Thursday, February 23, 2006

Where Did All These Worms Come From?

Oh, someone opened a can of them.

I disagree with some of Dan Burrell's specific conclusions, particularly in his second article on this theme. For example, I have a much more positive view of independent Baptist seminaries, but the ones he's thinking of are probably different from the ones that I think of. Second, I don't expect myself to be endorsing some of the non-fundamentalist institutions he praises for a number of reasons. Finally, I'm not quite as optimistic about the SBC as he seems to be. My appreciation for the conservative resurgence in the SBC is tempered by some serious concerns with the prevailing winds in the churches and the halls of power (see yesterday's post). Perhaps I should emphasize that my concerns are substantially different from those that are typically thundered by independent Baptists. I don't doubt that Burrell senses similar concerns to mine, so perhaps we don't really disagree all that much.

Enough of the caveats.

This is a conversation that needs to take place. The concerns that Burrell articulates about Christian colleges are held widely enough that either a gross misperception exists, or there is a real problem. Either way, I sense a prevailing tendency to squelch criticism—constructive or otherwise—of Christian educational institutions. I'll gladly admit this is opinion and my breadth of experience is limited, but it seems to me that we fundamentalists have become more emotionally involved in the health of our colleges than the health of our churches, and I cannot imagine that we will avoid paying a heavy price for our priorities.

I'm particularly grateful for Burrell's emphasis on transformation over conformity, articulated succinctly in these paragraphs:
In the end, most Christian college students would benefit from a structured and discipline environment, but one that has as its goal “transformation” and not “conformity.” Conformity is always dependent upon “control”. Once the control is gone, you’ll find out to what extent they have been “transformed.” But across Christian education, we have become quite content expending our energy on “control” rather than mentoring, training, counseling, growing, developing, leading and interning our students toward greater accountability, personal responsibility and spiritual transformation. [emphasis mine]

A school without rules is impossible. Standards are necessary. But let’s face it, some of the battles we fight in Christian schools today are unnecessary and not even Biblical. Sure, a case can be made for dismissing the whole “excessive control” issue as a battle against compromise worth fighting, but is it not time for some reasonable discussion of eliminating stumbling stone rules which present an inaccurate image of Christian holiness, institutional excellence and the personal liberty of each believer?
Maybe the reason I agree so much is because I wrote something along these lines several months ago. Although if I had to do it over again, I'd call it a "different" paradigm rather than a "new" one.

Keep challenging our thinking, Dan. We need senior pastors like you to be asking these questions.

1 comment:

Dan Burrell said...

Hi Ben...I enjoyed reading your comments (as I always do -- your blog is on my "must read" list.) For the sake of clarification, I don't know that you and I feel quite as differently on the SBC issue as it might appear.

I think the SBC is rife with problems, not the least among them being some of their cooperative projects and not going far enough and fast enough to root out the theological liberals for my personal preference. I'm very happy in my "Independent" world.

I guess my difference would be that I don't see us challenging the SBC toward a more conservative position like we once did. Of course, in the 50's and 60's we pulled our churches and money out and in the 70's and early 80's, we had the largest churches in the country. But when we refused to acknowledge their progress, continued to criticize things they had already fixed or were fixing and burned more bridges than we built to the theological conservatives, I think we lost our ability to be the "loyal opposition" in the denomination which kept the heat on them toward a more conservative position.

I believe the next opportunity for influencing SB's and other evangelicals could be by partnering with them to educate their students and future leaders. But as long as we consider them "the enemy", we forfeit that privilege and opportunity and thus we become less relevant in the process.

Thanks again for your thoughts. I always appreciate reading what's on your mind!