Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Application of Grudem's Article to the Current Situation in the SBC (Part 11)

We now come to the last of the eight questions that Wayne Grudem, in his article, Why, When, and For What, Should We Draw New Boundaries?, says we should ask when trying to determine “for what doctrinal and ethical matters should Christian organizations draw new boundaries”:

8. METHODS OF ADVOCATES: Do the advocates of this teaching frequently manifest arrogance, deception, unrighteous anger, slander, and falsehood rather than humility, openness to correction and reason, kindness, and absolute truthfulness?

In my opinion, many of the same things I wrote in my last post concerning question # 7 apply here to question # 8 as well. If we cannot be sure of someone else’s motives, unless there is specific evidence to the contrary, I believe we should give them the benefit of the doubt.

I suppose that on both sides of the specific questions being discussed here (“PPL” and “alien immersion”), there are certain advocates who at times have fallen into patterns of “arrogance, deception, unrighteous anger, slander, and falsehood,” and others who have, for the most part, maintained an attitude of “humility, openness to correction and reason, kindness, and absolute truthfulness.”

Whether or not we perceive any tendency one way or the other on the part of the advocates of either side of the discussion will depend, undoubtedly, on the various prejudices and presuppositions each one of us bring to the table with us as fallible human beings. Although I have done my best, in my discussion of these issues, to maintain an attitude of “humility, openness to correction and reason, kindness, and absolute truthfulness,” I would have to include myself as someone who, to one degree or another, is also tainted by my own subjectivity and personal preferences.

In the end, each one of us will have to answer before God...
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work (1 Corinthians 3.11-13).
Another observation that Grudem makes at this point that seems relevant to me with respect to the current situation in the SBC is the following:
In 1923, J. Gresham Machen, in his classic book Christianity and Liberalism, wrote about liberal Presbyterian professors and pastors who believed one thing but said another just to keep their jobs and their influence. They signed the doctrinal statement even though they disagreed with it, and there was a fundamental dishonesty in what they were doing.
It is my intention, in what I write on this blog, to be forthright and honest. At the same time, I am aware that it is one thing to speak the truth boldly, without regard for the consequences, and, at times, something else to “speak the truth in love.” I also recognize there is a time for discretion, and we must “choose our battles,” asking whether or not what we are discussing is truly “a hill big enough to die on.”

In addition to my views on the issues of “PPL” and “alien immersion,” I have already indicated, on another post, a minor discrepancy I have with one statement in the Baptist Faith & Message that, as I understand it, advocates the practice of “closed communion.” If “coming clean” regarding my beliefs on these issues ends up threatening my job security, I am prepared to face the consequences. I personally do not believe my views are incompatible with faithful service as an IMB missionary. If that day were to ever come, though, I do not think it would be right to quietly continue drawing my salary on Cooperative Program dollars, merely taking care not to “make waves” or “ruffle feathers” within the organization. Neither do I believe that it would be right for me, in the meantime, to cover up my beliefs, or give the impression I believe one thing, when I really believe another.

In the end, each one of us, before God, must act according to the dictates of his or her own conscience. I am hopeful, though, that in the Southern Baptist Convention, and in the various institutions that are supported by the Cooperative Program, we don’t fall into the trap of letting job security and/or opportunities for advancement within the organization determine the views we are willing to defend publicly.

Along this same line, Grudem closes out his article referencing, in relation to “for what doctrinal and ethical matters should Christian organizations draw new boundaries,” what he believes are “SOME WRONG QUESTIONS TO ASK.” Regarding this, he says:
It is important to add that there are some questions that should not be part of our consideration in deciding which doctrinal matters to exclude with new boundaries. These are questions such as the following:

- Are the advocates my friends?
- Are they nice people?
- Will we lose money or members if we exclude them?
- Will the academic community criticize us as being too narrow-minded?
- Will someone take us to court over this?
I am in agreement with Grudem here that “such questions are all grounded in a wrongful fear of man, not in a fear of God and trust in God.” Perhaps in regard to the specific issues being discussed here, we could add the question: "Will some within the denominational community criticize us for being too open-minded?" I pray that God may indeed grant all of us who are faced with making decisions over issues like the ones we are currently facing in the SBC grace to act, not out of “wrongful fear of man,” but rather out of “fear of God and trust in God.”


Strider said...

Well David, it seems to me you came to the point of saying it and then didn't say it. Parts 10 and 11 seem to indicate that those with a ppl have a perfectly good reason to break with us but we don't have any ground for breaking with them. They, at this point, don't want to break with us so I am happy to keep cooperating. I wonder how many will be persuaded though?
With so much at stake in this lost and dying world I pray that we leave this all behind and get on fighting the real enemy- the Church of Christ! No, no, just kidding. We have an enemy, the enemy of our souls and it is time we attacked the Gates of Hell instead of each other.

Trey Atkins said...

Another great word, David. Thanks for taking the time to do this series. You have made working through these issues much easier and more thoughtful.

I agree with your "not making waves" statement. Our personnel consultant talked to us some about the Lord's Supper and the various interpretations of closed, open, etc... I have never led nor been a member of a SBC church that practiced closed communion. It seems like you are on safe ground on that one. If not, see you in the unemployment line.

Trey Atkins
Croatia - IMB

stuart said...


When this series is over, please archive it all in one place.

Yours is the kind of well-argued writing that will prove helpful in the longrun, especially if the day should ever come when most SBs are ready to move beyond stereotypes and personalities.

G. Alford said...


Another good post…

I think a large part of the problem within the SBC today is how we see ourselves…

When we start to think that the SBC is a Church (which it is not) then we naturally think that everyone should look exactly like I look, worship exactly like I worship, and believe exactly like I believe. However when we remember that the SBC is a Community of individuals (autonomous churches, local associations, state conventions, schools, etc.) then it is ok, and even to be expected, that no two will be exactly identical.

The SBC is a “Missions Organization”, and not a Church. If we could only get everyone to understand this perhaps much of the division and fighting would end.

Grace to all,