The Future of the Southern Baptist Convention (Pt. 2)

Southern Baptists have a hopeful future if they continually make clear their commitment to the inerrant and infallible Word of God, affirming it’s sufficiency in all matters. (Matt 5:17-18; John 10:35; 17:17; 2 Tim 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21)

Southern Baptists won the “battle for the Bible” that began in 1979. Men of God like Jimmy Draper, Paige Patterson, Paul Pressler, Adrian Rogers, and Jerry Vines put it all on the line because they saw what the poison of liberalism was doing to our Convention and its institutions. These men are heroes of the faith and what they did must be honored and never forgotten. We must keep on reminding a new generation of what happened when they were small or not yet born. It is easy for young Southern Baptists “to forget Joseph,” to forget the sacrifices of their fathers.

However, the “war for the Bible” is not over and it will never end until Jesus returns. The war over the truthfulness of God’s word was launched in the Garden of Eden when Satan asked, “has God said?” The Word of God will continue to be under assault, and we must ever be on guard and ready to answer those who question its veracity and accuracy (1 Peter 3:15). A younger generation of Southern Baptists will face this challenge, and they must be warned not to squander away precious theological ground that is absolutely essential to a healthy and hopeful future for this convention of churches.

Dr. Russ Bush who is now with our Lord was absolutely correct. I heard him say in a seminary classroom in the early 1980’s, “the question of biblical inspiration is ultimately a question of Christological identity.” Why? Because Jesus believed the Holy Scriptures to be the completely true and trustworthy Word of God! Even Rudolf Bultmann said this about our Lord, he just believes Jesus got it wrong! To deny inerrancy is to say that Jesus was wrong or that He willfully deceived. That is both heresy and blasphemy. It is spiritually suicidal!

Do you doubt or deny the full truthfulness of the Bible? My counsel is go and join another denomination. We will love you and pray for you, but we do not want you infecting our people with a spiritual disease that is always fatal to the Church of the Lord Jesus. Inerrancy and the sufficiency of the Bible in all matters of faith and practice must never be up for debate in the Southern Baptist Convention.ueuk fldjhlc

Myths Concerning the GCRTF: A Postscript

In June at the Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville, I had a conversation with my father in the ministry and hero in the faith. That man is Dr. Paige Patterson. My love for this man cannot be measured in human words. My gratitude for his investment in my life is impossible for me to express. Now, I know he does not always agree with me, but I have never doubted he loves me and wants God’s best for me. That is why I am always ready for him to speak into my life. That is why I am always eager to hear what he says and to know what he thinks on almost any issue.

As we were talking about the SBC and the GCR Declaration that had gained more than 4,000 signatures he asked me, “Danny, what do you see as the end game in all of this? What is it that you personally hope to see come to pass?” My response was quick and simple. I said, “Dr. Patterson, it is about what you taught me when I was your student at Criswell College in the late 1970’s and the Conservative Resurgence was just getting started. It is about getting the gospel of Jesus Christ to the 6 plus billion people on planet earth.”

He then said, “Is that it?” I responded, “that’s it.” He then inquired if I had a strategy for all of this and I responded with one word: “no.” I went on to say I am not smart enough to come up with anything like that. I did say that I believed there were men and women in the SBC who could help us get there, and that I prayed that if Southern Baptists authorized brother Johnny Hunt to appoint a GCRTF they could lead us in getting there.

That is what the GCR is all about. This is what the GCRTF hopes and prays God will do. He will have to because even with many smart people on the TF we are not smart enough, wise enough, or gifted enough to make it happen. God will do it or it will not come to pass.

There are challenges to be sure. None is more obvious than the distrust and infighting that characterizes too much of Southern Baptists life at the present time. This must stop or we are going nowhere.

The greatest man I believe I ever met was Adrian Rogers. In God’s goodness we developed a very sweet friendship over the years. The last time I was with him we had lunch together in Memphis. Six months later he would step into eternity into the presence of his King and Savior whom he loved so dearly and served so faithfully. As we talked about the SBC he expressed concerns and disappointments at where we were following the Conservative Resurgence. I shared my agreement with his assessment and then asked what he saw as the problem. I will never forget what he said.

Dr. Rogers said the problem was we were no longer on the battlefield fighting shoulder to shoulder the real enemies of sin, Satan, death and hell. Rather, we were back in the barracks standing face to face and fighting one another. We were now squabbling and arguing over things that would matter little if we were out on the battlefield engaging the real enemy as we fought for the souls of men across North America and around the world. Dr. Rogers always had a heart for the unreached peoples of the world. Dr. Rogers said we needed to get back on the battlefield and recognize we are one mighty army, all on the same side, serving under our commander-in-chief King Jesus. What a timely word for Southern Baptists in 2009!

This concludes the “myth series.” It is my hope that they have been helpful in clarifying and making more clear the work of the GCRTF. Feel free to attribute any lingering fog to my shortcomings and inability to communicate well. The responses I have received from so many do encourage me that the time and effort put into all of this was worth the investment.

One more time the bottom-line is simply this: the nations need to hear the gospel. Without it they are eternally lost. We have the gospel and God has graced us with the personnel and resources to get the good news of Jesus to them. The question we all must ask and answer is this: what will I do to see this happen? Let’s not live wasted lives. Let’s not be a wasted Convention of churches. Jesus deserves better. Those who have never heard the gospel deserve better. I believe, by God’s grace, we can step up and be better. Dear Lord, please make it happen!

Exciting Announcement from the W. A. Criswell Library

One of my frustrations as a Baptist history professor is that many of my students, particularly those under age 35 or so, cannot name one well-known Southern Baptist preacher from the 20th century. In my Baptist history class last fall, there was not one student–not one–who had ever heard of George Truett, R. G. Lee, W. A. Criswell, Herschel Hobbs, or even Adrian Rogers. There were a couple who knew who Jerry Vines was, but that was because of the John 3:16 Conference and not because of his years of pastoral ministry. The only exceptions I find regularly are Billy Graham and Charles Stanley, though many of the students don’t know Graham is Southern Baptist and most know little about Stanley besides the fact that he comes on TV and he is Andy’s dad.

Part of this is just being young. I only knew of three well-known Baptist preachers before I graduated high school, and that was because a couple (Vines and Stanley) were on TV every Sunday morning and the other (Rogers) came on the radio every day. I was in college before I learned about many of our most well-known preachers, and that was in part because I was studying Baptist history and theology in my spare time by the time I was 22 (weird, I know).

Technology also plays a role in all of this. Earlier generations of Baptist collegians and seminarians knew who some of our leading preachers were because, like me, they heard them on the radio or watched them on TV. Southern Baptist megachurch pastors were among the pioneers of the so-called “electronic church,” and one result of that was that they were familiar figures at least regionally, and sometimes nationally. Today’s version of the electronic church is podcasting, which is one reason why one of the most well-known contemporary Southern Baptist pastors among my students is Matt Chandler, a Dallas pastor who is mostly uninvolved in the wider denomination. Chandler reaches them through technology, and–listen well–like Rogers on the radio and Vines on the tube, it doesn’t cost my students a dime.

As a guy who wants my generation (and coming generations) to appreciate their predecessors, I was thrilled to learn that the W. A. Criswell Sermon Library will soon make all of the famed pastor’s sermons available for download. Furthermore, they will podcast some of Dr. Criswell’s most popular sermon series. This will be an invaluable source of inspiration (and education!) for years to come. Many thanks to the folks at the Criswell Library for their diligent work in this matter–this is one young Southern Baptist who is thankful for their labor of love.

(Note: Love Worth Finding, the preaching ministry of the late Adrian Rogers, continues to make Dr. Rogers’ sermons and books available through the internet and podcast.)