Archive for the ‘Research’ category

Blue Collar Theology 18: New Reference Works

January 14, 2008

It’s been about a month since my last BCT post, but I hope to resume regular posting on this series. One of the things a Blue Collar Theology believes in is equipping yourself theologically with good reference works. Over the past year, there have been some excellent reference works, and I thought I’d direct you to some of them. Here they are:

* Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament – edited by G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson (creative and helpful resource)

* New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ – Tom Schreiner (excellent resource from top NT scholar)

* An Old Testament Theology: A Canonical and Thematic Approach by Bruce Waltke and Charles Yu (perhaps best resource on OT)

* Faith Comes by Hearing: A Response to Inclusivism – edited by Robert Peterson and Christopher Morgan (coming in March)

* The Works of Andrew Fuller – edited by Michael Haykin (one-volume edition)

* Perspectives on the Doctrine of God: Four Views – edited by Bruce Ware (four contributing authors are Paul Helm, Bruce Ware, John Sanders, and Roger Olson; coming in March)

* Dictionary of Major Biblical Interpreters edited by Donald McKim (great resource to see how various folks in church history interpreted the Bible)

* Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 4: Holy Spirit, Church, New Creation by Herman Bavinck (4th volume in this excellent series)

* Understanding Four Views on the Lord’s Supper – edited by John Armstrong (four contributing authors are by Russell D. Moore, I. John Hesselink, David P. Scaer, and Thomas A. Baima)

* Koine Greek Reader: Selected Readings from the New Testament, Septuagint, and Early Christian Writers – by Rodney Decker (new reader for on various Greek texts; helpful to stay fresh on reading)

* The UBS Greek New Testament: Reader Edition

* The Expansion of Evangelicalism: The Age of Wilberforce, More, Chalmers, and Finney by John Wolffe (third volume in a series; good resource on church history)

2007 SBC State Convention Analysis

November 30, 2007

Some of you may remember the little research I did on the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana (SCBI) entitled, “The Fleecing of the SBC.” Well, thanks to the “wrap ups” by Baptist Press, I have been able to gather some more information on Southern Baptist state conventions. I be up front in saying that three things in particular interest me. First, how much money is kept within each state for their own purposes; second, how many churches and messengers attended; and three, what resolutions were passed. Let me briefly speak to each of these three to explain my reasoning behind this.

Regarding state convention monies, I believe that the SBC can do a better job with handling the Cooperative Program money, beginning with the state conventions. While it is a legitimate argument to question the necessity of state conventions, what is pressing even more is whether or not CP money is going directly to support local churches and missions rather than cash-swapping between state conventions and SBC entities (such as the NAMB). The SBC will continue to falter in her mission and fail in planting churches unless we stop the fleecing of the SBC which principally takes place within our state conventions.

Regarding the messengers and churches represented in state conventions, I am interested to know how many or what percentage are still attending these yearly meetings. What I am finding is more evidence of a post-denominational world where churches are looking for other means of cooperation and networking that is more affinity-based than structural. Furthermore, the decline in messengers and churches again begs the question of why we even have state conventions to begin with.

Regarding resolutions, I want to know what state conventions find important. Now, what is interesting is that these resolutions are non-binding on local churches, so they really cannot have effect or be enforced. So what is the purpose of resolutions? A consensus statement perhaps? In addition, are state conventions trying to impose restrictions or standards upon local churches, thereby threatening their autonomy? Again, the negative work of resolutions raise the issue of whether state conventions are really serving any purposes at all (other than encouraging people to leave the SBC).

Now granted, I know that there are many important ministries sustained through state conventions (such as children’s homes). However, I am concerned that there is a duplicating of efforts and implicit hierarchical superstructure that has developed an unhealthy bureaucracy in the SBC. So now that I have told you my rationale, let’s take a look at some of the statistics.

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If They Won’t Listen to History, Then Take Them Before the . . .

November 28, 2007

Facts.

That’s what Stetzer’s research showed in his recent presentation at the Building Bridges Conference. Every student of church history and Baptist history knows that the charge of Calvinists not being evangelistic or committed to the Great Commission is easily refutable, but alas, the caricature has remained among many who do not want to reckon with it. So it goes like this:

Explain the biblical doctrines of grace and how they fuel missions and evangelism, and if they do not listen, take two or three witnesses from church history with you, and if they refuse to listen, then bring them before the facts and empirical data of sociological research.

So here’s the facts of the recent study done by Stetzer and LifeWay Research:

1. Nearly 30 percent of recent SBC seminary graduates now serving as church pastors identify themselves as Calvinists.

2. In the last year of the study, 34 percent of those serving in SBC churches identified themselves as five-point Calvinists.

3. Calvinistic recent graduates report that they conduct personal evangelism at a slightly higher rate than their non-Calvinistic peers.

4. 27 percent of 1,234 recent seminary graduate respondents serving in SBC church leadership positions “somewhat agree” or “strongly agree” that they are five-point Calvinists, while 67 percent affirmed that God’s “grace is irresistible” and 58 percent said they believe “people do not choose to become Christians, God chooses and calls people who respond to him.”

5. Calvinistic churches, though they baptize fewer persons each year, have a “baptism rate” virtually identical to that of non-Calvinistic churches. Baptism rate is the number of annual baptisms relative to total membership, a statistic used to measure evangelistic vitality.

Now, before any of my Calvinist friends think we are off the hook and free from the inevitable attacks from anti-Reformed stalwarts in the SBC, we need to realize that our current commitment to evangelism and missions is simply unacceptable. I agree with Stetzer who says,

“Regardless of whether Calvinists are having a lower number of baptisms and a smaller attendance or baptizing the same in the baptism rate, the reality is none of these baptism rates or growth numbers should make any of us happy.”

To my Calvinist brothers, if we do not share the gospel to others as a dying man to dying men, imploring them to flee to Christ in repentance and faith on a regular basis, then it doesn’t matter how many points you hold to when you miss the main point of the gospel. It is not in the presence of Calvinists or Arminians that we live, preach, and share the gospel but rather Him who will judge the living and dead.

To my non-Calvinist brothers, there is much more to be done in our churches than to be telling people that Calvinists don’t believe in evangelism and missions. There are as many (if not more) anti-evangelism non-Calvinists as there are Calvinists. We need to get beyond these baseless and inaccurate attempts to demonize and marginalize Calvinists in the SBC.

The bottom line is that the gospel is not normative and central in our lives as it should be, and that goes for all of us. I will be the first to get in line and say that I am not as broken for the lost as I should nor am I as consistent in sharing the gospel as I should. From the looks of it, none of us have any ground to stand upon. Again, hear Stetzer reflecting on this reality:

“At the end of the day, Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike in our churches are failing to engage lostness in North America. This theological discussion has to lead to missional action and that missional action needs to cause Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike to love each other and to encourage each other and to provoke one another on to love and good deeds.”

Let us pray for one another, that we would take seriously the charge to deliver of first importance that which we also received – the gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us display to the world know the surpassing value of knowing Jesus Christ our Lord and Treasure. And let the love which we have received from the Father through the Son be the distinguishing mark of our lives, in how we treat one another as well as how we minister to a Christless world.

Papers and Projects

September 16, 2007

Things are really starting to pile up this semester in school.  Attempting to finish strong, I am taking five classes this semester which also includes four papers.  As you can expect, blog frequency will likely taper of a little, although I do plan on sharing some of my research and everyday thoughts.  Right now, I am averaging 12-15 posts a week, which will decrease to around 7-10 posts a week.  Blue Collar Theology, book previews, and the other staple posts such as quick hits and potw, should remain consistent.

I thought I share some of the papers and projects I am working on, given that I will be posting excerpts and aspects of my research.  Here are my four papers:

PAPERS 

1.  Church Planting Case Study – This is a paper dedicated to my research and analysis of a recent church plant.  Because I have not received confirmation from the church which I will be studying, I will not comment further. (Intro to Church Planting)

2.  Edwards v. Finney on Revival – This is a thesis-driven paper where I will argue that both Edwards means and ends of revival are true to the nature of God and salvation and biblically faithful.  As you might expect, this is a somewhat polemical paper.  In addition to their understanding of revival, I hope to examine in particular detail how each counsel sinners and follow-up on new converts.  (Intro to Church History II)

3. Exegetical Study of Zechariah’s Night Visions – Some of you might recall that I taught through some of Zechariah 1-8 earlier this past summer.  It was a really enjoyable study, and I am hoping to build on that by writing an exegetical paper focusing on a redemptive/historical framework and hermeneutical horizons of these eight visions which carry several biblical themes.  (Biblical Hermeneutics)

4. The Role of the Holy Spirit in the Unevangelized –  This will by far be the paper I devote most of my attention to this semester (see projects for reason why).  This is a position paper where I will be examining Clark Pinnock’s pneumatological inclusivism (Arminian/Open Theist), Terrance Tiessen’s accessibilism (Calvinist), and Amos Yong’s pneumatological theology of religion (Pentecostal/Charismatic).  I will offer my critiques of each position and present the exclusivist/particularist case for the work of the Holy Spirit in salvation.  Issues involved include are Trinitarian (especially economic/immanent Trinity, filioque, perichoresis, and Spirit-Anointed Christology [kenosis]), soteriological (covenant, atonement, revelation, regeneration, grace, and calling), interreligious (cosmic spirit, imago dei, universal presence/salvation, church/kingdom identity, and missio dei), and biblical (theological method, Spirit in OT/NT, continuity/discontinuity, and already/not yet).  Obviously, I will not be able to cover these issues in a short position paper, which leads me to my projects. (Systematic Theology III)

PROJECTS

1. Systematic Analysis of Inclusivism – During the course of my time at seminary, I have been researching the issues which I believe are “first-order” or greatest threats to orthodoxy and/or the gospel.  This has lead me to take up the issues of pluralism, universalism, and inclusivism.  I have written several papers on inclusivism, focusing on revelation, saving faith, theological method, and now Holy Spirit.  My goal is to write a paper on every major area of systematic theology (e.g. theology proper, revelation, saalvation, eschatology, et al) on inclusivism and compile them into a book-length project.  This project is rather long-term, but I believe the time and work invested is certainly warranted.  I hope to have it completed in 2-3 years.

2. The Forgotten Henry – I already gave you the heads up on this project, so I will not say much here.  I am really looking forward to tackling this study in the next 1-2 years as I have already completed 75% of the research, bibliography, and organized an outline of the project.

3. 2008 Band of Bloggers – Some of you may remember that I organized a fellowship called “Band of Bloggers” in 2006 which was in conjunction with the first Together for the Gospel conference.  This is the first time I have publicly mentioned next year’s fellowship.  I and a small team of others have been planning for about six weeks and are really excited about it.  Last time I had only three weeks to put it together, so it is nice having eight months instead!  Stay tuned for more info on this project.

4. Miscellaneous (Smaller Projects) – Some other projects I am working on is posting my other drafts on “Dortian Calvinism” in response to Dr. James Leo Garrett’s articles in The Alabama Baptist.  I have a total of 12 in the series.  Another project is a study of the various church planting models (Acts 29, Sovereign Grace, NAMB, etc.) and developing a church planting strategy.  Lastly, I am hoping to juxtapose and examine the latest statements/confessions focused on the gospel, viz. The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration (1999), Together for the Gospel Statement (2006), and the Gospel Coalition Confession (2007).

Any of these particularly interest you?  Discuss on the blog?

From the International Journal of Frontier Missions Archives

July 4, 2007

Regarding missiological matters, there are several journals I try to read, including Evangelical Missions Quarterly, International Bulletin for Missiological Research, International Review of Mission, Missiology, and International Journal of Frontier Missions. Last week, I was sent an email by Scott Burness informing me that IJFM had most of their archives available in PDF. Today, I scanned the archives and selected some for personal study. I thought I share some of them with you as well. I suppose that when doing something like this I should make the parenthetical statement that by providing these articles on my blog does not mean that I agree with everything I link to. In fact, there might be a considerable amount I disagree with here. However, it is important to understand the current historical and missiological thrust and interact with contemporary scholarship. Take a moment and read some of the articles here, or perhaps you might want to bookmark this post for future reference. In any case, it is my hope that devote our highest thoughts and deepest affections for the glory of His name among all the peoples of the earth.

Biblical Mandate:

Editorial, Hans M. Weerstra,
The Great Commission in the Old Testament, Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.
All the Clans, All the Peoples, Richard Showalter
The Supremacy of God Among all the Nations, John Piper
Challenging the Church to World Missions, David Hesselgrave
Biblical Foundations for Missions: Seven Basic Lessons, Thomas Schirmacher
Seeing the Big Picture, Ralph D. Winter
Melchizedek and Abraham Walk Together in World Missions, W. Douglas Smith, Jr.
The Biblical Basis and Priority for Frontier Missions, William O’Brien

Contextualization:

Editorial, Hans M. Weerstra,
Contextualization that is Authentic and Relevant, David J. Hesselgrave
The Human Universals of Culture: Implications for Contextualization, A. Scott Moreau
Christian History in Cross-cultural Perspective, Ralph D. Winter
Measuring Contextualization in Church and Missions, Douglas Hayward
Great Commission Contextualization, David J. Hesselgrave
Contextualizing the Message Through Use of Case Studies, Paul J. Fritz
Contextualizing the Power and the Glory, R. Daniel Shaw
Should Christians Pray the Muslim Salat?, Warren C. Chastain
Contextualization without Syncretism Rick Brown
Comprehensive Contextualization Harley Talman
God’s Amazing Diversity in Drawing Muslims to Christ, Joshua Massey
Should Muslims Become “Christians”?, Bernard Dutch
Jesus in Samaria: A Paradigm for Church Planting Among Muslims, Stuart Caldwell
First-Century Jews and Twentieth-Century Muslims, Richard Jameson and Nick Scalevich
The “Son of God”-Understanding the Messia
nic Titles of Jesus, Rick Brown
Messianic Muslim Followers of Isa, John Travis
The Ishmael Promise and Contextualization Among Muslims, Jonathan Culver
A Humble Appeal to C5/Insider Movement Muslim Ministry Advocates to Consider Ten Questions Gary Corwin

AD2000: Completing the Task:

The Consummation: The Vision to be Realized, Patrick Johnstone
Finishing the Task: The Unreached Peoples Challenge, Ralph D.Winter and Bruce A. Koch
Completing the Agenda of History, Malcolm Hunter
The Consummation: The Crucial Ministries Involved, Patrick Johnstone
The Acts 13 Breakthrough Vision, George Verwer
Resources to Reach the Window: Will the Church Respond?, Beverly Pegues and Luis Bush
Joshua Project 2000 Unreached Peoples List, Joshua Project 2000

Other Various Articles:

World Evangelization by AD 2000, David Hesselgrave
A Missionary Hermeneutic, David J. Hesselgrave
To Whom are we Listening?, David Hesselgrave
Missiological Education for Lay People, Ralph D. Winter
Evaluating Goals for Training, Ralph D. Winter
The Pastor and Modern Missions
, John R. Mott
The Fate of the Unreached, Jack Cottrell and Steve E. Burris
The Church’s Primary Role in Training for the Frontiers,
Gary R. Corwin
Prayer Profile: The Bihari of India,
Adopt-A-People Clearinghouse
The Role of the O.T. In Evangelism, Don Pederson
Storying the Storybook to Tribals, Tom A. Steffen
Yahweh and the Gods: A Theology of World Religions, Ed Mathew
The Theology of Culture: Desecularizing Anthropology, Gailyn Van Rheenen
Christianity and the Religions in the History of the Church, James F. Lewis
Worldview, Scripture and Missionary Communication, David J. Hesselgrave
Conversion and Worldview Transformation, Paul G. Hiebert
Towards a Biblical Worldview, Natun Bhattacharya and Tom Eckblad
De-westernizing the Gospel: Recovery of a Biblical Worldview, Hans M.Weerstra
Comparing Modern-day Alternatives to Biblical Conversion, David F. Wells
From Mission to Evangelism to Mission Ralph D. Winter
Finishing the Task the Unreached Peoples Challenge Ralph D. Winter and Bruce A. Koch
The Largest Stumbling Block to Leadership Development in the Global Church Ralph D. Winter
Eleven Frontiers of Perspective Ralph D. Winter
Eleven Frontiers of Perspective (7-11) Ralph D. Winter
Communicating Christ through Oral Tradition James Bowman
Communication Bridges to Oral Cultures S. Devasahayam Ponraj & Chandon K. Sah
Church Planting Movements vs Insider Movements David Garrison
The Most Precarious Mission Frontier Ralph D. Winter
How to Make Oral Communication More Effective Rick Brown
How Short-Term Missions Can Go Wrong Glenn Schwartz
Part:1 Anthropology and Mission: The Incarnational Connection Darrell L. Whiteman
Part: II Anthropology and Mission: The Incarnational Connection Darrell L. Whiteman
When Business Can Be Mission: Where Both Business and Mission Fall Short Ralph D. Winter
How Shall They Believe Detlef Bloecher
Response to Detlef Bloecher’s How Shall They Believe? Todd Johnson
What are Mission Frontiers? Ralph D. Winter
De-Westernizing Doctrine and Developing Appropriate Theology in Mission Mack Harling
Who is “Allah”? Rick Brown
Allah in Translations of the Bible Kenneth J. Thomas

A Compilation of the Controversy over Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Convention

May 28, 2007

There is no learned man but will confess that he hat much profited by reading controversies — his senses awakened, his judgment sharpened, and the truth which he holds more firmly established. All controversy being permitted, falsehood will appear more false, and truth the more true.

–John Milton, as quoted in The Golden Treasury of Puritan Quotations, compiled by I. D. E. Thomas (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1989), 62-63.
 
Alright.  So I thought I’d share with you some of my research over the past couple of weeks.  This isn’t comprehensive, but it is close.  Let me say “thanks” to those of you who have assisted me in either resources or general information.  If there any other events that I left out, please let me know.  Or, if I have wrongly attributed a date or detail, a correction would be humbly welcomed.  In any case, I hope this serves to bring a little historical perspective on the issue of Calvinism in the SBC, and as you will see, how Southern Baptist bloggers played a significant role in recent years.  Here it is:

A Chronological Survey of the Calvinism Controversy in the SBC

[Note: As you will see, I put what I thought were the 12 most significant events in recent years, and at the end I have included what I see are contributing factors to the resurgence of Calvinism as well as the contributing factors to the whipping boy of Calvinism.]

“Survey Says” – 2007 Reports on American Christianity

May 24, 2007

Yesterday, I read two reports that should remind us what are the most important issues are today.  The first survey (conducted by Barna Group) addresses Christians in general (does not specify evangelicals, Protestant, Catholic, etc.), and the second addresses teenagers (conducted by LifeWay research).  Let’s begin with the adults.

The article reports, “Less Americans embrace a traditional view of God and Bible reading is becoming less popular, a new study revealed.”  The study, conducted in January 2007, breaks down accordingly:

  • 66% of Americans believe that God is best described as “the all-powerful, all-knowing perfect Creator of the universe who rules the world today”
  • 45% believe that “the Bible is accurate in all the principles it teaches”
  • 37% strongly disagree that Jesus sinned
  • 29% have greater reluctance to explain their faith to other people
  • 27% have a willingness to reject good works as a means to personal salvation
  • 24% strongly reject the idea that Satan is not a real spiritual being

Now I don’t want to provide too much commentary and make this a really long post, but notice that 2/3 of Americans do not disagree that Jesus sinned, and 7 out of 10 believe that good works are essential to personal salvation.  That enough should inform us why theology matters in our evangelistic practices!  Now let’s look at what the survey said about what they do:

  • 83% of Americans identified as Christians
  • 49% of them described themselves as absolutely committed to Christianity
  • 83% saying they prayed in the last week
  • 43% attending a church service
  • 20% participating in a small group
  • 41% said they read the Bible outside of church worship services in a typical week

Again, while 83% consider themselves Christians, (1) only 49% describe themselves as “absolutely committed to Christianity”, (2) 43% regularly attend a church service, and (3) 41% read their Bible outside of church worship services.  Could it be that perhaps the reason that only 41% don’t read their Bible is because 55% don’t believe it is “accurate”?  Could it be that the reason why there is a 40% difference between those who call themselves Christians and those who attend church regularly is because that 40% (if not more) are unregenerate?

The conclusion of David Kinnaman who directed the study said:

“While an overwhelming majority the nation’s population claim they are Christian, only half of the adults can name one of the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) and most Americans do not know the first book in the Bible (Genesis).” . . . “[Christians] lack a consistent and holistic understanding of their faith. Millions of Americans say they are personally committed to Jesus Christ, but they believe he sinned while on earth. Many believers claim to trust what the Bible teaches, but they reject the notion of a real spiritual adversary or they feel that faith-sharing activities are optional. Millions feel personally committed to God, but they are renegotiating the definition of that deity.”

Now let’s look at teenagers.  This study took place during January and February 2007 with a sample of 1,000 teenagers (12-19 years old).  Like the previous survey, LifeWay begins with what teenagers believe and later addresses what they practice (or not practice).

What teenagers believe:

  • 69% of teens believe heaven exists
  • 53% Jesus Christ’s death for their sins as the reason they will go to heaven
  • 27% trust in their own kindness to others
  • 26% trust in their religiosity as their means to get to heaven

 Again, like the adults, teenagers who believe they are going to heaven do not understand salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.  In the end, they attribute their salvation to something they have done and not resting in the finished work of Christ. 

What teenagers practice (in last 30 days): 

  • 54% have attended a church or religious service
  • 20% attended Sunday School
  • 39% respondents said they had prayed regularly
  • 14% said they had read the Bible

This survey looks even more alarming as less than half who attend church do not attend a Bible study or Sunday School.  Even worse, of the 53% who say they are going to heaven because of Jesus dying for them, only 14% have read their Bible in the last month.  Where are teenagers getting the idea that their salvation is a product of good works? 

LifeWay concludes,

“The central theme of Christianity is the person and work of Jesus Christ -– His death and resurrection,” said Scott McConnell, associate director of LifeWay Research, adding, “It is surprising that only about half the teenagers who attended a Christian church in the last month are depending solely on the grace of Jesus Christ to get to heaven.”

If there is one thing we can learn from this is that American Christianity by and large is biblically illiterate, theologically ignorant, and ecclesiologically unfaithful.  That is, professing Christianity.  I suspect that such nominal Christianity does not exist where your throat is sliced for reading the Bible on Easter Sunday or when your tongue is cut out for speaking the name of Jesus.  God help us to bring gravitas to what it means to be Christian in America.

Sources:
Study: Fewer Americans Embrace Traditional View of God
LifeWay Research Examines Teenagers’ Views of Eternity

Reminisce, Research, and a Request

May 21, 2007

I meant to do this last week, so this is somewhat belated.  A year ago this month we launched Strange BaptistFire to counter all the false claims and caricatures of Calvinism being propped up in the SBC.  What had prompted the collaborative effort was not simply to refute the errors of BaptistFire, but it was to stop the injustice being done to pastors and churches who were being encouraged by BaptistFire and other sources to divide churches and/or fire their pastor(s).  In my home state of Alabama alone, I had reports of seven churches that had either fired their pastor or split because of BaptistFire.  I figured confronted these guys who lived in the dark was the least we could do. 

Little did we know that it took only eleven days for BaptistFire to completely abandon the Internet, removing all their content.  You can still go to their website and see that the house has been cleaned.  I do not rejoice over this a year later; rather, I am simply encouraged to know that churches and lay people are having less and less places to go to find resources to divide churches with reckless and baseless stuff being piped from BaptistFire’s website.  What did it for Nathan and myself was when they called for the removal of Calvinists from the SBC.  Since that time, Strange BaptistFire has existed to discuss Reformed theology in evangelical life, especially Southern Baptist life. 

With that said, do you believe the SBC is more accepting of Calvinism today than a year ago? 

Secondly, I have been compiling my research and notes from the last five to ten years over the controversy of Calvinism in the SBC.  If any of you have kept up with links, articles, or audio related to the controversy over Calvinism in the SBC, I would love your help.  Let me give you a couple of examples of what I am looking for that I failed to print out and is no longer available on the Internet:

1.  Bobby Welch’s article in FBC Daytona ‘s newsletter dated July 10, 2005 entitled “Calvinism and Christ’s Great Commission.”  The PDF is no longer available, but some of you may have it saved to your computer or printed out.

2.  Lonnie Wilkey’s editorial piece in Tennessee’s Baptist and Reflector in September 2006 entitled “Calvinists Have No Sense of Urgency–Jesus Did.”  I think I can retrieve it from the library, but I thought I’d ask here first.

If any of you have documented or followed the events of the past 5-10 years of Calvinism in the SBC and would like to help, please contact me at outpostministries[at]yahoo[dot]com.  Thanks!

NOTE: I hope to make my research available in a couple of weeks here at P&P. 

Why Are You Reformed? Your Top 5 Reasons

April 16, 2007

Over the past week, I have been in conversation with some folks researching the rise of Reformed theology, especially among the younger generation of evangelicals and Southern Baptists. 

So if I may ask, “Why are you Reformed?”

Give me your top 5 reasons or influences that have lead to you embracing Reformed theology. 

[Note: Jesus, Paul, and Peter are already assumed for the sake of this survey.]

Thanks for your help and participation!

Bibliography: Evangelism and Social Reform

March 12, 2007

Alright.  I haven’t posted a bibliography in some time, but I thought I’d provide this one because I think it is particularly relevant today.  I am writing a paper on one of two things.  The first would carry the title of something like “An Examination of the Vacillating Relationship Between Evangelism and Social Reform in Evangelical Life, 1880-1980” where my thesis would carry the idea that theological initiative (primarily kingdom eschatology) and cultural reflection created tension between evangelism and social reform during the rise and fall of the fundamentalist movement.  There are three main eras that I have broken down: the revivalist movement (1880-1910); the fundamentalist movement (1910-1945); and the neo-evangelical movement (1945-1980).  The second possible paper is simply diving into the passion and concern of Carl F. H. Henry and examine his “uneasy conscience.”  As you will see in the bibliography, being the editor of Christianity Today gave Henry many opportunities to speak out on social issues, and I found it remarkable of that of all the things he could write about, social reform dominated much of what he wrote.  If you care to comment, I would be interested in hearing which topic interests you more – the first or the second?

In any case, below is my bibliography.  It is not comprehensive (also some entries are not complete), nor do I recommend all the books or articles.  The bibliography is to provide resources of every theological stripe and see how social reform and evangelism was handled from conservatives and liberals alike.  I will throw out one thought I have been thinking for what it’s worth.  Since 1980, fundamentalists and the conservative right under the direction of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson once again dichotomized evangelism and social concern (contra Stott and Henry).  What we have seen in recent years is modern-day theological liberalism embrace social reform while many conservatives find it taboo.  In other words, from 1980-2000, modern fundamentalism turned aside from social reform, and 2000-present, social reform, under the leadership of liberal theologians particularly in the emerging church movement, have embraced social reform as protest to contemporary fundamentalism and push a more radical orthodoxy by equating it with orthopraxy (giving a poor man bread = gospel).  So it is like we are back to 1910 all over again with Walter Rauschenbusch, and we are needing the voice of Henry today.  Just a thought.  I might be wrong on my analysis, but I will tentatively hold it as I do further research.  Now to the bibliography . . .

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Top 15 Theological Issues of Our Day

November 20, 2006

Over the weekend, I was thinking through some of the most important theological issues and controversies in recent years. One of my goals as a Christian and minister is to be able to address the most important issues and controversies thoroughly and carefully.

Here is my top 15 list below. I would love to hear what you think about this list.

>> Are there any that I am leaving out? Should one or more be higher on the list? Lower? Give me your thoughts.

Top 15 Theological Issues/Controversies Today

15. Anti-intellectualism
14. Biblical (Nouthetic) Counseling
13. Christianity in the Public Square (politics and civic responsibility)
12. Cessationism vs. Continuationism
11. Evangelicalism (its contours and future)
10. Calvinism vs. Arminianism
9. Inerrancy
8. Gender-Neutral Debate (Egalitarian vs. Complementarian as well as translation theories)
7. The Doctrine of Hell (its disappearance: Annihilationalism and Universalism)
6. Emerging Church Movement
5. The Doctrine of Substitutionary Atonement
4. Justification and New Perspectives of Paul (NPP)
3. Open Theism (theology proper and providence)
2. Postmodern Epistemology (nature of truth, Postfoundationalism, relativism, new tolerance, incredulity towards metanarratives, etc.)
1. Religious Pluralism (pluralism, inclusivism, syncretism, ecumenism, etc.)

Honorable Mention:

Biblical Theology, Hermeneutics, Law and the Gospel (mainly continuity/discontinuity argument), Jesus Seminar (and Da Vinci Code), Church Government (and regulative principle), imputation, Lordship salvation (free grace movement), Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT), Marriage and Family, Textual Criticism

What’s your list look like? Wanna critique mine? Let me know your thoughts.

Tony Evans on “Transdispensationalism”

November 15, 2006

In his book, Totally Saved, Tony Evans attempts to answer the question, “What about those who have never heard?” in the appendix section. Evans argues for an explanation which he calls “transdispensationalism” (rivaled only by transubstantianism in a contest for most theological syllables). What I did not know was that the appendix in which this material is found was NOT printed in the future paperback edition. Jim Sutherland, who recognized this problem, wrote the following:

Not knowing if this appendix omission was due to criticism of Moody Press for printing the appendix, or due to a change in Dr. Evans’ position, I tried for over 4 months to determine from Dr. Evans if he still would continue to teach and promulgate this particular doctrine. I could get no reply, so must assume that he may continue to teach and promote “transdispensationalism.” What was said of learned Greek father Origin could be said of Dr. Evans, that in his pastoral concern he has turned a hope into a doctrine.

So what exactly is transdispensationalism? It is a whacky word for a whacky idea. But instead of attempting to sum up what Evans argues, I am reproducing the section of the appendix where Evans himself explains the idea (bold faced mine):

Now there’s a third way God can deal in grace with those who can’t believe because they have never heard the gospel. He can apply another dispensation and its criteria to them. A dispensation is simply an economy or an administration of God, a way in which He deals with people based on the information he has given them.

For instance, people in the Old Testament were saved without hearing the name of Jesus, because Jesus hadn’t come to earth yet. But they were saved because they believed in the revelation of God.

The Bible says Abraham believed God and was accounted as righteous, or saved, for believing in God’s promise of a son and a seed (Genesis 15:6). This was long before the Mosaic sacrificial system was ever begun.

Abraham believed without hearing about Jesus, but I am not saying that people can be saved apart from Jesus. Never. Nobody can get saved without Jesus, because He is the Savior of all men, as we read in 1 Timothy 4:10. Everybody is saved through Christ, even those who lived before Jesus came, because in the mind and heart of God, Jesus was already sacrificed to pay for sin before the world was ever created (see Revelation 13:8). So a person can be saved without knowing Jesus’ name, but not without Jesus’ provision for sin.

In the case of a person who never hears the gospel and never knows the name of Jesus, but who responds to the light he has, God treats that person like an Old Testament saint, if you will. That is, if the person trusts in what God has revealed, God deals with that person based on the knowledge he has, not the information he never received. I call this transdispensationalism.

By this I mean if a person is sincerely seeking God and desiring to know Him, and is responding to the truth he knows, if there is no missionary or direct manifestation of God, then God judges that person based on his faith in the light he has received. And as in the case of Abraham, God will retroactively count this person as righteous by applying the death of Christ from the dispensation of grace.

John MacArthur, in a question and answer session was asked about his reference to the idea of transdispensationalism in a message to which he replied:

“Obviously, there is no biblical defense for that, and none is attempted in the book—none. There isn’t even a verse to defend that. Furthermore, living up to natural human light, apart from the revelation of the true and living God, wouldn’t save anybody in any dispensation. But, it is a very—it is a very strange thing and, to this degree, to the degree that He gives salvation to those who have never heard the gospel, it’s a departure from what we believe the scripture teaches. . . . There was a radio interview that followed that book that’s available. You can get the transcript of that radio interview, in which the host was interviewing Tony Evans and said to him, “You’re saying, if a Hindu looks up and says, ‘I know you’re up there somewhere. I don’t know who you are, but I’d really like to know you,’ God will count that as sufficient as salvation?” And the answer to that was “Yes.”

Evans recognized a future objection: “Tony, if you say people can be saved by general revelation, why preach the gospel? Why bother sending missionaries around the world and translating the Bible?” Evans gives two (really bad) answers to this objection:

1. Because Christ has commanded us to go and tell the whole world the good news of His salvation.

2. Because the process I just described for those who haven’t heard of Christ is far from automatic. Whatever we may try to deduce from Scripture about those who have never heard about Christ, we know without a doubt that those who hear and believe the gospel will be saved. (emphasis mine)

One answer to this question is “because I said so,” and the other is “well, it might not actually work.” After having read this piece one will easily see that there is no substantive biblical warrant for such a position. However, as I have come to find out, this is an argument being many by several inclusivists. In a follow-up post, I will provide quotes as well as the line of argument for what Millard Erickson called “chronologically displaced persons” (which is the same thing as Evans’ transdispensationalism).

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To read some rebuttals to Evans’ transdispensationalism, check out:

Jim Sutherland. “Can Faith in Christ Be Attributed?: ‘Transdispensationalization’ and Dr. Tony Evans”

J.B. Hixson. “A Response to Dr. Tony Evans’ Teaching Regarding the Eternal Salvation of Those Who Can’t Believe.”

When Inclusivists Cry Foul: Is Faith in Jesus Christ an Evangelical Celebration?

November 13, 2006

In the June 14, 1999 edition of Christianity Today, David Neff, the executive editor, wrote a piece calling for evangelical unity in which he began by saying,

No one should be an accidental evangelical—or a merely cultural one. Unfortunately, few evangelicals can actually articulate the gospel. They can lead people to Christ and help them pray the sinner’s prayer, but when it comes to setting forth just how Jesus saves, most of us flounder (49).

Over the course of the past fifty years, there have been a number of rallying points and confessional statements (for instance, consider the 1974 Lausanne Covenant and the 1978 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy). However, as Neff points out, evangelicals had yet to come together with a consensus on the gospel of Jesus Christ. Neff reflects,

Curiously, those who bear the name evangelical (a term that means “of or relating to the gospel”) have never put forth a large-scale defining document about the gospel. That is because the gospel itself has not been at the center of modern disputes” (ibid.).

At this point I would have to disagree with Neff. The gospel has been the center of many modern disputes; it is just that the evangelical leadership had not up to that point owned up to the dispute and dealt with it. In any case, Neff is correct to say “it is time for us to revisit, reaffirm, and recapture the gospel” (50). The end result of this desire to define, declare, and defend the gospel was a document called The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration.

This short document concerning the gospel is an excellently drafted piece, one that I would heartedly recommend to you. The Drafting Committee stated that the document was an attempt “to state what is primary and essential in the Gospel as evangelicals understood it” (54). In other places, the writers considered the document to elucidate the “key points” (54) and “necessary” truths (56) of the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, as we shall see, this document was not well received by evangelicals who hold to the position of inclusivism.

In the gospel declaration, there are six particular places where the drafting committee explained that faith in Jesus Christ is necessary for salvation. There are stated as follows (emphasis mine):

1. The faith in God and in Christ to which the Gospel calls us is a trustful outgoing of our hearts to lay hold of these promised and proffered benefits” (52).

2. Sinners receive through faith in Christ alone “the gift of righteousness” (Rom. 1:17, 5:17; Phil. 3:9) and thus become “the righteousness of God” in him who was “made sin” for them (2 Cor. 5:21) (53).

3. The moment we truly believe in Christ, the Father declares us righteous in him and begins conforming us to his likeness (53).

4. We affirm that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation, the only mediator between God and humanity (John 14:6; 1 Tim. 2:5). We deny that anyone is saved in any other way than by Jesus Christ and his Gospel. The Bible offers no hope that sincere worshipers of other religions will be saved without personal faith in Jesus Christ (54).

5. We affirm that faith in Jesus Christ as the divine Word (or Logos, John 1:1), the second Person of the Trinity, co-eternal and co-essential with the Father and the Holy Spirit (Heb. 1:3), is foundational to faith in the Gospel (54).

6. We affirm that saving faith includes mental assent to the content of the Gospel, acknowledgment of our own sin and need, and personal trust and reliance upon Christ and his work (55).

As you can see, the evangelical leaders who drafted this document were not fuzzy or flippant when it came to their understanding that only those who believe in the person of Jesus Christ will be saved. With such a unambiguous and provocative statement, the inclusivists were sure to cry foul—and so they did.

Less than four months later (October 4, 1999 issue), CT received a letter to the editor signed by the following: Gerald R. McDermott, Nancey Murphy, Alan G. Padgett, Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., John G. Stackhouse, Jr., Jonathan R. Wilson, and Nicholas Wolterstorff. It was their belief that the document calling for evangelical celebration was actually a statement that “serves needlessly to marginalize or alienate fellow evangelicals” (15). Regarding the matter of saving faith being solely in the person of Jesus Christ, they said the following (emphasis mine):

Furthermore, we are disappointed that the traditional evangelical affirmation that “Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation” (which we stoutly affirm) is linked with the controversial opinion that “the Bible offers on hope that sincere worshippers of other religions will be saved without personal faith in Jesus Christ.” God’s treatment of those in other religious traditions who have not heard and rejected an authentic presentation of the gospel by the Holy Spirit in fact have been a subject of evangelical investigation and disputation for centuries.

In this regard, we are surprised by the affirmation that “saving faith includes mental assent to the content of the gospel.” We wonder how God saves infants and mentally retarded people; or people who lived before the time of Christ; or anyone who doesn’t hear the actual propositions of the gospel message in his or her lifetime.

Such phrasing represents only the “exclusivist” camp in these matters of evangelical dispute and leaves out “inclusivist” evangelicals. It therefore does not belong in a “uniting” document.

We join with CT, therefore, in celebrating the majority of this document with which we agree. We are sorry, however, that it does not in fact represent adequately the evangelical consensus it purports to reflect.

In their rebuttals, you see some of the classic arguments against the exclusivist position. I can understand their appeal to their position and “regretful” sentiments to this gospel declaration, for the overwhelming majority of leading evangelicals affirmed that indeed the gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be altered nor can its requirements be minimized. To change the gospel in order to “make it more accessible” neither does a service to the lost heathen without Christ nor the Christian community who confesses it. As Neff asked, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful . . . if evangelicals could achieve a broad consensus on the gospel and join in a common statement?” Well, for some, this gospel statement is not broad enough. On the other hand, I believe it is as broad as the gates of heaven. As evangelicals, let us unite under the gospel of Jesus Christ and celebrate what God has accomplishes for us in the death, burial, resurrection, and exaltation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Note: To read a little background of some of the drafting committee go here. Also interesting to note, some of the supporters of this document I have come to find are inclusivists (such as Tony Evans whom I will mention in my next article on inclusivism). Also, given that this document was in some way a response to Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT), I find it somewhat ironic that some of the supporters of ECT also support this document which clearly rejects the Catholic understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Finally, to check out the book that was published after this gospel statement, go here.

Can Evangelicals Learn from World Religions?

November 11, 2006


This is the question asked by Gerald McDermott in his book Can Evangelicals Learn from World Religions? Jesus, Revelation & Religious Traditions (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2000). Over the past couple of weeks I have been both listening and reading this book and currently about half way through. Some my initial thoughts and questions included the following:

1. What exactly do you mean by learning?

2. What can we learn (and cannot)?

3. If I am to understand that learning from world religions means another provisional revelation outside of Christ and the Scriptures, am I to think that the fullness of Christ and sufficiency of Scriptures is not enough? In other words, what can we learn that we have not been taught in the person of Christ and the Scriptures?

4. To assume that we can learn from other world religions carries a presupposition that other world religions are compatible with Christianity if not add to it (thereby denoting inadequacy). Is there biblical warrant to show that Christianity is compatible with other world religions and that God chooses to reveal himself outside of the Living (Jesus Christ) and written Word (Scriptures)?

Those were my initial questions when starting this book. If do not already know, McDermott is an inclusivist, and I mention that because it is worth noting a person’s presuppositions and entry point in the argument. While it would be idealist to approach the discussion as an objective observer, we know this is simply not true, and McDermott is not merely being descriptive but also implicitly prescriptive in his thesis. In his introduction, McDermott presents one of his overarching goals of his book:

This book is the beginning of an evangelical theology of the religions that addresses not the question of salvation but the problem of truth and revelation, and takes seriously the normative claims of other traditions. It explores the biblical propositions that Jesus is the light that enlightens every person (John 1:9) and that God has not left Himself without a witness among non-Christian traditions (Acts 14:17). It argues that if Saint Augustine learned from Neo-Platonism to better understand the gospel, if Thomas Aquinas learned from Aristotle to better understand the Scriptures, and if John Calvin learned from Renaissance humanism, perhaps evangelicals may be able to learn from the Buddha–and other great religious thinkers and traditions–things that can help them more clearly understand God’s revelation in Christ (12). Emphasis mine.

Now this is a striking statement. The proof texts McDermott uses is often given to make the case for general revelation, but as you will see in his book, McDermott is arguing for another kind, a third kind if you will, of revelation that comes not from general or special revelation but other religions. Interestingly enough, McDermott does makes the confession that although “condemnation is indeed the result of some of this revelation [general revelation], Scripture also hints that the Spirit uses this revelation, no doubt in conjunction with others, to lead some to God” (54). So here you have the argument being made that general revelation in effect is salvific as the Holy Spirit applies this revelation to people –well, okay the Scripture hints in a no doubt sort of way. In any case, McDermott is making the case that evangelicals and can and should learn from world religions, a learning which contributes to a better understanding of what it means to be Christian and a more complete revelation of what God has done for us in Christ.

Your Thoughts

So what do you think? Do you believe God has provided for us revelation of Himself in Islam, Hinduism, Taoism, or Sikhism? To take the question a step further, can evangelicals learn from atheists or naturalists? Should Christians today be “plundering the Egyptians” to find greater and deeper truths about God in order that we might better know Him? Or, do you believe that God has revealed Himself fully and definitively in the person of Jesus Christ and the Scriptures?

Let me know what you think.

Piper on Pastoral Thoughts Concerning the Doctrine of Unconditional Election

November 8, 2006

On November 30, 2003, Pastor John Piper preached a message called “Pastoral Thoughts on the Doctrine of Election.” During his massive expository series through the book of Romans, Piper took a Sunday (at the time of exposing Romans 11) to reflect on the practical benefits of believing and understanding the doctrine of unconditional election.

Piper and BBC state that unconditional election

 

is the teaching that God chose, before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), who would believe and so be undeservingly saved in spite of their sin, and who would persist in rebellion and so deservingly perish because of their sin. In other words, the wisdom and justice and grace of God’s will is always the ultimate explanation of what happens in the world—all of it. Humans are not God. We cannot originate causes out of nothing.

In his message, Piper gives five points worth considering when valuing this important doctrine. These are very helpful and pastoral, and I encourage you to consider them for your personal benefit. If you would like to read the entire sermon, you can both read and listen to it here.

1. Not all things are good for us to know, and so God has not revealed them to us; and there are some things that are good for us to know, even when we can’t explain them fully.

One of the implications of this point is that we will not always know how some particular doctrine in the Bible is good for us. We Americans are especially pragmatic and demanding. If we don’t see the payoff of a doctrine immediately, we tend to ignore it. We are like foolish children when we do that. . . . The effects on our lives of what we know are always more than we know or can explain. Sometimes we must simply learn something because God says it’s true. Then later we may see how the knowledge protected us, or strengthened us, or humbled us, or purified us, or guided us, or enabled us to see other things as true. The issue boils down to trust. Do we trust that God has revealed what is good for us to know?


2. The doctrine of election has a strong tendency to make a church rigorous about the truth and about the Scriptures, and so keep it from drifting into doctrinal indifference and conformity to culture.

The doctrine of election tends to give firmness and fiber to flabby minds. It tends to produce robust, thoughtful Christians who are not swept away by trendy, man-centered ideas. It has an amazing preservative power that works to keep other doctrines from being diluted and lost. In general it tends to press onto our minds a God-centered worldview built out of real objective truth. . . . The doctrine of election an amazing effect to awaken people who are drifting in the river of inherited assumptions with no engagement of the mind. Suddenly they are jarred by the radical God-centeredness of the Bible and the frightening man-centeredness of their own hearts. They are put on a quest to build a way of thinking Biblically about the God and the world that may avoid the tragedy Colson warns about: namely, the world discovering, at last, that truth really matters, just when the church has decided in the name of cultural relevance that doctrine doesn’t matter. The doctrine of election is good for us and for our grandchildren in ways we can’t even yet imagine.

3. A third pastoral thought about the doctrine of election is that it is one of the best ways to test whether we have reversed roles with God.

Paul addressed this issue most forcefully in Romans 9:6-23. As he did, he heard the ancient and modern objection, “Why does [God] still find fault? For who can resist his will?” his answer to that was, “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, ‘Why have you made me like this?'” (Romans 9:19-20). In other words, it’s not fitting for you to reverse roles with God. He’s the potter. Few doctrines test more clearly whether we are judging God or God is judging us. . . . It is hard for a fish to know that it is wet. Wet is all there is for a fish. A fish doesn’t even think of it. So it’s hard for a modern person —a person living in the last two hundred years—to know that he is arrogant toward God. Arrogance toward God is all there is in the modern world. It’s the ocean we swim in—the air we breathe. It’s woven into the fabric of our minds. We don’t even know it’s there. We can’t see it, because we look through it to see everything else.

4. The fourth pastoral thought about the doctrine of election is this: The humble embrace—not the discussion of, not even the intellectual belief in, but the humble embrace—of the precious truth of election and sovereign grace, produces radical, loving, risk—taking ministry and missions.

Embracing and being embraced by the doctrine of sovereign grace—beginning with unconditional election—first produces that kind of radical, risk-taking sacrificial love; and then it humbles us to rejoice in the truth that we did not produce this beauty in ourselves, God did. Then we give him the glory. . . . In Romans 8:33 Paul says, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” The answer is: Nobody can make a charge stick against you if you are chosen by God. He is for you forever. It’s crystal clear that Paul says this because he expects it to have a practical effect on us. He expects us to feel assurance and joy and then be courageous and fearless. As you stand before a decision today that seems right and loving, but risky, do you feel the effect of the question: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” Do you feel the assurance-producing gospel force in the word “elect”?


5. I close with one last pastoral thought. Don’t think of election apart from Jesus Christ.

 

Ephesians 1:3 says, “[God] chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world.” In other words, when God planned in eternity to pluck us out of our bondage to sin, he had Christ in mind as the way he would do it. God planned before the foundation of the world to save us through the death and resurrection of Christ.

Therefore, what God has done to save us and call us to himself is not to tell us ahead of time if we are elect. God never reveals this except through a relationship with Jesus Christ, so that Christ is central to our election. Instead of telling us if we are elect, what God did was to send his Son and say, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life” (John 3:36). “Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself” (1 John 5:10). He knows that he is elect.

So in the name of Christ I call you: Come, take him as your Savior and your Lord and the Treasure of your life. He never casts out any who comes in faith. He forgives sin. He clothes with righteousness. He gives the Holy Spirit. He will keep you. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27). Hear the voice of the good Shepherd and come.

 

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For additional reading, check out “What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism” published by the elders of Bethlehem Baptist Church (Minneapolis, MN).