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Unity or Doctrine? A Critique of the NBCC’s Goal

Here is an interesting question: What is more important as Baptists: unity or doctrine?

Former President of the United States, Jimmy Carter and Mercer University President Bill Underwood have organized a conference entitled the "New Baptist Covenant Celebration." It will meet in Atlanta in January 2008.

The purpose of the celebration is to, "have a major demonstration of harmony and a common commitment to personify and to accomplish the goals that Jesus Christ expressed in his sermon to His hometown of Nazareth," stated Carter.

The conference lists 28 Baptist organizations and 5 media outlets which do not respectively include the Southern Baptist Convention or the Baptist Press (an SBC entity).

There will be, however, some the 16 million Southern Baptists in attendance, despite being left off of the website's participant list. Again, part of the stated goal is to demonstrate harmony.

This begs two questions:

1) What are the goals that Jesus Christ expressed in his "hometown homily?"

You may recall that Jesus entered the synagogue on the Sabbath (as became His custom) and picked up the scroll of the book of Isaiah and read a passage of Scripture that pointed to Himself. It said,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18-19, ESV)

Was Jesus just speaking to the financially poor? Was Jesus just speaking to those who are physically blind and physically oppressed? No. He was and is also speaking to those who are spiritually poor, those dead in their sins. He also speaks to those who are spiritually oppressed, living under the tremendous weight of the power of sin. He also speaks to those who are blind to the Gospel and are waiting to sing the refrain of the old hymn, “was blind but now I see” when their spiritual eyes are opened to the life-saving power of Jesus Christ.

However, this message, the message of a life-changing and life-saving Jesus-power, was not popular then, is not popular now and will not be popular in the future. The real meaning of Jesus’ message to his countrymen was rejected then and it is rejected now and will be rejected until He comes back to judge the living and the dead.

After doubting who Jesus said he was simply because he was speaking to his homeboys, Jesus spoke a word of condemnation to them and compared himself to the prophets Elijah and Elisha while comparing the Nazarenes to a famine-starved land and unhealed lepers. After this comparison, the Gospel of Luke records:

“When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away.” (Luke 4:28-30, ESV)

They cared not to hear Jesus speak the Words of Truth and drove Him out of their city while trying to erase His name from this earth. Many have tried to do the same to the message and the man of Jesus from that day onward but Jesus continues to “pass through their midst” as His message lives on and will forever live on throughout eternity.

This leads us to a second important question:

2) What is more important? Being united or being doctrinally sound?

I am not proposing that the supporters of the NBCC are not doctrinally sound. They have their own rational hermeneutic of interpreting Scripture that is beyond the scope of this short essay to delve into. Is it better for Baptists to unify themselves, despite doctrinal differences (some being major) just because we all prefer dunking to skimming?

No doubt the minds behind the NBCC are more concerned with people’s temporal needs (which are important) then their eternal need.

Republican presidential candidate and former SBC pastor, Mick Huckabee, was scheduled to attend and speak at the January gathering but has recently withdrew his name and time from the event because of the "unprecedented personal attack” on current President and Christ-follower (member of the United Methodist Church) George W. Bush by former President Carter. Carter recently stated that the Bush administration's foreign policy was "the worst in history."

It seems that former President Carter would rather hub-bub with Credo-Baptists while simultaneously attacking anoother Christ-followers’ job performance.

Carter further stated, “the overt reversal of America's basic values as expressed by previous administrations, including those of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon and others, has been the most disturbing to me.” That statement smells of old-time politics and un-buried hatchets.

Baptists, even Southern Baptists, eventually have to answer the question: What is more important? Unity or Doctrine? Fortunately, Southern Baptists have been answering this question in the latter for years now and will continue to answer this in the future despite the cries of “unity” from other hermeneutically-challenged organizations.

But most importantly, the life-changing power of Jesus will continue to be preached throughout SBC churches because eternal salvation and unity with Christ through spiritual reconciliation is mankind's ultimate need, rather then financial salvation and unity with itself through temporal relationships.