Because of events that transpired yesterday, this single post really represents the contents of posts two and three of a five-part series, greatly abridged. Part one was I Support the Cooperative Program. It is the purpose of this series, apart from going out of my way to disparage anyone else's views, to provide a heartfelt exposition of the issues that have motivated me for a year of blogging and still motivate me as I go to San Antonio. An outline:
- I Support the Cooperative Program.
- I Support Our Southern Baptist Convention Polity
- I Support the Conservative Resurgence
- I Support a Renewal of Baptist Identity (next post, later today)
- I Support Biblical Christian Unity (next post, later today)
I Support Our Southern Baptist Convention PolityIndeed, I wrote a white paper detailing attributes of our convention polity that I appreciate and support (see Why Southern Baptists Need the Trustee System). I depending upon you clicking the link and reading the paper—I won't repeat any of that material in this abridged post. Wade Burleson has hosted a recent debate over whether The Baptist Faith & Message contains so-called "tertiary doctrines." As it regards the topic at hand—to wit, in the sphere of convention operations, fiduciaries, and employees—Wade Burleson's opinion of the matter is entirely irrelevant. Furthermore, Dr. Greg Welty's opinion is irrelevant. So is the opinion of every other person commenting on the blog. So is mine. I'm not saying that each person involved isn't entitled to his opinion—he is. I'm not saying that each person involved hasn't labored hard to reach an opinion. I'm saying that all of these opinions are irrelevant because our polity follows the opinion of the convention messengers duly assembled. The people of the Southern Baptist Convention have already spoken to this issue, identifying The Baptist Faith & Message as "those articles of the Christian faith which are most surely held among us" and as our "instrument of doctrinal accountability." The whole "primary"/"secondary"/"tertiary" question is an anachronism—nobody was discussing Al Mohler's "Theological Triage" when any revision of The Baptist Faith & Message was adopted. Nevertheless, the Southern Baptist people have clearly stated what connects the various doctrines within the BF&M. These are our most surely held doctrines to which we expect our fiduciaries and employees to remain accountable in their service to the convention. To include any doctrine in The Baptist Faith & Message is ipso facto to declare it either a "primary" or a "secondary" doctrine. By including these doctrines in The Baptist Faith & Message, the Southern Baptist people have already proffered their collective opinion that none of them are "tertiary." Wade Burleson disagrees…fine. Some others disagree, too. The question is, who gets to decide? The Southern Baptist people, assembled as messengers at the annual meeting. I have no heart for imposing my opinion upon anyone else. I do, however, have a passion for defending the right of the convention to have an opinion and to expect it to be followed by those who serve on its behalf. That is how our polity works. For this reason, I have offered and fully support my resolution "On the Role of The Baptist Faith & Message." The resolution does nothing more than embody my passion for our polity as expressed in my white paper. My resolution supports this polity; the IMB report on PPL and baptism exemplifies it. We make our decisions not through random samplings determined by someone else, but by considering the opinions of thousands of Southern Baptists in a forum which affords every Southern Baptist church the opportunity for input. Certainly, some of these issues are contentious. All the more reason to arrive at our decisions through a polity that has worked well in dealing with difficult issues for more than 150 years.
I Support the Conservative ResurgenceIn 1988 I left home, went to college, and encountered rank academic theological liberalism for the first time. People debate how many actual liberals were in the Southern Baptist Convention before the Conservative Resurgence. Wade Burleson has offered his opinion that there really weren't that many. See his post here for how he would have handled things. To read many of the blogs these days, you could only walk away with the impression that the Conservative Resurgence was, whatever it started out to be, in the long run a colossal mistake. Indeed, Burleson has opined that the whole thing would be much harder to accomplish today:
I regret that blogging was not availiable 30 years ago at the beginning of the conservative resurgence in the SBC. I truly believe that had blogging been available then, some of those who were hurt, disenfranchised and falsely accused of major doctrinal or theological error could have shown through their writing they were in reality theological [sic] conservative.So, how many liberals were there? Was the Conservative Resurgence an unfair inquisition—a bloodthirsty purging of those "hurt, disenfranchised and falsely accused"? Or was it the providential action of God to rescue our denomination from the oblivion of hetereodoxy? Whatever the frequency of liberals among rank-and-file Baptists (and I think it was relatively small), the frequency of liberals was very high among the employees of our Southern Baptist agencies. They were furthermore hard at work producing even more liberals through our seminaries. I invite you to look at this document, authored by a person very unfriendly to the Conservative Resurgence, and come to your own conclusions about the frequency of liberalism among women training at SBTS pre-CR. Today, things are different in the Southern Baptist Convention. I thank God for that. I will not quietly march back to 1978. Yet support for today's SBC dissent quite demonstrably includes a large contingent of people who would undo the Conservative Resurgence. On Wade Burleson's blog just a few posts ago, he stated in his original post just the kind of language designed to reassure people like me who support the CR—indicating that he has no intention to seek reconciliation with the CBF ("nobody is advocating for the reunion of the CBF and SBC—it shouldn't happen.") However, in the very first rush of comments, two people challenged Burleson for distancing himself from CBFefs. He immediately retracted, saying,
Good point and I agree—I was not clear. Anyone should be welcome back.Well, I'm sorry, but I have no desire to reverse course and become the pre-CR Southern Baptist Convention. My gratitude to God for the Conservative Resurgence will motivate my voting this year. We need Southern Baptist leadership who remain committed to the direction of the Conservative Resurgence. Not everyone will agree with what I've written here, and I've always made my blog a place where liberty reigns to express contrarian opinions. However, please understand that I have written these things in an honest, transparent effort to demonstrate what is motivating my words and actions these days. Here is an opportunity for the reader, if not to agree, at least to understand. The final installment—later today.