PHEONIX (BP)–At least one protestor was willing to endure the oppressive heat of Phoenix Sunday afternoon. He stood by a traffic light near the promenade leading to the entrance of the Phoenix Civic Plaza, site of the 2003 Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference and the SBC annual meeting.
He held a sign that read, “Southern Baptist Convention — A generation of vipers.” He wanted to warn the uninitiated to avoid at all costs the annual gathering of America’s largest Protestant denomination because the messages they would encounter would be “evil, wicked, mean, and nasty.”
As I attended the opening session of the Pastors’ Conference — conducted under the theme of “Building Kingdom Families” — I could not stop asking myself how the protestor could take exception to a conference designed to strengthen families. Somewhere in the cool confines of the Phoenix Civic Plaza it dawned on me. While I do not know the sun-baked protestor’s motive for holding his sign, the problem many have with conservatives in general, and groups like the Southern Baptist Convention in particular, is not a message or a theme. No, what raises the ire of many is the concept of absolute truth.
Southern Baptists unapologetically maintain that the Bible is God’s infallible Word and as such is absolute, irrefutable truth. In a culture that has all but succumbed to secular social rule, the idea of a transcendent and universal standard for life is anathema.
Not long ago I heard self-help guru Deepak Chopra declare, “Truth is relative.” While I find his statement more than oxymoronic, many — if not most — in American culture have swallowed Chopra’s philosophical point of view hook, line and sinker.
Without an objective standard, it is impossible to determine between right and wrong, good and bad, better and best. I once had a physician tell me that medical science is able to discern when a body is diseased because there is an objective understanding of what constitutes health. If my body temperature varies from the expected 98.6, something could well be wrong internally.
Because Southern Baptists embrace the Bible as the standard for what constitutes health in all of life, there is concern among the ranks over the state of the family in America. All indications are that the present state of the home is less than healthy. However, the focus of those addressing the crowd at Sunday evening’s Pastors’ Conference was not on the families of those who reject the Bible as absolute truth. No, the emphasis was on those who embrace God’s standard.
Speakers exhorted Christian fathers in general, and ministers in particular, to make their families a priority second only to God in importance. Parents were encouraged to inculcate God’s truth to children by living it, rather than just discussing it. The hope for America, it was stressed, was for Christian families boldly to apply God’s absolute standard to every facet of home life. Emphasized over and over was the need to allow God’s truth to transform the Christian families.
The protestor willing to risk heat stroke on a hot Arizona summer day was probably not against the message of family fidelity. He, like so many others, simply cannot stand the thought that there are those who assert there is a standard grounded in absolute truth. If only exhortations were couched in opinion, suggestions or subjective musings, they might find Southern Baptist messages on family life palatable, but objective truth anchored in a holy God is fit only to be spit out.
In one sense the protestor’s sign was correct: God’s absolute truth does sting like a viper’s bite. However, rather than inflicting a deadly poison, it brings life, liberty and peace to individuals and families.
Kelly Boggs, Baptist Press’ weekly columnist, will be writing a column each day during the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting this week in Phoenix.