Roman Baptist Convention???

Continuing the train of thought from our previous post

One of the most illuminating histories of the High Middle Ages is the work by the famed Churchill biographer William Manchester, whose book, A World Lit Only By Fire, chronicles the magisterial excesses and abuses that first ignited the reforming passions in Germany and Eastern Europe. In his book, Manchester explores the toll that papal immorality, opulence, graft, and nepotism exacted on the confidence the people had in the Church.

A survey of the Medieval Church is worthwhile in its own rite, not only because it provides an incredible context for understanding the need for the Reformation, but because it provides compelling reasons to guard against moral, ethical, doctrinal, and fiscal carelessness in those responsible for church governance today. History, as they say, has a terrible way of repeating itself in each generation. A reflective critique of today’s religious institutions will always utilize the perspective gained from historical narrative. Such reflection is essential if we would escape the fate that befell our forebears.

In enumerating the following concerns, I wish to capture the essence of my thought without providing the full argument for it. I am reading history with a mind for contemporary parallels, some of which are clearer than others. Nevertheless, here we go:

1. Hierarchial resistance to grassroots reform — The Catholic Church under the papal rule of Leo X was quite unwilling to concede any validity to the concerns raised by Martin Luther and others. In fact, the full force of the hierarchy was summoned to assault the reformers. Meanwhile, papal loyalists were awarded choice posts and prominent pulpits.

The anti-blogger sentiment that foments among some Southern Baptist elites is grounded not in a quasi-Luddite opposition to the blog phenomenon per se, but rather that the Internet has been used by these “wild boars” who have been loosed in the denominational vineyard with greater effect than anticipated.

2. The necessity for an authoritative teaching office – Increasingly, Southern Baptist institutions and their executives feel the need to define the parameters of acceptable doctrine for all Baptists. For years, we were told that the Conservative Resurgence was about the nature of Scripture, not about its interpretation. Yet, resurgent fundamentalists seem discontent to let inerrancy alone characterize the heart of Baptist epistemology. Inerrancy gave way to revising the confession of faith, not once but twice within two years. The new Baptist Faith & Message was affirmed by every trustee board of the Southern Baptist Convention. But today, the BFM2000 is not sufficient, except for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Lifeway Christian Resources, Guidestone, and the Executive Committee.

For some reason a priesthood has developed in Southern Baptist life whereby a group of seminary presidents and their loyalists on other boards of trustees feel the need to define our confession as Baptists for us. Whether it’s Paige Patterson and Southwestern Seminary adopting guidelines for the hiring of professors, or IMB Chairman Hatley’s efforts to articulate a rationale for the IMB policies on tongues and baptism, or the endless stream of white and pink papers issued from Malcolm Yarnell’s office, Southern Baptists are beholding the unthinkable. Seminaries that were originally charged by the convention to train future ministers now seek to instruct the churches concerning the “proper interpretation” of the sacred text of Scripture.

In other words, while the convention expects the seminaries to train their pastors in theology, church history, exegesis, biblical studies, and the original languages of Scripture, the seminaries have taken that responsibility and assumed a prerogative not assigned to them by the convention: to teach the churches of the convention. Or put another way, in 1979, Paige Patterson needed the churches and their messengers to steer the seminaries toward inerrancy. Today, he’s using the seminaries to steer the convention churches toward doctrinal eccentricity, fundamentalist isolation, and cultural detente.

3. Nepotism as a trend in religious appointments – Just before the Reformation, the bastard children of popes and bishops were commonly given orders and offices, thus ensuring that the magisterial succession of power remained uninterrupted. Injecting loyalists with family ties into the ecclesial hierarchy corrupted the confidence that the churches had in their appointed leadership, believing that men of lesser competency were elevated not on account of their meeting biblical criterion, but because they had the right family.

I don’t need to belabor this point, but would ask you how else you explain Paige Patterson’s brother-in-law getting appointed during Patterson’s presidency to the IMB trustee board while he was under federal indictment? Or his sister-in-law appointed last year to the same board? Or his father-in-law appointed to Midwestern’s board. Or his brother-in-law to a seminary presidency? Or his son-in-law to key committees? But you can read for yourself just how deep the rabbit hole goes if you click here and read my post from last year.

That will suffice for tonight. More coming tomorrow…

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