I was working on a post this morning, and then Ed went and posted an article at Between the Times that said what I was trying to say, but did it so much better. Sometimes I hate that guy – saying it first and saying it better! His post is called “The Baptist Bogeyman.” I encourage you to read it. However, the fact that someone else has already said it (and perhaps better than I could) never stops a blogger from saying it again, right?
So, I put my other article on hold and I want to make some observations about what the Rev. Dr Stetzer said.
We have had a parade of bogeymen in the era of my involvement with the SBC. I was deeply involved in convention life back in the 80s until I moved to Iowa. I was basically disconnected for about 15 years until a certain well-known blogger began to talk about IMB policies that I thought were wrong and I joined the 21st Century social media movement. In the years I have been involved in blogging, I’ve seen the bogeyman tactic in common use. It is a tendency in all of us, one we must fight.
What is a “bogeyman?” The wise and powerful Wikipedia has this definition: “amorphous imaginary being used by adults to frighten children into compliant behaviour.” “If you get up again, Johnny, the monster who lives under your bed will eat you.” A Baptist Bogeyman would be an amorphous imaginary (or at least inflated) being (person or theological movement) used by Baptists to frighten other Baptists into compliance (or agreement).
In the Baptist world, a bogeyman can be a real thing – a theological issue or a well-known person. But we turn it or him into a caricatured thing of horror to scare others. “If you don’t act as I suggest, the Baptist Bogeyman is coming to get you.”
Here are a few of the Bogeyman I’ve seen used to scare people.
*The Moderate Bogeyman. I’ve seen this one over and over again. Those of us who did not like the direction of the SBC back in 2006 were actually trying to restore the moderate movement in the SBC, trying to undo the Conservative Resurgence.
*The Landmarkist Bogeyman. I was never in agreement with some of the teachings of the Baptist Identity movement, but instead of dealing with what they said, and why we thought that they were not biblically based, some resorted to labeling BI folks as Landmarkists. They were not.
*The Legalist/Antinomian Bogeyman. May a Christian have a glass of wine with dinner? That is an interesting biblical topic – one that Baptists have almost no ability to discuss in a reasonable manner. That discussion devolves into the assignation of labels of legalism and antinomianism in short order. Both charges tend toward the absurd – they are more bogeymen scare-tactics than they are reality. Those who do not think we should drink alcohol do not believe that salvation comes from the law and those who drink a glass of wine do not believe that we can simply do as we please.
*The “Purpose Driven” Bogeyman. This is one that Ed spends a lot of time on in his article. I am not a huge Rick Warren fan and I have a different philosophy of church life than the seeker-sensitive model. But I’ve read enough Rick Warren to know that while I disagree with him, he is not out to destroy the church, undermine the gospel or deny sound doctrine. We can have some balance here. We can critique Warren without condemning him, can we not?
*The Contemporary Bogeyman. The assumption among some has been that what was is always better than what is, and have codified Baptist traditions right alongside the doctrines of scripture. I guess this one could be turned around as well. I’ve met young whippersnappers who seem to assume that the old ways were all wrong and that we can only face the future by divorcing the past entirely. Watch out for the bogeyman.
*The Calvinist (or anti-Calvinist) Bogeyman. Who can have missed this one? Again, there is nothing wrong with criticizing or taking exception to Calvinist doctrine or practices. It is a healthy and potentially interesting debate. But much of our interaction over the “doctrines of grace” has gone beyond anything that is healthy. It has become petty and destructive.
*The “Power Elite” Bogeyman. This is the new one. It’s not actually that new. Those of us in the CR criticized the power elites who held power so tightly during the years of the struggle. Then, when the conservatives took the reigns, they were criticized for being a power elite by moderates and even many conservatives who were on the outside looking in. Since the GCR there has been a constant drumbeat of warnings about the power elite who are trying to rule over us without regard to what the people want and “radically redefine” the nature of the SBC.
In my view, every one of these is a legitimate topic of discussion and there are legitimate viewpoints on various sides of the issues.
- Are there those who are trying to restore the theologically drift that we worked to correct?
- What does it mean to be Baptist?
- How do Christians live out the Lordship of Christ in real-life situations?
- Is the seeker-sensitive model (and the mega-church path as well) what we want to pursue?
- What part should Calvinism play in the future of the denomination?
- What level of transparency do we demand from our leaders and are they meeting those demands?
We should discuss each of these topics in detail. My problem is with the way we are discussing these issues. I probably sound like a broken record on this. I’m sort of in between the extremes of Calvinism in the SBC, neither being a 5-pointer or anti-Calvinist. I think both sides have reasonable folks who engage in discussion – and a few stinkers who stir up lots of trouble. I don’t drink (never have, never plan to) but neither am I convinced biblically of the prohibitionist interpretation of Scripture. I am convictionally Baptist but not enamored with the BI viewpoint. Maybe I’m a moderate after all, as one blogger has often insinuated?
While I’m not an idealogue on either side of most of these arguments, I am deeply concerned about the way we carry on this debate. The anger and accusatory attitudes go beyond biblical injunctions on how we are to treat each other.
One of the best things we could do for the future of the SBC is leave behind the Bogeyman tactic.
Beating the Bogeyman
Each of us needs to battle this fleshly tendency within us. Here are some suggestions as to how we can beat the bogeyman.
- Let us be careful to understand others and see their positions accurately and represent them fairly.
- Let us see the best in our brothers and sisters. Just because I disagree with someone does not mean that person is trying to destroy the work of God! Paul said that love “always believes, always hopes, always perseveres.
- Let us put our disagreements in perspective. One of the bloggers I enjoy interacting with today is someone I fought with tooth and nail about three or four years ago. I realized that while there are some things that we will never agree on, he’s a pretty good guy and on the things that matter, we are united.
- Let us guard our hearts from bitterness, our words from anger and our ways from evil.
I guess I need to forgive that Stetzer fella!