What Tom Ascol Really Means

What Tom Ascol Really Means June 26, 2022

As I’ve stated before, I was raised up in Southern Baptist churches, the convention (SBC), educated at one of their seminaries and was lead pastor of one of their (autonomous) churches. Even though I’m no longer a part of that world/tradition, I still care about the SBC given my history. In fact, much of my time in that world was spent with some truly wonderful people. Even though my mind and heart could no longer inhabit that tradition, I still have many fond memories of my time there and still care about the people in that world.

That brings me to this year’s annual convention held recently in Anaheim California. I’ve read with interest the results of some of the votes and especially the result of the election for president. Elected to a two-year term, The president of the SBC has a lot of influence and power. They set the tone and trajectory of the convention. They make the appointments to the important boards.

I was very happy to see then that pastor Bart Barber was elected president over a much more conservative candidate. That more conservative candidate was Tom Ascol. He believes the SBC (shocker!) is becoming more liberal.

The conservative take over happened and they have been in charge now since the early 80s, but for the pure as the driven snow fundamentalist, it’s never enough. In their minds, there’s always more liberals to identify and root out—they’re hiding behind every bush/desk/pulpit/pen. Fundamentalists never get a day off. It’s hard being the sole arbiters of truth, the true believers, the pure, the chosen. Eternal vigilance is their motto.

Here are some of Ascol’s reasons for wanting to be the president of the SBC:

…But over the last few years, the good work that our association of churches is doing has been somewhat disrupted and is in danger of being derailed by the subtle infiltration of secularism and godless ideologies into our ranks.”

What does he mean by “secularism” and “godless ideologies?” He goes on to specifically mention Critical Race Theory (CRT), social justice, and abortion. We will see he has other issues in mind as well, but are those truly the issues? Is such what is really at issue here? Ultimately, they may be, but, I would argue, they stem from a much larger issue. We can see the larger issue laid out here. Ascol writes:

It’s Time for the SBC to be Culturally Uncompromising. I could go on. But those four examples are sufficient to show how the SBC, often at a leadership level, has a “biblical embarrassment” problem. We are embarrassed of the teachings of the Scripture.”

In several places in his essay we are told that “scripture is clear.” Really? Then why do a majority of biblical scholars and theologians disagree with you Mr. Ascol? And why, if the Bible is so “clear,” are there hundreds of different Christian denominations and traditions? Why was there a Protestant Reformation? Why are these SBC conventions often contentious? I think the answer to those questions is fairly “clear” and rather obvious. 

When Ascol talks about specific issues like CRT or any of the others he mentions, here is what he really means:

I’m upset that people interpret the Bible differently than I do.

That’s it. Instead of most of what he wrote, he could have just put that as the title, noted the issues, and signed off.

His entire article/post is disingenuous and misleading. He makes it sound like the people he disagrees with have abandoned the Bible. He says they are “embarrassed” of the Bible. He asserts they’ve chosen “secular” understandings over the Bible’s “clear” teachings.

All of that is complete and utter nonsense. It’s simply not true. It’s a campaign speech for the naïve and ignorant. It’s a series of slogans masquerading as an essay/post.

The fact is that every single issue he brings up, whether CRT, women pastors, abortion, social justice, the LGBT community, or what-have-you, each has been addressed deeply and thoroughly by biblical scholars and theologians. What bothers Ascol, what he’s truly upset about, is that they disagree with his conclusions and understand these issues differently.

If Ascol were to be honest and respectful of those he disagrees with, he would assert something like this: I understand the people I disagree with also read and understand the Bible, hold the Bible in high regard, and respect the Bible, but we interpret it differently and that is why we draw different conclusions and that is the issue we need to talk about.

I am willing to give him the same benefit of the doubt. I believe he honestly holds the Bible in high regard and trusts the Bible. I just think his view of what the Bible is, how it should be understood and interpreted, is incorrect. He should note the same for those he disagrees with. But enough with this nonsense that what you believe is “clear” biblical teaching and everyone you disagree with either can’t see the “clear” meaning or they can- but are too embarrassed to say so. Hogwash.

SBC Messengers: Nice work.

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