Yesterday, on the holiday honoring the life and legacy of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a tweet from a Southern Baptist seminary administrator caught my attention.
How nice! At a time when many white Christians in the South remained virulently racist and most of the rest were shamefully timid, these three Christian gentlemen welcomed Dr. King to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's campus in Louisville, Kentucky.
While thousands of Southern Baptist pastors vehemently opposed integration, the forward-thinking men of SBTS were on the Right Side of History.
But what do today's Southern Baptist leaders really think of the Reverend Dr. Henlee Barnette, the legendary Baptist ethicist who taught at Southern from 1951-1977? Probably not much.
Here are some thoughts I tweeted on the matter:
The SBC is justly proud of its academics, ethicists, and activists who prophetically denounced racism and called on white Protestants to repent of their sinful, discriminatory attitudes – attitudes that many perversely derived from the Bible itself. But how many of these leaders (and their proteges) survived the denomination's purge of moderates in the 1980s?
Henlee Barnette would not be allowed to teach at SBC seminaries today. So why, exactly, do Baptist elites want to celebrate him? Did he invite Dr. King to Louisville in faithfulness to a Bible he did not believe in and a God he did not know?
Barnette did the right thing because his theology and biblical interpretations were right. Southern Baptists can't have it both ways. Maybe the Reverend Dr. Barnette was right about a few other things, too.