My friend Mike Ruffin made a Facebook status update that highlighted a recent article by Mercer University professor Dr. David Gushee. I was simply going to respond in the comment box at Facebook, but I soon realized it just was taking too much room. So, here is this simple blog article.
In summary, the article speaks of what “kind” of Baptist Dr. Gushee’s is and his thankful heart because his home church of First Baptist Decatur, GA has moved to a place where “traditionalist limits to the full inclusion of women have been abandoned, on biblical grounds.” I appreciate Gushee’s last small paragraph. It simply says that continuity and change are “both grounded in Jesus Christ and the authority of Scripture.” That is exactly how it should be.
Of course, I disagree with him and his church’s conclusions as to what the authority of Scripture teaches on this issue. Yet, I found three interesting points concerning the article I would like to share:
1. I am thankful that Dr. Gushee made his point without a verbal assault on the more conservative camp of Baptist life who love the Lord, love Scripture, and desire to obey it. There is no question that Dr. Gushee strongly disagrees with my position and the position of the SBC, yet the tone of his article does not condemn or show condescension toward that group of folks. And it certainly doesn’t say silly, inappropriate, irresponsible things like so many articles of this sort are prone to do. I am only speaking of this particular article. I am not familiar with Gushee’s other writings, he may very well be a conservative basher. But concerning the article cited here, I am thankful for his tone.
2. Once again we see that conservatives and moderates are ultimately both doing the same thing – basing their conclusions on Scripture and the teaches of Christ. It becomes easier to see why both camps are tied strongly to their position and it becomes difficult to see why both are guilty of saying just downright mean things about the other when we consider that both are attempting to be true to Scripture. Now, I personally feel that due to the moderate position on the inerrancy of Scripture that they are willing to overlook some things that inerrantists won’t overlook. Having said that, both sides love Scripture and want to be faithful to it. We need to remember that.
3. Although it is perhaps inevitable, I hate that Dr. Gushee defines the “kind” of Baptist he is through the lens of a gender issue. This shows that moderates are more than willing to draw the line in the sand and say “this is who we are and what we are not willing to compromise.” Hey, I’ve got no problem with that. Just so long as they understand that they cannot do that and still hold the flag of being “completely open minded”, a common rallying cry against those who they see as being “fundamentalists.” Moderates are just as hardcore, perhaps even more so, about gender inclusion as conservatives are about the role of the pastor being reserved for males. And they should be, if that is truly what they believe Scripture teaches.
How about we try this. Let’s acknowledge that both sides are attempting to honor Scripture. We can still debate, we can still discuss, we can still consider the issues. But why don’t we say that we are the “kind” of Baptist that loves the Lord Jesus Christ with all our heart and desires his name to be exalted in all the nations. Let’s focus our energies on accomplishing that and allow some of these “divisive” issues to not define and demarcate us, but to encourage us to learn more, grow more, love more, and think more. If we never reach a position of agreement, that’s ok. But we can still all be the kind of Baptist that desires folks to be saved by the power of cross of Christ Jesus.
*note – After reading through my article again, I wanted to clarify my last paragraph. I am not suggesting that moderates and conservatives should forget our differences and be just one big happy group. There are some important differences. I am suggesting that we can still, as moderates and conservatives, be first defined on the common ground of our love for Christ and the desire to share his Good News. In other words, gender should not be the first item of definition for either group.