Beyond Calvinism And Arminianism Toward A Baptist Soteriology -- By: Eric Hankins
JBTM 8:1 (Spring 2011) p. 87
Beyond Calvinism And Arminianism Toward A Baptist Soteriology
Dr. Hankins is the Pastor of First Baptist Church in Oxford, Mississippi.
After four hundred years, Calvinism and Arminianism remain at an impasse. The strengths and weaknesses of both systems are well-documented, and their proponents vociferously aver each system’s mutual exclusivity. This paper is based on the observation that these two theological programs have had sufficient time to demonstrate their superiority over the other and have failed to do so. The time has come, therefore, to look beyond them for a paradigm that gives a better account of the biblical and theological data. Indeed, the stalemate itself is related not so much to the unique features of each system but to a set of erroneous presuppositions upon which both are constructed. As the fault lines in these foundational concepts are exposed, it will become clear that the Baptist vision for soteriology, which has always resisted absolute fidelity to either system, has been the correct instinct all along. Baptist theology must be willing to articulate this vision in a compelling and comprehensive manner.
The following four presuppositions shared by Calvinism and Arminianism demonstrate the degree to which a new approach to soteriology is needed. One presupposition is primarily biblical, one is primarily philosophical, one is primarily theological, and one is primarily anthropological, although each is intertwined with the others. Having established the need for a new approach to soteriology and the Baptist vision for such an approach, the paper will conclude with a brief description of a way forward.
The Biblical Presupposition: Individual Election
The idea that God, in eternity past, elected certain individuals to salvation is a fundamental tenet of Calvinism and Arminianism. The interpretation of this biblical concept needs to be revised. Quite simply, when the Bible speaks of election in the context of God’s saving action, it is always referring to corporate election, God’s decision to have a people for Himself. When the
JBTM 8:1 (Spring 2011) p. 88
election of individuals is raised in Scripture, it is always election to a purpose or calling within God’s plans for His people as a whole. In the OT, the writers understood election to be God’s choice of Israel, yet they also clearly taught that the benefits of corporate election could only be experienced by the individual Israelite (or the particular generation of Israelites) who responded faithfully to the covenant that had been offered to the whole nation.1 This trajectory...
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