Thursday, October 25, 2007

Baptists - Let's be Consistent

One belief that almost all Baptists hold to is the "perseverance of the saints." Sometimes this is referred to as "eternal security." The belief is that once a person is truly saved, he will never fall away from the faith. This is because he is secure in Christ.

I have never met a Baptist who did not believe this to be true.

When asked for scriptural support, Baptists often provide passages such as Ephesians 1:13-14, which says that Christians are sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.

By saying they believe this, Baptists are indicating that they believe that God sovereignly controls their future; they believe they cannot lose their salvation.

On the other hand, when it comes to getting saved in the first place, most Baptists (at least within the SBC) believe that they have chosen God through their free will. Most SBCers reject the idea that God elects out of His sovereign good pleasure. Instead, they think that God has drawn them, but that they have decided to freely accept Christ. God is, therefore, not sovereign over their coming to Christ.

The problem with this combination of views is that it is not consistent. Either God is sovereign to save those He chooses, and then keep them secure, or He is not. Either God gives complete freedom of the will to humans before and after salvation, or He does not.

Interestingly, many Baptists who would quote Ephesians 1:13-14 to support eternal security would also reject Ephesians 1:3-6 as support for the doctrine of sovereign election. Verses 3-6 and 13-14 are in the same passage. In the original language they are even in the same sentence. These verses cannot, and should not, be interpreted to mean different things.

Although I disagree with Wesleyan-Arminian theology, I respect those who hold to it because they are consistent. For example, they believe that they have complete freedom to choose or reject God prior to salvation. They also believe that they can reject their salvation after it occurs. I do not think this can be supported biblically, but at least there is consistency.

Why do Baptists walk this strange line between the sovereignty of God and the complete freedom of man? My theory is that Baptists want to feel free to choose God or not. However, once they have chosen Him, they want to believe that He sovereignly controls their destiny. By believing these things, they can feel good about themselves in their choice, and also feel relaxed about their future.

As people who claim to be "of the book," we Baptists owe it to God and His Word to be consistent in the way we interpret it. Either God is sovereign or He is not.

How did we as Baptists get to this point? Do you think this inconsistency is a problem, or do you think it is what scripture teaches? What can we do to solve this problem?


Aussie John said...


Almost a lifetime ago I embraced the Baptist Church because they were "of the book", and obviously serious about the fact, and as you observe consistent.

They were a people who reflected many of the qualities seen amongst the Amish,the centrality of Christ, accompanied by self abnegation and humility.

The latter began to be replaced by pride, which allowed inconsistency to become the norm.

Spiritual counselors who could open the Scriptures were replaced by those studied in the skills of psychiatry, whose advice often flew in the face of what Scripture taught.

Novelty and subjectivism replaced the boring objective stuff of Scripture.

I could go on........

Eric said...


I can't speak to Baptist life outside of the southeastern USA because that is where all my experience lies. In this "Bible Belt," most Baptist churches have compromised with secular society in many ways. In part because there is no persecution, Baptists have it very easy. This may be why Baptist churches here are having so little impact on the society at large.