Saturday, June 14, 2008

Southern Baptists - More Diverse than You Might Think

Southern Baptists are such a large group (supposedly around 16 million, but the real figure is much smaller), that after you get beyond the basics of the gospel, there is much diversity within SBC beliefs and practices.

I was recently looking at Ed Stetzer's blog, where he mentions David Dockery's conclusions about different groups within the SBC. I'm not sure whether or not I completely agree with Dockery, but what he has to say is interesting to think about.

In Dockery’s new book, Southern Baptist Consensus and Renewal (which I have not yet read but would like to), he lists seven different groups of conservative Southern Baptists:

Fundamentalists: hard-lined people who often have more in common with “independent” Baptists than with the SBC heritage.

Revivalists: true heirs of the Sandy Creek tradition, including their suspicion of education.

Traditionalists: heirs of the Sandy Creek theology, including the strong commitment to evangelism and revivalism, but affirming of education.

Orthodox Evangelicals: an irenic group that looked to Carl F. H. Henry and Billy Graham as models. This group wanted a theological course correction, a commitment to the full truthfulness of the Bible, serious intellectual and cultural engagement, while interacting with all who would claim to great orthodox Christian tradition.

Calvinists: a group that wanted to reclaim aspects of the “Charleston” theological tradition. They have much in common with the “Evangelical” group above. Sub-groups include “Nine Marks,” “Sovereign Grace,” “Founders,” and others. Most among this group no longer tend toward isolation as in years past.

Contemporary church practitioners: a group of pastors who wanted to find new ways to connect with the culture, resulting in new models for doing church, including “Willow Creek Models,” “Saddleback Models,” “Missional,” and even some “emergent church types.”

Culture Warriors: another group of conservatives who desire to engage the issues of culture and society. This group includes a variety of approaches including “church over culture,” “church transforming culture,” as well as “church and culture / social justice types.”

If you have spent any time reading this blog, you can probably guess which above group I fall into (HINT: it starts "C-A-L"). However, I also have some leanings toward the "traditionalists" and "orthodox evangelicals." I have no interest whatsoever in the "contemporary church practitioners."

With this much diversity in the convention, it seems to me that we need to simplify what we stand for (in other words, why do we have a convention in the first place?). As I have said before, the only reason I see for the SBC is missions. As a convention, we ought to work together to take the gospel to all parts of the globe.

The local church can do the rest on its own.


Brian said...

is education in reference to theological education or government education?

I think more denominations are dealing with similar issues. In the AG there are ultra conservative Pentecostals, middle of the road Pentecostals, and PINO's (Pentecostals in Name Only). The last group appear more like a non-denominational church than a Pentecostal one meaning there's not much talk or emphasis on the AG's distinctive of belief in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues.

I wonder if theological education has anything to do with it all - or at least how open a Pastor is to differing view points (not accepting per se, but not closed either) - it seems like the less education some have the more conservative and less open they are than those who have more education - though I suppose this is not always the case.

Eric said...


I'm not sure what Dockery had in mind when he wrote that, but it probably was theological education.

In our convention there are some who distrust theological education because our seminaries used to be the liberal bastion within the SBC. That has changed, praise the Lord, but some still distrust the seminaries.

It is interesting to hear about the diversity within the AG as well as the SBC. I suppose that within any large denomination there almost has to be some level of diversity of beliefs.