“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…” (Hosea 4:6)
I once met a woman who had been a member of a couple of Southern Baptist’s most well-known and influential churches. One of her pastors had served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention and the other in multiple leadership roles on both the national and state level, including president of his state convention. My conversation with this woman proved to be most enlightening, not to mention a little frightening.
In spite of the fact that she and her family had been faithful members of these two large churches over the past several years—eleven years at one church and five years at the other—she informed me that she, along with her husband, disagreed with some of our Southern Baptist beliefs. When I asked her for an example, she told me that neither she nor her husband believed that “we have to be baptized to go to heaven when we die.”
When I explained to her that the doctrine she had just taken exception to was known as baptismal regeneration, and that it was believed by Roman Catholics and others, but not by Southern Baptists, she argued with me. She insisted that I was wrong, arguing that our supposed belief in this false doctrine is why we are called “Baptist.” It took me a considerable amount of time, not to mention the parading of my Southern Baptist pedigree, to finally convince her otherwise.
As I walked away from our conversation that day, I couldn’t help but wonder about the doctrinal ignorance of the average Southern Baptist. I’m sure that it’s not just those in the pews of megachurches who are ignorant of our doctrine, but also those in the pews of Southern Baptist churches of all sizes. I even suspect that doctrinal ignorance is in no short supply in our pulpits. One thing for sure, it certainly doesn’t bode well for the future of our convention if my suspicions are true.
In the little epistle of Jude, the Bible charges us to “earnestly contend for the faith” (v. 3). How can we defend our faith if we can’t define it? If we don’t know what it is, how will we even know when it’s under attack? Obviously, our ignorance of our faith renders us incapable of defending it. If we are doctrinally clueless, our faith is defenseless and our world will end up faithless.
“Ignorance is not bliss; it is oblivion!” (Philip Wylie)