Posted tagged ‘Between the Times’

Nathan Finn to the Non-Calvinists in the SBC

February 20, 2009

On the heels of Alvin Reid’s open letter to the Calvinists in the SBC, Nathan Finn has also written an open letter to the non-Calvinists in the SBC.  Nathan is a good friend with a great mind who, in my humble estimation, will continue to have a great influence in the SBC through his scholarship as well as statesmanship.

After giving a brief biographical overview of his pilgrimage as a Southern Baptist, Nathan offers three suggestions to his non-Calvinist friends in the SBC.  They are:

1.  Articulate the gospel unambiguously in your preaching and evangelism.

Many of you have an obvious burden for seeing the lost come to faith in Christ, which I truly appreciate. But sometimes when I hear some non-Calvinists trying to evangelize, they confuse slogans or shibboleths with the gospel. The gospel is not “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” or “Jesus can straighted out your messed-up life.” This is just lingo. The gospel is also not “pray this prayer” or “ask Jesus into your heart.” These are possible ways that you can encourage sinners to respond to the gospel, but only after explaining both the good news and the nature of the response.

2. Never give the impression that the decision to become a Christian is a mere decision.

Sometimes I hear non-Calvinists imply that “all you have to do” if you want to be a Christian is believe in Christ. This makes it sound like faith is a simple free will decision that can be made apart from the gracious work of the Holy Spirit. I know the vast majority of my non-Calvinist friends don’t really believe that. Even if you disagree with my Calvinism, I know most of you believe just as strongly as I do that the Holy Spirit is at work in the lives of sinners to draw them to faith in Christ.

3. Be careful not to turn your strategies into sacraments.

I have in mind here two popular practices: altar calls and “sinner’s prayers.” . . . I am not so much concerned with either of these strategies as I am the way they are sometimes applied. More than one observer has argued that altar calls are to many Southern Baptists what sacraments are to Roman Catholics: we are not sure folks can really be saved without them!

I think Nathan has addressed three important topics, the first one being most important.  I understand that there is a third post following these two that will be a sort of synthesis or consensus which I look forward to reading.  Instead of personally responding here, I think I will post them later in another blogpost. In any case, big thanks to Nathan and Dr. Reid for their constructive and fair-minded open letters. May this kind of dialogue build a greater love and appreciation for those whom we may disagree in the spirit of unity we find in the company of the Redeemed.

Alvin Reid to the Calvinists in the SBC

February 19, 2009

Dr. Alvin Reid, new contributor to the best SBC blog on the internet, has written an open letter to the Calvinists in the SBC.  Reid is not a Calvinist, though he is certainly not an anti-Calvinist.  Following Reid’s open letter, Dr. Nathan Finn will respond with an open letter to the non-Calvinists in the SBC.

In his open letter, Reid makes four pleas to Calvinists:

1.  Embrace humility.

You have an obvious hunger for truth and for theological depth, which is commendable. But when your love for truth smacks of condescension, even to the point of arrogance, you do no one any good.

2. Don’t equate Calvinism with the Gospel.

Sometimes I hear Calvinist speakers argue (or at least imply) that Calvinism and the gospel are identical, and if one does not affirm the tenets of Calvinism he denies the gospel. Not only is this theologically arrogant, it is unkind.

3. Don’t hesitate to call sinners to repentance & faith in Christ.

Now whether or not you have an “altar call” at the conclusion of your service is less the issue for me than that some of you fail to give those on whom the Spirit is doing His convicting work the opportunity to follow Christ in some public manner. I would submit some of you are far better at criticizing your brothers who give public calls for decision than at offering a biblical alternative for such calls. Some of you seem to have a practical agnosticism concerning personal conversion.

4. Build bridges by cooperating with non-Calvinists.

In your conferences and other meetings, especially those directed primarily to Southern Baptists, consider involving some speakers who may not agree with you at every point.

I really appreciate what Dr. Reid has written.  As someone who is a Calvinist in the SBC, I receive the open letter as a constructive way to engage a topic that has often resulted in further polarization in an already splintered Convention.  When Nathan’s open letter is posted, I will post a summary of it as well.

Interview with “Between the Times”

September 18, 2008

I have mentioned a couple of times already about the Between the Times blog–a SEBTS collaborative effort from Drs. Danny Akin, David Nelson, Kenneth Keathley, Bruce Ashford, and Nathan Finn.  My good friend Doug Baker, of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, recently sat down with these gentlemen for an interview for the Insight podcast. The interview is broken down into three parts, and I encourage you to download and listen to the conversation regarding a Great Commission Resurgence.  The audio (MP3) are:

Interview with Between the Times Part 1

Part I – The Recipients of the Great Commission; The Use of Means and a Great Commission Effort; The Great Commission – a Continuation, Commencement, or Culmination of God’s Biblical Narrative?; Missiological Challenges – Context Over Content?

Interview with Between the Times Part 2

Part II – A Pull-Back by Younger Southern Baptists?; Structural Skepticism of the SBC; Future Missionaries – From Where Will They Come?; Orality, Doctrine, and the Purity of the Gospel; The Camel Method; The Use of the Koran and Evangelism.

Interview with Between the Times Part 3

Part III – The Cooperative Program – In Jeopardy?; SBC Church Planting- Will It Be Changed?; SBC Church Planting – An Evaluation; 20,000 Churches by 2030?; Landmarkism and Its Influence; Baptocentrism

Bruce Ashford on Church Planting Movements

August 26, 2008

Bruce Ashford is the Director of the Center for Great Commission Studies and associate professor of philosophy and intercultural studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.  He is also on the team of the best SBC blog, Between the Times, and has written some very helpful articles on a theologically-driven missiology as well as contours of a great commission resurgence.  While I would like to commend all his articles to you, allow me to post an exerpt speaking to church planting movements.  You may recall that I wrote briefly about a word-driven movemental Christianity and raised several questions regarding David Garrison’s paradigm that is being used (seemingly uncritically) by the IMB (and others).  Dr. Ashford writes (emphasis mine):

In recent days, much has been said about Church Planting Movements (CPM), and rightly so. David Garrison defines a church planting movement as, “a rapid multiplication of indigenous churches planting churches that sweeps through a people group or population segment.” Evangelicals, including Southern Baptists, have long been praying for and working towards the birth of CPMs among the unreached people groups of the world, and indeed, even in our own country.

But there is much work left to be done to ensure that, here in the United States and across the oceans, our methodology is driven by the Scriptures. It must be biblical theology that gives church planting methodology its starting point, trajectory, and parameters. Of the many substantial missiological issues that cluster around CPM theory, here are two that must be treated:

First, in regards to CPM as a goal: As laid out in Part Three of this series, our ultimate goal, above all others, is the increase of God’s glory. No goal that we have should subvert this goal. For this reason, we are concerned not only with rapidity, but also more importantly with the purity of the gospel and the health of the church. On the one hand, if the church multiplies rapidly, but is not healthy, the long-term picture is bleak. An inordinate emphasis on rapidity will likely lead to reductionist methods of evangelism and discipleship that will harm the church in the long term and actually curb its growth. On the other hand, if the church is “doctrinally pure,” but not seeking to multiply, the long-term picture is bleak. Or maybe it would be better to say that a church cannot be doctrinally pure without praying for, and working toward, the healthy and rapid growth of God’s church.

A final note regarding CPM as a goal: CPMs are not the only worthwhile missiological accomplishment. Sometimes, God does not grant such a thing or He does not grant it immediately. In Hebrews 11, we read of men and women of great faith whose reward was not a CPM; instead, their reward was torture, destitution, affliction, and martyrdom. Many faithful workers who labor in prayer and in deed, hoping with all that is within them to see a CPM, never see the birth of a CPM. This does not mean that their labor is in vain. If they have labored for the glory of God, then He is pleased with their efforts. (Also, it should be pointed out that the early church experienced its most explosive growth only after many years of prayer and work. See Rodney Stark’s The Rise of Early Christianity.)

Second, in relation to leadership development: The rapid reproduction of the church will lead to some challenges in leadership identification and development. If multiple churches are planted in a short period of time, the churches are faced with the question of how recent is “too recent” for a believer to be recognized as an elder. Further, in a context where the church is persecuted, how will these elders train for pastoral ministry? Also, how will they be discipled if they are not able to read? These are not hypothetical scenarios; there are multiple church planting situations, globally, that are facing these challenges at any given time. We must take seriously the biblical teaching concerning the church, discipleship, and elder qualifications and work hard to apply it in challenging situations such as the one above.

Dr. Ashford is hitting on many of the things I have attempted to bring up but only in a more articulate and substantive way.  There’s no question that we all want to see a movement where churches are being planted and multiplied, but pragmatism cannot and must not win the day when it comes down to what drives our methodology.  As Ashford explains, we must have a theologically-driven missiology, one where the Word of God does not merely play a supporting role but is the driving force behind the movement.

Between the Times – New SEBTS Group Blog

June 6, 2008

A new group blog (no comments allowed however) called Between the Times has come forth from a corner of the SBC land which I find much hope and encouragement.

Nathan Finn shares,

Between the Times is dedicated to living faithfully before Christ between His first and second comings. The regular contributors include Danny Akin, David Nelson, Ken Keathley, Bruce Ashford, and yours truly. We also hope to periodically feature “guest bloggers” who will weigh in on important issues. Some of the topics we will be blogging about include theology, cultural engagement, mission, preaching, American Christianity, and of course, the Southern Baptist Convention. We also hope to regularly post book reviews and book lists.

I commend this blog and the vision these men carry for a Great Commission Resurgence in the SBC. May the Lord use their efforts in the blogosphere to raise the level of discussion and deepen our commitment to the gospel consensus and cooperation.