For Your Edification (6.29.12)

THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION

Highlights from the SBC 2012.  Here are a few highlights from the convention.

  • Electing Fred Luter president.  Pastor Luter (Franklin Avenue BC in New Orleans) is a gifted preacher, a faithful denominational leader, and a man of great character and passion for the gospel.  He was unanimously selected, to a room full of cheering and crying.  Here are his comments after being elected
  • Hearing excellent sermons by David Platt, Josh Smith, and Fred Luter–to name only a few.  Platt’s sermon preempted the discussion on the Sinner’s Prayer and needs to be heard in order to understand that issue–which he helped instigate earlier this year.  See his comments about why he voted for the sinner’s prayer: Sinner’s Prayer and the SBC and his entire sermon which gives us a rousing challenge to easy-believism and deceptive uses of the sinner’s prayer. Danny Akin provides a helpful follow up on the matter: The Sinner’s Prayer, David Platt, and the SBC.
  • Discussing the doctrine of salvation with charity and conviction  In the end, Frank Page, president of the executive committee, sought to lead the SBC towards consensus and put feet to his words by suggesting the that he would form a task force to research the subject.  Here is what he said about the doctrinal issues Calvinism, evangelism, and Great Commission unity.
“Calvinism is an issue amongst us,” he said. “You may or may not like that, but it is a real issue. I don’t want to shock anyone in this room, but I am not a Calvinist. I am not. I know that shocks you. But I want to tell you this: A lot of our people are.”According to a recent LifeWay Research poll, more than 60 percent of Southern Baptists said they were concerned about Calvinism in the convention, Page noted.

“Friends, I’m concerned because there seems to be some non-Calvinists who are more concerned about rooting out Calvinists than they are about winning the lost for Christ,” he said. “Did I tell you I’m not a Calvinist? But I am not among that number.”

Some Calvinists, Page said, “seem to think that if we do not believe the same thing about soteriology that they believe then somehow we are less intelligent or ignorant at best.”

“I simply say to you today that it’s time to realize that a Great Commission Advance needs everyone. A Great Commission Advance needs everyone,” he reiterated. “Calvinists and non-Calvinists have worked together for decade upon decade upon decade in this convention.”

Page confirmed again that he plans to assemble a group of advisers to help chart a way through the division surrounding Calvinism. That will not include revising the Baptist Faith and Message, Southern Baptists’ statement of beliefs, he said. 

“I do believe we can find some ways to work together better, and I believe that the leaders of both of these groups can come together to say, ‘Here’s how we can return to working together like once we did,'” Page said.

  • Hearing a compelling message from Tom Nettles on the history of the Southern Baptist Convention at the Founder’s Breakfast.
  • Listening to three seminary presidents (Patterson, Mohler, and Akin) discuss the history and future of the SBC at the Baptist 21 Lunch.
  • Seeing friends, eating beignets, and being with my family were all great parts of the SBC experience in New Orleans.
All in all, the SBC was well worth the miles logged to travel there and back.  I am encouraged about the kind of discussions that were had there.  They are serious and sometimes heated but they engage the most important aspects of salvation and evangelism.  May God be pleased to continue to use Southern Baptists to dig into the Bible and reach the lost for Christ.

BIBLE & THEOLOGY

New Birth Portraits. In an attempt to explain what the “new birth” is to a culture that wrongly understood the idea of “born-again,” Redeemer Presybterian Church has come up with an “art gallery” of well-done testimonies of men and woman who have experienced the New Birth.  If you are wondering what it means to be born again, I encourage you to check them out; or if you are a pastor who is looking to explain the new birth, this would be a very helpful model of good “new birth” testimonies.

A Conversation with Fred Sanders.  Four years ago, I was given the task of selecting one book on the trinity to read and review.  Without knowing who Fred Sanders was, I selected his book, The Image of the Immanent Trinitywhich was the published version of his dissertation.  It was thoughtful, faithful, and expositional treatment of the biblical doctrine of the Trinity, as it related to Rahner’s Rule, “the economic trinity is the immanent trinity, and vice versa.”

More recently, Fred Sanders who blogs regularly at Scriptorium Daily has written a popular-level work, The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything, that I have not read, but have hear good things about.  Long story short, Dr. Sanders is a well-read, well-respected theologian who contests Calvinism’s five strips of bacon.  Recently, John Starke interviewed Fred about his theological beliefs, and why he is not a Calvinist.  The discussion is friendly, humor-filled, and warm.  It models conversation across this doctrinal divide; and it shows Calvinists who doubt the biblical faithfulness and God-centeredness of Wesleyan theologians that there are such pastor-theologians out there. Sanders is one of them.  Though, I might disagree with his reading of Romans 9, I encourage you to read Sanders works and this interview.

FAMILY, LIFE, & MINISTRY

Vote as Though You are Not Voting. In 2008, John Piper wrote thoughtful and wise piece on voting.  Taking his cues from 1 Corinthians 7:29-31, he encourages Christians to vote with seriousness but not with ultimate seriousness. Since Americans participate in the governmental process–i.e. we corporately hold the sword given to the state (Rom 13:1-7), we ought to labor to govern well.  However, since the world is passing away and the most important things are unseen, we must hold our marriages, our goods, our joys, our possessions, and our ballots with a loose grip.  Most of us care too much or too little about politics, so Piper’s meditation is a helpful corrective.

For Your Edification and mine, dss

For Your Edification (6.7.2012): The Southern Baptist Convention Edition

This edition of FYE is dedicated to the upcoming Southern Baptist Convention.

Getting Ready for New Orleans. A few weeks ago, Eric Hankins and about 350 other distinguished signatories released the ““A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.”  In ten points, it articulates affirmations and denials about a number of important topics concerning the doctrine of salvation.  This statement is important on a number of fronts.

For Southern Baptists, it is important because of what it means for our convention; for non-Southern Baptists, it is important because it tells the watching world what the largest Protestant denomination America is contending with at this moment in time–and the issue is the differing views of salvation as defended by Calvinist and Non-Calvinist alike.

Because this topic is so important, this week’s FYE is devoted to rounding up some of the most helpful statements around the web.  But first, let me state my discouragement and my optimism that comes from these recent discussions.

As to discouragement, it is sad that the unifying work of the Great Commission Resurgence has met the resistance of this document.  As Albert Mohler has rightly and most helpfully pointed out, these men have every right to express their beliefs, to make them public, and to engage in dialogue about doctrine.  Praise God, the discussion is about the nature of salvation, and not the inspiration of the Bible or the permission for clergy to marry homosexuals.  Nevertheless, the statement does belie a party spirit that goes against the good work that has been going on in the SBC since the infamous dialogue on election in 2006.

Now more hopefully.  I am optimistic that this document with clear points of affirmation and denial will bring light.  I pray it will bring to light what Scripture teaches on the subject of salvation and that both sides might see where they are weak.  But even if such light is not shed on the Scripture–which I am praying will take place–light will be shed on the true condition of our convention, and hopefully this itself will cause us to seek the face of God more earnestly, more jointly, and more continually.

Discouraged and yet not despairing.  That is the Christian way, right?  Paul thought so.  His words are appropriate in these days.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. (2 Corinthians 4:7-12)

May that be our prayer: As jars of clay, may we not follow others clay pots; may we instead rest in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  It is worth being crushed for his sake, so that other future generations might know him.

Surely, in New Orleans, there will be much heat, but may we pray for light.  While it would be relaxing to enjoy a placid convention in the ‘Big Easy'; may God be pleased to give us grace to do the hard work or self-sacrificing cross-bearing, attentive listening, and golden-ruled cooperation.  Doctrines that tell of God’s glorious gospel are worth suffering to understand, to articulate, and to proclaim.  They are worthy of serious reflection, but even as we labor to nail down the doctrinal positions we affirm, may we not forget the cooperative unity that is already stated in the Baptist Faith & Message and more importantly, may we not forget the Son of God who was nailed down for us.  May we follow in his lead, boldly speaking truth but always in a manner that is pleasing to the Father.

In preparation, here are a few things to read to be prepared for the Southern Baptist Convention.

The current document that governs all SBC entities and which unites the Southern Baptist Convention: The Baptist Faith and Message 2000

The document released at SBC Today on May 30, 2012: A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation

Here is an explanatory piece with lots of sound bytes from Baptist Press: “Statement on Calvinism draws approval, criticism

Joe Carter, at The Gospel Coalition, highlights a number of other articles and reasons why this discussion is so important for the larger evangelical community: “FAQ’s : Southern Baptists, Calvinism, and God’s Plan of Salvation

Baylor History Professor, Thomas Kidd gives a concise history of Baptists and the divergent traditions that have always marked our conventions: “Traditional” Baptists and Calvinism

Pastor Jonathan Akin’s response: A Response to “Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation

President Albert Mohler’s response: “Southern Baptists and Salvation: It’s Time to Talk

Former Pastor and SBC President, Jerry Vines, responds to Dr. Mohler: “It’s Time to Discuss the Elephant in the Room

LifeWay’s Trevin Wax reminds us the difference fifty years makes: “Southern Baptists, We’re Not in Zion Anymore

Professor Malcolm Yarnell’s call for prayer: “The grace of unity: a prayer for the Southern Baptist Convention

My response to Malcolm Yarnell: “Unity in the SBC

Pastor Tom Ascol is in the middle of a series of responses to the Traditionalist statement.  In his replies, he gives biblical reasons for concern with the statement.  However, he also points out that W. A. Criswell, a Southern Baptist statesman admired by Traditionalists and Calvinists, would not have been able to sign the document because of his doctrinal affirmation of Calvinism: Could W.A. Criswell have signed this statement?

All told, there is much to discuss.  The elephant in the room has the spot light shining on it, and Southern Baptists of all persuasions need to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.  We do need to pray together and to return to Scirpture to understand one another and to work together for the preaching of Christ and him crucified to peoples who have yet to even hear the name of Christ.

Going to New Orleans in just a few days, that is my hope and prayer, that God will be glorified by Southern Baptists working towards reaching a consensus accord such that Traditional and Calvinistic Baptists might be able to move forward together proclaiming Christ to our neighbors and the nations.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Service That Pleases the Lord

Repeatedly in Scripture, God calls his people to fear, worship, and serve Him.  In Exodus, Moses records that Israel is redeemed in order to serve the Lord.  So does Titus 2:14, which says that Christ redeemed a people who are zealous for good works.  Likewise, Paul says that those who were once slaves of sin are now slaves of righteousness (Rom 6:17-19).

These verses give us a starting place for understanding how we should serve.  But we need to dig a little deeper to understand how God intends for us to serve him.

True Service Is Radically Dependent on God

First, we must serve God as those who abide in Christ.  Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches; if a man abide in me, and I in him, he will bear much fruit.  Apart from me he can do nothing” (John 15:5). We cannot serve unless we are getting are united to him.  God does not commission us to go and do great things for him.  He calls us to join him in his work; he gives us his Word and his Spirit; and he expects that we would daily feed on his grace and truth.

Second, we must come to get before we give.  We are leaky buckets and we need to be filled with the Spirit of God daily.  Too many churches have a history of putting people in places of service prematurely, and sadly these young believers never grow up (cf. Heb 5:11-6:3).  They burn out, fade out, or just eek it out.  Instead, churches need to do a better job shepherding the hearts of their servants so they serve out of overflow.

Third, service is as an extension of worship.  Church work should never detach itself from or replace worship.  Worship must always be the fountainhead of good works.  In fact, when Christians lose an appetite for worshiping God and put in its place works of service, their soul will soon shrink.  And what’s worse—they may not even be aware of their deadly condition.  By contrast, those who enjoy the Lord most are ready to serve—just as Psalm 100 indicates.

Psalm 100: A Hymn of God-Pleasing Service

In this hymn of praise, the Psalmist calls believers to “Make a joyful noise to the LORD!”  Thus, service falls under the banner of praise and worship.  Verse 2 extols: “Serve the LORD with gladness!” which presumes that joy is not self-generated but is a result of feasting on the grace of God (Ps 16:9-11; 32:11).

Verse 3 continues, “Know that the Lord, he is God!  It is he who made us, and we are his sheep; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”  In this verse, there are a number of things that inform our service before to God.

First, you and I must “know” the Lord.  This is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian.  We do not know God like we know long division; we know God as a lover knows his beloved.  This personal knowledge requires conversation and the sweet exchange of personal knowledge.  Thus, if we are to serve God rightly, it must flow from love to him.

Second, God is our maker and we are his sheep (v. 3b).  We cannot serve unless he empowers and leads us.  In John 10, Jesus as the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep, describes how his sheep “go in and out and find pasture” (v. 9).  Applied to the question of service, this bucolic scene pictures God’s people feeding from the Lord and then going out to serve him.  Extremes fail in both directions.  Sheep who only feed grow lethargic and fat, while sheep who busy with empty-hearted service grow anemic and irritable.  Service needs sustenance, and true servants learn how to live on and for God.

Third, the location of service is in the presence of God.  In Israel, this was the temple courts (v. 4), but today, with God present wherever his saints gather, the location is the gathered church.  Many good Christians give their attention to ministries outside the church, but rarely should these Bible studies, missions, and para-church ministries overshadow service to the local body.  God has given Spiritual gifts for the upbuilding of his church (1 Cor 12:7), not other invented forms of ministry.

Last, thanksgiving is the fuel that drives God-pleasing service.  Psalm 100 describes thanksgiving as both a condition and a command (v. 4).  It is not an optional aspect of service; it is a requirement.  When Christians do service with ungrateful hearts, they do a disservice to God and those whom they serve (cf. Deut 28:47).  God’s people are a thankful people—thankful for the forgiveness and love found in Christ.  Those who please God with their service are effusive in their thanksgiving.

Overall, there is no greater gift than knowing God.  And by divine design, that knowledge leads to effervescent service.  Sometimes suh service is hard, even painful and deadly, but on the whole, the promise of serving with God brings the greater reward of resting with Him when the age closes.

This is our calling.  As you come to church this Sunday may you come thirsty for Christ, but may you also come with towel and basin ready to meet the needs of others.  In embracing such service, you are not only becoming like Christ, you are pleasing your heavenly father, who has redeemed you, given good works to do, and supplied you with his Spirit to accomplish those good works.  Rejoice in the Lord and perspire in his work—this is how we please God with our service.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

For Your Edification (6.1.12)

For Your Edification is a (bi)weekly set of resources on the subjects of Bible, Theology, Ministry, and Family Life.  Let me know what you think or if you have other resources that growing Christians should be aware.

BIBLE & THEOLOGY

Dating the Crucifixion.  Joe Carter points to a news report coming from the “International Geology Review” that claims “based on earthquake activity at the Dead Sea near Jerusalem, Jesus was most likely crucified on Friday, April 3, in the year 33.”  Carter’s news clipping reminds us that God’s revelation in Scripture and nature are both infallible, and that this new piece of data gives us plausible evidence confirming what the Bible already declares: “And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split” (Matthew 27:51).

Biblical Allusions. Jeffery Leonard has written an SBL article identifying inner-biblical allusions.  In fact, using Psalm 78 as a test-case, he lists eight ways that “shared language” works in the Bible. He also goes one step further to discuss ways to determine how to discern the direction of the influence.  If typology, allusions, and echoes are your thing, I encourage you to check out the article: Identifying Inner-Biblical Allusions: Psalm 78 as a Test Case.

Here are the eight evaluations for considering biblical allusions:

  1. Shared language is the single most importantfactor in establishing a textual connection.
  2. Shared language is more important than nonshared language.
  3. Shared language that is rare or distinctive suggests a stronger connection than does language that is widely used.
  4. Shared phrases suggest a stronger connection than do individual shared terms.
  5. The accumulation of shared language suggests a stronger connection than does a single shared term or phrase.
  6. Shared language in similar contexts suggests a stronger connection than does shared language alone.
  7. Shared language need not be accompanied by shared ideology to establish a connection.
  8. Shared language need not be accompanied by shared form to establish a con­nection.

FAMILY, LIFE, & MINISTRY

Defending Marriage in a Pluralistic Society. Paul Brewster, a pastor in our local association and author of Andrew Fuller: Model Pastor-Theologian, has written a helpful piece on the difficulty and necessity of defending marriage in our contemporary society.  Brewster’s editorial is noteworthy on two accounts: (1) He lives in middle America–Madison, Indiana to be exact–which is not the left coast or a progressive college town.  Rather, it is a small town in the heartland of America, and yet it like every other community in our nation has been affected by increasing demand for marriage anyway you like it. (2) He is a faithful, small church pastor.  It is easy to point to and depend on the Albert Mohler’s, Tim Keller’s, and John Piper’s to speak up publically; however, in truth, it takes all pastors proclaiming the gospel and the Christian worldview for the effect of Christ’s witness to win the lost to Christ and to preserve the culture from moral decay.

May we who pastor smaller churches follow Paul’s lead and contend for a biblical and traditional definition of marriage, and may we hear his admonition to defend God’s design for marriage so that marriage does not become Silly Putty in the hands of fools.

Charles Spurgeon’s Biography.  Here is an hour-long docu-drama retelling the life and labors of Charles Spurgeon.  If you are unfamiliar with this powerful minister’s pulpit ministry, this is a good place to begin.  If you want to know more about Charles Spurgeon, I would encourage you to check out John Piper’s audio biography, Arnold Dallimore’s biography Spurgeon: A New Biographyor his own two-volume autobiography–The Early Years and The Full Harvest.