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Monday, November 24, 2008

A Southern Baptist War on the Catholic Church "Cult"

Meet Jim Smyrl

Jim Smyrl is the "Executive-Pastor of Education" at the 28,000-member First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Florida. FBC Jacksonville is the third-largest church in the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest megachurches in America. As Executive -Pastor of Education, Smyrl is no lowly staff member. He's been dubbed "Second in Command" at FBC as Pastor Mac Brunson's "right-hand man."

Over on the Official Blog of FBC Jacksonville, has announced a series of upcoming posts on the "Catholic Cult."

Here's the announcement:
This series will examine the cultish nature of Catholicism. The primary reasons we are unwilling to consider Catholicism as a cult include: we have good friends that are Catholics, the history of the Catholicism makes it difficult to perceive them as a cult since most people view cults as quick up starts with a charismatic leader, and the lack of understanding of the one true grid by which to measure the validity of a movement.
Today, Monday - November 24, Smyrl posted the first installment in this "Catholic Cult" series.

Here's a snippet:
Why even address the issue of Catholicism? Doesn’t such a critical view of a particular religious group bring greater division among moral people in a society? Won’t I have a difficult time witnessing to Catholics if we refer to them as a cult? All are questions that represent a myriad of interrogatives that will no doubt be leveled against this series. However, isn’t it the historical precedence of evangelicals, coming from a biblical mandate (I John 4:1-3), to examine the culture, even religious groups, under the light of Scripture? And how will you ever lead a Catholic out of his sin and into the only sufficient grace of Christ if you do not clearly point out his sin? Surely we do not believe that we can lead anyone to Christ by generalizing or minimizing his sin.
Smyrl concludes his post by laying the foundation for his definition of a cult, based on a four-criteria test cult test. Read the rest here.

This isn't the first time that Smyrl has referred to the Catholic Church as a Cult. On November 14, Smyrl described a Catholic Priest from South Carolina as a "Cult Leader."

Not really sure how a reasonable, educated person responds to kooks like Smyrl.

But, we'll keep an eye on his Catholic Cult blog series throughout the week.

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Anonymous Stephen Fox said...

Adrian Rogers son David is back in the Memphis area after a time in Spain as an IMB missionary.
He has some reservations about how the Catholic church pushes buttons to the limits to gain in advantage apropo of the limits of the culture they are in.
Though I doubt he would be as outspoken or provocative as Smyrl; would be interesting to have David Rogers define himself in relation to Smyrl, then query the IMB about their views vis a vis Smyrl and Rogers.

12:28 PM

Blogger Georgia Mountain Man said...

Cult: A religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader. I'm not even close to an authority and way outside of my comfort zone discussing this, but I would have difficulty applying this definition to the Catholic Church.

2:15 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of his four criteria, really only number 1 could be reasonably said to apply to the Catholic Church. (And number 1 ought to lead to a nuanced discussion of how we got the Bible we have, which isn't by any means a pretty picture.)

As for number four, it's kind of ironic to decry the doctrine that "they are the only group through which man can be saved," right after making a claim to know what does and does not constitute an adequate authority or basis for salvation.

3:03 PM

Blogger texasinafrica said...

I think this warrants a road trip. Alexis?

3:47 PM

Anonymous Ferrell Foster said...

Big Daddy, thanks for sharing this person's ridiculous assertion. I'm with Georgia Mountain Man and TheCooper in sayijng Smyrl is way off base. I just wanted to add my voice against this notion of Catholicism as a cult.

I'm a Baptist and obviously don't agree with all aspects of Catholic doctrine; but last time I checked, we are saved by grace through faith, not by correct theology. And I know some Catholics who have that faith in the God of grace. The official teachings of the church have even bent that way, as well, in recent years.

As for Smyrl, it's amazing what some people come to believe.

6:05 AM

Blogger FBC Jax Watchdog said...

The timing of his series in very curious. This very week FBC Jacksonville is beginning their registration drive for their new school, the First Baptist Academy of Jacksonville. I'm sure the parents of prospective students will be very interested in knowing if this sort of "theology" will be taught to their students.

Just to add to the big daddy weave's article: Smyrl has been incorporating something called "Theology Driven Ministry" at FBC Jax for over a year, and its this TDM that will receive much fanfare at the 2009 FBC Jax Pastor's Conference in February. Maybe Jim could preach to the pastors about the cult of the Catholic church.

Also, just to add a little more context: Mac Brunson, Jim's boss, had a well-known Seventh Day Adventist singer who is an ordained SDA minister, come to our church last year and sing and speak to us. We have several members at our church who have family members who have been greatly harmed by the SDA's (who arguably may be a cult themselves) who were shocked that Brunson brought this man into our church. Just goes to show the hypocrisy of Brunson and Smyrl - easy to target doctrinal differences of Catholics, but they embrace an SDA minister who is a friend of Mac's.

11:04 AM

Blogger FBC Jax Watchdog said...

And a few other tidbits on Smyrl the Pearl:

He is putting these views on the OFFICIAL, church-sponsored blogsite (which realy is not a blog in that no comments are allowed). So the pastor of the church, Mac Brunson, is allowing our church website to be used to offend our Catholic friends in Jacksonville.

And also...don't overlook Smyrl's assertion in his November 14th post that:

- if you voted for Obama you committed a "sin" that must be repented of; and

- if you voted for Obama, perhaps you have "voted yourself out of fellowship" (the title of his article).

Gotta love a guy like this, and his "Senior Pastor" that allows him to do it.

11:18 AM

Blogger Joe Blackmon said...

Um, didn't Paul say if someone came to you and preached a different gospel than what I preached let him be accursed in the book of Galatians? Yes, yes I think he did in fact say that. Therefore, since the Catholic Church teaches that sacraments administer grace to the recipients, the doctrine of purgatory, and had a pope (John Paul II) that said that all religions lead to heaven, they are teaching doctrines that have ZERO biblical support and are, therefore, a cult. Of course, you, being a CBF'er, have no problem with unbiblical teaching because, after, the bible is just a book of fairy tales not to be taken literally, right?

12:20 PM

Blogger Georgia Mountain Man said...

Why is it that the SBC and its followers appear to be always questioning the faith of others these days? Why can't it simply live in peace and harmony with other denominations and minister to its flock, rather than remain on the offensive all the time? Is there some fear of inadequacy?

4:22 PM

Blogger Joe Blackmon said...


In my bible, the book of Jude tells us to contend for the faith. Furthermore, if someone is teaching false doctrine, we are called by scripture to refute it (I Timothy, Titus). Of course, CBF'ers don't believe the bible and therefore don't have any problem with people teaching false doctrine. That's why they don't stand against it.

6:44 PM

Blogger That Baptist Ain't Right said...

Good grief. I don't get the Godslingers' need to slam on folks who don't agree on theology. When Jax FBC teaches on those passages & wants to discuss the theology, fine. If the want to contrast the teachings of the Catholic Church with Baptistic doctrine, fine. But to label the Catholic Church a "cult?" Come on. I do understand that is Godslinger Tactic 101 --- disparage & claim the Biblical high ground. Then I see Joe Blackmon ramping up to Godslinging 102 --- take the topic to the level of Superior Godliness by standing against error.


It's not error that is the problem here. The problem is going beyond being true to the text & instead being a Bully with a Bible.

7:59 PM

Blogger Big Daddy Weave said...


The CBF does not TEACH anything. The CBF is simply a Fellowship of local congregations. Those congregations have chosen to partner with the CBF for the purposes of missions and missions alone.

The CBF is not an hierarchical organization. It's not top-down. The CBF strongly emphasizes the priesthood of all believers and the autonomy of the local church. Thus, local churches are responsible for TEACHING doctrine.

Maybe you have a beef with individual congregations that partner with the CBF. But your charges against the CBF just don't hold up to scrutiny. Your comments also lack a basic understanding of traditional Baptist polity. Since this thread is on Catholic Church - perhaps it's worth pointing out that your top-down hierarchical ideas of how a Baptist body should operate share much in common with the Roman Catholic Church.

Just going to go out on a limb here - but I think I'd be safe to assume that you don't know many "CBFers." If you were more familiar with those who sit in the pews of CBF churches each and every Sunday, you'd know that many - especially older Fellowship Baptists - are just as conservative as the average Baptist sitting in a Southern Baptist pew.

Nobody here is suggesting that we should not "contend for the faith." But contending for the faith does not require one to accuse an entire group of professed Christ-followers of not being truly Christian. Fundamentalists such as yourself make a habit of judging the salvation of large bodies of believers - folks you don't even know. And honestly, I don't think you're interested in knowing these people that you judge. But this is hypocrisy at its finest. And hypocrites make great fundamentalists. Or perhaps fundamentalists make great hypocrites?

Regardless, if Southern Baptist fundamentalists like Jim whatever his name is at FBC Jax would spend more time creating healthy relationships with folks in their community instead of referring to the largest body of professing-Christians in the WORLD as a CULT, y'all might be more successful in your Great Commission Resurgence thing....

8:08 PM

Blogger gwfrink3 said...

It is all too Batholic for me. Or is it Cathist?

2:59 AM

Blogger Joe Blackmon said...

Big Daddy Weave

I haven't got the slightest interest in "top down" organization within the SBC as you assert. I worry about only one church--the one I attend. As long as the SBC publically affirms what I believe, I am perfectly happpy to remain in the SBC. Hopefully, the natioanl convention will take a cue from the wise people in Georgia and disfellowship so-called Southern Baptist churches who have unbiblical practices like FBC Decatur.

2nd of all, anyone who associates with a church that affirms homosexuality as moral, abortion as a legal right, and women pastors as godly is NOT a conservative. Furthermore, they are either *a* not a Christian at all or *b* immature and ignorant.

I also notice that you failed to respond to my point that Catholic doctrine is completely without any biblical support. Therefore, since what they teach is unbiblical they are a cult. Their size is completely irrelevant. The Mormon church has a huge number of followers. That doesn't make them Christians.

I wonder why you failed to address that part of my comment in your diatribe. Oh, I know. It's because you can't.

5:12 AM

Anonymous Jeremy said...

J. Blackmon,

Sounds like you've turned into the perfect Southern Baptist. Enjoy your life in what is becoming the most extreme right-wing religious organization in America. By the way, Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist should have plenty of "God Hates Fags" signs available for you.

9:42 AM

Blogger Big Daddy Weave said...


Last I checked, the CBF has no position on abortion and actually has a position against hiring homosexuals. Do you have a point that actually holds up?

Using your logic, any religious group which you deem to fall outside the bounds of your rigid, narrow fundamentalist sensibilities is a Cult? Any "unbiblical" group is a cult? That's how you have defined a cult for us here.

That's just ridiculous.

You have given a whole new meaning to the word cult.

Also using your logic, both Aquinas and Augustine were cult leaders.

That makes all the sense in the world, Joe.

10:11 AM

Blogger Joe Blackmon said...


Sounds like you've turned into the perfect CBF'er. Anyone who would assume that just because someone says that the bible says homosexuality is sin (which is does--all real Christians know that) that they are in league with those idiots from Westboro has a screw loose.

10:51 AM

Blogger Joe Blackmon said...


And again, you completly dodge the comment about Catholic theology having NO biblical support. Thanks for making my point.

Oh, and it doesn't matter what the CBF's position is. It is very significant, however, that CBF churches and sminiaries affirm homosexuals and women pastors. They also have members, like you, that believe abortion should be legal. That proves beyond the shadow of a doubt what the CBF is about and what it stands for.

You're welcome.

10:54 AM

Blogger Big Daddy Weave said...

First, the CBF does not own any seminaries. Individual seminaries choose to partner with the CBF for scholarship purposes, etc. Again, you don't seem to understand what the CBF IS and how it FUNCTIONS. No hierarchy.

Moderates and progressives are not the only egalitarians in the Christian world. Quite a few Pentecostals and charismatics are strong proponents of biblical equality. Pentecostals and charismatics are on the whole extremely conservative. Women in the pulpit is not a conservative-liberal issue. Get a clue.

As to abortion - I've championed on numerous occasions here on this blog legislation that promotes abortion reduction. I have not, however, championed abortion rights. Again, get a clue.

I'm not dodging anything. Catholic theology is not up for debate in this blog post. Reread the post. This blog post is about the asinine assertion that the Catholic Church is a Cult and Catholic Priests are "Cult Leaders."

I'm a Protestant Christian in the Baptist tradition. I'm also getting a Ph.d. in Religion among other topics. I'm quite aware of the differences between Catholic theology and traditional Baptist theology.

I assume that you're conceding that Aquinas and Augustine are in fact Cult Leaders??? Allow the hilarity to ensue.

Perhaps you should read the words of your Ethics Guru Richard Land who on Stephen Colbert had this to say:

Stephen Colbert: You said our country is not as divided as it appears in the media. What do you base that on?

Richard Land: Well, I'll give you an example. I was being interviewed for a national talk show and they said to me, "Dr. Land what do you think of Pope John Paul II",and I said, well I think he's one of the transcendent moral and historical figures of the 20th century. And they said, "well that's not quite what we're looking for."

Well, what are you looking for? And they said "well we're looking for someone who'll go on the air and say he's the head of a false religion." And I said, well you got the wrong guy. But they found someone who did. And so millions of Catholics got the idea that evangelicals have a different view of the Pope and their faith than they actually have. And it was that night that I decided to write this book. I said, I've had it.

12:19 PM

Anonymous Jeremy said...


Homosexuality as a sin is not the issue I'm hitting on here. If you knew anything about CBF as BDW has pointed out, you would know that CBF does not condone homosexual behavior. I've seen other denominational leaders chuckle at the idea of CBF being liberal or progressive. Sorry brother, you are just wrong about us.

The SBC's conduct is becoming more extreme every day. And if you are not fully aware that the SBC (specifically its leadership) is just a couple of steps to the left of churches like Westboro, then you are tightly sealed in the SBC bubble.

1:00 PM

Blogger Carlos Colón-Quintana said...

"The CBF has no position on abortion."
Guess what BDW, the CBF has no position on ice cream flavors either.
However, the issue of abortion is the defining moral issue of our time. The problem with you left-wing fundamentalists is that you think that not having strong convictions is a virtue.
As a CBF Baptist, I grieve over the fact that we have no position on abortion.
We have a clear position against racism. Why? Because we all agree it is wrong!
But "no position on abortion." And don't give me this Carteresque nonsense that "we should work to reduce the number of abortions." Please! Would you humor anyone that said "we should reduce the number of rapes..." Of course not!
BDW, you are a doctoral student at a great institution. Take time to reflect on the abortion issue and take a strong position. Stop spreading your hate against your SBC brothers in Christ. It is as embarrassing as the man attacking Catholics.
Thankfully, the BGCT leadership is finally moving sway from this nonsense that is decimating our convention.

6:22 PM

Anonymous WCS said...


My comments are to take on your point on Catholic theology.

First, remember that Christianity stems from a shared tradition that has branched out over time (and yes, as Baptists, we tend to throw out parts of that tradition with the bathwater). The core of our beliefs can be seen in the creeds--both the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed and the Apostles Creed. In fact, this is the statement where Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox agree (with the exception of the filioque clause). Even us as Baptists, though maintain the primacy of scripture, implicity support these statements of faith.

Our differences within the width of Christian belief can be constructive. Rather than labeling Catholics as cults, we need to be familiar with the Catholic witness, the attention it places on our story and history as the people of God, the wrestling of the intersection of faith and intellect, the role of contemplation in the catholic tradition, and their contributions to worship. Sure, we disagree with aspects of their practice--Baptists contribute a witness of faith that places great importance on our own discipleship, on the importance of interacting with God, on the importance of the community. We also disagree on sacraments, but that is a point for discussion (and by the way, point #4 on Jim Smyrl's blog criticizes Catholics for being the only group through which people can be saved. In some practices Baptists display this tendency through our baptismal practices--if we claim "one faith, one baptism", why do we have closed baptismal policies and tell those that entered into the faith a different way--baptism as an infant--that their baptism was not valid?)

In this area, I'd suggest following the ongoing theological conversations between the Baptist World Alliance and the Catholic Church--they will be having a meeting soon at Duke University (and have already met at Beeson Divinity). As well, I'd suggest "Towards Baptist Catholicity" by Steven Harmon, a Baptist theologian who currently teaches at Beeson.


7:15 PM

Blogger Big Daddy Weave said...


I don't know you. I believe you're a first-time commenter here at my blog.

So, allow me to repeat what I told Joe in a previous comment. Apparently, you either A) Didn't Read What I wrote B) Chose to Ignore What I wrote OR C) Struggle With Reading Comprehension.

I wrote:

"As to abortion - I've championed on numerous occasions here on this blog legislation that promotes abortion reduction. I have not, however, championed abortion rights. Again, get a clue."

I've articulated what I (and many others) believe to be consistent pro-life ethic here on this blog and in other venues.

So get a clue, Carlos.

Left-wing fundamentalist?

I'm not going to get into a debate with you here. I don't know you and thus have never interacted with you in the blogosphere before. But, your "my way or the highway" attitude seems quite similar to that of Joe the Fundamentalist.

Pot calling the Kettle Black, Carlos?

And do yourself a favor and quit making assumptions. As a first-time commenter, you haven't earned the right to be an ass to this blog host.

7:39 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Colon-Quintana,

You might consider being less of a jerk

Since you called BDW a Left-Wing fundamentalist, perhaps you would let BDW and his readers know the names of others that belong to this LWF club?

From your blog profile, I notice your wife is an assistant professor at Baylor. I suspect that you believe that there are other CBF Baptists at Baylor who belong to the Left-Wing Fundamentalist club. Would you be so kind to name a few names. I'm curious as to which of your wife's colleagues are Left-Wing Fundamentalists?

BDW holds his own here. I am surprised to see the husband of a Baylor professor make such public personal attacks against the son of a Baylor professor. Seems in bad taste.

7:59 PM

Blogger Carlos Colón-Quintana said...

Dear BDW,
Thank for your response, poor as it may be, I respect you as a brother.
Do you realize your "progressive" stances on abortion are uninspiring?
Who wants to be "moderately" Christian?

8:19 AM

Blogger Carlos Colón-Quintana said...

Mr. Anonymous,
I can't and won't ever speak for my wife. She'll whip me if I do...:)
I don't know my wife colleagues enough to describe them.
Are you a left-wing fundamentalist?
I hope you realize I am not being 100% serious.
Enjoy your weekend!

8:27 AM

Anonymous John Fariss said...


I have a question for you: what defines a Christian? In other words, is a Christian (1) an individual who has a personal, saving relationship with Jesus Christ, or (2) an individual who has a personal saving relationship with Jesus Christ PLUS assents to certain other propositions, which the church to which he/she belongs asserts are essential dogma? If the former, then why assume that to be Catholic is to be non-Christian? And if the later, aren't some of our more right-wing, conservative, even fundamentalist Southern Baptists as uncomfortably close to that as are some Catholics?

BTW: I still have one foot in the door of the SBC and the other in the CBF, and I assure you, I am as conservative on abortion and the practice of homosexuality as anyone, even you. But BDW is right: the CBF does not make resolutions because it emphasizes the autonomy of the local church, just like the SBC used to. And for all the good they do, should the SBC continue to do so?

Looking forward to real dialogue with you.

John Fariss

12:59 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What would the CBF do if one of our churches decided that rape or racism are up to the individual?
They would intervene and rightly so!
Would that violate the autonomy of the local church?
But being morally neutral on the abortion matter is OK?

6:57 PM

Blogger Joe Blackmon said...

You wrote:
"As to abortion - I've championed on numerous occasions here on this blog legislation that promotes abortion reduction. I have not, however, championed abortion rights. Again, get a clue."

Key word being "reduction". If your proposed legislation simply reduces abortions that implies that there would still be some abortions being performed. Those abortions would still be legal and therefore people would have the "right" to those abotions under law. The goal should be to return abortion to a status of being illegal, not to reduce the number of legal abortions. By saying that you simply want the number of abotions reduced you prove that you are in support of abortion rights.

But don't get your knickers in a twist, my little snot--abortion isn't going to be made illegal anytime soon.

10:22 AM

Blogger Cat's Dad said...

Though I'm the "snarky" (BDW's description) fundamentalist around here, I want to encourage all of you to calm the emotional and personal nature of the discussion.

BDW: You and the progressives jumped on Carlos like you wished he'd been aborted instead of born.

Joe Blackmon: I come down on your side of the debate, but you're too caustic.

Jax Watchdog: You need to find another church instead of submarining the one you're in.

I'm disgusted with the whole lot of you. :)

7:25 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


What's your opinion of David Gushee?

-Cliff M.

12:07 AM

Blogger Carlos Colón-Quintana said...

He used to be a well-balanced theologian; but his theology has been deteriorating for the past two years. This deterioration was dramatically evident this summer, when he abandoned biblical orthodoxy on sexual ethics issues. Several friends of mine say that Gushee has become a dissapointment.
What's your last name Cliff?
Don't leave us hanging...:)

5:55 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a Catholic graduate from a Jesuit institution. They beleive in one God , the creator of heaven and earth, that all men were created equal in the eyes of God. They beleive that Jesus Christ died for our sins. They beleive in living in a selfless loving and unforgiving "Christ like way".
They beleive in respecting all religions as long as they are loving, non-violent and betterment to ones life, their family and community as long as it does not hurt or take advantage of others.
Theirs. like any religions may strive to practice as intended but don't always practice what they preach, and recognize we as men are imperfect. A cult? Then was Jesus and Apostles?

11:08 AM


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