Danny Slavich wrote an article in response to Tom Ascol’s post calling for pastors to step up to the plate in the Southern Baptist Convention. [Please see Danny’s Comment in response to this post here.] Slavich appeals to the popular parallel between the populist politics of President Donald Trump and the way grassroots groups like Founders Ministries and the Conservative Baptist Network are – intentionally or not – mirroring what we have seen from Make America Great Again fanatics for the past five years or so. Although such an appeal is generally little more than a smear tactic, I suspect Slavich may be on to something here.
A general sentiment among those raised in the past forty, maybe fifty years, is expressed clearly by Derek Webb in his song, “A King and a Kingdom”:
There are two great lies that I’ve heard:
“the day you eat of the fruit of that tree, you will not surely die”
And that Jesus Christ was a white, middle-class Republican
And if you wanna be saved you have to learn to be like Him
A younger generation (that isn’t so young anymore) has cast off, or attempted to cast off, the lie referenced by Webb above. They’ve done so by more readily voting third party or Democrat, and they’ve certainly done so by distancing themselves from right-wing rhetoric, the Republican Party, and without a doubt, the current President of the United States of America, Donald J. Trump.
Steve Gaines talks about pastoral ministry and preaching, the Southern Baptist Convention, and what it was like to follow Adrian Rogers.
On this maiden voyage of the new CR:V Podcast site founder Chris Bolt sets down with Jeff Wright to talk about the doctrinal state of the Southern Baptist Convention, whether or not she needs another Conservative Resurgence, and what this new podcast is all about, anyway.
Find it on Apple Podcasts or by clicking here.
This article is about a church seeking, “affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention, based on the denomination’s trend toward fundamentalism.”
This article speaks of the incoming president of the Southern Baptist Convention, who, “represents a conservative-fundamentalist element within the denomination.”
IN THE INERRANCY CONTROVERSY that shook the SBC beginning in 1979, Southern Baptists divided over what it meant to be a Baptist. When Southern Baptists leaders polarized amid the conservative effort to make belief in inerrancy a condition of denominational service, their posture toward the inerrancy initiative derived in large measure from their understanding of Baptist identity. Conservatives believed that moderates had departed from the Baptist tradition and moderates felt the same way about conservatives. Each party in the conflict claimed to be true Baptists and claimed the imprimatur of Baptist tradition.
Given what I have said about my background, perhaps you will not be surprised that when I moved from Boston to Louisville in that historic year, 1979, I found myself a bit dazed and bewildered at the goings on in Southern Baptist life. I did not like the raucous tone and polarizing rhetoric generated on both sides of the Controversy in about equal measure, it seemed to me. But I was close enough to the center of gravity to know that there were legitimate concerns raised by conservative critics who, early on in the Controversy, were asking only for parity. I thought then, and I still think now, that had our denominational leaders at the time responded to this challenge with more discernment, constructively and proactively, the rupture in our Baptist fellowship which has strained our relationship to the point of breaking could have been avoided. Instead, a strategy of denial, and stonewalling, and then counter-insurgency was adopted. Perhaps I am wrong about that, but eventually when a more realistic direction was taken by the SBC seminary presidents in the Glorietta Statement of 1987, it was too little, too late. I have written perhaps more than I should have about the Controversy, and I do not retract anything I have said or written in this regard. I am glad this denomination no longer welcomes leaders who deny the miracles of the Bible including the virgin birth of Jesus, or who argue for abortion on demand as a tenet of religious liberty, or who tout a host of other issues that are tearing apart every mainline Protestant denomination in America today. But I have also come today to say something else. We will not meet tomorrow’s challenge by forgetting yesterday’s dilemma, but neither will we win tomorrow’s struggles by fighting yesterday’s battles.
– From Timothy George, Southern Baptist Identity: Is Jesus A Baptist?, 91-92
The public controversy of 1979 did not emerge out of a vacuum; there was a history behind it. By the 1960’s, the Enlightenment had come to Dixie. A region that had long believed itself immune to history suddenly found itself grappling with the very questions that Northern evangelicals had confronted decades earlier and that European Christians had faced in the previous century. Now, Kant, Hume, Locke, and Hobbes arrived at the very threshold of the SBC.
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.