Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Dear Baptists,

If you keep up with Baptist news these days, you see that there are a lot of people and churches upset with their institutions embracing positions of religious liberty. Prestonwood has suspended its support of the convention over the issue. They are concerned that the ethics arm of the convention no longer “reflect[s] the beliefs and values of many in the SBC.”

That begs the question, does Prestonwood (or the many people it references) know what Baptist values even are?

How about you?

Do any of the following names ring a bell?

John Smyth, Thomas Helwys, Religion’s Peace: A Plea for Liberty of Conscience by Leonard Busher, John Murton, Edward Barber, Christopher Blackwood, The Act of Toleration 1689, Roger Williams and his The Bloudy Tenent. The list goes on.

Baptists have always been about religious liberty. Probably because we have so often been persecuted for our beliefs. But our “majority” status in America is perhaps why we have so thoroughly forgotten the cost of religious rule by a majority. We need to remember that our faith as spelled out in Scripture gives every man the right to be wrong. We defend that right because we also want to have the right to be right even when we are out of step with the majority. (As we ever are, by the way. If the religion of the U.S. were determined by majority and “might makes right” it would not be evangelical!)

You do not overcome other beliefs (Islam, for instance) by outlawing it. Even less by engaging it in military conflict. See the Crusades. In fact, that approach only strengthens the conflict. We engage every alternate belief with our testimony and the Truth of Scripture. And, if that does not convince someone, we should defend their right to see things differently. We do so because that is what we want for ourselves.

The minute our country starts opposing any belief legally, the minute we relax the separation of government and faith, is the minute we open the door for our own beliefs to come under attack.

And for all those who object and say that they already are, you are right. Largely due to the door we have been opening wider and wider over the past thirty years of trying to legislate morality and change our country’s heart condition through political rather than spiritual and cultural means.

People are not defending Islam by supporting the right of another faith to be practiced; they are defending our own Baptist freedom to believe free from government interference or persecution. They are opposing “the bloody doctrine of persecution for cause of conscience.”

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