Originating From a Secret Bunker Dug By William Hosea Holcombe and J.B. Gambrell Somewhere Off the Square in Oxford, Mississippi
The signers of the Traditional Statement claim to represent traditional Southern Baptist beliefs. If this is true, they should have no problem in assenting to the 1925 Baptist Faith and Message (BFM), the denomination’s official doctrinal statement from 1925-1963. But they do have a problem. Concerning man, the 1925 BFM says Adam
“was created in a state of holiness under the law of his Maker, but, through the temptation of Satan, he transgressed the command of God and fell from his original holiness and righteousness; whereby his posterity inherit a nature corrupt and in bondage to sin, are under condemnation, and as soon as they are capable of moral action, become actual transgressors.”
Notice that in the 1925 BFM, it says Adam’s posterity are “under condemnation” prior to their actual becoming transgressors. Why? Because of Adam’s sin – The Fall. And yet Article 2 of the Traditional Statement contradicts this by saying “Each person’s sin alone” (italics added) “brings the wrath of a holy God . . . and condemnation.” The phrase “each person’s sin alone” in the Traditional Statement is deliberate. It is there to emphasize the belief that Adam’s sin brought no one under condemnation except Adam. And this is part of the reason why many call the Traditional Statement semi-Pelagian. Make no mistake, this difference has major implications for other important doctrines, particularly the doctrine of imputation and thus for the gospel itself.
So could thoughtful signers of the Traditional Statement also affirm the more traditional 1925 BFM? Or better yet, could thoughtful adherents of the 1925 BFM agree with the Traditional Statement? The obvious answer to both questions is no.
Back in November of 2016, Rick Patrick, executive director of a group called Connect 316, was allowed to speak in chapel at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX. Connect 316 is a group that has been promoting Eric Hankins’ Traditional Statement (hereafter called TS) within the Southern Baptist Convention since 2012. It is also important to note that Paige Patterson, the president of Southwestern, is one of less than .01% of all Southern Baptists who have actually signed on to the TS.
During Patrick’s talk, as you would expect, he promoted Connect 316 and by extension the TS (watch/listen here). He also attacked Calvinism, calling it a “Trojan horse.” Well okay. Southwestern is an institution of higher learning. In fairness, we would expect to hear from the other side, right? No. Instead, Dr. Patterson piled on with this:
“I know there are fair number of you who think you are a Calvinist, but understand there is a denomination which represents that view. It’s called Presbyterian.
“I have great respect for them. Many of them, the vast majority of them, are brothers in Christ, and I honor their position, but if I held that position I would become a Presbyterian. I would not remain a Baptist, because the Baptist position from the time of the Anabaptists, really from the time of the New Testament, is very different.”
After a firestorm ensued, Dr. Patterson kind of walked back his statement the next day. But this raises some serious questions. Here we have a man, Dr. Patterson, who was one of the main players, if not the main player, in the Conservative Resurgence back in the 1980s. This man knows how to play the political game (and yes it is definitely a political game) within the convention. Are we now supposed to believe that he naively invited Rick Patrick to Southwestern unaware of what was going to be said? Remember Dr. Patterson signed the TS. What was the motive for this chapel service?
A few years back, reputable people in the leadership of Louisiana College claimed that the TS was being pushed as the school’s doctrinal statement by none other than David Hankins, the Executive Director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention and Eric Hankins’ father. And Hankins might have been successful had it not been for all the other shenanigans going on at Louisiana College. So for the moment, despite Hankins’ best efforts, the Baptist Faith and Message remains as Louisiana College’s official doctrinal statement.
But it makes one wonder, was this chapel service at Southwestern another testing of the waters to see if there is finally a climate to push something akin to the TS, but this time in Texas? If so, I would guess the Connect 316ers are a little disappointed with the feedback.
P.S. As an aside, for those who think they descend theologically from the Anabaptists, please understand there is a denomination which represents that view as well. It’s called the Mennonites.
In 2013 at Louisiana College in Pineville, Louisiana, there was a dust up concerning Calvinism. (Louisiana College is a Baptist college affiliated with the Louisiana Baptist Convention.) It is believed that three professors did not have their contracts renewed there because Calvinism was allegedly being pushed on students. Additionally, Dr. Chuck Quarles, who was then Dean of Louisiana College’s Caskey School of Divinity and now teaches at the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC, was forced to resign. Interestingly, shortly after leaving Louisiana College, Quarles was admitted to the Society for New Testament Studies. Only two other Southern Baptists are members of this society, which is widely deemed the most prestigious society of New Testament scholars in the world.
According to a Shreveport Times article dated March 15, 2014 (“Was Calvinism or politics at root of Louisiana College conflict?“), audio tapes have been made available to the secular press that appear to show the alleged pushing of Calvinism at Louisiana College was totally contrived. Conversely, quoting Dr. Quarles, the article also implies that the Executive Director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention was pushing the Traditional Statement as a formal doctrinal statement at the Caskey School of Divinity. The effect would have been to narrow the parameters of the Baptist Faith and Message to a place where Calvinist leaning professors would have been excluded. Please note that the Executive Director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention is none other than David Hankins, father of Eric Hankins, who is pastor of Oxford’s First Baptist Church and author of the Traditional Statement.
So what hath Oxford to do with Pineville? If the Times article is accurate, then a controversial document originating from Oxford, Mississippi, may have played a part in the forced resignation of a world-class biblical scholar at Louisiana College, who also happens to be a native of Lafayette County. To the sizable number of people from the Oxford area who signed the Traditional Statement, is this what you really wanted? Some of you know Chuck Quarles. I suspect a few claim to be his friend. Enough said.
The recent “Traditional Southern Baptist Statement” says in its introduction that “while some earlier Baptist confessions were shaped by Calvinism, the clear trajectory of the BF&M since 1925 is away from Calvinsim.” However, Dr. Charles “Chuck” Quarles, the Dean of the Caskey School of Divinity at Louisiana College (and a native of Lafayette County, having graduated from Lafayette High School in Oxford and from Ole Miss) argues for a historical continuity between the 1853 New Hampshire Baptist Confession and the Baptist Faith and Message. In an article entitled, “What Baptists Believe,” Quarles states: “In cases in which questions about the meaning of the BFM arise, the NHBC may serve as a helpful guide to the correct interpretation.” The point here is that when the BFM (Baptist Faith and Message) is interpreted throught the prism of the NHBC (New Hampshire Baptist Confession), much of the so-called “trajectory . . . away from Calvinism” falls away.