Back in the late 1970’s and through the 80’s and even into the 1990’s, the Southern Baptist Convention fought a battle that should have ended all theological battles (we can wish and hope and pray). The SBC fought the surge of liberal theology that was overtaking the SBC and had overtaken other denominations that the Scriptures were not God breathed and inerrant.
The seminaries had become the battle ground for the minds and theology of pastors over the previous decades and many conservative local churches, who were on the front end of this fight, were rightfully rejecting the seminary product. The battles being waged for the hearts of Churches to direct and guide these bastions of believers prompted a group of men to band together to pursue righteousness and depart from iniquity.
Their were many bloodied in this fight. The newspapers were regularly filled with this battle for the soul of the convention. The conservatives fighting for the authority of Scripture took their lumps gladly because they knew they were right, so being labeled a fundamentalists and narrow-minded for upholding Scripture as the Word of God was worth the fight.
The SBC presidents elected during this time frame were largely supportive of the conservative position on Scripture. Men like Adrien Rogers, Bailey Smith, James T. Draper, Charles Stanley, and Jerry Vines presided over the convention during this battle, while other men like Jerry Falwell kept up the fight from their pulpits. This was a conservative resurgence in the convention and it was waged in the public sphere for the heart of the faith and Great Commission of Jesus.
In chapter seven of Draper’s book, Authority: The Critical Issue for Southern Baptists, he opens the chapter by writing,
“Conservative, Bible-oriented Southern Baptists have awakened to what is happening. We are still basically a solidly conservative people who are committed to the Bible as the totally reliable Word of God. We realize now that forces are at work among us which are contrary to that basic posture…Some have accused conservative of trying to destroy academic freedom and excellence. the implication being, of course, that to be a conservative Christian is to be ignorant and opposed to real education and free inquiry.”
These words could be written again today, only in support of the placement of Calvinist or Reformed theologians into these same positions because traditional baptists are held to be dumb hicks, effectively shifting the Soteriology of the convention towards the doctrines of a man (my label of Calvinism) and our lack of free will to choose Jesus or not.
However; we are living at a time when baptisms per year are trending down.
We are living at a time when conversions are trending down.
We are living at a time when churches by the hundreds are closing every year in the convention and there is no end in sight of these trends and the seminaries are telling us it is a result of social shifts and has nothing to do with Reformed folk being in most positions of authority within the convention.
The above are symptoms of the battle being waged against traditional soteriology by those in the Reformed camp. It is not the effects of social changes, it is the results of theology, because theology matters.
I want to draw a parallel here between the lack of emphasis on evangelism and missions in other denominations who went away from the authority of Scripture in the recent past and the impact of the convention when it shifted towards the Reformed.
Draper wrote regarding an editorial in the Dec. 2, 1981 Baptist Standard of which I could not find to link, “During this twenty-year period (1960-1981), the decline in the number of foreign missionaries was 79% in the Episcopal Church, 70% in the Lutheran Church in America, 70% in the United Presbyterian Church, 68% in the United Church of Christ, 66% in the Christian Church, and 46% in the United Methodist Church.”
In other words, when these other denominations rejected the truth of Scripture, it impacted the rest of their theology and practices. Southern Baptists have long been the dominant force in conservative, biblical, evangelistic and mission-minded believers in the United States. But now those trends are slipping and trending the wrong direction.
If you pull up the SBC seminaries today, most of their presidents are Calvinists. When you look at the recent presidents elected by the convention, Calvinists. When you review the heads of the different organizations under the SBC umbrella, predominantly Calvinist.
This is why I am drawing the parallel to the loss of Scriptural authority and their loss of mission focus in other denominations resulting in their implosion. Within the SBC, Calvinists remain biblicists, but their reading of the same Bible is significantly different than that of the traditional baptist and it has resulted in the above drops I have mentioned.
The seminaries are teaching pastors not to name their church “XX Baptist of Whoville” because being a baptist has a negative connotation. The seminaries are pushing a lie that God calls only the elect and there is no free will, and the rest of the world is damned. This somehow brings God glory. The seminaries are teaching God is the author of evil by knowing and having foreordained all things and it somehow brings God glory.
The seminaries are teaching Reformed Theology, which is a major departure from the Bible and the Whosoever will understanding of the past 2,000 years.
The prophet Joel wrote, “And it will come to pass afterward, that I will pour my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions….And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved.” (Joel 2: 28-32)
These words were echoed by Peter on Pentecost as he preached on the streets of Jerusalem in Acts 2: 5-41 and three thousand were saved from hell by their belief in Jesus that day.
Likewise this is why Paul would write to the Romans and say, “For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him, for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'” (Rom 10: 11-13)
The reformed theologian must dance on the head of a needle around these Scriptures and in so doing, drive away all but “the elect” to their new gospel. I must rank reformed theology with Paul’s “plausible arguments” in Col 2: 4 that mislead and confuse the understanding of believers.
There is a battle for the heart of Christianity being waged right now. The baptists are currently fighting this battle every day and I foresee another split coming in the convention between the traditional and the reform minded.I know what camp I will be in, do you?
I urge the members of the Body to seek knowledge and wisdom in Christ as you select pastors or send your children to private schools and colleges. Will you condemn most of humanity by making the decision against Christ for them, or will you honor Jesus and the Scriptures by acknowledging all who call on Jesus will be saved?