Sin and Salvation
We believe all men were born with an inherited sin nature received from our common ancestor, Adam. We believe that because of his nature, man is a sinner by choice, and he is totally incapable of reforming himself or ceasing from his sin by his own power. We believe the only hope of deliverance for man is a total change of mind concerning his sinful condition and inability to change it, and a turning to Jesus Christ as the only Saviour. We believe that only through the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on the cross can a man be delivered from his sin. We believe that all those who reject Jesus Christ as their Saviour are already condemned to an eternity in the lake of fire. (Genesis 5:1-5; Acts 4:19; Acts 16:31; Romans 3:10-23; Romans 5:6-12; Romans 6:23; Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-6; Revelation 20:11-14)Lancaster Baptist Church, its pastor, Paul Chappell, and its resident West Coast Baptist College, have a big (maybe the biggest) influence on a large swath of independent, fundamental Baptists I want to look at this statement on salvation, talk about what it says and what it misses that corrupts the gospel, and then consider what should be done about it.
Even though they are stated in awkward fashion, the first two sentences are fine in their stated content. The third then reads,
We believe the only hope of deliverance for man is a total change of mind concerning his sinful condition and inability to change it, and a turning to Jesus Christ as the only Saviour.One, the statement never uses the necessary word, either "repent" or "repentance." It is obviously purposefully leaving out repentance. From reading this statement, someone would not know it was necessary to repent in order to be saved. This distorts the gospel enough to call the statement a "false gospel." When Jesus told His disciples what to preach, providing the only account of the message of salvation in the Great Commission, He said in Luke 24:47,
And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.At the same time, someone might ask, "It says, 'change of mind,' and isn't that the meaning of repentance?" "Change of mind" isn't what repentance means. You don't know what a word means by its etymology, but how it is used. Repentance is more than intellectual. It is intellectual, but even more so volitional as seen in its usage. The Lancaster statement won't even use the word repent or repentance in a statement on salvation, and then uses "change of mind" instead for obvious reasons.
As insufficient as "change of mind" is, it is even worse in the Lancaster statement, because it is only a "change of mind concerning his sinful condition and inability to change it." The idea expressed is that man's only hope of deliverance is for him to change his mind about his sinful condition and his inability to change it. I've talked to only three people in my life that would not admit they were sinners, and they may have been kidding me. All but those three had changed their mind about their sinful condition. The thought here is that someone was thinking that he did not have a sinful condition, but now he is thinking that he does have one. Again, I've found that almost all people already know they are in a sinful condition, as ambiguous as the word "condition" is.
Furthermore, the Lancaster statement says someone must also change his mind about his inability to change his sinful condition -- his condition, not his sinful or rebellious or ungodly activity or way. This though relates to the last part of the sentence, "a turning to Jesus Christ as the only Savior." For anyone who is familiar with revivalist salvation statements, this is just another way of saying, "turning from unbelief to belief." Lancaster uses the word "turn" as an impression of repentance. However, it's a very narrow, specific turning, which is not the meaning of repentance. This is a person who thought he could change his condition on his own from a sinner to a saint, but only Jesus could change that condition, and instead he started thinking that.
I said that the first two sentences were fine in their stated content, however, they are lacking and even strange. Somebody can't reform himself or cease from his sin in his own power. Is salvation someone being reformed or ceasing from sin? The statement itself is true, but it doesn't get at the root of the problem of sin. It isn't representing biblical doctrine. I don't recall reading anything like that in a doctrinal statement.
What one is reading when he reads the Lancaster salvation statement is that a sinner need just change his mind about his condition and his inability to change his condition, essentially thinking that he can't change his condition, and then turning to Jesus Christ simply as Savior. The assumption here is that Jesus will save the person who does that. He doesn't have to repent, but that's not all. Strangely enough, he doesn't even have to believe in Jesus Christ. What is salvation if it is neither believing or faith either? How does this happen? When a group minimizes salvation, carefully reduces it based on conforming to its methodology, it ends up with something that isn't salvation at all. Perhaps the assumption is that a statement about salvation doesn't even matter, because what really matters is how big your church will get. You don't want your salvation statement to get in the way of that, so minimize it to something that is very easy to accept, even though it is less than and different than what the Bible teaches.
More to Come