Limp Left! One Pastor’s Thoughts on SBC21 (Part 1)
“How long will you go on limping between two different opinions?” (1 Kings 18:21)
In this series of blog posts, I want to offer my thoughts and analysis on the recent Southern Baptist Convention held in Nashville, TN on June 15-16, 2021. I do so, as with all my blogs, primarily as a service to the local church I love and serve, Corydon Baptist Church.
First, let me say to my church family, “I am sorry. Please forgive me.” I have not attended a convention in many years. I have been relatively unattached to the goings on at national / convention levels. I have placed an implied and uncritical trust in SBC leaders over the last decade. For all this, I am genuinely regretful. Resolution #9 at the 2019 convention awakened many thousands of us local SBC pastors to the reality that something sinister was afoot in our beloved “denomination” (technically we’re a convention of churches). Many of us were pretty ignorant about Critical Theory and Intersectionality. But thank God for leaders and ministries such as Tom Ascol at Founders, who began sounding the alarm! We got educated, and like thousands of Americans now storming school boards, once we got educated, rebuking Critical Race Theory as a godless, unbiblical, toxic and demonic worldview proved a no-brainer.
But in 2019, somehow a Resolution was passed that actually promoted CRT/I as “a set of analytical tools that explain how race has and continues to function in society” and “can aid in evaluating a variety of human experiences.” Say what? Do you see how this language assumes CRT/I offers a valid explanation and lens through which to analyze the world and our culture? The Resolution even went so far as to say “Critical race theory and intersectionality alone are insufficient to diagnose and redress the root causes of the social ills that they identify” (emphasis mine). Here again, it is pre-supposed that CRT/I is in some way able to “diagnose and redress the root causes of the social ills.” Isn’t the root cause sin? And isn’t the pure, unadulterated gospel of Jesus as revealed in the Bible the only solution that can actually diagnose and redress sin? Isn’t the Bible enough to diagnose and redress any and all social ills, including racism, sexism, and so on?
Imagine my shock and dismay upon discovering it was a prominent professor at my beloved Southern Baptist Theological Seminary who chaired the Resolutions Committee that gave us this atrocious statement! Imagine my double shock at discovering how he and his committee took the original resolution submitted by a SBC pastor from California, totally gutted it, and turned it into something that was 180 degrees opposite from its original intent. This whole thing smelled like a skunk! And the seminary presidents all sat silently while this insidious resolution passed.
So, I and thousands of messengers descended upon Nashville last month with intent to redress the evil of Resolution #9. To right our convention’s wrong. To admit our error and make a biblical course correction. Several resolutions had been submitted to do just that, including one signed by over 1,300 Southern Baptists. But none of those were brought to the floor for a vote. Instead, what the Resolutions Committee, chaired by Pastor James Merritt, did was to write their own generic Resolution #2, titled “On the Sufficiency of Scripture for Race and Racial Reconciliation.” In and of itself, the resolution was fine. It states, “That we reject any theory or worldview that finds the ultimate identity of human beings in ethnicity or in any other group dynamic; and . . . we reject any theory or worldview that sees the primary problem of humanity as anything other than sin against God and the ultimate solution as anything other than redemption found only in Christ.”
Well, amen. But nowhere does the Resolution call CRT/I by its name. An effort to amend the resolution to so name CRT/I failed. No real debate happened because a savvy messenger from Indiana “called for the question.” He was banking that the majority of messengers really did not want to have any open or real debate about CRT/I, nor our need as a convention to rebuke it with doctrinal and theological precision. We had named it in 2019 as a “useful analytical tool.” Makes sense that we now need to rebuke and repudiate it by name, essentially owning up to our mistake. To my great shock, the majority of messengers voted to end the debate and approve the Resolution #2 as written. Perplexed doesn’t begin to describe my feelings on how this went down. Are we seriously scared to rebuke CRT?
Now, I do not know the heart motives of the Resolutions Committee or the messengers who did not want to name it as a worldview we specifically reject. But the most common refrain we heard from the platform this year was “the world is watching.” That at least hints that our SBC leaders are scared of being branded racist, and of possibly losing black or African American churches if they specifically rebuke CRT/I. Indeed, some prominent black SBC leaders have been leaving the convention, like John Owunchekwa and Charlie Dates who pastor in Atlanta and Chicago, respectively. They did so simply because the seminary presidents issued a statement last fall repudiating CRT/I by name and stating it would not be advocated in the seminaries. And as Dates specifically stated, because Dr. Albert Mohler dared to state that he believed a Bible-loving Christian has to reject the Democratic Party Platform because of its obvious endorsements of evil. Another prominent SBC pastor, Dwight McKissic threatened to leave the SBC with his church if the seminary presidents’ statement was ratified by the 2021 convention, dismissing the statement because it “originated with six Anglo seminary presidents.” As if their skin color rendered them incapable of understanding and rightly applying biblical truth! McKissic has clearly adopted the worldview, the lens, the pre-suppositions, of CRT!
But if the SBC Leadership and the messengers of the SBC cannot find the doctrinal spine to, as one messenger aptly put it, “call a skunk a skunk,” then our witness to the lost world, regardless of the amounts of melanin those lost people possess, is already a wreck. And if a black brother or sister cannot rebuke a white brother or sister, or vice-versa, because he or she is in obvious biblical error or espousing outright anti-gospel heresy, then our convention is already lost to the muddy morass of doctrinal and theological liberalism. Liberalism despises doctrinal precision. The Protestant Reformation did not happen by way of generic doctrinal statements and debates! Truth has to be proclaimed with Spirit-enlightened precision. And error has to be called out in like manner. The Apostle Paul called out Judaizers with gospel precision!
James Merritt rejected the attempt to amend Resolution #2 with a zealous diatribe that accused those of us who wanted to repudiate CRT by name of being more passionate about CRT than we are about evangelism. It was unkind, to say the least, and it was a straw man argument. He also said CRT was not in the Bible, so we need not name it. Somebody forgot to tell that to the Resolutions Committee in 2019. His diatribe received wide-spread applause. My heart sank.
Perhaps Resolution #1, “On Baptist Unity and Maintaining our Public Witness,” can shed some light. It stated, “RESOLVED, That we will not permit our personal, social, theological, or political interests to supersede the urgency of evangelism and distract us from the task of the gospel’s advancement through the whole world.” The messengers from the church I pastor immediately saw a problem with this wording. It calls theology a distraction, and pits theology against evangelism! It essentially tells theology to take a back seat to the Great Commission, as if they’re at odds. But Jesus commanded us to make disciples of the nations by “teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you” (Matt 28:20). The theology and doctrine of Christ is part and parcel to the mission. This resolution, if memory serves me, was rightly amended to say “secondary theological interests.” But the fact that this was brought to the floor as originally worded, gives me no great confidence in our SBC leaders’ concern for doctrinal purity which drives proper biblical evangelism. What gospel we are proclaiming does still matter, doesn’t it? Or, are we now just for cooperation for cooperation’s sake? If so, let’s ditch the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 which is supposed to be our doctrinal standard for cooperating.
I truly have no desire to be the nit-picky thorn in any SBC leader’s side. But these first two resolutions of SBC21 did not serve to encourage me to keep wholeheartedly supporting the SBC. They were just generic enough to be sure to pass messenger muster, without saying nearly enough given the very obvious debates and doctrinal errors running rampant among us today (in both broader evangelicalism as well as in the SBC).
I wonder if the seminary presidents, whose anti-CRT statement I commend, will now demand that professors who have been promoting CRT/I and speaking publicly in ways that clearly demonstrate they have adopted that unbiblical worldview, publicly recant? If not, why not? When I have misspoken from the pulpit in years gone by, or when I have sinned in orthodoxy or orthopraxy, by God’s sanctifying grace I have confessed the sin or error and asked the church to forgive me. Other pastors I know have done likewise, as this is just Christianity 101. So, will we hear any public recantations? Will any of the obviously pro-CRT professors at SBC seminaries be fired? Based upon the seminary presidents’ statement, they should be!
But I fear that SBC21 all but ensured those professors will stay safely ensconced in their professorships. Sadly, the mothers of America demanding resignations among school boards and public school teachers seem to have more courage than Southern Baptists right now. And the world is watching . . .
I just wonder if they are also applauding.