Monday, September 25, 2006

The Joshua Convergence

The Florida Baptist Witness reports on a two-day gathering of "younger" SBC leaders near Orlando for the stated purpose of expressing their "support of the SBC's conservative resurgence and its emphasis on biblical inerrancy." Over 4o such pastors and seminary professors are attending the meeting held at Aloma Baptist Church in Winterpark. Seven "Principles of Affirmation" have been offered by the group. They are:
"1. Truth--'This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night .…' Joshua 1:8

"We affirm the inerrancy of Scripture and the need for Southern Baptists to continue 'to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). We maintain that any departure from the sufficiency of Scripture in preaching, evangelism, counseling, missions, ministry, or ecclesiology strikes against the very truth and authority of God's Word. Pride and human sinfulness will draw believers away from biblical truth if they are not eternally watchful. The battle for the Bible must be renewed in every generation. We take our stand to continue in that battle.

"2. Gratitude--'As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you.' Joshua 1:5

"We affirm our deep thankfulness for those who have taken our Convention back to its theological and spiritual moorings. Because of the prayers and personal sacrifice of these godly men and women, we are the beneficiaries of seminaries that champion God's Word, evangelistic mission agencies, and a Convention committed to the Great Commission. We are deeply disheartened by anyone who would malign the motives of these godly leaders. Instead, we seek to continue in the direction they have established, joining them in service to the Lord Jesus Christ with the prayer that God's hand of guidance would be with us.

"3. Service--'Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth ... as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.' Joshua 24:14-15

"We affirm a God-given stewardship of service in our Convention in order to bring about His kingdom purposes. Our Lord has said, 'Whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant' (Matthew 20:26). We are aware that - as with any human organization - the mechanisms of the Southern Baptist Convention can be manipulated. We commit to refrain from such practices. Instead, we will serve through any avenue God provides, not with the expectation of being elevated or honored, but only to please Jesus Christ. We seek a spirit of humility wherever we might serve.

"4. Holiness--'And Joshua said to the people, 'Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.' Joshua 3:5

"We affirm personal purity and separation from worldliness. Convinced that a redeemed life produces the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:19-24), we abhor compromise of biblical holiness, modesty, and temperance in the name of Christian liberty (Romans 6:15). Though we do not endorse pharisaical legalism, we resist attempts to accommodate standards of holiness to vacillating cultural norms. To this end, we oppose the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages. Throughout its history, our Convention has stood against the evils of alcohol. The present generation can in good conscience do no other. Further, we are unequivocally opposed to the antinomian attitude in some Christian circles concerning unwholesome and immoral language, cynicism, and profanity. We feel strongly that the Bible condemns such actions.

"5. Unity--'Now the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of meeting there. And the land was subdued before them.' Joshua 18:1

"We are fully committed to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 as a summary of our common beliefs, and we desire full cooperation with all who share this commitment. Within our number are those with diverse positions on the doctrines of grace, aspects of eschatology, approaches to worship, and missions and evangelism strategy. While we cherish opportunities to discuss these differences, we reject all attitudes of mean-spiritedness, personal attacks, or intellectual and spiritual arrogance in these debates. Instead, we pledge to maintain a peaceable spirit and to work together in our common goal of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

"6. Identity--'That this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, 'What do these stones mean to you?'" Joshua 4:6

"We are wholehearted in our dedication to Baptist ecclesiology as expressed in Scripture for our understanding of what constitutes a local church. We are Baptists by conviction not by tradition alone, believing the fundamental principles which constitute a Baptist church are the very ones which made up a New Testament church. Such essential tenets of a believer's church, founded upon the sole authority and sufficiency of Scripture, include regenerate church membership, believer's baptism by immersion, believer's Lord's Supper as a memorial, church discipline, local church autonomy, congregational polity, confessional fidelity, priesthood of the believer, separation of church and state, religious liberty, and an unwavering passion to carry out the Great Commission. We should never be prideful in being Baptist, but we should always be thankful in being Baptist.

"7. Mission--'That all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.' Joshua 4:24

"We affirm our desire for the nations to hear the gospel of Christ. Based on this conviction, we are committed to be personal soul-winners, to lead our churches and Convention in evangelism, and to support worldwide church planting. We commit to give sacrificially to missions and to encourage our churches continually to increase their missions giving. We are convinced that the Cooperative Program has been unusually blessed of God as a tool for training and sending God-called servants to proclaim Christ. Without hesitation, we desire for all Southern Baptist churches to grow in their giving to the Cooperative Program and encourage our state conventions to send higher percentages of Cooperative Program receipts to the Southern Baptist Convention."
I find within these principles some wonderful statements which deserve a hearty "Amen" (for example, the statements on truth and service). Other affirmations, though offered in a commendable and exemplary spirit, are marred by imprecisions both historical and theological. Some of that may simply be due to the vagueness of the language used. I would elaborate on the historical point but refrain from doing so because I have no desire to be further positioned as one who encourages alcohol consumption. I will simply say that, indeed, I oppose the "evils of alcohol."

Regarding the theological imprecision, I find it ironic that the self-styled heirs of the conservative resurgence have actually taken up the language of the moderate resistance by affirming the "priesthood of the believer." No individual believer consitutes a whole priesthood. The individualistic and subjectivistic spin that the moderates put on the reformation principle of the priesthood of all believers resulted in the perversion of this precious doctrine into little more than the adage that "every tub sits on its own bottom." It is a little like advocating the "communion of the saint."

I make no pretense of offering a thorough evaluation, just a few reflections. These principles will no doubt provoke lots of dialogue among Southern Baptists of all ages. Well they should. If that dialogue can be carried out in the spirit which the principles themselves affirm, that can only be beneficial for the SBC.

38 comments:

Kevin Bussey said...

Tom,

Don't you think this is dig towards the Memphis Decleration. I just think the SBC is becoming more and more polarized.

Tony K. said...

I like how they associate Paige Patterson and the those guys with Moses. I'm not sure if we should take this loyalty thing that far. When I read Sutton on the Baptist Reformation I was impressed with the courage of that generation - but I don't think there were a Moses among them.

Perry McCall said...

Kevin,
you are probably correct but let us hope for the best.

Christopher Redman said...

I don't know what the future holds for the SBC. Some of the statements included here sound good. I'm sure that they are intending good from it.

I think it is sad to see that the prevailing attitude towards the doctrines of grace is that they are minor issues on the same level as disagreements on eschotology.

I think that is a serious error.

Chris

GUNNY said...

I guess I'm encouraged that dialogue is taking place in the SBC about things other than the most recent fad or "how to" book.

I may have some exegetical questions of this statement, but I guess that's the topic for another show. I guess I'd just ask, did they really exegete the book of Joshua and come up with those things or did they have some ideas they needed to try to validate with some texts?

For example ...
(1)meditating on the book of the law tranlates to protecting a high view of Scripture (which I affirm), but nothing is mentioned about reading the Bible or meditating on it so that we're obedient.

(2) Using God's faithfulness to Joshua as the basis for gratitude to our predecessors ... again, I'm a fan of the outcome, but what's that got to do with the text.

Okay, I can see I'm going to make a jerk of myself by criticizing popular efforts that are passed off as biblical exegesis.

I'm done before I get whipped further.

Timmy said...

At this point, I don't know what to think about all this. I am beginning to believe that the SBC is beginning to have pockets of special interest groups vying for political prowess or denominational influence.

Concerning gratitude to the "Moses'" of our convention, sure, there is a lot to be grateful about. But we would all be naive to think that our convention has not become corrupted by control, power, and political gain. If we want to talk about holiness in our convention, my thoughts are that we should begin with being transparent and broken over the corruption at the heart of our convention than addressing such a peripheral issue as alcoholic beverages. Pride will kill and divide our convention before alcohol could ever get to it.

One last thought I have is regarding the "convergence" idea. Is this not just a group of like-minded people already networked together deciding to come out with a public statement? I mean, to what degree is this a convergence? How widespread and popular is this deal? I ask this because this is the first that I had heard about it, and of the many "younger" SBC leaders, not a one has mentioned this.

Jim Crigler said...

One of the most interesting things to me is that the issues of alcohol and soteriology are seen as distinct. There was noise about attempting to identify those of us who hold to God's grace as supreme in salvation with the "pro-drinking" (that's how it would have been characterized, and we all know it) position.

I noticed the hairy Caner in the list of speakers at the event.

jbuchanan said...

This is an interesting statemnet and I am going to have to think about it for awhile in order to formulate a final response, however, I do think there are good points here. First, I think affirming the sufficiency of Scripture is a good thing but I am left wondering exactly what that means in our convention. I believe that the sufficiency of Scripture means that the Bible contains all that I need for life and ministry and that I do not need to look beyond the pages of Scripture for methods and models. If we really as a convention believe in the sufficiency of Scripture it seems to me that we will need to make some change in the way we do things, for instance, in evangelism and discipleship. I wonder how many of the guys who formulated and signed this document are really committed to expositional preaching. Not the kind of milk-sop modernistic preaching that is often passed as expositional preaching, but the real thing. Second, I think that the acknowledgement of regenerate church membership is at least a positive step. This is a doctrine that the vast majority of SBC Pastors and lay-people have never heard of before. I would like to see this become a much greater topic of converstation. Third, I think that it is okay to remember and celebrate the past as long as we remember the battle is not over yet. The SBC is in the process of reforming but we are by no means finished yet.

C. T. Lillies said...

I don't know, as I read down through there it sounded kinda "emergent" to me. Especially the part about mean spirited attacks, etc. I still think it's Brad Reynold's "Club" he was talking about and then abruptly stopped talking about in the comments of his blog back in the summer.

Much Grace
Josh

Pilgrim said...

I also am thankful for the conservative resurgence in the SBC but our "leaders" have not taken us back to our theological moorings. As I read SBC history our founders were Calvinistic, but today, most if not all, our "leaders" find the doctrines of grace to be anthema. Oh well, I am thankful for the remnant that makes up the "Tulip Tithe."

Tom said...

Good thoughts. Kevin, I think you may be correct about the reactionary nature of this convergence, not only and maybe not primarily to the Memphis declaration but also to the recent significant challenges that have been made to some within convention leadership.

Gunny, I think it is evident wh you didn't get an invitation! :-)

I, too, need more time to reflect on the statement, but already I see several quotable sections that should be helpful in the desperately needed dialogue in the SBC about the life and health of our churches. Doesn't it make sense, for instance, that anyone who believes that a "regenerate church membership" and "church discipline" are "fundamental principles" and "essential tenets" of a Baptist church would be compelled to speak out against and seriously lament the SBC's decision last summer to reject a resolution on integrity in church membership? Time will tell.

jdlongmire said...

"To this end, we oppose the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages."

I reject outright any movement that would, by their legalism, make Jesus Christ out to be a sinner.

-JD Longmire

RC Williamson said...

Building on Gunny's comment. Where he said "I guess I'd just ask, did they really exegete the book of Joshua and come up with those things or did they have some ideas they needed to try to validate with some texts?"
Would the term allogorizing scripture be accurate? One could easily take similar passages and apply to almost anything if you have enough imagination.

Kevin Bussey said...

Tom,

Something smells with this. I posted about this story yestderday before I read your post or the FBW. I copied and pasted from their site what they said their purpose was.

Within 2 hours they deleted everything.

Why does the SBC have to always be in a "Battle" for the Bible. I don't get it. If we are serious about "inerrancy" then why are they condemning alcohol when the Bible does not. (I don't drink so I have no dog in the hunt)

Tom said...

Kevin:

I don't pretend to understand the reasoning behind some of the positions staked out by those inerrantists behind this convergence. I have read their arguments contending that total abstinence is essential for godliness and have found them severely lacking in biblical exegesis. Like you, I do not drink and so do not come to this question with a personal agenda to promote or protect. I believe them when they say they are motivated out of a commitment to holiness. The same commitment is what motivates me and others to address far more weightier matters like regenerate church membership and church discipline. While I am delighted that these two vital matters are mentioned in their statements, I will be interested to see if any of the proponents going after them with the same vigor that they have attacked the consumption of alcohol issue. Particularly, I have in mind Brad Reynolds. If this doesn't happen, then a big question mark will remain over the whole convergence document.

sparrowhawk said...

Well said Tom about the semantic precision needed when talking about "Priesthood of the Believer" versus the plural form. Here in Texas as you know, the confused liberals (i.e. Moderates) used and continue using the phrase.

Like others here, I wonder if this was a response to Memphis or possibly even the TG4 statement. Perhaps these 'young leaders' see Reformed (if not total then in part) alliances being formed and consider them threats to what they misperceive as established SBC tradition. Granted this may be overreaction, or overthinking, on my part perhaps for now. Thus in time, as these young leaders grow, we may know whether they're in fact a new SBC Sanhedrin, formed in honor and to continue remembrance of the Maccabean (Patterson, Pressler, et. al) revolution waged in recent time past.

Bill Moore said...

Just a few random thoughts concerning "The Joshua Convergence":

The title itself is a little too cute: the Joshua Convergence?

The usage of the verses from Joshua appears to be the result of more eisegesis than exegesis, like much of what passes for expository preaching in our day.

The whole "Moses-Joshua" paradigm is a bit over-reaching and presumptuous. To claim that the leaders of the SBC conservative resurgence are our Moses (Moseses? Mosii?) and those at the meeting are Joshuas seems awfully self-important.

Oh, well, gotta run. I'm late for a meeting of the Keach Konfusion.

Bill

Bill0615 said...

Concerning #4 of the Joshua Convergence document:
"While we cherish opportunities to discuss these differences, we reject all attitudes of mean-spiritedness, personal attacks, or intellectual and spiritual arrogance in these debates."

Since Emir Caner signed on to this commitment, does this mean that he is prepared to rebuke his brother, "Butch," if he (i.e., Butch) should decide to unleash his WWF style of "debating" in Lynchburg in mid-October?

OR, might we hope for more...such as a "kinder, gentler" Butch Caner inasmuch as his brother, Emir, has openly committed himself to the more excellent way? Hmmmm....

GeneMBridges said...

communion of the saint....

I'm gonna find a way to use this rejoinder soon!

Timmy said...

Tom,

You make a very good point about the amount of attention and emphasis given to the alcohol debate. If, as this "convergence" shows, that they have a serious commitment to such baptist distinctives as regenerate church membership, confessional fidelity, and the authority and sufficiency of Scripture, one has to wonder whether Brad Reynolds will recruit the same all-star line up to write lengthly articles on our need for ecclesiastical reform. If such a non-essential can receive such attention from the SBC movers and shakers, then surely an essential matter which defines Southern Baptist should receive all the more attention. I will be keeping a close watch on BP's "First Person" articles for that. :)

GeneMBridges said...

Throughout its history, our Convention has stood against the evils of alcohol.

Speaking for the Convention, the Convention has not historically felt the need to speak on this issue as a Convention. In fact, in the 19th century that was considered not be in the interest of the Convention's mission. Details like that are overlooked.

I'd add that while these folks seem to know what the Bible says about alchhol (indeed some of those most ardently in favor of Resolution 5 have made dogmatically positive statements about the very percentage of alcohol)in the wine of those days, they can't come to unified agreement on the doctrines of grace for which there is far more exegetical material that is far more certainly exegeted if they'd just let the text speak. I find that highly ironic.

Scott said...

Gene,

Great point! I have a question concerning alcohol: Since wine was used in the Lord's Supper in the time of Christ ministry on earth who has ever given the SBC or any denomination the AUTHORITY to change from wine to grape juice for the Lord's Supper. This is so plain to see. By who's authority did we have to change it. However, I will guarantee to you that we started Sprinkling people for Baptism they would be going crazy about it and so would I but who again has given the SBC the authority to not compromise on baptism but we can do it on the Lord's Supper.
I have had people challenge me on this before saying that I'm not comparing Apples to Apples. How am I not? Alot of parents give alcohol to their children with cough medicine ( The alcohol is in the medicine) but never give it a second thought but if it was Ok for children, teenagers during the days of Jesus and Paul to serve the children who were converted and baptized why is it not OK today? The cry is that the wine was watered down " Back then". Ok if that is true then lets water it down today and serve it for the Lord's Supper today. What is so sad is that I would be considered radical for my view today yet let's ask the question: Who is following the example of scripture closer Me or the Welchs Grape Juice Guy.

GENE I WOULD APPRECIATE ANY COMMENTS YOU WOULD HAVE OR PLEASE SHOW ME WHERE THE SBC HAS BEEN GIVEN THE AUTHORITY TO CHANGE FROM WINE TO GRAPE JUICE IN THE LORD'S SUPPER?

andrew said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
andrew said...

Sorry for not proofreading what I wrote. It should read:

Can someone better explain what they mean by opposing the sale of alcohol?
I often sale alcohol to people because of my job. Does this affirmation condemn my selling of people alcohol while I am at work?

jbuchanan said...

When only 40% of Southern Baptists ever particpate in the life of the church and show no visible signs of regeneration, I think we have bigger battles that the alcohol debate. Let's pick the battles wisely and fight for substantial issues like- the gospel, a bibical understanding of church membership, etc...

As for the cocerns about the eisegesis of the text in Joshua. I agree to a point and know what you mean but let's lighten up. They were not attempting an exegesis of the passage nor are they holding their statement up as an interpretation of the passage. They are simplying using it as an example and an illustraton of their position.

Ben Keller said...

Scott, great question. Our church (Mars Hill, Seattle) has weekly communion. You go to the front of the church where elders give you bread and then you can dip it into either a cup of wine or juice. At least they give a choice. I don't get the authority for "juice" either. Most of the arguments I've heard have been weak. I hate the arrogance of approaching the text as if we are enlightened and understand the plight of the "weaker brother" in the congregation, and therefore offer grape juice. So why do we offer bread to gluttons? It seems we have a very condescending attitude toward the communion prescriptions the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write about in the NT. Why is it we think we "know better" and can chuck this or that element of communion willy nilly? I, like Scott, would appreciate some erudite comments on this. Currently I can see no biblical reason for not having wine, and wine alone, used for communion. I also am a non-drinker and I don't even care for wine. But if our Holy Scriptures command it, how can the SBC or anyone else be against it?

Scott said...

Ben,

You and I hold to the same position. I'm a nondrinker as well but the Scriptures are clear. My own church that I pastor( Yes, Calvinistic Southern Baptist Church)is waiting on their Elders to make the call. I have taught on it and not one person in our church is in disagreement with it even the parents of children.I thought about a split tray for a while but I thought it could bring about camps within our fellowship " The Wine Folks" or the " Grape Juice Folks".
Too many verse in the Bible that speak about God pouring out His blessings by giving them Wine and increasing their vineyards. I started teaching the men in our church first on this. We( Elders) decided that we would not buy or ask people to bring Wine to church fellowships however if I would want to drink a glass of wine then I told our church that I would and I would not want them to hide it from the Elders in the church if they were out eating somewhere. They also know that we will not tolerate " Drunks" in the church. We have mature people in our church and they see that alcohol is not sin but the abuse of it is.
This has almost become a " Joke" about wine in the Lord's Supper. There is not one person that has found any scriptural command to stop using wine for the Lord's Supper. What is so sad is that some will say to you and I why are we making such a big deal about this ( Just serve Grape Juice). Ok then let's just start sprinkling for Baptism. Yes, I'm comparing Apples to Apples !
I appreciate your stand for what is so clear in scripture and not giving in to the following : What about Alcoholics, What about Children ? How about What about Christ commands! I'm sure Jesus was quite aware of these things and Paul as well. Paul even rebuked those that got drunk at the Lord's table but he didn't say to stop using wine.

I THINK I'LL GO AND DRINK A COKE!

Scott said...

Ben,

I forgot to add that we have communion once a month. One of our ladies makes the bread. We hold that only converted, baptized, and only members can take of it at our church !

Ben Keller said...

Scott, thank you for your remarks. I believe you are right on target scripturally for what you are doing at your church. May you be rewarded for that.

And I believe I will join you for that Coke, brother! :)

indwellingtruth said...

I have a question. Why is it everytime someone--justifiably, I might add--defends the liberty of the Christian to drink alcohol they rush to make the caveat that they themselves do not drink. It sends a mixed message. If it's really ok, and Jesus did it and Paul advocates liberty on the matter, why so qiuckly distance yourself from the practice? If liberty of conscience on this matter is the thing to be honored, then it should make no difference whether one does or doesn't partake of the goods. It seems counterproductive to the argument when the advocate makes a special point of publicizing his or her abstinence. That choice is honorable and fine, but the advertisement seems out of place in this context. Just curious...

Paul said...

bill0615,

Having watched the video my own impression is that Emir didn't live up to the statement in his own message, and from the cheers he often got I'm not sure the crowd did either.

Tom said...

Indwellingtruth:

I make that disclaimer in order to lend force to my argument. One of the unfortunate tactics often employed by those who argue that only abstinence is biblical is to accuse anyone who disagrees with them of trying to justify drinking because he is a drinker. I simply want to take that "argument" away. I don't hold my non-drinking up as a badge of honor, nor do I ever want to suggest that it makes me any holier than brothers who drink biblically. I have my reasons for not drinking but judging it to be inherently sinful is not one of them.

Hope this clarifies my approach a little. Blessings.

indwellingtruth said...

Tom,

I appreciate your clarification and I understand your reasoning. As I've perused the blogs on this issue, however, I've noticed that trend again and again. People argue for liberty of conscience for those who choose to drink while at the same time making it clear that they are not one of "those people" who do. I'm not convinced yet that what you gain in undermining their fallacious argument is of greater value than what you lose by underscoring your practice of abstinence. It's clear this is not your intent, but one's disclaimer could be viewed as not wanting to be perceived by the establishment as "one of them," a winebibber, a drunkard, like Jesus :)

Tom said...

Indwellingtruth:

Point well-taken. If you could read my email (and snail mail!) or simply take a look at Baptist Press articles or certain state newspapers you would see pretty quickly that any hopes I might have ever entertained of not being "perceived by the establishment as 'one of them,' a winebibber, a drunkard, like Jesus" [though I have yet to be accused of being like Jesus!] have been completely vanquished! If such perceptions by such people were a big deal to me, then I suppose this would matter. But they aren't so it doesn't.

Thanks for your observations.

indwellingtruth said...

Thanks, Tom. I appreciate your kind spirit and willingness to help me understand this. I also very much appreciate your stand for biblical truth on this matter.

Lance Roberts said...

kevin,

The Bible does condemn alcohol, all throughout.

scott,

A lot of the wine back then was just grape juice. The wine they did drink was usually watered down (3:1).

Alex F said...

Regarding the discussion about wine in communion, (pardon me if someone has mentioned this already), it is interesting that the Abstract of Principles, an early SBC document that forms the confessional framework for Southern and Southeastern, mentions taking wine in communion.

Sorry for the run-on sentence!

Alex F said...

Lance -

If you don't mind, move beyond the generalization and show where Scripture condemns alcohol outright (ie not drunkenness or the abuse of alcohol, not "strong drink," but alcohol in general). That would further the discussion in a more beneficial way.