Why I am a Southern Baptist

I am a Southern Baptist.[1] It’s not because their history begins when the Civil War was about to ignite. It’s not because their churches are fully independent with no (or almost no) accountability. No. In fact, both of these facts are two of the most tempting lures to have me jump ship and commit myself to a different denomination.

Rather, I am a Southern Baptist because it’s how I was raised (granted, I grew up non-denominational, but Tim Hawkins did say that non-denominational churches are just Baptist churches with cool websites), so at the very least I was raised Baptist. However, when I went off to Bible college and then to seminary, they were fully and completely Southern Baptist institutions. Therefore, you can’t separate me from my Southern Baptist roots, even if parts of Lutheranism and Presbyterianism are appealing to me.

I am a Southern Baptist because of their stance on the Bible. They take the Bible very seriously.

The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.[2]

This is a critical point. If the Bible is true then we must interpret it as carefully as Jesus did, even going into the grammar and verb tenses to make biblical arguments. This is where Southern Baptists need some help. They’re very good at taking the surface meaning of a handful of texts together, but diving deeper and pulling in from a wider range of texts is unheard of and seen as false teaching—unless it might promote their present polemical point. It cannot be this way any longer. We must let the Bible shape us and our thinking, instead of standing over the Bible and telling others how they must understand it (do we believe sola Scriptura or not?).

I am a Southern Baptist because of their emphasis on evangelism. The world is deathly in need of salvation, and Southern Baptists have taken the lead in world evangelism. I want to be a part of this movement and help usher in the return of Christ through the evangelization of the world.

But for this to happen (according to John 17:21–23 and Matthew 24:12–14), Christians must be unified. And not only Southern Baptists amongst themselves, but Southern Baptists with all Christians of all denominations. We must put away our petty differences over ecclesiology, soteriology, and eschatology, and we must pursue unity. We don’t need to all agree on every topic, but we must humble ourselves, we must admit there is truth in other denominational folds (including the Roman Catholic Church) and we must love one another—even beyond our specific church’s membership rolls. How else will the world see that we have love for one another and be drawn to faith in Christ themselves? Saint Augustine said the following in City of God 18.51:

There is that other heartache of seeing heretics, too, using the name and sacraments, the Scriptures and the Creed of genuine Christians. They realize how many would-be converts are driven into perplexed hesitancy because of heretical dissension, while the foulmouthed find in heretics further pretext for cursing the Christian name, since these heretics at least call themselves Christian.[3]

“And to make matters worse, even the Qur’an (written c. 633)[4] levels multiple charges against the validity of Christianity for this very reason. ‘As for those who have divided their religion and broken up into factions, have nothing to do with them’ (Al-An‘am 159a).[5] An Islamic scholar notes, ‘The Quran here, as elsewhere, criticizes those who become divided in their religion or create sects within it.’[6] Christians forfeit their witness to conscientious Muslims due to the existence of so many competing denominations.”[7]

I am a Southern Baptist because I am an optimist. I believe that Southern Baptists can squash the inherent pride built into the framework of their denomination—pride that teaches that only their baptisms are valid for membership and partaking of Communion, which is supposed to be a meal that demonstrates Christian unity. But alas, Communion has become the clearest picture of disunity in Christianity every Sunday (or every other Sunday, or month, or quarter, or year).[8]

Southern Baptists must unite around the Scriptures—Scriptures that teach the absolutely essential nature of Christian unity. Southern Baptists must unite around evangelism—the only way to add more people into the united body of Christ. And Southern Baptists must destroy everything that would get in the way of these goals—most notably, denominational pride and any other sin that paints an ugly portrait for the world about what it means to be a Christian.

In this with you.

Soli Deo Gloria
Sola Scriptura
Pro Ecclesia

Thanks for reading.


References

[1] At the moment, I am not actually at a Southern Baptist Church, but that’s a topic for another time. (It was not by choice; I’m contemplating writing a Twitter thread about it, but we’ll see what happens.) Anyways, the plan is to unite with a Southern Baptist Church when my family finally moves out of California.

[2] Baptist Faith and Message 2000, article I. Emphasis added. https://bfm.sbc.net/bfm2000.

[3] Saint Augustine, The City of God, Books XVII–XXII, trans. Gerald G. Walsh and Daniel J. Honan, The Fathers of the Church (The Catholic University of America Press, 1954), pg. 173. This is not to say that denominations are heretical, but denominations are not safe from the charge that “many would-be converts are driven into perplexed hesitancy because of heretical dissension.” The unbelieving world today (those Jesus prayed about in John 17:21) wonders, “Which church is the right church?” and Christians do not help when we try to justify a certain denomination’s correctness at the expense of another. Augustine tells us this has been the case since his day.

[4] M. A. S. Abdel Haleem, The Qur’an (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), xvi.

[5] Abdel Haleem, The Qur’an, surah 6:159a, page 93.

[6] Seyyed Hossein Nasr, ed., The Study Quran: A New Translation with Notes and Commentary (New York: HarperOne, 2021), 401. He includes multiple Qur’anic texts as support (3:103–5; 5:14c; 30:32; 42:13–14; 98:4).

[7] Joshua Wingerd, “May They Be One: Reclaiming Jesus’ Mark for the Church” (Term paper submitted for Theology II with Dr. David Rathel at Gateway Seminary of the Southern Baptist Convention, 2022), 2. https://www.academia.edu/84244602/May_They_Be_One.

[8] For further discussion, see Ibid., 14–20.

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