By Philip Robertson, Pastor Philadelphia Baptist Church
I am excited about what God is doing under our Southern Baptist tent. During the recent Annual Meeting Southern Baptists unanimously selected Dr. Fred Luter to be the first African-American president of our convention, not because of the color of his skin, but because we believe he is God’s man for this time.
Only God could have brought our convention to this place, demonstrating that our tent continues to widen, and for that I say, praise God – it’s a good day to be a Southern Baptist.
Consider what we as a convention have been discussing in the last few months and in New Orleans – the doctrine of Salvation. Thank God that at the SBC2012 we weren’t debating the legitimacy of homosexuality as a lifestyle; rather we were discussing ways to show the homosexual community the love of Jesus Christ.
Thank God that we were not arguing whether abortion is an acceptable option; rather we were discussing theological questions pertaining to salvation.
By His glorious grace the Lord led us through the conservative resurgence so that we now discuss the doctrines of God’s Word rather than questioning the reliability of God’s Word. For that, I say, praise God – it’s a good day to be a Southern Baptist.
I am not a Calvinist, but like others, I too, have family and friends who are. I have had Calvinist preachers preach at the church where I am blessed to serve.
We, also, have a few members at our church who are Calvinist, whom I love and respect.
Our discussions through the years on biblical soteriology have simply provided an opportunity for “iron to sharpen iron,” and often times we simply agree to disagree. At the end of the day, there is mutual respect, and we work together to get the gospel to our neighborhoods and the nations.
Therefore, I am completely comfortable living and serving under a Big Tent in this regard. Yet, we must all be honest with one another and with our churches about what we really believe pertaining to salvation.
Pastoral candidates who are being considered by a new church should especially be forthright and upfront regarding the totality of their beliefs about salvation. Every pulpit-search committee should gain a clear understanding of their potential pastor’s beliefs about salvation. This will only help to maintain healthy relationships under the tent.
I did sign “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of the Doctrine of Salvation.” First, because I believe it.
Some have expressed concern over Article Two conflicting with John 6:44. I see no such conflict. Article Two clearly says, “we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel.” In my opinion this is in keeping with what Jesus said in John 6:44. The statement clearly denies that any person can be saved apart from the drawing of the Holy Spirit.
The statement also says that the drawing of the Spirit must be followed by a free response of the hearer to either accept or reject the call to salvation. I agree wholeheartedly. Everyone who hears the gospel and freely responds with repentance and faith will be saved (Rom. 1:16; 10:9-13). Not all who hear will be saved, but all who hear can be saved.
Secondly, I signed the statement because I believe that respectful, honest discussion of theology and doctrine is always beneficial to individual believers, to churches, and to the Kingdom of God at large. In my opinion, the purpose of this statement is simply to articulate the alternative theological position to Calvinism.
Surely, the tent is big enough for such a statement, which I believe has been the traditional view of many Southern Baptists, certainly in the last 100 years and has thus far been signed by over 800 SBC leaders and laymen.
Some have suggested that the purpose of the statement is to divide or exclude. I disagree. The introduction and preamble clearly states, “There is no thought that this document reflects what all Southern Baptists believe or that it should be imposed upon all southern Baptists.”
Also, the authors noted, “we are not insisting that every Southern Baptist affirm the soteriological statement in order to have a place in the Southern Baptist family ….” Thus, in my opinion, the statement itself acknowledges that the tent is big. This statement has helped to initiate a much-needed discussion. For this, I say, praise God – it’s a good day to be a Southern Baptist.
Finally, I am not suggesting that the statement is perfect. In fact I would argue that the BF&M 2000 is not perfect. God’s Holy Word, however, is infallible and inerrant.
I do appreciate the fact that this statement and the subsequent discussion has driven me to study even more intently what God’s Word has to say about our “so-great-salvation.” I pray that the same will be true among all of us who call ourselves Southern Baptist, and if that happens, I say, praise God – it’s a good day to be a Southern Baptist.