Maybe. Just Maybe....
.... we don't really believe it. Maybe we talk a good game, but when the rubber meets the road, well, no thank you.
I'm talking about the most cherished SB belief .. you know ... competency of the soul ... priesthood of the believer.
I've been following along with the string of comments on Wade Burleson's blog, with some interest. On the one hand, I appreciate all those educated folks who know what all the original language tenses and cases mean, and appreciate brilliant analyses of scripture; on the other, I wonder why we believe in "priesthood of the believer", if it takes a genius to figure out what the Bible really means. That seems to run a bit counter to what's acknowledged as the fundamental baptist distinctive.
At least that's what Herschel Hobbs said it was.
Anyway, here are some random thoughts, after which I will post my conclusion. I say random because I'm not sure what they are, yet, and I'll post my final thought as the conclusion rather than starting with it as a premise. That's because it might change before I get done.
Anyway, I'm assuming the Bible was written to communicate with people. I've always looked at the Revelation as being the hardest book to understand, but even that book is named Revelation, indicating God wants to reveal something, to show forth something; it isn't named Concealment, which would indicate something is hidden from view.
My Dad told me to use all the brains I had, but all I could borrow, too. So I like to read commentaries, and the opinions of others, including the brilliant exegesis of learned folks (I didn't even know what exegesis meant before I read Wade Burleson's blog that first time, but then I didn't know what Arminian, hermeneutics, eisegesis, expository, antinomian, or any of the lapsarians meant. Or lots of others I had to look up whilst reading blogs). While they may help me to understand some nuance of scripture, it does cause some friction with that priesthood of the believer thing, in that it's easier to subscribe to what some Brilliant Person hath said, than to settle all this stuff in my own mind via my spirit listening to His Spirit.
Interestingly, it was a lot easier being a Presbyterian. We could point to the Westminster Confession and say "That's what we believe", and that would pretty well cover it. But try that with the BF&M, and the response ... from non-baptists ... will likely be "OK, but what about miracles, Spiritual Gifts, women teachers, predestination..." or any of the other theological points on which we as baptists have freedom ... whereas folks in most other denominations don't. So ... what if it were true, that we're not really all that comfortable with having that responsibility ourselves, and would rather have some Priest tell us what to believe?
Even if we don't call them "Priests"?
If we acknowledge the priesthood of the believer, we have to acknowledge that God communicates His truth to people via the witness of the Spirit. I buy that totally, or else we'd all believe the same things about all things, like career, eschatology, whether wives should always stay home with the kids, etc. But with that "priesthood" comes responsibility for getting it right, in a manner of speaking, and we really, really want some agreement from others, since that'll make us feel more secure in our beliefs.
Those two set up a dichotomy which will always exist where dissent is allowed.
How does that play out in SBC members, particularly those who participate in the process?
Those in the power structure seem to want to stifle dissent, sometimes by simply eliminating people around them, who disagree with their views on something. The dismissal of various professors and others in a position of authority stand as evidence of that.
Those not in the power structure will often line up with someone inside, someone whose views are widely known, and support them. Often vocally, sometimes adamantly, and occasionally even despite glaring inequities, obvious critical flaws, and blatant and outlandish behaviors.
One of the training things I went through, relative to witnessing, talked about sin. It poses the question: when we commit one sin, how many good sinless deeds would it take to offset that one sin? The analogy was made to offenses against criminal law; how many miles of driving at the speed limit does it take to offset busting a school zone at 70 mph? How many months of driving sober would repay one episode of drunk driving in which we ran over someone? How many times do we have to BUY something to make up for STEALING something?
The Klouda episode stinks to high heaven (which is really a contradiction of terms). One man's particular interpretation, and perhaps his simple prejudice against women, has torn up a family's life. THAT IS AN OUTRAGE! So how many years of good stuff does it take to negate that .. to make it OK for him to do that? Yet people will flock to his defense all day long.
We do that with priests.
I had a good conversation about these things with my pastor, Mike Shaw, today. I happened to stop by the office on some other matters, and he was there, so we kicked the dog round a little. We're probably the best example, of unity in diversity, that I know of. I'm a Calvinist. He's not. I speak in tongues. He doesn't. I've been Methodist, 3 brands of Presbyterian, and Baptist by choice at age 46. His mother was baptized in an SBC church while pregnant with Bro. Mike, and he grew up in the church. But we have this really neat unity because, quoting him, "When I look at you I don't see a Calvinist. I see a brother."
Maybe the great hypocrisy of our age isn't referring to 8 or 9 million people whose location we can't even account for, as "members". Maybe the greater hypocrisy is saying we believe in the priesthood of the believer, when we spend so much time acting like we don't.