Southern Baptists, Slavery and Same-Sex Marriage

By: Dr. Brent Aucoin

Proponents of Same-Sex Marriage frequently seek to win over their opponents by warning them that they will end up on the “wrong side of history.”  This appeal is predicated on the notion that it is primarily evangelical Christians who are opposed to same-sex marriage, and that it was evangelical Christians who in years past took the wrong side in controversies over slavery and the civil rights movement.

This line of argument, of course, is not without its flaws.

As others have pointed out, the admonition to not be on the wrong side of history will carry little weight with those whose theology correctly informs them that it is infinitely more important to be on the right side of eternity than it is to be on the right side of history.  In addition, the blanket assertion that evangelicals who oppose same-sex marriage today were wrong about the civil rights movement is historically inaccurate as it not only dismisses the relatively few white evangelicals who championed black equality but egregiously ignores the numerous black evangelical Christians who supported civil rights (and who today oppose same-sex marriage).

Though the argument is flawed, I think there is another way that we can respond to, and learn from, this call for us to not end up on the wrong side of history.  Although it is true that self-proclaimed Christians spearheaded the movements for the abolition of slavery and for civil rights, it is nevertheless best for us to acknowledge that evangelicals (particularly Southern Baptists) were more often than not on the wrong side of both of those righteous crusades. But then we are to ask why that was the case?

Part of the answer, I believe, is because far too many white evangelicals listened to what society said about matters such as slavery and segregation than what the Scriptures say.

So, if our evangelical ancestors went astray on matters of social justice as a result of allowing themselves to be unduly influenced by the spirit of the age and area in which they lived, then what lesson are we to learn from their mistake?  Is it not that we are to be more diligent now than ever before to have our views shaped by God’s Word rather than by man’s opinion?  Will we dismiss what the Bible says about homosexuality because the culture in which we live urges us to do so?

Remember, far too many of our evangelical and Baptist predecessors in the South supported white supremacy because the culture in which they lived urged them to do so.  Rather than worrying about being on the wrong side of history, let us rather learn from history and not repeat the mistakes of the past.

Dr. Brent Aucoin is a Professor of History and Associate Dean of The College at Southeastern.

In Case You Missed It

1) The sharp political and cultural critic, David Brooks, thinks that our culture has a shallow idea of meaning.

2) Tony Merida recently published his new book, Ordinary (B&H), which challenges us to be–yep–ordinary Christians.

3) At First Things, Faatimah Knight points out a “subtle and unnoticed misogyny” at work in television and film.

4) Micah Fries encourages SBC churches not to give to the Cooperative Program. (But he doesn’t mean what you may think.)

5) J. D. Greear asks, are you willing to doubt your doubt? Good question.


EQUIP: Nathan Akin on the Apostle Paul and Search Committees

What if the Apostle Paul were on a Search Committee?

Have you ever wondered if the Apostle Paul were on a search committee what kind of questions he would ask the pastoral candidate? I wonder if they would be like the questions most search committees ask today?

Questions such as:

  • What is the attendance at your current church?
  • What is the membership at your current church?
  • How many did you baptize this year?
  • What is the budget?
  • What degrees do you have?
  • Are you a Calvinist?
  • Are you pre-tribulational in your eschatology?

I think even the process of most pastoral search committee’s can be debated, but I think it is worth considering what the man who kept Timothy in Ephesus for the work of shepherding that flock and sent Titus to Crete would ask a potential pastoral candidate. It is possible that many search committees and churches place too high a focus on aspects of ministry that the apostle would not, “budgets and butts in the seats” as some would say. Now, Paul did give his young protégé one clear exhortation when it came to pastoral ministry. He wrote him in 2 Timothy 2:1-2, “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Is it possible that a primary question the apostle would ask would be, “how do you plan on multiplying yourself?” I think we have more evidence in the scriptures that he would ask that question as well as questions about how you will guard the good deposit as we do about “budgets and butts in the seats.”

I believe churches need to value more highly the importance of the pastor reproducing himself. And I believe pastors need to consider how they will intentionally take on 2 Timothy 2:2 in their church and how they will intentionally build it into their schedule so that it does not get eclipsed by other things.

At Southeastern Seminary we have developed a program called EQUIP that will help pastors develop such a ministry in their churches and give Seminary-level credit for work done through that ministry. We would love to serve pastors and churches as they consider developing a 2 Timothy 2:2 ministry in their church and we would love to come alongside those that already have a ministry like this and see how we can partner to give theological credit. If you are interested in finding out more please contact us – Equip@sebts.eduonline games for boys