Sunday, July 08, 2012

Sometimes I Write Things I Later Regret: An Example

Every now and then I write something that I later regret. Last July 3, 2012 I sat at the breakfast table and wrote a post entitled Early London Baptists and the SBC: A Comparison.  I thoroughly enjoyed writing the post, and stand by the content, but it was the last paragraph where I erred. I wrote: "There's room in the SBC for Baptists who flirt with pelagianism and flout humanism. However, let it not be said they are either historic or traditional in their soteriological and theological views. They are neither." You may ask, 'What's wrong with it?' The best answer to your question is given by Dr. Roger Olson, professor of theology at Truett Seminary in Waco, Texas. He called me out in an article he posted on his own blog. I would encourage you to read Dr. Olson's article and follow his logic. He is correct, and he is absolutely right in calling me out. Below is my response. I have eaten my share of humble pie in the past, and I have rightfully received a big dose tonight. Hopefully I can go on a diet soon! :)


Dr. Olson,

Your post is excellent. With your writing and teaching schedule there is no expectation on my part for you to respond to my comment. I feel compelled to affirm my agreement with you on one major point of what you have written above, and gently disagree with another major point.

First, I agree with your assessment of my poor grammar and even worse spirit in the last sentence of my post. After reading my words again, and more importantly, through your eyes, I wholeheartedly see (and agree) with your assessment of my writing. My post in question was written at the breakfast table in about an hour and fifteen minutes. My silly use of 'flout' was neither caught nor corrected to the appropriate word 'flaunt.' But more importantly, the spirit conveyed by the last sentence in my post was  not only completely inappropriate,  it was morally wrong.  What bothers me most is that I didn't see what I was conveying at the time, but that God had to use you to point it out to me. I repent. I cannot promise I will not make a similar mistake in the future, but I can express my desire to be more on guard against such a poor choice of words, words that do convey a hostile spirit of attack upon my fellow believers. Thank you for rightly exposing it, calling me out, and allowing me here to express my regret and repentance.  While this is not the first time I have been guilty of such writing, by God's grace the instances of it will diminish. Thanks for being willing to listen to the Spirit in calling me out.

Second, I do  disagree with your assessment (and Glen Stassen's) that the 1644 London Confession was influenced by Menno Simons. I live in Mennonite territory in Northwest Oklahoma, and I understand the kinship of Mennonites with Baptists on the issue of ecclesiology, and if the London Confession's focus was on ecclesiology, I might be in agreement with Stassen's viewpoint. However,  the point of my post was to reveal the differences in soteriology between the London Baptists and the European Anabaptists. The 1644 London Confession is predominately theological and focuses more on soteriology than ecclesiology (at least in my opinion). Without doubt, Menno Simons and the Mennonites influenced Baptists in London on the separation of church and state, but the writers of the 1644 London Confession were influenced by people other than Menno Simons.  James Renihan says it better than I could when he writes: "This First London Confession of 1644, published prior to the Westminster Confession of Faith, was heavily dependent on older, well-known documents. Probably the best and most detailed Confession available to them was the True Confession of 1596, a document that had been issued by men of stature like the famous commentator on the books of Moses, Henry Ainsworth. About 50% of their Confession was taken directly from this older document. In addition, they relied very heavily on a book called The Marrow of Theology, written by a very famous and important puritan, William Ames. They brought together this material from the sources available to them, for one specific purpose: to prove that they had a great deal in common with the churches and ministers around them. Yes they had some differences, but they were only minor and not central. They were not wild-eyed fanatics intent on overthrowing society as it was known. To the contrary, they were reformed Christians, seeking to advance the principles on which the reformation had been built to their logical conclusion."

Regardless of our disagreement, I wish to once again thank you for your post. It was needed.

Wade Burleson


Jason Smathers said...

Concerning Olson's post, I do not see much value in an article that primarily picks on a person's typo.

Also, I strongly disagree with the sentiment that "fundamentalism" is such a great problem when fundamentalism is defined as protecting doctrines such as inerrancy. I love to see unity, but am not willing to be unified in many ways with those who denounce things as important as inerrency. Does that mean I've reared my ugly fundamentalist head? I don't really think so.

Although I disagree with much of Olson's post, I am glad to see your humility Wade.


Anonymous said...

Well, I still liked your post, but it is good of you to correct it.

I have heard of Dr. Olson and read his comments regarding the Traditional Statement, which I thought were insightful.

I thought his response to your post had some good information in it, too.

I like your reply about Soteriology being the focus of the confession, and Ecclesiology being an area of influence.

I don't understand that portion of Dr. Olson's statement that seeks to analyze what is commonly called the "Conservative Resurgence."

His psychoanalysis of the conservative leadership, men like Paul Pressler and Adrian Rogers, that they were outsiders wanting control rather than men having concern about theological orthodoxy is reckless and not supportable.

Is it reasonable to believe, for example, that a partner in one of the world's most prestigious law firms who later served for decades as a trial and then appellate judge (having come from prominent family in Texas) lacked sufficient personal self actualization that he sought fulfillment, not in the legal or political world, but in the religious denominational world?

Pressler's motivations are clearly stated in his own book, which contains ample evidence to show why a layman who worked with Baptist youth for years became concerned as he saw their view of Scripture erode as they spent time in prominent Baptist institutions.

Or is it reasonable to assume that Adrian Rogers was unfulfilled at Bellevue and needed the spotlight provided by debating and working on denominational committees with men like several in the moderate leadership at the time?

Anyone who ever listened to one sermon that Dr. Rogers preached on orthodoxy or the issues in the SBC, or was ever around Dr. Rogers for all of 15 minutes would know that Adrian Rogers did not get involved in SBC issues because he was lacking the prominence and lime light provided by the world of denominational employment.

And by extension Dr. Olson impugns an entire generation of Baptists who started attending denominational business meetings for the purpose of addressing concerns that had been born in their hearts after attending SBC colleges and seminaries.

I was surprised to see Dr. Olson defend SBC academia on the basis of that they were sufficiently "liberal" to warrant the descriptor. That's it? That's his basis for determining that there was no valid concern of doctrinal drift in SBC life.

His language is almost a word for word talking point that was used during the CR by moderates that the academics in SBC life were not "classically liberal". It is an old defense, and a poor one at that. It wasn't persuasive then, and it's not persuasive now.

That is particularly true since we now have 20 years since the CBF was founded to show what the SBC would be like but for the CR. How do we explain the absence of, and commitment not to have, a common theological confession in the CBF or the theological positions of the institutions the CBF supports. Does Dr. Olson not see any difference in the confessional commitment to Christian theological distinctions in the SBC and its seminaries and the theological schools supported by the CBF? Really? They are all equally committed to orthodoxy? I know of no serious person who believes that.

Also, the fact that no one from SBC academia is listed in the "Who's Who" of liberalism is not really proof of anything. One could argue that is a statement about prominence vs. obscurity or mediocrity as much as it is theological persuasion.

To be continued...


Anonymous said...

Dr. Olson makes one important point that I agree with.

Religious people in general, and Baptists in particular, are too bellicose. I have said that before. I am not sure I know the cure. Maybe it just comes with the territory.

I note that this spirit exists in the CBF, Baptist Alliance and Mainstream Baptist world as much as it does the SBC, in my opinion. There's enough arguing to go around, I guess.

And the rules of Christian civility apply to Dr. Olson, as well.

His criticism of you was too harsh, and that he was too eager to make it, in my opinion. It is seen in the overall tone of his piece, and even in small things (e.g. his use of unnecessary explanation points.)

So, if you feel that an apology is in order, that's fine.

And I am sure that you feel your piece has been improved by Dr. Olson's good historical references. What piece of writing is not improved by thoughtful input from experts in the field?

But given the overall tone and the overt advocacy, it is my opinion that you should not feel too badly.


Wade Burleson said...


As always, you make some good points.

I am not as familiar with Dr. Olson as you are. Regardless, I am only responsible for my attitude, my spirit, and my tone in writing. I believe Dr. Olson particular nailed an inconsistency in my writings which I hopefully have corrected.

By the way, I always appreciate the spirit in which you write as well!

Wade Burleson said...

Thanks, Jason.

Matt Richard said...

I follow both yours and Olson's blog regularly. In fact, Olson taught me theology in seminary.

While you disagree on some historical matters, I think you both rightly detest the spirit of exclusion and contention that is often prevalent in SBC life.

I'm thankful for your humility willingness to admit when you are wrong. I look forward to your futures posts.


Wade Burleson said...


Please be civil and repost if you desire. Deal with issues and refrain from name calling. Thanks.

Nicholas said...

Wade, did you see rj's comment over at the original London Baptists post? It was left today.

Johnny D. said...

This post is another reason to love and admire you, Pastor Wade.

Ben said...


Here's where I believe your previous article was incorrect:

You wrote: "The London Baptists disavowed ANY ties to Continental Anabaptists."
You also wrote: "These London Baptists were not Anabaptist, did not wish to be known as Anabaptist, and disavowed ANY association with Anabaptists."
You then wrote: "the early London Baptists of 1644 wanted NOTHING to do with continental Anabaptists." (Capital emphasis mine. - Ben)

I showed that early English Baptists such as Henry D'Anvers, John Spittlehouse, and Hansard Knollys maintained both historical and theological connections with the Anabaptists.

Glen Stassen has demonstrated that the 1644 Confession relies upon Menno Simons' Foundation Book.

Now were their soteriology differences between the English Particular Baptists and the continental Anabaptists? Absolutely. Did the early English Particular Baptists use Protestant sources for the 1644 Confession. Yes.

The problem is you wrote that these English Baptists "wanted NOTHING to do with continental Anabaptists." Their own writings prove this is not the case. There were clear theological influences from the Anabaptists. I also believe there are historical connections.

Nicholas said...

Ben, the Particular Baptists left no writings in which they spoke well of the Anabaptists.

Nicholas said...

Anyone who wants to read the real history of Baptists should follow this link:

Anonymous said...

I love your humility. I think within the current climate, the Apostle Paul would say to the modern Corinth church that

"In Christ, there is neither Jew nor Gentile, Male or Female, Slave nor Free, Arminian or Calvinist...but all are one in him.."

Btw, I also had to put RJ on notice after a number of warnings.

Blessings Cb.

Wade Burleson said...


Point well-taken.

I should have written the folowing:

"These London Baptists disavowed ANY ties to Anabaptists SOTERIOLOGICALLY"

I have affirmed your belief that there was a great deal of kinship with European Anabaptists on the issue of baptism and separation of church and state.

My post was on soteriology.

Though I was clear in my own mind, I was not clear in my writing (as you have writely pointed out) that the ONLY issue I was dealing with was SOTERIOLOGY.

Wade Burleson said...


Thanks for the link! Though I am quite familiar with Spurgeon, I can't remember seeing this particular piece before. Good stuff.


Nicholas said...

Your welcome. The author of the article is Chris Traffensteldt but is hosted on Phil Johnson's website

Ben said...


You wrote: "the Particular Baptists left no writings in which they spoke well of the Anabaptists."

This is a common perception among modern Baptists, but is in fact wrong. Read Henry D'Anvers' "Treatise of Baptism" or John Spittlehouse's "A Vindication of the Continued Succession of the Primitive Church of Jesus Christ (Now Scandalously Termed Anabaptists) from the Apostles Unto this Present Time." Other examples can be given. The English Baptists rejected the name "Anabaptists" but did not reject the people called Anabaptists.

As to Chris Traffensteldt's short Baptist history, it is full of historical mistakes. Even when I was a student in college, I realized it has a number of major historical errors. I continue to be amazed so many Baptists hold it in such high regard.

Nicholas said...

Traffensteldt's history is not full of mistakes, as evidenced by the fact that you can't even name one.

Keep up with your baptist succession fantasies.

Unknown said...

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Anonymous said...

I think your main point is that the SBC is broad enough to include varying degrees of Calvinism and Arminianism. Neither group can claim that they alone represent the full, original and authentic views of all early Baptists. Any attempt to now marginalize one or the other is out of order. On re-reading Olsen's post, I would say you were more sinned against than sinning.