Friday, April 10, 2009

We Say It. But Do We Mean It?

"Teach the whole counsel of God".

Right. I think we should. I just don't think we actually do.

Coming from the Presbyterian and Methodist Denominations, I'm a bit familiar with both sides of a lot of issues. The sorts of issues that form the basis for a lot of the disagreements I see here in blogdom, as well as elsewhere. And I also would observe that all of these shall we say controversies arise in areas in which both sides are standing on the Bible as their basis for their beliefs.

Of course, each side emphasizes, in their teachings, those things which undergird their own "peculiarities"; I never heard a lot about free will in the Presbyterian Church, nor have a heard a lot about election and predestination in the Baptist Church. But both the Westminster Confession of Faith, and the Baptist Faith and Message, cite specific scripture as the basis for every point that they make!

NOW: the fundamental Baptist distinctive (that's what Herschel Hobbs said, anyway) is the competency of the soul in religious matters. The priesthood of the believer. And if that's the case, it seems that authentic faith comes when the whole counsel of God is preached .. is taught .. with equal fervor, leaving the interested learner to decide for himself, the nuances of his faith.

I heard a long, long time ago that young people, who grew up in the faith, had to internally "reject" the faith they got with their pablum and their pacifiers, and adopt the faith for themselves. If we believe in the competency of the soul, wouldn't we want to teach all these nuances we see in the Christian faith?

I have heard a lot of Baptists say they're Baptists by choice, but I wonder if their exposure to other expressions of Christian faith has been principally through the barbs and jabs they've heard Baptist preachers throw in the direction of those with whom they differ.

Honestly, the only other faiths I've heard taught or preached in an SBC church were Islam, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Latter Day Saints (Mormons). I don't argue with that, as an educational opportunity to help the members deal with folks of those faiths, but I don't hear a lot about other mainline religions, in the Baptist Church, from knowledgeable, gifted and studied people who do a good job of biblically defending their views .

In other words: we do a better job teaching our people how to defend themselves against somebody making headlines or knocking at their door, than against the Calvinist with whom they carpool.

I wonder just how informed a decision most Baptists have made concerning their faith.

In my own case, I want to know what I believe. When I am teaching, and the lesson material makes a point which isn't in the scripture, I want to tell the class what is in the scripture! And I want to know if it varies from traditional Baptist beliefs, as if it does, I want to give both sides of the argument (so to speak). See .. I heard a long time ago that "Which side you take in most arguments depends on which set of proven facts you ignore"; I think that thought applies to Spiritual things, too. And, unless you look educationally at all scripture .. including the passages that the Calvinists lean on, as well as us Baptists' favorite stuff ... you're going to be ignoring some of what the Bible says.

The other facet of this, which I've observed, is that most Baptists I know of don't really know what it is Baptists believe. That may well be true in the other denominations of which I've been a part, but I didn't know it at the time, and I still don't. I just remember studying what we believed, as a routine thing, especially while in the Presbyterian denominations.

Baptists tend to live on what I see as the conclusions of others.

Examples: almost everyone I meet knows we believe in eternal security, the Trinity, that Baptists don't drink, and that gambling is bad. But, when questioned about where the Bible says those things, they usually don't know any scripture that actually says so. But they've heard those doctrines preached, the conclusions from scripture of many generations before, so they know them rather than the scripture.

That simplicity of knowledge .. and I know our faith must be like that of a child .. but the author of Hebrews certainly was plain in his instructions to get away from the milk and get on to some serious meat of the word .. that simplicity may be one contributing factor in so many people checking in, joining and then checking out without leaving, so to speak.

My personal opinion is as I expressed in San Antonio in 2007; that the strength of the Baptist Faith is in the simplicity of our consensus statement of faith, and the freedom we have thereunder; indivisibly linked to the competency of the soul and its resultant burden on us to know what we believe. Yet so very few Baptist church members seem to know what the BF&M says.

Perhaps it ought to be different. Perhaps we ought to look past the personality of the preacher, the friendliness of the people, to what we actually believe and where it is that we ought to serve. After all, Christianity isn't about finding a preacher or a congregation or a place that we like.

It isn't about us at all. And perhaps if we studied it, really studied it, it wouldn't be. And unless we do, we're going to be condemned to a lifetime of unknowingly ignoring one or another set of proven scripture.

3 Comments:

At 4:42 PM, April 10, 2009, Blogger Aussie John said...

Bob,

Thanks for a top article. Reminded me of a time when I was asked to act as a substitute preacher in a Baptist church, for a few weeks.

I decided to preach a series of sermons based on the denominations statement of doctrine.

Half way through the series a deacon said to me, "I didn't know that's what Baptists believe!" Wasn't long before I was told my services wren't needed any more.

 
At 10:00 PM, April 10, 2009, Blogger Chris Ryan said...

The question is whether with any amount of study you will ever be able to reconcile all facts bar none.

But as one who has considered Lutheranism, Catholicism, Methodism, and is still a Baptist, I certainly hear what you are saying. It is only the person who is brave enough to venture beyond what they think they know and have been told they should believe who is actually able to study scripture and arrive at *their* conclusions.

Personally, I think that if one studies scripture deeply enough, they will be unable to find any denomination which they can unreservedly agree with. But that is why I am a Baptist: I'm allowed to disagree we can still work together for the work of God's Kingdom.

 
At 10:11 PM, April 10, 2009, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Chris,

The answer to the question is no .. but that stems from the fact that God and His word are infinite, and we're not. That's one thing I liked about going to the PCA after studying my "Methodist faith" .. the pastor said we must start from the admission that we cannot comprehend it all.

Were I ever to move from FBC Pelham, I wouldn't look for a church or denomination I agreed with .. the question would be where God wants me to serve. Come to think of it, that ought to be an ongoing issue in my life, even though I've been at FBC for 28 years.

And you are dead on about the reason to be a Baptist.

Aussie John; thanks for the kind words. I've copied your recent post about our "destination" from Paul Burleson's blog and will read it to my class on Sunday.

 

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