I never dreamed I would see the day when a person was asked in an interview session, "Do you pray in tongues in your private prayer closet?" and if the answer was 'yes' then that person would be excluded from Southern Baptist missionary service. I never dreamed I would see the day when a person would be asked "When you were baptized, was it a Southern Baptist church that authorized the baptism or at least a church that believes in eternal security?" and if the answer was 'no,' then that person who had been baptized by immersion, after having come to faith in Christ, would be rejected for denominational service.
We are not talking about the public use of tongues. We are not talking about infant baptism or baptismal regeneration. Policies that have been established for decades insured that public speaking in tongues would not occur by our missionaries or they would be disciplined and/or terminated. And, no missionary in the history of the SBC has ever been appointed who was not baptized by immersion after having come to faith in Christ. We are talking about two tertiary doctrinal interpretive positions that are way, way beyond the fundamentals of the faith.
Yesterday a few people took offense at my post where I said that if we did not draw a line in the sand today regarding the demand by some Southern Baptist leaders that everyone conform to a particular interpretation of non-essential tertiary doctrines, then future demands for conformity in the SBC might reach deeper and deeper into the private lives of Southern Baptists. We are seeing this happen today in Florida with a demand that everyone who serves on state boards hold to a view of total abstinence. Mind you, Dr. John Sullivan is not saying that a person practices abstinence, he must believe abstinence is the only legitimate Christian, biblical view on the matter. But the example I used yesterday which raised the ire of some was the one on Natural Family Planning. I said that if we don't stop the spread of Fundamentalism today, there may come a day in the Southern Baptist Convention when NFP might become mandatory for all who wish to serve in denominational missions or ministry.
For the life of me I can't understand how some can not see this as a future possibility. Let me give you a possible scenario of an interview of a Southern Baptist who is applying for a ministry position with one of our agencies in the year 2020.
SBC Interviewer: "Do you use contraception?"
SBC Interviewee: "Yes."
SBC Interviewer: "What kind of contraceptive method do you practice?"
SBC Interviewee: "The pill."
SBC Interviewer: "Are you aware that the pill changes the lining of the wall of the uterus so that if ovulation happens to occur the fertilized egg cannot implant itself in the uterus?
SBC Interviewee: "No, I was unaware of that fact."
SBC Interviewer: "Do you believe life begins at conception?"
SBC Interviewee: "Yes."
SBC Interviewer: "So, if you carry life in your body via a fertilized egg, but refuse to allow that life to be implanted in your uterus by means of a pill, are you taking that life into your own hands, playing God, and committing an abortion of choice?"
SBC Interviewee: "I never thought of it like that. But how would I know if I ovulated and the egg was fertilized?"
SBC Interviewer: "It makes no difference. Would you not agree that by taking the pill you are preventing potential human life from being implanted in your uterus the way God naturally designed your body to receive it."
SBC Interviewee: "Well, I never really considered it."
SBC Interviewer: "We have a doctrinal statement at our agency that says human life is sacred, and it is our view, as it is yours, that life begins at conception. To artificially harden the lining of the uterus to prevent the implantation of the fertilized egg is committing an abortion, even unknowingly, and we must at all costs protect human life. We have recently passed a policy that no agency personnel will take the pill while in the employment of the Southern Baptist Convention, and we are asking you to sign this document saying you will only practice Natural Family Planning."
SBC Interviewee: "But I don't have that conviction, and I have taken the pill for years."
SBC Interviewer: "Well, I'm sorry, but unless you abide by our policy, we will not be able to appont you to service."
If you think the above scenario is far fetched you are naive. Just four years ago there was an uproar at the International Learning Center because mothers who had recently given birth and were in missionary training were asked by administration to use the breast pump, give the bottled milk to nursery personnel, and allow nursery workers to feed the babies while mom and dad finished the very tight schedule of training. A SBC seminary President and his wife were outraged that the mothers were not able to feed the babies the natural way and eventually caused quite an uproar. The problem was not that the mothers were not allowed to feed their children naturally, but that 'artificial' means of feeding were being employed at the IMB --- a method not designed by God.
The issues discussed in this post are, by their nature, very personal choices that a Southern Baptist individual must make for himself/herself. The nature of Fundamentalism is to insure that all 'private activities,' even those on which the Bible is silent, must all conform to a man-made precept or standard established by Fundamentalist leaders. If people don't see a problem with probing into someone's private prayer closet and forbidding them to pray in a particular manner (contrary to the explicit commandment of Scripture), and if people don't see a problem with rejecting one's personal Christian and biblical baptism which identified the convert with Christ but not a particular doctrine, then we may wind up one day finding ourselves facing demands for conformity in even more private and personal matters.
Let me say it again:
Unless our freedoms in Christ as individual Christians and autonomous churches are closely safe-guarded, we will wake up one day and realize that SBC leadership is defining Baptist identity in highly specific terms.
I not only stand by yesterday's post. I think it is important enough to rerun it.
In His Grace,