The Conservative Resurgence (CR) of the Southern Baptist Convention, an organized movement among grassroots churches to reclaim their institutions from a liberal drift, left us with a convention that is conservative in theology. The revisions to The Baptist Faith and Message from 1998 and 2000 testify to that reality.
But conservatism is about more than theology. It is also about a mindset, or even a “spirit,” that guides our perception of the world. As a teacher, I make a distinction between the ability to memorize information and the ability to synthesize that same information and apply it to new, unforeseen questions. Most students can memorize a list of facts from a study guide and repeat them on a test, but those who truly learn what they have studied can also apply their knowledge to questions that weren’t on the study guide.
Did the CR leave us with a conservative denomination only in the sense that we know how to check all the right theological boxes? Or did it leave us with a denomination that knows how to address new challenges from a posture of conservatism, i.e., in a manner consistent with a deep understanding of our theological confession? The former would be a hollow shell of a short-lived denominational reformation, but the latter would leave us with lasting generations of faithfulness. Which one we will ultimately become remains to be seen.