Friday, December 22, 2006

Confessions of an Evangelical Antipodean Baptist Neutestamentler

There are two things that I never got to do at ETS/SBL in Washington D.C. last November. I didn't get to the see the Pentagon and I never got to meet Dr. Russell Moore, Dean of the School of Theology, Senior Vice President for Academic Administration, and Associate Professor of Christian Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I have heard much about Dr. Moore from a good many people. My own colleague, Prof. Andrew McGowan, heard him speak at ETS a few years back and was thoroughly impressed. He is a rising star in the SBC. Dr. Moore has written some interesting articles including a recent one in JETS about why egalitarians are winning the gender wars (see a synopsis of the article and his lecture at Baptist Press). He has a blog at the Carl Henry Institute too. Then there is Dr. Moore's book, The Kingdom of Christ: The New Evangelical Perspective which I have read portions of and hope to read fully in the new year . Dr. Moore is also proudly southern, he likes Johnny Cash, and in his lectures (some of which are are available on-line) he has found a way of making a texan accent sound almost intellectual and learned (although as an Australian I can hardly make fun of other peoples accents!).

Now when I was a young soldier in the Army doing my training to be an NCO, I once asked an old crusty platoon sergeant what do I say if an officer asks me to do something immoral or stupid, but without getting myself into trouble for insubordination. The old sergeant smiled at me and said, "You just say to your officer, 'Sir, I am concerned and confused'. That's how ya get away with it". I have listened to one particular lecture by Dr. Moore and I confess that I am "concerned and confused" by what he is saying and by what he appears to be implying. That lecture is his Confessions of a Fundamissional Dean: Are Southern Baptists Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, or What?. I have listened to the lecture three times and for the best part of six months I have wrestled about whether I should throw in my two-cents. Part of me said, "why bother?" leave the SBC folk to their own devices, all you'll do is make enemies (not the least of which might be. Dr. Moore himself) and get a rep for being some kind of "moderate" Baptist maverick. But then again, I have heard first hand in both conversation and through email some of the concerns that my SBC friends have and their fear that the conservative resurgence in SBC is now headed in a neo-fundamentalist direction. Thus, my following remarks about Dr. Moore's lecture should be seen in light of that context. I am not offering a rejoinder or a rebuke to Dr. Moore, but a polite response to the effect that many of us choose to disagree and with very good reason might I add. From my informed albeit external observations the SBC stands at a cross-roads and she must choose between two different ways of being Baptist: Evangelical renewal by maintaining one's Baptist distinctives in conjunction with an evangelical ethos in theology and missionary co-operation (e.g. Wade Burleson, Frank Page, Timothy George, Rick Warren) OR seek renewal by liquidating from the denomination those who deviate from perceived norms of a redefined sectarian Baptist identity (Neo-Fundamentalism).

Now let me make this very, very clear. I am not imputing to Dr. Moore or his lecture all of the failings that I and others see in the SBC. There is much in the lecture that I genuinely like and anyone who enjoys Johnny Cash cannot be all that bad anyway. Dr. Moore writes with a great passion for truth, with a love for men and women in the SBC, he has a desire to see Southern Baptists live humbly under the authority of God's Word, and he hopes for them to impact their surrounding culture. Thus the bits I like, I really, really like (e.g. I am also suspicious of some of the edginess of youth culture, I want to maintain my Baptist distinctives, I think Christians should go against the cultural trends for the most part, and I want to avoid any liberalism). The bits I dislike, however, leave me "concerned and confused"! I hope I have correctly represented the views of Dr. Moore in what follows and I hope he takes time to respond in some forum. I feel that I have a lot in common with Dr. Moore and I have intended my arguments, humour and rhetoric to be understood in a sense of collegiality and not hostility towards him. I would very much like this post to foster a balanced and gracious discussion about Evangelical identity in the SBC. What does it mean for an SBC pastor, missionary, scholar, lay-persons to be Evangelical? Are they mutually exclusive and how do they operate together?

Let me begin my response, not to the whole thing, but to selected points of the lecture:

1. Dr. Moore on Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism.

Dr. Moore has nothing particularly good to say about Evangelicalism in his lecture and nothing really bad to say about Fundamentalism. He gives a reasonable overview of the Liberal vs. Fundamentalist controversy of the early 20th century and how American Evangelicalism emerged from Fundamentalism in the mid-20th century through Carl Henry and others who wanted to retain the "Fundamentals" but also wanted to engage culture. Also the SBC did not experience the Liberal vs. Fundamentalist controversy until much later. Here we find the centre of gravity for Moore’s thesis: The SBC has an identity independent of Evangelicalism and Evangelicalism is movement that is compromised theologically and so the SBC needs to be insulated from it.

About Fundamentalists, Moore is correct that "Fundamentalist" is not a bad word if by that one means the fundamentals of the faith (e.g. Virgin birth, Resurrection, atonement, and biblical inspiration etc). In his view, Fundamentalists, while a bit quirky (KVJ-only etc), possess the correct framework and were right to be wary of the developing liberalism in the SBC earlier on. What he fails to mention was the cultural transformation of Fundamentalism itself during the 1920s-1970s. The Fundamentalism of J.G. Machen is not the Fundamentalism of Bob Jones University. When the Fundamentalists lost out in the major denominations they experienced their own cultural and theological shift and they moved towards a more ultra-conservative stance in reaction to their losses and became isolationist, introspective, anti-intellectual, and (in the sociological sense) sectarian. They took on certain beliefs such as two degrees of separation, KJV-only, Landmarkism, etc and maintain that they are just as essential as other doctrines such as the Trinity. Moreover, they claim that this is what all true Christians have always believed. Thus, Fundamentalism is just a revisionistic as some forms of Liberalism.

From a social vantage point Fundamentalists major on the minors, and make minor issues tests for faith and orthodoxy (e.g. alcohol, Bible translations, etc). In terms of ethos, Fundamentalists are more excited about what they are against, than what they are for. Fundamentalists fail to distinguish between what is Christian and what is the cultural Christianity that they were nurtured on. Some Fundamentalists practice a pernicious doctrine called "Two-Degrees of Separation". The word adiaphora is not in the Fundamentalist vocabulary. Romans 14.1-15.13 cannot be properly applied to Fundamentalist congregations. At the hub of Fundamentalist ecclesiology is the remnant doctrine: they alone have the truth and they alone follow the way of the Lord. Thus, they have a different ecclesiology from Evangelicals as Fundamentalism is governed by legality not liberty. This is not merely a odd few quirks or rough edges, this is a fundamentally different way of being church and it operates with categories and precepts that are not conducive to grace-based relationships, forming spirit-led communities, or expressing a hermeneutic of love in applying Scripture. In this sense, Fundamentalism abandons the New Testament vision of church life and mission.

Fundamentalists preach the authority of the text but practice the authority of the community (I owe this point to Kevin Vanhoozer, Is there a meaning in this Text?). In practice their doctrine of Scripture is docetic, the Word of God is divine but not human. Thus, they have a doctrine of Scripture that is altogether different from Evangelicals. If you do not believe me, go read J.I. Packer's classic volume: Fundamentalism and the Word of God.

During question time, Moore stated that the SBC is alot like Elijah, "I and I only am left". Does Moore really believe that the SBC (and friends) are the only "true" believers in the US or in the World? Here I must accuse Dr. Moore of plagiarism as Independent Baptists have been saying the same things since the 1950s. While Moore may say that the SBC is not Evangelical nor Fundamentalist and that they are "something else", nonetheless, his worldview and self-definition is thoroughly Fundamentalist in orientation: we and we alone we are the true bastions of holiness, doctrinal purity, and moral righteousness - everyone else is corrupt and compromized! I am trying to be remarkably restrained in my response here, but I find this worrisome. All I can say is that Dr. Moore will find the afterlife very disappointing when he discovers that heaven might not be as a glorious as the SBC.

Dr. Moore admits that he can be an Evangelical in so far as as he believes the Evangel, but he eschews what the movement actually is. He warns his audience against becoming, I quote, "American Evangelical mush". According to Moore, leaders in the SBC in the 70s were originally ambivalent towards Evangelicalism since it was a "Yankee" thing. He argues that Southern Baptists must be even more ambivalent now. He offers several reasons:

(1) Evangelical doesn't mean anything any more and it does not describe doctrinal beliefs.

This is patently false. There is a theological breadth in Evangelicalism but that is not the same as being theologically vacuuous. The centre-piece is a commitment to the Evangel and Evangelicals have expressed doctrinal agreement in places like The Gospel of Jesus Christ (1999), Together for the Gospel (2005), and see also Packer and Oden, The Evangelical Consensus. Doctrinal unity does not demand doctrinal uniformity. Also, the theological breadth of Evangelicalism does have limits. Evangelicalism still has "heresy" in the vocabulary.

(2) Evangelicalism describes a number of institutions driven by consumerism and they shifted their values when their support base shifted. Evangelicalism is a movement of compromise and acculturation that has sought to pander at the pool of popularity in American culture and tried desperately to attain a measure of intellectual respectability within the American sphere by worshipping at the altar of academia.

I can share in Moore's critiques of wanting to be hip, cool, or edgy particularly in relation to youth culture. I do not see the attraction of inviting Bono to preach at my church. But the Evangelicals I know on three continents, lecturers, pastors, students and lay people are not off glavanting around trying to win the favour of the intellectual elite, cultural gurus, or fashional police. If consumerism and being edgy is what is wrong with Evangelicalism, then I'd really like to meet some of these people. Where are these guys and gals who have stopped preaching to street kids and toilet cleaners so that they can sing with Bono? I think that Moore is talking about a minority and using them to describe the whole of Evangelicalism. This sounds like the old "reds under the beds", but I haven't found these people under any bed I've slept on and I've slept on alot of beds in a lot of diffentent places. They are out there no doubt, but as a small, small minority. These edgy Christian leaders seem to exist mainly in books and in blogs. What is more, is Evangelicalism really to be identified with American institutions? Do the roots and ethos of Evangelicalism in any way precede 20th century North America? Some historians believe so. On consumerism, I think Moore over-emphasizes the influence of Christian publishing houses. These publishers did not invent the Emergent Church anymore than Al Gore invented the internet. What is more, these publishing houses like IVP, Eerdmans, and Baker have also had a tremendously positive role in global Evangelicalism and have promoted an orthodox theology.

(3) Moore argues that Evangelicalism de-emphasizes denominationality so that baptism, the Lord's Supper, and ecclesiology are relegated to second order doctrines.

This seems to be the heart of Moore's objection. To be an Evangelical will entail abandoning one's Baptist distinctives. There is a train of thought here. Moore assumes that second order equals irrelevant or not important. Thus "Evangelical" can be an adjective but not a noun, and so Southern Baptists cannot be Evangelical without forfeiting their beliefs about the church. Let me say, first, one can rate doctrines in order of importance. Getting the gospel right is more important than getting a doctrine of baptism right. Who cares if you're correctly baptizing unconverted people? So a hierarchy of beliefs is kosher. And if the Evangel trumps Baptism, then I'm an Evangelical first and a Baptist second. On top of that, being an Evangelical does not mean forfeiting my Baptist distinctives. I am a Baptist in the heart of Presbyterian Scotland who has maintained my Baptist distinctives because I believe they are biblical and I have refused to try to fit in and be Presbyterian or Anglican (though the thought has often crossed my mind). As a Baptist I can hang out with Evangelical Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians etc and we have great gospel fellowship even though we disagree over baptism and church governance. Where Moore is right is that Baptists should know what Baptists believe and why Baptists believe what they do about church and baptism. But that does not stop me from identifying with Evangelicalism and prevent me from fellowshiping with other Evangelicals. Also, a strong belief in Baptist distinctives does not justify some of the IMB policies about baptism which are unbiblical.

When Dr. Moore uses the word "Evangelicalism" I feel like quoting the movie The Princess Bride: "You keep using that word, but I do not think it means what you think it means". Moore treats Evangelicalism as an American phenomenon. When he says “Evangelicalism” he means typically “Evangelicalism in America” which is a typically American-centric way of looking at things. To the contrary, Evangelicalism is a global movement that has origins as far back as the reformation, roots in German pietism, the Moravian missionary movement, the Great Revivals, the Great Awakenings, in the Fundamentalist vs. Liberal controversy of the early twentieth-century, and in the explosion of faith in South America, Southern Asia, and Africa in the last 50 years. Evangelicalism at its essence is a renewal movement that has sought to bring Christians back to the Evangel and called them to proclaim it and to live a life worthy of the gospel. Baptist historian David Bebbington has drawn a quadrilateral of the main tenets of Evangelicalism and they include:

- Conversionism—a belief that lives need to be changed (or a stress on the New Birth);
- Activism—the expression of the Gospel in deed (or an energetic, individualistic approach to religious duties and social involvement);
- Biblicism—a particular regard for the Bible (or a reliance on the Bible as ultimate authority);
- Crucicentrism—an emphasis on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross (or a focus on Christ's redeeming work as the heart of essential Christianity).

You will notice, however, that inerrancy, complementarianism, and credo-baptism do not figure as its essentials. They is not to say that they are false or insignificant but they do not constitute the core of the Evangelical identity or the Evangelical fulcrum. (In counter-point to many narrow definitions of Evangelicalism I recommend the book by J.I. Packer and Thomas C. Oden, One Faith: The Evangelical Consensus; see an exert here).

If Evangelicalism is such a "mush" and if ETS is indicative of the theological compromize that is rampant in Evangelicalism, then I am perplexed as to why Dr. Moore continues to participate in ETS. Does he think that we will hear him speak and suddenly repent of our ways and become Southern Baptists? Or does Dr. Moore also aspire for some degree of influence and recognition among the intellectual elites of ETS? Does he want us so-called Evangelicals to take him seriously? If Evangelicalism is "collapsing" as Dr. Moore alleges, why does he want to be part of the collapse? The logic of his own position would be to abandon ETS and set up the Southern Baptist Theological Society.

2. Dr. Moore on Fuller Seminary, Wheaton College, and Anglicanism

At one point in his lecture, Moore proceeds to make some negative remarks about Fuller Seminary, Wheaton College, and Anglicanism. I found this immensely disconcerting and somewhat odd at times.

What about Fuller Seminary? True, you might not find too many special creationists there. But special creationism is not an "essential" of the orthodox faith. The fact is that Fuller is one of the more left-leaning Evangelical institutions in the American Evangelical context (see George M. Marsden, Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism [Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1987]). Its egalitarianism and Barthian-esque theology (Barthian at least back in the 1970s) is not everyone’s cup of tea. Of course there are some superb Evangelical scholars at Fuller that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting including M.M. Thompson and D.A. Hagner who, in my mind, are definitely in the Evangelical camp even if they do not cross the i’s and t’s like I do. But we should also consider the effect of Fuller seminary upon the mainline denominations. In organizations such as the PCUSA and Uniting Church of Australia, the majority of Christians who are upholding the authority of God’s word and fighting against the homosexual agenda in these denominations are Fuller graduates. Fuller graduates are the vanguard of the orthodox resurgence in the mainline denominations. Recently, the Highland Theological College hosted a meeting of Forward Together, an Evangelical renewal group in the Church of Scotland. Their speaker was Jerry Andrews from a similar such organization called Re-Forming in the PCUSA. Jerry is also senior minister at First Presbyterian of Glen Ellyn near Wheaton. I had an excellent conversation with Jerry about the struggle that the orthodox have in the PCUSA and he told me that he thanks God for Fuller Seminary, because they are providing the foot soldiers in this battle. Rather than kick Fuller in the teeth because they are soft on inerrancy or women-in-ministry, I say that we should cheer them on to fight for an orthodox faith in the mainline denominations. You do not have to agree with them on everything, but give these Evangelical Fullerites a slap on the back not a knife in the back! Fuller is not the enemy within the gates.

I confess to being concerned and confused by Moore’s remark that Wheaton College is a mainline institution (as opposed to being Evangelical). I have a problem in regarding Professors such as Doug Moo and Greg Beale (a former president of ETS) as mainliners! But I have never been to Wheaton, so at SBL in Washington D.C. in 2006 I asked Dr. Todd Wilson, who pastors at College Church in Wheaton, if Wheaton College was Evangelical or Mainline. He said “It’s Evangelical” and he gave me a look as if I was asking if the Pope was Catholic. I trust the judgment of a local pastor in Wheaton with a Ph.D from Cambridge (like D.A. Carson!). I also asked Jerry Andrews who is a senior minister near Wheaton and he said the same thing. I trust the judgment of two pastors in Wheaton that Wheaton college is Evangelical more than I trust Moore’s judgment on this one. Who do you believe?

I again confess to being absolutely gob-smacked and confused by Moore’s implied assault against Evangelical Anglicans. He opines the fact that many faculty at Wheaton (about 25% according to reports I have received) attend Anglican worship and many of the staff at the magazine Christianity Today are Anglican. He never exactly specifies as to why this is a bad thing. I can only assume that the problem is either that Anglicans are not Southern Baptists (which would be a truism) or that that there is something inherently wrong with Evangelical Anglicans, perhaps they are in too close a proximity to liberals. Yet some of the most godly and gifted Evangelical leaders in the world are Anglicans. Certain names come to mind like J.I. Packer, John Stott and Chris Wright and these guys are global Evangelical leaders (read Stott’s The Cross of Christ, which no self-respecting Evangelical lay person should be without). At the 2006 SBL I had a drink with a group of people including Peter Jones of Westminster Theological Seminary. Jones attended the World Reformed Fellowship earlier that year and he heard Peter Jensen, Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, speak. Jones said that he had never heard an Archbishop preach the gospel like Peter Jensen did. Organizations like UCCF, Tyndale House, Latimer House and more were all started by Evangelical Anglicans. My own exegetical idol, Leon Morris, was himself an Evangelical Anglican and if you start casting aspersions on his theological pedigree then every member of the Aussie biblical studies diaspora in the US will have their own private jihad on your knee-caps! (A cover drive with a size six twin-scoop Gray-Nichols to the tibia and fibia will do the job!!) If Moore thinks that Anglicans are so terrible then he should consider: (1) There were Bible-believing Anglicans long before there were Southern Baptists; and (2) Visit Moore Theological College in Sydney and you’ll experience one of the most exciting Reformed, Bible-believing, Complementarian, Missional, and Christ-loving seminaries in the world. I spent a month there as a visiting scholar back in 2005 and it was a great experience. I had more in common with those Sydney Anglicans guys (students and faculty) than I have with some of my own Baptist associates. I do not care for anyone who alleges that these Anglicans are theologically dubious. As a Christian scholar and as a Christian statesman, Dr. Russell Moore is not even in Peter Jensen’s league.


If this was a lecture, at this point I would ask the audience: "Those in favour of slapping Dr. Moore in the face with a soggy fish please raise your right hand". (That is my Aussie humour creeping in and I'm still sore about the implied aspersion made against St. Leon of Morris who is an Anglican). Dr. Moore did use some degree of hyperbole in his lecture (he is a gifted speaker too) and many of my responses could perhaps be explained as attacking the rhetoric rather than his reasoning. I am willing to be corrected, but still much of what he said in that lecture left me feeling that his way of being Baptist does not correspond to the Faith delivered to the saints. The faith of the early church is not necessarily identical to the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message, in fact, I'm positive it's not. For me, being Baptist and being Evangelical go hand in glove and I feel no need to choose between them. In fact, I prioritize my theological identity as: Christian - Evangelical - Reformed - Baptist. The question posed to us by Dr. Moore is whether or not one can have a legitimate Baptist identity that has anything other than "Baptist" first and "Baptist" with a capital "B".

Why am I confused? Dr. Moore claims that Southern Baptists are not Evangelical nor are they Fundamentalist, they are "what" or "something else". In fact, in his conclusion he pleads for those in the SBC to be DT'd from Evangelicalism, i.e. detoxed or perhaps we could say "cleansed". Why am I concerned? Because Moore's "something else" looks and sounds alot like Fundamentalism. This is not Fundamentalism with the all trappings of KJV-only or two-degrees of separation, it is a fundamentalistic ethos and worldview that is rooted in its own indigenous subculture and it constitutes a departure from the worlview of the biblical authors. The sine qua non of Fundamentalism is not its approach to the KJV or doctrine of separation, rather, it is their belligerent attitude towards other forms of orthodox Christianity (George Marsden's definition). Even if one is not a KJV-only advocate one can still be a Fundamentalist. This is the problem, Dr. Moore's SBC identity appears to be Fundamentalism minus a few of the more extremist trappings, but I do not see any other tangible difference. Why is this a problem? J.G. Machen said that Liberalism is not Christianity and Moore would agree here. But I would insist that Fundamentalism is not Chrisitanity either, and Moore would not agree with that. Liberalism is neo-gnosticism and Fundamentalism rehearses the theological errors of the anti-pauline judaizers. Thus, whether it is "neo", "new" or "missional" Fundamentalism, it is still not Christianity. Fundamentalism is slavery and it is a distortion of the Baptist faith and the historical orthodox faith. In counter-point to Moore I say: "For freedom Christ has set us free", Galatians is the epistle of Christian freedom and liberty. To be Baptist is to be biblical, and my Bible calls me to a rich and diverse Evangelical Faith of which I consider the Baptist way as being the one most true to the Scriptures in my judgment. But the Baptist household has a lot of room for diversity (as well as some house-rules I might add) and the Baptist household has some lovely neighbours with whom I lovingly share my Evangelical neighbourhood with.

Are Southern Baptists Fundamentalists, for their sake and for the sake of the gospel, I hope not. Are Southern Baptists Liberals, for their sake and for the sake of the gospel, I hope not. Are Southern Baptists Evangelicals, for their sake and for the sake of the gospel, I hope so!

Excursus 1 - bloggers

In his lecture Dr. Moore regards some bloggers in the SBC as jerks, immature and divisive. He refers to one particular group as "bloggofascists". I have no doubt that this is true of some. But I am "concerned and confused" as to how this label "divisive" might apply. Does it designate those SBC bloggers who are rumour-mongers, make groundless accusations, and slander SBC leaders? Or, does it refer to those who are critical of certain political machinations in the SBC, those who encourage others to vote against candidates "endorsed" by the establishment, and those who refuse to tow the party-line because they feel that it is unbiblical and unbaptist? Bloggofascism could sound like a form of "deviant labelling" employed in order to stop Baptists using the internet to voice disagreement and discontent with some SBC policies such as those surfacing in the IMB. I am open to correction here if I am reading too much into Dr. Moore's remarks.

Excursus 2 - A plea for Evangelicalism in the SBC

More generally speaking now (this is not directled against Dr. Moore in particular), to the arch-conservatives in the SBC I say this: if you define the boundaries of group identity in such a way as to imply that Wade Burleson, Dwight McKissic, and Beth Moore are not simply very wrong on some issues, but are a threat to the authority of the Scriptures, if you feel the need to purge them and their supporters from the SBC itself, then you have lost a gospel-centred faith and you are headed to the arms of the theological Sith Lord known as Darth Fundamentalism. He will promise to purify the SBC from the remnants of the "moderate" Evangelical Jedi and give you unlimited denominational power, more power than you can dream of, enough power to make sure that you'll never again have to worry about Liberalism making a comeback. But the power will corrupt and kill the work of the gospel and others of us will be forced into exile until a new hope emerges.

Dr. Michael F. Bird

Solum Evangelium
Sola Christo
Soli Deo Gloria

Written on the 23rd of December on the feast of St. Leon of Morris, last Saturday of Advent.


Jim said...

The problem with attempting to define or categorize "Southern Baptists" is that they are a little bit of everything you have mentioned. There are liberal Southern Baptists, Evangelical Southern Baptists, and Fundamentalist SB's. Most are Fundamentalist, and there's simply no getting around this. Sadly. And Moore is one of them. You can put makeup on a pig, but it's still a pig.

Anyway, you've written a fine essay. I'm going to mention it on the "Mainstream Baptists" blog and I honestly hope you get a very wide hearing.

Anonymous said...

Nice read. I don't know much about the SBC, except that I don't particularly jive with them. And as a recovering Fundy, it sounds like Moore fits the category quite well.


DavidR said...

(Pssst! Michael! Excursus 1: "divisive" as in "divide"!)

(P.s. Nice post.)

(P.p.s. For no apparent reason, this is reminding me of R. Nelson's The Making and Unmaking of an Evangelical Mind: The Case of Edward Carnell, CUP, 1987. Why?! Is it the rhetorical side? Dunno.)

(David Reimer)

Anonymous said...

Mike, the "conservative resurgence" in the SBC was ALWAYS going in a neo-Fundamentalist direction. As a former Southern Baptist (now American Baptist and Alliance of Baptists) educated at the pre-Mohler SBTS, I can tell you that the fear of "liberalism" in the SBC was created--like Bush's creation of fear of WMDs in Iraq. You could have gathered all the true liberals in the SBC in an average sized living room.

It was brilliant evangelical scholars and pastors who were hurt by the "conservative resurgence."

Anonymous said...

Dear Mike,

Apparently the SBC are not just uncomfortable with evangelicals, their departure from the Baptist World Alliance suggests that even fellow Baptists are not "safe" enough company.

Paul said...

Great essay. It makes me weep for my SBC.

Volker said...

the link to the online journal "Baptist" didn't work on my browser (IE7). Is there perhaps a problem with the address?

Anonymous said...

I'm a Wheaton grad ('01) who went to an Anglican church pastored by a Wheaton prof (Lyle Dorsett, now at Beeson) and was tremendously blessed by that experience. (I'm a Presby at Covenant Seminary).

Anonymous said...

(and Wheaton is Evangelical, not mainline; that's a strange accusation indeed)

Anonymous said...


Perhaps more fundamental to the problem with fundamentalism is their epistemological "hyper-positivism." Having grown up in a fundamentalist context it was not that fundamentalists openly appealed to the authority of their own church, but that they appealed to Scripture in a positivistic manner. Personally, I think that postmodernism is eating away at the fundamentalist foundation and the next generation of fundamentalists is going to be considerably weaker, though probably never entirely disappearing.

Judging from some of your criticisms perhaps this might be some of the trouble with Dr. Moore's book. At any rate, your essay here is much appreciated.

Several months ago Dr. Mohler published an essay in the SBTS magazine arguing for the stratification of Christian doctrine into three categories: 1) doctrines necessary for Christian fellowship (Resurrection); 2) doctrines necessary for local church cooperation (perhaps Predestination or Baptism); and 3) doctrines not necessary for local church cooperation (pre/post/amill.). Would you argue for something similar?

thunderbeard said...

brava, mike. i attended the undergrad school at SBTS, and it gave me a bad taste in my mouth (especially concerning mohler and moore, also known as mini-mohler by some at the school).

i wasn't fond of moore from the moment i read an essay of his posted on a bulletin board at school stating that men should not cry, because men should not be wimps. and your essay has reinforced my own suspicions about him.

i hope that this does foster some discussion, but knowing the tactics of the SBC (especially SBTS), i don't know if that will happen.