LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. (BP)—While stressing that the discussion between Calvinists and non-Calvinists in the Southern Baptist Convention is a family matter, speakers at the 2013 John 3:16 Conference outlined the differences between the two views and what they believe to be the issues hindering unity among Southern Baptists.
Frank Cox, pastor of North Metro Baptist Church in Lawrenceville, Ga., which hosted the conference on March 21-22, told attendees that the event would help them “engage in the conversation going on across the nation and the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Jerry Vines, pastor emeritus of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., opened the conference by saying it was not about anger or fighting anyone over these issues.
“Disagreement does not equal a lack of love,” said Vines, whose ministry organized the John 3:16 Conference and a similar conference in 2008 under the same name.
The 2008 conference responded directly to the five points of traditional Calvinism known by the acronym TULIP: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace and Perseverance of the saints.
This year’s event focused on six key questions pointing to theological differences between the conference’s speakers and those Southern Baptists who identify with Calvinism or the Reformed tradition. The sessions included both professorial and pastoral presentations by Baptist college and seminary leaders as well as pastors and evangelists.
Organizers said more than 350 registrants attended the conference.
Vines opened the sessions by answering what he referred to as “the burning question in Southern Baptist life”—For whose sins did Jesus die?
Using John 3:16 as his primary text, Vines stated that Christ died for “my sins individually, the church’s sins especially and the world’s sins universally.”
He called it a “logical fallacy” to use passages that speak of Christ’s death being for individuals or the church as evidence that it is for those alone.
“The whole matter of ‘For whose sins did Jesus die?’ ultimately goes back to the love of God,” Vines said.
“Does He love every single person in the whole world?” Vines asked. “I believe He does. I can say about everyone I meet, ‘This is a person God loves and for whose sins Christ died.’”
Adam Harwood, Christian studies professor at Truett-McConnell College in Georgia, in his presentation directly challenged the perspective on humanity inheriting the guilt of Adam’s sin.
Harwood contended that while all people have a sinful nature, only Adam is guilty of Adam’s sin because “according to the Bible, God judges people for their own sin.”
Harwood claimed that some Southern Baptists, particularly R. Albert Mohler Jr. and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, disagreed with this stance.
Harwood referenced an article Mohler wrote on his blog in 2012 titled “Southern Baptists and Salvation: It’s Time to Talk” along with Mohler’s claim that a 2012 document signed online by many non-Calvinist Southern Baptists, called “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”, “appear to affirm semi-Pelagian understandings of sin, human nature and the human will — understandings that virtually all Southern Baptists have denied.”
As described in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, semi-Pelagianism “affirmed that the unaided [human] will performed the initial act of faith” and “the priority of the human will over the grace of God in the initial act of salvation.”
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