The Southern Baptist Convention fought a 30-year long battle for the Bible known as the Conservative Resurgence, but what happened in Birmingham, Alabama might just prove to validate the woke movement for the largest protestant denomination in America. Did the SBC abandon the sufficiency of Scripture? Many people have made that claim for years citing pragmatism as the modus operandi of the Convention—but this time it happened in an official capacity as a resolution.
Last year prior to the annual meeting of the SBC in Dallas, Texas—I wrote an article titled, “The SBC at the Intersection of Intersectionality” where I warned of the dangers of identity politics within the Convention. I likewise preached on the dangers of intersectionality in a sermon back in January of 2019 in the pre-conference to the annual G3 Conference in Atlanta. Not only was I heavily criticized for the article and sermon—the leaders of the Convention openly denied that it was a real threat. Here we are just a few months later and the entire SBC has officially adopted Resolution 9 – “On Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality.” It’s official—we are encouraged to use these worldly ideologies and philosophies as helpful tools to diagnose and address social ills in a depraved world. The use of such woke tools will not end well for the SBC. We were given an opportunity to stand, and we remained seated. We were given a test on our commitment to the Scriptures and we failed.
The Woke Downgrade
Intersectionality was originally coined in 1989 by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a political activist and radical feminist, in order to describe oppression against women on specific different points of intersection. Today, it’s used in a more broad sense. In short, intersectionality as it has been defined, is discrimination based on overlapping layers of individual classes of discrimination. It’s when a person is subjected to discrimination for more than one classification such as a woman who is black and lesbian. She would classify, under this line of reasoning, for three basic discriminatory marks—being a woman, who is black, and is also a lesbian. According to the definition of intersectionality, where these three marks “intersect” is the focus of her greatest and most severe discrimination which places her at the greatest risk of oppression in our culture.
Although this term was birthed out of a radical feminist postmodern political culture, it’s now being used within evangelical circles to describe people who are oppressed and “held back” from certain advancement within evangelicalism.
We must always remember that words matter and doctrine matters. Therefore, when it comes to the adoption of a resolution using terms like Critical Race Theory and intersectionality, the words in the document must be taken seriously. In the resolution, the following statement is made:
WHEREAS, Critical Race Theory and intersectionality alone are insufficient to diagnose and redress the root causes of the social ills that they identify, which result from sin, yet these analytical tools can aid in evaluating a variety of human experiences, and
If CRT and intersectionality are insufficient alone to diagnose social ills, what about the Scriptures—are they insufficient alone to diagnose social ills? In a day where we’ve already watched the evangelical world attach woke to church—now the SBC has attached woke to the Scriptures.
You cannot attach identity politics to the sufficient Scriptures and still claim to be champions of sufficiency. God’s Word must stand alone. Like a confident lion walking in the afternoon sun on the African plains—it doesn’t need assistance to diagnose and address the social ills of a depraved society. What the SBC did, in passing this resolution, is make a clear statement to the watching world that we believe the Bible is not quite capable of addressing the lived experiences of broken people and may need the assistance of CRT and intersectionality.
When Charles Spurgeon was addressing the compromise among Baptists in England, he penned “The Downgrade in the Churches” where he wrote the following:
A chasm is opening between the men who believe their Bibles and those who are prepared for an advance upon the Scripture. . .The house is being robbed, its very walls are being digged down, but the good people who are in bed are too fond of the warmth. . .to go downstairs to meet the burglars.
When the elect exiles were being pummeled by persecution and severely mistreated by depraved God-haters, Peter didn’t point them to identity politics to diagnose the problem and pursue solutions (1 Peter 1). Instead, Peter pointed people to the sufficient Word of God by quoting the Prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 40:8) in order to encourage them in the faith. We need leaders like Peter in days of confusion, hardship, and a culture filled with devilish ills.
For a Convention that experienced many scars in a lengthy battle for the inerrancy of the Bible, it grieved me as a 42-year old pastor who is a product of the Conservative Resurgence to watch as the SBC voted to adopt a resolution which in many ways denies the sufficiency of Scripture.
The Woke Hermeneutic
As the Baptists in Spurgeon’s day spiraled downward, he could see that the issue was fundamentally based upon their lack of commitment to the Word of God. In his work on the Downgrade, Spurgeon said:
Inspiration and speculation cannot long abide side by side. . .We cannot hold the inspiration of the Word and yet reject it.
The same thing is true regarding the sufficiency of Scripture. Yet, in the resolution that was adopted on CRT and intersectionality—it affirms the sufficiency of Scripture and denies it at the same time. It’s a theological disaster and filled with logical contradictions.
In seminary, pastors learn the science of biblical interpretation (hermeneutics). In other words, how a person approaches the text of Scripture matters. If improper methods are employed, you can make the Bible say all sorts of things that were never intended by the original author. The goal of the biblical interpreter is to rightly handle the biblical text in such a way that the original intent and single meaning of the text is proclaimed and applied to the modern audience. This is essential for biblical scholars, country preachers, urban church planters, and pioneer missionaries.
Many would argue that the SBC has no business arguing over complex ideologies such as CRT and intersectionality. Some people may say, “Let’s stop fighting over semantics and start winning the lost to Christ. The world is dying and going to hell in a hand-basket, and we’re arguing over words and phrases like ‘Critical Race Theory’ and ‘intersectionality.'” To such a response I would say that denominations are dying too. While we’re not called to go and make denominations—we must recognize that denominations can be good tools for cooperating together to make disciples in our commission that comes from Christ himself (Matt. 28:18-20).
However, in order to make disciples, you must be able to rightly deliver the message of the gospel. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). Therefore, how we handle the Bible matters and when we’re being told that we need new helpful tools to be added to the Bible in order to address the brokenness, sin, injustice, and human depravity within our cities—this is what we call a new hermeneutic.
A denial of sufficiency will open the door to a new hermeneutic and that will always end in disaster. Anytime the text of Scripture is muzzled by subjective experiences of people—the meaning, method, and message will be altered. This is precisely the same broken path traveled by many groups throughout history and in every case, they have all completely capitulated on the authority of God’s Word.
On March 1st 2019, I made a statement on Twitter. As the aggressive push of identity politics continues to invade evangelical circles, I stated:
Intersectionality has convinced many within evangelicalism to:
- Replace theology with victimology.
- Swap pastors with sociologists.
- Trade theologians for political activists.
We will never achieve “reconciliation” and “unity” and “equality” through social justice.
The SBC has made a serious mistake and one that without stern correction will be the tipping point for an already vulnerable and numerically decreasing Convention of churches.
Rushed to vote at the 11th hour due to Convention rules that would not permit the SBC from extending the time of business a third time (total time of the two previous extensions was only 15 minutes), the messengers of the 2019 SBC lifted their ballots to officially adopt a resolution that we cannot afford. And that’s how the 2019 SBC concluded.
Just imagine a world where we had a multitude of local churches who actually believed the Bible was sufficient. No pride, injustice, ethnic discrimination, gender oppression, police brutality, sexual abuse, or any other controversy could withstand the faithful preaching of God’s Word. Imagine how women would flourish with their gifts, ethnicities would find unity at the cross, and the gospel would be proclaimed far and wide. I long for that day, but we cannot get there from here. The resolution that was adopted will not lead the SBC in that direction.
When W.A. Criswell stood before the SBC during the heat of the battle of the Conservative Resurgence, in his sermon he told a story as an illustration to the liberals who were questioning the full inerrancy of the Bible among Southern Baptists. He said:
A friend of mine, a teacher, went to the University of Chicago to gain a Ph.D. in pedagogy. While there, he made the friendship of a student in the divinity school. Upon the young theolog’s graduation, the budding preacher said to my teacher friend, quote, “I am in a great quandary. I have been called to the pastorate of a Presbyterian church in the Midwest, but it is one of those old-fashioned Presbyterian churches that believes the Bible. And I don’t believe the Bible, and I don’t know what to do.” My teacher friend replied, “I can tell you exactly what you ought to do.” Eagerly, the young preacher asked, “What?” And my teacher friend replied, “I think that if you don’t believe the Bible, you ought to quit the ministry!”
I would say that those who prefer sociology over Scripture and identity politics over the sufficiency of God’s Word are no friend of the SBC. Such a person should not be permitted to rise among the ranks of SBC leadership or welcomed to pastor an SBC church.
I conclude with the words of Charles Spurgeon who stood courageously during confusing times in his own circle of churches and pointed to the sufficiency of Scripture:
This weapon is good at all points, good for defense and for attack, to guard our whole person or to strike through the joints and marrow of the foe. Like the seraph’s sword at Eden’s gate, it turns every way. You cannot be in a condition that the Word of God has not provided. The Word has as many faces and eyes as providence itself. You will find it unfailing in all periods of your life, in all circumstances, in all companies, in all trials, and under all difficulties. Were it fallible, it would be useless in emergencies, but its unerring truth renders it precious beyond all price to the soldiers of the cross (Sermon: Matthew 4:4).