Baptist Identity: Is There a Future? -- By: R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 09:1 (Spring 2005)
Article: Baptist Identity: Is There a Future?
Author: R. Albert Mohler, Jr.


Baptist Identity: Is There a Future?1

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is President and Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of numerous scholarly articles and has edited and contributed to important volumes on theology and culture. Dr. Mohler hosts a daily live nationwide radio program on the Salem Radio Network (“ The Albert Mohler Program”) and also writes a daily commentary on theological, moral, and cultural issues for Crosswalk.com. He is a frequent guest on national and international news outlets and is a popular preacher, teacher, and lecturer.

Introduction

Addressing the future of any movement is an inherently dangerous affair. Winston Churchill once remarked to one of his classmates that he was certain history would treat him well. His schoolmate, a bit incredulous, asked how he could be so certain. Churchill raised an eyebrow and replied, “Because I intend to write the history.” That is certainly one way to make sure history looks favorably upon you—provided you have the luxury of writing your own history. The rest of us, however, are left with simply wondering whether the historians of some future age will look back and say we got it even approximately correct. That is of course a risky business, but it is even more dangerous not to envision the future. The greatest risk is assuming the future will somehow “just happen” in a way that brings glory to God.

As we consider the Baptist movement in the twenty-first century, we can look back on more than four centuries of Baptist history, Baptist work, and Baptist witness. By no accident, that also includes four centuries of debate over Baptist identity and the Baptist future.

I should begin with a word of autobiography. I remember as a small child explaining to my neighbors that I belonged to the Baptists. That was the terminology—I never knew a time when I did not consider myself a Baptist. Of course, now I know better theologically, but I was part of the tribe before I ever understood the theology. I was a Baptist by custom before I became a Baptist by conviction. That Baptist heritage leads me to feel at home in this discussion. I understand something of the grandeur, something of the vibrant texture of faith that is produced not only by the Baptist movement as a whole, but also by the Southern Baptist Convention as we now know it.

I was raised by parents who were convictional Baptists. They were so Baptist, in fact, that when I wanted to become a Boy Scout, my parents would not allow it until I was also a Royal Ambassador. This was an extreme position in my view. The Boy Scout troop was sponsored by the same Sout...

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