The breakup of Baptist culture in the American South


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Cities in the South are now selling alcohol on Sunday. What do you think this means?

The Associated Press printed a story about declining church influence in the American South. It cited a Pew Research Center survey that revealed a slight increase in the number of people answering “none” to which religion they identified with since 2007 (6%). It focused on the recent wave of laws that have swept Southern cities that finally lifted the ban on Sunday alcohol sales.

Since the law passed, in other words, it must mean the churches didn’t stop it. If they didn’t stop it, it means they couldn’t. That must mean their influence is declining, they imply.

AMERICAN BAPTIST CULTURE

American culture today is largely Baptist:

  1. A diminished view of God’s sovereignty;
  2. An elevated view of man’s capabilities to think and act on his own apart from God’s grace and, thus, confidence in big government;
  3. An emphasis on personal piety and a sentimental idea of love;
  4. A focus on pulling as many lost souls into the boat (baptism by immersion) before Jesus returns (shortly); and
  5. A willingness to cede the responsibility for transforming culture to the heathen (which isn’t a hard decision to make since it is thought to be rapidly declining towards Jesus’ triumphant return anyway).

Oh, and total dedication to college football on Saturdays, followed by professional football on Sundays.

This was not always the case.

In 1776, 90% of the colonies’ churches were Calvinist (of the Reformed tradition). In 1780, during the middle of the Revolutionary War, there were around 500 Presbyterian churches and 450 Baptist churches. In those days, the Baptists were mostly Calvinist because they had accepted the Calvinistic Philadelphia Confession of Faith, which was a modified version of the Westminster Confession of Faith. This changed following the war, when the Baptist churches went Arminian.

This picture changed dramatically by 1900. The number of Presbyterian churches had grown to approximately 15,500, but the Baptists had swelled their numbers to over 50,000. There were similar numbers of Methodist churches, who were also Arminian theologically. By 1900, Arminianism had won, and Presbyterian church influence had declined dramatically. It became mostly liberal. Most mainline churches did. The Baptists remained conservative, morally. Their Arminian theology was considered liberal during the 17th century, but it has become dominant in American churches today. Americans have grown to abhor the stench of Calvinism and its emphasis on God’s sovereignty nearly as much as they have the idea of a world without Social Security because of the existence of small, limited, lightly funded federal government. The Reformed Baptist tradition all but diminished to non-existence; while it can be considered to be experiencing a kind of resurgence, according to Wikipedia there were less than 500 total Calvinistic Baptist congregations operating in the United States, containing 16,000 people total. That’s a net change of almost zero in 200 years.

RELIGION AT THE POLLS: MIA

In 2011, a wave of local referendums enabled Sunday alcohol sales in the state of Georgia. It was the first time Sunday sales had been legal since the start of Prohibition. A pastor from the Georgia Baptist convention argued that the voting outcome would have been impossible 20 years ago:

Two decades ago, said Newman, voters never would have gotten the chance to decide whether alcohol could be sold on Sunday, the “Lord’s day.” Lawmakers would have heeded the exhortations of pastors and killed any legislation that proposed changing alcohol laws, he said.

In 2011, the pastors stayed silent. It was largely a matter of economics, they decided: enable Sunday alcohol sales, and increased tax revenues would follow. The region was still struggling following the end of the Great Recession, so the long-time moral imperative was overlooked in the interest of economic stimulus.

The statewide vote was a bellweather, argued one Georgia historian:

Tuesday’s votes also show “the decreasing importance of religion in American society,” said Edwin Jackson, a Georgia historian who’s retired from the Carl Vinson Institute of Government in Athens. “Much of the opposition to Sunday sales is probably associated with opposition to any sale of alcoholic beverages.”

He said “religion,” but he overstated his case. The change in laws represents a decline of the influence of broken religion. Since its peak in 2003, Southern Baptist membership has been declining. The fires have begun to cool in the SBC.

No where in Scripture does God prohibit the consumption of alcohol, and yet Baptist churches, as well as fundamentalist churches in general, have, since the late 1800’s, demanded strict alcohol abstinence. To label something “sin” which God has not is to corrupt his Word. This is especially offensive when done in His name. Those who reverse that prohibition will be blessed because they are upholding God’s commandments. God honors his covenant, even among the unregenerate. Influence will flow to those who bring the civil law in line with God’s law, and away from those who have long resisted.

WATER INTO GRAPE JUICE

In Old Covenant Israel, God required that his people spend their tithe money on a massive feast. This was a blessing. Some of the things he authorized this tithe money to be spent on were wine and strong drink:

And spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household. And you shall not neglect the Levite who is within your towns, for he has no portion or inheritance with you. (Deut. 14:26-27)

The Israelites were supposed to have a feast to celebrate God and his outpouring of blessings. The magnificent feast was meant to represent his outpouring of visible blessings. Wine and strong drink, whatever their appetite craved, were authorized.

Similarly, Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11). Not just any wine, but really good wine. Jesus used the analogy of old and new wine with his disciplies when describing the change that was coming to the Old Covenant order. You can’t put new wine into old wineskins, he said, because the old wineskins would burst (Mark 2:22). They would burst because of the fermenting action of the new wine. The kingdom was about to expand further than Old Covenant Israel ever could; it’s model was no longer suitable to bring about Jesus’ new world order. So, the Old Covenant order was replaced with a better one in the New Covenant.

Grape juice does not ferment. Consequently, it wouldn’t matter if you put sterilized grape juice into old wineskins; there’d be no risk of damage because the skins wouldn’t be put under any great strain. Therefore, Jesus could not have been talking about grape juice. His kingdom expands to cover the earth as the waters cover the oceans; grape juice, by the process of pasteurization, has been sterilized to kill the yeast which brings about fermentation. Jesus’ kingdom was not to be sterile, but alive and growing, so grape juice would have been an inappropriate metaphor.

Beginning around 1790, the world witnessed the advent of 2% economic growth per anum that began to rapidly transform Western civilization and brought about disruptive social change with it. Entrepreneurial families living on the edge of the western frontier of American society, away from the increasingly mighty hand attached to an ever outgrowing arm of the metamorphosing federal government, converted agricultural produce to strong drink (distilled spirits). This reduced domestic dependence on imported liquours like rum. The families in the west brewed them, and the families back east drank them. But the growing tendency to drink shifted from private to social situations, destructively so. Excessive drinking during social outings led to public drunkenness. At such gatherings, the only legitimate excuse to not have another drink was passing out — not too different from what goes on in the modern college campuses across the nation.

Living through unprecedented economic growth and social change, people increasingly felt that they had no control over their lives or their destinies, so they turned to drinking to give them a semblance of control. Temperance movements succeeded in usurping this impulse by portraying the act of drinking as being in bondage to Satan. This amplified feelings of guilt suffered from losing control. Offering the promise of bringing about social change that they could control, the temperance movements were able to enlist former drinkers by turning them into tee-totaling saints in the name of catalyzing social change as leaders instead of as bondsmen of Satan.

Big tent revivalism grew out of the pietistic Great Awakenings. The preachers diluted their theological message to reach a larger audience of potential converts. Since Christianity became to be viewed so individualisticly, salvation came to be seen as salvation from the earthly order — Christ’s power over this world was spiritual only. The emphasis fell on getting as many people into the boat as possible. These fundamentalist revivalists joined forces with the temperance movements.

This fusion of moralism and fundamentalist Christianity finds expression in Billy Sunday, the baseball-player-turned-big-tent-evangelist at the turn of the 20th century. Wikipedia reports:

Although Sunday was ordained by the Presbyterian Church in 1903, his ministry was nondenominational and he was not a strict Calvinist. He preached that individuals were, at least in part, responsible for their own salvation. “Trail hitters” were given a four-page tract that stated, “if you have done your part (i.e. believe that Christ died in your place, and receive Him as your Saviour and Master) God has done HIS part and imparted to you His own nature.”

Sunday became an avid supporter of Prohibition and probably played a large role in its passage. Even after public opinion turned against it, Sunday remained a supporter.

MODERN PROHIBITIONISM

In 2006, the Southern Baptist Convention voted on a resolution that expressed their continued “total opposition to the manufacturing, advertising, distributing, and consuming of alcoholic beverage.” It also urged that no one be elected to church offices or committees if they drink, and it urged the churches “to take an active role in supporting legislation that is intended to curb alcohol use in our communities and nation.” It cites Proverbs 23:29-35:

Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaining?
Who has wounds without cause?
Who has redness of eyes?
Those who tarry long over wine;

They did not cite the Apostle Paul: “Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities” (1 Tim. 5:23). They also did not cite Moses: “And spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves.” As Joel McDurmon argues in his What Would Jesus Drink?, Proverbs 23 is to be taken as a unit that warns against the dangers of lust: losing self control, whether it be in the presence of food or wine. It is a warning against drunkenness, which the Bible condemns — not recreational consumption, against which it offers no prohibition. McDurmon’s judgment is severe:

Anyone who continues to impose the “Don’t touch alcohol” belief based on this verse shows that they have no idea what Proverbs 23 is about, have no knowledge at all how to handle biblical languages (and probably don’t care to learn), and believe more in controlling people with fear than with wisdom, understanding, and self-discipline. (p. 71)

To be fair, the SBC resolution also cites the breakup of families and traffic deaths that occur as a result of alchohol abuse, but their approach is total abstinence, not moderation. Moderation is the biblical approach. If they are totally opposed to consumption, then the Christians in their midst are prohibited from obeying this charitable biblical instruction: “Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts” (Prov. 31:6).  The SBC has rejected the Bible and substituted their own rules. This is modern Pharisaism, which Jesus rejected as legalism.

The local counties and cities have made laws that are more in accordance with the Bible than the beliefs of the Southern Baptist Convention. This is a positive development for Christian liberty, but the Baptist churches are on the wrong side of it. These Christian churches are in a position that, though the various municipalities have pushed their laws closer to the biblical ideal, the public senses a fundamental shift in their influence. They wrongly equate the shift as a decline of the influence of “religion,” which is an overstatement, but it certainly reveals a decline in the SBC’s influence.

Their legalistic approach to morality has finally caught up with them. How have they gotten themselves into this position?

INDIVIDUALISM BRINGS DOWN THE HOUSE

Baptist theology is fatally flawed.

The Baptist theology is one which emphasizes individualism over the corporate body. In other words, it emphasizes the one over the many. Christianity is theologically Trinitarian: one God in three persons. Christians are not monotheists, like Muslims, nor are they polytheists, like Mormons. Christians are not deistic like the Enlightenment philosophers and their forefather, Isaac Newton, who emphasized God’s transendance to the detriment of his immanence (presence within his creation). Their deistic god is usually imagined as the “clockmaker” god who wound the universe up and set it into motion, binding it with fixed mathematical laws and sustaining it from afar so that it does not run down. This view excises Christ, his redemptive work, and the Holy Spirit from their worldview.

On the other hand, neither do Christians worship many different gods like the ancient Greeks with their pantheon. Those gods were at odds with one another, setting alliances against each other, and generally thought to interfere with peoples’ lives by inserting chaos, much to their detriment. The three persons of the Trinity are equally God — God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. They are three persons of the same, not a similar, substance. They are of one mind and in total communion with each other. There are no disagreements among the three persons within the Trinity because they are one God.

Trinitarian Christianity saves us from falling into the error of emphasizing either the one or the many over the other. In God, the one finds equal ultimacy with the many. God is a person, which is why we pray to Him. He listens to us. But the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are three distinct persons who are equally God, in perfect communion with each other. This reality is reflected in Christian culture which is consistent with its theology: neither the one nor the many dominates over the other. Neither the individual is esteemed as the ultimate authority in a society suffering from anarchy due to the absence of universal laws. Nor is the one State, the corporate body of the many, elevated above individuals so as to trample their liberty. Both are equally ultimate, so neither can dominate.

In political theory, emphasizing the one over the many leads to anarchism: every individual is a law unto themselves, doing what they believe is right in their own eyes. Emphasizing the many, on the other hand, leads to some form of collectivism where the will of the State, the corporate body, supercedes the individual wills and desires of the people. Anarchism always eventually crystallizes into collectivism as the individuals surrender authority to a higher corporate agency. They do this in the name of equality because no individual can be greater than another individual, so they summon the State into existence in order to tilt the scales and establish this ideal equality. Orwell’s book, 1984, is a story about the tyrannical horror that can only be imagined for those poor individuals who find themselves living under the constant pressure of a brutal jackboot to their neck from the footsoldier enforcers the State’s will.

A family is a corporate body. In fact, it’s a covenantal unit. Reflecting the Trinity, it is a singular entity consisting of distinct individuals: husband, wife, and their children. Under normal circumstances, having been established by a public oath under God, the family follows the Trinitarian principle: distinct, but not separate. Judicially speaking, you cannot separate the members of a family. The husband is responsible for his wife’s actions, and vice versa, to a limited extent. The debt taken on by one is borne by the other. The foolish decisions of a working husband that result in his termination is borne by all members of the family. His actions affect not only himself, but the members of his whole family. Both parents are responsible for their children’s actions until they reach adulthood. A 16-year-old child who gets in a car wreck that kills another driver while driving his parents’ car will expose his parents to a civil lawsuit that could result in the family’s bankruptcy. Likewise, wealth and positive sanctions affect the whole family. Children enjoy the benefits of their parents’ influence in society. They enjoy the fruits of their parents’ labors and their family’s good name and reputation. Righteous children born to righteous parents are left an inheritance when their parents die. Righteous parents give their children a leg up in the world; their children, in other words, experience the benefits of priviledge.

Divorce dissolves the covenantal bond between husband and wife, but only legally; a legal and righteous divorce is confirming a covenantal reality that has already come to pass — the covenantal death of the offending spouse for committing a capital crime and violating their marital oath that was taken before God. Similarly, parents are not required by God to permanently bear the sins of their rebellious, incorrigible children. Parents can disinherit their children by cutting them off from all further support, especially economic: point five of the biblical covenant model. This is a warning shot to children who have strayed from the narrow path: repent or perish. If they are not called back into repentance by the shock of disinheritance, then they may continue to decline into sin such that they are eventually arraigned by the civil justice system on criminal charges.

Being a covenantal unit, the family is also at risk of errors associated with an improper, unbalanced view of the Trinity. If the one is emphasized, this results in the tyranny of patriarchy. Patriarchy presents the father as the family’s priest, its mediator between God and the wife and children. In the Old Covenant, this was partially true, but it was based on a judicial, covenantal reality: only the men were circumcised in the Old Covenant, so they bore more responsibility than the women. However, there was a fundamental change from the Old to the New Covenant: women, as well as men, are now baptized. Daughters, as well as sons, are baptized.

Baptism, like circumsision in the Old Covenant, is the covenantal sign for entrance into God’s covenant. It is an oath-sign, the sealing of a vow between God and the invidual. Attached to the oath are dual sanctions: the promise of blessings for obedience, but also the threat of curses for disobedience. The person who enters the covenant is taking a self-maledictory oath, meaning that they are calling down God’s negative sanctions onto themselves should they break the terms of his covenant. This threat of negative sanctions is pictured in the oath-sign.

In the Old Covenant act of circumcision, the initiate was essentially promising God: “If I break your covenant, then I will be cut to pieces and fed to the birds.” The model for this was the covenant-cutting ceremony Abraham participated in in Genesis 15:9-21. The cutting of the foreskin in circumcision was a token symbol that represented the comprehensive negative sanctions — eternally being cut off from God’s presence (hell). On the other hand, the cutting off of the foreskin represented God’s gracious work in saving men from their sins and the eternal torment of hell as represented by a converted heart: “And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live” (Deut. 30:6).

Similarly, in baptism, water acts as the sanctioning agent. It reminds the new Christian of an important reality: water can wash away dirty stains the way that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross blots out all our sins, but it also has the power to destroy: death by drowning, as the Israelites witnessed when Pharaoh and the Egyptians were buried beneath the waters of the Red Sea. It also hearkens back to Noah’s flood: the righteous were judged unto life, escaping in a life-saving vessel (ark), but the unrighteous were judged unto death, drowned beneath the flood waters of judgement.

In the New Covenant, since women are baptized along with the men, they are no longer as dependent on their husbands as they were in the Old Covenant. Being baptized, they have more responsibility. In the Old Covenant, the father administered the sacraments (circumcision), and this gave him great authority. In the New Covenant the Church has taken over the sole authority and responsibility for administering the sacraments: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The husband is no longer allowed to baptize his children or serve his family the Lord’s Supper. These are responsibilities delegated to officers of the church (elders).

If a family is encumbered by the emphasis of the one over the many, then the husband becomes a tyrant. His will overrules those of his wife and his children. The wills of his grandchildren, even, are subsumed into his own, extending as far down the bloodline as his longevity will grant him. In other words, the family loses its ability to appeal above and beyond the husband in matters of oppression because the husband becomes the final earthly authority. He interprets Scripture and mediates doctrine on behalf of Christ to his family. The Church loses its authority over the family, and the wife and children lose hope of liberation from tyranny. They become subjects of a small-scale tyranny since the Church cannot step in and overrule and censure the husband’s actions.

EXPERIENTIAL, NOT JUDICIAL

On the other hand, when individualism is emphasized in the family, then the family’s covenantal bonds are dissolved. Every person is given up to the world, essentially, to find their own way. The children of Baptists are not seen as being ingrafted into God’s covenant by way of righteous representation: their parents, who are covenanted to Christ. Instead of being baptized as infants and raised under the assumption that the children are Christians to be raised up in God’s ways on the basis of His covenantal claim, Baptists must assume their children are heathen. They have to teach them and train them as if they are pagans, strangers to God whose wrath continually abides on them, hoping that one day they will make their own profession of faith and pass through the believer’s baptism.

In 2002, the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board discovered that conversion becomes less likely after the age of 12.

Infant baptism is rejected on the basis of the individualized covenant symbolized by the so-called believer’s baptism. To be baptized, one must confess faith in Christ. Babies cannot talk, so they cannot be baptized because they are incapable of professing faith. Since the Trinitarian covenant model is rejected, so is its principle of hierarchical representation. The infant has no earthly representative to take the covenantal oath on his behalf. He is cut out of the covenant that his parents are a member of, one which he has legitimate membership rights to. Though he is born into a Christian household, a covenantal unit, he is excised from it on the basis of the Baptistic covenant’s radical individualization.

The Baptists, in other words, circumcise their babies from the family covenant because they really don’t believe it exists.

The Baptists believe they only baptize true believers, which is why they call the baptism the “believer’s baptism.” But it’s really a “professor’s baptism,” because there have been times when Baptist church members fall away from the church and never return. Obviously in such a case it was not a believer who was baptized at all.

More so than that, their children have to have a personal encounter with God — a “turning point” in their life — to know that they have truly been born again. If they do not have this encounter, or if they cannot vividly recall the date when their heart changed, then they are not considered to be true Christians. They haven’t been born again. They have serious cause to doubt their salvation. There is no explicit set of criteria that defines what must occur during each person’s divine experience, but they must certainly have one. If they don’t think they had one, but are convinced they are Christians, then they had better manufacture the experience to be accepted by their peers — the more extravagant and emotional the experience was, the more acceptable it will be.

In other words, Baptist theology has rejected the judicial covenant theology of Reformed Christianity and replaced it with experientalism. Entrance into God’s covenant is not based on his claim on people based on his eternal decree of election, established before the foundation of the world, as pictured in infant baptism; rather, it is based on an individual experience, a personalized encounter in which the Spirit moved in the heart and stirred to the surface all matter of emotion and euphoria in a great moment of deep repentance. Covenantal obedience is not based on keeping an objective set of external standards — God’s laws — but by seeking personal piety and holiness. This usually is manifested in some arbitrary code of asceticism and retreat from worldly things.

We should be reminded of Paul’s words: the knowledge of sin comes through the law (Rom. 3:20). Subjectifying and individualizing the covenant forces men to look inside themselves for sin instead of outward at an external, objective standard. God established the external standard by which we compare ourselves to recognize our sin: his law. Baptist theology ignores the law. Sin is correctly defined in terms of law-breaking. When you ignore the law, you lose knowledge of true sin. The result is perfectionism. Whatever the case, ethics becomes subjective because the only objective, unchanging source of ethics which is independent of all mankind has been rejected: God’s law.

If God’s law, as revealed in Scripture, sets the standard for what is sinful, then departing from that objective, external standard has obvious consequences: calling something “sin” which isn’t actually sin. God defines what sin is; men do not. When not restrained by the Word of God, personal convictions become the subjective source of right and wrong, and personal convictions vary from person to person — this is why they are called “personal” convictions.

CONCLUSION

An individualistic view of the covenant leads to separation. Baptists misinterpret Jesus’ statement to Pilate: Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence” (John 18:36). They interpret this to mean His kingdom is totally separate from the world, isolated (confined to) to the spiritual realm. Christ reigns in the hearts and minds of its believers, and that’s where the Church resides. As a result, they separate themselves from social reform except in cases confined to personal piety, such as consuming alcohol. Rarely will a Baptist campaign for civil government to declare abortion illegal and punishable by execution on the basis that it is murder (“life for life”). They consider those kinds of Old Testament, society-impacting laws as lost causes. Though they have no doubt that personal sin spills over into the world by corrupting society, they do not believe the reverse is true: that personal righteousness following regeneration, brought about by the power of the Holy Spirit, can change society.

What Christ really meant in his discussion with Pilate was that his power was heavenly power. By ruling over heaven, he rules over earth because heaven is higher in terms of hierarchy. In other words, if it is good to rule on an earthly throne, then how much better is it to rule from a heavenly throne? The single heavenly throne rules over all earthly thrones: “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him…For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet” (Col. 1:16, conflated with 1 Cor. 15:25).

Scripture consistently teaches that the progression of history is to have the patterns of heaven gradually imposed upon the earth until that time where they look so similar that Jesus returns in final judgment to consumate all of history and erase the remaining boundaries between heaven and earth. We pray for this in the Lord’s prayer: “Thy Kingdom come…on earth as it is in heaven.” In Revelation, John sees the New Jerusalem descending out of heaven towards the earth: “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Rev. 21:2). During creation week, the Spirit is hovering over the waters, forming the earthly things as representatives of their heavenly realities:

When God’s glory-cloud appears later in the Bible, we find that it consists of such basic heavenly phenomena as light, clouds, lightning, thunder, blue sky, and the like. Here in Genesis 1:2-3 is the explanation of this. God first created heaven, and then sent His Spirit to hover over the earth. Proceeding from heaven, the Spirit brought the heavenly pattern into the cosmos…To see into the cloud was to see into heaven. Genesis 1 explains that the hovering Spirit proceeded from heaven to make this glory-light appear within the world. In this way, the Spirit brought a blueprint with Him, and began the work of shaping the world after the heavenly model. [James Jordan, Through New Eyes (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt Publishers, Inc., 1988), pp. 43-45.]

God’s blessings flow to those who obey his laws. In the four decades following Roe Vs. Wade, legalized abortion in the United States has resulted in the murder of over 50 million people. Cases of divorce and adultery continue to rise, eroding the foundation of social stability. Homosexuality and transgenderism continue to grow into more visible cultural issues. The Church must confront these problems, but it can only do so by judging them against the only eternal, objective standard by which sin is revealed: God’s law.

The Baptist tradition has been to recede from cultural affairs. As the fruits of the Darwinian worldview and an unbelieving, pagan culture become visible, people become more thirsty for answers as the rising tides of chaos begin to engulf them. This is especially true for the country’s youth. Raised in a family and in a church that offers no concrete answers to the world’s problems, encouraging, instead, individuals to look inward to their convictions for what is right and what isn’t, the children are encouraged to be skeptical. They seek answers from those who are not afraid to take charge in leading culture.

Not only has the Baptist church refused to get involved, but it has also been guilty of labeling some behaviors and activities as sinful which really aren’t. Its ethics are confused because it has no anchor.

Consequently, the Baptist church has failed to lead. The Baptist-led Moral Majority in the 1980s crumbled because it was not ready to lead. It had no answers to give to those looking. Because Baptist theology doesn’t consciously look to God’s law for absolute authority on right and wrong, it is blind. And yet, it is only God’s law that can bring the answers to a culture crumbling beneath the growing weight of unrepentant sin.

Ironically, the answer to the cultural problem will mean the end to the Baptist church. Baptist theology is inherently opposed to objective, biblical standards. It relies on subjective experience to define faith and truth, in contrast with the Bible’s emphasis on an objective measure of faith (covenantal baptism). Its eschatology, as a reflection of its overall theology, is retreatist. The sooner the world crumbles, the sooner Christ returns. So, why bother saving it?

The result is denominational decline. Not as swift as the liberal denominations, but decline nevertheless.

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