In an ironic twist, there is a new name I can fully embrace this summer in New Orleans. As most readers at SBC Voices might assume, I have already signed A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation. It describes, in a manner completely consistent with The Baptist Faith and Message, the soteriological position I hold dear and boldly proclaim.
By drafting the statement, the authors have provided at least one service to Southern Baptists that I believe should not go unnoticed, and it is in the area of nomenclature. While this may not have been their intent at all, I can finally seize upon one word in their title and use it in a positive way to describe my soteriological view, without being forced to make reference to any other system that I categorically deny.
Before highlighting that contribution, let me simply say that while there will be plenty of commentary regarding the divisiveness of this document, it seems to me that whenever the Founders met for the first time, their gathering represented a formal division of the convention into parts that previously did not exist, at least in any organizational sense. For far too long, the Calvinists have had the only formally organized soteriological sub-groupings within the convention. I hope they will extend the same grace in allowing our existence that we have extended for years in allowing theirs. How in the world can it be appropriate for one group to unite around a specific soteriology of their choosing without it also being appropriate for another group to do the very same thing? If we are indeed creating disunity, then we are in second place, and our silver medal trails their gold by at least a few decades.
Regarding this new name that I can support, it is decidedly NOT any new name for the Southern Baptist Convention. Rather, it is a new name for my soteriological view. Frankly, it has been totally unsatisfactory for me to describe myself as a “Non-Anything,” or in this case, a “Non-Calvinist.” Such a description only defines me by what I am against, which almost requires a posture of negativity and antagonism. As of today, I am dropping that moniker like a bad habit.
Other terms are similarly inadequate. I do not wish to be called an Arminian either. It takes forever to disabuse people of the negative connotations associated with that term as well. I can hear some well-meaning individuals ask, “Why not simply call yourself a Southern Baptist?” While I certainly embrace our denominational name, in this particular case, I do not wish to imply that there are no other Southern Baptists whose view of salvation doctrine contradicts mine or to suggest that they do not belong in our beloved convention.
No, the word that jumps out at me from the statement’s title above is the word “traditional.” I realize the Founders will reject its use as inaccurate, since in their view the Calvinist position is the traditional one. Our differing historical interpretations notwithstanding, what I have really been looking for is a new word to describe my view that does not force me to simply negate someone else’s term or borrow another view that I reject and try to nuance the position it describes.
I am weary of talking about soteriology only with reference to the five petals of a TULIP. The counting of points ends today, for I have no more need of it. I now have ten statements of TRADITIONAL Southern Baptists as my point of theological reference for my soteriological view.
I am not an Arminian. I am not a Non-Calvinist. I am not a Non-Anything. With respect to salvation doctrine, I am a Traditionalist.