Wisdom from Francis Schaeffer for Baptist Infighting

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Some Southern Baptists are heavy weight champs at theological infighting. Maybe it’s time for Baptists to step outside the ring and consider another way to disagree. A quote from Francis Schaeffer below offers wisdom on how Baptists might better engage each other.

In 1845, at the founding of the Southern Baptist Convention, most leaders were Calvinistic while the laity were less so.1 Today, most Southern Baptists are not Calvinists though there is a rise in Calvinistic theology in leadership and laity. Southern Baptists have worked together with Calvinist leaders and with non-Calvinist leaders.

If Calvinistic Baptists were instrumental in forming the SBC, current opposition to the growth of Calvinism among current leadership makes no sense. Calvinism did not stop Baptist churches from organizing and cooperating to spread the gospel in 1845; and it should not stop cooperation today.

Contrary to popular belief, Baptists can disagree theologically and still work together. Yet, working together becomes more difficult when some Southern Baptists make unsubstantiated charges against others.2 Cooperating is also difficult when a Calvinist Baptist professor cannot strongly express his theological position without another Baptist taking offense, establishing a false dilemma and broad brushing all SBC Calvinists.3

Healthy dialogue is possible, but only if truly desirable. Scripture commands Christians to treat each other well. I.e. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith (Gal. 6:10 ESV). Baptists would do well to filter their thinking about each other through the lens that they are first brothers and sisters in Christ; myself included.

Be Encouraged

Thankfully, intra-theological cooperation does exist within the SBC family. Pastor Joe Thorn recently sent out a word of encouragement to Baptists. He shared that at a recent Baptist get together, “Calvinists and non-Calvinists, from traditional and contemporary worship styles, elder led and congregational models of church polity, were all together celebrating what God is doing in and through us all.”4 Good word, Joe!

How should Baptists think of each other? Francis Schaeffer may have an answer. He was a Christian apologist who focused on cultural engagement. He went home to the Lord in 1984. In the quote below, Schaeffer explained he challenged an unbeliever’s worldviews when sharing the gospel. Whether or not Baptists agree with Schaeffer’s approach, it is definitely something to think about.

“As I seek to [move a man toward the natural direction his presuppositions take him], I need to remind myself constantly that this is not a game I am playing. If I begin to enjoy it as a kind of intellectual exercise, then I am cruel and can expect no real spiritual results. As I push the man off his false balance, he must be able to feel that I care for him. Otherwise I will only end up destroying him, and the cruelty and ugliness of it all will destroy me as well. Merely to be abstract and cold is to show that I do not really believe this person to be created in God’s image and therefore one of my kind. Pushing him towards the logic of his presuppositions is going to cause him pain; therefore, I must not push any further than I need to.”5

If Baptists were to accept Schaeffer’s principles when engaging unbelievers, how much more might they apply those principles to each other?

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Mark

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tagged as , , in apologetics,Arminianism,Baptist,calvinism,Christianity,Church Issues,Southern Baptist,theology

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Thomas Twitchell August 24, 2012 at 6:54 pm

You have to say these things, too. http://www.pcahistory.org/findingaids/schaeffer/index.html#2

Schaeffer was instrumental in the the formation of the National Presbyterian Church, now known as the PCA. As you read this article put in the appropriate places references to the new majoritarians in the SBC, being mindful that the latitudinarianism which Schaeffer mentions is not foreign to the Modern SBC, it is its foundational principle. Schaeffer’s chasm method of cooperation would never have allowed for the doctrinal weakness that is typical of the SBC. He would have formed, and did, a new, separate denomination. Even though he was what was the old majoritarian position, his conservative Presbyterianism became the pariah in its own home. Just as with the SBC, what was once the tiny minority, when it became the majority, when angered, viciously attacked its former host.

The new majoritarians, those who are not Calvinists, have marginalized and nearly destroyed the founding faith of the SBC. Schaeffer’s own experience is just as we see now- the new majoritarians when confronted with a renewal of interest in the SBC’s historic doctrines, rise up in angry protest. He would never have praised the SBC’s attempt to just all get along over matters of authoritative teaching in Scripture. The embrace of latitudinarianism, he believed and rightly so, to be the first and last step into liberalism. His solution was cooperation from a distance and so removed himself to be among those whose separate existence was necessary for the preservation of the integrity of the truth.

This mentality is one of the reasons I moved from the SBC to the PCA. At least the latter can say this is what we believe. The best the SBC can do is say… whatever.

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