Problems with the Founders Ministries’ *By What Standard* Trailer

Without Founders Ministries, my life would be quite different. As a college student, I became convinced of the Doctrines of Grace. Though I’d been a member of a Southern Baptist Convention [SBC] affiliated church for years, I felt like a commitment to these doctrines was absent from SBC churches, so I began going to a non-denominational Bible church. It was through discovering Founders Ministries, which was committed to educating SBC churches about the Doctrines of Grace and helping to encourage the biblical reformation of local churches, that I felt comfortable re-joining an SBC-affiliated church. Once I was married, the first church that my wife and I joined was a Founders-friendly SBC-affiliated congregation. About a year after I was married, I became a student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Moving to Louisville, I was again looking for a Founders-friendly, SBC-affiliated congregation, and the church where I am currently a member (Kosmosdale Baptist Church in Louisville, KY) took place in the Boyce Project (an effort, begun when the seminaries of the SBC had become theologically liberal, to get a copy of J.P. Boyce’s Abstract of Systematic Theology into the hands of each graduating SBC seminary student), which was a direct precursor to Founders Ministries, and for years our church had a line-item in the church budget to allow for the pastor going to Founders Ministries conferences. So, in a very real sense, I would not be going to the church where I’m a member, I would not be living in the city where I am, and thus I would not be working in the job that I have (and who knows what else would be different for me), if it were not for Founders Ministries.

In recent years, Founders Ministries has been raising concerns that those holding to theological liberalism are using social justice issues as a Trojan horse in order to persuade churches of unbiblical ideologies. Founders Ministries speakers are also concerned that those adopting the language and categories used by secular advocates of social justice are unwittingly making themselves and their congregations susceptible to theological liberalism. It is based on these concerns that Founders Ministries is producing a “Cinedoc” called By What Standard, and they released the trailer for that film earlier this week.

While I share many of the concerns that Founders Ministries is raising concerning “social justice warriors”, and while a few of men from my church gladly attended the 2019 Founders Ministries National Conference on “The Gospel and Justice” here in Louisville, I am deeply concerned with how things are presented in the trailer for By What Standard: the methods that are used and some of the connections that are directly implied. In considering my thoughts concerning this trailer, I came across a Twitter-thread by Chris Bolt (the pastor of Elkton Baptist Church), which expresses exactly what I would want to say (and how I would want to say it). The remainder of this post is Chris’ Twitter-thread, which I’m using after getting his permission. I’ve only edited for formatting, adding numbers and taking away the “@” Twitter-handles.

Assume, for the sake of argument, I agree with everything Founders Ministries believes and is trying to accomplish with their forthcoming video. It does not follow that the trailer for that video is unobjectionable. In fact, the opposite is the case. What are the problems?

1. The trailer features an interview with a gentleman talking about manipulation through guilt leading to destructive behavior, and at the same time he is speaking, shows a clip of SBC messengers holding up, “Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused.”

2. The trailer also features an interview with Owen Strachan commenting on the principalities and power of Ephesians 6, which is a reference to demons, while at the same time showing a clip of Rachael Denhollander speaking on the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission panel at the SBC.

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3. As you can see, the short clip is heavily edited. Why? To match the clips of other speakers in the video who are in some form or fashion representative of the problems in the SBC. Filters are used to make some clips jittery and blurred.

4. Filters are also used to show Founders representatives in better light and color. This use of filters, music, and narration is quite likely intended to produce a particular type of feeling to be associated with each of the clips. It’s clear who is portrayed as “good” and “bad.”

5. A brief clip of the theologically liberal egalitarian Nadia Bolz-Weber is shown immediately before Denhollander, with Strachan’s voice speaking of the aforementioned demonic powers.

Now, other objections to the trailer have been raised, but I’m not interested in those here.

Here are my questions.

1. What message is sent by the trailer mentioning guilt manipulation with SBC messengers holding up a book on how to care for abuse survivors in the church?

2. What message is sent by showing Denhollander alongside Bolz-Weber and a discussion of demons?

3. Assuming I agree with Founders on all the current issues of the SBC, wouldn’t I also want to say that the problem of abuse is a real problem, and that it’s a real problem in particular for the SBC?

This problem is not a mere matter of worldly perception. Christians see it too.

The implication of the carefully edited movie trailer is that something dark, even demonic, has made its way into the SBC through addressing abuse and through an individual like Denhollander. Now, even if you support everything else Founders believes and is doing, this is bad.

This is bad because, apart from a lack of wisdom in the selection of an editor/producer who would create a provocative video that politicizes and weaponizes the issue of abuse, and apart from the obvious difficulties with the ethics of this situation, including utilitarianism, it’s bad because Founders has significantly fumbled the ball here… If I were Founders, I would fire the video editor, issue an apology to the Denhollanders, and try again, although credibility may be shot. You fumbled the ball.

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One Comment on “Problems with the Founders Ministries’ *By What Standard* Trailer”

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