Divisions in the SBC by David Miller of The Voices

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Divisions in the SBC by David Miller of The Voices

Postby Stephen Fox » Thu Jul 05, 2018 3:36 pm

Miller abuses much of the historical perspective of Bruce Gourley, Alan Bean, Randall Balmer and Molly Worthen just to name a few--did somebody say Harold Bloom--so his perspective is weighted to far right fundamentalism

https://sbcvoices.com/unity-division-th ... f-the-sbc/

A case could be made this belongs in SBC Trends but I think it will find a safer conversation here.

I was already planning to blog on JD Grear as a twist in the Floyd/Gaines Road, as big a blip as Jim Henry was from Patterson and Pressler 20 years ago. So this JD Grear "trend" I think will be shortlived because of many reasons, one being the likes of Dave Miller's flawed history while feinting to be with it with his faux "cultural" expertise.

Lets see where this goes. When FBC Gardendale's Scott Beason, and FBC Spartanburg, make a public profession of new insights and some semblance of redemption: till that happens JD Grear's SBC is still Rick Burgess land
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Re: Divisions in the SBC by David Miller of The Voices

Postby William Thornton » Thu Jul 05, 2018 7:04 pm

Nobody's gonna read it here.
My stray thoughts on SBC stuff may be found at my blog, SBC Plodder
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Re: Divisions in the SBC by David Miller of The Voices

Postby Rvaughn » Thu Jul 05, 2018 7:09 pm

Stephen Fox wrote:Miller abuses much of the historical perspective of Bruce Gourley, Alan Bean, Randall Balmer and Molly Worthen just to name a few--did somebody say Harold Bloom--so his perspective is weighted to far right fundamentalism.
Stephen, would you articulate some specifics of how Miller abuses the historical perspective? Thanks!
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Re: Divisions in the SBC by David Miller of The Voices

Postby Sandy » Fri Jul 06, 2018 12:47 pm

Dave Miller wrote:Yes, the Southern Baptist Convention historically was united by fundamental doctrine and cooperative mission, but our true unity was something less noble than that. Southern Baptists had an external, cultural unity that bound us together. We were a perfect fit for the Southern culture in the United States – white, morally and culturally conservative, and patriotic. We fit in perfectly – a little too perfectly I might argue – with the predominant culture of the mid-20th Century Deep South.


Is this what you're referencing, Stephen? The SBC was not historically united by fundamental doctrine. Leon McBeth's The Baptist Heritage which is the best researched and most accurate source of Baptist denominational history, would disagree with Miller's contention. The Baptists who were motivated to unite in the SBC were mainly pushed there by the politics of slavery, and the doctrinal differences between them threatened to rip the group apart on more than one occasion prior to the Civil War. "White" doesn't say it all, white supremacy was a core value practiced in churches and preached from pulpits. Nor was it united by any sense of "cooperative mission" other than the slavery question that divided them off from the Northern Baptists. Up until the post WW2 period, the SBC was mostly struggling, broke most of the time and constantly fighting.

Part of the problem that the convention seems to be experiencing now is that the conservative resurgence aimed at some kind of theological and doctrinal conformity and discovered that job to be roughly the equivalent of nailing jello to a wall. Not all Southern Baptists are united around doctrine and there are plenty of differences in interpretation even of the "core" or "pure" principles. The convention can't control and corral all of those who aren't squarely lined up with its interpretation of the BFM2000, and its own seminaries have much more competition for placement than they used to have.
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Re: Divisions in the SBC by David Miller of The Voices

Postby Haruo » Fri Jul 06, 2018 12:52 pm

Maybe Stephen meant "fundamental doctrine" in a sense quite different from "fundamentalist doctrine"?
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Re: Divisions in the SBC by David Miller of The Voices

Postby Rvaughn » Sun Jul 08, 2018 6:02 pm

Sandy wrote:The Baptists who were motivated to unite in the SBC were mainly pushed there by the politics of slavery, and the doctrinal differences between them threatened to rip the group apart on more than one occasion prior to the Civil War.
Sandy, which doctrinal differences do you see as a significant threat to the SBC before the Civil War?
Haruo wrote:Maybe Stephen meant "fundamental doctrine" in a sense quite different from "fundamentalist doctrine"?
Stephen's use of "far right fundamentalism" suggests to me "fundamentalist doctrine" rather than "fundamental doctrine".
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Re: Divisions in the SBC by David Miller of The Voices

Postby Sandy » Sun Jul 08, 2018 6:35 pm

The formation of the SBC drew Baptist churches from several divergent doctrinal perspectives together when it was formed in 1845. There were still strains of differences between the "general" Baptists and "particular" Baptists and the differences between Baptists based on several Reformation strains, including some Calvinists, though mst Baptists were "Zwinglian" in their perspective. There were Southern Baptists from the "Sandy Creek Tradition" that were fervent evangelists and revivalist but also connected to the education and training of ministers in traditional theology and doctrine. There were the beginnings of what became known as "fundamentalism" mainly from further west, where churches didn't have access to educated ministers, and who, in fact, didn't trust any kind of theological education. Many Baptist churches in the South didn't join the SBC until the reconstruction period, and they didn't represent the majority of Baptists in the South until the 1920's.

I haven't seen any specific information on how those strains of Baptist theology have factored into the modern fragmentation of the denommination, but I would put forth the theory that the reason the bulk of CBF congregations are along the East Coast, in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina has a lot to do with strains of the Sandy Creek tradition. The other cluster of CBF'ers is in Texas, and I think that's because they have an independent streak, and because the architects of the conservative resurgence, Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler, had both attempted to push their agenda in the state convention for several years before the resurgence in the SBC, and neither was well liked or accepted by their fellow Texas Baptists.
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Re: Divisions in the SBC by David Miller of The Voices

Postby Rvaughn » Tue Jul 10, 2018 10:03 am

I am aware that there were disparate elements in the Baptists of the South, but I can’t think of any controversies that rose to the level of splitting the SBC before the Civil War. The Howell-Graves controversy in the 1850’s and 1860’s was quite contentious, but I didn’t think even it got to that level.
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Re: Divisions in the SBC by David Miller of The Voices

Postby Sandy » Tue Jul 10, 2018 4:36 pm

Rvaughn wrote:I am aware that there were disparate elements in the Baptists of the South, but I can’t think of any controversies that rose to the level of splitting the SBC before the Civil War. The Howell-Graves controversy in the 1850’s and 1860’s was quite contentious, but I didn’t think even it got to that level.


Was that the Landmark controversy? I don't think there were major controversies, but seems from the membership record that a lot of churches splintered off. The membership took a pretty good sized percentage drop between 1870 and 1890. Stuff happens on the fringes. The drop from 16.6 million to 15 million between 2005 and 2018 puts some of those smaller splinter movements in perspective.
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Re: Divisions in the SBC by David Miller of The Voices

Postby Rvaughn » Wed Jul 11, 2018 9:21 am

Sandy wrote:Was that the Landmark controversy?

The Howell-Graves controversy was related to the Landmark controversy, but I think a good bit of it was personal. In Life, Times and Teachings of J. R. Graves, Samuel H. Ford puts it this way:
In 1857 Dr. Howell, who had spent several years in Richmond, Va., returned to his old pastorate in Nashville, but the situation was very much changed since he left. At that time he was THE leader of the Baptists of Tennessee and the surrounding States. Graves was then a young man and was guided considerably by Howell. Now Graves was the acknowledged champion of the churches throughout the Southwest and his influence and power were felt through the whole country.

In regard to "Landmarkism" Graves and Howell would have pretty much agreed on Baptist succession. One area where they differed was on pulpit affiliation -- using ministers from other denominations. Apparently, Howell went out of his way to agitate Graves on this, for Ford says that when Howell came back to Nashville he made a point to invite into the pulpit at Nashville men who had attacked him and Graves as editors of The Baptist, as well as attacking Baptists and their principles in general. Long story short, the difficulties would result in a church trial in which Graves and a large minority of the membership (his supporters) were excluded.
Sandy wrote:I don't think there were major controversies, but seems from the membership record that a lot of churches splintered off. The membership took a pretty good sized percentage drop between 1870 and 1890. Stuff happens on the fringes. The drop from 16.6 million to 15 million between 2005 and 2018 puts some of those smaller splinter movements in perspective.

It would be interesting to know more about the drop in numbers and why. Perhaps the Crawford Toy and W. H. Whitsitt controversies contributed to some disillusionment, and the 1890s is about right for the Gospel Missions controversy (though I wouldn't think that drew off many churches until the early 1900s).
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Re: Divisions in the SBC by David Miller of The Voices

Postby Sandy » Wed Jul 11, 2018 2:07 pm

Perhaps post-Civil War, the South was in pretty bad shape, and population was declining in many areas. There were probably churches that disbanded, and others who weren't that connected by fellowship with those who had supported slavery. The southern culture that the SBC's churches connected with didn't really develop until the latter part of the last decade of the nineteenth century.

I think it is also interesting to note that most of the splitting, splintering and controversy involved those Baptists who were further to the west. Tennessee, Arkansas, and eventually Texas became places where churches left the denomination wholesale, while in the East, particularly Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia, the denomination stayed glued together. Sandy Creek tradition and an educated, more professional group of pastors and ministers seemed to make some kind of difference.
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Re: Divisions in the SBC by David Miller of The Voices

Postby Rvaughn » Thu Jul 12, 2018 12:07 pm

I'd guess a good bit of the difference between East/Southeast vs. Southeast in the late 1800s, early 1900s splintering had a lot to do with age and stability. For example, the Charleston Baptist Association in South Carolina was established in 1751, Sandy Creek in North Carolina in 1758, and Ketocton Association in Virginia in 1766. In contrast the first Baptist association in Texas was formed in 1840, and the first in Arkansas doesn't go back much further than that. So the east coast organizations were older, more settled, with probably an accompanying loyalty not present in newer associations to the west. It may be, too, that there were "silent" splits not much accounted for. There are quite a few non-cooperative associations in north Georgia that have been around for many years. Other than the Jasper Association, north of Atlanta, which split between non-cooperative and SBC churches circa 1930, I'm not aware of any of these that actually split from the GBC. They seem to have more just drifted away.

It would be interesting to know more about how the Southern Baptist Convention counted churches/membership in the last half of the 19th century. I don't think there was anything then exactly like the current self-conscious identification as being "Southern Baptist." In the late 1800s, churches in East Texas that supported the Baptist General Convention of Texas participated together in local associations with other churches that did not support the BGCT, and maybe even a few that were antagonistic to it. It seems though, now, looking back, that there is default position of many historians that churches in local associations with other churches who supported the Baptist General Convention of Texas were at least nominally BGCT churches. All that said to wonder whether these churches that were not cooperating and supporting may still have been counted simply because they were in association with those other churches. One interesting thing that I ran across in the 1924 SBC annual is that for Arkansas they listed statistics for both the Arkansas Convention associations and the Missionary Baptist associations (even though the latter churches probably had almost zero to completely zero representation at the SBC, and had separated from the State Convention in 1902).
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