Akin, Mohler dispute claim of SBC liberal drift

By Art Toalston, Senior editor of Baptist Press on August 01, 2019

NASHVILLE (BP) -- Biblical authority remains firm in the Southern Baptist Convention, two seminary presidents said in response to a forthcoming video claiming looming liberalism in the SBC.

Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina, and R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kentucky, issued statements to Baptist Press July 31 after Tom Ascol, president of Founders Ministries, defended the upcoming video/documentary titled "By What Standard."

A trailer, or preview, of the video prompted concern from Akin, Mohler and two other SBC seminary presidents after its July 23 release.

"The uproar about the trailer," Ascol wrote, "further confirms how important this project is."

Ascol, a Florida pastor, wrote at the website of the Calvinist-oriented Founders Ministries on July 29 that "creating a stir" was not the purpose of the four-minute trailer but, rather, to warn that the authority of Scripture is "wavering among some evangelical and, more particularly, Southern Baptist, churches and entities." No release date has been announced for the video.

Akin was interviewed for the video during the SBC annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala., but requested after release of the trailer that he not be associated with the project.

"I know well the men who lead our national SBC entities. They are all unapologetically committed to the BF&M 2000," Akin told Baptist Press, referring to the SBC's Baptist Faith and Message statement of beliefs.

Leaders of SBC entities "love the Gospel and are passionate for the Great Commission," Akin continued. "They are inerrantists and complementarians [holding a biblical view of male and female roles]. They believe in the exclusivity of the Gospel, penal substitution [Christ's sacrificial death for sin] and the great 'solas' of the Reformation [which includes 'Scripture alone'].

"They are pro-life and pro-biblical marriage. They stand gladly on the shoulders of the Conservative Resurgence and seek to advance a Great Commission Resurgence," Akin said. "I believe this is who Southern Baptists are and this is what Southern Baptists want in those tasked to lead their entities. It is an honor and sacred trust we do not take lightly."

'A real issue'

Mohler, in a column-type response to Baptist Press (see full text below), said the controversy sparked by the trailer "reveals a real issue in the Southern Baptist Convention. Our commitment to talking to one another with both substance and respect is in question. Of course there are real issues for Southern Baptists to discuss. We are facing a massive cultural challenge in the world around us -- a culture pushing invidious ideologies and increasingly hostile to biblical Christianity. In light of this challenge, it is completely understandable that Southern Baptists need to have serious discussions about how best and most faithfully to preach the Gospel and to confront the spirit of the age."

The Conservative Resurgence that began in the 1970s to return the SBC to its biblical heritage, Mohler wrote, "brought Southern Baptists an opportunity -- a second chance. This generation of Southern Baptists must make certain that this stewardship is not forfeited.... [We] have recovered the affirmation of biblical inerrancy, we are holding fast on questions of sexuality and marriage, but there are new questions that must be answered in every generation. Southern Baptists have never represented uniformity, but we cannot survive without unity."

Mohler also noted, "When healthy discussions don't happen, unhealthy ones do. We need to encourage one another to faithfulness. We need to talk. We also need to think the best of one another. I am absolutely confident that Southern Baptists are up to this challenge, that Southern Baptists want to trust one another and speak the truth to one another, and that it is our responsibility to make it happen. Sadly, in recent days we have been talking about how not to do it. Let's talk about how to do it."

Ascol, in his defense of By What Standard, pressed his claims about looming liberalism.

The video will "educate believers and alert them to serious threats coming into Christian churches today -- threats that, if left unaddressed, will undermine commitment to the authority and sufficiency of God's Word," he wrote.

Ascol also noted, "The postmodern, deconstructionist worldview ... has given rise to godless ideologies like radical feminism, Critical Race Theory, and Intersectionality," he wrote. "These ideologies are being smuggled into conservative Christian churches and entities (see Resolution 9 from SBC19) often by well-meaning but misguided teachers. If they are not identified and repudiated, they will have disastrous consequences for the spread of the gospel and the faith of millions of people. These ideologies are not merely opposed but are actually antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ."

The resolution "On Critical Race Theory And Intersectionality" adopted at the SBC annual meeting in Birmingham defined the former as "a set of analytical tools that explain how race has and continues to function in society" and the latter as "the study of how different personal characteristics overlap and inform one's experience."

Scripture is "the first, last, and sufficient authority with regard to how the Church seeks to redress social ills," the resolution stated. Critical race theory and intersectionality "have been appropriated by individuals with worldviews that are contrary to the Christian faith, resulting in ideologies and methods that contradict Scripture," the resolution acknowledged, and evangelical scholars "who affirm the authority and sufficiency of Scripture" are among those who have "employed selective insights from critical race theory and intersectionality to understand multifaceted social dynamics."

Critical race theory and intersectionality "should only be employed as analytical tools subordinate to Scripture -- not as transcendent ideological frameworks," the resolution stated. "[T]he gospel of Jesus Christ alone grants the power to change people and society."

The resolution prompted a 13-minute floor debate, with Ascol proposing an amendment to add three sections to the resolution, including a description of critical race theology/intersectionality as "godless ideologies that are indebted to radical feminism and postmodernism and neo-Marxism." The amendment was defeated after the Resolutions Committee spoke against it and the resolution passed with a clear majority.

Messengers also adopted a resolution "On Biblical Justice," stating, "[W]e reject solutions for social brokenness that depend upon ideas that are antithetical to the Christian faith, for they ignore the lasting transformation only found in the gospel."

The resolution meanwhile affirmed a biblical view of justice, stating, "in light of the urgent needs in our world, we commit to address injustices through gospel proclamation, by advocating for people who are oppressed and face wrongs against them, acting justly in our own dealings, and by insisting that spheres of society should operate according to 'principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love (The Baptist Faith and Message, Article XV).'"

These and other SBC resolutions from 2019 and previous years can be accessed at sbc.net/resolutions.

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Text of statement by R. Albert Mohler Jr. regarding the trailer and upcoming release of "By What Standard" from Founders Ministries.

This controversy reveals a real issue in the Southern Baptist Convention. Our commitment to talking to one another with both substance and respect is in question. Of course there are real issues for Southern Baptists to discuss. We are facing a massive cultural challenge in the world around us -- a culture pushing invidious ideologies and increasingly hostile to biblical Christianity. In light of this challenge, it is completely understandable that Southern Baptists need to have serious discussions about how best and most faithfully to preach the Gospel and to confront the spirit of the age. As a matter of fact, I have never known a moment in the last half-century of Southern Baptist life when this was not true. Thankfully, we are a confessional convention and we stand together on the Baptist Faith & Message (2000) and we can discuss any challenge with trust, respect, and eager cooperation.

As a matter of fact, I have never known a moment in the last half-century of Southern Baptist life when this was not true. Thankfully, we are a confessional convention and we stand together on the Baptist Faith & Message (2000) and we can discuss any challenge with trust, respect, and eager cooperation.

In decades of working among Southern Baptists I have come to know this: Southern Baptists love Christ, love the Gospel, love biblical truth, and love each other. We also love to talk, and we sometimes love to argue. That can be a sign of health or a sign of disease. There are real issues for Southern Baptists to talk about, and the SBC is confessionally united, not monolithic. We are a convention of cooperating churches. It is incumbent upon all SBC leaders that we be willing to talk about whatever issues Southern Baptists consider important, to talk to one another in respect and cooperation, and to talk candidly about the future of our denomination. The Conservative Resurgence bought Southern Baptists an opportunity — a second chance. This generation of Southern Baptists must make certain that this stewardship is not forfeited.

We have cut back on the length of our convention meetings and trustee discussions. We have shifted from face to face discussions at associational and state convention events to social media, and this has not elevated our conversation. We cannot survive as a denomination if we tweet at one another rather than talking to one another.

Consider some of the issues we face. We have generational tensions that are not healthy. We need to have an honest discussion of how we confront the culture in this new age and how we hold to biblical truth together. We need to talk theology and missiology. We need to confront the fact that we face real denominational questions, demographic realities, financial issues, and apologetic questions. Southern Baptists stand together on the Baptist Faith & Message, we have recovered the affirmation of biblical inerrancy, we are holding fast on questions of sexuality and marriage, but there are new questions that must be answered in every generation. Southern Baptists have never represented uniformity, but we cannot survive without unity.

Respect and honest engagement are expected by Southern Baptists, who have never been impressed by disrespectful arguments or angry encounters. For that reason, I do not believe that the documentary from Founders Ministries can serve a healthy purpose at this time. I stand entirely by my own interview, but do not want it presented in this context. What has been seen cannot be unseen.

But there is another lesson to be learned here. When healthy discussions don't happen, unhealthy ones do. We need to encourage one another to faithfulness. We need to talk. We also need to think the best of one another. I am absolutely confident that Southern Baptists are up to this challenge, that Southern Baptists want to trust one another and speak the truth to one another, and that it is our responsibility to make it happen. Sadly, in recent days we have been talking about how not to do it. Let's talk about how to do it.

This Convention serves our culturally diverse congregations as we fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.