Tolerating the Intolerable

Don’t be accepting when God isn’t.

J. Jeff Toler, for Shenandoah Christian Alliance

Don’t be accepting when God isn’t.

Henry Parsons Crowell once said it would not be the “modernist nor the conservative who was tolerant of the modernists; but the conservative fundamentalist who was tolerant of those who were tolerant of modernists that would defeat fundamentalism.” 

Crowell, the founder of the Quaker Oats Company, (and a master at convoluted aphorisms) was a lifelong Presbyterian, who before he died in 1944, withdrew from the Presbyterian Church USA. Why? Because the fundamentalists “were tolerant toward those who were tolerant toward unbelievers.”

Perhaps you can relate to what bothered Crowell. Modernists were in ascendency in the early twentieth century. Modernism evolved into liberalism, then progressivism. For all intents, progressivism became the “modernism” for today.

Progressives may well be in the ascendancy now from what we have seen at the Southern Baptist Convention’s Annual Meeting in Nashville last week. Some time will pass before can know what the future of the SBC will look like, but amazingly, some are already talking about leaving the convention.

In an interview with Jon Harris, dismissed professor Dr. Russell Fuller had this to say, 

When I look at the current state of the Southern Baptist Convention I’m not encouraged.”

“It was very discouraging. Certain people that I ran into—again I didn’t know these folks—would come up to me, and I could tell they were very burdened about where the Southern Baptist Convention [was] going, and those people gave me some hope, but it’s going to be very difficult.”

“Yes, I hope these people, some of the leaders of these organizations that are trying to do well, I applaud them for trying to do the right thing, but we were defeated pretty handily, I believe, at this convention. [It’s] going to be very tough to beat the establishment.”

The implication is plain. Russel Fuller believes the “establishment” whose leadership profiles as liberal, has “defeated” the SBC. Worse, Fuller now believes there are false teachers within the SBC, and its teaching institutions. This is a serious charge, but his 22 years teaching at SBTC should afford him the credibility.

There was a resolution proposed that would explicitly denounce critical race theory/intersectionalism, (CRT/I) but it didn’t make it out of committee. Also, the SBC refused to adopt an amendment that would explicitly denounce CRT/I. 

The SBC 2021 annual meeting may become what historians will sometimes call a “seminal event.”

One observer, posited that: (a) The resolution was only supported in a relatively small region of the country, and (b) The amendment, it was overwhelmingly decided, to “not denounce CRT/I by name because of the level of rancor that has been attached to the debate.”

Do we read from this that CRT/I is intolerable for only a certain part of the country? If so, what part? Why only that part? Moreover, why should a high level of rancor necessarily put an end to the debate? But much more telling is the assertion that there isn’t agreement on what actually constitutes CRT/I. This is stunning given evidence that these world-views are practiced and promoted religiously by people who do not hold to Christian orthodoxy. Even school moms get it! Filling such a huge music hall, how can so many pastors, theologians, and Bible scholars fail to see this given the opportunities of serious study it in the last thirty years? Where is the Berean tradition Baptists so often invoke?

The issue of what has slipped in under the huge tent of the SBC, and by extension, many evangelical churches should really be obvious by now. How serious has this become for this denomination, and perhaps the greater evangelical tradition? Voddie Baucham, among others, believes it is an “impending catastrophe.” It shouldn’t be too difficult to see the potential for serious harm.

The SBC 2021 annual meeting may become what historians will sometimes call a “seminal event.” For at least the last twenty years, the SBC should have seen the army advancing, building its encampment, and erecting the ramparts. Or, at the very least, stumble upon the enemy slipping in within its ranks; ultimately and openly teaching and advocating for the inclusion of new and differing ideologies. Like Eve, it seems quite a few within the SBC saw “that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise.” 

Once again referencing Conversations That Matter, the possibility of restoration and repair seems rather unlikely. This denomination is massive—numbering some 16 million members. For many generations, it has developed an enormous construct of ministries, agencies, schools, missions, and advocacy groups. It sends out an army of missionaries around the world, publishing books, magazines, Sunday school  lessons, and more. Southern Baptists are rich in tradition, history, and capital.

But sadly, this becomes the way of things: when transparency becomes opaque, and trust is questioned, even the most venerable must face the difficult prospect of unsustainability. 

Critical race theory, intersectionality, social justice—indeed all of the seemingly new components of modern social justice, only bring contention for The Church, but vastly more important, they’re an impediment to evangelism, authentic transformative belief in a risen savior, and His gospel. If they are mere analytical tools, we have nothing to worry about. If they engender rancor, polarization, and false teaching, then maybe there is good reason to avoid these concepts completely. Like Crowell, we should understand how this situation really all started: we were tolerant of the intolerable. 

  • “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments,  for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 ESV)

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About the Author

Shenandoah Christian Alliance
Shenandoah Christian Alliance is a Christian organization devoted to the promotion and education of biblical truths, faith, and spiritual equipping. We believe in the sanctity of marriage as defined in God’s revealed word. We oppose the practice of abortion, and respectfully object to its funding and facilitation as currently promoted by our elected leaders. We understand homosexuality to be something that God—whom we worship and honor—does not approve among his creation. Our faith in God as revealed in scripture is not something we are ashamed of, or for which we must apologize.