a couple of evangelical editorials worth pondering

First, one from Paige Patterson on the current state of the SBC with some interesting insights for fundamentalists — Of grinches, goblins, gremlins and ghosts, from the May 6 Baptist Press.

Second, one from Alan Jacobs, professor of English at Wheaton, taking a slap at the so-called “Evangelical Manifesto” — Come On, You Call This a Manifesto?, appearing in the Wall Street Journal.

A few thoughts and quotes below:

Paige Patterson is responding (apparently) to criticism that the Southern Baptist “Conservative Resurgence” has resulted in fewer baptisms in the SBC. His response seems reasonable, but the argument (perhaps on both sides) is mostly in the category of “figures don’t lie, but liars can figure.” Hard to know what the statistics under discussion actually mean, if anything.

Buried in the midst of the article, though, is this interesting bit:

The allegation that the “young leaders” are leaving Southern Baptists, and we will never reach our world if we do not change and adopt methods that appeal to the culture is to me the strangest of all. Who are these young leaders? How many left? How are they doing now? Did they leave “because they were never really a part of us” (1 John 2:19)? I have spent the last 33 years of my life working with young people destined to become leaders. People in Florida like Anthony George; in North Carolina like J.D. Greear; in Texas like Nathan Lino, Byron McWilliams, Brad Jurkovich, Michael Lewis and Mark Howell to name just the first ones that come to my mind today. They would never refer to themselves as “young leaders.” They know too well that they were called to be servants and pastors and that “leadership” is something arising out of what my father liked to call “moral ascendancy.”

In the church, genuine leaders are not simply proclaimed to be leaders. In Baptist life, both young and old leaders have been recognized as such either because they were great preachers/teachers of biblical revelation or because they were wonderful, consistent soul-winners or because they built great churches or because their spirits and attitudes were the sources of great encouragement to others. They did not yield to those who were “despising their youth” but were “examples to the flock” (1 Timothy 4:12). This is precisely what most, like the ones mentioned above, have done. But some self-proclaimed “young leaders” appear to be more concerned about embracing the culture, rejecting the past and demanding personal liberty rather than following the biblical road to leadership.

Consider those two paragraphs in light of the so-called “Young Fundamentalist” angst troubling Fundamentalism. It seems that a parallel spirit is at work. Our leaders (pastors and teachers) in fundamentalism should be less concerned about those who are leaving and more concerned about teaching those who are staying. The arrogance of “Young Leaders” is a product of our post-modern times, it seems to me. Better that we faithfully proclaim the Bible, instill a love for Biblical wisdom and thinking, and stand opposed to the isms of the world, be they modernism or post-modernism or whatever ungodly philosophy is the latest and greatest current fad.

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The second article, the one by Alan Jacobs, analyzes this most recent attempt at self-righteousness by the left side of ‘evangelicalism’. A couple of key quotes:

But one thing the document is not is a manifesto. A genuine manifesto is sharp, punchy and, ideally, short. … The Evangelical Manifesto, by contrast, is both long and insistently moderate.

and

A purpose finally emerges with the appearance of a word never mentioned by its predecessor: “fundamentalism.” The Manifesto sets a course for evangelicalism that steers between the twin dangers of liberalism and fundamentalism. Few words are needed to distinguish evangelicalism from liberalism, but the authors, while they admit that “the fundamentalist tendency is . . . closer to Evangelicalism” than liberalism, are clearly troubled that “in the eyes of many, the two overlap.” So it turns out that the chief goal of this document is to establish the differences between evangelicalism and fundamentalism.

Aha! What a horror it must be for Lucado, Mouw, Noll, et al! They are constantly maligned in the press as fundamentalists. It must be exquisite torture for them to see themselves regularly portrayed this way.

Once all the self-description is out of the way, it turns out that the heart of the document is a kind of urgent appeal: Please don’t call us fundamentalists or confuse us with them. This strikes me as a regrettable tack, for two reasons. First, it is defensive, and manifestos should never be defensive. Second, it suggests a concern for labels and public perception that is not attractive in Christians. Besides, people who make the kinds of theological statements found in this document — for instance, “We believe that the only ground for our acceptance by God is our trust in Jesus Christ” — are going to be called fundamentalists no matter what else they say. [Emphasis mine.]

Well, you can read the whole thing. No need for me to repeat it all here. As a Canadian, I understand the mindset of trying to define yourself by things that you are not. It is ingrained in our national psyche. (Q: What is a Canadian? A: “Well, we aren’t ____ like the Americans…” – you fill in the blank. Canadians live in mortal terror of being confused as Americans.) So I appreciate the psychological trauma evangelicals must feel when categorized together with those redneck ignoramuses, the fundamentalists. But as a fundamentalist, it is quite exquisite to see them twist and turn so. (As I say in my About page, I am a Canadian and a fundamentalist, hence “pathologically conflicted”.)

Well, that’s it for now. More to come later.

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