Southern Baptist Convention Continues Decline

I generally do not cheer at reports like this one. After all, there are a lot of good people in the Southern Baptist Convention–particularly missionaries both here and abroad–who will suffer as a result of the decline of the SBC.

At the same time, given the institutional coverup of sexual abuse scandals in their churches, I cannot say that I have any desire to see the SBC prosper.

And don’t start the, “SBC churches are autonomous, so the convention is limited in what they can do” line. Puhleeeze.

The same convention that has booted churches for endorsing homosexuality cannot take action against churches who cover for predatory ministers?

(If you try to shovel the “Baptist Churches are autonomous” argument over here, I will cyber-waterboard you without mercy.)

The current SBC President, Steve Gaines, would know of such coverups: he was directly involved in one at Bellvue Baptist Church where he was pastor. One of his ministers was known to have abused his son; Gaines sat on that knowledge. As far as I am concerned, he is no different from Ted Haggard. That the SBC has made him their President is a global disgrace.

Amy Smith of Watch Keep was well-connected at Prestonwood Baptist Church, a prominent hub of the conservative theology that has defined the Southern Baptist world for the last 35 years. Her father was a deacon there.

When she blew the lid on a whitewash of a sexual abuse scandal at Prestonwood, she became persona non grata in her own family. You can read about it here.

And sadly, the leadership of the SBC has shown no desire to get to the bottom of this problem. They have passed resolutions, even called for commissions to investigate the problem of sexual abusers in their ranks, but provided zero teeth to them.

I am not surprised that there are sexual abusers in the Church. They flock to the church (that’s where the children are) for the same reason that the robber hits the bank (that’s where the money is).

And as I’ve often said, the sexual predator is not the creepy-looking pervert; in fact, they are affable, charismatic, popular, well-respected, often married and with children of their own. Christians expect evil people to look evil; in fact it’s the other way around: just as Satan appears as an “angel in white”, the most vile people often look good and respectable.

Israel’s first king–Saul–was the best-looking man in the kingdom. He looked like he would make a good king, but–due to his lack of regard for God’s ways–he nearly led Israel to destruction.

Baptists, like the Israelites of old, have a long track record of picking leaders who, like Saul, look good and respectable, but who are evil and vile.

Even worse, when the extent of their depravity becomes known, churches are more prone to resort to CYA than to do the right thing and contact the authorities. As bad as the predators are, the Church compounds this by an order of magnitude by (a) not reporting accusations to authorities, (b) allowing the offender to resign and move, (c) disregarding, or making light of, the impact of the abuses on the victims, or, worse, (d) attacking the victims and/or those who blow the whistle on the coverups.

The SBC has a sordid history of doing exactly that. And it reflects a body whose leaders are fixated on their own self-interests rather than those of the Father.

Until they reverse course, I will root for their demise.

43 thoughts on “Southern Baptist Convention Continues Decline

  1. the sbc has had an arrogance across all areas of the modern church and theology for a long time, and no amount of shame has thwarted the die-hards. they’re better simply b/c they are. their ways and theology are best simply b/c they are. sexual abuse is just one of many crimes and abuses that is swallowed up in all that.

    – – –

    we found a smallish church with a unique youth group for my youngest. she went several times and liked the people, but no one contacted her ever. she stopped going. the youth director’s wife texted me and asked how she was saying they missed her. i told her that she should contact my daughter directly (she can always copy me). did she? no. sigh. ugh.

    • Yep. The SBC is rife with arrogance, and that even precedes the conservative takeover that began in the late 1970s and early 1980s and has resulted in the purge of all manner of moderates and liberals.

      When I was at SBTS in 1993-94, the liberals were making their last stand. And they were extremely arrogant. That was one of the reasons why having a rational discussion regarding any significant issue of the day–Biblical inerrancy, abortion, homosexuality, women pastors, inclusive language–was damn-near impossible.

      Unfortunately, the conservative resurgence did nothing to combat that institutional arrogance; it merely replaced a left-leaning cabal with a right-leaning one. The arrogance remained, along with many institutional CYA mindsets.

        • If they’ll throw abuse victims–even lynching victims if you want to go even farther back–under the bus, then they have proven that their stated principles mean nothing to them.

          In the SBC, Mohler is a mixed bag. On one hand, he’s a top-flight theologian who is basically the standard-bearer for all things NeoCal (both for better and for worse). And he’s generally a very solid culture warrior.

          OTOH, he has gone after the very people exposing the abuse scandals in his proverbial back yard, and he has failed to examine what is happening in his own stomping grounds.

          Personally, I can understand his skepticism with Deb and Dee at TWW, given their war against all things Patriarchal. When they spin every report of abuse to promite anti-Complimentarian/anti-Patriarchal agenda, they undermine their credibility.

          His attacks, however, on Brent Detwiler, are curious, given that Detwiler is himself quite theologically conservative and simply wishes to clean the trash out of the Church.

          As someone who is very conservative theologically, I would think that a conservative leader like Mohler would be carrying the torch to root out the pedophiles and assorted perverts in the SBC ranks.

          When he was barely a rookie at SBTS, Mohler was instrumental in the exposure and ouster of longtime pastor Bill Hancock at Highview Baptist Church, who had been carrying on a five-year affair. That was a catalyst that led to the resignation of another minister at that church, who had himself had a previous affair. They literally cleaned house at the top at Highview. Their problems didn’t go away, but they did clean out their leadership.

          Hancock’s successor–Kevin Ezell–did a fine job. And the youth minister, Jimmy Scroggins, was also very solid. Institutionally, they still had some issues, but they reached a point in which you could at least trust the pastoral staff to act prudently.

          Mohler needs to rediscover that initiative of 1994-95, and turn that against the pedophiles–and those who cover for them–who seek to undermine God’s work.

          • @Amir

            ”Personally, I can understand his skepticism with Deb and Dee at TWW, given their war against all things Patriarchal. When they spin every report of abuse to promite anti-Complimentarian/anti-Patriarchal agenda, they undermine their credibility.”

            They are only good for providing things that are worthy of investigation in order to seek the truth behind the matter. Everything else they talk about is simply rebellion even if they have that kernel of truth.

            The hardest lies to deal with is one with a kernel of truth and we should be aware that our adversary is wily and seeks to divert us from the truth and poses false alternatives. False opposites that both are rebellion against God in their own ways.

            This is another example:
            https://dalrock.wordpress.com/2016/07/21/all-roads-lead-to-duluth/

            How feminists used the real abuse of domestic violence to destroy God’s design for the family and hence the lives of countless children and men’s lives and even the life of the women who used the legal system as a weapon against their husbands. The kernel of truth is used to push forward lies.

          • I think TWW and the broken wolves problem goes to show also. Is that being a victim doesn’t make one a saint but rather puts one in as much spiritual danger as the victimizer.

            Indeed because I think our culture considers the victim typically innocent even though its not necessarily the case.

            Ensures another avenue that Satan can appear as an angel of light by the moral superiority of the victim that is able to cloak evil in a garb of innocence. Hence the phenomenon of broken wolves.

            We must stand with the righteous whether he is weak or strong. Victim or victor. Not the underdog because he/she is the underdog but because he/she is righteous.

        • I saw that article by Vox. I wonder if the SBC simply does not “get” the Alt-Right.

          Nationalism did not begin with the Alt-Right, and is in fact a trend that is enveloping many nations that are being overrun by migrants due to insane immigration and refugee policies.

          The Alt-Right is where they are due to decades of institutional betrayal by the establishment Republicans, who have teamed up with the old-school fascists of the left to give us the disaster we have now.

          The irony here is that blacks would be better off in an Alt-Right system. I mean goodness, their 72% illegitimacy rate–a product of the leftist policies of the last 60 years–has given them the demographic disaster from Hell.

        • Absolutely. That is the problem that the folks at TWW are overlooking: that being the victim does not entitle such a one to throw Scripture out the window.

          When the victim was abused, that was the abuser’s sin.

          When the victim takes that experience and proceeds to run roughshod on the Truth, then that is the victim’s sin.

          • Reading that piece from the Christian Post–which I think is one of the better sources of balanced coverage–it leaves me shaking my head.

            From my own observations,

            (a) On one hand, his wife could very well be batsh*t crazy, and has a tendency to push his buttons. It sure appears that way, based on his account, which I think is believable.

            (b) OTOH. Saeed himself has his own anger management issues. Again, I say that based on his own account.

            (c) Even worse, whoever was giving him legal advice needs to be disbarred, assuming his wife was the instigator here.

            By accepting the plea deal in 2007, he has given himself The Gift That Keeps On Giving. This is because if you plead guilty to ANY domestic violence charge–EVEN A MISDEMEANOR–it is as bad as pleading guilty to a felony. This is because (a) you will lose, permanently, your Second Amendment rights, and (b) any future litigation with respect to your family issues will be haunted by that plea, which goes on record as a CONVICTION.

            If I’m Saeed, I don’t plead guilty to so much as a parking ticket.

            (d) That the court system is running roughshod over his rights is very sad and not the least bit surprising.

            My only serious gripe with Saeed is his fitness to be a pastor. One of the criteria for that is that such a man must have his house in order.

            That is clearly not the case. Even if you take his anger issues off the table–and those are also problematic as they run afoul of the Biblical criteria for an overseer–her issues disqualify him. While he is not responsible for her sins, her stability issues have rendered his house out of order. That is a disqualifier.

            It is, however, a travesty that other ministers have taken advantage of his situation. The man needs some serious help, and seems to be getting kicked from all directions.

          • WHOA. that is some sick stuff.

            it incenses me what women do to men like this, how they destroy the family.

          • I agree on all counts. A man who was not wise enough to choose a good woman and who is unable to lead his family properly cannot be pastor.

            ”The man needs some serious help, and seems to be getting kicked from all directions.”

            Lets pray for him. Because who is going to help him otherwise.

          • @ame: No question. This is the dynamic that many Christian leaders overlook. I’m not excusing Saeed’s abuses, but we need to be honest here: she has contributory negligence in this.

            We cannot excuse his conduct, but his failures do not excuse hers either.

            @Jay: No kidding. The poor guy is getting it from all directions. Yes, he has issues; who the hell doesn’t? And while he may have some problems, he is taking a pounding that is completely disproportionate to his failings.

          • Its probably wrong that the SBC embraced it as a whole. But at least 40% have embraced it. And given the defiance of lifeway. Shows the convergence is underway.

          • I was against the HCSB, which is now the CSB, from the get-go. Why? We need another English translation of the Bible like Dolly Parton needs another…well, you get the picture.

            Seriously, we have enough good English tranlations, such as the NASB, RSV (not NRSV), and even KJV and NKJV. And while I am not a fan of the NIV, the old NIV isn’t a bad version.

            Having said that, I don’t approve of gender-inclusive language for any portion of Scripture. Here are my reasons for that:

            (a) The push to gender-neutralize Bible translations is an attack against Patriarchy, which–irrespective of anyone’s opinion about it–is a Biblical reality that Jesus did not abolish. Nor did any of the Apostles for that matter.

            (b) Keeping the text as close to its original rendering is integral to maintaining the integrity of the translation.

            When I was at SBTS, inclusive language was one of the really hard hot-button issues. And there were two aspects to it:

            (1) inclusive pronouns for people in general;

            (2) inclusive language for references to God in particular.

            The first one was a topic to which liberals focused, and it was their way to get the camel’s proverbial nose under the tent so they could go for the jugular: inclusive language for God in particular.

            And make no mistake: they wanted to get away from God as Heavenly Father. Frank Tupper, an SBTS theology professor at the time, championed the idea of “Motherly Father” as a translation of “Abba”.

          • Its really just a way for the enemies of God to muddy the waters on God’s commandments. And thereby make what is good evil and what is evil good. As God condemned Israel in its day (Isaiah 5:20)

            And I agree its an attack on God directly as well as well as his flock. I hope they do not prevail.

          • They’ll lose in the end, but they sometimes get their share of short-term victories.

            And yes, they definitely aim to muddy the waters; they’ll justify their position by leaving the masses wondering, as Pilate did, “What is truth?”

    • Yep. I only listed the Prestonwood debacle as an example. Not even accounting for the NeoCal cabal–Dever, Mohler, Mahaney, et. al.–there are a mountain of sex abuse coverups in the SBC. A simply Google search reveals more than you’ll ever want to know about.

    • Actually, the whole “make Jesus Lord of your life” paradigm precedes Mohler by decades and is not restricted to Calvinism or even Baptists. As someone who was in a variety of Arminian (charismatic, independent Christian, Church of God/Anderson Indiana) circles for several years, I can tell you that this paradigm was (still is) also pervasive even in those sectors.

      If that is what you mean by “Lordship salvation”, then–yes–it’s long past time we did away with that.

      OTOH, one who is saved is one who has confessed the Lordship of Jesus and believes in his Resurrection (Romans 10:9-10) and is evidenced–as opposed to earned, as no one “earns” salvation–through the living out of that reality.

      The Greek word for faith that is used here involves a lot more than a mere assent of facts and rather a deep-held belief, motivated by God Himself, that effects repentance. That initial repentance–the product, not the cause of salvation–is merely the beginning of a process of sanctification that will last until your time on earth is done.

      Salvation is free but costly; the cost to you is after you receive that gift. That is because, once you have received Christ, you cannot go back to where you were and be the same again. That is because once you hear the Word, you become even more responsible and accountable for what you do with it.

      It’s kind of like Abraham: when God told him to get up and leave everything, he could not have stayed where he was and been the same. (Calvinists would argue [wrongly IMHA] that Abraham could not have resisted that grace,)

      The Word of God will either be the instrument of your deliverance if you receive it, or it will be the witness against you if you reject it.

  2. The Christian is not evidenced by anything. Fruit is not automatic, or we would not need to be exhorted. The Christian still has the sin nature. There are two natures in a Christian, not one.

    To say, saved by grace, but you must prove it with works, is a contradiction and a lie. Jesus is Savior, not Probation Officer,

    The fruit of fruit inspection is more bullying, hypocrisy, and dispair.

    The gospel is simple. Eternal life by believing in Jesus, and no works to earn, keep, or prove it. Anything else is trusting in self.

    https://expreacherman.com/eternal-life-for-you/

    • It seems that you are making a logical inference on me that is itself erroneous: that because I say that your works prove your faith (that’s in James) that I am saying that gives me some right to bully you based on my own assessment of your works. The latter would be utterly wrong.

      OTOH, the whole idea that a man can rape children while claiming that, because he once confessed Christ publicly, he is “saved”, is not Biblical either. At some point, when offenses are of sufficient severity, discipline has to be more than mere admonition and exhortation.

      We can all point to instances where churches have gone off the rails–TVC, Mars Hill, CLC, etc.–but we cannot escape the fact that, in Scripture, there are instances–particularly the case of profound immoralities–where a Church is commanded to expel people. And yes, that means treating them as unsaved.

      Oh, and Jesus is Lord, not just Savior. It’s in the Bible and is inescapable. In fact, if He were not Lord, He could not be Savior. That is because His Lordship qualifies Him to be Savior.

        • No one here is arguing that salvation involves “making” Jesus Lord; after all, confessing his Lordship is merely agreeing that he already is. If a person could make Jesus Lord, then that would imply that such Lordship is his to give.

          And that, of course, would be tragically off the rails.

          • Not saying you didn’t agree. I do, however, think we need to clarify to ensure that we are talkiing about the same thing when we refer to “lordship salvation”.

            What you are calling “Lordship salvation”–which I would agree is evangelical mumbo jumbo that has no Biblical foundation–is not what I understand the debate to be about.

            I’ve been in a number of arguments over the years where, just for pointing out what is clearly in Romans 10: 9-10–where confessing the Lordship of Jesus is part and parcel with receiving the Gospel–one gets dismissed for “Lordship salvation” heresy, even though the confession of Jesus as Lord–as opposed to “making Him Lord”–is clearly in the Scriptures and, at face value, is an integral part of receiving the free gift of eternal life.

          • I call any addition of works to salvation “lordship salvation”. It is heresy, however you slice it.

            Agreeing that Jesus is Lord is not “Lordship Salvation”. The fact that Jesus is Lord is part of the gospel.

    • What I’m getting at is that there is a difference between the false gospel of “making Jesus the Lord of your life” (language that has no Biblical foundation, as it logically implies that Jesus might not be Lord over all when in fact Jesus said “all power in heaven and earth has been given to me”) and confessing Jesus as Lord (which is in fact quite Biblical, as we see in Romans 10:9-10).

      • I notice that you never mention the gospel on this site.

        Pointing out the pitfalls of abuse and arguing against egalitarianism does not get anyone to heaven.

        Your arguments against TWW will mean nothing if and when you and Dee both end up in hell. Eternal torment is egalitarian.

        • Actually, I have many threads on this blog where I make the case for the Gospel.

          The Gospel–that Jesus died for our sins, and rose from the dead on the third day, and now sits on the right hand of the Father interceding for all who have received Him, and will save all who call on Him–is a given here.

          The arguments I make are a product of my receiving the Gospel. I am saved by grace through faith in the Son of God–Jesus–who forsook His glory in heaven, came here as a man, lived a perfect life, taught and fulfilled the perfect Law, died on the cross as the atonement for sin that is sufficient to cleanse everyone (although not all will receive that cleansing), rose from the dead on the thord day, and now sits at the right hand of the Father interceding for those who are His. I did nothing to earn it. I could never have done anything to earn it.

          However, I must point out a glaring inconsistency on your part: you cannot go around dismissing people for unsound doctrine if you are against “fruit inspection”.

          After all, the latter is necessary, as it’s evident in the teachings of Jesus (Matthew 7, 18), the writings of Paul (1 Corinthians), and even the writings of Peter (2 Peter). In fact, when Peter hits on false teachers in his second letter, their teachings aren’t the only thing he hits. While we must rightly demand sound doctrine, we must also demand sound practice of the truth. It’s not an either/or but rather a both/and.

          There are different kinds of wolves.

          One type of wolf teaches false doctrine while having otherwise solid moral and personal character. (Seminaries are full of those types BTW: liberal professors are often very pleasant people who would give you the shirt off their backs. That’s how they suck people in.)

          Another type of wolf might teach otherwise sound doctrine but have a very abhorrent moral life. (There are many such pastors in the evangelical world. They typically have great charisma, are very dynamic speakers, and might even have great insights, all while being philanderers, carousers, or worse.)

          Another type–one who rejects sound doctrine and lives off the rails, is less common in evangelical ranks, but not nonexistent either.

          • It seems that I can go for threads and not see one explanation of the gospel. I see plenty of other stuff, and I actually agree with most of it. Yet an unsaved victim might flee the bullies, come here, get your comfort, and never hear the gospel.

            It would help matters to put the gospel on the “about me” page, so visitors are not left wondering. All I get is, you are neither Calvinist nor Arminian. Good, I am neither. I am a grace believer.

            The gospel is dripping from every page at the site where I find fellowship.

            https://expreacherman.com/stemming-fruit-inspection/

            Since you are Southern Baptist, you will no doubt have heard that you must “repent of sins”. That is also mumbo jumbo. It is also perverting the gospel with works.

            A fruit inspector is another type of wolf. Big fruit or little fruit, doesn’t matter. How much fruit is enough? Any answer other than zero is arbitrary.

            The Corinthians were full of people who lived off the rails, yet Paul addresses them as believers.

            Bullies who believe a false gospel are actually very common. Their fruit inspection is one of their bullying tactics. That is off the rails and unsound, right there. Pharisees are in that category and extremely common.

            “The devils believe”. Words of a fool.

          • Careful….the way you run your mouth, you sound like one of them. I’ve met your types over the years. And while they sometimes talk a nice talk, they are among the most insidious and corrosive types one finds in the Church.

          • And one more thing, you didn’t address the issue I raised:

            However, I must point out a glaring inconsistency on your part: you cannot go around dismissing people for unsound doctrine if you are against “fruit inspection”.

            Unless you address that issue, I will not permit you to comment further here. You can take your theological hot-headedness somewhere else.

            And why do I call you hot-headed? Because you are popping off your cyber-mouth without truly investigating the facts.

            You have labeled Mohler a proponent of “Lordship Salvation”. Having read his books, having talked to the man personally, having heard him preach, I can tell you that his view is consistent with mine: confessing Jesus as Lord is an integral part of a salvific response to the Gospel, as we read in Romans 10:9-10. Is it possible that, in some instances, he used common lingo that many Baptists use? Absolutely. If he did it in my church, I’d make sure he got the clarification.

            (There have been a a couple times, in my church, where the pastor has inadvertently stepped in it. I talked to him about it afterwards, and he always made sure to clarify things at the earliest opportunity.)

            And while I have my differences with Mohler–particularly his Calvinism–I would not label him a “false teacher” any more than I would label an independent Fundamentalist Baptist (whom I would have a variety of disagreements) or a charismatic a false teacher.

            Having studied my share of Church history, and having studied my share of theologians and how they have wrestled with various Biblical matters, one thing is crystal-clear: very rarely–arguably never–does a a church get everything right.

            The issue is at what point does a teacher or preacher become a “false teacher”. That’s not a label I throw around lightly. While there are many false teachers out there, tagging someone as such is a big honkin’ deal.

            I’ve gone to the links you provided. And as soon as I saw a reference to Dave Hunt, that told me a lot of things. While I think Dave Hunt has many useful insights to contribute–he was one of the early voices against the New Age movement–I would also suggest that he tends to cry wolf quite a bit.

            As the saying goes, “If you’re a hammer, everything you see becomes a nail.”

  3. I can dismiss you for fruit inspection because it is false teaching. I learned it the hard way. I used to be one. Had people telling me I wasn’t truly saved. Independent fundamental baptists cry wolf about way more things than Dave Hunt has, and Dave is exposed as a grace poser.

    I’m glad you went to the site.

    As for church history,

    https://expreacherman.com/2012/12/18/dave-hunts-berean-call-promoting-not-only-calvinism-but-now-the-terrible-lordship-salvation-of-ray-comfort/#comment-70007

    Even “Grace is free but you should live for Christ” causes doubt. That one word, “but”, is poison.

    Changing “for” to “but” in Ephesians 2:10 is damning, for there are no buts with the gospel.

    If you defend fruit inspection, and you know what it is, and you have been corrected three times, then you are a false teacher.

    Now you can ban me.

  4. Fruit inspection is works to prove salvation.

    Grace plus works is another gospel, however you slice it

    And there are three ways to slice it

    1. Works to earn salvation (Trent)
    2. Works to keep savation (Wesley)
    3. Works to prove salvation (Calvin)

    It all contradicts John 3:16 and Galatians.

    Another gospel is anathema.

    QED

    • So where, in your theological calculus, does (a) treating a person as an unbeliever–which Jesus taught regarding a person in sin who refuses reproach–or (b) Paul’s command to the Corinthians to expel the immoral brother fit in the matter of “fruit inspection”?

      Oh, and you are moving the goalposts regarding “fruit inspection”. This is not about judging whether people are saved, but exhorting them in their sanctification. However, when someone is in a gross sin–i.e. immorality, fraud, malevolence, etc.–and refuses reproach, then there is a Biblical case for putting such a one out and treating that person as a non-believer.

      • Treating as an unbeliever is not the same as judging the immoral brother’s eternal salvation.

        Lot was immoral and had his two daughters and yet he was saved.

        Confusing temporal punishments with eternal punishment is wrongly dividing the word.

        Then again, you seem to get it.

        I am not moving the goal posts. I am clarifying myself. If I wasn’t clear before, I apologize. There are different categories of fruit. When I started posting, I forgot that confused people don’t know that. I was once a fruit inspector, myself, so I should know what it is like to be confused.

        Reality of salvation fruit inspection is also called perseverance of the saints and is part of Calvinism.

        You yourself said the SBC is a sinking ship. These doctrinal issues are one of the reasons. Sinking ships need to be abandoned.

        This probably explains better than I can.

        https://expreacherman.com/stemming-fruit-inspection/

  5. In case I wasn’t clear, by fruit inspection, I mean inspecting a Christian’s life to see if he is truly saved. I do not mean reproving a false teacher’s false doctrine. In that case, I’d be reproving myself, and you’d be right.

    A false prophet is known by his fruit.

    Telling Christians they are not truly saved because they don’t live right is perverting the gospel.

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