Saturday, December 16, 2006

Why, When, and For What, Should We Draw New Boundaries?

I just came across the article Why, When, and For What, Should We Draw New Boundaries?, by Wayne Grudem, published in Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity, edited by John Piper, Justin Taylor, and Paul Helseth (Wheaton: Crossway, 2003), pp. 339-370.

As the title of the book indicates, the original context of the article is the discussion within the Evangelical Theological Society over Open Theism, and its compatibility or incompatibility with membership in the society. However, the scope of the issues dealt with in the article is much broader than just ETS and Open Theism. I, personally, believe that it provides a very helpful framework for continued discussion on the questions of "narrowing parameters of cooperation" in the IMB and Southern Baptist life in general that have been frequently discussed on blogs and other media over the last year.

In his article, Grudem deals specifically with four questions:

A. Why should Christian organizations draw boundaries at all?
B. Why should Christian organizations draw new boundaries?
C. When should Christian organizations draw new boundaries?
D. For what doctrinal and ethical matters should Christian organizations draw new boundaries?

Since the article is 28 pages long, it is not practical to copy it here. However, I would strongly recommend anyone who is interested in these questions to give an attentive read to what Grudem has to say. Although Grudem is a well-known advocate of "continuationalism" (the view that all of the spiritual gifts mentioned in the Bible are still in effect today), nothing he says in this article comes down clearly on any side of the issues currently being debated among Southern Baptists. He does, at one point, mention the Baptist Faith & Message 2,000, and the process involved in bringing about the revision of the earlier statement. But, the current issues being discussed were evidently not specifically in mind when Grudem wrote this article.

Having said that, however, I think that Grudem's article is highly relevant to the discussion at hand, and has much potential to guide us through the process of looking for a workable solution on the questions that threaten to divide us. I would be interested in what any of you have to say after reading this article, and possibly "parking" here awhile, for a more in-depth analysis of implications of specific parts of it, in future posts.


Bart Barber said...


Great post. I'm looking forward to reading this article carefully.

Wade Burleson said...


If people were to explain the process of establishing 'new' boundaries in the Southern Baptist Convention as faithfully, scholarly, and humbly as Dr. Grudem, there would be no complaint from this pastor, nor 99% of those SBC pastors who happen to agree with me that there seems to be a narrowing of the parameters of cooperation in the SBC.

Timothy Cowin said...


Thanks for pointing out a great article. Of course those that are narrowing will say that they in fact are doing it in response to false doctrine.

But we can answer Grudem's questions before we narrow more as it pertains to the issues we are in disagreement over:

1. CERTAINTY: How Sure Are We That the Teaching Is Wrong?

Patterson himself has said that PPL is not wrong, should be afforded to a christian, and should not be forbid, I wish he would pracice what he has penned... see

2. EFFECT ON OTHER DOCTRINES: Will this teaching likely lead to significant erosion in other doctrines?
There is no evidence that the existence of a PPL leads to doctrinal erosion in other areas: Look at Jerry Rankin and Dwight McKissic!

3. EFFECT ON PERSONAL AND CHURCH LIFE: Will this false teaching bring significant harm to people's Christian lives, or to the work of the church?
Considering that among evangelicals in the World, this practice has attained an unbelievable acceptance? You tell me?

4. HISTORICAL PRECEDENT: Is this teaching contrary to what the vast majority of the Bible-believing church has held throughout history?
It is not "contrary" by a close use of the meaning of the word.

5. PERCEPTION OF IMPORTANCE AMONG GOD'S PEOPLE: Is there increasing consensus among the leaders and members that this matter is important enough that the false teaching should be explicitly denied in a doctrinal statement?

Now this is yet to be seen, it would be a sad day of SB would forbid PPL in a future BFM

6. PURPOSES OF THE ORGANIZATION: Is the teaching a significant threat to the nature and purposes of the organization?

Absolutely not.



What a great idea for a fuller post: answering Grudem's questions concerning the need to change boundaries....

Bart Barber said...

Bro. Wade,

Perhaps, then, there is a way forward here.

JohnJaxtheBaptist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephen Fox said...

David: In hindsight, would you allow the boundaries drawn by your Dad, and his generation, were a little too narrow, and the campaign to draw them from 79-94 displayed a lot of fundamentalism's fallen nature?
Have you checked the newslinks at and addition to the scathing story about Bellevue, more interested for this thread what you make of the reasons of FBC Henderson, NC for leaving the NC SBC?
Even so, would like to see a blog over Christmas of your most honest virtuous updated thoughts on this latest incident in the campaign against your Dad's successor at Bellevue.
Stephen Fox

JohnJaxtheBaptist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Rogers said...


The whole issue of "narrowing of parameters" in the SBC has a specific history, of which I imagine you are aware. I think we all would agree there are times when it is necessary to narrow parameters. However, some of us (I include myself here) think a few boundaries too many have been crossed in recent months, and there seems to be a dangerous tendency, on the part of some, to want to take this even further.

I, for one, am hopeful that this article by Grudem can help us all to understand each other better, and see what points of disagreement may perhaps be caused by misunderstanding. The comments here by both Wade and Bart, key representatives (in my opinion) of differing perspectives in the current discussion, are very encouraging. Perhaps we are making a bit of headway.

Also, thanks for the kind words related to our ministry.



David Rogers said...


I am still, even in hindsight, generally supportive of the "Conservative Resurgence" in the SBC, and particularly of the role played by my father. Were there mistakes made by some, or excesses at times? No doubt. We are all humans. But I think the good achieved far outweighs the bad.

I have not yet checked the links at Baptists Today, and I am not familiar with the situation involving FBC Henderson.

Also, I have chosen not to use this blog to comment about the situation at Bellevue. I hope you will respect my decision regarding this.



A 10-40 Window Missionary said...


At first, I thought my comment would be out of place on this thread...but when talking about boundaries and "openness" or "transparency" what did you think about the opportunity for feed-back to John Floyd's message to missionaries?

I think that a golden opportunity has been missed on this one, but then, maybe trustees do not want to hear from the field...I know that I am having an extremely difficult time getting the up to date e-mail addresses of all of the trustees.

Bart Barber said...


Maybe you could wrap up the year with a Spanish Christmas blog about this!

Tim Rogers said...

Brother David,

Living and serving in NC, I can probably give an understanding of our Brother's question. He is referencing FBC Henderson that has voted to leave the NC Baptist State Convention over an addition made to the Membership area of our articles of Incorporation.

In this past convention there was an addition that any church that accepted into their membership homosexuals, or aligned themselves with groups that affirmed homosexuals being part of the universal church, would be considered not in friendly cooperation.

This verbiage is what many are pointing to and saying that the NC Convention is moving closer to the SBC. This is just a brief synoposis of what I believe our Brother is referencing.


David Rogers said...


Sounds like you're looking for some "comic relief"?

David Rogers said...


I don't remember seeing any specific call for feed-back. I agree it would be a good opportunity, though.

David Rogers said...


Thanks for the info.

Bart Barber said...

Saw the article in my newsfeed're the only honorary Spaniard I know!

A 10-40 Window Missionary said...


My point, exactly! No provision for feedback from the field. What an opportunity to hear from those who must live with policies made by people eight time zones and a few light-years away from the field.