Friday, June 29, 2007

Just for Fun, a Little Prognostication

Since Mark Dever's starting this series that's proposing some explanations for "where all these Calvinists came from," I thought it might be fun to take some guesses at what he's going to say. So in no particular order, here's my best shot, with no inside information, and if I can stop myself, with no editorial comments.
  1. The rediscovery of expositional preaching
  2. The close connection between John Piper's reintroduction of joy in God-centeredness, his repudiation of sanctification by works, and his unabashed Calvinistic soteriology
  3. J.I. Packer's reintroduction of the Puritans
  4. The Banner of Truth's Puritan reprints
  5. The increasingly apparent "gospellessness" and spiritual bankruptcy of revivalistic theology and methodology (In other words, more people are recognizing that more human effort and persuasive prowess does not and cannot in and of itself generate more genuine converts.)
  6. The rise of technology, resulting in the wider dissemination of older public domain Calvinistic documents, a reduction in the sense of isolation among geographically scattered Calvinists, and the rise of a Calvinistic, online, pedagogical communities
  7. A self-conscious reestablishment of biblical authority within the Southern Baptist Convention, with particular direct effects on SBC seminaries
  8. The increasing availability of Bible study tools (I know this one's really going to tick some people off, but I'm convinced that the more you study the Bible and really listen to it while you study, the more you're likely to recognize that Calvin got his soteriology right. That's obviously not always true for serious Bible students, and I don't mean to disparage those who would vehemently disagree with me. I've simply seen this happen time and time again, and I can't recall a single example to the contrary. I think [and I could be wrong] that it's likely to represent a general pattern.)
That's a pretty pathetic attempt, I know, and even if they're all right (and they're not), it only gets me to nine when you count Dever's discussion of Spurgeon as #1. Let's hear your additions and alternatives.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Phil Johnson and Kevin Bauder on Doctrines Worth (and not worth) Fighting Over

I'm catching up a bit tonight on some reading I missed during a couple really busy weeks with some vacation sandwiched in the middle. The hands-down highlight is this post from the Shepherd's Fellowship blog. I've never seen anyone articulate better than Johnson does in the following words the reasons for the frustration that only grows in my mind the more I read about historical theology, particularly the history of fundamentalism:
But search for serious material that carefully discusses biblical guidelines for making [distinctions between core and peripheral doctrines] wisely, and you’ll come up mostly dry. This is an issue I fear most Christians have not considered as soberly and carefully as we should, and it would be my assessment that one of the crying needs of the church in this age of mindless postmodern subjectivity is a clear, careful, and thorough biblical understanding of when it’s time to fight and when it’s time to fellowship.

Few subjects interest me more than this. It seems a pretty obvious and foundational issue for the church and her leaders to settle. You might think the early fundamentalists ought to have done extensive work on the subject, but as far as I can see, they didn’t. They treated several key doctrines as fundamental, based mainly on what happened to be under attack by the modernists, and they declared themselves devoted to “the fundamentals.”

But they didn’t always keep very clear focus on the distinction between what was fundamental and what was not. As a result, later generations of fundamentalists often fought and fragmented over issues no one could rationally argue were “fundamental.” Predictably, the fundamentalist movement slowly collapsed on itself.
It's also great to see Kevin Bauder back in the blogosphere with his comment to Johnson's post. In part of that comment, he says:
The fact remains that mainstream fundamentalists today have as much (more?) in common with conservative evangelicals as they do with professed fundamentalists who proclaim the re-inspiration of the King James, who hold a magical view of the blood of Jesus, or who engage in the tactics of personal destruction (whispering campaigns, half-truths, and innuendos) against their opponents.
Though I wouldn't want to minimize the differences between Johnson and Bauder, I can think of few things that would be more profitable for the future of confessional fundamentalism and evangelicalism than to build personal relationships, think through these differences together, identify those levels of fellowship at which cooperation is possible, and work together for the recovery of the gospel in both evangelicalism and fundamentalism.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Pastors and Churches, Train Future Leaders. Train Them Intentionally.

A few weeks ago I finished an internship at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. CHBC trains twelve interns each year—six each in the spring and the fall. Unlike many internships, the CHBC intership isn't designed to find short-term help to manage church programs (youth, VBS, music, etc.) Rather it's composed of three components that are designed to prepare young men for future, long-term leadership wherever they find opportunity:
  1. Reading, writing, and discussion on the topics of biblical, historical, and contemporary theology and practice of the church.
  2. Shadowing the pastoral leadership of one particular church.
  3. Living life as a fully integrated member of the church, including in all aspects of the life of a member and intentionally developing relationships with all church officers and members from a broad spectrum of the congregation.
You can read a detailed description of the CHBC internship here. Surely not every church will have the resources or capacity to do things just like CHBC does. Perhaps other churches will find even better ways to train future leaders. But I think what's most important is that churches be deliberately identifying and shaping young men who are gifted either for vocational or non-vocational pastoral ministry. It's a simple matter of obedience to Scripture.

That doesn't mean you need a full-fledged program before you can start. Just start somewhere, even if it simply means bringing guys along on pastoral visits, inviting them to observe leadership meetings, or having them over for dinner occasionally.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Does the FBFI Defend the Sole Authority of Scripture?

I thought the FBFI had repudiated KJV-Onlyism. I guess I was wrong.

The lead-off speaker to this year's FBFI Annual Fellowship is Clarence Sexton, president of Crown College and pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. The "Statement of Faith" pages of both the college and the church state the following:
The Scriptures
We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Bible, “as it is in truth, the Word of God...” (I Thessalonians 2:13). We believe in verbal, plenary inspiration in the original writings, and God's preservation of His pure words to every generation (II Timothy 3:16, Psalms 12:6-8). The Masoretic Text of the Old Testament and the Received Text of the New Testament (Textus Receptus) are those texts of the original languages we accept and use; the King James Version of the Bible is the only English version we accept and use. The Bible is our sole authority for faith and practice.
I disagree with the conclusions of these statements that the Masoretic Text and the Received Text are the only texts of the original languages that we "accept and use." I similarly disagree that the KJV is the only English translation we should accept and use. But I disagree most vehemently that these conclusions should be incorporated in a "Statement of Faith." Ironically, these statements of faith are internally contradictory since their final sentence says, "The Bible is our sole authority for faith and practice." Although the inescapable implication of these statements is that Sexton does believe the Bible teaches the KJV is the only translation we should accept, I'm having a hard time imagining that he would affirm such an indefensible notion.

Sexton can believe what he wants. I'm sure the statements are legally constituted, and Baptist polity would surely affirm the right of his church to determine what it believes without outside interference or imposition. But I must admit I'm surprised that the FBFI wouldn't see a major problem here. I can't imagine that we squirrelly bloggers do more investigation than the people doing the inviting. But I likewise can't imagine that the thoughtful leaders within the FBFI would not recognize the obvious problems with Sexton's implicit (at the very least) claims that the Bible affirms his conclusions on texts and translations.

So I have no idea what dynamics led the FBFI to extend a keynote invitation to Sexton, just as I have no idea what dynamics have led other fundamentalist institutions to continue to extend speaking invitations to other leaders of institutions that propagate KJVO theology. But as a first-hand witness of some of the back-room fundamentalist machinations over conference speakers from outside the traditionally accepted parameters of the movement, I'll have to admit that the kind of toleration the FBFI has demonstrated for those within the traditional parameters doesn't get any less frustrating as I get older.

Here's hoping better days are ahead.