September 21, 2021

The Future of Southern Baptists Hangs by a Thread

I first noticed William Lane Craig refashion divine eternity and then adopt a heterodox Christology. Now Craig argues Genesis 1-11 is “mytho-history, not to be taken literally,” denies Genesis 3 records the first sin, and says cherubim are “fantasy.” He admits the genealogies give the early text an historical aura, but dismisses them as “artificial symmetry.”

While there are certain denominations which allow for non-literal interpretations of Genesis 1-11, the Southern Baptist Convention has historically taken a strong stand against treating the Bible as “myth,” especially in the sense of “fantasy.” Craig explicitly affirms “myth” in the weaker sense of explanatory narrative, but he nonetheless also treats the Genesis accounts as “myth” in the stronger sense of historically unreal.

The major 20th-Century controversies within the SBC often began with major debate regarding the interpretation of Genesis. This was behind the 1925 adoption of the Baptist Faith and Message, the 1963 revision of the same, and concern over the 1969 Broadman Commentary on Genesis. The Baptist Faith and Message presumes literal interpretation of Genesis, as seen for instance in our beliefs about the serpent’s involvement in the Fall of Adam. Article III on Man states, “Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God.” Cf. Gen 3; Rev 20:2.

It is difficult to see how any Southern Baptist church or institution could assent to treating Genesis 1-11 as “myth,” “artificial,” and “fantasy” without compromising our confession in Article I (1925, 1963, 2000) that “The Holy Bible [has] truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter.” Last week, a former Southern Baptist denied the Bible is the Word of God. This week, a major apologist affiliated with a Southern Baptist church and a Southern Baptist state college affirmed the Bible contains myth and fantasy.

The future of Southern Baptists hangs by a thread, and the two blades which may cut it are our treatments of the Word of God and the Image of God.

(Note: The Executive Committee response to the directive of the Southern Baptist Convention regarding investigation of the treatment of sexual abuse victims has dominated the news cycle. I do not intend to detract from the critical importance of that problem. However, as a theologian with a long view in biblical, systematic, and historical studies, I am convinced we must address both the crises facing us.)

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