On “non-baptist reformed doctrine” in the Southern Baptist Convention

I don’t often check the blog of Dr. Ergun Caner, mainly due to the fact that he posts so rarely. So I was interested to see the news, posted December 18, 2007, that Dr. Caner is leading Liberty Theological Seminary to change its name back to Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. (Read the entire article HERE.) Now, as a student of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, I’m all for the word “Baptist” appearing in the name of a seminary in which Baptist distinctives are promoted- in my opinion this is a simple matter of ‘truth in advertising.’ But the more interesting part is the specific reasons Dr. Caner gives for revising the name of Liberty Theological Seminary. Caner states:

…much as changed, both here at Liberty University and in the Southern Baptist Convention. Too many schools have Baptist in their name but not in their doctrine. Some have drifted into liberalism and cultural relativism; still others remain orthodox, but have drifted toward non-Baptist reformed doctrine and cultural isolationism. For us, this was our line in the sand. We want to build bridges to a lost world without burning the bridges of our doctrinal heritage. We are putting Baptist back in our name, and taking back a term that has been misused.

Notice first that Dr. Caner links “reformed doctrine” with “liberalism” and “relativism,” creating a list that seeks to established guilt by [entirely undefined] association in the same manner Dr. Jerry Vines attempted with his “Baptist Battles” sermon series back in 2006.

Also note that Dr. Caner does not define what he means by “non-baptist reformed doctrine.” Does he mean the reformed doctrine defended by P.H. Mell, one of the original delegates  who helped found the Southern Baptist Convention and went on to be President of the Convention for a total of seventeen years? Does he mean the reformed theology explained by J.L. Dagg, the first writing Southern Baptist Theologian, who wrote, “All who will finally be saved, were chosen to salvation by God the Father, before the foundation of the world, and given to Jesus Christ in the Covenant of Grace” [J. L. Dagg, Manual of Theology (1857; reprint, Harrisonburg, VA: Gano Books, 1982), 305]? Does he mean the reformed theology taught by J.P. Boyce, the first president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who wrote, “Election is an act of God, and not a result of the choice of the Elect… This choice is one of individuals and not classes… election is made through the mere good pleasure of God” [J.P. Boyce, Abstract of Systematic Theology (1887; reprint, Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2006), 348-350]? Does he mean the reformed theology celebrated by many of the pastors and teachers at the recent Building Bridges conference, to which his article alludes? A consideration of Mell, Dagg, and Boyce show that a reformed understanding of God’s sovereignty in salvation is far from “non-baptist.” Perhaps Dr. Caner means to indicate some other kind of “non-baptist reformed doctrine,” but if he really means to assert that there are Southern Baptist churches holding to a reformed doctrine of infant baptism, then he needs to give specific examples.

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4 Comments on “On “non-baptist reformed doctrine” in the Southern Baptist Convention”


  1. You know, my first reaction was “We should let him know about the rich history of Reformed thought in Southern Baptist churches!” But then I remembered that he has been told, many times, by many people, and as a theologian in the station he holds at a Baptist seminary, there is no excuse for his willful ignorance of the blatantly obvious historical record. It surprises me that a man of his station would be willing or even capable of rejecting the solid historical witness of the last couple of centuries just to preserve the myth of Finneyist Revivalism as not only normative, but foundational to Baptist thought.

    It’s unfortunate that there are many pastors in our churches who would more jealously defend the concept of libertarian free will and altar calls than the sovereignty of almighty God over His creation. We must pray unceasing that the Lord will one day awaken His shepherds from their man-exalting errors and lead us faithfully in the ongoing reformation of Christ’s church.

  2. Barry Says:

    It’s fairly obvious that Caner is loosing his broadsides in just about every direction.

    He wants to build bridges to those that are lost.

    What if he’s lost?


  3. I have just started to write book reviews for a Reformed magazine here in England. First up – a Spurgeon reprint! So Reformed theology isn’t Baptist? My groaning bookshelves say otherwise, Dr. Caner! On the other hand free-willism is the doctrine of Archbishop Laud and the Anglican Church since his day. Functionally, I recognise that the 39 Articles are Calvinistic. And boy, as one brought up in the Church of England, did I get a surprise when I read those Articles.
    I suspect a lot of free-willers in the SBC and the British Baptist Onion would have the same reaction if they read the founding articles of their congregations!!!

    Incidentally, I was converted in a former BU Church (now Reformed again, I hasten to add). When they went through their trust deeds they found they contained a very Calvinistic statement of faith. The solicitors who hold the deeds remarked that ‘of course no-one believes that sort of thing these days’, and were very surprised to find that the church does!

  4. Andrew Says:

    Did you write “British Baptist Onion” on purpose? B/c that’s hilarious!


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