Our convention hated liberalism twenty years ago . . . , but at this hour we better hate legalism and Fundamentalism as much as we did the former liberalism or we will find ourselves so fractured and fragmented that we no longer have the ability to cooperate about anything, including missions. We all agree on the inerrancy of Scripture and the nature and work of Jesus Christ our Lord, but we must not be Fundamentalists when it comes to our convention. Fundamentalism with a capital F is known for her independence, separation, schism-making, and her "I'll do it my way without your help because you don't qualify to work with me" attitude.
I believe if God does not intervene in the Southern Baptist Convention by raising up men and women in the SBC who are more concerned about conservative cooperation than we are conservative conformity, we are headed down this road of religious Fundamentalism.
Much has happened in the past year and a half in the SBC, but I am of the opinion that the clock begins ticking next week for the countdown of the most critical year in the Southern Baptist Convention in nearly three decades. There are no more classic liberals in the SBC, and under no circumstances would I ever be in favor of removing classic Fundamentalists from the SBC -- but classic Fundamentalism better not be the ideology that serves as the foundation for our missions cooperation or the SBC ship will sink. Liberalism takes away from the sacred, sufficient Scriptures while Fundamentalism adds to the sacred, sufficient Scriptures. Both should be anathema in the SBC.
The next year will determine the success of the conscientious and concerted attempt to wrest control of the convention from classic Fundamentalist ideology. Here are a few reasons why . . .
(1). The Resolutions at the 2007 SBC . . . can be divided into resolutions that speak toward unity, cooperation and love and those that speak toward division, separation and schisms. For instance, the resolution on glossolalia and private prayer language is divisive, particularly in light of the released Lifeway study that fifty percent of Southern Baptist pastors believes the gift of tongues, including praying in tongues in private, is a legitimate gift of the Spirit of God. The resolution is both schismatic and illogical . . .
RESOLVED, That we encourage our six Southern Baptist seminaries not knowingly to hire professors or administrators who endorse or engage in the modern practice of glossolalia or private prayer language, and be it further
RESOLVED, That we also encourage our Southern Baptist agencies not knowingly hire anyone who endorses or engages in the modern practice of glossolalia or private prayer language, and be it further
RESOLVED, That we encourage all Southern Baptists to be patient, kind, and loving toward one another (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) regarding this ancillary theological issue, which ought not to constitute a test of fellowship.
How can you resolve to not hire people who endorse or engage in the modern practice of private prayer language and yet call it an 'ancillary theological issue'? That makes no sense. If this were in place before the hiring of Jerry Rankin, Bertha Smith, and many wonderful professors of our theological insitutions (like SWBTS Seminary's Siegfried Schatzman) , none of them would ever have been employees of the SBC. This resolution must be rejected, but I seriously doubt it will even get out of committee.
A second resolution on The Role of the Baptist Faith and Message, though it sounds good at first reading, is just as problematic. One paragraph in the resolution states:
That we consider public disagreement with The Baptist Faith and Message to constitute suitable grounds for the removal of trustees from service upon those boards which have made affirmation of The Baptist Faith & Message a minimum requirement for service;
I would encourage anyone who would even give one second of consideration to this resolution by SWBTS adjunct professor Dr. Bart Barber to consider the following.
David Rogers, IMB missionary to Spain and son of Dr. Adrian Rogers would be expelled as a missionary for the IMB if this resolution would be applied. David has publicly stated he disagrees with the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message regarding 'closed communion' (as do I). Though some might attempt to say the 2000 BFM should be a 'doctrinal' tool of accountability, in the hands of Fundamentalists it becomes a club of conformity. I find it absolutely stunning that this convention would even consider such a resolution, and am hopeful the committee will see the shortcomings of such a shortsighted attempt to demand conformity. By the way, Judge Pressler and Paige Patterson themselves would have been disqualified during their tenures of trustee service under the 1963 BFM for violating 'the Lord's Day' provisions which were ultimately changed in the 2000 BFM.
It's interesting to note that Dr. Malcolm Yarnell, the person to whom David Rogers writes his email, has seemingly established himself at Southwestern Seminary as the person responsible to remind Southern Baptist leaders of their 'Baptist' identity (as Dr. Yarnell interprets it). SWBTS, under the leadership of Paige Patterson, sees herself as the Mecca of Southern Baptist orthodoxy. I am all for confessions, and I affirm the 2000 BFM on all major points of doctrine, but I believe we are in trouble when our major confessions are placed on the level of Scripture or we depend upon any human to tell us what we can or cannot believe as Baptists.
Confessions change. The Word of God does not.
Of course, some might wonder why I am not mentioning the The Gluttony Resolution and how divisive it will be. Obviously, this resolution will not see the light of day and I would vote against it if it did. However, I am actually looking forward to it being read before the entire convention hall. Why? Messengers need to see the irony of passing the alcohol resolution last year, written with the same arguments and principles found in the gluttony resolution, while this year crying foul on the gluttony resolution. It's much easier to point at the sins of others rather than our own. At least I'm consistent. Both resolutions should not be a part of our kingdom business.
(2). The Election of First Vice-President at the 2007 Convention . . . will be more important than elections of First Vice-President in previous conventions. Dr. Jim Richard, the Executive Director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, is the only announced candidate. However, I predict that a nationally known and respected Southern Baptist leader will run against Dr. Richards, a man that I will be able to endorse wholeheartedly. Though it is impossible to predict the outcome, the election of First Vice-President is essential in that he needs to support the direction and vision of Frank Page for our convention.
(3). The appointments of trustees in 2008 . . . will be the first trustees appointed as the result of Frank Page's election as President of the Southern Baptist Convention. Most people do not realize that the Nominating Committee report this year is the result of Dr. Bobby Welch's appointments. Frank Page's appointments will begin to be voted on by the convention in Indianapolis in 2008 and Louisville in 2009.
The convention only changes in terms of more conservative cooperation when the trustees of the SBC agencies adopt a more cooperative approach. When taking the gospel of Jesus Christ to a world in need of a Savior takes priortity over a demand for doctrinal conformity on tertiary doctrines of Scripture, we will be fulfilling our role as a convention to be a 'gospel' convention.
(4). The election of President of the Southern Baptist Convention in Indianapolis in 2008 . . . will be the most important election in the SBC in the last three decades. If we truly wish to be a conservative, irenic, cooperating convention of churches who band together for the spreading of the gospel, then we must elect a conservative, irenic President who has set the example in giving, serving and leading our convention in missions cooperation.
There are many good candidates and in God's providence, the President of the SBC, elected in 2008, will continue a transition for our convention toward a more peaceful future where we focus on missions. Those who have broken away from the SBC and formed the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship should be encouraged to continue their mission efforts, and we Southern Baptists should be part of that encouragement. However, nobody is advocating for the reunion of the CBF and SBC -- it shouldn't happen. There are too many wounds, too many differences, too much water under the bridge. However, it is time for all Baptists, regardless of the denomination, to stop believing each other to be the enemy and realize that the real enemy is spiritual and unseen.
Finally, let me say as clearly as I can that I welcome all Fundamentalists in the SBC -- but I will do everything I can to insure that Fundamentalism as a philosophy does not drive the train. Cessationists are welcome to lead. Continuationists are welcome to lead. Calvinists can be trustees. Arminians can be trustees. One's eschatalogy should not disqualify from SBC service. Open communionists and closed communionists might not be a part of the same church, but they sure can be part of the same gospel convention of churches united for the purpose of the Great Commission.
Cooperating conservatives desire all of us, Fundamentists and non-Fundamentalists, to work together for the Kingdom's sake. But any Fundamentalist who wishes to exclude Southern Baptists from leadership because of their view on the gifts, soteriology (Calvinism vs. Arminiansim), various views on ecclessioloigical authority and eschatological beliefs, or other tertiary differences needs to be aware that he will be opposed to the nth degree.
The issue for me is NOT getting back those who have left the Southern Baptist Convention . . .
The issue for me is KEEPING those that remain . . .
In His Grace,