Words With Friends, part 1, Savabilism: A Whole, Positive, Acceptable and Unused Term

August 27, 2013

by Dr. Rick Patrick, pastor
FBC Sylacauga, Ala.

The Truth, Trust and Testimony in a Time of Tension Report stands as a visionary call for Southern Baptists to engage in collegial conversation regarding our differences in soteriology and other associated matters. Clearly, this outstanding report should not be viewed as a call to abandon the discussion, but rather as a challenge to those on both sides to conduct the conversation using our best manners. One might even compare the T5 Report to a football referee who gathers the captains from both sides prior to the kickoff and exhorts them to exercise good sportsmanship and to play a clean game. In other words, this important conversation is not over. It is only just beginning.

For quite some time, those with doctrinal convictions similar to mine have been in search of a term with which to identify ourselves. It is especially important to us that this term be acceptable among those with whom we disagree. Let us assure you that in our search for such a label, we are not seeking to offend, but to identify our position with the kind of theological precision that encourages mutual understanding. It is surprisingly harder than one might imagine to identify with an acceptable name the soteriological position which we believe to be the majority view among Southern Baptists. Thus far, our attempts have proven unsuccessful, but we are blessed with plenty of time and patience, and will eventually find a term everyone can agree upon.

The Disqualification of Every Currently Proposed and Utilized Term
Below is a listing of terms that, for the various reasons explained, are inadequate to define our soteriology and, in some cases, are even particularly offensive to us. By looking at all of the terms that do NOT work, we draw closer to the one that does.

1. Non-Calvinist: No one should have to define themselves simply by what they are not. This definition by negation sadly contributes to the unfortunate misunderstandings found in many of our discussions, as it is often assumed that our position is #2 below. As a Dallas Cowboys fan, I would hate to go through life known only as a Non-Redskins fan.

2. Anti-Calvinist: Some Calvinists may misunderstand my view as consisting solely in the opposition of theirs. This is precisely why we need to state our position using a positive term. Certainly, the views will remain in conflict, but it will be much easier to see that each side is simply promoting their own position rather than attacking the opposing view. While I am FOR them and not AGAINST them, I am not WITH them, at least theologically, on this family of issues. I am certainly with them in sharing Christ.

3. Modified Calvinist: It has been suggested on occasion that all Southern Baptists are Calvinists of one sort or another. Those of us who disaffirm as many as four out of the five petals on the TULIP refuse to view ourselves as any kind of Calvinist at all.

4. Modified Arminian: This offensive label is a partial term. No one wants to be called a modified-this or a semi-that. It fails since Arminians view Perseverance of the Saints as a negotiable doctrine while our position is uncompromisingly committed to it. Since we disaffirm such Arminian baggage, most of us view this label as a pejorative term.

5. Semi-Pelagian: Most Southern Baptists believe that God has given all men the ability to respond to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the gospel. To disaffirm Total Inability is not to embrace a man-centered theology nor to suggest that man initiates the salvation process. In the summer of 2012, many Calvinists equated our position, held by seminary presidents, pastors, theologians and a Who’s Who of denominational leaders, with this 1500-year-old heresy. Fortunately, this ugly name-calling chapter is now over.

6. Biblicist: Some prefer to use this term, by which they mean that their position is the only one found in the Bible. Clearly, this label would be claimed by both sides. It is thus unacceptable not because it offends but because it fails to differentiate.

7. Baptist: Once again, one cannot simply claim to hold THE Baptist or Southern Baptist view on this matter, since there are many Southern Baptists on both sides.

8. Traditionalist: By referencing A Statement of the TRADITIONAL Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation, this term actually met many of the necessary criteria: (1) it was not a term of negation, (2) it was not a partial term, and (3) it was not associated with any theological views containing unnecessary baggage. While it did gain a fair measure of support and usage on my side of the theological aisle, it was deemed unacceptable by Calvinists who interpreted the word “traditional” only in its historical and cultural sense. They assumed we were claiming that our Southern Baptist heritage only supported our position without including theirs. Interestingly, among dozens of articles, I never read a single Traditionalist who made this assertion. Regardless, the term Traditionalist is out. The search for an acceptable theological label continues.

A Case for the Use of the Term Savabilism
Before discussing the merits of the term Savabilism, I would like to make an appeal first to my Calvinist friends and then to my Traditionalist / Non-Calvinist friends:

  • Calvinist brothers, it is in your interest to show us grace as we define ourselves. Name-calling will not suit anyone’s purposes. When you choose a name for us that we do not like, it only inflames this “time of tension.” Perhaps you view us through your theological grid as Arminians or Modified Arminians or even Semi-Pelagians. Since we disaffirm these labels and consider them offensive, it would help if you would recognize our right to self-identify. When you think about it, a very basic part of any relationship is calling someone what they would like to be called. If we can agree upon a term and clearly define what it means, will you please consider using it in place of the more pejorative names used previously?
  • Traditionalist / Non-Calvinist brothers, it is in our interest to define ourselves using a term that is whole, positive, acceptable and unused, rather than one that is partial, a term of negation, offensive to Calvinists or already associated with other views. Finding this word disabuses us of the charge that we are merely AGAINST something without being FOR something. It gives us definition, direction and a sense of identity. But achieving this goal is actually much harder than you might imagine. The primary consideration cannot be the “sound” or “familiarity” of the word. In fact, a brand new word is actually quite helpful since it does not carry the sort of loaded baggage that has derailed our other proposals. It simply behooves us to settle on a term and insist upon its use so others will stop calling us ugly names.

Savabilism is a term that not only fits semantically but works quite nicely grammatically. It may not be perfect in every respect. It may take everyone a while to get used to it. But consider its many advantages:

  • It is a whole and complete word in the sense that it does not require a prefix like “semi-” or “non-” or “anti-” or an additional descriptor such as “modified.” The term can stand alone, on its own two feet, strong and independent of other views.
  • It is a positive term, or if you will pardon the double negative, it is not a term of negation. I believe this one consideration alone instantly improves soteriological relations in our convention. Until now, the conversation has largely been an issue of Calvinism: Pro or Con? The issue is framed as if those with convictions like mine have nothing better to do than pick on Calvinists. As a Savabilist, however, I can refer to my view positively without any reference at all to the “C” word.
  • It is a term without prior theological connotations. When we reference any form of a word like Calvinist or Arminian or Pelagian, we instantly invite confusion and a lack of theological precision, as we struggle to differentiate our unique position from the various strains found within these overarching, all-encompassing terms. Meaningful communication grinds to a halt when one uses such theological terms loaded with the baggage of various different meanings, all of which must be unloaded and repacked in order to clarify the present meaning.
  • It is a unique term unused even outside any theological context. Whereas the term “Traditionalist” carried with it the unfortunate hint of a historical or cultural sense, the term “Savabilist” does not invite any such misunderstanding. It is able to mean what we say it means, without the need to fight off preconceived notions drawn from its widespread use either historically or culturally.

What Is A Savabilist?

A Savabilist believes every lost person is savable.

A Savabilist believes that when he shares his faith, the other person’s response is truly free and has not yet been determined. A Savabilist believes God certainly knows what the other person’s response will be, but denies that He causes the person to respond in that manner.

A Savabilist believes God does not unconditionally choose but that He unconditionally loves.

A Savabilist believes that because of this unconditional love, Jesus died to atone for the sins of every single person. Hence, every single person is savable.

A Savabilist believes it is God’s one and only true will for every person to be saved.

A Savabilist believes God has given to every person the ability to respond to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the gospel, either by freely choosing to accept God’s grace or by freely choosing to resist it.

A Savabilist is not a universalist. A Savabilist believes that many people will die and go to hell.

A Savabilist believes the reason the lost go to hell is neither because God chose them for hell, nor because God declined to choose them for heaven, but rather because they freely chose to reject the grace of God.

A Savabilist believes that once a person freely places their faith in Christ and He saves their soul, they cannot possibly lose their salvation, but will persevere eternally since their salvation is sealed by God forever.
= = = = = = =

In Words With Friends—Part Two, I will labor to promote a more precise taxonomy for the broad array of positions currently crowded together under the banner of Calvinism. My fervent hope is that someday soon every Exit Sign on the Soteriological Highway will have its own unique street name so we can find our way home without confusion.

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Ben Simpson


You’ve written a very fine article here, especially in the section on “The Disqualification of Every Currently Proposed and Utilized Term.” I’ve said many of those same things myself.

You didn’t mention any reasons the proposed label may be problematic. I suppose you were leaving that to the commenters. So, I do have two questions:
1) Is the position that you and your like-minded brothers hold an entirely new position that has never been held until our recent era?
2) What are those who aren’t savabilists?

You see, one of the reasons that Biblicist, Baptist, and Traditionalist doesn’t fly is because they are at heart polemical, even if the progenitors didn’t intend it to be so. Every one of those terms in and of themselves position themselves as superior to opposing views. Others are non-Biblicists, non-Baptist, and untraditional. I’m afraid that Savabilism does the same thing, making those who aren’t Savabilists “unSavabilists.” So, I would want to add another criterion to your list: the term must not be polemical, making one’s position seem automatically superior. That is, if true dialogue is really sought. I have no idea what term you’re going to suggest for Calvinists, but what if they began to call themselves the God-glorifiers? That meets all of your criteria, but it doesn’t meet the criterion I’ve suggested.

Do you agree?

    Norm Miller

    Thx for your comment, Ben. Whereas Rick may answer more specifically if he chooses, I would ask us all to rhetorically consider this question and it’s answer as illustrative, in part, of the gist of your comment: “Are we pro-life or anti-choice?” Of course, we are both. But how we are described depends upon who is doing the describing. The only point I am making is that any identifying name and set of beliefs is almost unavoidably considered polemical by those of a different identity and set of beliefs.
    We all believe in eternal punishment for the damned. But annihilationists would consider that position polemical. We all believe that some will be saved and some will not. But universalists would consider that position polemical.
    More to your point, Ben, how can any identifying name and set of beliefs be devised that will not be considered polemical by those who disagree with that set of beliefs? If we spend our time trying to discover the undiscoverable, the conversation that must happen never will.

    Rick Patrick


    Thanks for reading and interacting. To answer your first question, no, it is not an entirely new position, but is actually a very traditional Southern Baptist view. In fact, one can find the word “traditional” used in theological writings for this Hobbs-Rogers theological tradition long before the Traditional Statement authored by Eric Hankins last summer. So while the view itself is not new, the need for greater theological precision among Southern Baptists is indeed a new development. This need has emerged in response to the unprecedented growth of New Calvinism. When nearly all Southern Baptists understood salvation doctrine as I still do, there was no need for clarification. However, today, we need to carefully distinguish our position from both Calvinism and Arminianism, not to mention Semipelagianism or whatever else people want to call us.

    To answer your second question about those who are not Savabilists, let me invite you to read Part Two when it is published. I provide a taxonomy of terms for all those who would not identify as Savabilists, using words I believe most of them are happy to embrace. Should they develop new terms they would like me to use, I will be more than happy to consider them.

    As for your argument regarding polemical terms, I argued as much when I disqualified the terms “Biblicist” and “Baptist.” Of course, I agree with you that if Calvinists began insisting on the term “God-glorifier,” I would wonder why they are claiming such ground exclusively, since I glorify God as well. However, the definition of Savabilism above does not consist of ground that can truly be claimed by a Calvinist. If one believes God elected, in a causative sense, certain individuals for salvation before the foundation of the world, one is simply not a Savabilist. I do not see this as pejorative at all toward those who are not Savabilists. It is simply what they believe. So whereas Biblicist and Baptist and, in a sense, Traditionalist, can accurately be claimed by both sides, thus failing to differentiate, I do not believe Savabilist fits in this category at all.

    Johnathan Pritchett

    I actually kind of agree Ben, but I will reserve further comment on agreement or disagreement until I have read the second portion, and we can revisit this objection.

    Though, given your feelings on this, I am glad you are, under this sort of reasoning, willing to call on Calvinists to dump labeling that theology “The Doctrines of Grace.” ;)

    Though, I don’t think I can go by that label if the following is part of the parameters: “A Savabilist believes it is God’s one and only true will for every person to be saved.”

    While I do believe it is God’s will that all be saved, I can not say that I hold this is His one and only true will for every person at every point in the providential unfolding of history. God, on my theology, also in accordance with His true will, has the prerogative to use people who will forever reject Him for other purposes that certainly will ultimately result in that person’s damnation. That wouldn’t be God’s “not true” will to use them in such a manner. I may differ on the exegesis and theology found in Romans 9 with my Calvinist brothers, but this is clearly what is taught there regarding God’s will for those who reject Him, especially when wrapped up in Romans 9:22-24.

    Anyway, regardless of equivocation problems with the words “will”, “wills” and “willing”, I can hold that God’s will is for everyone to be saved, but God can also will to use those who refuse His grace for other purposes. My difference with Calvinists is not on the premise of God being able to will more than one thing at one time (all persons can do that, and all parents know this better than anyone), rather, my difference is on the mechanics of it.

    So, to say God wills that all be saved, and that God’s one and only true will is for all to be saved isn’t the same thing, and thus doesn’t work with me personally.

    As for the term itself. I like anything that proves useful.

      Norm Miller

      JP: I think you have made a salient point. “Savabilist” is in its nascent stages, and your point merits consideration, I think.

        Johnathan Pritchett

        Well, we already have the very fine Traditionalist Statement to gather around, so no real need to reinvent the wheel, even if we change the moniker of those who affirm it from “Traditionalist” to “Savabilist.”

        Though, I was just getting used to the Traditionalist moniker, which I liked. It will be another year or so before I become accustomed to a new term.

          Norm Miller

          I resonate with your remarks, but as Dr. Patrick noted, distinction is important in this discussion. Traditionalists and Calvinists have a founding and sustaining tradition in the SBC. So, theological distinction between the two is lost with the term ‘Traditionalist.’

Ron F. Hale


“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Jesus defined His primary mission as to seek and save the lost, therefore, I like and favor the terms: save, saveble, Savabilist, etc. Great descriptors under: What is a Savabilist? I look forward to your next article.



I think you need to add something like the following:

A savabilist is one who believes that God provides the environment in which a person can be saved and all the necessary resources whereby a person can be saved, but ultimately, it is the person who must decide that he wants to be saved and God cannot make that decision for him and God cannot influence him in making that decision beyond that which He does for any other person.

    Rick Patrick

    Thanks for the suggestion. Yes on the environment issue. Yes on the resources. Skip the “ultimately” clause for now. Yes on God not asking Himself into a person’s life or making that decision for him. Skip the “God cannot” clause for now.

    As you can see, much of what you have written I can clearly embrace. Now, let me address my two concerns with your suggestion:

    “…ultimately, it is the person who must decide that he wants to be saved…” My only concern with this language is that sounds a bit too man-centered for my tastes, seemingly eliminating God’s initiative in the process. I am more comfortable talking NOT about man “deciding” he wants to be saved but about man “responding” to our God, who desires for all men to be saved.

    “God cannot influence him…beyond that which He does for any other person.” While God clearly desires for all men to be saved, I would not place Him in this box, thereby limiting the Holy Spirit’s drawing activity to a position of strict equality. “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8) It does not necessarily say that the wind blows equally upon the child of godly Christian parents who raise him in church and upon the native who lives among an unreached people group with no gospel witness in their language.

    Frankly, much of what you have written is fair to the definition of a Savabilist, but some of it pushes that definition too far.

      Norm Miller

      “[All] the necessary resources” could be understood as regeneration before belief.

        Johnathan Pritchett

        Or the Calvinist could agree with Rick that God doesn’t try to draw or save everyone on the same basis, and the reason is because God didn’t choose to elect them to salvation. Or, if Rick is right and God desires to save everyone, Rick’s position leads to the unfortunate conclusion that God doesn’t bother to do so with the native even if He wants to do so. Worse, the Calvinist could say that while God’s fiat decision to elect someone is a divine prerogative, Rick’s beliefs could lead to God reaching out to some rather than others based on the merits of the person, even if such merits are only based on the family into which one is born. The Calvinist could argue and say that the reason one is born into such a church going family is that God determined those to be the means by which such a child would be saved, and the natives are ignored because God saw fit to pass them over and leave them to their deserved punishment and not elect them. Whereas, Rick’s position, given his various statements, could be argued by the Calvinist to say that the child with the Christian parents is just “lucky” on his view, which is not the same thing as God’s determining the means as well as the ends on the Calvinists’ view.

        Now, I know none of that is what Rick actually meant, but it could be argued that way.

      Johnathan Pritchett


      Except one quibble. John 3:8 says “…with everyone born of the Spirit”, not “with the Spirit.” There is a subtle word play that isn’t simply equating wind with the Holy Spirit. Rather, it is equating the mechanics of the wind with the mechanics of those born again of the Spirit. Bob Hadley and I went though this several months back here on SBC Today that is worth a look if you can find it buried in the coments section of an old post, and are interested. Anyway, the Spirit’s “drawing activity” isn’t even an issue addressed here. John 3:5-8 is an answer to the question regarding the nature and experience of being born again. It says nothing whatever to do with who is or isn’t being born again or why, or that those born again by the Spirit is the result of a random pattern of the Spirit’s activity that man is not privy to knowing.


      Rhutchin the zealous Calvinist that he is, tried to inject the word “ultimate” into the discussion. For Calvinists when they speak of a person being the ULTIMATE reason, they make it all up to that individual. This is a common semantic trick and tremendous misrepresentation of the non-Calvinist’s view. They then often follow up this little set up with the claim that this is a MAN-CENTERED THEOLOGY.

      I have two major problems with these kinds of Calvinist attempts.

      First, what Calvinists intentionally leave out is that **if** a person has a choice to believe or not believe and that choice is part of the process by which a person is saved. Then it was ********God himself********* who decided prior to this decision that a human decision would be involved in the process of salvation. This is extremely important to note as people could only be saveable if God had first decided that he would develop a plan of salvation by which they could be saved. You have to first be saveable in order to later be saved. But God alone decides both that people will be saveable and how people will be saved. If he decides that a freely made choice is involved, then that is the way it is going to be (no matter how much Calvinists cannot stand God’s way of salvation which involves a freely made choice).

      Second, it is not the decision itself that saves a person: it is the work of God alone that saves a person.

      I have shared this illustration here in the past as it makes the point well. Imagine you are going to die unless you go in for some major surgery (e.g. a triple by-pass). You sign a consent form that gives your consent to the surgery that “ultimately” saves your life. Your signature did not save you, does not have the power in and of itself to save you, nor was your signature the most important thing that saved you. Rather, it was the WORK of the surgical team alone that saved you. Likewise, if a person chooses to trust the Lord for salvation. It is not that decision and choice that saves the person, it is the work of God alone that saves that person.

      So the emphasis by Calvinists like rhutchin upon the decision being what ULTIMATELY saves the person is quite misrepresentative and false. God must first decide that people can be saveable, provide a way of salvation a way by which people may be saved (which he has done: he designates it as “salvation through faith” with that faith being a freely made choice by an individual person, their consent to God’s radical surgery on them) and God himself must do the work of salvation to save someone. If we are going to talk about saveability, saveabilist, etc. etc. we have got to keep in mind that it is God alone who saves even if our choice to be saved is involved in the process our our salvation. And this means Calvinist caricatures like those attempted by rhutchin are unacceptable and we need to see through these semantic games.


        Johnathan Pritchett

        Hear hear!

        We have absolutely nothing to do with our salvation. Salvation denotes rescue.

        We can not “rebirth” ourselves.
        We can not declare ourselves righteous.
        We can not designate ourselves as God’s people.
        We can not adopt ourselves into God’s family.
        We can not sanctify ourselves on our own.
        We can not conform ourselves to Christ’s image.
        We can not renew and transform our own minds.
        We can not lift our spirits to the Lord’s presence upon the physical death of our bodies.
        We can not situate ourselves in heaven until Jesus returns.
        We can not give ourselves glorified bodies and place our spirits within them.
        We can not sustain our perpetual existence in the new heavens and new earth.

        No person who rejects Calvinism believes man can “save themselves” or be the ultimate reason for his salvation. Whenever Calvinists use this sort of caricaturing rhetoric, it makes them look ignorant in their understanding of what salvation is.

        What we can do, is have something to do with our conversion by repenting and believing. Conversion and salvation is not identical like signing a letter or consent and performing the surgery are not identical.


        Robert says, “… it is not the decision itself that saves a person: it is the work of God alone that saves a person.”

        This is a fine Calvinist statement, except that Robert is not a Calvinist. So, where is the qualification? I think he probably meant to exclude the word, “alone.” Otherwise, could he really have meant, “alone”? If so, what work(s) by God did he have in mind as saving a person?


          Robert’s is a biblical and Baptist statement. Happy to hear that Cals agree with us on this.


            Given that we agree on the meaning of “alone.”


          Rhutchin wrote:

          “Robert says, “… it is not the decision itself that saves a person: it is the work of God alone that saves a person.”
          “This is a fine Calvinist statement, except that Robert is not a Calvinist. So, where is the qualification? I think he probably meant to exclude the word, “alone.” Otherwise, could he really have meant, “alone”? If so, what work(s) by God did he have in mind as saving a person?”

          No, this is a fine BIBLICAL STATEMENT.

          It is NOT an exclusively Calvinist statement as many non-Calvinists believe this to be both biblical and true.

          Many of my pastor friends who hold the same position that I do (i.e. that God alone saves people) and yet are non-Calvinists sometimes refer to themselves as “Biblicists” to make the point that their view is not derived from some system of theology, but from the bible alone.

          The idea that God alone saves is explicitly stated in scripture, so whether you are a non-Calvinist or a Calvinist you had better affirm it.

          The constant and repeated problem is that Calvinists like rhutchin try to use semantic games to present things AS IF the non-Calvinist does not believe that God alone saves us. So they will attack faith, attack any mention of us doing anything like repentance and faith and declare these things to be a MAN CENTERED theology if we have the audacity to claim that a person must do these things. Calvinists are so OBSESSED with their monergism that they attack any mention of anything we do in the process of salvation. But that is not the Bible that is Calvinism. In the bible we have both the affirmations that God alone saves AND the affirmations that we must believe and repent in order to be saved. The Bible has no problem with both being true, though calvinists like rhutchin get twisted out of shape by the references to what man must do in the process of salvation.

          Rhutchin asks about where is the qualification, there is none. The closest thing might be to make the observation that while salvation involves a process of events, we do some things, but the things we do are not what actually saves us. For example we must have faith, but the decision to choose to trust the Lord is not in itself what saves the person.

          Regarding what God does just look at what Jonathan so nicely listed for us!!



      Given your agreement, for the most part, I guess I have a fair grasp of the position you advocate.

      Two points on your comment.

      1. If you maintain, “While God clearly desires for all men to be saved, I would not place Him in this box, thereby limiting the Holy Spirit’s drawing activity to a position of strict equality,” then we can attribute the different responses of people to the gospel to the unequal treatment by God. Thereby, it is God’s treatment of the one (the elect) that determines his positive response and the lesser treatment of the other (the non-elect) that determines his negative response. I don’t see a way to escape this conclusion except by you requiring equal treatment of all because of your claim that God desires to save all meaning each and every person.

      2. By ultimate, I mean only that you have the person making a decision without which he cannot be saved. Despite all that God can and does do (some of which Johnathan Pritchett lists elsewhere), all that God does cannot bring the person to salvation. Your claim is that the one thing (ultimately) that is needed to save the person is a positive decision for Christ and this is something God cannot and will not force on a person (because of free will). You have man making that critical decision without which he cannot be saved.

      Or maybe, I am misunderstanding your position.

        Rick Patrick

        1. I do not attribute the different responses of people to the gospel to any sort of unequal treatment by God, but rather to the exercise of their own free will in accepting or rejecting that which He has done to save their soul. Person A might hear the gospel only one time and freely respond with yes. Person B might receive a thousand witnesses and say no. Regardless of whether we believe God has worked in perfect equality in drawing each person to Himself, He wants all to be saved, He has done all that is necessary for all to be saved, but He does not trust in Himself through you and for you. Man is responsible to freely respond by accepting His salvation through faith and repentance. This is not a work, but the reception of a work, the acceptance of it.

        2. You say that ultimately I believe a person is saved by making a positive decision for Christ. However, I do not view this as a man-made critical decision, some sort of work of man, but rather as the simple acceptance by that man of the work Christ did on the cross, appropriated by faith and repentance. I never turn in a time card after accepting gifts. There is a difference between a work and the reception of a gift.

        I would have to say, most definitely, you are misunderstanding my position.


          1. The idea of “…the exercise of their own free will in accepting or rejecting that which He has done to save their soul,” seems to be the standard answer but it says little. A person’s exercise of free will can depend on different factors. For example, the person who has knowledge of the Bible can react positively to the gospel but the one who has no knowledge of the Bible cannot. Thus, people favored with knowledge are in the position to make better free will decisions than people not so favored. Salvation comes down to differences in people or their environment; differences that those not saved cannot overcome. Thus, the elect end of being those who are uniquely favored over those who are not elect. Bottom line is that the retreat into “its a free will decision” really doesn’t solve the problem you are trying to avoid (at least I don’t see that it does as it really doesn’t eliminate God as the cause of the one being favored over the other). Anyway, just saying that people make free will decisions doesn’t say much.

          2. I understand your position to be one of a synergistic relationship between God and man. Each must do things necessary to salvation but neither does things that are sufficient to gain salvation without the actions of the other. It is more than just a “reception of a gift.” The person who accepts Christ does so from a knowledge of the gospel and an understanding of his need for the gospel, and maybe a few other things. The person must take unique action without which he cannot be saved. Given that God has done all that is required of Him to gain the salvation of a person, it is the person who then is in control of his salvation – his is the last necessary action or the action still in doubt as God’s actions are certain and not in doubt.

Bill Mac

It is a difficult task to find a name and a statement of faith that breaks the SBC into only two groups, which I think is what you are trying to do, although I appreciate the desire to be known as something other than non-Calvinist. However I think the designation of non-Calvinist is appropriate when discussing Calvinism. Either you are or you aren’t. For example, if you are running a series on dispensationalism, then it would be reasonable to identify people as dispensationalists and non-dispensationalists, since dispensationalism is the issue. So when discussing Calvinism, non-Calvinist seems to be appropriate, since it is the only term that accurately includes everyone who isn’t a Calvinist.

I think you might be better off with neo-Traditionalist than Savabilist. Some Calvinists might still find Savabilist to be polemical but you’ll never satisfy all of them. But personally I think the term is awkward. I can’t see it being used.

    Rick Patrick

    Bill Mac,

    Thank you for sharing your Anti-Savabilist perspective.



    “I think the designation of non-Calvinist is appropriate when discussing Calvinism.”

    I agree Bill. Let’s be done with the labels! (hmmm … whatever became of the new descriptor “Great Commission Baptists”?). It’s time to admit that there are two distinct theological streams within SBC life, with the reformed movement now flooding its banks. Two different soterologies in message and mission should now attempt to peacefully co-exist within a single denomination. The Calvinism Committee has made a passionate plea for everybody to get along, agree to disagree, majority yield to the minority, find room for divergent theologies under one big tent, etc. Thus, perhaps the best fix is to simply paint “Non-Calvinist” or “Calvinist” on the signs of SBC’s 45,000+ churches and move on. That way, current and prospective members know where a particular church stands and can make their membership decisions accordingly or whether to jump to an entirely different denomination.

      Bill Mac

      Well, labels can be helpful. But to find a label that everyone (who is likeminded theologically) is happy with, doesn’t come off as superior or polemical, and doesn’t require lengthy explanations or caveats is a difficult task.

      And I think you’ll find labeling churches as Calvinist and non-Calvinist even more problematic. I am a Calvinist myself, and an elder in my church. But I think I’m the only one, so one could hardly designate our church as Calvinist. I suspect there are a great many Calvinists who exist quite happily in churches that could not rightfully be labeled Calvinist.


        A young SBC pastor in my area did a remarkable thing! After fielding questions about his doctrinal position, he entered “Reformed” under the church name on the marquee out front. He then amended the church website to describe in clear terms what reformed theology is, as it relates to the belief and practice of the elders and teaching/preaching ministry there. While I don’t agree with his theology, I certainly appreciate this young man’s integrity! The world now knows who he is … just as it will always know who I am.

          Bill Mac

          I have no problem with a church identifying as Reformed if they truly are. My point is that you’ll find a lot of Calvinists in non-Reformed churches. And I would hesitate to name a church Reformed just because the pastor was. The pastor is not the church.

          If you are looking to name a movement or group, that is one thing. If you are trying to find a suitable name for everyone who isn’t a Calvinist, that’s a bigger problem. And I agree with you, the term Savabilist is just awkward.

      Norm Miller

      I take exception to the non-Calvinist moniker, too, not only for the light it casts on Savibilists, but also because it reframes the discussion — as if Calvinism is the norm when it is not. When the majority of our SBC people have problems with Calvinism, cannot Calvinism be classified as non-Southern Baptist? Even as I type those words I hear the objections of modern Calvinists, whose predecessors have been part of the SBC foundation and its current existence. But the same is true of Savibilists. We have founding origins RE the SBC, and we are in the majority in the Convention if the L’Way survey is accurate. Every founder, subsequent leader and member of the SBC has not agreed on every aspect of soteriology. (Ask three Baptists and get five opinions.) And those differences are why we have T5, and why Dr. Patrick has suggested the Savabilist term so clear identities/definitions can be understood and the discussion toward resolution can commence.


        While the closing paragraph of Rick’s article certainly describes the rank and file Southern Baptists I have known in my 50+ year SBC journey, “Savabilist” is just too darn hard to say! :-)

        As in my second response to Bill Mac above, how about simply posting “Reformed” on church signs where that fits and leave the rest of them as is? That way we could avoid the non, anti, semi, modified, etc. monikers that tend to get underwear in a wad. While it would imply that the SBC masses choosing to not attend such churches would consider themselves “non” Reformed, it would be unspoken and OK.

          Johnathan Pritchett

          I prefer they just say Calvinists.

          Every Protestant is Reformed. Remonstrants and Radical Reformers are still Reformed. Arminian/Wesleyan Methodists are Reformed, and arguably closer to “Reformed” theology than Southern Baptists who are Calvinists if we widen “Reformed” to include more than mere soteriology.

          It is kind of like “Doctrines of Grace”. It smacks of what Ben meant by “God-glorifiers” in his argument above, and I agree, and would use that sort of reasoning of his to “Reformed” and “Doctrines of Grace” as well.


            “I prefer they just say Calvinists. ”

            Ha! The Lutherans would not like it one bit if Calvinists used “Reformed”! :o)

      Norm Miller

      “Thus, perhaps the best fix is to simply paint ‘Non-Calvinist’ or ‘Calvinist’ on the signs of SBC’s 45,000+ churches and move on.”
      Or, pastoral candidates who are Calvinists self-identify to search committees. Some candidates I am sure are claiming that label. But some are not, and the accounts of those that I have read about and heard first-hand — the results are devastatingly tragic.


        On a good day, I can throw a rock and hit two long-established “Savabilist” churches that experienced much weeping and gnashing of teeth leading to church splits … the result of pastoral candidates who moved in by stealth and deception like bulls in a china shop. Just tell us who you are for Jesus’ sake! “Are you a Calvinist?” – “Yes sir, I hold to that theology” … “Are you Reformed?” – “Yes ma’am, I lean in that direction” … “Are you a Savabilist?” – “What the heck is that?!”

          Rick Patrick


          Granted, as a new term, it will take a while to inform people that the Hobbs-Rogers theological tradition regarding soteriology now has its own name. However, in the absence of such a name, it has proven to be very difficult to promote our theology without having to answer for unfair and misguided charges of ill will against Calvinists. By giving a positive, whole and previously unused label to our beliefs, we are able to articulate our view without inviting antagonism. There will continue to be disagreement, but it need not be framed with reference only to Calvinism.


            “Hobbs-Rogersism” … hmmmm

          Norm Miller

          Agreed, the SBC’s lowest form of church planting is splitting. :-/
          Better to split over theology than the color of the carpet. However, also it is better to avoid a potential split by saying, as a candidate, you are or are not Calvinistic. Those who pay the salary have a right to know, and the pastoral candidates have an ethical and spiritual obligation to reveal their positions. E.g., if a Calvinistic pastoral candidate hides his theology for fear he won’t be called to a church, then he doesn’t deserve the job. Who would begin a pastorate by deception? Conversely, no pastor can predict a church split b/c of any future decision or issue that may arise.

            Johnathan Pritchett

            “Agreed, the SBC’s lowest form of church planting is splitting. :-/
            Better to split over theology than the color of the carpet.”

            Norm, that comment would be “LOL” if it weren’t so ” :( “

Rick Patrick

I appreciate the conversation thus far and the input everyone has given. Max, the term “Savabilist” is actually easier to pronounce than “Compatibilist.” It will become easier with greater use.

And let me remind everyone that the prefixes “Non-” “Anti-” and “Semi-” are absolutely devastating to this discussion. They set up the debate using terminology that actually promotes an apparent attack on Calvinism. If you want to prolong the fighting, then whatever you do, keep using these prefixes and refuse to give the position a decent name.

The word needs to be whole, positive and unused. Even more helpful in the case of “Savabilist” is that it defines the meaning of the theology it identifies, unlike Calvinism, frankly, which merely identifies the man who most clearly articulated its ideas.


    Rick, while my comments above may not reflect this, I sincerely appreciate your heart and contributions toward resolving this unfortunate dilemma in SBC life. I hope to live long enough to see the day when religion’s funeral is preached, when denominations fade into obscurity, and the world knows the church by only one name … Christians.

      Rick Patrick

      Thank you, Max. I truly appreciate your contribution here as well. I also look forward to the day when the only soteriological view being discussed is the Christian one.

      Johnathan Pritchett

      The problem with that Max is that it is a sentiment expressed by many a Catholics, and it is a sentiment that has its expression rested on a false premise, or at least a misguided one.

      So long as charity exists, disunity will not, even with denominationalism. Denominations allow for greater unity of like-minded believers within a community. It isn’t the promotion of disunity or division, even if it on occasion leads to that. Again, so long as charity exists within Christian communities, there is no problem with denominations any more than there is a problem with SBC local churches differing from one another given the nature of autonomy of the local church in our ecclesiology.

      Were it not so, then SBC ecclesiology is far worse than denominationalism, because every local church would be its own denomination in that sense.

      Perhaps we don’t make the positive point clear enough across all denominations, or within the SBC for that matter, but I don’t think denominations, or local church autonomy for that matter, needs to fade into obscurity. It will all be good when King Jesus returns, and I think what we have now is far better than any other alternative save Jesus’ return.


        “Were it not so, then SBC ecclesiology is far worse than denominationalism, because every local church would be its own denomination in that sense.”

        I agree Johnathan – local autonomy provides a lot of wiggle room. I guess underlying my comments posted on this topic is a nagging concern that while the majority (traditionalists or whatever) pause to discuss the merits of a new name to call ourselves, the Calvinization of the SBC will march on. I’m not as concerned with Calvinism in the SBC as I am Calvinization of the denomination. Theological shifts are always followed by changes in ecclesiology. It’s increasingly clear that several SBC entities are now under reformed leadership. At this pace, considering the expanding reach of New Calvinism within our ranks, the SBC will be Calvinized within one generation. But God …

RD Magee

I think it would be helpful (at least to me) to have Scripture references to interact with regarding each statement so that one can better understand what the conclusions are based on. These are strong, definitive statements asserting that Scripture teaches these fundamentals about God, man, and salvation.

    Johanthan Pritchett

    I remember Douglas Wilson talking about how the Westminster Divines didn’t like the idea of adding proof-texts. For one thing, that approach isn’t that helpful because it launches a million debates over each proof’s relevance and meaning to the point to which it is attached, rather than letting the statements as written stand for the understanding gleaned from Scripture itself and presuming a unity among those who adhere to the statement as also understanding the totality of Scripture to be surmised as such.

    For another, statements ought to presuppose Biblical familiarity and knowledge for those who would read such statements. It is not on Patrick, nor was it on Hankins, nor the ancient councils and their creeds, nor the Westminster Divines if the story be true, to proof text every sentence. It is on those who attack or disagree with it to bring their texts to the table.

    So, if Douglas Wilson was right about this bit of history surrounding the Westminster Confession, then that is one place where I definitely agree with those authors. Most of the New Testament can be found scattered in the writings of the early Church Fathers, and chapter/verse references didn’t exist back then. It was up to the readers to determine which sentence was a Biblical quote, or what statements were mere summaries of Scripture according to the theologian writing, and those who disagreed had to bring the challenge to their statements.

    I could write a whole article on the pros and cons of the chapter/verse scheme imposed on the Bible, and what it has led to, and my overall assessment of the feature would be that is an abysmal feature of Scripture best done away with.


      “I could write a whole article on the pros and cons of the chapter/verse scheme imposed on the Bible, and what it has led to, and my overall assessment of the feature would be that is an abysmal feature of Scripture best done away with.”

      Wow, you mean read some of them like actual letters written in 1st Century style and context? How iconoclastic you are! (wink)

        Johnathan Pritchett


        I guess my main gripe though it that it has led to general laziness in regards to knowing Scripture. The ancient church, and Israel before that, had daily readings from it, and they had tons and tons of work to do in their lives on top of that. We have 9 hour work days, an hour in the car or so with audio Bibles on our smartphones, multiple Bibles in every home, and yet fewer than half the people active in church can bother about 15 minutes of Bible a day.

        Then, they get random Scripture quotes on various social media outlets, and haven’t the slightest clue what those verses are actually on about.

        Yes, it makes reference easier, but what Jesus and the NT authors would say is just “as Isaiah said….” and everyone knew what and where it was from.

        For example, what would happen if a pastor said, “as Paul says in 2 Corinthians..” and read about three paragraphs starting somewhere in the middle of chapter six? How many people in the pews could find it, and how long would it take?

        I wrote a piece here on worship music, and it was filled not only with paraphrased Scripture, but a Biblical worldview, and someone complained about my lack of proof-texts.

        That to me is absurd. If someone can’t recognize Biblical sayings, and a Biblical worldview that isn’t just repackaged Scripture, but a reflection upon Scripture’s content put into one’s thinking on everything else, it SHOULD be to their shame, not mine )or others like Rick) for a lack of proof-texts.

        I took issue with one of Rick’s points above on God’s will. It was on me, the one with the disagreement on that point, to bring my reasons to the table. It was not on Rick to button every jot and tittle he wrote with a verse reference. Rick and I agree on a ton of things, we both have Biblical worldviews and knowledge of Scripture, and for the sake of convenience, I referenced Scripture since that is the norm, but if I hadn’t, Rick would have known what I was talking about. Other people might not have.

        So, I don’t discount the usefulness of chapter/verse citations, but that pro weighed against all the cons, I say we are better off without them and should expect more from people who claim to be “People of the Book” to see Biblical reasoning in something or not.

        I’m sure that will never fly.



          Totally agree with you. I weary of the proof texting wars that fail the big picture test.

          I will even bring in a secular view here. Many people cannot understand classical literature because they do not know scripture. Many references and metaphors from the OT are sprinkled throughout the classics. It was a given people would know what they were referring to in that era.

          How could one truly appreciate, say, Tolstoy or Dostoevsky without the familiarity of scripture?

Tim G

I have read this post about four times before responding. I have not been comfortable with any of the terms used in this whole discussion. Terms are like people, problems abound in each one. Yet this new term you propose does have much merit. I have said often when asked about my own beliefs that I think all people are capable of being saved but I know not all will. I think the term Savabilist is beginning to make sense to me on many levels beyond what I just mentioned.

Objections that are rooted in desire to keep people pinned into a corner for historicity sake will surely emerge and cry foul. Yet Savabilist actually works across denominational lines like Calvinism does with one clear distinction – it is not a term tied to a man but to the intent and heart of God. And this I like greatly!

Robert Vaughn

Rick, when I first saw this I thought it might be a tongue-in-cheek article. A new word will have a difficult time catching on, but I think you’ve hit on a good idea — a term without history and baggage that can be specifically built to define a specific soteriology. Maybe it will work.

Ken Hamrick

The best terms to use are those that precisely address the main point of difference. Rather than calling each other Calvinists and Traditionalists, we should use Determinists and Libertarians. It is much clearer and more precise, and the Centrists (Compatibilists ) will not get lost in any overlap.


    Ken, I actually like that except all Calvinists in the SBC will be compatibilists. When they are actually determinists And Centrist is not fair. Everyone seems to want to be a centrist these days. Look at DC. That is the fence, you know. Declare thyself! None of this wobbly wimpy deceptive stuff.

    Rick Patrick

    Every Savabilist believes in libertarian free will, a term I consider redundant by the way, but everyone who embraces libertarian free will is not a Savabilist. Thus, the term Libertarian fails the precision test, taking in too many strains of Arminian thought, and perhaps even including the dreaded semipelagians as well.

    I mostly disagree with your original premise: “The best terms to use are those that precisely address the MAIN point of difference.” Unless we move beyond the MAIN point and continue using unique terms for even the secondary differences, we wind up with terms that cover overarching generalities, encompassing so many different views that trying to identify one is like nailing jello to the wall.

Ken Hamrick

A visual aid might help:

Rick Patrick


While I think your chart is really pretty good, I must agree with Lydia that the centrists in your chart are actually determinists. It seems to push the spectrum in favor of the Calvinist position. I do appreciate the use of the term Traditionalist over, say, Semipelagian. However, since the T5 Report writers could not bring themselves to call us “Traditionalists” for the reasons I mentioned in the OP, we need to come up with something else to put in that block. I think Savabilist is a slight improvement over Traditionalist, and a vast improvement over anything “anti- non- or modified.”

Ken Hamrick


The centrists ARE determinists, but compatibilists/antinomists as well. There are many in the SBC who agree with Traditionalists that all men are savable, that Christ would save any man willing to come to Him, that all men are naturally able to believe, that men must freely decide that matter for themselves, and that regeneration is God’s response to faith—but these centrists also hold that God has the “master choice” and ultimately determines the destinies of men in mysterious ways that do not violate our free will.

    Rick Patrick


    I really do appreciate the distinctions you are seeking to make as well as your engagement here. For me, at least, this “master choice” language more or less collapses into pure monergism. Everyone should certainly hope and pray that God “master chooses” them. But if God is the one working on both sides of the equation, I cannot bring myself to see how man’s response is truly free. Blessings to you this day, brother.

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