Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Sad State of Affairs

Ah, June is soon upon us, and with it the annual Southern Baptist Convention. I've been watching the SBC for the past year. It's been interesting, to say the least. The convention year began with discussions over Resolution 5. The usual suspects continued to be shrill, to say the least, in accosting the Calvinists in the SBC, and, of course private prayer language has reared its head. Meanwhile the IMB has made its baptism policy a "guideline" now, as well as the ppl policy, so there is some small concession to be had...I think. I still stand by my words about Landmarkism in the SBC in regard to the policy.

I've also been quiet the past few months. For one thing, I've had major problems with my left hip, and I simply can't sit for too long or if I do, I have to get up and walk around. I've also taken the time to refamiliarize myself with practical Christianity after learning that several old friends have died or gotten in a bad way of late, and I've not kept up with them. I've also enjoyed reading some rather large tomes that required my attention, so I've cleared several books off my list. Then there's my surgery recovery from the earliest part of the year. I'll have one more in July to close the portion of my scalp that is nothing more than a skin graft, after having my right ear removed for skin cancer back in December. I've also been working on a small project for Tom Ascol. I've also decided not to answer emails for these reasons, so if you've emailed me and haven't heard back, don't take it personally. I'll start paying off those debts in June and July. Brother Tom, I've not forgotten you. I've just been carefully researching. (He knows what I'm on about).

But, tonight I've read some disturbing articles on the SBC blogs. I am distressed for my SBC brethren over these issues.

See:

Richard Land and Romney Part One
Richard Land and Romney Part Two
Paige Patterson and the the SWBTS chapel
Wade Burleson, Ben Cole, and others and Jimmy Carter one and two.


Allow me to comment on some of this...

On Jimmy Carter and my brethren:

If they are “history” it is not a testament to the faithfulness of those in the SBC. It is just as wrong if we play guilt by association to comport with Roman Catholics (Justice Sundays) and modalists (T.D. Jakes and Jack Graham and others in TX for prayer functions) or Mormons (Land advising Romney) or consistently aligning the Convention with the Republican Party. It would be a testament to the double standard and guilt by association. That would testify the illogic and irrationality of the Convention, so that strikes me as an instance of God, perhaps using something to bring some much needed judgment on the SBC. Personally, I wouldn’t be seen with President Carter in public this way, though I’d certainly sit and chat with him in Plains, GA if the opportunity arose, but I also wouldn’t be seen with Romney, et.al. or any Republican, for that matter. Were I Ben or Wade, if this was mentioned in my presence, I’d bring up Jakes, Romney and others and very pointedly ask what’s the difference. Why can Jack Graham and Ed Young Jr. comport with a modalist who, if he’s consistent, also denies Sola Fide, in PRAYER AND WORSHIP, and why can Mohler and others share the podium with the Catholic League - a group who must deny the gospel of Sola Fide, not to mention Sola Gratia, and why can Mitt Romney be advised by Richard Land and they not associate with Jimmy Carter…and Ben and Wade are also registered Republicans to boot? If folks think badly about Ben and Wade and what they have had to say because of this, then they need to take a long look at the other activity that gets a regular pass.

And I think you might be surprised at how many folks in unexpected places don’t think as badly of Carter as those in the visible and vocal SBC leadership think. Remember, the SBC in convention is the messengers, and there are more out there who couldn’t care less or who feel as I do or who even are (gasp, still registered Democrats) than many think. My best friend for many years was a dyed in the wool Democrat from Horseshoe, NC until the day he died back in the 90’s, and he was as conservative in his theology as any of the SBC’s leaders.


I’m not talking about the bloggers not calling out Graham and others. I advised some folks behind the scenes about the Jakes episode (which I would add, with Graham, is an ongoing issue, since Graham has done it before) when they told me they were going to cry foul, so I know the bloggers are “on it.” I’m talking about the SBC’s own leadership not doing it. Where were Johnny Hunt and others? Where was Paige Patterson? My point is that a great many who would judge Ben and Wade negatively are curiously silent over these other issues on a regular, ongoing basis. Steve Camp and the Stilley’s have been very faithful and for that I am thankful.

The SBC middle needs to speak up, and I personally am far more concerned about the attitude that would overlook antitrinitarianism and the denial of Sola Fide which, for me, are absolute non-negotiables, over and above even my Calvinism even, for some while others would be looked upon as suspect. It makes it look like Truth (capital T) is of secondary importance, eg. the gospel we can overlook, but not political affiliations? Yikes! That bothers me. In the old days, that’d earn a pastor/elder a public rebuke from the Association. The church might be told to repent in a formal letter. Not anymore, it seems.

Regarding Land and Romney:

A. Are we really that surprised? I mean think about it. Jack Graham and others will openly participate in religious functions with T.D. Jakes, who is certainly a modalist and as a Oneness Pentecostal/Apostolic denies Sola Fide. So, if the Trinity (which was the heresy qua heresy that would earn you an anathema from everybody from the AnteNicene era, after the West/East Schism, through the Middle Ages, and from both Protestants and Catholics/Orthodox from the Reformation forward up until the 20th century), isn't of that status anymore and our leaders can comport with Jakes-but you'd better not be seen with a liberal Democrat or worse a CBF leader (shock, horror)-, and Land and others will further share the podium on Justice Sundays with Roman Catholics who don't even agree to the same gospel, as if that doesn't matter...well, let's just say this all smacks of lots of weird logic and a willingness to compromise when it suits them. I mean what message does this send to the people in the pews? Apparently, we'll call Mormons, modalist, and Catholics heretics and objects of evangelism, but we'll gloss over their errors for the sake of political expediency? This isn't to say we shouldn't at least work together for common cause, but we need to be clear about the limits of that work and we need to be sure we're not putting the gospel in a secondary position. The Romanist is welcome to lobby the legislature with the Baptist, but he needs to know we won't do so at the expense of the gospel or, worse, in place of it.

You know, this is what I call "Resolution 5" logic. We'll boycott the demmin likker because it makes us more holy, and we'll pout like babies whenever the CBF rears its head, but we'll gloss over, you know fundamental Christian doctrine (Trinity, Sola Fide) when it suits our political purposes? This smacks of emphasizing externals for the sake of expediency, as if we can retake America for Christ by politics but the gospel is of secondary importance. Tom Ascol is right, the SBC is losing the gospel. I guess we shouldn't be too surprised when less than 40 percent of our members show up to church on Sunday...

And by the way, why are folks upset with Marty, Ben, Wade, and CB for being seen with President Carter while Land, Graham, and others are getting free passes?

B. Seems to me that Romney's candidacy is a perfect time for Land and Mohler and others to be promoting apologetics. Doesn't SBTS have a degree program in that arena? I mean James White is teaching at Golden Gate extension, and I know what he's putting up on his blog about Mormonism must be showing up in his classes at some point, right? Kudos to Dr. White. Why can't the rest of our seminaries do the same? Why can't Richard Land? Let's talk about Mormonism. The press regularly makes it sound like Mormonism is just another Christianity, and apparently some SBC leaders don't mind, or at least not too much.

And I'll just say this, this wouldn't be happening if Dr. Land didn't feel the need to get into the business of wedding the Convention to the Republican Party on a regular basis. This is why the BFM expressly forbids the use of the state for the church's ends. If Dr. Land was a neutral as he says he is, then he'd speak to the issues and leave it at that. So, it's not just his helping Romney in particular that bothers me, it's his tendency to dance around the BFM and the Baptist principle of religious liberty. He should not be advising ANY candidate for ANY office.

C. Speaking of which, Land was on Glenn Beck, a Mormon himself, discussing this very issue. Nary a word was said about Mormonism itself. John MacArthur probably would have talked about doctrine and put Beck on the spot as well as Romney.

D. Which brings me to other evangelicals that Beck has had on his Headline News program at night, who sit there and act like Mormons are Christians. Heavens, Anne Graham Lotz was there with, I think , a Roman Catholic too! Ummm, polytheism v. monotheism? Which of these is like Christianity and which isn't? Sola Fide vs. Justification by merit and faith? Go figure. They were all talking like we're all, Beck included, in this together, all one happy family.

E. And will Land, for that matter, not have choice words to say about liberation theology if Obama is nominated? If he's consistent, he'll keep his mouth shut, but I've heard him say some things about Democrats in the past that make me think that he'll have things to say about Obama's religous affiliation. I seem to recall he had some choice words to say at Providence Baptist in Raleigh a few years ago when Clinton was president.

F. Which brings me to another point, if Obama is nominated for President or VP, then we have a prime opportunity to talk to folks about Liberation Theology, which is his church's theology of choice.
It's time we exhorted our African-American brethren to wake up to what's been passing for Christianity in their midst for far too long. But, then, we're full circle. If so few will call out Jakes for his false doctrine, should we really expect them to do any better with respect to Liberation Theology in their midst?

The American Church including the SBC is in a sad state, and this election cycle and the reticence of folks to speak out about Mormonism and Liberation Theology and debate it apologetically is a testimony to how far we've fallen from our roots.

That said, this is America. I'm not saying that Romney shouldn't be president because he's a Mormon. I am saying that if he does so on the canard that Mormons are just fellow Christians like the rest of us, then that's deception that makes Bill Clinton look like Honest Abe. Sure, a Mormon can be president, for there is no religious test to the office per the Constitution, but let's be honest about Mormonism and what it is and is not.

On Dr. Patterson and the chapel...well, that speaks for itself.

Truly, we need to revisit Tom Ascol's resolution on integrity in church membership. It may be the only thing that can save the SBC...if it is taken seriously. Is anybody listening?



5 comments:

  1. Christensen in Kansas City5/23/2007 3:29 AM

    The organized churh usually sells out to the political establishment.

    What else is new?

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  2. hostus twinkius5/23/2007 9:33 AM

    Gene,

    I hope you're doing well, I didn't know you had these physical trials. May God bless your recovery.

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  3. Gene,

    Good to see you again and I pray your recovery goes well.

    I agree that Wade, etc. should use the "what about Land and Romney" argument. But what about those of use like our friend Campi (and myself) who've stood for consistency in these issues? Should we be able to question legitimately?

    The call for consistency is certainly something we need to do for a wake-up call. Though this argument doesn't make one position more or less one we should or shouldn't support. Nor does it mean the questioning of Wade's position concerning Carter is invalid.

    Are we SBCers failing so badly in our witnessing, missions and reputation that it's necessary to partner with Carter? One thing I speculate on is that we've done so much to obfuscate the relationship between the SBC and Republican party that's its driven folks to have a second look at folks like Carter.

    As we've recently noticed, Carter still cannot seem to divorce himself from partisan politics. So in the grand scheme of things why is partnering with him any better?

    I am very tired of the politics in the SBC. I wish people felt as strongly about debating and supporting doctrine as they do political dogma. I tend to make comments in Sunday School to try and get people to think biblically first when certain political comments are made. It' tiring.

    Anyways, nice seeing you again.

    God bless,
    Mark

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  4. >Sola Fide which, for me, are absolute non-negotiables, over and above even my Calvinism<

    Sorry, can't let you get away with this one. Sola Fide is central to the division between Arminianism and Calvinism. When is it going to be said that these men who lead the SBC deny this central doctrine and more. You wonder why the head of Ethics for the SBC is so unethical? Let us try his dishonest dealings with the doctrines of grace. When will it happen that Calvinists will get a back bone and publicly declare Arminianism a heresy? Or, is it? Ah, remember Dort? What happened? Does it no longer matter? Could it be that the "Can't we all get along ethic is quite a bit older than Rodney King? Of course it is.

    Have you ever heard James Whites apologetic connecting the Roman Church doctrine to Arminianism, or perhaps heard him discuss the similiarity between the "open theism" of Arminianism and Mormonism? How can Falwell get away with his claim that Calvinism is heresy, and no one has taken him, or Page or Land, or Patterson, or one of a dozen other accusers to task? Well, how about, it might be because, Falwell formerly was supported politically by Land, Page, Patterson, Vines, Graham, Graham and Graham and the mega millionaires of SBC fame. How about there is a conspiracy to silence the gospel of grace. Tele-evangelists, pfff, the SBC far out "ranks" them in disgusting money schemes that seem so innocent. And why? Do they offer anything different than the worst? Not really, same theology with few adjustments, same golden promises with different names.

    Give me a break. We have been waiting for decent leaders in the SBC for over a century. Think we'll get it? Connect the dots. Do you really think that any of these bozos care about the Gospel?

    I am an angry SBC'er, one of those who woke up one day to discover that I had been lied to and that no one around me even seemed to care that that was the case. I am militant with compassion for the deceived.

    So here, for those of you who might have the ear of the media. Blow the trumpet in Zion! Let them know that these men do not represent the Gospel of Christ. Let them know how insane a person has to be to believe the doctrines of the Mormon and do not forget to tell them how wrong these false-teachers in the SBC are. Draw the line, make the stand....or, just go to another Annual Convention and cowtow for the sake of cooperation!

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  5. Sorry, can't let you get away with this one. Sola Fide is central to the division between Arminianism and Calvinism.


    No, Sola Gratia is central to the division between Calvinism and Arminianism. Sola Fide is part of Sola Gratia, but it is not the same as Sola Gratia. Rome denies Sola Fide because it is committed to synergism and because its synergism is indexed to the treasury of merit. Arminians deny the treasury of merit and they have a doctrine of prevenient grace.
    Arminians do not deny justification by faith alone in Christ alone. They deny election by grace alone. They err to defect. And this isn't just my view; its the view of Turretin, Witsius, and others.

    Yes, I've heard James White connect Arminianism to Romanism, and I've made the same connection in my own writing independently of his influence, but he and I have also said that is only true if Arminians are fully consistent, and we've also stated they are not. If he really believed that Arminians denied Sola Fide, he'd call them unregenerate and deny they are Christians, and he'd not bother refuting hyper-Calvinism. Likewise not all Arminians are Open Theists. Arminianism is often the road to liberalism, but not all Arminians are liberal. I have also gone on record calling some of the men you name "functional Unitarians" in their soteriology. However, this does not mean that they actually deny the Trinity. They are simply inconsistent.

    Further, at Dort, there was more going on than what you call "Arminianism" today. The Arminianism of that day was rather cozy and close to Socinianism. Evangelical Arminians today are not Socinians. Episcopius and his followers had problems with such things as the innate knowledge of God (Romans 1) and other items on the theological agenda than the five points of Arminianism and Calvinism. Brother, you need to step back and get some perspective, or you'll wind up in hyper-Calvinism where nobody is a Christian unless they believe in Calvinism. You'll trade your evangelical Calvinism for Neo-Gnosticism. You'll err to excess.

    There are two types of error: objective error and subjective error. The Reformed Orthodox recognize this as axiomatic. It is one thing to discern an article or error on an objective level, a truth or error as such; it is quite another to identify and define faith and error subjectively, as these may arise out of disposition or condition of disbelieving (or unbelieving ignorance); and it is yet another to grasp the patterns, manner, and degrees of judgment or tolerance, moderation, reception, or reconciliation, possible in cased of belief and error (Muller, PRRD1, 419).
    1. We must distinguish between that which is necessary to the being of the church and that which is necessary to the salvation of believers under Category 1 (Objective error).
    2. Subjective errors must be distinguished between those arising from ignorance and those arising from unbelief. Also, here too, the condition of the church and that of believers themselves must be distinguished. (Subjective Error)
    3. Here, in this third level we must distinguish between patterns, manner, and degrees of judgment and tolerance, so that a difference must be recognized between the rules and judgment of particular churches and the general assent of the church, universal and invisible. Moderation is required in the first case, and firm judgment is necessary in the latter, so far as those who deny universal truths of the church are excluded from heaven (Voetius, in PRRD1, 419). In other words, there is a difference between a difference of opinion, a schism, and outright heresy. (Principles of Distinction)
    Also, there is a difference between those doctrines which immediate arise from Scripture’s reading (Trinity, Christology, justification by faith alone) and are primary and those arising by derivation (the exact relationship of the 2 natures; the ordu salutis). To what extent then are can the doctrines in this latter category be considered fundamental?
    1. If a doctrine is present and explicit in Scripture it is fundamental and foundational, ergo necessary.
    2. The implicit or virtually present doctrine attains a fundamental or normative status when its formulation becomes an issue of debate between orthodox and heterodox Christians.
    3. When the heterodox formulation leads to an erroneous and soteriologically dangerous understanding of the explicit and formal or primary doctrines.
    4. This argument extends to cover doctrines developed as logical conclusions from primary dogmas. Here, we must caution. Hyper-Calvinists (and I would say the defenders of the IMB’s baptism policy) are a prime example of the abuse of this fourth principle, when they assert that no Arminian is saved or all Arminianism is heresy (or that the failure to believe in eternal security constitutes a denial of Sola Fide), because of the way Arminians construe election, atonement, perseverance, etc. That is, because it is “dangerous” if pressed in a particular direction we should reject them and hold our own doctrines as “fundamental.” We can see this in Landmarkism and administrator baptism. In fact, this is often the error of virtually every genuinely “extreme” position within Protestantism.
    5. Positive articles include the doctrines previously noted as primary and consist mainly in affirmations of saving truth. For example, “Christ is the Son of God; Christ is the ransom for our sins,” are positive affirmations. Negative articles within a confession identify errors of two sorts: immediate errors and indirect or secondary errors resulting from application of incorrect logic in doctrinal matters.

    Blatant heresies, like Arianism or justification by merit fall into this first category of error. In the second category, a doctrine may controvert an error in the first if it is consistently followed. For example, the Reformed Orthodox of High Orthodox era dealt with an Arminianism that was friendly with Socinianism and which tended to conflate justification and sanctification, depending on its “flavor.” Ergo, negative articles might name Arminian errors. In our own context, negative articles might name administrator baptism – not because it is blatantly heretical, but because it lends to errors in ecclesiology and sacramentology that are necessary for the health of the church.
    Those persons in the first class are all infidels and unbelievers. Those in the second class are schismatics and should be treated on a case by case basis.

    In our own situation, it is undeniable that the SBC is composed of “General” Baptists and “Particular Baptists/Amyraldians.” I have advocated a similar approach in the past regarding the BFM as an example of this thinking. That is, if a new Baptist confession was drawn, positive articles could delineate the “Particular” soteriology and the “General” soteriological articles. Together, these would clear delineate the bounds of orthodoxy and cooperation. Then, in a separate set of negative articles, the bounds of schism would be delineated on the one hand (anti-missionism, Neo-Gnostic hyper-Calvinism for example) and outright heresy on the other (Open Theism, Neo-Orthodox views of revelation). Again, this requires a careful, well constructed, well thought out theology.

    6. Varieties of fundamental error include three types:
    A. Against fundamentals – Direct Error
    B. Against fundamentals – Indirect Error
    C. Against fundamentals – Beyond the matter
    The first is a direct attack. The Socinians directly attacked the Trinity and the divinity of Christ. Many Anabaptists, along with the Catholics attacked justification by faith alone directly. The second would be a doctrine that is subversive of a fundamental. Open theism denies God’s providence by denying infallible future foreknowledge. The attack is indirect, by way of libertarian freedom. Libertarianism itself denies no fundamental if it is construed in relation to prevenient grace, but, in this instance, it is the way it is employed by Open Theists that makes its use an indirect attack on a fundamental, for it is, in Pinnock’s case not only attacking the doctrine of God, but also introducing a post-mortem universalism. The third class involves faith in problematic and curious questions that do not arise from the Word of God plainly, like PPL or “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” or dogmatic statements about supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism, which even Twisse, the supralapsarian at the Westminster Assembly said was probably a question that was better not to have been asked.

    In their own day, this played out in the way the Orthodox viewed naturalists. By assuming reason alone is sufficient for salvation, they were said to controvert primary doctrine and be infidels. By denying Sola Fide, Romanists denied a fundamental article; ergo Stafer called them heretics, for they accepted the merit system and the supremacy of the Pope, resting the foundation of the whole Church on an institution and not Christ’s Lordship (Stafer, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, IV.xiv.§ 6).

    The Lutherans were said to err to beyond the Fundamentals. They deny double predestination but accept Sola Gratia, so they are not heretics; rather their specific formulation of predestination at the conceptual level differed with the Reformed. Functionally, it was no different. However, their doctrine of the Lord’s Super depends on a particular Christology that is implicitly Monophysitic and their doctrine of baptism could lead to a denial of Sola Fide if pressed in a particular direction. Thus, they erred in falling into Christological speculation and losing Sola Gratia like the Arminians.


    >>John Mark, I agree Carter has a hard time divorcing himself from partisan politics. That's one reason I wouldn't be seen with him publically like Wade and others. However, it is my understanding that the New Baptist Covenant is directed toward issues of social justice, not evangelism, missions, etc.

    Now, I might be willing to protest it, since evangelism, missions, and social justice all go together. I'd also like to know what "social justice" means, since that can mean anything from building houses for Habitat or rank socialism. That said, I do think its terribly shortsighted of the SBC to pull away from every such endeavor with other Baptists because they don't agree with (insert group here). I mean, it's not as if they are cooperating with ARBC/GARBC much less the CBF. It seems the SBC's unwillingness to partner cuts both ways, against both those who are conservative (ARBC), liberal(Alliance) or latitudinarian (CBF).

    The SBC needs to get away from politicking in general, whether that means having Condi come visit or signing covenants with Carter. If local churches want to do it; let them and let their Associations discipline them if they see fit. (Yeah, right). If its a denominational executive like Land, the Convention needs to publically rebuke him. The ERLC is too political these days because of such shenanigans.

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