The Southern Baptist Convention: An overview from the 1970’s until now
The Southern Baptists were established in 1845. They separated from the Northern Baptists who did not want their missionaries appointed from slave holding Baptist. The south felt slavery trumped any religious righteousness. Not a very proud reason for beginning a new denomination. However, after and even before, they repented from the slavery issue they became the most evangelical and greatest defenders of the Bible, of the main line protestants.
As the United States culture started a downward movement in the 1960s because of the loss of the Korean War, the assassinations of President Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and MLK, the hippie culture, racial conflicts and sexual promiscuity, the Southern Baptist leadership started taking liberal stands.
In 1971 the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) passed a resolution to support abortion. They affirmed that support again in 1974 and 1976. The infamous Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling was in 1973 so there was no question about their intentions. Even ‘Mr. Baptist’, W. A. Criswell, pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, was for it.
In addition to the cultural collapse, the Southern Baptist seminaries professors and administrators were deviating from the word of God. In support of evolution they started making excuses for God’s Word saying the Biblical account of creation was not to be taken literally as it said, but was folklore, allegorical or illustrative for the primitive and uneducated. They say past generations knew nothing of the great scientific advances that we now have.
Questioning the Bible account was not that new. Going back to 1926 the SBC in meeting said that the first chapter of Genesis teaches that man was a special creation of God, and rejects every theory, evolution or other, which teaches that man originated in, or came by way of a lower animal ancestry.
The Rev. R. H. Pitt, revered editor of the Virginia Baptist Religious Herald, leaped in with this statement, “There isn’t an intelligent Baptist 21 years old…who would be willing, if he stopped to think about it, to give his approval of the declaration… that the first chapter of Genesis is literally true. If the first chapters of Genesis are to be taken as literal history, then, of course, the world was made in six days. That is what the record says. No intelligent person in full age in our time believes that the world was made in six days”.
Admittedly, Virginia Baptist were known as the most liberal of all Southern Baptist states, but this was out right apostasy. I don’t believe it represented the rank and file of Virginia Baptist. This was over 90 years ago and in the 1960’s belief in the Bible account of creation was going downhill even faster.
Let’s move to a more recent Baptist pastor and theologian, the late Dr. Cecil Sherman. Dr. Sherman was well respected, was on the board of the Alliance of Baptist, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the first national coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and was a professor at the Richmond Baptist Seminary. All of these organizations would be known as moderate/liberal as opposed to conservative/fundamental.
In a sermon at FBC, Ashville, NC, (Jan. 19, 1975), Dr. Sherman said, “Here is what I think: the theory of evolution is the best explanation for the way life appeared on this earth….I hold to the theory of evolution for an explanation of the sequences or processes by which life came to this planet”. In a 1996 book, Defining Baptist Convictions, Dr. Sherman, still upholding evolution, said, “Either the Bible was wrong, Darwin was wrong, or there had to be a new reading of scripture.” Dr. Sherman stated that most Baptist are not academic: most are not college educated.
What are students and others to think when distinguish pastors and educators denies the Bible account of Creation?
This denial of the creation account had the effect of scholars ignoring other areas of God’s word. This was first experienced in the Christian colleges and seminaries. All the SBC seminaries were affected in that they moved away from God’s commandments and some moved in to sexual sin. Since Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is close in Wake Forest, NC, I will use it to discuss how bad things developed.
The Southern Baptist have been the only mainline denomination that has been able move from the liberal culture of the 1960 and 70s. In 1979 the rank and file Baptist started a movement to return to their conservative beliefs of the past. It took about 20 years to replace the liberal seminary professors and leaders.
The new leaders and professors found a school that had an enrollment of about 1,000. Southeastern was known to be the most theologically liberal and sexually permissive of all Southern Baptist institutions. Professors would not be hired who affirmed the inerrancy of Scripture and who were not sexually liberal. They brought homosexual advocates to class who recruited the seminarians to the homosexual life style and worst. There was more but it was summed up to be more “animal house” than “God’s house”. The enrollment fell from 1,000 to about 480 in 1992. The liberal President Randall Lolly predicted that the seminary would fail as the takeover was taking place. But as the conservatives took over the numbers were up to 2,500 in 2003 and today over 4,000 future conservative pastors, missionaries, professors and religious workers are there.
Meanwhile the moderate/liberal leaders formed an alternate group called the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF). Some of the Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAC) churches left the Sothern Baptist Convention (SBC) as their national affiliation and joined the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Some took a dual role allowing members to send their contributions to the entity that suited their theology, Bon Air Baptist did this with 5 or 6 giving tracts.
The purpose of this letter is to show how a conservative body of Christians, dedicated to believing the Bible, can be infiltrated by theologians and pastors who have reservations and alternate explanations for what the scripture says. This surfaced in the 1960s and built up to 1979 when Paul Pressler, Paige Patterson and Adrian Rogers joined to lead a conservative takeover. Liberal professors were either pushed out or left of their own accord. Moderates left not because they were liberal but they refused to be push around. It was not a happy time for Southern Baptist but it was a task that needed to be done. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship was their new home. Recently the Cooperative Baptist decided that they could hire homosexual staff members and this caused Virginia Baptist and Bon Air Baptist to break ties with them.
The Virginia Religious Herald (founded 1828) quit printing and merged with the Associated Baptist Press (founded 1990) to form the Baptist News Global on the internet, producing a very cynical, liberal content forum for the Fellowship.
The Baptist Theological Seminary Richmond (BTSR-founded 1989) was formed by the Southern Baptist Alliance and the Virginia Baptist. It became affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist. It closed down in 2019 from lack of financial support.
To sum up how the Christian world has moved from accepting God’s word to the still current secular beliefs we need only to look at the first two verses of Genesis. Verse one states “In the beginning God created the heavens and earth”. Verse two states “The earth was formless and….HOLD IT- man says. ‘God don’t you remember there is a period of 4.7 to 17 billion years of history before you continued the creation account in the second sentence, verse 2? Remember the hominids and the catastrophes and how other things developed before you continued with your creation account.? We call this the ‘Gap’ Theory. Another thing, you seem to describe the day designation to mean a normal 24-hour period. This is unbelievable! We know this must mean the day is 1,000 years of time, or maybe eons, but we can be certain it doesn’t mean 24 hours. We call this the ‘day age’ theory. Then there is Theistic Evolution and Progressive Creation that involve theories and speculations developed by scientist checking rocks and bones with radium, etc. Yes, these scientists are atheistic but they have PhDs and we can’t argue with that’.
So, the normal Christian, who has enough on his mind, is bewildered and finally says…” Well, time isn’t important anyway- God could have done it in a second if he wanted. The important thing is the gospel, keep it the main thing.”.
The first dangerous step for a Christian is doubting God’s word, the Genesis account of creation. It’s easier to make the second step and you are on the way. So today we have pastors and theologians from large mainline protestant denominations who support evolution, abortion, homosexuality, and individual & family destructed welfare programs. All this is on the Democrat agenda. Man has reached a point of not knowing right from wrong.