“Baptist Battles:” A Brief Chronology and Future
As things have quite calmed down in the blogosphere over the last year, I reflected on some of the major “Baptist Battles” that have taken place in my 17 years as a believer. Below is a roughly chronological overview of those battles.
This seemed to drag on and on since the beginning of the Conservative Resurgence in 1979 (that’s two years after I was born, by the way). When God saved me in Christ at the beginning of the 90s, this was what I heard about: “Do you really believe the Bible is God’s word?” This battle has largely ceased as inerrancy has been less and less seriously challenged.
Another battle that, while still on-going, has also largely ceased. When science failed to find any such thing as a genetic basis for homosexuality, and then a majority of states passed amendments to their constitutions banning homosexual marriage, this issue ceased to become “hot button.” This battle is still being fought, and will never go away, but I’m convinced no serious Christian would knowingly compromise on this issue.
This issue dominated the 90s and the first couple of years of the 21st century. I was exposed to this errant theology in college. One of my seminary profs wrote three books that effectively buried the open-theist worldview. This battle may not go away until its originators do, but also no serious Christian really believes God doesn’t know everything, nor that God is not in control of everything.
The Emerging Church
Another “battle” that currently is sounding its death knell. With some of the major personalities in this movement wanting to do away with the terms “emerging/Emergent,” and its originator Mark Driscoll calling the movement nothing more than “toilet water” (appropriate since it seems they took his ideas and ran amuck with them), the days of this “church” are numbered. Many have finally, to paraphrase my preaching professor, “emerged and are called the church.” Many who initially resisted this movement are embracing the streams of the emerging church (not the Emergent movement/organization) that are consistent with biblical faith and reforming their own faith and practice as a result. Even though this battle began in the mid-90s, it has not really seriously challenged orthodoxy. What’s left of this movement is (spoken tongue firmly in cheek) for girlie men.
This is the most foolish of all the “battles.” It’s also the most short-lived. Spanning about the last 3 to 5 years in intensity and degree of publicity (whereas the others took at least a decade or more), this battle has been an exercise in stupidity, rudeness, and ignorance by a lot of people, usually anti-Calvinists (and I’m not going to name names). And those anti-Calvinists are a total embarrassment to non-Calvinists such as myself (I’m a 4-point Calvinist). As I’ve observed the issue, studied the theologies, and engaged the personalities, I’ve found myself losing a lot of respect for people I esteemed, and in some cases I have even written these individuals off completely. I’ve found myself gaining respect for some I never thought I would even like, even gaining what I believe will be lifelong friendships. My conclusion: this battle is effectively over, and the anti-Calvinists have been soundly defeated. The next battle will illustrate why.
This is the next great “Baptist Battle.” We Baptists have lost or obscured the Gospel. We no longer seek to meet the real need of the lost nor of our own people, choosing instead to focus on “felt needs” so that everyone gets their spiritual warm and fuzzies. No wonder our churches struggled with all the previous battles! When the Gospel is lost or obscured, confusion and false teaching have inroads.
That’s why I believe the next great “Baptist Battle” will be for the recovery of the biblical Gospel. Southern Baptists must stop this theological tomfoolery we’ve been engaged in and start making real change in our denomination. And the only way to see real change is through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Only the Gospel can change a person, a church, a denomination. And until we believe that — truly believe that — we will continue to pass ill-considered resolutions, offer really silly and sometimes downright stupid programs and emphases, and generally continue to miss the point.
Towards that end, some in the SBC are taking practical and theological steps to correct our path. There is a call going out — not from Nashville — but from the seminaries and churches who are deeply, deeply concerned about the Gospel penetrating all aspects of the church and the believer. That call is for a Great Commission Resurgence. And the current SBC President, Johnny Hunt, has taken up that call.
We must ask ourselves: “What is the Gospel? How does the Gospel impact me, change me, shape me? How does it impact my life, my family, my friends, my work? How does it change the way I view and relate to the world?”
Over the next several weeks, I’m going to dedicate this blog to answering these questions. And I will be attempting to answer how a Great Commission Resurgence could impact Deaf ministry. Deaf people have not really been involved in many of these “Baptist Battles.” But the battle for the Gospel is one we cannot afford to miss. Join us Monday for the first post, “Great Commission Resurgence: The Gospel and Deaf Ministry.”