Response to “A Statement of Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation,” Pt. 1

Today I had a document forwarded to me (from two different people) that was sent out to what looks to be a list of all the executive directors of state conventions in the Southern Baptist Convention. The title of the document is “A Statement of Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.”

The email to which it was attached came from Jeannie Maxwell, the administrative assistant to David Hankins, the executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, and included this statement:

Gentlemen:

I have attached a document entitled “A Statement of Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation” which some of us brethren have prepared. I believe it is self explanatory and that it can serve our Southern Baptist Convention well in these days. This document will be released to the general public soon. I wanted you, because of your leadership, to have an advance copy.

For what it is worth, I, along with other Southern Baptist leaders, am signing my name in support of the statement. The list of signers already includes Jerry Vines, Jimmy Draper, Paige Patterson, Malcolm Yarnell, David Allen, Eric Hankins, Mark Howell, Steve Horn, Emir Caner, Adam Harwood, and Chris Justice. Your comments are welcomed.

Fraternally,
David Hankins

The opening paragraph of the Preamble gives the rationale for issuing such a statement.

Every generation of Southern Baptists has the duty to articulate the truths of its faith with particular attention to the issues that are impacting contemporary mission and ministry. The precipitating issue for this statement is the rise of a movement called “New Calvinism” among Southern Baptists. This movement is committed to advancing in the churches an exclusively Calvinistic understanding of salvation, characterized by an aggressive insistence on the “Doctrines of Grace” (“TULIP”), and to the goal of making Calvinism the central Southern Baptist position on God’s plan of salvation.

After professing to speak for the “vast majority of Southern Baptists” the statement outlines ten affirmations and denials on the following theological subjects.

  1. The Gospel
  2. The Sinfulness of Man
  3. The Atonement of Christ
  4. The Grace of God
  5. The Regeneration of the Sinner
  6. The Election to Salvation
  7. The Sovereignty of God
  8. The Free Will of Man
  9. The Security of the Believer
  10. The Great Commission

It is a serious doctrinal statement and is worthy of serious consideration. Over the next week or two, it is my intent to give it the evaluation that it deserves. I believe that this document, more than anything else that I have seen written on the differences that characterize many Southern Baptists on the doctrines of grace, has the potential seriously to disrupt the unity that Great Commission Resurgence has sought to foster and instead and to revive old suspicions and misrepresentations that too often have characterized past debates on these subjects.

I have no interest in participating in any such disunity. Neither do I care about denominational politics. But I do care about truth and especially the purity of the gospel. It is out of this latter concern, and with deep respect for many of the signers of the document that I intend to respond.

So join me in praying that the inevitable theological conversation that will result from this soon-to-be-published-statement will not degenerate into personal attacks or be carried out in a way that dishonors our Lord. Rather, may He grant us humility born of submission to His Word that will enable us to speak the truth in love.

Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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