I appreciate Southern Seminary and have great respect for Dr. Al Mohler and his staff. I highly recommend the Seminary to anyone who asks me.
Dr. Russell D. Moore became Dean of the School of Theology and Senior Vice President for Academic Administration of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in January 2004. I do not know Dr. Moore personally, but have corresponded with him by email on a couple of occasions.
Recently Dr. Moore spoke to students at Southern on the subject of "The Confessions of a Fundamissional Dean: Are Southern Baptists Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, or What?"
There are many very good things that Dr. Moore says in his lecture.
However, Dr. Moore seemed to lapsed into a particularly weak, unscholarly argument about thirty minutes into his lecture that needs challenged. Maintaining my respect for Southern Seminary and Dr. Moore, and voicing my unqualified and unconditional love for both, I would like to offer the following rebuttal of Dr. Moore's comments (bold print) during a five minute section of the hour long lecture (minutes 32-36).
After Dr. Moore commends bloggers who write helpful things he said, "You have some bloggers in the SBC who are just immature jerks. But the things they are blogging about are just the same kinds of things they would be saying as immature jerks in a seminary cafeteria just now the have a venue to say these sort of things. And then you have the blogofascists --- a group of people who are using blogs in order to spread gossip and division and in order to use these blogs as means to destroy. Those are very different things."
I am not sure to whom Dr. Moore is referring. I realize I am fairly new to the blogging world, but most of the blogs I have read concerning the SBC, even those with whom I disagree, do seem to have the best interest of the SBC at heart. I wish that Dr. Moore, as my wife suggested when she heard this comment, "Would not broadbrush bloggers and be very specific when he makes an accusation like this."
"But much of the concern comes from people who are looking at blogs, they don't understand what blogs are necessarily -- (being from) another generation -- but they are seeing fruit from these blogs that's horrifying --- it's horrifying. And so when you have for instance Bobby Welch, standing up and saying in a statement that is easily ridiculed by most people, "that if people would stop blogging and start soul winning you would see more people coming to faith in Christ" -- there's something there. Because when you go through and look at many of the people who are setting themselves up as the tutors of the SBC through their blogs, mostly using cynycism and ridicule in order to do this, and then you look at these churches and see "who are these people reaching" --- no one --- very few people. Maybe Bobby Welch is on to something there."
Again, to whom is Dr. Moore referring? Has he actually looked at the ACP (Annual Church Profile) reports of the churches of pastors who blog? I know he can't be referring to the church I pastor or the churches that are pastored by those I know who blog because these are some of the most evangelistic, community oriented churches in our convention. I wish Dr. Moore would be more precise with his information, or simply choose not to make inflammatory comments like this one.
You also see an abandonment of Baptist distinctives that I think comes from Southern Baptists becoming so enamored with American evangelical life. We're at the situation right now where if you make a statement that would be agreed with by almost every Baptist in the history of the church you will be called a Landmarker.
A strong statement Dr. Moore, but we'll give you the benefit of the doubt to allow you to prove your case.
If you say, "Baptism is only by immersion and anything else is not baptism at all" there are going to be people in the Southern Baptist Convention who will say, "Well you are a Landmarker."
This is an astounding statement.
Dr. Moore, I challenge you to show me one comment --- not several, not a few --- simply ONE comment from a Southern Baptist blog that calls someone who baptizes by immersion "Landmark."
I believe you have misrepresented the position of blogs that have questioned the advance of Landmarkism in the SBC.
I'm sure it is unintentional on your part, but I would urge you not to make statements within the context of a seminary lecture without verifiable support and evidence.
If you say, "It's not just the baptism --- it's not just an act of personal testimony --- it is the church that is actually speaking. The church --- what the church believes is important in the act of baptism, you are going to have people say, "You're a Landmarker."
Not so, Dr. Moore. Dr. John Gill, the Hebrew linquist and scholar deluxe of Baptists in the 18th Century,spoke very clearly about baptism identifying a person with Christ, not the church, and how its proper place was "outside" the church. Yes, baptism is to be a 'prerequisite' for church membership, but the "doctrine" of the church was not the emphasis in the New Testament at baptism; it was the doctrine in the heart of the believer. Gill's view was the orthodox, biblical and Baptistic view for well over a century.
If you say, "Baptism by immersion is a prerequisite to coming to the Lord's table" people will say, "You're a Landmarker." When in reality all Baptists would have agreed with that statement.
Two words Dr. Moore --- John Bunyan.
The word "all," as you use it above, would not encompass Bunyan and a multitude of Baptist pastors and churches throughout Christian history who have opened the Lord's table to Christians --- Presbyterians, Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists, and other believers ---- who are orthodox and evangelical, and members of the universal church of Jesus Christ, but not members of the LOCAL, visible Baptist church.
The rationale for this? Why would we forbid the bread and the wine to those who will be seated with us at the marriage supper of the Lamb?
Granted, other Baptist churches have CLOSED the communion table to local church members only, but this practice does not encompass ALL Baptist churches throughout history as you state.
(UPDATE: SBC missionary David Roger's gives an excellent comment below on Spurgeon's views of open communion and provides this link for support).
Not only all Baptists, all Catholics would have agreed with that statement. All Eastern Orthodox would agree with that statement. You would be very hardpressed to find any group of people throughout all of the history of the church who would say, "You can come to the Lord's Supper without being baptized." The question is, "Do we believe that baptism is the immersion of a believer upon profession of faith?" If we do, then when we say you must be baptized in order to come into the fellowship of the church, in order to come to the Lord's table, we're not being sectarian there, we're being small "c" catholic. We are agreeing with everything that has been believed in everyplace by Christians. We're simply saying, "This is what baptism is."
Nobody disagrees Dr. Moore. Baptism preceedes the Lord's Supper. The question is simply this: will we have communion and fellowship with people who belong to the universal church of Jesus Christ, who believe their baptism to be infant baptism, or baptism by pouring and sprinkling, and as a result, are NOT members of our local Southern Baptist churches (and rightly so), but are still members of the ekklesia (called out ones), or the universal church of Jesus Christ?
In other words, would you share communion with a Presbyterian believer? I would.
Again, it is the perogative of any local, autonomous Southern Baptist Church to close the Lord's table to members only, but to demand that ALL Southern Baptist churches practice closed communion goes beyond the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.
The BFM 2000 uses only the word "church" to describe the participants of the Lord's Supper, and one's interpretation might be that this means the local, visible Baptist church, but others might see this word "church" as the universal body of Christ. The interpretation of "the church" is not always agreed upon by all Southern Baptists. Can you recognize that some Southern Baptists see the word "church" in Scripture, and the BFM 2000 to predominately mean the universal church of Jesus Christ (the redeemed, the elect, the ekklesia, etc . . .)?
"But we're losing that ability to talk about ecclesiology. There's a lot of talk about ecclesiology right now in the SBC, but there is very little talk about what is distinctively Baptist about the doctrine of the church. Very little talk about the meaning of baptism itself. Very little talk about the meaning of the Lord's Supper itself. I have great optism that in the future these kinds of things are going to be talked about and discussed and settled in Southern Baptist life."
No sir, we are not losing the ability to talk about ecclesiology.
Some are losing the ability to speak of ecclesiology in terms of logic and tradition.
Baptists are now ready to trust in the inspired, inerrant and sufficient Word of God, and when we discuss ecclesiology we will not depend upon the traditions of man, but will seek wisdom from the Word of God.
But let us never forget one thing:
Believer's baptism by immersion is part of our confession --- no Southern Baptist rejects it and remains Southern Baptist.
But the AUTHORITY of the baptizer is NOT an essential of the faith or a doctrine within the BFM 2000, and we should be able to disagree on this point and remain in fellowship. The definition of "the church," when it comes to the Lord's table can either be the local, visible fellowship of believers (closed communion) or the universal, redeemed ekklesia (open communion). The BFM 2000 does not define "the church" as local or universal, and we should be able to interpet it differently AND REMAIN IN FELLOWSHIP.
So, the discussion is beginning in earnest.
The question is this: Will disagreement be allowed?
These issues are settled in my church, and we have no problem cooperating in missions, evangelism and denominational work with those churches who see it differently.
How about you?
In His Grace,