A Response to Dr. Nathan Finn (by Dr. Eric Hankins)

Dr. Eric Hankins is the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church, Oxford, Mississippi. He is the author of the much-discussed Traditionalist Statement and was central to the Calvinism Task Force appointed by Dr. Page, which reported at the Houston Annual Meeting. We look forward to this series of articles. 

Over the next few weeks, I will be offering some responses to Nathan Finn’s essay “On the ‘Traditionalist Statement’: Some Friendly Observations from a Calvinistic Southern Baptist,” which appeared in the most recent edition of New Orleans Seminary’s Journal of Baptist Theology and Ministry. Let me say how deeply grateful I am for Finn’s willingness to engage the Traditional Statement (TS)* critically while being “eager to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3). He expresses a hope that his “Traditionalist friends will receive these questions in the spirit they are being asked” (66), and I can say unequivocally that Finn has made it easy to do so. I’ll make every attempt to respond in kind to the questions he’s raised.

In that spirit, this first post will focus on the observations Finn makes with which I completely agree and which I believe are extremely important as the discussion moves forward. Finn acknowledges that, as an “evangelical Calvinist,” he is most definitely not a Traditional Southern Baptist. He does not agree with most of the affirmations and denials, and he could not affirm the statement because he “does not believe it accurately summarizes the biblical understanding of salvation” (65). Finn states, “I have a different understanding of the relationship between Adam’s original sin and subsequent human sin, the nature of free will, the meaning of election, the intent of the atonement, and the efficaciousness of grace” (65). To these things I say, Hurrah! The TS has been completely understood! Finn’s sentiments about Traditionalism precisely match the way I feel about Southern Baptist (SB) Calvinism. SB Calvinists and Traditionalists are at complete variance on these very important soteriological issues. In another post, Finn makes it quite clear that this is not a matter of heresy, specifically falsifying the charge that the TS is semi-Pelagian. It is of note that Finn, after summarizing his disagreement with the document’s rejection of Calvinism in the essay at hand, really doesn’t interact any further with the content. I take this as a tacit stipulation that the TS accurately describes a coherent, orthodox brand of SB “non-Calvinism.”

When I set about crafting the TS, I wanted to do so in such a way that no SB Calvinist would be able to affirm it, not because I wanted to be divisive but because I wanted to clarify an issue that has hindered this debate for years: the idea that we all basically agree and that we are all soteriological Calvinists of one sort or another (I’ve heard of One, Two, Three, Four, and Five Point Calvinists). Convictional SB Calvinists of the “Founders” variety have used this thinking to make the case that since all SBs are Calvinistic, then we really ought to return to Four or Five Point Calvinism if we want to be consistent. While I disagree with their premise (that we are all basically Calvinists), I agree with the logic that flows from it (you’re either a Calvinist or your not). That’s why, after working awhile to get my arms around Calvinism, I came to understand that, because of its philosophical presuppositions, it is essentially an all or nothing soteriological system. Three years ago, I called myself a “Three Point Calvinist,” but I realize now that these sorts of designations don’t work and actually add to the confusion. The only way “T,U, and P” Calvinism makes sense is if Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, and Perseverance of the Saints are defined in a way no consistent Calvinist like Finn ever would.** We don’t “basically agree” on soteriology; we fundamentally disagree.

Moreover, the basis of this disagreement has nothing whatever to do with our view of the authority of Scripture. Thankfully, the SBC settled the matter of where it stood on the issue of inerrancy almost a generation ago. That’s why, as the debate moves forward, I would encourage everyone to stop the “dueling-Bible-verses” bit: “Well, what about John 3:16?” “Well, what about Romans 8:29-30?” Well, what about 1 John 2:2?” “Well, what about Ephesians 2:1?” Well, what about these verses, indeed? As Finn notes, he has already made several theological decisions about the nature of things like depravity, the Fall, free will, election, the extent of the atonement, and the way grace operates in salvation. These decisions form the grid Finn uses to approach or, as he says, “accurately [summarize] the biblical understanding of salvation” (65). As I have written in other places, the crucial theological presupposition for Finn’s understanding of soteriology is his (and all SB Calvinists’) commitment to theistic determinism and compatibilistic freedom, which can (in his opinion) be inferred from Scripture but is certainly not demanded by it. I reject theistic determinism and compatibilistic freedom, so I wind up at a different place soteriologically.

Instead of saying that we basically agree or that we disagree because the other person has rejected the authority of Scripture, SB Calvinists and Traditionalists should say, “We have theological and philosophical disagreements about the nature of divine action and freedom that have profound implications for our soteriology. Let’s talk about the strengths and weaknesses of those philosophical and theological approaches.” This will keep us from interminable and emotional exegetical death matches.

The other important area of agreement that I have with Finn’s article is his statement, “The Calvinism issue is not going to go away, so Southern Baptists must be willing to discuss and debate openly the doctrines of grace in an effort to be biblically accurate and perhaps come to a greater theological consensus in the years to come” (66). That truly is what I am hoping for. It’s the other main reason why I crafted the TS. Finn qualifies his Calvinism as “evangelical” in the vein of Andrew Fuller, which, of course, is a particularly Baptistic brand of evangelical Calvinism. Finn is affirming that Baptists have always modified Calvinism. We’ve never been comfortable with full-bore Westminster-type Calvinism for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that it sometimes failed to be “evangelical” (that’s why Finn uses the adjective “evangelical” to qualify his Calvinism–Fuller was distinguishing himself from the hyper-Calvinism of some his forebears). The critical question for us is, Why have Baptists, and, particularly, Southern Baptists always modified Calvinism? I think it’s because we really believe (Finn included) that everyone can be saved, and, therefore, everyone ought to hear the gospel. The problem for SB Calvinists like Finn is that their philosophical commitments actually work against such claims.** If God has determined not to save some without respect a response of faith, then it is hard to see how a legitimate claim can be made to the idea that God loves and desires to save everyone. If only certain ones are regenerated to the desire to respond to the gospel, then, again, it’s hard to see how that belief comports with God’s universal desire to save. Often, this is where Calvinists appeal to “mystery,” but the problem with their view is not that is paradoxical but that it is self-contradictory. (I am quite familiar with Calvinist counter-claims to my criticisms here. So far, none of them seem compelling to those not already committed to Calvinism. They certainly aren’t compelling to me.)

So, I, like Finn, am looking forward to the day when the best of Calvinistic affirmations (a strong view of God’s sovereignty, man’s sinfulness, Christ’s substitution, the church’s sanctification, etc.) can be welded to the much more consistent Traditionalist claim that anyone can be saved.


*In the time-period since the release of “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation,” the document has acquired the shortened form: “Traditional Statement.” Finn calls it the “Traditionalist Statement” in his title, which is just fine, but I am going to stick with the existing parlance in hopes of bringing some uniformity to a debate that tends to be terminologically confusing.

** “I have no qualms with the words in the articles on eternal security and the Great Commission, though I recognize I bring different theological assumptions to these articles than the framers of the Traditionalist Statement” (Finn, 65).

*** “While I agree that all people are ‘capable of responding’ to the good news, I also believe that sin has so blinded humanity that nobody will choose to believe the gospel without the effectual calling of the Holy Spirit” (Finn, 65).




  1. says

    I truly and certainly appreciate the tome of both Drs Hankins’ and Finn’s essays. Thank you brothers. And, further, I do believe both men have a thoroughgoing understanding of the other person’s theology, presuppositions and intents; And, I would even say, a measure of respect for them.
    But I would like to address this quote: “If God has determined not to save some without respect a response of faith, then it is hard to see how a legitimate claim can be made to the idea that God loves and desires to save everyone.”
    The first portion of that sentence is unclear to me; namely the phrase, “without respect a response of faith”. If this means the SB calvinist says that God won’t save some even if they respond in faith, that is undeniably untrue. And I think Dr Hankins knows that. So, I am completely in the dark about what that means. But the rest of that quote is agreeable. That is, with my more reformed framework, I cannot say that God desires to save everyone. I do believe He loves all His creation. But we all deserve judgment. God is perfectly capable of loving and still allowing mankind, in fact all of mankind, to face eternal judgment. That He saves some is immensely gracious.
    I have no doubt Dr Hankins agrees we all deserve judgment.
    What I can say, as an evangelical and evangelistic SB calvinist, is that no one is beyond the reach of God’s grace. He may not reach them, but there is no one for whom it is impossible for God to save. So, along with all my SB brothers and sisters who share the gospel of Christ’s atoning work, and the requirement of repentance and faith to receive salvation, I can most assuredly say to anyone, “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
    Do I need to tell them, “God Loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life?” I don’t think so. And, personally, I wish others wouldn’t say that either. I do not think that is a biblical part of the gospel message.
    I appreciate the opportunity to react with this as well and hope that I am maintaining a respectful dialogue. But I must say, that I do not believe SB calvinists are non-traditional. I think Dr Finn’s clarification of the title of his statement and his intent goes a good ways toward helping me see where he was coming from.

    • Eric Hankins says


      I appreciate your taking the time to interact and the spirit of your comments.

      Let me clarify what I mean by, “If God has determined not to save some without respect a response of faith, then it is hard to see how a legitimate claim can be made to the idea that God loves and desires to save everyone.” First, I left out a “to” after “respect.” Sorry about that. Next, the sentence is supposing the truthfulness of theistic determinism. I wanted to make clear (and to separate this view from Molinism) that God’s determination of an individual’s destiny is made without any thought to how an individual might respond to the gospel. In these discussions, Calvinists use the word “freedom” in the compatibilistic sense, and that sometimes confuses the uninitiated. They will say that individuals “freely” respond to the gospel, but they don’t mean what I think most people mean when the word “free” is used, the freedom to do do otherwise. So, I intended (rather clumsily I now see) to communicate that determinism excludes a libertarian response to the gospel. The elect will respond no matter what; and the non-elect will not respond, no matter what; these decisions are determined by God, not the individual.

      I appreciate your candor in affirming that consistency with respect to determinism means that God indeed does not desire to save everyone. I think it is noteworthy that the “Truth, Trust, and Testimony” document that SB Calvinists and non-Calvinists wrote together states: “We agree that God loves everyone and desires to save everyone, but differ as to why only some are ultimately saved.” As I claim in the post, I think that, unlike you, most SB Calvinists want to say that God desires to save everyone, but, as you note, they can’t do so with consistency.

      I appreciate your thoughts on the name “Traditionalist.” I will be addressing that in subsequent posts.

      • says

        Thanks so much for the clarification. I’m glad to see there was a reason I didn’t quite get the quote above, I thought there was a word missing but wasn’t sure. And glad that even PhDs do that too. It’s NOT just me. (I will be glad to tell my wife.)
        I will reiterate that while I do not believe God desires to save everyone, that doesn’t mean that He is not a God of love. He could love us and not save anyone. He could love us and not send His only begotten to die in our stead. For God did not send us to Hell per se, though that is His prerogative in judgment. For, “he that believeth not is condemned already.”
        Now lest I be labeled a Hyper-calvinist, let me say, that while I may be a bit Hyper, ADD, and even neurotic, I too do not know who is elect and who is not, but desire to lead people faith in Christ. The only way I know to do that is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
        So I welcome the opportunity to serve alongside anyone who presents the gospel based on the work(s) of Christ and man’s response of repentance and faith.
        And being a definite minority in the convention, I have no designs, nor do I want to take anything over! jussayin…

  2. Roger Simpson says

    What’s wrong with the statement, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” ?

    What does this statement have to do — one way or another — with either the “traditional” or Calvinist understanding of soteriology. The opposite statement would be that God hates you and that has no idea of what you are going to do. I don’t see how such an opposite concept comports with scripture regardless of any Calvinism vs. “traditionalism” debate.

    If God does not know the future — i.e. He doesn’t know what anyone is going to do — then that sounds like open theism to me — a concept which no one on either side of this debate holds.


    • Les Prouty says


      I agree with Clark. In a sense, and not a saving sense, I believe God loves all. So I don’t believe He loves all savingly…i. e. Not all will be saved.

      So that phrase might well be, though of course we don’t know about anyone for sure, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life, unless your name is Esau in which He hates you and has hell for your future.”

      I’m not saying we should say that since we can’t see the Lamb’s book of life. But theologically that’s the import. Either God savingly loves a person or he “hates” them and sends them to their on choice. Hell.

      • says

        Thats kinda what I was thinking. I don’t know what kind of plan God has for everyone’s life, and to say “wonderful” is a bit ambiguous. To even have life can be seen as wonderful. However the person orphaned in infancy, raised in an abusive home, stricken with debilitating illness at an early age, might debate the whole wonderful life concept.
        Bottom line: I don’t ‘know’ that God has what you might consider a wonderful plan for your life.
        I only brought this up because of Dr. Hankins comment about GOd’s love and desire to save everyone.
        I DO believe God knows the future. I Do believe that God’s intent in creation was wonderful and that God is not willing that any should perish.

        • volfan007 says

          The wonderful plan that God has for a person’s life is to save that person, and to know that person, and to take that person to Heaven. That is the wonderful plan of God for people, if they’ll just get saved.

          God desires that all men get saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.


          • says

            So it was still God’s plan even if the person is never saved. And even though God knew he/she would never be saved, we are to tell them it is God’s plan for their life. I don’t know but the free-will approach seems a bit cruel. 😉
            OK, I’m being a bit silly, but I get silly things like that said about my approach.

  3. says

    Eric Hankins,

    Thanks for a very well written article.
    I also appreciate Nathan Finn speaking along these lines.

    I too can’t understand how a Calvinist can say a person has a chance or opportunity to be saved, if Jesus Christ did not die for him.
    If Jesus did not die for him, he has nothing to believe in, and nothing to respond to.
    He certainly can’t believe Jesus died for him.
    David R. Brumbelow

    • says

      David, I don’t know how anyone can say a person has a “chance” to be saved. Does “Chance” even exist? 😉

      • volfan007 says

        Sure everyone has a chance to be saved. Today is the day…now is the accepted time…..people have the opportunity to be saved, because God wants to save them.


        • says

          Opportunity, perhaps. Chance? Did God really leave things to chance? So was there a ‘chance’ no one would be saved? Even after Christ went through all of that?
          My real problem with the word ‘chance’ is that it is sometimes seen as a causal force. Chance doesn’t really exist. Opportunities exist. Material things exist. Chance is an idea that comes from looking back at something or looking at it from a future-perfect point of view.
          We say, “well they heard the gospel so they had a chance.” That seems to be a shortened form of ‘opportunity’, and may well be meant that way.
          But, it is also used as ‘the occurrence and development of events in the absence of any obvious design.’
          But God has an obvious design. So I don’t think it applies in that way.
          Chance is also seen as a fortuitous accident. Surely not when it comes to the matter of eternity however. Right? I mean, Isn’t there some enlightening going on by the Spirit of God? Isn’t there the power of God as described in Ro 1:16, that leads to salvation?
          You see why I do not favor looking at salvation as acts of chance.

          • volfan007 says

            I use the word “chance” and “opportunity” in the same way. And, I believe that God’s plan is to save anyone, who will believe. And, that His desire is to save everyone. And, that everyone is really, truly savable.


          • says

            Interestingly, Jesus used the word, “chance,” so I don’t have a problem with it.

            But time and chance happen to them all. -Ecclesiastes 9:11

            Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. -Jesus; Luke 10:31

            I do notice that no one replied to the comment I made above, other than on the word “chance.”
            David R. Brumbelow

          • says

            David, don’t you hate that when people pull one word out of your post and respond to it and it wasn’t even your main point. The Scoundrels!

  4. Debbie Kaufman says

    Again, we do not know who the elect are and the Bible commands to “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel.” It also means that the worst of the worst can be saved through the power of God.

    The alternative is that God has no power other than sitting back, watching, hoping the person chooses Him. Not using all his power, and that is not the God I see in the Bible. He chose David, he chose Moses, he chose Israel. He brought Lazarus to life from the dead. All beautiful pictures of who God is and what he does at salvation.

    • Don Johnson says


      “Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel (good news) to every creature.” What is the good news that is preached to the “non-elect”? If it is impossible to receive if one is “non-elect”, how is it possible to call it good news?

      • Rick Mang says

        The proper term for “non-elect” is “reprobate”. Although the reprobate reject the Gospel (good news), that does not change the goodness of the Gospel. The Gospel is to be viewed from God’s perspective, not man’s. To view it from man’s perspective is humanism.

        Rick Mang

        • Don Johnson says


          So God’s definition of Good News is different than man’s? Might you share what God’s definition of Good News is?

          • volfan007 says

            I’m with Don….it’s not good news to the people, who have no chance whatsoever to be saved. That’s not good news.

            it’d be like if someone came into town, and said that everyone could have all the free funnel cakes they want. But really, only the “elect” ones were really the only ones, who could have the funnel cakes. That’s not good news. That’s bad news for all the ones, who can’t really have the funnel cakes.


          • Tarheel says

            Do the townspeople naturally desire the cakes or are they naturally averse to them and rebellious toward the maker?

          • volfan007 says


            The point is….not everyone can really, truly have the funnel cakes. Only the Elect can have them. So, how is that Good News to the others? it’s not. Yet, the Gospel is supposed to the Good News to people. And, it’s not good news to people, who really have no opportunity to receive it….no real, true chance….because, they’re not the elect.


          • Don Johnson says


            It doesn’t make any difference if they desired funnel cakes or not. If one said there are free funnel cakes for everyone in the town, but only had enough for the “elect.” This makes the man a liar. He is not a bearer of GOOD NEWS.

          • Tarheel says

            The baker/maker does not turn away anyone who comes does he?

            God will not reject anyone who comes in faith for salvation.

          • volfan007 says


            We get what you’re saying. But, the fact is that it’s still not Good News for everyone, if some people really can’t have it. It’s not really Good News for them. if they’re unable to believe the Gospel, then it’s not Good News to them.


          • says


            I suggest in salvation, the funnel cake analogy may better be pictured as…the baker offers funnel cakes to all. No one of them deserves this delicious gift of baked goodness. He sincerely desires all to have a funnel cake. But zero of them even wants a funnel cake from this baker. The entire town, 100% of them, hates the baker. They wouldn’t eat it if he tried to force it down their throats. He sincerely wishes this were not so.

            But he has unlimited power. He has the ability to do something supernatural. He can change their desires. In fact he had already decided to change the desires of some of these hateful, undeserving rebels even before he offered the cakes. And though his offer was real in that if any of them had stepped forth, he would have given them a cake. But non did and none wanted to.

            So he changes the desires of some of the townspeople. Suddenly, miraculously, these changed ones cease to hate the baker and in fact love him. It’s a grace miracle. They decide to take the free gift. The others? They go without cake and the fault is all their own.

            Now, if you say, “well the baker deliberately didn’t select everyone?” Correct. By definition grace is getting something you don’t deserve and had he changed everyone to desire the cake, everyone would have gotten cake. That’s universalism in the cake world.

            That’s how it works, IMHO.

          • Don Johnson says


            Are there enough funnel cakes for everyone. Or is there just enough for those whose desires were changed by the baker.

          • Tarheel says

            Thank you Les, I was not able to flesch out the whole idea a the moment I asked the questions….thanks for picking up my slack. 😉

          • says

            Just two last thoughts here.

            1. The funnel cake analogy, while delicious to contemplate, ultimately is not a perfect analogy. The shed blood of Jesus in His penal and substitutionary atonement (note He was an actual substitute for somebody…actual sins paid for…so if he paid for the sins or everyone, including the sin of unbelief, then of course everyone would be saved) was/is sufficient to pay for an infinite number of sinners. How could we dare say otherwise. But it wasn’t intended to pay for the sin of unbelief of everyone who would ever live else we have that thorny problem of a sin, unbelief, being atoned for and then a sinner condemned to hell for a sin, unbelief, that Jesus had paid for.

            2. This passage in 1 Peter says well:

            “And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

            For this is contained in Scripture:

            This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve,
            THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone,”

            for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.”

            Not everyone was/is appointed to eternal life. Some were appointed to eternal death for their disobedience.

            For the undeserving ones, all who believe, what amazing grace!

          • Tarheel says


            “It doesn’t make any difference if they desired funnel cakes or not. If one said there are free funnel cakes for everyone in the town, but only had enough for the “elect.” This makes the man a liar. He is not a bearer of GOOD NEWS.”

            Of course it is. The fact that anyone receives cake is great news! No one deserves it…it’s grace.

            If the all knowing and all powerful, and soveriegn baker announces that his plan is for all to be saved, and some are not…then under your position is he not a liar in that case…

            But if instead he says all who come to me for Cakes, I will in no way cast out….isn’t that loving.

            Responses don’t determine the goodness of th gift….the gift itself is good, and the giver perfectly loving.

            The townspeople are rebellious against the maker and they’re naturally so and willfully so….and those who come for cakes do so willfully as they’ve been regenerated to desire the cakes. They will not be rejected.

            The gift and news is good and perfect because the giver is god and perfect.

          • Adam Blosser says

            The gospel is not good news to the non-elect. But is it good news to those who reject the gospel? No. The argument over the phrase “good news” has no bearing on this discussion. The gospel is not good news to those who are not saved regardless of how they got in that position. In fact, Paul calls it foolishness to those who are perishing.

          • Tarheel says

            Oops, edit…I conflated the analogy…second paragraph should read like this –

            If the all knowing and all powerful, and completely sovereign baker announces that his plan is for every singe townsperson to be served cakes and some are not because the are too rebellious…then under your position is he not too a liar (ir at least lacking in power, knowledge and soveriegnty) in that case.

          • Rick Mang says

            God’s Good News is to call upon the name of the Lord and be saved. That’s good news to anyone. The bad news is what is waiting for them if they don’t – God’s wrath.

            Rick Mang

          • says

            I love funnel cakes. I grew up eating funnel cakes at the Comal County Fair in New Braunfels Texas in the 60s. Funnel cakes have been drug thru the mud here and I blame Vol Fan. You did this you insufferable Tennessean. (Although I do appreciate you boys coming to Texas when we were in a bit of a jam with Santa Anna.)
            THis is what happened. A man came into town and said “Free Memphis Style Bar-B-Q!” Thats all he said. It was good news. He didn’t say there was enough for everybody. He just said it was free. He didn’t even say where. Those that could smell followed their noses. And everyone who came got some and there was just enough!
            Glad I could be of service.

        • Don Johnson says


          That’s our point. If there are not funnel cakes for everyone to begin with, then it is not Good News your proclaiming.

          You become a respecter of persons. Something God says He does not do.

          • says

            Don, see my comment at 4:56pm.

            As to God not being a respecter of persons, I suppose you’re referring to Acts 10. And in that God will show his favor an Jews and Gentiles, white and black, man and woman, Americans and Slovakians, then I agree. But clearly God shows partiality when He only populates heaven with SOME and not ALL.

          • Don Johnson says

            The Gospel means good news, because that is exactly what it is. Jesus said to preach the good news to every creature, because it is for every creature.

            What is this good news? 1. Christ died for your sins. 2. Christ was buried. 3. Christ was raised the third day for your justification. God only asks us to believe it. If we do, God promises to save us and give us everlasting life. Only God could do that. Is it any wonder why Christ called it the GOOD NEWS? NO! Some may refuse it, but it is nevertheless GOOD NEWS, because it’s available for every creature 2 Thes. 2:10.

    • Andrew Barker says

      Please explain how Lazarus being raised from the dead has anything to do with Salvation? Jesus’ own explanation was that he was demonstrating that He was the resurrection and the life. He made no reference at all to salvation. So, I would suggest that you are perhaps reading meaning into the text? Maybe you have some other ref which confirms that this was indeed the salvation of Lazarus? I would also be interested to hear if you think it is relevant that Lazarus eventually died. Was this then only a partial salvation, or was Lazarus ‘taken’ so that he didn’t have to suffer death twice?!

  5. Paul Brewster says

    In this post, Dr. Hankins seems to rejoice because he thinks that Dr. Finn has confessed he is not a Traditional Southern Baptist. Having read Dr. Finn’s reply to the Traditional Statement, it seems to me that Hankins has overlooked a key point that Finn made: the moniker “Traditional Southern Baptist” is neither apt nor helpful. Strictly put, Finn did not claim he was not a “traditional” Southern Baptist. What he said was that if adherence to the doctrinal affirmations of the Traditional Statement was what so delineated one as a traditional Southern Baptist, then he could not be so classified. Given what we know about their theological commitments, it is simply beyond dispute that the majority of the pastors and theologians who both founded and led the Convention for several generations could not have signed this Statement. Thus, it seems to me that Finn’s larger point is valid: Traditionalists need to find a new name for their movement. It is a lot of things, but traditional, it is not.

    • says

      Anytime there is a moniker outside of Biblical terminology, there is going to be a problem. Why? As shown here it means different things to different people. There are buzz words in the church planting conversation that are problematic because of different interpretations.

      For the Trads (I am one) to use that word seemingly has agenda written on it in that it says “we are the one’s holding the fort, you folks (Cals) are the ones deviating from the truth. For the Cals to point to 1845 and say we are the tradition is a bit of a stretch. That is ancient history. The terminology must be changed because we are spending too much time discussing that instead of the theology in question.

      I should not, however, be “shooting my mouth off” because I do not have a better word.

  6. Christiane says

    I find these famous extant former quotes by Dr. Eric Hankins to be of use in attempting to understand the present post:

    ““Election is God’s unstoppable plan to save, not his unstoppable plan to damn.”

    “All means all, and that’s all all means.”

    “The chosen are chosen for the sake of the un-chosen.”

    “The trajectory of election is not inward … it’s outward.”


  7. Paul Brewster says


    In the logic of your prose, these terms become interchangeable: non-Calvinist, Traditionalist, and Moderate Calvinist. Labels that elastic are, I think, not helpful at all. You also posit that both Calvinists and non-Calvinists were present in SBC life from its beginning. If that be granted, then why is one group traditional and the other non-traditional? That the doctrine of limited atonement was understood with several nuances among early Southern Baptists is very clear. That does not negate the point that the vast majority of first and second generation Southern Baptists would not have been able to sign the Traditional Statement in good conscience because of their doctrinal commitments. Whatever one thinks of the biblical merits or demerits of a Calvinistic soteriology, the evidence is overwhelming that this was far and away the majority position of early Southern Baptists—just one factor that makes this current movement to label a distinctly non-Calvinistic soteriology as ‘traditional’ seem so misguided.

    • says


      You make a good point when you say:

      That does not negate the point that the vast majority of first and second generation Southern Baptists would not have been able to sign the Traditional Statement in good conscience because of their doctrinal commitments.

      If your statement is correct, it seems the inherent claims of Southern Baptist historicity that the Traditionalist label implies is certainly misleading.

  8. Dave Miller says

    As has been said, I think nomenclature is a key, which I am sure Dr. Hankins will address. I’m not a fan of the term traditionalist – not because I disagree with much of the statement but because, like Dr. Finn, I think it is a misused term.

    Traditionalist is better used to refer to people who like suits, hymns, the piano and organ and such.

    The fact is that applied to soteriology, both Calvinists and non-Calvinists hold some piece of Southern Baptist tradition. As Dr. Dockery ably showed, these two streams of thought have flowed in the SBC river together for all its history. For a time, the Calvinist stream flowed strong, then it dwindled. In our time, it has flowed back strong again (how strong is open to debate).

    If I were king (and what a world that would be, right?) I’d get rid of terms like Founders and Traditionalist, which both tend to imply that they have a greater hold on SBC tradition than the other side.

    Of course, that leaves the question of what to call those who do not subscribe to Calvinism. They do not want to be called “non-Calvinists” or especially “anti-Calvinist” any more than I would like to be called “non-Traditionalist” or “anti-Traditionalist.”

    I still use the term non-Calvinist as a general term. I use anti-Calvinist to describe those extreme elements within the non-Calvinist world who seem to target Calvinism as the enemy of the gospel. I use Traditionalist in a narrow sense – to refer to those who signed or supported the Tradtionalist Statement. Since the vast majority of those who reject Calvinism also did not sign the document, it is not accurate to use that term to describe all those who are not enamored of the so-called “doctrines of grace.” The term Arminian is accurate for a few folks, but I usually let them self-describe. In the Baptist world, Arminian is seen as a perjorative, much like hyper-Calvinist.

    So, I don’t have a solution for the nomenclature issue, except to again state that I’m with Dr. Finn on his analysis of this term.

    • Dave Miller says

      I think I may live in the Amyraldian neighborhood. Whether Amyraldians are Calvinists or not is a matter of debate.

      • volfan007 says

        I think Calvinists and Arminians are both a part of the Augustinian philosophical paradigm. Thus, they’re really very similar. Also, everyone who adheres to that kind of philosophy….anyone who fits inbetween the two…would fit into that framework to some degree or the other.

        Non Calvinists, or Traditionalists, or someone like me….a simple, Bible believing Christian, who is Southern Baptist….are saying that they reject that whole philosophical framework. They are saying that we don’t have to accept one, or the other, or some kind of variation of the 2. We believe that we come to salvation and the Bible from a perspective apart from Augustine type thinking.

        Thus, to call us “Arminians” would not be right. Non Calvinists is a true description, but that sounds so negative. And, there’s been people in the SB life, who’ve believed like us, from the beginning. And, a majority of people have been Non Calvinists for a while….Hobbs, Adrian Rogers, Jerry Vines, etc. etc. Thus, the term “Traditionalist” came about.

        What better label could be given, where people don’t get mad at us? Or, where people don’t think that we’re trying to insinuate that we believe the Bible, and you don’t?


        • says


          I’m curious about your rejection of an Arminian label. I don’t want to debate the point, but ask a question.

          Given that one can be Arminian and hold to once saved, always saved, what specifically precludes you from fitting into Arminian theology?

          Side note: Seems that Baptists who hold to once saved, always saved and to imputation of Adam’s sin would fit just fine into Arminianism.

          • Rick Patrick says

            Arminians consider Perseverance optional. For Traditionalists, it is an absolute non-negotiable. Clarity demands a distinctive term.

            Additionally, Arminians may affirm a form of Depravity embracing the Imputed Guilt of Adam. Traditionalists, on the other hand, affirm a Depravity embracing Inherited Sinful Nature and our own personal guilt but denying any guilt over Adam’s sin.

            So you see, we’re really not Calvinists, and we’re really not Arminians. It may not be perfect, but I think Traditionalist is the best name we have right now. My second choice would be Extensivist, coined by Ronnie Rogers. My third choice would be Savabilist, which I think was coined by Eric Hankins, possibly in conjunction with Adam Harwood.

          • Andrew Barker says

            Mark, I too am curious as to why you’re curious but don’t want to debate it. It seems to me more likely that you simply wish to make your point but not be held accountable. Calvinists have long used the tactic of assuming the rest of the world is Arminian. For one thing it helps them get their ducks in a row but also enables them to build a straw man which can quickly be knocked down and hey presto what’s left standing is the Calvinist argument which then has to be the ‘right’ one. Effectively it is an attempt to force people into defending a position which they don’t hold. It’s a good debating tactic which is used frequently by persons who will remain nameless but it does nothing for getting at the truth.

            There are plenty of Christians who don’t believe in guilt by association but are quite happy to plead “guilty as charged your honour”.

    • says


      While you are not a “fan” of the term “Traditionalists” I think you need to take your argument up with Dr. Dockery. He says;

      From the early years of Boyce to the death of Conner, Southern Baptists witnessed the diminishing influence of Calvinism, the decline of postmillen- nialism, the rise of revivalism, and an advancement in the understanding of Baptist origins and identity.

      He then moves on to speak about those Southern Baptists that were influenced by this “diminishing influence of Calvinism” and he refers to them as “Traditionalists”.

      He describes the “traditionalists” as;

      As most major denominational leadership posts were claimed by the progressive or moderate wing of the Convention, the traditionalists or conservatives became defensive, and separatistic, focusing on their local churches instead of the denomination-at-large.

      You can read his article

    • says

      Good analysis and clear thinking

      Personally I would prefer that the term “Calvinism be dropped totally whether it be non, hyper, whatever. I don’t want to debate Calvin’s theology, I want to discuss Biblical theology in this case soteriology.

      I will not say I am a 1 point, 2 point etc. Calvinist. I believe some of the points Calvin delineates in the Tulip acrostic. However that does not make me a ? point Calvinist

      • says

        You say, “some of the points Calvin delineates in the Tulip acrostic.”

        Just to be clear Calvin himself did not formulate the TULIP. I mention this only because I doubt Calvin would have used the TULIP as we do. I believe if he ever sat down to disciple someone and speak on the sovereignty of God in salvation, he would do it much differently–as you see in his Institutes.

        • says


          I am aware of the history of “Tulip”. If you felt a need for clarity I am sure others did also. So thank you for making clear what I seemed to confuse.

          I was merely using the word to talk about the five points. I agree Calvin would not be impressed by the acrostic we have chosen to use.

          Again thanks

      • Rick Patrick says

        I know you’re just joking, but that one is sortapejorative. Calvinists really need to permit us a decent name—Traditionalist, Extensivist, Savabilist, whatever. The more our labels are rejected, the more people will falsely identify us with heretical names like Semipelagian. Also, “Calvinist” simply cannot be in the title. Who really wants to be known as a “Non” or an “Anti” anything? It will actually ratchet some of the conflict down a bit once the promotion of our beliefs is no longer seen as merely an attack on the beliefs of others with whom we happen to disagree.

        • Adam G. in NC says

          “once the promotion of our beliefs is no longer seen as merely an attack on the beliefs of others with whom we happen to disagree.”
          Wasnt this the point of the TS, per Mr.Hankins? I wouldnt call it an “attack” due to the violent connotations of the word, but you get my point.

          **It was a joke. Thanks for taking it as such. I’ll let my Arminian friends know that they are a “pejorative”.

          • Rick Patrick says


            If you are saying that the promotion of our beliefs (and in the process, a careful effort to distinguish these beliefs from the beliefs of Calvinists) was the point of the Traditional Statement, then yes, I would agree with that.

            Self identification and theological articulation are wonderful things. My argument is for Traditionalists to have a positive label that is not a term of negation and does not mention either Calvinism, Arminianism or Semipelagianism.

            We deserve to stand on our own and hold these truths with a clear and positive name. I just think whenever we reference ONE SIDE with a term of negation (as in “Non-Calvinist” or “Non-Traditionalist”) it semantically pits us against each other and serves no purpose.

            By the way, the more pejorative part was the “sorta,” implying that we don’t really fit into any legitimate place, but that we are only “sorta” one thing and “sorta” another without any real sense of belonging or identity. And I don’t mind if your Arminian friends know that I feel a very clear need to distance myself from those open to the notion that they can lose their salvation—nothing personal, but that does have negative connotations in Southern Baptist life, as well it should.

        • says

          I understand where you are coming from. Unfortunately we are bound by words, and that somewhat limits us. I understand that we will find labels that we will use in this discussion as in other discussions historically.

          However, in my stubborn mind (for which Montanans are famous), I say again that as long as there are labels there will always be confusion or at least the need for more clarification.

          Note the millennial terms. As long as we have had them we still need to further clarity because there can be confusion as to what they mean.

          Admittedly I do not have any answer, just the problem.

    • Bill Mac says

      David: You’re right. There are a lot of Calvinists in the SBC who aren’t crazy about referring to themselves as Calvinists because they reject much of what the magisterial reformers taught, and they aren’t particularly enamored of John Calvin. But ironically, if we don’t identify ourselves as Calvinists, we are instantly accused of hiding our Calvinism. We are simultaneously told to wear a big red C on our foreheads but never to talk about Calvinism.

    • says

      Or could it be there has been a problem with some Calvinists trying to hide their beliefs in order to get a pastorate at a non-Calvinist (Traditional, Moderate Calvinist) church?

      In the past Paige Patterson, Al Mohler, and other SBC leaders have acknowledged this problem.
      David R. Brumbelow

      • says

        David, all you have done is restated the accusation alluded to by Bill Mac. I hope we can keep this nice and civil.
        So which is it David? Use the C word or don’t?
        I am not a pure Calvinist. I tend to use a small c when referring to my beliefs as a short cut. I’m sure there have been those who hid their beliefs. I did not. I have served 15+ years in an SB church that is not a Reformed Baptist Church, even though I hold to a high view of Grace, a Sovereign Savior and an inerrant Word.

      • Debbie Kaufman says

        David B: No. I truly think Bill Mac has set out the problem quite well. I would not consider myself a full blooded Calvinist but do hold to TULIP and some other doctrines of the Reformed faith. Yet I would consider myself if pressed to be New Covenant more than Calvinist. I claim the label Calvinist because of the reasons Bill Mac has pointed out. I also hold to once saved always saved. I believe women should be in ministry, I am conservative in many of my beliefs, and I would be accused of hiding my Calvinism if I did not wear the label. I believe this is true for most of those accused of “hiding their Calvinism. ” It’s a no win situation to anyone who holds to any one point of Calvinism.

        • says


          You have illustrated my point to Rick at 1:51 PM. Note how much explaining you had to do to try to get everyone on the same page as to your position on this issue

          That IMO will always be a problem when we feel the need to use labels to describe our theology. Does “liberal” “conservative” “neo-orthodox”mean the same thing to everyone? No!

          Again i have no solution just the problem.

  9. says

    I will also say, that while I think “traditional’ is a little off base, I can see where ‘founders’ is as well. If 100% of the founders were not fully reformed then perhaps they/we should find another title.

  10. says

    If God knows the future, then He has always known who will and will not be saved.
    So His desire aside, God knows that only a certain amount will be saved, a specific number, a particular group.
    These God knows will be saved, and He knows that ONLY these will be saved.
    Let us call these people the elect.

    Now Calvinists [C’s] and Traditionalists [T’s] and everyone in between and on both sides does NOT know who the elect are.
    Thus we preach, to all, the Gospel, for it is good news for those that believe for it is the power of God for salvation, but it remains foolishness to those who are perishing, to them it is not good news at all, but foolishness.
    [For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1st Cor, 1:16]

    Now God knows EXACTLY who will be saved, and always has.
    God knows EXACTLY who will come under the blood of Jesus, and always has.
    God is never pleasantly surprised by some unexpected repentant sinner, NEVER.

    Thus from God’s perspective, the death of Jesus will save only these He foreknows, this EXACT amount.
    This is what Calvinists, mostly, mean when they speak of a LIMITED ATONEMENT. It only saves these foreknown ELECT [or God’s foreknowledge is flawed]. This is looking at atonement from God’s perspective.

    Anyone who believes that God has infallible foreknowledge should acknowledge the truth of the above statement.

    But when Traditionalists and others speak of a GENERAL ATONEMENT, they are speaking, mostly, from man’s perspective, in that from our perspective ANYONE can be saved if they would call on the name of Jesus, that all who call on Jesus will be saved.

    No Calvinist I know of denies this truth.
    Likewise no Calvinist I know preaches any other way but to invite all who hear the Gospel call to repent and submit to Jesus.
    Maybe everyone there will [they are all elect].
    Maybe no one will [they are not elect or it is not yet their time].
    Maybe some will.

    peace brothers,

  11. says

    For the sake of convenience, I will speak of C’s and T’s, but there are a whole lot in between.
    We preach the same Gospel.
    We serve the same Lord.
    That is why we can fellowship together both in the broader SBC and also in our individual congregations.

    As we debate our differences, our goal should be to understand God better, and in doing so, give Him praise and to glorify His name.

    Now T’s and C’s differ on election and atonement, but in general, as outlined above, I think we should acknowledge that we agree on more than we disagree on. We disagree on how one becomes >elect<. There then is a place we discuss HOW God saves. But we should never allow our differences on HOW God saves [the particulars] outshine where we agree, that God does save by the cross through faith.

    As to God has a wonderful plan for you, well, we don't know what God knows, but what do know is this: that if you surrender your life to Jesus, He has a wonderful future all lined up, especially and most assuredly in the world to come. In this world we are told that all who wish to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

    peace in Jesus,

  12. says

    Dr. Hankins,

    Thank you for your irenic spirit in putting forth what you believe.
    You said this:
    They will say that individuals “freely” respond to the gospel, but they don’t mean what I think most people mean when the word “free” is used, the freedom to do do otherwise. So, I intended (rather clumsily I now see) to communicate that determinism excludes a libertarian response to the gospel. The elect will respond no matter what; and the non-elect will not respond, no matter what; these decisions are determined by God, not the individual. – See more at: http://sbcvoices.com/a-response-to-dr-nathan-finn-by-dr-eric-hankins/#comment-235092

    Let me ask you of your experience [and of course to everyone else please feel free to respond with your own testimonies]: when you were confronted by the awesome reality of the crucified and risen Lord, and His great love overflowing to your heart and soul, didn’t you so desire Him that you surrendered your being to Him as mercy and forgiveness washed over you?

    Wasn’t it personal for you? Personal between you and Jesus Himself? Didn’t you feel His drawing, His great and mighty love, the promise oh so sweet of forgiveness and peace, even as you hated your sin and sinful ways like never before?

    So in reflection of that wonderful experience, you would testify that it was God saving you, translating you from the darkness and shining His light and glory into your mind and heart?

    That in saying ‘Yes’ to Jesus, you did so in faith and trust from the depths of your heart?

    Assuming a yes to these questions, for that is how I would answer them, I would say that my heart and mind and soul completely wanted and desired to be His and that any decision against that would be a decision of deceit to my own being. That if I could so deny the reality of Jesus as Lord and God, then its opposite, its acceptance would also hinge on me and my own wisdom. But if in my own wisdom and understanding I could see that Jesus is really God and the only way to life, then why as one who rejected it, why would it be foolishness to me, instead of me seeing myself as the foolish one?

    If one sees the Gospel as foolishness, they of course reject its claims on their life.
    But then that means that their choice is in ignorance of the truth.

    If one sees the Gospel as the power of God unto salvation, they certainly accept it, for they are not of the foolish ones who are perishing.

    If the Gospel’s truth is veiled to those perishing, than how can they accept it from the heart?
    But only when their eyes are opened to it and they see are they no longer blind to its glory and are saved.

    peace to you,

  13. says

    To anyone,
    A church service with some unbelievers among the people.
    Some brethren stand and witness to the Gospel and Jesus as Lord.
    The congregation sings of His saving poer by the blood.
    A deacon reads from the Word Goispel truth,
    The preacher preaches, includes the Gospel, and puts forth a call to any unsaved to surrender to Jesus.

    An unsaved man has a choice.

    If he chooses against Jesus it is because he did not believe the Word, he did not believe the testimonies, or the message preached. He chooses to NOT submit to the Gospel call BECAUSE he does not believe it. He remains among the perishing and he considers the truth of the Gospel as foolishness.

    If he chooses to submit to the Gospel call, it is because he believes. He sees the Gospel as the power of God that saves his soul.

    Let us take free will choice out of the equation and focus on why some one would or would not believe.

    What say ye?

  14. says

    Why we shouldn’t fight over ELECTION.

    C’s see election as God’s choice before time began. Others see election as something different. Some see it as an outgrowth of God’s foreknowledge, in that He ‘elects’ those who has foreseen will put their faith in Him. Some others see it as Jesus is the Elect one and we come to be elect when we put our faith in Jesus.

    But if all those above also believe in God’s infallible foreknowledge, then they also believe that God always has known EXACTLY who the elect are, each and every one of them.

    Now C’s do not know why God chooses any person, much less themselves.
    And the idea that God elects [chooses] because we first chose Him, is kind of hinky.
    Since we agree that God has infallible foreknowledge and the elect are only known by Him, and we cannot prove which method is proper, seeing how a Biblical case can be made for each of the three, we can certainly amicably agree to disagree, for what gain is there in provoking disunity over it?

    peace brothers,

  15. says

    Considering the other points of TULIP, I have not yet mentioned, there is two I can write on shortly.

    We all believe that man is fallen. Yes we disagree exactly what that means, but we do agree that God’s grace is necessary for anyone to be saved. But this goes to the HOW of salvation which comes down really to the I or is grace irresistable or not.

    As to the P, we agree that one who is truly saved will persevere to the end.

    So to fight over the T and P seems self defeating.
    What say you all?


    • Rick Patrick says

      Why frame the argument over the TULIP anyway? Perhaps a more detailed framework would help.

      What if both sides started lining up their level of agreement and disagreement with the POINSETTIA?

      • says


        Poinsettia is indeed clever. But I think you need a different flower. While no one knows for sure how TULIP came about, it was connected to the Dutch Synod of Dort. So maybe the imaginative person who later coined TULIP had that Dutch, and Holland, connection in mind. Hence a flower that does it’s job as an acronym and reflects the locale heritage.

        Wasn’t the Trad statement primarily done in Mississippi? If that’s correct, maybe Magnolia?

        Ok brother, y’all get to work on MAGNOLIA.

        All in good fun brother. :)

  16. says

    Dr. Dockery’s use of Traditionalists is not referring to today’s Traditionalists, I asked him. I asked on twitter, ” In Southern Baptist Consensus and Renewal do you use ‘traditional’ SBC the same way the new Traditionalist use it?”

    He responded that his book was written before non-Calvinists started using the term. He was referring more to 50’s methods of programs and worship practices.

    In this book, Dockery gives a list of seven SBC groups. Traditionalists are one of the groups as Trevin Wax as quoted. The list should help bring clarity to how Dockery used the term.

    1. Fundamentalists: hard-lined people who often have more in common with “independent” Baptists than with the SBC heritage.
    2. Revivalists: true heirs of the Sandy Creek tradition, including their suspicion of education.
    3. Traditionalists: heirs of the Sandy Creek theology, including the strong commitment to evangelism and revivalism, but affirming of education.
    4. Orthodox Evangelicals: an irenic group that looked to Carl F. H. Henry and Billy Graham as models. This group wanted a theological course correction, a commitment to the full truthfulness of the Bible, serious intellectual and cultural engagement, while interacting with all who would claim to great orthodox Christian tradition.
    5. Calvinists: a group that wanted to reclaim aspects of the “Charleston” theological tradition. They have much in common with the “Evangelical” group above. Sub-groups include “Nine Marks,” “Sovereign Grace,” “Founders,” and others. Most among this group no longer tend toward isolation as in years past.
    6. Contemporary church practitioners: a group of pastors who wanted to find new ways to connect with the culture, resulting in new models for doing church, including “Willow Creek Models,” “Saddleback Models,” “Missional,” and even some “emergent church types.”
    7. Culture Warriors: another group of conservatives who desire to engage the issues of culture and society. This group includes a variety of approaches including “church over culture,” “church transforming culture,” as well as “church and culture / social justice types.”

    There are two issues that should be immediately clear that Traditionalists in the above list do not refer to non-Calvinists.

    1) Traditionalists in point 3 are linked to Sandy Creek “theology” and not just methodology. The Sandy Creek confession is Calvinistic and explicitly contrary to the Traditionalist Statement on the imputation of Adam’s guilt.

    2) Calvinists could probably be found to fit into each of the seven groups and not just the Calvinists in group 5. For example, (1) Calvinists can be found among fundamentalist independents. Sandy Creek theology (2, 3) is Calvinistic, but Calvinism maybe a minority today among the Revivalists and Traditionalists Dockery has in mind. Carl F.H. Henry (4) was a Calvinist. Calvinists (6) have lead the way in the Missional movement. Calvinists (7) have also been influential in trying to shape culture taking their cues from people like Francis Schaeffer and Abraham Kuyper.

      • Debbie Kaufman says

        I remember when Dockery wrote this using the term traditionalist and it was not referring to the word as used today. Thank you Mark.

    • says


      I did not say he was the first to use it. However, his very use of the word provides a basis for what is being called “traditionalists”. The first I have found that used this word was Fisher Humphreys.

      In Fisher Humphreys book “God So Loved the World; Traditional Baptists and Calvinism” he clearly identifies those in the SBC that do not hold to a Calvinist soteriology as “traditionalist”. Whatever Dr. Dockery meant and tried to re-define the word “traditionalist” to mean is not the point for me here. Dr. Humphreys book holds a Copyright of 2000 while Dr. Dockery holds a Copyright of 2008. Thus, the word was already in use within Southern Baptist life and Dr. Humphrey’s is the clear definition.

      You may want to “Tweet” Dr. Dockery about his understanding that Dr. Humphreys had already employed the use of this word in identification with those Southern Baptists that did not hold to a Calvinist soteriology. And if he did understand that, then a question needs to be posed as to why he would change the definition of it?

      Also, as to the Sandy Creek confession. You may want to read this book before you continue trying to tie Shubal Stearnes and the Sandy Creek Association to a strict Calvinism. George Washington Paschal, History of North Carolina Baptists (Raleigh: The General Board North Carolina Baptist State Convention, 1955), 2.426-427. In it he writes:

      In the Broad River several of the leading Baptist ministers were ardent Calvinists and champions of the Doctrine of Election, and in general were Regular Baptists, accepting in full the Philadelphia Confession and Articles of Faith based upon it; on the other hand, the three churches that came to the French Broad from the Holston Association and their ministers had a Separate Baptist heritage, and like Shubal Stearns thought the New Testament a sufficient confession of faith, and like him, refused to accept Higher Calvinism and the Doctrine of Election, and were classed as Arminians and Free Willers. Probably, it was among the ministers and leaders rather than among the members generally that this difference was most pronounced, and it was less marked in some churches than in others…All of the leading spirits were Calvinistic, but there were many minds that revolted at the sterner aspects of Calvinism. Men generally held to the idea of moral free agency.[Emphasis Mine]

      Just sayin, not everyone agrees that the Sandy Creek Association was a strict Calvinist soteriological group.

      Some years ago the Historical Committee of the convention had a dispute over the oldest church in NC Baptist convention. One would think it would be Sandy Creek Baptist Church. However, the Historical Committee rejected that and used the fact of the many splits that resulted in the church. They split, as the old saying around here goes, “forty ways past Sunday”. The current church we point to as “Sandy Creek Baptist” is not the original Sandy Creek site. The current church split out of the original site because after the merger of the Regular and Separate Baptists there was a split where they left the original building to the Primitive Baptists. These Primitive Baptists held tenaciously to the Philadelphia Confession and that was the basis of the argument. You and I would affirm this would make that group hyper-Calvinists. There was a split to staunch Arminian even Pentecostal. The church at Sandy Creek has such a storied history that it would be wrong to attribute to it the Calvinist label and like Dr. Dockery says it would be considered a “traditionalist” Baptist in the line of less strident Calvinistic soteriology.

      As Dr. David Allen pointed out in John Leyland’s writings; David L. Allen and Steve W. Lemke, eds., Whosoever Will (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010), 46

      it is a matter of fact that the preaching that has been most blessed of God and most profitable to men is the doctrine of sovereign grace in the salvation of souls, mixed with a little of what is called Arminianism.

      I believe that would be an adequate explanation of what we are calling “traditionalists”.

      • says

        “There was a split to staunch Arminian even Pentecostal.”

        Bro. Tim,

        Would you elaborate as to the source of the above statement. I would like more information on the “Pentecostal” aspect of this split. What was the name of the group that split? Are they still in existence? What year did they split? Buddy Shruden referred to the Sandy Creek Baptist in a lecture series housed at SBTS library as “semi-Pentecostal.” Is that what you are referring to? Was there an actually a “Pentecostal” presence in SBC life or prehistory prior to the 1906 Azusa outpouring? Your statement triggered a lot of thoughts in my mind. Please elaborate. I would love to be able to consult your sources.

        I appreciate the links you sent me a while back on continuationist theology. Good material. Thanks.

          • says

            Bro. Tim,

            Thanks. I love learning insights into church history that are not well known, but significant (at least from my perspective). I know that it would be a bit time consuming, but I sure would be very grateful and indebted to you if you could document your statement and lead me to that source. I appreciate your response. Hope all is well. You are a brother beloved.

      • says

        Hi Tim,

        First, please note the following as it seems like you’ve moved away from the original dialogue.

        *I never claimed as you stated that Dockery was the “first to use” the term Tradionalist.
        *I was replying to your comment about Dockery, not Fisher Humphreys.
        *I never tied Shubal Stearns or Sandy Creek to “strict” Calvinism. I pointed out that the confessoin was “Calvinistic and explicitly contrary to the Traditionalist Statement on the imputation of Adam’s guilt.” (I was drawing from their 1816 confession.)

        Next, I am going to re-establish the context for others reading. Originally, you answered Dave defending the use of the term Traditionalist by refering to Dockery’s usage. It was on those grounds that I answered you.

        Dave’s objection was to the modern use as in the Traditionalist Statement. He did not object to all uses of the term as he noted, “Traditionalist is better used to refer to people who like suits, hymns, the piano and organ and such.” Dave is actually using the term in similarly to the way Dockery used it. Therefore, he has no reason to “take [his] argument up with Dr. Dockery,” as you challenged.

        Ironically, when you quote Dockery on the “diminishing influence of Calvinism,” the very same paragraph on the next page states the move was to “moderate Calvinistic theologies of Mullins and Conner with additional programmatic, pragmatic, and revivalistic emphases.” Dockery also states that Mullins’ shift was more “methodological.” He also uses the terms traditionalist and conservative interchangeably which you quoted.

        Again, I was only attempting to answer your charge about Dockery’s usage of the Traditionalist term. And I did not charge Sandy Creek with being “strict” Calvinists. It may even be argued that the 1845 Sandy Creek confession was a move away from Calvinism.

        Just trying to clear things up.

        • says


          On the clearing “things up” motif allow me to respond.

          I replied to Dave using Dockery’s use of the term “traditionalists” and you responded with Wax’s 7 points. Point # 3 refers to the “Sandy Creek theology” Sandy Creek theology was not Calvinistic that is what I was referencing in my response to you defending the use of the term “traditionalist”. You said; The Sandy Creek confession is Calvinistic and explicitly contrary to the Traditionalist Statement on the imputation of Adam’s guilt. I responded trying to express documented positions where scholars have denied what you are proclaiming.

          Thus, maybe I need to refresh my position with you to start over. You seem to be resting on a confession adopted by Sandy Creek and I have presented documented evidence that Stearns was one that abhorred confessions. You have to really jump through some huge historical hoops to make what came out of Sandy Creek theology anything other than a rejection of the Calvinistic flair that was tied to the Philadelphia Confession. After the uniting of the Regular and Separatists they split and started what is today Sandy Creek Baptist church in the Randolph Baptist Association. What they left is today the Sandy Creek Primitive Baptist Church.

          Dockery has tied the term to the “Sandy Creek theology”. Humphreys has tied the term to “non-Calvinists”. Dockery used the term first in a scholarly work in 2008. Humphreys used the term in a scholarly work in 2000. Thus it appears either Dockery highjacked the term and is trying to redefine it, or he was ignorant of the term already being established. You tell me which it was. I would think, being the scholar Dr. Dockery is he is just trying to redefine the term for his work. His is a well researched work so I would not think he is ignorant of the use already established.

      • says


        Since we seem to be talking past each other, this may be my last reply. I was seeking to clarify some points rather than debate history.

        In case you didn’t notice, I pointed to Trevin Wax’s article because he was quoting Dockery directly from the book which I asked Dockery about. (In other words, those seven points are not Trevin’s.) The reason I offered the quote is because I asked Dockery about his use of Traditionalist from that particular book. And I thought it would help shed further light on how Dockery was using the term.

        Have scholars denied Sandy Creek was Calvinistic? Even your Humphrey’s quote contains the line, “All of the leading spirits were Calvinistic, but there were many minds that revolted at the sterner aspects of Calvinism.” Stearns may have rejected confessions and high Calvinism, but that does not mean he rejected every tenet. I find it hard to read the 1816 Sand Creek confession written after Stearns death not to be Calvinistic. (Note, I am not claiming “strict” Calvinism.) Even some non-Calvinists, such as comment 9 here indicates, admit with qualification that “Separates embraced Calvinism” and “Sandy Creek must be quite another breed of Calvinist than our descendants from Philly.”

        It also my understanding the Humphrey’s was using the term Tradionalist to refer to non-Calvinist Baptists in general such as Smyth and Helwys, rather than Southern Baptists in particular. But this opens a whole new debate on which doctrines of Smyth and Helwys would be defended and incorporated by today’s Traditionalists if the two uses of the terms are to be tied together.

        I would not hijacked or tried to redefine the term Traditionalist. He could have been ignorant of Humphrey’s usage. I’m not sure that a term used once in a certain context overrules it being used another way in a different context. Also, Humphrey’s, if I understand rightly, used the term, as noted above, was speaking of Baptists in general while Dockery was referring to Southern Baptists.

        Ironically, Irvin Victor Masters wrote a mission study book in 1915 in response to being asked by the SBC in 1914. One of the observations Masters made about doctrine was:

        The Regular Baptists were those who adopted the Philadelphia Confession of Faith. The Separates sprang up under the leadership of Shubal Stearns. They had more fervor than the Regular Baptists and held that believers are guided by the immediate teachings of the Holy Spirit, which are in the nature of inspiration. They were mighty as revivalists and did much to bring Baptist growth. They opposed the Establishment more than the Regulars did in Virginia. In 1787 the two branches united in Virginia, which they afterwards did everywhere. The Baptists of 1815 in the South, barring certain minor sects, were everywhere Regular Baptists.

        Thanks for the dialogue.

  17. Rick Patrick says


    Even more awesome than usual are these two nuggets:

    (1) “We don’t ‘basically agree’ on soteriology; we fundamentally disagree.”

    (2) “Let’s talk about the strengths and weaknesses of those philosophical and theological approaches. This will keep us from interminable and emotional exegetical death matches.”

    I personally entertain the theory that Calvinistic soteriology is closely associated with related doctrines in areas like ecclesiology, missiology, hamartiology, patriology, anthropology, eschatology and theodicy. If we discover that we fundamentally disagree in all these other areas as well, our challenge to maintain unity becomes that much more formidable.

  18. Ron F. Hale says

    Several years back, a couple came to my church—she was Baptist and he was Catholic. Things were going good until they had their first child. He wanted the child to grow up Catholic and she wanted the child to grow up Baptist. Tension grew …

    In the SBC – some want their children (and church plants) to grow up Calvinist and some want their kids (and church plants) to grow up non-Calvinist. Tension has grown …

    Now what?

    The first big step is to acknowledge the problem, define it, and talk about it— before being totally overwhelmed by the differences.

    I believe that Dr. Hankins has given a tremendous amount of time and energy in helping Southern Baptists acknowledge our major theological problems/tensions, define the tension points, and talk about them in order to move forward in Great Commission work. I commend his efforts!


    • Tarheel says

      There are other southern baptists who have worked just as hard as Hankins, but are more Calvinistic than non Calvinistic.

      You got kudos for them, Ron…or are those reserved only for those wo agree with you?

      Despite disagreements with his soteriological positions I respect Hankins and his work, especially the coopertive spirit he exuded and displayed on the calvinism report at last years SBC meeting. Frank Page too.

  19. says

    I wonder to what end Eric hopes to debate these issues. Is it until one of the parties, Calvinist or non-Calvinist, leaves the Convention? And what about the majority of non-Calvinists who will not sign the Traditional Statement?

    Seems Traditionalists are a minority within the majority.

    • Tarheel says

      “I wonder to what end Eric hopes to debate these issues. Is it until one of the parties, Calvinist or non-Calvinist, leaves the Convention?”

      I have not conversed with Dr. Hankins, but I’ve asked others with whom i have conversed that same question…..I’d really like to know the answer though.


      • says

        Very good question

        Is it feasible, given today’s climate in the SBC, that we debate until we can work together in harmony, mutual respect and understanding with a common devotion to working the Great Commission?

        That is a sincere question. I would like to hear what all of think in this regard.

      • Rick Patrick says


        Two false assumptions here. One, that “crickets” means there is no answer. I, for one, was asleep at the date and time stamp for both of your comments above. Incidentally, someone’s clock may be off, unless you miraculously responded to Mark two minutes before he made his comment.

        I would hate to speak for Eric, but everything I’ve heard from him resonates with my own personal feelings as well. No, the goal of the debate is absolutely not to drive one wing or the other from the convention. (See the T5 Report)

        Rather, the goal of the debate is (1) to better articulate both the similarities and the differences in our doctrines, and (2) to better define the scope and manner of our broad cooperation in a variety of areas like publishing, church planting and seminary education.

        Speaking for myself only, I believe no Southern Baptist should feel like the time and money they devote to their denomination is being used to promote doctrines (in books, church plants and seminaries) that they personally disaffirm. In other words, it might very well be unfair to ask a Traditionalist denomination to pay for the creation of a Calvinist one.

        To repeat, there is no desire for a split, but only for the exercise of clarity regarding the doctrines we promote and good stewardship regarding the financial commitments we make. Again, these are my views, not Eric’s. I’m merely stepping in since the crickets were so quiet.

        • Tarheel says

          I have asked those TYPES of questions…that’s where only crickets are making noise. I and others have repeatedly asked here on voices and it’s always been met with silence….in fact one person posted that a “decision must be made” (by Traditionalists) as to what to do within the SBC since those of Calvinist leaning soteriology are becoming more prominent in the SBC…. I asked for elaboration and have yet to get an answer to that query.

          • Rick Patrick says

            I just gave you one answer… No, we are not trying to remove Calvinists, just work within the convention and guard the promotion of our own theology. So you have one answer.

          • Tarheel says

            Ok, do you believe it wrong or take offense that others who hold different theology should attempt to guard thier doctrine?

          • Tarheel says


            I know your saying you have no desire to boot us…but heres what (we) hear from the posts, blogs, networks, statements, etc….that you and others of your persuasion make…

            You say you’re not trying to kick us out…but then we hear you (general sense) say that you wish to stifle and silence us….desiring that we are not heard and rarely seen.m Basically, we can stay but we need be quiet and subservient ( example – Volfan essentially said as much and you affirmed it).

            I acknowledge that you and others see a “Calvinist takeover” afoot…

            Is it not possible that there’s something else other than mere theology at play…I know you’re sincere in your theological positions, as are others….I, other Calvinists/Calvinist leaners are too…but might our pride, and desire for control be something that’s playing in here? The desire to be right. The desire to “win” or “hold the fort”, “stand the ground” can sometimes be sinful.

            Maybe a stepping back might be in order for all of us?

            I contend as I have before that we all likely agree on far more than we fight over.

            Calvinists and those who aren’t can and have coexisted in the SBC since the beginning.

            Both “sides” (I don’t like to say it that way) may have the “right” to demand our soterological stripes be recognized and at the fore, even exclusive in the SBC but does that mean we should demand it? Isn’t the Christian calling to deny ourselves (and our own passions) and follow Christ?

            I’m not preaching at you, Rick….I am preaching to myself and praying you might benefit. :-)

          • Rick Patrick says


            I will try to choose my words carefully. Please listen carefully.

            “…do you believe it wrong…that others should attempt to guard their doctrine?” No, I don’t believe it’s wrong. Promote your Calvinism all you want. I do not wish to stifle your pens, mouths or Calvinist freedom of religion one iota. Period.

            “I know you say you have no desire to boot us but here’s what we hear… you (in a general sense) wish to stifle and silence us, desiring that we are not heard and rarely seen… Volfan said this and you affirmed it.” No, not that’s not right. No one wishes to silence Calvinist speech or drive you from the convention. We affirm you as Great Commission partners. However, we DO NOT accept the notion that it is fair for the PROPORTION of Calvinists in SBC leadership to exceed the PROPORTION of Calvinists among SBC membership. We find this chart unbalanced, to say the least.

            To summarize, we (a) DO NOT wish to drive Calvinists out, (b) DO NOT wish to force Calvinists to stifle their voice completely, and (c) DO NOT wish to deny Calvinists their fair place at the table of SBC leadership. However, we DO wish to keep the Calvinist influence in our literature, seminaries, church plants and leadership structures PROPORTIONAL to the level of Calvinism among rank and file Southern Baptists. Our LEADERSHIP should not be more Calvinist than our MEMBERSHIP. That’s where the line is being drawn.

            I hope that clears things up a bit.

        • Tarheel says

          Ever thought to think that Calvinists make contributions in the past and to this day and those monies are used in promotion (of the things you mentioned) with which they disagree?

          • Tarheel says

            I only mention that because it’s utterly unreasonable to demand money only be spent in a cooperative convention according to ones personal dictates…

            In fact think taxes, tithes to local Church, charity anywhere one gives money and tell me where complete agreement is found as it relates to expenditures.

    • Rick Patrick says

      Good questions, Mark.

      First of all, let us disabuse ourselves already of the notion that all those in the SBC who believe in Traditionalist doctrine have signed the Traditionalist Statement. That’s simply not true. I hear from many, many people who say, “Rick, I believe what you guys believe, but I just don’t want to get involved, sign something, etc.” It’s like saying that every Calvinist would have to go to the Founders Conference. That just doesn’t happen. It’s not realistic.

      It’s not that the majority of non-Calvinists *will not sign* the statement. Honestly, the majority of non-Calvinists in the SBC don’t even know the statement exists or that there is a significant theological debate going on. It’s a bit abstract for your rank and file Southern Baptist. So, yes, Mark, the number who have SIGNED are a minority within a majority, but we are just getting started. Founders has been going on for 30 years. Check with me in 2043 for membership totals—I’ll be 79 if still alive. Then maybe we can compare the number attending Connect 316 with the number attending Founders and extrapolate from there.

      You simply cannot generalize regarding the size of a population just by looking at the number who sign or attend one expression of it. Certain people will attend the Republican National Convention, but that doesn’t tell you how many people espouse the Republican political philosophy.

  20. says

    Hi Rick,

    I know Arminians consider Perseverance optional, so to speak. That is why the label can apply to some Baptists. In fact, there are a variety of Baptists who do not hold to Perseverance. Since Perseverance is optional that means one can hold to it or not allowing for Southern Baptists and even Free-will Baptists to fit in.

    I’m not asking about Traditionalists being Arminian. I understand why the label does not apply to them. I’m asking about non-Calvinist, non-Tradtionalist Southern Baptists. For example, I know there are people who will not sign the Trad statement because they do not agree with it in the area of imputed guilt. On what grounds might this group of Baptist reject the Arminian label?

    • Rick Patrick says

      You are describing a person who affirms nine of the ten points of the POINSETTIA, rejecting only the O of “Own Guilt” since their view of depravity does embrace the imputed guilt of Adam and not merely their inherited sinful nature.

      Following the current Calvinist nomenclature, I would have to describe these persons as Nine Point Traditionalists. In the same way that Four Point Calvinism has been termed Amyraldism, perhaps another new and distinctive name could be developed for these individuals. I haven’t met one yet. If I do, I will ask them what they would like to be called.

  21. says

    Andrew Barker said:

    Mark, I too am curious as to why you’re curious but don’t want to debate it. It seems to me more likely that you simply wish to make your point but not be held accountable. Calvinists have long used the tactic of assuming the rest of the world is Arminian. For one thing it helps them get their ducks in a row but also enables them to build a straw man which can quickly be knocked down and hey presto what’s left standing is the Calvinist argument which then has to be the ‘right’ one. Effectively it is an attempt to force people into defending a position which they don’t hold. It’s a good debating tactic which is used frequently by persons who will remain nameless but it does nothing for getting at the truth.

    You got me!

    Actually, I’m not even sure why you’re addressing me like this. Weird.

  22. volfan007 says

    I think that most 5 point Calvinists and New Calvinists should be more accurately called “Bezanites.” That would seem to be more accurate than Calvinists. I have often heard that John Calvin would probably not be a modern day Calvinist. I don’t know, but that’s what I hear.


  23. says

    I was led to the Lord by a Calvinist in 1961, when I was 17 tears old. I was Baptized by a Calvinist (not the same one), married by a Calvinist, have 3 or 4 Calvinists signatures on my ordination, my Brother in law is a calvinist. I am NOT a Calvinist.

    My point: We have had Calvinist in the convention (all the above are SBC) for years and ministered side by side, even during the CR years. Why is there now such a discussion to the point there is talk bout driving someone out of the convention. I doubt that I can get an answer, but still I desire to have one. During the CR years the Liberals/Moderates or whatever said that if the Conservatives/Fundamentalist or whatever (of which I am one), get in control, they will soon start fighting among themselves. Were they right?

    I understand dialogue, it can be healthy. However, as long as we are signing statements, holding Calvinist and non-Calvinist meetings, we are going to have disruptive dialogue. Am I wrong?

    I realize that this SBC wide debate has moved far beyond this type of comment. However it is still relevant, and the whole thing still disturbs me greatly.

    • volfan007 says


      The whole thing started when a whole lot of us felt like that Calvinists were taking over the SBC, and that Non Calvinists would be left out, or even villified. The Founders Organization has long held to a takeover, and even have a strategy for this takeover…one Church at a time. Then, when you look at the influence that Mohler has had in the SBC….just look at the many recent SBC entity heads that have been picked with strong Mohler ties, then it just fueled the fire. Then, a lot of us looked around at how aggressive, Calvinist Pastors were sneaking into Non Calvinist Churches, and were trying to convert them….many times causing great splits in Churches, then we became more alarmed. And then, we started hearing rhetoric like “you preach easy believism and are leading people to Hell, if you don’t preach Calvinism,” or, “if you lead people in the sinner’s prayer,” and “if you’re not a Calvinist, then you’re an Arminian, or worse, you’re a Semi Pelagian(heretic).” And, these statements were being made SBC leaders and very popular, conference speakers. Also, Calvinist groups started having a lot of meetings, which were Calvinist, rally conferences; and Mark Driscoll’s influence drifted in, with the Acts 29 Network, which would only support Calvinist Church starts. And, the list could go on and on and on….maybe Rick Patrick, or Eric Hankins, or someone else could add to what I’m saying….but, these things are what I hear the most from the one’s, who decided to take a stand, and promote Traditional, Baptist doctrine….and, to give the Traditional Baptists a voice…to let them know that they don’t have to become a Calvinist, in order to be doctrinally sound, or to be a Southern Baptist.

      That’s my 2 cents.

      And, let me say this….I’m NOT for kicking Calvinist out of the SBC. We have co existed for a long, long time. The only reason that most of the people I know, who are Traditionalists, are getting more vocal about Traditional Baptist doctrine and alerting people about the Calvinist takeover, are doing do, because they really do believe that a Calvinist takeover is taking place….where Non Calvinists will be looked upon as not really preaching the Gospel, and not intellectual enough to teach in Seminaries, and not qualified to serve as missionaries, etc. And, we have a lot of Calvinists, who then make fun of anyone who sees a Calvinist takeover taking place….there’s been a lot of ridicule about that…even from SBC leaders….but…..that is the perception.

      There, that’s the elephant in the room.


      • Rick Patrick says

        Very well put, David.

        DL, here are a few articles that might help explain why individual churches may be able to straddle soteriology better than entire denominations can. There are valid reasons why we have Baptists and Presbyterians, and why we don’t publish or plant churches together.







        Other resources are available here: http://connect316.net/Articles

        • says

          Volfan, Rick

          Thank you very much for this information. It helps me a great deal.

          Contrary to what might be the perception (if the blog world is one’s only source of communication), Montanans are not very much engaged in much of the dialogue that occurs in the South. Hence it is easy to get out of the know very quickly.

          Only five or less of our pastors attend the SBC annual meeting. When I came to this state in 1993 the majority of our pastors knew that something was going on (what we now call the CR) but could not discuss it with any familiarity. In fact there was a conscious effort to keep the discussion our of our state because of the “tenderness” of who we are. We could not survive a controversy like that.

          I don’t know whether that is good or bad, but it is reality. At any rate thank for the information and links, it will be helpful.

      • Tarheel says

        volfan, Do you reject any precluding of Calvinists from the positions, denominational roles you mentioned?

        • volfan007 says


          It depends on what kind of Calvinist we’re talking about….an aggressive , New Calvinist….then, no…..i would not want them in a leadership role. They think that only Calvinists preach a true Gospel, and they think that they’re only ones holding to sound doctrine.

          Now, if you’re talking about a regular, old Calvinist, who doesn’t wear his Calvinism on his sleeve, and make a big deal out of his Calvinism; and he’s evangelistic and mission minded; then, I’d be all for this kind of Calvinist leading in the SBC.

          So, I guess it depends on what kind of Calvinist that you’re talking about.


          • Les Prouty says

            Hello David fellow MABTS alum.

            How about Al Mohler? You ok with him? Our history prof Tom Nettles? Fellow alum Jeff Noblett?

            War Eagle too.


          • Tarheel says

            Thanks, volfan,

            I wondering though about an aggressive , Non Calvinist…Who thinks that only non Calvinists preach a true Gospel, and they think that they’re only ones holding to sound doctrine.

            Do you hold such people in contempt? Do you oppose them holding office or position?

          • volfan007 says

            Les and Tarheel,

            This is always these conversations go….they keep on going and going and going….with more points and counterpoints….with more questions….it seems to never end.

            I’m just going to bow out of this….I’ve already stated my points. I’ll just let it go at that.

            God bless yall.


          • says


            I understand you want to bow out now. No names. But since you said,

            “Now, if you’re talking about a regular, old Calvinist, who doesn’t wear his Calvinism on his sleeve, and make a big deal out of his Calvinism; and he’s evangelistic and mission minded; then, I’d be all for this kind of Calvinist leading in the SBC.”

            I’ll just have to assume you are ok with Dr. Mohler leading in the SBC and would be ok with our former history prof. Because neither is a new Calvinist as you described.

            Thanks brother and God bless you too.


      • Greg Buchanan says

        The whole thing started when a whole lot of us felt like that Calvinists were taking over the SBC,

        Now you can see what happens when you REACT with your feelings rather than think things through.

        And as I’ve said before, this is all about people’s hard earned tithes.

  24. says


    I have a couple of questions that really seek a clarification of some of what you wrote.

    First, you wrote, “Finn is affirming that Baptists have always modified Calvinism. We’ve never been comfortable with full-bore Westminster-type Calvinism for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that it sometimes failed to be “evangelical” (that’s why Finn uses the adjective “evangelical” to qualify his Calvinism–Fuller was distinguishing himself from the hyper-Calvinism of some his forebears).”

    How are you using the word “evangelical” As in “evangelistic?” It seems that way. Just wondering.

    Second, you said in a comment to Clark, “In these discussions, Calvinists use the word “freedom” in the compatibilistic sense, and that sometimes confuses the uninitiated. They will say that individuals “freely” respond to the gospel, but they don’t mean what I think most people mean when the word “free” is used, the freedom to do do otherwise. – See more at: http://sbcvoices.com/a-response-to-dr-nathan-finn-by-dr-eric-hankins/#comment-235225

    What do most people mean by “free?” And is “what most people mean when the word “free” is used really the standard by which we should decide the meaning theologically? Don’t we have to help people think theologically (biblically)?

    For instance, what do most people “think” when they use the words “will” (as in he died without a will) or “testament” or “covenant?” These words are used in scripture and require some explanation as to their meaning and use theologically.

    I know you know this, but the WCF specifically says in the God’s Decree chapter that God’s decree does no violence to the human will. It goes on to say that neither “is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.” How is this possible? Logically? No way. But God is God and Reformed folks base these beliefs on scripture as well, not simply on human logic or philosophy.

    And at the end of the day, we do appeal to some mystery here. Some things are too deep to fully understand (c.f. the thrifty, Jesus fully God and fully man, God promises to give us what we need and tells us to ask Him for what we need, etc.) and we fall before God and confess we just don’t fully understand.

    However those who aren’t Calvinists may disagree, I don’t think it is proper to say that Calvinists are using “free” differently than most people, unless it can be established as a fact. Even then, if “most people” use “free” in another common way, we would say that they need to become familiar with the theological use.

    Blessings to you brother.


    • Eric Hankins says


      As to “evangelical,” I am using Finn’s meaning: “As an evangelical Calvinist, I combine an evangelical understanding of conversion and mission with a Calvinist understanding of soteriology.” I take this to refer to a distinction between, say, the attitude of Fuller to conversion and missions and his hyper-Calvinistic forbears, as not by none other than John Piper: http://www.desiringgod.org/biographies/holy-faith-worthy-gospel-world-vision.

      In the limited space for blog posts and comments, I sometimes make general comments for the sake of argument. By “most people” I merely meant to point out what is certainly commonplace. “Freedom” for ordinary people means that they are agents of their own choices and that they can act or refrain from acting. They don’t think they are “doing what they desire most” while at the same time not having any control over what they desire because that has been predetermined. They would be appalled to know that God is withholding from them the grace to act rightly because the guilt and consequences of someone else’s sin has been imputed to them. It is an empty view of freedom and a troubling view of God. Moreover, this is a particularly Southern Baptist discussion and I am telling you that Southern Baptists by and large don’t believe those things about God or freedom.

      Now, we are both aware of the vast literature on compatibilism verses libertarianism and I doubt seriously that you need me to explain it. You are a compatibilist. Fine. You think it has scriptural support. Fine. I don’t. The WCF makes the claim that it’s view does not violate freedom, but that does not count as an argument. It can claim that unicorns exist, but that doesn’t make it so. The WCF is self-contradictory on the issue of freedom. That is not the same as being mysterious or paradoxical. The Trinity is a claim that God is three persons and one essence. It is somewhat mysterious as to what that all means. The Trinity is not claiming that God is three persons and one person. That would be contradictory. The WCF claims that God is the cause of all things, but not the cause of evil. It claims that God determines all things, but that man is free–in a deterministic way. But I believe that if my desires are determined by someone else besides me, I am not free and therefore not responsible for them.

      Now, I understand all the compatibilistic arguments against the sentence above. I don’t think any of them work. But here is really the point: As you note in other comments on this stream, your view makes it impossible to affirm that God desires the salvation of all. The point that I am making is that Southern Baptists, by and large, including Finn, believe that God does desire the salvation of all, but those like Finn are in a bind theologically.

    • says

      Thanks Eric. I see where you were coming from on the word “evangelical.” Thanks for the clarification.

      I won’t belabor the issue of freedom except for a few follow up comments. I think we both understand each other’s position. We of the Reformed wing certainly do believe we have scriptural support for our view as you of the non Reformed wing believe you have support for your view. Both groups have a high view of scripture. For that we can all be grateful.

      As to this, “It can claim that unicorns exist, but that doesn’t make it so.” I agree. And you can claim they don’t, but that doesn’t make it so.. But since neither has exhaustive knowledge neither of us can make such a claim in a vacuum.

      So, on the human will we believe that man is born w/o a free will. It is enslaved. you know all that of our view. So we believe that it must be set free, truly free. And when it is set free, the newly freed person makes a real live free choice to repent and believe. Now if one says, “well it isn’t really free since God ordained all things,” we respond that is where mystery comes in and an all powerful and all knowing God can makes things work.

      One last thing on mysterious things. Billy Graham (or someone in his org) answered a question on Does God know the day we are going to die? The reply was,

      “When we will die is not a matter of accident or chance; the Bible makes it clear that our lives are in God’s hands. He knows the time of our death, and He has even appointed it. The Bible says, “Man’s days are determined; you (God) have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed” (Job 14:5).”

      Sadly some take other person’s lives. There are murderers out there. So when a murder happens, does God know in advance that it will? I think the bible says yes. Did God cause it? The bible says no since murder is a sin and God cannot sin. Could a murder that took place on a certain day and time have NOT happened? i.e. could have it happened “otherwise?” No. Did God cause the murderer to pull the trigger? No. Is this all mysterious? Absolutely.

      Blessings brother.


  25. Andy says

    I just wanted to re-post this article “ARE WE REALLY TOGETHER FOR THE GOSPEL?” http://www.helwyssocietyforum.com

    I really think Calvinistic Baptists should read it and consider the main question of the article: “Why are we willing to partner & fellowship with paedobaptists & Charismatics, but not with fellow baptists who differ in soteriology?”

    Should the Gospel Coalition have more of a broad “coalition”?

    • Tarheel says

      I guess for the same reasons non and anticalvinists are willing to partner with charismatics but not baptists who disagree on soteriology.

      Maybe the variations and sundry groups on the non/anti Calvinist side should broaden the tent under which they claim to own John 3:16, the tradition/history of southern baptists and the phrase “whosoever will”.

      Goes both ways, doesn’t it?

      No one, or movement is lily white here.

      • Tarheel says

        Also, I disagree with the premise of the question as SBC Calvinists partner with non Calvinists in substantial and meaningful ways in state conventions, associations, and of course in sending missionaries through the cooperative program…among other ways.

        Some go to a conference every now and then, yes….but I’m not sure that signifies partnership in the way you seem to be suggesting.

      • Andy says

        I should preface this response by disclosing that I am a mostly Calvinistic SBC Pastor who has attended 2 T4g conferences and has benefited and learned from Gospel Coalition resources.

        1. Non-calvinists ARE willing to partner with Calvinistic Baptists…and Calvinists ARE willing to partner with non-calvinistic Baptists…but the point is we calvinistic Baptists are much more willing to attach the label “Gospel” to something when it is centered around calvinism.

        2. I suppose the difference is that the John 3:16 conference was very obviously a gathering to discuss the Calvinism issue, AND they did not name their group the “Gospel Coalition”, which by its very name, whether intentionally or not, implies that it is a “Coalition” of all who want to uphold the “Gospel”…When it fact is is something different.

        3. The fact that there are some non-calvinists who want to paint SBC history as mostly non-calvinists, should not mean that we Calvinists should respond by painting the picture that only Calvinists have the real Gospel. It seems that is the message non-calvinists hear when we name all of our groups & conferences with the name “Gospel.”

        4. I agree that especially in the case of the Gospel Coalition…it’s name implies something different than what it is, unless (a) It openly states that it believes arminianism/non-calvinism teaches a different Gospel. (b) it changes its name to something else, or (c) it reaches out to include non-calvinistic theologians and pastors in its network.

        • Tarheel says

          I gotcha now. .. I agree with much of that…in fact a friend and I were discussing the very same thing a couple of hours ago.

          I benefit from both TGC and T4G but I certainly see your points and agree to a large extent.

          • Tarheel says

            I also strive not to reject out if hand books that are written by non Calvinists and have attended my share of conferences that were of a non Calvinist bent. In fact I attended one in March.

            I won’t though attend ones that exist for the expressed purpose of bashing those who disagree. T4G does not do that.

            I went to TGC national conference in 2011 in Chicago and was not impressed…but I still like many of. their blog posts.

          • John Wylie says

            If everyone would get back to rightly defining the Gospel these things would not be an issue. Calvinism is not the Gospel neither is Non Calvinism. The Good News is that a Savior had died and risen again and that all who believe (trust in or rely upon) in those particulars for salvation will be saved.

        • says

          Andy, I can appreciate your heart on this. I do wonder though…

          TGC has in their preamble, “We are a fellowship of evangelical churches in the Reformed tradition deeply committed to renewing our faith in the gospel of Christ and to reforming our ministry practices to conform fully to the Scriptures. ”

          Why would we expect them to admit into leadership those who disagree with the Reformed tradition? That seems counterintuitive.

          And on the T4g, well this started as those 4 friends.

          I’d be interested to know two things here.

          1. Who among the Trads have a desire to be part of the leadership structure of either org?

          2. Who among the Trads can affirm both these org’s doctrinal positions?

          Oh three then. For the couple Trad orgs out there, do they want say, Al Mohler on their leadership team? Are they recruiting Reformed folks to be on their leadership teams?

          Last, I don’t think either TGC or T4G intend the “gospel” usage the way others are perceiving it as “they have the only gospel.” And, I don’t see or hear of any non Reformed folks being excluded from participation.

          Just my thoughts.


          • Andy says

            a. For TGC, I have no problem with what TGC is, or its preamble…I simply think the name CAN imply that they (the reformed) have the corner on the Gospel, whether intentional or not.

            1. Answer to Q1: I do not know of specifics, but I suspect that some of those “non-reformed folks” who are not being “excluded from participation.” might appreciate hearing from leaders with a wider range of views…AND if The Gospel Coalition wants to be a true “Coalition of those who hold to the Gospel”, then that would be a worthy goal…If that is not their goal, then perhaps a different name might convey their mission better.

            Monergism has no such problem with public image. Everybody knows this is where you go to find resources from a reformed perspective.

            2. Obviously, none.

            “Oh, three then.” Some may correct my history here, but didn’t a bunch of mostly non-reformed folks hire Dr. Mohler in the first place? And didn’t a calvinistic pastor hand off the reigns of Bellevue Baptist Church to his non-calvinist successor Adrian Rogers peacefully?

            Personally, I am willing to cut T4g significantly more slack than TGC, in that it did start with 4 friends, they were intentionally “coming together” across denominational lines due to their unity in the Gospel (and in reformed soteriology).

        • Debbie Kaufman says

          Andy: Isn’t the name John 3:16 conference essentially the same thing, saying that they essentially are the only ones with the Gospel ? Most non-Calvinists would say this is the Gospel.

          • Debbie Kaufman says

            Andy: Is there a set rule that says one cannot use gospel in their name? I know of no such rule and I never thought of the Gospel Coalition as thinking or conveying they have the market on the Gospel, but I could be wrong.

          • says

            Are we actually saying that some Calvinist are saying that non Calvinist have no gospel and are we saying that some non Calvinist are saying the Calvinist have no gospel?

            That is a sincere question. I am still playing “catch up” as it relates to the depth of the division in this debate.

          • says


            Yes some Calvinists have said something like non C is not the true gospel. i.e. that would mean they refer to it as a false gospel. Sad but true. But the vast majority of Cs do not do that.

            It is also true that some non Cs do the same thing. Just today I see a non C commenter refer to a brother’s C theology as “false theology.” The non C continuously says that his C brethren are “evasive,” “deceptive,” and “misleading.” He accuses his C brother of holding to the offensive “divine rape” theology.

            There really seems to be a serious lack of love for our brothers in these discussions with bitterness and anger sprinkled on top as well. Wait, maybe I should say the lack of love is immersed in bitterness and anger, since I’m on a Baptist site. That sprinkle word and all. :)


  26. says

    JOHN SAID “if everyone would get back to defining the gospel”

    John I agree, I would add if everyone would get back (or start) DOING the gospel, we might surprise ourselves at how well we could work together. It seems to me that we we spend a lot of time in our discussion picking at any word with which we might be able to agree. I have seen that in another thread in which I am involved. I do like the idea of dwelling on that with which we agree (at least to an extent).

    My observation is that some seek to make enemies out of others, at least when I hear the rhetoric that is employed. Satan and his crowd is the enemy.

    I know I am sounding pious and holier than thou and in fact have started preaching. But there is a basic undeniable fact with which we all agree. People are going to hell. We had better get settled among ourselves how a person gets saved and get about the business of tell them how to be saved.

    I spent 20 years of my ministry involved in the CR. It grieves me that now we are led to another divisive issue.

    Now don’t accuse me of being holier than thou, my wife beat you to it.

  27. dr. james willingham says

    Man, a brief dip here seems like a cold bath on one of our recent wintry days: really designed to chill you out. The idea of philosophical presuppositions involved in this issue is non sequitur, especially, as is likely, that many of use did not come to our positions on Sovereign Grace, more specifically, the doctrines of graces, due to any such considerations. I do not speak for anyone else, however, when I insist that such no part in my thinking (others might state their own experiences and studies). While I had heard the doctrines of grace proclaimed as a child, I did not know it. I was introduced to the teachings at East Texas Baptist College by some students in the Fall of ’58, and I disagreed with them. Then in ’62 I was ordained to the Gospel ministry by the then Calvary Baptist Church (now Oak Hill) of St. Louis, Mo. The pastor, Dr. Ernest R. Campbell, was a self-proclaimed supralapsarian hyper Calvinist who went plead with men to look to Christ with tears running down his cheeks. (My brother-in-law had to remind me of this). I did not accept the teachings then, but it was in my first pastorate which had called me due to their being unable to get an experienced pastor (no one wanted it, knowing that they would take their frustrations out on the next pastor due to a great disappointment in the former pastor) and the study of the various verses in the Bible that led to my change. I came face to face with the biblical teachings on Man’s inability. The one verse above all others that began the change was Jn.6:44, “no man can.” The word can means ability. I knew the difference between can and may. The first refers to ability and the second to permission. Our Lord said, “no man can.” Clearly, that means no man is able to come to Christ without a special work of grace, the drawing of the Father or, as is stated in vs.65, “except it were given him of my Father.” My experiences in childhood had taught me the meaning of the words. Many other verses added to the idea of inability, i.e., dead in trespasses and sins, a child of Satan, a slave of sin. If man is unable to come, it follows that he requires supernatural sovereign grace to overcome his inability, his spiritual deadness, sonship to Satan, his slavery to sin. Paul referred to such grace in Roms. 5:21, “as sin has reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” If sin abounds, Grace does much more abound (super abounds)(Roms.5:20). Hence, we conclude that God’s grace is greater than our sin.

    I hope to write more later, but let me close with the problem of looking at these teachings as being bound up with philosophical presuppositions. Having studied these teachings for so many years and coming to each belief slowly and over a space of 10 years are more) but surely based upon the meaning of biblical terms, I never even considered the philosophy angle. Later on, I would look on these truths in the light of various modes of counseling which has led me to think of them as more a matter of counseling therapies and techniques rather than philosophical constructs. God willing, I hope to come back and discuss this issue a bit more thoroughly in the light of both Dr. Hankins and Dr. Finn’s approaches. This will involve the counseling ideas approach and the intellectual or ideas approach, my training being in both counseling and intellectual history. In addition, I did years of research in Baptist History. Hopefully, this might be an opportunity to prompt deeper, more insightful studies which might lead to an intellectual resurgence where the Christian Faith regains its position of leadership of Western Civilization and World Civilization and Interstellar Civilization, the latter being a reminder that we are, indeed, on the verge of going to the stars. (in fact, Ben Rich, the head of the Skunk Works at Lockheed said to the graduating class of 1993 at UCLA, “We already have the means to go to the stars.” Google it and see. That was 21 years ago. In any case, we need a better understanding of the Revelation of God and the ideas, concepts, truths, which it inculcates, ideas which enable and empower believers to be balanced, flexible, creative, constant, and magnetic. In short, we refer to the mature believer who were so ably represented for us in our Baptist History during the years from 1612 and 1820.

    • says

      Dr. James (dear brother)
      I like your statement about philosophical presuppositions. Such has led to much bad theology. Exegete the verse let it say what it says.

  28. dr. james willingham says

    Dear Brother D.L.: (strange to address you as D.L.). Thank you for the vote of confidence. It is the meaning of the words of Holy Writ that is to be the basis for all our understanding of the Gospel teachings. Just here I would like to add some more to the above comments. Most people consider the doctrines of grace, for example, as non-evangelistic, non-compassionate. The study of church history, especially of the 18th and 19th century, would suggest otherwise. Consider how the first missionary to India, called a Hyper Calvinist by some, Dr. John Thomas who won Krishna Pal to Christ. Dr. Thomas had been in a cycle of rising expectations and falling let-downs, emotional despair. He kept expecting to see one of the Indians converted. Then would be disappointed. This had been going on for about 14 years (he was in India 7 years before Carey). Then, when finally Kirshna Pal indicated that he would go all the way and be baptized, Dr. Thomas went out of his mind in a frenzy of elation and excitement. He had to be confined, and William Carey who had witnessed to Pal previously baptized the new convert. Nearby, Thomas raved in elation.

    Now let us look at little more closely at the theology, intellectualism, and therapeutic aspects of the matter. Theologically, we find our Lord preaching that many is dead in trespasses and sins just as Paul did in Ephs.2:1ff. The interesting thing about our Lord’s preaching is that he fulfills or illustrates the thought set forth by Dr. John Eusden in his introduction to his translation of William Ames; Marrow of Divinity (Marrow of Theology in the 2nd edn.), namely, that “Predestination is an invitation to begin one’s spiritual pilgrimage,….” I remember in ’72-’73, when I saw that statement; it was like having one’s eyes opened for the first time in a very unusual sense like, “I never saw it that way before.”
    I took up that truth as well as the other truths expressed in the TULIP acrostic and began looking at what our Lord had to say about these truths or how He used them in evangelistic encounters. Consider, for a moment, Jn.5:25, where He says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.” That statement along with others was intended for the salvation of the hearers. As our Lord said in Jn.5:34, “…these things I say, that ye might be saved.” This suggests, at the very least, a soteriological purpose for His statements in the passage under consideration (vs.17-47). The nearest thing I can find in any other field to such approach is in Counseling, specifically, what is called the Therapeutic Paradox. In pop psychology it is known as reverse psychology. Tell a kid he can’t do this or that, and you will find that he will do it or die. Even seemingly direct opposites are used to accomplish such purposes. Just note Jonah’s message to the city of Nineveh. He comes with a message of gloom and doom – not one relieving word of hope. In fact, leave off all the ideas some preachers set forth, like, “Jonah said, repent and God will spare the city.” Now that is adding to the text, and there is no justification for it. In fact, a close study of Jonah indicates that he would not do it. He had no desire to see that city of his people’s enemies spared, not even the infant or the animals. What is worse he even argues with God about the matter in Jonah 4. It is in that fourth chapter that we find the unusual statement, “was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country.”(4:2). What saying? Surely, he knew that God would spare that city even by his message, a prophecy that was not literally fulfilled. In forty days the prophecy was not fulfilled, and such unfulfilled prophecy could bring down on the prophet’s head the stoning called for by the law. It just goes to prove that not in every instance is the concern with a literal fulfillment. No, there is another matter involved, namely, the purpose for which the prophecy is given. In this case, it is clear that God’s purpose in allowing the prophet to get egg all over his face was to bring the people to their senses and to repentance (same thing either way). If this is true of that prophecy, it can also be true of all the gloom and doom prophecies in the New Testament. The intention is soteriological, salvific, evangelistic, compassionate.

    There is more, much more, but I find my strength is limited, very limited.

    • says

      Dr. Willingham, those verses in John 5 bear some visibility in totality.

      “So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”

      (John 5:19-24 ESV)

      Verse 21 deserves emphasis in these discussions: “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.”

      Praise to our sovereign God!