Unity is fostered by more than a prayer


EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is the final installment in an ongoing discussion between Truett McConnell Vice President Brad Reynolds and Diana, TX pastor Marc Minter and their differing points of view of Russell Moore and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. For Minter's column also posted today, click here

Pastor Minter and I have an ongoing disagreement, which, while possibly proving beneficial (as he has been a gentleman throughout), seems to be getting to the point of “let’s agree to disagree.”

However, he is praying for genuine unity in the SBC. I would just state that unity is fostered as much by actions as it is by prayer. It is difficult to have unity (even if we pray for such) with a person/group if we continually mischaracterize and/or misquote him/them. Further, unless one steps back from his/her paradigm it is difficult to hear what others are saying.

There is an old Indian (as in India) parable of five blind men touching an elephant. Each man touches the elephant in a different spot (one may touch a tusk, one may touch a leg, one may touch an ear, etc). They then compare notes and decide they are in total disagreement as to what the animal is. They disagreed because they were incapable of stepping back from their paradigm to hear others.

Sometimes this happens in the SBC. Thomas Kuhn’s book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions gets to the heart of the issue. Kuhn recognized that when a person is looking through a certain paradigm he/she is incapable of seeing from another paradigm. This phenomenon causes people to talk past each other.

I have tried to explain that some of the differences Pastor Minter sees, are in actuality non-existent. He has attributed some things to me that simply are not true. I have wondered how I could explain it better. But I don’t believe a better explanation would help. Paradigms are in the way.

And yet, for the sake of truth I will once again correct statements made about me (again we should avoid speaking for others – it only harms conversation). In his latest post he said “Mr. Reynolds’ article that began this whole discussion insisted on the removal of Russell Moore from the ERLC. The basis of Dr. Moore’s removal, in the mind of Mr. Reynolds, is that he does not “represent us” (the “us” referring to the average member of the SBC).”

Once again, let’s review what I actually said (which anyone can verify): “not in an effort to remove him, but in an effort to represent us or remove himself for we do not desire to pay someone who doesn’t represent us…” I even clarified by stating in my last post he should “represent the thousands of Bobby Baptist and not just the Barnabas Baptist.” Which evidences I have NEVER implied Bobby Baptist’ views are the only legitimate views in the SBC. If one were to intimate such, it would be untruthful.

However, I do believe it is inappropriate for Dr. Moore to accept money from thousands of Southern Baptists and refuse to represent their biblical view, simply because it is not his personal Biblical view (hence the encouragement that if he is unwilling to also represent Bobby Baptist, he should, remove himself. He is not employed by Southern Baptists to represent himself. Further, it is quite illogical to insist that churches that feel he refuses to represent their biblical views continue to send money for such refusal).

Minter also states, “The more important point is our disagreement concerning the very existence of different views inside the SBC. I say this is a good and necessary thing, Mr. Reynolds says something different….”

Wow! I’m a University professor, any of my students will verify that I encourage them to study and be open to different views, in the pursuit of truth. Again, creating straw men is harmful to unity. I’m curious, can any honest reader find one place where I have intimated that differing views in the SBC is not a good and necessary thing? Anywhere? Quite the contrary, I have said Dr. Moore should represent BOTH views, not just one. He should represent Bobby and Barnabas. If anyone in the SBC wants just one Biblical perspective represented from the ERLC, it is not I.

PLEASE NOTE: Had Dr. Moore said “What I’m concerned about is the credibility of the Church of Jesus Christ if we do not stand up for the unborn and vote for the only Pro-life option we have in Donald Trump” I would affirm that those who were against Trump for conscience sake would have a similar complaint (although I certainly wouldn’t make it for them).

And yet, Pastor Minter, in his wisdom, must have recognized I would address this straw man and thus he followed it by saying “Mr. Reynolds seems to demand that Dr. Moore represent a perspective he does not have, but a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways. This is a ridiculous expectation...”

Is it ridiculous? Dr. Moore is not employed to represent his personal views but to represent the views of Southern Baptists. Dr. Moore, apparently, has come to realize this as well, for recently, he said “I was not, in so doing, intending to talk about Southern Baptists … who were open about all of these issues but believed in supporting (flawed) candidates … who would appoint good people and carry out good policies … Again, I understand that, and find it reasonable and defensible ...”

It sounds like he is somewhat capable (in an apology) of representing a view he does not share. Trying to be objective and representing a Biblical perspective that one does not share is not double-minded. I feel quite confident that Dr. Moore (having met him on a few occasions) is far more capable than I of being objective (which is why I was so disappointed in him during this past election).

As I said in my last post “I would have preferred, during the election season, for Dr. Moore to say something like: ‘Some Christians, for conscience sake, struggle voting for a man who they see as the most immoral man to ever run for this office ... Others … for conscience sake find the possibility of overturning Roe v Wade so important they will vote for Trump … I find myself in the former group, but I certainly respect the latter.” Such a tone did not emanate from the ERLC until AFTER the election.” Which was my point originally … An apology is not what Bobby desires, but a representing of Bobby’s views as well.

In this response, I have chosen not to say things like “Pastor Minter only wants Dr. Moore to represent people like himself and no one else,” or other such statements. I have not spoken for Pastor Minter. I have no interest in winning an argument by implying things (whether I believe them or not), which may not be accurate. Rather, I have a desire for truth. True unity is fostered through the pursuit of truth.

There are no hard feelings on my part – I recognize the truth of Kuhn’s work, and choose to assume the best of motives. But if we are to have real unity we must control our urge to speak for others. Further, we should try, to the best of our ability, to be objective about a perspective other than our own. If we do, we may find our view can grow with knowledge from another perspective. Unity in the SBC can certainly be strengthened through prayer, but let us act in concert with our prayers.

Finally, coming full circle, my original article was not intended to harm Dr. Moore but to help. If I wanted to harm him I would remain silent and not warn of the possible storm just over the horizon. Whether individuals recognize it or not there are thousands of Bobby Baptists. Bobby is weary of his views being dismissed (or even maligned) by some leaders in the SBC. He is also weary of the circling of wagons when a disagreement threatens CP giving. He has seen this for too long.

One is free to dismiss all I have written, but out of a love for the SBC, I am trying to help. Hence, the article was intended to help the somebodies in the SBC recognize that the nobodies (like myself and Bobby) are wise to the politics as usual, and such apologizing and circling of wagons, without a change to hear and represent our views as well, might result in a dismissal of more than Bobby’s views.

Previous posts in this conversation by Brad Reynolds

March 27, Bobby Baptist and the ERLC

April 13, Bobby meets Barnabas Baptist

April 21, What to do when you disagree

Brad Reynolds, ERLC, Marc Minter, Russell Moore, SBC, unity