Monday, January 29, 2007

"Charismatic Continualists" and "Non-Charismatic Continualists"

I am currently engaged in an on-going dialogue with Jonathan K. on his blog, World of Faith, over various questions regarding "Charismatic" theology. Though Jonathan is a regular commenter on several Southern Baptist blogs, he is openly "Charismatic" and is not a Southern Baptist. Though I have found him to be a warm-hearted Christian, and a gentleman in his tone and style of dialogue, there are several issues over which I do not agree with Jonathan in his interpretation of Scripture.

Jonathan first commented on this post here on my blog, and invited me to comment on his blog concerning an issue related to his defense of "Charismatic" theology. At first, I had little interest in taking the time to respond, at least in any length, to Jonathan’s questions. I am fairly confident in my positions on the issues over which Jonathan wished to engage me, and Jonathan is fairly confident on his positions. I don’t think either one of us is probably going to convince the other of our point of view. For this same reason, I do not generally take time in my busy schedule, for instance, to debate with any number of Presbyterians in the blogosphere over the issue of infant baptism. Not to say these are not important issues, nor that those discussing them are unworthy of my respect, but in the general scope of things, I, at this particular time in my life, have more important things to do with my time.

In the end, however, I have taken a bit of time to respond to the questions Jonathan raises on his blog. I think it has been a valuable experience that may also be of some interest for some of you from Southern Baptist backgrounds that read my blog. Not that I consider myself to be an “expert” on these issues, or more equipped to answer Jonathan’s questions than many other people who have more theological knowledge than myself. Neither do I consider Jonathan to necessarily be the consummate defender of the traditional "Charismatic" point of view, though he does, in my opinion, do a quite admirable job of presenting his position.

The point for me is the following: many Southern Baptists have a tendency to equate “continualist” interpretation and a befief in the legitimacy of “private prayer language” with the point of view presented by Jonathan on his blog. The dialogue I have been having with Jonathan is a good opportunity for me to show how, even though I am a “continualist” and believe in “private prayer languages,” I am not necessarily, at the same time, on the “slippery slope” towards full-blown "Charismatic" theology.

I am thankful for Jonathan and his evident love for the Lord and for the Word of God. I am proud to embrace him as my brother in Christ. At the same time, I readily concur with others in Southern Baptist life that someone who takes the views Jonathan takes should not be considered as a candidate for missionary service with the IMB, the NAMB, or for leadership positions of our Southern Baptist institutions. His views, in some areas, are indeed, in my opinion, incompatible with what we, as Southern Baptists, have decided together is our understanding of doctrine taught in God’s Word.

I obviously (for those of you who regularly read this blog) do not, however, think this is necessarily true for all those who adopt "continualist" theology and/or believe in or practice a “private prayer language.” I believe that anyone who carefully reads through the dialogue between Jonathan and me will be able to see how this is the case. Some may even be persuaded that Jonathan’s arguments from Scripture are more convincing than my own. I am okay with that. I believe we all must do our best to look at all sides of the issues, and decide for ourselves what is the best interpretation. We must be guided more by our best effort to be objective than by our denominational biases.

I am hesitant to use the term “Charismatic,” because it means different things to different people. However, for lack of a better alternative, my point in this post is not so much to convince you of the correctness of my biblical interpretation as it is to show you the difference between “Charismatic continualist” interpretation and “non-Charismatic continualist” interpretation. For those who do not want to take the time to read through the entire dialogue on Jonathan’s blog, I will give the following synopsis to the differences of the various views, as I see them…

Though some may object and see this as an unfair characterization, for me, between “cessationist” interpretation, “non-Charismatic continualist” interpretation, and “Charismatic continualist” interpretation, “non-Charismatic continualist” interpretation is the only one that doesn’t “put God in a box.” The “cessationist” is convinced that God does not and will not work now in the same way He worked in the New Testament church. The “Charismatic continualist” is convinced that God always works now in the same way He worked in the New Testament church. The “non-Charismatic continualist,” on the other hand, is content to let God be sovereign and work however He pleases whenever He wants.

Jonathan’s posts (and my comments) up to now include:

What is Charismatic? - Introduction (no comment by me)
What is Charismatic? - Part One: Baptized into Christ (no comment by me)
What is Charismatic? - Part Two: Water Baptism - The Outward Symbol of our Baptism into Christ (no comment by me)
What is Charismatic? - Part Three: The Baptism in the Holy Spirit - Being Filled Afresh for the New Year in 2007
What is Charismatic? - Part Four: Prayer Language and Speaking in Tongues - Evidence of Being Filled with the Holy Spirit
What is Charismatic? - Part Five: Spiritual Gifts - The Motivational Gifts (Romans 12)
What is Charismatic? - Part Six: Spiritual Gifts - A Look at 1 Corinthians 12

Monday, January 22, 2007

Reply from Malcolm Yarnell

I received the following e-mail from Malcolm Yarnell, which he has graciously given me permission to copy here (I include my response at the end):

Dear David,

I read your recent blog post concerning the "Conservative Resurgence" and the "Baptist Renaissance." It is highly disconcerting to read that you could perceive that our emphasis on our common Baptist heritage is an attempt to somehow exclude you or others.

Of course, I do not know you or your specific theological positions very well, but I assume they are close to your father's heart, whose powerful preaching of God's Word so formed my own convictions. However, it is quite clear that you are a man sold out to following the Great Commission of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and that is highly laudable. Indeed, that commitment is what holds us together as Baptists: passionate obedience to the Great Commission.

Personally, I would hope that you would remain at home within the Southern Baptist Convention. Indeed, I would beg of you not to let the issues that make us differ with one another overpower our common commitment in Christ.

Please do not assume that a renaissance in Baptist identity is a veiled attempt to isolate any Southern Baptist. The renewed focus on Baptist doctrine is a deliberate attempt, however, to remind us of whence we came so that we may form a common vision of whither we will go. The diverging foci on those things which make us different in recent years without a constant renewal of our common foundation is exactly what has brought us to a near crisis.

We need to plant a flag in the center and say, "Let us unite here, as disciples totally yielded in obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit march forward together to proclaim the good news to a lost world so that our Father might be glorified." The other issues should not be our primary focus. Amen?

Peace to you, my brother in Christ.

In Christ,

Malcolm

................................................................................................................................

Dear Malcolm,

Thank you very much for your acknowledgement of what I have written, and for your response. I appreciate your desire to dialogue about these issues, and to attempt to come to a common understanding.

Regarding my own theological positions, it would be unwieldy to go into much depth here, though I believe the salient matters have been treated a bit more fully at one place or another on this blog throughout the course of the past months. In summary, I am in full agreement with the Baptist Faith & Message 2,000, with the exception of one statement in the section on baptism which would seem to advocate "closed communion." I am also convinced that the Scripture teaches a "continualist" approach to spiritual gifts, which includes the possibility of what many call a "private prayer language." While I certainly believe in the local church, I also see an emphasis on the Universal Church in the New Testament in places that I understand many Baptists see more of an emphasis on the local church. I also see no need to consider as invalid the immersion of a sincere believer due to concerns over the doctrinal position of the administrator of the baptism or the administrating church.

I can easily see how any perceived "attempt to exclude" may indeed be unintentional. I myself would not want to impose my views on these particular issues on anyone else. At the same time, the views I take on these issues I take as a result of my honest understanding of the authoritative teaching of Holy Scripture. I am open to being shown where I may be mistaken. But, in the meantime, my convictions on these matters hold firm. It is my sincere hope that the views I have expressed above might not prove to be an impediment to full participation in Southern Baptist life, fleshed out in such important and practical matters as missionary appointments and opportunities for leadership within our various institutions, in order that "as disciples totally yielded in obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ" we may indeed be able "in the power of the Holy Spirit" to "march forward together to proclaim the good news to a lost world so that our Father might be glorified." I look forward to continuing to seek the Lord in prayer and to dialogue with you and others, so that this may indeed be a established reality for the years ahead.

May the Lord bless you richly,

David

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The "Conservative Resurgence" and the "Baptist Renaissance"

The “Conservative Resurgence” in the SBC, as I understand it, had to do primarily with the issue of biblical authority. Yes, it occurred within the context of the Southern Baptist Convention, and thus, all of its leaders were essentially Baptist in their interpretation and basic ecclesiological convictions. However, the “Conservative Resurgence” and the self-proclaimed “Baptist Renaissance” within the SBC are not two sides of the same coin. This is evidenced in the fact that there are many who were convinced supporters of the causes advocated in the “Conservative Resurgence” who are not equally excited about the “Baptist Renaissance.”

It is my opinion, however, that the “Baptist Renaissance” is attempting to “piggy-back” on the success of the “Conservative Resurgence,” presenting itself as the legitimate heir of its legacy. At one point, several years back, it would seem that all the supporters of the “Conservative Resurgence,” both those of a “Baptist Renaissance” mindset, and those of other mindsets, were considered legitimate members of the fold.

Up until recently, in the post-Conservative Resurgence SBC, the issues of “private prayer languages,” “local church” as opposed to “Universal Church,” alien immersion, open communion, Calvinism, etc. were not high on the denominational agenda. Of course, some may have debated these issues in certain forums, but, in general, there seemed to exist a tacit agreement towards peaceful coexistence within the broader sphere of the SBC in these areas. Local churches that wanted to take a strong stand, one way or another, on these issues felt free to do so, but at a local church level. On the denominational level, there was more flexibility.

It is hard to pinpoint exactly one set of issues that describe these two visions. From my perspective (which admittedly may not be the same as some others), though, it seems one way to describe it is there are some who would want to “put the exclamation point” on everything that distinguishes us from other conservative evangelicals, while for myself and others, we prefer to put it on everything that unites us with other conservative evangelicals. On the main points of doctrine, we have no real discrepancies with each other. We both agree to the basic doctrinal framework laid out in the Baptist Faith & Message. However, there seem to be certain differences of basic values that define who we are.

Those who think like me give a high priority to unity. We have no inherent desire to form a splinter group. The CBF has already gone its own way. We wonder if it would be a good testimony to the world and the Church at large if we were to go our own way as well. We also wonder if it would be the most responsible stewardship of the resources God has entrusted into our hands. We would like to continue to work together with Baptists that may think a little differently than we do on these issues. However, if we are made to feel less and less welcome, the more and more awkward it becomes to continue to cooperate in the same way we have before. In some situations, it is not even a matter of choice. The decision has already been made for us.

It is not my point, nor that of many others who think like me, to be a “fly in the ointment” of the promoters of the “Baptist Renaissance.” We are just wondering where is the best place for us to serve the Lord, and cooperate with like-minded believers for the advance of His Kingdom. We feel we have as much place in the SBC of today as others.

Where do we fit?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Application of Grudem's Article to the Current Situation in the SBC (Part 5)

The next in Grudem’s series of eight questions (from the article Why, When, and For What, Should We Draw New Boundaries?) that should be asked when deciding For What Doctrinal and Ethical Matters Should Christian Organizations Draw New Boundaries? is:

2. EFFECT ON OTHER DOCTRINES: Will this teaching likely lead to significant erosion in other doctrines?

In regard to the PPL policy, I think it is a fair assumption to say that this concern is the real “bogeyman” driving the issue. Several have implied that the work of the IMB is in imminent danger of being diverted into “Charismatic extremes.”

Consider, for example, the following quotes:

Paige Patterson, The Church in the 21st Century

With the advent of “Third Wave churches” partnering with other “Great Commission Christians” and the age of post-denominationalism, new horizons force contemplation of questions of cooperation both new and old... To accept the funding provided by Baptists and proceed in a direction distinct from what that supporting constituency believes is no different. The author does not allege that this is what is happening, but it is the case that disturbing reports do continue to filter in from the field. If any of these represent the trajectory of even a few, then that issue must be faced; and a solution acceptable to the Convention must be found.
Paige Patterson, Keith Eitel, & Robin Hadaway, Follow-up to Keith Eitel’s “Vision Assessment”
Rather we’re planting churches that reflect more the mix of ideas inherent in a blend of Great Commission Christian ideas, often neo-charismatic leaning and quasi Biblical… In addition, SC’s were encouraged to include charismatic groups such as the Assemblies of God denomination in their strategies, including church planting… How many of our IMB missionaries are involved in the neo-charismatic movement, and what is presently being taught and advocated by staff concerning "spiritual warfare"?
Emir Caner, Southern Baptists, Tongues, and Historical Policy
The contemporary phenomenon of speaking in tongues, along with other Charismatic practices has infiltrated every major denomination in America, including Southern Baptist life… Noting the paradigm shift, one cannot overlook the momentum the Charismatic movement is having on Evangelical life. Yet, Southern Baptists remain very uncomfortable with Charismatic practices, especially when they note the weak epistemology of experientialism latent within the movement. For the most part, Southern Baptists have reacted negatively to inroads Charismatics have forced into the local Baptist churches. This response is largely due to the novel interpretation of how such gifts should be used and the excesses generated. The Southern Baptist response toward the Charismatic movement has always been extremely cautious.
Let me make one thing perfectly clear. I am not arguing in favor of making room within Southern Baptist life for classical Pentecostal and Charismatic teaching on the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I understand the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 to have already addressed this question. Neither am I interested in promoting manipulative practices common in certain Pentecostal, Charismatic and Third Wave circles that tend towards working people into an emotional frenzy, and falsely promote short-cuts to spiritual maturity and victory in our walk with the Lord. I, on several occasions, have had to teach against these things in churches, warning people of dangers of experiential emotionalism as over against sound biblical interpretation.

I will concede, as well, that, without a doubt, the great majority of those who would like to introduce “Charismatic extremes” into Southern Baptist life would also tend to promote the practice of “private prayer languages.” However, I do not make the corresponding conclusion that everyone who believes in or practices PPL has a “hidden agenda” to introduce “Charismatic extremes” into the life of the church. As I have stated previously on another post, the great majority of hyper-Calvinists also believe in the doctrine of eternal security. However, that does not mean we ought to limit the teaching of eternal security in order to keep a check on the spread of hyper-Calvinism.

At times, I am sure, all of us would like for things to be a lot simpler. It makes us feel more secure to have neat categories of black and white, right and wrong, orthodoxy and heresy. And there definitely are certain things that are, either black or white, right or wrong, and orthodox or heretical. But there are other things that the Bible does not specify quite so clearly. I, myself, out of a concern for shielding myself from something I don’t understand, or is out of my “comfort zone,” do not want to stand in the way of something God may sovereignly choose to do. I understand that He will not go against what He has already revealed in His infallible Word. But I am also aware that my cultural biases can sometimes blind me to what His Word really says.

On the basis of all of this, I believe (and I imagine Grudem would concur) that without a firm answer on question #1, How Sure are We that the Teaching is Wrong?, question #2 takes on a relatively diminished importance. Basing our entire spiritual and doctrinal outlook on the need to avoid the “slippery slope” towards other extremes is a sure path towards legalism and a closed-minded attitude toward the work of the Holy Spirit that I am convinced ends up quenching the Holy Spirit.

Regarding the baptism issue, it is hard to determine just what the new policy is intended to accomplish. Some have suggested that it is closely linked with the PPL policy, intending to discourage those candidates who might originally come from other church backgrounds that are more open to Charismatic practices. I suppose there are others who are strict denominational loyalists (who, if not 100% Landmarkist in their beliefs, are, at least, influenced by Landmark teachings) who just like to keep things “within the family” so to speak. I suppose those of this second group might be afraid that those who were baptized in a non-baptistic church would have a tendency to also de-emphasize biblical ecclesiology. Once again, though, I feel the important question is whether or not there is clear biblical teaching to justify the position taken. If not, I am afraid that, at times, our fears of things getting out of hand and not fitting in neatly with our denominational traditions can actually be an impediment to new ways that God may want to work, and His plans to get out the gospel to all peoples of the world.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Application of Grudem's Article to the Current Situation in the SBC (Part 4)

Upon arriving at the fourth section of Grudem’s article, For What Doctrinal and Ethical Matters Should Christian Organizations Draw New Boundaries?, we really get to the part where “the rubber meets the road.” The material that is relevant to the present situation in the SBC is so plentiful that, in order to “do it justice,” it looks like I am really going to have to “make good” on my “threat” to “park awhile” on my analysis of this article. If I were to comment here on all eight of the questions Grudem suggests as guidelines regarding over what matters a Christian organization should draw new boundaries, this post would be unwieldy in its length. Thus, I propose to comment one by one on each of the questions, beginning here with:

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

From my perspective, this particular criterion weighs heavily against support of both of the new policies at the IMB.

Grudem asks: Have the advocates of this teaching been given a fair hearing? Has there been enough time to reflect on the matter carefully?

My answer is that, in good part due to the blogs during the past year, there have been many opportunities to point out the biblical argument in favor of PPL and a more open stance on baptism among a certain constitiuency, that had not been given before. At the same time, it is a shame that from certain platforms of denominational life, there has not been much of an effort to debate these matters on an “even playing field.” The impression is given by some that it is a “done deal”: “There is NO biblical support for PPL.” “Baptists have always recognized baptism as a ‘church ordinance,’ thus only ‘true churches’ (i.e. Baptist churches) have the authority to baptize,” etc., etc.

On various comments posted lately on various different blogs, the argument is being made that much time and effort is being unwisely dedicated to debating the doctrinal issues themselves: “Let’s just keep the main thing the main thing.” “If they’re ‘third tier’ issues anyway, what’s the big deal?” While I have a certain degree of sympathy for this point of view, I, at the same time, believe that, if there is a good case to be made for the particular issues at hand, and those who are best able to present this case remain silent, the points are ipso facto conceded to the other side. In Spanish, we have a saying: el que calla otorga (“he who remains silent concedes his point”). On the posts dealing with questions #3 and #5, the reasons for the importance of these issues will be discussed in more detail.

Grudem also asks: Is there a growing consensus among God’s people generally that this new teaching cannot be right?

I think that, if we are talking about “God’s people generally,” the answer is a definite ‘no’. As to PPL, in addition to the opinions of serious Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Third Wave theologians, such as Gordon Fee, Wayne Grudem, Jack Deere & Sam Storms, how can you summarily dismiss the well-reasoned opinions of devout conservative, evangelical, non-charismatic scholars of the stature of D.A. Carson, Vern Poythress, J.I. Packer, and even someone with a Baptist pedigree like Jack MacGorman, as well as a host of others?

As to the baptism issue, pretty much, by definition, all non-Baptist scholars, and many Baptists as well, would be at odds with the new policy.

But, then again, that is what I perceive to be a big part of the underlying issue at stake: To what point are we in the SBC going to defend our so-called “Baptist distinctives” as over against the opinions of conservative evangelical Christians at large?

When we get to question # 6 on the “purposes of the organization” (the organization being the SBC in this case), the question of “Baptist distinctives” will need to be dealt with more specifically. However, I am quite certain that, if the opinion of conservative evangelicalism in general is to be seriously taken into account, we are quite some distance from being “sure” that either the teaching of PPL, or the disposition to accept as valid the post-conversion immersions of churches that do not conform to strict Baptist standards, are “wrong.”

Sunday, January 07, 2007

A Qualification of my Last Post

Upon reading this post from Bart Barber, I realized it might help for me to make a qualification of my last post. Instead of being directed only to "cessationists," I would like to pose the very same question as before, but also include as its intended recipients not only those who consider themselves to be "cessationists," but also all those who, for whatever reason, believe that the practice of "private prayer languages" is unbiblical.

Friday, January 05, 2007

An Honest Question for "Cessationists"

I just posted the following as a comment to a post on Wade Bursleson's blog, but figured I would post it here as well, in case anyone prefers to dialogue about it here.

I would like to ask an honest question of "cessationists" within the SBC. I would like to pose a hypothetical situation for the sake of making a point, as well as for the sake of helping me in my own thinking and decisions related to all of this. I would sincerely implore you to give careful thought, as well as to be as honest and objective as you possibly can in answering this question:

If, on the basis of your study of the Word of God, you were to come to the conclusion that "private prayer language" is indeed an authentic gift of the Holy Spirit still valid for today, though not necessarily the initial sign of baptism in the Holy Spirit; and, if, you continued to hold to the doctrinal position of the Baptist Faith and Message; and, if you continued to see the value of cooperating together with others who identify themselves as Southern Baptists for the advance of the Kingdom of God, how would you respond to everything that has been going on in SBC life over the last year related to these issues?

Would you:

A. Quit being a Southern Baptist, and look for some other group with which to cooperate?

B. Remain a Southern Baptist, but quietly bide your time, waiting for the administrative process to work out these issues on its own?

C. Become active in the process of helping the SBC to be more open in its acceptance of this particular position in regards to such things as missionary appointments and doctrinal statements?, or

D. Do something else not described well by either option A, B, or C?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Application of Grudem's Article to the Current Situation in the SBC (Part 3)

With this section of Grudem’s article, When Shoud Christian Organizations Draw New Boundaries?, the issues discussed begin to cut a bit closer to the heart of the discussion in recent Southern Baptist life, and, accordingly, open up potential for greater controversy.

According to Grudem, the correct time for a Christian organization to draw new boundaries is, first of all, after a false teaching has become a significant problem. As Grudem observes, “open theism,” being basically an unknown position, was not readily recognized as a doctrinal issue that needed specific mention in most doctrinal statements of evangelical organizations, up to as recently as twenty years ago.

Along this vein, I would agree with many who are quick to point out that one of the the main reasons that Baptists in general, and the Southern Baptist Convention in particular, have not previously defined themselves on “private prayer language” is because, not having been taught or practiced to any great degree in contexts that impinge upon the beliefs and practice of Baptists until fairly recently, it is an issue that has largely been deemed irrelevant. However, since the “Azusa Street Revival” in 1906, and especially the spread of Charismatic and Third Wave theology and practices to other churches and denominations outside of traditional Pentecostalism from the 1960’s on, this has become an issue over which many more people have begun to show a growing interest.

Along with the practice of “private prayer languages,” there have commonly been associated a whole series of teachings and practices that many in Southern Baptist life have come to regard as “significant problems.” Churches have been divided. Spiritual elitism, dividing along lines of “haves” and “have-nots,” has derailed many efforts of Christian discipleship. It is completely understandable, in my opinion, why many might well be concerned.

At the same time, however, there are certain practices that may originally have been more associated with Pentecostalism or the Charismatic movement that are gradually becoming accepted across the board, and recognized as a source of blessing. These include such things as the singing of praise and worship choruses, the lifting of hands to the Lord in public worship, and, in more recent times, prayer walks. The truth is some, even in Southern Baptist circles, have been critical of each of the above practices as well.

Change is never easy, nor is it always welcome. When the Reformers of the 16th century began to talk about “justification by faith,” they were met with stern opposition, and many suffered persecution. During the Radical Reformation, many feared that the teaching of believers’ baptism and separation of church and state would open up a huge Pandora’s box, and felt they had seen their greatest fears confirmed with the onset of the M√ľnster Rebellion. Similar opposition was raised against the abolitionist movement in the 19th century in the United States. Yet, today, the “new” teachings and practices introduced through each of these examples are accepted across the board as sound doctrine among Southern Baptists and many other Christian groups.

We will have to leave to our discussion of Part 4 of Grudem’s article the question of whether or not “private prayer languages” are indeed a “false teaching” that has become a “significant problem” in Southern Baptist life. For now, the point is: “new” understanding of doctrine does indeed come onto the scene from time to time throughout the course of church history. When such doctrines can be demonstrated to be “false teaching” and to create “significant problems,” we do well to deal with them by, if you will, “narrowing our parameters.” However, not all “new” teaching is necessarily “false teaching” and some “new” teaching may prove to be more of a blessing than a problem.

Grudem’s second option for when Christian organizations should draw new boundaries is before the false teaching does great harm, and before it has a large following entrenched in the organization.

This seems to be the motivation given in the rationale statement for the new IMB policy on “private prayer languages,” as evidenced in the following statement:

Not all of the trustees who voted for this policy are strict cessationists (those who believe the revelation producing gifts ended with the death of the Apostles). Yet, when the practice of something that may or may not be biblical is creating confusion in the ministry then trustees have acted to do what is best for the work.

Paige Patterson, Keith Eitel, and Robin Hadaway, in their follow-up paper to Eitel’s “Vision Assessment” refer to “systemic problems running throughout the structure” of the IMB, in large part related to what they term “neo-charismatic leaning.” Steve Grose, Baptist pastor from Australia, has on repeated occasions commented on this blog and others of the dangers of growing Charismatic influence and corresponding extremes in doctrine and practice that have infiltrated Baptist work in his own country.

In my opinion, while it is true that those who have a “private prayer language” may be more likely than those who don’t to espouse Charismatic extremes, I do not see this, in and of itself, as a proper motivation for prohibiting this practice. It could also be argued statistically that those who believe in eternal security are more likely than those who don't to fall into extremes of hyper-Calvinism, and as a result, to deemphasize the need for evangelism. “Guilt by association” can be a dangerous model to follow.

From Grudem’s perspective (as well as mine), the changes introduced in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 came at an opportune time. One of these changes is the declaration that "at the moment of regeneration, [the Holy Spirit] baptizes every believer into the Body of Christ," thus precluding traditional Pentecostal and Charismatic teaching on a subsequent “baptism of the Holy Spirit.” It is interesting to me, however, that the BFM 2000 committee chose neither to specifically address the issue of “private prayer languages” nor of the legitimacy of the administrator of baptism.

This leads us to the next point in Grudem’s article: But who has the authority to make these changes? According to Grudem, there are two basic alternatives: 1) "decisions are made by tens of thousands of organizations in a gradual process, as their governing bodies, or the organizations as a whole in some kind of formal meeting, come to a decision on doctrinal matters"; or 2) "some kind of worldwide church government…[that] would concentrate too much power in the hands of too few people, and would likely lead to far worse decisions in the end."

Evidently, the IMB Board of Trustees has the authority to determine policy for the IMB. However, it is my contention (and that of many others) that their authority to set doctrinal directives is subject to the joint decisions of the individual congregations that make up the Southern Baptist Convention, as expressed through the Baptist Faith and Message. If the SBC as a whole has not chosen to define itself yet on a particular doctrinal issue, I think it best that the various boards and agencies that receive their support from the Cooperative Program not go beyond what has been formally agreed upon.

Dwight McKissic and others have gone on record as supporting an amendment to the BFM in order to specifically address the question of “private prayer languages.” I myself question the wisdom of forcing this issue before there is any sort of consensus. I believe the BFM 2000 committee were wise in not including it. At the same time, however, I concur that it is inconsistent for the IMB Board of Trustees to demand compliance on something on which the SBC as a whole has not yet defined itself.

Grudem astutely observes: "Almost always such decisions are preceded by vigorous debate and discussion, and by much study on the part of the people involved." It has been stated that the new policies at the IMB are a result of 2 ½ years of discussion and study among the Board of Trustees. This is well and good. However, before making such decisions binding on an organization that represents the SBC as a whole, the opportunity should be given for these issues to be discussed in a more open forum, with the various points of view taken given fair and honest representation.

That, in my opinion, is precisely what has been going on in the blogosphere over the past year. As I understand it, it is also a big part of the motivation behind the "Roundtable" in Arlington, TX, and the upcoming "Conference on Baptists and the Holy Spirit." No doubt, at the upcoming "Baptist Identity Conference" in Jackson, TN, various views will also be articulated on these issues. Opinions have also been expressed through Baptist Press, various state papers, “White Papers” and other publications issued by various Baptist entities.

To all involved in these discussions, I believe the words of Grudem ring true:

For those of us who are scholars, we have a significant responsibility in this process, for we often write the materials that are read by study groups and church leaders as they make decisions on these questions. It is our responsibility to be truthful and accurate in what we publish, to represent the arguments fairly, and above all to be faithful to Scripture as God by his grace enables us to do so.