There is a phrase that I am considering striking forever from my vocabulary. That phrase is “individual Christian.” There is nothing inherently wrong with either term, but when they come together, the result is, more often than not, absolute silliness masquerading as theology.
The most recent example shows itself in the currently raging debate in the wake of the John 3:16 Conference at the First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Georgia. The debate began over soteriological issues, but it quickly devolved to the point that the real source of this division became clear. It is an issue of ecclesiology, and that’s where this “individual Christian” nonsense begins to wreak havoc.
Last week the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention passed a resolution that dealt with the Great Commission Resurgence. To my knowledge (I could be wrong) this is the only state convention that has dealt with a resolution on the GCR to date. It is an excellent document that not only honors the great strides that were taken in the past, but provides direction for the future.
When I pastored in Texas, our church was uniquely aligned with the SBTC. From witnessing how the SBTC has grown from its infancy to now supporting missions and giving 55% of its receipts to the SBC, I am glad that our church was aligned with the SBTC. Jim Richards has done a magnificent job in his tenure as executive director. Below is the resolution:
WHEREAS, over the course of the past three decades the Southern Baptist Convention has been blessed of God to experience a dramatic course correction in the Conservative Resurgence; and
WHEREAS, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention was founded ten years ago due to the clear need for a resurgence of theological conservatism in our state; and
WHEREAS, the natural next step from the Conservative Resurgence is a Great Commission Resurgence; and
WHEREAS, numerous resolutions, initiatives, and programs promoting and encouraging evangelism and revival in our convention have had limited impact; and
WHEREAS, our commitment to the New Testament precepts that have defined the identity of Baptists have waned in recent years; and
WHEREAS, the Bible records multiple occasions upon which Christ issued His Great Commission mandate to the church (Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20; Acts 1); and
WHEREAS, Christ stated that His disciples were to be His “witnesses” to the fact that “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all the nations” (Luke 24:47-48); and
WHEREAS, the Lord commanded His followers in the Great Commission to “make disciples” by “going,” “baptizing,” and “teaching all things” (Matthew 28:19-20); and
WHEREAS, Jesus declared in the Great Commission that “all authority” had been given to Him and then promised to be with us always as we complete His Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20); and
WHEREAS, the primary emphasis conveyed by “going” is that of consistent activity in both missions and personal evangelism, with the assurance that winning souls has eternal impact for the Kingdom; and
WHEREAS, Christ instructed the church to make disciples, “baptizing” new believers by immersion; and
WHEREAS, baptism is an ordinance of the church and serves as a witness and a testimony of both the individual’s and the local church’s belief in the finished work of Christ as the sole means of salvation; and
WHEREAS, believers are exhorted to make disciples, “teaching all things” commanded by Christ; and
WHEREAS, our confessional statement, The Baptist Faith and Message, clearly states that there are certain “doctrines we hold precious and as essential to the Baptist tradition of faith and practice”; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED, that on the 10th anniversary of our convention, that the messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention in Houston, Texas, November 10-11, 2008, express our heartfelt appreciation to those who worked diligently to bring about a Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention; and be it further
RESOLVED, that we express our sincere gratitude to those who were led of the Lord to birth the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention; and be it further
RESOLVED, that we recognize the Lordship of Jesus Christ and submit to His authority in every aspect of our lives including His Great Commission; and be it further
RESOLVED, that we hereby commit ourselves and our churches to carrying out the Great Commission of our Lord by making disciples; and be it further
RESOLVED, that as we pursue a Great Commission Resurgence that we intentionally work to teach the members of our churches the precious doctrines from the Word of God that will distinctively preserve our Baptist identity; and be it further
RESOLVED, that we devote ourselves to both promote and practice text-driven preaching and teaching of the entire Bible and how it relates to Christ and God’s redemptive plan; and be it further
RESOLVED, that we lead the members of our churches to participate in the Great Commission by being Christ’s witnesses both at home and abroad and proclaiming the gospel message that everyone must repent of sin and trust in the finished work of Christ alone for salvation; and be it finally
RESOLVED, that we covenant together earnestly to preach and teach “all things” as Christ commanded in the Great Commission without minimizing or trivializing biblical doctrines such as: the Lordship of Christ; the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture; the exclusivity of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone; believer’s baptism by immersion; regenerate church membership; congregational church polity; the priesthood of the believers; church discipline; and religious liberty.
Recently, Dr. Malcolm Yarnell (Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Southwestern) gave the Reformation Day chapel sermon at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. To listen to it, click here. To see the hand written manuscript of the sermon click here.
For me, the two quotes that I found most intriguing are:
As a New Testament Christian, I reject all but the ideal form of the church commanded by Jesus Christ in the New Testament.
If your idea of Reformation is measured by the 16th century magisterial reformers, you will err. And if your idea of Reformation is measured by the 17th Century persecuting Synod of Dort, you will err even more.
We at SBC Today are honored to offer these resources to our readers from a leading Southern Baptist theologian.
Lately, I have been silently concerned about some of the things that have been blogged about pertaining to certain people in the SBC. Frankly, I got tired of rolling in the mud with certain individuals and I have been busy being a pastor. While these things have continued, I have also noticed on the national scene, the slanderous accusations concerning VP Candidate Sarah Palin. It doesn’t matter what her record is, what matters is painting a perception that turns people off from looking past those accusations and discovering the facts. The whole point is to keep certain people from winning an election by diverting voters from the facts of who the person is an what that person has accomplished.
It is quite possible that this political maneuvering is in full affect in the SBC. It seems that an all out assault is being employed that reflects what is going on in the secular world. Accusations are being made against certain people that seem to divert the focus off what the person actually said or did and paints a negative picture of who that person is. The most recent victim was Dr. Thomas White and his sermon in chapel on October 7th. I felt that David Worley’s assessment on Chicken Little and how the sky is falling was dead on in how Dr. White’s sermon was being manipulated.
In today’s world of blogs, there is a possibility of stating accusations without much of a defense against those accusations. For example, who is going to wade through hundreds of comments or find other blogs that challenge the claims that are made? For instance, it is still reported that Sheri Klouda was fired from Southwestern. That is a lie! She was not fired, terminated, or purposely released from employment. She willingly resigned after (according to court documents) Dr. Blaising offered her another position in the seminary that was part of what she felt called to do. Now when there is a post on the internet that claims she was fired and if someone was to come and read it, they would end up believing a lie.
The recent ramblings against Dr. White’s sermon seem to show that a certain movement in the
SBC was dry for material in their effort to paint a false perception of those who seem to be believed evil and must be rid of in order to move the wider tent philosophy forward. After blasting Mrs. Patterson in a post, a blogger went back two weeks to a chapel sermon for his latest diatribe. Really, who has the time to listen to every sermon produced at a chapel service in Southwestern?
I will leave you with a prediction. In the upcoming John 3:16 Conference there will be some of those who wish to continue as they have that will attend the conference, not for edification or a better understanding of what those who are not Calvinists believe, but to gain more snippets of information taken out of context. Then they will be able to continue the Chicken Little mantra that the sky is falling in the SBC and if Calvinists don’t take a stand, they will be next. The question I have is, when will the Chicken Littles of this convention tire of such worldly tactics and when will those in the SBC say enough is enough.
John Mann, who has contributed to SBC Today before, has offered a new treatise which we are happy to publish. He is pastor at La Junta Baptist church and in 2001 he lead the congregation to disfellow themselves from the Baptist General Convention of Texas and uniquely align themselves with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. In this first article, he argues that the battle for the Bible is really not over, as some still cannot affirm the inerrancy of scripture. Altogether, the next series of posts from him will be his “apologia” as to why La Junta Baptist church made this move.
After having been asked numerous times why our church felt led to affiliate with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC), I felt it necessary to put our thought process into print for the benefit of those who are seeking direction for their congregation. After having participated in many hours of research, discussion, and observation, I have concluded that the SBTC stands closer to my view of what it means to be a Baptist, both historically and doctrinally.
My observation is that there has been a widening in the gap of like-mindedness and doctrinal unity between the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT), the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), and LaJunta Baptist Church (LJBC). As two rivers flow what is seemingly a parallel path, time will eventually reveal if there is any degree of variance. The further they flow, the wider the distance between them becomes. The gap will eventually become so great that they both cannot be viewed from a common standpoint. It is my contention that this is what has happened with the BGCT and LJBC. When that is the case, it becomes necessary to choose one path or the other, for both cannot be followed.
In sum, our church felt that we needed to withdraw from the BGCT and to affiliate with the SBTC because it is the state convention that stands closest to the Biblical principles, missions support, and convictions that we embrace as a congregation. We are a Southern Baptist church because we believe in the work and message of the Southern Baptist Convention. We are convinced that the Scriptural interpretation and practice of the SBC is closest to our own. On the other hand, the continual drift of the BGCT away from the SBC has revealed a great chasm. Our study was one which began with what we understood Scripture to say, and then, which convention stood closest to Scriptural purity. Our study revealed that to be the SBC, and by extension, the SBTC. We found the BGCT to be sorely lacking in Biblical faithfulness as we understand it.
With that in mind, I offer the following reasons why I believe this to be so. The evidence that is offered is public and accessible for all. I have copies of all the original material on file. The congregation of LaJunta Baptist felt so deeply about the importance of these issues that we voted on August 12, 2007 to include this paper in our historical records and also to allow the distribution of this paper in its entirety to all interested parties. The comments are intended to reflect the personal convictions of the pastor and the people of LaJunta Baptist Church.
Please understand, though I fiercely oppose theological errors (those made by others and those errors of my own), I believe every individual to be of value to God, His Creation, and the work of His Kingdom. My ruminations are simply an attempt to contribute to the work of the Kingdom as we seek the edification of the saints, which occurs in fellowship, and often, in tension.
Doctrine is part and parcel to what it means to be a Baptist. Baptists are people who believe what they do about God and the world because of what the Bible teaches about God and the world. The SBTC without reservation affirms the complete Word of God as being inerrant. However, after studying the BGCT’s stance on Scripture, I noticed a hesitancy to affirm “inerrancy.” In a document produced by the BGCT in 2002 for the purpose of comparing the SBTC to the BGCT, they stated, “most BGCT leaders and messengers in recent years have shunned that word as a politicized codeword more than a descriptive theological statement, while still affirming the complete authority and trustworthiness of the Bible.”
I do agree that the Bible is authoritative and trustworthy, but I must go further and say that the Bible is the perfect and inerrant Word of God. I believe many entities are trustworthy and authoritative. For example, I personally would say that the police force and the military are authoritative and trustworthy; however, I would not say that they do not make errors. I do not hesitate in stating the Bible is inerrant, neither does the SBTC. The Bible is certainly trustworthy and authoritative, but it is much more.
Most BGCT pastors and churches would affirm inerrancy, yet interestingly enough, denominational employees of the BGCT and the agencies and entities to which they send Cooperative Program money may not be required to follow suit. That means that state convention employees may have a different view than the majority of the pastors and churches to whom they offer service. To the contrary, the SBTC has made clear that all employees must affirm their belief in the inerrancy of the Bible. The resulting difference is best illustrated in an article that appeared in February 6, 2006 Baptist Standard which was written by Dr. Roger Olson, a professor of theology at Truett Seminary (a BGCT supported seminary). The title of the article is “Why Inerrancy Doesn’t Matter.”
In this article, Dr. Olson states that Truett professors “vary in their views of biblical accuracy while holding firmly to biblical authority.” He further states that Truett does not need to dictate what professors believe because inerrancy is one of the “secondary matters of doctrine.” Dr. Olson offers his conclusion by asserting that the Bible is “(often) infallible,” and even goes on to state that, in regards to a particular text, “the best approach is to admit that Paul made a mistake.” Biblical inerrancy is not a matter of secondary doctrine to me. It is of primary importance. Without a sure word in our hand we have no sure word for the people. I desire to give my congregation more than a ‘best guess,’ but rather to give them a rock solid word from God. This demands a perfect revelation from God that is both sufficient and inerrant.
Dr. Olson’s conclusion is highly concerning to me because this particular professor is teaching the pastors of the future, and is being supported by monies given by the BGCT. For the time being, the majority of pastors support inerrancy, but given a generation of theological education under men such as Dr. Olson, how far away are we from drifting down the river of theological liberalism? In most cases, as goes our seminaries, so go our pastors. As go our pastors, so go our churches. My concern is that if we remove the Bible from the pastors’ hands, we remove the message from our pulpits. I desire to be aligned with organizations that offer an unqualified voice to the inerrancy of Scripture. I believe this stance is more clearly articulated by the SBTC, not only in denominational documents, but more importantly, by denominational practice.
In sum, the BGCT has left herself without a solid foundation for theological exercise and doctrinal accountability because they have allowed a crack into the foundation upon which they have tried to build their structure. I reiterate, each and every individual is due respect, freedom of conscience, and opportunity to speak. However, where cracks creep into one’s foundation, we are demanded to warn others of the error. A failure to maintain a solidified doctrine of Scripture will inevitably leave one without a foundation capable of the task before it. I believe a failure to embrace a doctrine of inerrancy is to lay a foundation with cracks beneath the surface. These hidden cracks ultimately will be revealed.
Recent Southern Baptist Conventions have heard the repetition of the statement, “the battle for the Bible is over.” However, a keen ear and sharp eye will be quick to discover that the battle for the Bible begun in Eden when the word of God was first questioned, and certainly remains to this day as Satan continues his efforts to seduce Another’s Bride to commit harlotry by satisfying one’s own temporal hunger for self-appeasement. The battle for the Bible will not be over until the Word once again manifests Himself to the kingdoms of the world as the supreme King and Lord.