I don’t mean to pick on John Fea but he is on a roll of late. For the uninitiated, John is a fine historian who teaches at Messiah College. He also self-identifies as evangelical. Please remember that after reading what Eric Price wrote about Southern Baptists and John deemed as “excellent“:
Notice the logic here. Because Southern Baptists are struggling with a controversy over Paige Patterson and abusive treatment of women, the Convention’s leaders should keep quiet at least until they remedy their own house.
The Southern Baptist twittersphere has been up in arms about the Revoice Conference. One of the most extensive criticisms is from Owen Strachan of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Strachan’s article has been approvingly retweeted by numerous other Southern Baptists, including Jason Allen and Albert Mohler. Since the conference is hosted at a PCA church and features a speaker who is a professor at Covenant Theological Seminary, Strachan implicates both the denomination and the seminary in his criticism.
The Southern Baptist reaction to this conference has led Anthony Bradley to ask why Southern Baptists see themselves as the church’s gatekeepers of orthodoxy – our doctrinal and moral exemplars who have the prerogative to regularly condemn other denominations, churches, and individuals for supposed errors. It’s a good question, and one that I have thought about recently.
The question is especially relevant now, since the SBC’s #metoo moment has exposed the irony of looking to the denomination as a measuring line of Christian ethics. One might reasonably expect this moral crisis to produce an introspective humility among SBC leaders that would give them pause about publicly criticizing the faults of others.
Yet apparently no such humbling has come about; in addition to criticizing LGBT+ Christians, Covenant Seminary, and the PCA, they have also recently condemned Michael Curry, some Australians, “the left”, and Disney. Even Al Mohler’s article lamenting the SBC’s faults still managed to strike a triumphalist tone about the dominance of conservatism and complementarianism in the denomination while taking swipes at the Roman Catholic Church and egalitarians. I am grateful for Dr. Mohler’s honesty about the state of the SBC, but I wonder why he must criticize others even as he admits his own blind spots.
The problem here is that if such logic applied to John, he would have to stop his commentary on Paige Patterson, Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell, Jr., and David Barton for starters. The reason is that all of these figures are evangelical. Then you have all of the so-called “court” evangelicals that John regularly exposes who are advisers to Donald Trump and give evangelicalism a black eye. And don’t forget the EIGHTY-ONE PERCENT!!!!! of evangelical voters who cast a ballot for Donald Trump.
That’s a whole lot of bruised and rotten apples in the basket of evangelicalism.
So if Al Mohler and Owen Strachan need to pipe down until the Southern Baptists get a grip on their disorder, why is the light green for a self-identified evangelical to comment daily about evangelicalism’s woes? After all, the brand of evangelicalism is, as John has posted many times, compromised morally. In which case, how can readers trust the moral sensibility of any evangelical, even one who’s a historian?