Should agency heads endorse SBC presidential candidates?

Dr. Paige Patterson has publicly endorsed Dr. Ronnie Floyd, who will be nominated for the presidency of the SBC when the convention meets next month in Greensboro. Patterson is the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. The propriety of this kind of political advocacy by a president of one of our institutions has been roundly criticized by many in the blogosphere.

Yesterday, Dr. Morris Chapman weighed in on the question. Chapman, who is the president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee, questions the prudence of such a move. I am not convinced by all of his arguments or conclusions, but I greatly appreciate his willingness to enter the conversation and the spirit with which he does so. The points he raises certainly merit consideration. Here is a nugget from his insights:

Today political strategies, agendas, and power politics threaten to distract us from empowered possibilities of a people who rely solely upon God’s guidance. We are drawn to do things as the world does them. To lose power from above all too often drives us to generate artificial power of our own making. We can intellectualize the Word of God ’til the cows come home and Christ reigns supreme upon the earth, but the more we attempt to do in our own power, the less we shall know the power of God. Our strength pales in comparison to the Christ who arose from the grave and ascended to the right hand of the Father.

This resonates with my own thinking. One of the dangers of caring about who is elected president of the SBC (and I think it is right for every Southern Baptist to care) is to start (or continue) relying on political prowess rather than on the power of God. This does not mean that I think political involvement is inherently sinful or should be avoided. It simply means that there is an inherent danger in putting our hopes in a political process rather than God. It is a small step from that error to a greater one–to begin to justify unrighteous attitudes and actions in the name of political expediency and what is judged to be a worthy goal.

But it is never right to do wrong in order to do right–no matter what the cause.

The question that Chapman has raised is an important one. It should be considered and discussed–even debated. But that conversation should not be allowed to denigrate into raising questions about motives or personalities. There is enough in the issue itself to warrant serious dialogue.

Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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