Scot McKnight has posted about Al Mohler’s reaction to two people from the SBC who have converted to Catholicism and Anglicanism. He cites from Bob Allen at Baptist News Global:
A recent Wall Street Journal story profiling twin brothers who followed separate spiritual paths — one to become an Anglican bishop, the other a Catholic priest — represents failure by the Southern Baptist church in which they were raised, according to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler.
Mohler, who posts a daily podcast commenting on current events on his personal website, saidMarch 6 he has no firsthand knowledge of First Baptist Church in Elkin, N.C., home church of the men now in their 40s featured in a March 3 article headlined “When We Leave One Religion for Another: How two brothers, raised Baptist, found their way to two different faiths.” But the story of young seeking answers outside their evangelical upbringing is all too common.
“We are losing far too many evangelical young people as they reach older ages because they are simply not adequately grounded theologically in the Christian faith,” Mohler said. “They may go to vacation Bible school, and they may go to Sunday school, but the question is, are they really grounded in the Christian faith? Are they well-grounded in the beauty of Scripture? Are they well-grounded in a knowledge of the deep theological convictions that define us as Christians?”…
Mohler said failure to ground children in Christian doctrine leaves them vulnerable “to be led by their senses” rather than “a theological understanding grounded in the explicit teachings of Scripture.”
“When these two boys, identical twins, were asking deep theological questions, who was there to help them?” Mohler asked. “Who was there to guide them? Who was there as an evangelical thinker, apologist, theologian, friend, pastor and guide to help them to understand these questions?”
I just want to state that I perfectly sympathize with Al Mohler 100%. Most Evangelicals dismiss him as a fundamentalist and while I would agree, I think there are some areas where Baptists can honestly state that Catholics are of a different religion entirely. For instance, Baptists don’t believe that baptism and the sacraments do anything. McKnight brings in two reasons to consider why these people converted to Anglicanism and Catholicism:
First, soul liberty, which is adored by Baptists like Mohler, leads to soul-liberty-preaching and soul-liberty-pastors who instead of knowing the church tradition think whatever they find in the Bible is what is supposed to be taught. So, first, the reason some leave is because of the essence of his kind of Baptist beliefs that growingly becomes more and more isolated.
Second, maybe their pastors were wise and pointed each of them to the great tradition of the church, a great tradition often ignored by Baptist approaches to theology. My own research (in Finding Faith, Losing Faith) on why evangelicals become Catholic revealed some crises were created when evangelicals discovered the minefield called church history and, in particular, the patristic era.
For those of you who don’t know, McKnight himself actually converted from being a Baptist to an Anglican as well. My own family has had a Baptist heritage and I myself became a Continuing Anglican. However, I would not say that this so-called Evangelical appeal to the “great tradition” is the main reason why Evangelicals become Anglican or Catholic. There are a lot of factors–at least for me. Of course, reading up on church history led me to explore Catholicism for a while. The standard Evangelical presentation of the Protestant Reformation has a lot of holes in it. As well as the Evangelicals’ accusations that the inquisitions were inherently evil and demonic killing heretics. (Apparently, Bloody Mary still gets a bad rep even though she was no more bloody than her sister Elizabeth…probably why the following scene in one of the Paranormal Activity movies isn’t so scary for me.)
But Baptists are generally fully aware of the church tradition–at least the Baptists I know. They just don’t accept the additions of the church tradition they consider to be “un-scriptural”. Baptists are generally familiar that they come from an Anabaptist tradition that was persecuted even though they themselves were pacifists (persecuted for denying infants entry into the Church via baptism albeit). Baptists are familiar with the patristics. They accept whatever can be proven within the patristics. This is much like all Evangelical Anglicans–Scot McKnight included. The difference, I think, has to do with the beauty of holiness (as well as some findings that Baptist theology does not hold up under theological scrutiny). If you read at the top, the twin brothers allegedly took “separate spiritual paths” as one became an Anglican bishop and the other a Catholic priest. That’s all the information we’re given. There is no mention as to whether the Anglican bishop is liturgically high, broad, or low. If you look at the Anglican Catholic liturgy, it is quite a beautiful liturgy.
Many Novus Ordo liturgies have also been able to retain this beauty of holiness as well. But also, many Catholic priests have been able to gather permission to celebrate the Tridentine Mass which is very beautiful.
Compare that to a standard Baptist service. Where is the beauty of holiness in the plain, Baptist service?
If the twin brother who became an Anglican bishop is a liturgically High Church Anglican, there really is not too many theological differences between him and his brother. He might not be making a move to become a Catholic either because he is married and would have to surrender the position of bishop to be a Catholic or because of the Novus Ordo which he might consider to be odious. Simply stating one is an Anglican and one is Catholic does not give us enough reason as to why they became Anglican and Catholic respectively.
I myself became an Anglican when I started to ponder the question as to whether it was legitimate to enforce the immaculate conception as a necessary belief. What purpose in the life of the Church does the immaculate conception hold? Of course, I don’t dispute the immaculate conception as a valid belief but I myself wouldn’t want to push it as a binding dogma. This is a key issue keeping Catholics separated from Orthodox and Anglo-Catholic Christians. I also found a preference toward the more Western liturgical system over the Eastern liturgical system. That’s not to say the Eastern liturgy is wrong but I think iconographic statues have a way of expressing holiness in a way that iconographic statues don’t. Of course, the history of the church also led me away from Evangelicalism but that still is not sufficient enough for why I became an Anglican. I think that Biblicism also led to my repudiation of Evangelicalism. Evangelicals lack the authority of the Church.
But I doubt it has to do with soul-liberty. Baptists–especially Southern Baptists–are very dogmatic. I don’t know much about soul-liberty but I don’t think Baptists use that as an invitation to practical theological liberalism.