The Battle For Salvation: A Brief Critique of the Traditionalist’s Statement on Salvation 

THe battle for salvation

Recently the Traditionalist sect of the SBC put forth their own statement of faith, contrasting it against the Calvinist sect. As a Calvinists I disagree with the Traditionalist on several points, and most of our differences don’t hinder our relationship too much. However, there is a very problematic article in the statement. My desire is to address the problem with grace, in hopes that my Traditionalist brothers and sisters will reconsider the severity of this article.

In Article Two, entitled “The Sinfulness of Man”, is written:

We affirm that, because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin and that every person who is capable of moral action will sin. Each person’s sin alone brings the wrath of a holy God, broken fellowship with Him, ever-worsening selfishness and destructiveness, death, and condemnation to an eternity in hell.

We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned. While no sinner is remotely capable of achieving salvation through his own effort, we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel.

This post presents several very severe doctrinal issues. First, We affirm that, because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin and that every person who is capable of moral action will sin. Some will say that I’m arguing over semantics, but saying we are “inclined” to sin skirts around the main issue: the deadness of the heart. Paul says we are “dead in our trespasses and sins”. If you are dead, you aren’t “inclined” to not breathing, you actually don’t breathe.

The London Baptist Confession of Faith articulates it well by saying:

They being the root, and by God’s appointment, standing in the room and stead of all mankind, the guilt of the sin was imputed, and corrupted nature conveyed, to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation, being now conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, the servants of sin, the subjects of death, and all other miseries, spiritual, temporal, an eternal, unless the Lord Jesus set them free. (6.3)

When Adam sinned, he plunged all of mankind into death with him. Christians, we are not simply “inclined” to sin, we are born into sin, a state that is utterly abhorrent to God and apart from His saving grace we will continue in sin.

Lastly, We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned. The biggest problem here is that it denies both the Federal Headship of Adam and original sin.

First let’s tackle Federal Headship. What is meant by the term “Federal Headship”? In layman’s terms it simply means that in the Garden of Eden Adam represented us, he stood in our place. We see this most clearly in Romans 5:12-21. Shai Linne said it best when he said “one player commits a foul, the whole team gets penalized”. Adam, as our Federal Head, was our representative; he acted on our behalf. Therefore, when he sinned we all sinned (Romans 5:18,19).

Denying the Federal Headship of Adam has implications concerning the atonement of Christ. If Adam didn’t represent us then Christ wasn’t our representative. If Adam’s guilt wasn’t imputed to us, then Christ’s righteousness isn’t imputed to us. This is exactly what Paul meant when he said “by one man’s disobedience…so by one man’s obedience…” If we follow the Traditionalist’s thought here, and begin with everybody being guilty only by their own sins then logically only their death would satisfy God’s wrath. As you can see, being born guilty in Adam is actually good news! Because we are dead in Adam because of his sin, through Christ’s atonement we are made alive because of Christ’s death!

Now, let’s look at Original Sin. If one denies the Federal Headship of Adam then the logical next step is to deny original sin. Without Original Sin humans are born at worst in a neutral state, and at best in a state of perfection. Article Two states very clearly that the articulators of the document (and the signees as well) believe that humans are born into some sort of innocence until they commit their first sin. This is in direct opposition to Psalm 51:5. How could David say he was “brought forth in iniquity” if he was born innocent?

In conclusion I want to make one final argument, not merely for Federal Headship and Original Sin, but for a robustly Reformed view of Soteriology. The Traditionalist Statement is inconsistent. As the wise saying goes, “you can’t have your cake and eat it too”.

On the one hand the Traditionalist Statement over and over again pushes for the innocence of man, and the freedom and ability of man to choose God, but then states “We affirm that when a person responds in faith to the Gospel, God promises to complete the process of salvation in the believer into eternity.” Salvation is either wholly of God or wholly of man; synergistic salvation is antithetical to Biblical soteriology.

On the other hand, the Calvinistic understanding of salvation presents a coherency. Beginning with the total depravity of man, God is then the initiator of salvation by electing sinners unconditionally. In light of the unconditionality of election, Christ’s atonement is perfectly applied and completed by atoning for the sins of the elect. Because Christ accomplished his mission to save those that the Father chose, the Grace He provides is irresistible. Because God is the initiator of salvation and because His grace is irresistible, the regenerate sinner is secure in Christ and will undoubtedly persevere.
If you are a Traditionalist, I ask that you consider the implications of your statement concerning salvation. This isn’t simply a secondary issue like eschatology, this is the Gospel.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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Late Night Theology Podcast, Episode 8: General Ranting… and Sergeant Sarcasm

LNTPodcastOpener (3)

This episode was recorded on March 5th, 2017.

In this episode, Logan and Tom are joined by Philip Willis as we cover a variety of topics that include preaching, worship, racism, the SBC, and legalism. You don’t want to miss it.

Links

The SBC’s Decision to Investigate Dr. Russell Moore

Why the South Would’ve Killed Spurgeon

Albert Mohler – Expository Preaching—The Antidote to Anemic Worship 

Ben Wirthington – Sexuality and Scripture 

Mark Ongly – The Church and Homosexuality 

Ashley Easter – Why the Church Loves to Talk About Sex Trafficking, But Not Domestic Abuse 

Late Night Theology Audio Archive 

T. Austin-Sparks

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Exegesis and the Small Church Mentality

exegesis

“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” – 2 Timothy 4:2, NIV

“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.” – 2 Timothy 4:2, KJV

It was exactly 4:30 PM on a Thursday night, laying on my bed, listening to Radio Free Geneva where he was talking about how politics not impacts exegesis, but determines exegesis in Southern Baptist congregations and when I heard these words come from Dr. James White’s mouth, and I instantly gave him an audible “Amen.” Actually, it was more like an “A-f***ing-men.”

White said that you shouldn’t underestimate the power that politics plays in determining exegesis of Scripture in the Southern Baptist Convention. I resonated so well with his comments because I saw this first hand, but not in the SBC. Let me stop here and explain. I spent 3 years in a reformed (lower case ‘r’) Southern Baptist Church where the politics wasn’t necessarily an issue, but they definitely had some horror stories to tell from the SBC church that they came from before planting their church. Where I mostly saw politics play a role in exegesis was these small, non-denominational, Pentecostal, and Free Will Baptist churches. So, that told me that this wasn’t a problem that was limited to any denomination or any particular theological movement. This is something that’s going on in smaller churches, and not all smaller churches either, but I’m willing to bet about 90% of all churches with an active membership of 50 people or less.

Most of the time (not always, but most of the time), if you see a small church there’s a reason why it’s small – hardly anybody wants to go to a church where the sermon is about “the evils of socialism” every freaking week. We, as Christians, believe (or should believe) in a fundamental separation of church and state. Now, to what extent you believe in that separation is up for debate. Personally, I believe in an absolute separation of church and state because I don’t think God needs the assistance of Christians in the government to rule and reign over the earth that He’s created, but that’s just me. I guess if you don’t think God is doing a good enough on His own, you can keep voting Republican. “Hey God, I saw that the world was to hell in a handbasket so I thought I would give you some help by voting for Trump. No need to thank me, I’m just doing my civic duty.”

Going back to the subject of exegesis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer hit the nail on the head when he said, “The sermon has been reduced to parenthetical church remarks about newspaper events.” Now, if this were true in Bonhoeffer’s day how much more true is it now? Now, like I said, it’s not just small churches that do this. Cornerstone Church in San Antonio is the worst. John Hagee preaches week after week that the government is going to start lobbing our heads off any minute now so we need to start keeping an eye on our dispensational timeline charts to see what chapter of the book of Revelation we’re in this week. Now, I haven’t heard a single Hagee sermon since the election, but I’m willing to bet that since Trump is the President Elect, Hagee is ready to convert to Post-Millennialism even as week speak. There seems to be a trend among dispensationalist to read into the text of Scripture what isn’t there. They do this by comparing Israel to America. They tend to take Old Testament passages of Scripture concerning Israel and saying that those passages apply to America when, in fact, they do not.

This is a common habit among pastors in smaller churches. They tend preach that the physical nation of Israel is still “God’s chosen people” so we should pray for Israel and honor Israel. Then they start preaching about how “evil” it is to not show political support for Israel. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for supporting Israel, but it is solely for political reasons. My reasons for supporting Israel have nothing to do with my faith or my interpretation of Scripture. But, these small church pastors are, for the most part, uneducated. They get their learning from watching guys like John Hagee and Perry Stone instead of actually cracking open a reasonable Bible commentary over the book of Revelation. (As far as commentaries go, I would rather a pastor use Wilhelm Brakel’s commentary over Revelation than for them to go by what John Hagee or Perry Stone is teaching, and that’s saying something because Brakel is Postmillennial and I hate Postmillennialism with a fiery burning passion. The only way Postmillennialism makes sense is you’re either a Universalist or if you’re in favor of a Christian version of Sharia Law.)

But I digress, the Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms defines “exegesis” as “The act of interpreting or explaining the meaning of verses or passages of Scripture.” So, if this is the true meaning of exegesis, then can we say that a lot of our smaller churches are really exegeting Scripture? I say with a resounding voice, “NO.” When you tell your congregation that America (and the Church) is Israel then you are completely ignoring Romans 9 and you are ignoring the promises of God to His elect people in Ephesians 1 and 2, and there’s no telling how many other passages you’re ignoring.

That’s not even the tip of the iceberg. You’ve got so many other exegetical problems in these smaller churches that it’s unreal. In a lot of churches that aren’t Southern Baptist, you’ve got pastors telling their congregation that they can lose their salvation at the drop of hat. They offer little to no comfort to those of us who struggle with assurance, and they completely ignore every promise of assurance that God gives to His people and say that it only applies to people who “live right.” They make no distinction between law and gospel in their preaching. RJ Grunewald says, “Christians, including preachers, routinely confuse the Law and Gospel, misapplying both. Confusion results: Some needlessly suffer under a burdened conscience as they live under the crushing weight of the Law, while others dismiss the Law (unrepentant sinners) and ignorantly bask in grace they find outside of Christ’s work on their behalf.”

When you step into the pulpit you carry a very weighty task of explaining a text in the context of the whole Bible, and distinguishing between law and grace.

“Rightly distinguishing the Law and the Gospel is the most difficult and the highest art of Christians in general and of theologians in particular. It is taught only by the Holy Spirit in the school of experience.” – CFW Walther

If you’ve been able to sit through this angry rant, let me know what you think and let’s talk about it.

Blessings, Logan.