In the past 12-24 months, I have had a growing sense of a lack of depth with the level of theology being discussed, taught, and preached in this area (the South in general :-) ) and in Baptist churches in particular. This feeling has grown as I have read more books, many of which I have read due to the Classical Christian School we have worked so hard to start. A quote from The Paideia of God by Douglas Wilson hit the nail on the head:
. . . many of those who are involved in starting up classical and Christian schools are on their own pilgrimage. They do not have any settled doctrinal convictions but are unsettled by that fact. They feel rootless and unequipped to teach their children. They have begun the process regardless, and they have constantly come up against what may be described as a fundamental theological reason why their studies seem so fruitless. They are trying to be faithful but cannot seem to get any traction. I have seen numerous such individuals who have begun to investigate Reformed theology precisely because their previous theology (or, more likely, lack of theology) provided an inadequate foundation for the kind of eduction they wanted to provide for their children.
But even before that, I have always been drawn to theology books and had even started reading books such as What is Reformed Theology (RC Sproul) and Systematic Theology (Gruden), as well as listening to Systematic Theology courses Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS) makes available on iTunes. Just in the past month I have heard speakers at ACCS mention the “superficiality” of the south, and I have begun asking a few local pastors their thoughts on the topic.
At any rate, I came across the following three podcasts which do a really good job of going through the history of the SBC and touch on what I would consider much deeper theology than what we typically see in today’s SBC churches.
I highly recommend listening to these, especially if you are a member of a Southern Baptist Church and if you have been searching for deeper things. For example, one point that was brought up was the submerging of doctrine to a more pragmatic and experiential view of faith took over. Another example is how they show the root of Baptists is a combination of English Separatists, dissatisfied Anglicans, and a desire to get back to the basics of what is taught in the Bible. They go on to say that in every way Baptists are Protestant except in their view of Baptisms (age of accountability vs. infant), and that we can in general be called “Evangelical Calvinists” (though they point out some differences in sub-aspects of what that means. Each of these points is discussed by leading Baptist Theologians of our day. (I may have thought that term was an oxymoron until listening to these guys talk! ;-) ) A general sense I got is that Baptists tried to be as broad in their theology as possible while maintaining primary doctrine as taught in the Bible, but let some of the more subtle differences be settled at the family or local church level. For example, Evangelical Calvinist as a broad term does not just mean Reformed Baptist. (I’m still trying to get my head around all of these terms and doctrines, so if I have mischaracterized anything, I apologize!)
Even if you have not felt the same lack of depth, the podcasts are worth listening to so you can get a feel for the history of the SBC — where the organization came from (and why), some foundational beliefs, and what issues it is currently facing.
And finally, they mentioned the SBC Confession of faith, which is worth a read through as well…