I pastor in Douglasville, Ga – not far from Carrollton and I remember growing up hearing you preach in camp meeting events. I consider you one of my preaching heroes. I still have a letter you wrote me just before I went off to study at seminary – it was requested by my wife who wanted you to write me some words of wisdom as I prepared to leave home for the journey of ministry. I have learned much from you and appreciate your dedication to the Word and your commitment to the Conservative Resurgence of the SBC. I have benefited greatly from your sacrifice and commitment! I would go to war with you and gladly labor alongside you for the sake of Christ. I consider you a brother and a faithful soldier!
While I kicked against the pricks all through seminary and through my earlier years of preaching regarding these doctrines often labeled as “Calvinism” – I now embrace them within the framework of an accurate dictionary. I welcome a conversation of soteriology over an open Bible, but I’m concerned by the way that we’re having this present conversation. I agree – let’s talk about it – but it seems a bit skewed if you ask me. This article on soteriology titled, “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation” has the aroma of division rather than the aroma of love. I take issue with the statement drafted by Dr. Hankins on the following basis:
- We already have a sufficient doctrinal statement on soteriology – the Baptist Faith & Message 2000. Why do we need to draft another one and then ask people to affirm it?
- The article on soteriology contradicts the BF&M in several ways, which has drawn the label of semi-Pelagian. Is that the goal? I don’t think so, but the language appears more aligned with a semi-Pelagian view rather than the BF&M.
- The article is being labeled as a “movement” on SBCToday.com. It this a movement? If so, what is it moving toward? What is it moving away from?
Furthermore, I take issue with the following statement in your blog post. You wrote, “And I pray we will be willing to join hearts and hands with those who may view theological matters somewhat differently than we do, within the framework of our BF&M.” But – that isn’t what is being done with the article drafted by Dr. Hankins and signed by you. We are now operating outside of the BF&M with our discussion on soteriology. While that is extremely healthy as we grow, mature, and challenge one another on our theological positions, it’s not helpful to bring an exterior document on soteriology into the life of the SBC and ask people to join the “movement.” You don’t see Dr. Albert Mohler or Dr. Mark Dever doing that with the statements of affirmation and denial from the T4G conference. They obviously embrace those statements, but they aren’t bringing them into the life of the SBC and creating controversy.
Last of all, I agree with you that some Calvinists are overly aggressive. I have seen it myself – in person. However, I see the same spirit of divisiveness and aggression in this article by Dr. Hankins. I too want to work together to reach the nations with the gospel – with Reformed and less Reformed people than myself. I think that’s a healthy thing! However, when I heard you preach at the Georgia Baptist Convention this past year, you said the following:
“Should the SBC move toward five-point Calvinism it will be a move away from, not toward, the gospel.”
That statement alone is extremely divisive, aggressive, and leads people who are less mature than yourself to interpret your words to mean that a 5-point Calvinist doesn’t believe the true gospel and should be considered a heretic.
That’s a problem! Some people really believe that. I don’t think you do. However, this article by Dr. Hankins that you have attached your name to stokes the fires of aggression among those who want to go on a “witch hunt” for Calvinists in the SBC. We need bridge builders and we need to run to the nations with the good news that Jesus saves! I plead with you to help stop those with the heresy sword raised and prepared to do unalterable damage to the SBC that you long labored to save. You once worked with W.A. Criswell to do great things – step up to the plate once again for the glory of King Jesus. My generation of SBC pastors that follow in your footsteps need clarity, love, unity, and bridges. This “movement” will not accomplish that need.
“There is but one God, and they that serve Him should be one. There is nothing that would render the true religion more lovely, or make more proselytes to it, than to see the professors of it tied together with the heart-strings of love.” – Thomas Watson (A Puritan Golden Treasury, 304)
Your brother in Christ,
Pastor Josh Buice