Why I am a Mainstream
Prior to June of 2000, I would never have admitted to being a moderate Baptist. Certainly not while living and serving in Oklahoma. Admitting moderation in Baptist life in Oklahoma is risky business. Publicly expressing views that agree with Mainstream Baptists is ground for exclusion in this state. Even worse, criticizing fundamentalism in Oklahoma can get one fired. I know because I experienced it.
After I was forced into retirement, I became a Mainstream Oklahoma Baptist. I openly identified with the group that is so despised by the BGCO and the top leadership in Oklahoma Baptist life. My friends and some of my family were appalled at my decision to do this. They honestly felt that I was giving up on the truth. In their eyes, I had become a turncoat. In their view, I ceased to believe the Bible. One close family member thought that I should have simply gone along to get along. That is to say, even if I disagreed with the fundamentalists, I should have simply kept my mouth shut rather than openly expressing my personal convictions.
am I now a Mainstream Baptist? Primarily because Southern Baptists moved
away from being traditional Baptists. Fundamentalism reigns supreme both
in Oklahoma and across the Southern Baptist Convention. I am a
Mainstream Baptist because they stayed the course theologically and
ecclesiastically. Here are
ten reasons why I am a Mainstream Baptist.
2) I am a Mainstream Baptist because I agree with their views about the Bible. Mainstream Baptists believe in the divine inspiration of Scripture. They do not, however, consider the Bible to be more important or more authoritative than Jesus. They recognize the Bible to be written by men divinely inspired of God and believe it is God's record of his revelation to man. In no way does the Bible supercede Jesus in Mainstream Baptist eyes. They honor and respect the Bible but do not idolize it. Nor do they make it become an object of worship. Mainstream Baptists use the Bible as an aid to worship Jesus.
3) I am a Mainstream Baptist because I agree with their views about confessions of faith. Mainstream Baptists believe confessions of faith are statements that reflect a general consensus on the core doctrines of the faith. Mainstream Baptists do not treat confessions as creeds. Indeed Mainstream Baptists are not creedal people. They do not use confessions to exclude and divide Baptists. They do not use confessions to enforce dogma and control people.
4) I am a Mainstream Baptist because they are open to diversity on the minor tenets of the faith. Mainstream Baptists are not threatened when fellow believers disagree on the minor doctrines of the faith. Diversity is a positive rather than a negative factor in faith matters. Fundamentalists are insecure with diverse views on the minor doctrines of the faith. It is beyond their ability to fellowship and cooperate with Baptists and other denominations who hold diverse Christian views.
5) I am a Mainstream Baptist because I agree with their views on missions and evangelism. Mainstream Baptists do not demand total conformity on all methods of evangelism and missions. They do not demand signatures on man-made confessions and creeds from missionaries before they are allowed to share the Great Commission. Mainstream Baptists are not suspicious of missionaries who refuse to sign confessions and creeds. They recognize that the message of Christ is found in Scripture, not in creeds and confessions.
6) I am a Mainstream Baptist because I agree with their views on theological education. Mainstream Baptists believe in academic freedom in theological education. They do not believe that seminaries are institutions of indoctrination for creating cookie-cutter Baptists who reflect exclusively the fundamentalist Baptist beliefs. Mainstream Baptists are not so insecure that they require professors to sign creeds and confessions of faith. Mainstream Baptists believe academic theological education should be free from the constraint to push a single narrow view of Baptist doctrine.
7) I am a Mainstream Baptist because they cooperate with fellow believers to share the Gospel. Mainstream Baptists do not fear cooperating with one another and with those who differ on minor tenets of the faith. They are willing to cooperate other believers in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. Why? Because they do not believe they have the corner on God and all truth. They do not seek to superimpose their views upon others. They eschew the archaic fundamentalist principle of cooperating exclusively with people of "like faith and practice." Cooperating exclusively with people who agree is really a false brand of cooperation.
8) I am a Mainstream Baptist because I agree with their views on denominational politics. Mainstream Baptists do not seek to control others with secular politics. The idea that the majority rules for the sake of controlling the denomination by the will of powerful leaders is foreign to Mainstream Baptists. Whereas fundamentalists use a brand of secular politics to control the denomination's boards, agencies, and seminaries, Mainstream Baptists make their decisions by consensus building. While there are and must be leaders in the Mainstream organizations, no single person or small clique seeks to control their organizational structure. Whereas the fundamentalist Southern Baptists are replete with self-serving power-brokers in the leadership from top to bottom, there are no selfish power-brokers among Mainstream Baptists
9) I am a Mainstream Baptist because I agree with their views on women's issues. Mainstream Baptists do not restrict women to first century, second-class status. Whereas the fundamentalists are highly restrictive of women in the church and home, Mainstream Baptists welcome women into service in the church and to an equal position in the home. Half the population of the world is comprised of females. Half the church is comprised of females. Jesus did not restrict females in the life and work of the kingdom. God does not discriminate on the basis of gender. He has gifted females with the same gifts that males receive. Whereas fundamentalists seek to superimpose first century gender practices upon the home and church, Mainstream Baptists seek to bring the home and church into the twenty-first century.
10) I am a Mainstream Baptist because they believe "accountability" is primarily to God rather than to human leaders. Mainstream Baptists believe in the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer. Mainstream Baptists believe that man is accountable to God in faith matters. The fundamentalists are now using a confession of faith as a document of accountability to one another. Translated, this means Southern Baptists, under BFM2000, are more accountable to pastors and denominational leaders than to God. Priesthood of the believers is no longer in effect with the fundamentalists. Mainstream Baptists trust more in God's leadership than man's coercive leadership.
Conclusion: I am a Mainstream Baptist because they are the remnant of the traditional Southern Baptists. If the truth be known, a huge majority of Southern Baptists would still be considered to be "mainstream" Baptists. But selfish, power-brokering leaders have gained control of the denominational structure and are controlling the rank and file of Southern Baptists. For twenty-four years now, the fundamentalists have superimposed their will upon the denomination. They changed the doctrines of traditional Southern Baptists. They gained complete control of all the seminaries, boards, and agencies. They deserted what traditional Southern Baptists once were and called it a resurgence. They want to be known as the "real" Mainstream Baptists. They are fooling themselves. For the ten reasons named above, I am a Mainstream Baptist. And I'm proud to identified with them.
-- Revised September 23, 2003
(This article was written for BaptistLife.Com Discussion Forums)