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Baptist ethics group trumps up SBC anti-Semitism
July 21, 2003
By James A. Smith Sr., Executive Editor, Florida Baptist Witness

In spite of their best efforts, enemies of the Southern Baptist Convention were unable to conjure up a controversy out of this year’s annual meeting in Phoenix.

Yes, there were the homosexual “Christians,” anarchists and Baptist peace activists who protested the SBC, doing their best to glob onto us for free press. And reporters were poised with their word processors warmed and ready for speakers to let loose on Islam, homosexuality or some other hot topic. Although the preaching and activities of this meeting were similar to past meetings that have garnered more attention, the press failed to find (or create) a spark of controversy.

Still, some enemies do not rest in their constant attacks on the SBC. One such group is the so-called Baptist Center for Ethics. Created in 1991 as a “moderate” alternative to the conservative Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, BCE is led by a former colleague of mine during our joint tenure at the ERLC.

An obscure ministry funded by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, two state Baptist conventions, and churches, BCE’s mission is “to provide proactive, positive and practical ethics resources and services to congregations,” according to its website, where it also declares, “When we started BCE, we recognized that too often Christians have been known for what we are against. We were convinced that it was high time for thoughtful Christians to be positive and proactive.”

BCE also sserts, “While it is more difficult to be positive than negative, we are committed to a constructive ethics agenda.”

Got it? BCE is “positive” and “constructive.” Perhaps “unethical” and “pro-anti-SBC” should be added. Ethics did not stand in the way of BCE’s smear on Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr. in its article on his June 16 speech to the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship.

Since BCE was not in Phoenix, it had to rely on Baptist Press’ coverage of the address. BCE’s “positive” and “constructive ethics agenda” did not impede its slamming Mohler for his support of Jewish evangelism with an article provocatively and inaccurately headlined, “SBC Leader Compares Judaism to ‘Deadly Tumor.’”

Lifting and distorting the reference from near the end of the BP article and placing it in the headline and second paragraph of its story, BCE reported, “While Jewish evangelism is controversial today, Mohler said Christians do Jewish people a disservice by failing to confront them with the Gospel. He compared it to a person with a potentially deadly tumor, who would rather have a doctor give a truthful diagnosis than say all is well to avoid offending him.”

Here’s the way BP reported it: “He illustrated Jewish evangelism by comparing it to a medical doctor. A person with a potentially deadly tumor would want a doctor who would give them a truthful diagnosis, not one who would, in an effort to avoid offending them, tell them that all is well. In the same way, Christians must tell unsaved Jews and all non-Christians the truth of the eternal danger they face and steer them to salvation in Christ, Mohler said, and thus proclaiming the Gospel is a genuine display of Christian love.”

The important Mohler claim left out of BCE’s report is that Christians are obligated to share Christ with all who have not yet followed Him -- that goes for any individual (Jew, Muslim, Catholic, Baptist) who is a non-Christian.

In its bald attempt for attention, BCE’s story suggests that Mohler was guilty of some kind of anti-Semitic slur. BCE also quotes a former Baptist pastor and expert on Jewish-Christian studies who rejects the notion that the New Testament teaches the necessity of Jewish evangelism.

Predictably, the Anti-Defamation League seized on the BCE report to “condemn” Mohler’s “offensive remarks.” In a follow-up article on ADL’s response, BCE found it ironic that the SBC adopted a resolution in Phoenix repudiating anti-Semitism.

It seems this Baptist group -- funded by Baptist Christians in the CBF and like-minded groups -- does not support Jewish evangelism. BCE’s coverage is aimed at undermining claims like Mohler’s and other Southern Baptists that Jews need Jesus just like any other religious or ethnic group.

BCE’s reporting on the Mohler address was unique. Even two other “moderate” Baptist media outlets not sympathetic to the SBC reported Mohler’s comments in a balanced fashion.

Southern Baptist leaders like Mohler should be commended for courageously preaching Bible truth that all human beings are sinners and need salvation found only in Jesus Christ: “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom 1:16). (BP)


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