Categories
Controversy

If the Pirates Leave, Only the Parrots Remain

You’re tired of pirate analogies? Me too. But the continued drifting of the Southern Baptist Convention since Nashville has only served to, now more than ever, call faithful Christians to stand for integrity and truth.

Recently I’ve seen threads by men like Pastor Jimmy Scroggins that seem to imply that the real problem in the SBC is people bringing up the problems. James Merritt told me “Talk is cheap.” But what I’m trying to communicate in this post is that not talking is quite costly.

An Old Testament Example

The prophet Micah wore no patch on his eye, and yet he still wasn’t all that beloved by his contemporaries. In fact, you might say some would have wished he would have just shut his mouth and not have been so “mean-spirited” in his proclamations. He alludes to such in Micah 2:6 –

“Do not preach”—thus they preach—
“one should not preach of such things;
disgrace will not overtake us.”

The house of Jacob preferred not to be warned of the impending doom. They much preferred the parroting messages of “Peace” (cf. Micah 3:5) instead of facing the reality of their precarious condition and need for repentance.

Calvin notes, “The ungodly think, that if they close the mouths of the prophets, all things would be lawful to them, and that their crimes would be hid, in short, that their vices would not be called to an account; as though their wickedness was not in itself sufficiently reproachful, were God to send no prophets, and no reproof given.”

The children of Jacob thought the problem was the prophets. That if the prophets would just be nicer then unity and prosperity would ensue.

But the problem wasn’t the prophets. It was the house of Jacob’s disobedience. It was their lack of concern for the Word of God. It was their own stubbornness to go their own way instead of trusting the Lord’s way. It was their increasing comfortability with the surrounding world.

But Calvin goes on to give these sobering words: “It is an extreme curse, when God gives us loose reins, and suffers us, with unbridled liberty, to rush as it were headlong into evils, as though he had delivered us unto Satan, to be his slaves.”

Silence is costly.

The Need for Prophetic Boldness

The Southern Baptist Convention finds itself in a tumultuous storm. As the ship takes on more and more water, you have some men willing to point out the holes. And you have others that seem to be less concerned about the ship’s breaches, and more about the fact that people would be so bold as to point out the obvious!

Beloved, what I am saying is we need courageous pirates. I admit it’s not the best of analogies, but here we are. We need men willing to take the ship with truth in love – to restore unequivocal surrender to her true captain, Christ.

This was never about just a last stand at Nashville. This was about continuing to be a prophetic witness to our beloved convention, preaching the truth in love, pleading with our brothers and sisters not to go the way of the world, not to abandon the sufficiency of Scripture, and not to reject the Lord’s kindness.

I am convinced that if the pirates leave, all that will remain are the parrots. Those who repeat the same poor theology. Those who proclaim to one another the peace, safety, and greatness of the Southern Baptist Convention without dealing with the cancer of pragmatism that has all but fully enveloped so many of our churches and entities.

I am not endorsing everyone who says anything negative about the S.B.C. But I am saying there are some godly voices out there like Tom Ascol, Tom Buck, Jared Longshore, and Gabe Hughes (so many more names I could mention) who love the convention so much, and those within the convention so much, that they are willing to boldly point out our errors so that we might seek the Lord’s mercy instead of arrogantly presuming upon His grace. Oh that we would fear the Lord and repent rather than being upset about tone!

I know so many get frustrated by this boldness, but do you not see how much worse it would be for the S.B.C if the Lord simply removed those voices from our midst? Can you imagine pragmatism, partialism, plagiarism, and women preaching going unchecked?

Please note that all of this isn’t about “winning” or “being proven right.” This is about the glory of our King. This is about standing for truth and calling our brothers and sisters to repentance and resting again in the gospel we proclaim. This is about standing strong in our Baptist identity. This is about being more concerned with the fact that God is watching us than we are that the world is watching us.

Let us then make it our aim to please Him.

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (2 Cor. 5:10)

Thus, let us say, in the words of the small-town prophet, Micah:

“But as for me, I will look to Yahweh; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.” (Micah 7:7)

Christ is King.

Categories
SBC Author

Battening Down the Hatches: How to Take the Ship in Nashville

The story begins in October of 2019. In a group text with some brothers from Perryville Second Baptist, one man shared Jeff Noblit’s video on Leaving the SBC. Another guy responded with, “Maybe instead of jumping ship, we should take the ship.”

After I had watched the Founder’s Cinedoc, By What Standard?, I posted my review at ThingsAbove.Us and said, “Sure, one strategy is we can abandon ship & let the SBC sink. But, there’s another viable strategy too–We can take the ship.”

Take the ship. That little phrase hasn’t made everyone happy. Some have drawn too strong an analogy between my desires and piracy. But this isn’t a campaign against people. This is a war of ideas. And I assure you, I absolutely desire to make all godless ideologies creeping into our convention walk the plank in Nashville.

Sadly, though, we understand that ideologies are perpetuated by people. Thus, if conservatives take the ship, the crew will shrink. Some (many?) may jump off and sail in various directions. So be it. It’s not my desire to unnecessarily shrink the SBC. But competing ideologies cannot both steer in the same direction. There’s only one Captain. And if it’s not Christ, set the ship on fire and let it sink.

There is a storm brewing. It is time to batten down the hatches and prepare for the battle ahead. So, in today’s post let me give you three exhortations on how to take the ship in Nashville.

Recognition

Some people do not like the phrase “take the ship” because they do not recognize the dire condition of the Southern Baptist Convention. Too many are constantly saying “There is no drift in the SBC!” so loudly that others actually believe such an absurdity.

Never mind that SBC churches are ordaining women pastors and allowing women to preach. Never mind that CRT/I is infecting our churches and seminaries. Never mind that we, on the whole, too often pretend to uphold the authority of Scripture all the while abandoning its sufficiency. Don’t mention those things! There is no progressive drift!

The reality is, of course, that there is a drift that has been happening in the SBC over the last several years. Too many think of the 1970s and the way liberalism looked in the SBC then and since they don’t see that today, they look at those of us warning of drift as just fear-mongering.

But guess what? Liberalism adapts to every new generation. This is not to say that the SBC is a liberal convention. It is to say that it is undeniable that liberal trajectories exist within our churches and even within our entities in just the things I’ve already noted above.

At best we are the epitome of foolishness if we refuse to recognize what is happening. At best. At worst we are downright sinister because we are helping perpetuate the liberal push. You do not want to be either of those.

Repentance

We won’t take the ship without recognizing the drift of our beloved convention. And we won’t take the ship rightly unless we first examine our own hearts and repent of our own sins.

What do I mean? First, has any carelessness on your part helped contribute to some of the dangerous trends we are noticing? Have you been afraid to speak up when you should have? Have you found it easier to simply “stay in your lane”? Repent of the fear of man.

Or, perhaps you’ve been prideful about this. You’ve been warning about the encroaching liberalism for years and now that others are on board you boast. Let it not be so brothers and sisters.

What I mean in this point overall is that there is a way to win wrongly. We have a historic moment before us. May God forbid that we walk away with a carnal victory. This isn’t about “winning” for the glory of conservatives. This is about battling for the glory of our King. So, let us be humble servants of Jesus. Let us speak with grace and love and concern for the kingdom. And with that, let us not forget the last ‘R’ word for this post:

Resolve

This point isn’t about the Founders SBC pre-confernce (Be it Resolved), but it’s worth mentioning here that I do hope you come to that on 6/14/21. My wife and I are registered and we’d love to meet you. (Watch the trailer!)

The focus here, which I know the Founders conference will share, is that we must be men and women of truth and conviction. We must be resolved, as the song says, no longer to linger. The days of sitting on the fence in silence are over.

We must be committed to the truth. And we must realize that commitment always carries casualties with it. If you are committed to losing weight, say goodbye to frequent desserts. If you are committed to rearing children, say goodbye to sleep! And if you are committed to the truth, you must realize that it will mean saying goodbye to those who oppose it – not because you want that, but because it is inevitable.

We must be resolved to contend for the truth. We must be resolved not to allow our grandchildren and great-grandchildren to see in their day the SBC and her once strong Christ-exalting institutions be akin to what we see the PCUSA and UMC as today. We must be resolved to stand together.

What does this look like practically? First, it means being resolved to actually come to Nashville. You’ve got to make this happen. If nothing else leave at Midnight on Tuesday, June 15 to arrive in Nashville that morning. And if you have to, leave that night to head home. Preferably you can do more than that, but hopefully, you can do at least that. The time, money, and resources it is going to cost you to come to Nashville and let your voice be heard will be worth it.

This is, if I may use a pirating analogy, time for all hands on deck. Do what it takes to get yourself to Nashville. Do not allow a small percentage of the SBC to steer the ship. Come take the helm.

The only way to take the ship in Nashville will be from a grassroots effort. That means you need to come and bring your church members that might not have social media, but who do love the things that are right and good about the SBC including our gospel partnerships, strong complementarian convictions, and our unashamedness of being Baptists. 

Secondly, we must be resolved to do what is necessary in Nashville even if some will call us names for doing it. We must be resolved to rescind Resolution 9. We must be resolved to vote to pass resolutions like this one from Jared Longshore. We must be resolved to go to the microphones and rightly hold NAMB, the ERLC, and our other entities accountable. This won’t be time to collect trinkets from the booths. Come and be resolved to stand on truth and let your voice be heard.

Finally, we must be resolved to pick the right president of the Southern Baptist Convention. I’m voting for Pastor Mike Stone. This is not because I think Randy Adams or Al Mohler are drifting liberal. I am grateful for both of those men and hope they will continue to be vocal about the changes we need to see in the SBC. But from what I have heard and seen, Mike Stone is the man for the hour. He is a pastor. He is a man with a humble heart. And he is a man of clear conviction.

See you in Nashville. You probably shouldn’t actually wear pirate regalia. But I hope you come ready to take the ship.

Categories
SBC Author

The SBC is Not a Convention of Seminary Faculty

You may or may not have heard that Dr. Al Mohler stirred up the interwebs today by talking about Women Pastors, Women Preachers, and the Looming Test of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The gist of Mohler’s argument is that the Southern Baptist Convention has already fought and won the battle over complementarianism in the SBC and that the office and function of pastor, including preaching, is reserved for qualified men. In essence, it is not a Southern Baptist position to have a woman preach to men and women or to hold the office of pastor – even if that office is something other than “lead pastor.”

The Pushback

And of course, some have already come out saying that “there is no looming storm” (I’d rather not link to the article honestly). One of the arguments there is this:

“All our seminary faculty have publicly affirmed the BF&M. If anyone can clearly demonstrate where one of our seminary faculty members is teaching contrary to the BF&M, I will join you in calling for their removal.”

To which I say, “So what?” I don’t mean to imply that what our seminary faculty members hold to and teach is not important. Of course, it is important – so important it’s worth going to battle over at times. But what I am saying is, the Southern Baptist Convention is not a convention of Seminary Faculty. It is a convention of churches.

Seminary professors can say this or that, but to fully and accurately assess the health of the SBC you cannot ignore the local church. We are a convention of local churches.

It’s interesting that this is the second time in less than two weeks I’ve heard such an argument. I heard Ed Litton publicly say at an Arkansas meeting of pastors that “CRT is not a problem in the SBC.” He went on to say publicly that the idea of “CRT in the SBC is a conspiracy theory.” What I believe he meant was that CRT is not being advocated in our entities (which I certainly disagree with). But the point for this post is that Ed seems to think the health of our convention can be measured without looking at local churches.

What is the SBC?

On May 5th Adam Greenway tweeted some important questions for SBC 2021. One of the questions he said we need to clarify in Nashville is, “What is a Southern Baptist?” I won’t answer that fully here, but I cannot stress this enough: Without local churches, you do not have the Southern Baptist Convention.

The literal heartbeat of the SBC is the local church. Don’t be suckered into thinking that just because our seminaries sign off on the Baptist Faith and Message (2000) that there is no problem with egalitarianism (and CRT, btw) in the SBC.

All the seminary professors (and entity heads) involved in the SBC can affirm the BF&M. But if you have local churches ordaining female pastors and allowing women to preach to a mixed congregation, then there most certainly is a storm looming that must be resolved in Nashville.

Egalitarianism is an issue in our churches. It has been for years actually. And the only reason it’s not more widely recognized is because people want to play word games with complementarianism. One blog post actually said, “I don’t know any actively involved Southern Baptists who would consider themselves an egalitarian.” Well of course! Because the BF&M 2000 flat out denies egalitarianism if taken with any grain of sincerity. So, almost no one who loves being part of the SBC is going to openly say, “I’m an egalitarian!”

But what they are going to do are things like this:

These are examples of functional egalitarianism within the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. And since the SBC is a convention of churches, don’t tell me there is no looming storm. Don’t tell me there is no denial of the sufficiency of Scripture in the SBC. Don’t tell me there is no moderate drift. On the issue of complementarianism, there are two Southern Baptist Conventions and it is time for us to decide the direction we will go and whether or not we will be faithful to our Lord or not.

Take the Ship

Since the churches that comprise the Southern Baptist Convention are what make the convention, as they go, so sails the SBC Ship. Some have seen the course we’ve charted and have jumped ship. Some are ready to do so even now. It’s hard to blame them. Others deny we’ve even drifted off course.

But in Nashville, we have the opportunity not to deny the drift or jump overboard, but to take the ship. Come to Nashville. Don’t let your grandchildren or great-grandchildren visit the “battlefield” one day in a hundred years and talk about how important a stand conservative Christians took, looking to find your name on the memorial, only to not see it there.

Come and stand with us. There are hills worth dying on.

Take the ship.

 

Categories
Gender Reform SBC Author Scripture

The Egalitarian Shift in the Committee on Committees

 

It’s totally a Baptist thing to have a committee on committees, isn’t it? But for those who do not know, this committee is one of the most important (if not the most important) committees that exists within the Southern Baptist Convention. Baptist Press correctly articulates the situation:  

“The Committee on Committees, with two members from each of the 34 states and regions qualified for representation, has the responsibility to appoint the Committee on Nominations. The Committee on Nominations has far-reaching influence on Southern Baptist life. They recommend the trustees of our 11 convention entities and our Executive Committee to the Southern Baptist Convention.”

A key to a healthy convention is God fearing trustees since they are responsible to watch over our entities on behalf of the 47,000 churches of the SBC. These trustees receive their appointment through the Committee on Nominations. Therefore, you want to have a solid Committee on Nominations in order to ensure solid trustee nominations. This brings us back to the Committee on Committees – this committee needs to be strong since it is charged with appointing who will sit on the Committee on Nominations.

The 2021 Situation

In mid-April of 2021 SBC President, J.D. Greear, named the 68 members of the Committee on Committees. By the way, this is one of the reasons electing a strong conservative SBC President in 2021 is so important since they are the ones who name the persons on the Committee on Committees.

What is the makeup of Greear’s Committee on Committees? Well, there’s quite a bit of makeup actually. It is chaired by Meredith Cook, a member of Neartown Church in Houston, Texas. Along with Mrs. Cook there are an additional 38 women sitting on the committee bringing the total to 39 out of 68 members (57%) being female (source).

Thus, out of the 34 states/regions that comprise the Committee on Committees there were multiple areas that J.D. decided needed no male leadership at all.  

What’s the Problem?

In a Q&A session (that was definitely not sponsored by SWBTS and NAMB) with Dr. Ed Litton on April 29, 2021 I had the opportunity to ask if he thought there was any issue with this committee being a majority (57%) female committee. Several pastors in the room laughed at me and shouted “No!” Dr. Litton smiled at the support in the room and answered (though in a kinder way) along with them, “No.”

As you have probably already figured out, the point of this post is to show why a majority women Committee on Committees in the Southern Baptist Convention is an issue. Here are a few reasons why:

  1.       It Reeks of Tokenism

My wife is the one who brought this point to my attention. She said that she finds it offensive that so many women are on the Committee on Committees simply because they are women. It seems as though J.D. wanted to make a point and it certainly has been made!

  1.       It’s Catering to the Culture

This move seems to be another example of the Southern Baptist Convention seeking to make peace with a godless culture. It is extremely countercultural in our day to preach and live out strong biblical complementarianism in our homes and churches. This seems to be another move whereby we can shout at the culture to look how non-complementarian we are.

Let me quickly mention in response to these first two points that I’ve grown quite weary of leadership in the SBC not exalting the roles of women that we have in Scripture as important and meaningful to our convention. That is, why are women only seen as “empowered” if they serve on a certain committee? Why do we not value the role of a wife and mother in the home, submitting to her husband, nurturing her children, and being a godly member of her local church? Why are we so bent on making women preach or serve in this or that area of leadership as the only real meaningful contributions they can give? 

  1.       It is an Egalitarian Slide

Here is where I will spend most of the blog post. Egalitarianism “holds that women and men properly have equal and interchangeable roles in the home, church, and wider society.”[1] That is, an egalitarian would hold that it doesn’t matter who preaches, pastors, leads the home, etc. in terms of gender. Both men and women are qualified to hold whatever position in the home, church, or society.

Complementarianism, on the other hand, says “that God created man and woman equal in value and personhood, and equal in bearing His image, but that both creation and redemption indicate some distinct roles for men and women in marriage and in the church.”[2]

Unequivocally, the Southern Baptist Convention is a complementarian convention of churches – at least on paper. What paper? Well, the Baptist Faith and Message says this, for example,

“The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God’s image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation” (BFM 2000, XVIII).

So, what does all of this have to do with the Committee on Committees? Quite a lot actually. But first let me say this: I am not arguing for or against in this post whether a woman ought to serve on a committee. That’s not the purpose of this writing. The purpose of this writing is to ask whether or not the most important committee in the Southern Baptist Convention ought to have a majority of its seats held by women.

We have already affirmed in the BFM 2000 that we believe that men ought to lead in the home. We also state that men ought to lead in the church as the office of pastor is only for qualified men (see BFM 2000, VI.). Yet, when it comes to this committee, Southern Baptists are affirming an egalitarian position – that is, the role of leadership here is interchangeable.

A Moment of Crisis

No matter which “side” someone is on in the current SBC debates I think most would agree we are in a moment of crisis. Some might say the “crisis” is people saying there is a crisis! But that would still be a form of crisis.

And here is the point I am making: How can we think it is a good idea – a God ordained idea – that in a moment of crisis in the Southern Baptist Convention, we ought to have our most important committee led by women? Shouldn’t men be leading in all times, but especially during a moment of crisis?

Yes, before you ask, I have read the book of Judges and am familiar with Deborah. I am also familiar with the context of the book and that we do not want to get to a point in Southern Baptist life whereby we are in need of a Deborah to lead us.

The Value of Godly Women

I don’t think this point needs to be made but I’m going to make it anyway. Women in the Southern Baptist Convention are unquestionably valuable. Our churches and our convention would not be where they are today without godly women. This is incontrovertible.

Why then am I saying it’s not a good idea for our most important committee to be led by women? Because God’s very good and holy design in the home, church, and society at large is for men to take up the mantle of leadership. This is not to wonder whether or not a woman is able to select a good candidate for the Committee on Nominations. It’s rather to say that God has not created men to put their wives in that situation.

And I’ll close with this: The Committee on Committees situation is another example where we are losing the battle for the sufficiency of Scripture in the SBC. If we believe the Bible is sufficient to teach us gender roles, then why are we not making proper application on the Committee on Committees? Why do we believe, as the BFM states, that men are designed for leadership in the home and the church, but that the Committee on Committees is an exception?

Some have stated this is about “power” or “control.” The reality is this is true. This is about power. It is about the power and sufficiency of God’s Word. And it is about control. Will we allow this authoritative and sufficient Word to control our convention or will the cultural winds change our course? Do we trust God’s very good design or not?

 

 

 

 

[1] Major Contributors and Editors, “Egalitarianism,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

[2] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 16.

Categories
Uncategorized

Dr. Owen Strachan leaving Midwestern for Grace Bible Theological Seminary

One of the leading young theologians in the Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. Owen Strachan, is leaving Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to serve as Provost and Research Professor of Theology at Grace Bible Theological Seminary (GBTS) in Conway, AR.

Read the release from Dr. Jeffrey Johnson, president of GBTS, here.

As both a Southern Baptist and soon-to-be GBTS graduate (M.Div, May 16, 2021), I am both excited and sad. Sad only to see such a God-honoring professor, unashamed to fight against wokeness and CRT, leave an SBC institution. Personally, though, I am more excited for the Lord’s work right here in central Arkansas at GBTS. I look forward to seeing all that the Lord has in store for Dr. Strachan and GBTS!

Read more here (and see video).

Read Dr. Strachan’s announcement here.

Categories
Ecclesiology

A Historical Basis for Baptist Cooperation – The Philadelphia Association

In a previous post, I talked about the 17th Century Baptists of England. Switching both centuries and continents, we now consider the 18th century Baptists of America. It is important to remember that these Baptists did not invent associations and cooperation among independent churches, so much as they built upon the conclusions their Baptist forefathers had already arrived at. They stood, as it were, on the shoulders of the 17th Century Baptists from England. One helpful example to turn to is the Philadelphia Association.

“[O]n July 27, 1707…five small Baptist churches organized the Philadelphia Baptist Association.”[1] It is noteworthy to mention the influence that Elias Keach, son of Benjamin, had upon this Association. In 1686, the younger Keach came to America to preach but at that point he was not even converted.[2] Perhaps he thought that if he said he was the son of the famous Benjamin Keach he could gain popularity and even line his own pockets with worldly gain.

At one such meeting, possibly one of the first, if not the first, in Pennepack, Pennsylvania, Elias Keach began preaching from an unregenerate heart but at some point in the sermon was visibly convicted and was either converted on the spot or just a short while later through the counsel of another Baptist pastor.[3] In 1688 Elias became the founding pastor of Pennepack Baptist Church.[4] He was influential to area churches and “did much to encourage the idea of connectionalism among the assemblages with which he worked in America.”[5] In 1692 he travelled back to London and to some degree assisted his father, Benjamin, in making two additions to the 1689 Second London Baptist Confession of Faith: One on hymn singing and the other about the laying on of hands in Baptism.[6]

This confession was largely adhered to by Baptists in the Philadelphia association in the early 1700s. But it was formally adopted by many Baptist churches in America when in 1742 the Philadelphia Association voted to print these confessions up which was done by Benjamin Franklin in 1743.[7] This confession came to be known as the Philadelphia Confession of 1742 and is essentially a reprint of the 1689 London Baptist Confession with the two additional sections. Thus, the Particular Baptist influence, both in doctrine and in how likeminded churches ought to intentionally cooperate, was rooted in the formation of the Philadelphia Baptist Association.[8]

Leon McBeth notes that, “By mid-[18th]-century, the [Philadelphia] association referred to churches as ‘belonging to this association,’ offered advice to churches on both doctrinal and practical issues, sent ‘helps’ or representatives to assist in cases of local church discipline, and helped to accredit, and when need be to discredit, ministers.”[9] Thus, Baptists in America greatly benefited from the 17th-century thought of their English forefathers but had to also think through associational life for themselves in a slightly different historical context. Like the English Particular Baptists, they were zealous to maintain the autonomy of the local church all the while also actively promoting tangible cooperative efforts. How then did 18th century Baptists think associations should “work”? Benjamin Griffith helps answer that question.

“[T]he Reverend Benjamin Griffith, pastor of the Montgomery Baptist Church of Bucks County, Pennsylvania” composed A Short Treatise Concerning a True and Orderly Gospel Church.[10] In this work, after establishing the importance and power of a local church, he laid out the following in his section, “On the Communion of Churches”,

[S]uch particular congregational churches, constituted and organized according to the mind of Christ revealed in the New Testament, are all equal in power and dignity, and we read of no disparity between them, or subordination among them, that should make a difference between the acts of their mutual communion, so as the acts of one church should be acts of authority, and the acts of others should be acts of obedience or subjection, although they may vastly differ in gifts, abilities and usefulness.

 

Such particular distinct churches, agreeing in gospel doctrine and practice, may and ought to maintain communion together in many duties, which may tend to the mutual benefit and edification of the whole: and thereby one church that hath plenty of gifts, may and ought, if possible, to supply another that lacketh, Canticles 8:8. They may have mutual giving and receiving, Philippians 4:15. and mutual translation, recommendation or dismission of members from one church to another, as occasion may require. It is to be noted that persons called to office are not to be dismissed as officers, but as members; though another church may call such to the same office again.

 

By virtue also of such communion, the members of one such church may, where they are known, occasionally partake at the Lord’s table with a sister church. Yet notwithstanding such communion of churches, by voluntary consent and confederation, the officers of one particular church, may not act as officers in another church, in any act of government, without a particular call thereunto from the other church where they occasionally come.

It is expedient that particular churches constituted in the way and manner, and for the ends declared in the former part of this narrative, when they are planted by the providence of God, so as they may have opportunity and advantage so to do, should, by their mutual agreement, appoint proper times and places, to meet by their respective messengers or delegates, to consider of such things as may be for the common benefit of all such churches, for their peace, prosperity, and mutual edification, and what may be for the furtherance of the Gospel, and the interest of Christ in the world.

 

And forasmuch as it falls out many times that particular churches have to do with doubtful and difficult matters, or differences in point of doctrine or administration, like the church of Antioch of old, wherein either of the churches in general are concerned, or any one church in their peace, union or edification; or any member or members of a church are injured, in or by any proceeding in censures not agreeable to gospel rule and order; it is according to the mind of Christ, that many churches holding communion together, should meet by their messengers and delegates to consider of and to give advice in or about such matters in difference; and their sentiments to be reported to all the churches concerned; and such messengers and delegates convened in the name of Christ, by the voluntary consent of the several churches in such mutual communion, may declare and determine of the mind of the Holy Ghost revealed in Scripture, concerning things in difference; and may decree the observation of things that are true and necessary, because revealed and appointed in the Scripture.

 

And the churches will do well to receive, own and observe such determinations, on the evidence and authority of the mind of the Holy Ghost in them, as in Acts 15:29. Yet such delegates thus assembled, are not intrusted [sic] or armed with any coercive power, or any superior jurisdiction over the churches concerned, so as to impose their determinations on them or their officers, under the penalty of excommunication, or the like.[11]

In this way, Griffith laid the theological groundwork for why and how local churches can cooperate together in associations.  This work served as a foundation for a statement Griffith produced in 1749, which was “signed by all of the delegates present at the annual meeting”.[12] This 1749 statement “made it clear…that the association had only the power to withdraw its fellowship; they might urge the churches to exclude members involved in erroneous practice or teaching, ‘but excommunicate they cannot.’ That power belongs only to the church.”[13]

Griffith’s statement both borrowed from the past and helped to cement a groundwork for the future. It was integrally connected to Christians of the 17th century, since, “In Griffith’s preface, he indicated that he had consulted works on church government by Benjamin Keach, John Owen, Thomas Goodwin, and Abel Morgan.”[14] Furthermore, as Baptists continued forming formal associations in America, they, like Griffith and those who had gone before him, were adamant that the ultimate ecclesiastical authority was the local church.

Earl Blackburn, a modern-day Reformed Baptist, echoes this sentiment when he writes, “An association of churches is not a denomination. An association has absolutely no power or authority over any local church, except to break fellowship with a disorderly church over doctrine or practice and to make known to others its actions toward the erring church and why its actions were taken. Its capacity and function is only advisory.”[15]

Similar to the 17th century General Assembly in England, the 18th Century Philadelphia Baptist Association “served as a doctrinal monitor” and “advised on Baptist practices.”[16] Also like the General Assembly of Particular Baptists from England it used money to help fund theological education and missions. “One purpose of associations was to extend the gospel to destitute areas, and by the 1760s the Philadelphia Association employed an ‘evangelist at large’ to plant new churches in needy areas.”[17] The minutes from the 1766 Philadelphia Association say this,

That it is most necessary for the good of the Baptist interest, that the Association have at their disposal every year a sum of money. Accordingly, it was further agreed: that the churches, henceforth, do make a collection every quarter, and send the same yearly to the Association, to be by them deposited in the hands of trustees; the interest whereof only to be them laid out every year in support of ministers travelling on the errand of the churches, or otherwise, as the necessities of said churches require.[18]

Torbet notes that, “The significance of the [Philadelphia] Association cannot be overemphasized, for without violating Baptist church autonomy it provided a source of guidance and unity at a critical period of organization in the denomination.”[19] In fact, it was the Philadelphia Baptist Association, standing on the shoulders of the 17th Century English Baptists, helped lay the groundwork for even larger associations of churches. By the 19th Century, state conventions were forming.

“The first Baptist state convention was formed in South Carolina (1821), followed by Georgia (1822), Virginia (1823), Alabama (1823), and North Carolina (1830). The idea of state conventions was a natural outgrowth of associational work”.[20] Thus, even large associations that continue to exist today, like the Southern Baptist Convention, owe their formation to the cooperative work of Baptists in the Philadelphia Association.


 

[1] A History of the Baptists, 212.

[2] https://www.pennepackbaptist.org/history.html

[3] A History of the Baptists, 210. See also, https://www.pennepackbaptist.org/history.html

[4] Ibid. Another Baptist historian, H. Leon McBeth, says, “Keach formed the Pennepek [sic] church in 1687”. H. Leon McBeth, The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness, (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 1987), 240.

[5] Baptist Confessions of Faith, 348.

[6] The Baptist Heritage, 241.

[7] Baptist Confessions of Faith, 349.

[8] Brand and Hankins note that, “the first association of Baptists was formed in Philadelphia in 1707, largely as a result of the tireless work of Elias Keach.” One Sacred Effort, 63.

[9] The Baptist Heritage, 243.

[10] A History of the Baptists, 213.

[11] This work is dated, 1743. https://founders.org/polity/a-short-treatise-concerning-a-true-and-orderly-gospel-church-griffith/

[12] A History of the Baptists, 213.

[13] The Baptist Heritage, 244.

[14] Polity, 36.

[15] Denominations or Associations?, 27.

[16] The Baptist Heritage, 244-245.

[17] Ibid., 246.

[18] Denominations or Associations?, 59-60.

[19] A History of the Baptists, 214.

[20] Anthony L. Chute, Nathan A. Finn, and Michael A.G. Haykin, The Baptist Story: From English Sect to Global Movement, (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2015), 135.

Categories
Ecclesiology

Historical Basis for Baptist Cooperation – The 1689ers

By the 1670s the political climate in England was such that Baptists thought it prudent to show their solidarity with other English nonconformists like the Presbyterians and Congregationalists. This led to what is known today as the 1689 Second London Baptist Confession of Faith that was actually first written and published in 1677.[1] Chapter 26, Paragraphs 14-15 state,

As each church, and all the members of it, are bound to pray continually for the good and prosperity of all the churches of Christ, in all places, and upon all occasions to further every one within the bounds of their places and callings, in the exercise of their gifts and graces, so the churches, when planted by the providence of God, so as they may enjoy opportunity and advantage for it, ought to hold communion among themselves, for their peace, increase of love, and mutual edification.

In cases of difficulties or differences, either in point of doctrine or administration, wherein either the churches in general are concerned, or any one church, in their peace, union, and edification; or any member or members of any church are injured, in or by any proceedings in censures not agreeable to truth and order: it is according to the mind of Christ, that many churches holding communion together, do, by their messengers, meet to consider, and give their advice in or about that matter in difference, to be reported to all the churches concerned; howbeit these messengers assembled, are not intrusted [sic] with any church-power properly so called; or with any jurisdiction over the churches themselves, to exercise any censures either over any churches or persons; or to impose their determination on the churches or officers.

This Confession is similar to its 1644 predecessor but also goes into more detail on the nature of associational work. It actually uses the word “ought” to demonstrate that association among Baptists was not seen as merely something optional but even a duty. For local churches that have the opportunity to cooperate with like-minded churches in reasonable geographical proximity to not take advantage of this good providence is to be neglectful of God’s intent for His churches. Like the 1644 Confession, it highlights the necessity of churches meeting together to discuss problems that may arise, doctrinal issues, or even dealing with members of local churches that have an issue with church discipline. It is important to highlight again that the 1689 London Baptist Confession expresses that Baptist associations hold no authority over local churches. But, as James Renihan notes, “Independency did not imply isolation.”[2]

Furthermore, it is noteworthy that the Baptists of the late 17th century in England did not merely talk about associating, they actually did associate. Robert Torbet notes that, “the Particular Baptists…were reluctant to organize, fearing the loss of their local autonomy and freedom of conscience. However, they ‘were never independent in their attitude to other churches of similar outlook;’ they felt the need of closer association, particularly in the metropolitan areas.”[3]

Thus,

In 1689 a General Assembly of Particular Baptists was organized. This meeting, and those which followed periodically, possessed several distinctive characteristics. (1) Close membership was practiced; thus only churches of baptized believers were admitted. (2) Open communion was permitted, leaving each church to decide for itself whether visitors of non-Baptist fellowships should be allowed to partake of the Lord’s Supper. (3) At its first session, the Assembly upheld the Lord’s day for worship in preference to the Seventh Day. (4) The Assembly aimed to have an educated as well as an ordained ministry…(5) Its growth was rapid, there being one hundred and seven churches in attendance at the General Assembly of 1692.[4]

The General Assembly of Particular Baptists was organized on robust doctrinal positions that extended beyond primary issues. For example, 1689 Baptists agreed with Presbyterians on the gospel, but the Presbyterians would not have been invited to be part of this General Assembly since it was for Baptist churches. Furthermore, this assembly expressly stated,

We disclaim all manner of Superiority, Superintendency over the Churches; and that we have no authority or Power, to prescribe or impose any thing upon the Faith or Practice of any of the Churches of Christ. Our whole Intendment, is to be helpers together of one another, by way of Counsel and Advice, in the right understanding of the Perfect Rule which our Lord Jesus, the only Bishop of our Souls, hath prescribed, and given to his Churches in his Word, and therefore do severally and jointly agree.[5]

 

The assembly made several practical moves toward tangible cooperation between likeminded churches in England. They, for example, took up a collective fund that they could use for three main reasons. The first was to help churches in need to pay their pastors. Secondly, it could be used to send ministers to places to preach the gospel where it needed to be preached. Thirdly, it could be used to help gifted members or ministers in studying languages like Latin, Greek, or Hebrew.[6] In essence, the money was used for local church ministry, missions, and education.

This fund shows the willingness of the churches not merely to talk about the importance and necessity of associating together but demonstrates a tangible way of cooperation. In 1690, the General Assembly noted regarding this fund that, “Some at the cost of the Fund were sent out to preach the Gospel, with which the People were so affected, that they were forced to ride from place to place, and preach every day till they were even spent; and divers were baptized and two Churches are like to be gathered; and the People have sent again for their help; their Meetings were very great, and a great Door is open in those Eastern Parts, the Lord make it effectual.”[7] Thus, the Assembly’s fund shows Baptist churches pooling their earthly resources together and distributing money in a collective effort towards gospel preaching, ministry, church planting, missions, and theological education.

Regarding this fund, the 1690 Assembly gave suggestions for churches to give. It was made plain churches must first care for their “Ministers.” In any situation that a church’s Minister was sufficiently supplied, churches were encouraged to give to the collective fund. Further, rules were given for when a local church should make use of the fund. “[W]hen a Church hath done all they can do to their utmost and will not be sufficient, then those Messengers do acquaint their respective Association, and they together do consider what may be needful to be had out of the Fund”.[8]

Another thing this assembly did was to answer doctrinal questions. For example, one question proposed to the assembly was whether or not believers were justified at the moment that Christ died on the Cross. The assembly answered by saying that, “[N]one can be said to be actually reconciled, justified, or adopted, until they are really implanted into Jesus Christ by Faith and so by virtue of this their Union with him, have these Fundamental Benefits actually conveyed unto them.”[9]

Another thing the General Assembly did was give practical suggestions for cooperation among churches. Consider, for example, this question asked to the Assembly, “Whether it be not expedient for Churches that live near together, and consist of small numbers, and are not able to maintain their own Ministry [i.e., pay a pastor], to join together for the better and more comfortable support of their Ministry, and better Edification one of another?” The answer was, “Concluded in the Affirmative.”[10] That is, the General Assembly saw it a matter of prudence for small churches in close proximity who could not afford a minister, to combine and form a new local church that could afford a minister. In fact, an anonymous author expanded on this idea in a book printed and distributed to churches in 1689 entitled, The Gospel Minister’s Maintenance Vindicated, which was, “Recommended to the Baptize Congregations by Several Elders in and about the City of London.”[11] In this book it says,

It may deserve our most mature Consideration, whether a People may safely continue themselves in a Church State, when not able to provide for a Ministry, especially as the Case may be circumstanced; for, possibly they might very well joyn [sic] themselves to another Congregation near unto them, and be a real help to such a Church, being Imbodied with them, And this we do say, For a People to put themselves into a Church State, is one of the most weightiest Things in the World, and ought with as great Care and Consideration to be done; we concluding in some places where there are many Churches near to each other, it would be far better for some of those small and insufficient Societies to unite themselves to some other Congregation; and by that means the weight of those Indispensable Duties and Obligations that are incumbent on them, would with much more ease be borne and answeres [sic], to the Honour of Christ, reputation of the Gospel, and their own Edification.[12]

The point this book, and the General Assembly, makes is not that local churches are obligated to join together if they cannot afford a full-time ministry. Rather, these great Baptists were attempting to think through how churches ought to associate together. And in their mind, it made sense for two small churches close in doctrine and proximity, to unite together into one local church so that they could pay for a Pastor’s needs in such a way that he would not have to be so preoccupied with secular work and could appropriately attend the flock and be occupied with the Word of God and prayer (cf. Acts 6:4). Again, this was not mandated, in fact, nothing the Assembly suggested was mandated. Instead, the General Assembly of these 17th Century Baptists was for the purpose of advice and counsel on doctrinal matters, but also how the churches could cooperate together in a concrete way for the glory of Christ.

In conclusion, it behooves us to stop and appreciate the time, study, writing, dialogue, and prayer these 17th century Baptists put into thinking through the issues of cooperation.[13] This does not in itself prove they were right in their conclusions. But it ought to give us in the 21st century serious pause before dismissing their conclusions. Some of the hardest time and effort has already been done for us on this subject by these men.


 

[1] Denominations or Associations?, 235-237.

[2] Faith and Life for Baptists, 15.

[3] Robert G. Torbet, A History of the Baptists, (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 3rd Printing 2000), 67.

[4] Ibid., 68.

[5] Faith and Life for Baptists, 34.

[6] Ibid., 36.

[7] Ibid., 62.

[8] Ibid., 66.

[9] Ibid., 38.

[10] Ibid., 37.

[11] Ibid., 141. The work is “attributed to Benjamin Keach”, 139.

[12] Ibid., 185.

[13] The technical term today is Associationalism.

Categories
Controversy Reform SBC Author

PragNAMBtism: Dr. Ezell’s position on Women Pastors in SBC Church Plants

*At the time of this posting Echo Church is still listed as a NAMB church plant with a female teaching pastor. 

If the Southern Baptist Convention is going to see true reformation, the 11th Commandment has to end. For those unfamiliar with this rule, it is an unwritten agreement that you don’t talk publicly about anything negative in the SBC, particularly with any of the main entities.

Conservative Resurgence Voices is not a polemics site. But we are willing to speak publicly about what’s going on in the SBC because we truly long for a conservative resurgence. Part of the battle has been convincing some that there is even a need for a conservative resurgence. After all, the SBC is a “conservative” organization. Right?

Hopefully, last week’s piece on NAMB churches utilizing women as pastors has brought more awareness to some of what is going on in our convention. The reality is, this is not the worst of it. Dr. Ezell, and apparently NAMB Trustees, know this is happening. As a result, I’m forced to wonder if they either do not care or perhaps are pushing it.

Bad as the ’80s?

I’ve had several phone conversations since the NAMB piece last week. In most of them, folks were concerned about the direction of the SBC. But in one of them, with a NAMB employee, the topic was brought up by the other party that “This is nowhere near as bad as 1985-1986.”

Well, I was born in 1986 so I cannot speak to that. But this would be similar to me telling you that I was diagnosed with stage 2 cancer and you responding with “Oh yeah? I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and beat it.” Praise the Lord you beat cancer! But this does not take away from the seriousness of my own diagnosis even if it appears to be at an earlier stage. If left untreated it will kill me.

Maybe people are not publicly denying the inerrancy of the Bible – yet. But the situation we are currently in is that people are saying one thing with their mouths and doing another in their actions. This is a terrible direction. It is pragmatism at its worst.

Dr. Ezell’s Position

It’s never been my desire or hope to get to a point in SBC life where we need to publish an entity head’s emails. But this is where we are. The doublespeak has to end. The political maneuvering has to end. Transparency is what we want.

Let me state a few things up front. First, a lot of what I am publishing from Dr. Ezell has been said similarly by him on social media or in the public arena. Secondly, at least one other SBC pastor received what I received verbatim (his was on 1/12-1/13/2021). So, these answers seem to be pretty public for anyone who wants them.

Still, to be as charitable as possible I’m only publishing what I think needs published. I will leave out the rest. After the fiasco with the Florida Church Plant that had a woman lead pastor, I reached out to NAMB. I got a form letter in reply but asked to speak to Dr. Ezell directly. He did email and said he was willing to answer questions so I sent him this on January 29, 2021:

Dr. Ezell kindly and promptly replied on January 30, 2021. Again, this information has been emailed to more than just me. Understandably, I’m sure Dr. Ezell got a lot of the same questions, so it seems there were some who received basically the same information. So again, this information isn’t really hidden for any who would care to write Dr. Ezell. Here is his 1/30/21 response:

The yellow highlighted portion was done by either Dr. Ezell, or someone else. And I have to be honest, it was very encouraging to read that. It says a few things very clearly:

  1. Only biblically qualified men are approved in the role of pastor which are endorsed and funded by NAMB
  2. SBC Plants are required to whole-heartedly embrace the BFM 2000 and
  3. specifically the role of women. Which just to remind us here the BFM says this: “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”

So, again, quite encouraging. Shouldn’t, then, we reasonably assume that what this means is that NAMB will not support churches that intentionally violate the BFM 2000 by having women serve as pastors? That’s what I assumed when I read it.

I was even tempted to leave it there and basically say in my mind, “Whatever is going on with NAMB it must be that Dr. Ezell does not know and things must fall through the cracks at times.”

I think this is probably what a lot of Southern Baptists believe. And when they see reports about church plants with women pastors they think, “Sure, but we trust Dr. Ezell. We know that he’s not allowing this to happen intentionally.”

Thus, I decided not to let it go and on 1/31/21 I wrote this back to Dr. Ezell:

And here is what I think Southern Baptists need to know. I think it is what they deserve to know. On Monday, February 1, Dr. Ezell replied:

Here is what is frustrating as a Southern Baptist. In one email Dr. Ezell assured me that SBC Plants are required to whole-heartedly embrace the BFM 2000 and specifically the role of women. That is, the Southern Baptist Convention has unequivocally stated in its statement of faith that only qualified men can serve in the role of pastor.

Yet, when pressed on this, the real story is: “We don’t look at staff rosters.” That is, “We don’t really care if women are serving as pastors or not.” Now, which is it? Because these two emails are contradictory. A church cannot be whole-heartedly embracing the BFM 2000 and have women serving in the role of a pastor.

After these emails and talking with a NAMB employee, I can tell you definitively and beyond any shadow of a doubt that NAMB’s position is that female pastors are fine as long as they are not the “lead” pastor.

I do not understand the strategy in this. It seems that Dr. Ezell and the leadership at NAMB, without informing the Convention, have reinterpreted the BFM 2000 to mean something its writers never intended it to mean: that women are only barred from serving as “senior” pastors. This is an absolute butchering of the BFM 2000. And what’s more concerning is that this is a classic liberal tactic: To say you affirm a statement when you just redefine the terms. This is not me calling Dr. Ezell a liberal. This is me saying he is undeniably using a liberal tactic.

How can an SBC entity adopt a policy that is in contrast to the clear doctrinal parameters of the Baptist Faith and Message (2000)? Without asking or informing the convention, an entity that is under the authority of the churches in the convention has usurped the authority of these churches and carved its own path. And then, at best, they have been very political in their wording, and at worst they have bold faced lied to Southern Baptists about their strategy.

Since last week’s posting there has been some shuffling around with NAMB’s website. It appears some churches with female “non-lead” pastors have been removed? Is this being done silently?

What about the Trustees?

In a Baptist Press Article that posted February 4, 2021, NAMB Trustee board chairman, Danny de Armas, said this:

“Several trustees related being frustrated by the notion that some are putting forth that the NAMB trustees are not doing our job and that we don’t know what is going on at NAMB. Not only do we know what is going on, in most cases we initiated and, in every case, we affirm the strategies and changes that are being implemented.

This is not a comforting statement. I’m trying to be fair to this statement but it seems rather reasonable that I could plug this in: “Not only do NAMB trustees know that women are serving as pastors in NAMB plants in most cases they also initiated it, and in every case, they affirmed it.”

So, not only are NAMB employees “in” on this. Apparently, so are the trustees? And this is not with the consent of the Convention. How is this happening if the SBC really is under the authority of the local churches?

Does NAMB work for the local churches in the SBC or not? If so, why does it get to do what it wants in terms of disregarding the Baptist Faith and Message? And if it doesn’t work for the churches of the SBC, why are we giving them money under the guise that they do work for us?

I did email Danny de Armas, Chair of the Board of Trustees for NAMB and wrote, “Please brother, we must hold NAMB accountable to planting churches that are in true agreement with the BFM 2000.” He did email me back thanking me for reaching out but did not respond to the comment about the Baptist Faith and Message. Perhaps it was an oversight. But it is hard for me to continually pursue these avenues as a Southern Baptist Pastor only to time and again have my questions ignored, overlooked, or answered deceptively.

Brothers and sisters, this is beyond heartbreaking. It is well past time to contact our NAMB trustees and reiterate to them that our standard of cooperation is the BF&M 2000. Maybe other trustees will listen. As Denny Burk wrote last week, “Our ability to cooperate is materially compromised when a cooperating church ignores what we have all agreed upon as the doctrinal basis for our work together—the BF&M.”

We should believe more than what is in the BF&M, but we cannot believe less (see Why the SBC Needs a Tent Revival).

Does this Really Matter?

Absolutely. The SBC is sick. She has a cancer that is spreading through her churches that if left unchecked will eventually be terminal. One may think “Oh we are just arguing about words here.” No. We are arguing over whether or not we actually believe and practice that the Word of God is our highest authority and wholly sufficient for how we understand the leadership of the church.

Consider what Dr. Mohler said in a 2019 9Marks Panel at the Southern Baptist Convention:

“A lot of younger Southern Baptists…understand that complementarian or the gender relations, that’s a second-order issue. But what they’re missing is second-order issues are also constitutive of the Southern Baptist Convention. And so just understand we had a 30 year battle over 1st and 2nd order issues. One secondary issue we were fighting over was should women be pastors. The convention has declared itself so emphatically on that it’s in the confession of faith. Our confession of faith that constitutes the basis of our cooperation is inherently complementarian…

The Baptist Faith and Message requires an understanding that the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture and that there are distinct roles for men and women in the home and in the church…But this is where I think a lot of younger Southern Baptists are acting as if Southern Baptist can embrace a pluralism on this that would include egalitarianism. No! We spent 30 years struggling with Scripture and each other to define the fact that this fellowship is established upon Complementarianism.”

And on January 28, 2021, Danny Akin tweeted out:

“[W]omen cannot serve as a pastor. Pastors are always men in the Bible. To call a woman a pastor in any capacity is not faithful to the biblical revelation. She can serve in many capacities but it is theologically in error to call her a pastor.”

What does this mean? It means we can argue about whether or not churches that have women pastors are true churches or not. But what we cannot argue about is if they are Southern Baptist churches, because they are not – not if we “wholeheartedly embrace the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.”

Categories
Reform SBC Author Uncategorized

Why the SBC Needs a Tent Revival

Just Keachy

I suppose every post must start somewhere. This one begins in 1673 – the year Benjamin Keach decided to apply Matthew 26:30 tangibly to his church at Horsleydown in London. I suppose I should also mention Keach was Baptist before it was cool; before there was so much Great Commission™ money. This was before the Act of Toleration; a time when Baptists embraced being outsiders to the mainstream.

I know. I’m throwing a few jabs early there. But I’ll save the haymaker for later.

Moving along, in 1673 Keach leads his church to sing a hymn after the Lord’s Supper. By 1690 Isaac Marlow is publicly opposing him in the social media of the day: tracts. They duke it out in the public arena and eventually, the singing Baptists win.

In 1688 Elias Keach, son of Benjamin, is pastoring in the Philadelphia area. It’s not just his influence mind you (I do think it significant enough to mention) but by 1707 the churches in the area have unofficially adopted “the Confession” as their theological foundation.

What is “the Confession”? Well, in 1742 it is officially named the Philadelphia Confession. Why did I start this story with Benjamin Keach? Because the Philadelphia Confession of 1742 is the 1689 London Baptist Confession with two additions: one dealing with the laying on of hands. The other? Singing. 

If you’re going to make it to the “point” of today’s post, you need to know, again, that the 1689 London Baptist Confession and the Philadelphia Confession of 1742 are identical, save these two additions.

A Tragic Era

We now fast forward to 1814 – the same year Colonel Jackson took his little trip down to New Orleans. Unrelatedly, the Triennial Baptist Convention (TBC) was formed (it had a longer name) by Luther Rice.

Fast forward again to 1844. In a 7-5 decision, the Board of the Home Missionary Society declined the appointment of a missionary from Georgia because he owned slaves. In response, Alabama Baptists wrote to the Foreign Mission Board asking if they would appoint missionaries who owned slaves. The answer: No.

Some southerners, “did not attempt to defend the evils in the slavery system, but described the institution as an inherited disease to be cured slowly.”* Others tried to justify slavery with the Bible. This was a sad and tragic era in the history of Triennial Baptist churches south of the Mason Dixon line.

Thus, over the issue of missionaries being denied appointment because of slavery, “a total of 293 delegates” representing a “substantial” number of local churches gathered on “May 8, 1845 in Augusta, Georgia” and formed the Southern Baptist Convention.** Thankfully, Southern Baptists today continue to repudiate the reprehensible view some in the early SBC held toward people of color.

The Tent

Now, what hath London to do with Augusta? Why start this post with Benjamin Keach?

Because, as the faculty blog of SEBTS notes, “In 1845, when the Southern Baptist Convention was formed, every delegate came from a church or association that had adopted the Philadelphia Confession or an abstract of the document.”

Nearly 300 delegates and every single one of them was influenced by Benjamin Keach and the uncool 17th-century Baptists of England. Which, we must also point out that historically the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith (written in 1677) had nothing to do with American chattel slavery. I only mention this because you cannot argue historically that the Confession was a pro-slavery document. The error in the early SBC was in spite of the Philadelphia Confession they held to, not because of it.

So, now, we are ready to get to a point!

Sometimes you will hear Southern Baptists today saying, “What we agree on is more than what we disagree on” or, important for this post, “the SBC is a big tent!”

Now, there is some truth in that. We have differences of style or eschatology, or how flashy our bulletins ought to be, or whether we can preach from an iPad. But despite these differences, we can, and should, still partner together for mission.

After all, at its inception, Southern Baptists said their organization was about “directing the energies of the whole denomination in one sacred effort, for the propagation of the Gospel.”***

However, the SBC in 1845 didn’t merely unite just for the purpose of “mission” but had a very rich theological underpinning. Yes, the SBC partners for mission. But this partnership began with serious theological parameters. Doctrinal parameters must be maintained, for if the tent is too big, the cooperation fails.

Because, theologically, being a Southern Baptist, at least in the beginning, was about a rich and glorious orthodoxy. A Confession that had a high view of God, a biblical view of the local church and its male leadership, and a robust trust in the sufficiency of Scripture, was held to by our Baptist forefathers.

Again, I am willing to admit this was not always applied correctly, but this is not the Confession’s fault, nor is it the Bible’s. It is the hearts of men that are to blame.

Now, I do not imply that one must hold to the Philadelphia Confession of 1742 in order to be a “true” Southern Baptist. But I do, without reservation, say that we must hold clear conservative doctrinal convictions. So, everyone who calls themselves a Southern (or Great Commission™) Baptist, is not necessarily SBC. You can’t say you’re SBC for the sake of “mission” and yet be removed from certain doctrinal standards, like those defined in the Baptist Faith and Message (2000)

The SBC was never designed to be such a big tent that orthodoxy was in question. But even beyond that- it was never designed to allow for, say, paedobaptism. Nor was the tent built for various views of women pastors, or for any to take or leave the sufficiency of Scripture, etc.

The SBC was always meant to agree on not only the gospel, but even other core issues. To partner for mission without that understanding is to misunderstand why the SBC even exists. Southern Baptists did not join in this large association with Presbyterians or free will Baptists “for the sake of the gospel.” Rather, they came together from a likeminded theological position as articulated by the Philadelphia Confession.

Categories
Critical Theory Racism Reform SBC Author

Making a Statement: A Response to the New Statement on Justice, Repentance, and the SBC

I just read the new statement on Justice, Repentance, and the SBC (hereafter referred to as JRS) posted over at https://www.justicerepentancesbc.org on 12/18/2020. I’d like to offer several quick reactions.

Included in these reactions is also my reaction to J.D. Greear’s statement on the JRS statement. I guess you’re reading a statement on statements that are themselves responses to statements (like here and more recently here).

In this post-Thanksgiving 2020 season, we’ve been inundated with a cornucopia of statements. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

So, here are my initial reactions:

1. I’m not sure how many times the SBC can repent for its being founded on slavery. The JRS statement is proudly headlined with “PUBLISHED ON DECEMBER 18TH 2020, THE 155TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE PROCLAMATION OF THE THIRTEENTH AMENDMENT, ABOLISHING SLAVERY AND INVOLUNTARY SERVITUDE”

Which, to me, is in itself another statement. Praise God that slavery has been abolished in our country. But it is placed in the article in such a way as to show a union exists between the JRS and the 13th amendment that doesn’t exist between those who would oppose the JRS.

The SBC has repeatedly acknowledged its ugly, sin-laden history and repented of it. In fact, I challenge anyone to find one Southern Baptist who does not repudiate slavery.

The point, of course, is to label one’s position in such a way that to disagree with it is to disagree with the 13th amendment. As Captain Hook would say, “Bad form.”

2. The original statement is so laden with CRT categories like “power” and “influence” that it is either done in blatant ignorance or maliciously. I don’t understand how those writing this statement could not see this.

To say that those opposed to CRT are just concerned about losing power is to itself affirm the tenets of CRT even if people continue to deny holding to CRT!

3. To accuse brothers, like me, who rightly hate CRT of only caring about “winning” is the height of uncharitableness.

Faithful brothers and sisters who have given their lives to serving Christ are boiled down to simply only being concerned about “winning”. That’s a shameful move.

4. President Greear said “I, for one, remain committed to a posture of humility.” A statement on abasement I guess.

I have a few issues with that. First, J.D. could have exemplified this humility by stepping down as president and giving his position to a minority person. That is if he *actually* believed what he is writing. But it appears to me he does not. If he did, then why hasn’t he humbly stepped aside?

Secondly, why is pro CRT the “humble” position? This seems like virtue signaling to the max. Thirdly, we must be wary of the tactic over the years of moving away from certainty not with the word “doubt” but with the word “humility.” Note that I am not accusing J.D. of being sinister.

But I am saying this historically orthodoxy moves from certainty, to “humility”, to doubt, to rejection. This is not the type of humility we want to have.

Fourthly, and I am not the one who initially pointed this out, this statement reeks of the “Trumpism” so many rail against. It sounds like, “I’m the most humble person I know.” A leader who is humble doesn’t have to tell people how humble he is.

5. “Great Commission Baptists” is going to mean woke Baptists isn’t it? It’s going to mean that if you’re not woke, you don’t care about the Great Commission. This is sad.

6. The SBC presidents’ statement against CRT has stirred this up. Good. It needs to be stirred up.
We need the battle lines drawn so that Southern Baptists can clearly see what is going on and what is at stake here. I don’t agree with the JRS statement (as you have probably discerned) but I’m glad it now exists because it helps to identify that there are two diametrically opposed views here.

7. The issue remains over the sufficiency of Scripture. I don’t care how many times someone says they hold to the sufficiency of Scripture. If they employ CRT categories, they practically deny it (whether sinisterly intentional or just ignorantly).

8. Please pray for the SBC. Nashville is going to be telling toward our future. I remain committed to the Southern Baptist Convention because I refuse to hand over our institutions to a liberal trajectory and wokism. May God bring reformation.