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Baptist Identity After The Revolution

Anyone familiar with the events that have taken place in the Southern Baptist Convention over the past year knows that there is a shift taking place. For those of you who haven't followed SBC life closely, you should know that almost every SBC institution has been or is in the controversial spotlight. The reasons for this are many.

A few of these can be found in the latest issue of First Things. You'll find them in an article written by theologian Dr. Timothy George. His article, entitled "Southern Baptists After the Revolution", takes a look at movements that are presently affecting SBC life. He doesn't write the article simply to recount all of the drama that has taken place, although there is plenty to be said about it. Instead, he analyzes these happenings and concludes that they all point to a historic shift that is taking place in the SBC. 

The main reason for such a statement, Dr. George argues, can be seen in the election of underdog presidential candidate Dr. Frank Page. The election of Dr. Page serves as one of very few times in which a presidential candidate was elected without the endorsed of the most prominent SBC leaders. 

Dr. George writes about several small groups within the SBC that contributed to this election and might contribute to, what Dr. George calls, a historic shift. These groups consist of the Charismatics, Neo-Calvinists, Women's Missionary Union, Baptist Bloggers, and the Young Moderates. While these groups are gifted at networking and nitpicking, Dr. George argues, they are not likely to have great influence they lack vision compelling enough to ignite a revolution in the SBC. 

I think that this is an article that Southern Baptists should read. There's a lot of insight in it. But I don't think that these rumblings will lead to the kind of upheavel that the SBC saw in the Conservative Resurgence. Why? Well, I think that our current situation is missing an element that was critical to the implementation and success of the Conservative Resurgence, theological disconnect. 

The Conservative Resurgence gained more and more support as Southern Baptists learned what was happening at the Southern Baptist Institutions. Initially, people were hesitant to get involved because they did not realize how bad things were at the seminaries, missions agencies, and all the rest. They didn't know that professors were teaching that the Bible had errors. They assumed that the men and women who they supported through the Cooperative Program were just like themselves. They were wrong. And as they learned how wrong they were, as they learned of their betrayal, they joined the Resurgence ranks. These events have created a skepticism (that can be healthy) towards SBC institutions that remains to this day. I even remember the warnings I received as I left for seminary, warnings not to lose my faith and passion for Christ. 

Regardless of what some might say, the situation we are in today is quite different. The more people discover what kind of people are teaching and leading our institutions and what they are teaching and leading Southern Baptists to do, the more their skepticism and frustration towards those whom they've elected will be alleviated. I think this will prevent the kind of shift that many might think is in our future.

This doesn't mean that there aren't many issues that must be addressed. Each of these groups represent an issue that is going to have to be dealt with. I think one of the most pressing issues that Southern Baptists will have to deal with will come from the charismatic party. We will have decide whether or not the Baptist Faith and Message should include another statement, one that speaks to charismatic issues. There's already work being done towards understanding the Calvinist issues. In fact, Dr. George speaks about the way that Dr. Mohler and Dr. Patterson, two seminary presidents, have initiated this important conversation.  And the list goes on.

Whatever the result, it is clear that in the SBC the times they are a changing. The extent to which they change and how they change is yet to be seen. Revolution isn't always necessary, reform is.