Thursday, November 16, 2006

Which Is More Important: Being Right or Being Righteous?

Recent news from the annual SBTC meeting has raised quite a bit of discussion. Of interest is the discussion on Art Rogers’s Twelve Witnesses blog. After reading this discussion, I was prompted to read and discuss the 2006 resolutions from the SBTC meeting. A pastor friend of mine pointed out some surprising resolutions, which I believe merit closer scrutiny. First off, these resolutions merit scrutiny because they were discussed and examined by committee members and then, presumably, the voting body present at the meeting. Secondly, they represent the views of a significant portion of Southern Baptists (significant, though I could not give any specific number or percentage).

Here are some of the resolutions: (for further reference see the SBTC 2006 Resolutions [pdf format]). Bold emphasis mine.
Resolution #2 “On the Sufficiency of the Word of God for the Entire Christian Life”
The resolution runs into trouble about second resolution statement:
RESOLVED, we call on Texas Southern Baptists to remember that the Word of God alone is righteous, and that fallen human beings lack righteousness; and be it further

WHAT? The Word of God is certainly inspired, but not righteous, nor is IT righteous ALONE. Friends, the Bible tells us what is and is not righteous, but I know of nowhere in the scriptures that Bible is called righteous, much less exclusively holding such an attribute (an attribute of God no less). Let us continue:
RESOLVED, we encourage Southern Baptists to remember that the Word of God alone is able to redeem sinful human beings, and that they may look nowhere else than to the Bible for the source of redemption; and be it further

Did I miss something? Whatever happened to “What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus?” Now the Bible (a Holy book and the Word of God) is able to save us? Should we put our faith in the Bible or in the God that it tells us about?

We’re doing ok with the rest of the resolutions, which are emphasize the importance of the study and application of the Word of God. I want to comment again on a couple of things. I totally agree that we should give the Bible precedence over any other reading, studying, or singing material. We definitely ought to live, worship, disciple, and minister according to the Word of God, although we must remember that we worship not the Bible itself, but Jesus Christ, without whom there would be no need for such a book.

Q: How did this slip by so many people? Was this an accident or was there something that I missed. I read the Observations (the WHEREAS statements), so I think I got the context, but I still don’t see a reason to elevate scripture to the role of Savior.

The third resolution of the SBTC was concerning Tongues and a Private Prayer Language.

The resolutions are as follows:

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention meeting in Austin, Texas, November 13-14, 2006, declare that Southern Baptists in Texas typically believe that the modern practice of private prayer languages lacks a tangible foundation in Scripture; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we are opposed to unscriptural teaching relating to speaking in tongues, whether such speech be done in private or public; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we encourage the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention not knowingly to employ consultants and ministry staff who participate in or promote views or practices contrary to the position described herein; and be it further
RESOLVED, That we encourage all Southern Baptists to be patient, kind, and loving toward one another (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) regarding this ancillary theological issue, which ought not to constitute a test of fellowship; and be it finally
RESOLVED, That we encourage all Southern Baptists to refocus their attention upon the public and intelligible proclamation of the saving gospel of Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the divine Trinity, Who became a man, died on the cross, and arose from the dead, so that those who believe in Him may have eternal and abundant life.

Now for my question: Why? I don’t mean the observations (the WHEREAS statements), I mean why the whole resolution on this. I understand that the issue was brought up recently and has been a big deal, but it is an issue that divides, and needlessly so. I read the resolutions that say that "this ought not to constitute a test of fellowship," but they've left no room for those who wholeheartedly embrace the private prayer language. They include the cessationist and open but cautious, but exclude continualists.

My personal views on the private prayer language (and a number of other charismata) would best be described as an “open but cautious” view. I am not a cessationist, nor an avid continualist. One of the central issues that faces the SBC today and various state conventions and associations down to the personal level is a single question. The question here is whether it is more important to be right or more important to be righteous. The two are not always mutually exclusive, but in this instance, as with a number of non-essentials, the question is valid.

We must ask ourselves if it is more important to cooperate with others who may disagree with us on non-essential issues (I’m talking about others of like faith here) to further the work of the Kingdom or if it is more important to be right on the non-essential issues. If being right is more important, then we’re in the wrong. Are we so fixated on the small issues that we lose sight of the big ones? How much have churches grown in the SBTC this year? How many new people have we reached with the gospel? Can cooperating with other churches improve these areas? How many people will be saved by denouncing a private prayer language? Surely that will make people run to our churches! (I think not).

The other resolutions (on which I will not now comment at length) include topics of: Alcohol, Immigration, Wal-Mart (will a boycott follow?), North Korea (I definitely agree with boycotting them), The CP, and The conflict in Darfur.

In conclusion I have to say this; we ought to continue to carefully consider the issues that we give weight to. I agree that a number of these issues are important and should be addressed, but others may be best left without an official position. If we are obsessed with being right, how far will we go to make sure that we are always right? Will we exclude anyone who disagrees with us? When that happens we will end up alone and powerless to bring about any change in our world. Let us remember that it is through our faith and our unity (i.e. cooperation) that we are able to be God’s agents for change in this world.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A New Day, and we're still alive

I’ll admit, I was feeling a little low yesterday. Partly because it’s that time of the semester at seminary, but the other part was due to the changes going on in our government. The Democrats won both houses of Congress, beating out, in many cases, individuals that I thought better qualified to represent the American people. The other big change was the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld. That made me sad too; he has been a stalwart defender of the President and of our military and has been just the right man to lead the War on Terror and our armed forces.

Today is a new day, however. The people have spoken and placed Capitol Hill under new management. I’m willing to give the incoming congress a chance—it’s not like I have much of a choice. In light of things I’ve said before, I’ll also restate my conviction that we must submit to those who rule over us (cf. 1 Peter 2, Romans 13), and pray for them. I’ll also remind readers that if we ever become dissatisfied with our leaders we live in a nation where it is we, the people, who choose them.

I’m excited about the new Defense Secretary Dr. Bob Gates. He is currently the president of Texas A&M, and my Aggie friends speak highly of him. I pray that he will do as good a job as Rumsfeld has done these past six years. I look forward to his leadership.

Finally, I’m reminded of two things: The first is that God is still in control and was not caught off guard by anything that has in recent days. In fact, God rules the rulers of nations. Proverbs 21:1 says, "The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will."
The second thing I'm reminded of is that I ought to pray more for my leaders. It’s odd that what seems like a conservative defeat would encourage such, but then again not. May God continue to bless us and may we continue to seek Him and bless His name.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Being Thankful a Little Early This Year

I just read another great post from Kevin Bussey and thankfulness. His post is about the SBC, but I want to expand upon it just a little.

It's now November, and Thanksgiving is still 22 days away (which means my 24th birthday is 24 days away), but it's never too early to be thankful. I cannot recall all the blessings God has bestowed upon me in just the last few years, much less throughout my whole life, but that won't stop me for trying. I'll spare those of you who are reading and just post a few things I am thankful for.

First, I'm thankful that God, who created everything that is from nothing, and who is so powerful, intelligent, and righteous, also loves me. I'm thankful that His love, like His other attributes, is so great that He sent His one and only Son to come and die so that I can have a relationship with Him. In short, I'm thankful for Jesus.

Second, I'm thankful that I have been born in a nation where we can worship God freely, and that we are free to worship, free to govern ourselves, and blessed with an abundance to have and to share. We have it good.

I'm thankful for my family. For parents and grandparents who gave me a heritage of faith and taught me the lessons that will continue to help me to live wisely and successfully, and for a wife who is truly a gift from God and whom I love very much.

I'm thankful for the education I've received: For Jerry Falwell and Liberty University who furnished me with a strong conservative Christian college education; and for the SBC, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Paige Patterson who all contribute to my continuing education as I'm here in seminary.

I'm thankful for the church family that I've had, and the people who've ministered to me and allowed me to minister to them: for Morrison Heights Baptist Church in Clinton, Mississippi where my family and so many dear ones worship together--they've meant more than I can say; for First Baptist Church Smyrna, Tennessee where the staff loved me and gave me so many learning opportunities as an intern; for North Richland Hills Baptist Church where I now serve and am growing to love the people more and more.

I'm not just thankful for the spiritual blessings in my life, but for friends, for loved ones, and for material blessings also. There's too much to be thankful for to tell it all in one sitting. Perhaps we should treat Thanksgiving like some other Christian holidays (Christmas and Easter), counting down to it and preparing ourselves as many do by celebrating Lent or Advent (no, they don't have to be just for Catholics). Here's hoping for 365 days of Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Programs and Purpose

It's been a while since I've put up anything new and I've got something on my mind, so I'll post it here. Last night my church hosted a Fall Festival. This was my first big event to organize and was a big learning experience. We had a great turnout and I had a great time. (I still have some kind of whiplash from that bungee run that we had).

I've been discussing this afternoon the merits of such events as our Fall Festival. The main question has been that of purpose. I've read Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Church and understand that the church is not about programs, but purposes. As we continue to evaluate and adapt our programs to our purpose, I want to encourage others to do the same.

How many programs exist in our churches today because "we've always done that," or "the church members like it." Cutting out programs that do not conform to the mission of our churches is never easy, nor is changing these programs. Some of these are like the "third rail" of our churches. (Touch it and die!) I pray that I do not become to "locked in" to any single way of doing things that it becomes a rut. One of my professors used to say that a rut was just a grave with the ends knocked out! May God continue to bless what we do when we're obedient to Him and help us to change when we're not.