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.

One thought on “Roman Baptist Convention, Pt. 3…

  1. I’ve heard it said, first of fire but subsequently of other things: “It’s a wonderful servant but a terrible master”. I’m coming to think that’s true of the SBC and certain related entities.

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