Sunday, June 3, 2012

Is the SBC an Arminian denomination?

SBC stands for "Southern Baptist Convention," and you could make the argument that the SBC is: 1) Arminian, 2) Calvinist, 3) Neither and 4) Both.

I make the argument that the SBC is functionally an "OSAS Arminian" denomination, in which OSAS stands for "Once Saved Always Saved." Realize that the terms "Arminian" and "Calvinist" are very broad. For instance, there are Classical Arminians, Reformed Arminians, OSAS Arminians, Molinist Arminians and Open Theist Arminians. Calvinists have their distinctions as well, such as 4-Point Calvinists, 5-Point Calvinists, Hyper Calvinists, Supralapsarians, Infralapsarians, ect., and that's not even counting the likes of Harold Camping and the infamous Westboro Baptist Calvinists. The labels are so broad that even Calvinists will sometimes refer to other Calvinists as "Arminians" if they feel that other Calvinists are simply not Calvinistic enough. Some in the SBC will privately acknowledge being functionally OSAS Arminian, but avoid the label due to the perceived stigma associated with the Arminian doctrine of Conditional Security. To argue that the SBC is functionally an OSAS Arminian denomination, one could point to the "John 3:16 Conference." One could also point to recent activity within the SBC regarding the traditional Southern Baptist understanding of the doctrine of salvation. One could also point out a few popular apologetics books written by SBC members, such as "Whosoever Will," "Salvation and Sovereignty" and "Calvinism: A Southern Baptist Dialogue." The late three time SBC president, Adrian Rogers, was very outspoken in his criticism of Calvinism. Consider his sermon, "Let the Earth Hear His Voice: 2 Corinthians 5:13-20." The late founder of Liberty University referred to the Calvinist doctrine of a Limited Atonement as "heresy."
On the other hand, one could make the argument that the SBC is closer to being Calvinistic, by citing published statements concerning Unconditional Election, Total Depravity and Eternal Security. However, while some in the SBC may espouse such views that are similar to TULIP, often when explaining those beliefs, the caveats diverge from the traditional Calvinist understanding. For instance, while some in the SBC may espouse a belief in Election, they will be just as quick to denounce the Calvinist doctrines of Irresistible Grace and Limited Atonement. With this understanding, sometimes it is difficult to determine whether the SBC has a hybrid position, making it neither Calvinist nor Arminian, and yet also in some respects, both Calvinist and Arminian. However, this is not to say that there are no outspoken 5-Point Calvinists within the SBC, such as Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and David Platt, author of the book, "Radical." So there is certainly a diversity of views within the SBC.

In my estimation, when considering the John 3:16 Conference, apologetics books, recent activity within the SBC and the general consensus of SBC Presidents, it appears that a fair case can be made that the SBC leans most closely towards being functionally an "OSAS Arminian" denomination, even though the label itself is officially rejected. I tend not to get into the history of the Southern Baptist movement, because that is not really relevant to the question of whether the SBC is presently a Calvinist or Arminian denomination. The SBC Church that I presently attend is First Baptist Church Downtown Jacksonville, pastored by Mac Brunson, who espouses a theological perspective very closely resembling that of Jerry Vines, who sponsored the John 3:16 Conference. As a member of the Society of Evangelical Arminians, I may be biased in my outlook, but this is my perspective, for what it's worth.

Refer to Roger Olson's article as well.


DonaldH said...


I am just as biased as you are in that case. I just think most are fearful of the connotations that the title/label arminian brings. But I do agree with your post and assessments.

Unknown said...

OSAS Arminian? Excuse me, is not OSAS equal to perseverance of the saints? Is that not fifth point of the five points of Calvinism? Did Arminius endorse OSAS in his ambiguous discussion of this subject? What you and others are suggesting, including Olson, makes no sense to me. I graduated from a Baptist type university. I know for a fact that most would die before they would accept anything Arminian. All the Baptists that I have discussed OSAS with have invariably swayed to grasp certain points made by the true Calvinists to defend OSAS. Question, how can you defend this position using Arminius' other statements? You can’t. Therefore, it is a fundamental error to consider them Arminian though many have slammed Calvinism at times. By the way, while I differ, I do enjoy your site. Thanks, and keep up the good work.