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What to Make of Owen Strachan’s Departure

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As you likely know, Owen Strachan is leaving the Southern Baptist Convention.

How should we think about that move?

For starters there are lots of people his departure is good for.  It’s great for everyone connected to Grace Bible Theological Seminary, so great that “great” really doesn’t quite capture how good it is.  Go look on YouTube for the reaction in Cleveland when the Cavs won the Lebron James lottery.  That is what I mean by “great for GBTS.”

It’s great for Dr. Strachan, in fact.  Everything he has written or said about this decision indicates he has a hopeful, aggressive, and entrepreneurial spirit as he engages in this new endeavor (example).  Clearly Dr. Strachan is ready to try his hand as a builder and I expect nothing less than his per-usual excellence in this new pursuit.

The people who it is bad – really bad – for are those of us who care about the faithfulness and future of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Dr. Strachan represents rarified air within scholarly Southern Baptist circles in terms of scholarship, leadership, faithfulness – particularly when one considers his relative youth.  Give his faculty page at the old gig a read.  He’s… accomplished.  Published.  Lead.  Contributed.  Taken stands.

In short, he’s the kind of scholar coming into the very height of his powers that a wise institution not only fights like a wild animal to keep but builds its program on.

But Midwestern wished him well.

And Grace Bible Theological Seminary won the lottery.

And the Southern Baptist Convention lost.

Of immediate importance is that Dr. Strachan was the highest profile Southern Baptist working at a Southern Baptist institution who was regularly and forcefully pushing back against the attempted colonization of historic Christianity by neo-racism through Critical Race Theory.

This, in and of itself, is a catastrophic loss for the Southern Baptist Convention.  Let me ask you, reader, this question:

Dr. Strachan was clearly the #1 opponent of CRT working at a Southern Baptist entity. Who is in the #2 slot behind him?

Don’t worry – I’ll wait.

Insofar as this decision looks like the failure to retain a voice critical of Critical Race Theory the implications for the Southern Baptist Convention are increasingly distressing.

When the news broke a friend told me he is sending his daughter to MBTS’ Spurgeon College and now is questioning the decision.  Strachan, by himself, granted a degree of legitimacy to MBTS among those who see CRT for the danger it is that no other seminary can boast.  That MBTS failed to retain Strachan leaves many of us not just wondering if MBTS is a viable option but whether there is a viable option in the SBC for Seminary education.  It appears the policy of our seminaries is to deny that CRT has any place in their institution even as the content coming to light from their faculty makes clear that CRT is very much at home within those schools.  Owen offered a practical, real-world alternative – again, as I have mentioned, largely by himself – and now the door to a theological education not subject to CRT propaganda appears to have departed the SBC with him.

I once told Owen that I believed he was our Machen because he was taking an unique stand against a popular and egregious error.  His departure makes the parallels more pronounced.  Think I am wrong?  Providentially, Ligonier’s Renewing Your Mind podcast has been running lectures from Dr. Robert Godfrey’s Church History lectures.  Recent episodes have covered the 20th Century Modernist / Fundamentalist split.  This paradigm is the best we have for understanding the current developing divide between woke evangelicals and those who wish to remain within the historical Christian tradition.  Give these episodes a listen and tell me that the comparison is not painfully apt.

  1. Fundamentalism vs. Modernism in the Church
  2. J. Gresham Machen
  3. Remaining Struggles over Fundamentalism and Modernism in the Church

Machen’s departure should have prompted American Presbyterianism to rend their clothes in sackcloth and ashes.  That didn’t happen.  Princeton was lost to apostasy and continues to vomit toxicity to our day.

The Southern Baptist Convention is the place our Presbyterian brothers found themselves long ago.  May the Lord grant we learn from their lesson and act more faithfully.

Let me put a point on this: Get to Nashville.  Vote in every session.  We have two candidates who won’t allow the degradation into Church Intersectionality to continue.  We have a third who might not.  Vote for them.*

Haven’t been planning to go?  No excuses – get to Nashville.

Think the last minute planning will be too difficult?  Stop.  Get to Nashville.

Seriously.  Enough is enough.  Get to Nashville.  Need help?  Reply to this post and we’ll see what we can do.  But get to Nashville – with as many voters as your church can send.  I’m dead serious.

Owen Strachan left the Southern Baptist Convention.  He left not because he was forced out, I think, but because the options outside were better for his calling.  That the options for him outside the SBC were better is to our great shame and his departure has massive and immediate ramifications for our brothers and sisters in Southern Baptist Churches.

If we fail to act now, if we fail to learn from church history, we will find ourselves where the options outside the SBC aren’t merely better but rather the only option for faithful Christians.

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A couple readers have asked that I elaborate here; I honestly assumed it was obvious.  I’ll clarify but I want it to be clear I am speaking for myself and not CR:V or any other contributors.

I think Mike Stone is the best candidate, Randy Adams is another great option. Al Mohler, who I respect as much as anyone in the SBC, is the maybe candidate; if we get the guy who reformed SBTS and speaks on The Briefing every day he’d move straight up the chart like a rocket. However, that he is also Matt Hall’s boss makes the proposition more iffy.

Ed Litton is the no-go candidate in my opinion. The current good ol’ boy network lined up to promote him at every turn, sometimes in a way that is more than a little ethically suspect. He’s also on the record perpetuating the “nothing to see here” approach to the problem of Critical Race Theory in the SBC that the same group of elites promoting him as a candidate have adopted.

I’m confident that Ed is a good man and a fine pastor. However, he is not a good candidate (for the reasons above) to fill the Presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention.

5 replies on “What to Make of Owen Strachan’s Departure”

Who are the two presidential options? You need to name them and say why I’d people will be informed.

“But Midwestern wished him well”. A point I’ll comment on after some backstory.
I’m not a Protestant, nor an evangelical, nor do I have a dog in your fight, but as an outsider looking from afar, I follow news on the SBC as a litmus test of where many evangelical denominations are heading. As the Southern Baptists go, so goes the Southern Baptists.
I actually took an evening class at MBTS 4 years ago, and overheard varied opinions from students on Mr. Strachan, some complimentary, and some not so much.
But to my point, MBTS wishing him well. MBTS was his employer, and when an employee leaves said employment (in this case voluntarily) the reaction can range from anger, to well wishing, to indifference. One thing I’ve learned after 63 years of life, and many years in often toxic workplaces, is that no one is expendable. As a wise old millwright once told me as I was quitting a job many years ago as a much younger man “stick your fist in a bucket of water, then pull it out”. “Does it leave an indentation”? When I answered “no” he said “that’s how much you matter to this company”.
Regardless of Mr. Strachan’s impressive credentials, I submit (and I have no reason to defend) that his former employer’s well wishing (whatever agenda may be behind it if any) is par for the course, and civil, considering how uncivil today’s workplaces are.

Thank you for your article. I, like your friend, am doubting the decision to have my child attend in the fall. I, too, saw Dr. Strachan’s presence as a hopeful sign that my son might be able to learn and grow his faith in a school committed to the truth, or at least one with a clear warning voice. Praying that students attending will be discerning, committed to stand in truth, and will find fellow believers to provide strength and encouragement.

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