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"There should be an 'Abstract of Principles', or careful statement of theological belief, which every professor in such an institution must sign when inaugurated, so as to guard against the rise of erroneous and injurious instruction in such a seat of sacred learning."

James P. Boyce
from "Three Changes in
Theological Institutions"
- summarized by John Broadus, 1856



Deciphering Theological Turnspeak
by Lamar E. Cooper, Sr.
December 2001

Like many Southern Baptists attending the Convention in New Orleans last summer I was deeply concerned about the demonstrations, misinformation, and "political turnspeak" hurled at us by the homosexual community. They accused Southern Baptists of "killing the children of gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender" citizens. First, I couldn't understand how gays and lesbians could have children, unless they are referring to adoption. Second, I can't imagine how they believe Southern Baptists, the most pro-life denomination in America, are killing anyone's children.

These demonstrators were using, "turnspeak." This is a tactic by which you verbally attack your opponent, but claim that you are the victim of the attack. Hitler invented this scheme to justify his invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939. Whose fault was the attack? It was the Czech people, of course. They were trying to start a regional war by claiming their land as their own. Thus, they had to be stopped. When I read a recent news article about the use of "turnspeak" as a political tactic, immediately I recognized the theological equivalent of this phenomenon. I have seen it many times over the last quarter of a century, but never knew its proper name until now.

"Theological turnspeak" works this way. The real enemies of the church, the denomination, Christianity, and freedom-loving people everywhere are said to be those of us who know the Bible as infallible, inerrant Truth. Since we have taken the radically dangerous position of letting the Word of God become our rule of faith, conservative Bible-believing Christians are identified as the "enemies" of Truth. Given this reality, it is certainly understandable why the trustees of a major Baptist university considered it right to "protect" the university from conservative Baptists. They claimed only to be "protecting it" from those of us identified as "truth mongers" who are trying to "brainwash" and exercise "mind control" over our denomination. We are portrayed as the real enemy because we dare to advocate the extremely dangerous proposition that God came to us in Jesus Christ, and that He has given us His infallible, inerrant Word as absolute Truth and the only perfect rule of faith and conduct (Jn. 8:31-32).

This same kind of egalitarian champion is now laying the groundwork for "protecting" state conventions from the ranks of conservative Southern Baptists and the Southern Baptist Convention. Moderates consider this action to be necessary and right in order to "protect" Baptists and the entire theological world from anyone who takes the radically dangerous position that the Bible is to be believed and practiced as an active, personal rule of faith. Ironically, aborting babies, preventing prayer in schools, barring Christian expressions in public places, endorsing non-Christian religions as legitimate, condoning homosexuality and lesbianism as legitimate lifestyles all are considered virtues to be embraced. Their watchword has become "toleration of all things, thy name is virtue."

Recently, a Southern Baptist church in the town where I live made a decision to disassociate from the state convention it had long been associated with and align with a new, more conservative and cooperative convention. One self-appointed moderate spokesman attacked the pastor in an open email letter sent to the church's web site. "Theological turnspeak" was used to identify the pastor as the enemy of the faith and to question his background, associations, education, and loyalty as a Southern Baptist. I know the pastor personally. He is a theologically conservative, Bible believing, Bible preaching man of faith and prayer who walks with God. He is the pastor of the congregation where my son, his wife, and my grandchildren attend. This moderate accuser also told members of the church that it was a shame their children would have to grow up not knowing what it meant to be a Southern Baptist.

This has been the pattern of the moderate response since the early days of the conservative resurgence. They have consistently accused conservatives of trying to take over the convention for political reasons, while these moderates used every political maneuver thinkable, and some that were unthinkable, in an attempt to maintain their political power. They have consistently accused conservatives of trying to control, defame, and manipulate churches and agencies of the Southern Baptist Convention.

I know there are many moderate pastors and churches that are seeking to win the lost. They do not all participate in these kind of mind games. I pray God will bless efforts by them and anyone who seeks to share the undiminished gospel of Christ. All people without Christ are lost (Rom. 3:23), and God has provided salvation for all who confess Jesus as Savior (Jn. 3:16). But God is not honored by moderate "theological turnspeak" such as the recent debate over what Ephesians 5:22-33 clearly states. He is not honored when the Bible is vilified as a jumble of culturally flawed, contradictory, and morally unsound ideas.

We live in a culture that recoils from any hint of personal moral accountability. The Bible makes it very clear in Romans 2:1-2 that God will judge every person and nation according to His truth. This judgment is to be visited upon those who practice "such things" (Rom. 2:2), a statement that looks back to the abhorrent conduct described in chapter one. The "wrath of God" is the basis for divine judgment against those who "suppress the truth" in favor of unrighteousness (1:18), "exchange the truth" in favor of error (1:25-28), or pervert the truth by suppressing knowledge of God (1:28-32). This "truth" is the Word of God (Jn. 17:17). God says such conduct is "inexcusable" (Rom. 2:1) and liable to His judgment.

It is time we took seriously the admonition of 2 Peter 1:16-21, which affirmed the Word of God as trustworthy and warned, But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed ( 2 Pet. 2:1-3a; also read vv. 3b-22 for the rest of Peter's somber warning). Instead of using "theological turnspeak," let us cling to the admonition to hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 1:13).


Lamar E. Cooper, Sr. is executive vice president and provost of The Criswell College in Dallas, Texas.


This article reprinted by permission from SBCLife

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