A Matter of Emphasis?, by David Rogers
Inasmuch as my last letter was a bit on the lengthy side, this one will be a bit briefer than usual. The reason for this is, primarily, I don’t have a whole lot with which to contend in what you say in your last letter.
I certainly agree with you, for instance, that the “end-visioning” process must be subject to the dictates of Scripture, just as I indicated when I first alluded to it: “‘end-visioning’ involves envisioning, before God, out of a framework instructed by Scripture…”
Also, while I maintain my opinion regarding Carroll’s understanding of the universal church, I find nothing with which to object in the quotes you give in your last letter from Andrew Fuller.
I do think it is perhaps a bit unfair to equate Fuller’s use of the term “accommodation” with the modern-day missiological concepts of “contextualization” and “relevancy.” The term “accommodation,” as I understand it, implies a compromise of the truth for the sake of pragmatic expediency. While it is most certainly possible to compromise truth for pragmatic expediency in the name of “contextualization” and “relevancy,” I do not believe it is necessary. As missionaries, one of the primary practices we must seek to maintain is to divide correctly between eternal, unchanging principles and guidelines of the Word of God, and cultural applications of these same principles, which will almost always vary from context to context.
I would agree with you, however, in placing the general principles from 1 Cor. 14—“Let all things be done to edifying,” and “Let all things be done decently, and in order”—in the first category. I would also agree that, while the actual methods used for communicating this relationship and commitment may vary between cultural contexts, there is a very real sense in which a local church does indeed “covenant” together to carry out the various “one another” admonitions of the New Testament. Where I am not sure if you agree with me on this, and where I would go even further, is in saying that, as members of the universal church, we also have an implicit “covenant” relationship one with another, and a corresponding responsibility to carry out the same reciprocal attitudes and practices with each other.
I would also agree with you and Fuller regarding the need to submit to the positive rules of Scripture, such as those related to Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. By no means would I want to give the idea that our practice regarding such things is entirely a matter of personal preference.
If there is a real difference in what we are saying on the specific points referenced in your last letter, it seems to me it is, more than anything, a matter of emphasis. You seem to want to emphasize the local aspect of the church, while, at the same time, if I am interpreting you fairly, downplay the universal aspect. My aim, however, is not to downplay the importance of the local church, and church planting, in the task of obeying the Great Commission, but rather to give proper emphasis to the place of the universal church and Christian unity, which, due perhaps, in part, to the influence of Landmarkism in our Southern Baptist heritage, and the ecclesiology of some of our forefathers, such as Carroll, has, at times, languished. I am especially concerned, in light of what I consider to be biblical teaching on Christian unity, by traces I have observed of two related but different tendencies that might best be described by the terms “denominational isolationism” and “denominational imperialism.”
I am very much encouraged, however, by your reply to Tim Cook in the comment string of Letter #5. Although it still seems that we have a different understanding of the present-day reality of the universal church, we can at least agree that our union in Christ as fellow believers “means that we must seek ways to cooperate with one another.” I think I am not making too big of an assumption to conclude this includes not only fellow Baptists, but also all others who have truly entered into union with Christ by grace through faith, by virtue of the sacrificial atonement of Jesus at
Such being the case, I am optimistic that perhaps our real differences on these issues are not at a foundational level, but rather in different understandings of the best way, in practical day-to-day situations, of how to apply these principles.
Perhaps the most problematic part of your last letter for me, however, is found in the wording of the last paragraph, especially your statement: “I would state emphatically that the local church is the only body that Christ has established to proclaim the Word that saves the world.” Perhaps, I am not understanding you correctly. But it seems to me that you are here, in essence, disqualifying the missological legitimacy of all so-called “para-church” organizations. If such is not the case, I would be very open to consider your alternative explanation. For the meantime, though, I must withhold my definitive response to your question, until I feel I have a better grasp of the implications involved.
Having said that, I understand you would like to move the direction of our conversation towards a more direct consideration of Matthew 28:16-20. That sounds like a great idea to me. I will allow you to propose the specific matters to be discussed from this passage in your next letter.
Letter #7, Both the End and the Means are Established by the Lord, by Malcolm Yarnell Letter #8, A Matter of Emphasis?, by David Rogers Letter #9, Complete Obedience versus Hesitant Discipleship, by Malcolm Yarnell Letter #10, The Universal Scope of the Great Commission, by David Rogers Letter #11, Freedom, Power and Authority in the Great Commission, by Malcolm Yarnell Letter #12, Enduring Submission to the Great Commission, by Malcolm Yarnell Letter #13, Obeying the Commands of Jesus, by David Rogers Letter #14, John Gill on Romans 14 and 15:1-7, by David Rogers Letter #15, The Illustration of the Hypothetical "Common Loaf Denomination", by David Rogers Letter #16, A Condensed Response to Your Last Three Letters, by Malcolm Yarnell Letter #17, Further Discussion on Cooperation and Obedience, by David Rogers Letter #18 (Part I), Faith and Faithfulness: Truth, Love, and the Limits of Fellowship, by Malcolm Yarnell Letter #18 (Part II), Faith and Faithfulness: Truth, Love, and the Limits of Fellowship, by Malcolm Yarnell Letter #18 (Part III), Faith and Faithfulness: Truth, Love, and the Limits of Fellowship, by Malcolm Yarnell Letter #19, A Deep Division?, by David Rogers