Students, faculty, staff and local church pastors from Missouri, Kansas and the Midwest region gathered in the seminary’s chapel to listen to the message, which covered a wide range of issues within the SBC. Page shared his own observations, predictions and exhortations to Southern Baptists.
Jason K. Allen, Midwestern Seminary’s president, said “Midwestern Seminary is absolutely committed to serving the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention, so it is fitting, and even poetic, that Dr. Page delivered such a prominent and historic address on the campus of Midwestern Seminary.
“Dr. Page spoke with insight and foresight, demonstrating once again the unique leadership role he fills for Southern Baptists.”
Page’s address began with an admission of having a fascination with scientific studies of various kinds, including earthquakes. He noted that below the earth’s surface are large tectonic plates. Where these plates meet are called “fault lines.” When tectonic plates move against one another, their convergence results in intense geological activity, such as earthquakes and volcanoes.
“Fault lines happen even in organizations,” Page said in his Jan. 15 address. “And like on the earth, where the fault lines and tectonic plates come together, pressure builds. If that pressure is not alleviated, then deep damage occurs.”
There are fault lines, Page said, in the Southern Baptist Convention where “pressure has built.”
“Sometimes pressure is eased in a godly, biblical and legitimate way, and sometimes things happen that cause lasting damage,” he said.
Looking back, Page identified the Conservative Resurgence as “a time in our history when indeed there was a several-decades long struggle over the issue of how do Baptists believe and hold to the veracity of the Word of God.”
“The arguments that came in those days found their roots decades ago, but the big fault lines and pressure was experienced perhaps most profoundly in the eighties and in the nineties,” he said.
“The institution in which you now study or teach or are now sitting was one of the epicenters in that epic struggle.” Page said, referencing the controversy that took place at Midwestern Seminary in 1961. Ralph Elliott, chair of the seminary’s Old Testament department, argued in his book “The Message of Genesis” that it was not literal history. Instead, he contended, it was a book of symbolic stories.
“There were many battles fought, much pressure released, and yes, some damage done,” Page added.
Page also pointed to pressure related to the more recent debate about Calvinism versus non-Calvinism.
“I do believe that this last year at the convention we saw God show up in a way that relieved some of that pressure, as leaders from both sides of the fence gathered to say, ‘We want to work together for the Gospel,” he said. “Too much is at stake not to do so. I applaud those leaders from both sides of the soteriological fence.
“Do I think that fault line is fixed forever? Hardly. But I said to them in all honesty, ‘I want us to work together so that we can at least win some people to Christ for now. Can we do that?’”
Page briefly mentioned a current “ecclesiological” fault line affecting the convention. Page said he believes there are developing fault lines with mounting pressures as Baptists struggle with how to govern a church, particularly as it relates to congregational governance, elder leadership and the role of deacons.
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