Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Southern Baptist Convention's Teaching on Salvation

The purpose of this post is to examine the teachings of the Southern Baptist Convention in light of the teaching of salvation by sovereign grace taught in the scriptures. This statement of beliefs was pulled from the Bellevue Baptist Church website on 10/10/2010 as a representation of the beliefs held by SBC churches. I have added commentary below each section.  

IV. Salvation - Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. (Baptist Faith and Message 2000)
Eternal salvation is based on an effectual, substitutionary atonement. (John 10:11,28) It therefore cannot be "offered" indiscriminately to all of humanity. If it is "offered" to those for whom Christ did not die, then it is "offered" in insincerity because there is no atonement for them, no basis for their salvation, and thus no basis for the "offer." It cannot be "offered" to the elect for acceptance or rejection if it was effectual. It follows that the gospel is not an "offer" but a proclamation (Isaiah 61:1-2, Luke 4:18-19) of the finished (John 19:30), effectual (Hebrews 10:14) and substitutionary (John 10:11) atonement of Christ on behalf of his people (Matthew 1:21). 

They say that Jesus Christ “obtained eternal redemption.” This creates manifold problems for Southern Baptist theology: 1) If Christ obtained eternal redemption, then it is a finished work and therefore it is unconditional. 2) If it is unconditional, why then is salvation offered on the basis of meeting a condition? 3) If not all men will be saved and Christ has already obtained redemption for his people on what basis can a sincere offer of salvation be made to those who are not of the elect? We believe that Southern Baptists who refer to Christ's work as a "finished work" but who subsequently extend offers of salvation to all of humanity are speaking out of both sides of their mouths.
In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. (BFM 2000)
This is not the broadest sense of salvation. The broadest sense must also include foreknowledge, predestination and calling (Romans 8:28-29). Here the SBC truncates the full spectrum of salvation taught in the scriptures by turning a blind-eye to the root cause of salvation – God’s sovereign purpose in election. The omission of this point is highly suspect given that it obscures the biblical precepts that undermine their short-sighted soteriology.
The statement, “There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord” is a very difficult position to defend without first defining what is meant by “personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” Taken at face value, this view has faith as an effectuating cause of salvation rather than an evidentiary fruit of regeneration (Galatians 5:22, Hebrews 11:1). Given man's radical depravity (Romans 3:10-18) and abject inability to embrace spiritual truth (Romans 8:7, I Corinthians 2:11-14) the position that faith is an effectuating requirement for man to obtain eternal salvation is mission impossible (Matthew 19:26). It is for this reason that regeneration, the life-imparting act of God alone, must precede the exercise of man's faith in time (I John 5:1, John 5:24).
A. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God's grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace. (BFM 2000)
In some respects, this is a good statement. It seems to affirm that regeneration precedes any spiritual acts on the part of man such as faith and repentance. Repentance and faith are seen as “responses” to regeneration. When repentance and faith are viewed as prerequisites to salvation, then salvation is no more of grace and it is conditional rather than unconditional and Christ’s work was not effectual but required effectuation by man. The sovereign grace position is that the impartation of eternal life must take place prior to man committing any act of faith or repentance.
In other respects however, this statement is wanting. Salvation by sovereign grace holds that repentance and faith are not two sides of the same coin, but that faith precedes and forms the basis of repentance. “Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation.” (II Corinthians 7:10) The audit trail here is clear: (1) man must believe the truth (have faith) to be convicted of the truth, (2) this faith is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8,9) and a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) (3) it is the basis for Godly sorrow – for who is sorrowful for something that they do not believe? (4) this sorrow then worketh repentance. This means that the order involved is regeneration, faith, godly sorrow, repentance, salvation (deliverance).  Since regeneration imparts eternal life (Ephesians 2:1) and precedes the acts of faith and thus repentance in time (I John 5:1), it is therefore evident that the "salvation" described in the above audit trail is not eternal salvation, but rather salvation from this “untoward generation” (Acts 2:40) – from the effects and influences of this wicked world and an active conversation therein. It is temporal deliverance from the consequences and influences of sin in this world. 
Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Saviour. (BFM 2000)
Faith is not commitment. It is the basis of Christian commitment, but it is not commitment. Faith is God given belief of the truth (Ephesians 2:8-9).
B. Justification is God's gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Christ. (BFM 2000)
This statement hinges the justification of sinners on acts of man (repentance and faith). The justification of sinners is not based on anything that man has done, is doing, or will ever do. The justification of sinners was accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary, by the offering of his blood to the father as a propitiation for our sins (Romans 5:19). Man took no part whatsoever in this work of justification. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the means whereby man may know about the justification that took place on his behalf by the work of the Lord Jesus Christ alone. It is in this sense that man is said to be “justified by faith”.  Man’s faith is not an instrumental cause of justification, it is the instrumental cause of his reception of the pre-existing truth of his justification by Christ alone.

SBC PROOF TEXTS:  Genesis 3:15; Exodus 3:14-17; 6:2-8; Matthew 1:21; 4:17; 16:21-26; 27:22-28:6; Luke 1:68-69; 2:28-32; John 1:11-14,29; 3:3-21,36; 5:24; 10:9,28-29; 15:1-16; 17:17; Acts 2:21; 4:12; 15:11; 16:30-31; 17:30-31; 20:32; Romans 1:16-18; 2:4; 3:23-25; 4:3ff.; 5:8-10; 6:1-23; 8:1-18,29-39; 10:9-10,13; 13:11-14; 1 Corinthians 1:18,30; 6:19-20; 15:10; 2 Corinthians 5:17-20; Galatians 2:20; 3:13; 5:22-25; 6:15; Ephesians 1:7; 2:8-22; 4:11-16; Philippians 2:12-13; Colossians 1:9-22; 3:1ff.; 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24; 2 Timothy 1:12; Titus 2:11-14; Hebrews 2:1-3; 5:8-9; 9:24-28; 11:1-12:8,14; James 2:14-26; 1 Peter 1:2-23; 1 John 1:6-2:11; Revelation 3:20; 21:1-22:5.


TETH's Final Word

For an explanation of the gospel of Jesus Christ that embraces the biblical truths of election and the absolute sovereignty of God taught in the scriptures we invite you to examine the short video - What is the Gospel? - and to search the scriptures daily to see if these things are so. (Acts 17:11)


  1. Thank you for this, "teth."

    I am hard-pressed to find
    prevenient (much less, irresistible) grace,
    regeneration prior to faith,
    man's total depravity,
    God's unconditional election,
    Christ's efficacious atonement,
    grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone,
    or even Christ alone, in the 2000 BFM.

    Am I missing these somewhere in there?

    1. I don't think you are missing anything. The published beliefs of the SBC in BFM 2000 are riddled with theological problems. More could be written on them for sure, but I tried to focus on the problems of this confession related to the core question of a child of God: "I know it is so of a truth, but how should man be just with God?" (Job 9:2) Simply stated, I do not believe the SBC understands how man is just with God.

  2. Al Mohler claims that his seminary's Abstract of Principles is 3-point Calvinism,* as he yokes with Arminian Eric Hankins to draft the tendentious 2012 "Truth, Trust and Testimony in a Time of Tension."

    Mohler co-labored on the insipid 2000 BFM, yet is co-leader of Together for the Gospel (T4G), and a part of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (ACE) and a speaker at the Gospel Coalition (TGC).

    Both sides of one's mouth?

    * Total depravity, unconditional election, saints' perseverance.

    1. We have a saying among our people for those who attempt to embrace two contradictory theological positions at the same time: "It would take two men to believe that." :)