Friday, September 24, 2010

Why It's Good to Be a Baptist These Days (Part 3 of 4)

As I said in my last post, the networking model of Baptist cooperation should be attractive to a post-modern culture. The problem, however, is that many Baptists have either forgotten or abandoned the model of networking and are trying to mold us into a denomination at the exact moment when denominations are waning. This is the practical problem of Southern Baptist Fundamentalism. I refer to Southern Baptist Fundamentalism as distinct from the old Independent Baptist Fundamentalists, because at least the Independent Fundamentalists tenaciously held onto the autonomy of the local church, even to the extent of often resisting the notion of working with one another at all. Southern Baptist Fundamentalists, on the other hand, want churches to cooperate but only under the condition of denominational conformity. The only way they can enforce conformity is through creeds and councils that draw lines to determine who is qualified to be a member of the denomination.

Therefore, Southern Baptists now have a statement of faith that is no longer an unbinding confession but a creed for doctrinal accountability. Scripture is interpreted for the masses by approved leaders, leaving no room for the Spirit to work differently in the lives of individuals. Members of institutional trustee boards act as a college of cardinals, delving into the personal and private prayer lives of missionaries. Declarations have come from the Southern Baptist hierarchy, concerning everything from the role of women to birth control and to how many children ought to fill the proverbial family quiver. Now power is in the hands of a privileged few, with the result that fewer and fewer are able to fit inside the approved Southern Baptist box.

The point is this: Southern Baptist Fundamentalism is insisting that we are a denomination in what appears to be a post-denominational culture.

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