Houses Divided (or…More Theological Jackassery)

Being a Southern Baptist who holds to Reformed theology is messy. I am connected to a denomination (more accurately, a convention) that is either largely unaware of or antagonistic toward this theological perspective. I don’t really talk about Reformed theology much outside a smallish group of friends, because my main objective in life is not to convert people to a Reformed perspective, but to see and reveal the glory of Christ. I find I can do that without mentioning Calvin, the TULIP or the Protestant Reformation. In some ways, in fact, I would consider myself (to take advantage of the parlance of our time) post-Reformed. By this I mean that Reformed theology is a part of my foundation, and I think in its categories, but it doesn’t define me or serve as the objective of my ministry or mission in the world. I find that this helps me move in broader circles and find more common ground with more believers (and unbelievers) which enables greater ministry. I can agree with an Arminian that Jesus is Lord, and we are able to enjoy genuine fellowship. I’m not sure this is the model of broader Southern Baptist life.

Many in SBC life are questioning the future of the convention as more people become aware of and embrace Reformed theology (and by Reformed theology, which can be a misnomer if imprecisely applied, I mainly mean the so called Doctrines of Grace). As I write this post, a conference is being held at Ridgecrest called the Building Bridges Conference, which is an attempt to encourage and facilitate congenial conversation among brothers and sisters who hold (sometimes with great passion) different theological views. Some are hopeful that this will be the beginning of something good. Some think it’s an exercise in clarifying the lines of battle. Either way, the issue of Reformed theology is coming to the fore in new ways which is going to cause discomfort (at least) or even division and schism within the convention. I hope that good things come from the Building Bridges conference. I would like to be there. In the end, however, I’m not sure that people aren’t already entrenched and are seeking to fortify their own positions.

This is only one issue that faces the Southern Baptist Convention these days. The battle over alcohol prohibition within denominational life rages on. The so called Emerging Church movement has many knickers in twists. Private prayer languages (code name for speaking in tongues…in private) is bubbling still. We have earned the nickname “Battling Baptists” and it seems we feel an obligation to continue to live up to it. It isn’t that the issues aren’t important ones (they are), but the way we go about dealing with them is, well, sometimes sinful.

Speaking of which…Is the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) on your radar? What about words like New Perspectives on Paul (NPP) and Federal Vision (FV)? It seems that trouble is brewing which could end up causing the PCA to go kaboom. This year the General Assembly of the PCA declared that the FV and NPP are bad juju. Those who embrace various forms of FV and NPP cried foul because the deck was stacked against them (and it was). Now the stage is set for enforcement of the findings of the Study Committe on FV/NPP and the battle is moving to a particular presbytery (the Louisiana Presybytery) and a particular pastor (Steve Wilkins) is being pursued for crimes against orthodoxy. (The ways in which this is all being done is complex and painful to watch. It is documented in various places [see below] if you’re inclined to chase down particulars.)

I’m not at all embarrassed to say that I embrace Reformed theology (although I am sometimes embarrassed by some who do). I find much in Federal Vision theology that is good and right (as my blogroll would suggest). I remain a Southern Baptist because, for now anyway, I feel a sense of obligation and loyalty to the denomination of  my youth. I also remain hopeful that good things can come from authentic, robust discussion among brothers who are eager to follow the truth…wherever it goes. I continue to love the PCA because so much of my theological consciousness has been formed by men in the PCA and their heroes. However, the mutual defenestrations and subsequent descent into theological jackassery is, in some sense, a spiritual suicide bomb. We kill not only ourselves but make the faith we confess appear to be one of conflict and turmoil…in the bad way.

Some resources:

Building Bridges Conference (Audio available now)

Douglas Wilsonblogs about the current PCA SJC LAP FV AA flap

Greenbaggins(es) and Reformed Musings are anti FV guys


5 responses to “Houses Divided (or…More Theological Jackassery)

  1. I grieve with you.

    Should not the joys of our salvation draw us together?

    While we are drawn into His Word to know Him, do we leave enough room for His Spirit to display Himself? Why are we so bent on defining God and not living within Him? While it’s helpful (as you say) to think in categories, it is so easy to violate the Commandments and make our categories into the image of God.
    It’s not hard to see the destructive fallout from that sin.

    I wonder just how much have we played into the hands of the true enemy and made the ‘fight’ about flesh and blood and not about standing firm in truth and letting the battle be the Lord’s. Standing firm finds the victory in humility not in being the last one standing.

    And then when we go about making Him known, what are we really displaying? Are we making known our image of God so we might receive the glory of being brilliant, insightful, righteousness, etc.? Or are we making Him known so His glory is seen? Is it more important that we are right or that another knows Him? Yes we can share through our categories of thinking … there must be some framework to get things started … but what truly are our humble hearts’ desires?

  2. Retain Knowledge

    The Bible tells us to retain God in our knowledge, for if we do, then unrighteousness will not rule in our lives, for knowledge of God’s Word will always lead us to repentance in Christ Jesus. Our Lord knows that our flesh is weak, but our spirit must always be willing at all times to come to His Word so that we can receive instruction in all areas of our lives.

    Now many of us put sins into two distinctive groups, some sins we feel are so bad that surely those who commit such sins will be severely punished. Yet other so-called minor sins fall into another category of not so bad, we must always receive instruction from the knowledge which is found in God’s Word. For the Bible see’s it differently, for all sin needs to be repented of.

    Paul the Apostle says that we are inexcusable for we are quick to judge others, and by doing so we often condemn ourselves, because we to sin in other areas of our lives. None of us are going to escape the judgement of God unless we repent, there should not be a single day that goes by that we have not brought our sins to the foot of the cross to be cleansed by the precious blood of Jesus.

    Would you be free from your passion and pride? There is power in the blood, power in the blood; Come for a cleansing to Calvary’s tide, there is wonderful power in the precious blood of the Lamb.

  3. Having little to no background on the greater ‘Theological’ ideas you pose (PCA and even Reformation) I am slightly under powered to give much back to your blog.

    I can only unite on the front of my most recent and personal experience. I am surprised and the depth of the ‘jackassery’ that can occur from ignorance. I and some dearly loved brothers and sisters are being attacked, others we simply loved deeply and pointed to Christ; are being bullied by the fear of the ‘C’ word (Calvinism). I have become increasingly surprised by the lack of research people do; whether it’s political, where your kids go to school, or religious. Most of those being mislead are empowering the misleader by their spiritual ignorance. Big Daddy Weave says it best when they sing “ can I respond with anything less than all I have to give…” this lyric is in response to seeing Christ. So, I see two responses, the ignorance of not looking into the Word in reverent fear or becoming a ‘professional’ who only listens to defend his position; but not with any true openness to the conversation.

    In the end my heart aches because Christ is the one who suffers. We represent Him very poorly and waste His blood. But I believe in a Sovereign and mighty God; who’s plan of redemption is rooted in the promise of Genesis 3. Our sinful bickering will not defeat His will. Praise be to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of the covenant fulfilled in Christ our redeemer, may we cast our crowns at the sight of Him.

  4. Robert,
    It is either invincible ignorance or something diabolical (to quote a friend). In either case, there is enough pain to go around. God help us.

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