Is the Southern Baptist Convention preaching and teaching the biblical gospel or one contrary to Scripture? What gospel message are SBC churches, with their tithes and offerings, actually supporting?
“The success of an illegitimate coiner depends largely upon how closely the counterfeit resembles the genuine article.Heresy is not so much the total denial of the truth as a perversion of it.That is why half a lie is always more dangerous than a complete repudiation.Hence when the Father of Lies enters the pulpit it is not his custom to flatly deny the fundamental truths of Christianity, rather does he tacitly acknowledge them, and then proceed to give an erroneous interpretation and a false application.” A.W. Pink, The Gospel of Satan
At this point in its history, the Southern Baptist Convention has made vividly evident its unbridled lust for cultural relevancy and its obligatory willingness to compromise biblical fidelity in its pursuit of satisfying that lust. For sound churches and faithful pastors within the SBC the imperative of the moment, especially after the intentional liberal trajectory of the denomination has been so clearly signaled from at least its last two formal conventions, is whether to remain in voluntary association with it.
In this article series attention has been given to the matter of SBC missions and if, indeed, support of those missions validates a faithful church’s decision to continue in voluntary cooperation with the denomination. However, faithful stewardship must be exhibited not only with regard to financial missions support. Of greater importance is whether the message of those supported missions is actually faithful to Scripture. Is the biblical gospel unwaveringly proclaimed? Are the “people of the Book” faithfully proclaiming the “gospel of the Book?”
The “Father of Lies” In The Pulpits of SBC Missions
But in the SBC today the missions message, the gospel, is not unwaveringly biblical. Rather, it is unashamedly unbiblical. As Pink noted, the deception that comes “when the Father of Lies enters the pulpit” is not “to flatly deny the fundamental truths of Christianity” but to do so in such a way that is nuanced and subtle, but which is no less doctrinally despicable and eternally imperiling. Giving the “Father of Lies” a pulpit is judgment-worthy alone, but giving him the power of missions messaging for an entire denomination is an abomination. It is anathema-worthy. Yet this is largely what the SBC proper is doing.
While the hyper-Arminian employment of decisional regeneration is pervasive in many SBC churches, even that unbiblical, anathema-deserving gospel is not the worst to be found in the denomination. The missions message of the SBC itself is nothing less than a culturally relevant “woke gospel” because, as we’ll explore, the SBC itself has become entrenched in the godless ideology of Critical Race Theory. This diabolical worldly philosophy is so employed that the “fundamental truths” aren’t expressly denied but are, as Pink says, given “an erroneous interpretation and a false application.”
“Did you know Christ is a woke Jew from Galilee?”
Dhati Lewis, From the Advocates chapter: “Where Does God Want Us To Be?”
Dhati Lewis is the President of the SBC’s Send Network, the church planting arm of its North American Mission Board. His book Advocates: The Narrow Path To Racial Reconciliation was published by B&H Publishing, a division of the SBC’s LifeWay. Its official release date was June 1, 2019, which happened to be 10 days prior to the SBC Convention in Birmingham. It was at this Convention where the now infamous Resolution 9 was approved. That Resolution officially adopted Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality (CRTI) as valid analytical tools for use by the SBC.
Publishing The “Father Of Lies”
However, it wasn’t as if the SBC suddenly stumbled across this new, nifty “analytical tool” and rushed in their excitement to get it to the Convention for approval. CRTI was already a known, embraced, and employed ideology throughout the SBC.
Advocates is just one small evidence of its extant denominational presence. Lewis’ book oozes with the melaninized, social justice flavor of a counterfeit Christianity borne of the biblically-contrary ideology. Any biblically astute B&H editor would have easily discerned its influence in the book. That they didn’t means that the ideology of CRTI was deemed relevant and worthy of publication. The “Father Of Lies” has progressed, one could say, from the missions pulpit to the publishing house of the SBC.
The “Father Of Lies” Training The Next Generation of SBC Pastors
Yet substantially more threatening to churches themselves is the fact that the ideology was being taught in SBC seminaries, the academic machinery from which many future evangelical pastors and missionaries are produced. Those SBC seminaries are directly funded by the Cooperative Program (CP). The church that gives undesignated gifts to the CP, which most do, are directly funding the training of future church leaders with anti-biblical teaching.
The CRT-affirming Resolution 9 was brought for consideration, and ultimate passage, to the 2019 Convention by Curtis Woods, then Chairman of the Resolutions Committee. Woods was, and remains, a professor at Al Mohler’s Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS). Woods teaches CRTI and defended Resolution 9 from the Convention’s Birmingham platform.
“Committee Chairman Curtis Woods and member Walter Strickland have been promoting CRT and Intersectionality through their positions as professors at Southern and Southeastern Seminaries, respectively, as well as through other events both within and outside the SBC.” Voddie Baucham, Fault Lines
As Baucham points out in Fault Lines, two premiere SBC seminaries employ professors who are teaching the unsound doctrine and false gospel of CRTI. While both Woods and Strickland bear scrutiny, it is another SBC seminary professor advocating for CRTI whom we will now consider.
A colleague of Woods at Southern Seminary is Jarvis Williams, Assistant Professor of New Testament Interpretation. Williams is likewise a vigorous proponent of the SBC’s false woke gospel.
The “Father Of Lies” On The Road With An SBC Professor
In 2018, one year prior to the Birmingham Convention, Williams participated in a Pastor’s Conference sponsored by Bethlehem Baptist Seminary, founded by John Piper. From a Q&A panel entitled “Ethnic Harmony and The Holy Spirit,” Williams passionately promoted CRT which only one year later would be officially adopted by his employer, the SBC. Williams’ comment is quoted in full:
“White supremacy is an ideological construct that believes that whiteness is superior to non-whiteness. So then how this shows up, in part, is, it shows up in curriculum. I’m a seminary professor and in theological education. You’re hard-pressed to find many evangelical institutions that have a regular requirement of black and brown authors. And often what happens is whiteness becomes the standard by which all good theology is judged. You understand what I’m saying? So that if it’s right theology it’s written by a white scholar who is contextualizing that theology for white audiences.
And one of the things we see – and hear this very, very carefully – there’s racism by intent and there’s racism by consequence. You can have racism operating in a context where there are no individual racists. That, in part, is the way white supremacy works in a socially sophisticated way, when you have whiteness as the priority, and when folks operate in such a way with curriculum, with economics, or with policies to maintain, and to posture, and to privilege that whiteness and then to require those who are non-whites to culturally colonize to whiteness.
So then we think about reconciliation and ethnic hostility, the solution is not more black and brown faces in white spaces who colonize to whiteness. The solution is fundamentally, yes, the gospel, the cross, the resurrection, right? The blood of Jesus. But also dethroning white supremacy in all of the forms in which it shows up in Christian spaces, folks. Because when Jesus died to disarm those principalities and powers, one of those principalities and powers, I would argue, is white supremacy and all that it entails. So feel that tonight. White supremacy is not just violence, or KKK, or lynchings. It is also the belief, directly or indirectly, that whiteness is rightness, and everything has to be judged by that.”
What Williams proclaimed at Piper’s conference is pure critical race theory. He presupposes white supremacy and he presupposes systemic racism. What his discourse also featured, though not by name, is another operational cog of critical theory known as standpoint epistemology.
In simple terms, standpoint epistemology posits that one’s personal, experiential circumstances – things such as economic status, social standing, minority or majority status as determined by ethnicity, among other things – dictate a particular understanding from their unique “standpoint.” Those outside that unique standpoint simply cannot understand. Voddie Baucham has employed the phrase “ethnic Gnosticism” to apply to this biblically noxious notion.
While there is much in Williams’ comment worthy of rebuttal and rebuke, note particularly his disdain for the prevalence of “right theology” that is “written by a white scholar who is contextualizing that theology for white audiences.” Williams is saying that theological systemic racism exists by claiming that “whiteness becomes the standard by which all good theology is done.”
The “Melanineutics” of The SBC’s Gospel
The line of reasoning employed here by Williams does a number of things. It redirects the focus from the Word of God to the reader’s identity. This is greatly akin to the neo-orthodox view that the Bible isn’t itself the Word of God but becomes the Word of God when experienced by man. Thus the hermeneutic is founded not on the reasonable and faithful interpretive approach from the Scriptures themselves, but is first dependent on the identity of the interpreter. The Bible is made subjective and man, in interpreting it, becomes the judge of its truth.
Williams’ concept moves into the realm of neo-orthodox existential hermeneutics and, therefore, also into the realm of mysticism. If standpoint epistemology is the beginning point to determine “right theology,” that standpoint itself necessarily and arbitrarily subjective. Such circumstantial subjectivism is powerfully prone to mystical interpretation directed not by one’s intellectual assessment of the historical, propositional truth of Scripture itself but rather by how one’s apprehension of Scripture tends to make them “feel.” If it makes me feel good, then that must be the right interpretation.
What Williams does in an unannounced fashion is to validate the bogus, but wildly popular, interpretative approach not uncommon to nearly every Southern Baptist Sunday School classroom: “What does this verse mean to you?” No answers can be incorrect because “your truth” is tacitly accepted as truth. In Williams’ case, it is nothing less than post-modern subjectivism catalyzed by melanin and employed as a presumably helpful “analytical tool.”
The further important consideration is that, as this form of melanin-based hermeneutics is not unlike the existential methodology of neo-orthodoxy which invariably leads to mysticism, the result is an unbiblical merging of justification and sanctification. The mystic does not distinguish between these two. They become synonymous, and, in so doing, Scriptural truth regarding regeneration and the transforming effects of regeneration are conflated, and that conflation renders both impotent. Thus neutered, justification and sanctification are practically and effectually denied. Grace and works become conflated, confused, and commingled.
”This approach [the existential method of interpretation] results in a radical subjectivism that assumes the text can mean totally different things to different people. … If we want to find the one, true meaning of the text, we must follow the ‘grammatico-historical method.’ … Only this method can give us the original meaning of the biblical text. Otherwise, we end up with a dangerous subjectivism that denies truth itself.” R.C. Sproul
Because Williams’ line of hermeneutical reasoning is based on melanin as the threshold for determining the soundness of interpretation and presumably its concurrent application, he has notably elevated man above Scripture. But he has particularly elevated “black and brown” men and suggestively positioned them to reject any interpretation and any theology generated by “a white scholar.” But subjective melanineutics cannot produce sound hermeneutics, for the starting point of the faithful interpretation of Scripture is Scripture itself, not the ethnicity or any other characteristic or circumstance of its reader or interpreter. Such reasoning comes straight out of the patently heretical liberation theology of James Cone and the like.
“What people think about God, Jesus Christ, and the Church cannot be separated from their own social and political status in a given society.” James H. Cone, God Of The Oppressed
At best, Williams could be arguing for a sort of dual hermeneutic. The “white scholar” has his interpretation which fits the white constituency he is serving and the “black and brown” scholar might also have their own hermeneutic. This effectively takes the universal Word of God and distills it on the basis of melanin to produce an ethnicity-specific theology.
Given the breadth of critical theory in defining multiple oppressed groups, coupled with its tenet of intersectionality, Williams’ hermeneutical maneuver will necessarily be employed and applied far beyond his melanin-based boundaries. In fact, the church has already seen such a relativistic hermeneutic relied upon to argue for such things as “gay” Christians and women in the pulpit. Regardless of how his principle of subjective interpretation might be applied to other categories, such an approach is antithetical to the cohesiveness and universality of God in His Word. We do not have multiple “Words” of God for various people groups, but one Word. And that one Word is authoritative and sufficient and sovereignly targeted for one group, the group of the human race.
Is Williams Suggesting God Is Guilty Of Providential Racism?
Lurking behind his comments is nothing less that the fact that Williams has indicted God. He has grumbled against His providence in so orchestrating biblical scholarship for two millennia principally through the channel of Western, largely European civilization. God Himself determined how the gospel would spread, how His Word would be preserved, and how, where, and by whom the sound doctrine of that Word would be organized, systematized, disseminated, and propagated through the ages.
Williams, however, doesn’t like the Western channels through which the Lord has accomplished this. For Williams, it seems, God has been a respecter of persons, and Williams doesn’t like the persons He chose to respect, or the theology derived by His employment of them. There have been, so to speak, too many “ivory towers” and far too few “ebony towers.” Only with the CRT-augmented gospel with its biblical melanineutics endorsed by Williams and others in the SBC can we possibly hope to resolve this systemically ecclesiastical racism.
The Insufficient Biblical Gospel
Worst of all, Williams invalidates the biblical gospel. According to him, the gospel is insufficient to deal with the racism issue facing the church and the culture at large. After stating that you can have racism without actually having racists, he asks and answers the question regarding what to do about “reconciliation and ethnic hostility.”
“The solution is fundamentally, yes, the gospel, the cross, the resurrection, right? The blood of Jesus. But also dethroning white supremacy in all of the forms in which it shows up in Christian spaces, folks.” (Emphasis Added)
If you just sensed yourself time-warped to a first-century Galatian church reading an incisive apostolic epistle, your discernment is operating biblically. This SBC professor has just pulled the Judaizing “Father of Lies” ploy. He has added to the gospel. The solution to our race problems is “fundamentally, yes, the gospel … but also.” In other words, the solution is the gospel PLUS. In even other words, it is not the gospel alone which is the power of God to both save and transform, but it is the gospel plus race “works.”
For the “people of the Book,” as Southern Baptists have been formerly known, at this point someone should be shouting with a rather subpoena-like tone for “Chapter and Verse,” please. But there is not a chapter and verse to biblically validate what Williams has done. There are, however, numerous “chapters and verses” that refute it. You might begin with “”But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” (Gal. 1:8). And, to make sure the curse for tinkering with the gospel is clear, the apostle restates his anathema in the following verse. See Galatians 1:9.
“The gospel is not good news without spiritual redemption and restoration. But the gospel is also not good news without emotional, economic, and social restoration as well.”
Dhati Lewis,President of the Send Network of the SBC’s North American Missions Board
What Williams, who trains future Southern Baptist Convention pastors and missionaries, and what Lewis, who leads the SBC’s church planting missions, have done is to alter the biblical gospel by augmenting it with works. Both men, whose incomes are paid by tithes and offerings of local SBC churches, are endorsing a false gospel. The melanin-first hermeneutic of Williams produces a practical, subjective mysticism that conflates justification and sanctification. Lewis’ gospel definition mimics that of Williams. The gospel of SBC missions, according to these men, is the gospel of grace PLUS the works of racial reconciliation and “emotional, economic, and social restoration as well,” as Lewis proclaims.
As A.W. Pink solemnly cautioned, “Heresy is not so much the total denial of the truth as a perversion of it.” As we’ve briefly examined, the “Father of Lies” and his gospel perversion is prevalent in the pulpits of SBC missions, in the publishing house of the SBC, and in the seminaries of the SBC. This gospel of the Southern Baptist Convention may be culturally relevant, but it is because it is diabolically contrived.
While there are sound churches and faithful pastors who have chosen to remain in the SBC and fight for its reformation, others may find Spurgeon’s counsel helpful.
“If there be anything in the church to which you belong which is contrary to the inspired Word, leave that church.” C.H. Spurgeon
And, should there be any question as to whether the Prince of Preachers would extend his counsel from the level of the church to that of the denomination, he has done so by example. The Downgrade of the Baptist Union forced Spurgeon to lead his church’s departure from the denomination in October 1887. The gospel is always worth fighting for, and sometimes, as Spurgeon exemplified, it is worth departing for.