The SBJT Forum: Retrospect and Prospect -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 09:1 (Spring 2005)
Article: The SBJT Forum: Retrospect and Prospect
Author: Anonymous

The SBJT Forum:
Retrospect and Prospect

Editor’s Note: Readers should be aware of the forum’s format. D. A. Carson, Paige Patterson, Mark Coppenger, Jerry A. Johnson, and Richard Land have been asked specific questions to which they have provided written responses. These writers are not responding to one another. The journal’s goal for the Forum is to provide significant thinkers’ views on topics of interest without requiring lengthy articles from these heavily-committed individuals. Their answers are presented in an order that hopefully makes the forum read as much like a unified presentation as possible.

SBJT: As an outside observer, what comments would you make on the conservative resurgence in the SBC during the last quarter-century?

D. A. Carson: Doubtless I am an “outside observer” in the sense that I am not myself a member of a church belonging to the SBC. On the other hand, I am an ordained Baptist minister, and have followed the resurgence reasonably closely, both in person and by scanning the histories that both sides have produced. The observations that seem most pertinent include the following:

(1) This resurgence is not unique. Several other denominations and associations have followed a somewhat similar path. The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod was heading for a decline into systemic liberalism, and in the mercy of God that decline was halted. The old Baptist Union of Ontario and Québec, after lurching toward liberalism under the influence of McMaster in the 1920s, gradually built up the percentage of confessional pastors, and about a dozen years ago voted itself out of the World Council of Churches. Examples in other countries come to mind. This observation is not in any way meant to denigrate the conservative resurgence in the SBC. It is merely a way of reminding ourselves that the preservation of the gospel and the purifying of a denomination are not unique phenomena: God’s grace has been poured out in similar ways in the past, and will doubtless be poured out in similar ways in the future.

(2) The lines that were drawn were muddied from the start. On the conservative side, the most far-sighted leaders understood that the fundamental issue was the truthfulness and authority of Scripture, but some voices tried to make a handful of other issues touchstones as well. More disturbingly, on the moderate side, not a few well-meaning pastors and other leaders, who themselves were entirely orthodox, viewed the conservatives as nothing more than a nasty group of power-hungry tyrants whose ostensibly theological motives were a cover-up for naked greed, whose asseverations of theological commitment merely masked their native belligerence. These moderates knew many nice people in the moderate camp, and could not believe that they...

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