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,



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,



Micah said...


It has been too long since I've commented on your blog. I apologize for the lapse. :-)

This interchange between you and Dr. Yarnell is heartening to me. I sincerely believe that Dr. Yarnell is committed to biblical accuracy and a return to it. At the same time I know you are equally committed to biblical fidelity and the application of that truth. This exchange helps us to see how the two can operate concurrently and yet run in slightly different directions.

It is my hope that Dr. Yarnell, and others, will see these legitimate, biblical attempts to understand God's word (like your own attempts) and, at the same time, recognize how their attempts to return to "baptist roots" can unintentionally exclude well studied, thoroughly baptist, biblical believers. It is important that we recognize this coming separation (be it intentional or not) and find some irenic way of addressing it.

Thanks for this!

Debbie said...

Amen to both Micah and David.

David, your response was well thought out and full of Christian grace. May I be a part of that tribe and may they increase.

Grosey's Messages said...

David, since Dr. Yarnell has so clearly stated the encessity of holding the two things in tandem, Baptist identity and the need to unite around gospel proclamation as the main intent, do you still feel the need to separate, as Micah indicates ("It is important that we recognize this coming separation") ?

Why would anyone seek such division?

Micah said...


No offense but you have significantly misunderstood me. I am not, nor are my friends in the "blogosphere" (i.e. Marty Duren, Art Rogers, Ben Cole and/or Wade Burleson) looking to separate ourselves. I can promise you that it is not our desire.

My point is a pragmatic point more than a point of purpose. I am merely pointing out the there appears to be a separation coming as a result of the marginalization of various individuals with varying degrees of methodological differences within SBC life.

My point is that I believe Dr. Yarnell, and others, believe that they truly desire unity and I do not think that they honestly recognize that they are functionally creating division with their statements. They may desire unity but what they are creating is otherwise.

This extends beyond Dr. Yarnell to the recent NAMB/IMB policies, SWBTS policies, and others. We are trying to come together by allowing for these differences to occur in tandem. It appears, to me and others, that they are accomplishing the opposite of that with their actions.

Anonymous said...

Thanks again for sharing your heart and mind so clearly. I hope the day will come when those like yourself will not have to be concerned with the issues that occupy so much of our time and energy. I was supportive and very active in the resurgence movement. I assure you that many of us never had in mind (or heart) the positions being espoused by some in leadership today.

It is time for the exclusion based on non-essentials to come to an end. It is clear where we as baptist stand on the scripture; now it is time to make it clear where we stand on the practice of scripture.

Rick White

Ken Sorrell said...


Fascinating interchange of thoughts and ideas. I guess simple minds have simple thoughts, thus my comments on your post.

Dr. Yarnell states in his letter to you, "I would beg of you not to let the issues that make us differ with one another overpower our common commitment in Christ." The sincerity of this statement I do not question, but it does seem paradoxical to say something like this when differing biblical positions on non-essentials, are in fact causing intense separation and isolation whether intended or not.

It is not a futile exercise to be reminded of our Baptist history and heritage, focusing on what has made us unique and fruitful in our efforts to take the Gospel to a lost world. I respond well to this idea and process. However, it would also serve us well to be reminded of the numerous people and events in our history and heritage where we found strength through our diversity and honest disagreement.

Modern day missionaries should be extremely grateful that a young William Carey stood firm in his belief that the Great Commission was still a valid command for the church, even though the religious leaders of the day had a "differing" biblical interpretation.

Anonymous said...

Its all about old and new wine skins. The old wine skins can't stand the fact that eveything can't be just like they had it in 1945.

Well it is 2007 and I for one will not rally around any flag, but that which is planted on the principle of Sola Scriptura!

All of the wrangling in Baptist life over the past two years has nothing to do with Bilbical truth but all to do with Baptist Tradition!

What we are struggling through is the fact that there are Baptists who are willing to take the innerrant, infalliable, and sufficient Word of God and let it ALONE direct their practice. In some places this does not agree with current Baptist Tradition. I am willing to agree to disagree on these non-essentials, it is they who say NO WAY, We are planting a flag, You must rally are you are not REALLY a SB. It is the spirit of the power of the pharisees and the sanhedrin manifested in these baptist brothers.

I have not doubt that Jesus is not a good Southern Baptist according to the criteria that we are hearing bantered about today.


Anonymous said...

Is there any concern that there may be words spoken to the son of Adrian Rogers that would not be spoken to other random SBCers who have similar sentiments? Are these words merely platitudes to David Rogers alone?

I do not know and am not claiming they are. Dr. Yarnell's words in other places speak for themselves. Steve Grosey above demonstrates quite amazingly how easily we can misunderstand and read what we want into others' words.

We aren't even good at clinging to Christ, are we? May God give us the grace to do so, because we have nothing else worth clinging onto.