Roman Baptist Convention, Pt. 3…

Before proceeding, read parts one and two as well as the introduction to this series.

5. The use of anathema and censorship to counter “heresies.”

Who can forget the immortal words spoken by a recalcitrant Martin Luther at the conclusion of the Diet of Worms? Standing before the pope’s tribunal, called upon to recant his works and facing the end of his career, Luther stood tall and announced:

“Since your majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns or teeth. Unless I am convinced by Scripture and by plain reason (I do not believe in the authority of popes or councils by themselves, for it is plain that they have often erred and contradicted each other.) Those Scriptures that I have presented, for my conscience to the Word of God, I cannot and I will not recant anything. For to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”

Nevertheless, the works of Martin Luther were censored. The books of countless reformers were burned, and their reading was strictly prohibited. Ultimately, Luther was forced to pen his works from the tower prison in Wartburg Castle. If not for the Elector of Saxony, Luther might have never awakened the continent of Europe to the gospel of grace.

Book burnings have been used by every tyranny of men since Gutenburg first issued a page of Holy Writ from his printing press, and anathemas have been employed long before that. Whenever a modern establishment – be it political or religious – is threatened by ideas new or old, the most common retreat is to a medieval fear that the “ignorant commoners” will escape the iron grip with which the “learned aristocrats” have resisted lay interference in their “sacred task.”

Revolution follows reform, we are told. And anarchy follows revolution. Thus, for the ecclesiastics, the spirit of reformation must be suppressed at every turn. Baptists, however, have not so learned liberty.

And yet we watch as the Southern Baptist Convention becomes a place where dissent is discouraged and strict uniformity is preferred to modest confessional latitude. Let a man preach that an inerrant text allows for the continuation of all the New Testament charismata, and before nightfall his sermon has been pulled and ecclesiastic edicts have been issued denouncing the man’s message as “harmful to the churches.” Pay attention closely, and you’ll hear that this man is allowed to “ride on the denominational bus,” so long as he “doesn’t drive it.”

Let a man dissent from the narrowest application of Baptist ecclesiology in the selection of missionary candidates, and before you know it he’s being recommended for removal from the trustee board.

Let a man advocate the doctrines of grace and return to the Calvinistic sympathies of earlier Baptists, and discover how quickly he is labeled a threat to Southern Baptist evangelistic enterprises.

Let a man serve in an advisory capacity with a non-traditional church planting network, and watch as his name is smeared across tracts of propaganda distributed to Executive Committee members.

Let a man advocate scripturally defensible liberty and temperance in matters related to alcoholic beverage consumption, and wait for the denominational machine to crank out resolutions intended to limit his participation.

Let a church esteem the freedom for its members to designate their mission offerings, and watch as the state convention tosses that church to the curb, rejecting their cooperation in favor of control.

Let the brightest of Southern Baptist theologians begin to explore the biblical claims regarding the blessed Mother of God, or let him collaborate with Catholics in dialogue and issues of social justice, or let him explore meaningful alliances with the World Council of Churches, and hear him get excoriated in the carcass-filled rooms of Southern Baptist seminary educators who covet his academic pedigree.

Let a denominational executive affix his name to a joint statement of Evangelicals and Catholics, and watch as swampy backwater Louisiana Landmarkers cry foul until he is forced to remove his signature.

I could continue this litany of examples to further substantiate my claim that Southern Baptists are governed by an exceedingly troublesome xenophobia of faith whereby dissenters, however numerous, are threatened, maligned, and assaulted for no other reason than they hold views deemed dangerous by the fundamentalist elites who have risen to power in the Conservative Resurgence.

In other words, we need look no further than Dwight McKissic, Wade Burleson, Tom Ascol, Ed Stetzer, Timothy George, Richard Land, and others to observe the degree to which the spirit of control and conformity have wreaked havoc in the Southern Baptist Convention.

When Martin Luther gained traction in Germany, he raided cathedrals and monasteries. He liberated convents and converted the old centers of papal authority into blazing pulpits of reformation doctrine. The pope may have had his John Tetzel, but the Lutherans had their German Bibles. In a conflict between power and principle, the former will always and ultimately yield to the latter. And while we can be grateful that the ecclesiastic authorities in the Southern Baptist Convention do not have the fiery stakes at their disposal upon which to burn the heretics, we can also be assured that they bemoan the acquiescence of their best option to the modern invention of human rights.

Fortunately, things are changing, slowly but surely. When asked about my strategy to foster reform and revolution in the Southern Baptist Convention, I usually defer to the words of Christ in Matthew 12:29.

“How else can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man, and then he will spoil his house.”

We at Baptist Blogger, in a way, have been busy binding the strong man of Southern Baptist Convention during these last 18 months. I suppose we shall soon be able to plunder his house.

We hear it is a rather large house too.

Roman Baptist Convention, Pt. 2…

And now, the second part of my multi-part post concerning the evolution of the Southern Baptist Convention into something unholy, quite catholic, but rather unapostolic:

4. Opulence and indifference to the plight of the poor

The disparity between the haves and the have-nots became increasingly pronounced during the years of medieval hegemony for the Roman Catholic Church. As feudal ways of life gave way to the age of Renaissance art, and after the Crusades had effectively bankrupted the kingly courts of Europe, the Catholic Church emerged as the last bastion of aristocracy. So rich were the Roman pontiffs in lands and luxuries, and so great were the economic advantages of papal favor that the ordinary wealth of earlier fiefdoms seemed paltry and pathetic.

The splendor of Roman Catholic architecture and commissioned art has surpassed anything before or since. The Renaissance and its chief artisans would have starved to death if not for the church’s insistence on having the finest, best, and most expensive frescos, sculptures, and paintings. Truly, the vicar of Christ was a king of kings, and his heavenly city – The Vatican – had gates of pearl and streets of gold.

In the darkened shadows of those magnificent ecclesiastic edifices, ghettos grew like mushrooms on the soil of papal waste. The Jews, the prostitutes, the stonecutters and the merchants struggled to secure a place within the crowded city of once glorious Rome. It was among these that the plague reached epidemic proportions. It was there that the rats ran free. And betrayed by the Holy Apostle sworn under sacred oath to preach the good news to the poor, these huddled masses faithfully paid their tithes and purchased their indulgences to adorn the papal palace with gold and silver and precious stones.

By the time Roman Catholicism had taken root in South America through plundering the native wealth of Aztecs, Incas, and Mayans, there was little hope that the Church would even recognize her Lord whose head could find no place to rest. Nevertheless, the Church justified her opulence and preached the gospel of prosperity long before American Protestants adopted the heresy as their own.

The ground for reform was fertile by the time Martin Luther began preaching justification by grace. The peasants, though eventually overcome with reforming zeal, were the footsoldiers of the reclaimed gospel proclamation. Luther tapped into their growing resentment of the Church’s worldliness and channeled their hostilities toward his reforming agenda.

The parallel between what the Roman Catholic Church became and what the Southern Baptist Convention is becoming demands examination. Denominational elites are sheltered from the fiscal oversight of the people who pay their salaries. The costs associated with executive travel, perquisites, benefits, and emoluments are hard to come by. As always, the chief offenders are among the slowest to provide information.

Last January, I sent certified letters to every Southern Baptist executive whose agency or institution receives Cooperative Program support. As of this morning, I have sent follow up letters and emails to those seminary presidents and mission board leaders who have yet to honor the Business and Financial Plan of the Southern Baptist Convention that necessitates their compliance with my request.

To date, only the following men have responded, and each has responded in full: Morris Chapman, Jerry Rankin, Jeff Iorg, Danny Akin, and Richard Land.

Paige Patterson, Chuck Kelley, Al Mohler, Phil Roberts, and Geoffrey Hammond have withheld any response.

Some denominational salaries are insufficient. Some are incredibly inflated. Some presidential expenses are modest. Others are downright ungodly. Yet the palaces which house our Southern Baptist pontiffs expand across the street from lean-to, rotten shanties, and convention trustees refuse to address the disparity.

Meanwhile, the appeal for churches to increase their Cooperative Program giving keeps coming, and the money keeps rolling in. Perhaps, however, the convention messengers need an opportunity to hear about these abuses; and soon, perhaps, they will.

*Cue ominous-sounding music*