Category Archives for Ecclesiology

The Shot Heard ‘Round the SBC (Part B)

April 7, 2011

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)

April 5, 2011

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)

April 1, 2011

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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