SBC Unity and the Unforced Error that was Resolution 9

On the heels of the controversial cinedoc, By What Standard?, which was itself a response to Resolution 9, voted upon and affirmed by the Southern Baptist Convention messengers at the SBC Annual Meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, Baptist Press released a “Q&A with the 2019 Resolutions Committee about Resolution 9,” last week. For clarification, that’s just short of 8 months after the Annual Meeting.

The Founders’ video has proven itself the burr under the denominational saddle, as it were, and does not appear to be going away any time soon. Despite the dismissive waive of the hand by many prominent in SBC leadership accusing the Founders (and others who appear to be making plans to rescind the 2019 resolution), the groundswell seems to be growing.

So, in order to quell any concerns—to ameliorate Southern Baptists’ fear that Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality [CRT/I] have invaded the thinking of denominational executives and seminaries—the committee stated emphatically: “No one is claiming that CRT/I is Christian or that all of its cultural applications are in line with Scripture.”

While the committee should be praised for this clarification, the question deserves to be asked:

Why, then, was an amendment that made that statement unmistakable and explicit deemed an “unfriendly amendment”?

I don’t ask that question in bad faith. I have a number of friends on the committee who I consider wise and godly. These are men and women of whom I have the highest regard. But the issue remains.

Either CRT/I is a worldview foreign to holy writ and must be rejected as such, or it serves as an analytical tool available for proper use by shrewd believers.

CRT/I is not merely foreign to Scripture, however; it is directly contrary to it. The use of CRT/I dismisses any insight or wisdom gained from the alleged-oppressive class in order to adopt the interpretations and beliefs of oppressed classes. At times, the very concept of genuine truth itself is jettisoned, but generally, the movement does not progress that far. Instead, it is used to impress an aberrant interpretation, while buttressing it against critiques from the alleged-oppressors by claiming a privileged status as oppressed.

Truth, in this construction, is not found in the meaning of the text, but in the interpretation of the oppressed class. The Bible is no longer seen as authoritative; instead, the authority is given to a class of people.

And if different oppressed classes come to different conclusions, the victor is determined by which group is seen as most-oppressed. (And this is where intersectionality bares its teeth.)

As I’ve written elsewhere, discussing the Bible with those from different backgrounds and upbringings can be beneficial in winnowing away cultural biases and presuppositions that we bring to the task of interpreting Scripture, but this still acknowledges that Scripture carries real meaning, and the goal of the dialogue is to ascertain the meaning—the truth—of Scripture.

CRT/I is not an analytical tool used to identify the truth of Scripture; it is a weapon of war used to determine which group is granted the authority to determine truth.

Despite the language in the resolution that claims CRT/I to be mere analytical tools that can be disconnected from their common foundational worldview, such thought seems naive at best, and potentially dishonest. More likely, the tools may indeed act as a Trojan Horse, secretively deploying an unwelcome worldview among our fellowship of believers. Note my language here, as I’m being as clear as I can. The tools may serve as a Trojan Horse. I am not accusing anyone of intentionally or maliciously scheming to that end.

Where Do Southern Baptists Go from Here?

When asked in what manner the committee believes Southern Baptists should proceed, they call us to focus on the “common ground we share on the sufficiency of the Gospel.”

More upsetting is the committee’s calling upon “our leaders to lead us with biblical courage and conviction as we face various challenges to our cooperative mission.” If they refer to the challenges of the world in which we live, I can join them in that call.

If, however, they are referring to the Southern Baptists alarmed by the adoption of Resolution 9—if the challenges to our cooperation is a veiled reference to concerned pastors and laypeople—I fear the gulf between the committee and the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention are further apart than once believed.

The Unforced Error

Ultimately, I think this article demonstrates that, while well-intentioned, the 2019 Resolutions Committee made the mistake of using Resolution 9 as a teachable moment, rather than—as is the purpose of a resolution—to express the will of the messengers.

In the article, they state their responsibility: “to help the Convention speak with biblical clarity on theological, social, and practical topics in order to advance our cooperative witness and mission.” In hindsight, it would have been better to have never brought the resolution before the messengers or to have presented it in the form submitted to the committee originally.

How Do We Recover SBC Unity?

As it stands, however, the committee’s intent to unify Southern Baptists failed and has only served to fracture our convention further. The path to unity will only be found as we commit ourselves once more to Christ our Savior and “the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried.”

Our cooperation depends on a re-affirmation of the sufficiency of Scripture without any caveats, addenda, or analytical tools that undermine the very meaning of sufficiency by their very nature.

My hope is to vote for a resolution that offers such a corrective in Orlando.

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