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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Avoiding the Ditches of Liberalism & Legalism

Rodney Albert over on SBC OUTPOST ask “Is it that parameters are being narrowed, or is it that they’re being widened?”

There are some pretty deep ditches on both sides of the strait and narrow way… Turn to the left and you fall into Liberalism, turn to the right and you fall into Legalism. Both are deadly…

Both must be avoided… “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matt.7:14)

So, how can we (the SBC) keep on the narrow way and avoid ditches? How can one guard against both Liberalism and Legalism?

Psalms 119:11 gives us the answer ” Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.”

Note, that Liberalism and Legalism are both unbiblical. One takes away from what the Bible teaches and the other adds to what the Bible teaches.

The SBC has (on paper at least) won the battle over the “Inerrancy of Scripture” that was necessary to keep us from slipping into the left hand ditch of Liberalism…

Now the SBC is facing the battle over the “Sufficiency of Scripture” that is necessary to keep us from slipping into the right hand ditch of Legalism…

Grace to all

Friday, February 16, 2007

Coerced Conformity – Sullivan’s Legacy?

What is taking place in the Florida Baptist Convention; "the narrowing of the parameters of cooperation" to include only Baptist who “hold to a total abstinence form alcohol conviction” has occupied quite a bit of my thoughts lately. There are several reasons why this has so captured my attention and caused me such concern.

#1. The concentration of “unquestionable power" is always dangerous, deadly, and unbiblical for any man to possess. History has proven this to be true over and over. That one man, the Executive Director/Treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, (Dr. John Sullivan) has been given such power to enact his will upon the Baptist of the State of Florida is undeniable. Yes, he will go through the proper channels to enact his will, but can anyone deny that in all but an extreme request whoever holds this powerful position in the State of Florida will get whatsoever he ask for? However, in asking that the parameters of cooperation be narrowed based upon his personal convictions a very “dangerous precedent” has now been established whereas the Executive Director/Treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention, and not our confession of faith, is looked to for guidance on matters of what constitutes appropriate doctrine for cooperation among the individuals and churches that make up the Florida Baptist Convention. Future Executive Director/Treasurers will exercise this “new authority” to mold and shape the Florida Baptist Convention in ways that cannot now be predicted or known.

#2. The Executive Director/Treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention is using the power of his position to “deny equal opportunity for employment or service” with the Florida Baptist Convention to all Baptist of the State of Florida who do not share his personal convictions on total abstinence from alcohol, instead of using the power of his position to educate and convince fellow Florida Baptist of the wisdom of his convictions. Once again a “dangerous precedent” is being established whereby Florida Baptist are being excluded, or denied opportunity of employment and service, based not upon some conflict with the doctrines contained in our Confession of Faith, but upon one man’s “personal convictions” which cannot be fully known at the time of his hiring. That one agrees or does not agree with the motivation for Dr. Sullivan’s actions is not the issue here. The issue is - if this “dangerous precedent” is allowed to stand, the seeds of future instability will have been planted within the Florida Baptist Convention. This is because the personal convictions of the Executive Director/Treasurer have now become the standard for acceptance and service within the Florida Baptist Convention, and his convictions on any and all matters of faith can never be fully known at any given time or can change at any given time. If this “dangerous precedent” becomes the foundation upon which cooperation is built within the Florida Baptist Convention it is not a matter of “IF” but “WHEN” an Executive Director/Treasurer will make a decision that will split or severely damage the Florida Baptist Convention.

#3. For the Florida Baptist Convention to elevate the position of total abstinence from alcohol to a “first level doctrine" of such importance as to break fellowship with all who do not agree is a “clear violation” of our own confession of faith as expressed in article XVII on Religious Liberty. This article reads – “God alone is Lord of the conscience, and He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to His Word or not contained in it.” Unless it can be proven Holy Scripture commands total abstinence from alcohol (which no honest person will say) then I do not see how the Florida Baptist Convention can maintain its position on total abstinence and not be in “violation of its own confession of faith.”

#4. It is inconsistent for the Florida Baptist Convention to maintain that it holds to the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scriptures and yet adopt a policy that denies the undisputed truth that wine (even if it was watered down, which is a point I do not concede) is one of the two “Holy Elements of Communion” and as such is most proper to partake. Either the policy is in error, or the Scriptures are not inerrant. Both cannot be true.

#5. For the Florida Baptist Convention to maintain that the ordinance of Baptism is to be according to the “literal example” of full immersion in water as found in the scriptures and that no substitutes for this example (sprinkling or pouring) is proper, and yet demand that the “literal example” contained in the scriptures for the ordinance of the Lords Supper consisting of the two elements of unleavened bread and wine are “NOT acceptable" is to be again inconsistent. If the “literal example” is true of one Holy ordinance instituted by Jesus Christ, then the “literal example” is true of the second Holy ordinance instituted by Jesus Christ as well. In other words, by what principle of interpretation can the Florida Baptist Convention insist on Baptism by full immersion and at the same time forbid the Lords Supper to be observed with wine? If a substitute is acceptable, yea even demanded, in the one then why is it not acceptable in the other?

#6. After having considered all the above, what troubles me the most about this new policy is it’s none too subtle attempt at “Coerced Conformity”. This, “tow the line or else”, mindset is very dangerous because it places the Florida Baptist Convention on the slippery slope of dictating to the Baptist Churches of the State of Florida “extra-biblical terms for cooperation.” I am deeply disappointed in the Executive Director/Treasures of the Florida Baptist Convention; that with all the resources at his disposal to battle the dangers of alcohol abuse in our society he has chosen “Coercion”.

Respectfully, Greg Alford

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Sullivan's Law is "Rubber Stamped"

Brothers pray for the State of Florida…

The Florida Baptist Witness is reporting that the 99-member State Board of Missions during its Jan. 26 meeting at Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center approves alcohol abstinence bylaw revision… (Read the full article here)

The Florida Baptist Witness reports -

"The abstinence commitment will be added to a written questionnaire currently in place that asks potential nominees a series of other questions, such as: if they have “received Jesus Christ as savior;” have been a member of a cooperating Florida Baptist church for a year; are in good standing in their local congregation; tithe; and support the Baptist Faith and Message. Nominees must record positive responses and a signature of affirmation to the written questionnaire to be considered for service."

This is truly a sad day in Florida, when abstinence from alcohol is considered as important a doctrinal question as ones salvation, and the doctrines contained in the BFM. But what strikes me as even more sad is the fact that “No opposition to the bylaw revision was expressed by any board member.”

Not one of the 99 board members of the State of Florida found any cause for concern in this at all… Not one of the 99 board members found any reason to stand up and defend the life of Jesus Christ and his witness… Not one of the 99 board members found it within themselves to ask does this now mean that Jesus Christ, the Apostles, and the vast majority of Christians who have lived throughout history can not serve in the Florida Convention… Not one of the 99 board members stopped to consider the implications this action will have on the Baptist doctrine of Christian Liberty… Not one of these 99 board members stopped to consider the implications of this action on our understanding of the doctrine of the Lords Supper… Not one of the 99 board members found the courage to ask where this will all end… Not one… Not one… Not one…

Friends, I know some of these men… and I am stunned!

I am stunned by the lack of consideration for the convictions of other Baptist by the action of the Florida State Board of Missions in their reckless hast to adopt Sullivan’s proposal on total abstinence from alcohol.

Everyone agrees that alcohol abuse needs to be addressed and confronted, however this is not the way to do so. This will not prevent one young person from taking their first drink, and it will not prevent one family from being destroyed from alcohol abuse… If anyone thinks otherwise they are just kidding themselves. What it will do is cause those who do not hold to this position to never be involved with the Florida Baptist Convention at all… is that what Dr. Sullivan wants, less participation from other Baptist who do not hold to his personal convictions?

This may come as a total shock to the 99 members of the State Board of Missions but there are Southern Baptist who never take a drink socially or in private (so in practice they are teetotalers) but who also have deeply held convictions that the Lord’s Supper must be observed with the proper elements of unleavened bread and wine (most often just touched to the lips), as was the example and commandment of Jesus Christ.

What you are now asking these very conservative men and women of God to do is choose between their convictions and conformity to this doctrine of man in order to be considered for service in the State of Florida… Shame on you!

– Greg Alford

Follow-up on Sullivan’s Law

For those who think that what John Sullivan has done to all Baptist of the state of Florida is really not a “Hill on which to die”… let me frame the issue in a little different light.

It’s not about alcohol; it’s about an abuse of power and of trust broken.

God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in any thing contrary to his word, or not contained in it. (The Baptist Faith and Message 2000, The Baptist Confession of Faith 1689)

John Sullivan and all those who are imposing their beliefs (commandments of men) upon the Baptist of Florida are most certainly violating the principle of Religious Liberty expressed in our Baptist Confessions.

But it goes far beyond that!

The supper of the Lord Jesus was instituted by him the same night wherein he was betrayed, to be observed in his churches, unto the end of the world, for the perpetual remembrance, and showing forth the sacrifice of himself in his death, confirmation of the faith of believers in all the benefits thereof, their spiritual nourishment, and growth in him, their further engagement in, and to all duties which they owe to him; and to be a bond and pledge of their communion with him, and with each other… The Lord Jesus hath, in this ordinance, appointed his ministers to pray, and bless the elements of bread and wine, and thereby to set them apart from a common to a holy use,… (The Baptist Confession of Faith 1689)

Can anyone deny that the Lord Jesus Christ instituted the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper with the two elements of bread and wine? Can anyone deny that there in that upper room Christ and his blessed Apostles each partook of the bread and the wine? And has it not been true that down throughout Christian history that believers have maintained the practice, received by example from Christ himself, of observing the Lord’s Supper by partaking of the bread and wine without altering or substituting either of these two “blessed elements”?

And now John Sullivan, having placed himself in the position to speak for God on this matter, is telling all Florida Baptist that he is the proper authority on the ordnance of the Lord’s Supper, and that they no longer have the Christian Liberty to follow the example set by Jesus Christ, His blessed Apostles, Christian History, or our Baptist Confessions of Faith.

If this does not frighten anyone then I do not know what will…

Grace to all,

Monday, February 12, 2007

Sullivans Law

Over on Wade Burleson’s blog, Stephen Pruett wrote -

The trend seems very obvious to me. Interpretations that are biblically disputable, even among true conservative inerrantists, have now become the basis for exclusion from service and the pace of this exclusion and the reasons for it have increased rather than decreased… Now that several precedents have been set, the only limitation on which new criteria will be used for exclusion is the opinions of those in positions of power.

For those of us who now server in Florida this is fast becoming a reality… John Sullivan, the Executive Director/Treasurer of the Florida Baptist Convention has put forth a “Decree” saying:

"We are not going to have people on our boards of trustees that do not believe in total abstinence."

In an email exchange with Tom Ascol, Executive Director of Founders Ministries, John Sullivan went on to explain he actually meant that it would not be enough if a trustee abstained from drinking alcohol, but that he or she would also have to hold to a total abstinence conviction. He also pledged to pursue action within the Florida Baptist Convention to assure this. (read more here)

Of course Dr. Sullivan believing in Southern Baptist principles will go through the proper channels (just as any local Baptist Pastor may---yea right!) to assure his new proposal/decree is enacted with all due process… However, in a stunning display of arrogance Sullivan went on to say in an article written for the Florida Baptist Witness “Please understand, I am not taking a poll on this matter.”

The trend toward excluding livelong Southern Baptist from service based upon the opinions of those in power is growing at a truly frightening pace. It is almost as if those in positions of power throughout the Convention, as they are approaching the end of their careers and seeing a new generation that does not share their personal convictions on secondary matters of the faith, have cast caution to the wind in their attempts to mold the future of the SBC in their own image while they still can.

If this dangerous and very Un-Baptist trend toward “Fundamentalism” and the unrestrained exercise of power to excluded fellow Baptist from service is not corrected soon… I fear we may not even recognize the SBC in few years. I hate to sound so negative, but “one man” just excluded me from cooperate service in any capacity in the State of Florida.

Grace to all,

Friday, February 02, 2007

The IMB to Dictate Baptist Doctrine

Feb.1st, 2007 BP article “IMB trustees hear challenge to expand missionary force, respond to Burleson SBC motion”

-- Regarding “new doctrinal requisites for eligibility to serve as employees or missionaries of the IMB beyond the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message,” trustees maintained that “(w)hile the Baptist Faith and Message represents a general confession of Southern Baptist beliefs related to Biblical teachings on primary doctrinal and social issues, the IMB retains the prerogative and responsibility of further defining the parameters of doctrinal beliefs and practices of its missionaries who serve Southern Baptists with accountability to this board.”

So now according to the current IMB trustees they, and they alone, have the “PREROGATIVE” of “FURTHER DEFINEING THE PARAMETERS OF DOCTRINAL BELIEFS AND PRACTICES” for Southern Baptist Missionaries ----- I THINK NOT!

So why do we even have the BFM if the trustees of our agencies are free to do whatever they wish anyway? Did not the BFM2000 receive an “overwhelming” vote of approval from the messengers of the Southern Baptist Churches? Are the trustees now telling the Southern Baptist Churches “We don’t care what you think or what you have approved as our doctrinal standard”? That is sure what it sounds like to me.

I happen to notice that the IMB referred to our Southern Baptist Missionaries as “ITS - Missionaries”… Excuse me good sirs but these Missionaries are not YOURS they are OURS! I think the IMB has forgotten who is the finial authority in the SBC and to whom all SBC employees are ultimately accountable?

So what will the IMB do next? Who knows, but since the BFM is only a “general confession suggestion” it is anyone’s guess. It pains me to say this but the IMB is operating like a rogue agency… what will they do next; change their bylaws to give themselves the authority to select their own trustees?

This is not a good day in the SBC!