Stephen Fox wrote:In no place does she imply in my reading what Pressler and Schaeffer did was benign, a course correction; rather it was a demagged perversion of denominational history they were able to use to mobilize the unsuspecting folks in the pew.
She does not in any way imply that the people in the pew in the SBC of the 70's were in any way "unsuspecting." She points out that by the time there was a leadership change in the SBC, the people in the pews had been influenced by the conservative direction of the broader Evangelical movement, including Shaeffer, and other notable television personalities, they were already mistrustful of the leadership, and that the conservative resurgence was an inevitable occurrence given the atmosphere in the denomination at the time. Southern Baptists in the pew were more familiar with the description of "inerrancy" that was part of the Evangelical movement than they were with what was being taught in their own seminaries, and when that difference was pointed out by the conservative resurgence, the people in the pew, far from being unsuspecting, reacted by supporting leaders who were in agreement with what they believed. Since her thesis relates to American Evangelicalism at large, she is operating from the assumption, a correct one, that most Southern Baptists were conservative evangelicals who held the common view of inerrancy at the time.
It would be hard to prove otherwise. There was no fracture in the convention like there has been in other denominations who have had controversy over doctrine. The conservative resurgence has sustained, for over thirty years, complete control of the denomination at the national level, and virtually complete control at the state and associational level. The changes made in the doctrinal statement, related to Biblical Authority, are minimal, and reflect a consistent Baptist belief in a Bible that has, for its matter, "truth without any mixture of error." That belief is reflected in all three existing versions of the BFM, going back to 1925, and the only change in 2000 was one sentence that doesn't change the principle. Southern Baptists as a group haven't really moved on that doctrinal point. The seminaries did, influenced by ivory tower academia and the liberal drift of mainline Protestantism in the US. That was a short-lived aberration. It would have been interesting for an outsider like Worthen to take a look at all of that background and offer up an analysis based purely on observation, without commentary from anyone directly involved. I'll bet she'd come down pretty close to my conclusion.