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Monday, June 22, 2009

Baptist Identity Division?

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Is the Baptits Identity Movement Seeking Division in the SBC?

While I am not attending the SBC convention (again) this year, I am trying to follow what is going on in Louisville by reading a few of the blog posts over on SBC Voices.

At the top of their [SBC Watchlist - Latest From The Most Influential SBC Blogs] section this morning is a post from the BI blog SBC Today by Robin Foster.

This is not a lengthy post by Robin but it does reveal the fundamental difference between those in the BI (Baptist Identity) movement who desire narrow parameters of cooperation in the SBC and those who wish to keep the parameters of cooperation in the SBC as broad as possible concerning 2nd and 3rd tier doctrines.

These two competing views in the SBC might be defined as the “Narrow View” of cooperation, (those who seek to exclude from the SBC all those who do not agree with their views on 2nd and 3rd tier doctrines) and the “Broad View” of cooperation, (those who seek to include those who agree with them on 1st tier doctrines yet allow for differences of opinion on all 2nd and 3rd tier doctrines).

Robin, who is one of the principal advocates of the Baptist Identity movement, writes:

“Last night I attended the pastors conference. It seems the theme at this year’s pastors conference is the Great Commission Resurgence. The first one up was JD Greear. I heard JD back at Jacksonville at the pastors conference at FBC. After JD preached this sermon a friend of mine who attended Jacksonville made the comment that JD preached the same sermon as he did in Jacksonville (1 Cor. 9), only that he used a difference text (Matt 23) to do so this time. I would have to concur with my friend, same message, different text. The one thing that was repeated and that I still have questions about is what are the secondary and tertiary doctrines that we should not divide over? He did mention tongues, but was not specific on other issues.”

Did you pick up on the “one thing” that really caught Robin’s attention? …What are the secondary and tertiary doctrines that we should not divide over?”

In other words, Robin appears to be most interested in what secondary and tertiary doctrines the speaker agrees with him on that should be considered issues to “divide over?” These are Robins words not mine! That has been my primary issue with the whole Baptist Identity movement all along… From their writings it appears that they wish to narrowly define a “Southern Baptist Identity” that by its very definition excludes many who have deep roots in the Southern Baptist Convention.

Now I want you to contrast Robins thoughts on this message by JD Greear and what another well know Southern Baptist Pastor, Wade Burleson, thought about this very same sermon.

Wade writes:

“J.D. Greear started the preaching off at 6:30 p.m. I have heard a great deal about J.D., but have never had the privilege of hearing him preach. He pastors
The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, a fast-growing church composed of mostly young adults. J.D. did an excellent job showing the six characteristics of Christians who have substituted religion for the vitality of knowing Jesus Christ. His text was Matthew 23 and he showed how the Pharisees (1). sought personal recognition, (2). substituted religious rituals over and against love for God, (3). substituted religious rituals over and against love for people, (4). considered only themselves holy and other people sinful, (5). raised tertiary issues to the place of primary doctrine, and (6). sought fellowship around conformity to their own ideology and not the life transforming power of God.

J.D.'s message was superb. My only reservation is the manner in which J.D., like many trained in modern Southern Baptist seminaries, used women in ministry as an illustration of a "primary" doctrine. One of these days I believe J.D. will see that this "doctrine" is secondary, if not tertiary - and disagreement among evangelicals in this area should not lead to separation in fellowship or cooperation.”

Now those of you who know me know that I do not agree with brother Wade on women in the ministry, but did you pick up on the difference between the two? One (who is an advocate for the Baptist Identity movement) approached this message looking for those things that could be used to separate or divide the churches of the SBC, and the other is seeking to set aside the nonessentials of the faith and seek greater cooperation among the churches of the SBC.

For me these competing visions for the future of the SBC could not be clearer. We will either listen to the voice of those seeking to restrict cooperation in the SBC to only those who look like we look, talk like we talk, and worship like we worship (clones of ourselves) or we will respect the autonomy of the local church on all 2nd and 3rd tier doctrines and keep the door of cooperation open to all Baptist who agree with us on the essentials of our faith.

Grace Always,
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Gary said...


When there is nothing or no one left to devour, the hyenas inevitably must turn on themselves.

"Shrinking to excellence!".

Norman, OK

Greg Alford said...


I fear that division is now unavoidable…

In the same way you cannot make peace with those who’s idea of peace is to cut your head off you cannot have cooperation with those who only desire is to kick you out of the convention.

Ironically, for years everyone was saying that it would be the Calvinist who split the convention… now we have the Calvinist fighting for cooperation while the Baptist Identity types (Landmarkist) are leading the efforts for division.

I warned everyone over three years ago that Landmarkism would split the SBC again if left unchecked… well I think Morris Chapman’s comments at the convention just proved my prediction correct.

Here’s one for you… “The Baptist Identity Movement will walk out of the Convention in 2010. They will then form the Landmark (or True) Baptist Convention with New Orleans, Southern Western and Liberty Seminaries along with some Baptist colleges defecting from the SBC.”

Grace Always,