Will the BGCT and SBTC ever join forces and work together again in cooperative ministry focused on helping churches advance the kingdom? Will the moderate/conservative rift in the SBC ever disappear, and bring churches back together in missions and ministry cooperation?
Yes, it will happen. Perhaps not until the resurrection, but on that day, Baptists will be joined by Christians of all other denominations and non-denominations, the labels and brand names will become meaningless, the theological arguments and disagreements will be put in their proper perspective and seen for their worthlessness and senselessness, and Christians will find themselves in the same place and of the same accord.
Perhaps there may be a little humor on that day. Picture this. The angels escorting Paige Patterson and Daniel Vestal deliberately cross paths, and as they do, they use eternal rope to bind their hands together, so that they must make their resurrection journey hand in hand. Paul Pressler and Cecil Sherman are whisked to a point where they, too, are joined at the hand. Richard Land and Robert Parham also bump into each other and are tied with the eternal cord. As they reach the heavenly portal where their denominational identity melts away, and they become part of the greater Christian community, they are welcomed into their new home by Adrian Rogers and Ken Chafin, standing together, Rogers on the left, Chafin on the right. Before too long, we see David Currie, tied to Jim Richards with the same heavenly rope, both wearing cowboy hats and boots. Yeah, so I could have some more fun with this, but you get the picture.
To be sure, there are those on both sides who aren’t too sure some of those people are all headed in the same direction. Personal judgements aside, the fact of the matter is that we claim the eternity that believing in Christ offers, and we are heading in the same direction. So why is reconciliation impossible?
There are those in Baptist life who pick and choose through the Biblical text in order to cite it as authority for their presuppositions, and ignore the parts that do not fit the lifestyle and belief system they have already chosen for themselves. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that only applies to moderates who “don’t believe the Bible.” We’re all pretty good at doing that. Thank God for grace, huh? But when it comes right down to it, how many Baptists are there who do not accept the authority and sufficiency of the scriptures? I think not many. Fundamentalists and conservatives have co-opted the use of the term “inerrancy,” and have added some supplemental doctrines to the meaning of that term, but ultimately, regardless of which human words you use to describe it, the bulk of Baptists believe the Bible to be divinely inspired truth, without any mixture of error. Our confessions of faith, going back to the 1920’s, all capture those convictions. Ironically, the fundamentalists who co-opted the term “inerrant” chose not to include it in the 2000 BFM, the confession over which they had control. They chose instead to use their moment in the sun to codify a clause against women serving as pastors.
Ultimately, the battles Baptists have fought over the past thirty years, and to be completely frank, that we have more or less always been fighting, involve egos, control, turf protecting and personal interests. Remove the controversial personalities, place the focus back on building Christ’s Kingdom until he comes again, and I’d be willing to bet that the bulk of Baptists who find themselves in the middle, between the extremes, will play and work well together. Some of the original leaders of the conservative resurgence were genuinely concerned with theological drift to the left, and wanted to keep the SBC centered and rooted in the scripture. It was those who saw this effort as an opportunity to advance their own cause and build their own kingdom by putting themselves in a position to name and claim the prominent denominational job they wanted that brought out the iron fists and turned away from any kind of meaningful dialogue about cooperation.
There are those who say that the structures and organizations that have been created in the aftermath of controversy make reconciliation impossible, and that “accepting things as they are” is the only solution. The sides are too far apart, and the creation of new structures and organizations has pretty much solidified the position of the opposite sides, particularly in the sharp divide between the BGCT and the SBTC. I’ve always been taught that the scripture we claim for our authority tells us that divisions and quarrels among the brethren are not of God, and that with God, nothing is impossible. So if there is not reconciliation among Baptist brothers and sisters in Christ, what exactly is that telling us?
I thought you’d be thinking that.