have a people who are His by repentance and faith.

We deny that election means that, from eternity, God predestined certain people for salvation and others for condemnation.

Genesis 1:26-28; 12:1-3; Exodus 19:6; Jeremiah 31:31-33; Matthew 24:31; 25:34; John 6:70; 15:16; Romans 8:29-30, 33;9:6-8; 11:7; 1 Corinthians 1:1-2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2:11-22; 3:1-11; 4:4-13; 1 Timothy 2:3-4; 1 Peter 1:1-2; 1 Peter 2:9; 2 Peter 3:9; Revelation 7:9-10

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Bart Barber

I don’t know that I am a Molinist (am not 100% certain that I have comprehended the entirety of it with all of its implications), but I am curious as to how the gang thinks an approach like Molinism would fare under this point.

Also, to ask a couple of more specific questions:

1. Is the “and” in the denial critically important? In other words, is only a system of BOTH election AND reprobation being denied here, or was the choice of “and” a casual choice where an “or” might have done equally well (i.e., is it the intent of the article to deny any election of “certain persons” in either direction)?

2. The affirmation teaches that “election” is something that “speaks of” the “plan.” Is it the assertion of this affirmation that “God’s…plan” primarily is that which was elected? Or does the statement permit an interpretation in which certain people were elected (even if they were elected conditionally due to foreseen faith)?

    Jim G.

    Hi Bart,

    Most SBC Calvinists are single-predestinarian. There are some double-p’s, but they are significantly in the minority.

    The problem lies, though, in the more deeply-held tenet of meticulous determinism. When all events are meticulously determined (a la Article 3 of the WCF and similar language in the 2LCF), then those who are “passed over” in single-p have all events determined so that they can never hear. Therefore, whether God positively decrees the reprobate or they are a result of his “passing over” seems to me to be a distinction without a difference. The result for the reprobate is the same either way. All events are meticulously determined and everyone winds up where they are supposed to go. In a strange sort of way, single-p “seems” kinder and gentler as long as meticulous determinism is not mentioned.

    Jim G.


      “Therefore, whether God positively decrees the reprobate or they are a result of his “passing over” seems to me to be a distinction without a difference. The result for the reprobate is the same either way. ”

      This is what i don’t understand and why so much of what is taught from the NC sounds like doublespeak.

      1.God determines.
      2.But one is not chosen or one is passed over
      3. It is the fault of the one not chosen or passed over
      4. God is only responsible when you are chosen.
      5. He is not responsible when you are not chosen or are passed over.


    Dale Pugh

    Is there really any such thing as “single predestination”? If God chooses some and not others, He is, in effect making a choice. When He chooses one and not another, He is choosing to reject the latter. It’s a choice either way.


      Following article 3 of the Westminster Confession, God predestines the elect to salvation and ordains the reprobate to judgment. Predestination requires that God intervene actively to bring about a desired outcome. God must intervene actively in the life of the elect to bring them to salvation. To ordain the reprobate to judgment requires that God be passive and allow the reprobate to do as they desire without intervention by Him. In the end, you are correct; God makes the final choice. So, why would anyone object to God making such choices? Will not God do what is right?


    Theopedia ( summarizes Molinism’s view of God’s knowledge this way:
    – God [has] knowledge of all possible and necessary truths (natural knowledge — of what could happen).
    – God [has] knowledge of all feasible worlds (middle knowledge — of what would happen through free choices under certain circumstances, including counterfactuals).
    – [God acts by] Divine decree to create His selected world.
    – God [has] Foreknowledge set through His selected decree (free knowledge — of what will come to pass).

    What this says is that God is able to consider all possible worlds comprising all combinations of all possible actions by people. From among all these possible worlds, God selects the particular world that reflects His plan. God’s consideration of these possible worlds takes place before God creates a specific world (before Genesis 1:1). Once God selects the world He wants to create and creates that world (as we read of beginning in Genesis 1), then everything that is to happen is known with absolute certainty by God. That world is a Calvinist world. So, Molinism imagines God deliberating about what He will do before He actually creates the world. Once God creates a specific world, Molinism reduces to Calvinism.


Have never heard a good Arminian or semi-Pelagian definition of predestination. Again, this isn’t a word biblical authors “made up”. It has meaning and we can’t read “our meaning” back into to it.

God “destined” us beforehand. That doesn’t mean He simply “knew” our choice. He predestined us. Not a mass unknown blob.

If you try to say, as the statement does, He predestined a people but avoid saying He predestined individual persons, you make a mess of things. For instance, if you hold that position, then would you not affirm God knew upon predestining a plan of salvation that many would not choose Him? Therefore, He did predestine certain people for salvation because the rest will NEVER come to Him.

Josh Bryant

“We affirm that, in reference to salvation, election speaks of God’s eternal, gracious, and certain plan in Christ to have a people who are His by repentance and faith.’

“We deny that election means that, from eternity, God predestined certain people for salvation and others for condemnation.”

It is best to let scripture speak for itself on the definition of Election. We can attempt to get around the “stumbling block” of God’s sovereignty, or we can submit to the mystery of His calling.

Romans 9:11 uses the word “election” and gives plenty of context in the surrounding verses to give a firm definition without trying to come up with another definition that makes more sense to the human mind.

Romans 9:10-23 states the following: “And not only so, but also with Rebekah had conceived children by on man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad – in order that God’s purpose of ELECTION might continue, not because of works but because of Him who calls – she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’ What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘for this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show My power in you and that My name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then He has mercy on whomever He wills, and He hardens whomever He wills. You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who can resist His will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show His wrath and to make known His power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of His glory for vessels of mercy, which He has PREPARED BEFOREHAND for glory….”

When Paul says, “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part?” he is making a strong statement that this doctrine is a difficult and people, even those who believe in Christ will respond in disbelief. And this is exactly what the opponents of Paul’s definition are doing today.

If Election was not difficult and had an “Article 6” definition then we could eliminate much of Romans 9. However, Paul went into much effort in Romans 9 to make sure there was not a misunderstanding. An “Article 6” definition is simple and not offensive and would never require Paul to expound as he does.

The denial in Article 6 is a brave move. I understand the complexity of dealing with the doctrine, but to make a statement in complete opposition to Romans 9:22-23 is a fearful thing.

Randall Cofield

A thoughtful response to Article 6 of the “Traditional Statement” may be found here:

Jimmie Bates

I would challenge those who make the denial of election in Article 6 to look at the language, and specifically the word kleroo in Ephesians 1:11. The word is translated with the three words, “obtained an inheritance.” This word is very closely related to the word kleros, the word Luke used in Acts 1:29 to describe the means the apostles used to select the replacement for Judas; and as we know that means was the casting of lots, and the lot fell to Matthias.

In Ephesians 1:11, the meaning seems to be as follows: “in whom the lot has fallen to us also, as foreordained.” My Greek English Interlinear renders this phrase this way: “in whom also we have been chosen to an inheritance being predestinated to (the) purpose of the One working all things according to the counsel of His own will.”

I cannot see how anyone can read this passage, especially Ephesians 1:3-14, and not see the truth of God’s individual choosing of His elect children in Christ. But, having said that I am forced to say that I am sure there are other passages of scripture where God’s glorious plan is laid out, and I do not see or understand. This is why we, as believers in Christ, must humbly, be ready and willing to come together to search the scriptures, and submit ourselves to the infallible Word of God, rather than attempting to prove how much insight we have into these things.

I am respectfully,
Jimmie Bates

Jim G.

Without a doubt this is the topic where the proverbial rubber meets the proverbial road.

I’ve seen lots of appeals to exegesis. It won’t help much. The pertinent texts have been exegeted to death. We know what they “say.” The difference lies in what they “mean,” especially as we attempt to harmonize different theological concepts.

What is at stake here is the balance between the goodness and the greatness of God. If God elects some (either actively in double-predestination or passively in single-predestination) to reprobation from all eternity, then some (including me) see the goodness of God under attack. In all forms of Augustinian-Calvinism, God does not want the reprobate to be saved. He could save them, but chooses not to do so. That seems to be the situation the denial of Article 6 is trying to avoid.

We can appeal to exegesis, but it won’t ultimately solve this problem. It is a much deeper difficulty than the meanings and grammar of Greek words.

Jim G.

    Jimmie Bates

    Jime G: If we know what they say; then what do they say? It seems to me that the problem is with the statement that from eternity God elected some to reprobation, and others to eternal salvation. While I acknowledge that is what many teach and believe; I believe many of the Reformers left the door open to that charge when they taught that out of fallen humanity God chose, and predestined some to salvation, and either predestined some to eternal damnation, or others who say He merely passed them ove and left them to their own sinful desires and actions.

    I believe the scripture teaches that the elect were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world; and those chosen constitute the Body and Bride of Christ. All the elect were created in Adam, together with the rest of humanity; but the Church, the Bride of Christ committed spiritual adultery in Adam, and together with all those in Adam they were seperated from God, and plunged into the horrible pit of sin.

    And while we were unfaithful, the Father and the Son were faithful to the everlating covenant which they had entered into. This seems to me to be the essence of the statement in Hebrews 6:13; “When God made promise to Abraham, since He could swear by none greater He swore by Himself.” He swore by Himslef, or He swore on the name of His Only Begotten Son, theat He would not leave us in our awful condition. The Son then came to seek and to save that which was lost, Luke 19:10.

    When we were created in Adam, we, together with all in Adam, were created in the same condition as Adam, i.e. a perfect man. I believe Romans 5:12 bears this out in the phrase, in that all sinned; which is in the aorist indicitave active. We, together with all of humanity were perfect in Adam.

    Those who are ultimately lost are guilty of their sin, not because God foreordained them as sinners; but because they were alive in Adam when Adam ate of the tree. And just as Levi was in Abraham’s loins when Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek, and therefore Levi paid tithes as well.

    I am respectfully,
    Jimmie Bates

      Jim G.

      Hi Jimmie,

      So, are you saying that there are some humans “in Adam” that God has never wanted to save? What would have happened to them if the fall had never occurred?

      Jim G.

        Jimmie Bates

        Hi Jim: Thanks for the response. As I respond my prayer is that God would preserve me from seeming to respond in a condescending, or one of superior knowledge. I am reminded of what Paul said, concerning me, in 1 Cor 1:26-29; but thank God I can say that he is speaking concerning both you and me in V30.

        Having said that, I do not believe this has to do with whether or not God wanted to save this one or that one. But to your point of the fall: it appears that from a hypothetical, human perspective, the fall was a possibility since Adam was created as a perfect man, and all who were in him were created in that same condition, without the knowledge of sin. In my mind this amplifies the enormity of Adam’s, and our sin in Adam, since we were created in the same condition. Some have implied, while others have taught explicitly taught that Adam could not have had a truly free will if God knew that Adam would sin. I was recently listening to a 7th Day Adventist who said that when Adam ate of the tree, God was faced with a decision, would He cast Adam and the creation in to everlasting darkness and condemnation, or would He take action to remedy Adam’s mistake.

        Let me submit that God was not taken by surprise by Adam, and He did not need to come up with a new plan, and catch up to man who got out ahead of Him. No, a thousand times no, God had a perfect plan, and eternal plan, I would term it the everlasting covenant, tu e covenant , the compact between the Father and the Son.

        I believe this is what Isaiah is saying in Isaiah 55:8-9. I believe that God, being God could and did create Adam as a perfect man, yet His higher purpose included the fall of Adam; yet because God created him as the perfect man, Adam was truly guilty, and God was not the author of Adam’s sin.

        Having said all this, I am sure beyond any doubt, that neither you nor I individually, nor collectively have, or will in this life, come to a full understanding and grasp of these things. Thank God for His glorious promises, including Ephesians 2:4-9. Though I hold a Baptist view of baptisxm, I am not a Southern Baptist, but my hope and prayer is that I, and all who engage in these discussions, will in the final analysis submit ourselves to the truth and authority of God’s Holy Word, while recognizing and confessing that each of us, yet sees throughout a glass darkly.

        May God bless each and every one who earnestly, and sincerely seeks a clearer understanding of these great truths.

        I am respectfully,
        Jimmie Bates

        Isaiah 55:8-9

          Jimmie Bates

          Jim: I meant to mention 2 Peter 3:9, which I believe is too8 often lifted out of it’s context and used as a proof text, to prove something that the text does not say. When looked at in the context of the entire chapter we see to whom these words are addressed, the beloved, and the purpose for the words in this passage. Peter seems to be writing to encourage these beloved in Christ, that they not be discouraged or turned aside in the face of the ridicule and taunting of the scoffers.

          These scoffers were it seems, in essence saying to these believers; you fools keep saying that the Lord is coming back; but we see no sign of that.

          As we work through the passage down to V9, we see that the promise is not a universal promise that God is not willing that any should perish; but a promise that none of His beloved would perish; but the Lord will return, V10, but not until all His beloved, all His elect, all the sheep of John 10, have been, by the proclamation of the glorious God, which alone is the power of God unto salvation. That gospel is a miracle working, life giving gospel, able to beget life, and deliver His children out of slavey to the world, the flesh and the devil; and translate us over into the kingdom of His dear Son.
          May the Lord bless you brother.
          Jimmie Bates

Mike Davis

While Article six may not be as problematic as Articles Two and Four, it is nonetheless perplexing and seems only to have been included to impose an “off-the-grid” system on an unambiguous Biblical teaching (election).

The second part of the denial was already addressed in Article One and appears simply to be an effort to once again assail the double-predestination straw man. Since SBC Calvinists are not arguing for double-predestination I’m not sure why the denial has to show up multiple times, let alone once.

Considering the first part of the Article Six denial, and whether the many Biblical references to the elect can mean “certain persons”, it seems the Traditionalists are headed in a hermeneutical direction fraught with potential impediments.

If no plural Greek verb or pronoun can have any individual application because of a persistent refusal to see the collective elect as also a group of elect individuals, this creates many challenges that could be extended to other areas.

For example, Ephesians 1: 3-14 describes many graces upon the group of believers that we also understand as belonging to the individual believers. They all (and each) have redemption and forgiveness, they all (and each) have an inheritance, they have all individually hoped in Christ, listened to the message of the truth, believed, and all were each sealed with the Holy Spirit. And we all, Calvinists and Traditionalists, understand Ephesians 2: 8 as having individual application, even though Paul is speaking in the plural to his audience: “For by grace you (plural) have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves (plural), it is the gift of God;” (NASB).

So let’s not go crazy about those plural verbs and pronouns, folks.

    M. R. Williams


    You wrote, “Since SBC Calvinists are not arguing for double-predestination I’m not sure why the denial has to show up multiple times, let alone once.”

    From my own experience as a Calvinist in Southern Baptist circles, it shows up because that is what we are told we believe. In other words, no matter how much we try to articulate what we do believe, there will be those who will tell us what we believe whether we believe it or not. In my opinion, that is why the denial shows up.

    Hope that made sense.

    God bless.

      Darryl Hill

      I agree with this Mike. I’ve had this same experience with those who do not hold to sovereign grace. I say, “I do not believe that God predestines people for hell. Or, to put it another way, I do not believe that God actively works reprobation- that He works for their damnation as He works for the salvation of the elect.” My argument is that man, because of the fall and being born in sin, needs no assistance in remaining in sin. Therefore, if any man is lost, it is by his own choosing. Indeed, we’d all continue choosing sin if our wills are not freed to choose that which is truly good. But if any man is saved, it is because of the gracious work of God. It should be noted here- no man ever receives injustice from God.

      Yet, no matter how clearly or often I repeat that God does not reprobate and that I do not believe it double predestination, those who wish to argue against me DEMAND that I must believe it.

      They see a logical deduction which is easily made. They say: if God doesn’t predestine them actively to salvation then He must predestine them actively to hell.

      Trouble is, I don’t believe that because the Scripture does not say that. The closest thing in Scripture we find is where Paul states “Whom He wills, He hardens” speaking of Pharaoh. It should be noted, however, in regard to Pharaoh, that this was a man who had already been given over to a reprobate mind, as Paul outlines in Romans 1, which is something that happens after years of rejecting God.

      But you’ve given the right answer in my opinion. They stated it twice because that is the way they see the reformed view. It is a caricature and a straw man but it never seems to stop them from making the charge.

Bill Mac

I understand the denial in this article, because of the nature and purpose of “the statement”, but the affirmation seems really weak. Other than the fact that it contains the word “election”, I’m not really sure what it affirms. Corporate election? Election based on foreseen faith?


It is quite frustrating when some Christians argue that election is not to salvation, as this statement says: ““We deny that election means that, from eternity, God predestined certain people for salvation…”

Such an interpretation is so unfaithful to God’s. Just look at Ephesians 1:4-5, 11:

“He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself…. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will.

What is salvation to you any way, if it is not be adopted as one of God’s own sons?? The text makes it clear that we were predestined to be holy, blameless, adopted as child of God and to have a place–an inheritance–in His Kingdom. If that is not salvation, I don’t know what is!! The Scripture is clear that we were predestined for salvation, and to deny that is to deny God’s Word.

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