My dad used to give the illustration of a preacher he knew who underlined a point in the notes he used for his Sunday sermon and then added this comment in the margin (point is weak, shout louder).
It's refreshing to be around someone who is so confident in his position that he does not need to shout at, or shout down, others. By the way, in denominational life shouting does not always mean the increase of the decibal level (though that is often the case), "Christian" shouting is what I call "shaming." It is the intentional put down of a person who disagrees with you before hearing the basis for his disagreement. It is the marginalizing of a person because you can't answer him (not that you won't, but you can't), so you dismiss him as a heretic. It is the "didactic" approach to theology and Christian exegesis ("By gosh, that's what Baptists have always believed, and so do I, and if you don't you are a heretic"). It is a form of religious dictatorship.
Baptists have historically abstained from such an approach. In fact, even during the 18th Century when many European Baptists were moving into liberalism, universalism and Unitarianism, the greatest Baptist scholars in the history of our Baptist faith wrote inductively to prove their positions, and refrained from assuming anything.
A Modern Day Case Study: Inerrancy
Daniel B. Wallace has taught Greek and New Testament courses on a graduate school level since 1979. He has a Ph.D. from Dallas Theological Seminary, and is currently professor of New Testament Studies at his alma mater.
Dr. Wallace is an inerrantist--- inductively. Josh McDowell says Dr. Wallace's writing on the subject of inerrancy is "top flight scholarship." To read Dr. Wallace's position on inerrancy is a lesson in scholarship, humility and the ability to avoid didactic reasoning. Thanks to Paul Littleton and my father for this link.
You can't help but read his article and sympathize with the character assassination that is currently taking place toward this fellow evangelical Baptist. He is being called on blogs a "liberal" and a "heretic." And yet, he is an inerrantist.
It seems that heresy among Baptists is now being defined in terms much narrower than it used to be. Years ago you could be considered a person who did not like to use the word "inerrancy" because it said more of the Bible than the Bible (according to those who held this view) said of itself. Yet back then, a non-inerrantists could be considered a brother in Christ, a fellow evangelical, and even one who held to a "high" and authoritative view of the Word of God.
Not anymore. Now, if you are an inerrantist, because you are one inductively (i.e. you don't assume inerrancy, you prove it, as does Dr. Wallace), you are considered a "heretic" in the eyes of some. Dr. Wallace's present day character assassination is an example of how good, solid, evangelical conservatives can be falsely maligned.
The Current Struggle In the SBC Is NOT Over Inerrancy
The struggle in the Southern Baptist Convention is no longer over inerrancy, but rather, it is over the same didactic approach to minor, non-essential doctrines of the faith (i.e. "Brother, you best believe this or you ain't one of us!"), and then shouting down fellow evangelical conservative Baptists who disagree. Or worse, attempting to remove them.
At first, we were told the resurgence was only going to remove those who did not believe the Bible to be the Word of God. Not many convention conservatives at the time allowed for the fact that some conservative evangelicals believe in the authority and sufficiency of the Word of God but refuse to use the term inerrant, for it says more about the Bible, according to them, than the Bible says about itself, as illustrated by Dr. Wallace's essay.
That is the past. Most people who struggle with using the Word "inerrancy" to define their view of the Bible have left the SBC. I use the word inerrancy all the time and have no problem with it. I believe the Bible is inerrant, but I am ahamed that we have labeled other evangelicals who do not use the word as heretics.
Now, there are those who wish to call me a heretic and marginalize me. I have issued some principled dissent on matters that are non-essential to the faith, and have raised concerns that we are seeing in some SBC agencies a creeping demand for conformity in the non-essentials, by those who take a didactic approach, and shout down those who dissent.
If we are not careful, we will rapidly become a convention that will so marginalize young, conservative, inductive exegetes that are now filling our pulpits that we will wake up one day and aske the question "Where did all the good SBC pastors go?"
There's no reason why we can't become a convention that promotes inductive study, exegetical and expositional preaching, and a gracious and kind spirit to those who disagree with our conclusions on the non-essentials. There may be a few SBC preachers and leaders who shout louder when their arguments are weak, but some of us are going to just need to get used to it, and remind everyone that we aren't going away as others have done.
Too much is at stake.
In His Grace,