Lately, Pastor Marc Minter and I have used The Christian Index to walk through our differing views (hopefully, we have represented those with our views well). I believe this interaction may prove beneficial for Southern Baptists because it may give us some guidelines for future discussions/disagreements. In fact, I would like to make some suggestions (although this is not all inclusive).
- Try to make sure one’s motive is a search for truth and not a vain desire to win an argument. The former motive is honored by God, the latter is not. I believe Pastor Minter and I are both searching for truth.
- Present one’s beliefs.
- Correct misunderstandings of one’s beliefs.
- Let those with whom one disagrees present their beliefs.
- Endeavor to refrain from making assumptions about others’ beliefs. This only hurts healthy conversation. This can be difficult, especially when they appear to make assumptions about your beliefs. But a “I know you are, but what am I” type of discussion doesn’t honor truth or God.
- Try to remove one’s own bias as much as possible. Inevitably, in this current disagreement between Pastor Minter and myself, those who are close to either of us, or those who hold our views, will have a predisposition to affirm what we say. Such subjectivism should be sidelined as much as possible and thus, look to the merits of the discussion.
- Find areas of agreement, and when we can’t agree, agree to disagree gracefully.
- If you do state the other’s position, do so fairly.
- Be open to alternative views and be willing to side with truth.
- If feelings get hurt, it might be wise to bow out. It appears that neither Pastor Minter nor my feelings are hurt, and so we continue pursuing truth
Let me begin with the areas of agreement to lower any unwarranted defenses that may exist: Pastor Minter and I both agree: 1) that the words President Trump used about women years ago were appalling, shameful, disgraceful, and even despicable; 2) Donald Trump’s apparent lifestyle, for the majority of his life, has not been a biblical model; 3) there are more ways to fight for the life of unborn children in the womb, than voting for a prolife candidate; 4) we do not need to come to a “full-orbed understanding of one another.” I do not think that was either of our desires. Mine was to correct misunderstandings and assumptions about who I am and who Bobby is; and 5) different “voices” should be represented in the SBC, which is precisely why I wrote the first article. It appeared to me, and apparently many others, that the ERLC was not representing “different” voices.
Areas of disagreement: For my part, the main area of disagreement has to do with Pastor Minter’s apparent assumptions of my (or Bobby’s) beliefs. I will elucidate where I feel my thoughts and beliefs have been misrepresented again.
I think Pastor Minter was errant in stating I refused to “interact with an alternate viewpoint.” As an example of what he feels is my refusal to interact, he cites my lack of engagement with his desire to address the problem of abortion on a local and individual level. While I did not find it necessary to explicitly say “Yes, I think foster parenting is another way to address it on a local level,” I certainly wouldn’t deny such. But felt no need to restate his point (he is better at that than I).
However, his jump to the concluding sentence “God help us if casting a vote for pro-life candidates is the only way…[to] demonstrate pro-life conviction” is an unnecessary inflaming of the disagreement. NO ONE HAS EVEN IMPLIED SUCH.
What I do believe is one does not have to choose between being involved at a local level (working at pregnancy crises centers, for example) and voting for a pro-life candidate. One can (and many do) do both. I further believe that voting for a pro-life president who has the power to appoint Supreme Court Justices who could overturn Roe v Wade is the ONLY WAY (outside of a constitutional amendment) to stop the legal murder of infants at a local level, as well as state and national levels (again, if this were the legal murder of two-year-olds I really don’t believe this would be a discussion).
Further, President Trump’s current budget proposal has defunded Planned Parenthood. Thus, it seems President Trump is willing to “abolish” the use of public funds for such murders (at local and national levels) and for that, both pastor Minter and I can praise God.
He also claimed “Mr. Reynolds [refused] to acknowledge any excuses concerning Donald Trump’s immorality.” I did no such thing. Pastor Minter (probably inadvertently) even misquoted me.
What I said was “I do not know of any Christian with Bobby’s views who ‘offers excuses for a despicable man simply because he is a Republican.’” I was responding to his claim, but that does not mean I am refusing to acknowledge that there may be individuals out there who do excuse the past immorality of the president. However, interestingly, even in the articles Pastor Minter cited (one of which was from the liberal Washington Post), neither Dr. Falwell, nor Dr. Graham offered excuses for a despicable man simply because he was a Republican.
In fact, Dr. Falwell said about Trump’s words “There was nothing defensible … it was reprehensible … it was a horrible thing. He apologized. He was contrite about it.” And Dr. Graham said “Trump is a ‘changed man’ from when he made his lewd comments about women.” The article also said Graham has known Trump for eight years, and said he’d seen a ‘change in him’ during that time. “[Trump] has changed ‘quite a bit’ in the last few years.”
Graham (as one who actually knows Donald Trump) sees President Trump as a different man than the one who made those lewd comments and cites as evidence the strong evangelical Godly men with whom Trump surrounds himself, including the VP he selected. To me and many SBCers, that doesn’t sound like excuses for President Trump’s past behavior (much less excuses for a despicable man simply because he was a Republican), rather it sounds like a belief that grace can and perhaps has changed a man.
It appears to me, he also implies I do not think that some of the things President Trump did years ago were despicable. I think I addressed this when I said “Bobby, of course, saw the concern of a presidential nominee with a very immoral past.” But I do draw a distinction between saying that a person’s actions are despicable and calling the individual a despicable man.
If the term “despicable person” is applied to any person who has committed a despicable act then that term should be applied to every individual (Romans 3:23). Calling a person a despicable person is not the same as saying that what a person has done in his/her past is despicable.
Finally, out of public discussion decorum I will answer Pastor Minter’s questions of me:
1) Does Mr. Reynolds stand by this demand concerning Dr. Moore?
Yes, I still believe Dr. Moore should (in the future) represent the thousands of “Bobby Baptists” and not just the “Barnabas Baptists” of the SBC, or remove himself.
2) Will Mr. Reynolds acknowledge with me that the typical Southern Baptist is not an easy thing to define?
Yes, but this does not mean there are not thousands and thousands (young and old – since logic is no respecter of age) of SBCers, who, with respect to this past election, affirm Bobby’s position.
3) Can Mr. Reynolds put down the defense of his views and allow for a different voice than his own in the SBC and ERLC? Or must every public and leading SBC voice sound like his?
Putting down the “defense of my views” should not be equated with “not allowing a different voice in the SBC.” Not only am I entitled to my beliefs, I am entitled to (and should!) explain why I belief such (a defense). But that does not mean I “do not allow a different voice.”
In fact, I feel this cordial disagreement is doing just that – allowing more than one voice. Further, that was my concern from the beginning: that just one voice (Barnabas) was being heard from the ERLC with regard to its representation of Southern Baptists. I would have preferred, during the election season, for Dr. Moore to say something like: “Some Christians, for conscience sake, struggle voting for a man who they see as the most immoral man to ever run for this office, they trust God will honor such a stand. Others see him as a changed man with an immoral past and for conscience sake find the possibility of overturning Roe v Wade so important they will vote for Trump rather than forfeit the next two decades to Hillary’s nominations. I find myself in the former group, but I certainly respect the latter.”
Such a tone did not emanate from the ERLC until AFTER the election. It seemed to Bobby that Dr. Moore used his position to try to influence the election against Trump (whether he did or not – it seemed that way). My desire was to help some Southern Baptists understand why there was such an angst with the ERLC. Dr. Moore, has every right to just represent his (and likeminded) thoughts and not the differing thoughts of thousands of Southern Bapists, but the thousands of Southern Baptists have every right to not fund the ERLC as well.