08 June 2012

Briefly: Baptists

by Frank Turk

Dan is doing pastorly things today, and Phil always has his hands full, so that leaves either me or Pecadillo to fill the bandwidth today.  Since he fights crime for a living, I guess it has to be me.

On the heels of the dust-up over at the Southern Baptist Convention, someone recently quipped that being a baptist (small "b" intended) is about ecclesiology and not about soteriology, which at its core is true enough.  However, I think a lot of our non-baptist friends would be quick to point out that this is prolly a pretty narrow view of what happens when you adopt a credobaptist view of baptism vs. a paedobaptist view of baptism.  For example, you don't find a lot of Presbyterian street preachers or Lutheran missionaries.

But that said, I think the very-narrow distinction proffered there misses the point of the complaint leveled by the "traditional" complainers.  The fellows who want the 50-year-old populist theology replete with the ol' convention songs are not concerned with being small-"b" baptists: they are concerned about being, as they see it, Southern Baptists®.  If we recognize that, the rest of their complaints and angry eyebrows make a lot more sense.  They don't want to accidentally be Presbyterians or Lutherans or Methodists (which is ironic, given the kind of theology they are sending up the flag pole).

At the end of the day, they are standing up for a kind of Christian culture.  There's something vaguely-admirable about that when we are in the decline of Western Civilization, even if it also vaguely resembles the kind of religion that had a closed magisterium and built giant cathedrals to really pack 'em in.


Joey White said...

Glad you pointed this out Frank, I've had some similar thoughts. This is the same type of pops theologizing that causes fights over "traditional worship services" which are only fifty or sixty years old. Just because its all they know they call it tradition, and they can't loose that because tradition is always right.

Unknown said...

even if it also vaguely resembles the kind of religion that had a closed magisterium and built giant cathedrals to really pack 'em in.


The Squirrel said...

It' been said that, for most people, history begins the day you were born.

It seems that, for these folks, church history began when they were baptized...

LanternBright said...

Today's Daily Bugle headline: Frank Turk: Threat or Menace?

Nash Equilibrium said...

Now I have to look up what a paedobaptist and a credobaptist are. Groan!

DJP said...

What's remarkable is actually and unblushingly using "traditionalistic" as a self-chosen positive modifier.

That's next? "Works-rightousness" Baptists? "Legalistic" Baptists? "Ankle-biting Pinhead" Baptists?

Zachary Bartels said...

Perfectly put, Frank. It's a case of, "I want my church culcha bay-uck, I do declayuh."

Jared Queue said...


Although, the time spent in my highschool years in a very traditional Southern Baptist church (and concentric circles) persuaded me less on the "vaguely admirable" part as it was very clubbish and more about your social standing within the (small) town.

Also, my experience has been, that while the Southern Baptist organization definitely supports and sends missionaries more, there still wasn't much of an active priesthood within the churches as a whole. Missions was more supported through the church leaders giving to the Convention or Lottie Moon offering.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Dan - you are right! That is odd. Course there are people who call themselves snake-handling Christians too.

BTW, I thought Frank said you were out pestering things today? Oh wait, he said you were doing pastoring things!

Ted Bigelow said...

Dear Centurion,

Getting close.

It's really about money, and which SBC seminaries get it, and which SBC seminaries don't.

Ted Bigelow said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave .... said...

The closed magisterium isn't limited to our SB friends. The trendy big-box, big-show "church" is just as closed and "tradition" bound. And worse. Who knows, in the end we may all turn out to be temple prostitutes, not just "THEM". In the mean time, watch out for the noisy ones.

Unknown said...

Good points Mr. T.

Having been raised sBc but holding more of a 'b' mentality I completely agree with your post. I was raised with a modified-Arminian view of salvation, but coming from small town Oklahoma sBc I really wasn't raised on any sort of systematic theology... or really any 'ology' at at all.

I've grown fonder of my sBc roots with the growth of men in the convention like (but not limited to) Mark Dever and Albert Mohler. I see the convention itself as having many good people fighting the good fight for the cause of Christ, even if at the end of the day many of them differ in a few of the 'ologies' they stand for.

I wasn't a fan of the new 'view of Calvinism in sBc' document, probably at first because I am a Calvinist (in soteriology at least) but also in it's lack of careful preparation (at least I hope this was the case).

I wish I could more easily hold to the traditions of my sBc upbringing but it just seems the water is too muddy. So I stick to my little-b-ology (just to ensure I'm never mistaken for one of them Presbyterians!) and go to a Bible church instead (which is the kind of Church my wife grew up in, so there's that!).


Chris Connally said...

Nash Equilibrium said,

"BTW, I thought Frank said you were out pestering things today? Oh wait, he said you were doing pastoring things!"

I've just figured out the difference between paedobaptist and a credobaptist and thanks to you I've now got to try and figure out the difference between pestering and pastoring.

If the discussions going on in my neck of the woods in South Carolina are any indication of the whole of the SBC then there is not a lot of concern over the duels being fought between Calvinists and whatever the folks are who penned and signed the document outlining the traditional SBC view of salvation. For the most part southern baptist pastors are fine with the Baptist Faith and Message put of a few years back. Maybe it will pick up steam over the next few weeks and months. I sure do hope that it does. Right now the majority of discussion from my perspective is happening amongst those outside the SBC camp.

Chris H said...

Fie on your post that mean nothing to non-baptists! :P There's nothing for me to learn!

Call to Die said...

As a Southern Baptist, I agree with DJP. I have been shocked that the signers of this document would self-describe as "traditionalists." (Although I am glad that they are seeking a more honest term that "biblicists," which they were previously using.)

FX Turk said...


I think that's exactly the point. The BFM is an utterly-suitable document for the basis of cooperation which the SBC says it is trying to live under. if anything has happened there, it is that non-Calvinists have been moving it slowly toward a position which is at least unacceptable to more-reformed Baptists or is, in the worst case, unacceptable as a statement of orthodoxy. It's funny that they would take a header in the "Traditionalist" document for the -worse- position rather than to just go toward an Arminian view, but they have done what they have done.

I mean -- the BFM says this:

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. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.

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.

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.

B. Justification is God's gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Christ. Justification brings the believer unto a relationship of peace and favor with God.

C. Sanctification is the experience, beginning in regeneration, by which the believer is set apart to God's purposes, and is enabled to progress toward moral and spiritual maturity through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. Growth in grace should continue throughout the regenerate person's life.

D. Glorification is the culmination of salvation and is the final blessed and abiding state of the redeemed.

nobody should have a problem with that, and if we all said, "hey -- I can cooperate with people who affirm that," then they can have their Arminian conferences and cheerleading, and we can have our conferences full of history, theology, Bible, and missionary successes, and it can be a settled thing.

Bill said...

The answer to the question, Frank Turk: Threat or Menace? Is that Frank is a “Threatening Menace” which beats the tar out of Dennis the Menace.

Both Tom Ascol and Al Mohler have insightful responses. Tom is addressing the letter methodically and Al set a very pastoral tone and it looks like more is to come, Deo Volente.

Finally, while the letter mentions the Baptist Faith and Message (BFM), the unspoken is that the BFM is not enough.

Anonymous said...

What's with the Vice-Presidents of Truett-McConnell College?

They appear to be feigning ignorance regarding Al Mohler's comment that Some portions of the statement actually go beyond Arminianism and appear to affirm semi-Pelagian understandings of sin, human nature, and the human will.

James Scott Bell said...

Let it be duly noted that Roger Olson is expressing concern over semi-Pelgaian creep in the document. Maybe he can be upgraded from cheerleader to actual theologian!

Aaron Snell said...


It's just not nice to call someone a "semi-Pelgaian creep."

Just sayin' :)

Chris Connally said...

I totally agree with you on this one Frank and find the BF&M totally adequate as a statement of faith for both sides. Our church is a member of the state convention of South Carolina (although we do not participate in convention business) and as a Calvinist pastor I find the BF&M an acceptable statement of faith. I really do hope that this episode leads to a good healthy discussion on the subject of salvation, but I fear the ones who are behind this 'traditional' document are looking for a fight rather than a fellowship.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Well if all else fails, at least the SBC still has Rick Warren.

The Damer said...

Southern Baptists should just be honest and say they don't want their pastors in skinny jeans and drinking Guinness.

That's really what this is all about. You don't have to drag Calvin into it.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Damer: lol
I know very little about the SBC, in fact living in Ohio I've never run into one. I have visited them elsewhere in the country and my impression is that it's a very broad term like "evangelical" or "baptist" with no real solid identity. I'm sure SBCers don't see it that way but to an outsider like me, that's how it looks.

Matt Privett said...


You are more right than you think. In fact, many of those who are responsible for this "traditional Southern Baptist" statement are part of a "Baptist Identity" movement. Being a Southern Baptist is a broad label and they are seeking to shrink it considerably, whether they will admit it or not. They are anti-Calvinistic, suspicious of the word "elder," and put way too much emphasis on alcohol (a position I empathize with but strongly object to the amount of emphasis they've put on it). Anyway, what's going on now is just the next round in that fight.

Nonna said...

Shouldn't Southern Baptists be concerned about the Freemasons that reside among them? I can't for the life of me understand how any Christian organization can consider Freemasonry a moot issue. They look the other way and think it insignificant. Until they deal with this serious matter, the Calvinist vs Arminian debate is futile and a means of deflection from the malignancy among them.

Nash Equilibrium said...

"they are suspicious of the word 'elder'...(?) You mean even when they read it in the Bible? That's rich!

"...put way too much emphasis on alcohol." (You mean they drink too much? lol) Seriously I assume they have no problem with coffee, even though Jesus made alcohol but He never made coffee that we know of?

So basically what you are saying is that they have lots of manmade behavioral rules that aren't in the Bible, and ignore doctrines and church offices that are in the Bible? Sounds like they might have a few things in their M.O. that are "off" there!

Tom said...

"Shouldn't Southern Baptists be concerned about the Freemasons that reside among them? I can't for the life of me understand how any Christian organization can consider Freemasonry a moot issue."

First off, what Freemasons?
Second off, what's the problem with Freemasonry?

mikew116 said...

I have some SB friends, and they are definitely Calvinistic, but I also know of some who would hold to this idea. It's not limited to SB though, IB, IFB, MB and some others do the same thing. Especially the IB and IFB.

Jay Beerley said...

As an SBC pastor and lifer, let me offer a few comments:

First, I genuinely believe this is about the schools and not about the churches. Most of these guys could care less what is happening with my small church in Texas. What they care about is setting themselves up as the schools you want to go to if you don't like them Calvinists (probably not even Reformed theology, just them Calvinists).

Secondly, trying to characterize any denomination as a whole, especially from the outside, is unhelpful. Keep it to comments about this document and its theological crappiness. Even thought it may not seem like it from the "outside," I promise the heartbeat of the denomination is missions. I'm in the denomination and NEVER hear about alcohol accept in private conversations if someone brings it up. Just because church covenants 70 years ago mention it, doesn't mean that it reflects the point of the denomination.

Thirdly, as a whole, the denomination has been theologically week for some time, suffering from the liberals being in charge of the schools and a majority of churches for quite a few decades. But that's starting to turn around thanks to the Conservative resurgence in the early 80's. Ironically, some of the guys signing this document were on the sides of the conservatives back then, yet don't see how the hermeneutic of this document and those theological positions puts them on the trajectory of those they rightly fought against 30 years ago.

mike said...

Before you get too excited about Roger Olson's two posts about the semipelagian issue, his most recent one criticizes "a well-known seminary president" (apparently he means Al Mohler) for expressing comfort that at least both sides of the debate agreed on the issue of Biblical inerrancy. He says,

“Inerrancy” has simply become an over-inflated concept in neo-fundamentalist circles.

So I doubt either side will take him very seriously going forward, except the Traditionalists can now point out that "Hey, Roger Olson thinks Biblical inerrancy is over-rated. Why listen to him?"

Carl C. said...

I'm an outsider to the SBC, as I grew up in the A/G and only recently entered the baptist scene. I'm part of a small church in Spain within the country's main baptist denomination, the UEBE (Unión Evangélica Bautista de España). There is a confession of faith - loosely comparable to the BF&M - but in the unwritten, practical side of things the people of our church and the seminary (yep, there's only one!) seem to lean heavily toward the Arminian side.

The thing is, ever since becoming a member I've struggled to understand just what 'baptist' means. Other members in our congregation seem to hold to that label tighter than any other. I don't think that's bad per se, but apart from credobaptism they themselves can't pin it down any more than to traditions, which Frank and others have commented on.

Oddly enough this recent document and the ensuing responses have helped give some shape to that label for me, in a backwards sort of way. I would like to learn more about the historical roots of the movement as a whole - anyone that could point to helpful resources in that area? (Sorry Frank, I don't intend to take this on a rabbit trail - it's just that so much of the conversation about the SBC seems to be easily applied to the UEBE!)

FX Turk said...


I'd start you at this site:

A tabular Comparison of the 1646 WCF vs. 1689 LBCF

This gives the confessional basis for distinctions between Presbyterians and Baptists, and will at least give you some idea of what the basic issues are that historically distinguish the two.

Because non-reformed Baptists are anti-confessional, you won;t find a document like this for them -- and they will be a little more slippery.

Carl C. said...

Thanks Frank, that comparison looks well-done and very thorough (long!). By the way, either you're up super-early, or live on the east coast. I don't typically hear state-side responses 'till well into the afternoon here :-)

Slippery is an understatement for the UEBE, as I'm finding out. I was reborn in Christ AND convinced of reformed doctrine only a few years ago, having been a part of this church for several years before that. As you can imagine, it makes me the odd guy out doctrinally. But that's been the rub -- I only know their stance informally, from conversations, and don't know whether there might be (as in the SBC) diversity within the denomination as to soteriology.

Anyhow, thanks for the pointer - carry on.

Nash Equilibrium said...

One thing I don't understand about baptists (btw I attend a baptist church) is why baptists are prefix magnets. Credo- pedo- ana- freewill- etc etc ad nauseum.

I never see prefix Lutherans for instance - only baptists.

Doug Hibbard said...


I'd suggest that "Baptist" is a bit of a broad term, so the prefixes help clear up just what flavor of Baptist we may be.

Other groups acronym at the end: PCA, PCUSA, ECPA, ELCA, and whatever a "Missouri Synod" is.

We just put ours on the front-end.

mike said...

I could be wrong but I am not aware of any denomination under the Baptist umbrella that calls itself Paedo-Baptists. I think that is one of the distinctions that pretty much all Baptists agree on; that of being credo-Baptistic.

Kerry James Allen said...

Am I the only one who noticed a photo of Billy Sunday who was ordained by the Presbyterians on an article about Baptists? Was this a test? Do I win something?

Nash Equilibrium said...

I think that's a "yes." I thought it was Elmer Gantry.

Solameanie said...

Nonna stole my quip about the Freemasons. So I'll have to raise another question. How much of the SBC dispute includes differences over eschatology? Most SBC people I have known through the years have been premill, but I know that amillennialism has been making inroads in recent years.

And before someone raises me three, I don't intend this question to begin a debate over eschatology. This isn't the place for it. More a curiosity of mine, because it seems this is simmering underneath the surface right along with the Calvinist/Arminian debate.

mike said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mike said...

Eschatology, not so much. Most of the debate at SBC Today is over soteriology; specifically, the T,U,L, and I of TULIP. And the Traditionalists really don't like the references to semipelagianism, so that could be a good sign.