UPDATE: SBC Today has requested the use of this article. I have allowed them to use this article over at that site. Therefore, I have turned off the comments. If you would like to comment feel free to do so at that site.
My late father would always offer me sage advice when I was growing up. Whenever I would come home telling him about a deal that was too good to be true he would respond; “If it is too good to be true, usually it is.” Or he would say, “In this world, the only thing worth having that you get for nothing is salvation.” On every occasion I would come home with various ideas and run them past him, he would always interject wisdom into my thought process. On one such occasion I was home after completing my military active duty requirement and had the availability of a GI loan through the VA. I was part of a group of five trying to figure out how to open a junk yard business. Each one, it was agreed would put up $10K and with the total $50K we would begin our own business. Neither of us knew anything about the car business or the junk business. We did not have a business plan and we certainly did not know anything about purchasing land and the restrictions that would be placed on us in the early 1980’s concerning the environment. Neither of the five of us did any research other than how we could come up with the money. I talked this over with my father and he gave some wise advice to me at that time. I can still hear his words ring through my ears as I write this article. He told me; “Tim, before you jump on a band wagon, you need to know where it is heading.” It is these words that I want to echo in this article.
In 2007 at the Union University Baptist Identity Conference, Dr. Tom Rainer delivered a paper on “Evangelism and Church Growth in the Southern Baptist Convention”. In the follow-up to this conference he wrote an article entitled On Building Bridges. His thesis was on how we as Southern Baptist needed to build bridges, I believe, to each other within the convention. I never saw where he advocated that we build bridges outside the convention. I did see two things in the article that did concern me a bit. Dr. Rainer stated there were defined groups at the conference and implied, by a personal story at the conference, that these groups did not desire to mingle or exchange ideas. I was at the conference and I went to a bloggers reception where I exchanged greetings and ideas with Brother CB Scott, Brother Ben Cole and Dr. Dwight McKissic. I left there and went to a reception in the SWBTS area and exchanged ideas with Dr. Malcolm Yarnell along with Dr. and Mrs. Paige Patterson. To be fair to Dr. Rainer, there were more than likely some that were afraid to be seen with others, but I did not get that feeling. I hung out with Brother Wes Kenney and Brother David Worley, gave a ride to the conference to Dr. Ed Stetzer, and had great dialog with Dr. Dwight McKissic. The other concern I had from the article was this statement; “But it seems as if we just can’t stop fighting even though the battle for the Bible is over and won.” I believe we would all agree that the battle for the Bible will forever be at our door. If we ever concede this battle is over, we certainly will have a bridge from Neo-Orthodoxy that leads back into the convention defined as something other than what it is.
In San Antonio we were greeted with a packet of material that contained the booklet, pictured on the left, that advocated Building Bridges. These bridges I cannot comment on as I confess I never have read the booklet. I only present this picture because it is something that some of our leaders are advancing and advanced hard at the 2007 Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Rainer in his report, once again spoke about Building Bridges, but this time he referenced the foundation on which the bridge should be built. That foundation is something that we all can agree on. But, did he really need to advance the thought that we needed to build this bridge on the Bedrock of Christ? If, as he advanced in his previous articles, the battle for the Bible is over should we not presume any bridge built has as its foundation Jesus Christ? I am not questioning Dr. Rainer’s passion or his purpose. I want to be on that bridge that he desires to build. But, I believe there needs to be some reassessment from him as to his assertion that we throw caution to the wind because everyone in the SBC is a Bible Believing inerrantist. Dr. Rainer is a Godly man and each time I hear him in a presentation I am challenged and moved to seek more of God. He makes excellent presentations and does his research well. I would not be anywhere close to being able to carry his water. However, on this point of Building Bridges I believe he needs to reassess his position.
Enter the next Building Bridges stage. In November 2007 we had a Building Bridges Conference at Ridgecrest where Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and The Founders Ministry converged to make presentations concerning Calvinism within the SBC. This was a wonderful time and I enjoyed getting to meet new people and also interact with others I knew. It was at this conference that I renewed my acquaintance and began a friendship with Brother Travis Hilton. Dr. Ed Stetzer had jokingly referred to this conference as “The Revenge of the Nerds“. We had scholar after scholar making presentation after presentation. Some you could follow and some I still go back and listen to the audio, but to no avail. It seems that this conference advocated Building Bridges to the Calvinist within our convention. It was at this conference that Dr. Danny Akin introduced his new baby, The Great Commission Resurgence. Thus, if I understand this bridge that he advocates we build, thi bridge is extended to the Calvinist and it will lead us to a Great Commission Resurgence. If this is what Dr. Akin means then I am 100% on board. It was refreshing to see Dr. Malcolm Yarnell, Dr. Bart Barber, and Dr. Tom Ascoll stand shoulder to shoulder to put some teeth in Resolution #6 at this past convention. I believe we cannot begin advancing the Kingdom of God until we stop fighting among ourselves. But if he means we build bridges outside the convention to join forces for planting churches because we want to plant more churches then I believe caution and clearly defined road signs need to accompany the traversing of this bridge.
Well, now we see another Bridge that a group of Baptist want to build. In the annual Cooperative Baptist Fellowship gathering, their platform is Building Bridges. What originality. Their bridge, I do not believe, will be built on the same bedrock as the other bridges I have directed us. According to this article a presenter at this conference has questioned the very Deity of Christ. I know that CBF has a statement that they do not promote ideas the individuals presenting promotes those ideas. CBF, for some strange reason, believes they share no responsibility when a presenter presents a heretical view. Smyth & Helwys has taken the BP reporter to task because he inadvertently presumed they were the publisher of the book. Why wouldn’t he presume such? Smyth & Helwys sponsored the workshop and promoted the book during the General Assembly. Smyth & Helwys also is hosting a book-signing for Killinger at its booth in the resource fair. All of this to ask; Where is this bridge going? Will this bridge intersect within the cloverleaf of bridges already being built?
It seems that everyone wants to build a bridge to somewhere, but no one is telling us where the bridge is heading. Neither is anyone telling us what we are trying to connect by building this bridge. Let me add that I do not believe these various bridges that I have presented will end up connecting. I do not want to believe that the bridge Drs. Ranier, Akin, Dockery, and George has pointed us to will be connected to the bridge the CBF is advocating. However, with all of this construction going into Building Bridges, we need to be very careful that the band wagon we are on doesn’t get mixed up in a cloverleaf of bridges and we get confused as to what road the bridge takes us down.