Popular Arminian theologian, Roger Olson, reveals on his latest post how he really feels about Southern Baptists generally. In his piece entitled, 'My List of "Approved Denominations"' Dr. Olson goes around the denominational globe listing the denominations which meet his approval >>>
Included on Olson's "approved denominations" list are:
- Fellowship of Evangelical Churches
- Mennonite Church
- Brethren Church
- Evangelical Covenant Church
- Evangelical Free Church of America
- American Baptist Churches, U.S.A.
- Baptist General Convention of Texas
- Conservative Baptist Association of America
- Baptist General Conference/Converge Worldwide
- Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
- General Association of General Baptists
- National Association of Free Will Baptists
- National Baptist Convention
- National Baptist Convention, U.S.A.
- North American Baptist Conference
- Original Free Will Baptist Convention
- United American Free Will Baptist Church
- African Methodist Episcopal Church
- Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
- Congregational Methodist Church
- Evangelical Methodist Church
- The Christian and Missionary Alliance
- Church of Christ
- Church of the Nazarene
- Churches of God
- The Wesleyan Church
- Christian and Restorationist Churches (Stone-Campbellite Tradition)
- Adventist: Advent Christian Church General Conference
- Grace Communion International (formerly the Worldwide Church of God)
- Assemblies of God
- Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee)
- Fire Baptized Holiness Church of God
- International Church of the Foursquare Gospe
- United Holy Church of God,
- Vineyard Churches International
There were many others Olson named not listed above. What fairly large body of churches seems conspicuously absent from Olson's "approved denominations" list above? Southern Baptists. He listed a dozen Baptist groups but Southern Baptists failed his criteria of "approved denominations."
To be fair to Olson, in anticipation to potential questions concerning the glaring omission, Olson addressed why he felt Southern Baptists failed his criteria for "approved denominations." He wrote:
"What about the Southern Baptist Convention? It is the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. Among its churches one can find almost anything, but the overall drift of the denomination has been to the conservative side in recent decades. Most of its churches, however, are “mainstream” evangelical in terms of ethos. Some are fundamentalist; few are liberal... It is very difficult to generalize about “Southern Baptists,” so I don’t include the denomination in my list of “approved denominations”
While Olson gave a fairly accurate summary of the SBC as decidedly drifting, as a whole, toward conservativism in post-Conservative Resurgence decades albeit including some fringe "fundamentalist" and "liberal" presence existing on the borders. While, of course, Olson is correct about the "fundamentalist" fringe, he would be hard pressed to produce a categorical example of an outright "liberal" presence in the SBC (and if they are so-called "liberal" the probability highly exists the church would be "dually-aligned" with Olson's fellow CBFers).
Even so, Olson rightly concludes most SBC churches are mainstream evangelical in terms of ethos. But, for Olson, because it's "difficult to generalize" about all Southern Baptist churches, his personal advice is to "check each one out individually and watch out for fundamentalism...and Calvinism."
What is Dr. Olson thinking? Is he in trouble with the trustees? Is one of his buddies at either The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) or The Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) cashing in one of his or her favors the professor owes? While both of the latter questions are obviously intended to communicate a settled sarcasm I personally feel about Olson's "approved denominations," it nonetheless communicates well the fundamentally absurd notion Roger Olson appears to embrace that any of the Baptist groups he "approves" produces significantly less "difficulty" about which to "generalize" than he claims concerning the Southern Baptist Convention. This might be especially so concerning both his supporting Baptist fellowships--CBF and BGCT.
In fact, Olson even implies as much about the CBF as he lists it amongst his "approved denominations." Olson adds a qualifying descriptor after the listing--"Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (some are evangelical), some are more liberal)" (italics added). But if some are evangelical and some "more liberal," how, then, is the CBF any less difficult to "generalize" than the SBC? In addition, what Olson failed to add in his commentary on the CBF is, while some CBF congregations would be "more liberal" than others Olson dubs "evangelical," there are also some CBF churches that would be very liberal when compared to evangelical churches. Hence, again: how is the CBF less difficult to "generalize" than the Southern Baptist Convention?
In my view, it frankly borders the absurd to suggest as does Roger Olson that Southern Baptists do not meet his "approved denominations" list while the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship does indicating the reason to be because it's "very difficult to generalize" about Southern Baptists. Of course, we can understand perfectly why Olson placed CBF on his "approved denominations" list. Imagine how it would have gone for him not only at Truett and Baylor, but also in CBF circles where he remains fairly popular had he not exonerated them as approved. Granted. What we do not understand is the less than sober excuse for eliminating Southern Baptists from his list of "approved denominations."
I have read Roger Olson with profit. I still respect him as a reputable scholar, and, from my standpoint, he remains one of the premier self-confessing Arminian theologians alive today. Nonetheless, his present piece comes across as written by a freshman college student. I personally have no explanation for it. I hope and pray he once and for all made whatever point he intended to make so he can hurriedly get back to writing his usually insightful posts.