"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Southern Baptists, Adolph Hitler, and the Danger of Exalting "Cultural Religion" Rather than Jesus Christ

One of great Christian books of all time is Henry Scougal's classic work "The Life of God in the Soul of Man." Many of our forefathers began their religious journey believing Christianity was a standard of moral purity or a behavioral ethic, but came to see through this penetrating work of Scougal that Christianity, at its very heart, is God's life in man's soul. A Christian is different from the natural man because of the change that has come to his heart and soul, not because of his outward "moral" behavior.

If you struggled reading and understanding that last sentence you might want to read it again. The danger of judging a Christian by outward behavior is that certain behaviors considered "sins" in one culture, are considered "norms" in another culture (i.e. "the eating of meat," "the drinking of wine or beer," "the use of certain words or gestures" etc . . .). In one particular culture on the mission field it is considered "evil" for a man to touch another woman in water, therefore, if a "man" baptizes a woman in that culture, an evil action has just occured. When we as Southern Baptists start defining Christianity by our "cultural standards of behavior" we have lost sight of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ and the esssence of true Christianity --- the change in a person's heart.

A great example of the dangers Southern Baptists face when putting too much emphasis on outward behaviors comes to us from 1934 and a meeting in Germany with the Baptist World Alliance. Dr. William Allen has written about this meeting in an article entitled How Baptists Assessed Adolph Hitler.

In this very interesting article Dr. Allen quotes several Southern Baptists who wrote of their impressions of Adolph Hitler at the time. The following are excerpts from the article:

(As Baptists entered the hallway where Hitler had recently convened a gathering of his party in Germany they saw) a huge painting of historic Baptist figures William Carey, J. G. Oncken and Charles H. Spurgeon standing at the foot of a cross. Alongside this trinity hung an equally imposing flag of the Third Reich -- a vivid reminder of the bloody June purge of many of Hitler’s former friends and the repression of the Jews.


Most Baptists in Berlin spoke boldly against the racism, nationalism and militarism so prevalent in the Germany of 1934. Unfortunately, not all Baptist delegates to Berlin interpreted the tragedy of the German situation the same. “Quite a number of correspondents of our Southern Baptist papers writing about the BWA seemed to have a kindly feeling and a good word for Hitler and his regime,” wrote R. H. Pitt in Religious Herald, singling out one variety of Baptists who seemed particularly vulnerable to German propaganda. Victor I. Masters of the Western Recorder went even further, writing, “Most of the testimony we have from our brethren who went to the Baptist World Alliance in Berlin has seemed with great spontaneity and readiness to accept the opinion that all is well in Germany -- especially in regard to religious liberty.” Even Dr. Bradbury, the Boston pastor who dreaded crossing the German border, changed his mind about the Nazis.

Knowing now the depth of the violence which was beginning to grip Berlin in 1934, we wonder why some Baptists, particularly Americans, were susceptible to Hitler’s propaganda. What in their appraisal of foreign affairs allowed them to be seduced by Nazism? How could they support a regime so incompatible with peace and justice?

For one thing, Baptist delegates tended to assess larger social issues through the narrow gauge of a simplistic personal ethic. The Alliance noted, “It is reported that Chancellor Adolf Hitler gives to the temperance movement the prestige of his personal example since he neither uses intoxicants nor smokes” (Official Report of the Fifth Baptist World Congress). Even Dr. Sampey, wary of the Nazis, cautioned against too-hasty judgment of a leader who had stopped German women from smoking cigarettes and wearing red lipstick in public. After being so afraid to enter Germany, Dr. Bradbury, once there, found himself delighted with the forced morality of the fascists. He wrote:

It was a great relief to be in a country where salacious sex literature cannot be sold; where putrid motion pictures and gangster films cannot be shown. The new Germany has burned great masses of corrupting books and magazines along with its bonfires of Jewish and communistic libraries (Watchman-Examiner XXII 37 (September 13, 1934).

Surely a leader who does not smoke or drink, who wants women to be modest, and who is against pornography cannot be all bad, or so the reasoning went. As M. E. Aubrey of England observed in the Baptist Times, Hitler had “brought almost a new Puritanism, which makes its appeal to our Baptist friends, and for the sake of which they can overlook much that cuts across their natural desires.” Baptists from the United States ignored the fact that interpreters were barred from even rendering the word “democracy” in Aubrey’s speech. Priority was placed on personal habits, to the detriment of larger, more vital issues.


May God prevent us as Southern Baptists from losing sight, again, of larger, more vital issues. The spread of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ is our mission, and by placing too much emphasis on those issues that have nothing to do with our mission we are in danger of repeating our error of 1934.

Every trustee of the IMB, every pastor in the Southern Baptist Convention, every missionary on the field, every person who gives to the Cooperative Program needs to understand something very, very clearly. We are NOT starting Southern Baptist churches on the mission field. There is NO SUCH THING AS A SOUTHERN BAPTIST CHURCH ON THE MISSION FIELD. A Southern Baptist church is a cultural phenomena in America. On the mission field we are taking the gospel of Jesus Christ to people in need of a Saviour. We are praying for God to call out people (the ekklesia) to Himself and deposit His life into their souls. These are the churches (ekklesia gatherings) being started. This is missions. This is what the IMB is all about.

Let's keep the main thing the main thing.

In His Grace,


Wade

56 comments:

Joe Mishenry said...

Wade, thanks for that last paragraph. Thanks for helping the SBC to realize it. I've known it for a long time but those who come to "help" haven't known it. Also, thanks for your advocacy in behalf of the IMB missionary force.

T. D. Webb said...

Well said, brother Wade! If you ever consider moving the ministry the Lord has given you from the great church in Enid. . .well. . .you know. . .let's do lunch! :^)

In His Grace and Peace,

GuyMuse said...

Wade writes: "We are NOT starting Southern Baptist churches on the mission field. There is NO SUCH THING AS A SOUTHERN BAPTIST CHURCH ON THE MISSION FIELD.."

Therein lies some of the friction of this ongoing dialogue (debate?) Since S. Baptists are paying the global missions bills, there is an expectation that what is being paid for resemble that which is known as "church" back in the USA.

I believe many fellow Southern Baptists are just now beginning to realize exactly what it is you have written above. Some may feel a bit uneasy about whether or not these "churches" are real churches. I can assure you they are quite real, and it is a very beautiful thing to be part of!

When New Directions came on the scene, our M team spent significant time trying to understand and define what a N.T. church should look like from what is revealed to us in Scripture. (Sounds crazy, doesn't it? M trying to figure out what a church is!) I can only speak here for myself, but it was a difficult and even painful process involving significant paradigm changes.

What we began to realize is that in many ways, the N.T. church looks quite different from the church we all were raised in back home in the States.

We have come to an understanding of church as a band of baptized believers, tied relationally one to another, on mission with God to bring about His Kingdom on earth. It is a much simpler expression of church than the complex organizations that many USA churches have become.

I like the "baptistic" word you often use. This better describes the kind of churches being planted in at least our region of the world.

Lynn Myers MD said...

Sadly too many in the church still today think of the Godly life of Jesus as an outward thing... rather than an inward miraculous Godly work that flows outward changing our whole being.

Jay R. said...

"There is NO SUCH THING AS A SOUTHERN BAPTIST CHURCH ON THE MISSION FIELD."

That is the most important statement you have made on this blog.

Kris said...

Studying our church history does have value. As you have clearly shown, its value is in learning from our past mistakes.

Miss Nibbles said...

This was a very interesting entry.

Miss Nibbles

martyduren said...

Dude,
You'll probably get smoked for that last long paragraph, but so true.

Also, this is a great post. Maybe we could email it to Richard Land and James Dobson? It would do us well to remember that all major US corporations were in bed with Hitler and the US State Dept refused entry to many Jews seeking to leave.

If it had not been for the "confessing church" of Bonheoffer and others, I'm not sure there would have been an authentic witness left. Erwin Lutzer's book on Hitler includes a photo of a German church with the Nazi flag hanging at the altar. The blending of church and Nazism in some congregations would rival the blending of church and secular politics in America today.

It really makes me wonder if people are reading that Jesus' "kingdom is not of this world."

JUSTAMOE said...

The SBC truly seems now to struggle to possess a "convention does not equal kingdom" mentality and to act accordingly. Instead, our thought--even if not explicitly stated--over the years has been, "If it isn't SBC, it can't be any good, or godly". Clearly, that idea isn't true and, again, it denies the existence and ministries of other evangelical believers who are the equal of SBC'ers in every good way.

Thanks, Wade, for continuing to clarify the issue about which you began this blogsite months ago. This kind of work will need to continue prior to the SBC's annual meeting in June. If it doesn't--in all available media--the messengers attending that meeting will be ill-informed and actually not prepared to cast their important votes.

martyduren said...

Wake up and approve my comment!!

Former M said...

Wade,

You do recognize by implication that we are starting churches, doing evangelism, and working in theological education alongside diverse Baptists who do not accept the BF&M 2000? We have worked with diverse Baptist missionary groups from the US and Europe over the years in full cooperation at "the front end" of missions.

I have seen some comments on the blog that seem not to understand what you have stated here. The world is not monolithic, and our missionary presence overseas does not mean that we work in isolation from other groups of Baptists.

I remember a regional leader telling me that "we would not cooperate with people who do not share our BF&M 2000 beliefs for things like church planting and doctrinal instruction." In point of fact, we do so every day, as missionaries do church planting, evangelism, and seminary teaching alongside Baptists of different stripes, even some non-Baptists teaching in Baptist seminaries across the world.

The work overseas does not belong to the SBC. It is a cooperative venture in which we trust God for its future. The attitude that we own Baptist work around the world smarts of imperialism to Baptists around the globe.

No Name said...

Wade,
Good post. A good reminder that we are called to plant churches true to the gospel and Jesus not the denom. or our American culture. Press on !

Anonymous said...

Wade,

For your last paragraph,

AMEN, AMEN AND AMEN!

THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

IMB M

farouttraveler said...

I agree with Marty.
You might get waxed for that last paragraph.True statement though.

Anonymous said...

Wade, Mom and I have always known you are solid personally, theologically sound and historically astute, but this Post is the best evidence of that I've seen in a long time. You have shown what a true Christian and a true Baptist are in that order and in combination.
You are personally consistent to all you've said in previous blogs,you understand to be a Christian is bigger than any denomination or movement,or nation, and you correctly see that our goal as a denomination is not to transplant ourselves organizationally or culturally but to reproduce the life of Christ in human beings over this globe through the gospel being shared. And, for what it's worth, we know your character and cooperative spirit are second to none. We could not be prouder of you or your family and church than we are at this moment. You and all your young blogger friends are making this old pastor/teacher excited anew about being a Baptist. Of course I never lost my excitement about being a Christian.

Dad

Wade Burleson said...

Marty,

It is you who needs to go to bed at an earlier hour! (Or at least post after 7:00 A.M. Central) :)

Anonymous said...

Wade,
I agree one hundred percent and then would add one more statement: Not only are we not planting SB churches neither are we westernizing other cultures. To force our standards of dress, make-up, ethics, etc. is to place too much emphasis on the outside of the cup ... and not enough on the inside -- where the Holy Spirit produces life.
I add this statement because on my desk is a brochure from the IMB asking for women who "will exchange beauty techniques with African women." How ridiculous!

Greg Cloud said...

Praise God! King Jesus is alive and well, and still speaks to His people. (when they agree to listen, that is) He has shown us that Christianity is not a 'religion', but a RELATIONSHIP with a living, loving, holy King and Savior. That is so cool to me. I have seen the wreckage that results when people think of Christianity as just a religion--a moral standard--and act like the world because their lives are not changed by the presence of the living Lord. Jesus is alive! He does change lives! He does lead His people! Praise God!

Sorry, I just get excited talking about Jesus and sharing with other brothers and sisters in Christ.

Wade, don't worry about getting "waxed". He did not give us a Spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind. All things work together for good to those who love God, and are the called according to His purpose...You know where I'm going.

Kevin Bussey said...

Wade,

Great post! Especially the last paragraph. We need to understand that our enemy is not other believers. We are on the same team as long as we can agree on the essentials.

art rogers said...

The mistake that many of the Roman Catholic missionary priests made when taking their message around the world was to insist that the culture adapt themselves to the culture of the priests.

Moreover, there are quite a few examples of pagan rituals that were adopted into that church tradition. Christmas trees, the date of Christmas, etc. are examples.

The bleeding of church and culture into one another is a tricky thing. We want to address every culture with the same Lord. We need to adapt ourselves appropriately, while not forcing cultural adaptation innappropriately.

Love the last paragraph. Good stuff.

Anonymous said...

I try not to get too excited over some of the ridiculous ideas I hear promoted as Christian, for two (at least)reasons: (1)my comments would be water off a duck's back to the writer/speaker and (2)I am ashamed for the sake of the Gospel to give any wider publicity to such things. But I can't help commenting on the idea of sending American women to give beauty tips to African women. The climate is different, and for many of us their hair texture is different. Although possibly the idea is to be doctrinally correct and

andrea said...

Wade,

Preach it brother!

I really like what you said... “When we as Southern Baptists start defining Christianity by our "cultural standards of behavior" we have lost sight of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ and the esssence of true Christianity --- the change in a person's heart.”

So often we are focused on what is known to us as a society. For those that have experienced different cultures by travelling outside of their comfort zone (whether that is across town or across the pond) have had the opportunity to “see” God’s great creation. We are uniquely created, given talents to be used for the enlarging the kingdom. We are different..and aren't we glad! Spice of life!

We must remember as your said “There is NO SUCH THING AS A SOUTHERN BAPTIST CHURCH ON THE MISSION FIELD. A Southern Baptist church is a cultural phenomena in America. On the mission field we are taking the gospel of Jesus Christ to people in need of a Saviour. We are praying for God to call out people (the ekklesia) to Himself and deposit His life into their souls.”

Amen!

Very well said.

Kevin said...

Wade
I to am a history buff and if you look at any of the dictators in history they do their best to be appealing to those in leadership to suck them into their web. Hitler did this to more than just the Baptist. That only increases the call to SBC pastors to seek in making our denomination one that listens to all sides inside the SBC that we can cooperate in the field. We must know that every culture is different and we cannot squeeze our idea of church into some one else’s mold. We must hold to the gospel as spelled out in scripture. (Not the way Mormons or Jehovah witnesses’ do. their Jesus and mine are very different.) To the missionaries they must be flexible in the culture they live in to reach people for Christ. Remember the word of Paul in 1st Corinthians 9:19-23.

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.
We must do all that we can aside from watering down the gospel to win people to the KINGDOM not to the sbc.

Teresa said...

Thanks so much Wade. Something the Lord has put our hearts to address for so long now and you did it very well, although we have a LONG way to go--the Lord is taking back His church! It was never ours to begin with.

Anonymous said...

I try not to get too excited over some things that are promoted as Christian but seem ridiculous at best to me. I seldom if ever reply to them for (at least) 2 reasons: (1) my comments would be like water off a duck’s back to the writer/speaker and (2) for the sake of the Gospel message I don’t want to give wider publicity to such ideas. But this idea of American women giving beauty tips to African women seems a little much. For many American women there are differences in hair textures and skin color; even if African-American women went, the climate is different. But maybe the purpose is to teach them that cornrows and other forms of braiding are unbiblical (see I Timothy 2:9, cited in BF&M 2000 (!), which would also prevent the women who go from wearing pearls or gold).
Jesus told us to meet physical needs (food, clothing) as well as spread the Gospel, and activities such as medical service, teaching English, etc. both meet needs and may give openings to tell of Jesus. But exchanging beauty tips in another culture as a mission project seems - well, I can’t quite find a polite word for it! Ludicrous seems an understatement.

Susie

Joe Mishenry said...

“Therein lies some of the friction of this ongoing dialogue (debate?) Since S. Baptists are paying the global missions bills, there is an expectation that what is being paid for resemble that which is known as "church" back in the USA.

This statement by Guymuse above got me thinking….

I think the SBC needs a lesson on the difference between a market-economy and a gift-economy. In the market economy, there are usually two people involved in a transaction. Something is provided in exchange for a payment. There is expectation on both sides: that the payment is good and that the product is one of a certain quality.

We deal in this world everyday. It is what consumer-driven America is built on. In fact, we have let it flood into our Christianity to the point that we have been blinded by it. We shop for the right church that will give us the best program-products for our kids in exchange for our tithe. We are taught to invest in relationships with the expectation that the new friend will “buy into” our brand of Christianity. We give money to missions and expect certain kind of Baptist churches to be planted around the world. The IMB demands a certain parameter of theology (resigning the BFM) for the money they pay to their missionaries. The SBC recently quit a transaction with the BWA because the BWA was not providing the product that the SBC wanted for their money.

The gift-economy, however, involves at least three people. Something is given to someone and that person is expected to give something to another person. It is amazing what happens when the third person enters the picture. Relationship develops instead of exchange of goods and services. Kester Brewin in his book The Complex Christ says, “We cannot go through life buying and paying for everything, for to do so would leave us empty and soulless.”

Our Bible actually starts out with this concept. In Genesis 12 God sets up this scenario with Abraham by telling him that he will be blessed so that he can bless others. And of course, Jesus operated on this gift-economy as well. We are to pass the gift on to others. He rejected outright the crude “transactionalism” that Satan offered him in the desert. He gave us a gift that we could not pay for if we tried.

There is an amazing openness in this gift-economy. It is also incredibly inefficient! There’s room for failure and disappointment, but also room for surprise. What if someone doesn’t pass it on? What if someone takes the gift and corrupts it? Or what if you receive a gift from someone you had targeted as bad or beneath the ability to even give gifts.

Can anything result from such an open, inefficient system? Do the names Linux, Wikipedia, Firefox mean anything? These are all free, open-source software products, which started as humble gifts by some programmer. But they were designed to be passed to others who could improve upon them.

It is sad to see the Baptist community sold out to the market-economy when the world is learning the gift-economy. Just google “gift economy” and see for yourself.

JUSTAMOE said...

By the way, if guymuse is the Guy Muse that I know of, he's been doing a terrific job on the foreign mission field for years--and so has/did his family.

Anonymous said...

I have sat staring at the post and comments in disbelief. I cannot believe a Southern Baptist leader would right such a thing. Certain SBC leaders - one cited here - brag about their access to White House leaders. The SBC has made being a Republican a requirement for salvation; and it has boiled the Christian life down to one's views on abortion and homosexuality. It even today attempts to control or remove groups like the WMU who will work with "unapproved" groups ... meaning those who do not hold the BF&M as equal to Scripture. Amid all of this, I thank the Lord there are those who have not been kicked out of the SBC than can see the fallacy of the above. Anytime the church baptizes a political agenda or equates faith and morality, it is on the wrong path IMHO ... at least not a Baptist path. Wade, you provide much hope that the SBC is not as lost as feared. Grace and peace.

Anonymous said...

Grrrrrrrrr....
Baptist are NOT paying "global mission bills" we are giving to support movements that result in the fulfilling of the Great Commission. It is an offering given freely to those wishing to fulfill the task, not a tribute exacted from the masses. I am not PAID by SBC, I am sent, commissioned and support by you. Please don't relegate our mission to the corporate norms.

and
Wade, thanks for all you do and are and for stinding in the gap for us on the field.

To all SBC'er's...thanks for allowing me to reach the nations.

-peace, an EU "M"

Anonymous said...

Wade,

Bless you, bless you, bless you, my brother. Perhaps your statement, "We are NOT starting Southern Baptist churches on the mission field. There is NO SUCH THING AS A SOUTHERN BAPTIST CHURCH ON THE MISSION FIELD..", could be incorporated into the vision statement for the IMB. Think it would fly?

Grace/Peace in Jesus,

Marshall Johnston

Jason Morrison said...

I would like to make three comments. First, I agree it is important not to let cultural norms be a barrier to discipleship. So I agree it is perfectly biblical for a Christian woman to baptize a Yemeni woman if there are prohibitions against man touching her in water. However, if the cultural norm is unholy (ancestor worship), then I would council the new convert to take up his or her cross and follow Jesus, forsaking the practice.

Second, I fully understand the comment made in the last paragraph of the post, however isn't the responsibility of the Christian Missionary, who shared the gospel, witnessed the confession by the new convert when he or she proclaimed Jesus as Lord, saw true repentance, over time saw the transformation of life, to disciple the new convert?

And if you agree with this statement, do you not think a Baptist Missionary should disciple the convert according to his doctrinal convictions? Baptist Ecclesiology?

I do believe these churches need not be labeled as Southern Baptist, but it is important for our missionaries to disciple, and when they do I want it to be based on a doctrinal standard.

While the BF&M might not be the best Baptist Confession, it is the standard for our missionaries, approved by the Convention. There seems to be much dislike for it, however if we are going to plant churches we must be unified as to what a healthy church looks like. If we cooperate with other missionaries who have vast differences in ecclesiology, we unnecessarily risk the church's future by starting them off on the wrong footing.

Third, I encourage everyone to post their names. Withholding your identity seems less than genuine and unchristian.

Sincerely,
Jason Morrison

Wade Burleson said...

Jason,

Can't say I disagree with you on any point you have made, except . . .

(1). Baptist ecclesiology, even as defined by the BF&M leaves room for broad interpretations of the universal church, along with the specific statements regarding a local church. The issue at the forefront of SBC life is simply this: Are there ekklesia (called out ones) in churches other than "Baptist" churches?

(2). Until there is no danger of any missionary, agency worker, or other denominational employee being labeled a "heretic," or a "liberal," or threatened with the loss of his/her job for voicing his/her well reasoned, Biblical interpretations that just may be different from others, but well within the framework of the BF&M, and more importantly, Scripture, they should not have to sign their names.

GuyMuse said...

Joe Mishenry,

Your thoughts above about market/gift economy deserve a blog of your own! I had never thought about it in those terms. Good point.

justamoe,

I'd love to know who you are to reconnect. Yes, my folks were M as well. Thanks for the kind words.

anon. EU "M"

Your point is well taken about paying "global mission bills". It wasn't my intent that it should come across quite that way you seem to have interpreted. I too am most grateful to all those giving who are doing so out of a loving, caring, giving spirit for reaching our world for Christ (read JoeMishenry's comment.) However, I do think that many of those supporting us have not understood the point that Wade is making in his original post. These are not S. Baptist churches; they are more "baptistic churches", and therein lies the rub for some who would not be satisfied unless they see on the field the same kind of churches we have back home.

Jason Morrison said...

Pastor Burleson,
Your points are well taken. Heretic, is a word which should be uttered with great discernment and care. Liberal is a word with little meaning without a sound context. I do not have first hand knowledge of name calling or intimidation within the denominational agencies regarding past or present missionaries.

I do not put much weight into anonymous rants.

I do hope the conversations will continue concerning the godly reformation of our common denomination. We have need of vast reform in our personal lives and in our local churches.

You are correct concerning the openness of our BF&M statement concerning the church. I am positive there is much disagreement on how "governed by His laws, exercising gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word," should be interpreted.

I pray one of the results from this conversation (among many Southern Baptists) will be to lead us all to the renew our efforts to search the Scripture so that we attain a godly vision of purity in both the local and universal church.

We need transparency and openess in changes in policy regarding our agencies.

We need more humility and charity.

We need a good discussion on what constitutes a healthy church.

We need to affirm the essential nature of the local church in every Christian's life. The doctrine of the church is not a non-essential. The local church (and it functions) is one of the means by which the Lord keeps us (I hope all people of theological persuations will agree).

Writing off the essential nature of the local church is like throwing the sail of the boat.

I look forward to Greensboro, and the continued debate until then.

Sincerely,
Jason Morrison

Anonymous said...

I can see the headline in the SBTexan already..."Disgruntled Oklahoma Trustee Compares Conservative Southern Baptists with Hitler"

Context...we don't need no stinkin' context!

CharlieMac said...

The last paragraph brought shouts of praise to the heart of this old SBC layman. Then I thought of all the discarded bodies along the path to the realization that cultures are different in other countries (and even communities). Why did it take more than two decades for this realization to come back to us? I wonder how many more souls might have been brought to Jesus had we not fought so strongly amongst ourselves. We have defunded seminaries and organizations, fired leaders, pastors, missionaries, castigated each other, and many other things. All in a movement to become more rigid in our "fellowship" and "cooperation" with other believers. We are so petty and argue about non-essentials while losing sight of the goal. Then wonder why we miss the target? Go figure!

Jason Morrison said...

Charliemac,
I am sincerely interested in the specific non-essentials you are referring to. Could you and others please elaborate with specificity? I am familiar with the two newly implemented policies of the IMB, so could you comment on other examples?

Wade Burleson said...

Jason,

(1). Continualists vs. Cessationists

(2). Being Baptized into a "Body of Doctrine" vs. Being Baptized into "The Lord Jesus Christ."

(3). Premillenialism vs. Amillenialism

(4). Using Instruments in Worship vs. Singing without Instrumentation

(5). Using Wine for the Lord's Supper vs. Using Grape Juice for the Lord's Supper

(6). Arminianism vs. Calvinism

(7). A Man Never Divorced vs. A "One Woman" Man.

(8). King James Only vs. Any Scholarly Translation of the Text

(9). Supralapsarian vs. Infralapsarian.

(10). I would continue but I'm late for supper.

I can fellowship, cooperate, love, and respect people on both sides of those ten issues and dozens more.

These are NON-ESSENTIAL. Notice, I did not say not important -- THEY ARE NON-ESSENTIAL in that MY FELLOWSHIP IS NOT DEPENDENT UPON YOU AGREEING WITH ME!!!

kevin said...

Very interesting post, Wade. I agreed that an SBC church is to a certain extend a cultural phenomenon. I'm sure we all know there has bee a great deal of concern about whether or not we are starting "Baptist" churches overseas.

I've always believed that SBC doctrine is based on careful and balanced interpretation the Bible. I am so confident of this that I don't feel the need to label converts as "Baptist," although many of our students would describe themselves as such.

Here's what I mean. I think that if I train a believer to follow God's word, he/she will "look" like a Baptist. I do not mean coffee and doughnuts at 10:30 Sunday School. I mean his/her basic doctrines (Lordship, Baptism, Salvation, etc) will be the same as those of SBC members in the States.

It should all be about following Jesus and His Word. Great post!!

www.kevsworld.cc

kanonymous said...

After reading pastor Burleson's stimulating blog entry today, I asked myself if Jesus gave any way to discern those with right actions from those who are truly standing with Him. He did. He said, "You will know them by their fruits" (Matt 7:16, 21). In other words, the fruits they display in their lives and conduct will demonstrate if they are truly His or "false prophets" and "wolves in sheep's clothing."

I use the following checklist for my own personal spiritual evaluation, but I believe it works also for groups, organizations, and yes, even a denomination. The scripture says, "Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh" (Gal 5:16). In other words, the person (group or organization) that is led by the Spirit of God will demonstrate such by its conduct. Paul then mentioned the "deeds of the flesh" among which are "enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissentions, factions, and envying" (Gal 5:20-21). James adds, "jealousy, selfish ambition, disorder, and every evil thing" (Jas 3:16). If I ever display these in my life, I know that at least at that moment I am no longer being led by the Spirit of Christ.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is:" 1. "Love" -- Am I displaying the love that Christ has for others?
2. "Joy" -- Does my life demonstrate the joy of the Lord?
3. "Peace" -- Do I have the demonstrated "peace of God that passes all understanding" that shows that I am at peace with God, myself, my Christian brother or sister, and my neighbor?
4. "Patience" -- Am I willing to have forebearance with my brother? Even in issues where we disagree?
5. "Kindness" -- Am I demonstrating that Jesus, first and foremost, wants His followers to be nice people?
6. "Goodness" -- Am I "good" in the "kind" sense of the term?
7. "Faithfulness" -- Am I trustworthy and reliable in all of my dealings?
8. "Gentleness" -- Am I meek and submissive towards God and gentle and considerate towards others?
9. "Self-control" -- Do I have mastery and discipline over myself and my desires?
James adds, "Pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy" (Jas 3:17).

The scripture promises that if indeed I am being led by His Spirit, these things will be evident. I believe the same holds true for groups and organizations. If indeed they are Spirit-led they will demonstrate it by their fruits. Or to quote Jesus once more, "You will know them by their fruits." Any person, group, organization, or denomination that is not being led by God's Spirit -- the best they could offer is "wisdom not from above" (Jas 3:15), and will not accomplish God's purposes. I far prefer to follow leadership that demonstrates the the undeniable presence of God's Spirit rather than flashy and powerful leadership that simply displays a few "good works" (cf. Matt 7:21-23). I believe the Baptists impressed by Hitler and his regime were looking for the wrong things.

Jason Morrison said...

Brother Wade,
Perhaps my reading of Charliemac's post was not clear. I know what doctrines are generally labeled as non-essential.

It was my reading (of Charlimac) that many employees within SBC agencies have been fired over non-essentials. I was asking for examples (not general ones, but specific ones). Who was fired, and why?

I understand when someone says non-essential they are not implying unimportant, I did not imply that in my post.

Wade, are you saying teachers in our seminaries have been fired because they believe instruments should not be used in corporate worship?

Are you saying SBC Agencies heads have been fired because they only use the KJV?

Are you saying a missionary has been fired because she was an amillenialist?

Sincerely,
Jason Morrison

JUSTAMOE said...

Guy:

For now, just be blessed--seriously, your ministry has been impressive because you've worked hard at it and, as far as I know, kept it spiritual (if not, though, an anonymous someone like myself may post a comment to the contrary, Jason's request notwithstanding).


Jason:

Friend, with all due respect: believe it or not, the folks posting anonymously are grown ups. If we knew that we can post our names, you'd know mine. I think that you can deal with this and still dialog about the issues. Let's give it a try, OK? Seriously.

Anonymous said...

jason,

I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Burleson and others about "non-essentials." As always, the devil is in the details ... pun intended. My own personal way I approach this very subjective matter is this: if a significant amount of believers and biblical scholars hold to a particular interpretation or tradition, which goes w/o saying it therefore is orthodox, I can consider it a non-essential. That does not mean I am going to compromise my beliefs, but I respect that brother or sister's walk with Christ enough to participate in Christian fellowship. While I feel strongly about believers baptism, I do not doubt the faith of our brothers and sisters who pracice infant baptism. I will go ahead and take on the most controversial issue in the SBC of late: women in ministry. Personally, I do not think it is up to me to determine for God who He calls whether it be man or woman. Since I take the Bible so seriously, I take Gen 1:26 and Gal 3:28 literally - there is not gender/sexual distinction in the eyes of God. I also point to the female prophets in the OT and the female deacons and disciples in the NT to demonstrate God uses men and women for his purposes. I also note Paul's admonition to women in 1 Cor 11:5 to cover their heads when they preach or pray. Others disagree with my interpretation, and I respect that point of view - although I would appreciate the "contextual" arguments used against women in ministry to be applied equally to other issues, but that is another point. Regardless, women in ministry became the line in the sand ... one could not be in the SBC if one accepted God called women in ministry. This always seemed strange to me; no where in Scripture does Jesus imply this is the critical issue for the faithful. In addition, as a Baptist, I believe this is a matter of local church autonomy. However, the SBC power brokers disagreed and fired or ran off anyone who would not decry women in ministry. That is just one example I would label "non-essential." As an aside to the anonymous post, I think Mr. Burleson and others for respecting the unfortunate reality ... many of use could lose our jobs, our retirements, and our benefits if we dared to speak out ... I guess we lack the prophetic backbone of Hulda.

Anonymous said...

To Wade
My appreciation and respect for you grows. I was considering answering Jason Morrison about why some, myself included, chose to remain semi-anonymous, but you stated the case well. You seem the sort of trustee who would keep identities confidential when told of specific situations. I suppose I do not need to remain anonymous on this blog at this time, but there was a time and situations when I would definitely have needed to do so.

To Jason:

First, Wade knows who I am. When I did my first posting I sent him an email expressing some further opinions that I thought might not fly on this blog. I think since that time that he would have published them even though they disagreed even more than what he has published. He has not "outed" me. I can think of many people, not only IMB missionaries who would want to remain anonymous for similar reasons.

I am amazed that you cannot understand that someone might feel intimidated in a situation, especially employment, if they expressed certain opinions. I will be polite and not ask what world you live in.

I hope I do not seem contentious to remind you that even if you don’t have firsthand knowledge, as some writing on this blog apparently do, there was a time when IMB missionaries were definitely intimidated and there were many media reports of it. Wade was not on the IMB board then and we should NOT ask him what he would have done, since whatever he would answer would displease some. What’s done is done and there is no repair for it even if someone thinks it should have been done differently. Just like recent apologies for slavery before the Civil War: what good do they do, other than raise awareness in the hope of preventing it in the future? They don’t really change anything. People will do what they want to do, whether good or bad, regardless.

Susie

Tim Sweatman said...

Wade,

This is one of the most important posts I have read on any blog. Your statement, "A Christian is different from the natural man because of the change that has come to his heart and soul, not because of his outward "moral" behavior," really resonated with me because I am teaching on the life of Christ on Wednesday evenings, and I just got through with the Sermon on the Mount last week. It seems that we are often like the Pharisees in that we focus on changing external behavior, as if that alone will put one in favor with God. But as you have reminded us, Jesus emphasized that true righteousness is the result of one's being changed on the inside by the supernatural work of God, which then changes the external behavior. There are many "moral" people who are as lost as lost can be.

It is also essential for us to be reminded that conversion to Christianity does not require conversion to Americanism or even to Southern Baptistism (that's easier to write than say).

Stephen Pruett said...

Jason, I think the concern is now that the IMB has decided to exclude people for service as missionaries on the basis of private prayer language and qualifications of the person who baptized them, exclusion on the basis of any of these other non-essentials is a real possibility. This must stop. Many posts on this and other blogs demonstrate that missionaries and others (Wade, for example) have good reason to be afraid of expressing opinions on non-essentials that differ from the party line. If this continues, one does not need to be a prophet to realize that the future of the SBC is dim. In 50 years it would consist of 2 people with a list of 400 doctrines that they must agree upon to continue to serve together.

Tim Batchelor said...

Do I detect from this conversation that we have missionaries and former missionaries that resent the fact that Southern Baptist Churches send them out expecting them to start baptistic churches or am I mistaken?


Sincerely,

Tim Batchelor

Jason Morrison said...

Justamoe,
It is my intent to keep conversing even though some remain anonymous. It is my assumption that we are adults here. My concern over remaining anonymous is that it creates an atmosphere where accountability cannot take place.

Anonymous (context will tell who),
I respectfully have to disagree with some of your comments. The very fact that God created us male and female means not only does God see a distinction of gender, but God ordained the distinction, to his glory alone.

You also say "the SBC power brokers disagreed and fired or ran off anyone who would not decry women in ministry." I do not know who specifically you are referring to, but no Southern Baptist I have ever met is opposed to women in ministry. If you instead meant women can minister as elders/pastors, then I understand your point, although I do not agree.

I think it is essential that our churches be ordered as closely as possible to NT teaching, including not just the gospels, but the rest of Scripture.

I am thankful, Wade has been public in his opposition to the new policies of the IMB. For one, it definitely appears through his blogging that inappropriate actions were taken by some of the trustes concerning their attempt to oust him.

As a result, what is clearly needed at this point is a discussion of:
1. Why are agencies adding doctrinal standards which exceed the BF&M?
--Should this be something the convention should decide, or trustees?
2. While most of us can have certain degrees of fellowship with other Christians who have different doctrinal standards, the way some non-essential doctrines/practices are applied can be harmful to the essentials. So we cannot simply dismiss non-essentials without much discussion.

The world I live in is the countryside of SC, being accountable to my local church.

Jason Morrison

CharlieMac said...

Wade,
Good partial list of non-essentials.
Jason,
Exactly my point. We seem to be more interested in the non-essentials over the essentials.
The list of essentials to salvation is a much shorter list. Why don't we ask, "What are the essentials to salvation?"

JUSTAMOE said...

Jason:

This blog having become something of a loving team effort, accountability pretty much takes care of itself. The others posting here for quite some time have felt free to chastise even anonymous posters (some posting comments anonymously have done so in less-than-genuine and unchristian ways, and had it pointed out to them). Thanks for your cooperative spirit, though doing so may run contrary to your best desires. The issue isn't about individuals anyway.

darren said...

I thought we were to start New Testament churches?

And who gets to decide what a Baptistic church looks like?

This "control" issue needs to end...

anonymous woman said...

jason, the key of non-essentials is that we can respectfully disagree with one another and not make the role of women, for example, the plumb line of faith. I respect that you disagree with me; that does not mean I cannot work with you. But read your history, hundreds if not thousands were purged from the SBC because they would not deny women can be deacons or pastors. While they may have been ostracized from the SBC, they would have been alongside the apostles and Paul, so I guess they were in good company.

jlady said...

Jason:

Part of the issue for some of us is that we need to remain anonymous from those we deal with in real life. There are missionaries commenting here who may need to remain untraceable and there are also those of us who fear what might happen if people, even our fellow Christians whom we sit next to in church, really knew what we think of things (I have prayed out loud only once in church in the seven years since I was baptised because I am so scared of what might happen if I said something to God that someone might consider not quite right).

If people at my church, where the 2000 BFM is now part of the bylaws, knew that I do have some issues with it, I could get kicked out according to the wording of the BFM as now included in our bylaws. My beliefs have not changed significantly since I was baptised, and yet I could be technically thrown out for those beliefs. The evening I found out the 2000 BFM had been added to the bylaws was one of the scariest nights of my life.

While what I feel is surely a pale shadow of what the missionaries in the field feel, I can empathize on some level. 10 years ago, one set of beliefs was good enough for them to go and spread the good news to the corners of the earth. Then the 2000 BFM came along and the beliefs that used to be okay were not. Now the issues raised about private prayer languages are doing much the same thing. Someone who is considered a wonderful missionary one day may be considered not doctrinally pure enough to evangelize on the next day depending on what the word from the leadership is.

tl said...

Do I detect from this conversation that we have missionaries and former missionaries that resent the fact that Southern Baptist Churches send them out expecting them to start baptistic churches or am I mistaken?

No, but you probably do detect that most missionaries have a keen interest in ecclesiology, whereas the average SB (including pastors), take church, and all its programs and structures, for granted.

I live in a place that is 98% lost--yet I cannot tell you how many times I have had SBs volunteers and in the churches in the USA, ask "why do you want to start new churches here?", even to the point of screaming at us and threatening to call trustees because we are planting new churches (that are baptistic).

Jason Morrison said...

tl,
It is truly lamentable that SB individuals would object to church planting in a region where 98% of the population are separated from Christ.

I would add, it is also lamentable here in SC, where in many cases we have too many churches because members divide not over doctrine, but immaturity.

jlady,
I'm not sure how you feel completely about creeds/statements of faith in general, but I find them to be very helpful in the church. I think all of us here would agree, confessions of faith are only as good as the model true biblical teachings. Some creeds have endured for many years without revision, and others have fallen out of use.

Confessions of faith need to be revised at times. Some issues which the Bible adresses clearly are not problems in the culture today, however particular issues arise in each generation which lead denominations to address them.

Witness the changes in BF&M changes from 1963 to 2000 (and family amendment in 1998)
Issues like homosexuality, pornography, the family, no confidence in the Scripture were addressed. There are other changes as well.

You said, "10 years ago, one set of beliefs was good enough for them to go and spread the good news to the corners of the earth. Then the 2000 BFM came along and the beliefs that used to be okay were not"

It is not my opinion that beliefs changed from the 1963 to the 2000 BF&M, but problems to address.
Maybe you and I do not agree on the changes, but churches must have standards, even on non-essentials (my opinion).

I encourage members in our congregation to always voice their concerns about policy changes.

I would have a hard time worshipping in a church under constant fear due to Scriptural beliefs, if only we could all be as strong as Martin Luther. He not only challenged his church over corrupted essential beliefs, but also over abuses.

Jason Morrison
Little River Baptist Church

Anonymous said...

Here I go again, for whatever good it may do. Hope this isn’t too long.

To Darren: I’m afraid the control issue won’t end as long as we are human. Wish it could be otherwise. About your comment about starting New Testament churches, Don’t we believe that a true New Testament church would be like what we believe a church should be? If not, we should change our beliefs. Not in time-bound cultural things like slavery and women wearing veils and long hair (I think Baptists at least consider these cultural, whatever we think about some other things), but in seeking to follow Jesus.

To Justamoe: I like your term “loving team effort”. We seem to have become somewhat of a community. Our apparent points of agreement: following Jesus (though there is discussion about just how best to do this), interacting with Wade in a Christian (and mostly encouraging) manner, being Baptist (though again, there are differences in how, we seem to be expressing our differences in a polite manner without condemning those holding other views as unchristian - and this is a reflection of the best in Baptist tradition), and reaching those who need Jesus (again some differences in how, but not disagreeing on the need). If we all could take this into the larger community of Baptists things would be a lot better.

To Jlady:
I hurt for you. There are many churches that would not put the BF&M 2000 in their bylaws, and many more who have not done so. There have been pressures from larger groups to get churches, associations, and state conventions to do this, but such “top down” stuff is very unbaptistic. I don’t really want to get into an argument over the 200BF&M in this blog because it’s off-subject, and as I said in another comment, what’s done is done. But before it Baptist confessions were just that: expressions of the beliefs of a particular group of Baptists at a particular time. But the 2000 BF&M seems to have been “written in stone”, and any future attempt to change it would be labeled as heresy since it characterizes itself an instrument of doctrinal accountability. I hope if you cannot remain in your church you will be able to become a part of one in which you can feel accepted and be a part of God’s work. I am so thankful that in my church people may express opinions freely and do so kindly so that fellowship remains even when opinions differ. Despite what some seem to say, we humans do not and cannot know all the truth. We should try to learn God’s will, and should follow what we feel is right, but we should do it in humility, knowing only God has all the truth.

To Jason:
I agree confessions of faith and creeds (there’s a difference) are useful to show a group’s beliefs. I’m with you that beliefs of the people who make up - then or now - the SBC did not change between the 1963 and the 2000 BF&Ms. I think instead that some wanted to make their beliefs the only ones permissible in the SBC. They succeeded and alienated many who up to then had been able to cooperate in God’s work together because up to then they focused on what they agreed on. Also they made the 2000 BF&M a creed rather than a confession. (my comment above) I appreciate your willingness to let others voice their opinions. We learn from others.

As to the “women issue” - which is really a gender or male/female issue - it affects everyone, not just women- I have not discussed it because I feel it also is peripheral to this blog, at least at this time, though it is certainly not peripheral to my personal belief. This also has to do with BF&M 2000 (see my comment above). I am quite willing to discuss, not argue, either one with anyone so inclined, but did not feel this was the place. I say this: I am willing to work for the cause of Christ with anyone willing to work with me for God’s purpose, even those who consider me subhuman. Where our differences preclude us working together, for example, those who want to make Christianity a state religion, I can still consider that person a brother or sister in Christ, and still work with them on what we can agree on if they are willing.

Susie