NOTE: we are nearing 300 comments and the food fight has gotten ridiculous. It has been days since anyone has come CLOSE to commenting on what I wrote so I am exercising author’s prerogative to shut this food fight down. Please do not take it to another comment stream and force me to shut THAT down.
I realize that many people are not involved in social media conflagrations, but one is taking place in the SBC world that cannot be ignored.
NOW is the time to lead.
It would be great if our entity leaders and others would step up and take leadership in this time, but history says that most will not do it. A few have taken courageous and godly stands, and we applaud them, but most are afraid of the backlash, so we are going to have to stand up and be counted. We are going to have to confront the self-appointed arbiters of orthodoxy who attack women and minorities for not conforming to their views and tell them that NO, they do not represent us, they do not define conservative theology, and they do not own the Southern Baptist Convention. If we want the SBC to honor Christ, we must stand against the divisive forces who would tear it apart.
I am preaching through Galatians, and noting how Paul dealt differently with the errors of the church and the errors of those who would tear the church apart, the “circumcision party.” It is an art, not a science, to distinguish these, but I believe we must encourage one another and build up the Body of Christ. I also believe there are those among us who deserve the Titus 3:10 treatment, who are divisive and destructive and must be dealt with more forcefully. Those who would attack godly women and rejoice that gospel-honoring, Christ-loving Black pastors are being driven out of our midst cannot be met with silence.
I am a complementarian, based on my study of the Bible. My views would generally fall among the more conservative in the SBC spectrum. I would assert the following.
- The writers of the BF&M were not idiots nor were they theologically imprecise. They left wiggle room in many areas because they wanted Baptists to have wiggle room! Our confession is complementarian but there is wiggle room in that complementarianism. Two people can both be complementarians and not have identical views.
- I am a devotee of what is often called doctrinal triage (I even wrote a book on, about to be re-released). I am very comfortable with complementarianism being in our confession (as long as no single tribe tries to own its definition), but it is not a part of the gospel. If a doctrine isn’t part of the Apostles’ Creed or Nicene Creed, if we can share the gospel without holding to that doctrine, we ought not to make that an essential of the faith. Treating complementarianism as a test of inerrancy or orthodoxy or fidelity to Christ is wrong. I say that as someone who holds to a fairly strong complementarian view.
- Autonomy is key. One of the divisive pastors used guilt-by-association to claim that autonomy is a retreat for liberals. Nonsense. It is a key conviction of Baptists. It means that in my church, pastors can be men, mixed Sunday School classes can be taught by men, and other such applications, while in another church, the Senior Pastor is a male, but other leadership positions are open to women. We can have different views of some of the specifics and applications of complementarianism, recognizing it not as a position, but a continuum. Our confession sets general parameters, but the specifics are a local church matter.
- When men make a certain interpretation of 1 Timothy 2 a theological essential, but ignore the teachings in 1 Timothy 3 about the qualities of an overseer, or Paul’s command to Timothy about what a man of God “MUST BE,” then it is time to start wondering if the motivation of the so-called complementarians is less theological and more patriarchal, even, perhaps, misogynistic. If you are more concerned about a woman proclaiming Christ than you are about a man violating Scripture, something isn’t right.
NOW is the time to lead!
We hear a lot of buzzwords today. Revival. The sufficiency of Scripture. Conservatism. It is all nonsense unless we walk in obedience to God and to his word.
Remember the experience of Joshua after the defeat at Ai? He tore his clothes and fell facedown (what a spiritual man of prayer!) calling out to God for victory, for “revival,” for God to rise up and smite their enemies. What did God tell him? “You are such a sincere man of prayer, I will hear and respond.” Right? NO!
The Lord then said to Joshua, “Stand up! Why have you fallen facedown? 11 Israel has sinned. They have violated my covenant that I appointed for them. They have taken some of what was set apart. They have stolen, deceived, and put those things with their own belongings. 12 This is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies. They will turn their backs and run from their enemies, because they have been set apart for destruction. I will no longer be with you unless you remove from among you what is set apart. Joshua 7:10-12
Stand up! Stop praying and get right what is wrong. Prayer is no magic-bullet substitute for dealing with what is wrong with the SBC. We cannot “pray for revival” and ignore our sin. We cannot seek God’s blessing while walking in sin. If we want the blessing of God maybe we should get up off our knees and deal with the sin. Stop praying for blessing and start repenting. Israel had to deal with Achan before they could ask God to restore their fortunes. I believe that before we in the SBC can righteously ask God to bless us and restore us and revive us and this nation, we have to deal with the sin. We have to confront Achan!
- We need our leaders to stand up and be counted against those who harass and attack women who speak out and others who do not toe the line for their particular theological tribe.
- We need to repent for how we have stood in silence and allowed women such as Beth Moore, Karen Swallow Prior, Jacki King, Katie McCoy, and a host of others to be savaged verbally. We need to repent for how we stood in silence while Black pastors were made to feel unwanted if they didn’t kowtow to a certain tribe’s view on things – as if they were only welcome if they decided to acquiesce and fit in with us.
- We need to repent for how we’ve allowed “the sufficiency of Scripture” to become a buzzword while we ignore the word of God in the way we treat others.
I realize the inherent irony in all this – I am “calling-out” call-out culture. Again, I go back to Galatians. Paul sought peace and reconciliation with Peter (you go to the Jews, I will go to the Gentiles) but he opposed the circumcision group to the end. Our default should be peace but we also have a Titus 3:10 response, in which we confront those who tear down the body of Christ and say NO MORE!
I believe these angry social media attackers are a minority among us. I think most of us want to proclaim Christ, walk in unity, and as my friend Alan Cross says, “tell a better story. But we cannot do better as long as we coddle those who tear us down. It would be great if our leaders (as some already have) would stand for “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness” – the way of the Spirit. If they choose to remain in silence, then we must decide to stand strong. We must be willing to face the angry Twitter hordes and say that is not what we want to be. We want to walk in the Spirit, not in the flesh.
Can I give some words of encouragement?
- When I started speaking out, I got roundly attacked by many of these guys. They wrote nasty articles about me. They probably still do – I don’t know. But on the eighth day, God created the block and mute functions. We have free speech in America, but no one has the right to lie and fill my inbox with slander. I routinely mute, then block a lot of these guys. Disagree? fine. Let’s engage. But the attack hordes? To quote a famous first lady…just say no.
- Also, the first couple of times they attacked me, it hurt. Then I found out something. It really doesn’t affect my life. A lot of time, people of goodwill are afraid to speak out because of what I used to call the Twitter terror brigade. They really can come at you. Don’t answer them. Don’t argue with them. Just speak the truth. Don’t engage anonymous trolls.
- Stand for what is right and good.