But the hornets darn sure were mad at me.
I couldn't help but smile today as I heard Dr. Al Mohler give his 'seminary' report to our convention. Similar to Paige Patterson yesterday, Al's speech sounded more like the announcer at a World Wrestling Federation event whipping the crowd into a frenzy before the fight than a report by the erudite seminary President that he is. The messengers heard no statistics, no reports on new academic degrees or programs, and no financial information. What we did hear was how Southern Baptist messengers have absolutely no idea what we did last night in adopting the Executive Committee statement on the BFM 2000. I wonder if I am the only one who is just a little bit insulted at the suggestion SBC messengers are not smart enough to know what we are voting on. I, again, encourage everyone to watch the tape of the debate (I love the Internet).
There can be ABSOLUTELY NO DOUBT messengers KNEW EXACTLY what they were voting on. Just like the hornets on my front porch, the reason some SBC leaders are mad is not because they didn't realize it wasn't 'their' porch when they started building their theological nests, they are upset because someone had the gall to knock them off the porch intentionally and without apology, telling them they had built their nest on the wrong porch. Seminary Presidents don't dictate 'de facto' what the convention believes by orchestrating the adoption of policies and guidelines that reflect their own theological shibboleths at institutions that they themselves guide (or worse, at those agencies they don't guide). Last night, the convention declared that our cooperation in missions and ministry revolves around the only consensus confession our convention has adopted - the Baptist Faith and Message. If you wish your doctrinal policies to be narrower and tighter at your agency, Mr. President, then get our approval. If you have great reasons for doing so - like hiring a seminary professor - we'll approve, but we won't be excluding people for disagreements over doctrinal matters not addressed by the BFM without full convention approval.
While walking back to the hotel I asked an older gentleman if he had heard Dr. Mohler's and Dr. Patterson's speeches to our convention. I think the gentleman's response indicated he was thinking in terms of the efficiency of his hearing aid rather than his presence in the arena because he responded, "I couldn't help but hear them. I had to turn down my hearing aid cause they were shoutin' so loud."
I admire Dr. Mohler. Like Al, I am personally reformed in my theology. We send students from our church to his seminary to receive the finest theological education in the land. I respect his theological acumen, passion and love for Christ. But today, Al Mohler showed me another side to his personality. He seemed angry. He seemed defiant. He seemed like his ego had been bruised. "How dare YOU tell ME what I can and cannot do."
According to Al, the motion passed last year at the Executive Committee (without debate or dissent), and adopted by SBC messengers last night, is the end of the Southern Baptist Convention as we know it, unless he and others do something about it. Joining Al as the guardians of the SBC are Paige Patterson, President of SWBTS, Richard Land, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and Chuck Kelly, President of New Orleans Theological Seminary.
These four men, led by Dr. Mohler today, thumbed their collective nose (Editors note: I changed the original analogy, desiring a little more grace here), "We do not care that you have told us the Baptist Faith and Message is the only consensus confession of the Southern Baptist Convention and is sufficient to guide us. We will draft any confessional statement, policy or guideline we desire because the hiring of seminary professors is critical to the future health of the SBC and the Baptist Faith and Message 'does not say enough' doctrinally to give us good hiring policies and guidelines."
Paige Patterson has already recommended to friends the disbanding of the SBC Executive Committee. Chuck Kelley said last night the adoption of the Executive Statement would have no effect on his institution and Richard Land has already angrily chastized two gracious SBC theologians who wrote an excellent book on grace and unity around the essentials and freedom in diversity on the nonessentials - a book given to all registered messengers in our SBC packet. The messages of these four men might best be considered like the pronouncements of the Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse. They are not like the horsement in Revelation in terms of their persons or character (for we all know them to be fine Christian men), but their messages are those of death and destruction to the SBC if the messengers collective will wins out.
Famine, pestilence, disease and death. According to these four men, we are now ruined as a Convention. But is that not silly? What is it that scares these men? Read carefully again the motion that the entire Southern Baptist Convention adopted by a convincing majority on Tuesday night.
"The Baptist Faith and Message is neither a creed, nor a complete statement of our faith, nor final and infallible; nevertheless, we further acknowledge that it is the only consensus statement of doctrinal beliefs approved by the Southern Baptist Convention and such is sufficient in its current form to guide trustees in their establishment of policies and practices of entities of the Convention."
It reminds me of a little kid who gets scared because someone's in the room, only to have the light turned on and see it's Grandma.
There Is A Simple Solution That Nobody Wishes To Discuss
The convention has simply said, "If you wish to have doctrinal standards or guidelines that EXCEED the Baptist Faith and Message, simply GET convention approval!"
How easy is that? If Al Mohler wishes his seminary to be a Calvinistic seminary, which it is, and demands all professors be Calvinistic in their soteriology, which he does, then simply bring the Abstract of Principles to the Convention and articulate why we need a Calvistic theological seminary in the SBC. And you know what? The convention will approve. The Abstract, I guarantee you, will NOT be voted down as an additional institutional confession to the BFM 2000 --- for SOUTHERN SEMINARY. Frankly, I believe it can be shown that the convention has already affirmed its approval of the Abstract as the guiding confessional statement, above and beyond the BFM, for SOUTHERN Seminary
But, just as I listened to Al Mohler and Paige Patterson debate Calvinism at last year's Pastor's Conference and saw profound disagreement between the two men, if we were to attempt to get the Abstract as the additional institutional doctrinal confession at SOUTHWESTERN -- well then, Katy, bar the door! You talk about fireworks. The convention will look like New York Harbor on the night of July 4th.
There are SIX seminaries. For heaven's sake, one seminary may wish to ADD TO her doctrinal preciseness by adopting a confessional statement that holds to a particular interpretation on the gifts, that ALLOWS the seminary to hire continuationist Baptist professors like Dr. Sam Storms or C.J. Mahaney. For heaven's sake, Dr. Mahaney speaks for an entire week during campus revival at Southern, but because he speaks in tongues, and Dr. Mohler and Dr. Patterson demand that their trustees pass policies that prohibit tongues, they can't teach at Southern or Southwestern (or anyone like them). FINE -- bring those NEW doctrinal guidelines that go beyond the Southern Baptist Convention's Baptist Faith and Message to the convention during YOUR SEMINARY REPORT -- and let us as convention messengers vote to allow your institution to adopt this ADDITIONAL confession. We will when you explain to us WHY you need this at your seminary.
If we don't particularly like the narrow theological bent of your seminary, we very well may go to Golden Gate or Southeastern or somewhere else that doesn't adhere to those new doctrinal standards that exceed the BFM 2000 that your board, with convention approval, has adopted. We are not restricting you in any way from basing policies or guidelines on doctrinal interpretations of issues that are not addressed in the BFM 2000 -- get your trustees to adopt them and bring them to the convention for appropriate rationalization, debate and eventual implementation.
There's room enough in the SBC for six seminaries to disagree on matters of soteriology, ecclesiology, eschatology, etc . . . . Again, BE AS DOCTRINALLY PRECISE AS YOU DESIRE TO BE AND BRING YOUR ADDITIONAL CONFESSION TO THE SBC FOR APPROVAL!!
We'll honor it.
The Difference Between Seminaries and Convention Wide Agencies
There are six seminaries. ONE International Mission Board. There are six seminaries. ONE North American Mission Board. There are six seminaries. ONE Lifeway.
The Baptist Faith and Message is sufficient as the doctrinal standard for those agencies that represent EVERY Southern Baptist Church in our convention. Here is some helpful advice for the four men I've mentioned in this post - men I respect, but have no problem telling where they err in logic.
(1). You are the President of your agency alone, nobody else's.
(2). Don't try to tell us who is Southern Baptist and who isn't, the BFM does that.
(3). Add to the BFM all your heart desires for your institutional confession, we'll listen to your impassioned pleas for why you need the doctrinal preciseness, and approve it at our SBC with your well reasoned and well presented arguments.
(4). If we add to your institutional confession it does not mean a change in the general consensus confession that forms the basis of our cooperation -- the BFM.
(5). We don't want you demanding anyone be a Calvinist, or a Landmark, or a cessationist, or a continuationist, etc . . . We want freedom to cooperate while disagreeing on these issues.
(6). Keep your hands off the IMB and NAMB by demanding they reflect your personal, doctrinal shibboleths.
(7). Realize that the sheep are getting smarter.
We do quite well cooperating around the essentials of the faith, granting liberty in the non-essentials of the faith, and charity in all things.
That's who we are as the cooperating convention known as the SBC.
In His Grace,