Author Archive

The Shot Heard ‘Round the SBC (Part D)

Steve Lemke, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

The Fault Lines in Southern Baptist Life

In the first three parts of this article, I have been reflecting on Brad Whitt’s article “Young, Southern Baptist, . . . and Irrelevant?,” which was published and discussed widely in state Baptist papers, various blogs, and Facebook discussions.  Whitt’s response to these many comments has now been posted on his blog, which he entitled, “The Challenge for Contributing, Committed Southern Baptists.”

Whitt’s article obviously touched a nerve in Southern Baptist life.  I described it as one of the deepest fault lines in the SBC – between what Whitt suggested were those who have a “high Baptist identity” and those who have a “low to moderate Baptist identity.” I tried to flesh out this distinction in the first section of my post (Part A).  I then described several other interconnected fault lines, particularly the small church/megachurch fault line, in the second section of this post (Part B). I made the case that these partially overlapping fault lines are disintegrating the “center” of Southern Baptist life, and that splinters or a split within the SBC fellowship seem almost inevitable.

In the third post (Part C), I attempted to describe two possible futures I see for the SBC, which I believe to be the only viable options.  In Way One, because of our fallenness “in Adam,” the only way to unity and peace is through division. I also likened it to a Baptist Babel, in that we are being divided into camps speaking different languages. Obviously, I do not regard this as God’s ideal.  Today I will propose the second alternative, what I am labeling the “in Christ” option:  Unity through Cooperation.

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The Shot Heard ‘Round the SBC (Part C)

Steve Lemke, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

The Fault Lines in Southern Baptist Life

In the first two parts of this article, I have been reflecting on Brad Whitt’s article “Young, Southern Baptist, . . . and Irrelevant?,” which was published and discussed widely in state Baptist papers, various blogs, and Facebook discussions.  Whitt’s response to these many comments has now been posted on his blog, which he entitled, “The Challenge for Contributing, Committed Southern Baptists.”

Whitt’s article obviously touched a nerve in Southern Baptist life.  I described it as one of the deepest fault lines in the SBC – between what Whitt suggested were those who have a “high Baptist identity” and those who have a “low to moderate Baptist identity.” Attempting to describe this real but somewhat difficult-to-define fault line, which involves a cluster of theological/ecclesiological/methodological issues but may be primarily more a matter of ethos, was the subject of the first section of my post.

I also suggested that the “Baptist identify” fault line is just one fault line in Southern Baptist life.  In fact, there is a series of other interconnected, partially overlapping, and partially converging fault lines in the SBC – smaller churches vs. megachurches, anti-GCR vs. pro-GCR, majority Baptist theology vs. Reformed theology, advocates of associations and state convention vs. detractors of associations and state convention, Cooperative Program as a high value vs. Cooperative Program as a tertiary value, etc.  An eruption in one of the fault lines sets off shockwaves in each of these other interconnected fault lines.  In the second section of this post, I attempted to unpack another of these fault lines in SBC life, and one that is sometimes overlooked – between the smaller churches and the megachurches.

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The Shot Heard ‘Round the SBC (Part B)

Steve Lemke, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

“Young, Southern Baptist, and . . . Irrelevant?”

In the first part of this article, I reflected on Brad Whitt’s article “Young, Southern Baptist, . . . and Irrelevant?,” which was published in the South Carolina state Baptist Courier, on his own blog, and in six additional Baptist state papers. Responses to Whitt’s article, pro and con, have weighed in all over the country in Baptist papers, various blogs, and Facebook discussions.  Whitt’s response to these many comments has now been posted on his blog, which he entitled, “The Challenge for Contributing, Committed Southern Baptists.”

I observed, for those who might have missed it, that the title of Whitt’s article appeared to be an allusion to an oft-referenced article in the 2006 issue of Christianity Today, entitled “Young, Restless, and Reformed:  Calvinism is Making a Comeback and Shaking Up the Church,” by Collin Hansen, which he later expanded into a book by a similar title, Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey with the New Calvinists. I also noted that many of the “new Calvinists” or “neoCalvinists” about whom Hansen wrote seem to fit the description of what Mark Driscoll and Ed Stetzer call “Reformed Relevants.” Whitt retained “young,” since he is a younger pastor, and substituted “Southern Baptist . . . Irrelevant?” instead of “Restless and Reformed” or “Reformed Relevants.”  Obviously, Whitt thinks that his purported irrelevance has been greatly exaggerated.

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The Shot Heard ‘Round the SBC (Part A)

Steve Lemke, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary

Brad Whitt and “Southern Baptist Irrelevants

Brad Whitt fired the shot heard ‘round the SBC about a month ago when he published his article “Young, Southern Baptist, . . . and Irrelevant?” in the South Carolina state Baptist Courier and on his own blog.  In essence, Whitt expressed the concern that traditional Southern Baptist churches like his own were feeling marginalized and trivialized as “irrelevant” in many forums in Southern Baptist life. It created quite a furor, with some thanking Whitt for voicing “how I’ve felt for years,” while others criticizing him or saying that the concerns he voiced were unfounded.  Six additional state Baptist papers published the article, and discussions in blogs and Facebook from all over the country weighed in on the validity of Whitt’s concerns.  Whitt, a graduate of Union University, Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, serves as Pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Simpsonville, South Carolina, and has been the President of the South Carolina Baptist Pastor’s Conference. He has now posted his response to these many comments on his blog in an article entitled, “The Challenge for Contributing, Committed Southern Baptists.”

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Twelve False Assumptions People Make About Baptists (Part Two)

Dr. Dan Nelson, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Camarillo, CA

7.     . . . that we are controlled by a Hierarchy

First, the Bible does not teach that we should have a hierarchy of religious officials over the church. Pastors lead the congregation as a spiritual leader while the deacons assist him. We have already asserted the independence and authority of the local church. We are a part of several groups: our denominational offices in our local association, state conventions, and then the national convention.4 These groups could not control us if they wanted. The local church calls the pastor, sets the types of ministry we will have, and the amount of money they will send to the denomination for their missions.

Baptists do not believe in human heads over churches. We were not started like the Methodists by Wesley, or Lutherans by Luther, or Reformed by Calvin. Instead, we can say there was not a time in the Post-Apostolic age when Baptists began.5 We believe our teachings are in line with what churches in Acts taught and what Christ commissioned them to do. Christ is our head. It is his church according to Matt. 16:18.

8.    . . . that we are forced to believe in certain positions as a denomination

A denomination is a group of churches that voluntarily choose to work together and have similar beliefs. Our church is not bound to amendments passed at the Southern Baptist Convention. We are not given positions that we must take in order to be Southern Baptists.6 The debate over Calvinism is an example of this. There is enough latitude in our denomination to arrive at different interpretations on matters that do not impact salvation or the person and the work of Christ.

We do not subscribe to creeds or traditions as equal to Scripture. We have a common statement of faith that is a consensus of what fellow churches believe. When a church departs from these affirmations and ceases to identify with these teachings, the SBC acknowledges it.

Paul did not have the final authority to decide for the church in Corinth in the matter of the immoral man still serving in 1 Cor. 5:1-5. Instead, he urged them to act as a body to correct the error. They were responsible for their own church.

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