Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Manufactured and Distorted Contest

Conflict and difference of opinion are inevitable to some degree when people congregate. It is difficult enough to work through differences of opinion when we all understand one another. It is all the more difficult when argument erupts not over the real differences but over misunderstandings or misinterpretations instead. A very wise professor once told me that we are only ready for debate when each side can state the opposing side's point of view so clearly that they themselves would say, "Yes, that is precisely what I believe."

A while back I interacted online with the blog Baptist21 by commenting upon a panel discussion held at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. The panel discussion covered a wide range of topics. Among them was an insight by David Nelson that the problems in the Southern Baptist Convention are not generational, but are instead ideological. I agreed with this insight and wanted to applaud it, although I did not wish to applaud the manner in which he applied it.

Dr. Nelson presented the difference to SEBTS students in the way of a contrast between, as it were, black hats and white hats. According to Dr. Nelson, the struggle for the soul of the SBC is presently taking place between those who would ruin the SBC by clinging to what he regards as a Baptist sectarianism on the one hand, and the good, noble ecumenicals on the other hand.

You may not agree with Dr. Nelson and with myself that current SBC tensions are non-generational in their nature, but we must all agree that Dr. Nelson's manner of presenting this observation was pointedly biased in favor of ecumenism and against those who do not embrace his ecumenism.

So, I tried to approve of Dr. Nelson's basic insight, but attempt to show to him that he had applied it in a biased and incendiary manner. Here's what I said:

I think that David demonstrated a great deal of insight in his comments. I was impressed.

I would have described it as the difference between those who would sell our Baptist birthright of obedience to the commands of Scripture for a bowl of ecumenical porridge versus those who wish to fulfill the Great Commission in its entirety (including the teaching to follow all that Christ has commanded), and would have been no more slanted to one side than he was to the other.

But even though we look at the matter from apparently different sides of the aisle, I thought that his observations about how these really are NOT generational issues so much as they are ideological issues…well…he was astute there.

Thanks for posting the video.

Obviously, I identified with a different point of view than did Dr. Nelson, but I thought that I approached the matter with respect for him and his office while creatively attempting to articulate both my appreciation for his insights and the points where we differed. Nathan Akin took some apparent umbrage at my comment. He posted a comment asking me for clarification about my comment. Specifically, he wanted to know whether I was accusing Dr. Nelson of actually having sold out for the "ecumenical porridge." I will not post the entire comment, since it interacts with other people's comments in addition to mine, but here's the relevant passage of Nathan's rejoinder:

However, are you being serious with the Ecumenical porridge comment? Are you implying those in the stream that Dr. Nelson would represent do not care about fulfilling the entire command of the Great Commission and that they do not care about teaching the commands of Christ?

I was happy to help Nathan understand what I had written, especially since I wish no falsely grounded ill will between Drs. Nelson and Barber. I was not accusing Dr. Nelson of having sold out his Baptist birthright for ecumenical porridge. Rather, I was accusing Dr. Nelson of saying something just that incendiary from the other side of the aisle. Thus, I replied to Akin:

Nathan,

I tried to cobble together a comment that would be the opposite slant of Dr. Nelson. He characterized the convention as being at a crossroads between (bad) people who are sectarian and (good) people who are ecumenical.

It was a lopsided and inaccurate characterization. I was illustrating that by reflecting back another lopsided and inaccurate characterization, but from the other direction. Thus, my words: “I would have described it. . . and would have been no more slanted to one side than he was to the other.” Please note the subjunctive.

So, what is my charge (a stronger word than I would have employed) against Nelson? Is it that he has sold out his Baptist birthright for ecumenical porridge? No. Rather, it is that his comments on the panel amounted to a slur of that degree, but just lobbed in the opposite direction. I left the thread, thinking that I had cleared the matter up.

But no. Today I learned of a podcast interview at the same blog in which, among other things, Nelson responds to "claims by Bart Barber that he has sold his Baptist birthright." Of course, as you can clearly see by reading the exact quotes above, I charged Nelson with no such thing. He is responding not only to a misunderstanding, but to a misunderstanding that I thought I had already cleared up.

There is a silver lining to all of this. The folks over at Baptist21 are obviously sensitive to inflammatory and divisive comments directed toward the ecumenicals among us. Their reaction is evidence enough of that. Perhaps the original purpose of my hypothetical and hyperbolic slanted comment can be accomplished after all. The gentlemen at Baptist21 should think about how they felt when they falsely thought that I was actually accusing them of having sold out their Baptist birthrights. That feeling precisely is the way that I received Nelson's comments in the panel discussion, although his were not hypothetical comments, but represented his actual point of view and the instructional material that he was disseminating to the student body that day. The original purpose of my comment was to make them consider how they would feel if someone was making that kind of slanted and unfounded slam against their point of view. Perhaps we are most of the way toward accomplishing that purpose.

30 comments:

adubhigg said...

I didn't take Nelson's comment that way when I listen to it (see my reflection on the forum: http://adubhigg.wordpress.com/2009/05/21/reflections-on-the-generational-issues-and-the-sbc/ ) I thought his comment was toward those who would "reach across the aisle" and against those who want to "take the ball and go home".

It is interesting the pushback one can get by pointing out the flaw in someone's argument...

Joe Blackmon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe Blackmon said...

I can't lie and say that I agree with folks who would probably be identified or identify themselves as Baptist Identity on each and every point of theology. However, I have exponentially more in common with them than I do any of the folks like those in Enid with doctrinal statements that read something like "It's all good". Further, any disagreements I would have with BI folks would be ones that I would say are not hills I'd be willing to die on.

The long and the short of it--I concur that we are at a crossroads between the Mainstreamers who have stuck around to see if they can "take the convention back" and those who want to stay true to what the Bible teaches. I just pray that the good guys win.

debbiekaufman said...

Speaking of manufactured and Distorted, Joe, no one and I mean no one in Enid has ever said all is good. If you are going to disagree, accuracy should be employed.

Joe Blackmon said...

**Voting for the most agressively pro-choice president in history-check

**Considers cooperating with anyone, and I mean ANYONE, no matter what they believe (private prayer language, etc)-check

**Willing to invite someone to "preach the gospel" and shill for his book who denies the gospel (says that God doesn't punish sin but that sin is its own punishment)-check

Sounds like "It's all good" to me.

Bart Barber said...

Joe Blackmon,

You left out the last line of your comment:

"check-mate"

Joe Blackmon said...

Bart

Sir, I am honored. Sincerely, thank you.

selahV said...

Bart, communication can be an impossible thing at times. but the explanation of communication can be equally as impossible to communicate to some.

I really can understand taking my ball and going home. But I can also relate to black hats, white hats and feeling like I'm the bad guy if I'm told the preacher's wife gets to wear the black hat and the preacher gets the white hat. hope this doesn't offend any preachers and wives. selahV

Wade Burleson said...

Joe Blackmon

To whom are your referring when you say:

**Voting for the most agressively pro-choice president in history-check Most of the folks in Enid voted for McCain, including me. We are the most pro-Republican County in the state

**Considers cooperating with anyone, and I mean ANYONE, no matter what they believe (private prayer language, etc)-check Um, are you suggesting we fire Dr. Rankin? Just asking

**Willing to invite someone to "preach the gospel" and shill for his book who denies the gospel (says that God doesn't punish sin but that sin is its own punishment) -check Um, that can't be Enid folks. Our view of the atonement is infinitely stronger and higher than yours - nobody gets to heaven except for those for whom Christ bore their PUNISHMENT - and we don't believe He bore the punishment for those who do not believe.

Bart, good thing you don't play chess. You and Joe would be slaughtered.

:)

Smile.

Joe Blackmon said...

Um, that can't be Enid folks. Our view of the atonement is infinitely stronger and higher than yours - nobody gets to heaven except for those for whom Christ bore their PUNISHMENT - and we don't believe He bore the punishment for those who do not believe.

Sorry, dude. I'm an old 5-pointer here. Definite atonement. Which is why I reject the drivel that is in The Shack because Wm says in the book that God doesn't punish sin but rather it's His joy to cure it. See, what you associate with you condone so when you asked the author to preach (snicker) you gave your approval of his doctrinal stance, which is a heretical stance.

Joe Blackmon said...

Oh, I left out the last line on my comment again...

Ooooh, SNAP!!

Scott Gordon said...

Joe,

Now those three 'checks' give a new definition to the popular 3-conomics of TV commercial fame...yet they represent a colossal economic failure on the part of the irenic, ecumenical fortress of northern Oklahoma...

Oooohhhh, snap!

Sola Gratia.

Tom Parker said...

Joe Blackmon:

Why did you feel the need to change from the original topic of this blog to WB?

You know all the BI people will show up and pile on don't you.

Unless you were in the voting booth you do not know who WB voted for.

Dr. Rankin admits to having a PPL.
As WB says should he be fired?

Jeff said...
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Jeff said...
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Wade Burleson said...

Tom, when our BI friends like Joe Blackmon, Scott Gordon and Bart Barber write comments like they have in this thread, it is hard to actually engage them in serious dialogue.

Blessings,

Wade

Tom Parker said...

Wade B:

Amen!!! I think they just might be hard of hearing because they are never willing to listen to others with a different viewpoint than them. I believe they think when they speak that it is the end of the conversation. They are always right or so they believe.

Joe Blackmon said...

Just for the record, as a point of clarification, I'm not BI.

volfan007 said...

For another point of clarification, I'm not hard of hearing.

David

:)

Joe Blackmon said...
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Anonymous said...

Bart:

I have to admit that some of this is so inside Baseball to me, that it's hard to follow.

What is NOT hard to follow, however, is the human tendency to restate someone's argument or point incorrectly, either to take offense or for polemic advantage.

This happens both by accident and on purpose. It happens a lot in the religious community.

Good luck getting this straightened out with these guys.

By the way, let me give a plug for a recent article by Greg Wills in the Southern Seminary Theological Journal. The article is on the history of Southern's faculty (I believe NT) and how they moved from the orthodox stance of the seminary founders (i.e. the Bible is true) to what might be termed a neo-orthodox or liberal stance (i.e. the Bible is true - in a religious sense, but not in other ways).

Dr. Wills is fair to the men who moved the seminary in that direction, but historically accurate.

I believe that article is a good read to recommend to the folks in the SBC who are going to be in Louisville for the convention or to those who believe there was none or very little influence of neoorthodoxy or liberalism in the SBC which motivated the people who supported the CR.

Take care.

Louis

Anonymous said...

By the way, I believe the article is on line at the Southern website for those who have any interest.

Louis

Joe Blackmon said...

Louis

Got a link or do I need to do the "needle in a haystack" routine?

Danke

Anonymous said...

Joe:

You are dealing with a guy who has limited ability at this internet stuff. But it's not hard.

www.sbts.edu

Then go to resoures (I think) and they keep issues of the Journal on line.

Take care.

Louis

Ron Phillips, Sr. said...

Joe,

I found the audio of his faculty address here but not the article.

Blessings,

Ron P.



Blessings,

Ron P.

Joe Blackmon said...

Well, I found the Journal but it doesn't have the article in question. May have been a back issue. Thanks for the audio, yo.

Anonymous said...

Guys:

My bad. It's the latest edition, which they don't have posted yet.

I am surprised by the lack of general sophistication that I find among some Southern Baptists regarding theology, generally. I knew of Southern's reputation many years ago, so the article did not surprise me. But I meet people from time to time who really have no clue.

I hope that they post this edition soon, especially in light of the upcoming convention.

Louis

Ecygtheow said...

The thing that scares me as a young Southern Baptist is the thought that Gospel cooperation is being labeled "ecumenism." I'm pretty sure that Jesus would have labeled it as Christianity. My PCA Presbyterian brothers, for instance, believe in the Gospel. They have that right. I believe that they have baptism wrong, but I'm willing to love them, serve alongside them, and have the occasional coffee shop debate.

That said, is not the Gospel primary? How in the world does "teaching them to obey everything I commanded you" = "aggree with every line item of dogma?"

Bart Barber said...

Paul,

Thanks for stopping by, and thanks all the more for returning us to the topic at hand.

1. I'll try to remember to pass your concerns about the use of the label "ecumenism" along to Dr. Nelson. I'm simply quoting him at that point. Whether it scares you or not, whatever he's talking about is something that HE labels ecumenism.

2. The Great Commission commands the immersion of disciples. This is the plain reading of the text when we translate rather than transliterate.

My PCA Presbyterian brothers, whom I love, may indeed have the gospel right, as do all who are authentically Christians and are not anathema. But they do not have the Great Commission right, for they generally sprinkle rather than immerse, and they perform their sprinkling upon those who are not disciples.

I think that we ought to be careful about making such a stark separation between baptism and the gospel. We do well to remember that baptism is not the gospel, for it is not regenerative and not necessary to salvation. Nevertheless, baptism is attached firmly to the gospel in the New Testament.

Bart Barber said...

Paul,

One other observation is important:

Virtually everyone in the SBC—me included—believes in the liberty of individual believers and individual congregations to form all manner of cooperative partnerships with non-Baptist Christians. Virtually everyone in the SBC—me included—benefits from and is thankful for the insights received from various teachers outside the Baptist fold.

When Dr. Nelson speaks of a decision-point for the SBC, the only logical thing that he can be talking about is the use of SBC resources to plant things other than Baptist churches. In other words, must the Southern Baptist Convention be a vehicle through which Southern Baptist congregations can use Cooperative Program funding to plant Presbyterian churches or other churches that are not Baptist. If this is what Nelson advocates, then I disagree with him that his ecumenical (again, his word) approach is our best future.

If this is not what Nelson advocates, but if he is simply calling for us to respect non-Baptist Christians, listen to some of them on the radio, attend the occasional non-SBC conference with them, and have some sort of city-wide crusade with them to spread the gospel jointly, then I still disagree with Nelson. It is not that I disagree with doing any of these things, for I myself do them all. Rather, his analysis of the SBC is silly if he thinks that these are matters of great contention in the SBC, such that the future of our convention hangs upon some contest between him and some set of opponents somewhere to such thinking.