Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors – Proverbs 1:19
The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death. – Proverbs 21:6
The wisdom of scripture always seems to bare itself out. Over the last few days, I have had a chance to digest the Guidepost report, read responses from the leaders within the SBC, and read a number of online commentaries from pastors and critics. I have transitioned from outrage to disgust, to anger, and finally, problem-solving mode.
Which lands me here.
Many of you would ask why my take would matter. Fair question. For all you know, I am some keyboard warrior who has no understanding of the Southern Baptist Convention. You would be wrong.
Every church I have attended has been an SBC church. That is until the last couple of years. I am still somewhat affiliated with an SBC church despite not attending.
I received all of my post-graduate degrees from Southern Baptist institutions. I have an MBA from Liberty University with an emphasis in leadership. I have an MDiv from Luther Rice Seminary with an emphasis in Pastoral Leadership. I have my Doctorate from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with an emphasis in leadership. My dissertation was on organizational change. I was ordained through an SBC church. I was on the board of an SBC college, and I served as the COO of that same SBC college.
My educational and professional background puts me in a position to review organizational culture, identify core problems, offer solutions and execute them. My spiritual gift, without any doubt, is administration. I embrace that, love it, and am thankful to God every day that he created my mind to work the way it does. I do not say this to gloat or brag, though those that know me know I do that.
I say these things so you understand that I am not a fly-by-night, back seat driver here. I have been in the SBC arena. I am not the “young lord who but for the vile guns would have been a valiant soldier.”
My review of this report is twofold. First, I believe the root problem was missed by the Guidepost report. Second, while its recommendations are excellent procedural changes, they do not fix the root problem. This post will walk through the root core of the problem. The next several posts will be my professional recommendations to the SBC to solve these problems.
For those who are only familiar with the recent headline, the Guidepost report on sexual abuse dates back to a Houston Chronicle report in 2019. SBC President J.D. Greear spoke at the 2019 convention about sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches. The response from the power brokers in the convention was not positive. When I say those in the Convention, I am not talking about the SBC pastor in Liberty, Missouri who just leads his church. I am talking about those who currently hold or aspire to hold positions through committees within the Convention; the ones playing in the game or on the sideline waiting to get in the game. While the public face of the SBC was silent on the Chronicle report, the SBC convention was going into overdrive eating its own. They were targeting J.D. Greear and Russell Moore. Both of whom had intimate knowledge of the sexual abuse scandal. In 2021, the messengers took matters into their own hands and voted on a resolution to have the matter investigated. There was some back and forth between the Executive Committee on attorney-client privileges. Ultimately, a task force was created, and Guidepost was hired.
If there is one thing you should know about the SBC it is their Borg-like mentality. They present a facade of sola scriptura, sola fide and gospel above all. The reality is that their loyalties lie solely with the Convention. They see it as the means to advance God and that there are no other means. A threat to the organization is a threat to the advancement of Christ. My personal experience with national and state convention types has shown that, moderate questions of efficiency and improving aspects of some organizations are seen as threats. Those of us in the business world know that these saboteurs aim to protect the organization for their own benefit and to secure their own fiefdom.
This Borg-like mentality is bred into anyone who becomes part of the SBC. It is almost Scientology like. SBC seminaries have mandatory classes on the “awesomeness” that is the SBC for new students on its campus. The attitude is pervasive from the President of the Convention down to the state directors, most of whom served at the national convention in some way.
The SBC also suffers from the same issues that our government suffers from. Like our government, the SBC, instead of turning over staff or removing those that have done wrong, just promotes them or provides lateral moves. It is how a former President of the SBC becomes the President of one of its seminaries. It is how Vice Presidents become State Directors. It is how former Presidents become the head of NAMB or the head of the ERLC. It is how a student at Southern can become the President of Southern in three years.
Those that are in power never go away.
Those that are currently circling the power structure of the SBC are all related to the conservative resurgence.
In fact, three of the names mentioned in the report, Paul Pressler, Paige Patterson, and Al Mohler, were all fathers of the conservative resurgence. Except it wasn’t a resurgence. It was a well-orchestrated political takeover of the Convention with Pressler, Patterson, and Mohler at the helm. The tactics used were done in an “ends justify the means” manner.
This is important because an organizational culture built and defined by specific behaviors and actions will characterize that organization. How Patterson, Pressler, and Mohler accomplished their takeover was harsh in their own description. Consider this quote from Paige Patterson, “I confess that I often second guess my own actions and agonize over those who have suffered on both sides, including my own family.” This quote clearly speaks about damage that had to be done in order to win the war.
These, and others below them, fought to take over all aspects of the SBC to make it more conservative.
Once the war was won, they would need to fight to ensure that nothing would destroy it. They would have to ensure that the organization was cleansed of “liberal” theology. They would have to fight to secure a leadership and power structure that remained in power. This is the only way to ensure that the conservative nature of the organization would be engrained permanently.
To say that these leaders are all connected is an understatement. Yes, you have some outliers, but the overall power structure of SBC is oriented toward the conservative resurgence. Those that are the outliers are ostracized by those that legitimately hold power. Whatever you think of their politics, or theology, Russell Moore, J.D. Greear, and Ed Litton faced that opposition. It is important to note that many of those in the power structure of the SBC see a current threat of liberal or moderate theology taking over in the SBC. In fact, Ed Litton’s election marked a consecutive SBC Presidential election where the President was not seen as a conservative powerhouse. Litton defeated Mike Stone, someone who is connected with the advancement of the resurgence/takeover.
The culture of the SBC is important to understand in light of the Guidepost report. While the sexual abuse issue came to a head in 2019, a majority of the actions, which led to the report, took place from 1998 to 2018.
These issues started within the first decade of the takeover. Within the first 5 years the culture was defined, and set. This report is evidence of that. In fact, it was the conservative takeover culture, which defined, managed, and responded to the sexual abuse scandal. A Borg-like culture where the ends justify the means and the theological views must be protected at all costs. That protection also means that those who support those views must be protected at all costs.
The core problem of the SBC is not its procedures; it is the culture. Guidepost mentions culture 16 times in the report. In context, it primarily focused on the culture of the Executive Committee or the culture in dealing with sexual abuse specifically. There is only one piece that speaks to the culture of the SBC at large, a quote from Ronnie Floyd on page 103. In a news report in 2019 he was asked why it took so long for the SBC to respond to sexual abuse. He stated, “Quite honestly, I don’t know the answer to that. What I do know is that there’s a pretty unhealthy culture at times in the Southern Baptist Convention, which personifies probably the unhealthy culture of many of our churches. And the more unhealthy a church is, the less likely they are going to be able to deal with whatever may come their way, especially this kind of very difficult issue.” He goes on to urge Southern Baptists to establish a healthy culture together.
Ronnie Floyd correctly identified the root problem of the SBC. Its not just the procedure. It’s the ends justify the means, war-like culture established in the conservative resurgence.
It would appear, once again, that Solomon knew what he was talking about.
I found this article and thought to myself, well isn’t this interesting. The Pope has declared anyone who does not believe in the science of human-made global warming as being perverse. This further emphasizes his earlier point that global warming is mainly due to human activity, and blah, blah, blah global warming agenda.
A couple of other things he said, which were awesome.
– Challenging the “accepted” science of human-caused global warming doesn’t help honest research.
– This was a good one, challenging “accepted” science doesn’t help sincere productive dialogue; while labeling these people as being perverse does.
– And, with everything that is happening in the world, YES, climate change is one of the most worrisome phenomena that humanity is facing.
I would normally dismiss this altogether as being just another article where science is God, and man has the power to control God’s creation. In other words, I would read something like this and think here is another evolutionist arguing that HUMANITY is destroying the planet.
However, I have to remind myself that this person has been placed at the top of a church, which is the largest “Christian” denomination in the world. He is now condemning those who have faith that God is omnipotent, meaning God will destroy the planet according to Revelation, not man. Not to mention, that this issue is one of the most worrisome phenomena we are facing?
If we believed all of the doomsday climate changers the earth would have been destroyed, or some significant cataclysmic event would have taken place at least 20 times over. Don’t believe me…just ask Algore and his doomsday clock.
By throwing labels around in the manner, which he does, he has not only stifled those who are ardent believers in God’s omnipotence, but he has also politicized himself, and his “church.” Right now, instead of talking about the saving grace of God, people are talking about the Pope’s belief about global warming. This makes him no different from any worldly leader.
I wonder, is it worse to be perverted for questioning questionable science, or perverting scripture to limit the omnipotence of God? I think I know what side I am on.
According to the Pew Research Center, a growing share of Americans say it’s not necessary to believe in God to be moral. That is the headline, and I have to admit it grabbed my attention. So here is the data breakdown. From 2011 to 2017 there was a 7% (49% to 56%) increase in the percentage of people who say that belief in God is not necessary to be moral and have ethical values. During that same timeframe, there was a 6% drop in the percentage of people who say that belief in God is necessary to be moral and have good values.
Ahhhh, this has the makings of a great ethics, theological and philosophical debate all wrapped up in one.
So, let me start with the theological aspect, and there are two key parts. First, is the idea that we have all fallen from grace and need saving. A couple of verses just to show you how “good” and “moral” we all are. Isaiah 64:6: We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. Romans 3:10-12: None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.
If we were able to BE ethical and moral, even with an ardent belief in God, we wouldn’t need saving grace. There are two things to take from the scripture I quoted. 1. None of us are moral or have good values according to God’s standards. 2. God’s standard is perfection, and we are not perfect.
Since none of us can be good/moral, let’s tackle the ethic’s aspect of it. Can a person, who doesn’t believe in God do something good? I for one don’t think that Christians have the market cornered on doing good. There are many philanthropists out there who do good works with their money, and a number of them are atheists. In the business world, some atheists are far more ethical than some who claim to be Christians. Many Christians struggle with the concept that an atheist can do good things, demonstrate virtue, or follow some of the ten commandments without any faith. This isn’t to say that they are good people (see above), but they are capable of acting, behaving, and demonstrating behavior that is talked about by Christ. Nevertheless, many atheists struggle with what ethical means, which takes me to the philosophical point.
What is good? What is ethical? To a Christian, right/ethical/moral are values derived from the Bible given by an absolute lawgiver. Strike that. Most Christians know that…well, maybe a few. Anyway, the world has ebbed and flowed over the very definition of good, and the idea that there is an absolute idea of what good is seems to be believed by few comparatively speaking. So when Pew asks a question about morals and good values, are they reference virtue ethics? Are they referencing ethics based on the greater good? Are they referencing a humanistic ethic (relativism)? Because they don’t define morals, we have no idea as to what those that answered the survey believe good to be.
So, what do we know? 1. No one can BE good. It implies a constant state of being, and no one IS good. Scripture and common sense make that clear. 2. All people are capable of doing some good things, but that does not make them good. 3. The definition of good, ethical and moral have been obfuscated by modern philosophy. The further away we get from an absolute moral law giver, the more confused good becomes.
So what does all of this mean? Well, lets start with the questions of the survey. Is it me or does anyone else notice two different questions in the one? Certainly, someone at Pew understands that there is a difference between BEING good and HAVING good values. This tells me that someone who doesn’t understand philosophical ethics, or the fundamental tenants of the Christian faith wrote the question.
What is the point of the survey then? I think what Pew is attempting to do is shape opinion by showing the world that the United States continues to become post-Christian. The data collected here is not indicative of anything other than to show the lack of ignorance on ethics and religion by Pew. There is so much ambiguity wrapped up in the question that there is no discernable way anyone, atheist or Christian, could answer it in any meaningful way.
There is a dialogue taking place in churches after the shooting in Sutherland Springs. This conversation is focused on church security and protecting members of the congregation. Many in church leadership are calling for a review of how churches can provide a more secure environment. The topic of security is not new and has continued to gain momentum since the Charleston shooting in 2016.
That emotion is easy to understand. We are seeing a trend of churches being attacked, and with the last one in Sutherland Springs, they are becoming more deadly. So much so, that there are now calls for armed security at churches. Is this how we are supposed to respond to persecution, or attacks? Are we called to beef up security, train ourselves for a violent response, or to be armed while we are at church?
The reality of Charleston and Sutherland Springs is that there is no way the shooter could have been stopped unless there was someone armed and on the premises when the firing began to happen. As churches continue to discuss security, this will become plain to all and should leave any rational or logical evaluation with this conclusion. But is that what we should do as Christians? Are we responding to these shootings in the way the world would react or the way that Christ would respond? Fortunately for us, the New Testament offers significant testimony to followers during times of persecution.
I know that this will more than likely not be popular in an America that is pro second amendment. I know this will not be popular in a culture that has been taught that we have every right to defend ourselves, and our families. I know that this will not be popular in a western Christian culture which doesn’t know how to respond to this type of murderous persecution biblically. But I also know that the Bible does not call for an armed response to threats to our or our family’s persons. In fact, it calls for just the opposite. In fact, there are over 70 different verses in the New Testament describing our response to OR THE BENEFIT OF persecution. There is not one instance, IN ALL OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, that calls for better security or armed protection of believers. Here are a few examples.
Romans 8:35-37 – Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
1 Peter 4:19 – Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
Romans 12:17-21 – Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it[i] to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
1 Peter 4:12-19 – Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
So what do we take from this? Reading this, and the many other scriptures it would appear that we are called to just…suffer. This is so contrary to everything in our culture which would have us crawling through air vents to take out would be shooters. Does that mean that we are just to stand there and take it? There is no instance in the New Testament where believers took up arms to stop persecution. In fact, the one documented incident of a Christian fighting back resulted in his actions being rebuked by Christ himself. Of course, I am referring to Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane.
In all of the documented instances of Paul, Stephen, or other nameless Christians being persecuted, there is no instance where Paul says to take up arms to protect yourself in church.
As the dialogue continues into church security, I hope that church leadership takes into consideration those who were persecuted in the New Testament. I hope that the church does not cave to the trappings of the American culture, but instead caves to the rewards of a kingdom mentality. We are citizens of the kingdom first and must act according to those ethics, rather than American ethics.
So the conversation shouldn’t be about added layers of security. Instead, the discussion should be whether we dare to remain biblical in the face of persecution.
Have you ever heard a lie that had small nuggets of truth associated with it? It’s like a chocolate covered doughnut that has sprinkles on it. The lie is the doughnut, and the sprinkles are the truth. While the truth can be seen, it is barely noticeable when it is eaten.
Now that I have all of you salivating over this imaginary doughnut, I want to talk a little bit about our enemy. So let me ask you an honest question, do you feel awkward bringing up his name in the midst of a conversation? Do you find yourself looking for words like enemy, or our adversary? I do. It feels off to say the following sentence, Satan is influencing my thoughts today, please pray for me. Or how about this sentence, You are under Satan’s influence, and you need to start praying for the Holy Spirit to guide you.
We live in a weird world today. Paganism, and Satanism is on the rise, and getting its own monuments outside of public buildings. There is a growing trend of Christians who believe that Satan is not a real entity. Many preachers teach that hell is not real. And Bible believing Christians feel embarrassed to talk about the influence of Satan on theirs and others lives.
And it is all about influence, NOT demonic possession. Everything in the current media is focused on exorcising demons and the increase of exorcisms. Nothing focuses on the day to day influence that a demon, or Satan can have on you. What kind of influence? Anything that could change or alter your behavior towards God, or towards sin.
So when I say THE lying liars and the lies they tell, I am referring to Satan and his demons working overtime to give you the doughnut, with enough sprinkles on it to get past your truth meter, or to trick you.
To use myself as an example. I have been in the process of writing several books over the last year, and just completed my first one. All of these books are related to being a Christian. Throughout the process I have had a nagging feeling that no one will read the book, and at times I have had to force myself to continue work on them. This became so regular that I wrote on the potential influences that our adversary can have on our lives, through influence alone.
Well despite publishing the post on rethinking missions, I am sure most everyone is going to be focused on two significant stories, Manafort being indicted, and Kevin Spacey. Two quick comments on both of these stories.
First, on Kevin Spacey. Kevin Spacey has come out as being gay after Anthony Rapp released a statement of being harassed as a child by Spacey. I like many others have enjoyed many of the films that Spacey has acted in. However, this comment by Rapp seems to be following the trend of sexual harassment and worse from Hollywood. This provides further evidence that there is a significant gap between the lives that the rich and famous live on the coasts, and the lives the normal people live everywhere else. I agree with Cory Feldman in believing that these accusations are the tip of the iceberg, and the culture of the business of Hollywood has become morally, and ethically bankrupt. However, this should have been and could have been predicted when the culture continues to shun any idea of an absolute morality or ethics. Virtue is absent, and has been replaced with a humanistic ethic of no right or wrong other than ones “pleasure.”
Likewise, Manafort’s indictment demonstrates the allure of a different kind of ethic or lack thereof. Like many of those in business, Manafort appears to have manipulated the law to gain power, influence and wealth at the expense of any virtue, or ethics. Again, this behavior is commonplace in a world that rewards skirting the law, or sometimes breaking it, to attain wealth and power. While the story of Hollywood has been breaking over the last month, the tale of a business person manipulating, bending the law, and people, to attain wealth is as old as the Bible.
While there are many points in scripture that can address these issues, the one that immediately came to mind for me was Matthew 6:22-24: “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
When you read the news on both Manafort and Spacey can you see the masters that they serve? For Manafort, his master was money. And how true of Christ’s words in this case? While I am sure that all of Manafort’s actions did not rise to the level of criminality, I would be willing to bet that his eyes were unhealthy, which opened his heart to be full of darkness. Spacey’s master appears to be different and more subtle. I believe that Spacey’s master was…himself. His actions seem to indicate that he was driven more by emotion, and his pleasure. While the parable Jesus is speaking of in this part of Matthew was focused on money, I believe that the principle is the same. Spacey cannot serve both himself, in the humanistic sense, and God.
So here we are again. We have found the next thing that will ultimately run God out of our universe…finally. I came across an article on Yahoo talking about Dan Brown and his latest book. If the name Dan Brown sounds familiar it should because he is the author of The Da Vinci Code. If you are like me, you lost track of Robert Langdon, soon after he cracked the code, but apparently, this is the 5th book in the series. Who knew? Well, my wife tells me that only a few people knew….maybe millions. Whatever.
So, Brown says this book is inspired by the question “Will God survive science?” I’ll respond to that epically awesome problem later on. The title of the article is what caught my attention, collective consciousness to replace God.
I have to admit that my head exploded with different ideas. The easiest is the whole collective consciousness. Anytime I hear the word collective I think of one thing…the Borg. Remember those people/robots from Star Trek who were assimilated into the collective way of thinking? But, if I recall correctly, even the collective had a leader and if the collective will replace God, then who is the new leader? Well according to Brown…WE ARE!
The other piece of my small aneurysm is wondering who will define the collective norm? With the Borg, it was the queen, at least in the movie. But would the collective norms be determined by a small group of individuals or the collective culture? Alas, Brown thinks that artificial intelligence that will define the collective consciousness. But who determines the artificial intelligence? And thus the circle is complete.
There is nothing worse in this world than failed ethics. Humanistic ethics is the most extreme version of this. At its worst, humanistic ethics promotes the idea that each of us defines our good. From an ethics position, this is untenable, and philosophically this argument was destroyed by Aristotle. The humanistic notion of ethics is so wrong that there is no “at its best.” Humanistic ethics lead to Enron. Humanistic ethics lead to the housing crisis. Dare I say…humanistic ethics leads to Harvey Weinstein. Here is an interesting question about collective consciousness. Does anyone question whether the horrid sexual harassment culture in Hollywood, was approved by the collective consciousness of its culture? I don’t. And keep in mind, approval comes in many forms, implicitly or explicitly. Something that pervasive, accepted by the collective powers that be, creating a culture that knowingly allows harassment as part of routine behavior. Sounds like a collective Borg-like mentality to me.
This is a culture that publically denies any form of virtuous ethic, and at the same time demands it from those that violate all sorts of virtue. In other words, they turn their back on the moral law giver (God), publically state that humanity is the ultimate arbiter of ethics, and then fall back on the moral laws given by God when they feel like they have been wronged.
It is astonishing that humanity, after thousands of years, is still trying to replace God with something at their fingertips, or by something they have or create. There is nothing new here, and the Bible is littered with the stories of thousands of “Dan Brown’s” who believed that humanity could replace God. You name it, and mankind has tried it when it comes to replacing God. But, everything comes back to one severe deficiency, humanity cannot get it right, as they are unqualified to be God. You remember that one time when these two folks thought they could be like God and ended up wrecking everything? Yeah, how did that work out for them?
As to the question of whether God can survive science. Well, considering that God has managed to survive the root science that has allowed humanity to develop the current science, somehow I think he will manage just fine. Besides, do you know how many major scientific discoveries there have been since the 4th century BC? About 190. That is equal to about one significant scientific discovery every 11 years. And through it all God has been magnified not diminished.