Baptist ID: Dr. David Dockery on “The Southern Baptist Convention Since 1979”

Tim Brister —  February 16, 2007 — 7 Comments

For a biographical summary of Dr. Dockery, go here.

My topic is to reflect on what has happened in the last 30 years in the SBC and in particular the Baptist Reformation. I want to talk about seven broad categories about renewal, consensus and cooperation.

A Call for Renewal, Consensus and Cooperation

1. The Southern Baptist Convention: An Introduction

2. Southern Baptist History: An Overview, 1845-1979

* Charleston Tradition (Sandy Creek)
* Landmarkism (J. R. Graves and Him Pendleton)
* Baptist Why and Why Not (J. M. Frost, along with Eaton and Kerfoot)
* Baptists sided with the Fundamentalists (E. Y. Mullins)
* Baptist Faith and Message (1925)
* Million More in ’54

3. The SBC Since 1979: Paradigmatic Changes

* Very unexpected turn with election of Dr. Adrian Rogers as President of the SBC
* SBC strengthened by the 1978 Chicago Statement of Inerrancy
* Jimmy Draper (1982-83) called for a meeting of conservatives and liberals
* Books and journals documented the controversy
* Peace Report (1985-87) – very large committee
* 1986 Glorietta Statement (most surprising event of entire controversy)
* 1991 Covenant Statement at Southern Seminary
* The New American Commentary (by Broadman and Holman) – mainly only for the book of Genesis

4. Fragmentation in the SBC: Beyond Moderates and Conservatives

* Fundamentalists, Evangelicals, Moderates and Liberals
* Moderates (loyalists, pragmatists, centrists evangelicals, baptist women in ministry, broad-minded ecumenicals)
* Conservatives (a loose knit coalition of several groups, namely Fundamentalists, Revivalists, Non-Calvinists, Orthodox Evangelical (Henry, Ockenga, Graham), Calvinists (reclaim the “Charleston tradition” – “IX Marks, Sovereign Grace, Founders, etc.), Contemporary Church Models (Purpose Driven, Seeker-Sensitive), and Culture Warriors)
* Most every president of the SBC came out of the non-Calvinist group.
* Now that resurgence is complete, we need a renewed identity for Southern Baptists

5. The Breakdown of the Cultural and Programmatic Consensus: Where We Found Ourselves at the End of the 20th Century

* Multiple Bible translations
* Impact of parachurch groups (Navigators, Campus Crusade for Christ)
* Diversity of Music
* Varied worship patterns
* “Heroes”/”Models” outside of SBC life
* By and large, Southern Baptists today do not know our Baptist heritage and theological identity

6. Toward Consensus and Cooperation: Primary and Secondary Matters

* We are both beneficiaries and victims of tradition.
* We must seeks to establish a new consensus lest we drift apart.
* We need to make markers of Southern Baptist Identity as well as Southern Baptist Consistency.
* We need to reestablish core markers of core and fundamental doctrines (primarily the Gospel).
* Ultimate danger comes from rising tides of liberalism, neo-paganism, and postmodernism.

7. A Proposal of Renewal for the 21st Century SBC: Guidance and Hope

* Learn and appreciate the best of Baptist history and heritage.
* The material and formal principles constitute not only a center but also boundaries (R. Albert Mohler).
* New consensus must be built ona full-orbed doctrine of Scripture (sufficiency of Scripture).
* Southern Baptist theology and spirituality rests on Scripture as the central legitmizing source of the Christian faith and theology.
* Defining the circumference is necessary, but we should not demand uniformity.
* We must build a new consensus that is grounded in the gospel.
* Commitment to the Bible is not enough.
* We need to clearly affirm the priority of regenerate church membership, of cooperation and autonomy, of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
* We have failed to take seriously the call to unity (John 17, Ephesians 4) in accord with the Nicene affirmation and oneness
* Southern Baptist braggadocio needs to take a back seat.
* We have a need for racial reconciliation.
* Were it not for the Conservative Resurgence, we would have lost the gospel and been untethered to the Scriptures.
* We need a renewed spirit of mutual respect. It is possible to hold hands with brothers with whom we disagree on secondary and tertiary matters.
* We need a like-mindedness on first order issues–particularly the exclusivity of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
* We need to evidence the gospel but by living it out (we need not only a renewed orthodoxy but a renewed orthopraxy).

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  • Greg Alford


    Thanks for the live blog… for all of us who could not make it to this years conference it is nice to read about what is being said…

    Wow – someone actually mentioned “Calvinists” without spiting on the floor… Their may yet be hope for some form of unity…

    Grace to all,

  • I’ll be the first to admit that I know very little about the heritage of the Baptists. However, I’m thankful for men like Dr. Dockery who are willing to provide such clear and concise accounts of the history while adding exhortation for the future.

    Thank you for posting this, Timmy.

  • Jim

    Strong article………one point that I would emphasize is that Truth takes precedence over unity. Secondary & tertiary issues that do not violate the Truth and should be open for brotherly discussion.

    However, the silence in the SBC toward postmodernism, consumerism, mysticism, & ecumenicalism threatens the very foundations we are called to return to in the article.

    Without doctrinal purity, we will not experience biblical unity.

    Thank you for the post.

    God Bless & Protect

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  • Dr. James Willingham

    How can we build a consensus, when there are those who think they know and understand the old positions but really do not? Just consider how some think that Sandy Creek Assn was Arminian or something like that. And then those who do believe Sandy Creek was Sovereign Grace cannot explain how they could have eldresses in a day when they believed the Bible? And how could those people unite Separate and Regular Baptists, persuade General Baptists to become Regular Baptists, secure religious liberty, work with people like Jeferson, Washington, et. al., began their educational institutions, and launch the Great Century of Missions? What is the nature of biblical doctrines? How do they apply? How do they influence human behavior? The secret of another Great Awakening is in the answers to the above questions. The answers as to how the true dialectic and the scientific method should be understod and applied also lie in the answers to the above questions. Remember this: If the Bible is inspired by an omniscient God, one would expect that in its simple language is the profound wisdom of the ages, wisdom of such nature that even when one understands it one is in over his/her head.