Monday, June 18, 2012

Response to A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God's Plan of Salvation, 13



Article Ten: The Great Commission

We affirm that the Lord Jesus Christ commissioned His church to preach the good news of salvation to all people to the ends of the earth. We affirm that the proclamation of the Gospel is God's means of bringing any person to salvation.
We deny that salvation is possible outside of a faith response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Psalm 51:13; Proverbs 11:30; Isaiah 52:7; Matthew 28:19-20; John 14:6; Acts 1:8; 4:12; 10:42-43; Romans 1:16, 10:13-15; 1 Corinthians 1:17-21; Ephesians 3:7-9; 6:19-20; Philippians 1:12-14; 1 Thessalonians 1:8; 1 Timothy 2:5; 2 Timothy 4:1-5
This is a wonderful article and a proper note on which to end a Baptist declaration of faith. Baptists have been and remain a "Great Commission people." William Carey, who is widely recognized as the Father of the Modern Missionary movement, was a Baptist. Through his faithfulness and the herculean efforts of his friends and fellow pastors, Andrew Fuller, John Ryland, Jr, John Sutcliffe and Samuel Pearce, the gospel was propagated beyond the shores of England into the borders of India in the late 19th century. It was their vision and devotion that gave rise to the "Particular Baptist Society for the Propagation of the Gospel Amongst the Heathen" in 1792.

Similarly, in 1812 Adoniram and Ann Judson were among the first Christian missionaries to travel overseas from America to India. Though Adoniram left his homeland a paedobaptist, after studying the issue of baptism in preparation for meeting the famous Mr. Carey, he arrived on those distant shores a convinced Baptist. Through his labors and those of Luther Rice, The Triennial Convention was established in 1814 for the purpose of supporting the work of Judson in Burma. This body was the precursor to the Southern Baptist Convention that marks its beginning in 1845. The SBC was organized to serve churches specifically by "eliciting, combining, and directing the energies of the denomination for the propagation of the gospel." The Great Commission is the DNA of the SBC.

Through the years Southern Baptists have been willing to contend earnestly to maintain and recover the purity of the gospel but they have never been content to be hoarders of it. It is precisely because "there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name [than Jesus] under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12) that Southern Baptists have seen themselves as charged with a stewardship to take this gospel--the gospel of Jesus Christ and him crucified--to the nations.

Conclusion

This statement of affirmations and denials could produce one or more of four responses. Two of these are desirable and two would be distressing. To the degree that this "Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God's Plan of Salvation" helps the convention's churches clarify their commitment to the biblical gospel and renew their passion to preach Christ to the nations, it will have served the denomination well. Also, if this serves to give some stable talking points over the doctrinal differences between Calvinists and the "traditional" Baptist, it could be productive of a much broader understanding in the Convention as a whole concerning the similarities and differences in question. To the degree that it drives a wedge between brothers and fosters rancor, ridicule and disrespect among those who while disagreeing on important matters of the faith actually agree on many more, it will hinder the purpose for which the SBC exists. Further if it becomes a standard (either formally or informally) employed to stifle freedom within the historic confessional framework of Baptists or as a blockade or threat to ministry in churches or denominational offices, then its potential for good will become the reverse.

I sincerely hope that the outcome will be positive and edifying and not negative and destructive. But regardless of what results, if history is a reliable guide, those who are faithful to the true Southern Baptist vision and reason for existence will move forward into the twenty-first century with an uncompromising commitment to the gospel of Christ and an unquenchable passion to see the nations bow before him as Lord. Just as it has been by his grace that Southern Baptists have made it thus far, so we are wholly dependent on that same grace as we set our sails for the future.

9 comments:

Russell Taylor said...

Tom,

As Southern Baptists we enjoy a rich theologically reformed heritage, as is made abundantly clear in reading all of the doctrinal statements historically adhered to in the convention. In keeping with the mission and spirit of Founders Ministries, we should constantly remind one another and those who oppose us that WE are the keepers of the Southern Baptist heritage and not the men who sign such statements as this. We hold these truths because they are true, not because they are historical. However, to reinvent our history and our theology is intellectually dishonest. I would encourage an official statement from the Founders in response to this one, that reemphasizes that our position is the "official" historical SBC position and show that theirs is a departure from the SBC doctrinal heritage. I would force them to defend this departure. A statement that could be signed and promoted by those who are most capable of engaging this issue would potentially create an opportunity to finally bring this issue to the critical point that has been coming for a long time. To the point of an official recognition of the historical Baptist Faith and Message or a denial of it. Bless you and your co-workers for your faithful work over these many years. Godspeed.

Michael Dewalt said...

Question Tom,

Article Ten on the Great Commission states, "We affirm that the Lord Jesus Christ commissioned His church to preach the good news of salvation to all people to the ends of the earth." Using Scriptural proof texts from Ps. 51:13, Is. 52:7 and Matt. 28:19-20.

Two things come to my mind, one a thought and two a question.

One thought, it is ever intriguing that the "Traditional" SBC, which have been dominantly Dispensational in their hermeneutic over the past 70-80 years would use such passages as they do here in Article Ten from the Psalms & Isaiah as their proof texts. However, good to see them applying OT texts to the Lord's people in the NT Church.

Two my question, would London Baptist agree or differ with the SBC here in using Matthew 28:19-20 as a proof text for the great commission given to the whole church? From my understanding the LBC chapter 28 sections 1 & 2 makes the stance that Matt. 28:19-20 is given to the Apostles and then to the office of elder to preach/teach the Word and Baptize. Not as much of a "great" commission to the whole NT church, but the Apostles Commission or Apostles Ordination.

Thoughts on this?

DoGLover said...

Paige posted an article yesterday that's worth reading:

http://texanonline.net/news/happy-southern-baptists-and-the-tricky-track

I'm not sure how the views expressed in both articles synchronize, but it's interesting to see.

jbboren said...

As I've suggested (wished?) previously, these responses NEED to become a book(let) and it needs to be available at the SBC this year.

Great work, and timely.

Tom said...

Jbboren,

The e-booklet is available now from the founders website online story..free this week.

Darrel said...

There is a deeper problem here than the doctrinal debate over reformed theology and that of Arminius. It goes farther than the claim of these writers to have traditional SBC values on their side. A simple search of history will correct that statement quickly.

The real problem is "unity" at any cost. Ephesians 4 speaks of the "unity of the Spirit" and that is a most precious thing to behold in believers. The new unity accepts all who wish to form a bound for the sake of appearance. Anyone who claims to be a "Christian" is immediately accepted as such inspite of what their real beliefs may be. Extreme examples would be accepting the likes of Glenn Beck or Mitt Romney into the brotherhood of Christianity even though they still hold to their Mormom beliefs.

In Acts 20:29&30 Paul warns the Ephesians of "savage wolves" and men from their own ranks speaking "perverse things to draw away the disciples after themselves". Is the SBC immune to these false teachers? It would seem so, since all are accepted as brothers no matter how far off the reservation they go. Or is it that the SBC is so concerned with the numbers game that any and all are welcomed. Tom, I say these things from bitter first hand experience with church leaders and senior pastors speaking bald faced lies in their teaching and from the pulpit. Being a Berean and using God given discernment is the only "heresy" that is called into question these days. Expulsion from the church is the remedy for those who do not tow the "party line" and keep their mouth shut when it comes to exposing the real heresy.

Boiling it down to the current discussion: you cannot have your cake and eat it, too. Either these "traditionalists" are correct in their claim that God leaves the salvation of man up to each individual OR God did in fact predestine some to eternal life and others He did not. To be more firm, they are teaching another gospel with another jesus as it's leader. The Jesus of Scripture teaches repeatedly that the Father does the choosing and man has no say-so. The jesus of their other gospel teaches that it is man who determines his own eternal destiny. It's time to "choose up sides". Teaching the doctrines of grace on one hand and leaving unopposed the heretical teaching we find in this document is tantamount to agreeing with the heresy and even promoting it. Whereas the Biblical response to such teaching is found in Eph. 5:11. We are to expose it, not give tacet approval.

Is this document heretical?----absolutely. By their own words they have accused themselves. Now is a good time to either stand for the truth of God's Word or throw it in the trash. If a man or organization approves of heresy by open acceptance or silence they can expect no blessing from God. Now is a good time to examine our selves. What do we really believe? How much heresy is acceptable to us and the church? If I believe and promote heresy can I truly lay claim to being a Christian?

Tom said...

Darrel,

I appreciate your concern and your passion for truth. And I understand how bitter experiences can influence the way that you hold and regard the truth. In fact, I'd be willing to compare experiences with you regarding the price of doctrinal fidelity.

There are 2 things, however, that I think you would do well to think about. First, the SBC is not a church. There is a level of agreement that is required in our local church that is not required in a denomination of free churches. If you fail to make that distinction, then you will be unavoidably conflicted to be Southern Baptist. We desperately need refresher courses on Baptist polity that recognizes the autonomy and authority of the local church.

Second, those who love the truth must learn to love what Jesus loves. And Jesus loves for his disciples to love one another and to suffer long with one another. Reread Revelation 2-3. Too many of today would write off 5 of those churches, I'm afraid. Jesus patiently corrected and warned them.

It is impossible to be more holy than Jesus or to love truth more than He did. What I am advocating is the spirit (lower case "s") of Christ being demonstrated by the followers of Christ. That does not mean we close our eyes to error and just hold hands and sing Kumbaya. I don't know anyone on either side of the issues at stake in this "traditional" document who feels that way. But it does mean that we treat each other with respect, humility and love as we contend for the truth. Though that has not happened much, it has happened and will happen with increasing frequency, I hope.

I recognize that some do not see things this way and are unwilling to work together in a denominational structure with those who differ with them. As for me, I am willing to do so and believe that I can (and have) without compromising my convictions one whit.

ta

Darrel said...

Thank you for your quick reply and addressing some of my concerns. Yet the "big one" has so far fallen under the radar. Tom, we are dealing with two different Gospels here. Until that is recognized and dealt with accordingly true unity will be elusive. We are commanded repeatedly in Scripture not to have fellowship with those who teach and practice false doctrine. Excusing their false dcotrine is likely more repugnant to the Lord than the false doctrine itself. I guess we'll find out soon enough.

If the "statement" is not to be considered heretical, WHY NOT?

Tom said...

Darrel,

I have tried to be as plain and generous as I can be in evaluating this statement. There should not be any doubt in anyone's mind about my views regarding it.

Love hopes all things and my hope is that upon further reflection and clarification that those who have written and promoted this document will demonstrate that they are not falling into the dangers that their words in the document suggest. I think that has already happened with article two, to an extent. Read what it says, then go read Eric Hankins' explanation of it at Baptist Today. In my estimation, his explanation is much more biblical and is clearer than the affirmation and denial.

That does not mean that I think that he and I agree on the issues at stake. We have real differences, but hopefully those differences are not as pronounced as the wording of the document by itself suggests.

I want to deal with this, and I believe that most Southern Baptists do as well, as brothers. That is the way that I also hope to be treated by those who believe that my convictions are erroneous at points.

Frank Page has announced that he intends to appoint a group of people to meet together to discuss our theological differences and tensions. Who knows what the outcome of that effort will be, but it is worth hoping and praying that the Lord will use it to bring clarity on the matters of first importance touching the gospel and perhaps even point the way forward for the churches of the SBC in dealing with our doctrinal differences.

The bottom line for me as a pastor is this: I am responsible for the church I serve. I will give an account as an undershepherd to those people. I will not give an account for other autonomous churches. If the SBC takes hard stands or advocates positions that hinder our church's ability to honor the Lord as we seek to advance the gospel, then we will separate from it. I would hope that every pastor and church would view things similarly.

ta