Posted by: Robin Foster | November 23, 2007

Fear and Blame

Since I started blogging in February 2006, I have not only learned the art and craft of this new medium, I have witnessed the tactics of those seeking change in the SBC.  It is my belief that we are no longer engaging in a discussion, but we have moved on to talking past each other in an effort to win the day.

The first step was to spread fear among Southern Baptists with mantra of “narrowing parameters.”  What started out as a disagreement with policies concerning baptism and personal prayer language quickly erupted to fears of eradicating the convention of those “Calvinists” or anyone who is not a “Dispensationalist.”  Fear is a great consensus builder.  While there has been pockets of misunderstanding concerning some of those who are either Calvinistic in their view of soteriology or who are not dispensational in their eschatology, for the most part, those fears are only that, “fear.”  While I am somewhere between three and four points in my Calvinism, I have been accepted by those who have been accused of being on a Calvinistic witch hunt.  The interview conducted with Dr. Danny Akin on SBC Today, I believe, has set the correct parameters of rejecting hyper-Calvinists and those who are hyper in their Calvinism.  This comes from a man who has worked closely with both Drs. Paige Patterson and Albert Mohler and has himself signed the abstract of principles. 

Fear is a powerful motivator, but it must be accompanied with a second step, blame.  If a face can be put with fear, then we can further rally the troops to our cause.  What has happened these past two years has been a effort to make you afraid of the, “narrowing of parameters” and telling you who is to blame for it.  The targets of the blame game has been Paige Patterson, Albert Mohler, and John Floyd just to name a few. 

All of this has been fought out in the world of blogs.  We are fighting back and forth declaring that each other is the problem.  If we continue in this sphere of dialog, when a problem arises that must be dealt with, the first call for the day is to blame each other and in the process forget that solutions are needed to address falling baptisms in our churches (caused by a drastic decrease in personal witnessing to others) or dealing with the most biblically illiterate laity since the reformation took place.  

But there are some bright spots.  Dr Danny Akin is leading in reaching out with conferences to openly discuss the issues Southern Baptists are facing from the emerging church to Calvinism.  There are also some blogs that are making a positive difference. 

Many in blogdom have moved away from engaging in the comment sections because people don’t want to discuss, they want to annihilate others who differ in opinion.  Just try saying a comment that is contrary or questions the person writing the post.  The groupies emerge like a school of piranha that not only engage in personal attacks, but even go to the point of questioning the salvation of those that might debate their beloved messiah.  And then there are some who never say a positive thing.  The mean spirited ugliness permeates the screens we read.  Ladies and gentlemen, this gets us no where!

So what is the solution?  Focus on where God has planted you.  Ignore those who are more focused on their personal agendas.  They may maintain their groupies, but they will not make further inroads to the Convention.  Study and pray to our Holy God that will not only hold us accountable for our words on and off the screen.  Finally, blog solutions rather than fear.  While fear is quicker and easier, solutions are harder, but they make a greater impact that lasts generations.

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Responses

  1. Wonderful analysis and solution bro. Robin.
    I believe you are right.
    Steve

  2. falling baptisms in our churches (caused by a drastic decrease in personal witnessing to others)

    Are you sure that’s the reason Robin? I believe there has been personal witnessing going on, probably as much or more so than anytime in history. One can blog and still witness, do ministry, raise a family etc.

    The words you have chosen to use like messiah and groupie I am going to try to ignore, since you can’t be “not wanting to discuss, but instead annihilating other people who differ in opinion.”

    The solution in my opinion is clear. They have been given along with the problems brought to light. It may not be the solution that you want however. There needs to be a reversal of resolutions, policies that go further than the BFM and the scriptures. Agreeing to disagree yet being able to preach in chapel without being censored, writing articles for the Baptist Press without it being pulled because it disagrees with the powers that be. I agree that Danny Aiken, Nathan Finn etc. have begun to provide these solutions. The end result however will be the telling point. If people understand better and begin accepting each other, that is success. If it continues to divide and the distortions still continue that would be telling. I do agree that we need to discuss, talk about the issues. That just doesn’t seem to be happening.

    If by personal agenda you mean that I or others are pretty sick and tired of seeing parameters narrow, which by the resolutions, guidelines, polices that have been passed in the recent years and months they have and will continue, that is fact, then yes, I have a personal agenda. I have a personal agenda to not see good solid Conservative Christian men and women who read and practice certain passages differently, hurt or destroyed anymore.

  3. Debbie

    With all due respect and love as a sister in Christ, you are mistaken to think that baptism rates are falling because of an alleged “narrowing of parameters.” I will let your comment stand as is because I believe what you said is a perfect example of what I was trying to convey with the post.

    God Bless

  4. Robin: My point on baptism had nothing to do with narrowing the parameters, although I do not deny that I think that has something to do with it. My point is this. We are looking for real conversions are we not? If we are so concerned with whether baptisms are up or down, is that either hampering or helping? In other words, is the drive to get bigger numbers of baptisms or true real, conversions? I don’t think we can necessarily have both. I believe people are being witnessed to yet they are not making that commitment to Christ. I don’t think that’s a bad thing if their hearts are not changed. It’s not anything that can be forced I’m sure you would agree.

  5. Robin,

    And yet, as you have said in your Thanksgiving post, what a blessing that God has given us these new friendships through our blogging.

  6. ooops… if I swallowed that stuff from Debbie.. I wouldn’t need epicack, it’d come on up all by itself!

  7. Debbie

    You stated in your first response that the solution (I can only assume your solution was to the falling baptismal rates since that is what you originally brought up) was to to reverse the policies that allegedly narrowed parameters.

    Concerning Baptisms or conversions, our mandate is to make disciples. Conversion, as you know, always comes first, but our job is not done there. The next step in discipleship is baptism. All this time, we are to be teaching them. While I don’t deny that some baptisms are done with those who are not truly converted, baptisms are still a good gage by which we can measure and check ourselves.

    I don’t understand your statement here, “I don’t think that’s a bad thing if their hearts are not changed.” The opposite of bad is good. Even Paul who trusted in God’s sovereignty would have to disagree with you. God is not willing for anyone to perish, but for all to come to repentance. Are you saying that it is good for someone to remain lost?

  8. Robin,

    I agree with you that fear is a problem. Many times I stay away from making comments on a post because of the attacks that will come from what I said. Too often I see the person being engaged and not the issue. I’m actually working on a post about that for my new blog, it just has to take a backseat for a few days while I work on a silly Greek paper…

    This is only the second post I have made on a blog now that I have a website because I have been afraid to let too many people know I have a blog now. It shouldn’t be that way, I should not have to worry that I will be attacked for things I say.

    I pray that people will learn to engage the issues raised on a blog and not make disparaging remarks about any person posting or commenting. The motive ought to be left out also, especially when it is someone assigning motive to another person. I pray that I am not one of the guilty ones, in the past or in the future.

    I want to learn about and understand the issues of our faith that hinder others from coming to know Christ or are keeping current Christians from growing in the love and knowledge of our wonderful Lord and Savior and therefore missing out on a beautiful relationship. I want to learn and grow and contribute to the Kingdom and I don’t want to do that in fear of my fellow Christians. Persecution of Christians is alive and well around the world, we don’t need it among ourselves.

    Blessings,
    Trish

  9. oops, put the website in with a typo…

  10. Robin: The pressure put on by numbers is real. It’s one thing to say our goal is $67 million dollars, it’s another thing to say our goal is 67 million souls won. The reason I say that is this. The true gospel tends to get lost in the telling.We then pressure someone to be saved who is not ready to take that step and may not. Of course we don’t want anyone not to have Christ, its why we witness, but who does the Apostle Paul say causes the seed to grow? I don’t want false conversions. I would rather have 1, 2 or ten true conversions, than more false conversions. It may be why(and I think it is) there are so many unregenerate church memberships.

  11. BTW Steve it’s ipecac. 🙂 Nursing school ya know.

  12. Robin,

    Great post, and congratulations on the win over LSU.

    The intentional tactic of spreading FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt), gives the message of narrowing parameters feigned legitimacy. They know that this is not true. It is not the narrowing of parameters but the aggrandizement of beliefs (or parameters) of what it means to be Baptist that many of us are defending. For example, the issue of Believer’s Baptism being an issue shocks me even to this day. Even after reading the blogs for a while now.

    If what our very name stands for (Baptist) is narrowing parameters, then logically, we will become a denomination that no belief is broad enough that it can not become a Baptist belief. We have seen similar progression of other once Biblically sound denominations. Ours was headed that way in the 1970’s. We decided to not forsaked the scripture.

    Our forefathers broke fellowship over the issue of Baptism, many even gave their lives for it. For these to claim we are narrowing what it means to Baptist would almost be funny, except for the fact that Godly men were willing to die for it. It is sad to see their sacrifice so easily discarded in the pursuit of widening the scope of what it means to be Baptist. A scope with which many Baptists still hold and will fight to defend.

    Again, I say, it is not the narrowing of parameters that is the real issue. It is the widening of parameters that we must defend against. I for one am thankful that faithful Godly men and women are fighting against that widening today in our SBC agencies. In the meanwhile, we will keep seeing FUD from blog posts and comments that seek to steer Baptists from the real issue. I am grateful for blogs such as yours, that bring us back to the real issue.

    Ron P.

  13. Ron

    “It is the widening of parameters that we must defend against. ”

    Excellent Point!

  14. I see that phrase used and I don’t know what that means. What exactly(name some specifics) do you mean when you say “it is the widening of parameters that we must defend.”

  15. Debbie

    I will as soon as you or Wade or anyone else can tell us specifically the secondary and tertiary doctrines that we shouldn’t divide over.

  16. Debbie you obviously require conformity to yours and your pastor’s views in everything, including the americanized spelling of English words.
    I respectfully and graciously dissent to your view.

  17. But in the end..
    from a poem by C.J. Dennis, THE SONGS OF A SENTIMENTAL BLOKE.
    “Yeh live, yeh love, yeh learn; an’ when yeh come /
    To square the ledger in some thortful hour /
    The everlastin’ answer to the sum /
    Must allus be, ‘Where’s sense in gittin’ sour?'”
    Steve

  18. Robin: Hasn’t that already been done? I hate to take up your thread to share my thoughts on what I would personally consider tertiary and non-tertiary? Could you not give specifics as to what you would consider widening?

    Steve: I would disagree with your statement. Of course if you are convinced of that I cannot nor would not change your mind. I agree with Wade and did before I even knew who Wade Burleson or Emmanuel Baptist church was. God in answer to my prayers and in His grace and mercy led my husband to Emmanuel through circumstances that could have only been brought about by God. It’s the first church that I do agree with the minister and his wife. But you can say I conform. I wouldn’t deny that, but I base that conformity on my studies in scripture and what I personally found. It took me a long time to come to that point. Thank goodness for taking notes in church and personal Bibles. 🙂 Your statement doesn’t answer my question however, which is not a question to trick anyone, but a sincere desire to know what Robin thinks on this.

  19. Robin,

    Interesting discussion….

    It does give pause as we try to determine the reason for counting heads. This may be good discussion for another topic.

    When God added to the church, he counted souls and didn’t tie it down specifically to an individual church. I’m sure the “about three thousand souls” who were in and around Jerusalem during that special time of Jewish tradition did not all attend the same Sunday School Class,….but they did hear a great message! Operative word “hear” (They had ears to hear).

    There are a lot of good reasons, means, and ways to know who is a part of your church, but establishing the count by baptisms seems to be a flawed system for accountability even according to Baptist’s who say that of their baptismal count there may be as many as 50% who do not attend (inflated rolls). I’m certain there are many other reasons for the inflated numbers…..but I was always curious why use the baptism count as “the count”,….because some do fall away.

    Just some thoughts,
    Chris

  20. Debbie

    I have been an avid reader of many blogs including Wade’s. Unless I may have missed a post, I have seen the terms “secondary” and “tertiary” thrown around with one or two doctrines mentioned, but no other specific doctrines mentioned. According to Dr. Mohler, which is whom Wade has quoted for his theological triage post, The first level represents orthodoxy(Trinity, salvation by grace through faith), the second represents those doctrines that define us as Baptist (priesthood of all believers, believers baptism), and the third are those different doctrines that are used within baptist circles that don’t take away from the second tier of doctrines (premil/amil, Calvin/non-Calvin).

    So again, if someone can tell us what secondary issues according to Dr. Mohler’s system we can compromise on, then we can continue the debate.

    Chris,

    I agree, some do fall away, but I believe the reasons do not fall at Baptism being flawed as a means of accountability. What is flawed is how we practice and administer baptism. Yes, This would be a great topic. Let it percolate some.

  21. Robin: I believe it has been spoken of specifically at least for the two years I have been reading. I would be happy however to tell you again, but did not want to take up space here, but will with your permission or at least link you to where they have been specifically spoken of. I don’t however remember reading what specifics cause widening in your opinion which is why I asked. I have also thought that answering a question with a question denotes evasiveness. I just think if you are going to use the words widening the parameters it needs to be backed up with specifics and proof that this is what is happening.

  22. Debbie

    You have my full and bona fide permission to take up as much space as you need to list the specific secondary and tertiary doctrines that we should compromise on. I just ask that you follow Dr. Mohler’s Theological Triage model in doing so.

    There is a growing ecumenical movement that focus’ on the individual preference (pragmatism) rather than the Biblical witness. This undermines the authority of God and His Word. In doing this, we change definitions and historical understandings of theological doctrines Baptists have found in the Bible. In other words, we widen the parameters from what Baptists have historically believed and how the Bible defines our beliefs.

    So, Debbie, here is my solution. While you list all those specific doctrines that are secondary (those that identify us as Baptist) that we should compromise on, I suggest we focus on upholding the authority of God’s word rather than one’s mere cultural preference in what they believe. Rather than using situational theology as it benefits our agenda, we allow the clear teaching of God’s word to drive our actions and opinions.

    While you again list all those secondary issues that identify us as Baptists that we can compromise on, I suggest you check with other Baptists to make sure you got it right and that there is a finality to the list. That way, the list doesn’t change at the whim of a blogger who doesn’t like the decision of a board, a state convention, or any other entity in the SBC. I also suggest you give a proper understanding of the theological doctrine so that someone can’t twist a Baptist belief like Religious Liberty to use as he sees fit for his personal disagreement (dissent) with trustee decisions.

    The widening of parameters are caused by a redefining of terms. SBC Today has an excellent article from Dr. Bart Barber that shows how Religious Liberty is being redefined and twisted from its biblical, historical, and theological roots.

    So Debbie, what are those secondary issues that define us as Baptists we can compromise on?

  23. Robin,

    I think you are right….

    “What is flawed is how we practice and administer baptism.”

    You know my heart on this issue…. Baptism is a wonderful command of our Lord and Savior! Sometimes we tend to minimalize it for odd reasons and selfish motives.

    Baptism is a simple command and is well understood by the “newness” of the mind that is supplied by Christ.

    Blessings,
    Chris

  24. Robin,

    In response to your request regarding parameters as related to Mohler’s “triage” taxonomy, I offer the following in light of our current SBC context:

    Primary (orthodoxy); the Gospel Baptism is meant to symbolize.
    Secondary (Baptist Identity) mode and canddiates of Baptism
    Tertiary (what the IMB has currently made an issue) whether the church that baptized said believer confesses “eternal security.”

    In light of the past 50 years of precedent in most SBC churches (And all of which I have been a part), turning this tertiary issue into a secondary one via policy shifts and a narrow interpretation of the BFM2K is not “preventing widened parameters.” It is indeed narrowing them.

  25. Joel

    I would offer this insight. Baptist Churches have historically rejected Baptism that was done by churches in other denominations. The acceptance level has been widened in some areas of our convention and the trustees spoke to that practice as it pertains to the appointment of missionaries. The fear of “narrowing” masquerades the widening that has been taking place.

    I would also not put eternal security on the tertiary level. To deny eternal security puts salvation on a faith plus works level. In other words, I am saved as long as I don’t do anything bad.

  26. Robin,

    Have Baptist Churches rejected baptism from other denominations based upon “method” or “interview”?

    The Baptist churches that I have been involved with have varied on their view of acceptable baptism,….some baptism’s were simply denied because it was from another denomination (even if the baptism was viewed as acceptable),…while another church would interview the inidividaul to determine if the baptism met a certain standard….if so, that baptism was accepted.

    In other words,…some were accepting of another’s denominations immersion, while others were not.

    Would you agree that it is proper to accept a baptism from another denomination?

    Thanks,
    Chris

  27. Robin,

    Thanks for the response. Let me address the two assertions you make:

    1. I would agree with you that “some” Baptist churches have historically rejected baptisms from other denominations. The question is whether such a practice is Biblical, and most faithful to the meaning of the ordinance. Since you address that with your second point, let me also address that point.

    2. I agree that works salvation is a false Gospel. but to attribute the teaching of such to all churches that deny eternal security shows a misunderstanding of the Arminian viewpoint. The historical ARminian position that salvation can be lost (which I, along with you, believe is wrong) was not tied to works, but instead to their understanding of free-will (which interestingly enough, mirrors the present-day Baptist understanding of free will, sans the security of one’s salvation.)

    To add to this, I must cite what I believe is an inconsistency on the part of those who insist on “re-Baptism” because of the administering church’s rejection of this doctrine.

    I agree with you that eternal security is a secondary issue, not a tertiary one. What is tertiary, I believe, is tying the validity of Baptism to congregational belief in this doctrine.

    If it is true that such congregations teach a works salvation (I do not believe it is, based on the historical analysis given above), then those who gather in those churches are not even believers. It is inconsistent to say (as Jim Richards and others have said) that these are our brothers and sisters, but their gatherings are not true churches. If their gatherings are on the same level as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses then yes, deny their baptism as legitimate, but you must also declare the adherents in these churches as unbelievers.

    I suppose what I’m saying is if we are to deny the legitimacy of baptism in these churches based on a perception that they preach a false Gospel (which, like it or not, is what Richards and others are saying), then let’s have the backbone to call the Assemblies, Nazarene churches, etc. “cults.” That is the term appropriately applied to those who preach a false Gospel, is it not?

    It is strange to me that we contend these have “enough” of the Gospel to be our brothers, but not enough to legitimize their baptism. The Scriptures don’t seem to have a third category like this. In the end, you guys who want to de-legitimize a post-conversion immersion in these churches have to do it based on your understanding that these are not believers. I’d personally love to see how that goes over in an SBC meeting. My guess is you would have quite a fight on your hands.

  28. Joel

    Sorry that I am only now getting to your comment. First, I thank you for the Christian way I have seen you engage these discussions. You have continued that character here.

    I may have misled you to misunderstand what I believe to be an understanding of salvation. I don’t believe anyone who is saved has the whole doctrine of perseverance meshed out. I know when I accepted Christ as my Savior, all I could tell you was that I was a sinner, Jesus died for my sins, and I trust that he paid the price for my sins. From that moment on, even though I did not know about perseverance of the saints, I was eternally secure in His grace. My understanding of eternal security came much later, but that did not determine my salvation. Jesus dying on the cross for my sins and my belief in what he did ensured that.

    Now to our brothers and sisters in churches that believe one can lose their salvation. I believe that all true believers who do believe one can lose your salvation was saved the same way I was. They confessed they were a sinner and trusted that Jesus died for their sins. According to my understanding of redemption, from the first moment they believed, God holds them in his eternal protection for the day of redemption whether they fully endorse your’s and my understanding of perseverance.

    Now, to further clarify what I meant. Remember, a person is eternally secure at the moment of salvation. Yes, eternal security is a second tier issue. It is not a test, IMHO, of orthodoxy. They may have developed their doctrine incorrectly after salvation, but nevertheless, they are saved. I don’t say that those who believe they can lose their salvation are themselves believing a faith plus works salvation. I am saying that logically, if one was to work the implications of that statement to its end, that is were one will finish.

    Now, concerning whether those who gather together are a New Testament church. I would ask you these questions. Would you consider a N.T. church one that is appointed their pastors from a bishop? Would you consider a N. T. church one that has decisions mandated to them outside of the local flock? Would you consider a New Testament church on that baptizes infants? The BF&M doesn’t nor IMHO does the Bible. Again, these are second tier issues that define us as Baptist. Outside of our understanding of the universal church, we believe that a New Testament church is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers operating under the Lordship of Christ through a democratic process. I guess what I am asking is, “Do those aforementioned practices really constitute a N. T. local church in your opinion?

    The argument about local church authority in administering the ordinances is one where I agree. I have debated this and won no converts. May I also say that I haven’t been converted to the other side. Frankly, this post was about solutions, so I will leave you with this. While I can’t fully speak as to why the trustees made their decision concerning Baptism, I can say that I am in agreement with it based on the authority given to a local N.T. church.

    I doubt if you or I will convert each other, but the decision has been made, let’s move on to offering solutions that will benefit the missionaries on the field. (which was really the point of the whole post)

    God Bless

  29. Robin,
    Thank you in kind for the amicable way you are discussing these issues. I will address your last post, and then, as you have requested, depart from the subject we have taken up here.

    YOu ask good questions indeed concerning the meaning of “church” in its local sense, and in the strictest sense, I agree with you. In fact, up here in “Catholic country” this is sometimes the best way to differentiate . . .to appeal to our different understandings of what “church” is (a local assembly of believers, or an extra-ecclesial body of bishops.) Makes for a “softer-sell” on the differences without stating “off the bat” that the Gospel has been perverted within Roman Catholicism.

    On the other hand, I would ask you this question: Is an assembly of baptized (i.e. immersed) believers, autonomously governed, but holding to an Arminian soteriology a church?

    According to the BFM2K (and its predeccesor confessions) you can legitimately deny an organization as a church for two reasons: 1. Their Gospel is false 2. Their baptism is not that of the New Testament.

    I appreciate your comments above about our Arminian brothers. I don’t for a moment believe you, Jim Richards, or anyone else believes these to be lost. At the same time, the baptism guideline is inconsistent for the reasons I stated above. I won’t belabor the issue here, but I will refer you to my article “I do Believe in Alien Baptism” that I submitted to SBC Today some time ago. If you don’t have it, you can get it from Wes.

    I think you are also right that we are unlikely to convert each other. I believe you should be free to administer baptism in your church just as I should be able to in one I serve as pastor. The trouble with this guideline is that it excludes one group from missionary service, and if you read my article, you will know that there is no way I could ever perform this ordinance merely for the sake of pleasing the IMB.

    No one is a stronger supporter of the IMB and its work than I. The top-giving church to Lottie in our association considered re-directing their missions funds away from the IMB after this decision. I strongly urged them to think of the missionaries, and thank God they have decided to stay with the IMB . . .for now. I’d love to move on, and in a sense I am, by continuing to support missions through cp and Lottie as I have in the past. At the same time, I believe it is possible to strongly support missions while simultaneously working to see this new guideline overturned. It may take a while, given the way board authority seems to supercede that of our churches who support them, but I think the greatest benefit to missionaries in the field is to appoint trustees who “get it.” I’ve been on four continents this year with our churches, working with IMB personnel, and I can tell you that when the word “trustees” comes up, the reaction is not good. I make no pretense about the character of these men and women, and I am certain all of them mean well. But some of the decisions are plainly wrong-headed.

    In short, my solution would be to rescind this guideline. Such action would put fears to rest on both sides of the pond. I hope my point has been made with the grace you would expect here.

    Otherwise, as I said, good questions and conversation above. God willing, perhaps we wil get the opportunity to meet in person.

  30. Robin,

    I have a serious question for you and if I understood better what you were talking about, I may not need to ask it. So please don’t read this wrong, I am not sure I understand the actual concerns about the administration of baptism, but maybe how you answer my question will clarify a few things for me.

    I have a friend working/serving in a country not necessarily friendly to Christians. He has his PhD from SWBTS in NT Studies. He is not there as part of the IMB but is there through a different organization. His work is in the education field but also in his area of study. He has had some fruit for his labors and has done a few immersions in his apartment bathtub. He has mentioned that there may be some who will come to the states, maybe even attend SWBTS in the future. If they tried to join a church here would their baptism be rejected? If yes, why?

    Thanks,
    Trish

  31. Joel

    I really enjoy debating on gracious terms. I will confess that I don’t have all the answers, but I have learned from our discussion.

    A few points I will discuss from your response. First is your question,

    “Is an assembly of baptized (i.e. immersed) believers, autonomously governed, but holding to an Arminian soteriology a church?”

    One thing, do you believe the gospel includes the preaching of eternal security in conjunction with salvation or do you believe the gospel does not include the preaching of eternal security?
    Biblically, I believe the preaching of the gospel must include eternal security. Therefore, no, I would not consider this church a New Testament church as one of the marks, the preaching of the gospel, is missing.

    Now, one might argue that I have contradicted myself by saying that I was saved understanding my sinfulness and trusting that Jesus paid for my sins on the cross. Again, I did not understand anything about eternal security. Does that mean that it wasn’t preached? Absolutely not. Does one need to understand eternal security to be saved? No. But with time, my understanding of the gospel became clearer as I was discipled.

    Preaching eternal security does not necessarily allow listeners understanding it, but it is necessary in explaining the full content of the gospel.

    Again, what do you thing the gospel entails?

  32. Trish

    Excellent question, but before I can answer your question, I have a few for you. Is your friend a member of a local church there meeting secretly for protection? If he isn’t, is he working under the authority of a church he is still a member of here in the states?

  33. Trish

    I would ask, as I am sure you know, that you are careful with the information you give concerning your friend. If you feel you can’t answer my questions without jeopardizing his position then don’t.

    I believe your question goes back to who has the authority to perform Baptisms. I believe Jesus commissioned the church to have the authority to perform this ordinance. Some believe the ordinance is for the individual believer and not the church. I disagree. For one reason, I believe Jesus commissioned the church to perform baptisms. Another is the scenario of a 10 year old leading his eight year old to Christ and then baptizing him in the swimming pool. Is that Baptism valid?

    I have written on this subject before and I will send you what I have if that will help.

    God Bless

  34. Robin,

    Yes, I am being cautious with what I share although the government of the particular country he is in is aware of who he is and what he is teaching, but he has certain limitations imposed upon him. Obviously you and I know that my friend is just a mouthpiece, the Word is doing all the work that is necessary once someone has heard.

    The only thing he has shared about his attendance overseas is that he can go to approved locations that people with passports can access. As far as his home church sponsoring him, I have never asked. He is expected to be back in the states during their semester break. He usually tries to call, if he does I’ll try to remember to ask him.

    Please share anything you have written on this, I am definitely interested in understanding this better. Dr. Pearle of Birchman BC basically shared the same view as you hold with my class this summer. I brought it up to one of the pastors at my church and they don’t take as hard a line on it.

    Thanks,
    Trish

  35. Trish

    I will send you what I have. It is good that you are asking questions and I hope that through this process, you will be blessed with knowledge that will help you understand this issue.

    Dr. Yarnell could also be a great resource on this also.

  36. oops….operative word “written” (writtin, ….been in Tennessee to long)

    🙂

  37. Robin,

    I promise you I was finished. But since you asked . . . 🙂

    You said:

    “One thing, do you believe the gospel includes the preaching of eternal security in conjunction with salvation or do you believe the gospel does not include the preaching of eternal security?
    Biblically, I believe the preaching of the gospel must include eternal security. Therefore, no, I would not consider this church a New Testament church as one of the marks, the preaching of the gospel, is missing.”

    I think our discussion has revealed the crux of the issue here.

    In short, no, I would not consider “eternal security” as a neccesary ingredient in preaching the Gospel. I certainly consider it to be one of our Baptist distinctives, and believe it important enough for us to deny missionary service to those who deny it. (i.e. its “second tier”) It is not, however, “first tier,” or else, that would make our Arminian brothers into preachers of a false Gospel.
    I do, along with NT scholar Michael Green, see the following as essential ingredients to the Gospel:
    1. The story of humanity, including our creation as God’s image-bearers, our fall into sin, and subsequent status as God’s enemies.
    2. The story of Jesus, including His virgin birth, sinless life, substitutionary death, bodily resurrection, and personal return.
    3. A call to respond to this message by repenting of sin and turning in faith toward Jesus based on His death for sin.

    This is where, with respect, I see an inconsistency. If eternal security is an essential part of the Gospel, then I fail to see how those who deny it can be Christians.

    That said, I do believe they are my fellow Christ-followers, even though I disagree with them on this issue. ACtually, I think we are probably closer to each other than we think.

    For example, if someone makes a “decision” in a church service, and then subsequently falls into perpetual and unrepentant sin, my contention is that this individual had a false conversion experience, was never regenerated and changed by the power of the Gospel, and is therefore a false convert, having never been saved.

    My Arminian brother would say that through the exercise of his free will, this individual chose to turn away from God and live perpetually this way, and therefore lost his salvation.

    But in the end, we both say the same thing: This guy isn’t going to make it to heaven because he is lost!

    To be sure, the theological issues behind our common assumption about this individual are very….VERY different. My doctrinal assumptions are centered (I believe) in a belief in a sovereign God who irreversibly changes hard hearts and creates new creatures in Christ who, although they will likely fall into sin, will be restored, and persevere until the end.

    The doctrinal assumptions of my Arminian brother are centered in a strong belief in human freedom that states if a person is totall free to choose Christ, then he is later free to reject him. But again, I have never had a conversation about this issue with an Arminian where the Arminian based his beliefs on a lack of “good works.” They based it on free will.

    But to conclude with my original contention; I simply think it inconsistent to say that an Arminian church isn’t a true church because it isn’t preaching the Gospel, but the members of that church are real believers. How can you have real believers if the Gospel isn’t being preached?

    I think its Ok to contend that they don’t preach the Gospel, but I also think that is highly up for debate, and in that kind of context, it is not wise, prudent, or gracious for a Board of Trustees to rule from on high regarding this issue when the churches aren’t even in agreement about it.

    Thanks for the “back and forth.” It appears, from my vantagepoint, that this is at root about whether “eternal security” is a first tier or second tier issue. Our discussions appear to have revealed this as the root issue.

  38. Joel

    Again thanks for the response. Allow me to correct what I believe you are saying about my position. If I have misunderstood your statements, please forgive me.

    I don’t believe eternal security is a first tier issue. It is secondary. Because of that and where I have argued before, I believe one can be saved not believing in Perseverance of the Saints.

    The list you gave concerning what the gospel is, I would whole heartily agree with it, but adding of course perseverance. One aspect of your response I wonder about is, are you equating knowledge on every point of the gospel as you listed with as points of belief for salvation?

    My contention is that the Gospel encompasses so much more than what is essential knowledge for salvation. For example (I hope you don’t mind me continuing to use my salvation experience), when I was saved, I had no idea about humanity being God’s image bearer. Is that a requirement for salvation?

    What I am stressing is that there is a difference between the gospel story and the essential knowledge of what it takes to be saved. Yes, the essential knowledge is included in the Gospel story. The essentials of salvation at a minimum include a conviction of personal sinfulness and a personal trust that Jesus paid the penalty for your sin. This personal trust is expressed in repentance. While the Gospel includes all you stated and from what I believe also eternal security, I don’t believe someone needs to know or understand every point of what you listed other than what I consider the essential knowledge of salvation.

    So, I can safely believe that Free Will, Methodist, Assembly of God, and anyone else who denies Perseverance of the Saints are in fact my brothers and and sisters in Christ.

    I can also safely (and might I add humbly) believe those assemblies that do not express a belief in Perseverance are missing an essential mark of the Gospel and therefore disqualify themselves from the Biblical Definition of a New Testament Church.

    I hope you don’t mind me asking another question, but the BF&M defines the church:

    “A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes.”

    Do you believe the BF&M disqualifies assemblies that do not operate in this fashion (autonomous, democratic process) from being considered a New Testament Church?

    Thanks again Joel.

  39. You guys are covering a lot of ground…….

    I think you both would agree that the gospel is outside of us and is the possession of God alone. Without His work of regeneration and imputation, we would have nothing to boast about. If God sees fit to bring an adopted son or daughter into His kingdom, …He will do it without our approval, but allows us to know them by their fruit.

    I think the contentions arise when we as “called out” children (church) begin meeting together (church) on the local level to establish criteria for belonging to each other.

    Just because a Pastor may not completely understand the “ordo solutis”… or may only understand his becoming saved by Christ through the lens of Calvin or Arminius, does not implicate the nature of the local church if that pastor is preaching the gospel (which I am simply stating that if he is faithful to scripture, regardless of his traditions.) and the ordinances are being maintained biblically.

    So, if one believes, say for instance….that an “Assembly of God” denomination follower…whose pastor preaches the gospel and practices the ordinances biblically is not a valid church…..then I would contend there is a common misunderstanding on the part of that individual on who creates and maintains the church. This of course is not to dismiss the error that may exist in nuances of that denomination’s beliefs…..but there is not a manmade denomination today that does not have error.

    Based on the logic that a local congregation belonging to the Assembly of God denomination, for instance, is not a true church…. would have to maintain that the Corinthian church was never truly a church because of its lack of understanding. But, it never is presented that way by Paul, because the Corinthians did receive something more appropriate for a sinning church, which was correction (mercy, derived from the gospel).

    More thoughts to the discussion,
    Chris

  40. So Chris, is there any criteria you would use in defining a New Testament church? If so, what would it be?

  41. Robin,

    I think the Nicene Creed as well as the BF&M does a nice job of articulating the essential elements that the church (individually and collectively) trusts / believes,

    That being in summary;
    – Belief in One God the Father
    – Maker of all things visible and invisible
    – One Jesus Christ our Lord, Son of God
    – Begotten of the Father, Maker of all things
    – Jesus Christ being the incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary.
    – Suffered, was crucified, dead and buried.
    – Rose again for justification
    – Belief in the Holy Ghost, Father and Son (Trinity)
    – Belief in one Baptism (into Christ) for the remission of sins (compared and experienced by water Baptism, Romans 6, Colossians 2 as depicted by Paul.)

    Essentially the same thing as Peter fashioned from the prophet Joel in Acts 2:16-37,

    What the church is doing after it is formed is evident from Acts 2:37 on……and this continues as the Apostles continue to develop and teach concerning how the church is organized and how the spiritual gifts are available for edification throughout the NT.

    This account is a wonderful view of the church in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit in its earliest inception and certainly maintains that the “ekklesia” (called out ones) singularly were birthed and known collectively at that early stage, and as a result….later, these “about three thousand souls” were seen as the “church” (KJV) or in some translations appears as “their number” (ESV) in the last verse in Acts 2:48.

    -Chris

  42. Robin,
    In the interests of brevity, I will simply say that I tend to resist drawing “hard” distinctions between the amount of “Gospel” that saves, and the amount of “Gospel” that must be preached in order for their to be a legitimate church.

    I do understand that you see eternal security as a second tier issue, as do I. However, I would contend that if a church’s rejection of this doctrine is warrant in your mind to invalidate a baptism taking place within their fellowship, then you are functionally treating this doctrine as a “first tier” issue.

    I say this because of our agreement on the fact that a church must have both Gospel and ordinances. If their Gospel is wrong, I reject their baptism . . .and I do it because it cannot be believer’s baptism. But if their Gospel results in genuine conversions, then I will accept immersions taking place in those churches.

    I just don’t distinguish between “essential marks” of the Gospel that are neccesary for salvation and those that are neccesary for a church. If the Gospel preached saves souls, it is the true Gospel. If it doesn’t it is a false Gospel.

    Come to think of it, maybe I see things more “black and white” than i have accused you guys of doing. 🙂

    As to your second question, I’ll try to interact a bit with your most recent post. It really is a great question.

  43. Joel

    We disagree, but I call you my brother in Christ and appreciate your kindness towards me. The second tier aspect of my belief deals with the fact that Baptism is a second tier issue that defines us as Baptists. First tier issues deal with matters of orthodoxy.

    I have decided to take Chris’ first comment today to heart with prayer and study. I am not saying that I am wrong, but it is always good to recheck what we believe in the fear of the Lord. Looking forward to your response on the next post.

    God Bless


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