Emir Caner, President of Truett-McConnell College, writes an informative piece on the Sandy Creek tradition in the Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry published by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Contra the view of many Southern Baptist Calvinists who dismiss virtually all theological distinctions between the Sandy Creek Baptist tradition and the so-called Charleston Baptist tradition, Dr. Caner suggests that “The Reformed definition of election was particularly troubling to those birthed out of a Sandy Creek (Separatist) heritage.” He then quotes from famed Baptist historian, George Washington Paschal:
In the Broad River several of the leading Baptist ministers were ardent Calvinists and champions of the Doctrine of Election, and in general were Regular Baptists, accepting in full the Philadelphia Confession and Articles of Faith based upon it; on the other hand, the three churches that came to the French Broad from the Holston Association and their ministers had a Separate Baptist heritage, and like Shubal Stearns thought the New Testament a sufficient confession of faith, and like him, refused to accept Higher Calvinism and the Doctrine of Election, and were classed as Arminians and Free Willers. Probably, it was among the ministers and leaders rather than among the members generally that this difference was most pronounced, and it was less marked in some churches than in others. . . . All of the leading spirits were Calvinistic, but there were many minds that revolted at the sterner aspects of Calvinism. Men generally held to the idea of moral free agency. — George Washington Paschal, History of North Carolina Baptists (Raleigh: The General Board North Carolina Baptist State Convention, 1955), 2:426–27.
For my part, it remains “troubling” how often many Baptist Calvinists seem to rather peer into eternity past and speculate on what God thought or how God elected His chosen few rather than proclaim to the masses present what Jesus did and how they can be saved in eternity future.
Free Church theology remained alive and well throughout the history of Southern Baptists.
Read Emir Caner’s entire historical essay entitled “What Were the Early SBC Leaders’ View of Salvation?: A View from the Mountains”