"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

8.20.2006

the eye of the beholder

Wade Burleson tries to make amends. Sortof.

I'll say this: it's good to see self-described conservatives/fundamentalists/inerrantists who are willing to admit that the Baptist battles of 20 years ago were conducted in a manner that was anything but Christlike. People on both sides of the split slandered one another in Jesus' name, over and over again until so much damage was done that there is little hope that we'll ever find a way to reconcile.

And I think that Burleson and a lot of the other SBC bloggers understand and regret that.

Recognizing that, "There are thousands of kind, gracious, compassionate, Bible believing Southern Baptists in the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Baptist General Convention of Virginia" is a step. Suggesting that BGCT and BGCV leaders should be appointed to SBC agencies and boards is another, although for the life of me I have no idea who in the BGCT would agree to do so.

The problem here, though, is one of definition. More importantly, it is a problem of who gets to determine the definitions. Who gets to decide what it means to be good enough to be Baptist? How has determining who is in and who is out ever been consistent with historic Baptist principles of soul freedom and church freedom?

The fundamentalists who took over the convention decided that they had the authority to make those decisions. And what Burleson and lots of other bright, young SBC pastors are realizing is that such a model of authority is neither Biblical nor Baptist.

There are thousands of kind, gracious, compassionate people who love missions and believe the Bible in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Alliance of Baptists and a whole mess of churches that just couldn't take the fighting anymore. Maybe those of us who fit that category are too classically "liberal" for Burleson, at least to hold positions of leadership. I don't mean that in a pejorative way - he genuinely believes that what he thinks is Biblical. The fact remains that his convictions would still exclude a huge number of men and women from the SBC. To be fair, he's written more about his views of the CBF here. I just don't know if it will be as easy as he thinks it will be, especially when we have built parallel institutional structures, opened separate seminaries, divided up the universities and colleges, and hold such significant differences of opinion over issues like the role of women in the church.

It breaks my heart that reconciliation in Baptist life seems so impossible. We're not called to hate each other. We're not called to pick fights and make snide comments behind one anothers' backs. We're called to love our enemies, and we'd better be really concerned about the state of our faith when the people we consider enemies are those who also call themselves Christians. Maybe that's what Burleson is trying to tell us. If that's the case, we should listen.

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