Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Where's The Pig

A close friend of mine has expressed my sentiments exactly; "I'm Southern Baptist born and bred, one day when I die I'll be Southern Baptist dead.  When you cut me, I bleed the Cooperative Program."  This qualifier is placed at the beginning of this piece because it is important to me for any reader to know that I have been, am, and continue to be committed to the SBC.  While we are not truly a 'denomination', we are a collection of independent Baptist Church voluntarily bonded to each other for the purpose of sharing the gospel of Christ with all nations.  Arguably, the Cooperative Program has proven to be the greatest mission sending 'mechanism' ever created by mankind.  We have and can support more personnel on the mission field than any other body, group, or denomination.  My commitment to the Southern Baptist Convention runs deep as for over 35 years I have served in active, full-time vocational ministry.

Over the years we have had our share of problems.  (What follows is not nearly as much of a history lesson as it is my personal recollections)  Back in the late 60's and early 70's we were seemingly paralyzed about the debate over the "Pentecostals" with their 'emotional' approach to worship and "T" problem. (That'd be tongues).  Candidly, it was our fear of 'them' which caused us to not only miss the opportunity for genuine revival (I.E. Jesus People and similar such groups) but also caused, in large measure a form of worship which all but denied the pure emotion which accompanies an authentic encounter with Almighty God.  In many instances, we almost became, 'the frozen chosen' because even though we Worshiped Creator God, we did it with little personal response to Him.  This was a far cry from David, Isaiah, and others.

Toward the end of the 70's the huge issue about the Bible and it's inspired-divine nature came to a climax.  Fortunately, this theological ship was righted and the Holy Scripture was reaffirmed as God's Holy Word around which we can be saved and should build our lives.

With respect, when this battle was won the next struggle, as I perceived it, was a 'power play' to gain control of the convention.  Before this time, the elected leaders, as best I can tell and remember, were servants who happened to be pastors, church staff and lay-people (and not denominational workers).  These were elected to "serve' and they did so without self-promotion nor 'agenda' promotion.  This was before the days of  'pre-meeting - meetings' - you know the ones - the meetings to determine candidates, votes, strategies, and the like.  (It became 'kind of like' a "Party's Political Convention" and I'm already tired just thinking through these issues.)

Today the struggle we face, to put it mildly, seems to be what is called "Reformed Theology" and to put it directly, goes by the name, Calvinism.  Even as I write these words I know that responses (if anyone reads these words) will be swift, probably harsh, or possibly condescending. I will be called ignorant of history, the Bible, God, and even Jesus because, after all, it seems to me that John Calvin and his writings have almost replaced one of the epistles and maybe has taken the place of one members of the Holy Trinity and the very 'thought' that he didn't get it all right is beyond comprehension..  Make no mistake, I do view him as 'one' of many church fathers who deserves to be read, studied, and from whom we can learn SOME things.  While some of his teachings 'might' be good - he (like all men) makes a terrible God.  No one human that I am aware of should be raised to the heights to which he has been raise.

To be clear, I am not a follower of Calvin or Arminius, I am also not a non-Calvinist or Anti-Calvinist, and also I am not a non-Arminianist or anti-Arminianist.  Additionally, (with the recent designations) I am not a 'semi-pelagianist' or a full-fledged pelanianist. (The name-calling among Southern Baptist would be laughable, if not so sad.) I classify myself as a Biblicist and a Believer in Christ Jesus.  One of the questions to be answered  is this: If it is true that both groups preach there is only one way to be saved and that way is through the shed blood of Jesus, His death, burial, and resurrection, and that a person responds in faith to Jesus" - then what is the deal?  The Bible says, "With the mouth you confess and with the heart you believe" and 'Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.'  John the Baptist spoke words about 'doing work in accordance with your repentance.  So am I to understand from my Calvinist friends that the people who have been led to faith using God's word are NOT SAVED because the witness does not ascribe to Calvin's Doctrines of Grace?  I could ask this same question about the theology of Jacob Arminius, but in point of fact, I don't know anyone who wholeheartedly follows his teachings.  But it seems to me this none of these are the real, underlying issues of our struggles as Southern Baptist.

Recently, with much publicity, pomp, and circumstance, the history channel showed what they considered to be a documentary on the well-known feud between the "Hatfields and McCoys."  The three night series was tough, hard, and vulgar; depicting these men as those who would pray in one breath, curse in the next, and in the next, without a second thought pull the trigger to end someone's life for little or no reason.  Folk-lore was played out on the movie screen as it depicts one of the main reasons for the harsh feud being a disagreement about a 'pig.' Sadly, 'Hatfields and McCoys' are not simply folk-lore and legend, they were real people going to court over a real 'pig,' and many were kill just because of the name they bore.
It seems to me, as a no-name, small-time, largely unsuccessful, pastor that it's always going to be 'something' among us.  The 'pig' keeps changing, but at least to me, the quasi-leaders of the SBC have determined to keep something stirred up among us.  Quite honestly, the average church member doesn't care about this debate until someone walks in and says, "God's grace is not for everyone."  Even in this age of Biblical illiteracy, most church members know John 3, Romans 5, Ephesians 2, and 2 Peter 3.  I understand that we can 'explain away' the 'whosoever's' in scripture, but somehow to do so troubles my spirit.

All of this debate, at least it seems to me, is not truly of the Lord.  And now the "Traditionalists" document has arrived.  Candidly, I signed the document because my personal beliefs are generally in line with the principles set forth therein (and yes, this document is only a starting point) but I also think the term 'Traditionalist' is not a good choice of terms.  This blog was begun before the document came out and is now completed in the shadow of its release.  Frankly, I once had a 4-point Calvinist as my Student Minister and did not attempt to change his doctrine (couldn't have any way, because he had a much more intellectual mind than I did) and frankly, he didn't attempt to change mine and yet we co-labored  together for several years and saw God do a great work.  By the way, I would be glad to have him back on my staff or, if the opportunity arose, I would be glad to work on his staff- if God called.

Having now read the blogs entitled, "What Traditionalists want from Calvinist" and "What Calvinist want from Traditionalists", my heart hurts.  From recent history and ongoing writings, the thought that these two groups will ever co-labor in peace is suspect if not a pipe-dream.  The real reason is this: "They don't want to."  If these two extremes were to ever get together, what would there be to blog about?  Can you imagine a blogosphere where the majority of blogs were positive, affirming, and reporting the grace of God?  What a thought.

Not that anyone (except me and maybe the Lord) actually cares, but - I'm officially DONE with this pointless debate.  Too much time and energy is given to an online discussion which will resolve nothing.  The Bible is clear enough for us.  We can be givers of the grace, the gospel, and our God without any "Institutes, Codes, Principles, or 'other' such documents."  But we won't.  The pig which is the cause of our division is our 'depravity' (yea I know, I can't believe I wrote that word either), we seem destined to argue with each other as if we have it all figured out, and no one does because we still see in a glass darkly.  The bottom line is not who is right and who is wrong, the bottom line is the 'salvation of souls' and the 'discipling of those transformed lives.'  But I do know who is right and who is wrong: Men are wrong and God is right.

As far as I'm concerned - THE PIG IS DEAD!!

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