A statement by a non-Calvinist faction of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has launched infighting within the nation's largest Protestant denomination, and tensions are expected to escalate Tuesday as church leaders descend on New Orleans.
While the election of the denomination's first African American president in its 167-year history will dominate the meeting's headlines, water-cooler talk is sure to be fixated on a theological dirty word that, for the past two weeks, has spiked the blood pressure of theologians as much as it has Baptist visits to Wikipedia.
The May 30 document, "A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God's Plan of Salvation," aims "to more carefully express what is generally believed by Southern Baptists about salvation." But both Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler and George W. Truett Theological Seminary professor Roger Olson, in separate blog posts, said that parts of the document sound like semi-Pelagianism, a traditionally heretical understanding of Christian salvation.
One sliver of the document's second article particularly drew their ire. It reads, "We deny that Adam's sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person's free will."
Even though the two scholars represent opposite ends of the evangelical spectrum on salvation, both made essentially the same allegation: the wording seems, at best, theologically careless and, at worst, represents a heretical understanding of sin, human nature, and the human will.
"This is what many laypeople believe that they shouldn't, and pastors and theologians should be correcting," Olson said. "My surprise is that the framers of this statement didn't immediately go back and rewrite it because it is so obviously ...