At Greensboro many of the “sermons”, reports, and speeches used a common word: Inerrancy. It was almost always in connection with the conservative resurgence. I am very thankful that a faithful group of men fought that fight twenty-thirty years ago. Without that fight, at this year’s convention we might have been voting on same-sex marriage and whether or not to ordain gay bishops (sorry Jeff), like some other conventions were doing.
Inerrancy is very important, but it doesn’t go far enough. As was evident by the wide popularity of the resolution on alcohol at this year’s convention, the idea of the sufficiency of Scripture is in short supply among Southern Baptists. This one subject of alcohol is not really so important, in and of itself, but it is an indicator of bigger problems. Ignoring the sufficiency of Scripture (among some) is the source of a good deal of the problem(s) currently being experienced in the IMB.
Back in April Wade Burleson cited a definition for Fundamentalism, which he cited from John Piper, who had in turn cited from J. Gresham Machen. It contained a list of seven indicators. It was quite a good definition. I would like to submit my own definition of Fundamentalism, one that contains just one point, but one, I believe that takes in most of the seven cited on Pastor Burleson’s blog: Fundamentalism is inerrancy without sufficiency. The first four verses of Matthew 23 comes readily to mind, but that is probably too harsh for good men who probably do mean well. Perhaps Mark 7:1-16 would be a bit more appropriate, though still a bit harsh.
A good number of the younger bloggers have argued against the alcohol resolution using the sufficiency argument, and they did quite a good job of it too; at least until they began to clarify and qualify themselves among the give and take of the comments after their post. They would virtually undo all they had argued for in their posts by “apologizing” their way out from under sufficiency. After an anecdotal challenge or two virtually all of them would respond with something like “Oh, the stuff has never touched MY lips.” or “I teach my children that total abstinence is the best policy in today’s society.” This leads me to believe that they were holding to sufficiency only in theory. I ask you, are we just playing with ideas, or are we taking every thought captive to obey Christ? What better way to show our Miller-Time society how Christians can responsibly enjoy all of the good gifts that God has given us, and give Him glory in the process.
You notice I have not laid out my argument for alcohol from Scripture. I don’t need to. I failed to mention that there was one young man who did a superb job of defending the position of the normative use of alcohol from the Scriptures, without crawfishing, even from the remote recesses of the comments section. That young man would be Pastor Joe Thorn at Words of Grace. You can read his three straight-shooting posts here, here, and here, in that order, and don’t skip the comments.
So now, what to do? Let’s all dig in and be men and women of the Word. Hold it not only as inerrant but also as sufficient. We should begin anew to ask “What does God’s word say on a particular subject?”, and cease from asking “What do the precious, long-held, beloved traditions of men say?” Alcohol is not the problem topic in the SBC today. Sufficiency of Scripture is. Let’s get back on track and get as many laborers as possible into the field, for they are white for harvest. Sometimes I think there are many in the IMB who have lost site of this. Let’s help them remember.