Resurgence vs. McWorld? American Culture and the Future of Baptist Conservatism -- By: Russell D. Moore

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 07:1 (Spring 2003)
Article: Resurgence vs. McWorld? American Culture and the Future of Baptist Conservatism
Author: Russell D. Moore

Resurgence vs. McWorld?
American Culture and the Future of Baptist Conservatism

Russell D. Moore

Russell D. Moore is Assistant Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he also serves as executive director of the Carl F. H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement. He is a frequent speaker and commentator on the theological issues facing this generation of Southern Baptists. His first book, Why I Am a Baptist, co-edited with Tom J. Nettles was published by Broadman and Holman in 2001.

Political scientist Benjamin Barber argues that the “culture wars” are a global phenomenon. In his view, the American evangelical biblical inerrantist and the Islamic suicide bomber both seek a “jihad” of theological certainty fueled by common anxiety about “McWorld,” a secularizing culture propelled by economic globalism. Thus, for Barber, orthodox religionists of all theological stripes react to the culture, wanting “to be born again so they can be born yesterday,” before the confusion and uncertainty of a frightening postmodern era.1 Could it be then that the controversy between conservatives and moderates in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) grows from similar angst within Baptist conservatives about a secularizing American culture?

Baylor University historian Barry Hankins tests such a thesis in his long-awaited monograph, Uneasy in Babylon: Southern Baptist Conservatives and American Culture.2 Hankins surveys the key players of the SBC controversy and concludes that the “conservative resurgence” was made possible by Baptist anxieties about the demise of the cultural hegemony of southern civil religion. Thus, for Hankins, the “culture war” activism of SBC conservatives is not the result of their theological convictions. Instead, the “culture war” informs and propels the theological convictions.

While there is much historical value to Hankins’s work, there is much more at stake here. Southern Baptist conservatives cannot ignore Hankins’s central thesis. Resurgent conservatives must ask whether Hankins and others are right to suggest that Adrian Rogers, in 1979, and Ronald Reagan, in 1980, were swept into office by the same forces of cultural reaction. Does the Southern Baptist Convention find its unifying consensus in a common understanding of an evangelically orthodox, distinctively Baptist, and confessionally robust theology? Or does the SBC cohere around its response to the social and political upheaval of the culture wars? The answers to such questions do not simply illuminate the root causes of the controversy, or of the truth or falsity of the moderate ...

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