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Conservatives, Moderates and the Current State of Baptist Affairs: Is a Future Reconciliation Possible?

The SBC blogosphere is currently buzzing with talk about the potential for a future reconciliation between conservative Southern Baptists and some moderates. This is not really that surprising: the idea of reconciliation resurfaces from time to time, typically advocated by those who were either too young to participate in the SBC Controversy or those who were largely uninvolved during all the "Baptist battles." As expected, the idea is usually dismissed. But when the suggestion of a possible reconciliation comes from a longtime Southern Baptist scholar and is posted on a popular weblog, the conversation understandably moves to a whole new level.

Last week, Ben Cole posted a transcript of a recent First Things article written by Dr. Timothy George, dean of the Beeson Divinity School at Samford University. In the article, entitled "Southern Baptists after the Revolution," Dr. George weighs in on the significance of the recent Southern Baptist Convention in Greensboro. The part of the article that has generated the most attention is Dr. George's discussion of a loose-knit alliance that either contributed to or may provide ongoing support for Dr. Frank Page's convention presidency. The list is, for the most part, simple common sense; anyone who regularly reads Baptist blogs is aware of a loose-knit alliance between some members of the various "niches" present in contemporary SBC life. But the list takes a surprising turn by including "younger moderates" as a potential part of this coalition. This conclusion understandably led to a great deal of online discussion, especially at SBC Outpost, where blog proprieter Marty Duren managed to post Dr. George's further elaboration on the inclusion of the younger moderates in his original First Things piece.

So who are these younger moderates, and is there really any hope for a future reconciliation? The younger moderates, as Dr. George pointed out in his article, include a generation of younger theologians and historians who have distanced themselves from many of the older moderate scholars. The older generation of scholars, many of whom were on seminary or college faculties in the 1980's, often put forth a vision of Baptist identity that is strongly influenced by Enlightenment philosophy and classical liberalism. Doctrines like soul competency and the priesthood of all believers are interpreted to mean that a Baptist's individual convictions should never be bound by a confession of faith. In fact, most older moderates equate confessionalism with what they call "creedalism," or the elevation of written statements to a level equal to or above Scripture. Many of these older moderates boil down Baptist identity to personal freedom and autonomy, all the time ignoring or redefining bona fide Baptist distinctives such as believer's baptism by immersion and regenerate church membership. Many of the moderate scholars, especially at Southern and Southeastern Seminaries, also held to heterodox doctrines such as inclusivism, egalitarianism and biblical errancy. Some even rejected historic Christian beliefs like the exclusivity of Christ, biblical miracles and the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

It should be noted that the younger moderates have not challenged the older moderates on anything except their view of Baptist identity. Younger moderates, many of whom helped draft the 1997 document "Re-Envisioning Baptist Identity" (popularly called the "Baptist Manifesto")[1], claim that older moderates have emphasized autonomy and freedom at the expense of the wider believing community. Younger moderates desire to reassert the role of the local church in the believer's life. Many of them also want to revisit such issues as church covenants, church discipline, discipleship and confessional theology. Conservatives can agree with the younger moderates in both their critique of the older moderates and their return to an emphasis on many of these issues. But we must also understand that younger moderates define most of these issues in ways that most Southern Baptists cannot accept.

We must be clear about one: younger moderates are still theological progressives. Many of them identify with a theological movement known as Postliberalism, which is not the same thing as conservative evangelicalism. The following is a partial list of the common convictions of many of the younger moderates:

 1. Very few, if any, hold to the inerrancy of Scripture.

 2. All are committed to an egalitarian view of gender roles.

 3. Most oembrace a post-foundational epistemology, denying that there are unchanging  truths that all Christians everywhere must hold to. They tend to argue that the  community creates doctrine, rather than the community recognizing pre-existing,  biblical doctrine.

 4. Most promote a form of classical ecumenism that most conservatives rightly reject.

 5. Many embrace mystical forms of spirituality that derive from Catholic and  Orthodox theological sources.

 6. Some are involved in the left-wing of the Emerging Church movement, which is a place most Southern Baptists will not go.

 7. A number are pacifists, a position most Southern Baptists reject as both unbiblical and irresponsible.

 8. All are critical of the Southern Baptist Convention–theologically, culturally  and politically.

This list should make it clear that younger moderates may indeed be critics of their forebears, but they are still moderates. While we can appreciate their diagnosis of the moderate virus, the cure they offer is only a different strain of the same bug.

So is there any hope for a future reconciliation between conservatives and the younger moderates? There may be some fruitful scholarly collaboration in the future, but denominational reconcilation is highly unlikely because one side or the other must abandon their beliefs. If the rising generation of conservatives abandon traditional Baptist distinctives and mainstream evangelical views of Scripture and salvation, then it is very possible that a future reconcilation could occur. But as what cost? By the same token, if younger moderates move further away from their predecessors and embrace a traditional view of Baptist identity and theology, then reconciliation would not only be possible but desirable. But I am not holding my breath.

With all due respect to Dr. George (who certainly deserves much respect), there will be no future reconcilation. Not unless conservatives become moderates or younger moderates become conservatives. At this point in Baptist history, the divide is too wide. And make no mistake about it; it's a healthy, needed, appropriate divide.

We wish the younger moderates well in their ongoing attack on the moderate status quo, but we stop short of inviting them back to the SBC table. Younger moderates are still moderates, and to attempt a reconciliation would be an insult to both their cherished beliefs and ours.

[1]. For the text of this document, see  "Re-Envisioning Baptist Identity: A Manifesto for Baptist Communities in North America," Perspectives in Religious Studies 24:3 (Fall 1997), pp. 303-310. For a critique of the document from the perspective of an "older" moderate thinker, see Walter Shurden's article "The Baptist Identity and the Baptist Manifesto," Perspectives in Religious Studies 25:4 (Winter 1998), pp. 321-340 [available online here]. 

An August Anniversary at the End of July

Yesterday marked the 150th anniversary of James P. Boyce’s delivery of his inaugural address at Furman University, Three Changes in Theological Institutions. We would do well to remember this occasion, because it was one of the most significant events in the history of Baptist higher education.

The changes Boyce proposed to Baptist theological education were monumental. They helped Southern Baptists see the need to provide education for ministers of every educational background, realize the necessity of thoroughly educating aspiring students to be the ministerial educators of the next generation, and ensure the theological integrity of their first seminary through the use of a confession.

In honor of this august anniversary, I ask you to consider this short section from Boyce’s address.

The scriptural qualifications of the ministry do, indeed, involve the idea of knowledge, but that knowledge is not of the sciences, nor of philosophy, nor of the languages, but of God and of His plan of salvation. He who has not this knowledge, though he be learned in all the learning of the schools, is incapable of preaching the word of God. But he who knows it, not superficially, not merely in those plain and simple declarations known to every believing reader, but in its power, as revealed in its precious and sanctifying doctrines, is fitted to bring forth out of his treasury things new and old, and is a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, although he may speak to his hearers in uncouth words or in manifest ignorance of all the sciences. The one belongs to the class of educated Ministers, the other to the Ministry of educated men, and the two things are essentially different.Boyce, James P. An Inaugural Address, Delivered before the Board of Trustees of the Furman University (Greenville, SC: C. J. Elford’s Book and Job Press, 1856), 13.

Join with us today in remembering this important piece of Baptist history, for as John A. Broadus reminds us, “This address by Professor Boyce proved to be epoch-making in the history of theological education among Southern Baptists.”Broadus, John A. Memoir of James Petigru Boyce (New York: A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1893), 142. Take time out of your schedule to read this monumental address today.

Madelyn (Maddy) Akin

Madelyn (Maddy) AkinTo the right is a picture of my new daughter, Madelyn (Maddy) Akin.

My wife and I were expecting a beautiful baby girl around September 12. God had different plans. Because of complications brought on by PIH (Pregnancy Induced Hypertension) little Maddy came seven weeks early. This provided quite a scare for her mother and me. Maddy weighed 3 pounds 3 ounces and was 15 inches long. Our little girl is quite a fighter. She is very little and has immature lungs, but she is maturing quickly. Mom has improved quickly and her blood pressure has come back down.

So many thoughts run through a new father's head as he contemplates the meaning of fatherhood. Most church folks tell me that I will have new perspective on God's love for His Son and for us. As you hold your first child and tear up at how much you love this little one (all three pounds of her) you are spellbound by the fact that God would love you more and would give his Only One to save the lost. The Bible clearly teaches that family life points to realities about God's relationship with man. God designed marriage to point us to the one-flesh relationship of Christ with His church (Gen. 2; Eph. 5). God designed the fruitfulness of childbearing in a marriage relationship to point to the multiplication which results from the relationship of Christ and his church (Gen. 1; Psa. 127; Mat. 28). It's no mistake that Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be "born again" to enter the kingdom of God. It's no mistake that Paul calls a new Christian a "new creation" (2 Cor. 5).

It is also no mistake that Jesus tells his misguided disciples to let the "little children come" (Mar. 10). As the disciples harass parents who bring their children to Jesus, he gets "indignant" with his disciples. He tells them not to hinder the little children. He tells them that if they want to enter the Kingdom of God, then they have to become like a child! As I stare at this little miracle, whose head is smaller than a tennis ball, whose head I hold in the palm of my hand as I feed a bottle to her, and as she grips my wife's finger so tight her little knuckles show white, I do learn anew what Jesus meant in Mark 10. This little girl is so helpless and dependent. She can barely do anything for herself. She relies completely on her parents (and the nurses and doctors) to take care of her every second. That is how we should (must) come to Jesus. We cannot come in our own strength. As we mature and become "wiser" we seem to forget this, and we seek to live life based on our own strength.

If you were to ask the "average person on the street" how they can have a right relationship with God, most would tell you that you need to be a good person, do good works, etc. It's kind of like one of my favorite oldies songs "Last Kiss." A boy and a girl on a date get into a car wreck and the girl dies. The boyfriend sings:

Where oh where can my baby be?
The Lord took her away from me;
She's gone to heaven, so I got to be GOOD;
So I can see my baby when I leave this world.

That's where most people are on reconciliation with God. We depend on our own work to get ourselves into a correct relationship with God.

Self-sufficiency and self-dependence are first class tickets to Hell. You want to come proud. You want to come as a mature adult. Then, Jesus says you don't get to come. If you want to come to Jesus, then come dependent and utterly reliant, like a child. That is faith! Maddy is a reminder to me, not only of the goodness of God in creation and pro-creation, but of the goodness of God in new creation! As I look at this little girl who has wires and tubes attached all over her tiny body I am reminded that this little blessing entered a world under a curse, the curse of sin and death. And yet, two thousand years ago another prayed-for child was "born of a woman" and he became a curse in order to destroy the curse. He laid three days in a borrowed tomb, and on the third day, the curse was undone because the new creation of God stood up and walked out. Paul reminds us that "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation." How does one become a new creation? Come like a helpless child to the one who conquered the curse and ushered in the new creation. As I look at my little girl, Maddy Akin, I am reminded as she acts with me I am to act with Christ. And if I come in dependence to Christ (and if my little girl comes in dependence… as her mother and I will pray everyday of her life that she does), then I will hear the words uttered first at the Jordan River and later at the empty tomb, "this is my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased." My wife and I pray that this little handiwork from God, who is fighting and maturing everyday, will remain dependent on her Maker and one day experience the new creation of God in His Son, Jesus of Nazareth, where the book says, "there will be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. Then He who sat on the throne said, 'Behold, I make all things new.'"

Jonathan, Ashley, and Maddy Akin

Thomas White on Discerning a Valid Baptism

The first thing most people think about when they hear the word "Baptist" is believer's baptism by immersion. All Baptists believe that the Bible teaches credobaptism, or the baptism of only individuals who can make a credible profession of faith in Christ. But all immersions are not equal, and historically most Baptists have made an effort to distinguish immersions that follow the New Testament pattern from immersions that depart from biblical precedent. This question of valid vs. invalid (or at least irregular) baptism has been the topic of no small debate in the Baptist blogosphere over the last several months.

Thomas White, interim vice president of student services at Southwestern Seminary, has recently written a White Paper for Baptist Theology entitled "What Makes Baptism Valid?" Dr. White outlines the essential ingredients necessary for a biblical baptism. He also includes a very helpful discussion about church validity vs. invalidity, a crucial element in the baptism debate. Be sure to check out this very informative essay.

For those of you who may be interested in more information on the church validity debate, see Bart Barber's onoing series "Recognizing a Real Church" at his blog, Praisegod Barebones.

Faith of our Fathers Pastor’s Spotlight: RG Lee, part 4

RG Lee I LOVE RG LEE BECAUSE….

In honor of R. G. Lee's preaching style I will wrap up my posts on him by attempting to steal his oratorical style and give his thoughts on certain subjects (the last post will be sound clips from his preaching). The title of the post is "I love R. G. Lee because…"

First, I love Lee because he loved Jesus. He preached on Jesus more than anything else. Sermons like, "Christ Above All, Jesus Above All, I Love Jesus Because, Things Unthinkable From the Viewpoint of the Cross, The Face of Jesus Christ, etc." demonstrate Lee's love for preaching the subject of Jesus. Jesus is the "theme of the Bible" according to Lee. "If you take Jesus out of the Bible it'd be like taking heat out of fire, melody out of music, blood out of the body and expecting health…" Lee said that in Jesus "all the hieroglyphics of the OT types find their keys." Jesus is the hero of the Bible and he was the love of Lee's heart, so Lee preached Jesus more than anything else. He told his wife on their honeymoon night, "Dear… you're not first in my life. I love you very, very, very much. Else, I would never have asked to marry you and asked you to take my name. But Jesus is first in my life. I love him more than anybody whose name I've ever heard, more than anyone I've ever known." I love Lee because he loved Jesus. He preached Jesus with power and eloquence. He told of how Jesus was co-existent, co-equal, and co-eternal with God. He said, "In eternity Jesus rested on the bosom of his father with no mother. And in time Jesus rested on the bosom of his mother without any earthly father. And God, who in Eden's garden took from man's rib a motherless woman, in Bethlehem's cow stalls took from the womb of woman a fatherless man. And have you ever heard of somone who was just as old as his father and younger than his mother?" He preached the person of Jesus. He preached the work of Jesus. As a young pastor I love Lee because he loved Jesus. In a day when many are turning to other topics in their preaching, I am grateful for a man who preached about King Jesus, who is the theme of the Bible. If we fail to preach him, then we fail to preach God's book.

Second, I love Lee because he loved the Bible. He said that his mom "seemed to have a prophetic outlook. And she told me, 'Son, you're going to be a preacher in a day when a lot of people won't believe the Bible. But I'm asking you to believe the Bible like I believe the Bible. And I believe it all, though I don't understand it all.' And I believe the Bible just like my mother believed it… It's the book my father touched with reverent hands. It's the book my mother stained with grateful tears." Also, Lee believed the Bible "like Jesus believed the Bible." Jesus said, "Search the scriptures… for they are they which testify of me, for Moses wrote of me." And Lee indignantly said, "These people who bow Moses out of his Pentateuch and steal from David his psalms… forget if they ever knew that Jesus is the theme of the Bible, from the first verse to the last." And Jesus "didn't deny one miracle of the OT and accepted without the any question its doctrine." He said that he wished God would bring Dr. Carroll out of the grave to cut loose over the modernistic teaching of our day. As a young preacher, I love RG Lee because he loved the Bible and defended it with all of his energy in a day when many would not. He said, "I love our Southern Baptist insitutions, all of them. But I want to ask a question. Are our people being given the Bible as the Bible ought to be given to them?" He lamented the teaching in some schools that denied the supernatural. He believed every word of the Bible and preached it as true. In a day when some "evangelicals" believe that "inerrancy" is not the best word to use when describing the Bible, in a day when some believe that inerrancy claims more for the Bible than the Bible claims for itself, in a day when some look with contempt on the "faith of their fathers," and in a day when some believe the battle for the Bible is won, I am grateful for a man who stood forth in his era as a herald of God's Book. May his example encourage preachers of every generation to fight for the truth of the Bible, because false teaching crops up in every generation.

Third, I love RG Lee because he loved the lost. Lee was a soul-winner. He told the story of a church where the pastor preached a sermon entitled "Rescue the Perishing." Then, the choir director arose and sang a solo, "Rescue the Perishing." Then, the choir stood to sing the special, "Rescue the Perishing." Finally the entire congregation stood to their feet and belted out, "Rescue the Perishing." After the service a young man who had been a Christian for only a few weeks went up to the pastor and said, "When do we start?" The pastor looked at him strangely and said, "What do you mean?" The young man replied, "I mean when do we start?!" "Start what?" asked the pastor. "Rescuing the perishing?!" said the young man. The pastor replied, "Oh, that was just a sermon. That was just a song." Lee asked his congregation, "Is it just a song to you when we sing 'I Love To Tell The Story?' Is it just a sermon to you when we talk about soul-winning? I ask you , answer me!?" Lee encouraged pastors not to "despise the visitation path." He said, "Some people look down on a door-knocker or a bell-ringer. But I WAS A DOOR-KNOCKER. I WAS A BELL-RINGER, AND THE SPIDER DIDN'T SPIN NO WEBS IN MY BAPTISTRY NEITHER." He talked about Paul who "encompassed the earth with truths of gospel redemption, who put out the altar fires of Diana, who lit a gospel lamp in the palace of the Caesars, and left a trail of gospel-glory across the Gentile world… This same Paul the Bible says, 'taught publicly and from house to house.'" I love Lee because he loved the lost. In a day when so many are groping about in darkness, young preachers can be grateful for the example of a man who took winning souls seriously.

I love R. G. Lee because of his love for Jesus, his love for the Bible, and his love for the lost. His example to me as a young preacher inspires me. Lee told a story in one of his messages at the SBC Pastor's Conference, when he was speaking to young preachers about faithfulness and rewards in ministry. Dr. Lee met a boy and asked him, "Son, are you a Christian?" The boy said, "No sir." "Son, do you go to church?" said Lee. "No Sir. My dad hates churches and hate preachers. He says if I go to Sunday School he'll whip me for it." Dr. Lee told the boy that he wanted to come to his house and talk to the boy's dad. "Oh, no preacher, I wish you wouldn't do that. Dad won't treat you right." Lee went anyways. The man met him at the doorway and screamed, "I don't want no preachers around here. I know who you are. Get outta here! I'll skin you alive boy for lettin that preacher come here." Then, Lee said that "the man screwed up his face as though he was going to spit on me. He spit down at my feet." Later on, Lee "won that boy to faith in Christ, and he snuck away from his father to be baptized." Later on, the boy got sick, and the dad called Lee, "Preacher, I never thought I'd do a fool thing like this, but my boy's sick and I don't got no money to get him in the hospital. Will you help me?" Lee got the boy in the hospital, and he was put in an oxygen tent. Lee went to visit the boy. The boy said, "Preacher, would you reach down in here and kiss me? I want the same lips that told me about Jesus to kiss me." Lee did it. Then, the boy died. Lee said, "Later on, I won that father to faith in Christ. That is reward enough for me. I don't have to wait for heaven to get rewards. I had it!" That story has stuck with me. Where do I look for my rewards? Do I find my rewards in the lives changed by the gospel of Christ? Lee did. I want to as well.

I love RG Lee for many reasons, and these are just a few. Lee preaches to us young preachers and older preachers from beyond the grave. He says keep loving Jesus. He says keep loving the Bible. He says keep loving the lost just like he did. He said he would do it until "those holy blessed pierced hands which opened up the gates of grace to me shall open up the gates to glory. And we shall see some faces long since lost. And best of all, see Jesus!"

(Quotes are taken from sermons: I love Jesus Because, Christ Above All, Pastors Faithfulness and Rewards, Quit Ye Like Men, and Things Unthinkable From the Viewpoint of the Cross)

Cultivating Our Inner Osteen

Our Southern Baptist seminaries do a fine job of teaching students how to prepare and deliver expository sermons. The same could be said about any number of evangelical seminaries and Bible colleges. Still, I never cease to be amazed at the number of Southern Baptist pastors who refuse to explain and apply a given text of Scripture, let alone preach consecutively through a lengthy section or book of the Bible. This is true even in some of our most conservative churches. The reasons are no doubt legion, but one reason is that at least some pastors are buying into a kinder, gentler model of preaching that makes people feel good about themselves but clouds or changes the gospel of Jesus Christ. In short, some pastors are cultivating their inner Osteen.

A few weeks back Leah and I found ourselves in a hotel room in another city. It was Sunday morning, about 8:00 or 8:30, and I was preparing to preach at a Baptist church in the area. As we were getting dressed, we were channel-surfing, hunting for a television preacher we could listen to. We found Joel Osteen, whose warm smile and saccharine preaching always provides us with a warm, fuzzy and spiritually vacuous feeling. After about five minutes of Mr. Osteen, we found a Southern Baptist pastor on another channel. We were excited to find a "real preacher" to listen to instead of Mr. Osteen's Texas-fried rehashing of Harry Emerson Fosdick or Norman Vincent Peale.

The Southern Baptist pastor we listened to is well-known in SBC circles. He pastors a large church in a metropolitan area. I have watched his television ministry on a number of occasions and have heard him preach in person several times. He is a good preacher. But on this particular morning, something just didn't sound right. After five or ten minutes, Leah looked over at me and remarked, "he doesn't sound much different than Osteen, does he?" Unfortunately, I had to agree. There is no doubt in my mind that the pastor in question was simply having a bad day in the pulpit, as all preachers do sometimes. But I have heard many other Southern Baptist pastors, sometimes in large and influential churches, who consistently preach homiletical tripe that is both shallow in its content and ambiguous (or worse) in its theology.

Just recently I was in a large SBC church where I heard a sermon that was textbook Osteen. The pastor smiled. He talked a lot about hope, joy, victory and happiness. He pulled half-texts from all over the Bible to try and prove his point. It was the best internet sermon that money could buy, but it was totally devoid of the gospel. Like too many other sermons, this sermon fell into the trap (which I have written about elsewhere) of offering an invitation to respond to the gospel without actually explaining the gospel. The pastor invited people to "come to Christ," but he never explained what it means to come to Christ, what one must do to come to Christ or why one ought to come to Christ. And somewhere Mr. Osteen was grinning like the Cheshire Cat.

I'm afraid this scenario is being played out weekly in many Southern Baptist pulpits. Pastors do not make the gospel clear, and they sound more like Joel Osteen or Robert Schuller than R. G. Lee or Jerry Vines. These men believe the Bible is inerrant. These men believe in evangelism and missions. These men believe that the Christian faith has implications for the wider culture. But sometimes you would never know this by their preaching.

In our therapeutic culture where even many Christians prefer Precious Moments to the Lion of Judah it is imperative that every Southern Baptist pastor resist the urge to succumb to their inner Osteen. Mr. Osteen and his ilk will always be popular–something about scratching the ears of the spiritually-itchy. But those who buy into the power of positive thinking, the prosperity gospel, culturally-driven pragmatism or even numbers-driven revivalism will always obscure, redefine or totally ignore the gospel, no matter how big their churches may be. It is not worth losing the gospel to gain a following, even if you can do it with a Texas-sized grin on your face.

So if you are reading this post and you are a regular pastor or teacher of God's Word, don't sell out the gospel in your efforts to reach more people. Don't warm their hearts with homespun tales and topical hooey. Don't give in to your inner Osteen (or any other gospel-deficient model). Preach the whole counsel of God's Word, make the gospel of Jesus Christ clear and call upon all men to repent of their sins and trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

 

James Merritt responds to Ben Cole’s article

James Merritt

The Dallas Morning News ran Danny Akin's article on alcohol and Ben Cole's response (see previous blogs on this site). Dr. James Merritt, the pastor of Cross Pointe, the Church at Gwinnett Center in Georgia and former President of the SBC, has written a response to Ben Cole's article. Dr. Merritt has allowed SBCWitness to post this fine response. The following are Dr. Merritt's remarks:

———————————————————————————————————–

Just a few notes of observation in chronological order:

1. To label anyone who advocates abstinence as "older, narrow fundamentalists" is a gross and misleading caricature. First which of the 5 fundamentals does Ben Cole deny? Second, there were more than a few of the "younger" crowd that voted for the resolution. Third does "diverse" mean liberal? There are "diverse" people who call themselves Christians and even evangelicals that support gay marriage and monogamous homosexuality–is Ben Cole one of them?

2. Is alcohol abuse and drunkenness possible without alcohol? Can the "nth" drink which finally causes the line to be crossed to drunkenness and alcoholism be taken if the first drink never is? With the answer obvious, these tragedies then can indeed be traced back to alcohol!

3. No one is condemning all use of alcohol–this is a straw man. Alcohol has its medicinal purposes (just as Paul said to Timothy) and no one is putting taking one drink or moderate drinking in the same category as drunkenness as indeed Akin make plain.

4. Cole exhibits a gross ignorance of the difference between the wine/strong drink of Bible days and that of today. His entire argument in one sense is irrelevant because it is comparing apples and oranges. It would be as if one would advocate that a car should not travel more than 25 mph because a horse at that speed traveling through the streets of Jerusalem would be dangerous in bible days so the speed limit of today applies accordingly. The alcohol content of wine today would be the equivalent of much strong drink in bible days!

5. Again marriages cannot fail because of alcohol if neither party drinks, no one gets killed by drunk drivers if no one drinks, and children do not have food robbed from their tables if no one drinks. So, alcohol is indeed a destroyer of marriages, menace to families, and a highway murderer. The gun/bullet analogy is laughable. A person with a bullet in a gun knows exactly when he is a menace to others–when he points his gun at an innocent person and fires. No one knows when their line of moderation in drinking is crossed into the danger zone–which is exactly why some people can "hold their liquor" better than others. There is no one "line fits all" standard for moderation which is why the bullet analogy fails. Furthermore there is no harm to a Christian's witness by having a bullet or a gun in their home–the same cannot be said if Budweiser cans fill the refrigerators and litter the house.

6. No one is trying to deny anyone their 21st Amendment rights–again another straw man. On the other hand just because something is legal doesn't make it right. The Supreme Court has ruled abortion on demand for all intents and purposes legal–is Ben Cole pro-life? Would Ben Cole have fought the abolitionists 150 years ago because slavery was then legal? When it comes to Christian convictions and biblical morality the Constitution is to put it bluntly irrelevant–at least to an older narrow fundamentalist!

7. Again the statement that "it is not true that the temperate consumption of alcoholic beverages leads to debauchery" simply is not universally true. The chain smoker comes from the one who smoked his first cigarette. The drug addict comes from the one who first tried drugs. It is true that not all temperate consumers of alcohol become alcoholics but this is a totally different statement than Cole makes and no one is saying any thing differently. Furthermore, no one is saying categorically that abstinence is the only acceptable position for Christian believers (as opposed to say a pro-life position which Southern Baptists do believe is the only "acceptable" position for Christian believers). What Akin and others are saying is that the abstinence position is the wisest and most responsible position for a Christian believer where Cole would say a moderation position would be–the question is which case has the strongest biblical backing.

8. Concerning alcohol and church leadership, God himself holds Christian leaders to higher standards as evidenced by who was eligible for the priesthood in the Old Testament and the requirements given for pastors and deacons in the New Testament (see also James 3:1). It is neither out of line from a biblical standpoint nor from a practical standpoint for the church to require a higher standard from their leadership in terms of alcohol use or tobacco use for that matter.

9. Cole himself stretches the "flexibility" and "nuances" of the bible to the breaking point. It is glaringly evident that nowhere does he mention the key text in this matter (and other matters of potential gray areas) which is I. Cor. 8. That text is the sine qua non for any discussion on alcohol. Paul's entire point (which is so plain it cannot be denied or diluted) is the trump card over Christian liberty is Christian love. In other words liberty which is not limited by love becomes license. Paul knew there was nothing inherently wrong with eating meat sacrificed to idols just as Akin and others know that there is nothing inherently wrong with taking a drink of wine with a meal. But then Paul dropped the love bomb on the liberty platform–if steak becomes a stumbling block I will not eat it (v.9)–and according to verse 13 he never did again. Now the key question–is there anyway that having a Budweiser at a ballgame or wine– or a Bloody Mary, rum and coke, gin and tonic for that matter–in a restaurant can be an enhancement to one's Christian witness? Put another way is there anyway those scenarios can be stepping stones to a weaker brother's walk with God? Conversely is it more likely those scenarios would harm one's Christian witness and be stumbling blocks to a weaker brother's walk with God? To most if not all (except to some young, "diverse" evangelicals) the answer is patently obvious. So, although I have the right to drink, because of Christian love and my desire to avoid any potential stumbling block to other Christians not to mention anything that could damage my witness to unbelievers I will pass– as I have all of my life to no regrets.

Two SBC Leaders Who Changed their Opinion on Women in Pastoral Ministry

The SBC Controversy was a complicated, intra-denominational melee that involved (depending upon one's perspective) questions of theology, practice, politics, career-making and maintenance of the convention's status quo. Though most Southern Baptists who were active in the Controversy eventually identified with one of two major politico-theological parties, many people identified with more than one "camp" at various times during the 1980's and 1990's. I know many men who were once theological progressives who are now committed conservatives. I also know a few theological conservatives who ultimately chose to identify with the moderate/liberal wing of the denomination. Some individuals hide from their past, opting to ignore the fact they used to be more conservative or liberal than they are now. Others are willing to admit when they change their minds on certain crucial theological issues.

In his SBC blog today, Dr. Albert Mohler discusses SBC president Frank Page's evolving views on women in ministry. Dr. Page once believed that the Bible allowed for women to serve as senior pastors, even defending the practice in his 1980 doctoral dissertation. But then he changed his mind. Dr. Page, like almost all conservative Southern Baptists, now believes that the Bible affirms women in many types of ministry but the office of pastor is reserved for men alone.

After describing Dr. Page's change of heart and raising some important questions about the extent of the convention president's present convictions, Dr. Mohler candidly admits that he too once advocated women serving as senior pastors. He even admits that he was publicly involved in the moderate backlash against the 1984 convention resolution arguing against female pastoral leadership. Dr. Mohler unequivocally states that his position in the early-1980's was biblically incorrect, and he shares how he came to the complimentarian convictions he now believes and teaches.

Dr. Mohler's post is especially noteworthy because many moderates continue to claim that he is a "closet moderate" who "switched sides" so he could be president of Southern Seminary. I have personally heard this charge repeated by a number of moderate historians in both public settings and private conversation. But Dr. Mohler is not hiding from his past theological and/or political beliefs; rather, he admits his convictions have changed and that his current opinion better comports with what Scripture teaches on gender roles and pastoral leadership. In other words, Dr. Mohler has enough integrity to admit he was wrong.

Praise God for leaders like Drs. Mohler and Page who believe the Bible enough to conform their convictions to the Word, even when that means altering their beliefs on a controversial issue. And praise God for two men who have enough integrity to admit they were wrong. 

  

  

Alcohol Issue is Covered in The Dallas Morning News

One of the largest newspapers in the country, the Dallas Morning News, released two articles concerning the alcohol issue in the SBC. Danny Akin, the President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote his article a few weeks ago for Baptist Press, and it appeared in this recent Dallas Morning News’ release. Also, a rebuttal from Benjamin Cole, a pastor in the Arlington area, appeared. The alcohol issue came to the forefront of the SBC after a resolution passed at the convention.  Some estimates from the platform indicated that nearly 90% of the convention floor voted for the resolution, even after the messengers added an amendment discouraging the appointment of social drinkers to trustee boards (though the Dallas Morning News reported that nearly a fifth of the convention voted against the amendment). SBCWitness will continue to monitor this issue, and we hope that the discussion will lead to holiness of life and love for the lost.

Nathan Akin

Who We Are


Nathan Akin is a New Testament and Old Testament teacher at Christian Academy of Louisville. He played basketball at Murray State University and competed in The NCAA Tournament twice as a Racer at Murray. Nathan received a degree in political science, and he is currently a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a basketball coach at Christian Academy. His father and three brothers (one is a contributor to this site) are devoted to full-time ministry, and Nathan happens to be the only Akin brother not married and so he gets the brunt of many jokes around the Akin family. His claim to fame is fouling Deron Williams of The Illinois Illini in the NCAA tournament.


Jedidiah Coppenger is a student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. While he is working on his Masters of Divinity, he has a number of jobs that keep him busy and pay the bills. The responsibilities for these jobs deal with everything from biblical and historical research to preaching to selling cell phones. All of this serves as a path that he feels will lead to the pastorate. Currently, he is a member of 9th and O Baptist Church, where he serves as a Sunday School Director. His father and brother are also in the ministry. When he's not fulfilling his responsiblities, he's checking the internet for the latest Chicago Cub news. Unfortunately, he quietly notes, it's usually not good news.


Nathan Finn is Assistant Professor of Church History at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches Baptist and church history classes at Southeastern College at Wake Forest. Nathan is a connoisseur of Reuben sandwiches, onion rings, and all the different flavors of Diet Coke. He is also a huge Georgia Bulldogs football fan. Nathan is married to the beautiful Leah and is the proud father of a little girl named Georgia Elisabeth. The Finn's are members of the First Baptist Church of Durham, North Carolina, where Nathan currently leads a Sunday evening home fellowship and will soon be teaching a Wednesday night class on hermeneutics. Nathan also frequently preaches and gives Baptist History presentations in local Southern Baptist churches.


Jason Fowler is the Archives and Special Collections Librarian at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He serves as a deacon and Sunday School Teacher at the First Baptist Church Fairdale, Kentucky. He is married to Michele. He is a self-proclaimed barbecuing genius, and he will argue until his death that pork barbecue (is there any other kind?) tastes best when served with a mustard-based sauce. When he's not working or smoking meat, you may find him trying to figure out how he can afford to use his University of South Carolina football season tickets this year with gas prices being so high.


Evan Lenow is the Director of Leadership Development at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also a PhD candidate in Christian ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In the fall semester, Evan will begin teaching the course, The Christian Home, in the philosophy and ethics department at Southwestern. During his time in North Carolina, he served as a Sunday School teacher and deacon at his church in Raleigh. Evan and his wife Melanie currently reside in Crowley, TX with their two daughters, Molly and Elizabeth. They are members of Birchman Baptist Church in Fort Worth. Evan has long considered himself an expert in the field of dessert-eating. After traveling to 23 states and 11 foreign countries tasting desserts all along the way, he has reached the conclusion that pecan (properly pronounced “pi-‘kän”—that’s a short ‘e’ sound in the first syllable) pie is the world’s best dessert, and he is available to provide expert witness testimony for any court cases involving dessert disputes.


Josh Powell is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Fairdale, Kentucky. He is a third-generation SBC pastor and a PhD student in Church History at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married to Allison, and they have two sons, Wilds and Levi. When he's not preaching, studying, spending time with his family, or blogging, he spends his time following the education choices of 18 year-old college football recruits that he hopes will attend the University of South Carolina.


Tanner Turley is a PhD student at Southeastern Seminary who often serves as a supply preacher for churches and youth events. He and his wife Marsha live in Wake Forest, North Carolina. The Turley's are members of Open Door Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC. He helped develop Figure 8 Scripture Memory System, an effective method for memorizing large amounts of Scripture. Tanner attended and played basketball for Kentucky Wesleyan College, but he bleeds Kentucky blue. On fall Saturdays, he has been known to mutter the phrase, "just wait until basketball season."


Philip Tyre is the Student Pastor at North Peachtree Baptist in Atlanta, GA and also an extension center student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary where he is working toward an M.Div. in Christian Education. Philip and his wife Emily are eagerly expecting their first child (a little girl) in July. They both love working with young people and have an intense desire to see all believers come to maturity in their faith. The perfect ministry setting for Philip would be one in which he could wear flip-flops, board shorts, and Hawaiian shirts all the time, even while preaching. He's pretty sure that's what everyone in Heaven wears, but he'll have to wait to see.


Charlie Wallace is the Children's Pastor at the First Baptist Church of Columbia, South Carolina. He and his wife, Emily, are both graduates of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary as well as the University of South Carolina (Go 'Cocks). His wife also has an excellent blog dedicated to motherhood, Biblical womanhood, and their young son, Jackson, who loves to hang out and goof off with his daddy. He also has a blog dedicated to parents of FirstKids ministries. He also loves reading about all sorts of topics as well as learning about how to influence the culture and reach as many people as possible for Christ.