Dr. Akin finished his blog series on the "myths" concerning the GCRTF, nicely rounding out his total to eight. I'd anticipated doing a post on each "myth" but, well, you know how that goes. Life does require other duties.
Apparently, the "myths" have the GCRTF concerned, at least concerned enough to offer an official press release to add to Akin's blog series about the alleged "myths" (//link). Obviously, Dr. Floyd did not address the myths as detailed as Dr. Akin. In addition, he only addressed six "myths" while Dr. Akin elaborated on eight.
Nevertheless, neither Floyd nor Akin seem to realize there would be little reason to expend valuable time busting "myths" had the GCRTF followed through with their original intent: inviting responsible journalists to be a part of the process rather than keep as top secret the GCRTF meetings.
SBC President, Johnny Hunt, is reported saying about the meetings of the Task Force: “I would be real open to say that we look forward to every meeting that there will be a state editor there to be able to document the meeting. We have nothing to hide" (//link).
Personally, I continue amazed state paper editors have given the TF a "free pass" so to speak on what appears to be a thorough back-peddling on open meetings.
Assuming there's still nothing to hide, why are state editors not invited to document every meeting like the president indicated?
Below are the eight myths concerning the GCRTF Dr. Akin "exposed." Though I've already dealt with some of them, I thought it'd be good to put them altogether in one post. Moreover, since some of them have long, cumbersome titles, I reduced them for simplicity's sake (of course, links are provided for documentation purposes).
Myth #1: The GCR is about more money for the seminaries (//link). Taking this “myth” personally directed toward himself and Dr. Mohler, Akin categorically denies money for seminaries should be raised as an issue concerning the GCRTF, strongly insisting there's "not a shred of evidence to support this accusation…” (//link).** Well, it depends on what constitutes evidence.
Let me mention two things Dr. Akin has never addressed.
First, Akin’s own director of development stated in the study the TF has reviewed (and used) that accepting the study’s recommendations would benefit the seminaries financially (//link).
Second, Dr. Akin himself mentioned advocating more money for seminaries at the B21 Discussion Panel in June during the SBC in Louisville. In response to a question concerning state conventions and whether to give to the CP through the state conventions or give directly to the IMB, Dr. Akin said:
“Am I happy that so much money is staying in the state? No. Have I made that known to a very good friend who is our state executive? Yes. Is our state in the process of moving in the right direction where they are incrementally changing the percentages so that more does get to the IMB, more does get to church planting, more does get to the seminaries, more does go to the pioneer areas? And the answer is yes. We are in the process of doing that. So even though it’s moving very slowly, much more slowly than I would like, it’s moving in the right direction….So if we’re moving in the right direction, then I can buy into it. If it’s not, then I have to ask more difficult and more pressing questions” (emphasis mine, B21 Panel Discussion transcription, p.3).
Dr. Akin places squarely “in the right direction,” more monies getting to the IMB, church planting, seminaries, and pioneer areas...a direction which, Dr. Akin says, is a direction he can “buy into”.
Indeed if this direction is not pursued—presumably the direction where more monies are directed into IMB, church planting, seminaries, and pioneer areas—then Akin intends to raise serious questions.
If this is not explicit reference to publicly advocating more money for seminaries—the very “myth” Dr. Akin denies—I know not what constitutes either “public” or “advocacy.”
The single point I’m making is, to suggest not a “shred of evidence” exists to substantiate questions about money is to thoroughly overstate one’s case. Dr. Akin, in my view, overstates his case—seriously so.
Myth #2: The GCR is about farming out church planting to non-SBC groups (//link). For Akin, this is his favorite “myth,” because of the “incredible imagination” to spawn it. Even so, while Dr. Akin thinks imaginations are running wild speculating about a “formal partnership” with Acts 29 Network, he fails to recall two very important factors: a) Southern Baptists not only have speculated about a “formal partnership” with Acts 29 Network, Southern Baptists have experienced a “formal partnership” with Acts 29 Network, the Missouri Baptist Convention (//link);
b) Akin’s own Visiting Research Professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Ed Stetzer, was a board member for Acts 29 Network.
Myth #3: The GCRTF is trying to influence and control presidential search committees (//link). Akin insists it’s not the case, castigating as “conspiracy theory” this “myth.” Interestingly, Dr. Akin apparently feels Southern Baptists who’ve raised questions concerning the GCRTF are either rumor-mongering, accusatory, or are just plain goof-balls.
I stand to be corrected, but to my recall, not once in the blog series did Dr. Akin suggest those who disagree on TF issues possess a smidgeon of sincerity. Instead, what we read is indicative of his introductory post:
“Meeting as a Task Force has been…frustrating and disappointing…due to the number of false rumors and misrepresentations that have been attributed to the Task Force and its members. Some…behavior is…sad. Some…is sinful because it is pure rumor-mongering plain and simple” (//link).
The simple fact is, Dr. Floyd issued public statements to the presidential search teams (//link). To suggest a public statement in Southern Baptists’ most widely read state paper—a statement for them to pay particular attention to the work of the TF as the committees search out candidates for positions--is not attempting to “influence” is absurd in my view.
As far as “control” is concerned, I do not know toward what Dr. Akin refers. Perhaps, however, he should consider that having two GCRTF members recently appointed to NAMB’s “inside” could appear as a step toward “control” (//link; //link).
Myth #4: The GCRTF wants to dismantle if not destroy the CP (//link). I dealt only briefly with this “myth” for a specific reason: Dr. Akin unfortunately offered no credible evidence for it (//link). He mentions two examples as evidence this “myth” exists.
The first one is based upon sheer hearsay, and Dr. Akin plainly gets wrong the second example. He mistakes a statement by Bob Rodgers, vice president for Cooperative Program & stewardship with the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, as referencing the GCRTF in a Baptist Press article (//link). One will search in vain for reference to the GCRTF in Dr. Rodgers’ article.
I’m wondering out loud if it’s legitimate to base a purported “myth” on a) hearsay, or b) documents having nothing to do with the subject at hand.
Myth #5: The GCR is a Calvinist plot (//link) For my part, this “myth” suffers the same fate as “myth” #4—lack of any tangible evidence. I challenge Dr. Akin to document this “myth.” Are there written pieces where this “myth” is being perpetuated?
Understand: I happen to think Founders Ministries is an organizational octopus whose tentacles reach deeply into the SBC. But one will search in vain for anything I’ve documented which links the GCRTF with Founders. Nor do I believe Dr. Akin or anyone else can document this “myth.” Hence, the absence of evidence from Dr. Akin’s exposition of the “Calvinist myth.” Instead he relies on raw assertion (at least until this post!).
Even so, for Dr. Akin to catalog who is NOT a Calvinist on the GCRTF demonstrates zero concerning whether the GCRTF may be influenced much or little by Calvinists and Calvinism. Perhaps it's not how many are not Calvinist on the TF that is significant but especially who is Calvinist on the TF.
For example, Dr. Al Mohler said in 1997:
“Calvinism is most closely and accurately associated with the so-called "Doctrines of Grace," which summarize the teaching of Scripture concerning the gospel…The Doctrines of Grace are nothing less than a statement of the Gospel itself…Calvinism was the mainstream tradition in the Southern Baptist Convention until the turn of the century. The rise of modern notions of individual liberty and the general spirit of the age have led to an accommodation of historic doctrines in some circles…As Southern Baptists seek to recover our theological inheritance and the essence of biblical Christianity, I believe we will see a return to a more Calvinistic understanding of the gospel and a recognition of the absolute sovereignty of God” (all emphasis added, //link; //link).
Under the leadership of Dr. Mohler, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has radically morphed in both conservatism as well as Calvinism. Most all Southern Baptists surely are delighted with the former but only a relatively few delighted with the latter.
The theological metamorphosis of Calvinism at Southern seminary is so potent and indeed so profound, that one young Calvinist dubbed, in his chronicles of the “young, restless, Reformed,” Southern Baptist Theological Seminary as “Ground Zero” for neo-Calvinism in the United States.***
Nor should this be a surprise to Southern Baptists who were listening at the time Dr. Mohler gave his first address as the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1993. He said then,
“We have arrived at a critical moment for the Southern Baptist Convention and its churches. A denomination once marked by intense theological commitment and a demonstrable theological consensus has seen that doctrinal unity pass into a pragmatic consciousness. We are in danger of losing our theological grammar, and, more seriously by far, of forfeiting our theological inheritance. This crisis far outweighs the controversy which has marked the Southern Baptist Convention for the last fourteen years. That controversy is a symptom rather than the root cause. As Southern Baptists, we are in danger of becoming God's most unembarrassed pragmatists--much more enamored with statistics than invested with theological substance” (Mohler, 1993, //link).
Given Dr. Mohler’s profound hope that the Southern Baptist Convention “recover” our lost “theological heritage,” which, according to Mohler, is the “essence of biblical Christianity” from which we have apparently departed, our theological heritage being, for Mohler, strict, five point Calvinism; given the theological crisis Dr. Mohler believes the Southern Baptist Convention faces--that is, an absence of a thorough Calvinistic understanding of the gospel--it only stands to reason when he says “We need to be gospel-centered,” that thinking Southern Baptists raise their hand and ask precisely what he means by being “gospel-centered.”
Furthermore, coupling the words of Dr. Mohler with his incredible gift of leadership, leading SBTS through a radical shift to strict Calvinism—not to mention he himself making the motion at the SBC for the president to be authorized to appoint a task force—why would Dr. Akin think it entirely far-fetched to imagine anyone connecting the dots between the GCRTF and a powerful leader like Dr. Mohler who has a very successful history in leading a institutional reformation toward Calvinism?
If Dr. Mohler led a seminary to embrace thorough-going Calvinism, why is it incredible to query him leading a denominational reformation toward Calvinism?
Hence, for Dr. Akin to simply dismiss as laughable the idea that aggressive Calvinism appears to be the theological backdrop for some of the most powerful GCRTF members is, at least for me, unacceptable.
Myth #6: The GCRTF is opposed to associations and state conventions (//link). I’m unfamiliar with this “myth.” Perhaps, however, Southern Baptists should be given the benefit of a doubt since, during his axiom message at SEBTS, Dr. Akin summarized a general but thrice repeated estimation of state conventions as “bloated and inefficient bureaucracies with red tape a mile long” (//link). Once again we may look to GCRTF members as possible sources for the purported “myth.”
Myth #7: The GCRTF is about diluting Baptist distinctives (//link). Like some of the others, this alleged “myth” suffers from credible exposition. According to Dr. Akin, one of the TF members “assured” him it was “out there” after he himself confessed “This myth was unknown to me.” For me, it’s hard to imagine addressing an idea concerning which no tangible evidence exists to analyze.
On the other hand, perhaps some do wonder precisely what Dr. Akin meant when he asked, in his axioms, “Is the name “Southern Baptist Convention” best for identifying who we are and want to be in the future?” I think I know toward what Dr. Akin was referencing.
Nevertheless, to raise the question about the legitimacy of the name “Southern Baptist Convention” and our identity without the least commentary is enough to spark substantial discussion. Again, the possible source of the alleged “myth” goes right back to GCRTF members themselves.
Myth #8: The GCRTF plans to either abolish or dissolve NAMB (//link). This may constitute the most confusing “myth” of all because there is such varied data concerning it. And, I’m not referring to what people are saying but the TF itself!
As early as mid-July, Dr. Hunt was quoting a “study” by Daniel Palmer, director of development at SEBTS, suggesting the entire TF was going to review it (//link). One of three recommendations to the GCRTF was to combine IMB and NAMB. Though Dr. Akin has publicly stated he was personally against any merger whatsoever, Daniel Palmer, his director of development, publicly advocates a merger and recommended such a merger to the TF. In addition, since Akin has categorically stated no “sacred cows” should be held back from scrutiny, how he can hold, prior to the incoming data, NAMB and IMB should not be merged only he can explain. Like I said. Very confusing.
Personally, I hope the “myth-busting” days are over for the GCRTF. Indeed as I stated earlier, had they followed their original intent by allowing Baptist journalists to chronicle the GCRTF meetings, more likely than not, no need would exist for correcting the myriad number of alleged “myths” floating around the Southern Baptist Convention.
Rather Southern Baptists would be about discussing “what is” rather than, according to Dr. Akin, “what ain’t.”
With that, I am…
**While Dr. Akin dubs this an “accusation” I personally refuse the term. It assumes far too much, making disagreement concerning the GCR more about ethics than ideas--a hasty, unfair, and therefore, unfortunate conclusion in my view.
*** Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey with the New Calvinists, Collin Hansen, Crossway, (2008), pp. 69-94