Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Biggest Problem with Southern Baptists by Dave Miller - An Observation or Three

Over at SBC Voices Dave Miller makes the following observations about the biggest problem with Southern Baptists:
First, two observations:

1) Southern Baptists (at least the blogging kind) are often kinda angry people. I observe blogging and I am simply amazed at the anger that comes through. From all sides at all sides.

2) Just about everyone considers themselves the victim of the other side. Calvinists are being pushed out by the anti-Calvinists. The non-Calvinists are offended at the arrogant and aggressive Calvinists. The hipsters are “marginalizing” the traditionalists and the traditionalists are excluding the younger generation from leadership. It just goes on.
Now to be fair, I am not a Southern Baptist. However, I could not help but notice that Dave's observation, while partially true seems to miss the point entirely. It would seem to me that Dave thinks the problem is the in the existence of disagreements. Some may respond by saying, no! It is in the manner in which people disagree. Well, to be sure, there are better and worse ways to disagree. There are Christian principles that guide the manner in which we treat one another, sure. If one reads this blog, they walk away from it saying, ok, so what is the biggest problem again and more importantly, how do we solve it? Some things we have to live with, others, not so much. In all things we should demonstrate light and grace, but in nothing is truth to be compromised. The biggest problem I have with Dave's observations is that they seem to marginalize the real problem: doctrinal truth. This seems to be the same old tired "doctrine divides" argument from my perspective.

If the pervasive wave of liberalism should have taught the SBC anything, it should have been that there is more to the Calvinist charge that Arminianism leads to liberal theology when taken to its logical conclusions, than previously appreciated. The SBC was nearly swallowed up by a tidal wave of liberal theology and it is my view that that threat still exists. Liberal theology will simply change it's cloak and return with a different look, perhaps as what Dave calls the "hipsters." This is the younger generation that has swallowed, hook, line, and sinker postmodern philosophy and as a result rebelled against all things orthodox simply because someone else did the thinking. Truth is, hipsters for the most part don't think. They have a cultural aversion to the practice. "Thinking" is for old people and legalists. I have little patience for ignorant young people who demand to be respected for thier uninformed, uneducated, ill-formed opinions. Earning a seat at the table requires experience, education, and wisdom. The younger generation's primary objective should be to learn from the older generation, not turn their nose up at everything we say as if we are old, out-dated, and irrelevant. That attitude is unwise, uninformed, and foolish, not to mention ungodly. Why do we permit such attitudes to prevail in the church? Have we stopped reading Proverbs? Sometimes I think we have completely thrown out Scripture and replaced it with Emergent Church best sellers.

To reduce the serious theological differences that exist in the SBC to simply a problem of how we disagree without recognizing that, for the most part, our beliefs are prior to how we go about disagreeing in the first place is a much bigger problem than Dave observes. In fact, he seems to miss that point entirely. Like it or not, the Calvinistic view of God and Arminian view of God are serious issues that lead to serious consequences. I realize we don't like the tags, Arminian and Calvinist. If it were left to some, we would have no way of distingushing one theological system over another because we don't like labels. A word of advice: get over your arrogant self. Labels are means we use to be able to identify a theological system so that we don't have to write a book about it every time we encounter it.

Libertarian freedom logically leads to views of God that are not orthodox. Moreover, it elevates human ability above that described in Scripture. In addition, the authority of Scripture is devalued for, how is it possible that God could work with libertarian freedom to produce a perfect, self-attesting revelation? As for the hipsters, their first order of business is to subject themselves to the older men in the church for doctrinal instruction and discipleship. If they are found to be of constantly rebellious disposition and obstinate regarding the orthodox tradition of Scripture, then they should be dealt with for their contumacy.

I am not a SBC member. I am a member of the PCA. Our problems are not so different from the SBC. We too have men arguing for an old earth and even Catholic mysticism in our ranks as well. We have illicit divorce with no real consequences in many congregations as well. Basically, I think Dave's observations represent a bigger problem in the SBC than the ones he points out. What do I mean? I mean the lack of critical thinking using Scripture as the authority for idenfying the biggest problems in the SBC is really the biggest problem I see in his article. He makes the problem one of school yard clubs. The Arminian club needs to be nice to the Calvinist club and the Hipsters club, and et cetera. That is not the biggest problem in the SBC. The biggest problem in the SBC is the same as it is for the PCA and any other denomination: the authority and perspecuity of Scripture. This problem was dealt with some 500 years ago but we seem to be in a state of perpetual backsliding on the issue. God's revelation is clear and it is authoritative. Doctrine is critically important. Arminians need to think about how their understanding of God and man impacts the rest of their theology. Calvinists need to be more interested in applying Christian doctrine to Christian praxis. Hipsters need to keep their mouths shut until they learn something from the older men who are responsble to teach them as is God's design.

A bigger problem in the SBC would be not having the discussion at all. Truth matters and we are all sinners. When you bring these two together, there is bound to be disagreement. If we aren't talking about it, that can only mean truth isn't that important to us. There is nothing wrong with healthy disagreement or debate. It is more wrong not to point out what we believe is error than it is to keep quiet. That is not a biblical virtue, it is an American one. Yet, in speaking up, we should do so passionately, but always in love. Our comments should concern views and teachings, not personalities. Silence is a much bigger problem than the one Dave Miller observes in his blog about problems in the SBC in my personal opinion.

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