Thoughts on the Southern Baptist Convention- First Run
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.