Tuesday, August 7, 2012

We Are Baptists

Recently there have been discussions about who Southern Baptists are theologically. Some say we are Calvinists. Some say we are Arminian. Others have offered the term "Modified Arminian," for those of us who call ourselves Traditional Baptists. I am perplexed as to why people think Baptists need to be identified with a theological system.

To me, the people who insist we be identified either Calvinist or Arminian cannot get their heads wrapped around the fact that we believe that God will not be explained or contained in any of man's systems. While man attempts to put God in an Arminian box or a Calvinist box, He doesn't fit into either one. To me, this effort to define God in a format in which men can control is unwise. "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!" Rom. 11:33.

I believe it's a dangerous thing to go beyond what the Bible says. The Bible tells us we are sinners. The Bible says by our sin we are separated from God. The Bible says God loves us and has provided the way for us to be forgiven of our sins. The Bible says that Jesus died on the cross to take the punishment for our sins. The Bible says that if we receive Christ, He gives us the right to become children of God. The Bible tells us that Jesus rose from the grave. The Bible tells us that Jesus ascended to Heaven. The Bible tells us that Jesus will return to set up His kingdom.  

The Bible does not tell us the complete details of the salvation process. The Bible does not tell us when Jesus is going to return. The Bible does not give us complete details about how Jesus will return. These things and many others are not detailed in Holy Scripture. There is a mystery to these things. Can we not accept the mystery of God without trying to systematize every aspect of God?

I think this is one reason why Calvinists and Arminians get so frustrated with Traditional Baptists. We are not Calvinist, Arminian, or Modified anything. We do not proclaim a system. We proclaim the Bible and the Bible won't fit into anybody's system. We are Baptists.


Drew said...


I agree with your post, but it raises some questions that deserve answers:

1) The 3rd & 4th paragraphs are right on. However, 99.9% of those in the SBC who are Calvinistic would agree with and articulate those statements the same way. With that being said, what is the problem with Calvinists in the SBC?

2)I do not define myself as a Calvinist or an Arminian, although my theology as a Baptist would be more calvinistic. However, is not the doctrines contained in the label "Baptist" a theological system? In other words, when someone says, I'm not a Calvinist, nor an Arminian, rather, I am a Baptist, they have simply added a third system to the mix.

3) For a discussion that for years has been defined by the two poles of Calvinism and Arminianism, orthodox Christianity has operated on a continuum between them. To use a scale of 1-10 with Calvinism a 1 and Arminianism a 10 (don't read anything into that, its merely an illustration) many will reject the poles, yet hold more in common with one group or the other. Therefore, some other term must be used. "Modified Arminian, Ameryldian, 3point Calvinst, etc." Simply saying "I am a Baptist" doesn't tell anyone what you believe for example about providence (is it meticulous or general), freedom (is it libertarian free will or freedom of inclination). Does insisting on the label "Baptist" in this discussion, which is a discussion among Baptists, claim or imply that one individual or one groups beliefs are truly Baptist in exclusion to other "pseudo Baptists."? (Which is probably the point.)


Les Puryear said...


Thanks for your comment.

Here's my reply to your questions:

1) Calvinism is a system theology in regard to soteriology. Arminianism is also a system theology about soteriology. Both systems seek to explain in explicit detail how salvation works. IMHO, they go beyond what the Bible teaches in regards to salvific detail.

1a) The only problem I have with Calvinists is when they hide their theology to pastor search committees in order to become pastor of a non-Calvinist church in order to reform it. I've said this over and over and over. As a former Calvinist, I understand their theology and I don't agree with it. I also believe their system impacts their ecclesiology. If they wish to pastor Calvinist churches, then fine. If they wish to pastor non-Calvinist churches and are honest and open about being a Calvinist and explaining what that means to search committees and the church calls them as pastor, then fine.

2) No, as I have attempted to ecplain to be a Baptist is not to buy into a man-defined theological system. A Baptist is a biblicist. He preaches God's Word without being concerned about which system Holy Scripture must support.

3) Perhaps.