Tuesday, June 13, 2006
TURNING THE PAGE
Frank Page tapped into the feelings of many Southern Baptist lay people and many younger conservative pastors and seminary professors when he said "there is a serious disconnect between the leaders of our Southern Baptist Convention and the rank-and-file". He tapped in deeply enough to be elected SBC president. The word "disconnect" is somewhat like saying the Grand Canyon is a pretty fair hole in the ground.
Page is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., which no doubt helped him with local voters. In fact, he grew up in Greensboro. We'll call it home court advantage.
Page also said "Some perceive that there is a well-oiled machine, filled with power-hungry politicians, running the show, while the vast majority of loyal, supportive people are left without any voice and/or influence. While this observation may or may not be true, there is a serious perception of disconnect and distrust….Many of us are tired of seeing the same names on committees year after year…Many of us are losing patience with the perception that a few people control everything in the Southern Baptist Convention."
Another position that made Page attractive was his statement that doctrinal conditions for leadership in the SBC should not exceed the Baptist Faith and Message, a direct shot at the International Mission Board, which has expanded requirements into areas that make some pretty nervous.
Another selling point is Page’s support for the Cooperative Program. A big problem for Ronnie Floyd was that he was seeking to lead an organization his church does not support. Mr. Rogers called and said “can you say hypocrite?” We cannot maintain missionaries on the field if we all keep our money to build fire trucks to baptize in.
I think lay people, in particular, would like to see more transparency and openness in the governance of the convention. Everywhere you go in Baptist life, there are secrets. The group in power keeps knowledge to itself like the CIA. Your church staff keeps secrets about staff behavior and performance within its ranks, your denomination does the same. People don’t like that. If they give and serve, the deserve to know the truth.
Page talks a good talk about inclusiveness. He has said he wants to pull together the different factions in the convention, including Calvinists, Emergents and others. We’ll see.
Here is the Page quote to Tad Thompson about reformed theology in the SBC: “Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a Calvinist. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not Arminian. I do believe that this issue needs to be discussed openly and honestly.” I’m not sure how you are not an Arminian if you are not a Calvinist. There must have been a meeting where the Arminians made this up, because Patterson shot the same bolt. There are those who think Patterson must have Arminus confused with Armani, but professors at the seminary tell me otherwise. (Personally, I kind of like the Sproul joke about what do you call a 4 point Calvinist – an Arminian.) It’s kind of like being called a liberal these days, no one wants to admit to it. But, Patterson has admitted to it in other venues, including urging Arminian scholars to write books. Yes, I do understand the oxymoron.
Page even trots out a version of the old saw politicians used to claim they were not racists. You know, “some of my best friends are Blacks”. He said “one of my dearest friends in this state is a five-point Calvinist. I can work with almost anyone if they have a sweet spirit, an evangelistic heart, and a commitment to the integrity of God’s Word.” Even a Calvinist!
Again, we’ll see. It is the same guy that wrote: “The downside of this resurgence (of Calvinism) is that many people are falling into a trap set long ago. Manmade doctrines always fail. When any person or person begins to adhere to the teachings of one person, they join the company of many others who have made this serious mistake. It is most grievous to see a large number of individuals accept without question the doctrine of John Calvin in regards to salvation.”
This is truly an expression of ignorance. This is more shameful given the man puts Ph.D. after his name. Reformed theology is hardly the work of one man. The strain runs through him, for sure, but there are hundreds, including many of the valiant Puritans that brought Protestant Christianity to America and kept it alive. You might remember Jonathan Edwards, Machen, Hodges, Schaeffer and others. You might remember a pretty fair country preacher named Spurgeon, or the first missionary from England, William Carey. This list is too long and for Page to make such a claim is rather breath taking.
It is also not a man made doctrine. No one cites the Bible more than a Calvinist. It is an absurd claim. It is an insult to every reformed Baptist out there, and there are quite a few.
So, like I said, we’ll see.