Thursday, June 9, 2011

When the big tent gets too big...

Al Mohler's latest post has me thinking about evangelicalism's tendency to not guard its boundaries very well.

1. The enemy never tires of sneaking heresy into the church.

In his post, Mohler comments on the new book "Is God a Christian?" by R. Kirby Godsey. It is a rehash of tired old heresies. Godsey denies the deity of Christ and embraces radical pluralism, the idea that all religions lead to God. What makes this interesting is that Godsey is a Southern Baptist. In fact he was the president of Mercer University, the largest Southern Baptist entity in the state of Georgia (and that's saying something!).

Doctrine is glorious for a number of reasons. When we talk about "doctrine" we are talking about that which God has revealed to us in His Word about himself, creation, and his work of redemption through Jesus. For these reasons, doctrine is precious and must be carefully taught and guarded.

Godsey, on the other hand is suspicious of doctrine. For him, doctrine is divisive, an unnecessary throwback to a bygone era. "Doctrines are simply the residue of religious experience."

2. Heresy is progressive.

Godsey did not begin writing heresy as egregious as that found in his latest book. His errors were progressive. We see the progressiveness of heresy throughout church history. We see it in our own day as well whether we are talking about Rob Bell or Brian Maclaren. What begin as seemingly small errors, if left uncorrected, will often blossom in full-blown heresy. All that is required are pastors and elders who, although orthodox themselves, fail to protect the church from encroaching errors.

3. "Big Tent" evangelicalism is usually too big.
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship formed to allow moderates within the Southern Baptist Convention to organize and fund their own missionaries and institutions. They found the theological conservatism which had come to characterize the Southern Baptist Convention beginning in the mid-1980's was too small a tent. Before long however it was clear that the boundaries of the CBF tent were quite wide. They refused to make any statements regarding homosexuality or abortion. They also rejected notions of biblical inerrancy. They began to give voice to feminist and other forms of liberation theology. They gave voice to those who denied the substitutionary nature of Christ's atonement. And it has only gotten worse.

4. "Moderates" tend not to remain moderate.
As Mohler points out, the "moderate" Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is hosting a book signing by Godsey.

Though Godsey’s views are not representative of most SBC “moderates” who opposed the conservative redirection and recovery of the denomination, Godsey and his heresies have yet to be repudiated.

To the contrary, Kirby Godsey has been a major figure in moderate Baptist life. His leadership at Mercer University was championed and fiercely defended by the moderate establishment, and this book is published by Mercer University Press. Godsey is credited with envisioning what became the New Baptist Covenant meeting in Atlanta in 2008, largely convened by former President Jimmy Carter. An event celebrating the book, complete with a book signing, is scheduled for the upcoming meeting of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in Tampa, Florida.

So-called "moderates" tend not to stay moderate for very long.

5. The conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention was a blessing.
Had the Southern Baptist Convention not turned away from the liberal direction of its institutions, it would be a spiritually desolate organization much like the Disciples of Christ or American Baptists.


ramona said...

Was in Memphis last Sunday and attended First Baptist of Memphis (Popular and Parkway). It was our church late 50s and early 60s. It was conservative, sound, and filled full of worshipers every Sunday. (Not sure how many could fit on the pews but 2000+ I believe)
The banner outside invited those who came to "Be a Baptist a new way." (Still not certain what that meant). There was maybe 250 folk there. Less than 10 children for Kids Church when they were dismissed.
It does not seem they are still to be counted in the Conservative camp of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Todd Pruitt said...

It's a common and sad story throughout the South.