Southern Baptists and the Sufficiency of Scripture

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  • Southern Baptists and the Sufficiency of Scripture

    by Todd Pruitt

    Lifeway, a publishing arm of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination will no longer be promoting and selling Heaven tourism books. This is good news. If you are unfamiliar with the term, Heaven tourism refers to books like 90 Minutes in Heaven and Heaven is for Real in which the authors claim to have died and visited Heaven only to be returned to earth. The defenders of the immensely popular books claim that they help bolster their belief in Heaven. Of course this begs the question: why are the Scripture’s promises concerning the afterlife not sufficient to bolster faith?

    During its June 2014 meeting in Baltimore, MD the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution affirming the sufficiency of Scripture (that God speaks to His people through the mediation of His Word) over subjective personal claims of heavenly visitations. That was an encouraging development. But of course the books on heavenly tourism are not the only problem lining the shelves of Lifeway. They continue to sell Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling and all of its various editions (I stopped counting at 10). Ironically, Jesus Calling represents a far more egregious attack on the sufficiency of Scripture than do the fanciful tales of people’s trips to Heaven.

    Also, Lifeway may want to ask Beth Moore about her understanding of the sufficiency of Scripture. A well known Southern Baptist, Mrs. Moore frequently claims to be given direct messages from God outside the Scriptures. Yet, her books and curriculum remain the most prominent of all the Lifeway products. And as with Jesus Calling I believe Beth Moore’s materials do far more to undermine the sufficiency of Scripture than do the heavenly tourism books.

    Lifeway promotes a host of books and studies that purport to help people hear the voice of God. Many of these books list Scripture as just one of many ways that God speaks to His people. Clearly there are Christians who do believe that God still gives direct revelation outside the mediation of his Word. This is foundational to Pentecostalism, for instance. But the SBC has more than once approved rather robust statements affirming the sufficiency of Scripture. So why is it that the arm of the SBC which produces and sells books and curriculum is producing and selling so many products that clearly contradict the SBC’s stated doctrinal positions?

    A quick perusal of the Lifeway Christian Bookstore website reveals that the vast majority of their products are of a highly experiential and therapeutic variety. There are precious few studies of the biblical text and Christian doctrine. Astonishingly, Lifeway is still selling books by oneness Pentecostal (denies the Trinity) and prosperity preacher T.D. Jakes. How can this be? Why is the Southern Baptist Convention promoting books and other materials from a false teacher who regularly distorts the Word of God? I would plead with Lifeway to consider the difficult position in which this places SBC pastors. Many of these men labor to bring doctrinal health and unity to their churches. When Lifeway promotes books that sow confusion or undermine sound doctrine the SBC pastor is left in a position of opposing leadership in his own denomination.

    I fear that the answer to this question has less to do with lack of discernment (which is bad enough) and more to do with money. The fact is, the majority of Christians consume bad books. They don’t desire careful expositions of the Scriptures and studies of Christian doctrine. And instead of seeking to whet the appetites of Southern Baptists for sound doctrine Lifeway seems content to sell them books which contradict historic Christian orthodoxy and the stated doctrines of the their own denomination.

  • #2
    In my experience, many Baptists believe and accept heaven as our ultimate destination, even though the Bible does NOT teach that. I was actually dating a women a few years ago who broke up with me because I did not accept that belief. Cognitive dissonance is a big problem with some.
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    • #3
      The Independent Baptist Church I go to says that we go to Heaven at first, then after God creates the new Heaven and earth and the New Jerusalem comes down from Heaven, we dwell in the house of the Lord on earth, forever (part of that is Psalm 23). Since God creates a new Heaven (universe) and earth after we are all in the afterlife, we would have to be in Heaven with the Lord (the third Heaven) while He does that, at least. The New Jerusalem comes down onto the new earth. I guess the house of the Lord will be on the new earth also. A lot of doctrine is not unilateral within denominations.
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      • #4
        Lifeway, knowing better, continued to sell Heavenly Tourism books until the subject of one of the books went public criticizing sellers of the book and saying the story about him visiting heaven is false, something his mother had pointed out from the start.

        Last year, the SBC-affiliated Lifeway was selling pink Bibles and donating part of the proceeds to the pro-abortion and anti-Christian G. Komen Foundation. After public criticism, Lifeway stopped selling the Bibles and said they made a mistake. Accepting that they really did make an incredibly careless mistake, it's a mistake that should not have happened. Christians should not be jumping on the breast cancer bandwagon. It's a very heavily funded secular cause. There are better places for Christians to use money.

        Lifeway was also involved in creating the travesty that is the Holman Christian Standard Bible used as the SBCs own Bible, subjecting people of the country's largest protestant denomination to the poor judgement that resulted in other Lifeway "mistakes".

        I really shouldn't single out Lifeway, most Christian bookstores tend to carry a very high percentage of dubious books. We should be demanding better of our Christian publishers, filmmakers, and TV networks. We shouldn't settle for low-quality anything just because Jesus' name is on it. Low-quality media makes us an ineffective witness to the world, and frankly, impedes our own walk with God.

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        • #5
          See if they are Free Masons. They are in leadership roles of churches all over the place including mine, and if John Rice's book about them is only 1/2 right, what they vow to do at high levels secretively is barbaric.
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          • #6
            Referring to the OP, if the Bible says otherwise from what people are saying, no matter what denomination, then the denominations or spokesmen in it are wrong. The Bible spells out who went to Heaven without first dying, and no more, as I believe it was Elisha and Elijah, if memory serves me right. Even Jesus died first then rose from the dead. People in the spirit have been in Heaven, such as John and Paul for example, among others. But what Lifeway appears to be claiming sounds like something D. James Kennedy promoted a book about where a man died in a horrible accident and went to Heaven for a half hour, saw his familiar believers, but did not cross the gates to heaven. He was then told he was not finished on earth and was returned. I was surprised Kennedy took that under his wing. Can anyone show me an example in the Bible where such a thing would happen? The verse Kennedy used was "Is there anything too hard for the Lord?", which is a verse which can easily be abused. God can do everything, but that does not mean He will. I loved Kennedy as a preacher/teacher, but we all are not perfect. The story was intriguing, but I can't find Scripture to back it up.
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