A most frustrating phenomenon follows the news that gasoline prices are rising sharply. People get in their vehicles, drive to the nearest service station, and fill their fuel tanks. When entire towns fill up, service stations struggle to keep up, and gasoline prices, by the next day, go up, just as the media predicted. Call it a self-fulfilling prophecy. The important thing to note is that it matters little whether or not the initial news of a sharp rise in gas prices is true. Some will certainly believe the news. Others will remain skeptical. A few will not believe the news at all. And yet, all three groups will – wisely – fill their tanks. Why? Because of the self-fulfilling prophecy. The three groups may become angry with one another. They may become angry with the media. None of that matters. What matters is that gas prices will almost certainly go up. Self-fulfilling prophecy.
Now, carry this conversation over to the current state of the Southern Baptist Convention. The news is that the SBC is facing some sort of scandal, some sort of shift, some sort of scare slightly unlike anything it has faced before. So-called ‘discernment ministries’ are crying wolf and screaming that the sky is falling. Some believe without a shadow of doubt that the SBC is headed for theological disaster, that its largest leaders are liberals, and that faithful churches should leave. Others take a more measured approach in calling for caution, but with greater charity and commitment from those concerned about the current trajectory of the convention. A few – often those in positions of leadership or attending SBC institutions – defend the orthodoxy of the SBC on the basis that it is, well, perfectly orthodox, healthier than it has ever been, and firmly committed to theologically conservative convictions like the inerrancy of Scripture as expressed in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. Meanwhile, those who do not fit into the aforementioned categories are generally and genuinely confused about what in the world is going on.
Perhaps you believe even the nuttiest news is true. Perhaps you are skeptical. Perhaps you do not believe any of the news at all. The fact is that it no longer matters whether the supposed SBC controversy was originally material or manufactured. What matters is that the controversy is here now. Think of it as a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. Frustrating. The perception of the people in the pews will determine the reality of what takes place in the SBC. That may make you mad. That may make matters worse. But the price of gasoline is still going to go up. You have to get out and deal with a delay at the pump before you pay twice as much tomorrow. Now is not the time to worry about the insatiable appetites of the ankle-biter conspiracy theorists. Now is the time for uncompromising theological clarity on the particulars of supposed problems in the SBC, be they related to race, abuse, critical theory, gender, or homosexuality. Now is the time to address the concerns of those well-meaning Southern Baptist church members who are genuinely confused about what we are doing.