I just read through “Neither Arminians nor Calvinists but Baptists” and am struck by two significant aspects of the article which I think are flawed. [Note: The article in question was a response to Roger Olson’s review of the book, Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism, in which he characterized the authors of the book as Arminian in their theology; cf. Dr. Olson’s similar piece “A Good, New, Non-Arminian, Arminian Book!”, available here on SEA.]
First, how is it logical to say, “We’re not Arminian, we’re not Calvinist. We’re Baptist” when neither Calvinism nor Arminianism is a Baptist distinctive? Perhaps the authors mean to shout, “We’re Southern Baptist.” But wouldn’t this imply that Al Mohler is not a Southern Baptist?
I think it is important to understand that the earliest Baptists in the southern American colonies were Arminian Baptist, but that their churches were co-opted by interference from the ministers from the Philadelphia Baptist Convention (Calvinist). I think it is also important to know that the earliest Baptists who formed churches and associations in Texas were northern Freewill Baptists. All this screams against the mantra, “Neither Calvinist nor Arminian, but Baptists.”
Secondly, I’m struck that one of the two reasons that the authors reject the term “Arminian” is the claim that Arminianism leads to Open Theism. I’m curious to find out how the doctrine of eternal security would keep Southern Baptists from delving into Open Theism.
The question, of course, is not really genuine. The point is that the only difference between Southern Baptists and Arminian Baptists who believe in CONDITIONAL security is that Southern Baptists believe in UNCONDITIONAL eternal security. Hence, if Arminian Baptists are likely to plunge into Open Theism, so are Southern Baptists.
It seems to me that the appeal to Open Theism as a distinctive to separate Southern Baptists from Arminian Baptists betrays a desperation to avoid the nomenclature rather than a substantial point of distinction. Indeed, one cannot be a member of the Society of Evangelical Arminians if one is an Open Theist.
The other reason that is proffered for not embracing the term “Arminian” is that Baptists affirm unconditional eternal security. However, not all Baptists affirm unconditional eternal security. Many Baptist churches and denominations deny unconditional eternal security. Free Will Baptists and General Baptists are all Baptists, yet they deny unconditional eternal security. Again, one might say that all “Southern Baptists” deny eternal security, but the title of the work would have to be changed to “Neither Calvinist, nor Arminian, but Southern Baptist.”
Interestingly, if one affirms UNCONDITIONAL eternal security, one can be a member of the Society of Evangelical Arminians.
Ultimately, the purpose of the article seems to avoid the term Arminian, probably because Calvinists have smeared and besmirched the term ad infinitum.