Whole Counsel Theology

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Theological Underpinnings

That's just a fancy way of saying where someone or an organization is coming from doctrinally and theologically. The Southern Baptist Convention, though it has come a long way in the Conservative Resurgence since 1979 is falling short -- dangerously short -- in this critical area. We don't know what our theological underpinnings are.

Sure, we will say "We have the Baptist Faith and Message" and "we believe in the inerrancy of Scripture" but what does that look like? How does it affect how we do church? How does the belief in the inerrant Word of God (specifically the fact that it is inerrant) affect how we preach, evangelize, disciple, and worship?

A man by the name of Douglas Baker has written an excellent article that was recently published on Baptist Press news. You can find it HERE, and I strongly recommend reading it.

May God grant us grace to heed his warning.

4 Comments:

  • You and he are placing blame in the wrong place. It's not the job of the SBC to hand us our theology on a silver platter.

    My beef with the SBC isn't that they aren't providing enough, but that they force-feed us way too much.

    The BF&M serves a great many churches worldwide. I WILL go 'round and 'round with you on this particular point: Just because the BF&M isn't 100% reformed in it's message doesn't mean it is wrong.

    Blaming the BF&M for mediocrity in the local church is cowardice. If our local church is mediocre, that's OUR FAULT, not the fault of the BF&M or the SBC.

    We can point fingers across multiple state lines all day long and get nothing done. Y'all need to stop worrying about the SBC "big picture" as much and start worrying about our own backyard.

    By Anonymous Andrew Short, at Saturday, March 18, 2006 11:58:00 PM  

  • Hey, Andrew!

    I can't help but smile. You and I agree more often than not -- including here. So, there is no need to go "'round and 'round" as you said. Please allow me to explain.

    You said:
    "You and he are placing blame in the wrong place. It's not the job of the SBC to hand us our theology on a silver platter."

    ...and I would agree completely! The SBC exists because churches have associated together and have decided to cooperate in forming that body, to do things one church couldn't do on its own. Therefore, it would be the other way around, theologically speaking: It would be the churches who should be handing the SBC its theology, and not the other way around.

    You said:
    "My beef with the SBC isn't that they aren't providing enough, but that they force-feed us way too much."

    Again, I would agree. I'd be perfectly happy if, for our Sunday School literature or discipleship literature or whatever that if we as a church, not only went outside Lifeway to other sources (gasp!), but didn't use literature at all, and trained our teachers how to interpret and apply Scripture (double gasp!). :) Lifeway does us a great service in many ways, but it isn't like they have the corner market on biblical resources.

    Of course, our church has decided to use strictly Lifeway material in our literature for Sunday School. Because of that, I submit to the leadership in our church, and will continue to do so.

    You said:
    "The BF&M serves a great many churches worldwide. I WILL go 'round and 'round with you on this particular point: Just because the BF&M isn't 100% reformed in it's message doesn't mean it is wrong."

    I never said it didn't serve a good many churches, or that is wasn't a good confession of faith. Do I think there are better ones? Sure. Do I think there are worse ones? Oh yes, there are MUCH worse confessions. The BF&M is ambiguous in a couple of areas in which I would prefer more clarity, but it isn't about me. :)

    My point of citing the BF&M as an example of theological underpinnings is that we don't know what the BF&M really says. I'm not saying that we can't interpret it properly in this case - I'm saying that many (if not most) people in our churches couldn't tell you what is in it and what the convictions are in that document!

    I said this:
    "Sure, we will say "We have the Baptist Faith and Message" and "we believe in the inerrancy of Scripture" but what does that look like? How does it affect how we do church? How does the belief in the inerrant Word of God (specifically the fact that it is inerrant) affect how we preach, evangelize, disciple, and worship?"

    My point here is emphasizing the church -- not taking away from it! If we say we hold to the BF&M and, more importantly, to the inerrancy of Scripture, what effect on our practice do those theological convictions have in a local church? What effect(s) SHOULD they have? THAT was my point.

    You said:
    "Blaming the BF&M for mediocrity in the local church is cowardice."

    I would agree. It would mean we are not taking responsibility for our own actions or lack thereof.

    You said:
    "If our local church is mediocre, that's OUR FAULT, not the fault of the BF&M or the SBC.

    We can point fingers across multiple state lines all day long and get nothing done. Y'all need to stop worrying about the SBC "big picture" as much and start worrying about our own backyard."


    Once again, Andrew, I couldn't agree more. Nothing really gets done if all we do it point fingers; it just makes people angry and gives rise to complaining. Some of the reason for concern in the convention at large has to do with the Seminaries of course, given that they will be teaching the next generation of leaders in our churches, but that is something for another day perhaps.

    In any case, I would think that Douglas Baker would agree with you. Here are a few excepts from his article; the emphasis is mine:

    The strategic imperative of many remains to seize and maintain control of the denominational infrastructure. This is and has been regarded as an excellent idea, but to what end? Without local churches which are led by capable pastors and/or elders able actually to teach the Word and take the hits which are sure to come whenever biblical preaching takes place, the conservative resurgence could become a mere footnote in evangelical history."

    "Without the recovery of a denominational imperative that a local congregation is the most important and indispensable agent for Christ and his kingdom, the denominational beast easily could eat her own young."

    "The third and most pressing need yet to be realized fully by the reformation of the SBC is a focus on local churches as the primary agent in Gospel ministry to the world."

    "The question remains: Is theological conservatism SBC style compatible with healthy churches who aggressively work for biblical preaching and discipleship beyond the level of theological pabulum? The SBC needs only to look at other theologically conservative denominations such as the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) and see their rapid growth (fueled by some former Southern Baptists who left the denomination) for an answer."


    Statements like that are woven through his article. Local churches are a strong emphasis in what he says, as they must be. What I took away from that article is that, as local churches, we don't understand what the Bible teaches. We have taken a false understanding that if we were to preach doctrine and theology, people would "sit, soak, and sour" and not really do Kingdom work.

    I will resist that idea strongly. Unless we have what we do undergirded by strong, biblical theology, we will (as a convention as as local churches) slide back down into theological liberalism. Our practice will become more important that being bibilical IN our practice; indeed, this has happened in many churches across the convention.

    When the Word of God is preached and taught in ANY church, we should start by expounding on it, exposing it to the people who are listening. We should say "This is the Bible, this is what it says, this is why we know this is what it says. Therefore, this is how we must live and act so that we obey God's teaching." Instead, in far, FAR too many of our churches, we have it backwards! We say, "This is how we should live, and this is obedience to God. This is why and how we should understand the Bible; this is a Bible."

    What I've given is the end result of such thinking; it doesn't always get that bad, but if we start with application without indicating what we're really applying and why, then we have no real authority or basis for doing any of that applying. A church or denomination as a whole that has done this has lost its theological underpinnings.

    When I specifically mentioned the issue of inerrancy in my original post, it was much for this reason too (what I just stated). If the Bible is truly inerrant, how should it affect our preaching, teaching, evangelism, etc.? Can we trust our own experiences, stories, or ideas? Are any of those inerrant? NO! We therefore must expound the Word of God carefully and thoroughly. We use experiences and illustrations to highlight the truths of the text, but NEVER to replace what the text says and means.

    Anyway, this response has gone on longer than I anticipated. Sorry about that. :)

    But, Andrew, I do want to thank you! You've forced me to clarify what I meant, and obviously it needed to be done. God bless you, brother.

    SDG,
    David Hewitt

    By Blogger David B. Hewitt, at Sunday, March 19, 2006 1:50:00 PM  

  • I was wrong. I should read more carefully but you guys stuff as many words as you can into a single thought and it seemed like the BFM and SBC were being chided for not being enough for the local church.

    The local church should never depend on either heavily enough that it would matter.

    By Anonymous Andrew Short, at Sunday, March 26, 2006 10:21:00 PM  

  • Thanks for saying that, Andrew.

    And, though I'm sure you're not surprised -- I agree with you. :)

    We shouldn't rely on the SBC too much as individual churches. Having the BF&M is nice and all, but really, we shouldn't be completely dependent on it either. Each church should understand what the Bible teaches for themselves, and know how to interpret it properly. Being spoonfed by the SBC and latching onto the BF&M just because that's who we're associated with could indeed be a sign of laziness.

    Just a few thoughts.

    SDG,
    Dave

    By Blogger David B. Hewitt, at Monday, March 27, 2006 5:11:00 PM  

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