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Friday, June 12, 2009

A Big Part of the Problem

The remarkable Wade Burleson notes:
There comes a time when Southern Baptists need to realize that some growing, conservative, evangelical churches such as Sojourn are refusing to support the Southern Baptist Convention because of our silly extra-biblical traditions...
There's more to the post, of course, but that line stuck out. There is so much truth to it.

I once told a co-worker that when it came to clear-cut "thou shalts" and "thou shalt nots," there just weren't all that many commands to the Christian in Scripture. There really aren't. Try reading through it and making a list sometime. But aggravatingly, the Southern Baptist Convention (along with many other churches and associations, it must be added) and its member churches all too often insist on creating more rules, or treating issues wherein they can make a good, but not ironclad, case for their interpretation as issues wherein disagreement justifies denying funding or cooperation that would otherwise be given. I don't believe that this is done out of meanness or spite. People honestly think that their ideas are correct. It's just that they--frankly, and shockingly, for a people that supposedly embraces no creed but the Bible--take it for granted that if the pastor, or Lifeway, or a visiting evangelist says it, well, they must know what they're talking about.

That's not really what being a Baptist is all about, you know. It's a whole lot more like Romanism. And please believe me, it's just not true anyway. Just as an example, you would not believe the number of people who manage to escape Southern Baptist seminaries without having actually read Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion or Luther's The Bondage of the Will, yet who will willingly preach (as I heard one evangelist do) that Calvinism is a "doctrine of the devil."

I found out a long time ago that a surprising amount of seminary time is devoted to things that, in my opinion, amount to "church management." Not as much theology as you would think. So why take it for granted that when people start preaching on doctrine and theology, they know more than you do? Make them prove it. That's not out of malice, it's just simple common sense.

I've often told the story of the man--highly placed in the BGCO at the time--who visited our church, and during the sermon, insisted that men should wear a coat and tie to Sunday services. His scriptural proof? None was offered. He made his case on the grounds that we would, after all, dress our best for a meeting with the boss, wouldn't we? And if so, how could we get away with not dressing our best to meet with God? I've run across others that hold the same position on much the same grounds.

I've often wanted to point out to those people that I know perfectly well that on most mornings, they meet with God whilst dressed in their underwear and drinking coffee, and they call it their "quiet time." But I'm sure that such a comment would be taken as evidence that I had a bad attitude.

I could produce more telling examples of attitudes held to be doctrines in many SBC (and other) churches. I chose that relatively innocuous one only because it I'm not in the mood to start a fight this morning. My point is that for many years now, many, many people in the SBC have been teaching as doctrines things for which they cannot actually produce a command from Scripture. If pressed to produce one, they will tell you that they've found "a principle" in Scripture, or they will--again, shockingly in my opinion, for a body that claims no creed but the Bible--appeal to church history. And I think that as long as this approach continues, you're going to find that people vote with their feet.

This isn't the only part of the Southern Baptist Convention's problem. But it's a big part.

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