Were the Southern Baptist Convention’s Founders Heretics Over Their View of Racial Superiority? R. Albert Mohler Jr. on Confronting the Truth

Albert Mohler
Albert Mohler

Among Christians, the word heresy must be used with care and precision. Not every doctrinal error is a heresy, though all doctrinal error is to be avoided. A heresy is the denial or corruption of a Christian doctrine that is central to the faith and essential to the Gospel. The late theologian Harold O. J. Brown defined heresy as a doctrinal error “so important that those who believe it, who the church calls heretics, must be considered to have abandoned the faith.”

Premillennialists consider postmillennialists to be in error, but they do not consider postmillennialists to be heretics. Those who deny the Trinity, on the other hand, are heretics, and the believing church must consider non-trinitarians to have departed the faith. The same must be said of those who deny the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ.

Today, we must recognize and condemn another heresy that has reared its ugly head. The killing of nine worshippers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., is a hideous demonstration of this heresy’s deadly power. The young white man charged with the killings has not, as yet, claimed a theological rationale for his acts. Nevertheless, he has been exposed as someone whose worldview was savagely warped by the ideology of racial superiority — white superiority.

If the reach of that ideology could be limited to a few fringe figures, we could allow ourselves to be less concerned. But the ideology that was represented in Dylann Roof’s reported words as he killed and in the photographs and evidence found on his Internet postings is not limited to a small fringe.

The ideology of racial superiority is one of the saddest and most sordid evidences of the Fall and its horrifying effects. Throughout history, racial ideologies have been driving forces of war, of demagoguery and of dictatorships.

At the same time, many white Americans claimed and assumed the superiority of caucasian skin to black and brown skin — or any other color of skin. The main “color line,” as Frederick Douglass called it in 1881, has always been black and white in America. While theories of racial superiority have been popular in both the North and the South, it was the states of the old Confederacy that gave those ideologies their most fertile soil. White superiority was claimed as a belief by both Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, but it was the Confederacy that made racial superiority a central purpose.

More humbling still is the fact that many churches, churchmen and theologians gave sanction to that ideology. While this was true throughout the southern churches, Southern Baptists bear a particular responsibility and burden of history. The Southern Baptist Convention was not only founded by slaveholders; it was founded by men who held to an ideology of racial superiority and who bathed that ideology in scandalous theological argument. At times, white superiority was defended by a putrid exegesis of the Bible that claimed a “curse of Ham” as the explanation of dark skin — an argument that reflects such ignorance of Scripture that it could only be believed by those who were looking for an argument to satisfy their prejudices.

I gladly stand with the founders of the Southern Baptist Convention and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in their courageous affirmation of biblical orthodoxy, Baptist beliefs and missionary zeal. There would be no Southern Baptist Convention and no Southern Seminary without them. James P. Boyce, Basil Manly Jr. and John A. Broadus were titans of the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
R. Albert Mohler Jr.

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