Baptists are Baptists first!
Question? Do those who believe in eternal security fit the Arminian theological model?

by Rev. Dennis Hartman

Published May, 16, 2013

One blogger, Richard Coords' , when dealing with his Southern Baptist faith and this discussion cleverly puts it in question form. Mr. Coords asks, "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." This question has masterfully caught the scope of the debate, not only about the SBC but all Baptists.

When dealing with such a discussion we lose site of the group that we are dealing with. We are dealing with mostly evangelicals and fundamentalists who are Baptist in some degree or the other and who make it clear that they believe in eternal security (ES) which is also known as once saved always saved (OSAS), and the of immersion. These two points are super fundamental to them. It is what makes them Baptists. Leaving these two points they become more diverse on other theological issues.

So are the Baptists Arminians? Now our blogger friend has an excellent way of stimulating a discussion. He asks a great question, and gives us four possible answers. So, let's consider them.

The first choice was 1) Arminian. The question is, are the SBC/Baptists Arminian? Now when my blogging brother discusses this issue he answer yes. Yes because, these Baptists take on the Arminian views other then first and last points of Calvins tuple. That's a good point. I recall that John R. Rice, founding editor of the famous "Sword of the Lord" paper did the same. He wrote a book called "Predestined for Hell? NO!" The last time I checked, the Sword of the Lord paper is still selling it. Therein he took Calvinism to task. Yet no one at the Baptist university that I attended called him an Arminian. That's strange. Then there was another writer, Dr. Laurence Vance, who in 1994 published a book titled "The Other Side of Calvinism." He too threw every possible stone at our Calvinist brothers with get effect. He left no rock unturned. He too did a good job of taking down three of the most offensive points out of the five points of Calvinism. However, very early in his book he makes a very clear and telling observation. I believe it certainly should be considered at this point. He says, "Once again we emphasize that 'Arminian' is the designation given to any doctrine that is not Calvinistic. Most of those so-labeled are not really Arminians at all." How interesting! This was written by an Independent Baptist scholar. So he is answering our new blogging friends question in the negative. That is, no, Baptists because they reject certain points of Calvinism should not be considered Arminian. Dr. Vance was a Baptist and he ought to know.

Our blogging friend then gives us a second choice, and that would be 2) Calvinist. That is once again a good choice too. Let's see what that choice has going for itself. Do Baptists believe in total depravity? Most ES and OSAS folks that I know do. Man needs Christ because of his sinfulness. This we can agree. Some Arminian brothers in this discussion parse this point where one would be lead to conclude that this doctrine of depravity is dripping in Calvinism. But be that as it may, that is the first point of Calvin's creed. Then too, the last point of that creed is Perseverance of the Saints, or as we know it ES or OSAS. But wait, there is a slight of hand to be played here.

Many defenders of Arminianism conclude that because Arminius did not say much on this subject, because he needed time to study it, that this doctrine can be naturally accepted as Arminian. Because he didn't say much now means that we can happily include the OSAS position into the Arminian grouping. We welcome them home. That sounds great, doesn't it. Leave it to scholarship to figure that one out. WOW! We now found that by Arminius's general silence on this subject, Baptists are transmuted into Arminians. So tell me, how can we get to this position from a general point of silence? It is all but impossible logically to hold to ES without a twisted modification of some kind of Calvin's other three points which most honest Baptists hypothetically reject.

Plus, there are no clear passages that can argue such a doctrine. Where are the passages saying don't worry about sin and worldly living, grace now covers it all, and you will always be my child. Or how about, "God is not slack concerning his promise, that all those who are really, honestly, truly, genuinely and 100% saved will never parish no matter how sinful in the end they became." Sounds good to me. Or maybe a passage saying "once ye are a child of mine, thou shalt never be lost.? Or better yet "ye can never fall from saving grace" though Paul says you can in Galalians. You know, just something that simple. Perhaps this was a problem for Arminius too. In all his research, he never found any clear indication of ES and therefor he would have to go much deeper and at that point in his life he did not have time.

Our friend then gives us choice number 3) Neither. There are a lot of fundamental Baptists, and to be sure there are others, who would apply this answer to all Baptists. Some have traced their history all the way back to John the Baptist, and others back just to the mid 1600's. At that time they were about the only ones who pushed rebaptism by immersion. And this rebaptism by immersion or just immersion seems to be the cure for United Methodism and their falling attendance now a days. So the water god has now become their god too. Many also deny any roots in John Calvin who may have even persecuted them. And undoubtably some where wrongly persecuted.

Our friend then give us the last choice, 4) both. I guess we could say that this could be answered in the affirmative. That is, they have a point or two in common, and about three the points that they ostensibly reject. So they don't have just one point but two going for themselves. So you could say they are 2/5 Arminian or 3/5 anti-Calvinist. 2 + 3= 5, now doesn't it. But still two is closer to five then one.

But I think that the movers and shakers of this debate refused to accept the obvious. It is obvious that ES and OSAS Baptists hold clearly to two points of Calvinism. In years gone by, and that not to distant in the past, Arminians clearly had nothing to do with the last point, Perseverance of the Saints. This has been a historically rejected by all Methodists since Wesley until our modern Wesleyan scholars fell off the wagon with their wicked criticism of scripture. Once you do that, you float down the Hebrews 2:1 river of apostasy. If you accept two points as opposed to one, are you not closer to Calvinism? Of course you are. As a matter of fact, as I mentioned before, you can not debate this subject for long before the SBC/ Baptist/OSAS brother treads into the Calvinist orchard to harvest support of his ES. You can not have ES without the some of the supporting points of Calvin in some twisted fashion. As to the point on total depravity, Arminians have always wondered why in the world Calvin made it part of his creed. No doubt at times it was misused and abused by him and us.

Finally, because our Baptist brothers write books and articles against Calvinism really means nothing. You see many that I read labeled what they were attacking as "hyper Calvinism," which seems to sanctify their "soft" moderate Calvinism in the atonement debate. But as Dr. Vance stated above, "Once again we emphasize that 'Arminian' is the designation given to any doctrine that is not Calvinistic. Most of those so-labeled are not really Arminians at all." And this I believe correctly answers the question that our blogger friend has asked.

In conclusion I level several points against the idea that if you believe in OSAS or Perseverance of the Saints you can still be called an Arminian. First, because ES believers write books against "hyper Calvinism" does not mean an acceptance of Arminianism. What it does mean is a rejection of what they don't like about Calvinism. Second, until recently they have never identified themselves as Arminians, so why push that idea on them now? Third, when debating they will sooner or later tread to the other points of Calvin, which they say they deny, for support. Fourth, the argument from Arminius' silence is not a good one for acceptance into the Arminian movement. However, after reading Arminius's profuse rejection of the other points, it would be more logical to assume that he would reject the Perseverance of the Saints too, rather then embrace it. After all it would be the only logical result of Calvin's teaching. Finally, most traditional and historical Baptist literature that I have read, has always backed away from either label. Therefore, I chose 3, neither. This I believe is the only honest answer and the best.

With Batpist duelis of ES and immersion and with Methodist theology in the tank of liberalism, stupidity and cowardice, Baptists are finally accomplishing what any group would want to do. That is, be the leader. They achieved what the early Methodist theologians, and circuit riders denied them in times past. They are Baptists first. That is plain and simple to see. Why Dr. Roger Olson and others entertain them as Arminians is beyond all reason and logic. Baptists are Baptists first! This is true of both the SBC and the Independents. And most none-denominational churches who hold to both doctrines are really Baptist gone undercover or convicted somewhat about their doctrine, though they can't let go. They have achieved their goal of leadership because our Methodist leadership bolts from the great doctrines of the faith like the seven year itch to appease and prove their scholarship to scholars who don't believe the Bible anyway. Methodist preachers of all strips are so caught up with "love" until it froze hell over in our generation. As both a pastor and an armchair historian of Methodism, I see this as a useless debate, with terrible results for Methodism once again. Thanks to Olson and many other like scholars, Methodists are still losing on all levels of theology and Biblical evangelical thought. In their attitudes and actions they emulate the hapless Republican party rather then soldiers for Christ. While I strongly differ with the SBC/Indpendent Baptists on ES and their water god, I secretly respect their pluckiness. They have the courage that we Methodists have willingly given up by our permissive concept of love. So hats off to my new SBC blogger friend for a great thought provoking discussion.

Pastor Hartman has been in the ministry for thirty seven years. He graduated from the Institute of Christian Service of Bob Jones University. He also holds B.S. and M.S. degrees from Columbus State University and did post grad work at the same school. He has taught in the public school system for fifteen years, and is currently working with a small private academy. He has traveled once to Russia, three times to the Ukraine, twice to England in a humble effort to help the missionaries spread the Gospel of Christ. After resigning form his pastorate in 2005, he does supply work for other pastors in the community. While he is Independent Methodist, he is currently attending and working with a neat conservative United Methodist Church. If you wish to contact Pastor Hartman, about this article, please feel free to do so.