Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Doran on the Missional Movement

Free audio now available from this month's MACP: “Church, Kingdom, Mission: Understanding and Assessing the Missional Church Movement.”

Haven't listened to this yet, but I'm very much looking forward to it in light of the emerging tension within the reformed(ish) stream. And that tension seems to be increasing not only within conservative evangelicalism, but also within fundamentalism. As I wrote recently, I suspect this may be the fault line that fractures reformed evangelicals if biblical consensus is not reached.

Now, you should know that when I imported these talks into iTunes, they were automatically categorized into the genre, "Blues." Not sure what to make of that, but consider this fair warning. (Some might say that the fact that these lectures are being used as a reference at Paleoevangelical does not mean that Paleoevangelical endorses its contents from the standpoint of morals, philosophy, theology, or scientific hypothesis.)

Just sayin'. ;-)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What We Don't Need

Mohler, at the very end:
We do not need another New Evangelicalism. We do not need another minimalism. We need people to go for the full wealth of conviction. . . . We need to be the people who are ready, with the courage and the conviction, to take it all on.

Friday, October 08, 2010

"Practice Has Been Driving Principle": Dever's Argument You Didn't Get to Hear

A sermon (planned prior to the Dever-Driscoll-MacDonald video release) that addresses the trajectory of disinterest in biblical proscription on matters of congregational church polity—including multi-site churches, multiple services, elder rule, and a whole host of other matters.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Guilty Pleasure

Only in the intro so far, but I can already tell I'm going to like this book. A lot.

Well-timed release, and super-cheap for a limited time.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

If God the Father or the Holy Spirit Preached Here in Chapel, They'd Talk About Jesus

Useful reminders about the necessity and centrality of a mediator, even in the OT, from yesterday's chapel sermon at Northland International University.

Two Starkly Different Views of the Church's Mission

What Greg Gilbert and Kevin DeYoung articulate in the embedded video is strikingly different from what Russell Moore tweets:
The mission of Jesus was to whole people, body and soul. If your mission is more limited, don't blame it on Jesus.

It's difficult for me to grasp precisely what Moore means by this in a 140-characters-or-less tweet. I assume he does NOT mean that we should attempt to replicate the full mission of Jesus. IOW, I doubt that Moore will be attempting to offer a substitutionary atonement anytime soon or, as Gilbert notes, to kill all the wicked.

The problem is that unqualified identification of our mission with the mission of Jesus invariably introduces ambiguity and confusion. Unless this ambiguity is clarified biblically, I suspect we're looking at the fault line that will form a crevasse, dividing evangelicals—even conservative, reformed evangelicals.

I look forward to thinking about this via Gilbert and DeYoung's in-progress book, and the audio from MACP later this month.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

FYI for Anyone Out There in Southern Wisconsin/Northern Illinois

Preaching training coming up soon in Madison, Wisconsin. I have no direct familiarity with Simeon Trust, but I've heard good things about their emphasis on and approach to biblical exposition.

Monday, October 04, 2010

When Adjectives Attack: What Separates Theological Baptists from Cultural/Separatist Baptists

What follows is a guest post from Jason Wredberg. More about Jason at the conclusion.
I was raised an independent fundamental Baptist (IFB). My Grandfather was an IFB pastor for 55 years and I have now had nearly 20 of my relatives either attend or graduate from an IFB Bible College (including every single member of my immediate family). During the years I spent in my parent’s home, we never attended a church that did not have the word Baptist in its name. What I find interesting now is that my concept of Baptist history then only extended back about 100 years and was almost entirely limited to evangelists and handful of larger than life pastors. Men like Billy Sunday, John R. Rice and Jack Hyles were the major historic figures I heard talked about.

It was not until college that I gained a more robust understanding of Baptist history and discovered men like Bunyan, Keach, Gill, Fuller, Carey, Judson and of course, Mr. Spurgeon. A simple look at the names listed above illustrates that the Baptist tradition is pretty broad and encompasses a wide range of theological positions. There have been times when, as a convinced Baptist, I have struggled with my historic identity. I want to cling to men like Spurgeon, but am quickly reminded of the men like Hyles (and those who still stand more in his tradition than in Spurgeon’s) and I’m momentarily tempted to ditch the title altogether.

This hodge-podge of Baptist history started to come into focus for me the other day as I was meeting with a couple of men who are firmly entrenched in the Independent, Fundamental Baptist world. As we talked about church planting, Baptist history and the New Hampshire Baptist Confession, something occurred to me. Even though we both claim the title Baptist, we are almost entirely different.

I think there are generally two kinds of Baptists—theological Baptists and cultural/separatist Baptists. Theological Baptist are those that opened up their Bibles, searched the Scriptures diligently, came to Spirit-led conclusions and then figured out that their conclusions made them Baptist—their theological study led them to historic Baptist positions. Cultural/Separatist Baptists are primarily driven to embrace the title as a result of being raised in an IFB culture (or an SBC culture—I think these two classifications are generally true in the SBC world as well) or because they have figured out what they are against and who they are against. As convinced separatists, they find the Baptist tag the most fitting. I believe this group’s separatism is primarily a cultural separatism and not a theological/doctrinal separatism. For example, they tend to get much angrier about music than they do about easy-believism or inattentiveness to church discipline and regenerate church membership.

These groups differ in a number of other ways. Let me note a few:
  1. Look at their doctrinal statements. Theological Baptists will typically offer their longest and clearest articles in the areas of soteriology and ecclesiology, whereas the cultural/separatist Baptists will spill the most ink on their articles dealing with separation and eschatology.
  2. Listen to them talk about history. Theological Baptists talk about Baptist history and cling to names like Carey, Judson, Gill, Spurgeon and Broadus. These men represent a clear unity in their soteriology but not in every point of their eschatology. Cultural/Separatist Baptists talk, sometimes exclusively, about fundamental Baptist history and speak about men from the last 100 years who were passionate separatists—men who may or may not have shared a vital elements of soteriology, but certainly shared the same eschatology. I also find it interesting that when this group digs deeper into history, they tend to be drawn to men who were more known for their (political) separatism than their theological passion and clarity (Williams, Backus, Leland).
  3. Evaluate whether they are local church-driven or institutionally-driven. Theological Baptists believe that the local church is God’s primary means of carrying out His redemptive plan to reconcile to Himself peoples from every tribe, tongue and nation. Insomuch as institutions serve that purpose (while never infringing on the churches autonomy), they can be a tremendous blessing. Cultural/Separatist Baptist allow institutions to lead the way. Local churches can be a blessing to the institutions when the churches do not infringe on the institutional autonomy. In this line of thinking, institutional authorities tend to function with the spiritual authority of pastors in the lives of their students. Institutional employees and local churches may or may not help, but they are by no means central to the spiritual life and vitality of those under the authority of the institution.
  4. Observe whether associations or theology are the basis for separation and/or cooperation. Theological Baptists prioritize theology (and in most cases soteriology) as the basis for cooperation with other groups or individuals (i.e. Together for the Gospel, The Gospel Coalition). What stands at the center of everything and towers over everything is clarity concerning the gospel of Jesus Christ. Theologically and functionally, it is of first importance. For the Cultural/Separatist Baptist the gospel is important, but functionally it is, at best, placed on the same shelf as their doctrine of separation (sometimes with musical style next to separation on that shelf). At the very worst, the gospel—functionally—takes a back seat to one’s associations. Therefore, the cultural/separatist Baptist will functionally make the gospel an issue of secondary importance when he separates from someone like John MacArthur because of his associations but continues to invite Joe Evangelist who butchers the gospel but associates with all the right people.
While I truly believe that Cultural/Separatist Baptists are a dying breed, they do control a handful of colleges and seminaries that, at least for the time being, will continue to perpetuate their movement. However, while I have no scientific way of proving this, my sense is that many (if not most) of the graduates of these colleges and seminaries are quickly becoming theological Baptists.

My objectives in writing this piece are twofold. The first is to encourage cultural/separatists Baptists to start evaluating honestly why they are “losing” their young men in droves. If they’re honest, I believe they will see some of the observations explained above. Secondly, I want to encourage young (or older) men who have come out of (or been heavily exposed to) the cultural/separatist Baptist world to be careful not to quickly abandon either the historic, theological convictions and ideals of Baptists—or even the title “Baptist.” A careful study of historic Baptists will uncover gospel-saturated, Word-centered, pastor-theologians who radically loved Christ and His church.
Jason Wredberg is a church planter in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. He previously served on the church planting pastoral team of a young, thriving church in central North Carolina. Jason and I have been friends since about the time God saved both of us in the mid-90s. We've also served as co-workers in several capacities and ministries.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Two Starkly Different Views of Christianity and Government

This sermon and this sermon don't precisely overlap. The speakers are not pursuing the same objectives; nevertheless, I believe they demonstrate two starkly different views, preached just two days apart, of 1) Christian citizenship in this world's nation-states, and 2) the authorities that lead to those distinct convictions. I don't expect that the speakers themselves would disagree with that assessment. (Of course, that's not to imply they disagree on everything. Obviously, they both affirm that Christianity influenced our nation's founders, for example.)

Here's a crucial portion of the first sermon:
Listen to me carefully, O Southern Baptist church. On Capitol Hill. This is one of the problems with referring to any country as a Christian nation. Just because the principles of Christianity clearly influenced our nations founders (and they did) and some of they themselves were evangelical Christians (I think Sam Adams was) and even if the Supreme Court has recognized the long history of significant Christian influence in our nation (and they have in decisions), that does not mean that most Americans are Christians, or that a Christian worldview dominates our public culture or our government today, or that one needs to be a Christian to be an American citizen.

Friends, Augustine understood these complexities far better when he wrote in his book, The City of God, about how we as Christians find ourselves simultaneously being citizens of two cities—the City of Man and the City of God—at the same time, citizens of both. The legal establishment of Christianity in many nations—centuries after the Apostles—reflected an already-distorted understanding of the gospel, and led to terrible confusions as the Church wielded the sword in religious wars and inquisitions. [repeated in original for emphasis] . . .

And friends, I've got to tell you, I think we're tempted to similar confusions today. [A portion of a riff on the misuse of Chronicles 7:14 is omitted here.] I think Christians' identification of their land, whatever it is, with "Israel" in 2 Chronicles 7:14 is very well intended, but it is confusing. There are no specific promises in the Bible like that for any nation-state in the world today. Though, it is true, we should always repent, and God may, in his mercy, bless our land.

The second sermon lacks a similar, lengthy expression of a pivotal thesis. (I'd highly encourage you to listen to the whole thing to get a clear sense of the overall message.) But this statement illustrates a bit of the contrast, and serves as a useful expression of some basic assumptions:
[T]here's a common blessing out there for people that will follow—nations that will follow—God's laws, God's principles. God's moral law, when it's exalted, certainly brings the blessing of God on a nation and on an individual. And so do not discount the fact that God has raised up America and blessed America because we have been a—yes—a nation founded upon his principles, upon Christian principles.
Another direct contrast is the first speaker's clear emphasis on the fundamentally international nature of Christianity, versus the second speaker's incredulity that young people would question saluting the American flag in church. You may also note the juxtaposition of a dispensationalist who expresses affirmation for the application to the United States of OT promises made to Israel, with the non-dispensationalist who finds that application confusing.

The above quotes are merely brief samples. Maybe 2-3 minutes out of a combined 100+ minutes of preaching. I'm not at all interested in the comments becoming an argument over whether those two sound bites fully display a fundamental contrast. I am arguing that the two sermons do precisely that. So in the comments, please refrain from debating whether my thesis is correct until you've listened to both sermons in full. Feel free to engage in other forms of discussion as you wish.

"Never Curry Their Favor"

Some words [MP3] from one pastor to another, upon the commencement of the latter's new pastoral ministry:
You many find yourself tempted to curry [your church's] favor. You won't be doing them any favors. Trust the Lord. This is his Word. He has revealed himself, and this revelation is not just for us in our personal quiet times. It's for every person here.

You have been specially called to bring God's Word to God's people here. Never curry their favor. That's not what they need. In their better moments it's not what they want. You are called by God to teach his Word. Bring them God's Word as faithfully as you can, and leave the results to him.