In my last post I talked about how we ought to celebrate the diversity within the SBC when it comes to philosophy of ministry. In this second post I am going to talk about the theological diversity of the SBC.
Again, we must approach this with great humility. There is always going to be theological differences and we will kill our churches if we proceed in arrogance. No one wants to hear angry, mean spirited men argue about theology. People do want to hear humble, grace fulfilled discussion about the truths of Scripture.
We, as Southern Baptists, disagree on more theology than any other convention. We disagree on almost every topic you can think of; pneumatology, ecclesiology, soteriology, eschatology, and almost every other -ology. Fifty percent of SBC pastors believe that their is such a thing as a ‘private prayer language.’ We have SBC churches that believe in Baptism of the Holy Spirit, cessationism, continuationism, and every other doctrine of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity and we aren’t close to being in uniformity on our Doctrine of the Holy Spirit.
We are diverse in our Doctrine of Salvation. There is a never ending battle between those who believe in free will and those who believe in predestination. The topics of election, depravity, atonement, and eternal security is a never ending battle ground.
Thankfully, there are great truths that bring us together! We are Baptist for a reason! We, as a convention, agree very much so on the Person and Work of Jesus Christ, Trinity, Justification by Faith, and many more great truths. We all must remember to look to our authoritative, infallible, inerrant, and fully inspired Bible in order to sort out these great truths.
Since there are truths that have brought us together; what should we do about the doctrines where there is diversity? Dr. R. Albert Mohler has created a great system. He has created a ‘three tier system’ that prioritizes different doctrines. First tier issues are doctrines that make us Christians; Deity of Christ, Trinity, Resurrection of Jesus, Justification by faith, etc. Second tier issues that dictate where we worship/who we worship with; Baptism, Lord’s Supper, etc.. Third tier issues are issues we can disagree with each other and still worship in the same church; Calvinism, Eschatology, etc.
I am not sure that Dr. Mohler and I would agree on every topic, whether it should be in the First, Second, or Third tier. It is a discipline that all believers should partake in! If a believer puts Eschatology in the third tier then they should be able to disagree with their pastor and other church members. They also should not spend majority of their time discussing and debating a third tier issue.
Pastors, lay people, churches and denominations would benefit greatly if they would prioritize certain doctrines. How? By looking at Scripture and seeing what Scripture emphasizes!
Once we prioritize certain doctrines we should not divide over the less crucial ones. As a denomination, we cannot survive if we divide over every possible doctrine. Believers should not be getting upset to see statistics that their is some sort of a ‘Calvinistic Resurgence’ in the SBC. We should be getting upset if there is a theological liberal resurgence! A resurgence that disregards Scripture. We must hold strong to truths that are crucial to the faith and allow their to be diversity on truths that aren’t as crucial and clear.
In humility, let us fight for the faith and the doctrines that make up our great faith! Let us also allow for theological diversity so that we might better fulfill our Great Commission. We could not do what we do in missions if we did not allow some diversity.
Remember, we will all be corrected when we get to heaven.
I want to make a final point. I do agree with the the IMB’s latest policies regarding Baptism, Complentarianism, and Tongues. Uniting with theological autonomous churches in doing missions and supporting/sending missionaries are not one in the same. We are a confessional people and we must hold our missionaries to confessional standards. We MUST allow for theological diversity in our churches. We also MUST have some set standards to hold our missionaries to. I do not at all think this contradicts.
At the end of each post on SBC Voices, we suggest related posts from other Southern Baptist websites and blogs. These will often include contrary points of view and should not be understood as endorsements.
What Other SBC Voices Are Saying
- A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity from Dr. Albert Mohler
- What Are the Most Pressing Issues Facing the Southern Baptist Convention? by Nathan Finn
- Whence and Whither? by Timothy George
- Baptist ID: Dr. David Dockery on “The Southern Baptist Convention Since 1979? by Tim Brister