Optional page text here. The Beast's Lair: New Baptist Covenant

Thursday, February 14, 2008

New Baptist Covenant

Due to several factors, not the least of which was a packed schedule and tuition, I was unable to attend the New Baptist Covenant in Atlanta, GA. I had hoped to attend the meeting. You can read my good friend and former colleague Mike Ruffin's thoughts here.

A fellow student of mine at Southern, he is a Ph.D. Candidate named David Roach, did have the opportunity to attend the meeting. Upon his return to Louisville, he wrote an insightful article for the SBTS community. His comments I think are right on and are pertinent not just to the NBC, but to any kind of situation where good meaning people are involved in differing organizations. Here is some of what David had to say:
"The New Baptist Covenant is certainly right to insist that professed Christians treat one another with love and kindness. However. . . some groups, by their very natures, cannot partner with certain other groups in cooperative ventures. Yet that lack of cooperation does not necessarily make those groups either unloving or unkind.

I think that is an important point for both SBC supporters and CBF folk to remember. I affirm the NBC's call for unity in spreading the Gospel and appreciate their zeal for social justice. As a Christian first and a Baptist second, any kind of unloving or unkind attitude toward my fellow brothers and sisters should clearly be set aside. But that does not mean that I, even though a Baptist, should necessarily unite with the NBC (should there be something to unite with) just because I am a Baptist and I am called to love. Roach goes on to quote Pastor Gerald Durley from Atlanta who was the leader of one of the break-out sessions. My suspicions I think were validated by this kind of teaching:

"[he] said that Baptists need to get over the desire to convert everyone to faith in Christ and appreciate the beauty of religions like Islam. He compared the religions of the world to vegetable soup that is flavorful because of its diversity, saying, 'In a vegetable soup you've got carrots, you've got potatoes, you've got tomatoes, you've got all these vegetables and when they come together, I've never seen a carrot say, "Boy, I think I'll become a potato this evening."

That's pretty rough. Even if he is going to argue for pluralism, surely he can come up with something better than that. I don't want to fall into the fallacy of thinking the NBC as a whole holds this view because this one pastor was teaching it, but I do think it serves as a general idea of the theological mindset of the group. That is something I just can't be a part of. Not because I am unloving or unkind, but because it goes against a crucial part of Scripture that I believe is non-negotiable.

Here is the flip side. Those who are loyal to the SBC, the more conservative lot, should not make the mistake of thinking the good people over CBF churches are just liberal, unloving idiots. We can argue our cases, we can cite Scripture, we can debate. But if they decide to not partner with the SBC because of their own conviction to their belief structure, then we must respect that and continue to love. I am glad the often labeled "conservative resurgence" happened. However, from what I have heard, many involved in the desire to move the convention back to a more conservative position were less than loving and kind in the process. That is unfortunate. Nevertheless, I have no problem with people of faith standing firm in their convictions of matter of importance. We are blessed with a long history of men and women who have done exactly that, even at the cost of their own lives, so we can discuss these issues today.

So where does that leave us? It leaves us with actively living a life of love to all who we come in contact with, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ, even those who do not share our views. But it always leaves us with the understanding that we might not all fit into one group, fellowship, convention, or covenant together.


Blogger Mike Ruffin said...


I truly regret that you were unable to attend the NBC yourself so that you would not have to rely on my words or Rev. Roach's words or anyone else's words.

For further thoughts of mine on the NBC, I invite you and your readers to visit http://onthejerichoroad.blogspot.com/2008/02/longing-for-home.html.

For another perspective on Rev. Roach's words, I invite you and your readers to visit http://forgodssakeshutup.blogspot.com/ and read Brian Kaylor's post of February 12 entitled "Confused."

Also--and I know you don't have time--I would encourage you to go to the New Baptist Covenant website and watch the videos of the plenary session speeches. The one by Tony Campolo goes to the heart of what I think the meeting was all about.

Blessings to you!

February 15, 2008 8:30 AM  
Blogger Mike Ruffin said...

A question just occurred to me. Let's say that I accept Rev. Roach's apparent stance that the words of one speaker in one small-group session that advocate a position he can't live with justifies a decision to have nothing to do with the larger group/movement. Does it not follow, then, that if I ever hear anything from anybody in leadership in the SBC say something that I cannot live with, then my conscience must require me to have nothing to do with the SBC? Goodness, SBC Outpost is filled with such statements. Of course, you could take "SBC" out of my statement and insert "CBF" or "ABC" or "USA" or "Republican Party" or "Democratic Party" or "The Hill Baptist Church" or "SBTS" or "The Atlanta Braves" and you come out the same place.

While I recognize that we all must make judgments and take stands, does not reasoning like that of Rev. Roach finally mean that no one of us really can be associated with any group? After all, to my way of thinking, other folks may be right, but ain't nobody right quite like I'm right.

February 15, 2008 12:17 PM  
Blogger The Beast said...


I read Brian's view on David's article and I am aware of the "slippery slope" in your second comment, that if we only cooperate with groups who only say things we agree with, we will never be involved with any group. Also, I mentioned the fallacy of thinking the NBC as a whole felt this way just because this pastor was teaching pluralism in my article.

With those things in mind, I still hold to the principles in Roach's argument, and I attempted to broaden his argument beyond just the NBC in my article. But, the NBC was my focus, so let me comment on that for just a second.

In a perfect world, we would all have groups, conventions, denominations, and the people who speak for them agree with our views 100% of the time. We know, of course, that such a thing will never happen. So, we are left to use our judgment, based primarily on our convictions of Scripture, to align with those groups who comes the closest, all the while knowing there will be places of disagreement. Doing such does not make anyone less loving or uncooperative, and certainly doesn't make a person less Baptist.

In the months leading up to the NBC, I wrote several articles where I expressed my concern with the overall theology of the meeting, even that of Jimmy Carter, who has shown himself to have pluralistic tendencies. In those same articles, I wrote that the NBC could still do a great work for Christ and that their emphasis on social justice was needed. From what I have read and watched across the internet after the NBC, I still hold to both those positions. I think the NBC is for the most part a group of moderate to liberal Baptists calling for unity, social justice, and evangelism. Hey, praise God for that, but it doesn't mean that those of us who find ourselves more closely united with another group for the cause of Christ, despite that our own group might do or say things that are at times contrary to our beliefs, are in any way anti-Baptist, unloving, missing the point, etc. After all, what do we mean by unity? Being associated with the same meeting and convention, or determined to speak the name of Christ? It seems we can still be united for what really matters and not all be thrilled with the NBC or the SBC.

I just watched the 30 minute message from Campolo. He is a great speaker and always has a challenging word. Just a note of interest, in his 30 minute message, he spoke for 25 minutes on giving to the poor our money and time in the name of Christ, in one sentence spoke that such actions cannot be divorced from salvation in Christ, and then gave a 4 minute story of a preacher who spoke at a funeral about eternal life. I point that out not be critical, it was just interesting to me. Another interesting point Campolo made is when he said "the church is the only club whose primary concern are its non-members." Hmmm.

At the end of the day, my comments about the NBC specifically are based on hearsay since I was not there, and are therefore on shaky ground; I acknowledge that. But I believe these principles apply in general beyond the specificity of the NBC.

Thanks, Mike, for keeping me on my toes. These are exactly the kind of conversations I need. Blessings to you today!

February 16, 2008 1:51 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home