Author Archive

Whose Jesus Do We Follow?

In the epistle of 1 John, the apostle is fighting a heresy that is contrary to a proper understanding of Christology. The heresy was known as Gnosticism and it distorted a true apprehension of who Jesus is, what Jesus did, and how a believer should live in light of the right response to those questions. Today we are facing another heresy involving who Jesus is and what he has done. While different in some respects from Gnosticism, it still has the same root issue of epistemology: “Where do we get our information concerning a correct understanding of our Savior?” or “Whose Jesus do we follow?”

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A Resource for Text-Driven Preaching

I do not claim to be a Greek scholar, which is why I need all the tools I can get in order to understand the Greek text. I also don’t believe that one must have a working knowledge of Koine Greek in order to preach the Word. But, if you are blessed to be able to attend seminary, I highly suggest investing in the biblical languages that are being taught. Frankly, at the master’s level, I could never understand why a seminary would offer a MDiv without an intense study in the original languages. I am glad to see that fault has been corrected at Southwestern and now one must take all the language requirements in order to graduate.

One of the things we seek to do at SBC Today is to provide resources to pastors and teachers of the Word. With that intent in mind I point you to the web site, OpenText.org. The purpose of this site is to help the Bible preacher/teacher to understand the semantic structure of the text. I believe that the Bible is God’s inspired Word and in that understanding I also believe it has been inspired even to the semantic structure in the clauses and how they relate to each other.

How sentences are formed conveys meaning. Within the Greek text there are primary and secondary clauses. The primary clause conveys the main thought with the secondary clause further expanding and explaining what was originally said in the primary clause. When we correctly understand what the author was trying to convey in the sentence, we are driven to focus on the main thought and allow the secondary or subordinate thoughts feed it rather than focusing on those subordinate clauses.

One of the primary problems with topical or seeker-sensitive, “felt needs” preaching is when the preacher comes to the text with an idea and picks scriptures out of context according to that idea. In doing so he makes the mistake of eisegesis, or implanting his understanding into the text. Eisegesis means we no longer explore what the meaning was to the author, we are now in pursuit of what the text means to us at this time. For example in 1 Peter 2:24 it states, “for by His wounds you were healed.” Many “word of faith” preachers use this verse to support their promise of physical healing from sickness and disease. Yet, when we look at this verse, we see that this phrase is actually a subordinate clause to what was previously said of Jesus bearing our sins on His body so that we would die to sin and we would live to righteousness. In fact it ultimately goes back to verse 21 speaking of Christ’s example for us to follow during times of suffering.

What OpenText.org does is clearly show the semantic structure of the text which allows the preacher/teacher of God’s Word to see how the clauses fit together. It helps us focus on the central idea or primary clause. When the structure is understood and applied with other tools of interpretation then the meaning of the scripture can be understood and conveyed by means of illustration and application. When you click over to the site, you will need to read the introduction and guidelines in order to understand their system. A working knowledge of Greek is also helpful, but if you have don’t know the Greek, an interlinear can provide some assistance in making sense of what each word means.

While a return to expository preaching is a must, we can be fooled by diverse definitions of expository preaching. What I believe we should encourage is a movement to “text driven” preaching that allows the meaning that is conveyed in the structure itself to guide us in structuring our sermons. OpenText.org is an excellent resource on the web that greatly helps in recognizing this structure. And for seminary students, it is also a great tool that can be of great benefit when used for study in the classroom.

Is Any Price Enough for Us to Sell Heresy?

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A few weeks ago a church member came to me and asked if I had read The Shack. I said that, with all of my other reading obligations, I had not. We had a brief conversation about the book, and what I heard alarmed me, so I made a note to myself to investigate the book later. Last week, as I was walking through LifeWay (the book store chain owned and operated by the Southern Baptist Convention) I noticed that The Shack was on the book shelf. Below the book was a special tag with a disclaimer. It read as follows:

Read With Discernment. This book may contain thoughts, ideas, or concepts that could be considered inconsistent with historical evangelical theology. Therefore we encourage you to read it with extra discernment. For important background information and additional insight related to this book, please review the Author Briefing and related content at www.lifewaystores.com/readwithdiscernment .

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What This Southern Baptist Is For

One thing is for certain, when a person stands up for biblical principles that go against an inclusive approach that seeks to cooperate at the expense of a proper ecclesiology in the church planting enterprise, people will seek to discredit you and misuse your statements. First and foremost let me say that I affirm Dr. Mohler’s effort to bring some reason to confusion in the form of what he has called, “theological triage.” In fact, if one would just read the paper that Dr. Yarnell and I produced they would see that nothing was said against nor in disagreement with Dr. Mohler and his “theological triage.”

A few years ago, an early modern paradigm was dusted off and re-offered to postmodern Christians under the name of “Theological Triage.” While we affirm this paradigm as a laudable effort, what we have seen, as of late, represents a distortion of its employment. The misuse of this method can be seen especially in the spiral downward to a “lowest common denominator” approach to church fellowship and ethical conduct. We believe that when theological triage is used in this way, it is being used inappropriately.

Dr. Mohler is a hero in the faith of mine along with people like Drs. Patterson, Akin, Vines, and Brunson to name a few. I pray that Dr. Mohler does not see anything I have written of him as some kind of division from what he has tried to articulate in his theological triage. Again, it is the misuse of Dr. Mohler’s idea by others that I am against. For whatever may be happening, I believe there is a concerted effort by some bloggers who thrive on divisiveness to create division between us, the primary advocates of the GCR, and other leaders in our convention. I direct you to this post here to further explore this.

I want to end this post on items I am for so that those who read other blogs may come back here and see the the truth. Of course I would not be surprised if these statements were misused in order to create further division. It is a divisive nature that some are wanting to advocate so they can discredit us.

Therefore, I am for:

1. Cooperating in the church planting effort with anyone who agrees wholeheartedly with the Baptist Faith and Message so that we may plant Southern Baptist churches that reflect our Southern Baptist beliefs in ecclesiology.

2. Cooperating with other Christian organizations in the effort to feed the poor, help in disaster relief, or provide better medical and sanitary conditions to communities as long as the Gospel is the ultimate effort to be dispensed. But even if I am in a situation where the gospel is forbidden to be spoken, I will not refuse to help a starving child or recently homeless person for that will go against scripture. I will just preach anyway and let the chips fall where they may.

3. Cooperating with other Christians in defeating the moral decay of our society as seen in abortion, gambling, sex trafficking, child abuse, teenage and premarital sex, and other areas of morality that go against clear Biblical teachings.

These three points of cooperation are not exhaustive, but I hope they give a basic idea to many who read other blogs that I am for working with others who differ on second tier issues that define what particular branch of Christianity they are when it comes to moral issues and humanitarian aid.

On my part, this is not a political battle that I seek to engage, but a call to theological honesty. If one claims to be a Southern Baptist and relies on the support of Southern Baptists, then one should believe as a Southern Baptist believes in the area of planting churches. I know that is not a popular position in the blog world, but so be it. God’s word conforms me to the theological and missiological tenets of Southern Baptists. That is where I stand.

A Call To Theological Maturity

The document linked to here is a joint effort by Dr. Malcolm Yarnell and me to help clarify and lead others to a proper understanding of the Lordship of Christ as it pertains to matters which have been discussed via blogs over the last three years.  Below are some excerpts from the paper. I would encourage all the readers of SBC Today to download the document for further reading.

The desire to discover the lowest possible standard before sin happens is not the way Christ expects us to live. Indeed, seeking the lowest denominator may be indicative of an improper attitude about temptation. Instead of seeing how far we may travel away from Christ’s will before we have gone over the edge, one who professes Jesus as Lord should be seeking eagerly for closeness to His will. If He is Lord, He must be Lord of the Christian’s life in truth. This applies equally in the spheres of doctrine and ethics. The Christian should adopt the attitude that asks, “How may I fulfill the standard that Jesus Christ reveals in His Word?” Likewise, the Christian must avoid the opposite attitude, which asks, “How far may I get away from Christ’s commands before it is wrong?”

When the method of theological triage was issued, it was accompanied by a call for theological maturity. We agree and echo this desire for growth, which we believe involves a growth into faithfulness to the Lord. Much of the current crisis in Baptist life circles around the relationship between gospel and faithfulness to Christ. On the one hand, the responsible Christian preacher, like Paul, will be careful to preach the gospel clearly. And he will be careful never to confuse the gospel with legalistic righteousness. Paul’s harsh words about the false teachers troubling the Galatians come to mind: “You who are trying to be justified by the law are alienated from Christ: you have fallen from grace!” (Gal. 5:4). There is no room for legalism in preaching justification as the declaration of righteousness through faith in the Righteous One.

On the other hand, Paul never treated justification by grace through faith as an excuse for immaturity. The responsible Christian preacher, like Paul in Philippians 3, will not stop with the basics of the faith but will issue a call to forsake immaturity and pursue maturity.

The secondary issues include, according to the offered form of theological discrimination, those doctrines that make us Baptist. One may consider here such important Baptist distinctives as believers-only baptism by immersion, New Testament communion, democratic congregationalism, and regenerate church membership (cf. Baptist Faith and Message, articles 6-8). To term such doctrines “secondary” in the sense of “insignificant” or “unnecessary” or “indifferent” is not only a misuse of theological triage; it may be more egregiously a subtle but significant downgrading of Christ’s Lordship over His church. Indeed, we would argue-building upon an earlier metaphor-that a misuse of the bowie knife of theological triage may end with the consignment of some Christians to the spiritual emergency room. For the church planting enterprise in which Great Commission Christians engage, these second-order doctrines may not be ignored; if they are ignored, chaos and confusion of the Corinthian magnitude will ensue.

What we can and must do for those Christians that are not Baptists is to encourage them to submit even more to the Lord’s will. And when they will no longer listen, we will resort solely to the illimitable power of prayer. With Paul, we humbly pray that those Christians with whom we disagree regarding our Lord’s commands will no longer “think differently” but that “God will reveal this to you also.” Likewise, we would hope that non-Baptists would share the grace of God’s revelation with us where they deem we have not properly interpreted God’s Word.

I would personally like to thank Dr. Yarnell for allowing me to participate in this paper. When we started earlier this week, I had no idea I would learn so much in organizing and presenting a paper.  Again, to view the entire document, click here.