"Is it not sufficiently clear that there can be nothing happy
for the person over whom some fear always looms?" Cicero
for the person over whom some fear always looms?" Cicero
The admission of an observant Muslim at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary is filled with irony. We are told that the Muslim was admitted into the cooperative educational efforts of Southern Baptists, according to the President of SWBTS, because he 'accepted our school's moral code' (no smoking, no drinking, etc...). Some SWBTS students suggested that I post photos of the Muslim young man smoking on campus ("close to a pack a day"), then hopping on his bike to go work at his on-campus landscaping job. Not a good idea, in my opinion. That would make this entire fiasco about our Muslim friend. This story, contrary to the puerile thinking of many Southern Baptists, not to mention the secular media, is not about the Muslim student. So what if he smokes? So what if he's a practicing Muslim? So what if he's getting his Ph.D. in archaeology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary? The issue at hand is Southern Baptists as a whole are allowing people in power within the Convention to play fast and furious with our cooperation in education and missions, arbitrarily determining who is 'in' and who is 'out' by a set of rules that keeps changing. Let me explain.
I pray our Muslim friend comes to know Christ, and when he does, I'll send him a congratulatory cigar, a cigar from the same stock that B.H. Carroll, the founding President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (1908), used to smoke for pleasure. B.H. Carroll, the divorced and remarried first President of SWBTS, was a wonderful theologian and leader of pastors, a devout follower of Jesus Christ, and one of the leading Southern Baptists in the history of our Convention. George W. Truett, longtime pastor of FBC Dallas, called Carroll's crowning work the education of "God's preachers." Yet, in the SBC's bizarre world of modern day neo-fundamentalism, the fingers of B.H. Carroll's left hand have been cut off from the portrait that hangs in the rotunda of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in order to hide the omnipresent cigar in President Carroll's hand. I plan, when our Muslim friend graduates from Southwestern Theological Seminary, to take a snapshot with him underneath B.H. Carroll's portrait. Who knows? What might lead our Muslim friend to faith in Jesus Christ is an understanding that moral codes save no one, but a faith relationship in the Person and work of the Anointed One saves any one.
Here's my question. Who changed 'the rules' at Southwestern? On whose watch did this occur? Who made acceptance of a new "moral code" (new in the sense that B.H. Carroll knew nothing about it) more important for enrollment in the seminary than the acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? Who is in charge? Who are the spiritual elitists? In short, who determines what is 'appropriate and not appropriate" in terms of belief and behavior for participation and cooperation in Southern Baptist missions and education?
I'd like to address you Southern Baptists who read this blog. Thousands upon thousands of you have read it the last few days. If you are more concerned about a Muslim attending Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary than you are the SBC Executive Committee's recommendation at the 2014 SBC in Baltimore which, if approved, will more narrowly define churches in "friendly cooperation" with the Southern Baptist Convention as only those churches who do not operate in a manner which demonstrates opposition to the BFM 2000, then you don't get the problem that I've been writing about.
The major problem we have in the Southern Baptist Convention is not that we are gracious to Muslims (for we should be and we are); rather, the problem we have in the Southern Baptist Convention is that we are NOT gracious and kind to professing Christians who disagree with our views on tertiary matters (and we should be). We keep changing the rules to narrow the parameters of who can be called a 'real' Baptist.
If you allow the SBC Executive Committee's constitutional recommendation to pass at the 2014 Baltimore Convention, here will be a few of the consequences:
(1). Churches who practice "open" communion cannot be called Southern Baptist, for the BFM 2000 teaches closed communion, and those churches that practice "open" communion churches (as we do) will be defined as not "in friendly cooperation."
(2). Churches who believe and teach 'original sin' and that people are judged by God for Adam's sin (as our church holds) will not be "in friendly cooperation" with the Southern Baptist Convention, because the BFM 2000 teaches that nobody comes under the condemnation of Adam's sin until "they are capable of moral action, for only then do they become transgressors and come under condemnation."
(3). Churches that teach and believe that Jesus Christ baptizes believers in the Holy Spirit (as we believe the Scriptures teach) would not be "in friendly cooperation" with the Southern Baptist Convention because the BFM wrongly teaches that "the Holy Spirit baptizes the believer into the body of Christ."
I could go on. The BFM 2000 is a good confession, but it is an errant confession. No confession is perfect, and no Baptist in history should ever advocate the use of creeds. The motion by the Executive Committee to more narrowly define "in friendly cooperation" should cause concern in the heart of every true Southern Baptist - huge concern. The Executive Committee, in its official 'recommendation' to change Article III of the SBC Constitution does not tell you how the new constitutional amendment will affect churches who "operate in a manner which demonstrates opposition to the BFM 2000," but if you think it won't one day include the attempted banishment of churches who hold to what is commonly called Calvinism, then you need to go get your picture taken close to BH Carroll's left hand at SWBTS. The Executive Committee gives only one example of opposition to the BFM 2000; the acceptance of "homosexuality." Well of course. That's the only illustration needed to get a chorus of "Amens!" Yet, the issues involved are much deeper. More and more Baptist churches, who otherwise would be in friendly cooperation, are being squeezed out of participation within the Southern Baptist Convention. I've been warning about this for years. For those of you with difficulty understanding the importance of this matter, which will be definitely decided in Baltimore, let me make it pretty simple by using an analogy.
You, sir, are the Muslim at Southwestern. You were told that you would be 'accepted' at the Southern Baptist Convention by the very guy who figured he had been given the power to "write the rules," "change the rules" and "enforce the rules." All of the sudden, you wake up one morning and realize that some crazy Southern Baptist in Oklahoma wrote about you and now YOU ARE THE ISSUE. It's uncomfortable. You don't like it - but don't worry, people will jump to your defense to protect you from being hurt, claiming that the President has good intentions for you. You never realized the writer in Oklahoma never thought you were the issue in the first place.
Cooperating conventions like the Southern Baptist Convention work because people collectively refuse to random leaders to narrow the rules in place, or power brokers to selectively enforce those rules, or people in positions of power without convention approval to change the rules (think the IMB new guidelines for missionaries never approved by the Convention). If our cooperation were determined by our beliefs and behavior conformities, our educational and missional funding mechanism should be called the Conformity Program. This, my Southern Baptist friends, is the greatest issue in Baltimore.
It just took a Muslim to show us that modern Southern Baptists express more concern for not offending a professing Muslim allowed to enroll in the educational program of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, contrary to policies and procedures already in place, than we Southern Baptists ever do over professing Christians who are already involved in Southern Baptist cooperative missions and ministry but are now being de-enrolled through a narrowing of the parameters of our cooperation.