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Friday, December 15, 2006

Dockery calls for consensus on primary theological issues

JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)--Southern Baptists need to build consensus and forge a united identity centered on the one true Gospel, David S. Dockery writes in a booklet entitled “One Gospel: Toward a Southern Baptist Consensus.”

In the booklet, Dockery, president of Union University in Jackson, Tenn., calls for the unity of the church and doctrinal integrity. Union trustees unanimously endorsed Dockery’s initiative at their Dec. 1 meeting.

“I think our historical amnesia creates theological and biblical problems, so I wanted to try to frame the discussion historically and then offer a theological exposition of the Gospel around which we can unite,” Dockery said. “I think there are growing anxieties about different emphases within the Gospel across Baptist life. Our goal at Union is to be agents of grace and agents of reconciliation.”

Dockery said Southern Baptists need to recognize that various perspectives regarding the doctrine of salvation have been present since the early days of the 17th century, long before the Southern Baptist Convention existed. He also said it’s unlikely, apart from God’s intervention, that Baptists are going to come to unanimity on some positions, which he thinks are secondary matters.

“What I wanted to do was to call us back to a primary focus on the Gospel itself and understand those areas where we have strong agreement about the sinfulness of humanity and their lostness apart from Christ, that our salvation is found in Christ alone,” Dockery said.

Though Southern Baptists probably won’t agree on every point of doctrine, Dockery wrote the booklet as a way to build unity around areas where Southern Baptists can agree and work together for the good of the Gospel. He also emphasized that Southern Baptists should be unified against certain heretical teachings, such as universalism.

In a chapel service at Union Nov. 17, Dockery encouraged the university community to take the lead in building consensus among Southern Baptists.

“I invite us to move from controversy and confusion to a new consensus and take a step back, not just to commit ourselves afresh to missions and evangelism, as important as that is, but to commit ourselves first and foremost to the Gospel, the message of missions and evangelism, the message that is found only in Jesus Christ and His atoning death for sinners,” Dockery said. “I trust that we can hold hands together for the good of the Gospel beginning here at Union University, which can bring a fresh breath, a fresh wind of God’s Spirit across Tennessee Baptist life and across the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Dockery traced his own experiences growing up as a Southern Baptist in the 1950s, when being Southern Baptist carried a cultural and programmatic identity no longer seen today. Instead, in recent years, Dockery said the Southern Baptist Convention has become a gathering of loosely-connected groups -- including fundamentalists, evangelicals, revivalists, purpose-driven churches, quasi-charismatics, culture warriors and Calvinists.

Dockery acknowledged that tension may exist between some of the groups just as tension exists in some basic Christian doctrines. But he said tension doesn’t have to lead to division.

“It is possible to hold hands with brothers and sisters who disagree on secondary and tertiary matters of theology and work together toward a common good to advance the Kingdom of God,” Dockery said. “But we need to be of like mind on first-order issues, issues such as the authority and truthfulness of the Bible, the deity and humanity of Christ, the Holy Trinity and the exclusivity of the Gospel.”

I posted this Tenn. (BP) article in its entirety because I feel so strongly that this is exactly the message that is needed from every seminary and seminary president affiliated with our convention! Amen brother Dockery!

In fact, I feel so adamant about the conduct of a certain Dean at Liberty University who has been doing just the opposite, and has with reckless abandon been sowing the seeds of division within the convention, that if any seminary our university is unwilling to indorse the spirit of Dockery’s booklet and is unwilling to police the conduct and comments of their own staff, then we as a convention should seriously consider if we can afford to continue a relationship with these men and these institutions.

From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? (James 4:1)

Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. (1Cor. 1:10)

Greg Alford

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Roots of Virulent Anti-Calvinism in the SBC

The trend towards a less “gentile” Southern Baptist Convention is unmistakable.

All one has to do is listen to some of the bitter and extremely provocative denunciations of Calvinism coming from a select group of former, and sometimes current leaders, within the SBC to realize that trouble is brewing. The Anti-Calvinists within the Convention are itching for an old fashion (bare knuckle – knock down – drag out – winner take all) fight.

The Conservative resurgence within the Southern Baptist Convention won the day behind the flag of inerrancy. However, as some of the original leaders of the resurgence are fading from the scene the future of the resurgence movement is uncertain. The growing influence of a new generation of young, energetic, evangelical, and yes often Calvinist, Pastors who were rocked in the cradle of inerrancy, and who fully embrace the Word of God as their finial authority and not the reason and traditions of men, have a number of the older resurgence leaders worried.

The truth is; they should be worried. This new generation of Southern Baptist Pastors does not think like the last generation. The last generation of Pastors, while decidedly conservative compared to the liberal leaders they replaced, went off to seminary in the 60’s and 70’s when liberal thought and ideals were at their highest within the Southern Baptist Convention. It can honestly be stated that they were, almost without exception, baptized in the decidedly liberal waters that were freely flowing in our seminaries at this time. Although they may have come away from their seminary years with what one would honestly call conservative convictions for their time, it must be noted that they were not unaffected by this experience.

“Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?”

In contrast, and ironically thanks to the work of many in the conservative resurgence who are now worried, the current generation of pastors has received what is probably the most conservative education for ministry, from what is undoubtedly the most conservative professors, that one could have received from any Southern Baptist seminary within the last one hundred years.

The difference between these two generations of Baptist Pastors is not how they answer most questions, for they do agree on a lot of things, but instead their difference is in how they arrive at their answers. Before one can answer any given question he must decide on just how he is going to approach his answer, and it is this approach to the answer that is often so different between the two groups, and what is so revealing about the core differences between them.

This difference was vividly demonstrated by the arguments for or against biblical doctrines and social issues on the convention floor this past spring of 2006. While both groups considered their conclusions to be the proper conservative positions, and they may even arrive at the same conclusion, they each take a very different route to get their. The “Old Conservatives”, who were educated and undoubtedly influence by far more liberal professors, are far more likely to site tradition and the opinions of “most Southern Baptist” to support their positions, while the “New Conservatives” (who were rocked in the cradle of inerrancy) almost always exclusively turn to the Word of God to defend their positions.

“Calvinism scares the Holy Ghost out of many of the Old Conservatives…”

Increasingly the Old Conservatives and the New Conservatives are at odds with one another. This is particularly true when it comes to the Doctrines of Grace or Calvinism. “Calvinism scares the Holy Ghost out of many of the Old Conservatives…”

The virulent Anti-Calvinism coming from many of the Old Conservatives as of late has a defiantly familiar ring to it… In “tone” and “substance” it sounds much like the virulent Anti-Calvinism of their Old Liberal Professors of the 60’s and 70’s.

The Old Conservatives of the SBC today use many of the same tactics as their Old Liberal Professors used in attacking all things Calvinism during their seminary days.

Here is just a sample:

(1) Building Calvinist straw-men by telling their audience that Calvinist believe things that no Calvinist ever believed and then burning these straw-men to the ground.

(2) Telling emotional illustrations about Calvinism sending babies to hell and keeping some who are seeking and serving God with all of their hearts from getting on the bus marked for Heaven.

(3) Elevating the doctrine of “free will” to the honored position of the most sacred doctrine among Baptist when it is not even mentioned in our own statement of faith, the BFM2000.

(4) Bashing, giving false definitions of, and even mocking the doctrine of Election even when it is clearly defined for all Baptist to read in our statement of faith, the BFM2000.

(5) Falsely proclaiming that Calvinism kills evangelism and that it always has, when Baptist History clearly teaches otherwise.

When it comes to discovering the roots of this virulent strand of Anti-Calvinism being preached by some of these Old Conservatives today, which is having the effect of causing needless division and hurt within the SBC, one need only to look at the teaching of their Old Liberal Professors. Because, when it comes to attacking Calvinism there is virtually no difference between the Old Conservatives and the Old Liberals.

In closing two proverbs come to mind:

(1) “You reap what you sow.”
(2) “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck… it’s a duck”.

Greg Alford