Baptist Press posted a good summary article on The 2013 John 3:16 Conference held at North Metro First Baptist Church March 21-22. It rightly cast the differences between the earlier conference as a planned response to each of the five-points Calvinism (T.U.L.I.P.) and this year's conference:
"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"
Especially to be noted is Baptist Press's rehearsal of Adam Harwood's challenging presentation wherein he showed not only how Scripture teaches human depravity in terms of inheriting an Adamic sinful nature without being condemned for Adamic sinful guilt, but also how the Baptist Faith and Message affirms his position rather than the classically Reformed position of imputed Adamic guilt, a position to which many, if not most, Southern Baptist Calvinists adhere. Particularly intriguing is Baptist Press's reiteration of Harwood's challenge to Al Mohler and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary faculty exposition of the Baptist Faith & Message.
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[ed] to affirm semi-Pelagian understandings of sin, human nature and the human will –– understandings that virtually all Southern Baptists have denied"... .
Harwood said unity within the SBC may depend, in part, on Mohler retracting his claim.
Harwood also called on Southern Seminary to revise a faculty-written interpretation of the Baptist Faith and Message which Harwood said goes beyond the doctrinal stands of SBC Baptist Faith and Message.
In Article 3 of the BF&M, humanity inherits from Adam "a nature and an environment inclined toward sin" whereas, in the SBTS interpretation, "the guilt of Adam's sin falls on all."
"I do not mean to imply that SBTS faculty don't affirm the BF&M. They do so as part of the hiring process," Harwood said.
"But the faculty exposition omits concepts found in the BF&M and replaces them with a theological viewpoint not found in the BF&M," Harwood said, "namely that all people are guilty of Adam's sin."
Mohler declined comment on Harwood's statements. A seminary official, in responding March 26 to Baptist Press' request, said, "Unfortunately, we must respectfully decline the opportunity to comment at this time. Thank you for giving us the opportunity" (all links original)
We are grateful to Baptist Press for portraying Harwood's presentation and his challenge to Dr. Mohler in a positive framework. We are further thankful that Baptist Press solicited a response from Dr. Mohler. Nonetheless it serves neither Dr. Mohler well nor the institution he oversees to ignore Dr. Harwood's genuine concern over Mohler's careless language pertaining to semi-pelagianism. Does Dr. Mohler not realize that he arguably remains responsible, at least in part, for much of the misdirected, useless, and unkind rhetoric coming from aggressive Calvinists toward non-Calvinists in the Southern Baptist Convention? One need only note the irenic, brotherly way Harwood challenged Mohler and the SBTS faculty position and contrast it with the scorched earth emotional rhetoric written by two aggressive Calvinists toward the participants and presenters at The 2013 John 3:16 Conference1:
- J.D. Hall: "The bible never states 'all sinned in Adam" @HarwoodAdam#john316 Book@HarwoodAdam for theologically raping students at Truett-McConnell (//link)
- Ken Fryer: "The teachings of pelagius were condemned at the Council of Ephesus at 431 yet affirmed at the #John316Conference #John3162
Question: why should Calvinists like Hall and Fryer be called on to tone down their excessive and insulting rhetoric toward non-Calvinists while the president of our oldest seminary apparently thinks it is not worth his time to respond to his theologically offensive remarks that hundreds of Southern Baptists--thousands of Southern Baptists is most probably correct--are identified with what his particular theological community (Reformed) routinely considers heresy?
"Mohler declined comment on Harwood's statements."
Sorry, Dr. Mohler. You really need to respond not only to Harwood's question but to mine: Could you please explain how your insinuation that countless Southern Baptists are identified with semi-pelagianism, a theological position your particular theological community (Reformed) routinely considers heresy does not substantiate and even encourage aggressive Calvinists like Hall and Fryer to publicly scorn their brothers in Christ? And, as a follow up, I'd really like to know how your use of such rhetoric fits into the role you now have on Frank Page's task force to offer suggestions on better relations between Calvinists and non-Calvinists.
1In fact, I challenge anyone to listen to all the presentations at the J316C and document any excessive or inappropriate language being used toward Calvinists. The fact is, there was none.
2Note: Hall publicly apologized for his comment. Fryer didn't apologize but nonetheless apparently took the tweet down for I could not find it when I re-checked the hashtag for this post (a pic of the tweet may be found here). I suppose the demonstration of his visible hypocrisy in calling for peace between Calvinists and non-Calvinists while at the same time accusing non-Calvinists of blatant heresy pushed him toward some type of action to relieve the stark tension