Posted tagged ‘Controversy’

A Word to My Reformed Brothers in the SBC

June 15, 2012

When the current controversy erupted over Calvinism in the SBC erupted a couple weeks ago, I debated whether or not to enter the fray. Things have changed quite considerably since the hay day of 2005-2008 when Calvinism seemed to be the death-defying whipping boy of folks with more fight in their hands than love in their hearts. But alas, perhaps the change was merely an intermission thanks largely in part to the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) which, for a time, seemed to unite Southern Baptists on the front lines of the Great Commission.

But the SBC, since the affirmation of the GCR, have gone back to the barricks and once again are turning against one another as if the willingness to fight is a temptation of which one too many are unwilling to walk away. Needless to say, I have my thoughts on the “traditionalist” March to New Orleans, and undoubtedly sparks are going to fly about Calvinism and whether or not the Baptist Faith and Message is a sufficient confessional guide to afford meaningful and substantive cooperation for Southern Baptists. Several of my friends have taken up this discussion on the Internet, including Tom Ascol (whose series I high recommend) and Nathan Finn (whose aspirations I wholeheartedly embrace). I don’t think I have much to contribute other than what they (and others) have been able to say in ways far more reasonable and eloquent.

BUT, if I have one contribution to make to the discussion leading up to next week’s Annual Meeting of the SBC in New Orleans, it would not be critiquing a very poorly written traditionalist document, nor would it be explaining the postmodern power play of subject-defining labels like “New Calvinism” and “traditionalist”, nor would it be showing how the “majoritarian” party has failed to influence the direction of the SBC since 2006 (2006-07 Joshua Convergence; 2008-09 Baptist Identity Movement; 2010-2011 Anti-GCR Movement; 2012 Traditionalist Movement). Rather, I’d like to issue a statement to my fellow Reformed brothers in the SBC. With all that is going on next week, there’s some fundamental things that I’m preaching to myself and think it helpful to share with my Reformed brethren.  To put some order to my thoughts, here are five “Do’s” and “Don’ts” as it related to next week’s Annual Meeting.

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Case Study in the Need of a Great Commission Resurgence

December 17, 2008

One of the things I have learned about blogging and addressing issues is that whatever issue you address that is most controversial ends up sticking to you whether you like it or not.  When people in the “real world” sit down with me and get to know who I am or what makes up my life, I make it my goal to describe myself as a follower of Christ, husband, father, and pastor/missionary.  Our conversations for the most part are markedly different than the kind I experience on the internet, and I’ve come to accept that.

However, it goes without saying that whenever I meet someone who knows me via the internet, it is typically Timmy the blogger guy or some variation of that.  There are other guys who nominally refer to me as the leading “Calvinist” blogger in the SBC.  While some may not find this a surprise, I do find this rather intriguing.  For you see, over the course of the past four years, I have submitted some 1,700 blogposts here on P&P.  How many of them do you think have to do with Calvinism?  94.  That comes out to 5,5% of everything I have written.  Is it fair to label a person based on 5% of what they write?  Perhaps. I’ll leave that for someone else to decide.  Furthermore, regarding the SBC, I have written a total of 225 blogposts on or around SBC issues, again coming to 13%.  Not exactly the kind of percentages that would seem to dominate or characterize someone’s internet presence.  But I digress.

In any case, I want to make a simple and yet very frustrating point as a Southern Baptist and a Calvinist.  Over the past two weeks, I wrote about two main issues (a few misc. posts excluded) : Calvinism in the SBC and missional prayer.  Here’s the breakdown:

Calvinism in the SBC

11.30 David Allen, Hyper-Calvinism, and James White: The Rundown
12.4 Ed Stetzer Responds to David Allen’s Critique of Calvinism Research
12.5 Hyper-Calvinism, Anti-Calvinism, and Founders Ministries
12.8 Casualties of Anti-Calvinism
12.9 Nathan Finn on Calvinism and Cooperation

Missional Prayer

12.10 Missional Prayer: Introductory Thoughts
12.10 Missional Prayer: Jesus
12.11 Missional Prayer: Early Church
12.15 Missional Prayer: Paul
12.16 Missional Prayer: Concluding Thoughts

Now I want you to see the stat chart from the past two weeks.  Notice the change from Dec. 1-10 to Dec. 11-17.

blog-controversy

On a whole, I put about 1/3 the amount of time, effort, and study with Calvinism as I did missional prayer, and yet this kind of controversy brings more than double the traffic.  This kind of thing has happened time and again over the years, and while I am never surprised, the level of frustration and disappointment continues to grow.  I have no way of knowing exactly who takes the time to read my blog, and so I am perhaps going to be “preaching to the choir” here (the controversy hungry readers probably have all been run off by all this talk about prayer, mission, and Jesus). But that’s just it.

It is a case study of the kind of conversation (or controversy) that people want.  It speaks to the direction we prefer to go–divide and conquer.  We are excited (or upset) when controversy ensues or Calvinism is brought up, but no one is excited to talk about Jesus and discuss His mission of which we have been entrusted.  The solemn call gets little serious attention or single-minded earnestness.  Anyone who wants to kill traffic on a blog just mention the gospel, mission, Jesus, or prayer.  You will be rewarded with 50% less readership.  But it will be the readership that really counts.

I don’t know what kind of credibility this little case study lends to analyzing where we are today.  Honestly, I hope that the trend is opposite of what I just experienced on my blog!  A Great Commission Resurgence will need indicators that show our interest is more in the building of His Church, living out the gospel, being faithful to the mission, and seeking to glorify Jesus with those who are Southern Baptist or not, those who are Calvinist or not.  I know it is not sexy or titillating, but it is coronary and commissionary.

Yes, I’m a blogger, a Southern Baptist, and a Calvinist.  I wear those titles because that is how the game works on the internet.  But there’s a whole lot more out there on my blog and the blogs of other Southern Baptists that are well worth reading and considering if we could get beyond ourselves and realize that being servants of Christ and stewards of His gospel are the only titles we should ever be concerned about in the first place.

After all, those are matters of first importance.

Press Release: Climate Change Divides Convention, Kills Evangelism

March 12, 2008
[Disclaimer: If you are a Southern Baptist and cannot laugh at yourself, please read NO further. The statements below are a light-hearted attempt to satirize that thing we do as Southern Baptists, you know . . .]

Things have really been “heating up” here in SBC world. For the two of you uninformed on the matter, a significant number of leading Southern Baptists have gathered together to form what they are called “the Southern Baptist Environment and Climate Initiative” (SBECI). Inspired by a blogger (gasp) and seminary student (double gasp), Jonathan Merritt, this initiative has sought to raise the bar when it comes to involvement in creation care and stewardship of the environment.

I first caught on to this initiative through reading Nathan Finn’s blog, and within hours, the news was being spread on the Drudge Report, New York Times, CNN, FOX News, MSNBC, and other major media outlets. The secular interest in this matter is perhaps the greatest regarding Southern Baptists since the days of the Disney boycott. Nevertheless, the official news outlet of denominational executives (X-Comm), Baptist Press, was quick to note that “the seminary student’s climate change project is not SBC’s” (note: the title was changed to leave out “seminary student’s” part in the revised version). At the point, Baptist Press began an all-out media blitz with several articles regarding the climate change initiative, certain that such a matter demanded an authorized (KJV style) version on global warming, as contrasted to that of a “seminary student” and his project. This tit-for-tat battle for who speaks for Southern Baptists raises just another issue on just where and how Southern Baptists define themselves.

So yet again, the SBC is embroiled in another battle, and in the midst of this, we are reminded of one thing that does not change-controversy. In fact, historians have filed this latest issue of climate change as the 2,356 controversy since 1845, surpassed only by the number of resolutions of the SBC.

In an effort to contribute to the media blitz, correspondents from P&P have been asking for statements and responses from leading Southern Baptists regarding this hotly debated issue. Below are the responses we have gathered thus far. As you can clearly see, the issue of climate change has divided the convention and is threatening to kill evangelism-something which neither the other “C’s” (Calvinists and charismatics) have been able to do. That alone says a lot about the power of a changing climate in the SBC atmosphere.

Frank Page: “I think what you see by the events of this week is that we are headed for ‘tumultuous days‘ in the future. In light of this, I look forward to contributing to the conversation with my new book, Trouble with the Thermometer: Taking a Closer Look at Five Tenets of Global Warming (forthcoming by Broadman & Holman).”

Frank Cox: “I have many friends who are concerned about climate change today, and I have no problem discussing these issues. However, what concerns me today is this new strain of aggressive, hyper climate change advocates who are dividing the convention today.”

Richard Land: “This climate change initiative is not the official policy of the Southern Baptist Convention. I am here to tell you that the 2007 Resolution on Global Warming is a sufficient statement for all Southern Baptists, and I am prepared to make a motion in Indianapolis to bring to the convention floor” (that is, the “Land Motion”).

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Finney the Controversialist

December 3, 2007

“Mr. Finney does not pretend to teach a slightly modified form of old doctrine. He is far from claiming substantial agreement with the wise and good among the orthodox of the past and present generation. On the contrary, there is a very peculiar self-isolation about him. Through all his writings there is found an ill-concealed claim to be considered as one called and anointed of God, to do a singular and great work. There is scarcely a recognition of any fellow-labourers in the same field with him. One might suppose indeed, that he considered himself the residuary legatee of all the prophetic and apostolic authority that has ever been in the world, so arrogant does he assume all knowledge to himself, so loftily does he arraign and rebuke all other ministers of the gospel. He stands alone in the midst of abounding degeneracy, the only one who has not bowed the knee to Baal. The whole world is wrong, and he proposes to set them right. Ministers and professors of religion have hitherto been ignorant what truths should be taught to promote revivals of religion, and he offers to impart to them infallible information.”[1]

As I have been studying the theology and influence of Charles G. Finney in recent months, one of the most astonishing observations I have come to discern about him is his hypocrisy. In this article, I want make three points: Finney the Controversialist, Finney the Hypocrite, and Finney’s Legacy for today. On an administrative note, this will be my last article for the time being on the SBC and the controversy of Calvinism. So Let’s begin with Finney the Controversalist.

Finney’s Mission to Demolish

Finney detested the Old School doctrines of divine sovereignty and unconditional election. Moreover, he denied the total depravity or inability of man. Iain Murray points out that “the Memoirs-which deal most fully with the early period of his ministry-portrays him as continually waging a crusade to change the doctrinal standards of the churches.”[2] For instance, “In 1828, he sought to hunt out people ‘from under those peculiar views of orthodoxy in which I found them entrenched.”[3] Finney’s mission, in his own words, was, “Wherever I found that any class of person were hidden behind these dogmas, I did not hesitate to demolish them, to the best of my ability.”[4] In the same vane, Finney writes in his Lectures, “When I began ministering, so much has been said about God’s election and sovereignty that I found it was a universal hiding place for both sinners and the church. They couldn’t do a thing; they couldn’t obey the Gospel. Wherever I went I had to demolish these refuges of lies.”[5] Such a mission in his early ministry dominated him to the point that he confessed, “Much of my labor in the ministry has consisted in correcting these views.”[6] Generations who succeeded Finney would soon realize this major component of Finney’s life, as G. Frederick Wright notes, “Finney has left in literature a permanent record not only of his life, but also of his struggles to adjust the truths of Christianity into such a harmonious system of thought that no violence should be done to the dictates of reason. This, as he often said, was (after that of the actual conversion of souls), the great aim of his life.”[7]

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