Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Thoughts on the Southern Baptist Convention- First Run

Many people have been asking me what I thought of this year's Southern Baptist Convention. I hope to write a few brief articles on my thoughts concerning the state of the SBC- this post will be a 'first run' at getting some ideas down on paper (or on computer screen, as the case may be).

First of all, the highlight of the convention for me personally (aside from spending time with my uncle, my pastor, and my former pastor) was attending the Founders' Conference Fellowship Breakfast on June 13. This was the first Founders' Ministry event that I have had the opportunity to attend. If it were not for Founders' Ministries, I am fairly certain that I would no longer be a member of any Southern Baptist congregation- as so many congregations in the SBC seem far away from biblical beliefs and practice- but the work of this organization has given me hope for real reformation within the SBC. (At the Founders' Breakfast, I also got the chance to briefly meet Dr. Don Whitney, who will be a professor of mine at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.)

Yesterday, the president of Founders' Ministries, Dr. Tom Ascol (whom I also got to briefly meet at the Founder's Breakfast), was on the Calling for Truth radio broadcast. Dr. Ascol brought out two great needs in the SBC that I had also noticed from my time at the convention. I hope to highlight these needs often in thinking about next year's convention and hope to help my Southern Baptist brethren think about how we can address these needs within the SBC.

1. The Southern Baptist Convention needs to build upon the affirmation of the inerrancy of Scripture, for which we have fought so hard, by honoring God's Word as sufficient to direct every aspect of our lives. Dr. Ascol notes:
We owe a debt of gratitude to those who laid their ministerial and denominational lives on the line to call our convention back to that embrace of the full authority of Scripture. Praise God for the Conservative Resurgence! There were lots of things done in the midst of that that we should regret, and do regret, but thank the Lord for the effort to re-establish the boundaries of what we are to believe and how we are to live. And I think what we're seeing today, for example, in the growth of Founders' Ministries, is a growth of this theological awareness is the inevitable fruit of re-establishing those boundaries.
Previous to the above statements, Ascol had asserted his conviction that:
Inerrancy- as important as it is to affirm that regarding the authority of Scripture- its not enough. We must not only recognize that the Bible is authoritative, but we must be willing to move forward in saying that the Bible is enough for us- it's sufficient! And we need to be willing to take honestly what it teaches us- its doctrines- we need to be willing to honestly try to apply its guidance and its commandments.
Having listened to almost every speaker at the Southern Baptist Convention, I heard almost everyone who stepped to the podium affirm the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture. However, I heard absolutely no speaker at the convention mention the other great doctrines of Scripture. So we at the convention had two crucial aspects of the doctrine of scriptural authority- inerrancy and infallibility- repeated to us over and over (with little explanation about what was meant by these terms), but we heard little or nothing about the clarity of Scripture- that the Bible is crystal clear in all matters pertaining to salvation. We heard little or nothing about the necessity of Scripture- how there is no hope for salvation outside of the proclamation of God's revelation of Himself through the message of the Bible. And we certainly heard very little or nothing about the sufficiency of Scripture- that God has revealed all things we need pertaining to life and godliness in His written Word.

2. The Southern Baptist Convention needs greater clarity regarding the definition of evangelism and, indeed, of the Gospel itself. Speaking of the purpose of Founders' Ministries and the opposition sometimes brought against them, Dr. Ascol also noted on yesterday's radio broadcast:
We are willing to criticize some aspects of modern evangelism that tend to be superficial- that tend to forget the Evangel. And you can't have evangelism if you don't have the Gospel. And so much of what goes on under the name of evangelism in some places today is intellectual assent- it's make a little decision, it's sign a card, it's get baptized- and there's no approaching the person with the claims of Jesus Christ to surrender to Him as Lord and to embrace Him in faith- to find Him to be our great treasure, our great joy, and our life. And there's a variety of ways, obviously, that we can do that. But where Christ is missing in our evangelistic message, it cannot be evangelism biblically defined.
To again draw attention to what was said before the entire assembly of the Southern Baptist Convention, nearly every speaker implored the messengers to the convention to be more earnest in evangelism, but no one wanted to instruct us as to what our understanding of "evangelism" should be. The nature of true biblical evangelism and the definition of the Gospel can by no means be assumed. With so many different heresies abounding and with the me-centered therapeutic mindset of our post-modern culture, it is foolishness to think that anyone will properly understand the Gospel without careful biblical instruction. As one Christian minister (Al Mohler, I believe) recently noted, people today are programmed to think that their problems are things that come from outside themselves and that the answers to their problems come from within themselves. People must be led to understand that their real problem is not just the frustration of personal goals, but that they are estranged from and at enmity with God. The real problem that people have comes from sin within their own hearts and the answer to their problem must come from outside of themselves, with Jesus making full payment for their sin. If these things are not carefully explained, then people will come to see Jesus as just another means to achieve their own self-centered desires. Southern Baptist congregations must have more than the kind of shallow pep-talks offered by this past convention, we must instead become completely enamored with passion for Christ and His Gospel, and we must dedicate ourselves to a clear understanding of the Good News of reconciliation with a view to communicating this message to others.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Why I will probably NOT vote for the next SBC president

On June 13-14 I have the honor of representing my church, Grace Heritage, as a messenger to the Southern Baptist Convention in Greensboro, NC.

One of the most important events to occur at this convention will be the election of the next president of the SBC.

To understand why this election is so important, read the following information from Wikipedia (This information is consistent with what I learned of the SBC presidency recently in a seminar I attended, which was taught by Dr. Russell Moore, Dean of the School of Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary):

The SBC President... has the potential to exercise significant influence over the direction of the SBC.

The process starts with the appointment by the SBC President of the Committee on Committees, which consists of two members from each "qualified state" (which includes the District of Columbia). The President has the sole authority to nominate the members (unlike other committee members or heads of institutions, the messengers do not approve the Committee on Committees selections). The appointments must be made within 45 days prior to the next Convention session (in other words, near the end of the SBC President's first term).

The Committee on Committees, in turn, nominates the Committee on Nominations, which also consists of two members from each "qualified state". These members are voted on by messengers at the next session (again, near the end of the SBC President's first term); however, nominations to this Committee can be made from the floor.

The Committee on Nominations, in turn, nominates persons to fill vacancies on SBC institutions (a person serving cannot be removed simply due to a change in leadership). Any SBC member may nominate, and be nominated for, any position; the general criteria for approval are 1) the nominee's support of the BF&M and 2) the nominee's church's support for SBC programs. The vacancies are approved at the next Convention session (in other words, by the end of the SBC President's second term, provided he is re-elected).

During this time, the SBC President is appointing the next Committee on Committees, to begin the process again.

As outlined above, the process by which the SBC President can exert influence is a lengthy, complicated, and overlapping one, which takes cooperation from other, like-minded individuals to successfully accomplish, as the results take at least three years to complete, while the SBC President is limited to two one-year consecutive terms. However, if organized and executed properly, a faction can over time move the SBC in its desired direction. The SBC conservative faction of the late 1970's and 1980's... used the process to its advantage to move the SBC to its current conservative stance.

But, as the title of this post indicates, I will probably NOT cast a vote in this particular election. And the reason is simple: I do not believe that either of the candidates who have currently been announced for the presidency will act in the best interests of my church congregation in particular, nor in the best interest for biblical evangelism in the SBC in general.

The two candidates who have been announced so far are Ronnie Floyd and Frank Page.

Ronnie Floyd and "Fire-Truck Baptism"

Some people in the blogosphere are actually trying to argue that this is no big deal. But the church at which Ronnie Floyd is a pastor- FBC Springdale, Arkansas- has engaged in what must be considered an extreme form of substituting entertainment in place of true worship. As reported in sources such as Christianity Today, the Houston Chronicle, and the Baptist Standard (ht: Tony Kummer) FBC Springdale has had a "former Disney World designer of children's amusement rides to design two 'high tech sets' for elementary age worship areas" (quote taken from a Christianity Today article). Included in these "worship areas" is "a special baptistry which is built around a fire engine. When a child is baptized, the sirens sound and confetti is fired out of cannons" (ht: Tom Ascol). Now, if I were to write a book on how to get a myriad of false converts into the church- attracting them into cultural Christianity and giving them false assurance of salvation at a young age- I could think of nothing more effective than to do what Dr. Floyd's church has, in fact, done. At the most basic level, gimmicks such as Disney World entertainment have no place in being married to any kind of worship service for the church. These kind of methods undermine the foundational doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture. As the leadership of Grace Heritage Church consistently teaches:

Because the distance between God and His creatures is so great, the only acceptable way of approaching God in worship must be revealed to us by God Himself, and He has graciously done this in the Scriptures. Therefore, He may not be worshipped in ways invented by us. This principle protects us from idolatrous worship and focuses our energies on those activities through which God has called us to draw near.

Frank Page and Anti-Calvinism

In a recent e-mail I received, a man who had several times visited Dr. Page's former church (Warren Baptist Church) described Dr. Page as "most decidedly anti-Calvinist." The e-mail concluded, "Page, by reputation, will not be a friend to the doctrines of grace or those who hold to them." These statements seem to find additional support in the fact that Dr. Page has authored the book Trouble With The Tulip: A Closer Examination of The Five Points of Calvinism, which contains statements such as the following:

I want to very clearly state that my intention in this book is not simply to disprove the philosophical system of Calvinism, though I believe that will occur. (p. 7- ht: Big Daddy Weave)

(For why the issue of "Calvinism" is so important in the SBC at this time, please see my last post, A Defense of "Calvinism" as well as former Southern Baptist Pastor Dave Stephenson's article, On the Altar of Self-Will.)

Now, I do NOT think that a candidate for the presidency of the SBC should have to hold to "Calvinism" in order for me to vote for him. In fact, I have recently argued that if Calvinism, or Reformed soteriology, is to truly take effect in the SBC, it must be due to the commitment of individual church leaders teaching systematically through the Bible and demonstrating that the "Doctrines of Grace" come out from the biblical text itself- this kind of reformation cannot be political. And furthermore, it would be ridiculous to for me to withhold my vote from any candidate simply because he does not agree with me on all points of theology. But I believe that there is a vast difference between casting a vote for a candidate even though he is not a "5-point Calvinist" and in overlooking the fact that a candidate is actually ACTIVELY, CONSISTENTLY OPPOSING crucial points of doctrine upon which my congregation is built.

So again, unless there are other candidates offered who I believe will support the interests of my congregation in particular and the interests of biblical evangelism in the SBC in general, I cannot in good conscience cast any vote for the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention.