Monday, December 10, 2012

Benefits of Symbiosis in the SBC (Part 4: Catalyst for Cooperation)

The Catalyst for Cooperation between General and Particular Baptists

            What could possibly unite General and Particular Baptists into either an association or convention of cooperating Baptists? The answer to that question is in one word, “missions.” The missionary enterprise did more to bring General and Particular Baptists together than did any of the former trials and tribulations suffered by Baptists. The missionary enterprise was a result of a more evangelical Calvinism that broke down the anti-missionary spirit of hyper-Calvinists.[1]
            Andrew Fuller, pastor of the Baptist church at Kettering in Northamptonshire, modified the extreme Calvinism of John Gill.[2] The moderate Calvinism of Fuller highlighted “the individual’s responsibility to witness to the gospel.”[3] According to W. Wiley Richards, “Fuller saw the atonement as sufficient for all sinners but efficient in its application.”[4] Viewing the atonement as unlimited in its sufficiency but limited in its efficiency may seem as though it is not truly Calvinism. Although this view is a moderate form of Calvinism, it is Calvinism. Erickson said:
The view that we are adopting here should not be construed as Arminianism. It is rather the most moderate form of Calvinism or, as some would term it, a modification of Calvinism. It is the view that God logically decides first to provide salvation, then elects some to receive it. This is essentially the sublapsarian position of theologians like Augustus Strong. Those who would construe this position as Arminianism should be reminded that what distinguishes Calvinism from Arminianism is not the view of the relationship between the decree to provide salvation and the decree to confer salvation on some and not on others. Rather, the decisive point is whether the decree of election is based solely on the free, sovereign choice of God himself (Calvinism) or based also in part upon his foreknowledge of merit and faith in the person elected (Arminianism).[5]

 This moderate Calvinism of Fuller led to a recovery of evangelism among Particular Baptists. McBeth wrote, “In the midst of the Particular Baptist recovery, a Midlands pastor, William Carey, inspired the formation of the Baptist Missionary Society in 1792.”[6]
William Carey was responsible for the awakening of missionary interests among Baptists. Torbet wrote, “William Carey (1761-1834) was the heart and soul of the initial missionary enterprise of the Baptists.”[7] McBeth wrote, “William Carey led the Particular Baptists to launch a world missionary effort, and the ‘call to prayer’ of 1784 proved both cause and effect of a surge of spiritual renewal among the churches.”[8]
Baptists of both soteriological streams both in England and America worked together to support the missionary enterprise. “The far-reaching consequences of the obedience of William Carey and the English Baptists as well as the providential conversion of Judson and Rice [came] to be regarded as ‘as a special call of God on American Baptists to labor for the spread of the gospel throughout the earth.’”[9] Adoniram Judson, an American Congregationalist, converted to Baptist views while in route to Burma.[10] Luther Rice, appointed as a missionary by the same Congregational foreign missions board that appointed Judson, “arrived in India on a separate ship, and also embraced Baptist views.”[11] Judson and Rice motivated American Baptists to enlarge their evangelistic vision and to form an organization for the support of mission causes. “Baptists responded by establishing the ‘General Missionary Convention of the Baptist Denomination of the United States of America for Foreign Missions.’”[12] These historical truths prompted David Dockery to state, “In the 18th century, there were particular [Calvinist] and general Baptists, but at the sending of [missionary] William Carey, they joined hands together for the common cause of missions. That's something we can do again.”[13]
The Southern Baptist Convention was formed with the express purpose of emphasizing both evangelism and missions. Nathan Finn said, “The dual emphases of evangelism and missions have been at the heart of the SBC since its founding in 1845, when two of the convention’s first acts were the formation of Foreign and Domestic Mission Boards.”[14] From its inception the Southern Baptist Convention has been composed of both General and Particular Baptists working together in the spread of the Gospel both on its home mission field and on foreign mission fields. Cooperation in missions, especially among Southern Baptists, was the catalyst that united the two streams of Baptists in a mutually beneficial relationship. What are the benefits of a mutual relationship between General and Particular Baptists?

[1] McBeth, Heritage, 152; Torbet, History of Baptists, 80.
[2] Torbet, History of Baptists, 80;  McBeth, Heritage, 171.
[3] Torbet, History of Baptists, 80.
[4] Richards, Winds, 55.
[5] Erickson, Christian Theology, 852.
[6] McBeth, Heritage, 152.
[7] Torbet, History of Baptists, 80.
[8] McBeth, Heritage, 171.
[9] Tom J. Nettles, “A Historical View of the Doctrinal Importance of Calvinism among Baptists.” (accessed September 18, 2012).
[10] Bush and Nettles, Baptists and the Bible, 121.
[11] McBeth, Heritage, 345.
[12] Bush and Nettles, Baptists and the Bible, 121.
[13] Michael Foust, Baptist Press, “Southern Baptist Leaders: Calvinism Should not Divide SBC,” Kentucky Baptist Convention Conference: “Calvinism: Concerned, Confused, or Curious,” David Dockery, “Overview of the History of Baptist Theology (Part 1).” (accessed September 18, 2012).
[14] Finn, “Southern Baptist Calvinism,” 3.

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