Every Christian organization worthy of that name will experience opposition from the world and the devil seeking to cause it to depart from biblical principles, ultimately to be assimilated by what the world calls religion. This antagonism is a part of the spiritual conflict observed by scripture.[i] Churches become liberal in their theology or cease to exist altogether. Denominations and para-church organizations do the same. The Body of Christ has and will persevere. The same cannot be said necessarily of your local body or organization.
The Southern Baptist Convention [SBC] is under attack by at least three major debilitating and liberalizing forces: the charismatic movement, the ecumenical movement and racial prejudice. These are such a powerful combination that the denomination may not survive their combined effect.
The Charismatic Influence
The SBC has already capitulated to the charismatic influence. Significant leaders of the Convention have admitted to supporting the doctrines of this movement, even speaking in tongues themselves.[ii] Tongues speaking missionaries are now authorized to go to the mission field under the banner of the SBC.[iii]
Other serious errors quickly follow the adoption of charismatic doctrine. The decay of hermeneutical principles necessary to sustain charismatic beliefs must result in the adoption of false teaching in other areas [Gal 5.7-9]. The current debate among Southern Baptists regarding women as preachers and pastors is made possible by the refusal by some to acknowledge what the scripture says on the subject and by others, a belief that all interpretations of what scripture says about a subject are equally valid. This decline in the belief in the authority and perspicacity of the Word of God is the fruit of charismatic beliefs wherever they are adopted. Word of Faith theology, to one degree or another, is the next phase of decline for the Baptist churches that embrace the false doctrines of the charismatic movement.
The battle has already been lost on this front. This failure alone is sufficient to kill the SBC, but there’s more.
The Bible clearly teaches that God does not need help in that which He has authorized the church to do in the world on His behalf.[v] In the Old Testament, under the Law of Moses, only the house of Levi could minister in and about the Temple, performing spiritual work. In the current age, God has authorized the Church to win the lost and to make disciples. He has also commanded the Christian that his own sanctification should be made evident by righteousness in his interactions with this fallen world.[vi]
What God has not authorized is the union between the Church and unbelievers, much less the Church and those who corrupt the gospel, for the purpose of accomplishing anything that He has required of His people. There is no political objective, no social evil, and certainly no spiritual undertaking that justifies the communion of Christians and those who do not hold to sound doctrine. Whatever the end sought, the evil of Christians in ecumenical associations greatly outweighs the good that is envisioned. Joshua did not seek common ground with the Canaanites in order to stamp out idolatry. Jehoshaphat did seek rapprochement with the idolater Ahab. Not only was Israel not reformed, but Judah was defiled, resulting in the deaths of nearly all Jehoshaphat’s male line and the eventual captivity of Jerusalem.
The Influence of Racial Prejudice
It is no secret that racial prejudice is a problem that the SBC has struggled with for many years. The sanctification of many Baptists [and not only Southern Baptists] has been short-circuited by the adoption of racial biases that have been engrafted into their understanding and teaching of the scriptures. For example, many people who argue that to help persons of color receive justice is outside of the gospel mandate are willing to jettison Christian ethics and doctrine to support a political platform or politician.[vii] Similarly, those who believe racial justice to be outside the sphere of gospel mandated activity engage social issues such as human trafficking and pro-life efforts.[viii] This is the short-circuiting of sanctification.
More dangerous than the racially prejudiced Baptist is the pastor who enables that person. The enabler-pastor does not address racial prejudice in his catalog of sins. If he deals with it at all, he will do so rarely and never with any definitions or elucidation upon the specific attitudes, actions and societal structures that strengthen and perpetuate racial prejudice and the discrimination that results from it.[ix] As a consequence of this strategic omission, there is inadequate bible information for the conviction of the Spirit. This is why so many Christians do not even acknowledge that they commit the sin of racial prejudice. “If it is a sin, wouldn’t my pastor preach about it?”
The pastor-enabler of racial prejudice is occasionally one that believes that any emphasis upon race is “anti-gospel” [or at least irrelevant to the mission of the Church] by definition.[x] This fellow entirely eliminates all restraint upon the prejudiced attitudes of his flock by cordoning off race as an issue that neither God or the Bible is concerned about. Consequently, one of the biggest sin issues in America today becomes a “non-issue” aside from the annual public disclaimer statement: “Racism is bad, don’t be a racist.”
The battle against racial prejudice may also be lost in the SBC. First, ideas of racial superiority have long been identified with being an American and this is especially true today . [xi] There is an uncomfortable nexus of prejudice and patriotism that is jumbled together with Christianity in many churches. Secondly, church growth has become so important that pastors, even the ones that know better, will not sacrifice membership over an issue like racial prejudice. Thirdly, the issues that drive congregational segregation historically: the intense desire to separate adolescents of different races, the differences in worship styles and the need to severely limit the racial integration of pastoral leadership [all due to #2 above] remain very powerful incentives today.
Satan is constantly at work in his effort to weaken the Church and to limit its spiritual impact upon the world. He uses philosophical constructs as effectively as he uses persecution, warfare and death to achieve his ends. Human institutions like denominations are not immune but are engaged in this warfare to the benefit or the detriment of the believers associated with them. The pastors and leaders of the SBC, like those of every Christian organization, will give an account to God for their stewardship in this warfare.
[i] Rom 16.17-18; Eph 6.11; 1Cor 11.12-15; 1Pet 5.8
[ii] “Southern Baptists Debate Over Speaking in Tongues – The Christian Post.” Accessed October 22, 2019. https://www.christianpost.com/news/southern-baptists-debate-over-speaking-in-tongues.html.
[iii] “International Mission Board Drops Ban on Speaking… | Christianity Today.” Accessed October 22, 2019. https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2015/may-web-only/imb-ban-speaking-in-tongues-baptism-baptist-missionary.html.
“Southern Baptists Change Policy on Speaking in Tongues — Charisma News.” Accessed October 26, 2019. https://www.charismanews.com/us/49661-southern-baptists-change-policy-on-speaking-in-tongues.
[iv] “Southern Baptist Convention > Resolution On Southern Baptists And Roman Catholics.” Accessed October 22, 2019. http://www.sbc.net/resolutions/964/resolution-on-southern-baptists-and-roman-catholics.
[v] 2Cor 6.14; Jas 4.4; 2Jn 7.11
[vi] Mt 5.13-14, 16; 2Cor 8.21; 1Th 5.22; 2Th 2.6-7; 1Pet 2.12. The experiential righteousness of the believer is expressed in many ways. One of these expressions is the instinct for justice, not only for his own, but for others also. If we will detach justice from righteousness in man, will we not also do so eventually in our doctrine of God?
[vii] The Brookings Institution, “Has Trump Caused White Evangelicals to Change their Tune on Morality” Accessed on October 25, 2019. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2016/10/19/has-trump-caused-white-evangelicals-to-change-their-tune-on-morality/?utm_campaign=Brookings+Brief&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=36227248
Richard Walker, “Donald Trump and American Pastors-The Reason Nations Fail” Accessed on October 25, 2019. https://aricherwalk.com/2017/09/11/donald-trump-and-american-pastors-the-reason-nations-fail/
[viii] “A Response: The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel – A Richer Walk.” Accessed October 22, 2019. https://aricherwalk.com/2018/09/25/a-response-the-statement-on-social-justice-and-the-gospel/.
[xi] “Opinion | A Racist Attack Shows How Whiteness Evolves – The New York Times.” Accessed October 27, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/26/opinion/new-jersey-high-school-racism.html.