So says Roger Olson, in a lengthy post on the problems in the Great Commission Baptist (née Southern Baptist Convention):
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).
Read the rest: Why can’t Southern Baptists just get along?.