Do Southern Baptist Believe in Predestination?
Some of you know that I am an ordained minister of the Southern Baptist Convention. From my recent post you can see that I have expressed my belief in God’s predestination and have grown to accept it as the truth. The question I have asked myself and have pondered is, “Do Southern Baptist Believe in Predestination?” My personal opinion was that some do and some don’t and that it varied from one congregation to the next. This question came up again recently so I have taken some time to do a little research to try to get a better answer. My first step was to find the Southern Baptist website and read their definitions of the faith. I was able to find the Baptist Faith and Message page on the SBC website. Below are a few excerpts:
God’s Purpose of Grace
Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.
All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
From the above it is seems that Southern Baptist believe in the “Doctrine of the Elect” and the “Eternal Security of the believer”. They believe that God’s elect are his chosen children that he regenerates (gives them a new heart) according to his purpose and sovereign goodness. At this point it is still not clear and thus I will bring up another reference in the SBC Baptist faith and message:
Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.
A. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.
Repentance is a genuine turning from sin toward God. Faith is the acceptance of Jesus Christ and commitment of the entire personality to Him as Lord and Savior.
B. Justification is God’s gracious and full acquittal upon principles of His righteousness of all sinners who repent and believe in Christ. Justification brings the believer unto a relationship of peace and favor with God.
C. Sanctification is the experience, beginning in regeneration, by which the believer is set apart to God’s purposes, and is enabled to progress toward moral and spiritual maturity through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. Growth in grace should continue throughout the regenerate person’s life.
D. Glorification is the culmination of salvation and is the final blessed and abiding state of the redeemed.
From the above I again see no reason to believe that Southern Baptist do not believe in predestination. We see first that “Salvation is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ”. Keep in mind that it does not say that “Salvation is offered freely to all men”. Salvation is offered to “all who accept” and those that accept are his “elect”. Secondly, we see that “Regeneration” is the work of “God’s Grace” and that the change of heart (regeneration) is “wrought by the holy spirit”. From this I believe that it is saying that “Regeneration” is credited to God and not man.
It seems as though a person who believes what I believe could read the above passages from the Baptist Faith and Message and believe that Southern Baptist include predestination in their doctrine. However, I can see how a person that does not believe in predestination could read it and interpret it differently. After reading the Baptist Faith and Message in its entirety I think the below is an unbiased interpretation in regards to the SBC view of predestination:
The Southern Baptists believe that God’s children are his elect. And those that are his elect he regenerates, justifies, and brings them into salvation. His elect are predestined to be his children and he chooses his children based on his foreknowledge of their actions and decisions. His children (ultimately those that choose him), once regenerated can never loose their salvation.
So the question is, “Do Southern Baptist Believe in Predestination?” I think that Southern Baptist indeed believe in this doctrine, however they believe that God predestines based on his foreknowledge of the actions and decisions of each human. It says under the section “God” in the Baptist faith and message that “God is all powerful and all knowing; and His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present, and future, including the future decisions of His free creatures.” Ultimately, this is saying that God’s predestination is based on those that in their freedom will make the decision to accept Christ.
So “Yes”, Southern Baptist believe in Predestination and the “elect”, but they do not believe in “Unconditional Election” which is one of the 5 points associated with Calvinism. Unconditional election states that God’s children were chosen by him before the foundation of the world and it was not based on the merit of man. It was not based on his foreknowledge of their actions or decisions. It was based solely on God’s divine purpose and therefore it is “unconditional”.
So the better question is, “Do Southern Baptist Believe in Calvinism?” It is safe to say, within the last 100 years, the majority of Southern Baptists are not Calvinist. We could also determine this since the current Baptist Faith and Message does not support all 5 points of Calvinism. This does not mean that there are not believers of Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Convention. I found an article at the Center for Baptist Studies website and it states, “Most of the men who founded the Southern Baptist Convention in 1845 were Calvinists. However, for the last century the majority of Southern Baptists have not been Calvinists.” It goes on to say that Calvinism is being re-introduced so to speak in many Southern Baptist churches. There are many great Baptist teachers that are Calvinist such as John MacArthur Jr. and John Piper. There are campus organizations that are effectively teaching Calvinism such as Campus Outreach and Reformed University Fellowship.
So my final conclusion is that my original theory was right. Some Southern Baptist believe in predestination and some don’t. Some believe in the Predestination as described in Calvinism and some do not. It is really up to the individual and the congregation. I can rest assure knowing that God’s truth is at work.