The Proposed New Southern Baptist Convention Statement on Salvation

by Bob Wilkin

Christianity Today had an online article about the June 2012 SBC meetings in New Orleans (link here). The introduction to the proposed statement indicates that it would distance the SBC from 5-point Calvinism.

Five point Calvinism holds the following doctrines not held by most Southern Baptists: (1) Christ only died for a small percentage of humanity; (2) the vast majority of people have no possibility of gaining everlasting life since Jesus did not die for them; (3) some have been predestined to everlasting life; (4) most have been predestined to eternal condemnation; (5) regeneration precedes faith; (6) faith is the gift of God.

The proposed new statement has ten affirmations and ten denials. I will merely cite from the affirmations. Seven of the ten affirmations are friendly to the Free Grace Position.

Article one: We affirm that the Gospel is the good news that God has made a way of salvation through the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ for any person. This is in keeping with God's desire for every person to be saved.

Article two: We affirm that, because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin and that every person who is capable of moral action will sin. Each person's sin alone brings the wrath of a holy God, broken fellowship with Him, ever-worsening selfishness and destructiveness, death, and condemnation to an eternity in hell.

Article three: We affirm that the penal substitution of Christ is the only available and effective sacrifice for the sins of every person.

Article four: 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 seven: We affirm God's eternal knowledge of and sovereignty over every person's salvation or condemnation.

Article eight: We affirm that God, as an expression of His sovereignty, endows each person with actual free will (the ability to choose between two options), which must be exercised in accepting or rejecting God's gracious call to salvation by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel.

Article ten: We affirm that the Lord Jesus Christ commissioned His church to preach the good news of salvation to all people to the ends of the earth. We affirm that the proclamation of the Gospel is God's means of bringing any person to salvation.

Two of the affirmations are potentially confusing, depending on how one defines repentance (and the statement does not define it):

Article five: We affirm that any person who responds to the Gospel with repentance and faith is born again through the power of the Holy Spirit. He is a new creation in Christ and enters, at the moment he believes, into eternal life.

Article six: 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.

One of the affirmations seems to promote a very mild form of the perseverance of the saints (note the italicized material):

Article nine: We affirm that when a person responds in faith to the Gospel, God promises to complete the process of salvation in the believer into eternity. This process begins with justification, whereby the sinner is immediately acquitted of all sin and granted peace with God; continues in sanctification, whereby the saved are progressively conformed to the image of Christ by the indwelling Holy Spirit; and concludes in glorification, whereby the saint enjoys life with Christ in heaven forever (italics added).

All in all the statement is one that I rejoice in. While I could not sign such a statement without reservation, I certainly do agree with its overall intent and content. This is clearly not a Lordship Salvation doctrinal statement. Nor is it one that is friendly to the Lordship Salvation position (with the possible exception of article nine).

There are three videos on the SBC Today website that are well worth viewing. I was fascinated personally as I watched all three and highly recommend you check them out. They discuss the statement and the issue of using a sinner's prayer, which the convention voted to continue to use (but with over 30% voting no). Interviews with Emir Caner, Eric Hankins, and Steve Gaines can be found here.