Terry Mattingly reported re a recent discussion with leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention re decline in baptisms, reflecting a decline in “conversions.” I here provide a link to this article so you can see how the SBC is attempting to explain this decline. (http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2013/jun/14/terry-mattingly-baptists-with-fewer-baptisms/)
But, having been a Baptist myself, I have an opinion which I shared weeks ago after a newspaper article reported about a new demographic category, the “nones”, people who now selected “none” when asked about which religion they are affiliated with. (https://literarylew.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/an-open-letter-to-the-clergy-re-the-nones/)
I feel that Baptists err in that they adhere rigidly to the “letter of the law” even while preaching against this very thing. But by taking the Bible literally, they fail to see the nuances of the Scripture and fail to appreciate the layers of meaning that it offers. They fail in exercise of hermeneutic discipline.
I here would like to share a paragraph by a professor of religion in San Antonio, Glenn Hughes:
…there are those who try to hold on their sense of the divine by tenaciously attaching themselves to religion in a quite uncritical manner—in a closed-minded manner that renders the world of everyday responsibilities, and the awareness of historical complexities, more bearable though massive psychological reliance on intense, unexamined feelings evoked by religious symbols, rituals, and texts. Thus is forged an attitude of intransigent certainty that one is in possession of the sole and absolute truth about divinity. And thus the full complexity of the challenges of existential self-making and of responsibility for history is sidestepped, to some degree, by ignoring the problematic fact of the transcendence of divine transcendence—that is, its profound mysteriousness and its unavailability to direct or substantive human understanding—that the former child’s sense of the nearness of the divine absolute becomes transformed into an inflexible, dogmatic, and (as we all know) sometimes murderous conviction that the intense feelings evoked by one’s own religious tradition are infallible guides to absolute, exclusive religious truth. (A More Beautiful Question: The Spiritual in Poetry and Art)
If the Gospel is to be meaningful, it must be refracted through a heart in which meaning is present. By that, I mean a heart that is “petal open” and full of “penetrable stuff” (Shakespeare’s term) not one that’s keeping human frailty at bay with rigid, compensatory certainty. In other words, a heart that is humble. And, as T. S. Eliot noted, “The only wisdom we can hope to acquire is the wisdom of humility. And humility is endless.”