This past week, some Christians went to the G3 Conference in Atlanta. This conference featured many Reformed and Reformed-ish speakers, sound, biblical worship of the Creator, and fellowship with other believers, which is a rare occurrence on this level. And while I have my disagreements with some of the speakers on many issues, there was little doubt that we all shared a common bond in Christ.
But during the same time as the G3 conference, there was another, more sinister conference taking place. One that gives new meaning to the old adage, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” On September 22, 2023, Bart Barber, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, participated in a secular forum dedicated to bashing “the rise of Christian nationalism.” What catches the eye is not so much the subject matter, as controversial as it has turned out to be in Evangelical circles, but rather the company he kept while doing so. One of the speakers sharing the platform with him was Anthea Butler, chair of the University of Pennsylvania Department of Religious Studies.
For those unfamiliar with Butler, her academic credentials may stack high, but her worldview reveals in her a character at odds with the Creator. She is a staunch advocate for far-left causes, from abortion to LGBTQ rights. Furthermore, her sweeping judgments about “White Evangelical Racism” and its alleged quest to undermine minority communities are nothing short of incendiary. If that weren’t enough, she has publicly and unapologetically called for people to leave churches that uphold a biblical view of sexual ethics, accusing them of not following Jesus.
Despite its recent trajectory, the Southern Baptist Convention has traditionally held to conservative, biblical principles, valuing the sanctity of life and marriage between a man and a woman. This makes Barber’s accord with Butler not just perplexing but alarming. Can two walk together, except they be agreed? (Amos 3:3). While the Christian nationalism debate is a fair and necessary one to have within the Church, doing so with godless heretics who stand in opposition to the Church, to core biblical values, and to God Himself, sends a confusing message to Southern Baptists.
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Butler’s prior history of controversial remarks adds another layer to this troubling development. Earlier this year, she was seen cursing a man out on Twitter following an incident during an NFL game. Her emotional tirades are hardly what one would expect from a level-headed academic contributing to a balanced discussion.
The coalition between Barber and Butler is not unlikely or surprising—but it is alarming. It goes far beyond a charitable dialogue between different—but probably the same, in this instance—perspectives within the broader Christian community. It points toward a deeper issue within the Southern Baptist Convention. If Barber is willing to unite with someone who hates God just to bash other brothers and sisters he disagrees with, one must question where his allegiances lie.
This isn’t merely about the concept of Christian nationalism, but rather, it highlights a fundamental shift that appears to be happening in segments of evangelical leadership: a drift away from uncompromising biblical standards. This event underscores the need for vigilance among those who seek to uphold the integrity of the Christian faith against forces that aim to undermine it.
We will review the panel discussion itself if it is made publicly available.