“Thank God we won the Battle for the Bible!!” I was shocked, confused, and downright perplexed. I didn’t know there was ever a battle over the Bible, but I was glad that we won (I don’t know who my seminary professor meant when he said we, but since I was in the classroom I assumed I was included in the we.).
In Sunday School and Training Union I learned that Joshua fought the Battle of Jericho and that the walls had come tumbling down. But I never knew that Paige, Adrian, and the boys fought the Battle for the Bible and that the moderate and liberal walls surrounding the SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) had come tumbling down.
The Battle for the Bible in the SBC is a very real battle that had actual heroes who fought, some of them until their death, so that every boy and girl growing up in a Southern Baptist church might have the opportunity to hear the Word preached by a pastor who actually believes that the entire Scripture is indeed God’s Word and profitable for us all (2 Timothy 3:16). Yet now I fear that some of our Baptist brothers (and sisters) have forgotten the battle.
No, I’m not saying that those who fought the battle forgot what happened, nor am I saying that we do not reap the benefits of the battle today. In fact, I’m saying the opposite. I am saying that we, those of us who owe a great deal to the men who fought for the Bible’s inerrancy and sufficiency, actually reap the benefits of the battle more than some might realize. In fact, all of the theological arguments that divide Southern Baptists actually derive from the Battle for the Bible. Rather than pining for the past, it is time we realize how The Battle shaped our present and will continue to impact our future.
Seminary taught me about issues I did not know existed while growing up in the church. I didn’t know as a teenager in the youth group that some Baptists didn’t think other Baptists believed in evangelism because of their conviction that God is sovereign in salvation. I did not realize that some Baptists liked John 3:16 more than John 6:44, nor did I know that some believed Jonah 2:9 more than 1 Timothy 2:4. What is really crazy to me is the fact that I met seminary students who thought they loved the gospel more than some professors because they were more Calvinistic than their professor who had walked with the Lord before the student was even born. Yet others thought Calvinists should just leave the SBC, accept paedobaptism, and become Presbyterian (since they thought Calvinistic Baptists were more Presbyterian anyway).
Again, seminary messed me up (in more ways than one) because it was there that I first learned a Baptist pastor could go by the title of elder. Boy was I shocked when a classmate ran into a man from his church and told me, “Hey, I want to introduce you to an elder at my church.” Dumbfounded and ignorant I said, “Wait, I thought you were Baptist?!” Now, years later, I find more and more SBC churches who call the shepherds among them elders, and many SBC churches now affirm a plurality among said elders. Rather than going along with the anti-Bible view of deacon or committee or dictator-style leadership, many churches now seek to let Christ rule the church through the congregation and the leadership of multiple elders.
Regardless of where I stand on these issues or where my brothers in sisters in the SBC stand, recent arguments (Calvinism, elders vs. pastors, one pastor vs. multiple pastors, multisite vs. one campus, etc.) actually prove that the Battle for the Bible really did happen, and we did really win. Bible teachers who do not believe the Bible is God’s inerrant Word do not normally debate issues of election and free will. Those who reject the sufficiency of the Bible do not normally seek out answers from the Scriptures for how to structure and govern a church. Yet Bible-believing, gospel-loving students of the Bible will get frustrated from time to time when they feel certain biblical issues are not being viewed correctly, and I say, “Praise God for that!”
As a seminary graduate and pastor in the SBC I, like everyone else, have pretty strong opinions about how God’s sovereignty relates to human responsibility and how many pastors or elders (whatever you want to call them) a church should have as leaders. And I occasionally find myself arguing via text message with a pastor-friend who disagrees with me. He provides a verse; I give a rebuttal as to why he cherry-picked a verse that does not fit the discussion at hand. I then provide another argument from a text, and he combats it with an argument from a sermon he podcasted.
But something tells me this would not have happened had Paige, Adrian, and the boys not won the Battle for the Bible. Sure there might be less theological argumentation, but that is boring. That is why I thank God for the argumentation in the SBC, because there is a reason we argue…we believe the Bible is the Word of God. In fact, I pray that we will argue more, not less, because we are growing in our understanding of the sufficiency of the Scriptures and the gospel’s impact on all of life.