Friday, October 28, 2005

Spin those Babies, SBC

We now have new evidence that the SBC's mouth organ, Baptist Press, is definitely not a "No-Spin Zone." A new article, FIRST-PERSON: Contracepting the New Birth? , puts an interesting theological/sociological spin on the news that conservative church growth over the past few decades is due more to biology than theology. (See "Baby Boom Growth in Conservative Churches " below) Russell D. Moore, who is not willing to give up the conservative mantra about why they are growing, quotes the Christian Century article,

"For most of the 20th century conservative women had more children than mainline women did," the sociologists wrote in Christian Century."

He then adds his spin,

Oh, so it is not that old-line Protestantism has adopted the sterile ideologies of modernism. It's just that they have adopted the idea that children should be delayed, and procreation downplayed. So, in other words, they've adopted the sterile ideologies of modernism.

(That's an interesting leap of logic. I'm not at all sure he read the same article I did. But he goes on . . .)

First of all, churches that don't celebrate and exult in children aren't going to celebrate and exult in evangelism. After all, the "fruitful and multiply" clause in Genesis is echoed back in the Great Commission of Christ, a commission that also seeks to fill the entire earth. Jesus links procreation to new creation by speaking of new converts as newborn babies, and through His apostles of the community of faith as the household of God. Moreover, He announces to His Father that He stands before Him with the redeemed of all the ages, "the children you have given me" (Heb 2:13).

If this is an example of the theology taught at Southern Seminary let the students beware. First of all, what is the warrant for his first of all claim? Is this based on some empirical study, or just a corollary of the conservative belief that if they don’t do it my way they don’t do it right?

Second of all, if I belonged to an old-line Protestant church, I would be very offended with his conclusion that because we are more likely to use contraception we do not “celebrate and exult” in our children. I’m not sure what principle of interpretation he uses to conjoin being fruitful and multiplying to making disciples except that obviously if you are fruitful you will have more targets for discipleship.

As far as the link between procreation and new creation, sure there is a link. You obviously have to be “born” before you can be “born again.” But that is exactly what the authors of the original articles said. Conservative church growth can be attributed to having more babies. But having more babies cannot be attributed to having a conservative theology.

In the unforgettable words of Dr. Malcolm Sayer, “I’m sorry, if you were right, I would agree with you.”

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