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Part of the "Arminian" position (as I understand it) is essentially as follows:

Fallen people are of such a morally corrupted nature that, when hearing the gospel of how they can and must be saved by the finished work of Christ through repentance and faith, they would never respond in repentance and faith unless the Holy Spirit was also working in their hearts to help persuade them. Only when the hearing of the gospel is accompanied by the gracious and powerful wooing of the Spirit ("prevenient/enabling grace") are they then faced with a choice that has the capacity to go either way - namely, the choice to yield to or to resist the gracious calling of the Spirit to accept the gospel message.

[That is, for example, how Arminians would typically understand John 6:44,65.]

My question is:

Do Southern Baptist traditionalists agree with this viewpoint? Are there significant differences among Souther Baptist traditionalists on this matter?

From listening to Prof Leighton Flowers (a leading apologist of Southern Baptist traditionalist soteriology), I get the impression that he and other traditionalists would disagree with this viewpoint. It seems that instead, traditionalists believe that the will of fallen people is, in and of itself, of sufficient libertarian freedom to be able to respond positively to the message of the gospel (though this belief is by no means to the negation of the fact that God does help persuade people's free will in the direction towards accepting the gospel).

From this, one might assume that traditionalists are (on these particular matters) a form of semipelagian. But Prof Flowers strongly refutes this, stating firmly that traditionists reject the idea that fallen people would ever take an initiative step in seeking God.

To me, this is quite an interesting and subtle distinction that is being raised here: Why would people's will be sufficiently libertarian to be able to respond positively to the gospel message without the necessity for additional help, and yet not sufficiently libertarian to be able to initiate, prior to hearing the gospel message, a search for a means of reconciliation with God such as would be answered in the gospel? This makes me wonder whether I have misunderstood something.

[Regarding John 6:44,65, I think Prof Flowers understands these verses specifically in connection with a judgmental hardening of the Jews.]

  • By "Southern Baptist traditionalists" are you excluding the large proportion of Southern Baptists who are Reformed? – curiousdannii Jan 27 '19 at 2:33
  • I realised that terminology might possibly be an issue, but my problem is that I don't actually know the history and origin of "traditionalism" in the Southern Baptist denomination. But yes, at the least, traditionalist soteriology very much excludes Reformed soteriology. I read somewhere that "traditionalists" signed a petition to try and defeat an effort to make 5-point Calvinism the official position of the SBC. I have now found this article that explains "traditionalism" and some of its history: theologicalmatters.com/2016/09/06/… – Julian Newman Jan 27 '19 at 2:52
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Southern Baptist Traditionalists prefer to believe that the gospel message is sufficient as "prevenient grace" and that anyone can respond if they have heard the gospel. In the Traditionalist view, because the New Testament (and the Old Testament, for that matter) was inspired by the Holy Spirit, that the Holy Spirit works through the New Testament and the gospel to make humanity's hearts responsive.

Arminians prefer to believe that the Father sends prevenient grace through the Holy Spirit that regenerates ("brings to life a capacity within the heart, wherewith they can respond positively to the gospel") the believer's heart so that they may believe even with total depravity. Arminians typically take a stronger view of total depravity.

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    "regenerates (not actual regeneration, though)". I guess that by the first "regenerates" you mean something roughly like "brings to life a capacity within the heart, wherewith they are able to respond positively to the gospel", and by "actual regeneration" you mean being born again? Do Arminians ever use the word "regenerate" in the former sense? – Julian Newman Jan 1 at 19:33
  • Yes, that is an excellent definition. Arminians will likely not use "regeneration" to describe this - instead, they use "prevenient grace." Arminians usually believe that regeneration occurs after faith, as opposed to the Calvinist view that regeneration occurs before faith. "Actual regeneration" is being born again (after faith), yes. – saltylight Jan 1 at 19:41
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    Prof Flowers has expounded fairly thoroughly the difference between Arminianism and Southern Baptist Traditionalism regarding prevenient grace, at youtu.be/pYcB9wQQevs. (It turns out that at least some Arminians are willing to use the language of "partial regeneration" to describe the work of prevenient grace.) – Julian Newman Jan 4 at 1:44
  • @JulianNewman What do you mean by "It turns out that at least some Arminians are willing to use the language of "partial regeneration" to describe the work of prevenient grace"? – saltylight Jan 4 at 17:00
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    @JulianNewman Sorry, my bad. Roger Olson is most definitely an Arminian, so I was wrong and you were right. – saltylight Jan 4 at 18:28
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The statement made that established "Traditionalism" as a term for this long-held belief is here, and I believe accurately reflects the views of most (Southern and Independent) Baptists who hold this point of view: http://connect316.net/the-statement/

You are right in that they don't hold the same view of prevenient grace as a Methodist does. Methodists/Arminians actually commonly accept Total Depravity, but many Baptists do not. The other way that Traditionalists would explain things is by agreeing with the necessity of something like "prevenient grace", and that God has given such to everyone, and that it still may be resisted.

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  • Thank you for your answer, and for the very useful information provided. Are you able to clarify further 'the necessity of something like "prevenient grace'" and precisely how it disagrees with an Arminian perspective on the necessity for prevenient grace? – Julian Newman Feb 5 '19 at 23:17

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