- We commented about the total lack of doctrinal standards applied to the question of what books are sold at LifeWay Christian Resources stores.
- We remarked about the danger of false conversion brought on by a climate of “easy believism” and belief in “decisional regeneration.”
- We discussed inflated membership numbers driven by pride and ego in leadership.
- We talked about how national entities and state conventions ignore the wishes of local churches, and how political expediency instead of Biblical conviction so often drove the decisions made at all levels.
I was one of four Southern Baptists who spoke from the platform at the 2014 Reformation Montana conference, and, despite the fact that slamming the SBC was not the focus of the conference by a long shot, each of us had critical things to say regarding the current state of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Several times during the conference, I had people come up to me and ask variations on the same question. They would say something like, “You’ve got a lot of harsh things to say about the Southern Baptist.” Then they would ask, “Why are you still a Southern Baptist?”
Here is my answer (the long, full version) to that question:
On October 31 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door the Castle Church at Wittenberg, Germany, he had no intention of starting the Protestant Reformation. No, what he was doing was calling for reform. He had identified some… Issues… Inside the Catholic Church that he felt needed to be addressed. And, so, Martin Luther was calling for debate on these issues. You know, stuff like the selling of indulgences and the use of Church funds to build ever more elaborate palaces for the popes and the bishops to live in. He wasn’t trying to split the church, he was trying to fix the church.
That, as history shows, didn’t work very well. And 3 years later, the Roman Catholic Church threw Martin Luther out. Actually, the Roman Catholic Church wanted to kill Martin Luther as they had Jan Hus 100 years before (Hus had pointed out many of the same problems that Luther later saw. In fact, Luther was influenced by the writings of Hus.) But Luther was smuggled away and hidden by some of his friends. And that transpired, it was Martin Luther’s excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church that really began the Protestant Reformation. Until that happened, Martin Luther was trying to work inside the Church to correct the errors of the Church, and bring the Roman Catholic Church back into line with what is taught Holy Bible. But the pope and the bishops rejected the calls to reform, and the Protestant Reformation, with its calls to Sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone), Sola Fide (by faith alone), Solus Christus (through Christ alone), Sola Gratia (by grace alone), and Soli Deo Gloria (for the glory of God alone) began to revolutionize Christianity and restore the true Biblical faith.
The Protestant Reformation grew and spread, and Protestant theologians, examining the Scriptures, began to develop doctrines and theological understandings that were further at odds with what the Roman Catholic Church taught than even Luther’s 95 Thesis had been. And, so, almost 30 years after the Reformation began, the Roman Catholic Church called a council in the city of Trent in northern Italy to respond to this growing challenge to church authority and church teachings. The Council of Trent met several times from 1545 until 1563, and, in the end, determined that all of the Protestants were damned for rejecting the authority of the Pope and the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. If anyone believed what the Protestant Reformers taught, then, according to Rome, that person was anathema – damned. And, because Roman doctrine considers the Roman Catholic Church itself to be infallible, the pronouncements made by the Council of Trent are still the official position of the Roman Catholic Church today. Rome still says, “If anyone believes what the Reformers taught, let him be anathema.” For Rome cannot say otherwise without saying that the Council of Trent was wrong, which would destroy their insistence on the church of Rome’s infallibility.
So, why am I still a Southern Baptist? I was raised a Southern Baptist. My parents, my grandparents, all were Southern Baptists. I cannot easily turn my back on such heritage. The Southern Baptist Convention is flawed; it is ill. But I do not believe it is beyond recovery. I’m still a Southern Baptist because there are men, others like me, within the Southern Baptist Convention calling for and working towards reform. And I must stand with them, joining my voice to theirs in calling for reform. If it is possible to pull this convention back from the brink of utter ruin and rank heresy, then we must do all that we are able to see this thing done. The stakes are high, the task is difficult, and the road is long and hard, but we must try.
Why am I still a Southern Baptist? I am still a Southern Baptist because, until the SBC cast me out, and, holding its own “Council of Trent,” pronounces me anathema, then a reform-minded southern Baptist I will remain.
“Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me.”