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.”

35 comments:

Geoff Baggett said...

David,
Just a question. I've been dealing with some Landmarkism in my recent post on the "Baptism Quandry" on my blog. (Thanks for the link BTW) Pretty interesting stuff. But I was hoping you could answer a question for me.

Did Bellevue accept non-Baptist baptisms during your dad's pastorate? I heard some time ago that they did. I would be interested in knowing. Check out my post if you haven't looked lately.

David Rogers said...

Geoff,

I am not sure of the exact baptism policy at Bellevue under my Dad's pastorate. Sorry not to be of more help.

volfan007 said...

geoff and david,

my family came over to bellevue from a methodist church. we were baptised again. david, dale palmer did the baptising.


volfan007

David Rogers said...

Vol Fan,

Just checking to make sure I'm understanding correctly. Had your family previously been immersed as believers in a Methodist church?

volfan007 said...

david,

i'm not sure about my mom...she was baptized by an old time, southern methodist church. so, i'm thinking that she was immersed in a pond somewhere. my brother and i were not immersed. we were sprinkled on top of the head. my dad had been southern baptist before going to the methodist with my mom. but, that was never asked of us that i can remember. i believe we were just asked what church we were coming out of to join bellevue. i really dont remember being asked if i was immersed or not. i remember them asking if we were saved. i wasnt, but i said yea....i was young and thought i had to be....you know, i believed in God and had joined a church and such. but, i dont remember them asking much more than that.

volfan007

David Rogers said...

Vol Fan,

If I understand Geoff correctly, he was not asking about supposed "baptisms" that were not immersions, or did not take place after someone's conversion.

As I understand the issues in the SBC today, no one (or practically no one) is questioning that authentic baptism is by immersion, and for believers only.

volfan007 said...

david,

what i said was that i dont even remember being asked if i had been immersed or not. in other words, when the counselor up front heard methodist, he told us that we would have to be baptised again. we agreed, because we felt that bellevue's where we needed to be.

and besides, my mom may have been immersed after salvation at an ole time methodist church. i'm not sure, but she was probably baptised at some pond. but, i dont remember her even being asked. thats my point. no one said....where yall immersed or sprinkled? being a methodist just meant getting baptised again....as far as i can remember. i was young.

volfan007

Ben Stratton said...

Bro. David,

About five years ago there was a man pastoring in my local association in western KY who had been on staff at Bellevue in the 1990's. He told me that Bellevue did not receive alien immersion (non-Baptist immersions).

Strider said...

Either this comment string is missing the point of your post or I don't understand it. I guess a point is trying to be made about your dad's church but I don't get it. I am on the field now but I was a pastor for four years in West Virginia. As a pastor the baptism policy makes my blood boil. Bellevue can have whatever baptism criteria it wants for it's membership as long as it is believer's baptism by immersion. No one can tell me who my church members can or can not be. And if my church has decided that these are our members then the agency that we have formed and support for the purpose of our own fullfilling of the Great Commission has no business telling us that the folk we send them are not Southern Baptist. They might be in poor health, they might be mentally unstable, they might be heretics, they might be incompetent- fine disqualify them- but you have no business telling us they are not Southern Baptist.
I do not understand why more pastors of Southern Baptist Churches are not screaming about this. If there is such a thing as a SB distinctive it is the autonomy of the local church and the utter rejection of any kind of 'governing body' that would tell us what to do. If Baptists have caved on this one then I have no idea who we are or who I am now supposed to be representing.
And as long as I am on this rant let me go off on the tongues issue. SB's made their choice about tongues in the late sixties early seventies. The Charismatic movement came in and was divisive and SB's rejected it utterly. 'Charismatic' is an uglier label than liberal in SB life today. Now the IMBoT have passed a policy on tongues and only one thing will be concluded in the minds of small town pastors across the convention. If they passed a policy then there must have been a big problem. It has been demonstrated many times that there was not a problem, is not a problem. No one in the IMB or anywhere else that anyone knows about is promoting charismatic practices in SB life. But now that a policy HAD to be passed it is abundantly clear to the people across our convention that there must have been a big problem to be dealt with. We on the field have been slandered by this policy. Period. As far as I am concerned the BoT has accused us all of being charismatics that need to be controled and this will go a long way to destroying cooperation among SB's who hate all things charismatic. Many in the blog world have tried to argue that this doctrine on ppl is plausible but among the vast majority of SB's that only convinces them that there was a problem after all. There is not a problem, has not been a problem, would not ever be a problem if we just drop this policy and get back to doing what we were doing pre fall of 05.
Let me be clear that I am a continualist. I have known men and women who have had this 'gift'. I don't have a problem with that. But as an SB I know who are constituency is and this issue has been decided 30 years ago. We need to drop it. It is not a matter of contention in our Convention. The question I have is who wanted to make this an issue and why? It was not those few who do ppl quietly.

Grosey's Messages said...

Ummm (ummm hermeneutically for me [ref. Cheshire cat interpretative locus] means, I am not being combative, just raising with you something that you may not be aware of, and may not appreciate to have raised with you) Strider,

There was an IMB missionary from SE Asia commented on this blog that he is experiencing high levels of Charismatic extremism in the countries (plural) in which he works.
https://www2.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=22575956&postID=116059396838931709

I think from personal emails I have received from IMB missionaries in the SE Asia region that it may be fair to say that the problem may be way bigger than you think.


Steve

Winning Truth w/Tim Guthrie said...

Strider,
You are mistaken. I have had a missionary in my church in 2006 who confirmed to me that they are dealing constantly with a rise of Charasmatic issues being pushed on the mission field.

There has also been an influence in the SBC pushing this since the nineties with the Third Wave platform.

Grosey's Messages said...

I guess the PPL thingy is no biggy, after all I see that SBCers are joining with Oneness Pentecostals now.
http://www2.hillsong.com/conferences/hillsong/default.asp?pid=1013&hidetitle=yes

Who would have thought, TD Jakes, Ed Young Jr. and Louie Giglio preaching the same gospel on the same programme.
TD Jakes comes from a United Pentecostal background. He pastors The Potter’s House (Dallas, Texas) one of America’s fastest-growing megachurches. He is also a leader and elected bishop of the “Higher Ground Always Abounding Assemblies,” a network of Oneness Pentecostal churches - though not identified as such at the T.D. Jakes Ministries web site:

Who’d have thought that the Trinity has become one of those third tier doctrines in the SBC?
Still as long as they speak in tongues they must be ok? right? fellas?

Steve

Strider said...

I understand having to 'deal with charismatic issues' to be different than there are IMB M's seeking to teach tongues speaking. I have never seen or heard of such a case that did not result in the resignation of the individual under the old policies. The BOT has been ask repeatedly to give evidence of out of control practices that were not addressed by the current administration and have given none.
It is true I only know the folks in my region. Sure, we are the best region but that is beside the point. From here in Middle Earth I know of no issues. If the SBC is dealing with some kind of third wave deal back in the US then what I ask is for the controversy to stay there and not slander the excellent work that we are doing over here. (By the way, I had never heard of the 'third wave' thing until I saw it on David's blog.

Strider said...

Sorry David, one more from me. I have reread my comments here and they don't look like who I think I am. They look kind of angry. It ain't me-usually. I don't want to get into a he said- she said- I knew an M who once said kind of argument. It is not edifying.
I think we need to get back to David's post and the reasons for it. Can we as SB's be discerning of God's will? Can we find what he wants us to do without pulling each other apart? If we can not then we disqualify ourselves from taking the gospel to the nations in the first place. I will stand for truth, allow God to reveal Himself in my life and ministry, and be loving to others.
That's me finished.

David Rogers said...

Tim,

It would be helpful, in order to truly understand each other, if you could clarify:

1. What are the specific "Charismatic issues" being "pushed"?

2. Who is "pushing" them? (I'm not asking for names of people, just want to know, do you mean IMB missionaries or administration is pushing them? Or someone else?

David Rogers said...

Steve.

1. I don't see what Ed Young Jr.'s participation in the Hillsong Conference has to do with the issue at hand.

2. I don't see how sharing the stage with someone necessarily means you endorse their teachings.

3. Who ever said anything remotely close to: "as long as they speak in tongues they must be ok"?

David Rogers said...

Strider,

No need to apologize. I always appreciate your comments. And I think you add a good dimension to the discussion.

Grosey's Messages said...

Wow David,
So would you cooperate with Oneness (antitrinitarian) pentecostals too?
Steve

David Rogers said...

Steve,

I have normally enjoyed my correspondence with you. But I must be honest and say that your last comment seems a bit disingenuous to me.

I will answer your question if you answer me first:

1. What doees Ed Young Jr.'s participation in the Hillsong Conference have to do with the issue at hand?

2. How does sharing the stage with someone necessarily mean you endorse their teachings?

3. Who ever said anything remotely close to: "as long as they speak in tongues they must be ok"?

4. What do you define as "cooperation"?

Grosey's Messages said...

I am sorry David,
There is nothing disingenious here.
I am actually deeply shocked and distressed.
Maybe I have got it wrong, but I sincerely thought that a person's view of the trinity was a basic salvation issue.
And for that reason I am shocked.



1. What doees Ed Young Jr.'s participation in the Hillsong Conference have to do with the issue at hand?

Ummm the issue at hand is cooperation. Here is an example of someone I held high as an example of SB's, innovative in evangelism, innovative church planter, son of a former President of the SBC, publicly advertised (the front cover of the advertising says "Unity/Courage/Justice/Freedom FUTURE")
as supporting preacher to T.D.Jakes.
I am confused. TD Jakes? {otter's House? I have tried to evangelise Potter's House people here who are antitrinitarian by using Charles Stanley's book on the Holy Spirit.

2. How does sharing the stage with someone necessarily mean you endorse their teachings?


I guess I answered that. The advertising says "Unity"

3. Who ever said anything remotely close to: "as long as they speak in tongues they must be ok"?

Oh sorry, just the pentecostal pastors I have talked to about the immorality problems on the staff of Hillsong that become public every couple of years (pedophilia, adultery, fraud etc which are covered up by the leadership and not disciplined until the major newspapers call them to account here in Australia. I am not "making a case" just stating well known facts).


4. What do you define as "cooperation"?

Cooperation. joining in any task with common goals.

I would assume that given the advertising, the promotion and the proselyting done at Hillsong conferences that this is the common goal, and the common belief.

I guess I am naive. I have encountered cooperation in SBC circles before where I have thought it was doubtful... but with an antitrinitarian? a modalist? Never before.

Does this not touch to the nature of the gospel itself?
Truly David, I am shocked, just plain shocked.
I have enjoyed immensely Louie Giglio's ministry at 1st Baps Houston over the years (I received their tapes for about 7 years). I guess this is why I am distrssed and confused.
There is nothing disingenious here... just plain shocked. I guess if this is the way that the christian world is going, embracing antitrinitarianism under the guise of Pentecostalism (hey I read Chuck Norris' experience at The Potters' House yesterday at a bookshop), then maybe I should just pack up and quit.

Steve

volfan007 said...

steve,

hang in there, mate! there are still thousands out here who will not stand for the sbc to go down the tubes of charismatic extremes and errors and heresies.

volfan007

David Rogers said...

Steve,

Would you consider my father's Love Worth Finding program airing on TBN to be cooperation with Benny Hinn, and others like him?

volfan007 said...

david,

would your dad have held a bible conference with benny hinn, or jim and tammy faye bakker in the day when they were going strong? i very seriously doubt it.

volfan007

Grosey's Messages said...

David,
What's a TBN?
Steve

Jonathan K. said...

David and Steve,

Sorry for interrupting, but there are a few points I'd like to chime in on.

First, the purpose of the Hillsongs conference, as I understand it, is not to really proselytize, but to equip and build-up believers. It is not an evangelism conference, but rather a conference for believers, etc.

Second, a person's view of the Trinity is not necessary a basic salvation issue. The basic idea required for salvation is found in Romans 10:9-10, which says, "If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation." This passage says nothing about the Trinity. But it does say what one must do in order to be saved.

Third, I don't think sharing the stage with someone means you endorse what they believe. Clearly, Hillsongs does not endorse everything Ed Young Jr. believes, because Hillsongs is AG and Ed Young is SB. I believe David's question about TBN is most appropriate. TBN, which is Paul Crouch's Trinity Broadcasting Network, airs Southern Baptist programming, such as "Love Worth Finding" and "In Touch" with Dr. Charles Stanley. But it also airs Ed Young Jr. It also airs Benny Hinn. It also airs Brian Houston (the pastor at Hillsongs). It also airs a lot of other ministers, who you may or may not find objectionable. I don't think I would consider that "cooperation," but I would consider that "sharing the same stage." There's a big difference.

Blessings,
Jonathan

Grosey's Messages said...

Aaah its tv station? we in the Southern Hemisphere can't get it nor ACTS (which I am more familiar with). The only tv we have is 80% pentecostal shows and that's in Sydney.
I thought you guys have to buy air time?
Isn't it just buying air time?
Ok.. so the Trinity isn't about salvation? It really is a third tier deal? Its no big deal to reject the Trinity?
Here in Sydney, we only get two or so big conferences of any sort per year. Whoever puts it on sets the agenda for "evangelicalism".
Hillsong basically takes out most of our Baptist folks and makes them Pentecostal.. and I guess now UPC! (They have meetings where they demand you spek in tongues if you go out for counselling.. friends have had that experience forced on them).

We choose to support the Sydney anglican /Prebyterian based Katoomba convention, rather than the Hillsong one because they actually preach from the Bible at their conferences (not my statement,its the statement of an American AOG lecturer in theology in Aust.), and counselling isn't about tongues or deliverance, its about the gospel.



Steve

David Rogers said...

Okay, guys, I've really got issues swimming around from all sides here now. Either I could just stop here, and not respond at all. Or I can carefully try to respond as best as I know how to each point. At the risk of getting in even deeper, I will do the second. But I would ask that we all do our best to try to hear what everyone else is saying as objectively as possible, as well as to see the heart of our brothers in Christ, who are trying their best to glorify Him.

First of all, Steve, I do think the Trinity is a big issue. By no means do I consider it "second" or "third-tier." At the same time, I would tend to agree with Jonathan that it is not necessary to understand difficult theological concepts such as the Trinity in order to truly repent and trust in Christ for salvation. I would question, though, how someone who, when confronted with the biblical evidence, refused to believe the divinity of Christ, or refused to submit to the Lordship of the Holy Spirit, could truly be saved.

Next, there are some things I may not consider wise, or that I may self may not do. But I am not ready to "throw stones" at someone else who chooses to do it. I believe Romans 14 addresses these situations. I do not know Ed Young, Jr. personally, though I do know his Dad and one of his brothers. I do not know Louie Giglio at all. I basically know Hillsong by their music, and what Steve has said from time to time. And T.J. Jakes from advertisements in magazines, etc. From all I can observe, I would agree that it does not seem to be a wise thing for someone from a theologically conservative SBC background to publicly identify with Hillsong and T.J. Jakes on the stage in an event on "Unity." However, I do not know all of the details, and prefer to let my brothers answer to the Lord on this one.

I do know that the whole issue of "second degree separation" has wreaked havoc in the Body of Christ, and led to much division that I consider to be anything but honoring to Christ. There are nuances to be considered, though. Vol Fan is probably right, in that my Dad would not have likely been on the same Bible Conference line-up with Benny Hinn and the Bakkers back in their PTL days. Yet, in addition to LWF, he has appeared on the Paul and Jan Crouchs' Praise the Lord show and been interviewed by them on several occasions, as well as CBN and Pat Robertson, and others in a similar line. He also has participated in evangelistic campaigns in India with K.A. Paul, who, from what I understand, is big into healing. Neither is my Dad our infallible guide for "faith and practice." But, I think the example still serves to show that things aren't always so "black and white" as we would sometimes like them to be.

In any case, I would appreciate it if we could try to discuss the points directly treated in the post. I feel this has been a digression, though, I have tried to respond, in the interest of maintaining open communication.

Jonathan K. said...

David and Steve,

My turn to make some comments.

First, let me make an important distinction. I believe there is a difference between what one must believe in order to be saved, and first-tier doctrine. I do not believe one must understand every piece of first-tier doctrine, including the Trinity, in order to be saved. I believe all that is required, in one's understanding, is what is in Romans 10:9. The Bible makes clear that the natural man (and the natural mind) cannot comprehend spiritual things. Why should we expect a new believer to fully understand the Trinity when he is first born again? I say we need to teach the Trinity to people after they are saved, as part of the necessary discipleship that must take place. Amen?

Steve,

Even as a charismatic, I think its wrong to force someone to speak in tongues if they go out for counseling. But, because I wasn't there, I'm not going to say that is what happened automatically.

David,

I think your comments are exactly right on... Now lets get back to the topic at hand!

Blessings,
Jonathan

Grosey's Messages said...

Yes David and Jonathon,
I do apologise for getting off the discussion question. I am reacting to something of a crisis in our country.
It does however impact on the question of cooperation in the most direct way. Thank you for your comments David particularly.
We exercise faith in Christ to be saved.. but which Christ? If someone is born of God, then , yes, their theological understanding grows, and the Holy Spirit of God keeps them from straying deeply into theological error, particularly on the issue of the Trinity. 1 John 2:22 Who is the liar, if not the one who denies that Jesus is the Messiah? He is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son can have the Father; he who confesses the Son has the Father as well. 24 What you have heard from the beginning must remain in you. If what you have heard from the beginning remains in you, then you will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that He Himself made to us: eternal life. 26 I have written these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 27 The anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you don’t need anyone to teach you. Instead, His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie; just as it has taught you, remain in Him.

2JohnMany deceivers have gone out into the world; they do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch yourselves so that you don’t lose what we have worked for, but you may receive a full reward. 9 Anyone who does not remain in the teaching about Christ, but goes beyond it, does not have God. The one who remains in that teaching, this one has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your home, and don’t say, “Welcome,” to him; 11 for the one who says, “Welcome,” to him shares in his evil works.

I know this sounds like second degree separation.. but I think this separation over issues of the Person and work of Christ is biblical.

Does this have any implications in the current debate?

I again apologise for distracting you from the question immediatly at hand, and I must say, I did not sleep last night over the issue (the previous issues haven't disturbed my sleep... I learnt to leave many probs with the Lord when I had direct intimidation over getting 2 lots of drug barrens jailed ... and several related events). But this situation has worried and disturbed me immensely.
I apologise again for my shocked reaction.
Thank you for your patience.
Steve

David Rogers said...

Jonathan,

Thanks for your clarification. I think the distinction you make is indeed legitmate.

Steve,

Thanks also for your understanding, and "staying with me." I do not feel myself to be very far from you, if any at all, regarding your concern for blatant heresy to the point of denying the Trinity.

However, I just want to make sure you understand that, when I use the term "second-degree separation," I am not referring to separation over issues I consider to be of secondary importance, but rather to separating with someone who may himself be completely orthodox in their beliefs, but who fellowships or cooperates with someone else who is not. It may legitmately concern us that a true brother does not have more discernment. But, in my opinion, lack of discernment is not a biblically justified motive for separation.

Stephen Pruett said...

Grudem's 1st point (how certain are we?) is critical. As clearly demonstrated on several blogs, there is more than enough reason from the Bible to be UNcertain that the IMB is correct in its PPL and Baptism interpretations. The problem is that those who are CERTAIN have little interest in rationally and objectively considering the Bible. None of them have explained why IICorinthians 14:15 and 14:28 do not provide biblical support for a PPL. They simply continue to assert that there is no such thing and they are CERTAIN about it. Grudem's idea would work if most Baptists took an objective and humble approach to scripture, but I do not think that reflects the current reality.

Geoff Baggett said...

David,
I'm sorry for getting everything off-subject. :)

I have been involved, recently, in an ongoing baptism discussion on my blog. You can tell where I stand on the issue by my post, comments, and the stand of my church.
When I served on Staff at Cordova Baptist Church (just down the road from Bellevue) back in the early 1990's, I was under the impression that BBC did, indeed, receive people by baptism from other denominations. I can't point to a single event or piece of information that led me to that conclusion. I just remember that people compared Bellevue to one of the other local church of a distinctly liberal flavor and they said, "well, at least they agree on the baptism issue." i.e. - Immersion was acceptable even within a non-Baptist church.

Anyhow, I truly am sorry for starting the entire thread off on the wrong track. I'll just e-mail you next time. ;^)

BTW ... I had one of the chaplains that I mentioned in my baptism post actully make a comment. It was pretty awesome. I hope he visits again!

David Rogers said...

Geoff,

I understand your concerns, especially after reading the background on your blog. And I appreciate you not intending to "hi-jack" the post. I will tell you that my impression (though, once again I don't know all the details) would be that Bellevue's baptism policy under my Dad's pastorate was more or less "middle of the road" by Southern Baptist standards (not as strict as some, and not as open as others).

OCHands said...

David,
I have always been impressed with your posts on your blog as well as on the blogs of others. You have what I consider to be a balanced view of theology and cooperation among Baptists and evangelicals.

We were blessed to have your father in Taiwan for a crusade, and enjoyed the fellowship with him and your mother.

As I read the posts and comments on various blogs, I became somewhat discouraged because it seemed as though there was no common ground among believers. The view of some seemed to be "I am right and you are wrong--so there is no way I can cooperate with you." Rather than finding ways of cooperating with each other (as Baptists have done in the past) we seem to be drawing ever-narrowing lines in the sand.

In the midst of what appears to me to be total confusion, the thought came to me that perhaps we are living in the last days. And if so, then what if God were preparing an end-time harvest the like of which we have never seen, but if we could see it we would not be able to believe what we were seeing. Because when God does a mighty work, he is not confined to denominatinal borders, nor does he need to consult with the right leader or group of leaders to get their approval before demonstrating his mighty power.

That is precisely what I believe is happening. We are seeing many great things being accomplished in the Kingdom of God, and the potential of reaching the whole world for Christ has never been more within our reach than now. But we are quibbling over how a person prays to God in his private prayer life, and who has the authority to baptize those applying to go to foreign countries to share the gospel. The irony is that those who are making these decisions to bar certain people from representing Baptists overseas would likely not want to be candidates themselves.

My point is this: I believe that God is truly preparing to reap a harvest all over the world, and the in-fighting and bickering we see taking place within the various Christian bodies are simply the stirrings of the Spirit much like the wind that begins to stir among the trees and leaves prior to the arrival of a mighty storm.

So, rather than fighting with our brother over what may be minor theological issues, we should be praying together to ask God to prepare us for the harvest--to make us ready to face the challenges of multitudes coming to faith in Christ and needing discipling and guidance in the Christian faith. Rather than spending our time and efforts in trying to make our convention "pure" in doctrine, we should be spending our time before the Lord, asking him to "purify the sons of Levi, that we may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness."

When Jesus spoke of the work of the Spirit, he indicated that it would be difficult to predict what he would do--he would come like the wind, which we cannot control or foretell where it will go. So I believe it will be in these latter days. The harvest is being prepared, will we be ready for it, or will we fail to be involved in the reaping because it doesn't look "Baptist" to us. The Mississippi river is a good example of the way the Spirit moves. Many have tried to control this great river, only to wake up the next morning to find that it had cut a new channel and had gone on its way. This does not mean that
the Holy Spirit will do something contrary to God's word. However, he may very well do things that go outside the borders we have erected, and cross over lines that we have drawn. Remember that when Jesus came the first time, it was not the religious leaders who welcomed him. No, they constantly found fault with him--he did not come from the right location, he did not observe all the rules that the religious leaders had made. In fact, it was the religious leaders who advocated his death. They simply were not prepared for His coming.

I pray that we would spend our time drawing closer to the Lord and preparing ourselves to be used in a great way in the harvest that is ahead.

David Rogers said...

Brother Milton (ochands),

Thanks for your words of grace and wisdom forged in the wealth of 34 years of missionary experience in Asia and Latin America.

I join you in praying that indeed "we would spend our time drawing closer to the Lord and preparing ourselves to be used in a great way in the harvest that is ahead."