In the nearly two years since I started Love Each Stone, I have referred on several occasions to the writings of Dr. Malcolm Yarnell, a theologian at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. While we share a common faith in the Lord Jesus, a common commitment to biblical authority, and a common desire to be obedient to the Great Commission, there appear to be some differences on issues of interpretation and emphasis that have led us to advocate different perspectives on various issues facing the Southern Baptist Convention today.
In the midst of several e-mails discussing some of these issues, Dr. Yarnell recalled my previous unanswered invitation to dialogue and suggested to me the possibility of opening up a public dialogue to be published here on Love Each Stone, in which we each make a sincere effort to really communicate with each other our perspectives. By the grace of God, perhaps this will open up some new windows for understanding that might help point the way forward for us as Southern Baptists, as we each seek to be faithful to the Lord's commands. Dr. Yarnell mentioned that this undertaking might be done loosely following the model set forth in the congenial yet forthright exchange of letters between Francis Wayland and Richard Fuller on the issue of slavery published in 1845. However, instead of focusing on the "negative institution of slavery," we would focus on the "positive institution of the Great Commission."
After praying over and meditating a bit on Dr. Yarnell's proposal, I have decided that this may indeed be a worthwhile endeavour, and have agreed to host and participate in the dialogue. In the midst of our e-mail conversations, it seems to both of us that a good starting place may be our various perspectives of the Great Commission and the implications thereof.
In one e-mail message to me, Dr. Yarnell suggested that "the issues that seem to be separating so many Southern Baptists" are perhaps "most strongly defined in the two of us." While, in a broad sense, there is truth in this, we both recognize there are most certainly other perspectives within the SBC that are not represented integrally by either of our opinions. With this in mind, we wish to make clear we do not pretend to speak for others and do not officially represent any other entity (whether the International Mission Board or Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) or individual. We are hopeful, however, that this dialogue may prove to be a source of positive reflection that may be used by the Lord to shed some light on the path before us all as fellow laborers in the Lord's harvest.
I have suggested to Dr. Yarnell that, after this introduction, he begin our dialogue with a presentation of the issues involved from his perspective. We have each agreed to do our best to keep each "letter" relatively brief. I will keep the comment section open, and may participate, as I see fit, in the comment strings. Dr. Yarnell may or may not respond to individual comments. Dr. Yarnell and I share a common hope that this dialogue will edify one another and the churches as we all seek to fulfill the Great Commission for the glory of God.
Letter #1, Two Requirements for a Universal Fulfillment of the Great Commission, by Malcolm Yarnell