Thursday, March 30, 2006

Semper Reformanda: more than a phrase

In case you missed it, BP ran an article by this title two weeks ago by Doug Baker that is very much worth reading. While applauding the gains made by the conservative resurgence Baker rightly warns that they will be temporary if there is not an ongoing effort to regain more solid doctrinal grounding of our church life and ministry in the SBC. Here is the thrust of his concern:

Without doctrinal anchors, the SBC could all too quickly drift away. Why? A denomination of churches reared solely on a warrior motif of "liberal versus conservative" rather than "theology versus program" is destined to slide theologically. In the words of Southern Baptist theologian Timothy George, "A new bureaucracy doth not an improvement make!"

Baker's critique is pointed and on target. I am grateful he wrote it and that Baptist Press released it. It will be interesting to see how many, if any, state Baptist papers publish it.


Nate Russell said...

A lot of the comments on a previous post about "The Dying American Church" talked about the need for the evangelical revivals of the past and the great preaching that accompanied them, but it seems we need to ask ourselves what those events accomplished and whether or not they are the answer. My point is this that even though those events were grand and made a great impact on our society they did little in forming true followers of Christ that are adept in not only being saved but also in saving (by the way can one really be a follower of Christ and not follow Christ, interesting thought). It seems that if you want to make a forever kind of impact, not only on one's immediate surroundings, but on the relationships of the people of the world with God, then one must teach them who God is and who we are in relation to him, and MOST importantly give them a reason to follow him. If we don't lead by example then we won't have anyone to lead. I mean this is what the numbers are saying. Guess what it is we need? It's theology. Theology is what makes or breaks the church and if we want people to know God then we have to tell them who he is, because they have to know who he is, not just believe he exists, before they act, much less tell someone who he is. So let's stop all this talk of grand revivals that give people experiences and let's start giving them relationships.

Nate Russell said...

As a born and bred Baptist, the son of Southern Baptist Missionaries and a student of theology at a Baptist college, I have a hard time with my denomination at its present point. Instead of Baptist leaders advocating continuing the theological quests of the past generations, our present leadership is more concerned with implementing the theological fundamentalism that so many Baptist disagreed with at its outset in the late 19th century. Why should we hold a position that does not hold water but merely the desire for the ignorance of the populace that the control of the leadership may be maintained.

Someone tell me that I'm wrong. If you can I would be glad to know in what way you can argue for a view of Christianity that puts no faith in the traditions from which it came and worships a book as the Word of God rather than the Incarnate Son of God. Please tell me I am wrong, I could only hope that it was I who was wrong rather than the majority of the denomination which I have loved my whole life.

Greg B said...

This is what most leaders need to hear and what the people in the pews need to know. Conservative interpretation of the Bible doesn't mean conservative on current social issues and capitalism while getting more numbers on the roll. It means taking the Triune God at His word and attempting to understand and apply all that we can while trusting the Spirit to guide us in what we can't. In most mainstream SBC churches I have visited (fortunate enough to be a member of a FF church)the social gospel and anemic evangelism is the message.
Grace Alone,
Greg Bailey

Greg B said...

Yes, we are in danger of falling into a very shallow legalism with no understanding of the TRUE FUNDAMENTALS.
Grace Alone,
Greg B

Castusfumus said...

Nate, You hit the nail on the head!

I think it starts in the Sunday School classroom. Teachers/exegets need to prepare out of a labor of love. However, what we find mostly is milk-toast quarterly lessons presented by one who would graciously volunteer to stand in the role of teacher; facilitator is a word I'm hearing these days.

We don't talk to our kids like adolescents, we talk to them like adults. The same should govern our talk in the Sunday School, deep and accurate theology should be spoken.

We need men who are elect teachers!

Nate Russell said...

Thanks guys for the confirmation of my assertion.

Grace and Peace,

G. Holthaus said...

"So let's stop all this talk of grand revivals that give people experiences and let's start giving them relationships."

Isn't this statement forcing an unnecessary either/or distinction? Perhaps I'm misunderstanding you, but what good is a relationship without experience? What kind of relationship could I really claim to have with my wife if I had no experience (emotionally, physically, etc.) of her?

I can understand your call for a greater hunger for theology among Christians, but we must be careful that we don't swing so far the other direction that we eschew any kind of experience of God along with that theology. Knowledge by itself isn't going to get us very far.

Please correct me if I've misunderstood you in this.

jbuchanan said...

The church always reforming must become the rallying cry of all Southern Baptists. I do advocate a return to fundamentalism in the sense of we need to define some basic theological issues that are "fundamental" to our faith. If you go back and read some of the early fundamentalist material it is pretty good, but the movement was highjacked by the J Frank Norris's of the day. As Southern Baptists we have defined, at least generally, what the fundamentals of our faith are in the BF&M. I know that some will disagree, but I think that this document is sufficient for leading a congregation to a deeper understanding of doctrine and to unite our convention. Like most of you I love the 2nd London Confession but it is too lengthy to be used in most congregational settings and it certainly will not be accepted anytime soon by the majority of Southern Baptists. I think the BF&M can do the job but we must use it properly. I also want to say something from a pragmatic view here, I think that it would benefit us greatly to all adopt this confession for our churches. Again, please understand that I am in no way denigrating the 2nd London or New Hampshire confessions. But, if we are going to work within the system to bring about true reform we need to work from some common ground. The BF&M, whether you like it or not, is the adopted confession of faith for our denomintation. Churches that do not use it or adopt another confession put themselves on the outside immediatley. Listen brother, we are already looked at with suspicion because we are Calvinists, so we do not need to create any additional concerns. By adopting the BF&M and properly using it in our churches we can begin the work of reformation and give ourselves a footing to influence the denomination.

Sorry if I rambled a bit and I hope that I didn't go too far off topic. But I think defining some doctrinal essentials are key to seeing reformation and we must work with what we have been given until we can acheive more.

Nate Russell said...

G.Holthaus you make a very good point and maybe in my attempt to assert the need of theology, I hyperbolized a little bit too much. However, I would assert that a relationship that one has that is not equally based in knowledge and experience is one that holds very little value. For example, because I know my wife I can really experience who she is, and because I experience who she is I can know her. There should be no diachotomy, however, as it stands now the members of our denomination by and large has no knowledge in which to intertwine their emotional experiences. Thus leaving them with little relationship. I mean what happens when I don't feel God? A relationship is a choice, one that can only be made when one knows who they are choosing to experience. I guess what I am asserting is that we are not giving our bretheren much of a choice, are we?

G. Holthaus said...


Thank you for the clarification; your points seem very appropriate.

As with so many other issues in the Christian life, the problem always comes back to that of balance; in this case, balancing knowledge and experience, head and heart. How then can we help to provide balance to our brethren who seem to be going too far the other way; in this case, who are elevating experience over knowledge?

I'm open to correction on this, but it seems to me that the answer is NOT to then swing too far the other way in an attempt to balance them out (in this case, to emphasize knowledge over experience). This always seems to have the inevitable consequence of causing an imbalance in the other direction. It seems like the way to help them achieve a proper balance is to model for them, and teach them, what a proper biblical balance looks like.

I think someone like Martyn Lloyd-Jones is exemplary in this regard. No one who has read his series on Romans would say that ML-J was short on theology. But at the same time, his ministry exhibited a healthy emphasis on the need for a vital experience of God in the heart. You can especially see this reflected in his writings dealing with revival and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Thanks again for your comments.

Tony K. said...

I don't think we know God anymore. From Pastors to preschoolers - we do not know Him. I think many people really try to pull it off. But we are the generation that is lost in the wilderness.

If we knew God we would really pray. We waste so many words on each other when none of us can fix things? If we knew God we would just tell Him.

If we knew God we would actually love the Bible. Being Baptist, I never miss a meal but I feel spiritual if I have one quiet time a day?

Theology means knowing God. Maybe we should hold off on the dying American church and examine our own souls.

Stephen Thomas said...

"...worships a book as the Word of God rather than the Incarnate Son of God"

Though I agree with most of what Nate wrote, I wonder about the statement quoted above. Not that there is anything wrong with it as such, but it is usually a catch-phrase by those with whom I disagree on the extent of the inspiration of Scripture. It is usually a silly statement because even the most fire-breathing fundamentalists with whom I disagree quite a bit don't actually worship the Bible. It's just that the one thing they do get right is that the Bible is the only way God has given us to to know His incarnate Son. Where else shall we find Him? In our subjective feelings, which change depending on how we feel at any given moment? Perhaps Tacitus or Josephus will give us saving knowledge of Christ? There is much I don't like about the "conservative resurgence" (i.e., tactics, mostly), but I do believe that the Bible is infallible in all things. I do not "worships a book as the Word of God", but I do believe that the book IS the Word of God. And as such, God does not make mistakes. It is the only book that lets us worship the incarnate Son of God.