In the Traditionalist statement, those poor fellows signed a statement that said this:
We affirm that, because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin and that every person who is capable of moral action will sin. Each person’s sin alone brings the wrath of a holy God, broken fellowship with Him, ever-worsening selfishness and destructiveness, death, and condemnation to an eternity in hell.Which is not Calvinism, right? That's the point: by heavens and Annie Armstrong, this ain't Calvinism.
We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned. While no sinner is remotely capable of achieving salvation through his own effort, we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel.
But what is it? Mere Biblicism? Maybe if you have never read a book it is such a thing.
In 529, some fellows sat down to think about the teachings of Pelagius, and in thinking about them one of the things they said was this:
CANON 2. If anyone asserts that Adam's sin affected him alone and not his descendants also, or at least if he declares that it is only the death of the body which is the punishment for sin, and not also that sin, which is the death of the soul, passed through one man to the whole human race, he does injustice to God and contradicts the Apostle, who says, "Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned" (Rom. 5:12).I realize there were no members of the Conservative Resurgence present when that statement was drafted, but it is at odds with the statement proffered by these so-called "Traditionalists".
These "Traditionalists" also signed up for this:
We affirm that any person who responds to the Gospel with repentance and faith is born again through the power of the Holy Spirit. He is a new creation in Christ and enters, at the moment he believes, into eternal life.And then this:
We deny that any person is regenerated prior to or apart from hearing and responding to the Gospel.
We affirm that God, as an expression of His sovereignty, endows each person with actual free will (the ability to choose between two options), which must be exercised in accepting or rejecting God’s gracious call to salvation by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel.
We deny that the decision of faith is an act of God rather than a response of the person. We deny that there is an “effectual call” for certain people that is different from a “general call” to any person who hears and understands the Gospel.And those dirty non-Calvinists in 529 AD had previously decided this:
CANON 6. If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10).Which is a plain refutation of Pelagius.
CANON 7. If anyone affirms that we can form any right opinion or make any right choice which relates to the salvation of eternal life, as is expedient for us, or that we can be saved, that is, assent to the preaching of the gospel through our natural powers without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who makes all men gladly assent to and believe in the truth, he is led astray by a heretical spirit, and does not understand the voice of God who says in the Gospel, "For apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5), and the word of the Apostle, "Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God" (2 Cor. 3:5).
Now, lastly: some of the friends of those fellows who have signed up for the "Traditionalist" document have now said:
I am sure Dr. Mohler is utterly capable of speaking for himself. And it seems these cats are right: the "Traditionalist" document doesn't seem to be semi-pelagian. It seems like rank Pelagian doctrine when you look back to the place where Pelagius was denounced as a heretic.Dr. Mohler claims “portions of the statement actually go beyond Arminianism and appear to affirm semi-Pelagian understandings of sin, human nature, and the human will.” If Dr. Mohler is going to claim that two current seminary Presidents, two current Baptist college Presidents, six former Presidents of the SBC, state executives and hundreds of pastors and laypersons across the convention “appear” to have Semi-Pelagian leanings, surely he would document that charge. Oddly enough he does not. He doesn’t define Semi-Pelagian nor does he show where the statement appears to be Semi-Pelagian. Had Dr. Mohler perhaps quoted the 3rdedition of The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church that Semi-Pelagians “maintained that the first steps towards the Christian life were ordinarily taken by the human will and that Grace supervened only later”1 and then demonstrated where the TS “appeared” to affirm that one’s first steps in the Christian life are “ordinarily taken by the human will” with grace responding to rather than initiating human will, we would have no qualms. And, there remains a good reason why Dr. Mohler did not show parallels in the TS to historic Semi-Pelagianism. Namely, the TS nowhere affirms a position close or even similar to Semi-Pelagianism. We must confess, we are at a loss. We do not know how to respond. He has left us with only three options concerning how he could make such an outrageous statement: 1) he did not read the document thoroughly; 2) he does not understand Semi-Pelagianism himself (the exact theological ignorance with which he charged the signers); or 3) he has some other motive. Because of our faith in his theology and his motives we choose to believe the first option. If we are correct, we still remain confused that a seminary president would identify fellow believers with a belief widely considered heresy if he failed to read their confession carefully.
So if they want to talk about that rather than wonder if Al Mohler knows what he is talking about, they should stop publishing internet essays through people like the divisive and repugnant Peter Lumpkins and publicly ask for a time and a place to have a substantial and serious discussion about the meaning of orthodox formulations of soteriology.
I am certain Dr. Mohler and many faculty members at SBTS would love to get into that discussion.