More Irruptions of the Real? “Hey SBC, Read Fitch!”

The temperature continues to be the topic du jour here in Oklahoma. In contest like fashion meteorologists see who can state the obvious better. Add in the constant tracking of how many days over 100° Oklahoma City endures and I am guessing it is the absence of a tornado to chase. Reading in the cool on a day off after hosting Cohen Alan seems like the proper response.

A few articles have caught my attention as I watch the grass turn yellow and listen to the whir of the A/C. It seems Richard Land has given the media fodder with which they may shoot at the SBC. EthicsDaily reports that Dr. Land has repeated Beckian screed and offered refuted “facts” to challenge the ethics of President Obama on fiduciary grounds. Would that someone would make a motion at next year’s SBC Annual Meeting, rather than a resolution, to censure entity heads for such mis-handling of words. After all, the SBC more than nearly any other denomination lays claim to “handling words” with great respect and care. Inerrant. Infallible.

And, someone gets the implications quite well,

“Frank Page, the SBC’s chief executive officer, and Bryan Wright, the SBC’s elected president, should insist that Land publicly apologize for his malicious playboy statement and correct the record,” said Parham. “They should issue a letter of apology to the president. Unless they distance themselves and the SBC from such statements, then they allow Land to present Southern Baptists as a malicious and untruthful people. If they are silent, then they make a mockery of the 2011 SBC resolution calling for civility in public discourse.”

The other article of note was also in my Google Reader. It appears CJ Mahaney has taken a Piperian leave of absence. The CT blog piece by Url Scaramanga, sounds like a villain from a James Bond film, closes the piece with the following paragraph,

What do you make of the news about Mahaney and SGM? And with both Piper and Mahaney are we witnessing a pattern among large, celebrity church leaders? Is this something unique to the Neo-Reformed movement, or is it broader than that? And when a leader steps down due to adultery or steeling we generally call it a “failure.” But what about when a leader steps down because of pride? Is it still a failure, or something to be affirmed–a preemptive and mature decision that comes before engaging in a “real” sin?

Don’t miss the way the questions are posed. Adultery and stealing = failure. Pride = “But what about when a leader steps down because of pride? Is it still failure or preemptive and mature?” What?! “Pride goes before a fall.” Not a “real” sin. Niebuhr in The Nature and Destiny of Man considered the root of every human sin to be pride. Maybe he understood hubris in the Greek Tragedy that is sorely missed in American Evangelical Tragedies. Pride has no place in adultery? Stealing? Where are our ethicists?

I really think Url asks the questions in a way to cause all to think, and do so with a bit of rigor. After all, that is precisely what it takes to read David Fitch’s, The End of Evangelicalism. Here in these two incidents we have ongoing illustrations of what happens when we charge ahead with an “Inerrant Bible” and an embodied ethic that seems to betray such – an irruption of the real. That is, what shows up is the “real” of what is empty. A phrase becomes meaningless.

What do words mean? We pastor/preacher types are not immune to these kinds of things. We likely battle them as often as most. But reading a few of the comments over at Url’s post leaves me thinking that since it was a figure like Mahaney we grant him grace and mercy – “He’s just human.” Not something we are quick to do with, say, President Obama. Just what is it that resulted in a “leave of absence?” Url notes,

But Mahaney is accused of being a jerk. A statement issued July 6 says “various expressions of pride, unentreatability, deceit, sinful judgment and hypocrisy” are the reason of his indefinite leave of absence.

If we can reduce the sins of some in such a way to applaud the act of stepping down and diminishing the ill, then why do we make such noise over the ethics of those we do not view as Mahaney is viewed? Words. Mean. Something. And, if pastor/preacher types are going to stand from week to week suggesting the words in the Scriptures possess authority, then those who represent us in something of celebrity status owe we lesser lights a bit more care in word and deed.

Maybe this also illustrates the kind of “Biblicism” alive and well in Evangelical circles. Over at Scot McKnight’s blog, Scot gets a bit “edgy” by his own admission. I am reminded of a conversation after a trip to an SBC annual meeting with a friend in the late 1990’s.

Making the drive back to Oklahoma up I-35 we discussed the events of the several days we were in Dallas. Having lived and pastored in Texas during not just a few interesting Baptist times, I had begun wondering about the words we use. I shared with my friend, who is still my friend after all these years, my growing conviction that our denominational affinity for “inerrant and infallible” seemed vacuous. Many would observe the misuse of the terms by leaders illustrated in their lack of embodied ethics as cause to suspect the validity of the Scriptures. For me, it was less a blight on the Scriptures. It was more about those who “used” words.

My friend resisted  following my trajectory. There are consequences. One move leads to denominational acceptance. The other to denominational marginalization. No sour grapes here. I would not have been a good team player then. Today, I would likely ask too many questions. But, then again, maybe it is the fact too few serve in the right places to ask questions.

I continue to return to Fitch when these kinds of illustrations show up in my Google Reader. For my tribe the concern should be more focused. If the SBC cannot abide by its words, who will ever believe we find power in the words of Jesus? Failure to take serious these matters mean more than an “end to evangelicalism.”

 

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.