Why can’t Southern Baptists just get along?

I’m not a Southern Baptist and never have been one. But you can’t be a Baptist in North America and especially in the South and not feel the tension emanating from that denomination. Even non-Baptists feel it. The “Baptist wars” (almost exclusively a reference to the thirty plus years battles among SBCers) get reported on even in the secular press.

I’ve been an observer of the Baptist wars for years. For the past thirteen years most of my students and many of my colleagues grew up SBC. As I’ve mentioned here before, one of my theological mentors (in my doctoral studies and afterwards) was a leading SBC theologian (moderate John Newport).

I have long predicted that once the conservatives consolidate their control of SBC institutions they will turn on each other with the same vitriol and venom they turned on the so-called “liberals” in SBC seminaries in the 1970s through the 1990s. (I put “liberals” in scare quotes to indicate that I still don’t know of a single SBC seminary professor who was truly liberal in any historical-theological meaning of the word. Not one, for example, appears in Gary Dorrien’s massive three volume history of liberal theology in America! One conservative told me he knew of a theology professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary who denied the virgin birth but he wouldn’t tell me the professor’s name. So, to this day, I have my doubts. John Newport told me in 1979 and many times afterwards that the “take over” was not really about doctrine or theology but about people who felt like “outsiders” wanting power and control.)

Recently a leading Southern Baptist pastor has gone on the attack against fellow conservative Southern Baptists. He says (at his blog) there is “room” in the SBC for all of them, but his rhetoric makes one wonder what he really thinks.

The SBC pastor/blogger in question is Wade Burleson and his questionable post is at www.wadeburleson.org/2012/07/early-london-baptists-and-today-sbc.html

(I apologize that I still have not found the way to turn URLs into live hyperlinks; just copy and paste it into your browser.  Don’t take my word for what he says there; read it yourself. I think you’ll find the final paragraph shocking. I do.)

Burleson seems to want his readers to believe that all early Baptists were Calvinists. Well, that’s simply factually wrong. But he appeals to the 1644 London Confession as if it expressed the theology of all early Baptists. Lumpkin, in his authoritative Baptist Confessions of Faith, includes it under “Early English Baptist Associational Confessions.” In other words, like all Baptist confessions, it expressed the consensus of a group of Baptist congregations. It was not like the Westminister Confession of Faith (for Presbyterians) or the Augsburg Confession (for Lutherans). Those expressed the doctrinal standard for all Presbyterians in a national (the UK and Germany) and became binding on all Presbyterians and Lutherans world wide. (Candidates for ordination must swear allegiance to them.)

Like all Baptist confessional statements, the 1644 London Confession was a statement meant to explain the consensus of beliefs of a particular group of Baptist congregations to outsiders. Yes, like many others, it became an instrument of doctrinal accountability over time–for a particular group of Baptists.

What Burleson doesn’t make sufficiently clear is that this statement was largely based on Mennonite statements of faith (Fuller Seminary professor Glen Stassen has demonstrated that in several articles), especially Menno Simons’ Foundations book. Burleson wants to drive a wedge between Anabaptists and Baptists, something Particular Baptists in England came to do to protect themselves from persecution and because they adopted Separatist Puritan views on God’s sovereignty–something foreign to their Anabaptist forebears.

(Glen Stassen, professor of ethics at Fuller Seminary, has proven direct reliance of the 1644 London Confession on Mennos Simons’ book The Foundation of Christian Doctrine. See “Opening Menno Simons’s Foundation-Book and Finding the Father of Baptist Origins alongside the Mother–Calvinist Congregationalism” in Baptist History and Heritage Spring, 1998 pp. 34-54. Burleson is clearly wrong to deny even early London Baptists’ Anabaptist roots.)

Also not made sufficiently clear in Burleson’s post is that during the same time the 1644 London Confession was being written and promulgated, there were older, “General Baptist” congregations in and around London that did NOT endorse that statement because of its Calvinism. In fact, there were Baptist statements of faith before the 1644 London Confession. Why doesn’t Burleson mention them? The first one was the “Short Confession of Faith in XX Articles” by John Smyth in 1609. Burleson complains that some Southern Baptists are denying original sin. (I can only guess who he means, but the authors of the previously here discussed statement about the traditional Southern Baptist doctrine of salvation did NOT, in fact, deny original sin.) John Smyth DID deny original sin: “(5) That there is no original sin….” (Lumpkin, p. 100) That doesn’t make denial of original sin “okay” but it ought at least to be noted in any attempt to trace the history of Baptist doctrinal statements!

Furthermore, Thomas Helwys, the other original founder of the Baptist tradition (as it emerged out of Puritanism and Anabaptism in Holland and England) also wrote a Baptist confessional statement. His was in 1610 (thirty plus years before the 1644 London Confession) and it too denied original sin: “none of [Adam's] posterity…are guilty, sinful, or born in original sin.” (Lumpkin, 103).

Again, just because Smyth and Helwys said it doesn’t make it right or even typical of “right Baptist belief.” My only point is that it would SEEM worthy of mentioning in any diatribe against fellow Baptists ON THE GROUNDS THAT they supposedly go entirely against all of Baptist tradition with regard to original sin.

Now, earlier here I criticized the statement of some Southern Baptists about the “traditional Southern Baptist” view of salvation because it seemed to open the door to semi-Pelagianism. But my criticism was not that semi-Pelagianism has not been part of the Baptist tradition. My criticism was that it is not “the traditional Baptist [or even Southern Baptist]” view of salvation. And it is technically a heresy (in the Great Tradition of Christian teaching). And, of course, most importantly, it is unbiblical.

But I did not accuse them of “flirting with pelagianism” [sic] let alone “flouting [sic] humanism” as Burleson seems to do. (If he’s not talking about them, I don’t know whom he is talking about.)

Here is how Burleson ends his post: “There’s room in the SBC for Baptists who flirt with pelagianism and flout humanism. However, let it not be said they are either historic or traditional in their soteriological and theological views. They are neither.”

“Flout humanism?” (I assume he meant “flaunt” humanism? But even that would be a misuse of language.) I seriously doubt there are any SBCers who flout or flaunt humanism (in the sense Burleson seems to mean). C’mon. Get real. Get civil. (And use words correctly.)

This kind of venomous attack on fellow Christians, God-fearing, Bible-believing, Jesus-loving Christians, is so uncalled for, so out of line, so indecent and uncivil that it demands censure.

UNLESS, of course, he’s talking about unitarians or atheists or agnostics. In the SBC? I doubt it. I think he’s talking about Arminians or those who don’t call themselves Arminians but, for all practical purposes, are.

The only picture at his post of anyone he might mean is of Paige Patterson whom he criticizes for claiming Baptist roots in Anabaptism. And, of course, Paige is an Arminian who doesn’t call himself one. (I call him one because he denies the U, the L and the I of TULIP which are the three great issues separating Calvinism from Arminianism.)

Burleson also criticizes those who claim Baptist roots in the Anabaptist tradition–on the basis that the 1644 London Baptist Confession and its formulators deny being “Anabaptist.” As I said earlier, however, Glen Stassen and William Estep, among others, have demonstrated quite conclusively strong influence of Mennonites on early Baptists. Yes, the London Baptists were correct to deny being “Anabaptist,” but it is also incorrect to deny Anabaptist roots of the Baptist tradition or Anabaptist influence on the early London Baptists.

But my main point here is to ask why Southern Baptists can’t get along? I’m not surprised, however, that they, the conservatives who took control of the SBC often using scare tactics and venomous, even unchristian, attacks on fellow Southern Baptists are now turning on each other. Is there something in SBC DNA that makes this inevitable? No, I don’t think so. Over the years there have been long periods of relative peace in spite of diversity (e.g., between Calvinists and non-Calvinists) within the SBC. It’s not SBC DNA that’s the problem, it’s fundamentalism.

Here I speak not of fundamentalism in the early, ordinary, garden-variety sense of Protestant orthodoxy–belief in the five or six or seven “fundamentals of the faith.” Here, by “fundamentalism,” I speak of the religious ethos that entered into evangelical Protestant Christianity with the likes of William Bell Riley and J. Frank Norris–the northern and southern partners of aggressive, separatistic fundamentalism that added premillennialism to the list of fundamentals of Christian faith and questioned the very salvation of people who didn’t agree with them on that and much else that has always been secondary doctrine at most. Not that all fundamentalists did or do that particular thing. Some have been and are amillennialists. The one doctrine is not the point. The point is the felt need, the compulsion, to use the rhetoric of exclusion (often couched in some “nice talk”) to marginalize people who disagree with you about secondary and tertiary matters of faith–often misrepresenting their beliefs to cause people to fear them.

Fundamentalism reared its ugly head when some conservative evangelicals reacted to open theism by labeling it “Socinianism.” It reared its ugly head when some conservative evangelicals called SBC seminary professors a “cancer.” It reared its ugly head when some (notably Harold Lindsell) argued that anyone who is not an inerrantist is not an evangelical (something even Carl Henry disputed). It rears its ugly head when people accuse fellow conservative Christians of “flouting humanism” (when what is clearly meant is not “Christian humanism” in the sense in which I described it here earlier).

No, my friends, the problem is not SBC DNA. The problem is fundamentalism–as a spirit of division, of exclusion, of theological narrowness (not as an emphasis on generous orthodox).

I don’t accuse any person, certainly not Wade Burleson, of being a fundamentalist. But even people who aren’t can sometimes express themselves in ways that are. I may have been guilty of it myself and, if so I apologize and repent. It’s a problem swimming around in American evangelical Christianity (that even sometimes appears in liberal circles!). We need to eschew it, repent of it and back away from it. And we need to lovingly expose it wherever we see it.

  • http://www.herenowkingdom.com Andy Catsimanes

    You left an “s” off of “todays” in your link. Here’s the working link…

    http://www.wadeburleson.org/2012/07/early-london-baptists-and-todays-sbc.html

    • rogereolson

      Thanks.

  • http://www.herenowkingdom.com Andy Catsimanes

    Found this statement by Burleson interesting:

    “It is difficult for us Baptists in modern day America–we who who cherish personal liberty and freedom above all things–to even begin to comprehend the persecution that our Baptist forefathers in London, England experienced during the 1630′s and 1640′s. ”

    In what sense does, or should, a Christian cherish “personal liberty and freedom above all things”? Surely these are human goods of a very high order, but to cherish them above all things is not taught in the Gospel insofar as I’m aware.

    • rogereolson

      Very interesting. I hadn’t caught that. Do you think Burleson was inadvertently revealing something about his own (perhaps unconscious) belief and value commitments?

      • Beaver

        Freedom to hear the voice of Jesus Christ and to follow Him. ” If the Son shall make you free. you will be free indeed”. ” Stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free “. ” I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage”. Those early Baptist brethren in England were not free to worship, to gather for Bible instruction or to preach the Gospel according to their convictions.

  • http://biblicalframework.blogspot.com John Correia

    Dr. Olson, the web address you listed isn’t showing up on Burlson’s website. This is a passionate article!

    • rogereolson

      Apparently I left off a letter from the URL. Others here are providing live links to the article. Look at some of the comments containing it.

  • http://biblicalframework.blogspot.com John Correia

    http://www.wadeburleson.org/2012/07/early-london-baptists-and-todays-sbc.html I found the error…it’s “todays-sbc” in the title, not “today-sbc”. Sorry, not trying to be a pest, just to be helpful!

    • rogereolson

      That’s very helpful. Thank you.

  • Donald Philip Veitch

    These damned Hillbillies have been “afighting” for years and decades. The only thing missing is the pitch and hayforks. Hillbillies, the lot of them.

    • rogereolson

      Well…I wouldn’t say that. But one does have to wonder if some of them are descended from the Hatfields and McCoys!

      • Joshua Wooden

        I recently met a direct descendent from the Hatfield line in West Virginia. However, she, along with her husband, was an ardent Pentecostal. I couldn’t resist but mention it here.

  • holdon

    Use this link:
    http://www.wadeburleson.org/2012/07/early-london-baptists-and-todays-sbc.html
    (the “s” was missing in “todays”)

  • http://www.wadeburleson.com Wade Burleson

    Dr. Olson,

    Your post is excellent. With your writing and teaching schedule there is no expectation on my part for you to respond to my comment. I feel compelled affirm my agreement with you on one major point of what you have written above, and gently disagree with another major point.

    First, I agree with your assessment of my poor grammar and even worse spirit in the last sentence of my post. After reading my words again, and more importantly, through your eyes, I wholeheartedly see (and agree) with your assessment of my writing. My post in question was written at the breakfast table in about an hour and fifteen minutes. My silly use of ‘flout’ was neither caught nor corrected to the appropriate word ‘flaunt.’ But more importantly, the spirit conveyed by the last sentence in my post was not only completely inappropriate, it was morally wrong. What bothers me most is that I didn’t see what I was conveying at the time, but that God had to use you to point it out to me. I repent. I cannot promise I will not make a similar mistake in the future, but I can express my desire to be more on guard against such a poor choice of words, words that do convey a hostile spirit of attack upon my fellow believers. Thank you for rightly exposing it, calling me out, and allowing me here to express my regret and repentance. While this is not the first time I have been guilty of such writing, by God’s grace the instances of it will diminish. Thanks for being willing to listen to the Spirit in calling me out.

    Second, I do disagree with your assessment (and Glen Stassen’s) that the 1644 London Confession was influenced by Menno Simons. I live in Mennonite territory in Northwest Oklahoma, and I understand the kinship of Mennonites with Baptists on the issue of ecclesiology, and if the London Confession’s focus was on ecclesiology, I might be in agreement with Stassen’s viewpoint. However, the point of my post was to reveal the differences in soteriology between the London Baptists and the European Anabaptists. The 1644 London Confession is predominately theological and focuses more on soteriology than ecclesiology (at least in my opinion). Without doubt, Menno Simons and the Mennonites influenced Baptists in London on the separation of church and state, but the writers of the 1644 London Confession were influenced by people other than Menno Simons. James Renihan says it better than I could when he writes: “This First London Confession of 1644, published prior to the Westminster Confession of Faith, was heavily dependent on older, well-known documents. Probably the best and most detailed Confession available to them was the True Confession of 1596, a document that had been issued by men of stature like the famous commentator on the books of Moses, Henry Ainsworth. About 50% of their Confession was taken directly from this older document. In addition, they relied very heavily on a book called The Marrow of Theology, written by a very famous and important puritan, William Ames. They brought together this material from the sources available to them, for one specific purpose: to prove that they had a great deal in common with the churches and ministers around them. Yes they had some differences, but they were only minor and not central. They were not wild-eyed fanatics intent on overthrowing society as it was known. To the contrary, they were reformed Christians, seeking to advance the principles on which the reformation had been built to their logical conclusion.”

    Regardless of our disagreement, I wish to once again thank you for your post. It was needed.

    Wade Burleson

    • rogereolson

      Thanks for this, Pastor Burleson. As for Stassen’s take on the 1644 London Confession–I think he was talking about it borrowing heavily from Menno Simons’ Foundations book in the area of baptism. He demonstrates word-for-word agreement that points to borrowing. By no means does that prove that these London Baptists were Anabaptists, but it proves they saw something worthwhile in Anabaptist writing and did not reject it entirely. By this time, of course, Anabaptists were no longer “wild-eyed fanatics intent on overthrowing society.” That’s a caricature drawn from the Muenster Rebellion a century earlier. By the early 1600s all Anabaptists (so far as I know) were pacifists wanting to be left alone by society. Again, I appreciate and respect your comment here.

  • J.E. Edwards

    @ Roger,
    Your statement:
    “But I did not accuse them of “flirting with pelagianism” [sic] let alone “flouting [sic] humanism” as Burleson seems to do. (If he’s not talking about them, I don’t know whom he is talking about.)”
    His blog page said he attended Baylor, and you have recently posted on both pelagianism and Christian humanism….could it be you he is after? I know you aren’t a Southern Baptist, but a baptist none the less.

    • rogereolson

      No, I’m sure he’s not after me. He knows I’m not a Southern Baptist and never have been one. And Baylor is not Southern Baptist. Nor is the seminary where I teach. This is a debate among Southern Baptists. Anyway, see his comment here.

  • Aaron

    Apparently Wade read your blog and posted a new post admitting where he was wrong here:

    http://www.wadeburleson.org/2012/07/sometimes-i-write-things-i-later-regret.html

    impressive show of humility for an internet blog :)

    • rogereolson

      A sign of a true gentleman.

  • James Petticrew

    I wonder if there is something embedded in 5 point Calvinism which is inevitably contentious and therefore fractious? Here in Scotland we have seen continual splits among the hardline Presbyterian Churches, we now have the Free Church of Scotland , the Free Church of Scotland Continuing, Free Presbyterian Church, the Associated Presbyterian Church, the Covenanters Presbyterian Church, Grace Presbyterian churches … All of which claim to be the purest expression of the Reformed faith and yet differ only in tiny details of practice and theology.

    • rogereolson

      I recently read a blog post (I can’t remember whose) about “the narcissism of small differences.” There does seem to be something about TULIP Calvinism that leads to division. However, having said that, I must admit that Baptists in general tend to divide unnecessarily. Also Pentecostals. When I was growing up Pentecostal I could never understand why our town of only about a hundred thousand people had at least fifteen small Pentecostal churches. The only differences seemed to be over polity and maybe over (in the case of the Wesleyan-oriented ones) sanctification (entire or progressive). However, with the exception of the Oneness Pentecostals, all fifteen (or so) of the Pentecostal ones cooperated very enthusiastically. We even had quarterly all-Pentecostal meetings (revivals, youth events, etc.). But the minor differences still bothered me and still do–insofar as they cause division.

  • http://www.christophoros.de Christoph Fischer

    Wade Burleson has since retracted his article and responded to Dr. Olson’s criticism:
    http://www.wadeburleson.org/2012/07/sometimes-i-write-things-i-later-regret.html

  • http://boastingweakness.blogspot.com/ Matt Richard

    I follow both Burleson’s and your blog regularly. Setting aside the historical matters with which you disagree, I’ve seen both of you express a similar frustration with fundamentalism in the SBC.

    Because of its exclusive nature (which I see playing a big part in the “Traditional Statement of Salvation in the SBC”) I think it can cause even the most amicable of persons to respond harshly.

  • http://oldhickorysweblog.blogspot.com/ Bruce Miller

    It doesn’t seem to me that Burleson addressed your historical point about the role of Anabaptists in the Baptist heritage. I did a post a couple of years ago about the, uh, colorful history of the Münster Anabaptists and I got a comment on it from someone who flat-out denied any connection between modern Baptists and Anabaptists. What’s this taboo against recognizing any connection with the Anabaptists about? They were the first Protestant sect of which I’m aware that made a central point of holding infant baptist invalid and insisting on re-baptizing adults who had been baptized as children; re-baptizers is what their name meant. Even if the organizational history is fractured – what Protestant denomination’s isn’t? – the insistence on adult baptism is obviously a belief that present-day Baptists share. Even if someone minimizes or ignores the ties you cite here, it’s hard to imagine that there wasn’t a major doctrinal influence. Does the denial have to do with the Münster Anabaptists’ theocracy, because separation of church and state was once so important to American Baptists? To their practice of polygamy at Münster? Or is it just “rebranding” over the centuries?

    • rogereolson

      I have been a Baptist for most of my life now and have moved about in various Baptist networks and circles. The ONLY Baptists I have encountered who have a major problem with acknowledging the Anabaptist roots of the Baptist tradition are Calvinistic Southern Baptists. I’m not saying there aren’t others, but I haven’t encountered them. Of course, every good Baptist historian knows the Anabaptists were not our only root. Smyth and Helwys were English Separatists (a particular type of Puritanism). But there can be no doubt that they were influenced by the Mennonites in the United Provinces (Netherlands). Why this desire to distance Baptists from Anabaptists? I suppose one reason is the Muenster Rebellion, but that happened so much earlier–in the 1534. By the late 16th century all Anabaptists had adopted pacifism. Still, the stigma of the Muenster Rebellion stuck to Anabaptists; some people simply refused to alter their opinions of them. Also, all Anabaptists were and are synergists, not monergists. That is, their soteriology is and always has been quasi-Arminian. (It would be a mistake to label it “Arminian” as it predates Arminius by quite a bit–going back to Balthasar Hubmaier the first great Anabaptist theologian.) What I have found is that Calvinist-leaning Southern Baptists tend to distance the entire Baptist tradition from Anabaptism for that reason (soteriology) and often simply for tribal reasons. They’re just Baptists and didn’t emerge out of something else. Remember the Trail of Blood booklet that attempted to trace the Baptist tradition back to John the Baptist, Jesus and the first apostles? Even Southern Baptists who now know better tend to still be affected by that mentality. I hear them deny, for example, that they are “Protestants.” So, yes, I think for some it is a matter of branding. I have actually had conversations with some relatively educated Southern Baptists who think all other Baptists broke away from Southern Baptists.

  • earl

    Well I have read three of your works and have lived 71 years and it is apparent that few denominations get along. If SBC keeps up this present debate and someone turns away from Christ because of it I would not want to face God when the questiuon is asked.

  • http://selahvtoday.typepad.com/sbcenc Hariette Petersen

    Dr. Olson, I think most say we can’t get along because we all have our own opinons and seem, at times, to think our opinions are reality and truth rather than perspective and interpretation. Pray for us. In Christ, selahV

    • Beaver

      Hariette, you hit the nail on the head ! It seems it takes a multi-functioning woman to separate the scrapping boys….just like my mother did many years ago. Funny how these scraps actually bonded us boys together.

  • http://returntorome.com Francis J. Beckwith

    Roger:
    It was a blog post by Christian Smith on Peter Enns’ blog: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2012/06/guest-post-christian-smith-on-presbyterian-narcissism/

    Frank

  • http://craigbenno1.wordpress.com/ Craig Benno

    I recently posted on the issue of Southern Baptists: Traditionalism verses Calvinism. I don’t normally add links to my blog, but think I will in this instance. http://craigbenno1.wordpress.com/2012/07/06/traditionalism-verses-calvinism/ and http://craigbenno1.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/southern-baptists-traditionalism-verses-calvinism-continued/

    I like Wades comment and how he engaged with your post. His humility is within the spirit of what I wrote about in my posts. Its unfortunate that people from both sides lack grace and tact when it comes to being united in Christ. I am an Australian, I attend a Baptist church, but find the whole issue really bizarre as an outsider looking in.

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  • Mccallum

    “a theology professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary who denied the virgin birth but he wouldn’t tell me the professor’s name” In that I cannot prove it the statement I too will not name the name; I will say the rummor was going around Sothern at the time of my attendance. There was not enough proof so the issue was dropped officially but the Prof later quit for greener pastures and rummors of that and other things were still flying.

    The other Baptist Group that is at war is the ABC/USA over issues of what makes on part of the family; does church autonomy allow a church to be part of the family but hold views that offend the mojority of the family.

    • rogereolson

      It’s so strange. Throughout this whole “Baptist war” in the SBC conservatives have claimed repeatedly and loudly that there were liberals teaching in SBC seminaries. But when I challenge them to name one, I get no name. What I get (at the most) is that Dale Moody didn’t believe in eternal security. That doesn’t make him a liberal, of course. He argued his case based on the authority of Scripture. Some have mentioned Frank Tupper. (By the way, I met and talked with Moody at length after his termination from teaching at SBTS and I know Tupper personally.) But when I ask them in what sense Tupper was/is “liberal” all they can come up with is his view of divine providence which is not Calvinistic. Of course, that doesn’t make him “liberal.” Then the people I’m talking to mutter about some unnamed professor at SBTS who denied the Trinity but they never name him (or her). Oh, I will add that one or two have named Molly Marshall, but they can only support their claim that she was liberal by pointing to her egalitarianism. After years and years of asking people I still have not been given the name of one single actual SBC seminary professor who was truly theologically liberal. I have to conclude this was simply a lie promoted (and then believed uncritically) by certain conservatives who wanted to win and take over the seminaries. How else can anyone explain the fact that nobody will name even one of the so-called “liberals” whose presence in teaching positions in SBC seminaries allegedly justified the whole “war?”

  • http://purposefulpruning.wordpress.com michael

    “Why can’t Southern Baptists just get along?”

    probably too simple of an answer, but Calvinists are invading and infiltrating the SBC just as they are trying to do (mostly succeeding) in the Calvary Chapel movement. It’s just not true that Calvinists of ANY stripe can live in ‘peace’ with those who disagree with them. They are driven to covertly subvert and convert others to their unbiblical system.
    -mike

  • http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com krwordgazer

    Wade Burleson, with characteristic grace and humility, has answered your post with an apology.

    http://www.wadeburleson.org/2012/07/sometimes-i-write-things-i-later-regret.html

  • C J Dull

    Philip Jenkins in his New Faces of Christianity (p. 10) refers to “fundamentalism” as a “demon word”; this piece seems a classic example. The ubiquity of fundamentalism as responsible for virtually all problems of division and theology (perhaps even obesity next) pretty effectively masks a nuanced understanding of many of these issues. Perhaps a useful place to begin might be the general malaise and decline among the SBC, which they all seem to talk about but cannot resolve. If this were a period of unparalleled expansion, it is hardly likely that these issues would exist. Rather scapegoats are natural in such eras of decline. Fundamentalists seem to be the best target because they are the group now most influential in this group. Possibly, the SBC prefers to go down fighting in stead of declining gracefully such as their American Baptist cousins have done–not to mention most mainline groups.
    CJD

    • rogereolson

      I don’t see how those in the drivers’ seats can be scapegoats. It’s one thing to criticize someone (or group); it’s another thing to make them a scapegoat.

      • C J Dull

        A scapegoat is one who is held responsible for events he/she did not cause. Even in the most pyramidal organization, there are often developments that those in the “drivers’ seats” do not initiate or control, as any Pope or US President can attest. As any good book on Stalin will point out, there were even developments in Russia during his tenure that he did not control. Making the connection between particular developments and those in power needs to be established rather than a pro forma and blanket condemnation of a group with whom the commentator seems to think is always deserving of condemnation.

        C J D

  • shawn

    Dr. Olson, why would you call Dr. Patterson an Arminian simply because he denies the U, L and I of the TULIP? Aren’t there more than just two possible views in this debate? Can Arminians hold to eternal security? What makes one an Arminian, really? Holding to corporate election? Any input you have would be appreciated.

    • rogereolson

      Wouldn’t we normally consider anyone who holds all of TULIP a Calvinist whether he calls himself a Calvinist or not? We do. So what’s wrong with calling someone an Arminian who believes what Arminianism believes? I have discussed the issue of eternal security much here before. It is not relevant to being an Arminian (or not). It’s a southern thing to think that eternal security is essential to being Arminian. It isn’t. Arminius himself did not have a firm position about that. Here’s what I say: Most Baptists in the U.S. are Arminians who believe in eternal security. It’s the same as saying many Baptists in the U.S. are Calvinists who believe in believer baptism. (Historically most Reformed Protestants believe in infant baptism. The World Communion of Reformed Churches includes no baptist groups.)

  • Katherine Harms

    I find this whole argument laughably tragic. I grew up Baptist, but in the eighties, when this battle began to shape up, I concluded that there were people in the SBC who wanted a pope. They didn’t use the term, of course, but each saw his version of fundamentalism to be the ‘true gospel’ and was willing to destroy others for it.
    I grew up Baptist among Southern Baptists who said, “I can’t tell you what every Baptist believes; I can only tell you what this Baptist believes,” the point being that Baptists as a fundamental tenet of the group felt that each Christian was supposed to figure out things for himself by reading the Bible and letting the Holy Spirit tell him the truth. I also grew up among Southern Baptists who were completely anabaptist. My father was born Methodist and baptized as a baby. After he married my mother, her pastors universally told him that his infant baptism did not count and he must be baptized the “right” way. He was. That is what anabaptists do. I think it is sad what Baptists are doing to themselves, but I no longer let them do it to me.


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