I turned 40 this past year in the midst of a global pandemic, which we all know was a real challenge, but it also meant I survived a 40th birthday hoopla due to COVID. Turning 40 in 2020 also means I was an infant during the needed Conservative Resurgence of the 1980’s. My uncle was a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in the early 1980’s, going so far as to start a small group with friends his final year called “Seminarians for Biblical Inerrancy.
When talking to my uncle as I prayed and pondered where God was leading me to attend seminary, he told me to be thankful that I had six seminaries to choose from, all of which taught the Scriptures as God’s true and divine word. He also told a few stories of how that was not remotely true of his time at Southeastern and how thankful I should be. I was, and still am, grateful to know that is the case at each SBC supported seminary. I am thankful to be a part of a convention of churches that holds Scripture high and is led by the teachings within it.
As a convention of churches we learned a lot through the Conservative Resurgence, but ultimately the two primary questions answered during that time period were “Is the Bible true?” and “Is the Bible fully sufficient for guiding churches and the SBC?” The answer to those two questions was, and still is, a resounding YES! So if that answer is yes in such a bold manner, why have we been experiencing so many issues in the past three to five years over a variety of topics within the convention?
If we all agree that the Bible is true and it is sufficient, why the disagreements? Let me pose a theory to you. My generation, when we were taught these things in seminary, and in Bible preaching SBC churches, we took it at 100% truth. The Bible is 100% true, but it is also 100% sufficient. I don’t think hardly anyone within the SBC family would disagree with that on a head knowledge basis, but I contend many do on a practical day to day level within the life of a church. My generation, of which many were present in Nashville for the annual meeting, have repeatedly and resoundingly declared that the inspired Word of God is how we are to interact with our world today.
Scripture is sufficient for how we engage Baptist Theology as well as The Baptist Faith and Message. Scripture is sufficient for how we engage the social issues of the day such as gender, sexuality, marriage, abortion, and other topics. Scripture is sufficient for how we engage church structure and practice. This has historically been recognized, and continues to be true today. The change came when many in my generation began to notice that many topics and themes contained in Scripture were not being addressed within the life of the church. Why would we as a church want to engage with topics such as human dignity, sex abuse, modern day slavery, human trafficking, justice, and a host of other topics? I contend it is because we were rightly taught that Scripture is true and sufficient for ALL areas of life.
Many of the areas I have listed have not been historically a part of Baptist tradition, nor have they been engaged with by many Baptist churches. Why then, do many in my generation want to proclaim Biblical truth in these areas that make many others uncomfortable? It’s one simple reason. As Christ followers in a world that desperately needs Christ, we have taken what we learned as Conservative Resurgence infants. We are no longer infants but we are once again living in a time of great change. We are now leading churches and applying the knowledge that Scripture is inerrant, 100% true and 100% sufficient to guide our leadership under God’s authority in the churches we serve.
If we as a convention of like-minded churches are to have the impact upon our world for the gospel that we each want, each leader at every level must be willing to engage Scripturally in areas that might make us uncomfortable culturally. We must hold high the truth of Scripture. After all, it’s what we were rightly taught by our Scripturally driven leaders. I see a bright future for the SBC, where the gospel is proclaimed, Scripture guides all, and a lost, confused and dying world is engaged with Jesus Christ through his followers.
Jonathan Raffini serves as the Minister of Discipleship and Administration at First Baptist Church in Big Spring,
Texas. He has served in that role for two years after serving as Youth Minister for eight years before that, also at FBC Big Spring. Prior to that, Jonathan and his wife Rebekah were NAMB appointed church planting missionaries in Okotoks, Alberta, Canada. Jonathan is a graduate of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, has been married to Rebekah for 14 years and they have two daughters.