Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Concerns About Fundamentalism and the Future of the Southern Baptist Convention

Thanks to Marty Duren and Wade Burleson for keeping us informed about what's going on at the IMB Trustee meeting in Richmond. Going into the meeting, I really didn't expect the trustees to overturn the recently adopted policies regarding tongues and baptism, but from what I have read about the meeting so far, I believe that the Southern Baptist Convention is in the greatest danger it has faced since the days when liberals controlled the leadership. The danger is the rising tide of fundamentalism, with its attitude of "my interpretation of Scripture is inerrant and infallible" and its efforts to silence, intimidate, and exclude those who disagree with them.

PLEASE understand what I am about to say. NOT ALL of those who support the new policies are fundamentalists. Many, perhaps most, of them exhibit Christian love toward those who oppose the policies, and they are not seeking to intimidate or silence anyone. But there are AT LEAST A FEW supporters of the policies who have personally attacked the character of those opposed to the policies. To disagree with someone is one thing, but to say that someone is "arrogant, deceitful, a liar, and above all, a man who lack[s] integrity" just because he disagrees with your position and shares his views with others is simply going too far.

After reading Wade's post about the first day of the meeting, I made the following comment (You should read Wade's post before reading my comment.):

For the first time I am beginning to have real doubts about the future of the SBC. I can easily see a day in the not-too-distant future where a person will have to be a Landmarkist/Arminian/ dispensational/pretrib/premillenial/complementarian/HCSB only or KJV only/cessasionist in order to be found acceptable as a missionary or denominational worker by the SBC leadership. When this happens, the SBC's days of being the global leader in missions will be nothing but a memory.

I haven't reached the point of thinking about walking away from the SBC, as many other younger leaders have. But the next 3-5 years will determine whether or not the SBC has a real future. I pray that it does, but if the attitudes and mindsets you have described are not exceptions among our leaders, then I have real doubts about our future.

What do you think? Is this issue regarding the IMB a sign of where the SBC is headed, or is it an isolated case? Does this issue demonstrate a move toward fundamentalism? If so, is that a good or bad thing?


Ron said...

How can you ask if this a sign of where the SBC is heading? This is business as usual and has been for 25 years. The things you are complaining about have been happening on every SBC board since the pseudo conservative resuregence began. In the 80s when theological conservatives complained abuot the same things you are complaining about they were labeled moderates or liberals and black balled from serving in an SBC leadership position.
You talk about when "liberals controlled the leadership" of the SBC. You are 33 therefore you were about 5 or 6 when the takeover effort began. Tell me what liberals controlled the leadership of the SBC. I attended a Baptist College in the 60s and Southwestern Seminary in the 70s and was appointed a missionary of the FMB in the 70s and served through the 80s and 90s. None of these were controlled by liberals. Are you saying Robert Naylor, Russell Dilday, Baker James Cauthron or Keith Parks were liberals. If so, you are wrong. Give me the names of the SBC presidents who were liberals and tell me what conservative biblical beliefs they denied. I would not be foolish enough to say there were no liberals in Baptist life in those days or today but to say that liberals controlled the leadership of the SBC is ignorant. I am glad you are willing to speak out on what is happening in the SBC today but you have much to learn about the history of the conservative resurgence.

Kiki Cherry said...


Some would say that Russell Dilday and Keith Parks were Liberal. I do not agree. I think they are both fine men who were treated unkindly and unfairly.

Tim may not have been around for the original battle, but us "thirty-somethings" are reaping the consequences of their actions. And trying to salvage a very fractured SBC.

I think Tim's point is based on what the "Conservative Resurgence" has been saying to us in their responses. Their argument has been that they were protecting us from the Liberal contingency that was supposedly trying to take over our denomination at that point in time.

Kevin Bussey said...


I agree about those men you mentioned but I was @ Samford in the early 80's and I had a few classes from liberals. I won't mention names because that is unfair to them. I like Kiki was disturbed with what happened to Dr. Dilday and Keith Parks.

Now is not the time to dwell on the sins of the past. Let's deal with today. If the SBC is going to be relevant in the future we have to do something now. I seriously looked at leaving recently. But God brought me to an SBC church in Charlotte. He did it not me. I would have never sent my resume to this church. I would rather go to a Northpoint (Andy Stanley) or Fellowship (Ed Jr.) type church. I guess God has a sense of humor because I'm back in a church that has WMU! But, God has called me to transition this church. Maybe He has called Marty, Wade, Tim, Kiki and maybe me to transition the SBC into a loving denomination that actually cooperates with fellow believers regardless of their methods.

David Phillips said...


I do not believe this is an isolated case. I believe it is business as usual.

Tim Sweatman said...

I acknowledged on another blog that my statement about liberals controlling the SBC were based on things that I had read (I should have done that here, also), things that were definitely written from a conservative perspective. I don't have any hard statistical evidence, just anecdotal evidence about young men graduating from SBC seminaries having been taught that parts of the Bible are untrue and that it is possible for one to be saved without faith in Jesus, and I read about a commentary published by B & H (around 1960 I think) that basically wrote off the first 11 chapters of Genesis as a myth or fable. If those things aren't liberal, I don't know what is. Now, do I believe that the majority of SBC leaders in the 1960s and 1970s believed such things? I don't know. All I have to go by is what I have read and heard. I know that here in KY there is a large minority of pastors, mostly in their late 40s, 50s, and 60s, who are liberal or moderate (depending on who you ask), and this is largely ascribed to the liberal/moderate influence of Southern from the 1950s through the 1980s. Several people I know who are highly critical of the methods used in the resurgence acknowledge that there was a serious drift toward liberalism in the SBC in the 1960s and 1970s. So while I don't know exactly what happened at that time, it does seem apparent that there were some issues of liberalism within SBC entities.

One thing to keep in mind, not only am I relatively young, but I have only followed SBC affairs closely since I became a pastor in 2003. Like most laypeople, before then I had no concept of how the SBC operated. Even now I'm certainly no expert on how the SBC works. So I freely acknowledge that I approach this subject with a limited perspective.

Paul said...

Is this a sign of where the SBC is headed? I have a mixed bag view of the past 26 years. I think there were some corrections that were in order, but I also think that good people were labeled as bad people and cooperative people were ostracized. Richard Jackson comes prominently to mind. So no, this isn't new. And yes, it is a sign of where the SBC is headed and has been headed for quite some time.

Is it an isolated case? Hardly. This is more likely the tip of the iceberg. Does this issue demonstrate a move toward fundamentalism? How could it not be?

Is this a goo or bad thing? It depends on whether you are considered "in" or "out" of the leadership network. But it should be clarified that fundamentalism is less about theology and more about power.

Tim Sweatman said...

I definitely agree with your characterization of fundamentalism as being less about theology and more about power. Considering today's events, this whole IMB mess seems to be more about power than about doctrine.

Ron said...

I don't mean to criticize you. I appreciate what you are doing. I realize you were not around when much of this happened and are only going by what you have heard. I am talking about things I have seen myself and know for a fact. Sure you can find examples of false teaching and some liberal influence. My statement is that most of those the conservative resurgence leaders attacked and expelled from SBC leadership were no different that Wade Burleson. They were theological conservatives who were willing to fight liberalism but not willing to endorse the leaders of the conservative resurgence and follow them blindly. Read Russell Dilday's book "Columns" to get a good idea of how SBC trustees have operated for years.

That being said I to want to look to the future. If pastors such as yourself will start demanding truth and accoutability and openess out of our leaders maybe we can bring our convention back to its Biblical base. I want to say again I admire and respect you.

steve w said...

I'm 47 years old, and am a SBC pastor. I've seen a lot in my day. We all need to listen to guys like Wade Burleson and Rick Thompson. They hear and see things that God is doing through the IMB and the SBC that not all of us see. Yes there were plenty of backroom politics that took place during the conservative resurgence, but it was the messengers at the annual conventions that prevailed -- that is our structure. Any one of you have the same voting power as any IMB trustee or even a man like Paige Patterson. Look at at history beyond the last 40 or so years. Look at people in our history like Lottie Moon, or William Johnson, or James Boice. There is a long list of brave brothers and sisters that sought to glorify God and fulfill the Great Commission. They gave their lives blazing a trail for us. Sure we have plenty of shameful mistakes and vicious battles. But we survived, and are today the greatest mission movement in the history of the US. Do we really want to just throw that all away? Or do we want to preserve the legacy? The old guard will die out. We have thriving new and young churches today, and bold and radical young pastors and young national & overseas missionaries. Why turn away from what God has done and is still doing? I do not believe our cooperative network of autonomous churches needs to die an ugly death. I confess, I've only been sporadically involved in the annual conventions, and politics. But we can all rise up and vote. Our structure is designed to give us all a voice. Why throw it away? Sound the trumpet. Write letters. Make phone calls. Rally your church and your friends. Make your voice heard. We will outlive our elders. And we can win this battle, and have a resurgence of cooperative, inclusive, missional fellowship. If we walk away, and turn our backs on those that have gone before us, and those that are currently scattered around the globe laying down their lives for the sake of the Gospel, we cannot blame a few power-hungry trustees and board members -- we only have ourselves to blame.

Tim Sweatman said...


Thanks for the message of encouragement. We need to remember what is at stake. Keep spreading the word (and of course, the Word).