Getting Saved in America

This week’s podcast is Getting Saved in America, a faculty address by Dr. Bill J. Leonard, at the time professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  He delivered it on 4 May 1983.

I’m posting this as a sort of follow up to a recent discussion on faith and works that I became involved in.  Dr. Leonard’s address was the first place where I heard the Southern Baptist conundrum on salvation and perseverance put so baldly, i.e., a combination of Arminian election and Calvinistic perseverance.  Much to my surprise (but probably not Dr. Leonard’s,) this juxtaposition is enshrined the Baptist Faith and Message Statement of 2000.

Dr. Leonard’s career after this address reflects the tumult that the Southern Baptist Convention has gone through in the subsequent quarter century.  Leaving the SBTS a few years later, he is now dean and professor of church history at Wake Forest University Divinity School, Winston-Salem, NC.  Needless to say this has entailed a leftward drift, and readers of this blog know my opinion of leftward drifts.

It’s interesting to note, however, that much of the difficulty that Dr. Leonard discusses in his address on getting saved in America could be mitigated if the Calvinistic perseverance be jettisoned.  Doing that puts more emphasis on events subsequent to salvation, such as sanctification, discipleship and spiritual growth–to say nothing of the baptism in the Holy Spirit.  In this context the event itself can be seen as the beginning of the Christian walk, not the end of the spiritual journey, as Baptist theology tends to characterise it.

It seems that the occupational hazard of denizens of theological seminaries is to follow up reasonable analysis with overly subtle and not always sensible (to say nothing of frequently incorrect) solutions.  But his sweep of American Christian history is definitely worth the time to listen to.

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