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