I grew up in the Presbyterian church but surrounded by southern evangelicals. The largest denomination in America is the SBC with about 16 million members and four out of the top ten largest denominations are Baptist (https://christianityfaq.com/largest-christian-denominations-america/). The Assembly of God is in that top five also and if you add up those who identify as Protestant, you have about 141 million sheep. Of course I don’t put much stock in the orthodoxy of that 141 million, but given the large number of US citizens that identify as Protestant, we should recognize that the Christian church sure has frittered away its impact on American culture. Our once-Christian nation is now a secular nation and the church is primarily to blame for this result.
Since we started CrossPolitic, we have strived to be an equal opportunity offender, going after Presbyterians, Baptists, evangelicals, Charismatics, and probably in that order. Our main focus for the show is to bring the Lordship of Christ into politics and culture, and so when we analyze a denomination or theological movement, it is with a political or cultural take. In other words, what are the political or cultural implications that this denomination or theological view is having on our society? The big assumption in our takes is “what happens in the church will come out in even more egregious ways in culture”, and we assume this because Jesus says the church is the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14).
Before I go any further, if you are wondering what the heck this blog post is responding to, please see these two CrossPolitic shows which should largely bring you up to speed:
From Slavery to Abortion to Transgenderism – The Church Led us to the Trans Movement
BACKSTAGE: The Failure of Baptist Theology w/ Jason Farley
Unity and Hot Takes
Before I get to where I believe the friction is at, I want to say a word about unity and “hot takes”. In my lifetime, I have been discouraged by the church’s inability to debate things well and remain friends afterwards. I have also been discouraged watching churches, movements like TGC and the Gospel Coalition, seminaries like SBTC, Covenant Seminary, and the Christian conference circuit care more about their branding, growth strategies and platforms than the actual truth of God’s Word and not being embarrassed by certain Bible verses. This is on the heels of seminary students who are graduating in 2023 that spent their first two years masking up at SBTS. Our next crop of pastors are going to be more anemic and cowardly than our current cowardly and anemic pastors.
We are in bad shape, and to those who have half a brain, it is obvious that we desperately need reformation and revival in the church. This reformation and revival is only going to happen through a genuine work of the Holy Spirit, and this work will be clunky, full of iron-sharpening-iron, and not how any of us would expect it. I can’t for the life of me explain why Baptists and Presbyterians are all of a sudden getting along. In these last five years or so, I believe we have begun to see the tangible work of the Holy Spirit and genuine reformation and revival breaking out in our land, and I believe CrossPolitic has been a part of that ecuminical work. But if CrossPolitic were to cease to exist tomorrow, then so be it, blessed be the name of the Lord. We are all part of the body of Christ–Baptist, evangelical, Presbyterian, Charismatic, and more of course–which means our growing pains are worse than a 14-year-old boy growing a foot per year. We require a lot of grace to fellowship with each other. Remember that when you believe you are mustering up all the grace you have to fellowship with a charismatic believer, they are probably working just as hard, if not harder, to love you in return. Say the hard things you think you need to say, but also buy them a beer afterwards and fellowship.
The Lost Art of Recognizing the Slippery Slope
At this point we could not recognize a slippery slope if it slid into our face. The church really does need to rediscover this lost art. Lazy people don’t get rich. Foolish people do not get to stand before kings. No-fault divorce gets you gay mirage. Effeminate men get you gay children. Dads who are engrossed in private porn have children who grow up to live public debaucherous lives. Presbyterian academic theology gets you Revoice. Launching two degrees off from the dock gets you hundreds of miles off course hours into the voyage.
Recovering the lost art of recognizing the slippery slope would really do the church some good.
America Baptist Turned Secular
Ok, let’s cut to the chase. On our CrossPolitic show on Wednesday, my friend Jason Farley said the American Baptist theology turned-secular is why we have the trans culture that we have today (around the 14 minute mark). To be clear, I agree with Jason, and so did Knox and Pastor Toby. Also to be clear, we said the American Baptist theology, not Reformed Baptist theology. Distinctions matter, right? On twitter I explicitly said that I did not have friends like Dr. James White in mind when we said this. Why? Because Dr. White is happy to baptize four-year-olds and bring them to the Lord’s Supper. Dr. White has a better grasp of what it means to be part of the covenant people of God than most of my Presbyterian brothers. We were speaking to the generic Baptist evangelical, which dominates our Christian culture in our country, and is massively individualistic. This Baptist ideology has the most influential theological impact on our society, more than any other denomination or theological movement in our degraded society. That is what we clearly were referencing.
Let’s make this practical. American Baptist churches, and the parents, teach their kids that they are not Christian until they arrive at the age of accountability or some sort of age that the church will believe their individual profession of faith. So for 15 years, the parents tell their kids that they are not Christians until they are ready to accept Jesus in their heart and make a public profession of faith and get baptized. For 15 years, this individualistic view of baptism and faith teaches kids that their prayers or raising their hands in worship really does not matter to God at all. Why? Because Mom, Dad, and the church all say you are not a Christian. Imagine parents taking the Lord’s Supper, but turning around and telling their kids “yeah you can’t partake of it because you are not a Christian” and excluding them from the Table. How could that not create an identity crisis? What do you think those kids are thinking as they watch their parents partake of the Lord’s Supper? Why do my parents get to partake of the Lord’s Supper? Oh, it must be because I am not a Christian yet…or at least… according to the church. It is no wonder that up to 88% of SBC children leave their faith by their freshman year in college (https://coldcasechristianity.com/writings/are-young-people-really-leaving-christianity/). If you were told that you were not a Christian for 15 years, that your identity is not in Christ for 15 years, then just maybe that identity crisis that we are inculcating in our children is bleeding out into culture in a way that we don’t want to admit.
Now Jason went on to say in the Backstage that American Baptist theology turned-secular is the “cause” of the transgender movement in our society. The word “cause” has caused a lot of consternation, and I can understand some of it. One friend told me that he took what we were saying to mean that Baptists are morally culpable for the current trans culture, and that he took great offense at that. I appreciated his feedback and am glad to make a clarification on this point. “Cause” is a strong word for sure, but as Presbyterians, we constantly think in terms of the covenant. A better word than “cause” that might represent what we were communicating is “responsible”. American Baptist theology turned-secular is responsible for the current trans ideology. Responsible is a covenantal term. Jesus was responsible for our sin, but was He morally culpable? A father is responsible for the sins of his family, but is he morally culpable for every sin his wife or children commit? Of course not. He could be morally culpable or not, but that all depends on the nature of his actions. So, I believe the predominant American Baptist theology is responsible for the identity crisis that we see in the trans movement. Parents who teach their kids for 12, 13, 14, 15 years or so that their identity is not in Christ until they choose their identity, is the slippery slope to the identity crisis in the trans community. Sure, what happens in the church might be so far up the hill that you can barely see the connection, but at the bottom of the hill it is quite destructive and definitely all connected. Radical individualism is a plague on the church. It has been blatantly obvious since the Second Great Awakening, and little has been done to weed this out of the church. We are reaping in great ways what we have been sowing for over a century.
Are Presbyterians Groomers?
When everything hit the fan, multiple people pointed out that if credo-baptism leads to trans culture, then Presbyterianism leads to groomers. I actually don’t have a problem with this statement as qualified. Presbyterians who assume baptism saves and that they don’t have to work hard to disciple their kids in the knowledge and fear of the Lord, are absolutely grooming their children for failure. I grew up in the Presbyterian church. Trust me, I know where the dead bodies are at because I saw them groomed for failure. The Presbyterian church has a real pulpit problem full of pastors who can’t raise their households well (1 Timothy 3:4-5). This hot take does not offend me. I have seen it and I am glad to consider it. So, in kind, I ask that the Baptist brethren consider our hot take with a real sincere consideration of what we actually articulated, not a caricature of what we supposedly said.
Other Hot Takes
For years we have said that there is a correlation between churches that kick their kids out of worship and the abortion culture that surrounds us. We show the world that kids are second class citizens and shove those kids down into the basement in the dumbed-down kids church service, while mom and dad have real church with some peace and quiet. We show the world that kids don’t matter in the most important act of obedience towards God as humans created in the image of God, so it is no wonder the world believes children in their mother’s womb are second class citizens subject to the whims of the mother and the pimp she slept with. The church is responsible for abortion because we taught the world that kids are not valuable in worship.
Another hot take. Women were ascending into the pulpit, long before they were flying F15s and being sent to the frontlines.
How about this one? No-fault divorce was in the church long before Ronald Reagan passed no-fault divorce in California.
Presbyterians! Y’all gave us Revoice, academic pulpits that strain gnats while swallowing camels, and soft men who care more about their office hours instead of actually engaging in the cultural battles in front of us.
Fight Laugh and Feast
Our plan over the following week or two is to have more interaction with our baptist brothers regarding this topic. We believe this is a productive conversation to be having, and we hope that you are encouraged and challenged with these conversations. Oftentimes when a controversy like this breaks out, no one wants to discuss it with each other. I remember when we had Jonathan Leeman on our show to talk theonomy, and that show blew up, and his response was to talk about us without naming us on his podcast with Mark Dever the following week. Big Eva does some silly things, and one of the silliest things they do is not genuinely talk about controversies with people they disagree with. We hope to change that with CrossPolitic and the Fight Laugh Feast Network, and so in the coming week or two we hope to have James White on the show and a couple other guests regarding this topic. I am grateful for all the golly memes, back and forth that has already occurred, and challenges I/we have received from our friends. It is my hope that this blog post really is an olive branch to our baptist listeners, and that it adds some helpful clarity to the fray.