I couldn't help but chuckle as I saw the picture to the left on MSN. Nick Ayrom, a former high school teacher, is being interviewed for technology-related jobs at the Verdugo Job Center in Glendale, California. I don't think Nick has read the book How to Win Friends and Influence People--at least the chapters on countenance, posture, and giving off the perception you are a positive individual. Nick may be a great guy, but he's got to understand the perception of others becomes your reality.
For four years I have been writing that the Southern Baptist Convention is sliding into a brand of independent, Landmark, fundamentalist Baptist theology that will destroy the fabric of missions and evangelism cooperation.
One of the major historical tenets of our identity as Southern Baptists has been our rejection of creedalism. Confessionalism has been part of our history from the beginning, but creedalism is different. A creed is an official statement of beliefs that a person must subscribe to in order to be a part of the church or evangelical movement. The Westminster, Heidelberg Cathecism, Lutheran Formula of Concord, 39 Articles of the Church of England, are all creeds--even though Westminster carries the title "Confession." Why? Because if you refuse to sign, you CANNOT be identified with the group. The Baptist Faith and Message, like the New Hampshire Confession, et.al., are descriptive summaries of what a majority of Southern Baptists in convention have believed at a particular time, but they are not statements, nor have they ever been statements, to which one must formally subscribe to remain Southern Baptist. Southern Baptists have historically possessed freedom of conscience; there is freedom to dissent from official confessions. But, the BFM 2000 has now become a creed. You either sign it or you are out.
Truett-McConnell College President Emir Caner, and Liberty Baptist Seminary's President Ergun Caner (who seems to personally receive seminary registration fees paid by his friends), are both proteges of Dr. Paige Patterson. These three SBC brothers-in-Christ epitomize the new direction of the SBC. We have become a Convention who demands absolutely conformity on all tertiary matters of the faith, or you are out--fired if an employee, or outcast if not. The continued ridiculous emphasis on "signing" the BFM 2000 is getting out of hand.
I believe the Bible is the inspired, infallible, word of God, and because it is "God-breathed" it is 'living and powerful.' One simply has to listen to my expositional messages to know that the TEXT drives the message. I believe in the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. Apart from God's grace through faith in the person and work of Jesus the Christ, there is no deliverance from the righteous punishment of a holy God in hell. This is the gospel. I also believe that the mark of genuine Christianity is the display of agape love toward one's fellow man, the same kind of love God gave us in Christ. Jesus said, "By your love for one another will all know that you are my disciples" (John 13:35).
I propose it is not loving to fire people who disagree with the BFM. I propose it was not loving to fire Dr. Sheri Klouda. Ironically, Sheri Kluoda "signed" the BFM 2000, but President Patterson's interpretation of the BFM is that a woman cannot teach men (i.e. "Senior Pastors") theology. We are now in the absurd position of people interpreting the BFM instead of the Bible. I disagree with the removal SBC missionaries from the field for refusing to sign the BFM. At the time, I trusted our SBC "leaders" and assumed these missionaries were "liberal." Far from it; they saw coming what has now arrived. These conservative Baptists were not creedal Baptists and lived (and were fired) for their convictions. I disagree with the removal of Dr. Sharon Bullock, the refusal to promote Wendy Norvell, the continued authoritarianism of SBC mega-pastors, the nepotism of SBC leaders and high profile pastors, and the constant alleged battles against "liberals" within the SBC, and the move toward independence--instead of cooperation--of our missionary efforts. These are all tell-tale signs of a move toward the independent, Landmark, Fundamentalist brand of Baptist theology.
I agree with the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message on the major doctrines of the faith (salvation by grace, etc...), but there are several places where I disagree with the 2000 BFM, including its advocacy of "closed" communion, its semi-pelagian view of original sin, and its direct contradiction of the Scripture regarding the Holy Spirit's work in Article IIC. (see Example 3 here).
Granted, these are minor areas of disagreement, and there are more. It is interesting to me that my disagreements on minor points of the BFM are MAJOR TENETS of Landmark, independent, Fundamental Baptists (closed communion, arminian, cessationist, etc... theology). I have often stated that there are many people I consider friends who hold to such theology. We have people in our church who come from the Landmark, independent, Fundamentalist brand of Baptist church. I have no problem with them or what they believe when it comes to our mutual cooperation. They love me and I love them.
But for some reason, the fighting independent, Fundamental Baptists in the Convention don't seem to like people like me. They want to rid the SBC of anyone who would dare question their authoritarian edicts. "What I believe," they say, "is gospel."
Not so fast.
We are Baptists, and we have never been creedal. Tell me what you believe, but don't make me sign it. I'll tell you where you may be wrong. You show me where I may be wrong. But let's not separate over human differences. Let's cooperate around our mutual love for Christ.
There are some who may say, "But the SBC is doing great!" I remind you of Nick Ayrom above. The perception becomes the reality. We are narrowing the parameter of cooperation to the point that doctrinal conformity in the form of creedalism is the condition upon which you can be known as a Southern Baptist. Well, I'm here to stay, and until Jesus comes I will continue to speak out of the growing slide toward independent, Landmark, Fundamentalism in the Southern Baptist Convention.
In His Grace,