The Future Of Baptist Theology With A Look At Its Past -- By: James Leo Garrett, Jr.

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 07:2 (Fall 2010)
Article: The Future Of Baptist Theology With A Look At Its Past
Author: James Leo Garrett, Jr.

The Future Of Baptist Theology With A Look At Its Past

James Leo Garrett, Jr.

Dr. Garrett is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Historical and Systematic Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Fort Worth, Texas

Looking Back On Four Centuries Of Baptist Theology

The Chief Differentiating Theological Issues Among Baptists

From my studies of the four-century history of Baptist theology1 I have come to the conclusion that the principal differentiating issues among Baptists during the seventeenth1and the eighteenth centuries were the Calvinistic-Arminian differences, or to be more specific, the issues that differentiate the Reformed Synod of Dort (1618–1619) and the followers of Jacob Arminius, who framed the five Remonstrant Articles (1610). I have also concluded that the chief differentiating doctrinal issues for Baptists during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were the liberal-evangelical issues. Now, let’s first take a look at the Calvinistic-Arminian debate.

These differences were initially manifested in the separate and distinct origins of the General and the Particular Baptists in England. They are essentially soteriological, dealing with the relationship of the divine and the human in our salvation. I have challenged the accuracy of the commonly used acronym to specify the Dortian doctrines, the TULIP, for it was not so much total depravity that separated these two theological systems from the Arminian viewpoint as it was the nature of repentance and faith— whether they are the gifts of God or the responses of human beings. Each of these Dutch-derived theological stances was capable of spawning extremes, notably Hyper-Calvinism from Dort and neo-Pelagianism from the Arminians. I have offered, possibly for the first time, five distinguishing marks of Hyper-Calvinism: the supralapsarian order of divine decrees; the pre-temporal covenant of redemption made by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; eternal justification somewhat separated for the exercise of faith in time; rejection of offers of grace to the non-elect; and antinomianism. Hyper-Calvinism plagued the Particular Baptists during the eighteenth century, and Pelagian positions can be detected among the liberal and modernist theologians in the Northern Baptist Convention in the early twentieth century.

The liberal-evangelical issues were not essentially soteriological. Rather they centered on Christology, revelation and the Bible, human origins, and to some extent eschatology. Liberal theology for Baptists and other Protestants developed in response to the new nineteenth century theological climate—espec...

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