The SBC: Proposing a way Forward

The book of James tells us that a double-minded man, ἀνὴρ δίψυχος, is unstable in all his ways. The word dipsuchos means someone who is uncertain about the truth of a thing. The kind of man James is describing is a man who is wholly lacking certainty on a matter, it seems, on any matter. This kind of man is unstable in all his ways. To be unstable, according to Louw-Nida is to be unable to be controlled by something or someone. He is all over the map, out of control. This is a man who of extreme vacillation. Needless to say, it is a description of the kind of behavior we should very much seek to avoid.

Unfortunately, one of the oldest and largest Baptist denominations in the world has made it a practice over the years to elevate the sort of men who are indeed double-minded vacillators. They are vacillators from the standpoint that they are not controlled by the reformation principle sola Scriptura. Rather than anchoring themselves in Scripture alone and caring for God’s truth alone, they entertain theories, ideologies, philosophies, and values that are incubated in the unregenerate minds of God-hating pagans. And as a result, this very large Baptist denomination known as the SBC, is in the middle of a colossal collapse.

The denomination long ago abandoned the reformed theology into which it was born and upon which it was originally grounded. You see, the supreme principle of Arminianism is conditionalism. It provides a philosophical via media between Naturalism and Fatalism.[1] The Calvinistic understanding of divine justice is based on the supremacy or rights of God while Arminianism focuses on the right rights of man. Arminians were the fathers of toleration. Calvinism, on the other hand, was rigid, inflexibly dogmatic. As the SBC drifted more and more into Arminian theology and enlightenment philosophy, the level of toleration increased exponentially. The necessary condition for toleration is adiaphora. The problem arises when your basis for adiaphora becomes more man-centered than Christ-centered. As the SBC drifted toward Arminianism, it also drifted into the sea of adiaphora. Over time, fewer doctrines were viewed as essential to the Christian faith. The rights of individuals eclipsed the sovereign rights of God. Whatever kind of God Scripture reveals, it had to be the kind of God that would always respect the rights of the individual. This is because the rights of the individual are at the center of fairness, or, justice, to use a popular buzzword.

This environment of toleration has negatively impacted what the apostle Paul said was the primary duties of the pastor: to equip the body of Christ. (Eph. 4:11) You see, if very few things are essential (known as minimalism), then doctrine becomes less important, or nearly unimportant at all. Now, when you spend years not engaged in equipping the body, the body becomes uninformed which is a nice way of saying, ignorant. This lack of equipping opens the door to all sorts of nonsense. Since the church has become a place that focuses on individual rights, the natural progression becomes even more focused on the individual: my career, my marriage, my family, my happiness. Relationships completely eclipse theology, discipleship is non-existent, Christian confessions are abandoned, standards are vacated, and church discipline crumbles. As a result, church membership is a wink and a nod. The roles and pews are filled with people who are unregenerate, have no idea who God is, what the mission of Christ was, or what the gospel is.

This has become the base of the SBC. Her churches are filled with just these kinds of people. Most of them are unregenerate for all the reasons I have mentioned above. Add to this the fact that pastors have become addicted to their celebrity status. Their personal reputations and income depend heavily on churches that are mostly filled with non-Christians who do not know Christ, the gospel, and who could care less about doctrinal truth. This is why the SBC is in the condition it is in today. Many of these unregenerate members have been filling the seminaries for years now. And they have become pastors themselves. This is how you move from a solidly reformed denomination to one that is now, for all intents and purposes, just one more liberal Protestant denomination, or at least, on the precipice of becoming one. If you have ever hit black ice, then you know that early in the spin, you have some hope that you can bring the car back under control. But there is a point in the spin when you realize the tail just passed the point of no return and it isn’t a question of crashing, it becomes a question of how bad this is going to be. The SBC has just had the tail pass the point of no return. The question is, how bad is this going to be?

Because Christianity is a religion of hope if it is a religion at all, then one has to believe that there is still a sliver of hope for the SBC. But that sliver lies in a very particular direction. And that direction is the conservative wing. And it isn’t just the conservative wing. It lies in that wing where those inflexible, dogmatic Calvinists reside. This is where men go to avoid the double-minded vacillators. This is the only way forward for the SBC. This group is dogmatic. They are inflexible. They won’t compromise the clear revelation of Scripture. They aren’t going to tolerate a social gospel of racial reconciliation. They aren’t going to tolerate female leadership of any kind. Any hint of LGBT softening will be met with the strongest opposition. They will not play. And they will not keep silent. These are the ones that J.D. Greear called “divisive” over secondary issues recently. They are no longer going to tolerate the complete lack of accountability that is such a distinctive of SBC life in the ministry.

How can the SBC survive without becoming just one more liberal Protestant denomination? I have a few suggestions.

First, stop giving lip service to the authority of Scripture and actually start living under Scripture’s authority. What does it mean to live under the authority of Scripture? What does that look like? First and foremost, it means taking the confession of faith seriously. It means spelling out what a participating community must confess in order to be part of the denomination.

 

Second, end the ERLC. The ERLC has an unbiblical mission. It is political top to bottom. It is a waste of resources, time, energy and money. End it immediately.

Third, end the idea of a president. Why should there be a president? Perhaps a board of governing elders makes sense. But a president seems outside of Scripture. This would serve to end the political in-fighting that goes on around this issue.

Fourth, make church membership a rigorous vetting process. Make sure that people have truly come to a saving knowledge of Christ when you conduct your membership interviews. Ask tough questions, detailed questions, probing questions. Make sure members understand the beliefs and practices of the church.

Fifth, exercise church discipline. When spouses cheat or abuse one another and refuse to repent, subject them to discipline. Excommunicate the obstinate. Do it openly, publicly, for the sake of the gospel and the purity of the body. Make it a requirement.

Put a stop to false teachers like Beth Moore and Priscilla Shirer, Steve Furtick and other rogue individuals who ignore the teachings and confession of the church. Remove their books, their membership, and warn others to steer clear of them. Do it openly, publicly, lovingly, but seriously, do it.

Prohibit multi-campus pastors. The satellite pastors on the big screens have to go. It is nowhere near biblical. It lends itself to arrogance and deprives the sheep of their own personal intimate shepherd.

Hold your professors to the highest degree of accountability. Take every step to keep your seminaries doctrinally and ethically pure. Require affirmation, commitment, and loyalty from your professors annually. Nothing less will do.

Require your churches to operate on a plurality of elders with no one man being singled out as the “lead” elder. The preaching elder is the preaching elder because he does most of the preaching. But his opinion should be no more weighty than other elders, only excepting that he has expertise in a particular area. Then and only then would it be prudent to weigh his opinion more heavily than others who may not be otherwise specialized or qualified.

Finally, learn to care more about the purity and spiritual health of your congregation and less about its size and budget and your own notoriety.

Responding to J.D. Greear’s recent video

Recently J.D. Greear posted a video on FB seemingly in an attempt to provide the SBC with some leadership and direction. Regrettably, the kind of leadership and direction JD offered, well, it isn’t real leadership and as for the direction, I couldn’t disagree more. That is not to say that I don’t respect J.D. Greear. I do. I treat him as a brother. However, his video is public, and as a result, it is more than reasonable to provide a public response to it (not that my voice will be heard by very many anyways – but I do have a voice and I will use it to glorify God).

Greear made several points to which I will briefly respond. The first issue I have with Greear’s comments is his interesting view that God has brought a day of reckoning to the SBC. This is pious talk for “someone or a number of someones have been exposed for behaving badly.” My objection is simply this: spare me the pious framing. It rings hollow. The behavior that J.D. is talking about has been going on for a very long time and men like J.D. have known about it for a long time. The good ole boys protect the good ole boys until they can’t protect them any longer. Then a sacrificial lamb is offered up and we get to listen to this pious framing. It is hard to stomach. Want my respect? Then just tell the truth openly, honestly, make no excuses, and admit that there is an accountability problem top to bottom in the SBC. And that’s just one of the problems.

Greear says there are things about the SBC culture that grieves the Holy Spirit. What does he mean? Does he mean that the SBC needs a culture of accountability and transparency among leadership? A culture that lives up to the principle of sola Scriptura? A culture that is impervious to the good ole boy back-slapping and protecting that has gone on for so long? Nope! He says the SBC needs a new complementarianism. The SBC needs to recognize the gift God gives to women and it should seek to empower them. This, despite the fact that Scripture has reserved authority and leadership for men. But this is a wink in the direction of the #MeToo nonsense that has made its way into the SBC. It is a wink in the direction of Beth Moore. And maybe it’s some sort of penance for some heinous evil performed against women by men in power positions within the SBC. Sorry J.D. but the solution to the SBC’s problems is not a new complementarianism. It is a return to living under the authority of Scripture. Nothing else will do

Greear’s second issue is to see people of color in the highest levels of leadership. This a wink at the racial reconciliation movement. Despite the fact that there is nothing in Scripture that supports this kind of mindset, these men continue to adopt pagan thinking around the subject of diversity. It is sad to see. We need fearless leaders in these positions, not white men, or brown men, or black men. We need men like John MacArthur, Voddie Baucham, Steve Lawson, Conrad Mbewe, Paul Washer. We don’t need melanin to be a criterion by which men are appointed to these positions. They are far too important to be reduced to something as arbitrary as skin tone. This is nothing more than political posturing. It is what led to the conditions that have created the impetus for this video, to begin with, and J.D. for whatever reason, does not see that or if he does, he is choosing to ignore it.

The third item Greear mentions is very likely the powder keg that is about to explode in the SBC. Greear says that we need to help the vulnerable, to stand up for the abused. Finally, Greear gets to transparency in leadership. Well, I wonder what this cryptic message is really about, that we must stand up for the vulnerable? What is J.D. referencing? Personally, I think it is always a bad idea to talk about transparency in a cryptic way. Maybe I am the only one that feels the irony here but I sure do feel it.

Next, Greear decides to go after those of a divisive spirit. Now, you can almost guarantee when someone starts talking like this, their goal is to marginalize anyone that disagrees with them and to shut them down. Greear even says that it does not matter if these folks are actually right in their understanding of an issue. All that matters is that they are being divisive. Riddle me this: why is it that it is always “them” that are being divisive and never “me?” In other words, the ones who are divisive are the ones that disagree with us, with my side, with my team, with our view. And it doesn’t even matter if my side is wrong. It is those guys, even though they are right, that are dividing us and therefore, we should mark them. For example: recently, this good ole boys club thought it was prudent to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. as a noble Christian man and an example to be admired. Many of us think this is detrimental to the gospel and to the integrity of the Christian church. But since it is a secondary issue so to speak, it does not matter if we are right. What is worse is that we are speaking out about it and creating division. Therefore, we should be marked and dealt with presumably. This is not how the church is supposed to operate folks. This is a man seeking to keep things exactly the way they are all the while saying that things need to change. Washington has done this to American society for years and years now. And it seems that the SBC is taking the very same approach. Shut down those people who disagree with Greear and his friends. No debate. No synod. No conference. No Discussion. Mark them and shut them up now. Greear even quotes Paul at Romans 16:7, saying “Mark them with a divisive spirit and keep away from them.” First, its Romans 16:17, not Romans 16:7. Second, here is what Paul actually said: Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. Greear goes on to say, “whether you are being divisive on an issue even if your right still makes you divisive.” Now, compare that statement with statement Paul made. Did Paul say that division in and of itself is wrong? Nope. Paul said, “Keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned.” The presumed next president of the SBC is misquoting Scripture in an attempt to manipulate and intimidate anyone who might disagree with him on an issue. Is this the kind of character the SBC needs leading it in the future? It is the same old same old, folks.

In 1 Corinthians 5:11 Paul tells the church at Corinth to separate from anyone who claims to be a brother but who is walking in immorality. That is a mandate for division. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have fit that category perfectly and the SBC just celebrated him as an exemplary Christian leader. John told his audience that if someone comes bringing something other than the doctrine of Christ, have nothing to do with that person. That is a command for division. Paul told the Thessalonian believers to keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life. (2 Thess. 3:6) A few verses later he said to note anyone who does not obey the instructions of his letter and have nothing to do with them. (2 Thess. 3:14) Jesus Himself instructed the church to remove men from among them who were obstinate in their sin. This sin would include false teachings. Finally, Greear, without realizing it, is advocating division while attempting to condemn it. If it is true that all division is wrong even if the people creating it are right on the issue in question, and it is also true that marking someone out in the way Greear is marking them out is divisive, then Greear is actually engaging in the very practice he is condemning, while he is condemning it. Even if Greear is right, he is wrong according to his own standard.

I realize that this response to Greear is direct, and some would say overly harsh. Under the circumstances and in the current environment, I think it is reasonable. If the SBC is going to be a denomination that honors Christ, it will have to begin by returning to living under the authority of Scripture. Unless the SBC does that, nothing else that it does matters much. It will continue to bleed good people until all that is left are the progressives. In other words, the only hope the SBC has of avoiding the fate of every other liberal Protestant denomination is to be willing to shrink to whatever size is necessary in order to have a membership that is predominantly submitting their lives to the authority of Scripture, from the members all the way up to the leaders, to include the seminaries. Refuse to do that, and the SBC will not recover. The SBC is like a person on life support today. The time for her to begin to respond and show that there is enough activity in her spiritual brain to justify holding out hope is quickly coming to a close. If Greear’s video is any indication, there is little reason to hold out hope that a recovery is in her future.

 

[1] Frederic Platt, “Arminianism,” ed. James Hastings, John A. Selbie, and Louis H. Gray, Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics (Edinburgh; New York: T. & T. Clark; Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1908–1926), 811–812.

One thought on “The SBC: Proposing a way Forward

  1. This is an excellent article. However, people like Russell Moore, Karen Swallow Prior, Beth Moore and ole J D have tasted power and will never relent.

    Like

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