Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Tradition of Being Non-Traditional Continues...

Approximately equal numbers of SBC pastors either consider their congregations as having a predominately Calvinistic/Reformed theology or define their churches as holding to a Wesleyan/Arminian position. This is what a new survey from LifeWay Research indicates. Survey results show about 30% for each category.

This data from the recent poll is interesting in light of the claims made in what has become known as the "Traditional Statement", or "TS", but is more formally known as  "A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God's Plan of Salvation". The Introduction to the non-Calvinist/non-Arminian statement  promotes it as a  "suggested statement of what Southern Baptists believe..." and again repeats, "We believe that it does reflect what most Southern Baptists believe..."

Furthermore, the Preamble of the TS asserts, "We propose that what most Southern Baptists believe about salvation can rightly be called 'Traditional' Southern Baptist soteriology." After describing this so-called "Traditional" Southern Baptist soteriology the Preamble then concludes, "Below is what we believe to be the essence of  'A Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God's Plan of Salvation.' "

So the self-described "Traditional" view, advanced as neither Calvinistic nor Arminian (indeed, proponents insist they are "off that grid") is apparently, contrary to its speculative propositions in the Introduction and Preamble, not the majority view either. This conclusion seems logical since 60 percent in the survey classify as either Calvinistic or Arminian.

And the "Traditionalists" insist they are neither. Note the words of one of the TS signers, Dr. Adam Harwood, in a blogpost at SBC Today titled "Roger Olson is Correct; 'Traditional' Southern Baptists are NOT Arminians"-- Harwood writes:
The reason, once again, is that we are not Arminians. We refuse to accept the premise that we must evaluate doctrinal statements through the lens of a borrowed and unnecessary Calvinistic-Arminian philosophical-theological framework.
The point is that the survey results from LifeWay indicate Calvinism, while not a majority view, has substantial  representation among a variety of viewpoints with no particular view being predominant. This would appear to disclose the true Southern Baptist tradition--anything but a monolithic landscape, but rather a combination of Calvinists, Arminians, Calminians, those who come from the perspective of the signers of the TS, those who are undecided, those who don't know, and those who don't want to be labeled. In fact, on one point of doctrine emphatically rejected in the TS, the LifeWay poll shows that roughly 50 percent of SBC pastors hold to some version of the doctrine of Irresistible Grace, the I in the TULIP acronym of Calvinist soteriology.

So it looks like Calvinists are well-represented in the SBC and like no group has the majority. Since no one is in the majority, maybe it is time to get back to a tradition that has been part of SBC history:

Let's cooperate.

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