Too often we find it too easy to criticism and condemn others with a “broad brush”. Much like a house painter with a roller on a long stick, we paint our “enemies” from a distance coloring them with our “expert” judgments of their actions. Once again the dark side of Baptist life has come to the forefront as James A. Smith Jr. of the Florida Baptist Witness made the bold and hurtful assertion that the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is “no longer truly Christian, let alone Baptist”. His pronouncement was made response to the Baptist Press reports of presentations made by Presbyterian John Killinger, executive minister and theologian in residence at Marble Collegiate Church in New York City.
It is without dispute that Killinger’s presentations were out of step with the theology and Christology of rank and file Baptist, including CBF Baptists. As you might expect Daniel Vestal, executive director of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship took exception to Smith’s declaration at the CBF was “no longer truly Christian, let alone Baptist”. He confessed he was deeply grieved by the statements made by Killinger, and that the made a mistake to invite him to speak. He said in James White’s article in the Religious Herald on his response:
“The only confession of the [early] Christian church was ‘Jesus is Lord,'” he said. “To make that confession cost many people their lives because of its radical claim. To say and believe that Jesus is Lord was to say and believe that Jesus of Nazareth is God. It was a clear affirmation of the deity of Jesus. And the Incarnation of God in the man Jesus is the cornerstone of the Christian faith.
“And so for somebody in one of our workshops to question the Incarnation is simply very painful for me,” Vestal continued. “I have known John Killinger to be a popular Presbyterian preacher. He was a professor at Samford University. … But we had no idea that his views on Christ were what he declared in this breakout session. His perspective is deeply troubling to me.”
In fairness to Vestal and our CBF brothers and sisters we need to be careful when we make blatant accusations and seek to color someone as being “no longer truly Christian”. Granted many of the values and practices of CBF churches may be out of step with many “conservative” Baptist churches, but this does not remove them from the family of God. I too take exception with many of the statements made by Killinger, not to mention his ridicule and attacks on Rev. Jerry Falwell that I thought were totally inappropriate for a Christian gathering, but to paint the CBF to be in lock step with the views of Killinger is deceptive and unfair. We will never paint the masterpiece God called us to produce using a roller and broad brush; we must learn to paint with the accuracy and skill of Michelangelo.
We must remember what Jesus taught in Luke 6 when He said:
37″Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
39 He also told them this parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.
41″Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
The robes of a judge are weighty for us to don. Condemnation often comes back to haunt us in a darkness hours. Forgive fits all seasons and every relationship. We would be wise to remember that the “measure we use” WILL BE “measured to you”. Who among us has not made a mistake in judgment or placed someone in a position of prominence only to regret that decision greatly. Jesus warns us to stop playing the “part” or “role” of judges like hypocrites until we have dealt with the deep issues in our own lives. The question that haunts me is “why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” The simple answer is it is easier to criticize and condemn others than to work on our own issues and problems. If we take a good look in the mirror we all have plenty to keep us busy. Too many of us have “2×4” vision rather than “20×20” vision when it comes to trying to help others with their problems. Is it any wonder that when the “blind are leading the blind” we fall into the pit!