Editorial Introduction: Calvinist, Arminian, And Baptist Perspectives On Soteriology -- By: Steve W. Lemke

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 08:1 (Spring 2011)
Article: Editorial Introduction: Calvinist, Arminian, And Baptist Perspectives On Soteriology
Author: Steve W. Lemke

Editorial Introduction:
Calvinist, Arminian, And Baptist Perspectives On Soteriology

Steve W. Lemke

Dr. Lemke is Provost, Professor of Philosophy and Ethics, occupying the McFarland Chair of Theology, JBTM Executive Editor, and Director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in New Orleans, Louisiana.

To oversimplify a bit, Southern Baptists have two theological tributaries flowing into our mainstream – the Arminian-leaning General Baptists and the Calvinist-leaning Particular Baptists. Unto themselves, these tributaries were essentially free-standing streams, independent of each other. The General Baptists were first chronologically, with leaders such as John Smyth, Thomas Helwys, and Thomas Grantham. The name General Baptist came from their belief in a general atonement – that is, that Christ died for all the people who would respond in faith to Him. These Baptists may not have had access to most or all of Arminius’ works, but they were in agreement with many points of his theology. This theological stream was expressed in doctrinal confessions such as Smyth’s Short Confession of 1610, Helwys’ Declaration of Faith in 1611, the Faith and Practices of 30 Congregations of 1651, and the Standard Confession of 1660. The Free Will Baptists and General Baptists are the purest contemporary denominational expressions of this stream of thought.

In contrast, the name of the Particular Baptists was derived from the fact that they believed in a particular (or limited) atonement – that is, Christ died only for particular people, i.e., the elect. Their best known doctrinal confessions were the 1644 London Baptist Confession (expanded in 1646), the Second London Confession of 1689, and the Philadelphia Confession (of the Philadelphia Association) in 1742. The Second London Confession follows the language of the Reformed Westminster Confession verbatim (except at points that even Calvinistic Baptists differ from Presbyterians), and the Philadelphia Confession likewise copies the Second London Confession almost entirely word for word.

However, when these rather pure General Baptist and Particular Baptist streams flowed together into what would become the Southern Baptist mainstream, the water became a bit muddied. After the Great Awakenings, these older streams were mixed with other tributaries, particularly the revivalistic Separate Baptists (sometimes called the “Sandy Creek tradition”). The result was a conglomeration that was not identical to any of these tributaries. After the Second Great Awakening but long before the Southern Baptist Convention was formed, key

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