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.