It must be the long chin hair of his goatee. His facial hair is out of lock step with Southern Baptist Executive grooming standards. It seems the former soul patch he sported did not draw so much attention. The ever-growing goatee crosses the line. It may have reached four inches at this writing.

Maybe Ed dresses too casual for Executive level SBC leaders. I have seen him don a sports coat sans tie. Why, I have seen Ed without a sports coat. Ed may have forgotten it is hip to be square.

Some may view Ed’s diverse speaking schedule to be traitorous. Foursquare. Assemblies of God. General Baptist Conference. For Piper. For Warren. On we could go. The diversity makes it difficult to pin Ed down. May Southern Baptists speak outside of SBC circles? God forbid! Traitor!

Some twenty-five years ago I sat in an Ethics course at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. We used John R.W. Stott’s Involvement Series as two of our textbooks. How dare we be assigned an Anglican scholar in an SBC Seminary? It is fodder for Conservative Resurgences.

But wait. We are past that era. Right? We now live with greater intellectual freedom. Our CR warriors reasserted priesthood of all believers. We no longer need the magisterial filter. There are no banned authors or books at Lifeway. We may glean truth from diverse authors bought straight from the shelves at our local Lifeway bookstore. Not so fast.

Early on we young conservative wannabes were told there is a safe reading list. No Barth. No Tillich. Neo-s were no-no’s. Today Southern Seminary hosts discussions to warn against that Anglican N.T Wright. Lifeway keeps its own list of authors it will not carry. The preservation of Baptist Identity trumps the value of truth found elsewhere. Sure. There is a bit of hyperbole and sarcasm here.

I am amused. Ed is considered a traitor because he is the General Editor of The Gospel Project curriculum. Our youth use the material. It is solid. Ed is a traitor because he dared approve material that contains quotes from conservative voices that hail from other denominations. Really? You bet your HCSB. In a denomination that must baptize and produce our own version of every good idea germinated within another group, so our constituency will be none the wiser, Ed is surely a traitor. Some will remember the seminal material of CWT (Continuing Witness Training) as birthed in EE (Evangelism Explosion).

Ed responds to his critics. I found his use of Dr. Paige Patterson interesting. The recent release of Patterson’s commentary on Revelation contains quotes from other than Southern Baptist scholars. Stetzer rightly remarks this does not make Patterson a traitor.

I noticed he interacts with scholars from across the denominational spectrum– sometimes citing them to make his point. These quotations do not make me question his motives. They don’t make me think he is less than Southern Baptist in his affiliations or convictions. In fact, they provide evidence of how thorough his work was to write such a helpful commentary.

Dr. Patterson is certainly not a “traitor” to the SBC. Instead, I believe this kind of work makes him a better Southern Baptist. Dr. Patterson is willing to glean truth– wherever it is found– and to interact with the Body of Christ at large in a way that strengthens and bolsters his (and, ultimately, our) Baptist convictions.

Maybe the two resources – The Gospel Project and Patterson’s Revelation commentary – are comparable. I have little trouble with the way Ed connects the two. What is good for pastors/scholars should be good for non-professional teachers, as well as others, in our churches. If Patterson may quote those outside the SBC, then why not The Gospel Project?

Stetzer describes the criticism as Baptist isolationism.

This kind of Southern Baptist isolationism and elitism does not serve the mission of the churches of our convention, and it certainly does not serve the kingdom of God well. Pastors and leaders in our convention have always benefited from books and commentaries written by Biblical scholars from other traditions. We glean insight from people throughout church history, and we can learn biblical truths from people in other denominations.

Underneath Ed’s appeal that Southern Baptists, “have always benefited from books and commentaries written by Biblical scholars from other traditions,” is itself representative of isolationism. Ed works for Lifeway. I am sure there is a do not stock list of authors. They likely do not fit the SBC interpretation of biblical.

Recently Scot McKnight, a conservative non-Southern Baptist, remarked that John Dominic Crossan’s, God and Empire, to be one of the finer books on the subject of empire criticism. I doubt many Southern Baptists have been encouraged to read Crossan. Can anything good come out of the Jesus Seminar? Lifeway does not carry Crossan. We do carry N.T. Wright.

For we Southern Baptists, biblical serves as a cipher. When it does, we must admit to isolationism and elitism. Our practice is to filter out those who do not fit our understanding of biblical. The implication is that there is no truth and nothing to learn from those scholars and writers.

Spend some time with those who are not Southern Baptist – conservative and liberal. The consistent impression they get from us is that we have happily created our own ghetto, our own narrow version of Christianity. That is isolationism. Our culture warring comes off as elitism. I understand we are a convictional people. SBC certainty comes off more hubris than humility.

I sympathize with Ed. He is no traitor. He believes the Kingdom of God is larger than Nashville and all other cities where Southern Baptist powers emanate. However, we cannot call out Baptist isolationism and elitism practiced by others when we happen to be the subject of the criticism. We must admit that we live in a bubble of our own making. The criticism is at least consistent to our historical narratives. We are right. Everyone else is not.

Ed does not believe we cannot learn from those outside our own tribe. He says so. I will go out on a limb and contend Ed believes we may learn from those with whom we disagree, even those with whom said disagreement runs deep. I agree with Ed.

By identifying the error of naming Ed a traitor as Baptist isolationism and elitism, Stetzer indicts us all. If Ed is a traitor, it is not for allowing conservatives from other denominations to be quoted. If Ed is a traitor, it is that he betrayed our secret. Now everyone knows.

About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.