The Southern Baptist Convention is arguably the most criticized denomination in the country as it has taken a decidedly “big tent” approach to issues that it faces. Seemingly never able to fully please either its detractors or its supporters, the Southern Baptist Convention’s middle-of-the-road philosophy has the far left complaining about the idolatry of right-wing issues such as nationalism while the right complains about the liberal drift that has taken the denomination by the throat and plunged it into social, cultural, and theological liberalism.
While the denomination is led mostly by moderates who would rather not take a principled stance on any issue with conviction, has this led the Southern Baptist Convention to open its “big tent” up to rank heresy?
Historically, the Southern Baptist Convention shifted from theological liberalism in the 70s into what was known as the “conservative resurgence” in the early 80s. And while the denomination enjoyed a couple of decades of relatively strong conservatism, it was still under the clout of big-tentism that allowed it to flourish. Historically divided theological camps joined together to oppose the liberalism that took over other mainline Protestant denominations that allowed for such things as women pastors, LGBTQ acceptance, and various forms of social justice. Yet, in the last decade, the same big-tent philosophy that allowed theologically divided camps to join together in opposition to social justice has abandoned its conviction against social justice and has opened the tent up to even further aberrations from what would be considered sound orthodoxy and orthopraxy. It has become a house so divided that the only way it seems that the house will continue to stand is to remove any real convictions from among the entire denomination.
But it seems it will surely eventually fail as Jesus said in Matthew 12:25, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.”
Numerous false teachings have entered the Southern Baptist Convention over the last several years—many of which could rightly be labeled heresy. While some argue that a doctrine can only be deemed heresy by a church council or that it must stray from a broadly accepted creed such as the Nicene Creed to be considered as such, it would be better to argue that heresy is actually any deviation from Scripture that leads to compromise or rebellion against God’s word. After all, we don’t have church councils today and many of the serious errors that are rampant in the professing church today did not exist during the age of councils.
Such issues would include the prevalence of women preaching in Southern Baptist churches, and the influx of Marxist ideologies such as Critical Race Theory that have shaped and perverted the social gospel that many Southern Baptists now hold to. Another serious error would be the tolerance and inclusion of homosexuality under the guise of the “celibate same-sex attracted” movement. These are issues that did not plague the church historically the way they do now and these issues lead to open rebellion against God and perversion of His doctrines.
So then why should these movements be considered heretical whereas other major differences such as mode of baptism should not be? To answer that question, one must first look at the motivation behind the teaching. What is the teaching designed to do? Baptists would agree that the Bible teaches that baptism is a command to be obeyed by believers whereas Presbyterians, for example, baptize unbelieving infants. The difference is the view of the covenants and one would have to rework their entire theological hermeneutic in order to change their perspective on baptism. But one thing is clear: the difference in teaching on the mode of baptism is not designed to lead people into rebellion against the clear teachings of God through Scripture.
To put that into practical perspective, with all else being equal, you don’t see Baptists or Presbyterians embracing theological liberalism or rebelling against their Creator because the underlying teaching of their mode of baptism opens that door for them. On the other hand, you do see denominations that embrace such errors as women preachers—which are clearly forbidden by Scripture without equivocation (1 Corinthians 14:33-35, 1 Timothy 2:11-12)—absolutely does lead to rebellion and eventually, apostasy. This is why these teachings should be considered heresy, it is open rebellion against God.
But social heterodoxy aside, what about the doctrines of God Himself—the ones that demonstrate who God is by his attributes? What about doctrines that attack God’s central attributes? His aseity, His omnipotence, or even His omniscience? There has been a debate raging within Baptist circles in recent weeks surrounding one of the leaders of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, Leighton Flowers, whose theology has now entered the realm of heresy. To be clear, there are both traditionalists and Reformed in the Southern Baptist Convention who hold to serious errors but also many who are solid and above reproach. But Flowers has taken his anti-Calvinist views so far that it appears he has to logically conclude his views with heresy. This view would be known as Open Theism.
In a recently surfaced video clip, Leighton Flowers openly endorsed Open Theism as a valid theological view that should be accepted in the Southern Baptist Convention. And while he claims that he doesn’t actually hold to this view himself, at least for now, it is likely that he does since the denomination does actually preclude Open Theism right now. Flowers’ mission and determination to destroy Reformed theology has gone so far that his views can only consistently lead to Open Theism.
What is Open Theism? Open theists attempt to reconcile man’s free will with God’s foreknowledge by saying that God doesn’t actually know the future. And while their argument is a blatant attack against God’s omniscience, they attempt to explain that away by saying that God does know everything that is actually “knowable,” and therefore, he is still “all-knowing.” But this argument still fails because not only does it suggest that there are things that exist apart from God’s knowledge, but it also denies the clear teaching of Scripture that not only does God know all things and all things are knowable by Him, but that he also declared them (Isaiah 41:4, Isaiah 46:10, Proverbs 19:21, etc.).
Yet, it appears that the Southern Baptist Convention is widening its gates and expanding its tent to include such astoundingly compromised teachings within its ranks. I certainly hope that is not the case, but time will tell and the direction of the denomination appears to be geared toward keeping as many people in and paying dues as possible. And if that includes rank heretics, social justice advocates, women preachers, or whatever other aberrant theology that comes its way, it very well may see just how far it can go before the house falls apart completely.