In the long history of the SBC, we’ve faced many crises. Historians with greater expertise than I have can argue what periods are golden and which are not, but we have had many lamentable times that demonstrate that we exist by the grace of God, not the merit of Southern Baptists. What was the worst of those times?
Was it the time of our founders, when slavery was blindly supported as godly in SBC pulpits? Was it the decades during which SBC churches excluded people of color and cheered segregation and oppression. We wandered the first steps on the path of liberalism until we were called back to a high view of Scripture. Recent revelations have made it clear that many SBC pastors and church leaders have preyed on the sheep instead of shepherding them, and that instead of dealing with issues of sexual abuse, churches and their leaders worked to cover over the sin and enable the abusers. We have been on a decades-long decline in growth and now finally see shrinking numbers. These are all crises in the SBC, but are they our worst crisis?
Not according to Tom Ascol. Recently, Ascol pulled a quote from a review by the Founders documentary “By What Standard,” which identified a “crisis like never before” in the SBC:
“These are things we should be talking about. These are things we must be talking about. The SBC is in a crisis like never before. Sure, one strategy is we can abandon ship & let the SBC sink. But, there’s another viable strategy too–We can take the ship.” https://t.co/OI1pJTV6Cq
— tom ascol (@tomascol) December 19, 2019
Granted these aren’t Ascol’s words, but can we safely assume by the quoted retweet, under his name, that he would agree? Is it fair to say he agrees that we are facing our worst crisis ever? What is worse than our history of slavery, racism, and segregation, our flirtation with liberalism, our coverup of sexual abuse?
The most pressing crisis of SBC history is evidently the one addressed in his so-called “cinedoc” – the passing of resolution 9, and the advance of the social justice movement in the SBC. Is passing resolution 9 really the “crisis like never before?”
In my Baptist college, a professor was teaching that Jesus, Buddha, and Mohammed were just all different flags under which God flies his name, but current efforts to end racism in the SBC are a much greater crisis. Our founders were racists and slaveowners, but having a woman preach on Mother’s Day is so much worse. A professor from Southern spoke to us (in the 70s) and told us that Jesus never meant to die, but made some political miscalculations and ended up on the cross, but the fight against sexual abuse in the churches is a much greater threat! Hundreds of SBC leaders were exposed by the Houston Chronicle but the real evil is people like Rachael Denhollander who call attention to the problem. The effort to bring justice to evil situations in this world is a greater crisis than any other in our history, according to this tweet.
Sin is sin. Error is error. We should desire to be as faithful to Christ and his word as we fallen sinners can be. Fidelity is a noble desire. But such fidelity must be grounded in truth. Is the passing of resolution 9 really the crisis it has been labeled as? In the documentary, the resolution was referred to as a “pro-critical race theory resolution”. That is not true. From an honest reading of the resolution, all that is being said is that if you are going to use critical race theory it needs to be done in subjection to Scripture. Perhaps it can be used as an analytical tool in understanding culture—but any findings must be subordinated to the Scriptures.
We could have a discussion about the validity of this proposition but Founders have moved the conversation and exalted it to a crisis. It’s impossible to have a fair conversation in such a climate. But I would argue that even Founders believes the principle behind Resolution 9.
In their documentary, James Lindsay is featured multiple times. Lindsay is an atheist. Everything he says comes from this worldview. And yet they use him to understand critical race theory and the implications of such. Isn’t this precisely what resolution 9 was suggesting? We can learn from unbelievers and even godless ideologies but everything we learn must be subordinate to the Scriptures. If Founders gained insight and instruction from an atheist, why can’t someone else gain insight from secular race theories?
This appears to be agenda-driven, a group desiring that the SBC conform to their will and their interpretations. They assume that their views (and, perhaps, theirs alone) reflect the revealed truth of God. False accusations are abounding against good people who disagree with this agenda. It is stirring up dissension and division in the SBC. I have had several conversations recently with people who shared absolute lies as if they were settled truth – simply because the Founders or one of the “discernment” rags spread those false accusations. You do not accomplish the work of God with lies, but liars are having a heyday in the SBC today.
This tweet offers 2 options.
Option 1. Those who share Tom’s views can abandon ship and walk away. Since this group has cornered all truth, divergence from them is enmity to the gospel, and if they do not get their way in the SBC the ship will sink. The SBC is doomed unless it acquiesces to the Founders’ agenda.
I believe what I believe and articulate it, but to say that if the SBC does not acquiesce to my views it is going to sink? That seems like nuclear arrogance.
Option 2. His second option is to “take the ship.” He has announced his intention to take control of the SBC. His videos and machinations have one purpose – he and the Founders want to take control of the SBC, its entities, and its directions. How can we see “take the ship” as anything but hostile?
So, it seems that the SBC has two choices. We can acquiesce and let the Founders’ vision control the convention. We can allow him to his beliefs on the entire SBC and narrow the parameters of fellowship to exclude those who do not acquiesce. The SBC will be much smaller at that point, but it will be pure and superior and hold its head high. Tom does not seem to be asking for a seat at the table, but for a place at the head of the table.
According to this tweet, the SBC will either sink or the Founders will take the helm.
I would suggest option 3. Let’s realize that Baptists do not have to agree on all things to cooperate in missions and church planting. We can be Calvinist and non-Calvinist and still walk together in unity. We can be concerned about social issues or unconcerned and still preach the true gospel of Jesus Christ. We can hold different views of Resolution 9 without holding different views of Jesus Christ. We do not have to have uniformity and conformity to walk in unity.
Is there a place for Tom Ascol in the SBC? Yes. He has every right to speak his mind and promote his views. But to demand that the entire SBC acquiesce to his views? No. And his suggestion that disagreement with him will sink the SBC ship is both ludicrous and arrogant. He is not the SBC’s savior.
Those of us who disagree with him are not a threat to the gospel. The accusations he and his buddies have lodged against SBC leaders are either false or magnified to a point of deception. Yes, we have a crisis in the SBC. It is a crisis of truth-telling and power-seeking. We are a convention based on cooperation but many now are unwilling to work with anyone who disagrees with them in anything. Many are willing to throw truth under the bus in attacking their brothers and sisters in Christ.
If we want to keep the SBC ship from sinking, this needs to stop.
So, no thank you, I’d rather you not “take the ship.” It is your right to have your say, but it is not your right to bully and silence those who disagree. I would rather the people of the SBC unite around the gospel and cooperate on missions endeavors in spite of disagreements on other issues. There is a better way than you are articulating. My prayer is that the standard for the SBC in the future will be the word of God, not the agenda of Tom Ascol and the Founders.
I do not believe they are the same.