Why I Did Not Affirm The “Traditional” Statement: A Non-Calvinistic Perspective -- By: Rhyne Putman
JBTM 10:1 (Spring 2013) p. 71
Why I Did Not Affirm The “Traditional” Statement:
A Non-Calvinistic Perspective
Rhyne Putman is Assistant Professor of Theology and Culture at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Let me be clear: I am a lifelong Southern Baptist who does not self-identify as a Calvinist. While I know and love many Southern Baptists who properly call themselves “Calvinistic” in their understandings of the so-called “doctrines of grace”—many of my closest friends gladly wear that description—I am not personally content with that label or some things associated with it.1 Nevertheless, I chose not to affirm “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation,” a document intended to represent “the beliefs of the majority of Southern Baptists, who are not Calvinists.” In this brief article, I want to explain why.
Allow me to begin by stating that I share several concerns about the future of our convention with those who affirm this statement—several concerns also shared by Calvinistic Southern Baptists. As Southern Baptists committed to the Great Commission, several things should trouble us: the long-term projected decline in SBC membership, ever-shrinking Cooperative Program receipts, and most troubling, the lowest number of baptisms reported in sixty-two years. This trajectory means that SBC churches are growing increasingly irrelevant and/or ineffective in their respective ministry contexts. I also share concerns about some of the strategic moves made by those in leadership positions across the convention, particularly in mission strategies that downplay personal evangelism, social ministry, and theological education. While I recognize that head counting in churches can lead to sinful pride or idolatrous fixation, I am also concerned about a group of pastors and leaders in the SBC who altogether neglect the narrative discerned from the numbers: that churches and baptisms are shrinking because of methodical failure on the part of their leadership to multiply disciples. As a theologian-in-training and a pastor, I am also discouraged by certain ecclesiological trends that seem to undermine the heart of Baptist identity: a growing number of churches moving away from congregational polity, and perhaps
JBTM 10:1 (Spring 2013) p. 72
even more disturbing, a growing number of SBC churches that no longer require obedience in believer’s baptism for full church membership.
But I don’t think the blame rests solely on the Calvinistic contingency of the convention. A new generation of Southern Baptists has grown up without pastoral leaders in the vein of Adrian Rogers ...
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