Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Missions Questions with No Easy Answers

We talked about a thorny issue in my seminary missions class today. What would you do if a new convert on the field was married to multiple wives? Do you tell him to divorce all but the first one or maintain the status quo? Or is there another option?

My initial instinct was that only the first marriage was biblically valid because God created marriage to be one man and one woman; therefore, subsequent marriages were not actual marriages in God's eyes and divorce would be appropriate and not really divorce at all. Then it occurred to me that the OT seems to recognize polygamous marriages as genuine marriages even if they arose outside God's intent, so perhaps the marriages should remain intact.

If that's not tough enough, the answer and the reasoning also has implications for how we address the problem of homosexual marriage. If we do concede that polygamous marriages can be valid in God's eyes even if they are outside His creative intent, then how can we use the argument that "marriage is one man and one woman" to repudiate homosexual marriage? Both polygamous marriages and homosexual marriages are contrary to this divine intent, but we cannot use that argument to say homosexual marriages are invalid if we concede that polygamous marriages are valid (but wrong).

Of course, that does not mean that there is no other way to make the case that homosexual marriage is invalid, but it does take away a common argument. I don't have the answers, so as Ross Perot used to say, "I'm all ears."

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Therapeutic Spirituality Without Transformational Faith: David Wells on Emergent Spirituality

David Wells recently spoke in Southeastern Seminary chapel for two days on the topic, "Emergent Spirituality." I was not able to attend, but I have now listened to both lectures, which are available online. They're not for the faint of heart (don't listen to them to stay awake while you're driving), but your dedication to wade in will be well-rewarded. Stream or download the files via the SEBTS chapel page.

Wells is certainly one of the premier deconstructors of modern and post-modern thinking and culture from an evangelical perspective. His central theme in both lectures is that in recent decades the Church has been infiltrated by a desire for spirituality apart from religion. By religion he refers, I believe, not to ritualistic trappings but to authentic faith. Wells describes this desire for spirituality as a tourist mentality—a satisfaction with a journey that peruses a variety of perspectives, rather than a pursuit for the singular prize of objective truth. Wells analyzes how both the Emerging Movement and the Church Growth Movement are ultimately oriented similarly towards a therapeutic or felt-needs spirituality at the cost of truth and doctrine.

He quotes B.B. Warfield who spoke presciently a century ago:
No one will doubt that Christians of today must state their Christian beliefs in terms of modern thought. Every age has a language of its own and can speak no other . Mischief only comes when instead of stating Christian beliefs in terms of modern thought, the effort is made rather to state modern thought in terms of Christian belief.
I was encouraged by Wells' closing remarks:
God draws near to us through His Word by the work of the Holy Spirit in conjunction with that Word. It is only through His Word that He lifts the fallen with His promises, and He fills the hungry, and He corrects the wandering, and He rebukes the self-sufficient. And every time He speaks, He leaves behind the fragrance of His grace. And so, may we be preachers of His Word.

De Facto Feminism in the Family

Russell Moore, professor at Southern Seminary and frequent substitute host of Al Mohler’s daily radio program, delivered a blow to evangelical political correctness at the recent Evangelical Theological Society annual meeting. Jeff Robinson of reports that Moore’s address confronted evangelicals with the fact that their oblivious de facto acceptance of egalitarianism in individual families is contributing to a disintegration of the Church’s understanding of the sovereignty and fatherhood of God. Read the whole article to receive a fuller understanding of his target. This small clipping is a pretty good sample:
Evangelicals maintain headship in the sphere of ideas, but practical decisions are made in most evangelical homes through a process of negotiation, mutual submission, and consensus. That's what our forefathers would have called feminism -- and our foremothers, too.
I think his overall argument is also similar to my contention that evangelical de facto acceptance of divorce is the foundational reason that we are losing the battle on traditional marriage. The fact is that we abdicated the battle when we failed to take divorce and church discipline seriously. Since marriage means very little, homosexual marriage is now only a small step. If the Church were serious about marriage, it might still be a great leap.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Dripping with Irony

Philip Ryken blogs a PCUSA publication quoting Machen on contending for the faith and spurning neutrality—and the quote is from his final sermon at Princeton, of all things. (more info here)

Christ Precious Review #1

Angus Nicholson of Scots Wahey! and other valuable reference blogs has written Part 1 (of an anticipated 3) of his review of John Fawcett's Christ Precious to Those that Believe.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Things I Like About Being Back in Ohio

  1. The State Department of Transportation is educated in the ice-melting properties of NaCl and has snowplows that distribute it.
  2. The absence of wretched humidity makes it possible to see stars.
  3. It is the current location of my nephew and niece.
  4. People speak a pure version of the English language.
  5. It offers the opportunity to watch OSU-Michigan on an ESPN Classic Instant Classic with my whole family. Speaking of which, I must get back to the game.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Gospel-Centered Hurricane Relief

I first met Jeremy about ten years ago when I joined his church about the time he was starting college. A couple years later (if I remember right) he was a resident in the dorm I supervised. I haven't seen him in years and have only talked to him once in that time, but I give thanks to God for how He takes scrawny freshmen and their idiot dorm supervisors and equips them for gospel ministry in ways we never could have imagined.

Jeremy, if you're reading this, I'll be praying for you this week.

Monday, November 21, 2005


Saturday I ran the second 10K (6.2 mile) race of my life. I wasn't dreadfully dissatisfied with my time, and it didn't even bother me much that men twice my age beat me. I don't even think the humbling experience exempts me from reading C.J. Mahaney's new book, Humility: True Greatness. I must say, however, that I was less than pleased to have been beaten by a man pushing stroller . . . with two kids in it . . . by at least five minutes.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

For Our Readers from Select Regions in the U.S.

Lumpy (the Paleoinformant) directed me to a great online translation tool that will assist some readers in getting some of the subtle nuances of Paleoevangelical. Check out a sample of what this online dialect translation tool will do here.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Friday, November 18, 2005

On Denominations and Militancy: What Was Adrian Rogers Supposed To Do?

By this time you are probably aware that Adrian Rogers passed away earlier this week. When Dr. Rogers was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1979, he was the first of an unbroken line of militantly conservative* presidents that continues to this date. His election was the first victory for conservatives (pejoratively called "fundamentalists") in the long struggle to steer the SBC back to its orthodox roots. The ultra-condensed version of the story is that the election of militantly conservative presidents has been the decisive point in turning the convention towards conservatism. The SBC presidents have appointed militantly conservative people to SBC agency boards (missions agencies, seminaries, publishing house, etc.), and those boards have hired militantly conservative leadership for the agencies.
[* By "militantly conservative" I mean individuals not only whose personal beliefs were orthodox, but were also committed to appointing to leadership positions in the SBC only those individuals who were also orthodox. Previous "non-militant" presidents may have been orthodox themselves, but because they valued denominational unity over loyalty to truth, they appointed modernists and non-militant conservatives to key positions of denominational leadership.]
That story is not over yet. Just about every year the agencies are making more definitive steps towards thoroughgoing conservatism, but there are more steps yet to take. The pragmatic strategies that led to a healthier denomination do not apply to thousands of local churches that may be orthodox but are patently unhealthy. Over the long term, the health of the SBC is grounded in the health of the churches. I believe the primary denominational strategy is to churn out thousands of pastors from the renovated seminaries. Those young men will fan out into churches that have deteriorated theologically, spiritually, and numerically in order to infuse new life into them by the power of the preaching of the gospel. The secondary strategy is to continue to plant new churches in the Northeast and the West. Will it work? There is no way to know but to wait and see (and work, if you are in the SBC).

That brings us to the question of the day: Were Adrian Rogers and the other leaders of the conservative resurgence right to remain in the SBC, or should they have withdrawn and separated from the convention because of the presence of modernists and non-militant conservatives? I see three responses to this question that are rational and consistent with theologically conservative principles.
  1. The denominational incrementalist approach. This view is essentially represented by what did happen and what is still happening. Militant conservatives are winning the major battles but are proceeding in a measured fashion. They are trying to maintain a delicate balance by proceeding slowly and carefully so that they do not drive away churches (and their Cooperative Program contributions) that might be reformed in time.
  2. The independent separatist approach.This view says that by the 1970s militant SBC conservatives should have realized that the convention was beyond repair. They should have withdrawn from the convention to form independent agencies led by local churches. The implication of this approach is that the SBC, all its agencies, and many of the churches that have now been reformed would likely have been lost, but a new, much smaller fellowship of militantly conservative churches would have sprung up. From this perspective, the SBC will never be purified because even the leadership is still too tolerant. The overwhelming love in the SBC for all things Graham and Warren is offered as evidence to this view. Those who subscribe to this view grudgingly acknowledge the good that has been accomplished by the denominational reform approach, but are highly skeptical that it will go far enough.
  3. The denominational reformist approach. This approach says that what has taken place in the convention represents amazing progress but still falls far short of what needs to take place. I think this is a relatively small group. Individuals who hold to this view value theological purity over denominational unity, but they appreciate the pragmatic benefits of denominational cooperation. They do not share the independent separatist's understanding of secondary separation, but they share their distaste for the theology and methodology of Warren and Graham. Denominational reformists speak constantly about the purity of the gospel and say things like this:
    I am concerned that the gospel would go forward better if most Southern Baptist churches in America were closed down. So I think most of the churches I am familiar with—many evangelical churches—are not good witnesses for the gospel.
I'm not here to say which view is biblical, best, or wisest. My independent streak makes me lean initially toward the second. I simply have no love for denominations or de facto denominations. I doubt that they are expedient even if they are pure. My realist streak (augmented by the fact that I am a student within—but not a member of—the SBC status quo) gives me some appreciation for the first, but it's way too soft for my theology and my convictions. The third is the most principled melding of the idealistic and the pragmatic, but that doesn't prove its superiority.

Regardless, I do see some irony. I'm an independent fundamental Baptist. Not the fire-breathing, fight-picking, KJV-only kind, but a fundamentalist nonetheless. Sort of like the kind President Carter was taking shots at, but without the tendency towards political power-grabs. I'm the kind that loves America but doesn't want an American flag in the church.

The irony is in the fact that separatist independent fundamentalists would, not surprisingly, advocate the "independent separatist approach," but when they talk about their fundamentalist heritage, they have to admit that the early fundamentalists did not follow this approach. They were at best denominational reformists. They cooperated with non-militant conservatives in the publication of The Fundamentals. Some of them even left the Convention and started a new group in willing cooperation with non-militant conservatives. Only later when this strategy failed did they become independent separatists.

Make no mistake, however. They did not leave because they could no longer in good conscience partner with non-militant conservatives. They left because they lost their battle with modernists for the purity of the Northern Baptist Convention. Had they won the same victories in the NBC that Adrian Rogers and friends won in the SBC, I wonder if the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship would be speaking Denominationalese. I'm glad they're not, but perhaps not for the same reasons others give thanks.

So was Rogers right to fight for the purity of the denomination? Should he have led a mass exodus instead? Will the SBC ever be reformed as thoroughly as it ought to be? I don't have the answers to these questions. But let's be honest. Northern fundamentalists lost their battles. He won his. The fact that we left denominationalism because we could no longer control it doesn't make our history more principled. On the other hand, the fact that Rogers led a resurgence that has won great battles does not prove Rogers was right, and it certainly doesn't mean the war is over.

As I said before, I'm not a Southern Baptist. I'm glad that I am not sending any of my money to support in any minute sense whatever vestiges of modernism remain in the Convention. Neverthless, I'm a bit queasy when I hear independent fundamentalists take men like Rogers, Patterson, and their successors to task for not being militant enough.

I have experienced precious little persecution for being an independent fundamentalist—little more than occasionally having people assume I'm KJV-only and paying double tuition at Southeastern (which does sting a little, I promise you). Some living fundamentalists have payed a far greater price than I, but I'm having a hard time imagining that they have paid a heavier price for their militancy than Adrian Rogers did. If you doubt that, do a little research and read the slander.

One might rightly say that Rogers should have been more separatistic—that he should have gone further—but I'm having a tough time swallowing allegations that he was not militant. All too often, the friends who say these things have sacrificed comparatively little for their principles. Rogers and many others paid dearly for theirs. Rogers did battle royal for the fundamentals of the faith, and he deserves my respect. I think we all owe him the same.

NASCAR and Crisis Pregnancy

I think NASCAR is unwatchable, but I don't make fun of the people who watch it . . . well, not when they're around. They're bigger than me, and so are their guns.

This article in WORLD Magazine won't make me watch the sport, but it will make me appreciate some of the major players some more. The short version is that Interstate Batteries ("a distinctly Christian firm whose mission statement begins, 'To glorify God' ") has partnered with with Joe Gibbs Racing Team (yes, the Redskins' Joe Gibbs—his kids went to a Christian school with my brother-in-law years ago) to place an advertisement for Care-Net, a network of 900 pregnancy centers that offer "women facing unplanned pregnancies compassionate alternatives to abortion."

To Dennis Brown, a Care-Net board member, the matter is personal:
Mr. Brown's involvement with Care-Net has given him an opportunity to "be more of an adoption advocate," he said, noting that the group's emphasis on life gives more women the opportunity to make the same decision [his daughter] made. "It's not the kind of thing I wore on my sleeve before, but working with Care-Net allows me to talk about compassionate caring for women, and about adoption as a viable choice."

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Blog for a Free Book

My employer, Positive Action For Christ, has just published a reprint of John Fawcett's classic work, Christ Precious to Those that Believe: A Practical Treatise on Faith and Love. Fawcett, an 18th century English Baptist pastor, is perhaps best known for authoring the hymn, "Blest Be the Tie that Binds." Christ Precious is less well-known, out of print, and almost impossible to find in a decent quality reprint.
If you, like me, are convicted by the need to read more works by dead authors, this exposition on the incomparable treasure believers possess in Christ is a great place to begin. If you'll read the book and blog your thoughts or review, we will send you this beautiful hard-bound reprint for free. Here's the deal:
  1. Send me an email at paleoevangelical [at] gmail [dot] com.
  2. Include a link to your blog.
  3. Agree to do a review of the book on your blog.
I'll then send you a PDF of the entire book. Once you do your review, just send me the link, along with your snail-mail address, and we'll send you a complimentary printed copy of the book. Thanks to all, especially Justin Taylor, from whom I ripped off the wording for this offer. We have a limited number of freebies to give away, so drop me a line soon.

If you don't have a blog and just want to buy the book, it's a great deal at $14.95 for a hard-cover.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Why I Read Footnotes: Piper on Doran on Missions

One of the texts for the Missions class I’m taking this semester is Let the Nations Be Glad: The Supremacy of God in Missions by John Piper. The primary theme is that the ultimate purpose is to increase the fame of God’s name by calling more people to worship Him. Salvation of souls is the means, not the end. I think there is one secondary theme that rises above the other secondary themes: God wants the priority of missions to be the penetration of all the people groups of the earth, not the application of missions strategies that seem to convert the largest number of people. In other words, reaching all the people groups of the world with the message of the gospel is more important than flooding the fields that are likely to be most responsive and return measurable results.

Although I’ve written about how moving this book is (and I could have written much more), a question arose in my mind. Is Piper overemphasizing “people groups”? Can we be obedient if we reach people groups but fail to go to the ends of the earth to do it? If we reach individuals who are from people groups that are primarily remote in their geographic concentrations, but we only reach those individuals who have taken residence in population centers, have we really “reached” that people group? Have we really obeyed Acts 1:8?

When I finished the book recently, I read the last footnote to Piper’s contribution. (He wrote the overwhelming majority of the book, but the afterword was written by another pastor at Piper’s church.) I’m quoting this footnote in full because it was quite interesting to me:
David Doran, in his book, For the Sake of His Name: Challenging a New Generation for World Missions (Allen Park, Mich.: Student Global Impact, 2002), 131-154, has written a chapter called “The Territory of the Great Commission.” In it he gives a corrective to a lopsided emphasis on the people-group focus in missions at the expense of the geographic focus. In spite of our interaction, I do not think it necessary to change anything I have written. But I do alert the reader that Doran interacts with me in his book and so may provide a perspective that I am neglecting.
Obviously, you’ll need the second edition of Piper’s book, published in 2003, to get the footnote. I do not know whether Doran’s analysis is remotely similar to mine. If there is similarity, his thoughts and exegesis is clearly far more developed than mine. I plan to order For the Sake of His Name soon, but I don’t know when I’ll dive in. I plan to post an update when I get there.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

When Ex-Presidents Attack

I offer my apologies if Al Mohler's discussion of President Carter's screed on fundamentalism is old news to everyone. Today has been a busy day, and I've devoted my blog-thinking time today to a couple larger projects that aren't ready for publication yet. I offer one piece of semi-original thinking: Mohler said in a recent radio program that Carter has announced that he is no longer a Southern Baptist. In light of that revelation, I'll agree with Mark Dever that the SBC can add by subtraction (see the first quote in my recap).

Monday, November 14, 2005

Free Stuff for Ministry

I'm convinced that one of the means God used to draw me to repentance and faith during staff training as a camp counselor was the many godly, committed young people around me. Seeing them overflow with joy to give of themselves to serve families and young people and carry their spiritual burdens pierced my hard heart with conviction about the absence of this spirit in my life.

Flash forward more than ten years to the past two weeks of my life. In these two weeks, I've been able to be a small part of a youth ministry training conference and to exhibit for Positive Action Bible Curriculum at an educators' convention in Pennsylvania. I'm privileged to be a part of an organization that views both of those events as opportunities for ministry, not merely for marketing. One of the ways that we have done that is to provide free-of-charge several God-centered resources to pastors, teachers, and school administrators that will help them foster love for and worship of God in the hearts of those to whom they minister. This love and worship ought to be the motivation for our obedience.

Some of these resources may be beneficial to you, as well. Whether or not you are a teacher or a pastor, you ought to be discipling someone. I hope these resources, which are just a sample of what we often give away, encourage and equip you in your ministry. They are yours to download or order online.

"A Biblical Theology of Youth Ministry" MP3 CD, a look at what three biblical authors had to say about discipling young people.

"Encourage a Passion for God," a message for Christian school educators on the purpose of Christian education

"Bolts and Nuts," a look at the basics of discipling young people in the local church

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Best Stanza You May Never Have Sung

The fourth stanza of "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" made me smile from ear to ear when I sang it for the first time Friday night. I haven't been able to track down the story on this one, but apparently it was not written by Robert Robinson, the author of the first three stanzas, but was added later (recently, perhaps?—it's not in the Majesty Hymnal) by Bradford Brown. I hope it makes you smile as well.
Come Thou Fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I'm fixed upon it,
Mount of God's unchanging love.

Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I'm come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be!
Let that grace now like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here's my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.

Friday, November 11, 2005

You Might Be a Paleoevangelical If . . . (#8)

. . . the reason you will never wear a CoolFaith t-shirt ("clothing even your pastor will agree with") is not because you are ashamed of the gospel, but because you value it.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Ladies and Gentlemen, We Have Another Fundamentalist

Freddy Adu's season ended in shame. Harriet Miers is yesterday's news. So just in time Kim Jong-Il reminds us that there is still a future for fundamentalism in the world.

The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail

Maybe I'm still running on adrenaline from last week, or maybe I'm just in an uncharacteristically positive mood. Call it what you want, but I was thrilled to hear earlier this week from a crdible source that in the past twelve months, 1,200 Muslims have professed Christ in one overwhelmingly Islamic country. Of that number, at least 24 are imams. I would give more documentation of names and places, but that would probably be unwise. And although I am inclined, for better or worse, to view second or third-hand accounts of professions from lesser-developed countries skeptically, professions of faith in Muslim countries are not to be taken lightly.

Go ahead. Call me an optimist. I dare you.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

On Bob Bixby and Goldfish-Swallowing

Yesterday’s post brought to mind this salient quote from one of Bob’s sessions last week: “Hyles and Hybels are the same philosophy, but without the ‘b,’ which stands for ‘bull.’ “

I almost agree. The only point on which I differ is that if “b” stands for “bull,” then “Hyles” is missing at least two or three consonants.

Monday, November 07, 2005

A Retrospective on the God Focused Youth Ministry Training Conference

Very seldom in my life have I been immediately conscious of being a part of something overwhelmingly important. I don't think that is because God has seldom given me anything worthwhile to do; it probably has more to do with the fact that I have blown far too many opportunities for service because I wasn't tuned in to their eternal significance.

My small part in the God Focused Youth Ministry Training Conference was simply overwhelming to my soul. None of the credit for anything good that happened goes to people, and if it did, very little of the credit would have been mine. I am indescribably grateful for the work that God did in my spirit as He exalted His name through the ministry of the speakers and conference leaders and servants.

I think the reason this training conference is so important is that it caused several dozen church and ministry leaders to take a hard look at our personal character and devotion, our view of Scripture, our approach to ministry, and our methodology for discipling other believers. It is patently easy for us who profess to be biblical to cast stones at churches that never cease to find new ways to compromise the gospel. Last week denied the opportunity for stone-casting because we were directly challenged not just to look at what the Bible says about how we are to live, but to test our motivations for why we live the way that we live to ensure that those motivations are focused on exalting the name of our God. My recent post on gospel-centered parenting is a good example of this distinct emphasis.

I've been fortunate to attend a pretty fair number of ministry-related conferences, almost all of which have been beneficial. I have never attended or even heard of one in which the focus has been more about helping pastors exalt the name of God before the eyes of His people. I've also never attended any kind of conference at which I was more directly reproved about the condition of my own spirit and built up in my dependence God alone.

The Positive Action leadership team spent most of the day today directing a critical eye on the past week and making some plans for the future. We found ourselves talking so much about what we want to improve for next year (tentatively set for November 6–9) that it was easy to forget about how grateful we need to be to our gracious God for how He worked in our hearts and those of the attendees despite our deficiencies. May His name alone be praised!

Chickens and Eggs of Ecclesiastical Deterioration: Which Comes First?

One of the panel members at the ACCC Convention discussion forum (I think it was Dr. Colas) said in reference to the institutional influence on contemporary evangelicalism, "As go the schools, so goes the movement."

Is this true? Do educational institutions really drive the bus, or do churches? Did the denominations of the 19th and 20th century fall into disrepair because the schools hired modernist faculty, or because churches were in such disrepair that they failed to lead and exercise oversight? Is the SBC conservative resurgence succeeding because the seminaries changed, or because churches rose up and began to fight for the gospel and purge the seminaries?

This raises an interesting question. Fundamentalist leaders decry the the trend of younger men who are leaving "the movement." Is this because fundamentalist seminaries are unhealthy, or because fundamentalist churches are? I'm only one dude, but I'm pretty sure it's the latter.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Ecclesiastical Identity and Gender Identity

The modern perversion of so-called "gender change" procedures has created confusion in culture about the basis of gender identity. Believers who understand and submit to the authority of Scripture understand that God made people "male and female" and that such procedures are merely cosmetic, not real.

Similarly, some fundamentalists would argue that certain individuals cannot be fundamentalists because they reject the label. I have no interest in arguing whether or not these folks are fundamentalists. I do have some interest in seeing people use valid argumentation.

The point is that we are what we are because it is what we are, not because it is what we say we are. We cannot cease to be what we are merely because we say that we are not what we are. Likewise, we cannot deny that someone else is what they are simply because they reject the name for themselves.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Rick Holland on Gospel-Centered Parenting

What a week! If you're a newcomer to this blog, this week my employer, Positive Action For Christ, sponsored the first-ever God Focused Youth Ministry Training Conference. I plan to post a report in coming days, but I'm not sure I have the distance yet (or the energy) to do a great job of it. And on that energy note, please pray if you are so inclined for the physical recovery of the speakers. Frank Hamrick carried an exhausting load as a primary speaker and the individual ultimately responsible for all that occurred. Bob Bixby will be speaking three times at my church Sunday, and Rick Holland flew back to California today, where he was to spend some time in the office still this afternoon, lead in a college ministry function tomorrow night, preach Sunday, and leave for a pastors' conference in Italy next week.

Now to the point of this post. Much of the theological/philosophical message of the conference was familiar to me since I spend time every week with Frank Hamrick. Frank is not the originator of God-centeredness (God is), but he is a pretty good articulator of it. One concept that was not familiar to me but was one of those "Aha!" moments was Rick Holland's discussion of Gospel-centered parenting. I hope my paraphrase from memory does it justice. I will post a link to MP3s when they're available.
Children are responsible to obey. Parents are responsible to teach their children, not to obey, but that it is utterly impossible for them to obey. That is the point of the gospel. We cannot obey. We cannot meet God's standard of righteousness. Gospel-centered parenting teaches children that although they are responsible to obey, they cannot fulfill this responsibility. Only the righteousness of Jesus Christ applied to their accounts can remove sin's penalty and reconcile them to God. Parental discipline is a tangible reminder that they cannot please God by their own efforts.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Southern Baptists to Debate Doctrines of Grace

Tom Ascol's Founders blog talks about the planned debate between Al Mohler and Paige Patterson over the Doctrines of Grace. Ascol makes two great points. The first is that it matters less who "wins the debate" than the fact that the SBC is willing to grapple publicly with these issues. Second, young Southern Baptists will be on this debate like stink on a monkey (my words, not his) because they are more interested in theology than denominational programs and politics. I expect this to be a fierce clash of views in the context of a mutual desire for unity within the Convention. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this debate will be how successful they are in encouraging denominational unity in the face of a stark clash of ideas (and whether that unity is, in fact, a good thing).

Thoughtful independent Baptists are ahead of the game in that they had this conversation several years ago in the context of the Leadership Conference at Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary. I found Tim Jordan, Dave Burggraff, Dave Doran, Jeff Straub, and others' willingness to discuss these theoological issues openly, directly, and irenically quite refreshing as I listened to the recordings a few days later. I expect that those recordings of the sessions are still available from the seminary.