By now everyone has seen the original statement of faith from Redemption Church where Ed Litton pastors, and most have at least had the opportunity to watch his appearance on CNN talking about Critical Race Theory. The problem we face with the new President of the SBC (who has tremendous power in assigning people to committees which, as we saw just a few days ago, is the power to control what will and will not be discussed even by the messengers at the annual meeting, and what will and will not be taught and emphasized through all the denominational structures) is that in both instances he showed a shocking disregard for accuracy.
Let’s start with the “what we believe” section of his website (you have to find the little menu icon in the upper left to even find it). The original statement read,
God is the Creator and Ruler of the universe. He has eternally existed in three persons: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These three are co-equal parts of one God.Redemption Church website…until Election Day 2021
Today if you cruise on over it now reads:
God is One, the Creator and Ruler of the universe. He has eternally existed in three persons: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.https://goredemption.com/new-here/our-beliefs/
Now, we can be thankful for the added element of monotheism, I suppose, in the new version which so oddly appeared the day of Litton’s election, though I confess I do not know how a church’s statement of faith can be changed in the middle of the week, especially since I would assume the church does not use a plurality of elders model and hence that would require congregational action. That issue aside, the unacknowledged edit is clear, and its reason obvious: the original language, “These three are co-equal parts of one God” is not accurate language, not even close.
Now, let’s be honest: the vast majority of American evangelicals would not recognize this fact. This is a sad reality, but it is true nonetheless. The issue of monotheism (there is only one God), divine simplicity (the being of God cannot be divided up into parts, even if it happens to be three parts), perichoresis (the relationship and inter-penetration of the divine persons) is rarely the subject of sermons, or studies, or even thought, in the modern church. Just recently I dared to point out the fact that debate continues in our day on some aspects of this issue (specifically related to the philosophical extension of conclusions relating to divine simplicity that are not only not demanded by any biblical revelation, but are fundamentally detrimental to a full orbed defense of the faith) but only a small portion of folks today would have any idea why there is even disagreement, or what it means. Trinitarian theology popped up a bit five years ago with the EFS (eternal functional subordination) debate, which continues in some circles, but again, the vast majority of folks just scrolled right on by those posts and tweets without any real concern. Hence, I can easily see why this statement of faith, and its really sloppy, strange, inaccurate language, went unnoticed right up until the pastor of the church managed to be elected President of the SBC.
Now, I do not for a second believe Ed Litton has been secretly seducing folks from the faith into some odd form of “partialism” or tri-theism or anything else. I can’t even prove he wrote it, nor how long it has been on the website. For that matter, I can’t prove 99% of the people in that church even knew the statement existed or had ever read it. What does seem very clear to me is this: the statement represents a leadership that has little concern about the realm of theology and teaching represented by an accurate definition of the Trinity. While that places the church in the “Southern Baptist mainstream,” it says more about where the church is in its broadest expressions than anything else.
I found it interesting that Ed Litton and I are both graduates of Grand Canyon College (the Wikipedia article inaccurately has “University,” but that name change took place years later). In fact, we were there at the same time. We may well have had some classes together, but I do not remember the name (he was two years ahead of me). He then went to Southwestern for his Master’s, and Southern for a D.Div. The question arises, would his time at Grand Canyon have addressed something such as “three co-equal parts of God”? Only in assigned readings I would imagine, though Dr. Martin and Dr. Puckett may well have touched upon the topic in their classes. I cannot comment on either SWBTS or SBTS in those particular programs, but I can surely say, “Well, if they didn’t, they surely should have.” But again, honesty requires me to say that I can see how someone could go through all that education and never once give the matter a second thought. If I had not already been involved in apologetics and evangelism I could have avoided the topic completely myself.
In the same way Pastor Litton’s comments on CRT showed the same level of inaccuracy as his statement of faith did. His commentary indicated that either he has chosen to go with the “I will just run with the narrative most likely to allow me to get along with the cultural revolution” plan, or, he is already adept that ignoring the documentation on what CRT is really all about but finds the political alignments within and without the denomination sufficiently powerful to over-ride the facts. In any case, there is little surprise to be found in the fact that he was the chosen candidate by all those who engineered the “we won’t deal with Resolution #9 or CRT at this meeting” stonewalling on the first day and in particular in the resolutions committee.
The three year long reign of Dr. Greear, followed on immediately by Dr. Litton, will provide the forces seeking to permanently alter the course of the Southern Baptist Convention all the time they need to do so, I believe. I think by the time a new election is upon us those with eyes to see will have moved on to a new alignment and a new organization.