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 Münster 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.

19 comments:

Grosey's Messages said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Just found your site so having a look round.
God bless
Maria in the UK
www.inhishands.co.uk

Jonathan K. said...

David,

I'm glad to see you going through stuff by Wayne Grudem. Although I do not agree with Dr. Grudem on every little jot and tittle, I consider him the best of the Baptist theologians that are out there.

I do want to comment on some of what you said in Part 3, but before I do so, I wish to invite you to visit my blog, "World of Faith," at http://worldoffaith.wordpress.com/ and check out Part 3 of my current series. Although it is lengthy, it provides a backdrop for the comments I'm about to give you.

You said in your post, "From Grudem’s perspective (as well as mine), the changes introduced in the BFM 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.” I write here as a charismatic, but I disagree with the assessment of that statement. That is, the fact (and I agree with this, too, please read Part 1 of my own blog), that at the very moment of regeneration, the Holy Spirit DOES baptize every believer into the body of Christ, does NOT preclude the pentecostal/charismatic understanding of the "baptism in the Holy Spirit."

Let me be frank. I believe that there is a baptism of the Holy Spirit, referenced in 1 Cor. 12:13, which is performed BY the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ. This occurs at salvation (or regeneration), and is distinct from the baptism INTO the Holy Spirit, which is performed by Jesus Christ.

Let me ask you a question. How could Jesus, according to Matt. 3:11, Mark 1:8, and Luke 3:16, baptize believers into His own body? That's a rhetorical question. Its not contemplated in the Scriptures. The fact is, many people (both non-charismatics AND charismatics as well) conflate the two baptisms, and get confused. That's why I am doing the series "What is Charismatic?" in my blog.

So, David, what do you think about the idea that there are 2 baptisms... one at salvation, and the other as a later experience, which is a FILLING of the Holy Spirit performed by Jesus Christ?

I think that will do for now. I look forward to dialoguing with you on this.

Blessings,
Jonathan

Strider said...

I am often frustrated when I read Steve G. I agree with him, and then I agree again, and then I disagree completely. I think in his comment above I see why.
We are not called to fight each other. This is a given verbally but rarely practiced. This is the problem I have with Steve's position. He identifies charismatics as the enemy. He admits to being friends with them. He admits to working with them. But then insists at all costs we must fight them and their influence. I would like to nuance what he saying and see if he agrees with me.
Charismatics are not the enemy. False teaching is to fought against. We fight false teaching with the Word. I like what he says at this point in his comment. Our battle for inerrency was a success and we have been blessed by some of the greatest strides in mission history worldwide as a result.
But I do not agree that every continualist position is heresy. I believe that we can distinguish what Christ gave to his bride in the gifts of the Spirit from false teaching. Steve seems to paint all charismatics as liberals (belief that the Word is not completely trustworthy). In my experience that is not the case in other parts of the world.
I guess when it comes down to it I like your article, David. I think that we can and must move past labels and the lumping together of different groups and come to real discernment. I will not bow to the fear that the enemy always wins, that the slippery slope is unavoidable, that any debate about what we believe means that that truth will be lost. There are men and women, mostly young, in SBC life who practice annointing with oil and expect to see miracles, who pray for dreams and visions for themselves and others, who speak in a prayer language and can still sign the BFM and consider themselves good, traditional SBs. I don't think that is bad. I think it makes us stronger.
It looks like I have rambled on for too long. Again.

David Rogers said...

Strider,

Thanks for verbalizing for me many of my thoughts towards Steve and his comments. I completely agree with you.

Steve,

I knew it was "Grose" and not "Grosey," but just went "brain-dead" there for a minute. I will make the corresponding modification.

The only thing I would really add to Strider's comment is: It seems to me the view you are espousing comes very close to that of Elijah, when he told the Lord "I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty...I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too" (1 Kings 19.10,14). In this case, I understand you are not saying you are literally the ONLY one. But it seems to me that the NT correspondence to the "seven thousand in Israel--all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him" (v. 18) is the more broadly-based Body of Christ.

Yes, faithfulness to the Word of God is extremely important, as I have argued on my Core Value #1 post (Biblical Authority). However, I do not think this should preclude giving a correspondingly high priority to Core Value #2 (Christian Unity) and Core Value #3 (The Great Commission).

David Rogers said...

Maria,

Welcome. Feel free to comment wherever you see something of interest.

David Rogers said...

Jonathan,

Actually, I already visited your site, and tried to leave a comment, but it seems to have gotten lost in cyber-space. I will try to go back and post again. I prefer to discuss the specific issues you bring up on your site, rather than here, since it is not really within the scope of what I am writing about to debate the "baptism of the Holy Spirit" with those outside of Southern Baptist circles. I do, however, appreciate your desire to dialogue, using Scripture as a starting point, over these issues. At the same time, I am curious, though, of what motivates you to read and comment on so many Southern Baptist-oriented blogs. Since we are all a part of the same Body, I am not saying I necessarily have any problem with this. Just a bit curious.

Grosey's Messages said...

I have no problem with you gentlemen disputing my report on Australian Baptist life: could you please tell me your experience in pastoring Australian Baptist churches.
Steve

Geoff Baggett said...

David,

I can't quite follow your's and Strider's responses to Steve. He seemed to be giving a pretty clear (and emotional) explanation of the the result of a "charismatic infiltration" into the Australian Baptist churches in his area. His situation sounds pretty bleak, to tell the truth. I think we need to remember the vast differences in all of our contexts. As a pastor in the U.S., I cannot imagine being in an apparently non-Charismatic "minority" the way Steve is.

Strider said something that really struck me. He said, "We're not called to fight each other." No kidding. But neither can we just hold hands, sing Kumbaya, and chant "let's give Baptist peace a chance," all in the name of unity. Errant theology and false teaching will run roughshod over us and we'll be smack-dab in the middle of dealing with it (i.e. Grudem, Pt. 3).

Maybe our Baptist leadership has erred on the side of legalism and "crossing some boundaries" laid by the BF&M2K. But I would much rather see their errors on the side of caution. Because such, if it is indeed error, can be righted in time. I love my brother Steve and have gotten to know him (as best I can) on my blog over these past few weeks. Frankly, I don't see the possibility of a "righting" of the theological course that he describes anytime soon. That will take much time, I fear.

Per your post ... I really don't think that McKissic (et al) want to bring up the issue of PPL at an SBC meeting, especially as an amendment to the BF&M. It will be rejected overwhelmingly. Slam dunk. I firmly believe that there already is an acknowledged "concensus." It's already there, and does not need that much discussion. But, then, on this issue you already know where I stand. ;)

Grosey's Messages said...

It would be fair to cite Historians of Australian Baptist history.
Dr. Ken Manley, a friend who you SBC would regard as in the liberal camp wrote an explanation of the Australian Baptists for the BWA recently.
http://www.bwa-baptist-heritage.org/hic-mnly.htm
Ken was principle of the Melbourne Baptist Theological college (Whitley College), and an eminent historian.
To quote two paragraphs

"(5)Charismatic renewal has affected all denominations in Australia, and especially Baptists where our large degree of congregational freedom has facilitated change. This has probably been the most dramatic change in the last two decades with the impact being felt in various ways including theology, worship, patterns of church life, ministry and leadership.

The most obvious changes have come in worship and nowhere is the current diversity of our life more apparent. Charismatic style may dominate but is not the only influence. Some churches have a liturgical structure, printed prayers, follow a lectionary, use Taize prayers. There may be banners, candles, drama, modern hymns and songs, many of Australian composition. More commonly, the service will be informal, with a variety of worship leaders, choruses will be sung, often repeated several times, with the words projected on to a screen. Hands will be raised or waved, clapping, bodily movement and very loud upbeat music is also common. Occasionally the traditional range of prayers is omitted. There are, however, many churches where the new is blended with the old in a constructive and helpful way.
As far as church life goes, some churches appoint self-perpetuating elders, or at least have a 'leadership team' which controls most aspects of church life. "

Also another CHurch Historian Dr. parker comments on the take over of many queensland Baptist churches by the charismatic movement:
http://werple.net.au/~dparker/BapChar.htm
http://werple.net.au/~dparker/bapcc.htm

Charismatic worship is distinguished from contemporary worship in Australian Baptist churches by public exceses of: tongues, slaying in the spirit, prophecyings, prosperity teaching, and apostleships.
I have tended to personally go for a blend of contemp and traditional hymns.
Steve

volfan007 said...

david,

are you concerned about what steve is describing in australia in regards to the charismatic extreme growing in sbc life? are you concerned that ppl people are just one step away from being tongue speakers in worship services, and they would want to spread this extreme in theology thru out the sbc?

you know where i stand concerning ppl. i hold to a "dont ask..dont tell.....keep in private...keep it to yourself and dont teach it and we'll be fine" stand. i personally dont believe in a ppl, but if someone has one, then they need to keep it private. i have at least one man in my church that has a ppl. as long as he keeps it private...we wont have a problem. i think that you and i agree on this, but the threat of charismatic extremes does concern me greatly. i have seen the damage they can do.

volfan007

Grosey's Messages said...

David, recently a survery of our church attending population ws cinducted.. 1.2 million respondents.
Here is the summation by the National Church Life group :
http://www.ncls.org.au/default.aspx?sitemapid=147

"As a very simple indicator of attender attitudes to the charismatic movement, a question on speaking in tongues was included in the survey. Speaking in tongues is endorsed by 27% of attenders and opposed by 21%. About half (52%) are neutral or do not have a view on the matter.

Not surprisingly, there are clear denominational differences in attitudes to speaking in tongues. Apart from Pentecostals (over 90% approval), Baptists and Churches of Christ have the highest levels of approval (37% and 34%), while the Seventh-day Adventist (4%), Lutheran (17%) and Presbyterian (17%) denominations have the lowest approval levels. Overall, 14% of attenders speak in tongues. Approximately 10% of attenders in the Catholic, Anglican, Uniting and other larger non-Pentecostal denominations speak in tongues, revealing the broad impact of the charismatic movement.


Half of all attenders have no opinion on speaking in tongues. Many attenders, particularly Catholics (62%), are either neutral or do not know what they think.


There is little difference in speaking in tongues across age groups in the Catholic Church. In Anglican and Protestant churches, younger adults are much more likely to do so: nearly 30% of 20 and 30 year olds do so, compared to 12% of 60 year olds and 7% of those over 70 years of age.


Such an age pattern is replicated in most denominations. A comparison of NCLS96 with results from 1991 shows that within Anglican and Protestant churches there has been little change in the proportion of attenders who speak in tongues. Small changes in the question used in the 1996 survey make it difficult to evaluate changes in approval/disapproval.


A phenomenon that occurred in some Australian churches in the 1990s was the Toronto Blessing (or ‘laughing revival´). In NCLS96 a sample of Aglican and Protestant attenders were asked about their feelings in regard to the Toronto Blessing. Some 21% approved, including 10% who had had an experience of the Toronto Blessing. More attenders (43%) were neutral and 36% disapproved.


Pentecostal attenders were most likely to have had such an experience (41%). Of the larger denominations 7% of Baptists had had the experience (of the Toronto Blessing #SG), although high percentages of Baptists (47%) disapprove (Most Baptist clkergy approve and encourage #SG). Few Anglican or Uniting Church attenders have experienced the Toronto Blessing (5% and 3%) and the majority have no opinion on the matter. Catholic attenders were not asked this question."


The two notes in brackets (#SG) are mine and are for clarification purposes.

It is a take over.
Steve

Jonathan K. said...

David,

I began commenting on Baptist blogs when I saw some local (Oklahoma) issues being discussed of interest, e.g. the Henderson Hills controversy, etc.

That opened my eyes to other issues, and because I have Baptist friends, these were/are the main motivations. Does that help you?

Blessings,
Jonathan

David Rogers said...

Steve (and Geoff & Vol Fan too),

I am not intending to dispute the reality of the situation you report in Australian Baptist life. You obviously know that first-hand, and I have never even been to Australia.

The point I am trying to make (and I believe Strider as well) is that PPL is not necessarily the unavoidable "slippery slope" to all the Charismatic extremes, such as the Toronto Blessing, slaying in the Spirit, prosperity teaching, etc. Also, there are definitely folks out there that I would consider to be Charismatic extremists, and some who even reach the point of being heretics. From your report (which I do not question) it would seem that Australia has more than its fair share of these types. However, at the same time, I am convinced there are many fine Pentecostal, Charismatic & Third Wave brethren who love the Lord with all their heart, and love his Word, and seek to submit to it as well. I do not believe that "opening up the door" to greater fellowship and cooperation in certain ministry projects with these brethren will necessarily prove to be counter-productive to us as Baptists. Yes, there may be plenty of "bath-water"; but let's not "throw out the baby" with it.

David Rogers said...

Jonathan,

Yes, that does help. Your presence and comments are welcome.

Strider said...

I agree with David's last comment. We can and must discern the baby and the bathwater. I hate prosperity teaching- it is a false god as far as I am concerned. But I know several young people who have a private prayer language who also hate prosperity teaching, who think the Toronto blessing is nonsense, who love the Word of God, and are deeply committed to finding and doing God's will every minute of every day.
I believe that God is raising up men and women who are totally sold out to Him and committed to following Him in every aspect of their lives like never before. Many of these have experimented with a private prayer language, with annointing with oil, with healing, with prophecy, etc. They have read about these things in the Word and they are committed to finding the truth of these regardless of what we say Baptists have traditionally believed.
Steve is describing a situation in Australia and like David I don't dispute that, but if I understand Steve he is also proscribing what we should think about all continualist practice and I don't buy that.
We have the Holy Spirit whom we can trust to teach us through the Holy Scriptures. We can be discerning without making blanket legal laws about continualist issues. In my opinion legalism is just as much error as harmful charismatic practices. We can not fight false teaching with false teaching.

Grosey's Messages said...

Umm strider.. I have not presented a cessationist position in this post... would you please show me where I have done that. I have made that statement elsewhere as a theological statement, not as a statement of personal enmity towards anyone else.
Now Strider, I ask you to examine your heart and see if you aren't filled with a legalistic hatred towards those who do not agree with you.
I have lived with charismatics all my life. I have pastored a charismatic church for 6 years, and have been invited back numerous times after moving on from there.
No one who knows me would accuse me of being a legalist nor of showing hatred and disdain towards charismatic people.
These charismatic folk I have pastored I have loved very dearly. They ring me for advice often.
Mr Strider, you are playing politics to say that I am a legalist.
It appears that you are making character attack for personal political gain. And that is sinful.
Steve

Strider said...

Dude, legalistic hatred... man if I am miscommunicating that badly then I had better quit while I am behind. I have qualified what I have said a couple of times by saying, 'if I understand what you are saying...' I guess I don't.
My blog is only positive as it relates stories of how the King is working in my life. I guess I will stick to that.
But I also work with good Southern Baptists whom I love and want to continue to work with. There are some who want them out. I will stand up for them.

Todd Nelson said...

David, Strider, and Jonathan,

I'm tracking with you. Interpreting 1 Cor 14 in such a way as to permit and guide the use of private (and public) tongues is not necessarily a gateway to all charismatic extremes. It's simply "believing the Bible" according to a sound grammatical-historical interpretation.

I eagerly await your fourth installment, David, because this is where the real divide is going to come. As evidenced by recent white papers and new institutional polices, some SB leaders view PPL as unbiblical, false, and dangerous teaching. Therefore, they want to draw new boundaries.

Personally, I think they're wrong. I find their exegesis faulty and their appeals to historic Baptist doctrine and practice unpersuasive. As far as I can tell, our Baptist forefathers never had to address charismatic/Third Wave teaching. So we must do some theologizing for ourselves. And this is a good thing. The challenges, obviously, are to remain charitable toward one another and to cooperate even when we disagree.

As to the rationale for the new boundaries, I have yet to see from IMB trustees or anyone (other than Steve Grose in Australia) an explanation of why these new policies are necessary at this time. (And Steve, I don't discount your bad experiences, but neither do I agree with your strong anti-charismatic theological stance. BTW, I have been to Brisbane and have many Aussie friends; a few are Baptists. :)

I read the lengthy Eitel-Patterson-Hadaway follow-up paper to Eitel's "Vision Assessment" and saw only two situations referenced related to the "neo-charismatic movement": one about a workshop in Central Asia on prayer walking, and another about a lady missionary who felt the need to exorcise her curtains. And none of the paper's recommended solutions mentioned rejecting applicants who admit to a PPL.

At the end of the day, even if we do agree to disagree on non-essential doctrines, the issue that may still divide us is the attitude that says, "The majority should not have to fund anyone who holds a position or practice we disagree with. Let them go do missions or teach theology with some other group."

It was this attitude on the part of northern abolitionist Baptists that led to the formation of the SBC in Augusta -- so southern Baptist slave-holders could be appointed as missionaries. Interesting irony, yes?

BTW, my Baptist ancestry precedes that Augusta meeting in nearby South Carolina back to at least 1790 and later in Macon, GA, from 1809. My farming slave-holding ancestors were Baptist pastors and deacons.

Regarding the past, however, I like the saying I picked up from Jack Hayford, "Our landmarks need not be our boundaries."

Praying and hoping for wisdom to prevail and the Kingdom to advance through all of us,
Todd