What We Believe- Article XIV, Cooperation

April 29, 2009

The next article that we come to in our trek through the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 is the 14th covering the issue of cooperation:

XIV.  Cooperation

Christ’s people should, as occasion requires, organize such associations and conventions as may best secure cooperation for the great objects of the Kingdom of God. Such organizations have no authority over one another or over the churches. They are voluntary and advisory bodies designed to elicit, combine, and direct the energies of our people in the most effective manner. Members of New Testament churches should cooperate with one another in carrying forward the missionary, educational, and benevolent ministries for the extension of Christ’s Kingdom. Christian unity in the New Testament sense is spiritual harmony and voluntary cooperation for common ends by various groups of Christ’s people. Cooperation is desirable between the various Christian denominations, when the end to be attained is itself justified, and when such cooperation involves no violation of conscience or compromise of loyalty to Christ and His Word as revealed in the New Testament.

Exodus 17:12; 18:17ff.; Judges 7:21; Ezra 1:3-4; 2:68-69; 5:14-15; Nehemiah 4; 8:1-5; Matthew 10:5-15; 20:1-16; 22:1-10; 28:19-20; Mark 2:3; Luke 10:1ff.; Acts 1:13-14; 2:1ff.; 4:31-37; 13:2-3; 15:1-35; 1 Corinthians 1:10-17; 3:5-15; 12; 2 Corinthians 8-9; Galatians 1:6-10; Ephesians 4:1-16; Philippians 1:15-18. 

It’s funny, but my main thought in reading through this article is that is serves primarily as an apologetic for the organization which commissioned its writing in the first place, the Southern Baptist Convention.  Nice.  But we must ask ourselves, Is what it says truly biblical?  Reading through the verses used as justification and scaling back the language used in the article which sounds more of corporate or political organizing I think that we do see a biblcal truth portrayed here, at least to some extent.

Many of the passages used in justifying the claims here are passages speaking of general cooperation between Christians which may or may not be usable in a context wider than the local church.  Texts such as those given in Ezra and Nehemiah demonstrate the principle of helping out our brothers, living a servant lifestyle, or what I would more generally put as “bear[ing] one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6.2).  However, that verse, Galatians 6.2, is conspicuously absent from the justification list, most likely because it is traditionally interpreted as a local church verse.  The question I ask is, If we are claiming a universal church of all believers, how is cooperation at all divorceable from this call in Galatians?  And if it is not, then how come we seek to make a special distinction for “associations and conventions”?  I’m not sure if I see this myself.

One special exception picturing a larger specialized gathering might be found in the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15.  At this point we see a special convening of the church to deal with particular controversies that had arisen in the early days.  This certainly sets a precedent for coming together in a unit larger than the local assembly for clarifying doctrine, but is this what we are doing in the Southern Baptist Convention.  In part yes, but we are also doing much more.  We have things like the Cooperative Program which function on a large scale like Paul’s offering for the church at Jerusalem in 2 Corinthians and elsewhere.  We also have our missionary organizations, NAMB and IMB, which are collections of skilled people trying to fulfill the Great Commission of Matthew 28 and Acts 1.8.  All of these fall under the umbrella of the SBC and all are good and God-honoring things.  However, to say that they are specifically laid out as the pattern of Scripture seems like a stretch to me.

On another note, a very interesting statement is made when the article says,

“Cooperation is desirable between the various Christian denominations, when the end to be attained is itself justified, and when such cooperation involves no violation of conscience or compromise of loyalty to Christ and His Word as revealed in the New Testament.”  

Why is this so interesting?  Well, I, at least, find it interesting in light of recent cries foul by certain commentators among the non-Calvinist wing of SBC life who berate upstanding Southern Baptists like Al Mohler and Mark Dever for their associations with Presbyterian and charismatic and even just plain non-SBC brothers through ministries such as Together for the Gospel, Ligonier and Desiring God.  In particular I recall the provost of one of our great Southern Baptist seminaries commenting at a recent (controversial) gathering that it is confusing for Southern Baptists to be so friendly with paedobaptists.  Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but shouldn’t joining “together for the gospel” be a justifiable end for teaming up across denominational lines with people maybe a little more reformed than ourselves?  What does that say when even our seminary leaders are having trouble affirming the BF&M in its entirety?

Stop and Turn!- Developing the Doctrine of Repentance with Matt Chandler

March 24, 2009

When it comes to salvation there is always a question of just what role man plays in the act.  On a large scale, this is the Calvinism v. Arminianism debate.  However, on a local scale we can (most) all agree that whether God chooses us or we choose him, the clear teaching of Scripture is that man is resposnible for repenting of his sins.  This is displayed clearly in Acts 2.37-38,

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Repent and be baptized!  That’s why I’m a Baptist!  (Well, not the only reason.)  But seriously, if ever we could hope for a clear response in Scripture here it is.  The people ask what they need to do and Peter tells them.  Case closed.

So, knowing that repentance is a necessary response to God’s spirit of conviction in our hearts, it is then encumbent upon us to work out what authentic repentance is, both for ourselves and for testing others, since it is not too hard to imagine false repentance being offered instead of the real thing.  It is because of this that we find passages such as 2 Corinthians 7.8-10 which distinguish for us between worldly and Godly grief.

Seeing this question and knowing its importance to the people of the church has led Matt Chandler of The Village Church (Dallas, TX) to develop a sermon series aimed at just that.  For the past couple of weeks (and I think at least one more to come), Chandler has been walking his church, and those of us who join with them by podcast, through what authentic repentance and Godly grief look like, how to cultivate it, and how not to get discouraged and fall into the imposter varieties.  Below I have posted what has been spoken so far (and I will update as more become available), so please take the time to check them out.  Its hard to believe you won’t find this to be a good investment of your time.  Enjoy!

Matt Chandler- A Jealous God (Repentance, part 1)

Matt Chandler- Good Guilt (Repentance, part 2)

Matt Chandler- A Theology of Struggle (Repentance, part 3)

Rocking the Cutting Edge of the 16th Century- Time Magazine on the Influence of the New Calvinism

March 18, 2009

(Note: If you like what you have read on this blog, please go here and vote for it in the 2009 Blog Madness competition. I am listed as the 15th ranked blog in the West Division. Thank you for your support.)

In case you may have missed it (and honestly, I don’t know how much press this got because I was out of town last week) but recently Time Magazine released its 2009 edition of “10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now,” and among these, listed at number 3 overall, was the New Calvinism.  Pointing to the influential ministries of guys such as John Piper, Mark Driscoll, and Al Mohler, Time said that (in true pop culture fashion) “Calvinism is back”! 

Truthfully, this really is surprising to me.  If they had been doing a list on the top 10 ideas changing the church right now, sure, I would have definitely listed the New Calvinism.  But the world?  Wow!  That really is something.  

The question then becomes two things.  First, can we infer from the rising influence of the New Calvinism (which really is the old Calvinism just with new guys, right?) that there is a global revival in the church?  Second,  can we infer from the rising influence of the New Calvinism if the global church is moving towards orthodox, conservative Christianity?

In the first question, I think that I would have to say ‘No.’  I do not think from the fact that Calvinism is enjoying a resurgence that we can infer that Christianity as a whole is experiencing revival in the world.  It is true that many places such as Africa and the Global South are simply booming with new believers these days, but I don’t know that across the board we are seeing any more people coming to Christ (percentage-wise) than we have over the years past, it is just that the distribution of where believers are has shifted drastically.

On the second question, I do believe that we are seeing a move towards historic, orthodox, conservative Christianity, at least in the realm of theology.  Though there are still plenty of loud voices out there pushing the emergent agenda, it seems that the “Great Emergence” that they have been predicting has been nothing more than sociological wishful thinking thus far.  Particularly when you look to the abundant harvests being gathered in the Global South and Africa, these people are among the most conservative believers in the church today, leading the charge in various arenas such as the recent battle against the liberalization of the Church of England.  They may not all be Calvinists per se, but as Dr. Mohler was so wonderfully quoted in the article, “The moment someone begins to define God’s [being or actions] biblically, that person is drawn to conclusions that are traditionally classified as Calvinist.”

This is certainly something to be excited about.  It is a great day when a movement towards biblical authority and orthodox beliefs gets so large that a secular magazine recognizes how important it is.  Thanks be to God that we are living in a time where great men are being raised up with great ideas and are leading a great impact on the church and the culture.  Unlike the Jews after the exile, God is not silent in our day, if only we are prayerful enough to listen.

See the full article here.

Calvinism Really is the Gospel- Calvinism Preaches Particular Redemption of the Elect

March 15, 2009

Finally we have reached the last evidence offered by Spurgeon that Calvinism is the gospel, and is this one a firestarter.  I’ll just jump into what it says:

Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel if we do not preach justification by faith without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing unchangeable eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross.

Spurgeon’s last evidence that Calvinism is the gospel is that to preach the gospel one must preach the particular redemption of the elect earned by Christ’s death upon the cross.   This could not be any more hottly contested at any point in the history of Protestantism than it is today.  Not only do we largely take issue with the idea of unconditional election, the good news as we argued from evidence three, but even if we let God have that, we still want to insist that Christ nonetheless died for the redemption of all people– which is only fair, right?  I mean, if Christ did not die for all people then somehow God must be unjust or unloving or something that would make him less than God and therefore unacceptable for us to believe in.

But alas, I am willing to argue that it truly is good news, truly is gospel news, that the redemption wrought by Christ’s death is for all and only the elect.  (Of course, as I said above, we will take this elect to be the unconditionally elect from evidence three, and will not consider the elect as possibly being a conditionally elect group, who would certainly render any good news of election void.)  It is true that Calvinism teaches particular redemption of the elect (more commonly referred to as Limited Atonement, though ‘particular redemption’ carries a little more weight), so what we must do now is show where this comes from in the Bible and why such a thing is good news.

First, where does it come from?  There are several verses and several controversies surrounding places where Christ is said to be redeeming “his people” (Matthew 1.21), his “sheep” (John 10.27-30), and “the church” (Ephesians 5.25).  Now, on the whole, I think these arguments all have merit, but unless someone is willing to do the grunt work it is hard to see how these can be convincing over and against passages like 1 John 2.2.  Because of this, I like to turn to the idea of what exactly was being accomplished by the atonement, and in doing this show that there is no way to conceive of it other than its being limited in scope and particular in application.  This argument rests in analyzing the pictures of atonement given in Leviticus 16 and 17 and Hebrews 9 and 10.  You can see my full working out of this here and here

So, redemption is particular to the elect, but why is this good news?  Well, we must take this word elect for all we mean by it, namely that these are the people whom God has chosen to receive salvation and no one else, in order to truly grasp what’s being claimed.  If the elect are all and only those who will be saved then surely redemption for them in any fashion (particular or general) is good news, since it is the means by which they are reconciled to God.  However, so many are want to tell people that “God loves you and Christ died for you,” but what type of good news is that if you don’t believe, if you aren’t elect?  That Christ died for you and yet was unable to actually save you, why did he waste his time?  

The particular redemption wrought by Christ, the fact that he died for all and only the elect, all and only those who will be saved, is good news because it bears testimony to a God who is all powerful.   As J.I. Packer puts it, by viewing redemption as particular, along with election as unconditional and grace as irresistible, we see “the three great acts of the Holy Trinity for the recovering of lost mankind– election by the Father, redemption by the Son, calling by the Spirit– as directed towards the same persons, and as securing their salvation infallibly”; whereas viewing redemption generally “gives each act a different reference . . . and denies that any man’s salvation is secured by any of them” (Introduction to The Death of Death, p.4).  Clearly only one of these stands as the genuine good news.

Thus in closing, we have demonstrated that the four evidences which Charles Spurgeon gives in his prolific quote are in fact the composite of the good news that has been “delivered to [us] as of first importance” (1 Corinthians 15.3), and each one also being a portion of the soteriological system know as Calvinism, so that therefore we can conclude what has long been argued– that Calvinism really is the gospel!

Calvinism Really is the Gospel- Calvinism Preaches God’s Unchanging, Eternal, Electing Love

March 14, 2009

Okay, I’ll admit, the first two days of comparing Calvinism with the gospel through Spurgeon’s quote were probably quite uncontroversial.  Very few of us in Protestant evangelicalism are likely to say we object to justification by faith and God’s sovereignty in granting his grace, even if practically we deny these things through how we behave.  However, this next part is different, and is truly where we will start to see the divide between the general ‘gospel’ and the gospel as championed by Charles Spurgeon.  Here is what it says:

Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel if we do not preach justification by faith without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing unchangeable eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah . . .

Spurgeon’s third evidence that Calvinism is the gospel is that, if one is to truly preach the gospel then they must ”exalt the electing unchangeable eternal, immutable, conquering love” of God.  Of course the rub here is in exalting God’s (unconditionally) electing love, so let’s approach the other characteristics first, seeing that all of these aspects are pictured in the great passage of Romans 8.31-39.

(Note: We must remark here that God’s love is being said to be unchangeable eternal, immutable, and  conquering for the believer.  This is carried in the quote by the fact that Spurgeon refers to it as “electing love.”)

God’s love is unchangeable eternal.  In Romans 8.38-39 Paul tells us, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Those are a great many things and yet none of them can separate believers from the love of Christ.  As well, Psalm 136.1 says, “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”  If anything is good news, the unchangeable eternal love of God for the redeemed would surely have to fit that description.

God’s love is immutable.  Now, I realize that this sounds quite like “God’s love is unchangeable eternal” but I think there is a difference.  In the first condition, there is nothing external that can change God’s love.  With immutability, we say that God will never change his love internally.  The immutability of God’s love is commensurate with the immutability of God proper, and this is testified in places like Numbers 23.19 which says, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.  Has he said, and will he not do it?  Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”  Therefore, just as God’s love being safe from external influence is good news, so is God’s love being safe from internal fluxuation.

God’s love is conquering.  Really all of Romans 8.31-39 proclaims this truth, but in particular we see verses 33 and 34 which declare, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?  It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”  No one may condemn us now, no one may prevail over us today, thanks to the conquering love of God which sent his son to bear the wrath we were to receive (1 John 4.10).  This is definitely good news, and is probably the best news never understood by most “Christians”– that our fate apart from Christ is death and eternal punishment (John 3.18), but through the sacrifical love of Christ and God in sending his son we may now become “more than conquerers” over sin and death (v.37).

Finally, that leads us to the idea of unconditional election.  How is it that God’s love is shown forth in unconditional election and how might that qualify as good news?  To start, Ephesians 1.3-6 says,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,  to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (emphasis added)

So, Paul tells us that the mere act of electing is done in love.  Likewise, in 2 Thessalonians 2.13 Paul calls the Christians in Thesslonica “beloved by the Lord” because they have been “[chosen] as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.”  Thus, pretty clearly it is told that the acts of unconditional election and love go together in God’s plan of salvation.

But is this good news?  How could it not be?  Romans 8.33, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.”  The elect are safe, why? because they are the elect.  With election comes the sure promise of redemption (cf. Romans 8.30) as well as the comfort in knowing that it is by no merit of their own that they are guaranteed this, but upon the unchanging purpose of him who chose them (cf. Romans 8.28, Ephesians 1.5).

Therefore, we have thus argued that the third evidence from Spurgeon’s quote, that God’s “electing unchangeable eternal, immutable, conquering love” is good news, is true and so stands as further proof that Calvinism really is the gospel.

Calvinism Really is the Gospel- Calvinism Preaches the Sovereignty of God in Dispensing His Grace

March 13, 2009

After yesterday arguing that Spurgeon’s initial evidence was true, that Calvinism’s teaching of justification by faith without works really is part of the gospel, we now want to move on to his second claim:

Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel if we do not preach justification by faith without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace . . .

The second evidence offered in support of Spurgeon’s claim that Calvinism is the gospel is that we are not preaching the gospel unless we are preaching of God’s sovereignty in His dispensation, or giving, of grace.  

Is this the gospel?  Well, first I guess we should dissect a little further what this actually means.  I think as a general rule (and in light of the next part of the quote) we would be going too far in assuming that here Spurgeon is talking about election.  Surely he would argue that God is sovereign in election, but that is a level of structure further into the nature of God than we need to be yet.  Here I believe that Spurgeon is simply speaking in accord with Jonah and the Psalmist when both of them proclaim “Salvation belongs to the Lord” (Jonah 2.9, Psalm 3.8).  Thus, the position is that there is no salvation apart from God’s sovereign allowance of it.  As it stands,  no man has the authority to come up to God and demand salvation; God is sovereign in granting it, and no man may partake of it otherwise (cf. John 6.44).

So, is this the gospel?  We can certainly see that it seems to be captured in the teachings of Scripture.  But is it good news?  How could it not be?  Is it better news to say that God is not in control, that God does not have sovereignty over his grace and that there is some way in which his granting of it is simply out of his hands who receives it?  In what way could this even take place?  Would grace be dispensed at random to people by a cosmic lottery?  Surely this is not good news.  Then maybe it is obtained by a Darwinistic natural selection of the population?  Yet, this also seems to not 0nly not be good news but also in opposition to Scripture  (1 Corinthians 1.26-29).  Maybe it is granted to those who perform mighty works in their own power?  But we have already expelled that idea by saying that we are justified by faith apart from works and by the fact that grace is not grace if somehow it is meritted.

Clearly, there is no good news in grace that is not sovereignly metted out by an omniscient, omnipotent Heavenly Father.  God’s sovereign dispensation is a truly a most glorious truth of the gospel.  It is also a part of Calvinism, and thus, two evidences in, we still have consensous between Calvinism and the gospel.

Calvinism Really is the Gospel- Calvinism Preaches Justification by Faith

March 12, 2009

Before we start, I do want to make the statement that, though there are several ideas over what does and does not constitute Calvinism, for the sake of maintaining the speakers original intent, we will treat every belief as a true belief of Calvinism and then attempt to show that it is also a critical aspect of the gospel, thus proving that whatever is Calvinism is also the gospel, and therefore Calvinism is the gospel.

Now, to begin our argument from Spurgeon’s famous quote that Calvinism really is the gospel, we will look at what he first gives as the evidence of this:

Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel if we do not preach justification by faith without works . . . 

So, Spurgeon’s initial evidence that Calvinism is the gospel is because it preaches justification by faith without works.  This belief, however, is not just Calvinism.  The belief that justification is by faith apart from works is the backbone of all protestant thought.  Therefore, showing that it is most crucial to the gospel should not be too controversial unless we have some ardent Catholics peering in on us.

To show that preaching justification by faith apart from works is core to preaching the gospel, all wwe have to do is look at a few of the most important evangelistic verses in the Scriptures.  Ephesians 2.8-9 goes right for it saying, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  Follow this with Romans 3.28, “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law,” and it is pretty much a closed case that justification by faith is as fundamental to the gospel as anything possibly could be.  It is good news because it means we are not having to be in the business of saving ourselves, this has already been done for us.  Nothing could be better news than knowing that your debt of sin is taking care of by someone else and all you must do is believe; that though you deserved death, God freely gave his son to die as a sacrifice for us that we may be reconciled with him.

Therefore, one evidence in and the claim that Calvinism is the gospel appears to doing pretty well.  Of course, the hard part is yet to come.

Calvinism Really is the Gospel- Dissecting Spurgeon’s Quote for What it Actually Says

March 11, 2009

Calvinism is the gospel.

That phrase alone is enough to cause commotion to start ringing from all sides of the church.  On the Calvinist side you get a hearty “Amen!”  From the Arminian (or non-Calvinist for those sensitive Arminians in the SBC) side you get a rallying of the troops to fight the terrors of the next wave of non-evangelizing elitists.  And on the moderate (compatibilist) side you get a whiny, “Oh would you just shut up already!”  No matter which camp you fall in– and you do fall in a camp– there is no way you are totally ambivalent to this declaration.  And yet, as it stands, this snippet of a statement from the great Prince of Preachers Charles Spurgeon is being so utterly misapplied its not even worth the fight.

What Spurgeon really said, even though it is too much to fit in a cute little slogan, was this:

I have my own opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel if we do not preach justification by faith without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing unchangeable eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross.  

Yes, “Calvinism is the gospel” is said there, but so is so much more, and to simply leave the rest of it off total changes the color of what Spurgeon meant to get across.  

Therefore, at the risk of being shouted at from all the Arminians and moderates cruising the blogwaves, I will be attempting to show over the next several days that, yes, as explained by Spurgeon in the larger context of his quote, Calvinism really is the gospel.  Stay tuned and please, feel free to interact.

Confronted by Glory- Two Practical Questions from the Experience of Isaiah

March 9, 2009

Yesterday I recounted for us the story of Isaiah’s vision in chapter six of his prophetic writings and discussed how this illustrates for us the basic process of salvation for an individual, particularly giving legs to the middle events described in Romans 8.30 (i.e. the effectual call and justification).  When I closed it I said that we were left with two important questions, which is where I want to focus today.

The first question I asked was if a person can be confronted with the glory of God and yet not be led to repentance and a saving belief?  Is it possible that someone could see God for what he really is and walk away without being saved?  I think the first place to approach this from would be specifically from the account of people being confronted with the person of Christ during his incarnation on earth.  In John 14.8-9 we see this exchange between Philip and Christ:

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”

So, from this exchange, one would seemingly take it to mean that whoever has seen Christ (incarnate in the flesh) has seen the Father.  And, if the account in Isaiah, as well as with Moses, are true, then to see the Father would be to see his glory.  But what are we told in John 6.66?  ”After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.”  Thus, it appears that there were many who saw Christ, and by extension saw the glory of God, and yet were not compelled to follow him in repentance and belief.

Not so fast though.  Look what Paul says in his second epistle to the Corinthians:

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4.3-6)

We see that there are those who “the god of this world has blinded [their] minds . . . to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”  So, some have been blinded by Satan, kept from seeing the glory of God.  It is these who could walk with Christ, see him in the flesh, and yet still trun away.  They saw him but did not see the glory of God because Satan had blinded their minds.  And what is the word attached here to those who are blind to God’s glory?  ”Unbelievers.”  It is “the minds of the unbelievers” which have been blinded from seeing God’s glory, which in turn means that those who are not blind, those who are able to see the glory of God, are believers.  There is no room to accomodate an unbeliever who is not blinded, who has been confronted with the glory of God and simply chosen to walk away.

(Note, this would seem to accord with the Calvinist doctrine of irresistible grace, that all those whom God has chosen he will reveal himself to and they will unerringly follow him in repentance and belief– the human part of our salvation.)

The second question we have arising from our analysis of Isaiah 6 is whether it is possible for one to truly repent and believe who has never been confronted with the glory of God?  Before we get into it I want to discuss the practical significance of this question.  If one can repent and believe without having been confronted with God’s glory, then it is reasonable to assume that I might convince them to come to salvation myself, wholly apart from the work of God.  However, if it turns out that being convicted through an encounter with the Holy God is necessary for true repentance and belief, then no matter what I do, I have no power to save a man apart from the special work of the Spirit in that persons life.  This distinction means the world in how we practice evangelism and what we try to attain by it.

That said, let’s look at this.  A passage that seems to emphasize what the person does without referencing an encounter with God is Romans 10.9, “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”  It is not a stretch to say this shows human action apart from divine intervention.  But, on the other side, look back at the 2 Corinthians passage from above and see that it says, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” which appears to imply that first God revealed his glory and then the gospel was unveiled (v.3), without which unveiling we would never have truly known to repent and believe.

To settle this matter, I would turn back to John 6, this time in verse 44.  Here it says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”  Again in verse 65, “And he said, ‘This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.’”  This ‘drawing’ or ‘granting’, in light of what we have already said, I would argue must be taken to be God’s confronting us with his glory.  God grants that we can come to him by showing off his glory to us, by showing us our own moral repugnance and deservedness of condemnation in contraposition to his holiness.  Peter spells this out even more when he says we are “a people for [God's] own possession, that [we] may proclaim the excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light.”  That marvelous light is his glory, is “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” and is what allows us to demonstrate true repentance and belief that coincide with salvation.

Therefore, we have concluded that no man may truly repent and belief unless he has been confronted with the holiness of God in opposition to his own filth, and that any man who is confronted in such a way will surely be led to repentance and belief.  Such is the wonderful God we serve!

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.