Saturday, August 11, 2012

Traditional Baptists (Non-Calvinists) Of 1840

Many, though not all, Calvinists have said the Southern Baptist Convention was founded by those who were strict 5-point Calvinists. Some have also said the term Traditional Baptists is a misnomer since Baptists of the 1800s were 5-point Calvinists and the Traditional view did not become prevalent until well into the 1900s. 

Yes, many SBC leaders of the 1800s were strict 5-point Calvinists, but certainly not all. Traditionalists (also called non-Calvinists, Moderate Calvinists) form the large majority of Baptists today, and, contrary to some, they were well represented in the 1800s as well.

For example, Traditionalists were alive and well in Texas in 1840.

Founding of the Union Baptist Association (UBA) of Texas in 1840.

Historian Dr. Robert A. Baker tells of the formation of the first Baptist Association in Texas in 1840, and says of their articles of faith:

“The articles of faith modified the harsh Calvinism of the anti-missionary group. The sixth article read:
‘We believe that Christ died for sinners, and that the sacrifice which He made has so honored the divine law that the way of salvation is consistently opened up to every sinner to whom the gospel is sent, and that nothing but their own voluntary rejection of the gospel prevents their salvation.’”
-Robert A. Baker, The Blossoming Desert: A Concise History of Texas Baptists, Word Books; 1970. Baker was a longtime history professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

While the SBC was not formed until 1845, the UBA then immediately became a part of the SBC. The leaders in the formation of the UBA were leaders for years to come among Southern Baptists in Texas. The first UBA Executive Committee included T. W. Cox, R. E. B. Baylor, J. W. Collins, Z. N. Morrell, William H. Cleveland, James S. Davis, a Brother Yeamen of Montgomery County, and a Brother Andrews of Houston, probably S. P. Andrews.

Baylor University was named after R. E. B. Baylor. Z. N. Morrell was a very influential pastor in the early days of the Texas Republic and the State of Texas.

Clearly the early leaders of the UBA rejected the Calvinist doctrine of Limited Atonement. This is just one of many examples. So for those who think SBC Traditionalists are a product of the mid 1900s, actually they have been around throughout the history of the SBC, and well before.

-David R. Brumbelow, Gulf Coast Pastor, August 11, AD 2012.   

More Articles:
“A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation” 
Books on Calvinism, Predestination
Q & A on SBC Conservative Resurgence, part 1
Paige Patterson on Calvinism
More articles listed in lower right margin.


  1. Thanks Bro. David for this historical note and research!

  2. Brother David, I ran across this post because I was googling for the articles of faith of the Union Association. David Allen mentioned these articles in a post on SBC Today. I don't think the Union Association articles are the best example of traditional Baptists because of some of the influence behind the original articles of faith.

    Robert A. Baker believed that Alexander-Campbell-influenced minister T. W. Cox was instrumental in forging both the views of the articles of faith and “Bill of Inalienable Rights”. Baker says that “Cox’s influence may also be glimpsed in the sixth article of faith, which was Arminian in its wording.” (Tell the Generations Following, p. 32)

    These articles were changed within a few years. Z. N. Morrell wrote, “At the fifth session of the body, after dissatisfactions had been expressed at all the previous meetings after the first with the articles of faith, a committee was appointed to revise and report to the sixth session…The articles of faith as they now stand, and the constitution, with some slight changes since, were at the sixth session adopted…” (Flowers and Fruits from the Wilderness, pp. 143-144)

    I have not had time to locate the articles from the 6th session (they don't seem to be online anywhere). I don't know whether the article you quote above was changed, but I'd like to see what they did, because I think whatever they did in the sixth session should be representative of the pro-missionary traditional Texas Baptists after they had purged the Campbellite influence from their midst. Considering they were not satisfied with the articles from the beginning and changed them within six years, they may not be representative of the main body of Baptists in Texas in the 1840s. The new document likely does not support limited atonement, but yet might sound a little more "Calvinistic" than the original one.

    Just as a matter of interest, Paul Powell reprints the original minutes in his book Back to Bedrock.

  3. R. L. Vaughn,
    Thanks for your comments. I would be very interested in seeing the complete original articles of faith of the UBA as well as the revised ones. It would be interesting to see if the revised articles of faith retain general atonement, endorse limited atonement, or just does not deal with that issue.

    I’d also be interested in finding the Articles of Faith of the United Baptists of West Tennessee; I think Z. N. Morrell refers to them on several occasions.

    My major point in this reference, however, is simply to show that while Baptists of the 1800s were certainly Calvinistic, they were definitely not agreed upon all five points of Calvinism nor on things like regeneration before faith. There were strict Calvinists, but there were also moderate Calvinists or what some would call today non-Calvinists or Traditionalists.
    David R. Brumbelow

  4. I'd also be interested in finding those West Tennessee articles. I have the book by Morrell, but Flowers and Fruits is also available online, which makes for easy searching. Morrell does refer to them, but does not enumerate them. I looked in Albert Wardin's Tennessee Baptists: a Comprehensive History and haven't found anything yet. I did find from it that Morrell was a least in the Forked Deer Association, and that he may have been in the Big Hatchie Association. Also Wardin says the Western District Association is the oldest in West Tennessee, so these are places to look.

    I have two minutes of the Forked Deer Association from the mid 1980s. They are now Primitive Baptist. I wouldn't be surprised if their current articles of faith are the same or similar to what they were originally. There is a statement on unconditional election, but none on limited atonement.

  5. I recently got Wardin's book and also looked for the Articles of Faith, but haven't found them. By the way, I think he did a very good job with his book, Tennessee Baptists. I'd highly recommend it.

    I had gotten the impression the Articles of Faith of the United Baptists of West Tennesse would tend toward being non-Calvinist. But if you find it, let me know. Someone needs to contact Albert Wardin and see if he has them.
    David R. Brumbelow

  6. Yes, Dr. Wardin's book is great. One of the best state histories, imo. I also highly recommend his Baptists Around the World The Twelve Tribes of Baptists in the USA: a Historical and Statistical Analysis to you or any of your readers. I contacted him about the West Tennessee articles (He and I have worked together on locating unaffiliated Baptist associations across the U.S., so we have a correspondence relationship). He said when he did the book he concentrated a lot of time on finding the articles of the early Tennessee Baptist Convention but never did. As far as the Articles of Faith of the United Baptists of West Tennessee, he does not have them but said he will look.

    I found on Portals to Texas History the Minutes of the Eighteenth Annual Session of the Union Baptist Association, 1857. (Some other year's minutes are online, too). The Constitution, Articles of Faith and Rules of Decorum can be found on pages I-VIII. I didn't have time to read it word for word, but by a quick scan I'd say this appears to be the New Hampshire Confession or a revised version of it. At present I am not able to document that this is what was adopted at the sixth session, but that would seem likely. New Hampshire is an obvious modification away from strict Calvinism, but more "Calvinistic" than I would think the average "traditional" Baptist is (although sometimes that is a matter of interpretation, I suppose). By 1866 the Union Association was considering revising the articles again to "a more plain, simple and concise form of our Faith..." (Minutes, p. 10). I was also pleased to discover that Back to Bedrock is online in pdf format. The Union organizational minutes are at the back of the book in an appendix.

  7. R. L. Vaughn,
    Thanks again for the information. Baptist history is fascinating.

    If you come across the Articles of Faith to which Morrell refers, let me know.
    David R. Brumbelow

  8. David, I want to make a slight correction to my last post. The word "and" should be in between Baptists Around the World and The Twelve Tribes of Baptists in the USA: a Historical and Statistical Analysis, since these are two different books. I'm sure you are aware of it, but I thought it might be confusing to your readers.

  9. Brother Wardin sent me copies from the 1825 Forked Deer and 1823 Big Hatchie associations' articles of faith. I am in the process of transcribing them. If you'd like, I'll post them in this comment thread. Or I can e-mail them to you (or both). I will probably also post them on my blog and send them to Jim Duvall for the Baptist History Homepage. So I can also post a link to where I post them. Just let me know what you would prefer (one or all). Take care and have a good night.

  10. You are welcome to put them in a comment here. Also, if it's no trouble, send them to me by email:

    Thanks again for the information.
    David R. Brumbelow

    1. Brother David, you're welcome. One correction to my above post. It is the 1823 Western District rather than Big Hatchie. Since this may be long, I'll break it into 3 posts. First, some explanations.

      Below are the Abstract of Principles of the Western District Association, 1823, and the Articles of Faith of the Forked Deer Association, 1825. Both associations are in Western Tennessee. Western District was constituted in 1823 and was the first Baptist association formed in the western territory of Tennessee. Forked Deer Association was formed in 1825 (Tennessee Baptists, Albert Wardin, pp. 32-33).

      Bracketing is used for all text that was not readily decipherable and may not be transcribed correctly. The Western District Abstract was transcribed from a photocopy of 2 original handwritten pages. Though the handwriting is good, but the middle part of the first page is very dim. Articles six and seven were especially hard to read, but I came away fairly satisfied with the end result.

    2. Western District Association, 1823, Abstract of Principles
      1st. We believe in one true and living God, the farther (sic), the word, and the Holy Ghost.
      2nd. That the scriptures of the Old and the New Testament are the word of God and the only rule of faith and practice.
      3rd. We believe in the doctrine of election and that God chose his people in in (sic) Christ before the foundation of the world.
      4th. We believe in the doctrine of original sin and man's impotency to recover himself from the fallen state he is in by nature, by his own free will and ability.
      5th. We believe that sinners are justified in the sight of God by the imputed righteousness of Christ.
      6th. We believe [in] God's own appointed time [and way, by means of which he has ordained, the elect shall be] called, converted, regenerated, and sanctified [by the Holy] Spirit.
      7th. We believe the saints shall persevere in grace and never [finally] fall away; and that [good works] are the fruit of faith, and [follow] after justification..
      8th. We believe that baptism and the Lord's Supper are ordinances of Jesus Christ, [and that true believers are] the only proper subjects, [and that the only proper mode] of baptism is by immersion.
      9th. We believe that the Lord's day ought to be [observed] and set apart for the worship of God, and that [work or] worldly business ought not to be transacted thereon, works of piety, mercy and necessity, only excepted.
      10th. We believe in the resurrection of the dead and general judgment, and that the punishment of the wicked and [joys] of (sic) righteous will be eternal.
      11th. We believe that no minister has a right to administer the ordinances, only such as are regularly baptized, and come under the imposition of hands by a presbytery.

    3. Forked Deer Association, 1825, Articles of Faith
      Art. I. We believe in only one living and true God existing in three persons, Father, Son or Word, and Holy Ghost, who created, preserves and governs all things, after the council of his own will.
      Art. II The scriptures of the old and new Testament, to be the word of God, containing his revealed will, and the only rule of faith and practice.
      Art III. Man was first created in a holy and happy condition, but by transgression he fell from that state, became depraved, and as he was the covenant head of his posterity, they are all born in a state of sin, and unless "born of the spirit," continue dead in trespasses and in sins, being destitute of real holiness, and possessing enmity of heart against God.
      Art. IV. That the Lord Jesus Christ, the second person in the adorable Trinity, who was eternally with the Father, was in the fulness of time, manifest in the flesh, in which he fulfilled the law; died & suffered to make an atonement for sin, is the only Savior, the Prophet, Priest, & King of his church, appointed heir of all thing, & judge of the quick & dead.
      Art. V. Although the Gospel is to be preached to all the world and sinners be called upon to repent and believe in Christ, yet such is their opposition to the Gospel plan, that they all freely choose a state of sin, rather than enjoy the blessings of eternal life. But "where sin abounded grace did much more abound," God of his mere good pleasure, "and that he might make known the riches of his glory," hath elected or chosen unto salvation in Christ, "a great multitude which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people and tongues." These by the regenerating influence of the holy spirit, are "effectually called," become dead to sin, and alive unto God, and being the subjects of repentance, faith, &c., and having the love of God shed abroad in their hearts, freely choose Christ for their Savior, and willingly devote themselves to his service by a life of holiness.

    4. Forked Deer, concluded:
      Art. VI. Those who are thus united to Christ by a living faith, have the full and free forgiveness of all their sins, & a complete justification of their persons, which favors are bestowed, not on account of any works they may have performed, or disposition they may possess, but solely on account of the merits of Christ, arising from his Suffering and death.
      Art. VII. All those who are born of the spirit, and justified by the imputed righteousness of the Son of God, shall persevere unto the end, being kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
      Art. VIII. That visible churches are to be formed only of professed believers in Christ, who have given evidence of a change of heart, have been baptized by members of our faith and order, and whose life and conversation manifest real religion.
      Art. IX. All professed believers before uniting with a visible Church are to be baptized, which can only be performed by immersing the person in water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and and of the Holy Ghost.
      Art. X. That the Lord's supper is an ordinance of the New Testament, shows forth the death of Christ, consisting in the reception of bread and wine, and is to be observed by those only who have been baptized, and become regular members of a Gospel church.
      Art. XI. That God having appointed the Ministry of the Gospel for the edification of the church, and the advancement of his kingdom in the world, therefore, it is our duty to contribute to its support as Divine Providence may give us ability.
      Art. XII. That the government of the church is not to be invested in the hands of any man or number of men distinct from the body, but is to be conducted solely by the church itself.
      Art. XIII. That the first day of the week, called Sabbath, or Lord's day, is to be sanctified by attending to the worship of God in public, and in private, abstaining from unnecessary visiting, trifling conversation, labor, &c., except as much as may be devoted to works of necessity and mercy.
      Art. XIV. That when time shall be no longer, the Son of God will return to judge the world in righteousness, the bodies of all men be raised from the dead, and they, with angels and devils brought before the judgment seat of Christ, when the righteous shall be rewarded with eternal life, and the wicked sentenced to eternal punishment.


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