Friday, December 28, 2007

Southern Baptists and Liberalism

I've said before that I'm a Fundamentalist. Sometimes I'll say I'm an Evangelical and blur that distinction that I want to draw into tight focus now. Fundamentalist, like Puritan is a demon-term that is applied to behaviors and attitudes no self-respecting Puritan or Fundamentalist would identify with. So, when I say Fundamentalist, I mean to say that there are certain key ideas that are "fundamental" to Christianity. Did Adam have a navel? I don't care. It's not a "fundamental" of the Christian faith. Did Christ rise from the dead? I do care. You have a right to deny this. But if your religion denies it, it isn't Christianity. If you agree that similar non-negotiables exist in the Christian faith, you are to that extent a Fundamentalist, too.

Over a century ago German rationalism re-examined Christian dogma and rejected certain supernatural elements of the religion, while retaining certain moralistic teachings and rites and forms of Christianity. This redefinition of Christianity is either a rearrangement of trivialities OR constitutes a heretical poseur that's no more Christianity than Islam or Judaism is. Fundamentalism claimed the latter and Theological Liberalism claimed the former. The institutional machinery of a number of Protestant denominations embraced Theological Liberalism and in response the Fundamentalists dropped out. I am a member of a Baptist association that dropped out of the Northern Baptist Convention very early and has historically been somewhat militant and defensive about its Fundamentalism.

The Southern Baptist Convention also saw inroads of Theological Liberalism and many Baptists dropped out, too. Jerry Falwell and the Bible Baptists of the south came out and were separate from a Southern Baptist Convention that was "going liberal." However, something significant happened in the 1970s: The Southern Baptist Convention reversed this trend. Theological Conservatives were able to wrest control of the Southern Baptist Convention from the Theological Liberals. This did not happen without a fight and many Southern Baptists lined up on opposite sides of this conflict. The educational institutions of the Southern Baptist Convention remained solidly within the Liberal camp so that my alma mater, Cedarville University, was asked by the Southern Baptist Convention to serve as a conservative alternative.

Southern Baptists have been active and prominent in Democrat politics for a long time. Mr. Jimmy Carter was a Southern Baptist Sunday School teacher. Mr. Bill Clinton sang in a Southern Baptist choir. Mr. Albert Gore attended a Southern Baptist seminary. Nevertheless, these men have not participated in the resurgence of orthodoxy within the Southern Baptist convention.

So then, it was with interest that I learned that Mr. Paul Pressler claimed that Mr. Huckabee had been a slacker in the war against secularists within the Baptist church. Very interesting. Is Mr. Huckabee one of those Southern Baptists?

Mr. Huckabee has been playing a game of "identity politics" that I strongly dislike. I'd prefer a politician who articulates political positions congruent with my own to a politician who goes to my church. However, if Mr. Huckabee is going to play the game of identity politics, he'd better be the RIGHT KIND OF BAPTIST. Because if he isn't, Republican Primary voters may say "Die Heretic!" and push him off the bridge.

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