Malcolm B. Yarnell III, Managing Editor of the Southwestern Journal of Theology and Director of the Center for Theological Research at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX, contributes these thoughts on Authentic Christianity, and offers two articles addressing this subject from the Journal available at no charge to the readers of SBC Today –
“When Hope Screams: Learning How to Suffer as Sons from the Book of Hebrews” by Ched Spellman, and
“Seeing Jesus Clearly: A Sermon from Mark 8:22-23,” by Josh Smith.
The desire of believers to display real faith through appropriate action is rooted in the witness of Scripture and exemplified in Christian history. Jesus Christ asked this haunting question of those who wished to identify themselves as His disciples: “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” The Lord proceeded to illustrate the difference between two types of disciples with an architectural metaphor. One disciple comes to Christ, hears His words, “and acts on them.” This one is praised as having penetrated to “the rock” and built his house upon Him. This one is an authentic disciple, manifesting his beliefs in action. The second type, however, hears the Lord’s words, “and has not acted accordingly.” The second disciple is not founded upon the rock, so that when judgment comes, “the ruin of that house was great.” The second disciple is a hypocrite, a person whose actions do not match his claims. These are the two disparate options present to those who hear Christ: authentic discipleship or hypocrisy.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus employs an agricultural metaphor to make a similar point, proceeding one step further by demonstrating that the ability to be authentic is itself grace in action. The Father is the “vinedresser,” His Son is the “vine,” and the Son’s disciples are the “branches.” If a disciple would live, he must abide in communion with the vine, for love, the divine gift of life, moves through Him. The vinedresser will prune His branches to help them grow properly and produce good fruit. The production of fruit, or good works, naturally occurs as part of the flow of life from within the vine. If a branch does not abide in the vine and produce the fruit of loving obedience, it will be treated appropriately as refuse for condemnation. Divine love, expressed in the flood of divine grace through Christ, has determined human fruitfulness in good works to be the proper expression of the faithful reception of divine grace. In Christ’s theological system, if we dare describe Jesus’ teaching thus, there is no contradiction between grace and good works, for divine love empowers human obedience.
Ron F. Hale, Associate Pastor, West Jackson Baptist Church, Jackson, TN
Definite Atonement . . . (also known as Limited Atonement and Particular Redemption)
One definition: “The belief that Christ bore the wrath of God for God’s elect alone. God, the Father, chose certain persons to be His children, and on the cross the Son died for those persons alone. This is the “L” of TULIP. It is often referred to as the fifth point of Calvinism; if one is a four-point Calvinist, or Amyraldian, this is the point that is denied” (Shawn D. Wright, “Glossary of Some Important Theological Terms,” in the book, Calvinism: A Southern Baptist Dialogue, Nashville: B & H, 2008, 281).
The Case For Definite Atonement
James Montgomery Boice and Philip G. Ryken argue in their book The Doctrines of Grace (p. 31):
What Reformed people want to say by these words is that the atonement had a specific object in view, namely, the salvation of those whom the Father had given the Son before the foundation of the world, and that it was effective in saving those persons. Thus it would be better to call this doctrine definite atonement, or particular redemption.
Robin Foster, Pastor, Immanuel Baptist Church, Perkins, OK
In discussing the restoration of integrity in church membership, there has been a great resurgence in the biblical practice of church discipline. Not that many Southern Baptist churches are initiating this biblical practice in their churches (personally I don’t know of any in our association), but there has been a grand discussion and even a resolution on church discipline (http://www.sbc.net/resolutions/amResolution.asp?ID=1189) offered at the 2008 SBC convention concerning this vital ministry to help a wayward brother or sister find their way back to Christ and full fellowship with the body. I for one applaud this and hope it will take root and continue to grow. But, as a pastor, I believe there is a bigger concern with how we accept members in the first place. In other words, can we take care of any issues before someone becomes a member of the church? It is my contention that many problems in our churches today are the result of poor admission traditions that have been practiced by our churches for at least the last 100 years.
The typical custom for accepting members among Southern Baptist churches is for a candidate to walk forward during the invitation. Of course the normal questions are asked: “Have you received Jesus as your Lord and Savior and trust Him for the forgiveness of your sins?” and “Where and how were you baptized?” all the while checking the person for a pulse on their wrist. While this parody is a bit of tongue in cheek, unfortunately, this short method of Q & A is often used as the congregation sings several verses of “Just as I Am.” If the candidate correctly responds to both questions, the pastor then turns to those attending that morning (unfortunately, in most cases, some voting are non-members) for a vote on accepting this person as a member in good standing of the church. In a sizable number of cases, the person has no idea of the church doctrines, covenant, order, or responsibilities of church membership. What is most tragic is that the person says yes to these questions as a matter of rote and may not truly understand the gospel or salvation. After all they were baptized as a kid, right? Surely they are saved. Unfortunately, I am finding more and more that people are looking to their baptism as their point of salvation, rather than to their conviction of sin before a Holy and Just God, seeking His mercy and grace through the atoning death of His Son, Jesus.
Dr. Dan Nelson, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Camarillo, CA
7. . . . that we are controlled by a Hierarchy
First, the Bible does not teach that we should have a hierarchy of religious officials over the church. Pastors lead the congregation as a spiritual leader while the deacons assist him. We have already asserted the independence and authority of the local church. We are a part of several groups: our denominational offices in our local association, state conventions, and then the national convention.4 These groups could not control us if they wanted. The local church calls the pastor, sets the types of ministry we will have, and the amount of money they will send to the denomination for their missions.
Baptists do not believe in human heads over churches. We were not started like the Methodists by Wesley, or Lutherans by Luther, or Reformed by Calvin. Instead, we can say there was not a time in the Post-Apostolic age when Baptists began.5 We believe our teachings are in line with what churches in Acts taught and what Christ commissioned them to do. Christ is our head. It is his church according to Matt. 16:18.
8. . . . that we are forced to believe in certain positions as a denomination
A denomination is a group of churches that voluntarily choose to work together and have similar beliefs. Our church is not bound to amendments passed at the Southern Baptist Convention. We are not given positions that we must take in order to be Southern Baptists.6 The debate over Calvinism is an example of this. There is enough latitude in our denomination to arrive at different interpretations on matters that do not impact salvation or the person and the work of Christ.
We do not subscribe to creeds or traditions as equal to Scripture. We have a common statement of faith that is a consensus of what fellow churches believe. When a church departs from these affirmations and ceases to identify with these teachings, the SBC acknowledges it.
Paul did not have the final authority to decide for the church in Corinth in the matter of the immoral man still serving in 1 Cor. 5:1-5. Instead, he urged them to act as a body to correct the error. They were responsible for their own church.
Dr. Dan Nelson, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Camarillo, CA
The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch by people who saw their lives. They assumed they were like Jesus by how they lived. All of us have been confronted by people who think they know what Baptists believe and practice. If these practices have not been associated with Baptists, however, they are wrong assumptions.
Today people have formed wrong assumptions based on misinformation and wrong conclusions. What are these wrong assumptions?
1. . . . that the Church is a Denomination (Acts 14:23)1.
Baptists believe every church is an independent autonomous body of baptized believers. We have no such thing as the Baptist church. We are affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention for purposes of missions and fellowship. Other groups refer to themselves as a universal entity. Yet, the Bible makes the distinction in Acts 14:23 where Paul was assisting in the ordination of leaders in every church.
This is important because what any cooperating Baptist does is not top down but from the local church on up. We are not controlled by other higher bodies. We think the local church has the authority to decide in matters of faith and practice. Therefore, we think every believer ought to be in a local church. Paul explains that we need to do more than just profess our faith in Christ, more than just participate in a universal fellowship of believers known as the kingdom of God; we need to take an active role in our communities because the church is local.
2. . . . that believer’s baptism by immersion is just another form of baptism.
Infant or adult sprinkling is never taught in the Bible. Instead, the word transliterated baptism (baptizo) always means immerse or dunking in water.2 That is how Jesus was baptized, and that is how the early church baptized. (Matt. 3:15-17, Rom. 6:4). They did not sprinkle.
We do not accept any other mode of baptism as a valid form of New Testament baptism. It may have been meaningful to you; but we ask you to be immersed as a believer in order to show that you follow Christ, that you believe in the gospel, that you have died to life without Christ, that you are raised to walk in Him, and how we will be resurrected. No other method pictures this.