Saturday, February 29, 2020

Being an Army Chaplain

By Stephen Feinstein

Grace and peace to my fellow Southern Baptists. This is the second article in a series of articles telling the SBC a little more about myself. As some of you know, Dr. Chris Bolt announced his intention to nominate me as the 2VP of the Southern Baptist Convention this summer in Orlando. I have no idea if I will actually be elected to this position, but if the Lord wills it, I am ready to answer the call. Since most people know little about me, I decided it would help to write this series of articles. In my first article, I introduced myself and focused on my relationship with the SBC. That article is linked here: 

I mentioned very early that I am a Jewish Christian, husband, father, pastor, Army Chaplain, Martial Artist, and author. The focus of this article is going to be on my career as a Chaplain in the United States Army Reserve.

When I first called on Christ as a 17 year old back in 1996, the Lord quickly impressed upon me the desire to be a pastor. Some of my decisions likely slowed this down. For example, I went to a state university rather than a Bible college. I pursued a degree in history rather than theology. So for obvious reasons, I ended up a high school social science teacher. Well, in the fifth year of my teaching career, I saw an article in Newsweek about the Army Chaplaincy. Seeing a man in an Army uniform with a cross above his last name truly intrigued me. Perhaps this was the pastoral ministry to which God called me. I couldn’t shake the thought. So I called a chaplain recruiter, and he told me I needed a Master of Divinity, or a graduate level degree in theology equaling at least 72 credits. Since I already had a graduate degree in educational administration (which is all about leadership and pedagogy), I asked if I could combine that with a theology degree if the two combined meets the 72 unit requirement. Normally, this would not be an option, but President George W. Bush just announced the Surge, which meant they needed more of everything. So my plan worked. I enrolled in Liberty University’s distant learning program and completed a MA in Theological Studies in only ten months; a 36 credit degree of which I graduated Summa Cum Laude. It was almost a decade later that I completed a Master of Divinity at SBTS. 

With the educational requirements met, I applied for the chaplaincy. The Active Duty component, however, required two years as a full time vocational pastor. Since I was a high school teacher, I did not meet that requirement. Therefore, they offered me the Reserves as an option with the possibility of Active Duty later. So I agreed to the offer. One positive consequence of the global war on terror was the Reserves and Guard could no longer be the jokers you saw in Rambo First Blood. Our training was integrated with the Active Duty component. So when I went to BOLC (Basic Officer Leadership Course), it was a mixed class of 200 chaplains and chaplain candidates from all three components (Active, Reserve, Guard). Since we were chaplains, our BOLC was called CHBOLC (CH for chaplain).
CHBOLC was an amazing three and half months of training at Ft. Jackson, SC. For the first five weeks, we learned to be soldiers—long marches, obstacle courses, being gassed, wall-repelling, land navigation, day and night infiltration under live fire, radio training, combat life saver skills training (wound dressing, tourniquet application, IV hookup, stabbing a needle into the chest in the case of a collapsed lung, etc.). Over the next two weeks, we learned how to be a staff officer—writing memos, briefing our commanders, integrating with the command staff, etc. That concluded the first half of CHBOLC. Because I was a high school teacher, I returned home after the first half to resume my job, and I returned to Ft. Jackson the next summer to finish the second half. The second half was entirely chaplain related skills—preaching, military funerals, military weddings, counseling soldiers with PTSD, counseling with absolute confidentiality, advising the commander about how religion affects the mission (after all, we were fighting an enemy entirely motivated by religious impulses). CHBOLC certainly shaped me, taught me to endure austere conditions, and provided me a unique area in which to conduct ministry.

Normally, chaplains are supposed to work at a battalion for 3-4 years, and then attend the next school, Chaplain Captain Careers Course (C4). I attended only six months after becoming a Captain. Although this is not the Army’s normal preference, they were short on filling some seats, and so an eager junior Captain is better than no one at all. I knocked that course out, which prepared me for the next level, the brigade. This level requires that one manage and supervise subordinate battalion chaplains. It would now be a mix of administration and ministry. Upon graduation of that course, I was given a brigade chaplain position—again not the normal procedure to give that to a junior Captain. But I excelled in the position to such a point that I promoted to Major (MAJ) two years ahead of all of my peers.

I presently am still a MAJ, but I am looking to promote to Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) this year, which will put me four years ahead of my peers that I began with. To give you an idea, the average chaplain doesn’t make it past CPT. But for those who do, the average time to make LTC is 16 years. I will be pinning on likely in my 12th year. Most MAJs never make it to LTC because between MAJ and LTC is an intense school known as ILE, which is part of the Command and General Staff Officer School. All MAJs, regardless of position have to take this course. It takes usually one to two years to complete. It is a series of graduate level modules in the areas of military history, organizational leadership, force management, advance military strategy, understanding contemporary global threats, and understanding how guidance from the POTUS trickles down into military doctrine that affects the strategic and operational levels. In short, this course trains the staff officer to work at a Joint Task Force headed by a three star general. It is some high level learning. The graders are tough, the tests sometimes take four hours, and it culminates with the students planning a war that covers an entire region of the globe. It is difficult to graduate with a top block, as it is only reserved for the top 20%. And keep in mind, probably only the top 20% of field grade officers make it this far. By God’s grace, I graduated in the top 20% and received a top block. I also was part of pilot program to see if the course could be completed much faster than normal. Though it was very difficult, I finished an 18 month course in 7.5 months, and still graduated with honors. I truly appreciated the schooling, if for nothing else, I know things about the world entirely unaware to most people. Due to my completion of this course, I am eligible to promote to LTC this year. Prayers would be much appreciated.

There is so much I could say about ministry in the Army. I suppose I should start with what is different about the Army. In other military branches, the chaplain is assigned to a chapel, and military personnel only seek out a chaplain if they so choose. In the Army, chaplains are assigned to units, not chapels. If the unit is on top of a cold mountain, so is the chaplain. If the unit is cooking in a 130 degree desert, so is the chaplain. If the soldiers are marching 15 miles in full gear, the chaplain is too. If the soldiers are turning ripe with smell because showers were unavailable for five days, the chaplain is stinking up the area right along with them. Isn’t that what leadership is all about? Rather than sending people to hell on earth while you sit in safety and comfort, true leaders go straight to the gutter with their people. You would be amazed at how soldiers will randomly open up to a chaplain as they are leaning up against the same rock. Soldiers who in their civilian world would not step foot in a church are all of sudden bearing their heart to the chaplain as he marches through the mud with them. This opens the door for many unpredictable gospel conversations. Once soldiers realize the chaplain is the real deal, quite often they are willing to attend religious services. One thing this impressed upon me early on is gospel ministry is as much about relationships as it is about doctrine. People listen to those they trust. They are less likely to argue with people they respect. I know chaplains that weasel their way out of missions, and the soldiers have little respect for them. They don’t go to them for counseling. They don’t attend their worship services. And therefore, no one listens to their gospel proclamations. You can tell a lot about a chaplain based on how much the soldiers respect him and how much his commander and staff respects him. Some of this is highlighted in  the video below.

The reason for this is simple. Most soldiers are terrified of talking to officers, but the chaplain is the exception. We learn things about the unit’s morale that a commander and his staff will never know. And because the chaplain is the personal adviser to the commander, he can enter the commander’s office at almost any time and let the commander know if morale is down, or suicidal ideation is up, or if most counseling crises come from one staff section (implying toxic leadership in that section). We leverage that relationship with the commander to help the soldiers, and the soldiers know it. At the same time, we leverage the relationship with the soldiers to get them embrace the commander’s vision, which helps the commander. I’ve never worked in any other environment that operates this way. But one thing is clear to me. Since leadership is really about influencing people, whereas management is about directing them, a chaplain must learn how to lead. We have no command authority, which means we cannot make anyone do anything. Yet, we live in a strange position where we have to convince both those higher and lower in rank to adopt our ideas. For this reason, I believe my time in the Army was a greater proving ground for leadership than any other position I have held. Being a full-time pastor is hard work, and the leadership it requires is beyond what most can imagine, and yet I think my Army experience made the pastoral leadership come much easier to me.

If you will indulge me just a little further, there are just two more things I will talk about concerning my experience as a chaplain. The first is staff integration. As a staff officer, I have to participate in staff meetings where the various staff officers report their section material to the commander. These officers have such a heavy weight upon them. And quite often, they are overworked. They are stuck in their own silo trying to figure out how to complete their piece of the mission. If a chaplain does not assert himself, the staff will never know he exists. So as a chaplain, I have learned to make sure I have a seat at the table. I make the effort of visiting each staff section, simply to be there if anyone needs to talk. I then learn some of the difficulties the staff leader is facing, and can then leverage my open door to the commander to help. That then opens the staff officer up to help me when I need it. When units go out to the field, some chaplains end up sleeping under a tree with no resources at all. Every time I have gone to the field, the staff has hooked me up with state of the art equipment and adequate work spaces so I can minister more effectively to soldiers. So integrating with the staff was another proving ground of leadership for me. It taught me how selfless service engenders an organic reciprocity, which enables greater degrees of ministerial effectiveness.

The final thing worth mentioning is how the pluralistic chaplaincy has shaped me. The First Amendment guarantees there will be chaplains from most religions. Therefore, I had to learn to be a chaplain that works with Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and every kind of “Christian” imaginable. I am a missionary sent by NAMB, and therefore, I perform religious duties according the BFM 2000 and my own Reformed persuasion. But I have to work with chaplains that do not share my theology. When I was a brigade chaplain, I had to manage ten chaplains, three of which were Buddhist (because California is the most diverse state). I have had amazing debates with people who disagree with me, and I also learned how to work effectively with people who disagree with me. I think this is important for any leadership position. I can promise you this. The theological variation in the SBC is far less complex than the Army Chaplaincy. If I can work peacefully with people in the Army Chaplaincy, I think the SBC honestly would be much easier.

I am thankful to God that He has blessed my Army ministry. When I was a battalion chaplain (in the early years), I consistently had 60-70 soldiers attend my services. Those numbers are rare for the Reserves and Guard. In counseling sessions and Bible Studies, the Lord has used me to bring people into His salvation. When I moved up to higher positions, I leveraged my reputation with the staff to enable and empower the chaplains under me to have successful ministries. Recently I was asked to give a devotion to about 30 mid-career chaplains, where I reminded them of our calling. The video is below.

As I close this, if you made it this far, let me address why this matters. I think my time as a chaplain has prepared me to lead my local church as well as to work at bigger level in the SBC. I am a faithful NAMB missionary to the United States Army that just happens to love the Southern Baptist Convention that sends me. Personally, I believe the unique experience I gain from the Army chaplaincy makes me a good candidate for the office of 2VP. I appreciate you taking the time to read.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Who's Stephen Feinstein?

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Pastor Stephen Feinstein
By Stephen Feinstein

Grace and peace to my fellow Southern Baptists. With the advent of the New Year, Dr. Chris Bolt announced his intention to nominate me as the 2VP of the Southern Baptist Convention. Whether or not it is the Lord’s will I am elected to this position remains to be seen. We’ll have to wait until Orlando. I figured in the meantime it would help if I wrote blogs that help Southern Baptists get to know me better. Likely, you have never heard of me. Hence, here's an article titled, "Who's Stephen Feinstein?" In short, I'm a Jewish Christian, husband, father, pastor, Army Chaplain, Martial Artist, and writer. I pastor a relatively small church in Hesperia, California.
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Dr. Chris Bolt
This particular post will focus on my relationship and work within the Southern Baptist Convention. I was one of the original founding pastors of my current church, Sovereign Way Christian Church (SWCC). We were a non-denominational church plant in 2010. We started out pretty strong and kept growing. Within a few years we were already at one-hundred members, and momentum was on our side. In 2013, we thought our impact for the kingdom would be further enhanced by affiliating with the SBC. Yes, we were somewhat ignorant of all the mechanisms of the SBC, but we liked Al Mohler, and we were impressed with SBTS and its many published professors. We figured if that is what the SBC produces, it might be a good idea to affiliate with it. I already possessed a MA in Theological Studies from Liberty University’s seminary, but I desired more training to meet the needs of the flock I shepherd. So I enrolled in SBTS’s distance learning program and graduated with a MDiv in 2017. I was so blessed by what I learned from the world class professors out of Louisville. I also learned more of what it means to be Southern Baptist.
You see, back in 2013, we did not understand the Cooperative Program, or the IMB, or the NAMB. We were told that it was expected that we give some financial support to the SBC, but the “how to” was not obvious to us. My time at SBTS educated me on what the SBC entities are, and we quickly started giving to the IMB and NAMB. My elder board at that time did not necessarily have my vision for further involvement in the SBC and the support of missions, but eventually additional godly men joined the board that shared the same vision. So each year, our giving to the IMB and NAMB increased. We budgeted more money to those entities than the CP simply because we understood them better. Even though we had money set aside for the CP, I had a hard time figuring out how to give specifically to it. So we would normally just roll that money into the IMB. After all, the main reason the SBC exists is to have Christ proclaimed to all nations. Thankfully, just a few weeks ago, someone sent me a link enabling us to give directly to the CP through our State SBC website. I am very thankful for that. I have since come to understand how the seminaries depend on that money, as does the ERLC, and of course the IMB and NAMB. So my plan is to shift our budget and give more to the CP. Our church, SWCC, firmly believes in the work the SBC does and has supported it the best we knew how since our affiliation in 2013.
In my opinion, my greatest support to the SBC comes from my desire to see it thrive. I have lost count of how many I have urged to be educated at our seminaries. I have also appealed to a number of non-denominational churches, hoping to see them join the SBC and our cooperative efforts. Since I love the SBC, I also wish to protect it from internal threats. One major threat I see rising is Critical Theory and all of its subordinate frameworks. If you don’t know what Critical Theory is, then I suggest you look up Neil Shevni and read his work on it. You will quickly see how dangerous it is. Sadly, it is fast becoming the zeitgeist of the cultural elites and the universities in our society. As such, it is beginning to creep into the church. Since the SBC is determined to rightly pursue racial reconciliation, our good intentions can easily be derailed by Critical Race Theory, one of the subordinate frameworks of Critical Theory. Certainly, the SBC’s tragic and sinful past with regard to race relations necessitates that we take the lead in biblical, racial reconciliation. But Critical Race Theory (CRT) is not the way. Biblical justice is now threatened to be eclipsed by secular notions of social justice.
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Seeing how real this threat is, I proposed a resolution in 2019. And let me quickly say this. The fact that a pastor of a small church could propose a resolution that would eventually come to the floor shows how amazing the SBC truly is. A church like mine has a voice in the U.S.’s largest Protestant denomination. Getting back to the point, my proposed resolution was designed to get the SBC to denounce CRT and its tool, Intersectionality (I). Unfortunately, what I wrote was not researched enough, and I conflated CRT with Critical Theory itself. So the Resolutions Committee changed the proposed resolution into what became known as Resolution 9. Sadly, this resolution has unintentionally caused more division than unity. It has created more heat than light. I have repeatedly insisted the Resolutions Committee did nothing nefarious. Most people have exaggerated or misunderstood what Resolution 9 states, and so they have wrongly claimed it encourages CRT/I to be used within the SBC. I think that is an overstatement. The members of the 2019 Resolutions Committee are very godly people who hold a conservative Christian worldview. The weakness with Resolution 9, however, is found in its failure to address the Critical Theory worldview and its absolute incompatibility with Christianity. Thus, any use of CRT/I is unwise.
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My thoughts on Resolution 9 discussed in a video.
So I have spent much effort since June 2019 trying to convince people to stop slandering the leaders of our institutions over this issue. At the same time, I also labored to pass resolutions at state conventions concerning CRT. I also plan on proposing a new resolution in 2020 that should hopefully put a lot of this to rest. I already have the draft written, and I think it is the strongest one I have written thus far. I bring these matters up for two reasons. First, there are ways to strengthen the denomination that are not quantifiable like CP giving. I think my labor for the SBC falls under the non-quantifiable category. Rather than merely complaining about a real threat to the SBC, I am working hard to do something about it. You cannot put a price tag on that. Second, it explains why I will be nominated for 2VP, since it was my work on these matters that got the attention of Dr. Bolt in the first place.
There were also other factors caused him to think I might be a good person for the position of 2VP. The other factors include me being a Jewish believer in Jesus that pastors an ethnically diverse Gentile church in hostile California, while at the same time serving as a NAMB missionary in the United States Army Reserves as Chaplain (I presently hold the rank of Major). Furthermore, I served the church bi-vocationally for seven years, where I worked as a public high school teacher while I pastored SWCC nearly full time. So I understand small church dynamics within a post-Christian environment (CA) as well as the more and more common reality of bi-vocational shepherding. My experience in the Army also fashioned me to work well with those who hold positions different than my own. In future posts I will expand on how these various factors shaped me. Dr. Bolt and many others think the SBC should platform pastors that represent my kind of experience. I waited a few weeks after he asked me if he could nominate me. I prayed much and sought a lot of counsel. When it was all done, I agreed. I think Dr. Bolt is right. Quite often, pastors of large urban churches that give much to the CP are nominated for these positions. Most certainly, those pastors and their ministries are extremely important and benefit us all. The average SBC pastor and church, however, hardly resembles those who usually receive a platform within the SBC. Both kinds of pastors should have a seat at the proverbial table. If I get elected as 2VP, then we can rejoice in the fact that there is a place at the table for pastors like me. Stay tuned for more posts. 

Monday, December 9, 2019

Why I Disagree with Jeff Noblit About the SBC

By Stephen Feinstein

A couple months ago, Jeff Noblit of Grace Life Church announced that his church will be resigning their affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention. His announcement was made to the church he shepherds, but it was also streamed. Due to the streaming of the announcement, it spread quite fast to where I was asked to watch it not long after. Only in this age of social media could a message directed to a local church near the east coast find itself into the ears of a pastor on the west coast. Due to the content of the video, it likely received wide support from those who believe and spread the narrative that the SBC is downgrading into theological liberalism, cultural Marxism, and feminist egalitarianism. This widespread support comes from those both inside and outside the SBC. Some are genuinely concerned about the faithfulness of their denomination. Others are trolls just wanting to see the convention burn. I have encountered both types on social media over this issue.

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With that being said, I feel compelled to respond to Pastor Nobilt indirectly in this blog. Normally, I would not trouble myself. But his announcement had second and third order effects. When some of my own church members and former members sent me the video asking why we are supporting a godless denomination, it created fires in my own ministry that needed quenching. Rather than give the same answer dozens of times, I decided it would be easier just to write my thoughts about Pastor Jeff’s announcement.

First, let me state upfront that I think Jeff’s message was very sincere and reflective. I appreciate the fact that he held on as long as he could before supporting the decision to exit the SBC. I do not believe Pastor Jeff was intentionally being divisive. In fact, I am convinced he is following his conscience—a conscience sanctified by the Scriptures. Yet, I find myself in wide disagreement with him over his stated reasons for leaving the SBC. Theologically, Jeff Noblit and I are very much the same. We are soteriologically Calvinist. We believe in a plurality of equal elders in terms of church polity. We both practice church discipline as articulated by Matthew 18:15-20 and 1 Corinthians 5, among other texts. These very convictions are the reason Jeff stated his church is leaving the SBC, because in his experience, the SBC is opposed to these important biblical traits of a healthy church. For obvious reasons, if Jeff’s concerns were true, Sovereign Way Christian Church would have to exit the SBC too. Yet, we are not exiting the SBC. And the reason is because I believe Jeff is wrong on most of the reasons he gave.

In his narrative, Jeff left me with the impression that his church could have been a major player in SBC politics and position, but Grace Life was blackballed because their fidelity to the biblical practice of church discipline, the biblical governance of a plurality of elders, and the biblical soteriology, better known as the doctrines of grace. It is certainly possible in his local association some of this may be true. But Sovereign Way’s (SWCC) experience is quite opposite. I helped plant this church in 2010 as a non-denominational church. From day one, we were Reformed in our soteriology, we possessed a plurality of elders, and we practiced church discipline. It was not until 2013 we decided to affiliate with the SBC. Our local association was most helpful. They accepted us with open arms. They knew we were Reformed, they knew we practiced plural eldership, and they knew we practiced church discipline. These items did not hinder our affiliation. Since we are a small church, the SBC was not going to gain vast financial resources from us. If anything, we were going to cost them rather than be a gain. Despite this, we quickly attained, and still possess, a good reputation with the staff of the nearest SBC college and seminary. Our local association has partnered with us multiple times since our affiliation.

In light of that, it is truly difficult to argue the SBC as a whole possesses an animus against biblical eldership, church discipline, and Calvinism. I completed by Master of Divinity at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2017, and in that context I was presented with arguments in favor of plural eldership, Calvinism, and church discipline. Keep in mind, this is the SBC’s first and most prominent seminary. They would not be so if the SBC as a whole has an animus against Grace Life’s faithful distinctive traits. On top of this, of the six seminaries, four of them are either Calvinist or are trending in that direction. The wrongly labeled “traditionalists” may take issue with this, but as seminaries teach preachers how to exegete biblical text and how to preach expositionally, this Calvinist trend is inevitable since it is most faithful to the Bible. Some of the seminaries strongly support Biblical, or Nouthetic, counseling, even assisting ACBC in providing training. Biblical Counseling is entirely Calvinistic in its biblical understanding and presuppositions. Some of the most widely known and celebrated para-church organizations that are affiliated with the SBC, such as 9 Marks, are likewise Calvinist, possess plural eldership, and practice church discipline. We can add to this that in 2008 the messengers of the SBC voted favorably on a resolution titled, On Regenerate Church Membership and Church Member Restoration, which was an affirmation of the Matthew 18:15-20 process of church discipline. Even though it was hard fought, if the denomination was overwhelmingly opposed to church discipline, then the resolution would have never passed. Finally, when I survey many of the heads of the SBC institutions, as well as members on the committees and boards, far too many of them are Calvinist for one to credibly argue there is an anti-Reformed animus that makes affiliation in the SBC difficult for Reformed churches. In light of all these facts, it is impossible for me to accept Pastor Jeff’s stated reasons for exiting. It does not represent the reality of the SBC as a whole. If it did, then SWCC would be exiting too.

Image result for Beth MooreJeff continued his message by bringing forward a few straws that “broke the camel’s back,” as he put it. First was the rise in embracing and affirming Beth Moore’s ministry within the SBC. I share Jeff’s concern and really have nothing to write. I would simply say that it does not justify exiting the convention—at least not at this point. The SBC is 47,000 churches in cooperation, and it takes time to get the messengers from the majority of churches organized and galvanized over issues like this. The majority of our messengers are biblically conservative complementarians. They would not embrace Beth Moore’s violation of 1 Timothy 2:11-15. Jeff also brought up three prominent pastors that backed Paula White’s ministry. Those three pastors should be ashamed of themselves, but three pastors out of 47,000 churches hardly represents a denominational crisis. Baptists prize local autonomy, and due to that, these three would have to deny the faith in order to be forced out of the SBC.

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Those previous two issues are not likely the main point of concern for Jeff. He focused in on Critical Race Theory as he referenced the now infamous Resolution 9. Jeff claimed that the messengers voted to include Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality (CRT/I) as tools to help us interpret the Bible. This is patently false. I do not believe Jeff is trying to deceive anyone, but instead this reflects a very careless reading of the resolution. It also reflects a mindset that presently assumes the worst about the motives of resolutions committee. It is simply not true that the SBC messengers voted that we should include God-hating theories and ideologies to help us interpret the Bible. There was nothing in the resolution about hermeneutics. To argue such either demonstrates a careless reading, or it demonstrates it wasn’t read at all, and instead is based on the uncritical acceptance of rumors and accusations.

Many people know that I was the original author of the resolution. My original sought to denounce the Marxist ideology behind CRT/I and to provide a means to hold accountable anyone that tries to smuggle it into our denomination. The resolution committee decided to focus more on a narrow definition of CRT/I rather than the broader understanding of it. I wanted it declared as incompatible with biblical Christianity due to the contemporary critical theory from which it is fueled. Instead, they changed my broad focus to a narrow focus centered on utilizing CRT/I as analytical tools in a social context. Just so we can all be clear, I will quote some of the more controversial statements in Resolution 9 so we can determine exactly what is being said. First look at the fourth WHEREAS:

WHEREAS, Evangelical scholars who affirm the authority and sufficiency of Scripture have employed selective insights from critical race theory and intersectionality to understand multifaceted social dynamics; and

Please note there is nothing about hermeneutics (interpretation of Scripture) in this statement. It simply says some faithful believers have used selective (meaning very limited) insights from CRT/I to understand social dynamics. Is that true? I assume it is. There is likely some orthodox believer that took one of the few accurate observations from CRT, and used it to better understand some social dynamic somewhere. That is the MOST that this statement says. As expositional preachers, we strive to never overstate or understate a text, but instead to properly understand and explain exactly what it means. When that same process is applied here, the statement is not by any means endorsing the use of CRT/I to interpret Scripture or order social affairs within the church.

Next, look at the seventh WHEREAS. It says:

WHEREAS, Critical race theory and intersectionality alone are insufficient to diagnose and redress the root causes of the social ills that they identify, which result from sin, yet these analytical tools can aid in evaluating a variety of human experiences; and

Again, what does it say? It directly says CRT/I are insufficient to address the social ills they identify. These social ills result from sin, something repudiated by the critical theory that drives CRT/I. After stating CRT/I cannot accomplish their intended goal, the statement then again admits that it sometimes makes accurate observations. It says CRT/I can aid in evaluating a variety of human experiences. Does that sound like it is being used to interpret Scripture? Does that sound like it is telling churches to employ it within church social situations? No. I think you can see the pattern here. Pastor Jeff did what many have done in their reaction to Resolution 9. He and they are guilty of overstating what the resolution actually says. The overstatements have been irresponsible, leading to the alarm of many and the unnecessary division of many more.

The eighth WHEREAS is often overlooked by those citing Resolution 9 to sound the alarm. It says:

WHEREAS, Scripture contains categories and principles by which to deal with racism, poverty, sexism, injustice, and abuse that are not rooted in secular ideologies; and

This clearly states that the Bible itself has the categories and principles by which to deal with everything CRT claims to be concerned with. This is a statement of the sufficiency of Scriptures. Added to this is the first RESOLVED. It says:

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, June 11–12, 2019, affirm Scripture as the first, last, and sufficient authority with regard to how the Church seeks to redress social ills, and we reject any conduct, creeds, and religious opinions which contradict Scripture; and be it further

Does this sound like the resolution is telling SBC churches to interpret the Scripture with CRT? Does it tell the churches to address social dynamics in the church with intersectionality? No. It says the Scriptures are the sufficient authority for these matters. Furthermore, it directly rejects any position that contradicts Scripture. Since Critical Theology and CRT/I do just that, they are repudiated by this resolution.

So that only leaves the second RESOLVED statement. It says:

RESOLVED, That critical race theory and intersectionality should only be employed as analytical tools subordinate to Scripture—not as transcendent ideological frameworks; and be it further

Image result for Critical Race Theory incompatible with the BibleThis statement assumes that some aspects of CRT/I can be divorced from the Contemporary Critical Theory that animates it, and if this is the case, then it is possible for such aspects to be used in subordination to Scripture. I disagree with this statement within the resolution. I see CRT/I the same way the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (of which I am a certified counselor) sees secular psychology. Secular psychology gets some observations right due to common grace. We can acknowledge where it gets things right, and such accurate observations are sometimes helpful to us. Secular psychology, however, is entirely incompatible with biblical Christianity due to the worldview and presuppositions that animate it. Therefore, we do not seek to integrate biblical and secular counseling, nor do we presume it is possible to subordinate secular psychology to Scripture. The two are rivals. They are enemies. The same is true of CRT/I and biblical Christianity. This statement in the resolution opens the door for a Christian to analyze some social issue through a CRT/I lens, and I think that is unwise. However, it does not apply this to interpretation of the Scriptures (hermeneutics) or to social relationships in the church. Furthermore, it denounces the transcendent ideological framework behind CRT/I.

Image result for Al MohlerSo at the worst, the resolution assumes that some Christians can look at political and social items through a narrow usage of CRT/I devoid of Critical Theory and in total subordination of Scripture. To insinuate Resolution 9 says anything more than this is a grossly inaccurate overstatement. This is why I made a video in an attempt to demonstrate that the reaction against Resolution 9 was ultimately a series of irresponsible overstatements. As the original author of a resolution that was radically altered, I would have been irate had Resolution 9 actually stated what its critics accuse it of. Had it been guilty of what Jeff Noblit said it is, then I would be writing this in support of his decision. Instead, I agree with R. Albert Mohler. The resolution should have said a lot more, but it definitely could have said no less. This is why evangelicals who actually study critical theory in order to refute it also do not present Resolution 9 in the irresponsible, alarmist fashion that we see from others. For the most part, those who denounce it as smuggling Marxism into the SBC repeatedly demonstrate they likely do not even know what CT/CRT/I is.

I understand the concern of some people. The convention had a chance to denounce the Critical Theory ideology as a whole, and that opportunity was missed. But it was not missed because of a conspiracy or downgrade. Those who possess large platforms should have reached out to the resolution committee members to see what their rationale was. After all, that is the biblical thing to do. I have done so, and I can tell you, the committee members are just as opposed to CRT/I as the rest of us. They also see it on the whole as being incompatible with biblical Christianity. Rather than jump to conclusions that assume the worse, people should speak with them. And let me encourage you with this. I believe at Orlando in 2020, we will get another resolution that will finally put this issue to rest. Pray that this happens.

The final point I would like to make is why I still think the SBC is the best option for faithful Baptist churches. I do this as a plea of Jeff to remain with the SBC. In Paul’s epistles, there was clear cooperation between independent churches as they pooled resources and people to assist the impoverished churches in Judea. Faithful churches, like the one at Philippi, and less faithful ones, like the one at Corinth, still cooperated for this biblical purpose. Apparently this kind of cooperation extended to Great Commission purposes too, as Paul expected the Roman church to assist him in reaching Spain. With that said, a cooperation of orthodox churches is always stronger and more capable of fulfilling the Great Commission than a single church in isolation. In the Matthew 24:14, Jesus said the end will only come after we reach every nation with the gospel. We should all make this our churches’ number one priority.

Image result for IMB baptismsApplying this concept of cooperation to the SBC, no other group of churches, nor any individual church, even comes close to what the SBC accomplishes for the kingdom. For example, the International Mission Board presently funds 3,678 missionaries all over the world. In 2018, 847 unreached people groups were engaged by missionaries. In the same year, 13,898 new churches were planted outside of the U.S. Amazingly, 77,605 people confessed Christ as Lord, of which 52,586 were baptized. The 3,000 plus missionaries are also effective at producing more gospel ministers: 18,428 pastors were trained overseas and 85,362 indigenous leaders received theological, pastoral, and church planter training. With this kind of work being accomplished, our generation may at last finish the Great Commission. It makes little sense to blow up the SBC because of rumors. Within our own hemisphere, the North American Mission Board planted 624 new churches in 2018 and sent 3,600 chaplains into the military, prisons, hospitals, and natural disasters. I am enabled to preach the gospel in a unique environment because NAMB sends me to the Army. Finally, with four of the six seminaries trending Reformed, it only means greater numbers of biblically sound pastors are being produced and sent to the churches.

So for all these reasons, I strongly disagree with many of the statements made by Pastor Jeff Noblit. If Jeff reads this, please understand brother, I have nothing but great respect for you. You have done more for the kingdom than I have, so I write this critique with great trembling. If anything, I hope this persuades you to stay with the SBC. We need more churches like yours to stay in the convention. We are winning the fight, and the only way we will continue to win is if gospel-loyal pastors like you stay committed to the SBC. CRT/I is a true threat, and it is incredibly naïve to deny it. So I will continue to fight it until the SBC has repudiated it at both the national and state level. The success of this depends first on Christ, but second it depends on having many faithful churches take a lead in the SBC. I pray that Pastor Jeff and those who feel as he does will perhaps see what I am writing here and change their mind and support the ongoing Conservative Resurgence from inside the denomination. Thanks for taking the time to read this. God bless.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

CSBC Proposal on Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality

By Stephen Feinstein

Greetings everyone. Below you will find a new resolution proposed concerning critical race theory and intersectionality. As many of you know, I am the original author of what is now known as Resolution 9. Much controversy surrounded the passing of said resolution mainly because it altered the original proposal greatly and was silent concerning the ideology behind CRT/I. As I have stated elsewhere, I understand the concerns of the resolution committee and hold no ill will in the changes they made. I lacked precision in my original resolution, conflating certain aspects of CRT with CT. 

To ensure this would not happen in the state resolution, I received help from Dr. Neil Shevni and Dr. Pat Sawyer. I did further research into the subject and drafted something better than my original, but then I asked Neil and Pat to look it over. Both graciously spent hours adding to it in such a way that it is very precise, accurate, and most importantly, far stronger than Resolution 9 as passed. I fully understand that there will be those who will denounce this if it doesn't directly say CRT is from the devil with no positive qualities. But that simply is not accurate. Thankfully, this proposed resolution accurately describes CT, CRT/I, while raising the proper level of concern Christians should have with them. It then makes a statement about Christian use of these that is far stronger than what is in Resolution 9. In short, I believe this proposal captures Al Mohler's sentiment that Resolution 9 should have said no less, but certainly should have said much more. 

It is my hope that messengers from each state will propose either this very proposal, or at least use it as a template to make their own. If the majority of our state conventions approve something like this, then perhaps it will be easier to get a stronger version at the national level as well. The proposed resolution is below.

On Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality

WHEREAS, Concerns have been justifiably raised by some evangelicals over the use of critical race theory and intersectionality; and

WHEREAS, critical race theory emerged from critical legal studies and is informed by the broad ideology of critical theory manifested in a number of critical social theories (including critical race theory) which can function as a worldview and when it does is fundamentally incompatible with a biblical worldview; and

WHEREAS, intersectionality emerged from critical race theory and came into full expression through feminist theory; and

WHEREAS, critical theory sees social relations through the lens of power; and

WHEREAS, critical theory and intersectionality are principally concerned with oppression and emancipation (often unbiblically defined) and consequently divides humanity into groups of oppressors and oppressed, and sees temporal oppression, rather than sin, as humanity’s chief problem to overcome; and

WHEREAS, critical theory and intersectionality rely on standpoint epistemology to argue that members of oppressed groups have special access to truth unavailable to members of oppressor groups, thus undermining the perspicuity of Scripture to all people; and

WHEREAS, critical race theory and intersectionality cannot be defined merely as analytical tools, yet do contain analytical tools that Christians can use in service to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5); and

WHEREAS, truth can be found embedded in false and unbiblical ideologies; and

WHEREAS, some insights from critical race theory can accurately explain how race has and continues to function in society; and

WHEREAS, intersectionality can show how different facets of identity intersect and interact to both inform and affect one’s experience; and

WHEREAS, Evangelical scholars who affirm the authority and sufficiency of Scripture have employed selective insights from critical race theory and intersectionality to understand multifaceted social dynamics; and

WHEREAS, The Baptist Faith and Message states, “All Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried” (Article I); and

WHEREAS, General revelation accounts for truthful insights found in human ideas that do not explicitly emerge from Scripture and reflects what some may term “common grace”; and

WHEREAS, not everything critical race theory and intersectionality label as a social ill is in fact a social ill, and where they correctly identify a social ill, critical race theory and intersectionality alone are incapable of diagnosing and redressing the root cause, which results from sin; and

WHEREAS, Scripture contains categories and principles by which to deal with racism, sexism, oppression, injustice, and abuse that are not rooted in secular ideologies; and

WHEREAS, Humanity is primarily identified in Scripture as image bearers of God, even as biblical authors address various audiences according to characteristics such as male and female, Jew and Gentile, slave and free; and

WHEREAS, The New Covenant further unites image bearers by creating a new humanity that will one day inhabit the new creation, and that the people of this new humanity, though descended from every nation, tribe, tongue, and people, are all one through the gospel of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:16;  Revelation 21:1–4, 9–14); and

WHEREAS, Christian citizenship is not based on our differences but instead on our common salvation in Christ—the source of our highest, most pervasive, and ultimate identity (Galatians 2:20; Philippians 3:1-11); and

WHEREAS, The California Southern Baptist Convention is committed to racial reconciliation and unity built upon biblical presuppositions and is committed to seeking biblical justice through biblical means; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the California Southern Baptist Convention meeting in El Cajon, California, October 21–23, 2019, affirm Scripture as the first, last, and sufficient authority with regard to how the Church seeks to redress social ills, and we reject any conduct, creeds, religious opinions, or secular ideas which contradict Scripture; and be it further

RESOLVED, That selective insights of critical race theory and intersectionality should only be employed as analytical tools in absolute subordination to Scripture; and be it further

RESOLVED, That any and all worldviews in which critical race theory and intersectionality are central, critical, or fundamental must be rejected as incompatible with Christianity; and be it further

RESOLVED, That the gospel of Jesus Christ alone holds the power to grant salvific change to both people and society because “the truth is in Jesus, to take off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires” (Ephesians 4:21-22); and be it further

RESOLVED, That California Southern Baptists will carefully analyze how the information gleaned from these tools are employed to address social concerns; and be it further

RESOLVED, That California Southern Baptist churches and institutions repudiate the misuse of insights gained from critical race theory, intersectionality, and any unbiblical ideologies that can emerge from their use when absolutized as a worldview; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we deny that any group is socially situated in a way that prevents its comprehension of the truths of Scripture; or that any group is socially situated in a way that causes special or unique insight into the truths of Scripture; and be it further

RESOLVED, That while we denounce the misuse of critical race theory and intersectionality, we do not deny that ethnic, gender, and cultural distinctions exist and wherever they have been used to oppress and marginalize any person or group greatly grieves the Spirit of God and must be denounced and rejected by all who name the name of Christ, recognizing that such distinctions are a gift from God designed by Him for His  absolute glory when all of God's people  gather around His throne in worship through  the redemption accomplished by our resurrected Christ; and be it finally

RESOLVED, That California Southern Baptist churches seek to exhibit this eschatological promise in our churches  by focusing on our absolute unity in Christ as diverse  image bearers who worship together the one true and living God, serve and love one another deeply, and wait expectantly for the glorious return of our God and Savior (Revelation 22:20-21)!