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