Friday, June 8, 2007

Important Things I Support

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:

  1. I Support the Cooperative Program.
  2. I Support Our Southern Baptist Convention Polity
  3. I Support the Conservative Resurgence
  4. I Support a Renewal of Baptist Identity (next post, later today)
  5. I Support Biblical Christian Unity (next post, later today)
I hope you will all appreciate the (very difficult for me) effort made to remain brief. I'm sure that some of the material I left out will show up in the comments eventually.

I Support Our Southern Baptist Convention Polity

Indeed, 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 Resurgence

In 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.


gary ledbetter said...

And I would ask, how many are too many? I started seminary in 1978 and I can personally name 10-12 liberals I've read and heard, who led and taught at that time and since. There are almost certainly others I would name if I did more research.

These people have taught students, published books and had their names in the paper. None are pastors, some are no longer Southern Baptists. And yet, scores of other prominent and leader types either denied/deny their existence or significance.

Agency heads, seminary professors and the authors of text books are certainlly significant. You'd have to be blind as a mole to miss their existence.

I really look forward to your later posts, Bart.

Chuck Bryce said...


I enjoy reading much of what you write even when I don't agree with it in it's entirety. For example you quote Wade and then offer your assessment:

"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."

I read Wade's original writing and the subsequent posts. I can easily see a difference between saying that we should not reunite with the CBF (something I would absolutely agree with) and the concept of welcoming back those who once separated. I don't know about the SBC but the SBTC has an affiliation process that could ensure the church has returned to a more Biblical belief system.

I think you can also see that difference. Look at Wade's post again. If anything he is guilty of "being unclear" both times.


I am really glad to see you joining in the comment stream of this and other blogs. While your opinions are your own and not official statements from SBCT you do bring a "sense of authority" to the discussion.

You are absolutely correct that one liberal affecting our "young skulls full of mush" (see Limbaugh) is one too many.

At this point I am wondering if we have two problems. 1)While I can affirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 it is obvious that it could have been written more clearly to accomodate an openess to areas where there is obvious theological disagreement. (Open versus closed communion is an example. I say this from the practical standpoint that if so many did not see a difference in how it can be interpreted we would not be having these discussions. 2) The BFM2K has, as any "Confession of Faith", the ability to be used as a weapon rather than a tool. At this point we can guard against that but I do not believe that we can fix it.

I would say that is my 2 cents worth but I am so broke I can't afford to pay attention. Thanks for letting me post.

Luke said...

Bart wrote: "Well, I'm sorry, but I have no desire to reverse course and become the pre-CR Southern Baptist Convention."

Well, I am not sorry for holding to the belief that returning to pre-CR would be a disaster.:) I realize that there comes a time for the torch to be passed to the younger, but I would really like to see some of the original framers of the CR stand back up and stand out so that what was so earnestly fought for is not lost.

Our warfare though is not against flesh and blood and we know this. Our enemy, the adversary, the devil, aka Satan, the Serpent from the Garden is doing his best to make us as the SBC impotent at the least and apostate at the worst. While avoiding liberalism, neo-orthodoxy and other attempts to water down the Scripture, we do need to be on guard against legalism and adding to the Scripture. But there is an ocean of distance between legalism and believing the Bible literally. Well I have rambled enough. May God grant us wisdom for this hour and courage to stand true to His Word.


The Milkman said...


What role does a resolution play in the big scheme of SBC life? I honestly do not know.

If your resolution (or any other) should pass . . . then what? What impact will it have?

I would hope that all of the work that goes into writing resolutions and passing them accomplishes more than filling archives and feeding moths.

I will be further indebted to you if you could enlighten me on this matter.


Anonymous said...


Thank you for your open and uncompromising stance in these areas. I, too, am pro CP and pro CR. I cannot envision the SBC returning to a pre-CR position. Gary is correct, "just how many liberals were too many?" Certainly one professor at a seminary pumping liberal theology into sponge-like minds in awe of the pedigree of their professor counts far more than one church pastor who leads the average flock in SBC life - IMHO.

What people seem to forget - and Wade, Cole, et al do so quite often - is that the liberals that left the SBC did so because their "license" to promote their agenda in trustee appointments and elected offices was being revoked by the messengers of the Convention. The liberals saw themselves losing power and position and reacted in anger and malice with an "I'll just show you" attitude. To welcome back the CBF would require alowing them the same positions they once desperately desired. Who wants to open that can of worms again? Besides, these individuals, factions, denomination-like groups, are not wanting a place AT the SBC table, they are wanting to again SET the table, PREPARE the menu, and SERVE the items they think nourish Southern Baptists best. May it never be...

There can be no return to pre-CR days if we are to remain strong in SBC life.

Thanks Bart!

B McWilliams

Nathan Finn said...


I enjoyed your post very much. I do however want to piggy-back on something Chuck Bryce alluded to in his comment. I do not know whether Wade intended to make a distinction between reunion or welcoming back the departed, but would you agree that there is a difference between the two? There are a couple of reasons I ask this.

First, the majority of CBF-affiliated churches are still Southern Baptist. Which means that a change in church leadership could signal a "return" to the SBC (which would really be more like a break from CBF). I can think of one strongly CBF church where this could be a real possibility in the next decade or so, just because of funerals. Seriously.

Second, while CBF leadership is for the most part to the left of the SBC, in my admittedly anecdotal experience many CBF laypeople and even some church staff folks believe the same stuff you and I do, but for reasons mostly unrelated to theology distanced themselves from the SBC. I am not from Texas, and have only been there once, but some of my friends in Texas have indicated that a similar situation prevails among many in the BGCT.

I am not endorsing their reasons for backing away some from the SBC and aligning with moderate groups. I am merely observing that for many of them it was not for theological reasons. Some of them believe (quite openly) that they will be comfortable in the SBC after we have a few funerals, not because of theological changes (they are with us there), but because of personality changes.

I am not sure if you agree or disagree with my thoughtson this, but if Wade hopes that *some* CBFers (and other moderates) "return" to the SBC, then I agree with him in that sentiment, provided that he is not wanting a formal reunion and/or a mass return to the SBC because we have moved to the theological left. If Wade hopes that some who are out of or only marginally part of the SBC for reasons other than their progressive theology will one day return to the SBC and/or break with CBF, then I am with him 100%.

I am glad we lost many of the people who used to be in the SBC (and a great many of the people working in the formal bureaucracy), but I wish we had not lost so many because of reasons other than a rejection of inerrancy or an embracing of egalitarianism.

For what its worth. Again, good post.


joerstewart said...

The danger my friends is what Wade posted recently on my blog. He now affirms wholehearted agreement with the major doctrines of the BF&M. That is parsing at its finest.

gary ledbetter said...

Chuck, the problem with your comparison with SBTC's affiliation process is that there are not many solely CBF churches. That fellowship has never officially gone their own way. Most of the people who are separated from SBC have done so as individuals. Jimmy Carter, for example. In 2000 he declared his preference for CBF and a level of hostility toward SBC. But he still goes to an SBC church. Such actions are nonsense. Individuals don't affiliate with a denomination, churches do.

I think it would be great if the SBC used a confessional model for the relationship between churches. I'd hate to be the one who tried to talk everyone into reupping though.

Usually, those who mourn for the "disenfranchised" who used to be in the SBC refer to those who lost elections or who no longer get to be SBC employees. Some of these are are on pretty good pension plans to boot.

Headed for SA. I'll see thousands of you there, from what I hear. GL

Brad Guenther said...

Excellent post. I appreciate that there is an articulate proponent of what makes us baptists.
I am afraid that too many will fail to take polity into account - the same polity that has protected us from the continual left-ward push of the other mainline denominations.
I am afraid that too many are now too far removed from the the circumstances of the 70s-80s to see that the battle for the bible includes sound interpretation and will be continuous.
I am also afraid that we have an uphill battle for San Antonio overcoming the rhetoric and the Rogers name.
I wish I could be there, but I have a family, a church plant, and no travel budget.
I pray your resolution will see the floor.

Bart Barber said...

Chuck & Nathan,

Gary's comment and Byron's have helped me out a great bit by reducing what I would have to type in response. I wish to build upon what they have said. The CBF, not being a "denomination", has left the SBC only the sense that SBC people have ceased to entrust such people with leadership positions. Burleson's posts like "Back to the Past" and the comments that I cited are clear to me. In "Back to the Past" he named names. Go back and read those names. Those are not people whom I could support being in any position of leadership in the SBC.

None of these people's churches have been formally excluded from the convention. We just don't want other leadership than them.

Nathan Finn said...


Agreed about the people Wade named--I publicly disagreed with him on that at the time. I am thinking more about those basically conservative churches with a foot in both camps that could potentially come back solely into our camp. I am not for theological progressives "rejoining" the SBC, period. I am for conservatives who are in CBF abandoning that group and choosing to focus their energies through the SBC. I just hope we have a place for those "moderates" who believe exactly what we do, but somewhere along the way became convinced that CBF (or other moderate groups) is a better option.


Winning Truth w/Tim Guthrie said...

I hear what you are saying but would ask this:
"Why would anyone who believes in a conservative theology ever associate with a moderate (all inclusive) other group? Obviously to do so would mean there theology is not as strong as they say.

Nathan Finn said...


I think there may be many reasons that some conservatives distanced themselves from the SBC, some of which are more noble than others. Some moved on because they followed their leaders. Some moved on because they thought the Controversy was really about power and not about theology. Some moved on because they did not like particular personalities or tactics related to conservative leadership. Some moved on because they did not agree with how certain moderate leaders were treated (Russell Dilday, Molly Marshall, etc.). The point is, there are many reasons.

Here is the key thing to remember: the same lack of historical perspective that conservatives suffer from also affects moderates. There are many, many people in moderate churches that are clueless about the Controversy or about the theological differences between the two groups. Many of these folks are very conservative. It may be that the same historical myopia that currently plagues some younger conservatives also plagues some younger "moderates," by which I mean folks in CBF-affiliated churches. This may help many dually-aligned churches move back solidly into the SBC camp in the next decade or two.

I hope it does, and I don't think we have to change a lick of our theology to see it happen. Frankly, as long as CBF continues to exist as the anti-SBC and does not adopt its own identity, this is a real possibility. Younger moderate leaders know this, but they struggle against the old guard who simply cannot get over their hatred of the SBC. It will be interesting to see what happens.



OKpreacher said...


I appreciate your blog and everything you have to say. My concern is that we as Southern Baptists arn't focused on the most important problems facing us. For example, a renewal of baptist identity isn't going to help us reach more people for Christ. I would encourage a renewal of Christian identity amoung Baptists and all who claim to be Christians.

From what I have experienced as a pastor is that most Southern Baptist members don't understand what it means to be a Christian. They don't understand the very basics of how to grow as a Christian. Sure they say they believe the Bible is inerrant and they give to the Lottie Moon Offering, but for them being a Christian is going to church on Sundays.

Until we have a renewal of Christian identity, who cares about baptist identity. When Jesus raptures His church, it won't just be baptists going. Lets focus on what is really needed, a Christian identity that results in bring billions of people into God's Kingdom.