Friday, February 1, 2013

The Uncertainty and Confusion of Baptist Beliefs (reposted)

Question - What does a Baptist believe?
Answer - Anything he wants.

Some time ago I followed  a blog written by a former faith-pastor from the Word of Faith (WOF) crowd, who has seen the light and repented of the heretical teachings of this man-centered Christian aberration.

In one particular blog post, he revealed that he had returned to his Southern Baptist roots. He did offer at least one good thing that he could say about the WOF crowd “…those guys are all pretty much on the same page. There are extremes, but you can visit most any Word of Faith church in the whole world and hear the same teaching. Faith, confession, healing, prosperity.”

But he also dropped a bomb on the Southern Baptists with this stinging indictment: “The Southern Baptist Church is so splintered up that I don't even know what one Baptist church believes from the next one because they are so different from each other in doctrine and worship style. There are many, many factions and belief systems. I had always thought that Baptist was Baptist, but I found out that that is not the case.”

Well, he was right. I have been a Baptist most of my life; I served in a pastoral capacity for six years and another full-time ministry for seventeen years. And I can attest that it is much worse than my friend thought (or at least worse than he described). He was generally right in his implication that, in most denominations, the name is a fair descriptive of their doctrines or core belief systems.  Not so among Baptists. There are Arminian Baptists, Calvinistic Baptists, liberal Baptists, Free Will Baptists, conservative Baptists, ecumenical Baptists, Primitive Baptists, separatist Baptists, Seventh Day Baptists, charismatic Baptists, Full-gospel (pentecostal) Baptists, Reformed Baptists, homosexually tolerant Baptists, and non-denominational Baptists (those are the ones who are ashamed of the name, “Baptist”).  I heard one young woman describe herself as a Buddhist Baptist. There are even some Snake-handling Baptists. The only visible thing that connects them all together is the single common practice of baptism by immersion.  But the Baptist denomination is defined, not by a uniformity of doctrine or baptism by immersion; it is defined by, what is labeled, "the Baptist Distinctives." 

Having said all that, I want to acknowledge my blogger friend's accurate observation that the SBC is fractured and is being ripped apart from within. A couple decades ago the SBC, under the leadership of Adrian Rogers, avoided a major split over liberalism. But trouble in the SBC remains as is evidenced in this article I posted last year titled Ashamed to be Baptist.

All the different Baptist conventions, conferences, and associations certainly have their varieties of idiosyncrasies, but I think a growing problem that is even more troubling, occurs when pastoral leadership, within a single, local church, cannot agree on doctrine. It is not uncommon in large, multi-staffed Baptist churches to find both Arminian and Calvinistic pastors. And, often in those churches, because of theological or ideological differences and in the name of unity or tolerance, you are likely to find weak doctrinal statements and tacit endorsements of heresies such as contemplative prayer, spiritual formation, mysticism, New Age philosophies, WOF practices, and dominion theology.

Some Baptist churches that have historically declared themselves to be separatist, fundamental, non-charismatic, and Bible-believing Baptist Churches, under the care of infirm pastors, are increasingly enticed and confused by a spiritual smorgasbord of “easy-believism,” “decisional regeneration,” ecumenism, humanism, and the charismatic movement.

Possibly attributed to the wide and rapidly growing influence of church-growth programs and Christian leaders like Rick Warren, there has been a drifting away from orthodox biblical doctrines and practices for a long time. Nevertheless, the responsibility for protecting the flock from doctrinal error is clearly on the shepherds, and the weapon they are to employ is the Word of God. The Apostle Paul gave very succinct instructions to Titus, “Speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). If the shepherds can’t identify the poison, the sheep will get sick or die.

I wish I could say we Baptists are all in doctrinal agreement, but we are not.  As for my former WOF friend, Praise God for his deliverance from heresy and his courage to get out.