Monday, February 23, 2009

SBC "resurgences"


Nathan Finn of Southeastern Baptist Seminary writes today about the Conservative Resurgence of the latter 1900s in the Southern Baptist Convention and the recent proposal by Danny Akin and friends designated as the "Great Commission Resurgence."

We know somewhat about the effects of the CR, which are manifested primarily in the area of changes in leadership positions in the SBC's institutions and agencies. As for the CR's practical effect within the Southern Baptist churches themselves (members, and pastors) with which I am acquainted, the churches seem to be about the same as they were.

The fact is, for the most part, Southern Baptist churches and most of the pastors I've known have never been very far from what I would regard as "conservatism," and I've been an observer of them since the early 1950s. But the SBC's colleges, universities, seminaries, and some other agencies are another story; in the 1950s and 1960s they were dominated by "other than" types, especially the "neo-orthodoxists" in the seminaries.

One noticeable characteristic about the Conservative Resurgence is that it was NOT led by "Calvinists" and was not motivated by an effort to "reform" the SBC along the lines of Reformed "Calvinism." No doubt, there were some such "Calvinists" who were involved in the CR, but if Paul Pressler, William Powell, Paige Patterson, Adrian Rogers and other recognizable leading names of the pre-1980 years were infatuated with "Reformed" Five-Point Calvinism of the Flounders' variety, they kept such feelings "under lock and key."

In fact, according to the Founder of the Flounders, Ernest Reisinger, the Conservative Resurgence consisted of "a spicy blend of pragmatists, pietists, dispensationalists, Finneyite revivalists, charismatics, Arminians, Calvinists, and countless variants and combinations of each of these categories" (A Quiet Revolution, page 7).

And the fact is, Reisinger was so dissatisfied with that "spicy blend" that brought on the Conservative Resurgence, he set out to try to "reform" the SBC's conservative resurgers and founded the "Founders Ministries" to take the lead in the "reformation." He said:

"Make no mistake about it. Southern Baptists are at a crossroads. We have a choice to make. The choice is between the deep-rooted, God-centered theology of evangelical Calvinism and the man-centered, unstable theology of the other perspectives present in the convention" (A Quiet Revolution, page 13).

Evidently, some of the advocates of the Reisinger-Reformed version of "God-centered theology of evangelical Calvinism" have begun to realize that "reform" of this kind is not the answer. Proselyting to Reformed "Calvinism" is not going to produce evangelism, make new converts, and establish churches -- if we may judge from the track record of current advocates of Reformed theology. That type of Reformed "Calvinism" is primarily sustained in this age by infant baptism with some assistance from proselytization from the "Arminian" camp.

Consequently, some of the "Reformed" Baptists are now "lining up" to sign-on to Danny Akin's "Great Commission Resurgence," even before there has been any evidence of such a "surging" other than written materials and conference speeches. Even Tom Ascol of the Flounders has aligned himself with the GCR.

Nathan Finn says, "While the CR has bequeathed to us a healthy foundation from which to pursue a GCR, it must be more than our launching pad. Biblical theology must permeate everything we do, lest we see a gradual return to the pragmatism of the older consensus. To say it a different way, our theological renewal must lead to methodological renewal as our churches strive to be biblical, covenantal, and missional communities that are shaped by the gospel and spread that good news to all people. As a Convention of churches, our thinking rightly about God needs to issue forth in a living rightly before God. And living rightly before God will mean embracing His missional priorities as they are articulated in Christ’s Great Commission to his people." [Boldface provided by Bob].

Those words I have put in boldface probably indicate that the "spicy blend" which characterized the CR will have to be improved upon with the "Biblical theology . . . theological renewal . . . [and] methodological renewal" as affirmed by the promoters of the GCR who know how to steer us into "thinking rightly about God." And if we think rightly in the interpretation of the writings of the promoters of the GCR to this point in time, that would apparently mean a theology and methodology which are in accord with "Reformed" ideology.

If Tom Ascol and his brother, Bill Ascol, have become "cheerleaders" for Akin's new GCR project, it must be the case that the GCR is probably headed down the path of Pedobaptist Reformed Hybrid Calvinism which has forever been classified as the "Doctrines of Grace" by the Ascols' Flounders movement.

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