Our Southern Baptist pastor colleague Eric Hankins is the primary author of the kitchen table theological statement commonly known among us as the “Traditional Statement.” I call it “kitchen table” because it is a private product, mostly by Hankins but with consultation with a few others. As of this writing, the TS has to my knowledge not been adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention in annual session, by any of the 42 Southern Baptist state conventions, by any of the 1,139 Southern Baptist associations, nor by any individual church (although I suspect there may be some who have done so, in which case I’d like to know so that I can correct my assertion). It has been cyber-signed by about one thousand people. If all signatories are SBC members that would amount to around 0.007 percent of all Southern Baptists. Numbers notwithstanding, the TS is an important item among us in regard to the Calvinist difficulties we have been having.
Hankins made an address before the counter-Calvinist, Connect 316 group at the organization’s banquet in Phoenix. The address, Loyal Opposition, is now accessible at the SBC Today site and is well worth reading. I appreciate his clarity on the subject. What I ask here presumes that one will take the time to read the address which is almost 5,000 words. It is helpful and well-written and covers important ground both theologically and pragmatically.
Hankins says, “It’s time for Southern Baptist Calvinism to give straight answers to hard questions and a loyal and vocal engagement of these issues must be pressed.” We have been doing this in the SBC for some time, seems to me, but he calls for a couple of things that we have not seen until now. These two, if engaged, might trigger a new SBC war, a hot war not the tepid warm war that we have been seeing for some years.
I think it’s time we quit insisting on the inviolability of the B[aptist] F[aith and] M[essage] 2000. We need to take a look especially at the articles on Man and Salvation, which could benefit from some clearer language so that our conventional commitment to God’s love for every person, Christ’s death for the sins of every person, and the savability of every person is crystal clear.
The BFM can be amended by simple majority vote at the annual meeting, although the 1963 and 2000 revisions were preceded by deliberate and protracted protocols. If there is a move to make another revision I suspect it would trigger a good bit of rancor. Perhaps it is needed. Perhaps not. Regardless, if proposed it will be seen as either anti-Calvinistic or pro-TS and battle lines will be drawn accordingly. Alternatively, the principals could come to some agreement and it could be smooth and unifying. I’m too much of a realist to believe this is possible, but, who knows?
I believe that we need to call for the removal of the Abstract of Principles as the confessional statement of Southern and Southeastern.
The Abstract preceded the BFM by 67 years and is considered to be a Calvinistic confession. It is most commonly identified with Southern Seminary, although Southeastern also uses it, and faculty members of each must affirm both documents. Decoupling the Abstract from these two seminaries would start a hot war, since such cannot be done except by trustees. Unless seminary leadership persuaded current trustees to do so, and that is a possibility, the process would demand some years of trustee replacement as was the case for the Conservative Resurgence.
I suppose the SBC in session could vote that seminaries that affirm only the BFM would receive CP funds. Hankins does not propose this, although he says,
It has never made sense to me why entities that exist because of the CP have additional and alternative confessions to the Baptist Faith and Message. It is a source of confusion and disunity. Moreover, the Abstract functions at those schools to promote Calvinism and blunt Traditionalism.
We want Southern Baptist leaders receiving CP dollars to stop both promoting Calvinist only conferences and ministries and giving school credit for students who attend Calvinist only conferences.
I like the idea of loyal opposition. There’s no question about the loyalty of Eric Hankins, Rick Patrick, SBCToday, Connect 316 to the SBC. I just don’t know where this can go if Hankins is serious but perhaps his address to the Connect 316 crowd was just red meat for hungry Trads. I hear in it, though, a lot of the same things I heard almost 40 years ago when the CR was getting cranked up. I’ve said before, I don’t have the thirst for another CR type of battle.
Bloggers are at their worst when talking about themselves but, ahem, I’ve never identified with the rabid Calvinists and have fired more than a few salvos at them. The normal Cals are OK if not sometimes insufferable. I am not a signatory to the TS and consider it a political document at present. I do identify with most of it. I also like many of the SBC Today authors including Eric Hankins, Ronnie Rogers, Leighton Flowers, Adam Harwood, and some others.