Roger Olson, a historical theologian relentless in his arguments against the logic of Calvinism and the victimization of Arminianism, writes:
For a long time I’ve been stating that most American Christians, including most Baptists, are semi-Pelagian, not Arminian and not merely non-Calvinist. Calvinists and Arminians stand together, with Scripture, against semi-Pelagianism
Looking at a new statement put together, “A Statement of Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation,” Professor Olson is concerned with some of its language, along with what it doesn’t say. He thinks it tends toward, or at least opens the door to, a semi-Pelagian reading:
Semi-Pelagians such as Philip Limborch and (at least in some of his writings) Charles Finney affirmed the necessity of the gospel and the Holy Spirit’s enlightening work through it for salvation. What made them semi-Pelagian was their denial or neglect of the divine initiative in salvation (except the gospel message).
The problem with this Southern Baptist statement is its neglect of emphasis on the necessity of the prevenience of supernatural grace for the exercise of a good will toward God (including acceptance of the gospel by faith). If the authors believe in that cardinal biblical truth, they need to spell it out more clearly. And they need to delete the sentence that denies the incapacitation of free will due to Adam’s sin.
Albert Mohler’s response seeks to set the whole discussion in theological and denominational context, but also raises the question of semi-Pelagianism:
I have very serious reservations and concerns about some of its assertions and denials. I fully understand the intention of the drafters to oppose several Calvinist renderings of doctrine, but some of the language employed in the statement goes far beyond this intention. Some portions of the statement actually go beyond Arminianism and appear to affirm semi-Pelagian understandings of sin, human nature, and the human will — understandings that virtually all Southern Baptists have denied. Clearly, some Southern Baptists do not want to identify as either Calvinists, non-Calvinists, or Arminians. That is fine by me, but these theological issues have been debated by evangelicals for centuries now, and those labels stick for a reason.
That leads me to make another qualification. I do not believe that those most problematic statements truly reflect the beliefs of many who signed this document. I know many of these men very well, and I know them to be doctrinally careful and theologically discerning. Some of these very men have served most boldly in the defense of the faith, and they have taught me much. We should be honored by the privilege of a serious theological conversation with one another, and we will all speak more carefully when we are respectfully questioned by those with whom we disagree.
Dr. Mohler’s whole piece is worth reading, even for those who don’t have a denominational dog in this discussion.