One thing is for certain, when a person stands up for biblical principles that go against an inclusive approach that seeks to cooperate at the expense of a proper ecclesiology in the church planting enterprise, people will seek to discredit you and misuse your statements. First and foremost let me say that I affirm Dr. Mohler’s effort to bring some reason to confusion in the form of what he has called, “theological triage.” In fact, if one would just read the paper that Dr. Yarnell and I produced they would see that nothing was said against nor in disagreement with Dr. Mohler and his “theological triage.”
A few years ago, an early modern paradigm was dusted off and re-offered to postmodern Christians under the name of “Theological Triage.” While we affirm this paradigm as a laudable effort, what we have seen, as of late, represents a distortion of its employment. The misuse of this method can be seen especially in the spiral downward to a “lowest common denominator” approach to church fellowship and ethical conduct. We believe that when theological triage is used in this way, it is being used inappropriately.
Dr. Mohler is a hero in the faith of mine along with people like Drs. Patterson, Akin, Vines, and Brunson to name a few. I pray that Dr. Mohler does not see anything I have written of him as some kind of division from what he has tried to articulate in his theological triage. Again, it is the misuse of Dr. Mohler’s idea by others that I am against. For whatever may be happening, I believe there is a concerted effort by some bloggers who thrive on divisiveness to create division between us, the primary advocates of the GCR, and other leaders in our convention. I direct you to this post here to further explore this.
I want to end this post on items I am for so that those who read other blogs may come back here and see the the truth. Of course I would not be surprised if these statements were misused in order to create further division. It is a divisive nature that some are wanting to advocate so they can discredit us.
Therefore, I am for:
1. Cooperating in the church planting effort with anyone who agrees wholeheartedly with the Baptist Faith and Message so that we may plant Southern Baptist churches that reflect our Southern Baptist beliefs in ecclesiology.
2. Cooperating with other Christian organizations in the effort to feed the poor, help in disaster relief, or provide better medical and sanitary conditions to communities as long as the Gospel is the ultimate effort to be dispensed. But even if I am in a situation where the gospel is forbidden to be spoken, I will not refuse to help a starving child or recently homeless person for that will go against scripture. I will just preach anyway and let the chips fall where they may.
3. Cooperating with other Christians in defeating the moral decay of our society as seen in abortion, gambling, sex trafficking, child abuse, teenage and premarital sex, and other areas of morality that go against clear Biblical teachings.
These three points of cooperation are not exhaustive, but I hope they give a basic idea to many who read other blogs that I am for working with others who differ on second tier issues that define what particular branch of Christianity they are when it comes to moral issues and humanitarian aid.
On my part, this is not a political battle that I seek to engage, but a call to theological honesty. If one claims to be a Southern Baptist and relies on the support of Southern Baptists, then one should believe as a Southern Baptist believes in the area of planting churches. I know that is not a popular position in the blog world, but so be it. God’s word conforms me to the theological and missiological tenets of Southern Baptists. That is where I stand.
To be honest, I cannot answer that question fully. In fact, our movement is varied among people who do differ on tertiary issues, but believe (according to Dr. Mohler’s theological triage) secondary issues that define us as Southern Baptists do matter in areas of planting churches. With all that said, while I don’t believe I can fully define this movement, I do know what the Baptist Identity movement is not. It is not any one person or web site. So, for those who may try to define it as either SBC Today, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), Peter Lumpkins, Bart Barber, or any other array of persons individually or entities corporately, they will find that strategy lacking.
Also, the Baptist Identity movement is not anti-Calvinism. If that was the case, SBC Today would not have a five pointer (Scott Gordon) or a four pointer (Robin Foster) as resource managers. I might also add that SWBTS has more Calvinists on staff today than when I graduated with an MDiv in 2002. In fact, when I was a student at SWBTS, Calvinism was routinely treated as the wicked stepchild of the SBC by some of the professors. While I might step out on a limb here, I do believe that Baptist Identity is anti hyper – Calvinism which diminishes the proclamation of the gospel to all people everywhere.
In general within the Southern Baptist Convention, the Baptist Identity movement adheres to the confessional statement of faith for Southern Baptists, the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M). Also, there is a vision that many have adopted for Baptists called, “The Fifth Century Initiative” (FCI). In this FCI there is a clear vision of directives that made Southern Baptists a viable conduit of God’s grace since 1845. It is a call to once again focus on those directives so that the Glory of God can shine in a new and magnificent way as we begin this fifth century as Baptists.
What about the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR)? I believe that most if not all who are part of the Baptist Identity movement are primed and ready for any movement that enables the Great Commission to be accomplished in ways to reach the most people with the Gospel and build New Testament churches around the world. In fact the FCI has a section that deals with the Great Commission:
The Pursuit of the Great Commission: New Testament congregations are a construct universally relevant to all people, cultures, and ages. Southern Baptist congregations must visit afresh the Divine imperative to reproduce themselves throughout the world, embracing new opportunities to engage the task with greater vigor than ever before.
The goal of any GCR should be to help birth self perpetuating churches that engage in the global effort of the GCR. I personally appreciate Dr. Danny Akin for initiating this GCR concept in an effort to go the next step from the conservative resurgence that brought our convention to doctrinal accountability and fidelity to God’s Word. Any GCR that seeks to make disciples through the planting of local New Testament churches must be in agreement on the purpose and workings of a New Testament church. Without an understanding and unity in matters of Ecclesiology, the GCR is negatively affected and will ultimately lead to an adverse witness to the world around it.
In short, while I cannot fully define the term or movement, suffice it to say that Baptist Identity is an effort to pursue the Great Commission by joining with like minded confessional Baptists who desire to see God glorified in all the world.
While attending the FBC Jacksonville Pastor’s conference, the events of last week have weighed heavily on my mind. Namely what our site, SBCToday, should be about. The resource managers have primarily taken up the cause of the nearly forgotten doctrines concerning Baptist ecclesiology. Because of this, some have referred to us as “Baptist Identity” (BI), “neo-Landmark/Landmark,” or “fundamentalist” while sometimes adding “spooky.”
Frankly, last week Friday and most of Saturday, I was not keeping up with the blogs, yet through the preaching of God’s Word at the conference, God was dealing with me in how I represent His Word on the blogs. For what am I willing to suffer in the proclamation and upholding of His Word? This question was driven to me as Dr. Mohler preached from Colossians 1:19-28. Dr. Mohler’s point was that that we are “called,” men of God, not men working in a profession. This calling requires us to uphold the Word of God and suffer if we are called to do so in the proclamation of the truth. Essentially Paul was willing to suffer for the sake of the church to fulfill the Word of God.
It is my opinion that over the past couple of weeks, my name has been suffering for something that does not equate for what Paul is calling us to suffer. Though I believe I have done nothing ethically wrong in my blogging activities last week, I did in fact abandon my primary purpose of proclaiming the wondrous biblical truths of God and in articulating the overall situation Southern Baptists are facing. There is a systematic diverting of attention from doctrinal fidelity by the Southern Baptist (SB) ecumenist. This is being done by aligning oneself to the lowest common denominator for cooperation, a false redefinition of terms, and a pragmatic approach to missions cooperation.
I joined with the other men at SBC Today to bring awareness to the almost forgotten and severely neglected theology of Baptist ecclesiology. If anything, I wanted to be a part of the grass roots movement to help Southern Baptists journey back to their biblical heritage concerning matters of the church.
With this endeavor in SBC Today, I have frequently used a term called “ecumenical” or “ecumenist.” While some have dismissed using these terms as being unhelpful, by using them in the context of Southern Baptists, I have understood it and applied it in three ways:
1. Those in Southern Baptist life who are ecumenical are those who seek to cooperate using the lowest common denominator. Not only in Southern Baptist life is this a movement, but it is also in the wider evangelical community. The recent evangelical manifesto proved this as the document itself abandoned inerrancy as a distinctive for evangelicals. In the SBC calls for cooperating on the essentials of the Gospel is the mantra. After the 2007 SBC Convention in San Antonio the Garner motion was an effort of the ecumenists to keep SBC entities from making decisions beyond the doctrinal limitations of the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M). The ecumenists saw the BF&M as a “maximal document,” limiting the trustees to doctrines only addressed in the BF&M. In other words, the trustees could not fully fulfill their mandate as agents of accountability of the SBC. Fast forward to today. No longer are calls given by the Southern Baptist ecumenist to keep the BF&M as the limit of doctrines that are necessary for cooperation. Now the caveats have increased and the ecumenist desires to cooperate solely on the “essentials” of the gospel as long as those essentials remain in a state of flux so that no one is eliminated from their tent of cooperation. The belief in a regenerate baptized (immersed) church membership no longer matters. The ecumenist wants to work with the paedobaptist or sprinkler whether they were baptized as an infant or not. These issues are not of great concern to the SB ecumenist and do not impede cooperation for them.
2. Those in Southern Baptist life who are ecumenical wrongly redefine terms in order to evoke action towards their cause. Terms have been used to invoke fear among various groups of Southern Baptists. “Fundamentalist,” “spooky fundamentalist,” “Landmark,” “neo-landmark,” and “avant-garde self-styled defenders of Baptist Identity,” have been used against confessional Southern Baptists. Recently the issue of closed verses open communion took front stage. Those who believe that a church should allow, at a minimum, only those who are saved and baptized by immersion to participate in the Lord’s Supper were called “neo-Landmark.” Yet, by this post here, it was shown that those Southern Baptists who practiced this are abiding within the parameters of the Baptist Faith and Message. Those who accuse confessional Southern Baptists as neo-Landmark are themselves outside of what Southern Baptists officially believe. The aforementioned terms have been wrongly used to describe those who are Baptist Identity.
3. Those in Southern Baptist life who are ecumenical focus more on pragmatism and cultural preference (or feelings) rather than Biblical principles in forging their worldview. For instance, one may not want a woman to pastor their church because their discomfort “is personal and cultural – and not Biblical.” But when an autonomous state convention of cooperating churches, because of biblical beliefs, decides to disfellow themselves from a church that has a woman for their pastor, the convention is scourged on blog posts saying that it is unfair for a state convention to hold, in particular, those biblical beliefs not only in doctrine, but also in practice. Autonomy is only held in cases where it benefits the ecumenist. The state convention of cooperating churches, for the ecumenist, is not autonomous in this decision, yet through out Baptist history, there is example after example of associations and conventions who have operated as an autonomous body of churches that did not allow themselves to compromise their doctrines by one church’s decision to act independently of the confessional belief of the body. To claim that cooperating churches in a state convention cannot act autonomously against one aberrant church is weak if not illogical to say the least.
The ecumenical reformer understands certain truths from God’s Word to be stumbling blocks to cooperating with others. Where the doctrine does not pragmatically fit, it must be removed. We see this time and time again in the seeker sensitive or emergent church movement that is creeping into our convention. Don’t misunderstand, doctrine is not unimportant to the ecumenical reformer if it aids their cause, but when it is perceived to being a stumbling block, it must either be removed or avoided because it takes away from the pragmatic benefit of cooperation.
There is no doubt that a movement is afoot to make doctrine of secondary importance behind the shortsighted pragmatical benefits one perceives. When inerrancy (truth without any mixture of error), believers baptism by immersion, and the Lord’s Supper are considered tertiary doctrines that should not impede cooperation in a convention, association, or network of churches, then those who are not ashamed of the doctrines that make us Baptist must speak up and “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.”
As you begin reading Part II, I need to remind you of a disclaimer. I am writing this taxonomy as if I were writing in 1980. The conclusion brings everything up to today, but the first part of this paper is presented as one writing during the Conservative Resurgence in order to identify the verbiage.
Southern Baptist and Inerrancy: Four Options
Option 1: Southern Baptists who believe the KJV is the scripture that is inerrant.
These Southern Baptists are proud of their belief in the inerrancy of the Scripture. They are so proud of this belief that their churches have it written in their constitutions that the KJV is the authorized translation. These churches are not very cooperative and see their commitment to the Cooperative Program as their missions mantra. These churches are not very cooperative within their associations. They may only give token support to their association because the Director of Missions came to their church and used a different translation; therefore, they believe he must be a liberal. These churches hold tenaciously to their desire that people come to Jesus, but that desire is not as strong as the desire to make certain it is the “right” people.