Originating From a Secret Bunker Dug By William Hosea Holcombe and J.B. Gambrell Somewhere Off the Square in Oxford, Mississippi
As of today, the Southern Baptist Convention is a hot mess. Although the Oxford Baptist Underground primarily focuses on issues relating to Eric Hankins’ Traditional Statement, we are not blind to the goings-on within the convention. Besides the Calvinist-Hankinist debate, there are other cultural issues like the Alt-right, Critical Race Theory and the #MeToo Movement that are wreaking havoc. Things have become so serious that Albert Mohler recently posted an article on Southern’s website entitled, “The Wrath of God Poured Out – The Humiliation of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
The purpose of this blog post, however, is not to discuss the different cultural issues. Rather, in light of these difficult times, the matter at hand involves who is the best man to lead our convention forward when it convenes in Dallas on June 12th. It would appear that we need a president who is both a proven leader but also a fresh face, someone committed to the principles of the conservative resurgence but without the baggage. It is our opinion that J.D. Greear is the man “for such a time as this.” May the Lord have mercy on us.
Addendum (6/16/18): J.D. Greear received nearly 70% of the vote and is now the new SBC president. And while we believe he was the best candidate for the job, we also realize that it will take much wisdom to lead our convention forward in these perilous times. For now, the above-mentioned cultural issues are in the spotlight, pretty much pushing the Calvinist/Hankinist debate into the shadows. Let us pray for Bro. Greear and all those leading our denomination.
At last year’s Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. Eric Hankins spoke at the annual Connect 316 Banquet which was held in conjunction with the convention. See http://sbctoday.wpengine.com/loyal-opposition/. While discussing Calvinism in general, Hankins at one point focused directly on Albert Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Without any context, he told the audience that Mohler “said right to my face in front of a gathering in a lecture hall at Southern that he thought my soteriology was deficient.” At first blush, that sounds ominous. But what Hankins did not convey is what Mohler said next. He [Mohler] explained,
“It is simply because I think my soteriology is ‘righter’ than yours, more correct, that’s why I hold to it. . . . I’m playing around just a little bit in order to say we have two people who disagree. If you actually believe what you believe then you believe the point of disagreement is a deficiency in the other person’s thinking. In other words, you also believe that my soteriology is deficient.”
To which Hankins clearly responded, “Correct.”
So for the sake of full disclosure, Hankins likewise told the lecture hall at Southern that he thought Mohler’s soteriology was deficient.
Ergo, Mohler’s words take on a much more benign meaning in light of the full context.
To see the full Hankins/Mohler exchange, see https://vimeo.com/78882127. The quotes above start at the 15:16 mark.
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.