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Archive for the ‘SBC’ Category


This will be my final post on Revival & Revivalism, I think.  Although this is a very long book, clocking in at about 400 pages, it is a very good book that blends historical narrative and theology to tell the story of a major shift in American Evangelicalism.  It was more than a pragmatic shift, but a theological shift.  Iain Murray also notes some of the cultural shifts that paved the way for the other shifts.  Christianity is not isolated from the surrounding culture, but often begins to echo it, sometimes in very negative ways.

In the 12th chapter Murray follows the Baptists in Transition.  Their experience was quite different from that of the Presbyterians and Methodists.  The Presbyterians experienced some difficulties and conflict with the new measures and new theology.  But many of those for the new measures and theology ended up leaving for a less confessional expression of the church.  The Methodists easily embraced the new measures and didn’t agree with the old theology from the get go.  The Baptists prior to this time were largely Calvinistic.  This transition left Baptists in America largely Arminian and often supportive of the new measures popularized by Finney.

One of the things that struck me about the early American Baptists was there “catholicity of spirit”.  They emphasized common ground with other Christians, rather than the differences.  Murray notes that a Presbyterian minister preached at Richard Furman’s funeral, and no one batted an eye.  Or that J.P. Boyce wasn’t attacked for calling the Westminster Confession “our confession”.

The thing that shouldn’t surprise any of us is that they arguments used against Calvinism then are the same as those used to argue against the resurgence of Calvinism in the SBC today.

1. Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism were confused and considered as one.

2. Calvinism was viewed something that stifled evangelism and revival.

The first is a sign of either ignorance or an uncharitable spirit.  The ‘strawman’ argument is unloving to the brother with whom you disagree.  The second argument is clearly disproved by history, as Murray repeately shows in his book.

With regard to the new measures, the conflict was not regarding the use of means, but which means.  The old theology, largely Calvinistic, argued that God appointed the means to evangelism and revival in His Word.  We are to use those means and trust Him to fulfill His purposes in our generation.  The effectiveness of those means is under His control, not our.  The new theology, supporting the new measures, placed the efficacy of means under our control, not His.  The new measures also used new means that are not mandated by Scripture.  There is nothing inherently wrong with many of those practices, but to mandate them, or use them as the signposts of revival is wrong.  To rely on them rather than God to produce revival (or treat them like magic, God will send it if we do these things) is wrong.

These new measures led to some other new practices from which Baptistic groups like the SBC today have been unable to entangle themselves despite the best efforts of their Calvinistic contingent.  They took a low view of membership, often baptizing people immediately upon walking the aisle.  People were not well instructed and examined to see the validity of their profession of faith.  Many soon wandered away after the excitment was gone.  It is not uncommon today to find SBC churches (and some Presbyterian churches too, to be fair) with rolls that far exceed attendence.  Low expectations of membership runs rampant today.  These are human problems, not Baptist problems.  But they find a welcome home in many Baptist churches because of this transition in both theology and practice.

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Actually, we’ll be considering the CT Article on Mark Driscoll.  I read my copy a few weeks ago, and have meant to get to this.  But… I’ve been busy.  The author, Collin Hansen, tries to paint a picture of Driscoll that is honest, balancing his strengths and the criticisms laid against him.  I found the balance a bit off.  It seemed more negative than positive- typified by the reference to Driscoll’s appearance at the 2006 Desiring God Conference, placed under the heading Throwing Rocks: “John Piper says no other speaker at his Desiring God conference has caused such a stir.”  This, in my opinion, sets Mark in an unnecessarily negative light.  His message there was powerful and truthful.  I suspect Piper will have him back again- because John Piper loves the truth and Mark Driscoll does too.  Piper often speaks at Acts 29 and Resurgence conferences.  But this statement can be read to imply that Piper regrets inviting Driscoll.

All of us have blind spots.  Unfortunately for Mark, the whole evangelical world seems to know some of his need for growth.  Mark recognizes many of these sins and weaknesses in his character.  A pastor receives few commendations greater than this: “He asks forgiveness more than any pastor I have ever seen,” she said. “He publicly confesses sin. He’s such a great example to young, idealistic, confident, inexperienced, immature pastors that you have to say you’re wrong when you’re wrong. And he does it to women. I know. He has apologized in times when he has gotten things wrong, and I’m thankful he doesn’t apologize for the things he hasn’t said wrong.”

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In the second chapter of Velvet Elvis called Yoke, Rob Bell tackles the issues of authority and interpretation.  He provides some interesting background information, showing that he is well-read.  He continues the practice of asking questions instead of answering questions.  In the process, as in the previous chapter, he unwittingly (?) seems to set people up to question themselves right out of orthodox Christianity.  Here are some examples.

 

“Notice this verse from 1 Corinthians: ‘To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord)…’  Here we have Paul writing to a group of Christians, and he wants to make it clear that the next thing he is going to say comes from him, ‘not the Lord’.”


Rob does not discuss the context of this passage from 1 Corinthians 7.  Paul differentiates his counsel which is coming from the Old Testament, and that which is not found there.  Are we to take Paul to mean that we don’t need to heed this instruction because it’s from him and not God?  I don’t think so.  I’m not going to start chopping my Bible up into what God says and what the human author says.  But Rob’s statements undermine the authority of Paul’s instruction (unless I’m really missing something here).

 

In keeping with his anti-fundamentalist bent, he turns his gaze to the Southern Baptist Convention (without naming names).

“The reason their annual gathering was in the news was that they had voted to reaffirm their view of the importance of the verse that says a wife’s role is submit to her husband.  This is a big deal to them.  This is what made the news.  This is what they are known for.”

 

Last I checked the SBC didn’t control the news outlets.  I have some bones to pick with them too, but this is not one of them.  It made news because it is so counter-cultural.  I applaud them for not giving in to cultural pressure to somehow water down Scripture.

But Rob has a question or two.  First, “What about the verse before that verse?  “What about the verse after it?” The prior verse is a summary statement that we should submit to one another (a result of being filled with the Holy Spirit).  Paul then lays out some examples- wives to husbands, children to parents, employees to employers (yes, I made an epochal shift there out of slavery).  No one says that parents should submit to their children, or that employers should submit to their employees.  But somehow Paul is not to be taken to mean that wives should submit to their husbands.  He wants you to doubt that it really means this, and the SBC is foolish for believing it (Neanderthals!).  I guess Christ should submit to us.

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The ARP Synod received the report from the Vision Committee.  The Committee did a good job of identifying most of the problems in our denomination.  Unfortunately we are a denomination in decline.  It is a slow decline, in part because many of our churches are in rural areas and struggling.  Despite this, we give more per dollar toward missions than other like-minded denominations.  What’s going on?

Lack of Theological Unity.  There are some recognizable factions in the ARP.  First, there are those whose affinities lie closer to the PC (USA).  Many of these men are older, and went to seminary when neo-orthodoxy was a big problem in the ARP.  But these churches are identified as “the older synthesis of Christianity and middle class Southern culture.”  The culture has become more liberal, and the churches have too.  Some churches are more broadly evangelical, and often adopt many of the trappings of culture.  I guess these would be our church growth model churches.  Then there are those who are conservative in theology, but trapped in time.  They have become, or risk becoming, irrelevant.

These groups do not understand each other.  This is not often an issue, but there are times when particular questions before a church court expose these differences.  We aren’t the only denomination to have this problem (Tim Keller developed working categories for the different PCA factions a few years ago, but I can’t locate it on-line). 

A Culture of Mediocrity.  We are profoundly nice, and sometimes don’t call one another to excellence lest we hurt their feelings.  It shows up in a number of ways.  We do not produce many great preachers.  Our most recognizable pastor transferred in about a year ago- one Sinclair Ferguson.  Our examination standards are sometimes questionable.  I have been one of the guys trying to raise the bar both theologically and in terms of character.  Such actions were long overdue.  We have low expectations of church members as well (once a quarter & $5 in the plate).  Our problem in this regard is not near the SBC’s issue of leaving people on the rolls for years.  But we don’t often call them to self-sacrificial living for the sake of the kingdom.  There has also been a decided lack of church discipline.  I know of situations that have not been addressed, precisely because many of the ruling elders in those congregations are guilty of similar sins.  In the name of being nice (which we pride ourselves in over the PCA) we can become negligent at times.

Lack of Biblical Instruction.  We are no longer instructing our children in the Westminster Catechism.  A lack of expositional preaching leaves people without an understanding of the over-arching Story.  I know that when I became a pastor, the people were largely ignorant of Scripture.  In the process of slowly instructing the people, many of those leaning to the PC (USA) side of the ARP left.  This particular congregation would now be nearly indistinguishable from a PCA congregation.

Moralism.  We are not preaching Christ and Him crucified as we ought.  We have slipped into the flesh-driven moralism that plagues so many denominations and churches.  As a result, people don’t know how to deal with their sin according to the gospel.  Instead they focus on being ‘good’ people, not godly people.

So, what is a denomination to do?

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Much has been made about the Missouri Baptist Convention and their disapproval of Darrin Patrick and the church he pastors called the Journey.  They commit the heinious sin of not abstaining from alcohol.  A virtual denial of the gospel.  Some have pointed to his association with Acts 29 Network (I mentioned a message of his from last year’s conference last week).  People in the Missouri Baptist Convention are gunning for Acts 29.

A theological sub-committee formed to address the emerging church is now the source of controversy.  They are lumping Driscoll in with McLaren.  Though old friends, they are not even close theologically.  Driscoll is often accused of being a fundamentalist by liberals, both secular and theological.  But fundamentalists charge him with being a liberal for having the audacity of trying to implement Sola Scriptura, and not go beyond the Bible on social/moral issues.  He firmly upholds the Bible on the issues it does address (which ticks off the liberals and future-liberals [egalitarians]). 

But, one of the members of the sub-committee is upset, rightfully, because his statements have been misrepresented (see above link).  It is amazing the lengths we will go to in order to maintain our prejudices and inordinate desires.  At what point do the younger Calvinists get tired of the attacks, misrepresentations and legalism?  They are better men than me- I’d have left by now.  Wait… I did leave.

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