Originating From a Secret Bunker Dug By William Hosea Holcombe and J.B. Gambrell Somewhere Off the Square in Oxford, Mississippi
On a website called SBC Voices, in an article dated April 11, 2014, Dr. Eric Hankins wrote the following about the Traditional Statement:
There was never a strategy to have the SBC formally adopt the statement as a litmus test. Never. Two Conventions and almost two years have passed and no attempt has been made at any level (not even at the local church level as far as I know) to adopt the statement formally.
If anyone should know, it would be Eric Hankins. He has traveled all over the country talking to Southern Baptists about the Traditional Statement, Calvinism, the Sinner’s Prayer, etc. But considering that Southern Baptists have long been a cantankerous bunch, you would think that some group of Traditionalists somewhere has whispered in Hankins’ ear the hope that the Traditional Statement could be pushed as a formal doctrinal statement. Yet Hankins insists “no attempt has been made at any level (not even at the local church level as far as I know) to adopt the statement formally.”
Then on April 22, 2014, at a website called The Crescent Crier, a trustee of Louisiana College named Jay Adkins published a letter he wrote to Dr. David Hankins, the Executive Director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention and father of Eric Hankins. The entire letter is worth reading, but one section is particularly relevant to Eric Hankins’ statement above. Adkins addresses Dr. David Hankins directly. He says:
It has been rumored that you had hoped to have LC adopt the “Traditional Statement” as a guiding doctrinal document. Although I do not know how widespread your thoughts were on this matter, I do know that you made that desire known to the Executive Committee (EC). Again, there is evidence from the EC meeting on the morning of September 17, 2012 that you desired to replace the resolution prepared by the EC with the Traditional Statement stating, “I would be happy if we would take something like this traditional statement and just say this is what it is.” For almost 45 minutes you went on about your concerns over Calvinism and even came to the point of suggesting that the Baptist Faith and Message might need to be changed to “tighten up” the soteriological portion by saying, “I think the statements on salvation in the Baptist Faith and Message are fine unless people are using them to give themselves permission to teach things that Baptist generally do not believe.”
Add this to the March 15, 2014 article published in the Shreveport Times, which also suggests the Traditional Statement was being pushed at Louisiana College, and the questions begin to mount. What kind of questions? How about the questions asked in the comment section of another Eric Hankins’ post on SBC Voices. Someone posting under the name Chuck Quarles* (comment number 260) asks Eric Hankins the following:
Are you denying that a very serious effort was made to impose the Trad Statement on the Christian Studies Division and Caskey School of Divinity at Louisiana College? Such an effort was most certainly made. This is not merely the topic of rumor. Abundant and persuasive evidence of this effort exists. What evidence, in your opinion, would be necessary to confirm that an effort to impose the Trad Statement at Louisiana College occurred and in what forum would the evidence need to be presented? Are you claiming that you were not aware of this effort?
Especially pertinent to this discussion is a letter written by Chuck Quarles to the Trustees of Louisiana College dated March 4, 2014.
*Regardless of the author in the comment section, these questions need to be answered.
We may invigorate our faith and renew our courage by reflecting that divine power has always attended the preaching of doctrine, when done in the true spirit of preaching. Great revivals have accompanied the heroic preaching of the doctrines of grace, predestination, election, and that whole lofty mountain range of doctrines upon which Jehovah sits enthroned, sovereign in grace as in all things else. God honors the preaching that honors him. There is entirely too much milk-sop preaching nowadays trying to cajole sinners to enter upon a truce with their Maker, quit sinning and join the church. The situation does not call for a truce, but for a surrender. Let us bring out the heavy artillery of heaven, and thunder away at this stuck-up age as Whitefield, Edwards, Spurgeon, and Paul did and there will be many slain in the Lord raised up to walk in newness of life.
– J.B. Gambrell
J.B. Gambrell was a student at Ole Miss and served as pastor of the Oxford Baptist Church (First Baptist) in Oxford, Mississippi for five years. He also served as editor of the Baptist Record, president of Mercer University, and president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Source: http://www.sbhla.org/bio_gambrell.htm
When the Traditional Statement first came out there was a lot of talk about the ancient heresy of semi-Pelagianism. This is because Article 2 of the Traditional Statement appears to affirm that men have a natural ability to respond to the Gospel with saving faith. Why is that important? Because Jeremiah 17:9 says the “heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” In other words, are we able to believe the Gospel with a wicked (natural) heart or do we need a new heart? If we are able to believe with a “desperately wicked” heart, what is the point of the promise in Ezekiel 36:26, where God says, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.”
Dr. Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says that some portions of the Traditional Statement “actually go beyond Arminianism and appear to affirm semi-Pelagian understandings of sin, human nature, and the human will — understandings that virtually all Southern Baptists have denied.” See: Southern Baptists and Salvation: It’s Time to Talk. Also, Dr. Roger Olson, the Foy Valentine Professor of Christian Theology and Ethics at Baylor University, who has never been accused of being a Calvinist, says of the Traditional Statement that “Semi-Pelagianism may be very far from the writers’ and signers’ intentions, but the statement is clearly semi-Pelagian in wording and needs amendment.” (See Olson’s Thoughts on the Traditonal Statement)
With concern about semi-Pelagianism coming from two historically Baptist, yet differing, soteriological perspectives, you would think that if the writers of the Traditional Statement intended something else, they would have modified the statement. Nearly two years have passed, and they have not. It seems, then, they do affirm natural ability. Of course, they claim this is not the heresy of semi-Pelagianism. For some back and forth on the issue, see the debate at SBC Voices.