Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The "Conservative Resurgence" and the "Baptist Renaissance"

The “Conservative Resurgence” in the SBC, as I understand it, had to do primarily with the issue of biblical authority. Yes, it occurred within the context of the Southern Baptist Convention, and thus, all of its leaders were essentially Baptist in their interpretation and basic ecclesiological convictions. However, the “Conservative Resurgence” and the self-proclaimed “Baptist Renaissance” within the SBC are not two sides of the same coin. This is evidenced in the fact that there are many who were convinced supporters of the causes advocated in the “Conservative Resurgence” who are not equally excited about the “Baptist Renaissance.”

It is my opinion, however, that the “Baptist Renaissance” is attempting to “piggy-back” on the success of the “Conservative Resurgence,” presenting itself as the legitimate heir of its legacy. At one point, several years back, it would seem that all the supporters of the “Conservative Resurgence,” both those of a “Baptist Renaissance” mindset, and those of other mindsets, were considered legitimate members of the fold.

Up until recently, in the post-Conservative Resurgence SBC, the issues of “private prayer languages,” “local church” as opposed to “Universal Church,” alien immersion, open communion, Calvinism, etc. were not high on the denominational agenda. Of course, some may have debated these issues in certain forums, but, in general, there seemed to exist a tacit agreement towards peaceful coexistence within the broader sphere of the SBC in these areas. Local churches that wanted to take a strong stand, one way or another, on these issues felt free to do so, but at a local church level. On the denominational level, there was more flexibility.

It is hard to pinpoint exactly one set of issues that describe these two visions. From my perspective (which admittedly may not be the same as some others), though, it seems one way to describe it is there are some who would want to “put the exclamation point” on everything that distinguishes us from other conservative evangelicals, while for myself and others, we prefer to put it on everything that unites us with other conservative evangelicals. On the main points of doctrine, we have no real discrepancies with each other. We both agree to the basic doctrinal framework laid out in the Baptist Faith & Message. However, there seem to be certain differences of basic values that define who we are.

Those who think like me give a high priority to unity. We have no inherent desire to form a splinter group. The CBF has already gone its own way. We wonder if it would be a good testimony to the world and the Church at large if we were to go our own way as well. We also wonder if it would be the most responsible stewardship of the resources God has entrusted into our hands. We would like to continue to work together with Baptists that may think a little differently than we do on these issues. However, if we are made to feel less and less welcome, the more and more awkward it becomes to continue to cooperate in the same way we have before. In some situations, it is not even a matter of choice. The decision has already been made for us.

It is not my point, nor that of many others who think like me, to be a “fly in the ointment” of the promoters of the “Baptist Renaissance.” We are just wondering where is the best place for us to serve the Lord, and cooperate with like-minded believers for the advance of His Kingdom. We feel we have as much place in the SBC of today as others.

Where do we fit?


Anonymous said...

I have been a regular reader of your blog for many months though I have never left a comment.
I deeply appreciate you and your perspectives about life in the SBC. I was deeply involved in the resurgence but became more and more disillusioned as we moved further from the main issues. For the past ten plus years I have not been involved in SBC life. I made a choice to seek out those who wanted to maximize our common ground and minimize our differences for kingdom causes. I pray for men and women like you. I pray that God will continue to give you wisdom and clear direction. I look forward to your future postings.


Rick White
Senior Pastor
The Peoples Church
Franklin, TN

Tim Sweatman said...


I haven't come across the "Baptist Renaissance" terminology before, but I believe that it aptly describes the situation. I have been truly amazed at how many educated, faithful people seem to put being a Baptist above anything else. I may be in the minority, but I give to support missions so people are led to faith in Jesus Christ, not to establish Baptist churches all over the world.

Alan Cross said...

Great point, David. I believe that you are right on here, as usual.

Winning Truth w/Tim Guthrie said...

I agree with much you stated. I would ask, why is it that some are follwoing a "takover" mentality by creating dissension and stirring debate which causes repeated media stinks?

If the desire is to unify, why are Wade and Ben and a few others dividing?

volfan007 said...

amen to what tim said.


Bryan Riley said...

Good post, David. Is it possible that God has a desire and a plan to bring together Christians who believe in the grace of God beyond just the baptist denomination and that perhaps this is the beginning of just such a movement? I hate to be so outside the box, but it seems a hope worthy of having.

Paul said...


Excellent, once again.

Tim and volfan,

I would submit that some of us do not view Wade and others as "creating" dissension so much as revealing areas of dissension that already exist. It was not Wade that created a policy a year ago more narrowly specifying who does and doesn't now qualify for missions service. It wasn't Wade who formally established a policy at SWBTS that is more restrictive than our confessional statement. It wasn't Wade who led the charge to deny Dr. Klouda tenure based on her gender, after she had already been hired with full awareness of her female gender. Neither Wade nor anyone else has done those things. Those are all "new" things within the SBC. Perhaps the better question is to ask those who have made those recent changes in how the SBC operates/cooperates why they have seen a need for these changes which are, in my opinion, what is truly causing the dissension.

Winning Truth w/Tim Guthrie said...


The problem I see is that Wade and Ben are deciding what is "dissension" and what is not. What makes them experts?

volfan007 said...

amen to what tim said again.


Anonymous said...

Tim G,

Both Ben and Wade have been on the wrong end of a certain person's Machiavellian tactics that likely would make Machiavelli himself blush.

To that end, they (rightly or wrongly) obviously believe that unity is better achieved in a convention where those are exposed who intentionally foment disunity in order to bring about unanimity.

And yes, I realize that they (Ben in particular), seem to have adopted similar "ends justify the means" tactics. But you can't really blame Ben for that, since he learned the the master.

Of course, none of this has anything to do with David's post, which was stellar. IMHO.

Paul said...

Tim (and volfan),

I don't see them "deciding" anything but for themselves. If the matters at the IMB or more recently at SWBTS are not important issues everyone is free to decide that on their own and ignore Wade and Ben. I know they do not set any agendas for myself and neither do I suspect they set any for you.

It's kinda like our state Baptist paper here. I usually skip 3/4 of what is written because it is not germane to my ministry. Anyone and everyone is free to ignore Wade and Ben and me and you. No one is setting anyone else's agenda.

But let me close by agreeing with anonymous that David's post here is quite excellent and his closing question quite relevant.

Steve said...

I've been listening to Baptist missionaries talk about their churches in all these far-off places for years. I keep asking myself if it actually matters that they would look "Baptist" tp an observer or not, and my answer keeps comingback, "NO." Would I not fit with the Renaissance crowd?
I've already decided it would be awfully fake of me to work up to being proud of my Baptist-ness since the guilt of my sins and the Love of Christ seem to be muh bigger concerns.