Archive for the ‘Fundamentalism’ category

An Observation for My Southern Baptist Friends

May 30, 2008

I don’t read Southern Baptist blogs very much. Usually, it is the same 10-12 folks on the same blogs discussing SBC politics and things of that sort. However, my friend Nathan Finn has been working on an excellent series by answering questions young Southern Baptists are asking called “Unplugged“. Nathan has continually written the best articles on the internet regarding SBC life (see especially his series on “What Ails Us”), and this series is shaping up to be the most substantive material this year to date.

One of the questions Nathan addressed was the issue of alcohol and the SBC. Many of you are aware of the recent controversy on this issue, and I appreciate Nathan’s biblical and historical analysis. Nevertheless, SBC bloggers have reacted on Nathan’s treatment of the issue, resulting in an observation I wanted to make to you.

Below are three blogposts from SBC bloggers (and no, I do not agree with their articles). Next to the post are the number of comments each post has generated this week.

1. Alcohol: Abstinence = Freedom (SBCToday) – 285 321
2. Wine, the Bible, and the Believer (SBCTomorrow) – 83
3. If Moderationists Really Cared About Drunkenness (Praisegod Barebones) – 45 52

413 456 total comments on three articles talking about what? Alcohol. You would think that alcohol is the defining issue of Southern Baptists these days, at least by the sheer number of comments and interest it seems to garner. Perhaps the words of Elmer Towns on the “Fundamentalist” Resurgence rings true when he recently wrote (emphasis mine):

In the last twenty-five years Southern Baptists have fought the battle of perceived liberalism within its ranks and bureaucracy, and most would agree that the fundamentalists have won that battle. Beginning with the election of Adrian Rogers in 1979, one self-identified fundamentalist after another has become president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and in turn they have controlled the nomination and election process of the various boards and seminaries. In due time, boards mandated that liberal-leaning individuals were not nominated to positions, and fundamentalists turned the various boards and committees toward fundamentalism.

Anyone remember this article? So anyway, I am left wondering, “Will the day ever come that we are as excited and worked up over the gospel as we are alcohol?”

And people tell me that we don’t need to recover the gospel . . .

MBC, Acts 29, and ‘Cultural Liberalism’

May 19, 2008

The issue of alcohol and the redefinition of conservatism has been a hot topic in the SBC for the past three years, but perhaps the consequences of such a controversy are not greater evidenced than in the Missouri Baptist Convention.  Under the direction of Roger Moran, fundamentalists have continued the fight against what they are now calling “cultural liberalism” and more specifically churches they find to espouse it. 

The churches in the MBC which Moran and Co. have found unworthy of convention support and affiliation are primarily those within the Acts 29 Network.  Since April of last year, I (along with several other bloggers) have followed the agenda to disassociate these churches from the SBC, and in December it was announced that they were being de-funded when MBC reneged on their commitments as a tribute to their continued battlecry against “cultural liberalism.”  For background to this controversy, check out:

* Acts 29 and the MBC [April 28, 2007]
* When I Am Ashamed to be a Southern Baptist [December 11, 2007)
* Let’s Talk About Accountability–Let’s Talk About You and Me [December 15, 2007]
* A More ‘Conventional’ Way of Supporting MBC Church Plants [December 16, 2007]
* Update on the Acts 29 Churches and the Missouri Baptist Convention [January 11, 2008]

Last Tuesday (May 13), the battlecry was again trumpeted at a state-wide meeting held by Moran and others to deal with a myriad of issues, not the least of which included, in their words:

NAMB-sponsored events featuring Acts 29 and Emerging church leaders as well as the recent hiring of David McAlpin (one of the 11 SOC leaders who helped the Journey in St. Louis plant an Acts 29 church in St. Charles that also had a bar-room ministry in a micro-brewery.  McAlpin’s son is an intern at the Journey).   

This is also about the downloading of “cultural liberalism” into MBC/SBC churches. 

Not only that, but Moran has included my friend Micah Fries as a topic of discussion.  Moran writes:

The pastor that spoke against the alcohol resolution at the 2007 MBC annual meeting has been named to the SBC Committee on Committees which names the SBC Nominating Committee.  This pastor, Micah Fries, is strongly supportive of Acts 29.  (SOC spokesman David Sheppard served on this committee last year.) 

For the record, I am not directly affiliated to the Acts 29 Network, and I am an abstentionist.  However, what is really troubling is that my fellow Southern Baptists are making their stance on alcohol a litmus test for conservatism and more consequently a dividing line for financial support of church plants.  It is not a matter of theological liberalism or rejecting the Baptist Faith & Message (2000); rather, it is the repackaging of fundamentalism in the quest to root out what they have called “cultural liberalism.”


When I Am Ashamed to be a Southern Baptist

December 11, 2007

UPDATE 12.12.07 :: 7:30 p.m. EST: Scott Thomas, director of Acts 29 Network, has responded to the motion.

My good friend Scott Lamb, also a contributor to Missouri’s state paper The Pathway, has reported that members of the Executive Board presented and passed a motion (28-10) during the miscellaneous business session that sets down a “no-partnership with Acts 29″ rule for MBC church plants. Here is the motion:

Effective Jan 1, The Acts 29 Network is an organization which the MBC Exec Bd. Staff will not be working with, supporting, or endorsing in any manner at anytime.

It was amended with the following statement:

While recognizing the autonomous nature of all areas of MBC life beyond that of the Executive Board Staff, the MBC Executive Board directs the Church Planting Department and other ministry departments to not provide CP dollars toward those affiliated with the Acts 29 Network.

What this means is that dually affiliated churches (Acts 29 and SBC) will not be able to receive church planting funds from the Missouri Baptist Convention.

For background information to this embarrassing situation, you need to read this post. Scott makes an excellent point, reflecting:

I just wonder where all the church-planting police were 10-15 years ago when I resisted the siren song of Willowcreek and Saddleback, only to have it thrown up in my face by Baby-Booming pastors that I was an arrogant idiot who resisted the work of God in my generation if I didn’t buy into the seeker model.

In addition, I do wonder if the MBC will be consistent and pass a reciprocal measure that keeps Cooperative Program dollars from coming into MBC coffers via such polluted churches.

For all of us Southern Baptist who are committed to building bridges in the SBC, this is a day where we should all be ashamed of being one. Let’s be clear on this. The issue about the MBC and Acts 29 is not merely about alcohol; it’s about the future direction of the SBC and who will be leading us there. For 2008, the MBC will be keeping $10.5 million of Cooperative Program money to be used for their own causes, just not church planting with Acts 29. With all that many and with so many less church plants to fund, one has to wonder what exactly they are planning to do with that $10.5 million. Abstinence billboard campaign? Hiring “specialists” to do weekly inspections of MBC churches that give traces of Acts 29 involvement? Church planting recruiters? But I digress.

Scott asks a pointed question:

Have we really come to the point as a denomination that we encourage muscle-men power teams to come and blow up hot water bottles and break bricks over their heads, but we cannot condone what basically amounts to a Francis Schaeffer approach to cultural engagement with the lost? Acts 29 doesn’t walk on water, but at least there is a serious-minded approach to the gospel that leaves the buttons, balloons, and baloney in the dust.

It is not enough to shake our heads and move on as though we think this situation is isolated to Missouri and Acts 29 churches. As we have seen, one state’s precedence becomes another state’s principle, and if they will do this to Acts 29 churches, what makes us think they will not do it to Founders or IX Marks churches? It is times like this that I wish some of our SBC leaders would step into the ring, even if they happen to disagree with the alcohol issue. Those of us who are passionate about the gospel, church planting, and building networks and partnerships with others in the evangelical world with like-minded passions cannot and must not tolerate these kinds of actions in the SBC. May God grant courage and conviction to steer the convention away from the fundamentalism and folly before us today.

Other responses:

Scott Lamb: Missouri Baptist Convention vs. Acts 29
Micah Fries: Acts 29 Is Banned
Tom Ascol: Missouri Baptists Axe Acts 29
Steve McCoy: No Funding for SBC/Acts 29 Church Plants in Missouri
Tim Ellsworth: MBC enacts ‘no partnership with Acts 29′ rule for church plants
Aaron Martin: The Missouri Baptist Convention Executive Committee Should Repent
Marc Backes: I Guess That Answers That Question
Talitha Koum: Missouri Bites a Hand That Feeds It
Borrowed Light: The Effects of the Acts29/MBC Decision

Sam Storms on the SBC

April 10, 2007

Art Rogers (12 Witnesses) recently interviewed Dr. Sam Storms on various issues in the SBC.  I encourage you to read the whole thing; however, in the meantime, I would like to post his answers to some relevant issues I have addressed here in the past.  You won’t find many in the SBC leadership saying the things Dr. Storms has said (there are exceptions), and I am grateful that someone of his stature has stepped up to speak truth to the issues where many have embraced silence and solitude.  The three excerpts I have provided here are on Calvinism, the alcohol debate, and the growing influence of fundamentalism in the SBC. 

On Calvinism:

If you have in mind agencies and institutions within the convention, I fear that we may see seminaries and colleges and other agencies drafting statements similar to the one by Southwestern Seminary concerning charismatic gifts and practices. But in this case it would be to eliminate and forbid from the faculty those who embrace five-point Calvinism, or conversely, four-point Arminianism (I can’t image any Southern Baptist agency or institution ever taking a stand against the doctrine of the security of the believer).

I hope this never happens. The healthiest and most instructive and edifying atmosphere in an educational institution is when both perspectives are fairly and objectively represented. I’m a five-point Calvinist but I’ve worked for years alongside colleagues who were five-point Arminians. I’ve found most of them to be Christ-loving, Bible-believing evangelicals that served only to enrich the educational experience.

As far as the Convention as a whole is concerned, I suspect that someone somewhere along the line will propose amending the BFM to exclude Calvinism. If that ever were to happen, I predict a significant exodus from Southern Baptist life of those whose convictions would prohibit them from affirming such a statement. That would be tragic. Short of that, I encourage both sides within the Convention to continue the pursuit of civil dialogue and biblically-based discussion.

On Alcohol:

Honestly, I’m weary of this debate. Certainly anyone who embraces the authority of Scripture must denounce drunkenness. But I’ve never been persuaded in the least by the alleged “biblical” arguments for total abstinence. Having said that, I think total abstinence is a perfectly honorable and permissible practice to embrace. Any Christian is free to abstain from alcohol. But they aren’t free, in my opinion, to insist that others do the same. They are even less free to accuse those who drink in moderation of being sub-Christian. Abstinence per se is neither a sign of spiritual weakness nor of spiritual strength. Neither is one’s choice of moderation in the use of alcohol a sign of weakness or strength. Whether one totally abstains or drinks in moderation is simply irrelevant to Christian spirituality. 

On Fundamentalism:

The divide is certainly real. How serious it is, I’m not sure. There is an unmistakable presence of a “fundamentalist” mentality that I fear will become increasingly belligerent and narrow and critical of those who don’t “toe the line” on their cherished secondary and tertiary issues. I hope those in the Convention can unite on their commitment to the “Fundamentals” of the faith and build a cooperative and effective witness on that basis. But there is, sadly, always an element within any movement or group or denomination that is convinced that true spirituality will always look the same, act the same, worship the same, even when the Bible is either altogether silent on such matters or permits a freedom that such zealots find uncomfortable (if not dangerous). 

Again . . .

The one thing these issues have in common is that none of them is central to the gospel itself. They are all, at best, secondary doctrines, or doctrines on which Christ-exalting, Bible-believing Christians can and often do disagree. Sadly, some question the evangelical credentials of anyone who might dare to differ with their view on Calvinism or whether miraculous gifts occur today or the timing of the rapture or the nature of the millennium.

But there is something else that is even more disturbing, and that is the angry and divisive dogmatism that is emerging over behavioral issues on which the Bible is either silent or leaves one’s decision in the realm of Christian freedom. Perhaps the greatest threat to unity and acceptance in the Church is the tendency to treat particular life-style and cultural preferences as though they were divine law. To be even more specific, it’s the tendency to constrict or reduce or narrow the boundaries of what is acceptable to God, either by demanding what the Bible doesn’t require or forbidding what the Bible clearly permits.

I’m concerned that in certain segments of the Convention there is a mindset reminiscent of the old “fundamentalism” that is characterized by isolationism, separatism, anti-intellectualism, cultural withdrawal, and a generally angry and judgmental attitude toward all those who dare to differ on these matters that quite simply don’t matter; at least they don’t matter nearly as much as whether or not you believe in the deity of Christ, his substitutionary atonement, bodily resurrection, and salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

Whereas conservative evangelicalism has typically drawn the line on theological essentials, this more recent fundamentalism draws the line ever more narrowly on issues such as total abstinence vs. moderation in the use of alcohol, the degree of freedom and the role of affections in public worship, the legitimacy of so-called “private prayer language,” etc. Sadly, when one’s commitment to Christ and the authority of Scripture is judged on the basis of this latter group of issues, rather than the former, the situation is bleak indeed.

Thank you, Dr. Storms, for these very helpful words on such important (and front-burner) issues in the SBC. 

POTW :: 03.23.07 :: acloserlook

March 23, 2007


View in Flickr (see it LARGE)

I am not exactly thrilled with this photo, but I have not had the opportunity to get out and shoot much lately!  Hopefully that will change soon.  🙂 

Last summer, I wrote an article called “The Uneasy Conscience of a Modern Southern Baptist” – a play off of Carl Henry’s book The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism.  Henry wrote that book in 1947.  Sixty years later, I find myself writing about him and his uneasy conscience.  As I mentioned earlier, I was wrestling over what topic I was going to write on, either a historical survey of the relationship of evangelism and social reform from 1880-1980 or analyze Henry’s uneasy conscience and call for social consciousness.  Well, I have decided to go with Henry for many reasons, not the least of which, as a Southern Baptist, his voice needs to be heard today.

His voice needs to be heard today because his critique of fundamentalism sixty years ago is as relevant as ever, seeing how the Southern Baptist Convention is bearing so many marks of fundamentalism.  Elevating nonessentials to a matter of orthodoxy, splintering factionism, cultural retreat, etc., show me that Henry’s conscience would be as troubled as ever were he to see his Southern Baptist Convention in its current state. 

As a young Southern Baptist minister, I am troubled as well.  There is very little I find the SBC doing right and so much of what is going wrong.  The hard truth to swallow is that the Conservative Resurgence has not done what we had hoped.  Evangelism is down.  Factions are up.  We won the battle for the Bible, yet in so many ways we treat it like it is insufficient.  Church planting and missions are up, but the IMB and NAMB are facing challenges as never before.  And while we should be trying to get our people to articulate and demonstrate the gospel, we are making resolutions, writing op ed pieces, and marginalizing some SBC’s finest over the issue of alcohol.

I encourage you to take a closer look at the fundamentalist movement.  History has a lot to teach us.  I just hope we are teachable. 

Have a great weekend!