Are Southern Baptists Too Close To Being Pharisees?
I recently read an article in a Southern Baptist publication that disappointed me. For a few reasons. The article was suppose to be a review/response to some new curriculum Lifeway is publishing ~ “The Gospel Project”. The article’s title is “Is Lifeway Curriculum Biased To Calvinists?” (Which they actually changed on the website). After reading the article I felt the author could have put in a subtitle that said.. “Because I Am Not”
FIRST, let me say:
1: I am not reformed in my theology. Nor am I against it! All of my closest friends are reformed except for 1. These men are also men I pray with, we encourage each other, and we SHARE THE GOSPEL WITH each other! That’s right… there really are reformed Christians who tell others about Jesus! (insert gasp here if you’re not reformed )
2: I am not using the Gospel Project in our ministry. Not because I disagree with it’s “perspective”, but because we have another curriculum that has been a great resource for us for years.
SO… with that in mind, I feel my review of this is unbiased. Here’s why this article bothered me…
1: Baptist Heritage has shown and documented that since the beginning of Southern Baptist there have always been people who are reformed and people who are free will. There have always been congregations who embrace both perspectives ~ or congregations like ours who have people from both perspectives worshiping and serving together. Each perspective has had times in history where one had more Baptist identify with it than others. For example, when I was growing up most Southern Baptists embraced a more free will approach. And today it seems a younger generation embraces more of a reformed theology. Why is it wrong for Southern Baptists to embrace both perspectives and still worship together?
2: The author is also quick to leave out that for YEARS Lifeway has published more free will curriculum than reformed. So, if there is a stone to be cast about being biased I am not sure the Gospel Project should be the target. The question is why they have seemed to be bent more towards a free will only publishing company when Southern Baptists embrace both? Why can’t Lifeway publish curriculum that embraces both equally?
Here’s why all this is disturbing for me:
I have been connected to Southern Baptist Churches all my life, graduated from a Southern Baptists Seminary, and now serve on staff at a Southern Baptist church. So this is a matter that is near to my heart. I feel we as Southern Baptist are knocking on the door of the Pharisees. In Jesus’ day they had some real issues. Some of them were 1) they had a very divisive spirit 2) they were quit prideful and 3) they had lost their focus on the main things in Scripture where they bent the message to their preferences.
1) We as Southern Baptist have allowed our perspective of reformed theology vs free will to open the door of a divisive spirit to come in and take up residency. This issue has split churches, destroyed people, and left a real messy battlefield in the life of our denomination. The adversary can pretty much sit back and watch us fight ourselves instead of fighting his war against the souls of lost men & woman all over this world. We need to keep the main things the main things!
2) We as Southern Baptist have become quite prideful. Ever since I began attending seminary & working on staff at a Southern Baptist church all I hear about is how big we are numerically, how much “bigger” we are than other denominations, etc etc etc. We call ourselves people of the Bible yet we seem to have forgotten what the Bible says about pride. The Pharisees saw themselves as the “top of the ladder” spiritually with the people in their day. Have we seemed to have fallen into this trap as well? This mindset has seemed to overflow into our perspective of free will & reformed theology. Too many people of each perspective seem to have a “I am definitely right & you are definitely wrong” mentality. REALLY?! Failure to admit the possibility of our finite faults is very much a foundation for becoming a Pharisee.
3) Last but not least, Southern Baptist have forgotten what the main battle is. We are too busy dividing churches and destroying people while we forget that the real commission of the church is to take the Gospel across the street and across the world! COME TOGETHER PLEASE! Regardless of where we are in the issue of free will or reformed, we should ALL embrace:
- EVERYONE is a sinner in need of a Savior–every tribe, every tongue, and every language.
- It is OUR commission and command as Christ-followers to share that Gospel as much as we can with as many as we can.
- SCRIPTURE is quite clear that salvation is found in grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ Jesus alone!
- It is also clear that people cannot hear without some telling them!
SO, the real question is… have we as Southern Baptist spent MORE time telling others about the saving work of Jesus Christ, or have we spent more time shooting each other with the debate of reformed vs free will? I am afraid we have spent more time lately on each other and not on the real reason why Soteriology exists. In so doing, we ask… “Are Southern Baptist Too Close To Being Pharisees”?
My prayer is that we would begin to embrace Jesus’ words that all men will know we are His followers by the love we have for one another. AND begin to take the battlefield of souls TOGETHER to advance the Gospel for the glory of God! It is not impossible for people to advance the Kingdom together, loving each other, while differing on this issue! Just contact me & I can show you
Read the article in the Alabama Baptist.