The Gospel of Historic Baptists

I’ve been following the kerfuffle among the Southern Baptists when it comes to Calvinism and Arminianism, and that means I’ve taken some interest in the statement by those representing traditional Baptists. Of course, I wanted to see how they define gospel, so I thought I’d post their statement and then offer a few remarks:

Articles of Affirmation and Denial

Article One: The Gospel

We affirm that the Gospel is the good news that God has made a way of salvation through the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ for any person. This is in keeping with God’s desire for every person to be saved.

We deny that only a select few are capable of responding to the Gospel while the rest are predestined to an eternity in hell.

Genesis 3:15; Psalm 2:1-12; Ezekiel 18:23, 32; Luke 19.10; Luke 24:45-49; John 1:1-18, 3:16; Romans 1:1-6, 5:8; 8:34; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Galatians 4:4-7; Colossians 1:21-23; 1 Timothy 2:3-4; Hebrews 1:1-3; 4:14-16; 2 Peter 3:9

1. This is the gospel I more or less grew up on. If you read the whole statement, the emphasis on free will (libertarian free will) was our emphasis though I’m not so sure we would have been quite so articulate on some of these ideas. I was surprised, though, by how original sin is articulated.

2. It is almost impossible for me to see a list of Bible references on the gospel and have nothing — and I mean nothing — from either the gospeling sermons in Acts or 1 Corinthians 15. As I argue in King Jesus Gospel, this comes down to method: Where do we find the gospel defined in the NT? First place, 1 Cor 15; second place, the apostolic gospel sermons in Acts.

3. I like their emphasis on the whole Christ event — from “life” to “resurrection” — though I’d like to see even more from the whole life: his incarnation, his mission/teachings, his kingdom vision, and all the way to the exaltation, second coming and finality when God is “all in all.” But, for gospel statements, they’ve got more than most.

4. Of course, they’ve defined the whole gospel as salvation (I call this the soterian gospel) which means this every time it happens: Christ becomes the means instead of the focus of the gospel. As I have said many times, first Christology, then soteriology. This gospel statement is first soteriology, and then second christology (who is seen here as Savior).

5. You knew this was coming: there is no need for the Old Testament for this gospel, and there’s no need for the Story of Israel, and Jesus doesn’t have to be the Story’s Messiah since he’s the Savior. Yes, of course, they refer to the Old Testament a number of times — and that’s good — but it’s because their loci find support in those texts. The framework, however, is personal soteriology and not Israel’s Story.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Scot says “Where do we find the gospel defined in the NT? First place, 1 Cor 15, second place, the apostolic gospel sermons in Acts.”

    Perhaps that is where we find examples of how it is preached, or how it is in short form, but it is clearly in Matt Mark Luke and John. Those are the definition of the gospel, no?

  • scotmcknight

    DRT,

    Yes, but that would mean they’d have to quote whole books … they were quoting Bible sections and verses.

  • RJS

    Interesting – this is closer to the way I was raised as well, especially the discussion of the sinfulness of man. This is where the idea of “age of accountability” comes in to play in part. No salvation by covenant, no infant baptism, but before the age of accountability (including one incapacitated and unable to reach an age of accountability) there would not be condemnation.

  • Patrick

    Well, what is your definition of “The Gospel”? I thought it was the answer to “what does it take to enter the body of Christ”?

  • scotmcknight

    Patrick, read The King Jesus Gospel or check out the posts under the category “Gospel” on this blog.

  • http://Leadme.org Cal

    I’m a type of Reformed(ish) and its for the very reason that the SBC made clear. By using language like, “God has made a way of salvation” it makes the Good News 1) very anthrocentric instead of all things and 2) it makes salvation into removing a road block by using the tool called Christ.

    Redemption isn’t just us but the whole world. It isn’t about going off to a platonic-fairy world but the King wants to bring justice to His lands, though most importantly His people.

    And I was blind and so desperately needed liberation. Just slaying a Slave Master and announcing it isn’t enough for the Slaves to go free. They need to be approached, cell by cell, and unshackled and spoken to as a man rather than a slave. Sometimes they even need to be carried out when they’re too weak to walk.

    In case anyone wondered, I don’t think TULIP is a good systematization or that it is even right. Different kind of Reformed.

  • Bob

    I’m not part of the SBC but this statement made me both happy and sad. Happy because I sensed from some of my Baptist friends that this was weighing heavy on their hearts and I’m glad some in the SBC expressed it in writing. (Though I’m not sure the order of the articles makes much sense in light of them being juxtaposed to the five points of Calvinism.) Sad because I think the current The Baptist Faith and Message is sufficient in keeping the convention united and this statement is likely going to do unnecessary damage to that unity.

  • TJJ

    Yes and now the dispute has advanced to charges of heresy (semi-Palagian). Of course some Calvanists think all Arminians are that. I think this is actually a good discussion for the SBC so long as it highlights otherwise papered over and unspoken “issues” with Calvanism and not just devolve into namecalling and accusations and arguments.

    It appears SBTS and Mohler are doubling down on the Calvanist side of the dispute. We will have to see how that works out longterm.

  • http://www.gulfgateyouth.com RKM

    So how do we reconcile this gospel with the life of Jesus? His mission seemed to include a lot more than salvation and, in fact, salvation seems to be a sidebar to his mission of bringing help to the poor, healing and repentance. There seems to be a disconnect here.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I don’t have the biblical scholarship, but still believe that salvation was much more multi-faceted than I will be resurrected and not condemned to hell. I am found, I have direction, I belong, I am saved.

  • Charlie Clauss

    Scot,

    One more step in your fuller definition of the Gospel:

    The giving of the Holy Spirit is a part of the Gospel (not just a result). So in Peter’s first “Gospel-ing” sermon, he points to the promise God made to send his Spirit on all flesh.

    This is absolutely critical to the point of our obedience to King Jesus – no Spirit given – no obedience possible.

  • Robin

    TJJ,

    It is interesting to note that the charges of semi-pelagianism are coming from arminians (Olson) in addition to calvinists. I believe Mohler stated though that he doesn’t believe any of the signers of the statement are semi-pelagian, just that in their rush to be anti-calvinist they weren’t as careful as they should have been in pointing out the need for God’s grace in the act of believing.

    I think this is a tempest in a teapot. It won’t pass. But if it did it could provide an interesting Enns-in-reverse test for academic freedom. If this statement was voted as the official position of the SBC it could be used to clear Mohler and the entire Southern Seminary faculty.

  • Percival

    Of course the gospel is found in what we call the four gospels. However, wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that these are four written witnesses to the one gospel? Even Matt, Mark, Luke and John are very short summaries of the gospel, right? The writer of John records that there is so much more to the story than what he was able to include.

    There are passages like 1 Cor. 15 that define the gospel and there are other passages that expand on it. In order to find the center of the gospel, we need the defining passages like 1Cor 15. But if this is the center of the circle, where are the outer edges?

    Actually, I’m not convinced that it is best to think of the short defining passages as the center either. The center is found in the person of the Messiah and not merely a description of his work. Also, we cannot say that Jesus is the gospel because he is so much more than good news. Perhaps the gospel is news about Jesus from his incarnation (or even his pre-exisitence) to his ongoing work today. In Acts 12:24 the word of God grew. Does this imply that the gospel was expanded somehow? Maybe the circle of the good news is still expanding and the word of God is still growing.

    Just some things I’ve been thinking about.

  • scotmcknight

    Charlie, why no Spirit in 1 Cor 15?

  • christopher

    I am happy to join the group and will like to know more about them,Jesus Christ,the sane yesterday,today and forever. i love to be meditating in the word of living, it bares good fruit in my life.

  • http://www.soulation.org Dale Fincher

    I am most satisfied with the umbrella definition of gospel in Mark 1:15, which was also not mentioned in the statement.

  • Chris

    Jonathan Pennington’s new book “Reading the Gospels Wisely” addresses the gospel question well. http://www.readingwisely.com

  • Charlie Clauss

    Scot,

    Good question!

    - The Spirit is clearly present in Matt, Mark, Luke, and John (Luke and John make a really big deal about it).
    - Acts seems to follow an analogous pattern to Luke, where the Spirit is prominent in the early part of the book (Jesus’ ministry is linked clearly with the Spirit) and then not mentioned as much in the latter parts: I take the implication to be that the work of both Jesus in Luke and the disciples in Acts is founded on the presence and power of the Spirit.
    - So several of the speeches in Acts (esp the later ones) don’t mention the Spirit, but the first speech in Acts makes a VERY big deal.

    No time to wrestle here with Act 10-11 and a similar piece in Act 19. You could argue that the giving of the Spirit is here a _result_ of the Gospel, but even so, it is of such heightened significance in the minds of Peter and the apostles in 11-12 and Paul in 19, that we are justified to think it is more than just a result.

    So no (explicit mention) of the Spirit in I Cor 15:
    - Paul in other places does link the Spirit with Jesus resurrection.
    - i Cor has much to say about the Spirit. Especially interesting is I Cor 2:4
    “My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.” Maybe Paul expects us to have the Spirit in mind as he talks in chapter 15?

    NT Wright often complains that he gets hammered for not mentioning every little important thing in every talk – his response to them: there is just not enough time!

    A liturgical note: In the Easter Vigil (a time when the *story* of God redemptive work from Creation to Eschaton is told), the Spirit is an important part. And there is a good reason the Easter Season ends with Pentecost!

    Central to the story of Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham is the promise “I will be your (their) God” (Gen 17:8b). This is an “undoing” of the absence between God and humanity back to Gen 3. Jesus ends his time with the disciples by saying “I am with you always…” The Spiritis the answer to the question of how Jesus will be with us always!

    I brought this up in the first place because Evangelicals and Southern Baptist (Evangelicals or not) are a bit uncomfortable with talk of the Spirit. The jokes goes that the Trinity for Evangelicals is “Father, Son, and Holy Scripture.” So I want to keep pushing the Holy Spirit into these discussions of the nature of the Gospel.


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