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‘Who do you say Jesus is?’ Hawkins asks SBC messengers

PHOENIX (BP)–Tracing the paths of church history, O.S. Hawkins recounted the theological and doctrinal footsteps of Baptists’ Christian predecessors who faced down the incessant attacks on the deity of Jesus Christ.

Hawkins, president of the Southern Baptist Annuity Board, challenged messengers attending the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Phoenix with the same question Jesus asked his disciples as recorded in the Bible, Matthew 16:16: “Who do you say I am?”

Hawkins, in the convention sermon June 18, recounted those martyrs who died for their convictions about the exclusive claims of Christ and who “left the comforts of home and heart” to answer the same question that Jesus asked His disciples: “Who do you say I am?”

Jesus first asked the disciples who others said He was, Hawkins noted. And the disciples said others thought Jesus was John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or another prophet.

“Ask our Islamic friends, and they will say, ‘He was one of the prophets,'” Hawkins said, adding that Jews would have a similar response.

And the proponents of the latest theological trend called open theology will say Jesus “was a little short on omniscience,” Hawkins said.

The question of who Jesus is, he said, forms the most important question that 21st century Christians have to answer.

“If Southern Baptists do not make a certain sound on this issue, pray tell, who will in the 21st century?” he asked.

During the 20th century the emergence of theological liberalism infected the Western church “with its twin children of pluralism and inclusivism,” Hawkins said.

“Before the [SBC’s] conservative resurgence, there were infiltrations of this among us,” Hawkins said. “Ask [Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s president] Dr. Mohler of professors who were in print, saying that Jesus was not the only way to heaven. Ask [Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s president] Dr. Patterson of a professor who castigated a state Baptist editor one time for saying that those … without Christ were, quote, ‘lost and headed for a Godless eternity.’

“When church leaders question the validity of the exclusivity of the Gospel, it is only a matter of time before confession and doctrinal statements lose any validity to those folks,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins quoted from the book “Ten Things I Learned Wrong From a Conservative Church,” which he said he purchased from “a Baptist divinity school in a Baptist university on the East Coast, written by a former professor at a Baptist school in the South.”

“Chapter three is this: ‘Third Wrong Teaching: Jesus is the Only Way to God,'” Hawkins noted. “Let me quote from that book: ‘Baptists and other dyed-in-the-wool conservatives have this thing about Jesus Christ — that He is the only way to heaven.'”

Hawkins said the author “calls Jesus ‘arrogant'” for claiming to be the only way to heaven, and the author believes an experience with Jesus Christ is unnecessary for getting to heaven.

“Does anybody wonder about the necessity of the conservative resurgence and an accompanying faith statement?” Hawkins asked.

Churches or denominations infiltrated with inclusivism “lose their passion and urgency for evangelism and missions,” Hawkins said. “This is why liberal denominations and churches have no evangelism and missions, because doctrine always affects duty — always.”

Citing statistics from Southern Baptist life, Hawkins noted that missionary appointments are breaking records, as are seminary enrollments.

“We have removed those shabby cloaks of pluralism and inclusivism and stood firm on the exclusivity of the Gospel,” Hawkins said. “When other denominations are losing their missionary thrust, ours is going forward.”

The question of personal conviction, he said, is reflected in the question Jesus asked the disciples: “Who do YOU say that I am?”

Jesus said He was the only way to heaven, but saying that in modern culture “is like getting a red cape and waving it in front of a bull,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins cited the reaction to Southern Baptists’ recent relief effort of sending multiple tons of food to Iraq, noting that “some liberals are screaming for fear that one of us Southern Baptists are gonna put a Gospel tract in one of those relief [food boxes] going to Iraq.

“But liberals weren’t screaming very much when Saddam Hussein was cutting out the tongues, cutting off the ears, and putting other … detractors in plastic shredding machines,” Hawkins noted. “I suppose [the liberals] think that those Iraqis who could withstand 30 years of a regime like that couldn’t withstand one godly, Spirit-filled Southern Baptist missionary with a Gospel tract.”

If Southern Baptists truly believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven, and that the only name under heaven by which people can be saved is Jesus’ name, Hawkins said it is time to “take the cross off the steeple and put it back in the Sunday School.”

“Many Sunday Schools have become nothing more than discussions group on felt needs accompanied by some coffee and donuts,” he said.

The cross needs to come off the communion table and back in the sermon, off the necklace and into social ministries, and off our lapels and back into our music, Hawkins said.

Reflecting on the time when he was a Baptist pastor, Hawkins said he received a letter from the head of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State who “bemoaned the fact that there were certain Christians in America, in this pluralistic culture, who were trying to Christianize America.”

Hawkins agreed that Southern Baptists are trying to Christianize the world. “Thank God our missionaries are focused on evangelism, soul-winning and church planting. Thank God that everyone who goes to one of our seminaries is focused on rightly dividing the Word of truth.”

If Jesus Christ is the only way to eternal happiness, then “universalism is false, pluralism is false, inclusivism is false [and] non-Christian religions are false.”

If the claims of Christ are true, Hawkins said, “then we must join the songwriter of old and continue to sing: ‘We must needs go home by the way of the cross / There’s no other way but this / We’ll ne’er get sight of the gates of life / If the way of the cross we miss.'”

    About the Author

  • Norm Miller