Last week the mailman brought me a copy of One Gospel: Toward a Southern Baptist Consensus, by Dr. David Dockery, president of Union University. I got around to reading the slim 36-page booklet on Monday. I found this a very pleasant read. It was nothing new or novel, but put together well in a direct, precise, yet easy read. It handsomely accomplishes what it sets out to do. Let me give you a brief rundown of its contents.
As the title implies, this short work by Dr. Dockery is intended to formulate a “proclamation of the gospel” that all Southern Baptists can endorse and rally around. The premise behind this effort is a perception that the SBC is a “disconnected group” made up of many different interests, with Calvinism in the “forefront with the potential for division and confusion.”
One Gospel does beautifully and very well in thirty-six pages what it sets out to do. It is divided into five sections, a preamble, and a conclusion. After a brief preamble, two short historical sections outline the beginnings of Baptists in general and the formation of the Southern Baptist Convention in particular. A third section deals with a biblical overview of the tension between God’s initiation of salvation and man’s responsibility to repent and believe and be saved.
The fourth section is a bit more lengthy, dealing with a historical overview of this same tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. The historical overview is divided into five time periods: The Early Church, The Medieval Period, The Reformation, The Post-Reformation Period, and Baptist Thought. In each of the time periods roughly a page is taken in order to give a compact assessment of the essential facts of the era. There is no wasted space here either.
The bulk of the booklet is taken up with the fifth and final section entitled A Theological Exposition. This section is more thorough, since it contains the actual gospel proclamation, giving a theological exposition of the gospel of grace in the person and work of Jesus Christ. You will find no reductionism here, nothing so simple as “Give your heart to Jesus, so you can go to heaven.”
Within this section the broadest, fullest sense of the gospel is handled, with separate paragraphs dealing with the gospel’s various facets, such as creation, sin and the fall, the person and work of Christ, the Church, and the eternal state. In dealing with salvation proper a number of themes and metaphors describing elements of salvation are explored, including regeneration, justification, adoption, sanctification, forgiveness, and union with Christ. The results of sin and the fall are lined out in six separate sub-sections: Spiritual Death, Physical Death, Alienation and Separation, Without Hope, Sinful Nature, and Depravity.
The conclusion is pretty much just a summation of the body of the work. A source list rounds out the thirty-six page booklet.
I am sure no one will be surprised to find that I found this booklet as a welcome addition to my library. As I said at the beginning, it contains no new revelation. The value that I find in it is a well-rounded, beautifully written presentation of the gospel of salvation found in Jesus Christ alone. For someone interested in digging into their rich Baptist heritage, sections one and two provide an excellent outline to get them on their way. If you happen to be interested in getting to the bottom of this Calvinism/Arminian debate, then sections three and four will provide the thumbnail sketch for you to start your journey. If you want to better understand salvation- both to better understand the great price that was paid for your soul, and to better share the gospel with your lost neighbors, family, co-workers, and friends- then this small book is just for you.
All this said, it is doubtful if this booklet gains much traction among Southern Baptists. I predict that maybe only ten percent will find it valuable. The reason? It’s too biblical (translate: Calvinistic).
How to Get a Copy
If you don’t have a copy and would like one, you can email Melanie Rickman at mrickman[at]uu[dot]edu at Union University and request one. Obviously you need to put your mailing address in the email, and one will be sent to you shortly.