Oxford Baptist Underground

Originating From a Secret Bunker Dug By William Hosea Holcombe and J.B. Gambrell Somewhere Off the Square in Oxford, Mississippi

The Majority of Southern Baptists?

The goal of “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation,” according to Dr. Eric Hankins in his introduction, “was to create a statement that would accurately reflect the beliefs of the majority of Southern Baptists, who are not Calvinists.”  Since no specific research was cited to support his claim that a majority of Southern Baptists believe what is contained in the “Traditional Statement,” I will assume that his conclusion is based more on his personal perception than on any documented evidence.

In point of fact, when the “Traditional Statement” was released in late May, it made quite a buzz on the internet.  Several hundred Southern Baptists quickly signed the statement in agreement, including such prominent leaders as Jerry Vines and Paige Patterson. SBC Today, the website that initially published the statement, solicited others to add their signatures in support as well.  But almost as suddenly as the statement had appeared on the SBC landscape, support for the document began to wane.  As of today (more than a month later), the statement has struggled to gain less than 850 signatures.  This, despite the fact it was made available for signatures at the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans, where approximately 8,000 messengers were in attendance.

By my own perception, I grant that most Southern Baptists are not Calvinists; nevertheless, I see no evidence that they believe what is contained in the “Traditional Statement.”  I would argue that most Southern Baptists are non-committal.  I have actually been in SBC churches where a Calvinistic soteriology was presented.  In every case there were a few that strongly supported it, a few that were hostile to it, but most seemed uncertain.  And on those occasions where they (the uncommitted) were forced to choose sides, it was more often influenced by the personalities involved rather than by some firm conviction concerning what the Bible actually teaches on the matter.

It’s also interesting to note that while Dr. Hankins has publicly stated that the “traditional” Southern Baptist view of salvation is the majority opinion among Southern Baptists, he also claims that this “traditional” group is comprised of neither Calvinists nor Arminians, because both groups are Augustinian, which Hankins rejects.  But a recent poll conducted by Lifeway Research shows that 30% of Southern Baptist pastors say their churches are Calvinistic/Reformed.  Another 30% say their churches are Arminian/Wesleyan.  So 60% of Southern Baptist churches, according to their own pastors, are Augustinian in their understanding of salvation, yet that same 60% are not part of the “traditional” Southern Baptist majority, according to Dr. Hankins’ own assertion.

Now, I suppose when Dr. Hankins claims that the “Traditional Statement” is a reflection of “the beliefs of the majority of Southern Baptists, who are not Calvinists,” he could mean that of those in the SBC who are not Calvinists, the statement represents the opinion of most in that non-Calvinist group.  Still, I know of no verifiable evidence proving that the “Traditional Statement” represents the beliefs of anyone other than those who actually signed the document, and to date, that is an extremely small percentage of either Southern Baptists as a whole or just the non-Calvinist ones, regardless of what label they may adhere to.

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2 responses to “The Majority of Southern Baptists?

  1. k.mann October 8, 2013 at 8:11 pm

    not sure where ur info comes from–but I know personally over 300 people in my congregation signed the traditional document–so the 850 figure has to be wrong. also there is no such thing as an Arminian in the SBC—the BF&M declares that we believe in eternal security, which arminians do not. I know of no association that would allow a church which believes you can lose ur salvation to join. in my association (stone mtn) I know only one church who claims to be reformed–and they’ve lost over half their members. as a life long SB who has been a member of 9 churches in my lifetime, none believed in predestination, and ive never heard it taught until the last 10 years. even the primitive Baptist rejected the term “reformed”. Baptist are not reformed–these new Calvinists have an affinity (altho subconscious) to Augustinianism and Catholicism–Baptists cant be reformed–they never were part of the reformation or the catholic church. reformed theology involves a LOT more than just predestination, and is totally anti Baptist in ecclesiology and soteriology. read the statement by charles spurgeon ”
    “We believe that the Baptists are the original Christians. We did not commence our existence at the reformation, we were reformers before Luther and Calvin were born; we never came from the Church of Rome, for we were never in it, but we have an unbroken line up to the apostles themselves. We have always existed from the days of Christ, and our principles, sometimes veiled and forgotten, like a river which may travel under ground for a little season, have always had honest and holy adherents. Persecuted alike by Romanists and Protestants of almost every sect, yet there has never existed a Government holding Baptist principles which persecuted others; nor, I believe, any body of Baptists ever held it to be right to put the consciences of others under the control of man. We have ever been ready to suffer, as our martyrologies will prove, but we are not ready to accept any help from the State, to prostitute the purity of the Bride of Christ to any alliance with Government, and we will never make the Church, although the Queen, the despot over the consciences of men.”

  2. Obu December 26, 2013 at 10:47 am

    k.mann
    First, the information for the number of signatures came from the SBC Today website, which both published the statement and solicited the signatures. Second, your quote of Spurgeon is interesting since he endorsed the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith by saying, “This ancient document is the most excellent epitome of the things most surely believed among us. It is not issued as an authoritative rule or code of faith, whereby you may be fettered, but as a means of edification in righteousness. It is an excellent, though not inspired, expression of the teaching of those Holy Scriptures by which all confessions are to be measured. We hold to the humbling truths of God’s sovereign grace in the salvation of lost sinners. Salvation is through Christ alone and by faith alone.” I would suggest you read this confession and see if it agrees with the Traditional Statement (especially the Traditional Statement’s Article 2). Third, the statistics cited concerning Arminianism in the SBC came from Lifeway Research. These pastors have self identified their churches as Arminian.

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