I consider myself a child of the Conservative Resurgence. As at least a 3rd generation Southern Baptist, I am able to happily continue to identify with my denominational heritage thanks to the faithfulness, work, and dedication of my generation’s Pauls—men such as Paige Patterson, Adrian Rogers, Paul Pressler, Charles Stanley, etc. These men taught us that we must have a high view of the Bible. We are, by declaration, “people of the book.” Therefore what we believe must be grounded firmly in Scripture. They taught us that inerrancy is indeed “a hill on which to die.” After all, to lose the truth that the Bible is God’s wholly true and infallible word, is to lose confidence in Christianity’s declarations of faith and the hope of salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice.
But inerrancy is not the only hill on which to die. If we children of the Resurgence follow in the steps of our fathers in faith, then we must continue to take the words of Scripture seriously. They must shape all that we do. Unity among Christian brothers and sisters, then, also becomes a hill we must be willing to bleed ourselves fighting for.
After all, Jesus once prayed, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me…I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:20-23).
Twice, Jesus linked the unity of his followers to the veracity of the Gospel message in the world’s eyes. Unity directly affects our witness for Christ. It is a hill on which to die. But this is not a functional unity at the expense of truth. Rather this unity flows from truth—we are to be one as Father and Son are one. Unfortunately, as people scarred by the fall in a world subjected to the curse of sin, we will not see eye-to-eye on all things until we are with Jesus and each other in eternity. Therefore we must focus our unity on the essentials, unwilling to surrender an inch; but we must show grace, charity, and love on other issues, willfully accepting each other, agreeing to work with each other, and striving to work out our salvation together in fear and trembling.
We Southern Baptist have a rich tradition of varied influences on the finer aspects of our theological beliefs. It is impossible to truly define a “traditional” Baptist view on many of these finer points. Unfortunately, we also have a sad tendency of highlighting the things which divide instead of the things that unite. We are passionate people. We believe what we believe because we believe it is what the Bible teaches. Both these truths should be wonderful things, but far too often the two have combined to create division where division need not exist.
One of these divides centers around the minute details of our soteriology, or doctrine of salvation. Instead of continuing to get lost in what divides us, below is a list of 7 affirmations, which I believe exist as common ground in our doctrine of salvation.
1) We affirm that creation exists for God’s glory, and that as the image-bearers of God, all people have the purpose of glorifying Him. Genesis 1-2, Psalm 19, Isaiah 42:8, 1 Corinthians 10:31
2) We affirm that Adam’s sin corrupted the world and brought God’s judgment through the curse of the fall, decay, and death. Every person is born with a sin nature and will sin against our Holy God. All stand guilty for their own sin, in which they are enslaved and unable to save themselves. Genesis 3, Psalm 51:3-6, Ezekiel 18:1-24, Romans 1:18-32, 3:9-23, 6:20-23, Ephesians 2:1-3
3) We affirm that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, alone was born into this world without the stain of sin, lived a life of perfect righteousness even in the face of temptation, and therefore was able to die upon the cross as a perfect and fully sufficient sacrifice for our sins. In his sacrifice, he bore our sins, took our place under God’s judgment, and provided for us his righteousness and God’s forgiveness. Isaiah 52-53, Matthew 1:18-25, 26:26-29, John 6:41-69, 10:7-18, 2 Corinthians 5:11-21, Hebrews 4:14-16, Hebrews 9-10, 1 Peter 2:22-25, 1 John 2:1-2
4) We affirm that a person is saved and receives the benefits of Jesus’ perfect life and sacrifice, by God’s grace alone through faith in Jesus alone. This involves a person’s recognition of their sin, repentance from sin, rebirth by the Holy Spirit, and response to the Gospel message, confessing with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing in their heart that God raised Jesus from the dead. By the same grace with which God saves us, he also keeps us secure in an eternal salvation. Mark 1:14-15, John 3:1-21, 8:31-38, 10:22-30, Acts 2:14-31, Romans 3:21-6:23, 10:5-9, Ephesians 2:1-10, Titus 3:3-7, Hebrews 5:7-10
5) We affirm that no person will come to faith and be saved outside of hearing the Gospel as declared in the Word of God. Those who do not hear the Gospel and turn to Jesus in faith will for their sins face the judgment of Jesus at his return and eternal condemnation in the lake of fire. Therefore it is necessary for Christians through evangelism and missions to proclaim the Gospel to those lost in their sin apart from Christ. Matthew 25, 28:16-20,Acts 1:4-11, Romans 10:5-17, 2 Corinthians 2:12-3:18, Revelation 20
6) We affirm that once saved, a person belongs to God’s Church and this reality should be lived out in the life of a local church body; a person is baptized with the Holy Spirit by Jesus, thus receiving the Spirit within themselves; and a person should be baptized by immersion into water, signifying their union with Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection. Matthew 16:13-19, John 1:29-24, 14:15-31, 15:26-16:14, Acts 1:4-2:47, Romans 6:1-14, 1 Corinthians 12:1-31
7) We affirm that our hope of salvation extends beyond this life, looking forward to our blessed hope of Jesus’ return and the resurrection of our bodies, when we shall live and rule with him in his perfect eternal kingdom that fills the new heaven and new earth. Isaiah 65:17-25, Daniel 12:1-3, Matthew 25, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11, 2 Timothy 2:11-13, Titus 2:11-14, Revelation 21-22