Last week the Missouri Baptist Convention Executive Board disfellowshipped from Journey Church and all church plants associated with the Acts 29 Network. Even though the controversy that led to this action revolved around a Bible study held in a brewery by Journey Church in St. Louis, all Acts 29 Network churches were deemed guilty by association and lost all their church planting funds from the Missouri Baptist Convention. David Tolliver, in opening his remarks stated the following:
“I understand that the Bible does not say, never says, ‘Thou shalt not drink,’” Tolliver said, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "It is also true to say that the Bible does not specifically refer to drinking as a sin. However … the only Christian position in this 21st century Show-Me State environment that we live in is total abstinence!”
For the sake of the consciences of my weaker brethren who may read this, I will reiterate that I usually abstain from alcohol. I also understand the damage that drunkenness, which is a sin, can do to families. The point in this post is to simply show how we Southern Baptists seem to be becoming as extra-biblical as Mormons, as cultic as Jehovah's Witnesses, and as devoted to a religion and not Jesus Christ as Unitarians. By the way, all the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses and Unitarians I know (and I know many of them) are really fine people in terms of character - they have just fallen short of the true gospel by emphasizing their extra-biblical regulations and morality through the demands placed upon them by their respective leadership. (i.e. 'holy underwear', 'no pledges of allegience or vows in court,' 'sacred writings and messages from prophets on par with the Bible,' etc . . . )
Robert Lifton describes eight signs of a cult in his book "Thought Reform & the Psychology of Totalism:"
Milieu control: control of the group environment and communication. (Dissent or disagreement within the group is not allowed).
Manipulation: Leaders are perceived as being chosen by God, history or some supernatural force. (There can be no questioning of God ordained authority in the leadership of the organization).
Purity demands: An us vs. them mentality is developed, in which cult members are the only pure and good. (Questioning the morality injunctions of leadership is questioning the integrity of the organization).
Confession: group confession and self-criticism is used in order to produce personal change. (The individual is never right, only the group).
Sacred Science: The cult's doctrines and ideology are considered sacred and must not be doubted or questioned. (To question is a sign of a lack of spirituality and discipline).
Loading the language: Conventional words and phrases are given special, in-group meanings. (Concepts such as 'holiness' and 'righteousness' are defined by group definitions).
Doctrine over person: Members are conditioned to feel guilt if they ever question group doctrine. One must conform to the "truth," as taught by the group. (A lack of conformity to group doctrine prompts questions of legitimacy and ultimately expulsion).
Dispensing of Existence: The group contains the elite; outsiders are evil, unsaved, and may not even have the right to exist.
Now, back to Dr. Tolliver's statement. This time I will give a blank and show you how Baptists, unless we speak out, will allow our Convention to drift toward becoming a benign cult rather than a platform for the expression of the life changing power and grace of Jesus Christ than can come to every believer.
"The Bible does not specifically refer to (1). _______________ as a sin. However … the only Christian position in this 21st century environment that we live in is (2). ________________"
Fill in the blank:
(1). wearing pants to church
(2). women wear dresses.
(1). the evangelist baptizing his converts upon profession of faith in Christ
(2). (that) only ordained, qualified Baptist church leaders or those they appoint must baptize.
(1). believing in election
(2). (that) God is trying to save everyone, and can't unless man chooses God.
(1). Women teaching men theology
(2). Only men can teach men the things of God
(1). elder rule
(1). reading the NIV
(2). using only authorized translations
I could go on, and on and on, and on and on. But I think you get the point. For those who get upset with this post raising the possibility that we Southern Baptists are in danger of becoming a benign cult, I point out three things:
(1). I say 'we' Southern Baptists. I am using a label for my family. I am a Southern Baptist, and my concern relates to my Convention. It is much different for family to make an observation than a stranger to do so.
(2). I am frankly ashamed that any Southern Baptist would be more concerned with my bringing up the possibility that we are becoming a 'benign cult' than he would with a statement from a Southern Baptist leader that a particular viewpoint is the 'only Christian position.' Further, it is disturbing that few are challenging the bizarre statement that this is 'only Christian position,' particularly since the position is obtained INDEPENDENT from Scripture (as acknowledged by the 'leader'). Even worse, for Southern Baptists to know that this position is the 'only' true Christian position requires special revelation from God to the group leader (or leaders) which is then passed on to us underlings. Finally, the center piece of cultic behavior, disassociation - from those who reject special revelation from the cult's leader - is seen in the unequivocal dictum from this Baptist group that if one does - or will not - hold to this special revelation position as 'gospel truth' then there will be banishment from the group(i.e. 'Journey Church,' and "The Acts 29 Network').
(3). The term 'benign' softens the word cult. Benign speaks of harmlessness - possibly powerlessness. The followers of David Koresh were in danger. The followers of any benign Baptist cult are not in danger of anything except religion without the power of the Spirit.
Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Unitarians are all good people with a religion that is powerless to transform lives and restore the souls of men and women with a desire to know God. God forbid that we become such a benign cult that our focus is more on the external standards of conduct and morality that exceed the Scripture than it is on the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
When our convention begins to define and identify 'true Christianity' based upon the extra-biblical revelation of Southern Baptist leaders - revelation not found in the sufficient Word of God - we deserve the nomenclature 'benign cult.' By God's grace this trend will reverse - or we will die a slow, religious death.
In His Grace,