I was asked to give my thoughts on the pyramid found at this blog post. Before I share what I wrote, I want to give you a little history on the on-going Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) debate between the Arminians and Calvinists which began on May 30, 2012, with the release of this statement (neither side agreed with the wording). In a nutshell, Arminian Baptists believe that Jesus Christ completed his work on the cross, but man has free will to accept or reject His offer of salvation. Calvinist Baptists (also known as Reformed Baptists) believe that the work of Christ on the cross was effectual and sufficient for the salvation of God's elect, and it is the Holy Spirit that regenerates the person to salvation. Recently, the Calvinism Advisory Committee issued a statement trying to unite the members of the SBC without requiring uniformity; I reference this document below.
After studying the pyramid and thinking about the debate, I made the following observation.
Since we are dealing with other Christians in the SBC, then I think the foundational factor should be God's sovereignty in salvation. The Bible is God's plan for salvation; God sent His Son as the elect's Redeemer. This is the doctrinal foundation of our faith. I don't think you can rip out 'Who Jesus Is & What He Has Done' without including God's sovereign plan.
The problem with this approach of agreeing on the essentials is that when it comes to salvation, all of the components are essential. This is why Christian believers disagree with the theology of Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses. They share some of our beliefs, but not all; in addition, they share the same Bible or at least the same manuscript. However, we just happen to disagree with more of their "essentials" than we do with the Arminians, but the effect is still the same: we do not preach the same gospel.
To use another word picture, Calvinist believe that the bridge over the gulf that separates us from God is built by the Holy Spirit through the work of Jesus. The Arminians believe that the bridge is built halfway by the Holy Spirit through the work of Jesus, and man has to jump the rest of the chasm. It's not the same message.
I think a key component that is glossed over in the pyramid is the doctrine of total depravity (which is placed on top and abbreviated with the other tenets of TULIP). A key phrase that keeps us as Calvinists divided from the Arminians is Adam's guilt. From the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry website:
"Generally speaking, the Arminians maintain that we inherited a sin nature from Adam and sin due to that nature. We are not guilty for Adam's sin and cannot be punished unless we actually sin.
Generally speaking, the Calvinists maintain that the sin of Adam was imputed (made to count for) to the whole human race. This is maintained largely in regard to the concept of Federal Headship."
It is the wrong focus to try and convince the Arminians that God is sovereign; they know that, and at a certain level they believe it . But what they don't believe is how sinful man is. Man cannot jump the chasm to God; if he could, Christ would not be needed in salvation. The Bible is not a story of God who will do His part in salvation and the rest is left up to man, but it is an incredible picture of the love, mercy, and sacrifice of God to redeem His people through the Jesus Christ on the cross...alone.
The Arminian view of salvation was started by Charles Finney at the turn of the 20th century. It has grown over the decades and has now completely infiltrated the evangelical world (not just the SBC). It's really not that much different from Roman Catholicism; they both require man's work in salvation (one is just a one-time work and the other is a work for life). The bottom line is that you can stack the information any way you want to, but a works-based salvation is heterodox, if not outright heretical depending on the view of Jesus.
Unfortunately, in the SBC money talks, so I will be surprised if the Arminian view is denounced without a battle. The Goliath of the seeker-driven mega churches is formidable. Therefore, the small arm of Calvinism in the SBC needs to decide if it will stand today like Luther, or put that responsibility on the back of the next generation who may not be as strong...
Unlike Mr. Brister, I was not encouraged with the outcome of the Calvinism Advisory Committee commissioned by Dr. Frank Page; I thought the response was capitulating at best because "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump," (Gal. 5:9). His pyramid scheme is just another distraction to show that we are somehow united without really addressing the elephant in the room: Arminians preach a heterodox gospel.