Inerrancy and the Future of the SBC

Southern Baptists somehow manage to stay about 50 years behind the rest of the world in a lot of ways. One example of this is the conservative resurgence in our convention that began in 1979. We are probably the only major Protestant denomination to reverse a trend toward liberalism. The conservative resurgence was truly an amazing victory. We did, however, fight the battle about 50 years behind most of the other denominations. This isn't a bad thing. The success of the resurgence was partly because of this fact. We had witnessed the horrible condition of the denominations that had submitted to liberalism. We could more easily identify liberal theology by this time. Roe v. Wade had deeply stirred conservatives in this country and the conservative resurgence probably owed some of its success to this sentiment against liberalism in our culture and denomination. The conservative resurgence may not have been possible earlier in this century.

As with anything in history, even great events usually have some negative consequences. Let me see if I can explain what I mean...

Coming off the heels of the resurgence in the SBC, we have had leaders in nearly every denominational position who were quick to emphasize the inerrancy of Scripture. Bad? Of course not. We are thankful to God that these men have been willing to stand firm on this essential principle. Inerrancy is and should be a non-negotiable in the Southern Baptist Convention. So how has this hurt? I think it has often left the impression that anyone who believes in inerrancy is a suitable candidate to be held up to a leadership position, whether denominational, pastoral, or otherwise. There are more than a few bad preachers who are inerrantists. There are even more than a few heretics that claim to hold to inerrancy. (Open theists claim to believe in the inerrancy of Scripture.)

Let me be clear, inerrancy should always be a litmus test for Southern Baptists. Someone who will not assent to the inerrancy of Scripture should not hold any position in our denomination. But we have to move past inerrancy. Inerrancy should be one of our presuppositions. Anyone not sharing this presupposition is ineligible, but once determined that someone does hold to it, we still have a lot of work left to do.

Pastors must not only pay lip service to a high view of Scripture. They must stop taking verses out of context. They must treat the Word of God with utmost respect through careful study. Too many pastors proof-text their way through sermons without ever really dealing in detail with what any particular passage teaches. This leads to shallow sermons which, in turn, leads to shallow churches and shallow Christians. Pastors must educate people to study the word for themselves and model the virtue of being a student of Scripture.

Seminary presidents must push for faculties who will instill in students the fact that they are not in seminary mainly for a degree, but for an education. Our seminaries graduate far too many who come to turn in their work and get a diploma and do not make use of the time of preparation God has given them. Our seminaries must push students to become lifelong learners. They must force students to dig deep wells from which they will draw throughout their entire ministry.

Agency heads must examine the methodologies of their agencies and make changes where needed. LifeWay Sunday School material should be the highest quality available. NAMB and IMB have to commit to missions methodologies that stress effectiveness over innovation. Ethics and Religious Liberty must find ways to reach the average church goer and engage individual churches in impacting the culture.

The battle against liberalism in our convention, at least for now, is over. We must remain vigilant that it never becomes a problem again. But we have new battles to fight. These battles are no less important than those fought by earlier generations. May God raise up new leaders who will build on the strong foundation already laid.

What are these new battles? I'll try and get to that in the next entry. This one's long enough Happy

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