The SharperIron headline that, according to a new LifeWay survey, just 69% of SBC church members affirm the authority of Scripture caught my eye. Sounds kind of discouraging, right? Cause to skewer the SBC? No doubt.
But what the lead misses is that 100% of the SBC pastors surveyed affirmed the inspiration of Scripture, and 97% unequivocally affirmed its inerrancy. Though I have no doubt (and am grateful for the fact) that the latter figure would be even higher among independent, fundamental Baptist churches, it should be neither surprising nor substantially discouraging for two reasons. First, thirty years ago the SBC was on the brink of theological disaster. That 100% of pastors affirm inspiration and 97% affirm inerrancy surely reflects a positive trend over the past thirty years.
Second, the pastors who would have been trained in the darkest days of the SBC seminaries—the 1970s and 1980s—would be largely in their 40s–60s today. I'm guessing that demographic comprises the bulk of men serving as senior pastors of SBC churches. Given the training they received in seminary, that 69% figure doesn't sound so bad, and the 100%/97% numbers are a bit more encouraging.
But let's put that 69% statistic in context. On any given Sunday, only about 6 million out of 16 million SBC church members even show up in church (PDF). So that means that about 5 million SBC church members who don't even attend church faithfully actually believe in inerrancy! So almost as many who DON'T attend church believe in inerrancy as DO. Not bad, huh?
Of course, that assumes a couple things. First, it assumes that all the members who DO attend church are the same people who believe in inerrancy. (No doubt, millions of that 69% who affirm inerrancy left the SBC years ago for IFB churches years ago and just forgot to resign their membership.)
Don't get me wrong. There's obviously still a massive problem when 10 million out of 16 million members don't show up for church. It's too bad there are no such statistics for IFB churches. It'd be interesting to compare. I really wouldn't know what to expect. But I suspect the problem is one of church membership and discipline much more than it's a problem of pastors teaching faithful attenders false things about Scripture. So let's get the story straight.
But I wonder if anyone's ever written anything on membership and discipline . . .
Or were you looking for something written by a fundamentalist rather than one of those Southern Baptists?