Reflections on #SBC2009- Personal and Others

June 24, 2009

This year, for the first time in my 8 years as a Southern Baptist, I attended the SBC Annual Meeting.  It was convenient enough seeing as how the meeting was held in Louisville, KY and I just happened to be in the area making plans for our move  there in a month, but regardless I think I would have wanted to be there.  And boy was I not disappointed.  I really had a great time. From rubbing shoulders with Baptist icons to witnessing lowly pew-sitters become the object of collective scorn and/or praise upon making a motion to reconnecting with old friends from college ministry, it was certainly an unforgettable experience.

However, if you missed it, you’re in luck, because more than ever you can relive the events of the event through the eyes of those of us arrogant enough to blog about it.  I captured my own thoughts on the first business day of the convention in an article entitled “Celebration from Chaos.”  Other viewpoints can be found collected together at SBC Voices, for your viewing pleasure.

After you read these and get all depressed about what you missed, just think about this: in roughly 350 days you can be a part of it yourself in sunny Orlando, FL.  Heck, maybe Mark Driscoll will even be there!


What We Believe- Article XVII, Religious Liberty

June 5, 2009

After a short hiatus we are back to our weekly look at what we believe as enumerated in the Baptist Faith & Message 2000.  Actually, we are rounding third and heading for home, with only one more week after this one to look at the BF&M.  So, in this penultimate week (I really like that word) we will be handling Article XVII on Religious Liberty:

XVII. Religious Liberty

God alone is Lord of the conscience, and He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to His Word or not contained in it. Church and state should be separate. The state owes to every church protection and full freedom in the pursuit of its spiritual ends. In providing for such freedom no ecclesiastical group or denomination should be favored by the state more than others. Civil government being ordained of God, it is the duty of Christians to render loyal obedience thereto in all things not contrary to the revealed will of God. The church should not resort to the civil power to carry on its work. The gospel of Christ contemplates spiritual means alone for the pursuit of its ends. The state has no right to impose penalties for religious opinions of any kind. The state has no right to impose taxes for the support of any form of religion. A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal, and this implies the right of free and unhindered access to God on the part of all men, and the right to form and propagate opinions in the sphere of religion without interference by the civil power.

Genesis 1:27; 2:7; Matthew 6:6-7,24; 16:26; 22:21; John 8:36; Acts 4:19-20; Romans 6:1-2; 13:1-7; Galatians 5:1,13; Philippians 3:20; 1 Timothy 2:1-2; James 4:12; 1 Peter 2:12-17; 3:11-17; 4:12-19.

Ummm . . . okay?  What was that?  I’m not quite sure if what we just read is what we believe from the BF&M 2000 or from the US Constitution 1789?  I definitely picked up a lot of Romans 13 in there, but it seemed to be mixed with a fair dose of the First Amendment and various Supreme Court rulings.  Honestly, I don’t really know why this is even in here?  Looking at it, this is verbatim what was written in the 1925 and 1963 editions (though the Scripture references have increased a tad), which is interesting since to the best of my knowledge the “separation of church and state” was not a well known civic doctrine until after 1947.

Alright, so anyways, let’s take a look at this mess.  Maybe a place to start would be by trimming it down to what I think actually has biblical justification as opposed to simply Constitutional justification.  It would look like:

God alone is Lord of the conscience, and He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to His Word or not contained in it. (*Church and state should be separate.)  Civil government being ordained of God, it is the duty of Christians to render loyal obedience thereto in all things not contrary to the revealed will of God. The church should not resort to the civil power to carry on its work. The gospel of Christ contemplates spiritual means alone for the pursuit of its ends.  A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal, and this implies the right of free and unhindered access to God on the part of all men, and the right to form and propagate opinions in the sphere of religion without interference by the civil power.

* = This is dependent upon how we define separate

It appears to me that much of what was written originally (and subsequently removed by me above) was an expansion on one of two sources, either Romans 13.3-4 or Philippians 3.20:

For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. (Romans 13.3-4)

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3.20)

Now, I love Philippians 3.20, but I believe we can take that and Romans 13.3-4 too far.  We are to cherish our citizenship in heaven above our earthly citizenship, but this is not meant to be taken as a renouncement of our earthly citizenship (as say the Anabaptists might), which seems clear to me by the simple fact that the man who wrote Philippians 3.20 is the same man who constantly appealed to his Roman citizenship for protection during his ministry as recorded in the book of Acts (cf. Acts 16.37ff, 22.25ff, &tc).  Thus there must be some moderation here.

Similarly, one does not have any reasonable expectation for governmental respect of the church under the guise of Romans 13.  Surely the state shall be judged for their unfairness, but I do not see any cause to state that the state owes anything to the church.  Is this how Peter and James or Paul and Silas approached the issue?  Certainly not.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but I do not recall Paul at any point before the King or Caesar saying, “Excuse me, I am a Christian.  You owe me religious liberty.”  Proper governmental authority should pay homage to Christ, but there is no delusion that the civil government of this world will or that we should expect it to.

This leads us to the idea of whether or not the Bible teaches that “Church and state should be separate.”  In as much as this means that the church should not depend upon the state for anything nor use authority within the state to determine authority within the church (think like the Church of England and it’s mixture with the monarchy) then certainly the two should be separate.  But to the extent that this concept is taken today, that we must have a pluralistic public square and that the state should not honor the church solely or at all, I do not believe this to be the case.  It is plausible (though not highly likely) that the state could operate in a way which is both honoring to and subservient to the church.  This would seem to be okay.  What must be avoided is the church becoming dependent upon anything from the state.

All that said, I do believe that the writers were on the right track in saying, “The church should not resort to the civil power to carry on its work. The gospel of Christ contemplates spiritual means alone for the pursuit of its ends.”  This is what I meant above by the church not being reliant upon the state for its well being.  It’s funny, this is so right and yet our convention seems to have a reputation in direct contrast to this, constantly wanting to use our power and influence to push our agenda through legislation and crying foul and prophesying utter doom when this does not work out.

In the end, this article is definitely a mess.  There is so much inappropriate in here, and that which is appropriate and good to meditate on we tend to disavow in practice.  Oh well, they can’t all be winners.


The Raleigh Rallying Cry- Danny Akin and the 12 Axioms of a Great Commission Resurgence

April 18, 2009

I know that many other SBC bloggers have already posted on this event while I was busy off fighting the Driscoll-MacArthur war once again, but I finally did get a chance to listen to Dr. Danny Akin’s chapel message entitled “Axioms for a Great Commission Resurgence” and yes, it is worth the hype.  

So often today we hear this phrase “Great Commission Resurgence” (or GCR) bantered about, but it seems like it’s just another one of those ideas that everyone wants to claim they are working on, but no one every wants to bother to define.  Well, in an attempt to avoid such infamous ambiguity for the GCR, Dr. Akin sat down, penned out a sermon, sent it to his good friends and colleagues Johnny Hunt, Al Mohler, and Thom Rainer, and then delivered the final product to his students at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and the rest of the world through podcast.  This was a really good message, maybe even a pivotal moment in our generation, but of course it is too early to tell.  What it certainly is is a more descript call to arms for Southern Baptists than we have seen in a long while, and, thanks to the glorious interweb, blog fodder for all of us starving keyboard theologians.

In an effort not to add too much commentary to an already waterlogged happening, I am simply going to point out the axiom of the 12 that I found most novel, that being number 8, recognizing the need to rethink our convention structure.  In the end I had heard all 12 of these ideas expressed individually at one time or another, but this was the first time I had ever heard someone of Danny Akin’s stature bring up this axiom in such a prominent setting.  Discussing it he listed six questions in particular that we should focus on in  restructuing the SBC:

  1. Is there not a way to have annual meetings on the national and state level that are attractive, inspiring and worthy attending?
  2. Is the name “Southern Baptist” best for identifying who we are and what we want to be heading into the future?
  3. Do we need all the boards and agencies we have, or could there be healthy and wise mergers?
  4. Do we have a healthy stricture and mechanism for planting churches that will thrive and survive past a few years?
  5. Do we have a giving program that fairly and accurately reflects the gifts many SBC churches are giving to the work of our denomination?
  6. Are we distracted by doing many good things but not giving our full attention to the best things?

Beyond these six questions Dr. Akin also questioned the necessity of having so many levels of bureaucracy inside Southern Baptist life.  By this he meant, Do we need to have state and local associations?  This is such a pertinent question.  I see it in my own area, where the local association entertains ideas of ordained women, fully open communion, and militant anti-Calvinism more and more with each passing meeting.  This is both unhelpful and unnecessary.  It would be much better to dissolve this local association and to let the churches work more closely with the state and national conventions which, though not perfect, tend to avoid such wildly useless fruitless (and heretical?) ventures.  Still, to stand up and say this does take some courage, and I am glad that Dr. Akin decided to do it.

So, anyways, if you have not already heard it, here is a link to this message.  It is well worth the time it takes to listen to, and as I said, it may be that several years done the line we look back on this as the message that led a revitalized SBC (or whatever I name may be then) into action.  Enjoy!


What We Believe- Article VIII, The Lord’s Day

March 5, 2009

Following the last two weeks where we were focused strongly on ecclesiology (the church and the ordinances), we now head out into the more general practices of Southern Baptist life.  Specifically, in Article VIII we are dealing with what a Southern Baptist is called to believe about the Lord’s Day:

VIII. The Lord’s Day

The first day of the week is the Lord’s Day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should include exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private. Activities on the Lord’s Day should be commensurate with the Christian’s conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Exodus 20:8-11; Matthew 12:1-12; 28:1ff.; Mark 2:27-28; 16:1-7; Luke 24:1-3,33-36; John 4:21-24; 20:1,19-28; Acts 20:7; Romans 14:5-10; I Corinthians 16:1-2; Colossians 2:16; 3:16; Revelation 1:10.

I think, before we say anything in particular about this statement, we must note that this article marks the first place where the 2000 BF&M is actually more liberal than the 1963 and 1925 versions, both of which call for what is often termed “sabbatarianism” in that they argue in favor of Christians “refraining from worldly amusements, and resting from secular employments, work of necessity and mercy only being excepted,” on the Lord’s Day.  That said, I believe that the 2000 version is right in abandoning this practice.  Let’s look why.

To begin, the statement that “the first day of the week (i.e. Sunday) is the Lord’s Day” is a teaching drawn straight from Scripture and supported by asundry verses concerning the Resurrection occurring on a Sunday, as well as passages in Acts and the epistles showing early church gatherings on the first day of the week (cf. Acts 20.7, 1 Corinthians 16.1-2).  The term “the Lord’s Day” is observed in Revelation 1.10, and probably also has origins in Jesus’ statement that “the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath” (cf. Matthew 12.8, Mark 2.28).  This helps us counteract the Christians who try to be “cute” (I say that facetiously) and point out an inconsistency in the modern church by arguing that the Sabbath is actually on Saturday, as clearly we see Scriptural evidence and reasoning for why the Christian “sabbath” is to be observed on Sunday.

The instruction that it should be a “regular observance” seems to come from the matter of frequency with which the first day observances are mentioned in the New Testament and its close ties to the weekly observance of the Jewish sabbath, as other than that I see no direct instruction that this be the case from Scripture.  Curiously, the Lord’s Day observance isn’t explicitly linked to “going to church” in the BF&M, otherwise one might be inclined to refer to Hebrews 10.24-25 as evidence for a regular observance.  (I do actually believe this is the case though, that the “public” manner referred to later as a way of observing the Lord’s Day is essentially the church service.)  The fact that this observance “commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead” is taken from the circumstances of the initial Lord’s Day, the day of his rising.  That the activites of this day “should include exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private,” is argued in Colossians 3.16.

Now, here is where the controversy occurs for many.  As I have already mentioned, the 1925 and 1963 versions of the BF&M say that the Lord’s Day is observed “by refraining from worldly amusements, and resting from secular employments, work of necessity and mercy only being excepted.”  This view is typically referred to as sabbatarianism.  Contrary to this, the 2000 version takes a non-sabbatarian position, saying that “Activities on the Lord’s Day should be commensurate with the Christian’s conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.”  Personally, I think that the 2000 version is right, and have much trouble in understanding why so few Christians (historically) have come to this same conclusion.  I say this because of the traditional confessions which I would claim agreement with, all of them take at least a moderately sabbatarian position.  I actually know of no other prior confession which doesn’t read as sabbatarian.  Yet, in reading the New Testament I can’t help but reach the non-sabbatarian position myself.

So, what Scripture would I refer to?  Many sabbatarians will include Matthew 12.1-12 in their argument for sabbatarianism.  However, I do not believe this makes the point they long for, other than being an argument towards excepting rest for the doing of good on the Lord’s Day.  Beyond this, whenever the New Testament approaches actual doctrine related to the Lord’s Day (and not just historical remarks) they always seem to allow for Christian conscience in place of strict sabbath rest.  Specifically I would turn to Colossians 2.16 (“Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of . . . a Sabbath“), followed by Romans 14.5-10 (“One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. &tc”). The Apostle Paul seems to clearly argue that whether one observes the Lord’s Day as a sabbath or not is purely a matter of conscience that none should be judged over if they follow their own.  This is in no way contradictory to the teachings we find from Jesus on the matter of the sabbath, and actually appears to accord very well with his statement that “The Sabbath was made for man,  not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2.27).

I’m curious how much debate there is on this matter today.  I know of many fellow Calvinist brothers who hold to the sabbatarian position (which is in compliance with things like the Westminster Confession of Faith and the full practice of Covenant Theology), but typically this is a belief held by an older generation.  I would be interested in seeing comments from those with a position opposite mine though, to see how they handle the Pauline passages I gave in defense of the non-sabbatarian conviction; the position which I have shown is now accepted as orthodoxy in the SBC.


What We Believe- Article VII, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (part 2)

March 1, 2009

Today we will continue our look at Article VII of the Baptist Faith & Message, this time by focusing in on what it has to tell us about the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper.  It says,

The Lord’s Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming.

Matthew 3:13-17; 26:26-30; 28:19-20; Mark 1:9-11; 14:22-26; Luke 3:21-22; 22:19-20; John 3:23; Acts 2:41-42; 8:35-39; 16:30-33; 20:7; Romans 6:3-5; 1 Corinthians 10:16,21; 11:23-29; Colossians 2:12.

Contrary to the last paragraph on Baptism, where I was joyed with every jot and tittle of the confession, in the Lord’s Supper portion I am not nearly as enthused.  It is not that I disagree with what is said, per se, but only that, as seems to be the case in many Southern Baptist churches I have been in, the practice of the Lord’s Supper is simply glossed over.  Now this is better than the 1925 version of the BF&M which says only that “by the use of bread and wine, [the church members] commemorate the dying love of Christ,” but there are definitely more specific confessions as well.  So, since that is the case, I would like to share two other declarations about the Lord’s Supper that I find superior and give a brief explanation of why.

First, from The New Hampshire Baptist Confession of 1833:

[Believer's baptism] is prerequisite . . . to the Lord’s Supper, in which the members of the Church, by the sacred use of bread and wine, are to commemorate together the dying love of Christ; preceded always by solemn self-examination.

At first this appears hardly different from the 1925 BF&M version, which is true, the 1925 version was meant to be a near restatement of this confession, but the one extra button that I think makes this writing better is the last qualification: “preceded always by solemn self-examination.”  The Apostle Paul makes no little to-do over the necessity of self-examination and avoidance of partaking the cup in an unworthy manner while addressing the Corinthian believers (cf. 1 Corinthians 11.27-29), and, though it is certainly not in vogue to ask people to consider that they may actually be sinners in need of repentance these days, I find it funny that the 2000 BF&M does not mention anything about self-examination and yet still leaves 1 Corinthians 11.27-29 in as part of their Scriptural justification for their statement.

The second confession I would have us look at, and probably my favorite for use today, would be that in The Abstract of Principles:

The Lord’s Supper is an ordinance of Jesus Christ, to be administered with the elements of bread and wine, and to be observed by His churches till the end of the world. It is in no sense a sacrifice, but is designed to commemorate His death, to confirm the faith and other graces of Christians, and to be a bond, pledge and renewal of their communion with Him, and of their church fellowship.

I don’t really think much more needs to be said about this statement.  It is as full a confession of the biblical position as I can find in the creedal writing without being burdened by historical concerns (many good confessions such as The 1689 London Baptist Confession and The Savoy Declaration are weighed down by trying to distinguish themselves from the Eucharist as performed in the Catholic church, though I much enjoy their discussion of what is actually being partaken in the bread and wine).

One last consideration, and I will just bring this up as it is of contemporary debate, is the unavoidable conclusion that the BF&M affirms that the Lord’s Supper is only to be joined in by members of the church who have participated in Believer’s baptism as described in our previous post (cf. “[Believer's baptism] is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord’s Supper.  The Lord’s Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, &tc”).  

Thus, there are two areas of contention.  One is from those who support “open communion” in the sense that they allow any and all people, baptized or not, saved or not, to participate in the Lord’s Supper.  Honestly, there is no Scriptural justification for this and plenty of Scriptural writing against it, and churches which practice this should be strongly rebuked by those other churches who would be in fellowship with them.

The second debate concerns a form of “close communion” in which a Southern Baptist church would allow believers in like faith, but from other baptisms, to participate with them in communion.  It is particularly acted out with Calvinist Southern Baptist churches allowing communion to believers from the Presbyterian church (PCA).  This is definitely in opposition to what is taught in the BF&M, however I am not sure myself if I have an issue with it.  In my opinion, I would want to try and stay as conservative as possible with something of this nature (i.e. near where the BF&M stands), but I have trouble coming to the stricter conclusion through what I read in Scripture.  This is one issue which I am still much in the air about.


Much Activity in the Blogosphere- A Smattering of Interesting Posts for Southern Baptists

February 21, 2009

It looks like things have really hit an exciting time as it pertains to Southern Baptist life.  In the wake of the Driscoll/Chandler Experience a few weeks ago, and the ensuing Baptist Press smear job, many people are abuzz with insights and opinions on the future direction of our convention.  Posts are coming out trying to identify who we are and how we can cooperate between our different ages, tastes, and soteriologies.  As such, I would like to point you guys to a few that I have found most interesting:

  • The blog for Founders Ministries, an organization of dedicated Southern Baptists Calvinists, has an article up focusing on the two prevailing agendas for the future currently being pushed inside the SBC.  One view comes from the Baptist Identity movement seeking to emphasize Baptist distinctives and avoid the diluting of what it means to be a baptistic Christian.  The other view associates with the Great Commission Resurgence striving to build unity among strongly gospel-centered Christians in going out to bring the truth to the nations.  Founders president Tom Ascol offers his take on all this and where he stands on this as things go forward in his post “What will we be in the SBC?”
  • Baptist21 is beginning a new series by guest poster Dr. Steven A McKinion which is going to take a look at the next wave of descendants from the Conservative Resurgence and how they are shaping the future of our convention.  He identifies them as part of the under-40 group and offers up that they “should not [simply] be classified by [how they differ on] clothes or preaching style,” and instead offers a set of distinctives which characterize them and actually connect them more closely with the Conservative Resurgence than their “parent” generation.  This series starts with the post “Third Generation Conservatives in the Southern Baptist Convention, Part 1” and will continue with the second and third parts later this week.

Please, if you are interested in the current happenings of the SBC and what direction this convention is going in the coming years, take the time to read these articles and see how the Spirit moves you on them.  It is my hope that we can see this convention continue on in the blessings that the Lord has so graciously given us thus far, but for that to happen there are many decisions about policy and vision that need to be made, and unless the younger generation wants to be shut out of this process we need to make our voices heard as the future of Southern Baptist thought.


What We Believe- Article VI and Regenerate Church Membership

February 18, 2009

One interesting note as it pertains to what the Baptist Faith & Message has to say about the church is on who it is in particular that qualifies to be a member of the local church. This seems obvious, right? Not quite. Let’s review what can possible be garnered from the text of the BF&M alone:

A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.

So, it looks like we get that the members must be “baptized believers” and that they are responsible to Christ as Lord.  Sounds good, right?  Well, what about where the New Testament talks about people obeying the teachings of the Apostles and the consequences for not doing so (2 Thessalonians 3.14-15)?  What about the admonitions to break fellowship with “baptized believers” who are sexually immoral, greedy, idolatrous, a drunk, or a partier (1 Corinthians 5.9-13)?  What about the call to not neglect meeting together for edification and encouragement (Hebrews 10.24-25)?  All these things, loosely what may be said to be the believers responsibility to the church, are simply left out of the article altogether.

As it stands, one could reasonably argue that the BF&M allows for people to be members in good standing of a church with no more than a quick dousing in the baptismal and a tacit acceptance that they really are trying to serve Christ as Lord, but the Bible itself seems to ask more.  Therefore, this past year a resolution on church membership, Regenerate Church Membership (RCM) to be exact, was offered and passed at the annual SBC meeting. The full text can be found here, but this is the gist of it: because of tradition and the clear call of the Scriptures, the SBC “urge[s] churches to maintain a regenerate membership by acknowledging the necessity of spiritual regeneration and Christ’s lordship for all members.”

The road to get this passed was long and well fought, and thankfully in the end this measure went through.  Unfortunately, given the nature of the SBC, as resolution like this does not have any real teeth as far as implementation, but the fact that the SBC is now on record as doctrinally calling for a regenerate body in the local church, it is just another nail against the easy believism, Free Grace theology which has prevailed among many congregations over the last quarter to half a century.  Thankfully the SBC, though late in addressing it, finally got around to calling for more responsibility in the church among the leadership for keeping tabs on who genuinely is among us that is among us.

As I said to my Men’s Bible study this morning, I fully believe that Scripture teaches it to be easier to be in good standing in heaven than it is to be in good standing in the local church.  This is the way it should be, since God can truly see the heart, but the only evidences men have is by seeing the fruit.  Some will argue that this is all the more reason for Free Grace and avoiding judgment, but I see no way in which that position can be made biblically tenable.

On paper this was a good step and to be applauded.  Now it is necessary to make sure it is put into practice widely enough to make a difference.


What We Believe- Article VI, The Church (part 2)

February 17, 2009

Today we are going to look at the second paragraph of article six of the BF&M which concerns itself with the universal church of all believers. Here’s what it says:

The New Testament speaks also of the church as the Body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.

Matthew 16:15-19; 18:15-20; Acts 2:41-42,47; 5:11-14; 6:3-6; 13:1-3; 14:23,27; 15:1-30; 16:5; 20:28; Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 3:16; 5:4-5; 7:17; 9:13-14; 12; Ephesians 1:22-23; 2:19-22; 3:8-11,21; 5:22-32; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:18; 1 Timothy 2:9-14; 3:1-15; 4:14; Hebrews 11:39-40; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Revelation 2-3; 21:2-3.

To start, I do not like the way this paragraph is set-up. Yes, I agree that “[t]he New Testament speaks of the church as the Body of Christ” and that the New Testament speaks of the church universal, but I do not believe that these two things are meant to be synonymous, as it seems to me this paragraph is implying. Specifically, I do not believe that the New Testament speaks of the Body of Christ as being only that which is the universal church; I believe that the Body of Christ is also fully present in each local manifestation of the church, else by the argument in 1 Corinthians 12, we would be unable to say that each local autonomous congregation is fully equipped to do the work of the ministry of Jesus Christ.

As for the idea that there exists a manifestation of the church on a universal level, I believe that this truly is a biblical notion.  In Hebrews 12.23 we see mention of “the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven,” where the word ‘assembly’ is actually the word ‘ekklesia‘ from which we often translate as ‘church.’  Similarly, there are many mentions of ‘the church’ in places where the idea of meaning one specific, local body seem to make no sense, such as Ephesians 1.22-23 (“And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all“).

The idea of a universal “invisible” church (“invisible” meaning that its exact boundary is unknown, not that it is wholly hidden from sight) also plays out in the illustration of the church as the flock of God, whose Chief Shepherd is Jesus Christ.  In this metaphor, we see but that there is one flock being gathered under one shepherd (John 10.16), but for a time this flock is scattered about and being tended to by many smaller shepherds awaiting his return (1 Peter 5.1-4).

One thing from yesterday’s post that I would like to add.  At the end of the post we were considering  anything which we felt was missing from the “minimum” definition of the local church given by the BF&M and I left out something which at the time I felt was right but could not think of any Scriptural justification for it, that being that the church is to be noted by the presence and blessing of the Holy Spirit.  Some places where we see this indicated are 1 Corinthians 3.16, which says, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?”, and Ephesians 2.22, “In [Christ Jesus] you[, the Gentiles and the Jews,] also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

In closing, I would like to give you the affirmation of “The Church” from the Abstract of Principles, which I feel is as clean and sufficient a declaration of what the constitutes the church as could reasonably be made:

The Lord Jesus is the head of the Church, which is composed of all His true disciples, and in Him is invested supremely all power for its government. According to His commandment, Christians are to associate themselves into particular societies or churches [i.e. the local church]; and to each of these churches He hath given needful authority for administering that order, discipline and worship which He hath appointed. The regular officers of a Church are Bishops or Elders, and Deacons.


What We Believe- Article VI, The Church (part 1)

February 16, 2009

After a weeks hiatus we are returning to our look at the Baptist Faith & Message and what it says (or doesn’t say) as our standard doctrinal confession in the Southern Baptist Convention. This week we will be analyzing the sixth article of this document dealing with the church, both local and universal. In the first part we will observe the church local:

VI. The Church

A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.

One should probably start in their analysis of this passage by taking it to be the minimum definition which the SBC believes is required for a body of believers to be considered the church. If this is the case, we must look at each portion of the article and ask if that indeed is part of the minimum criteria for a church as displayed in the New Testament, and then in the end if there is still more that needs to be said.

A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation . . . ” This we believe to be true, in light of the fact that people in the NT, though given instruction at times by the Apostles, were free to practice the actions of being a church through the observance of the elders which had been appointed to them. They are clearly local as the fact that there are letters addressed to local churches by both Paul and by Jesus attests.

” . . . of baptized believers . . . ” A place I would turn to justify the idea that the members of a local congregations must be baptized believers is in Acts 2. Verse 41 says, “So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” Clearly by the context this here means “there were added to the church . . . ” and so here we see the practiced (and thus prescribed?) order: belief, baptism, membership in the church.

” . . . associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel.” It is important that the church be alike in beliefs. I am first among those who dislike denominationalism and think that churches today are too at ease breaking away from a denomination than standing and fighting for orthodoxy, but at the same time, the denominations exist to help us align more closely with a specific set of doctrinal beliefs. This is also the point of confessions which people ascribe to, such as the BF&M. If the church is to be unified, then it must be in accord on its doctrine, and this means obeying the words of Paul when he says, “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”

observing the two ordinances of Christ.” By the language of Acts where we see the churches baptizing new converts who then become members, and by that in 1 Corinthians 11 where it talks about the Corinthians “com[ing] together as a church” (v.18) and partaking in the Lord’s Supper, we would agree that the church is called to observe both of the ordinances established by Christ and the Apostles in the NT.

governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word.” All of this I would classify under having a high view of Scripture, a trait promoted by 2 Timothy 3.16-17 when it says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth.” This is the Great Commission/Acts 1.8, a command which was given to the disciples and early followers and was carried out by the gathering of people at different times and places. Christ gave this in a unified context (the church), and hopefully every effort will be made to maintain this unity in its fulfillment.  Working to fulfill the Great Commission is a must for any NT church.

Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processesIn such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord.”  I believe the call for the church to fall under “the Lordship of Christ” is clear by the teachings about Christ being given as “as head over all things to the church” (Ephesians 1.22; which is addressed later as well in Article VI).  However, I am unsure of any clear verse teaching democratic decision making in the church, though would be glad to be corrected if one exists.  This does not mean that I do not feel it is the best form of rule, but I simply am unable to justify that as a hard and fast requirement of the church for myself.  Thus, moving on to the idea of “each member [being] responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord,” I do not think this applies in any more specific sense in the church than it does in general in the life of a Christian, which is supposed to be lived under the declaration that “Christ is Lord” (Romans 10.9).

Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”  I agree with this wholly.  It is a shame that we must make a declaration about the exclusion of women from the pastorate, particularly since this means we are singling out one among many qualifications for an elder in the church, but at the end of the day I am glad that the SBC is not leaving that one up for interpretation, since many interesting interpretations abound.  Still, there needs to be sufficient emphasis on the qualifications for elders, and the fact that the BF&M does not include Titus 1.5-9 among the supporting Scripture for this article is frustrating.  We must not skip on the required criterion for our leadership, as their qualification and purity are of utmost importance both for our local congregations and for the cause of Christ in the world.

Concluding this all, I can not think of anything right off which I feel is missing from the minimum definition leveled here, though I did point out one or two places where I felt they went too far.

Defining the church is of greatest importance for Christianity.  Many today are wont to recreate “church” in a fashion and practice which is in no way biblical or beneficial for the Christian believer, and without a firm idea of what we are to be looking for, we have no standing for declaring that body to be illegitimate.  This is a rampant problem and one that needs to be addressed more fully as time goes on.


Visitors Not Welcome?- Further SBC Divide Over Driscoll Following Propaganda Piece

February 12, 2009

(UPDATE: I have modified the intro to this post in order not to offend my brothers in Christ. I apologize to anyone who took offense at my initial statements and wish it to be known that my only intention was to seek accountability from certain bloggers, not to personally attack them.)

Last night I was surfing the web (boy, is that phrase out-dated) and came across an article entitled “Poll: Your Thoughts on Baptist Press on Mark Driscoll.” This intrigued me since I had no idea what the Baptist Press had said, so I followed the link to this article. After reading it, I promptly headed back to the first article and checked “Terrible article! What shoddy journalism!” (along with 71% of other voters).

If you took the time to read it (and it’s really not worth the time if you haven’t) what you would find is some hastily put together propaganda piece trying to discredit Driscoll. Nothing new, right. Except this is from the Baptist Press is a news wire service that is supported by the Cooperative Program and is wholly under the purview of the SBC. Yet Driscoll is not a Baptist and this article makes no explicit mention of why they deemed it necessary to cut and paste an article run a few weeks earlier in the New York Times Magazine (remember) along with their own editorial content. This is clearly an opinion piece (since no effort at charity or contacting Driscoll appear to have been made), but the question is, Why did BP see fit to broadcast their opinion on this?

Well, apparently Danny Akin knows why. At least, that is the idea one would get from the article which popped up on Southeastern’s blog Between the Times shortly after BP’s piece, entitled “Mark Driscoll and Southeastern.” It seems that SEBTS took this as a shot at their recent collegiate conference featuring Driscoll, as well as their continuing relationship with his ministry. Timmy Brister also sees this as an attempt at undermining Driscoll’s influence on young SBCer’s by using old data and fear-mongering, and some on his comment board have pointed out the unnecessary reference to Driscoll and MacArthur being Calvinists in the piece.

For what it’s worth, I agree with all of the people saying that BP is pushing an anti-Driscoll, anti-Calvinist agenda here and that the timing is purposely so that it casts a poor light on the recent success of the SEBTS collegiate conference. If all they were doing was rehashing a current event from the NYT then they should have published this a month ago. It is this type of propaganda and judgmental mindset that got me running this whole Visitors Not Welcome? series in the first place. It is also the reason why not too long ago a prominent young SBC pastor told me that he is “ferociously Baptist” and yet chooses to do his church planting outside of the SBC entities.

How many thriving, biblically sound churches must the SBC lose before it stops cannibalizing the next generation?