It is a commitment to the faith of the church universal in contrast to the distinctive views of particular theological traditions or the opinions of private persons–Dr. David Dunbar (The Missional Congregation-Part 3, Missional Journal July 2007, Vol. 1 No. 6)
I honestly need help here. It seems that Orthodoxy is now being defined as belief without theology. In fairness to the author of the blog article here he says; “I recommend the article as it speaks to the current divide within the SBC and might bring some clarity to those who mistakenly think that those of us who seek some level of reform in the SBC don’t care about orthodoxy or theology.” From what I see this very statement is in disagreement with the article.
In the article, Dr. Dunbar says; “Orthodoxy suggests a measure, a standard, by which to evaluate our beliefs.” He seems to advocate that the Scripture is the beginning point. Everything seems in accordance with a view everyone could grasp. I agree that we should evaluate everything on the basis of Scripture. But Dr. Dunbar seems to negate his thesis when he makes this statement; “The last suggestion I would make is that a broadly recognized confessional statement like the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed give us a good start at defining what it means to be orthodox.” He appears to advocate two beginning points. While Dr. Dunbar’s second beginning point may be correct in the Presbyterian movement, it would not sit will within Southern Baptist churches. There are two reasons. First, it would not sit well because this Nicene Creed came out of an Ecumenical Council. While I can agree with the doctrines of the Nicene Creed, one also needs to grasp that there were seven Ecumenical Councils that most Protestants look to in order to make decisions of orthodoxy. No one council dealt with every issue of orthodoxy. I disagree with the ecumenical mindset that seems to be present in Dr. Dunbar’s discussion. He seems to relegate everything to the councils, and his interpretation of orthodoxy. Second, Dr. Dunbar speaks from a creedal bias and appears to be pointing to returning to a creed. Presbyterians are creedal people, Baptist are not!
Dr. Dunbar then takes his turn at pointing to a defect he sees in the evangelical world. He refers to it as Combative Orthodoxy. Here is the place that, I believe, points to the heart of the matter within SBC life. Brother Paul Littleton advocates Dr. Dunbar’s position in his article on the SBC Outpost. It is in this comparison of the SBC “infighting” to what Dr Dunbar believes was the demise of the Presbyterian church that he presents issues, which Dr. J. Gresham Machen battled. His reference gives the appearance that liberal theology really did not exist and Dr. Machen began this movement for some other reason and then he references the SBC. Brother Paul Littleton seems to reference this article based solely on the fact that Dr. Dunbar’s argument is strengthened when he mentions the SBC.
Let me close by giving my analysis and then asking a question. Dr. Dunbar’s thesis breaks down in the fact of what the Presbyterian Church in dealing with today. I had lunch with a seasoned saint couple on Thursday. He is one of our leaders here in NC whose wife went home to Glory some years back. She is new to Baptist life as she and her husband, who passed away sometime back, were Presbyterians. She spoke to me about the heart break she is experiencing as she watches the church she brought her family up in being inundated with Liberal theology. From her report to me, Dr. Machen seemed to have a clear vision of the future before his death in 1937. Also, if we stick with Scripture for our Orthodoxy, then Dr. Machen has been proven to be a Prophet of God.
Another analysis I would like to point out deals directly with the SBC issue. It seems that some in the SBC desire to make an issue out of Calvinism. Brother Littleton points to this article, which states something that is not true in the SBC. Dr. Dunbar states, “labeling and exclusion continue around debates on Calvinism, the role of women in ministry, the legitimacy of “private prayer language. . .“. Here is another breakdown in the thesis. At our flag ship seminary our president would consider himself Reformed in his theology. While over at Midwestern Dr. Roberts, while I am not sure of his personal beliefs, had for his Doctoral Thesis Continuity and Change London Calvinistic Baptists and The Evangelical Revival 1760-1820. This book points to the Evangelical Revival and its affects on London Calvinistic Baptist. Thus, where is the exclusion of Calvinists? Also, the role of women in ministry is a buzz phrase that just does not ring true. Many try to paint conservatives that hold to the scripture in this area as rednecks that walk around with wife-beater T-shirts and has tobacco juice running out of the corner of their mouths. Conservatives within the SBC are not combative in this issue. We defend our points but combative, we are not. Many will say that we do not allow for outside interpretations on this issue. SBC Outpost has used women to post from this perspective, and I do appreciate their desire to do so. However, when a challenge exists to the interpretive method employed, notice who becomes combative in the exchange with Jeff R. Young. As to PPL that Dr. Dunbar refers I respond the way on preacher told me. You will find throughout history that Southern Baptist have been Calvinistic, Arminian, and even moderate, but you will not find them being Charismatic. Many will respond that PPL is not Charismatic Theology. I only know that you will not find any theologian discussing PPL before 1900 and then you are hard pressed to find any teaching on this doctrine outside of Charismatic Theology before 1970.
There are many differences that exist in SBC life. I believe Brother Littleton exhibits what is at the heart. Our Brother refers to many theologians he heard quoted as he grew up in an Independent Baptist setting. I, on the other hand, grew up in a Southern Baptist Church and I cannot remember hearing about Charles Hodge, or BB Warfield. I did hear about Hershel Hobbs, W.A. Criswell, Billy Sunday, Vance Havner, Dwight Moody, E.Y Mullins, Dr. Manly Beasly, and my favorite but not well known outside of NC, Dr. Charles Howard. What am I saying? I believe there is a generation coming along that does not know Joseph, neither do they remember Joseph.
Allow me to close with my question. Who determines orthodoxy and how we practice these orthodox beliefs? Southern Baptist or Ecumenicist?