Gird Up Thy Loins Now Like a Man: A Response to SBC Voices
I have no idea what cosplay is. But I read an SBC Voices article today by K.V. Paxton, the Lead Pastor at First Baptist Church in Cordele, GA, entitled, Cosplaying the Conservative Resurgence has Casualties.
I don’t feel the need to respond to everything SBC Voices puts out, but I had some time today and thought I would respond. First, let me mention what I liked: excellent alliteration in the title!
Now, for the things I found troubling.
I have no idea what it means that Paxton thinks some people in the SBC have been “cosplaying the Conservative Resurgence (CR).” Well, I shouldn’t say “no” idea. I think I know what he’s trying to say, but, I really had no idea until I read his article that adult men dressed up in costumes and reenacted Lord of the Rings battles. So, it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around what he’s trying to say in his article with the cosplay analogy.
However, I think I can grasp the main point, which is, that he is saying “a vocal minority” in the SBC thinks these are the days of the conservative resurgence and are fighting a false battle.
Well, he swings and misses 3 times here.
- First, by saying “vocal minority” I think Paxton misunderstands the number of grassroots Southern Baptists fed up with the direction of the Convention. There are over 7,000 messengers registered for Anaheim. While we understand that NAMB is bringing their share, we also know that thousands of rank and file Southern Baptists aren’t coming to Anaheim to play dress-up.
- Secondly, Paxton is confused by saying that people think these are the days of the conservative resurgence. Literally, no one thinks that.
- Thirdly, he makes the mistake of thinking there is no battle to fight. This seems to be the common SBC Voices mantra.
Now, I don’t know who came up with the line of thinking that says since seminary professors are not denying inerrancy today, then there is no battle to fight. It’s quite a brilliant political move. Sadly, it is both wrong and foolish. So, no, we aren’t fighting some faux battle of yesteryear. We are fighting the encroaching liberalism of today. And central to this battle is the sufficiency of Scripture.
The Sufficiency of Scripture
There are so many examples I could cite, and so many that we’ve already written about on this website. But, really, we don’t have to move far away from Mr. Paxton to find a quick example of our convention’s move away from the sufficiency of Scripture. He notes that he is “a product of Criswell College.” It wasn’t long ago that this college actually invited a woman to come preach in its chapel. Is this a denial of the inerrancy of Scripture? Or Jesus’s miracles? No, of course not. Is it a denial of the Bible’s sufficiency in telling us who is qualified to preach? Absolutely.
Which, as an aside, one of the things that did happen in the liberalism of CR era was encouraging women to preach and pastor. It’s interesting that we are fighting these battles today in places like Criswell College, SEBTS and their Pastoral Ministry Degree they give to women, and NAMB’s partnership with churches that have women pastors.
Now, back to Paxton’s article. About maybe 40% of the way through the article, he makes an anticipated turn. He says that those pushing back against our convention’s movement away from the sufficiency of Scripture are really just hurting sexual abuse survivors.
But here’s what Paxton and others seem to miss: sexual sin and abuse is also evidence of a departure from the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. It’s odd to me that people want to say there is no drift in the convention while also say we need to do something about sexual abuse. Is there a drift or not? A man or woman who commits sexual sin or abuse has departed from the Bible’s authority and strayed from trust in the Bible’s sufficiency.
You see, it’s men like Tom Ascol, Javier Chavez, and Voddie Baucham who are actually seeing the big picture in all of this. They understand that if we really want to handle sexual abuse in the SBC in such a way that compassionately cares for survivors and justly holds offenders accountable, then we must turn to the One who hates it the most: Our Triune God.
We have a Book. And any kind of system we try to create trusting worldly-wisemen is ultimately going to crumble. It doesn’t matter how wise you think you or someone else is, you don’t care about this issue more than God, and you don’t have a wiser course of action than He does.
what does your affirmation of inerrancy mean when your orthodoxy ignores the orthopraxy of protecting the weak and vulnerable? You may be claiming that you stand for the truth of the inerrant Word, but when not even abuse coverup is enough to unite you to your self-created theological enemies to care for the weak, as God cares for the weak, we see what really is important to you.
And here we see something that Paxton perhaps did not intend to reveal: a push for unity around something other than the Word of God. We do not “unite” around “abuse cover-up”. Any organization can do that. We are men of God. We unite around the Word of God. The BFM 2000 says, after all, that the Scriptures are “the true center of Christian union.” So, we unite around the Bible. And we also understand that unity in the Word of God and the gospel of truth is actually what will help us best protect the weak and vulnerable.
And I am confident that this is the sort of contentious language that is going to try and capture the floor at Anaheim. That is, if you don’t think the SATF recommendations are golden tablets sent from on high, then you don’t really care for the weak “as God cares for the weak.”
But shouldn’t we trust what God has to say in His Word if we want to care for the weak as He does? Tom Ascol has been calling the SBC back to biblical ecclesiology for decades. Healthy churches that discipline sin and report crimes don’t produce a convention that covers up abuse. And this is why Southern Baptists who want to truly care about sexual abuse and survivors will care passionately about biblical ecclesiology.
This doesn’t mean we can’t take biblically prudent action at the convention level, like, for example, revamping our trustee system, demanding transparency from our entities, and committing ourselves to remain culturally uncompromising and distinctively Baptist – by the way, these are tangible changes men like Tom Ascol, Voddie Baucham, and Javier Chavez are pushing for.
But it does mean that we cannot take action at the convention level without also strongly calling upon every local church to return to the fear of God, wholly trusting His Word in all things, and to take biblical ecclesiology seriously.
And, so I say to Mr. Paxton and others, Anaheim is no time for dressing in costumes. Rather, it is the time to gird up our loins like men and do the real work of reformation in our convention. It’s time to pray like men. It’s time to fight spiritual battles like men. It’s time to stand upon the Word of God in all things like men. And I invite Mr. Paxton, and all Southern Baptists, to unify around God’s inerrant, infallible, authoritative, clear, necessary, and sufficient Word!
Remember, our ultimate goal in Anaheim is not to do what the Washington Post thinks we should do. It’s not to do what survivors think we should do. It’s not what this or that faction in the convention thinks we should do. Above all, our ultimate goal is to do what God thinks we should do. And we can only do that, brothers and sisters, by trusting His precious Word.
Come to Anaheim
We honor and glorify God when we read His Book and seek to do what it says. We care for and love our neighbor best when we do whatever the Book says we should do, no matter the cost. In Anaheim, we have the opportunity to vote for three men, Tom Ascol, Javier Chaves, and Voddie Baucham, with a proven track record of courage and boldness when it comes to doing what God’s Book says to do, even when it’s costly.
Anaheim will be one of the most important conventions the SBC has ever had. Consider how, even at this late hour, you might find a way to show up and help us change the direction. Let us return to God’s Book for God’s glory and use the resources He has entrusted us with to take the truth of the gospel to our neighbors and the nations.
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Some Very Real Concerns in the Convention
As things heat up in the Southern Baptist Convention it seems there is a very real problem that is not being addressed. Now do not get me wrong, I believe that things such as sexual abuse among church leaders should be addressed and dealt with biblically and handled legally. Such a tragedy and a very bad witness to the Kingdom of God. Failure to handle these things correctly can leave the events not dealt with at all, left unfinished, or left open so that it can continue to happen with no real accountability. I do believe that it is debatable on just how to appropriately deal with these issues.
There are other issues at hand. One issue is the very real concern with Resolution 9 and the use of CRT as a tool to understand our communities so that we may effectively share the gospel. Another issue of late is on abortion. Now I believe we can all agree that abortion needs to be made illegal un any circumstance, but the issue arises when we begin to discuss how to accomplish that. Should be fight for it to be made illegal as soon as possible or should we take the incremental approach? These are just a few of the issues of late.
There is another concern beyond these which seems to get little attention is this, for those who have concerns with how any of these issues are being dealt with or even exist at all, should those concerns be dismissed as not real, illegitimate, or only belonging to just a few (which is ad hominem by the way)? Why are they being dismissed in such a way? I see post after post on the internet blogs and social media that work to devalue these concerns rather than addressing them in a way that we can live at peace with each other. Here are a few of the actual ways in which some very real concerns are easily dismissed:
1. We should just be unified: Yes, we should be unified however, this seems to be a phrase that has been weaponized to defeat any attempt to raise concerns. I question the use of it as genuine. It has been used as a weapon to get some people to just stop complaining and go along with whatever the powers at be want without raising legitimate concerns.
2. There are only a few: This may or may not be true. I do not believe that those who use it actually know that it is. They would have to poll every church in order to reach that as a legitimate and factual statement. Now it may be true in the sense that among the powers that be it is only a few. But such an attempt to use it in that fashion only exposes their lack of integrity. However, the use of such a phrase is a logical fallacy. See the number of people that have concerns does not prove whether their concerns are right or wrong. Therefore, it has no real value but is marched out as evidence that exposes the lack of truth in the concerns of those with whom they disagree with. Further, I see it as a phrase once again being weaponized to stomp out opposition to what they want to see happen. I would also add that if it is really only a few then why is there so many posts and conversations about how few there are? There is at least enough to get the attention of everyone.
3. The refusal to try to unify people by addressing what their concerns are. Simply saying something in disagreement is not, in fact, addressing these concerns. And the fallout from this is that churches are leaving the convention because of it. I am not one who endorses such an action. I believe the Southern Baptist Convention cannot be out worked or be inferior in any way when it comes to reaching people with the gospel. Just because I see it that way doesn’t mean others do or should.
What should we do?
1. Stop using weaponized language to dismiss these legitimate concerns.
2. Do more than simply disagree with how these issues should be handled.
3. Be sure to avoid logical fallacies to dismiss these very real concerns.
4. Understand that just because you disagree with them doesn’t make you right and those with whom you disagree with wrong.
5. Understand that these people with these very real and legitimate concerns will not just sit down and shut up. That is what is meant by we should be unified, just sit down and shut up. Until they are met with, their views are legitimately considered and addressed they are not going away nor will they stop voicing their concerns.
6. Understand that unity will not be had until the previous are met.
Like you, I was so amused that grown men actually dress up to play Lord of the Rings I could not take anything else in the article seriously. Strange ducks.