At the Southern Baptist Convention this past week, one did not have to look hard to find examples of doctrinal bias in favor of Calvinism over Traditionalism. The latter view is summarized in a doctrinal statement that nearly a thousand Southern Baptists have signed and that still remains available for signing today.
For practical purposes, we may simply define Traditionalism as the salvation doctrine espoused by all three primary confessors of The Baptist Faith and Message—Mullins in 1925, Hobbs in 1963 and Rogers in 2000. Traditionalism is therefore a view that many Southern Baptists embrace, although you would not know it based on the promotions, speakers, books, curricula and leadership panels highlighted at the Southern Baptist Convention.
As a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, I am rather unused to “playing the victim” as some have called it, or appealing for the redress of discrimination against me and my causes or beliefs. However, I can honestly say that when I walk through the convention halls today (compared with fifteen years ago, for example) I absolutely feel like a stranger in a strange land. I feel out of place in my own denomination.
I am not being divisive. I am being forgotten, marginalized and alienated. This convention wants my money, or at least the money of my church, but it appears unwilling to give significant “face time” to leaders, authors, speakers and resources that support and strengthen Southern Baptists with convictions like mine. Below are only a few examples of this demoralizing doctrinal discrimination.
1. Pastor’s Conference Book Promotions—80% Calvinist
A section in the Pastor’s Conference program entitled By the Book promoted five specific authors—one Traditionalist and four Calvinists. Of the four Calvinists, only two were Southern Baptist. All four, however, have been very active in The Gospel Coalition. Calvinists outside the convention are being offered a greater platform than Traditionalists inside the convention who are paying the bills.
2. ERLC Leadership Posts—100% Calvinist
This encroachment of TGC into Southern Baptist life did not begin last week. It is reminiscent of Russell Moore’s first day at the ERLC in 2013, when he hired five people, only two of whom were Southern Baptists. (All five, of course, were active in The Gospel Coalition.) The message is loud and clear—leadership positions and book deals are not for the Traditional Southern Baptists who have given their time and money for many years, but are instead reserved for all the Johnny-come-lately members of The Gospel Coalition, whether or not they are even Southern Baptist.
3. Send North America Conference Speakers—100% Calvinist
Promotional posters for the upcoming Send North America Conference sponsored by NAMB featured an “All Calvinism—All The Time” lineup of five speakers. Not one Southern Baptist Traditionalist was able to slip through the cracks and push his way onto the promotional poster. One of the five speakers is not Southern Baptist, but all of them, of course, are Calvinists and members of The Gospel Coalition—which, by the way, excludes Southern Baptists like me by means of a doctrinal statement that is far more restrictive than The Baptist Faith and Message.
4. LifeWay Curricula Promotional Hype—95% Calvinist
In the LifeWay presentation, much time was devoted to promoting only one of LifeWay’s four curricula—The Gospel Project. The creative team behind The Gospel Project is far more Calvinistic than those involved in the other curricula. Messengers were also shown a lengthy video promoting The Gospel Project. Its popularity was reported by means of subscription statistics. No other LifeWay curriculum was featured in this way, although the smallgroups.com resource was briefly discussed. The popularity statistics of no other curriculum were cited. Apparently, our Calvinist produced resources received 95% of the attention while our Traditionalist produced resources remained virtually invisible by comparison.
The usual response from Calvinists when I gingerly raise my hand and point out these glaring examples of doctrinal bias is to be scolded for my feelings of discrimination and alienation as if I were the problem. “Stop being so divisive!” “Quit stirring up trouble and unite for the gospel!” “It’s all about the Kingdom!” “There is no ‘us’ and ‘them.’” “Who cares about this when lost people are dying?”
History is filled with examples of people being discriminated against, marginalized or overlooked who, when they raise their grievance and ask for it to be redressed, are simply blamed for speaking up in the first place. While I am resigned to being treated in this fashion, it is nevertheless true that bias of any kind is demoralizing. If SBC leaders care about people like me, they have a strange way of showing it.