Year after year it gets harder to understand the ways of Southern Baptist Convention leaders — unless you understand how fundamentalism in any context plays out in a consistent fashion of exclusion.
Most striking is what fundamentalists will accommodate — and what (or whom) they so aggressively dismiss.
Some old-school SBC leaders are fearing the younger whipper-snapper convention president who doesn’t dress and talk like them. But there’s every indication that the Southern Baptist fundamentalist conclave fortified in recent decades is showing no cracks.
Selective exclusion and warped priorities appear as strong as ever. So does the four-decade-old manta that “NOW, we’re going to focus on evangelism” — while, in reality, they focus on all kinds of other stuff made of fundamentalist political parts.
Southern Baptists’ public relations arm, Baptist Press, recently reported on Convention President J.D. Greear telling the denomination’s Executive Committee that the SBC would now focus on — wait for it — “the Gospel.”
Despite some internal spats now and then, and disagreements over how to deal with publicly-exposed misogynistic leader Paige Patterson, Southern Baptist leaders will continue enjoying the great unity extended to those who collectively affirm a narrow, male-dominate doctrinal creed, Greear assured his fellow SBCers.
“Our disagreement on finer points of theology should not tear apart our unity in the Gospel,” said Greear according to Baptist Press. He particularly mentioned Calvinism, a growing theological perspective within Southern Baptist life advanced by some of the denomination’s seminaries.
In general, I pay little attention to SBC inner-workings. But I had a hard time getting past Greear’s “finer points of theology” comment when it came across the news.
Some might think that an autonomous Baptist congregation calling a gifted woman to pastoral ministry would be a “finer point” of theology — not a major, defining one — even to those who defend male dominance in the church and at home.
Not so! That threatening position (since many women are such excellent preachers and pastoral leaders) is a major point of theology — deserving the exclusion of that congregation from fellowship.
On the other hand, a minor or “finer,” and therefore acceptable, point of theology would be believing that Jesus didn’t die for everyone. Presumably, John 3:16 is a minor text in which “whosoever” doesn’t have to mean “whosoever.”
Got it? Calling one of those uppity women preachers is a major doctrinal difference that deserves harsh exclusion. So is the inclusion of LGBTQ Christians in congregational life. Do either of those (or both) and you’ll be dispatched to the convention curb if not to Hell.
Make sense? It is a MAJOR (or whatever antonym for “finer” fits) theological offense if one’s daughter feels called to pastoral ministry.
However, it is a MINOR, finer, acceptable theological perspective to believe God will send one of your children to Heaven and the other to Hell regardless of the faithful witness and nurture provided by your family and family of faith — without any chance of that child experiencing grace and personally affirming Jesus as Savior and Lord.
Oddly, SBC leaders are comfortable with aggressively excluding women ministers and churches that call them — as well as Christians with same-sex attraction and churches that embrace them — but accommodate fellow Baptists who embrace a God who arbitrarily excludes many from the grace Jesus so freely offered to all.
Hum, there’s a theme here. It seems that power of exclusion, rather than the Gospel, might be what really drives fundamentalists further and further into finer irrelevance.
Yet they never take a moment to wonder why.