Southern Baptists dead?

We are dying as a convention.

So writes Wade Burleson, trustee of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, in his blog Grace and Truth to you. While probably an engine of hyperbole, his observations and conclusions are deeply provocative. The creedal noose tightens around the neck of a historically embattled denomination….

Related Posts (there are a series of related posts over at Pyro that folks might find interesting:
It began with Dan’s post Red Herrings: Tongues of Angels which provoked Adrian’s response which was looong. Pull up a lawn chair and get a coffee before you embark on it.
Then came Dan’s “Tongues” across the water: response to Adrian, part one, then part 2, part 3, and finally, part 4.

On this day...


  1. Mark W. says:
    Convention: “general agreement or consent; accepted usage; custom” also “an assembly of delegates of a political party to nominate candidates and adopt platforms and party rules”

    As an individual, protestant Christian, I have little care whether or not the current Southern Baptist Convention dies or not. The SBC is merely a delegation brought together for the purpose of organization and maintaining/improving useful non-doctrinal procedures and customs (or should be thus). Once a convention encroaches upon doctrinal issues, which appears to be what the SBC has been doing for years, it might be better in the long run if it did die and was replaced by something better.

    I do, however, want to point out that after reading Burleson’s post I had to go look up the meaning of “private prayer language.” Who would have thought that Christians would be engaging in this kind of effluvial political-correctness? Perhaps this is but another facet of the recent politicizing of the Christian faith…but “private prayer languages?” Please, people! Say what you mean! The official term for this is Glossolalia: “Fabricated and nonmeaningful speech, especially such speech associated with a trance state or certain schizophrenic syndromes.” This is quite a suspicious practice coming from a group that for the most part regards demon-possession and exorcism as papist fancy…though such “fundamentalist” practices are cropping up again too. Perhaps we will call them “soul clarity interventions” or by some other absurd, deceitful nomenclature.

    Anyway, thanks for turning over the dirty stone and uncovering the slimy soil that is the subject of Burleson’s post. It looks to be to be a kind of Catch-22. Either the possessed “prayer language” people are going to take over, or the Convention leaders themselves are going to remain possessed by grand notions that they actually control biblical doctrine by decree. Either situation is pretty evil if you think about it.

  2. TJ says:
    Being one who has not been raised in a SBC affiliated church, I can see from the outside a “split” in the organization. I see some churches with an excitement for serving the Lord with dynamic services and gatherings where there is healthy spiritual growth happening. On the other hand, you see many others with the “I shall not be moved” mentality – whether they are right or wrong. I dont’ see the SBC dying as a whole, but I believe the organization will either undergo a restructure or a split. I’ve said this about my own fellowship, the Assemblies of God as well.

    In response to Mark’s comment without a desire to argue with it: I’m not sure if you can scripturally say that those who pray in the spirit (see I Cor 14) are “posessed.” There are some who believe many different things about the practice of speaking/praying in tongues, but I would hope that you’re not saying that those who excercise this spiritual gift are posessed or mental.

  3. Mark W. says:
    TJ – Not to argue, but to clarify. You state that, “There are some who believe many different things about the practice of speaking/praying in tongues.” Yes, there are. I, for one, see absolutely no place in I Cor 14 where it states that praying in a “private language” is a legitmate part of Christian worship. In fact, there is only one verse (verse 14) that specifically mentions “praying” (the rest of the chapter concerns “speaking” where one can be heard by others) and it is a negative statement, stating that the practice is “unfruitful.”

    I believe that Paul is right not to forbid truly private eccentricites, because they are not evil in themselves, but he is very emphatic throughout the chapter that tongues do not edify without proper interpretation. He also states very clearly that unbelievers will perceive Christians as having gone “mad” if we engage in such practices in the church.

    Yes, “There are some who believe many different things about the practice of speaking/praying in tongues.” There are also people who believe different things about being spiritually “slain” (writhing in convulsions upon the floor), and, in history, even having physical orgasms due to being close to the spirit. All I have to say about that is – yuck!

    I personally know someone who, at one point in her life, believed that she was genuinely speaking in tongues. Later in life, having gotten out of the church environment she’d been in at an impressionable age, she admitted that her behavior was induced by peer-pressure and a guilt-ridden longing to fit in and be spiritual enough. In short, her “private language” was a form of self-hynotic hysteria brought on by outside influences (her church’s teaching that true spiritual experiences would produce this ability). Therefore, I do not believe it to be unscriptural to be highly skeptical of the idea that such things come from God, and I do believe, as Paul did, that they do nothing to edify the church and that they discourage unbelievers.

    Rather than tiptoe around such things, I prefer to be open about it and simply say that engaging in the practice of “private languages” is irresponsibile, a misinterpretation of spiritual gifts, and not a sign of good mental health.

    Am I really being too harsh here? Let me know if I’ve missed a crucial scripture or something.

  4. Jeff says:
    Uh, wow. It’s so good that someone else’s post can create such great conversation on my blog. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Mark, uh, you feel strongly about this or something? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I happen to agree with Mark about this; however, it’s so important for us to practice “loving one another” when we don’t see eye to eye on things like this. I, for one, don’t even think this is a doctrinal issue as it is an experiential one. It’s very difficult to base any redeeming church practice (or personal one) on something in 1 Corinthians since Paul spent the entire letter rebuking the church for these practices.

    When you read the entire letter for its flow and context instead of taking parts of it out to hold up as normative, I really think you begin to see why there’s not another letter in the New Testament that addresses these issues. Acts mentions tongues several times, but it is clear in all instances that tongues were another language, unlearned by the speaker – not ecstatic gibberish.

    Just to cajole you a little, Mark… you would fit right into the mood over at Pyro with your responses on this issue. I appreciate it when we all “talk turkey.”

    Also see my update on this entry.

  5. Mark W. says:
    Jeff – Like I said, I know a person…I guess that brings out more a need to defend. The rebuke is well taken (I will repeat love, love, love). Perhaps I HAVE been spending too much time over at Pyro lately, though thanks to you and your “updates” I will now get my coffee and be over there for a while longer reading up on the subject.

    I hope no offense was taken. Perhaps I will have to balance the scales by blogging my one “religious experience” someday soon. That was a trip.

    Off to read…

  6. TJ says:
    Mark- no offense taken! I appreciate hearing what others say about this topic. Although I completely disagree that tongues (the real thing, not something that is faked like Mark is describing of his friend’s ordeal) are derived from a mental handicap of some kind or posession; we have to remain on a balance of love. I can rant and rave as much about what I see as the extremes of the eternal security doctrine, but it would be completely out of balance since I would be discussing the far extremes. I believe that grouping people who fake a spiritual experience with those who do have the real-deal gift of tongues is not the way to go. One thing I do agree with Mark on: sexual climax being a manifestation of the spirit is not scriptural! –double yuk! I actually have not heard that one!
  7. Dr. Bobby Spencer says:
    There has always been some type of controversy concerning speaking in other tongues. I have been in the ministry almost 30 years traveling as a Evangelist, Missionary and Pastor, and I have been filled with the Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues for that length of time. I have not been brain washed neither possessed by some evil spirit. I am a part of a world-wide Pentecostal movement called The Assemblies of God. I will not get into a deep theological debate with anyone in this type of format just to prove the reality of this experience. My advice to anyone who speaks out against it is to be very careful, we all are going to stand before the Lord and give an account. And I for one know where I stand, I know what I have experienced, I am 44 years old, educated and carry a doctors degree in theology and working on my PHD and I speak in tongues and proud to be a part of it.
  8. Jeff Noble says:
    Found an excellent post over at New Attitude blog. There, they post the following:

    Here is how I think we disagree in a way that honors the gospel:

    1. Be quick to remember that this person is one with whom I will share in eternal glory around the Lamb.

    2. Review with them the foundation of our salvation, and review it in detail. Review the stunning grace of God through Christ’s death to undeserving sinners. Spend time reviewing how you each appreciate grace and what new ways it has melted your heart.

    3. Be quick to hear the position of those you disagree with and make sure it is understood so well that they tell us we are stating it fairly. I like to begin my rebuttal while they are speaking but that is a mark of pride. Pride also results in false stereotypes, generalizations, and extreme examples.

    4. Go to Scripture. How quickly we set aside our Bibles and simply talk theology with each other. Open the text. Walk through the text.

    5. Watch against uncharitable judgments of motives, education, consistency, etc.

    6. Perhaps agree to disagree. But go to learn as well as to make a point.

    Then stand for your convictions and argue your case. This is not a call to wimpiness. It is a call to remember who are enemies are and who are friends.

    Last, end with a reminder of the undeserved grace of God to sinners such as ourselves; and rejoice that some day we will all agree.

  9. Mark W. says:
    TJ – Thanks so much for your willingness to dialogue through topics upon which we may or may not always agree. Open, exposed sharing is the real reason I am drawn to blogs. Your comments allowed me to see the the “extremes” of my examples. Thanks for you balancing words.

    Jeff – Thanks for the “New Attitude” advice. I have continued my thoughts on this topic at markVerse, and have made a statement concerning “discourse” that I hope will clarify my own attitudes toward open discussion. I hope that I don’t find my IP blocked from your site tomorrow morning. Ciao!

    Dr. Spencer – I can’t help but escape the feeling that your comment expressed a kind of spiritual “threat” against those who would question a belief for which you don’t feel obligated to offer clear, confirming scripture. I respect your position and education, but they alone do not replace the need for good evidence. Perhaps you, yourself are not in a position to be able to expend energy to reiterate something that you have, no doubt, had to explain for years already. However, I do wish that your first reaction had been to express a desire to offer helpful references rather than to be automatically defensive and proclaim how “proud” you are not to be like me.

    I hope you will read my more complete position statement at:

  10. DavicusPrime says:
    If any church loses it’s purpose, it is entirly possible that God will pull the plug (rev 2:5).

    If a church is in fact dying, it needs to take a very serious look at itself and rediscover it’s purpose. If they do not, they can count on God getting them out of the way so that someone else can take their place.

    I’m all for churches forming organizations for mutual support but if that organization pushes them away from scriptural truth, they should flee as fast as possible.

    Seems so many of the large denominations in the west have been subverted by those that deny the inerrancy of the scriptures that their continued existance makes little sense. Unless you truely believe that God has revealed Himself through the scripture, what you are really worshiping is an idol of your own making. We don’t get to define who God is or what he says. He does. Any attempt to redefine God according to our image of Him is the height of arrogance.

    I pray our brethren rediscover their first love before it’s too late to restore their churches.

  11. Dr. Bobby Spencer says:
    Greetings Brothers and Sisters. I do offer my apology if I sounded a bit harsh or defensive in my earlier comments. Please forgive me. I do defend my position but wish not to argue or debate. There are many other differences I’m sure we all share but yes we are all in the wonderful family of God. The main objective of us all should be to work together in creative ways to reach those who know not Christ. This would be our greatest acheivement yet. Sincerely
  12. Mark W. says:
    To TJ and Dr. Spencer: After (re)looking at my first comments this week here at Notes From the Trail, I do think that I unfairly “insinuated” that tongues may be caused by demon possession. It was never my intention to argue for that interpretation, and so the insinuation was rather underhanded. Please accept my apology for those unthoughtful, undefended remarks.

    (I have also posted this in the commentary at markVerse).

  13. Dr. Bobby Spencer says:
    Thank you Bro. Mark for your recent comments. I appreciate your sincerity. May I add to thte comments I earlier made and that is; The Body of Christ is a diverse body. We are many members but one body. We are from many, many different backgrounds and church affliations, but as we all work together, putting aside our many differences, we will make a postive impact upon this city and this nation.
    I apprecaite very much my other brothers and sisters of all the churches in this great city. I appreciate all they are doing to reach souls for Christ. I appreciate their sacrifice. Whether or not they believe in speaking in tongues or not is not an issue with me. What is the issue is if they lift up the Name of Jesus to a lost and dying world.
    It is my prayer for the churches of Monticello to continue to seek Christ, love each other, and work together as the body of Christ. In this Christ will be well pleased.

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