We Southern Baptists know how to make an issue out of the Scriptures. Al Mohler recently tweeted he was sitting in the Cafe du Monde in the French Quarter listening to Paige Patterson describe the historic conversation between he and Judge Pressler. Said conversation eventually led to the Conservative Resurgence in the SBC. For those in Southern Baptist life to not know of this turn in the denomination would result in the same question the two disciples asked Jesus on the road to Emmaus? Something like, “Where have you been, have you not heard?”
For 30 years the key to vetting a pastor or staff person has related to one’s view of the Scriptures. A “high view” of the Scriptures meant one asserted the inerrancy and infallibility of the Scriptures. Fail to mention your position regarding the Scriptures and you were suspect. Neglect using the approved code words and your invitation to speak on any stage would be revoked. The dark side to the whole affair had little to do with what was said as what was done. I still hear Judge Pressler’s words ringing in my ears when I suggested no need for retribution against a rival Baptist group, “But you don’t know what they have done to us!”
There you go. In a nutshell the problem. Rather than argue the proper public position on the authority and inspiration of Scripture, the matter is really what role the Scriptures play in one’s life. If our ethics do not comport with our words then our words become vacuous. You may recall from my previous Fear the Jones post, this is precisely why some of us employed the infamous St. Francis non-quote. Our actions matter for they validate our words. Again, that sure seems to be Jesus’ insistence. “Turn the other cheek.” Peter, we don’t retaliate by taking a man’s ear off his head.
I listened to Doug quite a few years ago in Minneapolis. He presented during a conference I attended there. His question – “What is the Gospel?” For a good bit Doug laid out his contentions that the Gospel had become mired in a Constantinian framework wherein the Gospel seemed more about power and control than freedom and peace. Now you may have heard Doug and even read one of his books. It may be you think he presses too hard on the Constantinian trappings of the Gospel. Well enough. But, when I opened up the gospels and began reading that Jesus preached the “gospel of God,” I understood the need to get the Gospel right. Who could argue we should evaluate what we mean when we refer to the “Gospel.” After all, is it not “who” rather than “what?”
This brings us to the new “missional” – “Gospel-centered.” And with its overuse and varied nuances it will as soon be the new “junk drawer.” I mean no disrespect for I really think we should be Gospel centered. We just have a way of taking rich descriptions and turning them into the next hope-filled “movement” thereby killing its breadth and depth.
Back to Doug. I am not as adept to integrate “string theory” into my understanding of the way the world works in the narrative of God’s story as Doug. But, I confess when our church gathers for worship, we do not practice the reading of the Scriptures in the same way Solomon’s Porch does. We follow the Revised Common Lectionary for our program of preaching. In doing so we read from several passages each week. Doug and those who “follow God in the way of Jesus” at Solomon’s Porch gather and read chapters of Scriptures for their worship gatherings. Instead of tagging a few verses together to fashion a catchy series for four or six weeks, they listen to the story develop in its context. Preaching verse by verse, how about listening chapter by chapter? Try reading chapters in most Baptist churches in one sitting and you would need one of those five-hour energy drinks to revive the crowd.
When Doug, Tony and Brian have mentioned they have a higher view of Scripture than inerrancy and infallibility, I suspect this is what they have in mind. Quibble all you want over inspirational methodologies. Get mired down in the textual apparatus of textual criticism. As for us – we are going to read the rich story of God and listen to the Spirit as we interpret our lives in the context of that great story. Fear that.