Great Exposition of Why the Trads Document is Semi-Pelagian

Below is a quote from a great article detailing why the “Trads” document represents semi-Pelagianism. This quote is from an article by Mike Porter.

An important distinction in semi-Pelagianism is the timing of when grace is given. Semi-Pelagianism usually asserts that men move first and then grace is given. Article II is vague in the timing of grace, but one could see that the phrase “we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel” is intended to convey such a concept.

Nevertheless, this is why it is important to consider and weigh heavily the arguments and implications regarding wording. It is also important to note that the warning from Turretin remains regardless of whether the Semi-Pelagian moniker is deserved.

Responding to Roger Olson’s critique that the statement can still be read in a semi-Pelagian way, Dr. Adam Harwood, one of the SBC document signatories responds:

Second, you explain that for us to defend against the charge of semi-Pelagianism, we must affirm the “cardinal biblical truth” of “the necessity of the prevenience of supernatural grace.”

Our reply is simple: No, we don’t. What obligates us to borrow a view (prevenient grace) from another group (Arminians) to defend against a philosophical-theological framework which we don’t accept? We reject the precondition that all doctrinal formulations must be placed into a philosophical-theological framework comprised of only these three categories: Calvinism, Arminianism, or Heresy. We consciously reject that framework. And we refuse to place over our eyes the hermeneutical spectacles which demand that we read the Bible in that way.

Dr. Harwood also stated his justification for rejecting the Calvinist/Arminian framework because, “We’re not classical Arminians. We’re ‘Traditional’ Southern Baptists.”

Claiming the historicity of being ‘Traditional’ Southern Baptists while disclaiming the need of the historicity upon which the Southern Baptists originally framed their distinctions seems to be a bit askew. But, more concerning is that Dr. Harwood seems to reject the need to escape the claim that the view is semi-Pelagian by clarifying the article’s position on the grace of God.

Read the entire article here.

  • ManfredtheWonderDog

    Bravo! I just finished reading Porter’s article on A&O before coming here. I was looking for what others were saying about the mess being made in the name of Baptists. I thank the Lord for men who stand firm and do not cave to the false teaching of “good men”.

    • Joshua Breland

      I think there has been an unintended doctrinal sloppiness on the part of “good men” that is being excused. It is unfortunate.

      • ManfredtheWonderDog

        I think some who signed know not what they stepped in – that is truly unfortunate. I think some who signed knowingly embrace the heresy therein; it is the natural consequence of bridging the gap between God and man by giving man just a little ability. Before you know it, that “man” starts crawling, then walking, then being a little like God (in his own mind) until – one day- he has saved himself and thinks the Lord must be very thankful to have him. A little leaven goes a long way.

  • Donald Holmes

    Dr. Yarnell answered this charge as have many others. I begin to wonder if this isn’t just Reformed name-calling. It is very clear that in Article II man must respond to the drawing of God, the Holy Spirit in order to be Saved. Ergo, Article II cannot represent a semi-Pelagian view since man is not taking the initiative. This is proof-by-definition.
    Also (directed at Manfred), I guarantee we know exactly what we have signed. Please take another look at the top of the list and consider if you really believe those men are not theologically astute enough to know what they are reading and signing.

    • Chris Roberts


      With all due respect to Dr. Yarnell, he does not understand semi-Pelagianism. That God must first draw us is irrelevant; the significant point is that when God draws us, we are able to respond to his drawing apart from the Spirit first having to change us. We retain the ability to respond to God, which means sin’s corruption is not absolute; we are born only partially corrupted by sin, we retain a partial ability to do good (respond to the gospel). This is semi-Pelagianism and this is exactly what Article II claims.

      Those who speak of God initiating salvation by drawing us describe drawing as a wooing, an urging, an encouraging the sinner to be saved, etc – external actions that seek to stir a response in us. But it is then argued that what we do in response originates from ourselves. God does not have to do anything in us to change us to enable us to respond to the gospel. We are born and continue in life with the natural ability to respond. Again, this is semi-Pelagianism.

      Now, I do not think semi-Pelagianism is heresy. It is a mistake, it is an error, but like Augustine way back when, I call the semi-Pelagian my brother with whom I can work. But let’s call a spade a spade: Article II is semi-Pelagian.

      • Donald Holmes

        Why do you think that so many reference works (such as the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian church) get this wrong?

        • Chris Roberts

          They don’t get it wrong, per se, they just don’t give a full summary. The Oxford entry is correct, but misleading – and Yarnell and others have used it to mark a distinction between their view and the SP view that does not exist. Semi-Pelagianism does not deny the work and presence of grace prior to conversion, but it does deny that God in his grace must first change a person in order for that person to respond to the gospel. When the Oxford dictionary says that man takes the initiative without the work of grace, it does not mean God was not already being gracious in calling and drawing us, it means God does not have to first do a gracious work in us to enable our response. Yarnell should realize this but apparently doesn’t.

          • Donald Holmes

            How is the drawing of God, the Holy Spirit, not “gracious”?

  • Donald Holmes

    Ok, I see where you used “gracious” twice and seemingly in two different ways. By “gracious work” are you only meaning regereration? If so, say so. The pre-Salvific work of God, the Holy Spirit, is gracious in whatever form it takes. You seem to be playing semantic games in order to make this particular label fit where it so obviously does not.