This past week in the blog world has not been a particularly pleasant one. Sometimes it helps to back up and try to show the big picture. I remind Southern Baptists that it is possible to disagree with an ideology or a particular point of theology and not attack the character of the person with whom you disagree. To fundamentally disagree with the separatism of a person who adheres to Landmark ecclesiology and tries to creedally enforce every Southern Baptist Church to practice closed communion is not the same thing as disliking the Landmarker. To publicly express disagreement with the ideology of Fundamentalism that urges separation from other evangelicals is not the same thing as attacking the character of the Fundamentalist. To make it known that you abhor any ideology that would compel the termination of a Southern Baptist who disagrees over the extent of the atonement is not the same thing as abhorring the person who is seeking the terminations.
To publicly reveal that Paige Patterson is voicing his desire not to have faculty members at SWBTS who hold to classical Calvinism is not to attack Dr. Patterson's character. As I have said on numerous occasions before, I believe Dr. Patterson is a brother in Christ and is due all the love and respect every follower of Jesus should be given. In addition, to call the ideology of Paige Patterson a narrow, Fundamentalist, Landmark and separatist ideology is not to attack the Christian character of Paige Patterson. Thousands of people can individually attest to Dr. and Mrs Paige Patterson's personal civility and kindness. It is not Christian character that is being exposed and questioned, but rather it is the separatist ideology of some in the Southern Baptist Convention that is being identified and resisted. It is their ideology that compels them to separate from other Southern Baptist Christians who disagree.
The Ideology of Separatism
After a ten year absence from personal participation in Southern Baptist Convention ministry at a national level, I began serving as a trustee for the International Mission Board in 2005. In the almost four years since that time my eyes have been opened to the effects of the separatist ideology held by many in strategic positions of power in the SBC. I have stated before that I believe with all my heart that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God. I have no problem confessing my belief in the veracity of the Bible.
But separatist ideology goes way beyond a commitment to the veracity of Scripture itself. Separatists have a hard time comprehending that interpreting the Word of God and teaching people what the Bible says is not the same thing as affirming the Word of God and telling people what the Bible is. It is because there are differences of interpretation among Southern Baptists regarding what the sacred text says that all of us who are Christ-loving, Bible-believing Southern Baptists must learn to cooperate with each other rather than separate from one another.
For lack of a better nomenclature, those Southern Baptists who adhere to "separatist" ideology are sometimes called Baptist Identity people. These separatists have trouble believing that Christ-loving, Bible-believing, Southern Baptists can actually disagree over what the Bible is saying and still cooperate in missions and ministry in the SBC. In fact, when they come across a Christ-loving, Bible-believing Southern Baptist who disagrees with them, they implement plans to attempt to forcibly remove them from ministry or service (i.e. "separate").
Examples of Separation
(1). This is precisely what happened to missionaries who believed, contrary to the beliefs of Baptist Identity people, that spiritual gifts (i.e. a private prayer language) still exists. Baptist Identity people, compelled by their ideology of separatism, successfully implemented policies to remove these missionaries from future service in the SBC.
(2). This is precisely what happened to missionaries who were not baptized "in a church that holds to eternal security," which Baptist Identity people believe is the only proper description of biblical baptism. Baptist Identity people successfully implemented policies to remove these missionaries from future service in the SBC.
(3). This is precisely what happened to female professors who taught Hebrew and history at Southwestern Theological Seminary, contrary to a specific interpretation of the Bible by Baptist Idenity people that "a woman shall not teach a man," at any time, in any spiritual manner. Baptist Identity people successfully removed these women from their ministries.
(4). This is precisely what is happening to autonomous Southern Baptist churches that make decisions that are contrary to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 and Baptist Identity leaders - Baptist Identity people are seeking to disfellowship that church.
A few years ago I defended First Baptist Church, Holdenville, Oklahoma from excommunication from the South Canadian Association because the church practiced open communion and receiving into membership people who had not been baptized in a Baptist church. The Baptist Identity leaders who brought the recommendation for disfellowship were all Landmark, Fundamentalist, separatists, including the Director of Missions. I successfully defended the church and the motion to disfellowship from FBC Holdenville failed at the annual meeting.
(5). This is precisely what is happening at Southwestern Theological Seminary in relation to classical Calvinists on faculty, both now and in the future.
We Must Resist Ideological Separation
Some are very angry with my two posts last week that called out the ideology of SWBTS administrators that compels them to separate from classical Calvinists at SWBTS. I would suggest that we should not be surprised with any attempts to separate from classical Calvinists at SWBTS. It is consistent with the separatist ideology held by the President and administration. Let the words of Dr Paige Patterson and Dr. David Allen, Dean of the School of Theology, speak for themselves:
"Southwestern will not build a school in the future around anybody who could not look anybody in the world in the eyes and say, "Christ died for your sins." Paige Patterson, President of SWBTS, February 5, 2009
“A consistent five-point Calvinist cannot look a congregation in the eyes or even a single sinner in the eye and say: “Christ died for you.” What they have to say to be consistent with their own theology is “Christ died for sinners.” Since Christ did not die for the non-elect, and since the five-point Calvinist does not know who the elect are, it is simply not possible in a preaching or witnessing situation to say to them directly “Christ died for you.” Dr. David Allen, Dean of SWBTS School of Theology, SWBTS Center for Theological Research, November 2008
The above, my friends, is the latest example of the reason why separatist ideology, the core feature of the so called Baptist Identity movement, must be resisted with all hands on deck. Southern Baptists have historically disagreed over the extent of the atonement. Some Southern Baptists have believed that Christ died as the Substition for every sinner, even those who will ultimately be punished in hell for their sins. Other Southern Baptists have believed, namely the Calvinists among us, that Christ died as a Substition for only those sinners God chose to deliver from their sins, sinners the Bible calls "the elect," "His people," "the Bride of Christ," etc . . .
This issue has never been one over which Southern Baptists have divided, nor should it be. I am not resisting Paige Patterson the man. I am resisting the ideology that compels Paige Patterson to separate from Southern Baptists who disagree with him. I would say the same thing to any Calvinist who had a similar separatist theology.
That, in my opinion, is the big picture.
In His Grace,