Thinking Out Loud

February 16, 2018

Movement Caught in Freeze-Frame

Which one would you buy a used car from?

It’s those same old guys again.
Where are the up-and-coming leaders and teachers?
Does the movement have a succession plan?
Are there any rising stars?
If so, would they get an opportunity; a chance to gain a platform; or is it a closed shop?

Part of the payoff in doing this blog for ten years has been introducing people to communicators whom they might not have otherwise encountered to that point. I’m always interested in hearing what new people have to say; how they take the classic truths of scripture and breathe something fresh into it.

Right away I can hear some people thinking, ‘If it’s new it’s not true.’ This instant dismissal of the unfamiliar is valid if someone is propagating a different doctrine, but if it’s just a matter of clothing the gospel with different terminology, there should be no issue with that. God has gifted multiplied thousands of people, many of whom are exercising those gifts even as you’re reading this. I like to see a shared platform.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the perceived new-or-true dichotomy, we get emotionally bonded to certain words and phrases. I’ve told the story before of Bruxy Cavey speaking for 40 minutes on “the King-ship of Christ” and then being raked over the coals by a woman because he never once mentioned “the sovereignty of God.” She was in bondage to that phrase, and if she didn’t hear it, she tuned out everything which was said, even though it was exactly the same thing.

The same is true with authors and speakers. People get into a rut where they have their favorites, and it’s a closed set. There’s no room for succession. Sometimes these same people will stay home if it’s not the pastor preaching that Sunday. They might tell you they’re longing for “a fresh word from the Lord,” but they’re not interested if the Lord uses a fresh voice to make the delivery. Sometimes an entire movement can be failing to think in terms of succession. Or how frustrating it is to be a pastor in a particular movement with decades of experience and hundreds of stories, and yet never even be considered to share in that forum.

Which brings us to the picture above. Personally, I can’t begin to imagine why people would go back, year after year, to a convention with the same speakers as the year before, and the year before that. If you get it then you understand something important about the Together for the Gospel (aka T4G) mindset. If not, I’ll leave you to figure out what’s really taking place here; why the club is closed to new members.

(Even Bob Kaufflin, the music guy — one guy at a piano, not pictured above, for the entire weekend — is making his sixth consecutive appearance. Is there no one in this movement capable of bringing something different to that aspect of the conference? Trip Lee will be there to lead a seminar. That would be interesting.)

I look at the picture and I ask myself, ‘Which of these people would I buy a used car from?’ Chandler, maybe. Mohler looks like he’d be the one who owns the dealership. Platt looks like he just got promoted from the Service Department into sales; at least he’d know if the car is good mechanically. But DeYoung knows something about the car he’s not telling me. And Dever is charging me about $1K too much; I need to switch sales reps. Anyabwile was the first rep I talked to, but when I came back to ask for him, I couldn’t pronounce his name

Yeah, we’re better to stay with the used car analogy, because if we cross over from analogy to truth, it gets ugly. You’ve got a guy there who even people within the movement say needs to address things in his past before being a featured speaker. You’ve got a guy who has been tweeting nonsense, some of which makes Trump look sane by comparison. You’ve got a guy who’s got so much hate toward people outside the club. You’ve got people who’ve got to be part of this club by an accident of circumstances, and might have done better had they aligned with a different tribe.

But in April, they will gather; five Sola’s in one hand, five TULIP parts in the other, to declare the supremacy of The Gospel™, which of course they all agreed on before they arrived; and then head out to the bookstore to purchase the latest title from Crossway which will then be placed on their bookshelves, but not before they blog or tweet about how exciting it is to see a new release from ________ with some phrases copied and pasted from an online review and an overview of the Table of Contents.

Okay, that was over the top cynicism. I just have a passion for younger leaders, and there’s nobody on the T4G schedule that would cause me to board an airplane and fly to Louisville, Kentucky in mid April.

If you’re into this and you’re going, enjoy the convention. Tickets are now on sale.

From an outsider perspective, it looks like a bit of a yawner.


In 2014, I did a much longer article about T4G — after watching several days of the live feed — which you can read at this link. It resulted in the creation of this graphic; asymmetry is intentional.

Advertisements

March 6, 2015

Compassion for Calvinists

Soteriology 101

For several months now I’ve been following the Twitter feed Soteriology 101. For those who don’t know the term, soteriology is one of the necessary doctrines which combine to form a whole, systematic theology; and deals with the means and understanding of salvation. I had listened to one of the podcasts but obviously wasn’t paying attention as fully as I did last night as we listened to this particular one. For example, I didn’t know who it was I was listening to, but earlier this morning a quick trip to the related website revealed this:

Leighton FlowersLeighton Flowers is a teaching pastor in his local church, an adjunct Professor of Theology at Dallas Baptist University, and the Youth Evangelism Director for TEXAS BAPTISTS. In this position he directs a statewide youth leadership training camp called Super Summer, impacting thousands of Christian teenagers with in depth Bible study and discipleship training. Leighton also directs the Youth Evangelism Conference, reaching anywhere between 3 to 5 thousand Texas teenagers with the gospel of Christ each year.

The March 3rd podcast we listened to started off with a song, directed at Calvinists called “Why Do You Have to be So Rude?” While I identified with the sentiment, I wondered if this podcast would be dealing in caricatures, or acting as a response to some of the various (and numerous) anti-Arminian websites, blogs and Twitter feeds.

Instead, the approach was much more compassionate, and in fact Flowers has a very high respect for some of Calvinism’s most known voices, this particular edition including much praise for John Piper.

I wish I had been taking notes, but on reflection, four things stood out. One was the place of Calvinism in the historical flow of what is now Evangelicalism. Flowers notes the trending nature of this doctrinal system, but clearly believes it is about to ebb. At a more micro level, he also dealt with the Reformed position within the Southern Baptist Convention, which some SBC pastors would like to see as the default doctrine.

The second thing was that militant Calvinism’s counterpart — call it militant Arminianism — is rather non-existent. That resonated with my own experience in the Christian blogosphere. (My running joke is that there are no Salvation Army bloggers because while everybody else is writing about it, they’re out there doing it.) On the Arminian side of things, the distinctions are simply not as magnified, and I would argue that most Arminians probably don’t know that they wear that label (or could if they wished).

The third thing was the compassion of the approach toward a young woman who had written in a story of her personal experience, and the compassion and empathy toward people in the Reformed camp in general. While the opening song was a bit extreme, it did serve to set up a contrast between the venom and anger one experiences online and Flowers’ more gentle approach. (For this reason, many confuse militant Calvinists with ultra-conservative Fundamentalists because the tenor of their writing is often so similar.) 

Lastly, Flowers seemed to tend toward grounding his position in terms of an understanding of the ways and nature of God.

Leighton Flowers landed on my radar a few months with a link to a 64-minute podcast, “Why I Am No Longer a Calvinist” which might also serve as an introduction to his perspective. (The podcast page on the website lists about ten different choices, all of which look interesting.) The one discussed here, at 52-minutes, is also reflective of his heart and I would say that overall, this is a most refreshing and balanced look at the two doctrinal patterns.

 

 

July 16, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Abraham Isaac Jacob postage stamps

Summertime and the linkin’ is easy…Our biggest collection ever with 40 bullets!

How Cats Ended Up With Nine Lives

While not curating the internet, Paul Wilkinson blogs at Thinking Out Loud and C201.

Rapture Survivor Card

March 19, 2014

Wednesday Link List

Abandoned Church

This long de-commissioned church photo appeared back in October at the Twitter feed of AbandonedPics.

There’s something here for people at every age and every stage, including links to stories of interest to lay people and clergy, liturgists and charismatics. Or at least that’s the theory. 

The link list is now owned and operated by PARSE the blog of Leadership Journal, a division of Christianity Today.  Anything you click below will take you first to them, then you can click the item again.

All I know about this comic below is that I found it on the floor of my office, apparently photocopied from a 2002 book of Christian cartoons by Doug Hall. (Does anyone know the book title?) The sentiment expressed here is still alive and well a dozen years later.

Criticize the Pastor

June 11, 2013

Calvinist Doctrinal Diatribe Continues Online

In the first place, Calvinistic Christianity is nothing more and nothing less than biblical Christianity. It follows, then, that the future of Christianity itself is bound up in the fortunes of Calvinism…

from the website Founders.org

This week I got an email which contained the following:

Over the years, I have noticed on your blog that you have obviously had some less-than-edifying contact with Reformed brothers and sisters (and I should add, publishers).

In replying, I suggested a friendly amendment, namely that my in-person interactions with Reformed people — particularly those from my local CRC church — are actually most pleasant; it’s the online persona of more militant Calvinists such as the author of the quote which leads today’s article that I find somewhat objectionable.

Here’s the full quote from Founders.org with emphasis added:

In the first place, Calvinistic Christianity is nothing more and nothing less than biblical Christianity. It follows, then, that the future of Christianity itself is bound up in the fortunes of Calvinism….

…For whoever believes in God’s redemption through Christ and recognizes his own utter dependence on God, whoever recognizes that salvation is of the Lord, whoever seeks to glorify God in his worship and life, that person is already implicitly a Calvinist, no matter what he calls himself. In such circumstances, to make the person an explicit Calvinist, all we are required to do (humanly speaking) is to show the believer the natural implications of these already-held fundamental principles, which underlie all true Christianity, and trust God to do his work, that is, trust God to reveal these implications to the person.

Chris Hubbs writes:

Did you get that? Calvinism is “nothing more and nothing less than biblical Christianity”. And if anyone recognizes salvation from the Lord, and seeks to glorify God, then that person is implicitly a Calvinist! And all the Calvinists need to do is explain it in a way that the unknowing Calvinist might understand.

Just think, reader; you might be a Calvinist right now and not know it.

A year ago it was the same people wishing that Calvinism could be the default doctrine of the Southern Baptist Convention, North America’s largest Protestant denomination. Yes, that could be a Calvinist coup!

And just last week on this page it was our discovery of Calvinist kids being indoctrinated against Arminians in the form of children’s story books.

No wonder I despair.

Ironically, the post scheduled for today was a link to an article by Russell D. Moore — an obvious graduate of the Bible’s school of peacemaking — who talks about the commonality both Arminans and Calvinists have on the subject of religious liberty.

On the one hand:

Sometimes people caricature Arminians, and those who share some convictions with them. The Arminian tradition doesn’t believe that the human will is naturally free in this fallen era. They believe that God graciously empowers human beings with the freedom to choose. In fact, much of what some Christians call “Arminianism” is instead the sort of manipulative, emotional revivalism they’ve seen or heard about somewhere. Arminians are, above all people, opposed to manipulation.

They believe, after all, that the human will must make a free decision to follow Jesus or to walk away. That means a clear presentation of what the gospel entails, with all the “cost-counting” that Jesus tells us about. This must be a personal, free decision, and can’t be outsourced to or vetoed by some emperor or bishop or bureaucrat.

And on the other hand,

Well, like the Arminians, Calvinists are easy to caricature. Some assume they believe the will is like a computer program operated by God, or that the gospel isn’t freely offered to all people. Evangelical Calvinists believe in the free offer of the gospel to all people, just as they believe in the universal command of the law of God. They believe that, left to ourselves, we will all run away from the law and we will all run away from the gospel. We see the light of Christ, and we hide because, in our sin, we don’t want to meet our God.

The Calvinist doctrine of effectual calling means that the Spirit works through preaching to overturn the power of the devil, to liberate our wills so that we can see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. God doesn’t overpower our wills; he frees us from occupation by the deceiving demonic powers.

Toward the end, Dr. Moore concludes:

We will seek to search the Scriptures on everything God has told us. But we’re not that far apart. And even when we disagree, we can listen to the important emphases that each tradition brings, emphases that are grounded in God’s word and God’s gospel.

(here’s another link to Moore’s article, Why Calvinists and Arminians (and Those in Between) Can Unite for Religious Liberty)

…As someone who got to experience the tail end of the “Jesus People” era, I dream of a day when the labels won’t matter. Perhaps that day won’t happen in the present era. Still, I see a new generation moving toward a climate where the signs on the church door are a little less significant.

But I worry about the fragmentation that seems to be brewing in one particular segment of the larger Body. I worry about both how it looks and what it’s doing to us.

That’s what makes people like Russell D. Moore so vitally important. He gets both sides and also, I truly believe, dreams of a day when the sides don’t exist.

June 2, 2012

Southern Baptists Affirm Non-Calvinist Distinctives

Apparently, this blogger isn’t the only one concerned with the way New Calvinist media — especially books and blogs — are dominating mainstream Evangelicalism.  On Thursday,

“A group of current and former Southern Baptist leaders has signed a statement affirming what they call the “traditional Southern Baptist” understanding of the doctrine of salvation, with the goal of drawing a distinction with the beliefs of “New Calvinism.”

“The statement was posted May 31 at SBCToday.com and includes a preamble and 10 articles…”

The suggestion is that New Calvinism — or what I’ve referred to on this blog as militant Calvinism —  is aggressively infiltrating Baptist thought in order to become the default doctrine.  On a personal level, I’ve seen it happen here in Canada where Baptist bloggers have so strongly identified with the writings of YRR (Young, Restless and Reformed) authors that it defies understanding why they haven’t left their Baptist denomination in favor of the Christian Reformed Church.

The document further asserts that the “vast majority of Southern Baptists are not Calvinists and that they do not want Calvinism to become the standard view in Southern Baptist life.”

“We believe it is time to move beyond Calvinism as a reference point for Baptist soteriology,” the statement reads. Soteriology is the study of the doctrine of salvation.

Each of the 10 articles includes a statement of what the signers affirm and what they deny. For instance, on the article about the Grace of God, the document says:

“We affirm that grace is God’s generous decision to provide salvation for any person by taking all of the initiative in providing atonement, in freely offering the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit, and in uniting the believer to Christ through the Holy Spirit by faith.”

The statement then adds:

“We deny that grace negates the necessity of a free response of faith or that it cannot be resisted. We deny that the response of faith is in any way a meritorious work that earns salvation.”

To read this statement in full, along with a reprint of the original ten-point statement, click here.

For the most part, the Reformed-dominated blogosphere has been somewhat silent on this, with most responses coming from within the Baptist movement where the SBC Today web page is more closely monitored.

Tom Ascol at Founder’s Ministries Blog disagrees with the document and has published three blog posts (so far, more to follow)  to respond. Before expressing concerns in part three however, he does provide a charitable, concise summary:

In essence, I believe that those who have published it are concerned by the rise of Calvinism among Southern Baptists at all levels of convention life, from local churches all the way down to various institutions and agencies. They think that Calvinism represents the views of only a small minority  while their own views represent the vast majority of Southern Baptists. They are concerned to be identified positively by what they do believe rather than negatively by what they do not believe (“non-Calvinist”). They have offered this document as a testimony to their beliefs and invite other Southern Baptists to sign it to show just how many agree with their views. By doing so, they do not want to intimidate or exclude Southern Baptist Calvinists, but rather are interested in asserting what they are convinced that most Southern Baptists believe on the doctrine of salvation.

[above link for this article, also available: Part One and Part Two]

At Pulpit and Pen, Jordan Hall writes:

…For example, consider the irony of articulating the “historic, traditional beliefs of Southern Baptists” by creating a new document. The premise itself is laughable. Could it just be our historic confessions and creeds do not suffice because they are, inherently, Calvinistic?

At the site BaptistTwentyOne, Jon Akin writes,

The statement is divisive for three reasons:

  • It inaccurately and unfairly describes the theology of the “New Calvinists.”
  • It implies that “New Calvinists” are having a detrimental impact on “contemporary mission and ministry” in the SBC without a shred of proof to back that up. It claims that the SBC has reached around the world with the Gospel “without ascribing to Calvinism,” and therefore fails to properly recognize that many godly Calvinists have contributed to the spread of the gospel through SBC cooperation in our history.
  • It is trying to unite a segment of Southern Baptist around a new theological statement, when the BFM2000 is enough to unite us in theology and mission.

and also

  • I could be wrong, and would be happy to admit it, but I don’t know any Calvinist who is arguing in print or sermon to make “Calvinism the central Southern Baptist position on God’s plan of salvation, “ or “the standard view in Southern Baptist life.”
  • The statement consistently responds to double predestination, therefore implying that this is the standard position of “New Calvinists,” when in reality it is a minority position, almost certainly an extreme minority. The statement only argues against double predestination and never really addresses what the biblical word “predestination” actually means in the text. The authors make it sound like the “New Calvinism” is fighting for double predestination, and that is simply not accurate.

Josh Buice at Delivered by Grace writes:

… As we move forward, do we want to be considered the “Fightin’ Baptists” or the “Religious version of the Hatifelds and McCoys?”…

…Furthermore, when SBC pastors, leaders, and professors sign this letter, it’s almost as if a line is being drawn in the sand and a request is being made for action.  What should the action be? …

… Have we forgotten our history as Southern Baptists where we had Calvinists such as Lottie Moon, James P. Boyce, John L. Dagg, A.T. Robertson, John A. Broadus, and many others who served in our convention along with those who were less Calvinistic (Reformed) in their doctrine?  They didn’t fight over it, throw mud, and pull out the heresy sword to use on one another.  In recent history we have had Albert Mohler serving together with Adrian Rogers.  Why are we headed down the broken road of schism over Calvinism today?…

There is more available online, and there will be even more as you’re reading this.  William F. Leonhart III, provides some historical context; apparently this isn’t the first time.

We’ll give Jordan Hall the last word on this:

Perhaps most offensive is [David] Hankins’ appeal to consensus. He says multiple times that “the majority of Southern Baptists do not embrace Calvinism.” He may be right. Statistics show that the majority of Southern Baptists do not embrace Christianity, let alone Calvinism. The majority of Southern Baptists can’t be found on Sunday morning. The majority of Southern Baptists are on Synergist church-rolls and are either dead or apostate because of the watered-down and anemic, shallow theology of Finney-style revivalism and easy-believism, decision-regeration that has eaten away at the SBC like a cancer. But Hankins is right; the majority of Southern Baptists are not Calvinists.

But c’mon Jordan, tell us what you really think.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.