Several years ago Paige Patterson commented on the revival of Calvinism among Southern Baptists. Responding to those within the Founders movement who have clearly demonstrated Southern Baptist’s Calvinistic roots, he attempted to mediate the position by pointing to a dual heritage. He said,
“Discussions of Calvinism will not injure our corpus or hinder our future so long as we remember that two distinct tributaries feed our Southern Baptist river. From the Charleston tributary we receive a strong infusion of the sovereignty of God, while the Sandy Creek tributary runs deep with the freedom and responsibility of man. Sandy Creek inspires us to persuade men to come to Christ, while Charleston reminds us that salvation is the work of God alone.”
While Patterson’s statement gives a general glimpse of our SBC heritage, some have taken this reductionist view of Southern Baptist history to suppose that the Charleston Association opposed evangelism and the Sandy Creek tradition stood against Calvinism. Neither of these two revisionist history suppositions hold water. The Charleston Association unequivocally held to Calvinistic theology, as their writings aptly attest, but they also strongly believed in evangelism and missions. The Sandy Creek Association burned with evangelistic and revivalistic zeal, but they also embraced the doctrines of grace. In order to pit the two traditions against one another, a person must ignore the primary source material and blindly swallow the “Calvinism vs evangelism” dichotomy myth. Differences existed between the Sandy Creek and Charleston traditions, however these differences did not travel down Calvinistic and Arminian lines. Both tributaries held to the doctrines of grace while promoting and preaching them in their own distictive ways.
The short doctrinal statement adopted by the Sandy Creek Association 1816 testifies to their commitment to the doctrines of grace.
Principles of Faith of The Sandy Creek Association – 1816
1. We believe that there is only one true and living God; the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. equal in essence, power and glory; and yet there are not three Gods but one God.
2. That Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the Word of God, and only rule of faith and practice.
3. That Adam fell from his original state of purity, and that his sin is imputed to his posterity; that human nature is corrupt, and that man, of his own free will and ability, is impotent to regain the state in which he was primarily placed.
4. We believe in election from eternity, effectual calling by the Holy Spirit, and justification in his sight only by imputation of Christ righteousness. And we believe that they who are thus elected, effectually called, and justified, will perservere through grace to the end, that none of them be lost.
5. We believe that there will be a resurrection from the dead, and a general judgment, and that the happiness of the righteous and punishment of the wicked will be eternal.
6. The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful persons, who have obtained fellowship with each other, and have given themselves up to the Lord and one another; having agreed to keep up a godly discipline, according to the rules of the Gospel.
7. That Jesus Christ is the great head of the church and that the government thereof is with the body.
8. That baptism and the Lord’s Supper are ordinances of the Lord, and to be continued by his church until his second coming.
9. That true believers are the only fit subjects of baptism; and that immersion is the only mode.
10. That the church has no right to admit any but regular baptized church members to communion at the Lord’s table.