Originating From a Secret Bunker Dug By William Hosea Holcombe and J.B. Gambrell Somewhere Off the Square in Oxford, Mississippi
In the preamble to A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of
God’s Plan of Salvation, Dr. Eric Hankins writes:
While some earlier Baptist confessions were shaped by Calvinism, the clear trajectory of the BF&M since 1925 is away from Calvinism. For almost a century, Southern Baptists have found that a sound, biblical soteriology can be taught, maintained, and defended without subscribing to Calvinism.
For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Eric Hankins’ first premise above is correct, namely, that since 1925 “the clear trajectory” in the SBC has been “away from Calvinism.” But what else was going on in Southern Baptist life during the last century? Hmmm . . . it was something that began in approximately the 1920’s, came to a head in the early 1960’s, resulted in the election of Adrian Rogers as SBC president in 1979, and sparked a nearly two decade war within the Southern Baptist Convention. What was it? A “clear trajectory” away from the inerrancy and primacy of Scripture in the collective lives of Southern Baptists.
But now, post Conservative Resurgence, the Bible has been theoretically restored to its proper place in Southern Baptist life. Consequently, what was present before the drift away from the Bible has returned – Calvinism (thus the supposed need for the Traditional Statement). Could it be that, maybe just maybe, something akin to the Doctrines of Grace are actually contained in the Holy Book? And now that Southern Baptists are again focusing on what the Bible actually teaches, could that be a reason why a growing number of these Baptists profess to be Calvinistic? Inquiring minds want to know.
Despite having been circulated almost everywhere Southern Baptists congregate, the Traditional Statement certainly has not generated a groundswell of support. As of today, May 3, 2014, signatures are still being solicited on the website Connect 316, yet the total number of signers is a meager 898. If you believe there are 16 million Southern Baptists, that means over 99.99% have not signed the statement. This in spite of the fact that supporters have been soliciting signatures for almost two years.
However, among the signers listed, a sizable number list Oxford, Mississippi as their hometown. Yet all but one of those Oxford signers appear to come from four area churches – First Baptist, North Oxford Baptist, Yellow Leaf Baptist, and New Prospect Baptist. Noticeably absent are names from the Anchor Baptist Church, which I believe is the largest Southern Baptist church in Lafayette County outside the Oxford city limits. Their pastor, Gerald Shook, is the dean of Southern Baptist pastors in Lafayette County, having served there for over 30 years. Why hasn’t he signed it? Surely he was/is aware of it.
I certainly don’t speak for Pastor Shook, but I’ve heard him preach on numerous occasions and strongly doubt he would be in agreement with the Traditional Statement, kind of like non-signer David Rogers (son of the legendary Adrian Rogers). In fact, speaking of the Calvinist acronym TULIP, David Rogers has said:
I simultaneously affirm 4 1/2 points of TULIP and 3 1/2 points of the non-TULIP, all depending on which perspective you are looking at it from. I also read from and am edified by writers (and listen to speakers) from many different theological camps. I have been especially edified by some of the teaching from some of the Gospel Coalition folks. – See more at: Victims of Soteriological Dishonesty (comment section).
The point here is that whatever Southern Baptists believe, there is no evidence that any massive number adheres specifically to what’s contained in the Traditional Statement. Rather, I suspect most have views that don’t correspond exactly to either the 5 points of Calvinism or the 10 Articles of the Traditional Statement but nevertheless fall neatly within the parameters of the Baptist Faith and Message. At SBC Open Fourms, Ken Hammrick has posted a helpful chart showing this full spectrum of Southern Baptist soteriological views. (By the way, I think this chart also shows why Calvinist-leaning Southern Baptists call their Traditionalist brothers Arminians, a label which the Traditionalists, of course, deny.)
Update: As of April 18, 2015, the number of signatures stands at 973, which still means that 99.99% of Southern Baptists have not signed the Traditional Statement.
Another update: As of February 28, 2018, the number of signatures is up to 1,311 – but that’s still less than .01% of all Southern Baptists. If by collecting signatures Connect 316 is trying to prove that the Traditional Statement represents the views of most Southern Baptists (or even a large minority), the evidence simply is not there.