On semi-Pelagianism in many Baptist churches

I am happy for a post Roger Olson wrote yesterday (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2012/06/thoughts-about-%E2%80%9Ca-statement-of-the-traditional-southern-baptist-understanding-of-gods-plan-of-salvation-%E2%80%9D/), expressing his concern about semi-Pelagianism in a recent statement about salvation, formulated by non-Calvinist Southern Baptists.

Article 2 of “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation,” states:

“Article Two: The Sinfulness of Man

We affirm that, because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin and that every person who is capable of moral action will sin. Each person’s sin alone brings the wrath of a holy God, broken fellowship with Him, ever-worsening selfishness and destructiveness, death, and condemnation to an eternity in hell.

We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned. While no sinner is remotely capable of achieving salvation through his own effort, we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel.

Genesis 3:15-24; 6:5; Deuteronomy 1:39; Isaiah 6:5, 7:15-16;53:6; Jeremiah 17:5,9, 31:29-30; Ezekiel 18:19-20; Romans 1:18-32; 3:9-18, 5:12, 6:23; 7:9; Matthew 7:21-23; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 6:9-10;15:22; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 9:27-28; Revelation 20:11-15”

 Roger Olson writes:

 ”The problem with this Southern Baptist statement is its neglect of emphasis on the necessity of the prevenience of supernatural grace for the exercise of a good will toward God (including acceptance of the gospel by faith). If the authors believe in that cardinal biblical truth, they need to spell it out more clearly. And they need to delete the sentence that denies the incapacitation of free will due to Adam’s sin.

Leaving the statement as it stands, without a clear affirmation of the bondage of the will to sin apart from supernatural grace, inevitably hands the Calvinists ammunition to use against non-Calvinist Baptists.

It doesn’t matter what “most Baptists” believe or what is the “traditional Southern Baptist understanding.” For a long time I’ve been stating that most American Christians, including most Baptists, are semi-Pelagian, not Arminian and not merely non-Calvinist.”

I think that Roger has done us Calvinists a service with his persistent distinction between classic Arminianism and the semi-Pelagianism that so many non-Calvinist evangelicals believe. I understand his distress about Calvinist portrayals of Arminianism as semi-Pelagian, and I welcome his alliance in opposing genuine semi-Pelagianism.

For some years, I have been stating my own concern about instances of the doctrine of sin which is enunciated in the statement quoted above. In my view, it is problematic, especially when allied with the common Baptist doctrine of the “age of accountability,”  because of the way in which it portrays the final population of heaven as largely made up of people who are there without having needed Christ’s death to get there. Having never been sinners, they need no salvation.

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5 Responses to On semi-Pelagianism in many Baptist churches

  1. rey says:

    The councils of pedophile priests are not binding on Protestants. When will self-appointed self-important pastors figure that one out? Sure semi-Pelagian was condemned by pedophile Catholic priests in AD 529….and?

  2. rey says:

    “For some years, I have been stating my own concern about instances of the doctrine of sin which is enunciated in the statement quoted above. In my view, it is problematic, especially when allied with the common Baptist doctrine of the ‘age of accountability,’ because of the way in which it portrays the final population of heaven as largely made up of people who are there without having needed Christ’s death to get there. Having never been sinners, they need no salvation.”

    They’re babies so unless you believe babies go to hell, what’s your beef? You believe all babies are saved too. If its a quibble over “Safe” versus “Saved” I’m sure they can add a point saying “Although babies have never sinned and therefore don’t TECHNICALLY need to be saved, we have asked Jesus to ‘save’ them anyway to shut up nitpickers and he has agreed he will save those who are already safe.” Amen.

    • Terrance Tiessen says:

      Rey: You wrote:

      “They’re babies so unless you believe babies go to hell, what’s your beef? You believe all babies are saved too.”

      Actually, I don’t make that claim. I don’t think that Scripture gives grounds for such a claim, though I think we can be hopeful for God’s mercy. I spelled out my understanding in chapter 10 (“Can Infants Be Saved”) of _Who Can Be Saved?_, in case you are interested.

      • rey says:

        “Actually, I don’t make that claim.”

        Fine, so you believe babies go to hell; then you’re a dirty filthy Calvinist devil-worshiper who will burn in hell for all eternity. Case closed. Amen.

  3. Rob Montgomery says:

    Thank you for this post. I appreciate the distinction being made between semi-Pelagian and classic Arminian understandings of the will, as so many seem to lump these groups together.
    I really appreciate your blog, Dr. Tiessen, and while I sometimes find myself disagreeing with your conclusions, I think you do a great job of clarifying these important issues, making real discussions possible. Please keep up the good work!

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