In the watchtower: The Pathway take up its position
Don HinklePathway Editor
July 10, 2002
In the first issue of The Pathway ever published I wrote a story about the creation of the Missouri Baptist Convention’s new official newsjournal. In that story I referred to the strained relationship that has existed between Southern Baptists and the denominational press, in particular the state newspapers.
I described that relationship as "one of the most bizarre in the history of Christian journalism." My description is based on the fact that a large majority of Southern Baptists are theologically conservative, which leads them to often be politically and socially conservative. Though often careful not to raise the hackles of their conservative brethren, too many Southern Baptist state newspaper journalists in the past 40 years have often taken a more liberal view of reality. I find it astonishing that Southern Baptists would spend money on a state newspaper that would even consider debating something like "open theism." Such is the slippery slope that is littered with the neo-orthodoxy of liberals like Ralph Elliott, the Midwestern Seminary professor, whose 1963 book, The Message of Genesis, launched the conservative resurgence in the SBC. As you may recall, Elliott declared the stories of Adam and Eve, Cain and Able, Noah and the flood, the Tower of Babel and some events in the life of Abraham to be non-historical and error-prone. See now how one can raise the neo-orthodox view of "open theism?"
I suppose I should temper my criticism by acknowledging that heresy prompts the church to reaffirm its traditional, orthodox beliefs, but I digress.
I can only theorize as to how and why the denominational press became so moderate/liberal/progressive (it’s interesting to note that the smug term "progressive" was formerly used by Marxist ideologues in early 20th century America), but I would suspect there are two reasons:
First, university journalism schools have been a breeding ground for liberal ideologues since their inception. Accusations of liberal bias in much of the news media were dismissed for nearly all of the 20th century, but have gained traction in the new millennium thanks to numerous surveys, studies and books, like Bernard Goldberg’s most recent blockbuster, Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News. The mounting evidence suggests that the liberal ideologues controlling university journalism schools have succeeded in indoctrinating students who ultimately come to reject conservative/orthodox theology, philosophy and politics. At least now they’ve been caught with their hand in the cookie jar.
Second, the state newspapers found themselves controlled by moderate/liberal trustees, just like most SBC agencies in the 1960s and just like the five renegade Missouri Baptist Convention entities that no longer want Missouri Baptists to hold them accountable. If the editors and reporters were not liberal – and not all were — then they certainly played the part, becoming accomplices to the neo-orthodoxy embraced by too many in the SBC. If indeed they were truly a "free press" and operated "independently" like their protégés so often crow about these days, then why didn’t more of them scream bloody murder and resign as one’s integrity demands in such a situation?
Southern Baptists are not as stupid as liberals once thought and as some still think. When given all the information, Southern Baptists know what to do: search the Scriptures, pray and seek wise counsel. From the beginning, the leaders who rescued the SBC’s agencies from liberalism believed that it could be accomplished by mobilizing the masses in the pews, who they knew were theologically conservative. They used some pretty creative means to bypass the state newspapers and disseminate information, but they worked. The result was one of the most miraculous turnarounds by a prominent denomination in the history of the church.
The fact that conflict continues – at the state, association and local levels – tells me there is still a lack of information reaching the pews. The battle at the national level – settled long ago now — has now morphed into state and associational conflict. If it hasn’t reached a church near you, it will soon. Most Missouri Baptists have figured out that something is up. After all, when your state newspaper runs stories about an organization that despises your state convention leaders and would do financial harm to your mission efforts, educational institutions, and benevolent agencies you know something is fishy at Fee Fee.
I have never personally attacked another Christian journalist, although I’ve been the target of such attacks, having been called the worst thing a journalist can be called – a liar — by an editorialist in another state convention newspaper (it was not Missouri by the way). This ministry is no different than any other – it is often stained with sin, which brings me to the point I want to make.
A foundational principle that separates a conservative from a liberal is one’s view of man. Conservatives believe that man is evil, cannot be trusted and is in need of redemption. Moderates/liberals/progressives believe man is basically good and with the power of government has the capacity to bring forth utopia. The Bible says "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" and that "none are righteous, not even one."
For conservative Christian journalists like myself, our worldview drives our approach to what we do, bringing it to bear on what theologian David Wells has called "our dying culture," not the other way around. If The Pathway ever abandons its Christian worldview, I pray that God will give me the courage to shout a warning from the watchtower and then resign.
Messengers to the MBC’s annual meeting Oct. 28-30 in Springfield will have the opportunity to approve a recommendation by their MBC Executive Board appropriating $292,000 to The Pathway for 2003. I hope every messenger will prayerfully consider adopting such a recommendation. It is my desire to stand in "the watchtower," ever mindful of man’s sinful nature and with "tears in my eyes," but anxious and committed to proclaiming the message of Missouri Baptists: Jesus saves.