Current Issues in the Southern Baptist Convention in Historical Perspective -- By: John E. Steely
FM 1:2 (Spring 1984) p. 5
Current Issues in the Southern Baptist
Convention in Historical Perspective
Professor of Historical Theology
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Are Southern Baptists at a crossroads? It appears, even to the casual observer, that some of the issues engaging the attention of this denomination in the 1980’s are so crucial that their resolution will have immeasurable results for an indefinite period.
When have Southern Baptists NOT been at a crossroads? To call the present time, or any time, a crucial period seems to suggest that other times are not so important. That implication is not intended here. All human decisions hold potential for good or for ill that cannot be anticipated by finite minds. Moreover, Christian believers should be aware that their obligation to act in a responsible manner, consistent with their profession of faith, is never to be neglected or deactivated. Thus the choices of an individual believer and the decisions of a convention may be crucial because of their consequences and because of the Christian responsibility involved, even though the seriousness of the matter may not be evident at the moment.
When one undertakes a historical study of what have appeared to be major turning points in a group’s experience, one discovers that evaluations of importance can vary from time to time, in some instances quite dramatically. An earlier assessment of grave import in a matter may not be affirmed by the judgment of a later generation. To put it in other words and to relate it to the contemporary issues: what is presently deemed to be important is not necessarily what our descendants will see as the major issues and decisions of our time.
To recognize this possible difference in evaluation from one generation to another is to acknowledge the limitations of historical perspective. It is equally important to admit that even though historical perspective is limited, so that a historian cannot speak with the finality that might be wished for, it is impossible to escape the historical setting in which one lives and works. Hence it is appropriate also to speak of the necessity of historical perspective, meaning that the interpreter necessarily speaks from within a certain historical setting of his or her own, and therefore cannot claim to be impartial in any ultimate sense. Therefore when one proposes to address current issues in their historical perspective one is constrained to be cautious and tentative, in the awareness that a few years hence another interpretation may be given to those same issues, and a different assessment may be made as to their relative importance.
FM 1:2 (Spring 1984) p. 6
Interpretation of issues in hi...
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