Moral Contradictions

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The "however" is the downfall

Church families have split, members disaffected, friendships ruined - all because a group of folks conveniently forgot their heritage to force their view on others. What a shame. Baptists originated out of the free church idea. They were tired of being told what to believe by bishops and priests, tired of being told how to worship, and tired of persecution if they disagreed. Some even gave their lives for the right to embrace "soul freedom" in a free church.

Let me say that because I don't think enough people understand this fact: some early Baptists died for the core founding beliefs of our denomination. They didn't recover.

The word "however" is the bane of today's Baptists. How can I say "well, your son is healthy, however, he has a tumor on his brain"? The word "however" fundamentally changes a sentence, much in the same way has it has changed modern Baptist life. We grew from humble, yet volatile beginnings back in the early 17th century.

However, some folks lost sight of why a convention was even formed. Baptists went over 200 years without a convention. Two centuries... 6-7 generations came and went with no offiical organization binding the local Baptist church. The convention was created to pool resources to eventually fund missionaries and then fund theological training. Within that framework, the uniquely Baptist free church and free soul ideas prevailed.

However, a group came to power in the latter quarter of the 20th century and were determined to, for the first time, use the convention to suppress "soul freedom". Convinced that only their intrepretation of the Bible was the only ticket to heaven, they schemed to take control of the leadership of a very large and powerful denomination.

However, they had to overcome the Baptist idea of the free church. How could they exert control over a "bottom-up" organization and convert it to a "top-down" group? They realized that the President, elected every year at the annual convention meeting, had appointment powers over the trustee boards of mission organizations and seminaries. If like-minded people were appointed, they could wrest control and steal esstablished institutions to further their goals, rather than have to start a new denomination from the ground up. Thus, once achieved in 1979, the group got to work. So-called "liberal" professors were targeted.

However, one would hope that the average Baptist would have an appreciation of their heritage and recognize what was happening. Because this process occured over a period of years and possessed extraordinary planning, any action proved to be too little, too late. Thus, once that initial Presidency was one, nothing could stop the tide of the takeover. Not content to challenge theological students with various viewpoints, both liberal and conservative, professors were kicked out of seminaries if they didn't adhere to a very strict theological stance. Controversial and complex theological points were boiled into a black and white test designed for either blind allegiance or excommunication. No room for discussion was allowed. Thus the purging began.

However, that wasn't enough. Strict conservative stances, justified with selected verses in the Bible taken out of context, were taken by the Convention and taught to pastors in training at the seminaries that were swept of dissent. These pastors took this narrow yet explosive and emotionally-driven ideology to local churches and the brunt of the convention began to bear down on the local church. Churches were eventually limited to what they could give, who they could give to, and what they could believe - if they disagreed, they were forced to abandon their assocations and look for new ways to support missions and theological training.

However, the question that begs to be asked is thus: if this group that calls itself Baptist, yet rejects the Baptist heritage that its forefathers suffered and died for, are they really Baptist? How does a group justify using the levers of an institution that was simply created to expedite the mission of the church while simultaneously respected the priesthood of the believer and the concept of the free church?

However, despite this blatant disregard for the damage that this group has done in the name of doctrinal purity, this group and its leaders continually take the moral high road.

However, I come from a Galatians 6:7 background, and I predict that this group, the Southern Baptist Convention, will one day pay dearly for the hurt, damage, and sins it has committed. By using power politics, ridding the convention of good and faithful Christians, and disrespecting the very defintion of Baptist, the SBC will pay for using the end to justify the means. The amount of hurt, pain, and damage that they inflicted may never surpass any good that they may do.

More and more, I pray that more Baptists will see through so-called doctrinal statements such as this:

We believe that the Bible is the verbally inspired Word of God, and is sufficient as our only infallible rule of faith and practice. We deny that other books are inspired by God in the same way as the Bible. The fundamental truths to which we are committed are expressed in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 with the clarification of inerrancy as described above. The doctrinal position of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia shall not be binding upon any local church; however, the convention recognized its right and responsibility to determine its identity, including doctrinal parameters, and to include within its affiliation those individual affiliates and churches who can freely agree with it, and to exclude those individuals or churches who do not.

To the SBCV, SBC, and all other like-minded folks, to steal a phrase from the world: you can't have your cake and eat it too.


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