Monday, September 17, 2007

Rogers-Yarnell Dialogue on the Great Commission, Letter #16

A Condensed Response to Your Last Three Letters, by Malcolm Yarnell

Dearest David,

Your last three letters clarify the basis of your desire for unity among those who claim to be Great Commission Christians. If I am not misreading, the thesis in letters 13 ("Obeying the Commands of Jesus") and 14 ("John Gill on Romans 14 and 15:1-7") is that Christians should not divide over "secondary matters" or "disputable matters." You then provide the example of the use or not of the "common loaf" in your addendum letter ("The Illustration of the Hypothetical ‘Common Loaf Denomination’").

Clarification Regarding "Faith" and "Order"

Before proceeding to answer your thesis, please allow me to clarify one important issue: the distinction between faith and order that apparently caused some concern. Although I recognize the common theological distinction between faith and order, the thrust of my last letter (#12, "Enduring Submission to the Great Commission") was that the distinction never excuses disobedience to Jesus Christ. The only reason that I introduced the terminology of "faith" and "order" is because it is an established one that many theologians find useful and may help you in our conversation. (It actually does not help my argument.)

Moreover, another reason I raised the distinction is that it appears to be part of your own argument. The distinction that you use, following Gill, is between "what really matters" or "the grace of faith" on the one hand, and "secondary matters" or "disputable matters" on the other hand. You then proceed to define these "secondary matters" in terms of "order" with your subsequent references to "baptism by immersion" and "common loaf." David, as far as I can see, you have followed the very distinction that I introduced, but circuitously rather than directly.

The distinction of "faith" and "order" seems to be, though I might be misinterpreting you here, at the bottom of your search for a "hierarchy of values." I sought to limit the usefulness of this common distinction with this sentence: "Speaking and expositing about the essential of one’s ‘faith’ in Christ while dismissing the essential of obeying the ‘order’ established by Christ is utterly sinful." Unfortunately, I do not seem to have won you over to my position in this regard, for you still seem to treat at least some dominical issues of "order" as "secondary" and perhaps even "disputable."

Where Do You Stand?

With that clarified, perhaps you could help me interpret your letters better. Tell me if I am wrong, but you seem to waver on the issue of whether matters of "order" are important or not. On the one hand, you say such things as, "[W]e will not be judged according to our observance of all the different rules and regulations given to us by God in his Word." Again, you say, "However, when it comes to obedience of some commands of Jesus, at least from a certain perspective, it would appear the intent of the heart, despite the degree of correctness of our understanding, is indeed what really matters." This suggests that disciplined obedience to Christ’s commands is not something with which disciples should be overly concerned.

On the other hand, you then defend believers-only baptism in a comment thread on the blog of Micah Fries, who copied your "Common Loaf Baptists" post. I will remind you of your assertion there: "As far as timing and mode of baptism are concerned, I would be inclined to agree that a ‘baptism’ that is not after a true conversion, or that is not by immersion, is not an authentic baptism." This suggests you believe that disciplined obedience to Christ’s commands, at least with regard to the order of baptism, is something with which disciples should be very concerned.

David, if I were to make a guess, it would be this: you, my friend, are still searching out exactly what you believe in many of these matters! Such doctrinal growth is admittedly part of the Christian life, but my fear is that you have been brought to a precarious position by some of the worrisome trends in modern missionary thought and practice. These worrisome trends include, among many others, a confusion as to what exactly constitutes a Great Commission Christian, the invention of a distinction between "Baptist" and "baptistic," the affirmation or denial of the perspicuity of Scripture, confusion as to what it really means to cooperate with other Christians, and lack of clarity regarding a Baptist hierarchy of values.

The Definition of a Great Commission Christian

First and most germane to our ongoing conversation, please consider the definition of Great Commission Christians. It seems that the hasty move to recognize other evangelicals as Great Commission Christians has introduced thoughts and practices that undermine the biblical mandate. Rather than rehearsing the historical basis of this destructive error in Southern Baptist life, David, let me propose that we seek to answer the following question: Does a Great Commission Christian have to obey the Great Commission of Jesus Christ in its entirety and in its God-given order, or may we summarily dispense with some aspects of it, or practice it contrary to the God-given order, or emphasize something else?

The problem in postmodern missionary practice in the Southern Baptist Convention is largely due to the unwillingness to maintain the beliefs that our biblicist forefathers held in this matter. In other words, David, let us be clear that on the basis of the long-standing Baptist interpretation of the Great Commission, the following groups specifically do not qualify to be called Great Commission Christians: Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians (and other Reformed Churches), Non-Baptist Congregationalists, Quakers, Methodists, Pentecostals, and Assemblies of God. I will not provide an exhaustive list, for that would require a dictionary, but suffice it to say that any other Christian group that believes or practices what these Christian denominations distinctively believe and practice may not be legitimately classified as Great Commission Christians, even if some of them may be classified as "evangelicals."

The reasons that these Christian churches do not deserve to be classified as Great Commission Christians are that they violate Christ’s will in one or more of these three ways: 1) They do not obey the entirety of the Great Commission. 2) They do not follow the order of the Great Commission. Specifically, many of them place baptism prior to the making of disciples. 3) They do not emphasize the faith delivered by our Lord, but add other requirements. For instance, some of them elevate or transform the gifts of speaking in tongues or of healing, and then seek to sway other Christians to their unbiblical positions.

"Unrepentant Sinners" and "The Baptist Renaissance"

The errors of these other Christian churches are why some Baptists are more than willing to refer to them as "unrepentant sinners." When you disobey Christ, you are a "sinner." When you refuse to change your ways, you are "unrepentant." Thus, those who refuse to repent from their disobedience of Christ are "unrepentant sinners." This terminology seems to rub evangelical ecumenists in an especially noticeable way, which is probably why some of us readily use it. It helps bring forward important issues that are being buried in the rush of some naïve and errant children of the free churches to convert to Azusa Street, Canterbury, Geneva, Rome, and Constantinople.

The use of this language is not a claim, however, that such people are not Christians. Rather, it is a claim that they need to repent and follow Christ alone and in full. Moreover, the use of this language is not a claim that Baptists are superior to other Christians. Rather, it recognizes that God has given Baptists further illumination with regard to His Word. This compels us to help others understand His Word better. The gift of further illumination of God’s Word carries with it a greater responsibility to teach that Word with conviction and humility. Baptists are not perfect Christians, but Baptists are responsible for obeying and proclaiming with conviction what they do know, and for seeking to know even more from God’s inerrant Word.

Moreover, Baptists would do well to listen humbly to other Christians in order to learn what we may. This does not stifle communication with other Christians, but calls for it. However, this is a call for informed communication and convictional witness rather than sentimental gullibility in the name of "Christian unity." This is probably the one area where most of my detractors have totally misread me. Indeed, they might be surprised to learn that when living in a foreign country, I learned to disagree agreeably while maintaining an ecclesial distance alongside a spiritual harmony with other believers who were not Baptists. I may appreciate evangelical Anglicans and Presbyterians for their understanding of the Gospel, but I have learned not to surrender the biblical order in the name of Christian unity even when living in a difficult context where Christians are a small minority.

When I speak of a "Baptist Renaissance," I am not compelled by Baptist hubris, but by a dynamic biblical conviction. I am a Baptist because I believe that our churches are the closest examples to the churches that Christ established in the New Testament. This does not mean we are perfect, for we are decidedly not! One need only consider the continuing erosion of our fidelity to Christ in the matters of baptism, the Lord’s Supper, church discipline, and the priority of proclamation to know better. What it does mean is that the Baptist tradition is a purer and deeper tradition than any existing alternative, for it is intentionally grounded in the oldest Christian tradition, that of the apostles and of Christ Himself. If I may continue the city metaphor, we should bypass these other cities and be content with Jerusalem as our home.

A Positive Conclusion

David, I mentioned four other issues wherein there appears to be some indefiniteness in your theology: the distinction between "baptistic" and "Baptist," the affirmation or denial of the perspicuity of Scripture, the true meaning of cooperation, and this idea of a hierarchy of values. Rather than discuss what seems to be an equivocal treatment of these ideas, let me conclude with a positive review of some of your other ideas.

First, please allow me to laud you on your love for other people, especially other Christians. I wish that all of us had that deep love for "each stone" that you have. You, my friend, are a treasure. Second, please note that I generally agree with your review of Romans 14, although I disagree with your characterization of John Gill, and I wonder at what exactly you would classify as "disputable matters." Believers-only baptism by immersion is beyond dispute (and here Gill would agree with me), and that includes not only the subject of baptism, but the mode of baptism, too. According to Paul, the mode of baptism as immersion is what makes baptism symbolically powerful. Baptism by immersion is the only mode that properly represents the death and resurrection of our Savior (Romans 6:1-6).

Third, although I actually agree with your preference for the "common loaf" as better fulfilling the meaning of 1 Corinthians 10, I do not think it is as debilitating a problem as baptism by sprinkling or by pouring. The fact is that the common loaf symbolizes church unity while baptism by immersion symbolizes the Gospel itself. Finally, please allow me again to thank you for the privilege of interacting with you and your readers. I love you more every day, my brother in Christ, even when I question your theology, especially your ecclesiology. In the midst of our discussions, I find that my own theology grows under the influence of your love. Then again, I also think your daddy, were he here, would often agree with me more.

In Christ,

Malcolm


Introduction

Letter #1, Two Requirements for a Universal Fulfillment of the Great Commission, by Malcolm Yarnell

Letter #2, A Steward must be Found Faithful, by David Rogers

Letter #3, Centripetal and Centrifugal, by Malcolm Yarnell

Letter #4, To Whom is the Great Commission Given?, by David Rogers

Letter #5, The Great Commission is Given to the Gathered Church, by Malcolm Yarnell

Letter #6, The End-Vision of the Great Commission, by David Rogers

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

80 comments:

Wayne Smith said...

Dr. Malcolm Yarnell,

I do Believe IMHO you are reflecting the signs of a Legalist in Your comment here. Your can read about it here on this Blog:

http://saythetruthorpaytheconsequences.blogspot.com/

In His Name

David Rogers said...

For the record:

Although there are various points of Malcolm's post here with which I am not in agreement, and which I plan to address in my next letter, I do not endorse the inference that he has fallen into "legalism." I do understand that some of the views expressed therein may have a tendency to lead to legalism. However, I am not able to jump to the conclusion that Malcolm's intentions or heart in this matter is, in itself, legalistic.

At the same time, I realize Wayne is merely stating his opinion here, and he does not actually come to the point of calling Malcolm a "legalist," limiting himself to saying he believes he is "reflecting the signs of a legalist."

As such, I will allow Wayne's comment, though with the clarification that I do not personally "endorse" it.

Wayne Smith said...

Dr Yarnell,

Why do you disagree with what Dr. John Frame RTS has to say about the Great Commission? My Bible tells me to test all things in Love and bring Glory to God, as Brother David Rogers is doing.

http://www.frame-poythress.org/frame_articles/1999ATheology.htm

In His Name

Alex said...

It is diffiocult to know how to comment on a post as arrogant as Yarnell's here.
We might pause to reflect on the array of martyrs and church planters the world over and through history who are hereby categorized as 'unrepentant sinners' who were not Great Commission Christians.
Let's start with William Tyndale, whose contribution to the kingdom of God does not appear to me to have much to do with Yarnell's. That is to say, a man standing for the faith against the political and religious might of his day to the shedding of blood to give the plowboy the scriptures was not a Great Commission Christian? Shall I cry or laugh? Shall I see the smile of God on Malcolm Yarnell and the cloudy counenance as he looks to Martin Luther? This is theological insanity. Only my devotion to free speech forbids me from saying it should never have have been written. It makes me ashamed to be a Baptist Christian.

David Rogers said...

Alex,

While, on one part, I realize Malcolm is "big enough to defend himself," out of fairness to Wayne, and also "for the record," I want to make clear that I personally refrain from endorsing any claim of arrogance on Malcolm's part. I believe that he stands before the Lord, and we cannot see the intentions of his heart.

At the same time, I do sympathize with the point you make of not judging others, such as Tyndale and Luther. That is the whole point of Rom. 14:4, as I understand it.

Also, I realize there is many times a fine line between analyzing others words, and pointing out their errors, and actually judging the person.

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Wayne and Alex,

You seem offended by convictional Baptist views. I hope that this is conviction speaking on my part, as I believe, and not pride or legalism, as you seem to assume. Please allow me to address the issues you raise separately.

Wayne,

You will have to read my book on The Formation of Christian Doctrine to understand how I respond to the foundational difficulties with the decidedly Presbyterian outlook of John Frame. Perhaps I am missing something here with regard to your questions? Are you suggesting that Frame's pointedly-Reformed understanding of the Great Commission is done "in love" and "for the glory of God," but my pointedly-Baptist outlook is "legalist"?

Alex,

You may be interested to know that I have written a highly appreciative article regarding Tyndale's pristine evangelical theology as discovered in an overlooked treatise by him (see Southwestern Journal of Theology, 47.1, Fall 2004). As for Luther, with whom I dealt extensively in my master's thesis at Duke, I look forward to fellowshipping with him in glory, and then asking him why he called for the slaying of the Peasants and the Anabaptists, and encouraged the persecution of the Jews with his scatalogical language. Surely you are not suggesting that we should we overlook these horrific actions and words in the name of Christian unity?

Wayne Smith said...

Dr Malcolm Yarnell,

I'm having a hard believing what you said and stand for, against Men of God that are of other Denominations. What do you think of Paul (Saul) as he was not a Baptist???
Did you read what Dr John Frame wrote on The Great Commission, as that was my question in comparing your thoughts with Dr Frames of whom you condemn???

In His Name

Wayne Smith said...

Dr Yarnell,
S/B I'm having a hard time believing what you said.

Steve Sensenig said...

Since my questions about Paul's statement about Jesus not sending him to baptize went unanswered (or is that yet to come? I was under the impression it was tabled to be addressed in this letter), I'll give another question based on the biblical record:

In writing off most, if not all, of other denominations, one criticism you leveled, Malcolm, was that they "do not follow the order of the Great Commission. Specifically, many of them place baptism prior to the making of disciples."

Could you point me to where you have defined "the making of disciples"? Because when I read the book of Acts, I see examples where converts are immediately baptized. Have they become disciples? Is a convert and a disciple the same thing?

Specifically, I'll refer to Acts 2 ("those who had received his word were baptized") and Acts 8 where Philip "preached Jesus to" the eunuch, who then requested to be baptized immediately.

Do I assume correctly that you equate "convert" with "disciple"?

Or, to put it another way, what if "baptizing [and] teaching" is the process by which one makes disciples? It seems to me that grammatically, this might be possible. Then the whole business of "order" in this context is a moot point.

Steve Sensenig said...

Out of respect for David, I won't speak my mind about the rest of the post, although I will say that I think the whole "Baptists have been given further illumination" posture is quite disturbing, to say the least.

JayLee said...

Dear David,

Thank you for being a "person of peace". Your willingness to not jump to conclusions about another's character or mindset (as I am so apt to do) is admirable. Thank you for the example.

Dr. Yarnell,

I take issue with you on a few points. The first is "that God has given Baptists further illumination with regard to His Word." God's word is fully available to all who have hearts to hear it. The Holy Spirit works in the hearts of those who hear to bring understanding. It seems you claim Baptists have a special outpouring of Holy Spirit revelation. THAT scares me, sir. Most "religions" that claim to come from greater revelation end up being known as cults. This may be far from what you meant to imply but it jumped off the "page" at me on first (and second) reading.

Second, you call anyone who doesn't believe and behave as you "unrepentant sinners." In addition you seem to revel in the fact that ..."this terminology seems to rub evangelical ecumenists in an especially noticeable way, which is probably why some of us readily use it." When I was a child I was teased mercilessly by kids at school. I was very overweight. You can imagine all the names that were tagged onto me: Fatty-Fatty-Two-By-Four, Hippo, Bertha-Big-Butt, etc. And, you know, those kids were right; I was fat. But they weren't kind. Being right is important. But intentionally using words to incite difficulty is wrong. It is illegal to shout "fire" in a crowded auditorium. This kind of purposeful antagonism has no place in the body of Christ. Christ held His harshest rebuke for those who thought they knew it all. The "sinner", however, He approached with compassion. Nobody likes a bully.

Third, you list a great many churches that cannot qualify as Great Commission churches. I must ask...in your opinion are there any besides Southern Baptist that do? My point is really not just sarcasm (though I'll admit there is some in it). If everyone else in the whole body of Christ is different from us, could not we be the ones who are wrong? This is a point where I believe a semblance of arrogance is seen in your letters.

Lastly, you may not have offended our brother. However, you offended me by your last remark. It should have been left unsaid.

JayLee

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Wayne,

Paul was baptized after his reception of the Spirit (Acts 9:10-19), which surely makes him something of a Baptist, if we may use the term anachronistically. It is unclear as to what exactly you want me to respond in Dr. Frame's writings, beyond what I have already responded. As for Frame himself, I condemn only the departure of his teachings from the pattern of Scripture. Ultimately, the final judgment is God's business, not mine. Now, perhaps you could answer my question?

Steve,

I remembered your previous question but I thought David Rogers answered adequately with regard to Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 1. However, if you wish a further response, note this: Paul was obviously employing a figure of speech, for he also lists the ones that he did baptize. Moreover, his critical point seemed to be that he did not baptize in his own name, but focused on Christ. Paul baptized believers, no doubt, in fulfillment of the Great Commission. His focus was on preaching the cross - baptism by immersion followed such preaching by reason of its symbolic representation of the atonement.

With regard to your current question, note that the command to teach both precedes and follows baptism. In summary, a disciple of Jesus Christ is one who is fully committed to follow Jesus Christ as His Lord. Discipleship starts in conversion, but discipleship does not stop there. In Scripture, only disciples were baptized. Infants cannot be disciples because they cannot personally commit themselves to Jesus Christ. The Great Commission order is: going - make disciples - baptizing them in the Triune name - teaching them all things that Christ commanded. A Great Commission Christian must fulfill Christ's commands in the order He commanded and to the full extent He commanded. If you wish to know my full thoughts on this, I point you to the sermon that started the conversation long ago between David and me: "The Heart of a Baptist," which is available at www.BaptistTheology.org.

JayLee,

I am sorry to hear of your bad experience as a child. I, too, understand such scars these events can leave. However, please note that the apostles do not leave us an example of softpedaling the truth. Rather, they were quite forward about condemning false teachers and false preachers. They were also quite willing to confront one another when they saw one another engaged in sin. For instance, Paul stood against Peter when the latter left the simple Gospel and followed man-made tradition (Gal. 2:11).

As for the problem you seem to have with regard to further illumination regarding the truth of God's Word, the same claims of novelty and sectarianism were made against Martin Luther and the Reformers, as well as the early Baptists. I will gladly stand with them and receive opprobrium for speaking the truth, even when others do not recognize it.

With regard to your question as to what other churches follow Christ's commission adequately, I certainly do believe that there are non-SBC churches that do so. Perhaps you will review my response to Steve just above my response to you, so that you can see what the requirements would be.

In Christ,
Malcolm

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Jaylee,

One other question. In your opinion, exactly what did I say that was beyond the pale of speaking the truth in love? Or is the subject matter just too emotive to handle?

In Christ,
Malcolm

Wayne Smith said...

Dr. Yarnell,

Your Book The Formation of Christian Doctrine will not be out until Nov 2007.

Your Book The Formation of Christian Doctrine is a high-level academic study of the history of Christian doctrinal development. The book distinguishes at length between the scholarly term “inventio” (making explicit what is implicit in the biblical revelation) and the idea of “invention” (presenting a novelty as Christian teaching that conflicts with the biblical revelation).
Theological method is a growing concern for church leaders and academics alike. Interacting with established Christian conversations regarding theological foundations and the development of doctrine, Malcolm Yarnell proposes a distinctive believers’ church theological method. This method, including that of Baptists, is neither Catholic, nor Calvinist, nor Liberal. Instead, Dr. Yarnell argues for consistent discipleship to Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit-led congregational interpretation of the all-sufficient Word of God, and a deep respect for the contributions of historical theology.

In His Name

Strider said...

Malcolm, This is a tough comment stream to enter! As I read you I am struck by several things. First, our theology is not very different. We are Baptists. I love believer's Baptism. But I disagree with you completely on our relationship with other believers. First, I think there is a real danger of taking a USA mentality and thinking that that is reality around the world. You may know Presbyterians in the US who no one would consider a GCC but here on the field where I serve there are Presbyterians baptizing adults according to what we believe to be Biblical. I can and do relate, worship, and work with those guys. Labels will not cut it. We must meet each man and woman and relate to them as God directs us. This is why this discussion so concerns me. If your views win the day among our Trustees then policies will be passed that destroy what God is doing among us all. I will fight against that. The M's on the field have to be trusted to do as the Lord directs. Of course, supervision and guidance is needed and sought but we must work in community with each other and not top down with no notion of what is really happening 'out here'.
Second, as we relate to other GCC's I must insist that unrepentant sin is an ill chosen phrase. It does not focus the debate but obscures it. When I and others hear this phrase we think of judgment and not dialog. We hear condemnation and not redemption. If we are to be like our Lord then we will speak the truth but we will do it in a way that invites others in, not pushes them away. The way you and others have recently defined unrepentant sin makes 100% of us unrepentant sinners which makes the phrase completely meaningless- unless you are teaching the reformed doctrine of Total Depravity in which case go for it. But this phrase does not honor our Lord in the way I am seeing it used lately.
Third, baptistic is seen apparently by you and others as a word of compromise. It is a word of fact. I can not, and will not plant churches here in this Muslim country with a Baptist Church sign on the front door. However, when I say baptistic I mean that the doctrines that our forefathers fought and died for, and are Biblical and true will be taught and practiced. I have worked with one very remote Church that we planted in a distant village that has no knowledge what-so-ever of denominational names like Baptist or any other. What they believe and practice is what they call Biblical, not 'Baptist'. I am proud to work with them and I have no inclination to inform them of the history of Western Christianity that has no relevance to their lives.
I guess the bottom line for me and what I see in your post is that I see the same differences that you see in our relationships to others but I believe that we can and must work together for the Gospel- not compromising anything but building each other up in love and encouraging one another. David is in process, on a journey and so am I, and so are you. Let us be gracious in recognizing that not everyone is in the same place on that journey. Let us love each other and challenge each other to grow. This is best done in community, not by excluding others out of our communities.

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Wayne,

Please do answer my question. I will repeat it:

'Are you suggesting that Frame's pointedly-Reformed understanding of the Great Commission is done "in love" and "for the glory of God," but my pointedly-Baptist outlook is "legalist"?'

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Strider,

This attitude of mine is not USA. It is held by Baptists from around the world, because it is biblical. I can tell you from personal experience that it is held by Russian, Romanian, German, English, and Latin American Baptists as well as North American Baptists. The repeated argument that Baptist doctrines are Western in origin rather than biblical is difficult to hear from Baptist-supported missionaries. What exactly in our doctrine do you consider to be unbiblical in origin? If we are unbiblical, then why do you accept our fellowship and support?

As for your Presbyterian example, please note this: I am not arguing for all cessation of conversation and help with one another. I am, however, arguing that we keep our churches distinct, for their churches have some foundational errors. While a Presbyterian may indeed baptize a convert from a Muslim background, he will then go on to teach that convert to baptize his children, thus propagating a myth in that child's head that he is already part of the covenant. This historically results in unregenerate membership, state churches and religious intolerance.

I agree with you that Ms must be trusted to do as the Lord directs, but the Lord directs us to follow him fully. Presbyterians simply do not follow Christ fully, but introduce innovations that are not scriptural - church/state confusion, infant baptism, etc.

The name "Baptist" does not concern me so much as the desire to be biblical. If you give these people Bibles and ask them to implement its polity, you will end up with Baptists. Presbyterianism does not have the same desire and result, in spite of its affirmation of sola scriptura. If you are planting Presbyterian churches or some mixture of Baptist and Presbyterian, I hope you will stop.

Work with these other evangelicals on certain levels, if you find it convenient, but please do not plant churches with them, for their churches are not biblical.

In Christ,
Malcolm

Wayne Smith said...

Dr. Malcolm Yarnell,

You ask what the difference is in your outlook and Dr. John Frame’s outlook to the Great Commission is.
The difference between you Dr. Malcolm Yarnell and Dr. John Frame is about 18 Inches.
David Rogers outlook is about 18 inches different the Yours, Dr. Malcolm Yarnell.
The Heart of the matter Is Your Heart. The Holy Spirit resides in the Heart of a Believer, not the Head.
There is a world of difference in being on the front line of DOING the Great Commission and TALKING about it. BTDT
I Pray this answers you Question of :
'Are you suggesting that Frame's pointedly-Reformed understanding of the Great Commission is done "in love" and "for the glory of God," but my pointedly-Baptist outlook is "legalist"?'

You can read about it Here:
http://saythetruthorpaytheconsequences.blogspot.com/

In His Name

Wayne Smith said...

Dr. Malcolm Yarnell,

If I may suggest a Good Book to read about what Jesus taught in Mathew 5 The Beatitudes, is this book (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by Dr. D Martyn Lloyd-Jones).
If you have already read this book, I would suggest you read it again.

In His Name

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Wayne,

I will read the Beatitudes again, as you suggest. And thank you for the recommendation of Lloyd-Jones. He is a fine scholar, in many ways.

Exactly how tall is John Frame? I am 6'4", but if he is 18" taller, then he is an utter giant!

In Christ,
Malcolm

Wayne Smith said...

Dr. Malcolm Yarnell,

Dr. John Frame is about 5'9 or 5'10 inches tall. If you are 6'4, you are definitely taller than Dr. John Frame in inches. The Heart resides within a "Frame" and the distant between the Heart and the Head is about 18 inches.

In His Name

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Wayne,

I tried to measure the distance from my head to my heart, but then found I had no heart.

:)

Debbie Kaufman said...

Malcolm: From what I understand of Presbyterian baptism from both reading and speaking with Presbyterians, it's no different than when we dedicate children when they are infants. Is my understanding in this wrong? Presbyterians also believe that it's God who does the work in salvation, bringing the child to Christ, not their baptizing as infants. I guess I'm having a hard time understanding your statement.

Bro. Robin said...

Wayne

I thought about commenting last night, but chose to not do so. But I will now.

Dr. Yarnell does have his head connected to his heart. I have conversed with him, prayed with him, and had table fellowship with him. He is an honorable man who seeks to speak the truth with conviction and love. I have seen Dr. Yarnell live out Matthew 5,6,and 7 with humbleness. For you to say the things you have is wrong and I hope that David will remove those personal attacks.

BTW, as I believe with Dr. Yarnell, Baptist distinctives are biblical distinctives. Since Paul is responsible for nearly 2/3's of the New Testament, I would say that he is the quintessential Baptist.

David Rogers said...

Robin, Wayne & Malcolm,

In relation to Robin's request to remove the "personal attacks," I'm trying to walk a bit of a tight-rope here. On the one part, I am in agreement that I do not wish for my blog to become a vehicle for ever slandering or denigrating other individuals. Also, as I stated before, I myself don't consider myself able to judge the motives of Malcolm's heart. If Wayne feels he is able to do so, that is between him and the Lord. But, he is not speaking for me.

At the same time, since Malcolm himself is the author of this post, and he has free access to the comment thread, I feel he is well able to defend himself, and I defer to him on this. If, however, he feels certain comments are "over the top" and prefers that I delete them, I will be happy to take such a request into consideration.

Bro. Robin said...

David

It's your blog, I fully understand you doing what you believe the Lord is leading you to do. I thank you for allowing my comment to stand.

God Bless

Bro. Robin

The Grumpy Rabbit (TGR) said...

There are many important theological points discussed here. I am sure that the readers of this discussion are benefiting from the dialogue.

It strikes me however that the designation "Great Commission Christian" is impossible live up to, and perhaps not even a truly biblical badge to stitch on our Christian vests.

Does the SBC “deserve to be classified as Great Commission Christians?” Perhaps confessionally, but practically?

For two years, a resolution addressing our disobedience as a denomination on the matter of church discipline and reporting membership numbers has been passed over. Do these matters have anything to do with the Great Commission? Surely, they do . . . “making disciples” and “following all that Jesus commands.” So, if we are going to discuss churches that are unrepentant to the great commission, shouldn't we start with the SBC?

My point is this: we can argue for Baptist identity and the importance of the Baptist voice in the history of the church without employing a flawed and ungracious category like "Great Commission Christian." It is flawed because the Great Commission is so comprehensive who can claim that they do not “violate Christ’s will in one or more of these three ways: 1) They do not obey the entirety of the Great Commission. 2) They do not follow the order of the Great Commission. Specifically, many of them place baptism prior to the making of disciples. 3) They do not emphasize the faith delivered by our Lord, but add other requirements.” Because the Great Commission is so comprehensive, does any church really get past #1? Thus, does any church "deserve" to be a "Great Commission Church?"

The same objection could be made to someone who establishes a criteria on the first and second greatest commandments on which all the law and then prophets hang. Could anyone say that they are a “Greatest Commandment Christian?”

This way of thinking belies the intent of the “Great Commission” and the “Greatest Commandment.” Are either of these suppose to be used as criteria to see what type of Christian one is? No doubt, both are to be obeyed. No doubt, both direct the mission of the church. No doubt, both reflect the heart of God. But, both are far too comprehensive for us to use either of them to draw such fine lines so as to refer to some churches are “Great Commission Christians” and "Great Commandment Christians" and some not.

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Robin and David,

I am personally fine with leaving Wayne's comments as they are. They indicate his true feelings, and it is important to allow him to rebuke where he believes I am wrong. Indeed, it allows me opportunity to examine myself to see if indeed I might be a legalist or proud or insensitive, etc. But after examination, I do not think any of these are the case.

Moreover, I took Wayne's advice and reviewed the beatitudes. Oh, they are beautiful and difficult but necesary to fulfill. Indeed, I am reminded of the fact that the Anabaptists, our theological forefathers, were persecuted and murdered (by Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists) because they tried to fulfill the commands of Christ to the fullest. Thank you, Wayne, for reminding me of this truth.

Debbie,

Many paedobaptists affirm baptismal regeneration; others affirm that the infant is brought into the covenant. Both positions are inconsistent with the witness of Scripture. If your Presbyterian friends truly believe what you describe, then they probably should not be Presbyterians.

The Grumpy Rabbit,

The designation of "Great Commission Christian" has been used by the IMB for several years now. The deficiency of the definition currently being used actually prompted me to ask the question of Scripture: What is a Great Commission Christian? I think my definition is closer than the much looser but popular one.

You are correct that Baptists are not perfect, for instance with regard to church discipline, but Baptists are closer to the ideal than anybody else, especially in their theology. This statement is not a violation of the Greatest Commandment. It is actually a fulfillment of it. We should compel Presbyterians and other baby-baptizers as well as Baptists to come closer to Christ's will by forsaking their unbiblical ways. Is it not an act of love to call a brother to come closer to Christ?

In Christ,
Malcolm

Strider said...

Malcolm, Just to clarify. I am not saying Baptist distinctives are American. They are biblical. I am saying that your understanding of denominations and denominationalism is American- and outdated. Today, There are Great Commission Christians from a myriad of denominational backrounds coming to Middle Earth. They are throwing off their labels and teaching the Bible. I know of no Presbyterians who teach infant Baptism here! I know that sounds incredible to you. It is to me. But that is why I want to broaden this discussion. There are many followers of Jesus today who do not fit our old labels. They are passionate about seeking Jesus and His Kingdom. I want to partner with and influence these kinds of people and God is giving me an opportunity to do so. Will you trust me to do this in a way that does not sacrifice Biblical truth? This is the question that many of us on the field are asking.

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Strider,

Thank you for your love for the Lord and your desire to see others brought to faith in Him. Thank you, moreover, for being a biblical witness to Christ in a very difficult place.

If these other Christians, who come from paedo-Baptist denominations, are establishing Baptist churches (that is, biblical churches), then I will also be willing to call these missionaries Great Commission Christians. And if, indeed, they have become Baptists by faith and practice, then I will rejoice and praise God for their repentance and conversion. Remember that modern American missionary efforts received an incredible boost for organization and witness when some non-Baptist congregational missionaries converted to Baptist views after studying their Bible on the way to the mission field (remember the Judsons and Luther Rice?).

However, as a matter of integrity, please call upon your Presbyterian friend to follow the example of Judson and Rice, and publicly pronounce their convictions and seek Christian baptism. The renunciation of the false baptism this person received as a baby, will, of course, probably result in the withdrawal of their Presbyterian support. If such integrity and obedience to the Great Commission is enacted, then God will raise up a Luther Rice to lead a charge to see this modern-day Adoniram Judson supported by missionary Baptists. It would be incumbent upon Southern Baptists to support such a modern-day Judson.

Strider, proper denominationalism from a Baptist perspective is itself rooted in Scripture. Baptists are not separated from paedo-Baptists by historical accident alone, but by convictions borne of submission to Christ as revealed in the Bible! Yes, let us reject denominationalism, but only when those who have introduced unbiblical innovations have repented of their manmade traditions and returned to their biblical roots. Christian unity must be based upon biblical fidelity.

Strider, I do trust you and the other SBC missionaries of whom you speak, to "not sacrifice Biblical truth." But such trust is predicated upon a common belief system, which demands continued openness on your part (and thank you for your anonymous openness), and continued accountability through full disclosure to the trustees that are charged by Southern Baptists with oversight.

Yesterday morning, I was privileged to have breakfast with one of your regional leaders. A SWBTS graduate and open and honest man, he desired the same thing from us that you desire. But he also recognized that such trust comes only through openness and conversation with one another. I then opened my class to him to appeal to seminary students to consider God's call upon their lives, with no time limit upon his presentation. My brother, I have former students and employees who serve with you as missionaries on the field, including in the difficult places where you serve. As far as I know, you may be one of them. And if not, I trust that you have been trained in a Southern Baptist church and hopefully in a Southern Baptist seminary.

Therefore, I love you fully, and I do trust you, and I will continue to demand that every SBC missionary be accountable to Southern Baptist churches by practicing full disclosure and full accountability. As a pastor, I was loved and trusted by my congregation, but they also held me accountable. As a professor, I am loved and trusted, but Southern Baptists also hold me accountable through the trustee system. As a pastor and a professor, I have found that love and trust are earned and granted through honesty and openness to the Christian community. So, yes, I do trust you! Will you also trust me and Southern Baptists like me, and continue to be open and honest with us? I hope and believe you will.

In Christ,
Malcolm

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bryan riley said...

I've stayed away from this comment thread because I didn't know how to comment. As I've prayed about it the best I can do is ask questions, questions primarily directed toward David and Malcolm.

When does "conviction" become hubris and an unteachable spirit?

What things are things we now see darkly and what things can we know that we know? Please answer scripturally.

What would be the positive point of lumping together huge groups of Jesus followers into a category labeled as unbiblical?

The Grumpy Rabbit (TGR) said...

Dr. Yarnell,

Forgive my ignorance on how the IMB uses the designation. However, that was not my concern. I question the viability of your category as you define it to draw the lines that you draw. There are many ways to demonstrate that your category is flawed. I simply tried to show that the great commission is a comprehensive statement and your first test ("They do not obey the entirety of the Great Commission.") fails everyone at some point. Thus, it renders your category as unhelpful.

R. Grannemann said...

Dr. Yarnell,

My concern is with your exegesis of the Great Commission. Matt. 28:18-20 is a command to proclaim the good news of Jesus and to accompany that proclamation with the symbol of the new birth, water baptism. But one gets the feeling from your exposition that baptism has been almost turned into a qualifying element for something, an impression one does not get from the original passage.

There is a lot of baggage associated with baptism in Christian history, of Catholics requiring Jews to be baptized or face death, for instance, and of giving the act redemptive merit. Baptists have progressed more than many other Protestants in properly seeing the symbolic nature of the ordinance. Yet there is something about the way you state things that makes one believe you have taken a step backwards in this regard, for example by using the word "authentic" to describe baptism. I'm wondering what exactly you think the consequences for not having "authentic" baptism are. Is baptism the "door" to the church for you? Peter Lumpkins wrote an especially good article on Dagg's ecclesiology published yesterday in SBC Today. I am wondering if you are in agreement with Dagg's ecclesiology, that baptism can be a requirement of a local congregation but not the door into the universal church? I would actually prefer to say the new birth is the door to the kingdom and consequently the authenticating element to be a New Testament church (or Great Commission Christians). There is a fundamental divide here. Is the authenticating element for a church the saved condition of the congregation, or not? Are we missing the forest for the trees? Your emphasis makes me feel there is something, frankly, unbaptistic in your thinking that elevates the ordinance of baptism into something like what Paul might rebuke Peter for in Galatia.

The Great Commission must be balanced with other passages which caution against making too much of rituals (Col. 2:16 for example). Maybe our Baptists forefathers had the emphasis just a little wrong. It is dangerous to build a theology on a single verse (Dispensationalism's elevation of Acts 1:6 comes to mind. They see a coming Jewish kingdom and two people of God all for a statement that may be only a false impression of the Apostles). Jesus primary emphasis in his teaching was on the new birth, and that is there where the fundamental basis for unity lies.

R. Grannemann said...

Right after I hit the send button I realized I shouldn't have put Peter in Galatia. But you get the point.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Malcolm: This response to a question on baptism was given by Sean Michael Lucas who is the Vice President for Academics and the Assistant Professor of church history at Covenant Theological Seminary.

First, baptism confirms our children’s interest in the promise that whoever believes in Jesus shall be saved (Acts 16:31). This is the same promise that is held out to them in the preaching of the Word. And that promise will be held out to them until they die (that was what I was talking about when I said, dv, our children will out-live us and so we don’t know the end of their stories). The value of baptism to the child (among other things) is that, if they were to doubt whether this promise was for them, they (and we) can say, “Yes, that promise is for you—God directed us to have you baptized so that you would have a seal of authentication that the promise is true and for you; your baptism serves as a sign to point you to faith in Jesus, to point you to the Gospel itself.”

Second, we baptize our children because God promises us that he will be a God to us and our children. This may mean that God is a God of grace to our children; he grants them his Spirit and draws them to himself. They are granted faith and they trust in the Savior who promised them in their baptism that whoever believes in Jesus will be saved. But it may be that God will be a God of judgment to our children. Even though he has granted them great mercy by allowing them to grow up among the visible people of God, to know the preaching of his Word, to experience the communion of the saints, they may turn from him, reject his promises, leave the church and never return. Either way, God is a God to our children; he keeps his promises to us, but in different ways.


The whole question and response can be found seanmichaellucas.blogspot.com/2007/07/q-on-baptism.html

David Rogers said...

Notice:

I usually have a pretty open commenting policy here at Love Each Stone. However, I have decided to delete anonymous comments that may be interpreted as denigrating to other people and/or institutions, without really dealing with the issues in a substantive, constructive way. I realize it is a subjective call determining which comments fall into this category and which ones don't. For general purposes, though, I will be much more tolerant with commenters who identify themselves than with anonymous commenters.

Wayne Smith said...

Dr. Malcolm Yarnell,
I wanted to share my morning devotional with you, but I can’t find a e-mail address for you. If you would be so kind to e-mail me at smith.we@fmail.com, I will forward this very special article on God’s View and Our View.

In His Name

Wayne Smith said...

Dr. Malcolm yarnell

That S/B smith.we@gmail.com ,
sorry about that

In His Name

Dave Miller said...

I linked to this blog from Wade Burleson's blog - which had some strong negative comments about Malcom Yarnell's comments.

When I read Malcom Yarnell's letter, I was horrified at some of the things he said (Baptists with greater illumination? - that's not always been my experience as an SBC pastor for 25 years)

I was ready to be angry at him and call him some of the names that others have called him in the comment stream.

Then, I read his responses. He is gracious and kind in his responses - even to people who have been pretty rough on him.

I do not detect any of the arrogance that many other prominent bloggers respond with when they are questioned.

I still do not agree with what he wrote, but THIS is the kind of dialogue we need in the SBC (that between him and David Rogers, not that of the more shrill comment stream.)

In spite of strong convictional differences, these two men are a model of godliness in disagreement.

Wayne Smith said...

Dave Miller,

I agree with what you wrote here, but disagree with what you posted on my Blog, of which I answered you there,

In His Name

Paul said...

Dr. Yarnell,

I am an Assemblies of God pastor. As sincerely as I know how to ask the question, can you tell me where you believe I am in disobedience to Christ and am in unrepentant sin?

Benji Ramsaur said...

Dr. Yarnell,

I do see the consistency of what you are saying in regards to the order of Matt. 28:19-20.

Accordingly, I also understand that closed communion is argued from this order in that baptism should come first before someone is taught to observe all things that Christ commanded (including partaking in the Lord's Supper).

However, this closed communion argument seems to arbitrarily pick out one thing [communion] out of all the things Christ commanded.

In other words, how is it consistent to say that one will only allow properly baptized Christians to particiapte in the Lord Supper but will teach Christ's commands in the sermon on the mount, for example, to people who have not been properly baptized?

It seems that one must completely not teach ANY of Christ's commands [besides baptism] to a believer who has not been baptized properly in order to fully follow through with the order.

Love to know your thoughts.

Thanks

JayLee said...

Dr. Yarnell,

I apologize for taking so long to respond to your question. My answer: it is less than loving to purposefully use words that are likely to be received as pejorative. Calling someone who believes he is a faithful follower of Christ an "unrepentant sinner" BECAUSE it "rubs him" is not loving. It is antagonistic and even bullying.

If you feel your brother is in sin you must confront him. That is commanded. But scripture also warns us to take heed, lest we find ourselves fallen. A loving rebuke takes into account our own ability to sin. Jesus told us treat others as we would want to be treated. While you or I may want to be confronted with our sin, few of us would respond well if verbally accosted.

I apologize to you and to all on this comment stream for using such a personal illustration. It seems to have implied a degree of emotionality that was neither felt nor intended. I will endeavor to utilize more general anecdotes in the future.

I am curious. What exactly to you view as paedobaptism? I heard Dr. Patterson equate it with baptizing children less than 9 years of age. Is this a view you share or are you merely referring to baptism of infants? I can see Dr. Patterson's point even if I don't fully agree with it. However I haven't studied this area and am merely seeking information.

Also, I read your comment to Steve. Thanks for clarifying what you believe constitutes a GCC. However, I was asking for specific information. Please name which denominations you see as fitting this definition. I am only familiar with those in my area. Using your definition none of these churches would qualify.

I can understand if the answer to either of these questions might "stir the pot" so to speak. So, feel free to answer me privately (I think my blog will link to my e-mail). But I really would like an answer.

JayLee

Steve Sensenig said...

Malcolm,

The part of the 1 Corinthians question that went unanswered was Paul's statement that Christ did not send him to baptize.

How would you reconcile this statement of Paul's with the idea that a GCC must follow the order of the GC completely in order to qualify as a GCC?

Steve Sensenig said...

If you give these people Bibles and ask them to implement its polity, you will end up with Baptists.

I would love to see some research done to back up this claim.

I think it is an audacious claim, and I find it rather incredible in the truest sense of the word.

There is much "polity" in any denomination that is extra-biblical. And the SBC has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to go beyond the teaching of Christ, even, in its "polity".

In fact, I'm not even positive where "polity" fits into this discussion, but if you are saying that "all that [Jesus has] commanded" results in Baptist polity, I would strongly disagree.

Your statements about how much more "true" the Baptist view is seems to miss the glaring fact that Baptists, and specifically in this case Southern Baptists since that is the denomination you are convinced is so much closer to the heart of God, add to the commandments of Christ in their teaching. Can this be laudable?

I'll give you just one example of what I'm talking about: the prohibition of the partaking of alcohol.

I don't personally partake of alcohol and have no desire to. But neither does scripture ever prohibit it. The many resolutions that have been passed in SBC history regarding alcohol go beyond the commands of Jesus.

Rather than making disciples who are taught to be guided by the Holy Spirit in their decisions, the disciples that are being made are being taught extra-biblical requirements for holy living.

I find it very hard to understand how this type of teaching can be acceptable, yet disagreement with other believers on other issues results in you calling them "unrepentent sinners" and the growing magnitude of assertions about how much better the SBC is because of "greater revelation" received.

Kevin Bussey said...

Dr. Y,

Since you are reading this thread I have a question for you:

Are my PCA parents who work for Campus Crusade for Christ living as unrepentant sinners?

Coffee drinkin redneck theologian said...

Dr. Yarnell,

In your response to the Grumpy Rabbit you wrote, "You are correct that Baptists are not perfect, for instance with regard to church discipline, but Baptists are closer to the ideal than anybody else, especially in their theology."

Doesn't your above comment disqualify us as Southern Baptists from obtaining the coveted label of Great Commission Christians? Does any denomination currently warrant the label? I agree this label and obtaining it appear doomed to comment threads for the weak who think they are strong (myself included).

Alan Cross said...

Dr. Yarnell,

I think that you (and Bart Barber) are getting so much heat over your comments because you have finally come clean about what you really believe. After almost two years of debating in the blogosphere, we finally understand your true position and motivations.

No one here is arguing that anything other than believer's baptism by immersion is correct. But, in using the term, "unrepentant sinner", you are advocating a view that is incompatible with the Scriptural witness. 1 John 3:4-10 tells us exactly where "unrepentant sinners" stand. They do not have the Holy Spirit within them and they are children of the devil. Is that what you believe about those that you call "unrepentant sinners" in this case. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt by saying that I hope not. You go further and even extend that designation to other groups who have differing beliefs (Assemblies of God, Pentecostals). Are these your true motivations for your advocacy of the IMB Policies?

As far as Baptists being Great Commission Christians, you say that to be a GCC you must obey all of the Great Commission. Then surely you must eliminate all of the Baptists who have not lead anyone to Christ or witnessed to anyone. You must eliminate all of the Baptist churches who did not baptize anyone last year. They are all "unrepentant sinners" and according to Matthew 18, they should be confronted, disciplined, and kicked out of the church, or have their churches disbanded. They should be treated as pagans and tax collectors. Their CP monies should be sent back because it is dirty money that comes from "unrepentant sinners." But, we don't practice church discipline in the SBC so I guess that we would not do that. If we did practice church discipline, then Tom Ascol's resolution would not have been voted down the past two years.

So, if judgment starts with the house of God, and since the SBC is the only true house of God in this view, perhaps you should turn your gaze upon our own churches that are not fulfilling the Great Commission. Because it is not enough to just say that we support the Great Commission. We must also participate in it. If we do not, then we are like the one in James 1:22-24 who listens to the Word but does not do what it says. Would you also call that unrepentant sin?

And, unless you think that I draw the implications of your argument too far, you are the one who is creating the construct. If you seek to use baptism this way by calling everyone to consistency on this, lest they engage in unrepentant sin, then you must apply that reasoning to every command. If you put yourself under one part of the Law, then you must be obedient to the whole of the Law (Gal. 5:3). You cannot be selective.

If you are consistent in this and you believe that most Southern Baptists are engaging in unrepentant sin in regard to the command to make disciples, then why would you fellowship with them? Why would you receive their CP monies? Why would you not call for church discipline and possible excommunication? Is only one part of the great commission important (baptism) and the other parts (make disciples, teaching to obey) not important? How do you decide? Do you accept those who give lip service to obedience but never participate in the Great Commission? Is the Great Commission only for professionals, or is it for all of us?

Dr. Yarnell, if we begin to follow your line of reasoning, the results are disastrous for the SBC as it presently stands. If you are right, then we need to quit trying to mobilize people for evangelism and mission and we need to begin to tell them that they are unrepentant sinners in danger of church discipline, nay, in danger of the fiery gates of Hell, according to 1 John 3:4-10.

Perhaps there is another term that would be more helpful than "unrepentant sinners."

onmissionmom said...

R. Grannemann,

Your comment that you "would actually prefer to say the new birth is the door to the kingdom and consequently the uthenticating element to be a New Testament church (or Great Commission Christians" is really the crux of the disagreement that I, you, perhaps Mr. Rogers, and others have with Dr. Yarnell.

It is ironic that regeneration was consistently taught as the measure of authenticity of a Christian (evangelical, Great Commission, or otherwise) prior to my baptism by immersion in a Baptist church, and in the Southern Baptist Seminary I attended, as well. Saved people are Christians, albeit imperfect ones.

The fractionalization of believers created by practically and linguistically isolating non-immersed followers of Jesus who live regenerated lives that reflect the high values of Christ's kingdom establishes a grave stumbling block to the spread of our beloved Gospel and may actually inhibit the ability of the Gospel to transform people into the likeness of Jesus Christ. This comment may be inflammatory, but is what I have witnessed on a personal, though admittedly, not on a statistically reliable scale.

Dr. Yarnell, hypothetically speaking, if this were the case, would you maintain the perspective that So. Baptists ought not cooperate ecclesially with non-immersed Christians?

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Hello All,

Wow. I am gone for one day on a ministry assignment, and have apparently stirred up the evangelical blog world while absent. Let me respond to some of your questions as quickly as possible, for other responsibilities call.

Bryan,

The witness of Scripture with regard to the Great Commission and baptism is not dark, but quite clear.

The positive point of calling those who disobey the Great Commission is reminding them of the need to follow Christ, an application of the Great Commission itself -- "teach them to observe all that I have commanded you", which includes teaching the Great Commission.

The Grumpy Rabbit,

Indeed, every Christian must constantly strive to follow Christ's commands. Most Baptists do not claim perfectionism but do emphasize improvement. Unfortunately, by building an unbiblical delimitation or disorder into their theology, paedo-baptists have unnecessarily blocked themselves off from such striving after the Great Commission.

R. Grannemann,

The "qualifying element" is the obedience to the Great Commission. Baptists traditionally do not add anything to the Great Commission, but asking for its full and orderly implementation.

I am not averse to Dagg's theology of the universal church (or Peter Lumpkins'), but prefer Carroll's theology. Of course, please realize that Dagg and Carroll (as Lumpkins and Yarnell) are in substantial agreement and good fellowship.

I am not elevating baptism, but asking for us to take Christ's commands seriously. Peter was rebuked by Paul for imposing a human tradition. Christ's commands are not human tradition but divine command.

You are correct that Christian history is full of baggage with regard to baptism. That is exactly why we must practice authentic biblical baptism and not baptism based upon human tradition.

I build my theology on more than one verse, but find that Matthew 28 is the appropriate place to begin a theology of the Great Commission, which is our focus.

Jesus taught the new birth and the new birth should result in new lives, which means obeying Jesus, who commands believers-only baptism by immersion.

Debbie,

Your quote is indeed paedo-baptist theology. There is much of it in existence.

Dave,

Thanks for agreeing to disagree agreeably. You and David have much in common, and I am doing my best to learn from you.

Paul,

A good comparison of Systematic Theology texts by say, James Leo Garrett on the Baptist side, and J. Rodman Williams on the charismatic side, should be sufficient to identify those differences that keep us from ecclesial fellowship. Baptists and Assemblies of God are very close in so many ways, but there are one or two that inhibit ecclesial fellowship.

Benji,

Indeed, we should practice all of Christ's commands, not just closed communion. Your question is a good one: Note that the order is going-making disciples-baptizing-teaching. The making of a disciple requires proclamation, too. Some translators have actually interpreted the Greek for "make disciples" as "teach". Thus, teaching both precedes and follows conversion and baptism.

JayLee,

I do not believe it is pejorative to call sinners to repentance. I have always appreciated it when I was called to repent. I fail to see how it is pejorative.

I agree with Dr. Patterson that we often baptize children too early. I do not provide an exact age, although 9 or 10 seems about right.

As for denominations which qualify as Great Commission Christians, it would be all those that seek to implement the order and totality of what Christ commanded, without adding human requirements. This is too broad to name. I do know that this is what my local church believes, so I can vouch for them. I also know that this is what the SBC's confession teaches, so I can vouch for that. The name "Baptist" is not however necessary, although it is helpful.

Steve,

I did answer your question.

The claim that Biblical Christians end up being like Baptists can be verified by searching the history of Baptist movements. If you would like, I would be glad to enroll you in a Baptist Heritage class.

I was unaware that Southern Baptists were adding to the commandments of Christ. The resolutions of the SBC are not inerrant, but I do believe they are generally representative of scriptural mandate, including the resolutions on alcohol.

I never said the SBC had "greater revelation." Our revelation is fixed. You can find it fixed in the Old and New Testaments.

Kevin,

I will pray for you as you speak to your parents on this matter. Years ago, I spoke to my own precious mother along very similar lines. She did not like to hear it, but she also expressed appreciation, because she knew I loved her all the more for being concerned for her spiritual well-being.

Coffee drinking redneck theologian,

The emphasis should be on the intent and effort to fulfill the Great Commission. Baptists are not perfect, and will be perfect only when they arrive in glory. The point is that the theology of paedo-Baptists automatically puts them in opposition to the Great Commission, so they lack the ability to fulfill it unless they repent of their theology. (If you do not like the word, "repent," you are welcome to use the word, "change.")

Alan,

My true position and motivations have never been hidden. I have never claimed that paedo-Baptists are children of the devil or lack the Holy Spirit. This is your logic, not mine. (It might help theologically if you made a distinction between the related but distinct soteriological doctrines of repentance and regeneration, for one is a divinely-gifted human action, while the other is a divine act alone.)

Baptists definitely should be witnesses of Christ. If a person confesses one thing, but lives another, he should be disciplined by the church. However, the actual results of witnessing are God's business. We are to preach; God's Spirit alone regenerates. We must not confuse the two.

Yes, all of the Great Commission is important.

Again, your arguments and conclusions represent your logic alone.

If you do not like the word, "unrepentant sinner," to describe someone who is not following God's will, perhaps you would prefer just "unrepentant", or just "sinner." I am fine with either or both words, for they are adequately and theologically descriptive on their own. If you prefer to say "unchanging sinner," that is fine, too, or even "out of God's will."

(Just a thought: Perhaps the real problem that we all have with regard to saying, "unrepentant sinner," is a cultural one. Let's face it, the word "sin" has been declared taboo by postmodern culture. Postmodernism declares that every belief is acceptable and correct, and the concept of sin is a direct contradiction of that belief. Perhaps we are all suffering from a touch of the postmodern flu.)

Onmissionmom,

If you mean by "cooperate ecclesially" a reference to the responsibilities and privileges of church membership (Lord's Supper, discipline), then, indeed, Baptists should not cooperate ecclesially with non-immersed Christians, for they have not yet submitted to one of Christ's commands, a command that he stressed in the Great Commission. This does not discount all cooperation, but it does discount the planting of churches together, etc.


I do love and appreciate all of you and your searching questions. I have to go now. May the Lord bless you as you seek to implement his will in your churches and in your homes. My next letter to David will probably be my last.

In Christ,
Malcolm

Kevin Bussey said...

Dr. Y,

With all due respect, you have flipped your lid! If this is where the SBC is headed then I'm getting off the ship!

I guarantee my parents have led more people to Christ than you have.

David,

I'm sorry but I've had enough of this. I love you and your family but I can't read this stuff anymore.

Wayne Smith said...

Dr Malcolm Yarnell,
I still have not received your e-mail Address.

smith.we@gmail.com

In His Name

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Kevin,

I don't believe we have ever had the privilege of meeting, so I am unsure of how you come to your conclusions. I will pray for you on your journey.

Steve Sensenig said...

Malcolm,

If you think that saying Paul was employing a figure of speech when he said that Christ did not send him to baptize, then your hermeneutic appears to be rather pick-and-choose.

A figure of speech does not generally contradict a direct command of Christ, does it?

While one can argue that Paul was using hyperbole when he said that he baptized no one in Corinth (based on the obvious fact that he then lists several), I am not referring to that statement.

The statement of Paul's which has significant impact on your interpretation is saying that Christ did not send him to baptize. For Paul to say that he is not sent to baptize is saying that a portion of the Great Commission is not his to fulfill. I fail to see how you can brush that aside in your interpretation by saying it is a mere figure of speech. Paul doesn't sound like the wonderful proto-Baptist that you have claimed him to be here.

Yes, I misspoke when I said "greater revelation". I must admit I find your answers rather patronizing at times. Your exact words were "further illumination", which, in my opinion, carried an attitude very much in common with those who claim to receive "further revelation".

Furthermore, while this discussion is not about alcohol, I used that as an example, and you proved my point quite nicely by saying that you believe the SBC prohibitions on alcohol are "generally representative of scriptural mandate". And which scriptural mandate would that be, Malcolm? Can you provide a chapter and verse to support total abstinence from alcohol?

Furthermore, did Jesus tell us to teach all that is "generally representative" of what he commanded? Or did he tell us to teach all that he actually commanded? One might argue that pouring water over one's head is "generally representative" of baptism, yet you cannot allow for anything but immersion.

Did the same Jesus who turned water into wine (the Greek language has a word for non-alcoholic wine which was not employed in that passage) ask us to teach disciples to completely abstain from alcohol? Did Paul teach complete prohibition against alcohol?

The answer to both of those last two questions is a resounding "no", and demonstrates that the SBC is willing to go beyond the commands of Jesus in its resolutions. (Fallibility of the resolutions is not even relevant here.)

By your logic, the SBC fails, then, in its obedience to the totality of the Great Commission. Your claims do not even hold up to your own logic, Malcolm, and I'm increasingly baffled and dismayed at your refusal to acknowledge such.

The sad truth in all of this is that many would not refuse fellowship or cooperation or communion with you over the SBC's failures to obey scripture without adding to it, but you would likely find reason for many to be refused at your own table.

Which position "generally representative" of the intent and heart of Jesus?

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Steve,

If you are not referring to Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians, I am not sure what statement you are referencing.

If you need one verse regarding the problems with alcohol, although there are many, please try Eph 5:18 or Prov 23:31-32.

Please realize that your logic and mine are not the same with regard to the Great Commission. And yes, we Baptists can do better, but we do try.

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Au revoir.

Wayne Smith said...

Dr. Malcolm Yarnell,
Thanks for the e-mail. You gave these Bible verses and I don’t see that they say Don’t Drink Wine. This makes your argument very weak and you are adding to Scripture, don’t you think? You are also using 2 verses of Proverbs, instead of the whole text, much like the JV use to do in their witnessing.
Eph 5:18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,

Pro 23:29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes?
Pro 23:30 Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine.
Pro 23:31 Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly.
Pro 23:32 In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder.
Pro 23:33 Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things.
Pro 23:34 You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, like one who lies on the top of a mast.
Pro 23:35 "They struck me," you will say, "but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake? I must have another drink."

In His Name

Benji Ramsaur said...

Dr. Yarnell,

Thanks for the response. I think I understand where you are going. However, if I was leading a Bible study and thus teaching in a dormatory in college to students who were Presbyterians, for example, who already knew the Lord/gospel, then would I be wrong to teach them to observe Christ's other commands besides baptism?

I hope you can see where I am going.

Thanks

Alan Cross said...

Malcolm,

I am not making arguments. I am using biblical definitions for terms like "unrepentant sinners" and am saying that those terms have real weight and meaning. They cannot be thrown around to win theological arguments between denominations without consequence. You, Bart, and others seem to want to use the terms but not stand by what they actually mean. 1 John 3:4-10 is very clear as to what an unrepentant sinner actually is. To say that this passage is dealing with regeneration is very sketchy, in my opinion. I have seen Baptists use this argument to justify a faith that says "walk the aisle and then live however you want." It is why there is such little holiness in our churches. I am very big on grace, but I truly believe that if we know Christ, there will be a change and we will not continue on in sin without repentance.

If you say that you do not think that the targets of your position are without the Holy Spirit or children of the devil, then I am glad. I don't either. But, I don't think that you can have it both ways.

No, I am not afoul with postmodernism. I do very much believe that there is sin and that it can be defined. I have no problem with saying that something is sin. I do have a problem with declaring the state of people as unrepentant sinners when they are sincerely mistaken in their beliefs. Technically you would be right, but we do not deal in the technical. We deal with the real meanings of words and we both know that to call a group of people like Presbyterians "unrepentant sinners" might win your argument among your colleagues at SWBTS, but it does little to advance the cause of Christ anywhere else.

I am not making arguments. I am highlighting the implications of your arguments. They are severe.

By the way, I would be comfortable with saying that these groups are "out of God's will" on the matter of baptism. I think that we all would agree.

The Grumpy Rabbit (TGR) said...

Dr. Yarnell,

I know that you are a very busy man, and you are trying to answer everyone with clarity and grace. I truly appreciate the kindness displayed in and levity that you have added to this discussion.

Here is one of the main problems with Letter #16. You defined something that cannot possibly work. I have said this in both of my comments. The way you define GCC is flawed. It cannot work. This has been argued in many ways from many commenters. What has been said is that according to your definition no one qualifies to be a GCC. You say that one does qualify if "They do not obey the entirety of the Great Commission." You use "obey the entirety" with respect to a comprehensive statement that includes all of life and ministry. That is not workable.

What I am after is for you to change you definition to something that is workable. I do not think that I will agree with you, but I would like for you to have a better argument for your position.

You know that your argument does work for every issue. You write,

"The emphasis should be on the intent and effort to fulfill the Great Commission. Baptists are not perfect, and will be perfect only when they arrive in glory. The point is that the theology of paedo-Baptists automatically puts them in opposition to the Great Commission"

And

"Indeed, every Christian must constantly strive to follow Christ's commands. Most Baptists do not claim perfectionism but do emphasize improvement. Unfortunately, by building an unbiblical delimitation or disorder into their theology, paedo-baptists have unnecessarily blocked themselves off from such striving after the Great Commission."

However, you did not make your original case with "intent" or "to strive for improvement." You made your case "obey the entirety." Had you made your case, however, with "intent" or "to strive for" that would allow for "theological errors because of hermeneutical blindness," which we all suffer from. We would, therefore, then be in a different position with our Presbyterian brothers as it relates to being co-labors in the Great Commission.

I am not questioning your motives at this point, but what it seems is that you want "entirety" with respect to "order" and "intent" (or, "to strive") with respect to "making disciples" as it relates to church discipline, or whatever the Baptists do not have perfectly.

Back to the earlier point. Forget the GCC designation. Make your argument on traditional Baptist understandings on ecclesial cooperation. While you are at it, tells us how Baptist might cooperate with Presbyterians. It might help for you to give us your understanding of the Universal Church.

I realize that you were responding to what you thought was a poor definition of GCC by the IMB. Maybe the problem is not the definition but an unhelpful category that is not redeemable for your purpose. Perhaps the Great Commission is too comprehensive for you to use to make the careful and precise distinctions that this discuss requires.

Keith

Steve Sensenig said...

If you are not referring to Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians, I am not sure what statement you are referencing.

Malcolm, I have stated quite specifically which statement in 1 Corinthians I was referring to in these latter comments. You have dodged my point several times now without addressing the root issue at play, and you seem to want to address one portion of Paul's comments and not the entire point. This is, indeed, getting a bit frustrating.

Allow me to state a very clear question to which you can simply respond "yes" or "no". When Paul states in 1 Corinthians 1:17 that "Christ did not send [him] to baptize", was he using a figure of speech while actually meaning the opposite of his statement?

If you need one verse regarding the problems with alcohol, although there are many, please try Eph 5:18 or Prov 23:31-32.

This is a classic category switch, my dear brother. This discussion was not about "the problems of alcohol". And the SBC has not merely addressed "problems with alcohol". The SBC has forbidden at least certain of its members from partaking at all.

My question to you was very straightforward: "Can you provide a chapter and verse to support total abstinence from alcohol?" And yet, despite the straightforward nature of the question, you changed categories in your response to "problems with alcohol" and gave verses that refer to the abuse of alcohol.

How about we look at Deuteronomy 14:26? "You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household." (emphasis mine)

That doesn't look like a prohibition of alcohol to me. In fact, it is quite the opposite. It demonstrates that there can actually be a God-honoring usage of alcohol.

So why does the SBC prohibit it? Yes, yes, because of its dangers. And we do well to teach people of the dangers, in the same way that scripture does. But prohibition goes beyond (and even against) the revelation of God. It adds to the scripture, even contradicting it, and therefore puts you in the same judgment you are passing on others.

The arguments that I, and others, have been putting forth here cannot so easily be brushed aside with "you're using different logic". What I am trying to demonstrate, dear brother, is that your logic is not merely different, but rather it is faulty.

I am appealing for you to examine your logic and its implications (as others have mentioned here) and consider where it falls short. You seem to be resisting (and worse, dismissing) that, for some strange reason.

And yes, we Baptists can do better, but we do try.

And yet, you have demonstrated a determination not to extend the very same grace to others in the kingdom.

Marty Duren said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Malcolm Yarnell said...

Benji,

Yes, indeed, teach these Presbyterians to observe Christ's other commands, besides baptism, but please remember to teach them to observe Christ's command with regard to baptism, too.

Alan,

The statement, "I am not making arguments," followed by more argumentation is somewhat contradictory to me, unless I am misunderstanding what you mean by argument.

Now, down to the real issue: What is the difference between "mistaken in their beliefs" and "unrepentant sin"? By the way, please do look deeper into the doctrine of repentance. I think you will find some nuances there that are being missed in this conversation.

The Grumpy Rabbit,

I do think the category of GCC is not flawed. The problem is that Christ has set a high bar for obedience, and we struggle to meet the bar. The problem is not with the high bar but with our inadequecies and rebellion. A redeemed person must still battle sin until he is glorified. I want to obey Christ in entirety, and when I find that I am failing, I ask forgiveness and try again. The problem with those who change Christ's commands is that they have lowered the bar rather than trying harder to meet the bar. Presbyterians have simply lowered the bar with regard to Christ's command regarding baptism. The problem is not with the Great Commission, but with our interpretation of it. In regard to your question regarding the universal church, it doesn't exist in its fullness as yet, but let's all keep trying to add to it.

Steve,

The debate over alcohol is one that we could deep into, but sidetracks us from this thread. May I suggest you look up some of the Baptist responses to recent debate over the issue at Baptist Press or at BaptistTheology.org?

Marty,

As always, thanks for your thoughts. They do challenge me to be a better Christian. Let us all return to reading Scripture together. Marty, I have reread Matthew 7:3-5 and prayed that I may fulfill it better. Care to read verse 24 and apply it to the Great Commission with me?

Dear All,

I imagine we have reached the limit of our conversation here.

In Christ,
Malcolm

Paul said...

Dr. Yarnell,

It appears that you have chosen not to directly respond to Kevin or myself. I'm disappointed, but I can understand--you may consider it bad stewardship of your time.

I do think you have touched on a core issue--the difference between error and sin. I don't think they are necessarily the same. For instance, I may think that you may be in error here or there, but I would not call you an "unrepentant sinner" until you came into perfect illumination or even omniscience.

I have said publicly that since there are hundreds of Christian denominations in the U.S., there are only two mathematical possibilities of how many have it 'all together'--either one or none. I believe I can confidently say that the answer is 'none.'

It seems to me that you are saying that the answer is 'one,' no?

I also am concerned that the further illumination that your claim seems to be final--that you either have it all together, or if you don't that you are in sin. If you have it all together, then there is no need for further theological research. Let's just write the book on the Book and go home. There's also no need to learn from each other. Illumination is complete--we have no need for God to speak to us further--from His Word or through others.

If, however hypothetically, you are in sin (by your definition), how can you know it if you don't have significant interaction with other evangelicals?

BTW, I have to wonder how you might apply the equivalency of 'error' and 'unrepentant sin' at home?

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Paul,

I did not skip your argument, but answered it summarily, suggesting further research for you.

There is no sense of finality in my use of the doctrine of illumination. Illumination of the biblical text for our proper understanding is the Spirit's work, and we should never presume we have the final answer. However, we must implement what we have and teach the Bible as best we understand it.

I really do believe that the conversation has reached its limit. Thanks to all for your interest in this subject.

In Christ,
Malcolm

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Paul,

One last comment, so that I may fully respond to you. Theological "error" is a "sin," either that or "belief" is rendered meaningless. As for my home, my wife and I lead our family into repentance whenever that is needed, and we often discuss it during our regular family devotionals.

Again, this thread has probably reached its limit. Please read David's post regarding his trip to South Asia and offer a prayer for him.

In Christ,
Malcolm

Steve Sensenig said...

Malcolm,

I am profoundly disappointed in the way you have handled the questions here.

Dismissal of points made in discussion as well as arbitrarily declaring a conversation over indicate that true conversation never took place.

I cannot be absolutely certain of the intents of your heart, but I must say that there is certainly the appearance of a lack of true desire for dialogue here, despite the fact that the word "dialogue" appears in the post titles.

For the record, you have misrepresented my use of the subject of alcohol in this thread. It was not a side track issue, but rather used as an example of the double standard you are setting forth. In that sense, it really gets to the very core of this issue of how you interpret, apply, and judge others by the Great Commission.

Your refusal to actually deal with the substance of my comments to you, and instead continue to patronize me and dismiss my points is appalling, Malcolm.

Some very direct questions have gone unanswered by you, and those questions were specifically asked to give you an opportunity to demonstrate biblical warrant for your positions.

You have failed to demonstrate biblical support for your opinions, and therefore your opinions on these matters should be summarily rejected by anyone who claims to hold scripture as the measuring rod.

I have attempted not to be swayed by the emotionally-strong statements made by others in these threads regarding your character and heart. And I have attempted to refrain from using such language myself.

But the conclusion I am coming to is that there are indeed issues of the heart manifesting through your words ("out of the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks") -- issues that appear to be prohibiting you from truly reasoning with other believers and being reasoned with by others.

My heart grieves over this. If you wish to discuss this with me privately, you may email me personally at steve@theologicalmusingsblog.com and I will be happy to give you my phone numbers or converse through email.

Wayne Smith said...

Dr. Malcolm Yarnell,
When I was Born Again, I was covered, by the Blood of The Lamb Jesus Christ for all my Sins, Past-Present- and Future.
Brother Les Puryear’s Post reminded me of the GRACE that GOD gave me in my excepting Jesus Christ as my lord and Savior.
This is what I posted on Brother Les’s Blog.

Les,

Unrepentant Sin as Brothers Dr. Bart Barber and Dr. Malcolm Yarnell call it is their Sin or failure to see the Truth of God Word. Les I thank you for bringing this to light, as I know Our names are in the Lamb Book of Life and that is Our Surety in Our Salvation. This Book was written Before the Foundation of the Wlorld.
Rev 13:8 and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.

In His Name

Alan Cross said...

Malcolm,

Again, I am not making arguments. I am detailing the results of your arguments. Ideas have consequences.

I do think that I understand repentance quite well. But the truth remains, when you call someone an "unrepentant sinner" it generally means that they are an unbeliever. Or, at best, they are a Christian who has been turned over to themselves and Satan for discipline outside of the church. It is a very severe thing. But, I have said that already.

Wayne Smith said...

Dr. Malcolm Yarnell,

With all of your answers here on the string of comments, I will again repost my comment which was the First comment on this post.It maybe should have also included the word Pharisee
I do Believe IMHO you are reflecting the signs of a Legalist in Your comment here. Your can read about it here on this Blog:

http://saythetruthorpaytheconsequences.blogspot.com/

In His Name

Benji Ramsaur said...

Dr. Yarnell,

But if I may teach them to observe all of Christ's commands [including Baptism] before Baptism, then why may I not observe communion with them before Baptism?

Surely the "make disciples" or "teach" [whichever translation you choose] has to do with gospel content. And after they have entered the New Covenant then Hebrews instructs that you will not have to teach them to "know the Lord" because they will already know the Lord. Hence, I don't have to teach you the gospel, in an evangelisitc sense, because you already know the Lord.

The same is true of believing Presbyterians, etc. and surely that is the meaning of what comes after "going" in that passage.

Thanks again

BCR

Sandor Magyar said...

I throw myself in the evangelical ecumenicist camp, and find Malcolm's arguments and rhetoric unhelpful. For me the operative passage for deciding how and why to cooperate with other Christians who do not fully agree with me does not come from abstract reasoning on Mt. 28, but from the very clear discussion on the weak and the strong given by Paul in Romans 14.

Paul begins his discussion by saying, "Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions." Paul then goes on to describe two issues that separated the Roman Christians - food and the observance of days. Probably some Jewish Christians and Proselyte believers could not in good conscience give up observing aspects of Jewish ceremonial law. Others (including Paul) believed that in Christ there was freedom in these matters, Christians were not obligated to follow Jewish kosher regulations or to observe the Sabbath or Jewish holy days.

Paul's argument, however, is not to beat up on the weak, but to exhort the strong that their primary obligation is to maintain the bond of unity through exercising charity. Paul summarizes this call to charity in v. 17, "For the Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." Thus David's analogy of the "Common Loaf" is very much in the spirit of Romans 14.

Now we all know that Paul had a much different attitude towards the Judaizers in Galatians, and in that epistle he even mentioned rebuking Peter for appearing to backslide on what the Lord had taught him in Joppa. This is where the distinction between "Faith" and "Order" has been brought into the discussion. Paul was vehement in protecting his gospel message of justification by faith through grace alone, apart from works of the law. But where the faith is not in question, he argues for both Christian liberty and Christian charity (see F.F. Bruce's discussion of Romans 14 in the Tyndale commentary for this line of argument).

Malcolm, I would like to know how you can reconcile your assertion that "Speaking and expositing about the essential of one’s ‘faith’ in Christ while dismissing the essential of obeying the ‘order’ established by Christ is utterly sinful" with the priority of liberty and charity enjoined upon the 'strong' in Romans 14? To call other Christians who give every evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives "unrepentant sinners" because they do not believe as you do in issues of order seems to me to be a clear violation of Paul's counsel to the strong. You are putting "eating and drinking" before "righteousness and peace and Joy in the Holy Spirit." This may, in your view, build up the SBC kingdom (I disagree), but it certainly does not build up the Kingdom of God.

Let me flesh out my argument in terms of my own life story. After finishing up a couple of degrees at an institution that embodies evangelical ecumenicism in New England, I was invited to spend some time at a similar institution in the messy border region of Europe's civilizations. It fit in with my desire to one day work in that part of the world. Our student body was not only interdenominational (Pentecostals, Baptists, etc), but international (Croats, Serbs, Macedonians, Slovenians, Albanians, Ukrainians, Romanians, only my people - Hungarians - seemed to be absent). The school was historically Pentecostal, but at that time it was also the official school for Baptists in the country, because their former seminary happened to be on the wrong side of the new border. I suppose that if I had Malcolm's attitude, I would not have chosen to cooperate with "unrepentant sinners" and would not have had the opportunity to teach all the Baptist students I taught.

If I had Malcolm's attitude, I also would not have married my wife. But back when I married her, the IMB still allowed charismatics to serve. So for the first ten years of our married life in the USA, we always attended SBC churches (which was not easy in New England - one reason why we moved south). The dream was to go back to Eastern Europe through the IMB. But two years ago the IMB trustees changed that rule. Now for the first time in over 15 years, I am not a member in a Southern Baptist church. I am too conservative for the CBF, but I no longer feel welcomed in the SBC. So we attend a church that fits both of us (charismatic for my wife, Reformed and baptistic for me). People like David and Wade are fighting the good fight for the SBC. They are trying to stop the revolution from eating its own children. They are putting "righteousness and peace and Joy in the Holy Spirit" before "eating and drinking" so that the SBC can play a more constructive role in building up the Kingdom of God. Malcolm, I believe your path is not only not as faithful to the witness of Scripture, but it will lead the SBC into increasing irrelevancy in the global church.

Wayne Smith said...

r. Malcolm Tarnell,

We should all read Ephesians 4

4:1-16 Unity of the Spirit
and
4;17-32 The Christian’s Walk

In His Name

Wayne Smith said...

Sorry about that bad typing.

That Should Be

Dr. Malcolm Yarnell

In His Name

Paul said...

>>Please read David's post regarding his trip to South Asia...

Malcolm,

Not the first time I've been told where to go.:)

Blessings, my brother!

Wayne Smith said...

Dr. Malcolm Yarnell,
I guess in your way of Thinking, you are calling all of these Great Men of God Unrepentant Sinners, is that correct???

John Owen
Jonathan Edwards
B. B. Warfield
C. S. Lewis
Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Dr. R. C. Sproul
Dr. Edmund P. Clowney
Dr. James Kennedy
J. I. Packer
Dr. Tim Keller

And the list goes on:

In His Name

R. Grannemann said...

Just got back from several days out of town.

Malcolm,

You said the "qualifying element" to be a true church is that it obeys the Great Commission, and for you that includes baptizing believers only by immersion (I think).

Let me first note that the Great Commission says nothing about its flawless execution being the qualifying element to be a New Testament church. It is simply one of Jesus' last command to his church.

In any case, it is useful to look at extreme cases to detect flaws in hard and fast rules. Suppose there exists an assembly of true believers, filled with the Holy Spirit, committed to following Christ and making disciples, but ignorant that baptism is properly by immersion, and which performs the ordinance upon new believers by pouring water upon them. By your definition they are not a true church. But what would be the practical different between this and a so called "true church?" Nothing except the rite of baptism looks a little different because of one group's ignorance. I have a hard time thinking anyone would find this substantive.

The book of Matthew is filled with Jesus' teaching about the kingdom (teachings on how to enter and teachings concerning ethical conduct for those who have entered). The kingdom is composed of those who have entered by the New Birth. The New Testament assembly is an assembly of those who have entered the kingdom. I find no other definition for a true assembly in Matthew. Comparatively little is said about baptism, except that it is a symbol of the new birth. Following your method of exegesis, could I not just as legitimately pick some other teaching concerning the kingdom that is not perfectly obeyed and say that makes an assembly of saved people not a church? But then no assembly of saved people would be a church.

There is an infinite chasm, in my mind, between what you and what Dagg are saying in this regard. You have singled out a certain "work" performed in a certain way as a qualifying element of a New Testament church (sure, I agree Baptists do this right). But in the New Testament I find only qualifying element to be faith.

R. Grannemann said...

Another thought.

It is appropriate for a local church to require believers baptism by immersion as a condition for membership, for this was the initiatory rite in the early church and churches properly have stewardship over their own membership.

My point is that it is important to properly IDENTIFY the true church, as this fundamentally influences one's ecclesiastical thinking. Is the true church identified by performance or by the New Birth? The wrong answer here gets one irretrievably muddled in endless speculations and rules.