Monday, August 20, 2007

Some Good Conversation on the Web

I love to write.

There is something about the exercise of putting your thoughts into words that brings clarity, and when the subject is God and His Gospel, the mental clarity gained from writing frequently makes its way to the heart as well. But from time to time, even the best writers recognize that with regard to certain subjects, there are others who have "said it better."

God willing, next week I will post on my experiences while in southeast Asia (in April) and Chiapas Mexico (last month) and reflect on them in light of what the church should be in each and every culture. But for now, there are some very worthy conversations taking place in other areas of cyberspace, and I would be remiss if I didn't call your attention to their existence.

1. The Emerging Church and Evangelicalism. On September 21 and 22, I will be in Wake Forest, North Carolina for the Convergent Conference, which will be held on the campus of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

The "emerging church" has become so controversial, many evangelicals have simply written it off as a heretical aberration of the true church. In many ways, this movement is not so different from the "church growth" and "church health" movements that preceeded it, meaning that while there are indeed theological concerns in certain sectors of the movement, there is much about the emerging church that can be very helpful to the body of Christ.

I am thankful that in the midst of the criticisms and "cheap one-liners" toward this movement, Dr. Danny Akin has chosen to take the route of genuine scholarship. Akin, who serves as President of Southeastern, is hosting this conference, and will be speaking alongside Ed Stetzer (Missiologist in Residence and Director of Research at Lifeway), Mark Driscoll(Founding Pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle), and Southeastern Professors Alvin Reid and John Hammett, among others.

Last year, I had the privilege of helping contribute to an article Dr. Hammett wrote for the Criswell Theological Review on this very issue. Throughout our interactions, I was profoundly impressed by his tenacious defense of the truth coupled with his careful and fair analysis of the movement as a whole. I genuinely look forward to meeting him in person.

The 21st Century finds most developed cultures in a constant state of flux. If the church is to effectively impact western culture it must cease its reactionary posture toward culture and instead begin to lead it. At the same time, emerging methods should be undergirded by a solidly Biblical theology. Through Convergent, Danny Akin has provided a context in which honest conversations can begin regarding how Southern Baptists will meet this challenge.

2. Baptist Identity in a post-denominational world. Dr. Sam Storms, Associate Professor of Theology at Wheaton College, posted a thought-provoking article today on the subjects of Baptism and the Lord's Supper. I found myself in agreement with him at several points, while personally parting ways with him regarding the relationship of Baptism and church membership in particular.

Nevertheless, his words should stir the kind of conversation that needs to happen in our churches. So many Baptists apply their convictions consistently regarding Baptism and the Lord's Supper, yet have no idea where the Scriptural evidence exists that undergirds their practice. We are not "people of the Baptist Faith and Message," we are "people of the Book," which means that in a "post-denominational context," we need to be prepared to defend our heritage because it is Biblical, rather than assuming the Bible is in agreement with our traditions.

Conversations like the one started today by Dr. Storms are a helpful starting point in finding our Scriptural moorings again. You can find the article here.

3. The End of our Work and the End of the World. Bob Roberts of Northwood Church in Dallas, Texas had an excellent article posted last week on how to effectively evangelize middle-eastern cultures.

Though many other things are said, his warnings against allowing a "narrow" eschatology determine not only public policy, but also missiological philosophy, were the most striking of the entire piece. One section in particular deserves to be quoted:

First, we are allowing speculative theology to formulate foreign policy. That’s very dangerous. When conservative Bible believing scholars can’t agree – for one opinion to be pushed to the point of war is arrogant and dangerous.

and again . . . . . .

we have not respected the views and situation of Palestinian evangelical Christians. Before ’67 2/3rds of Palestinians present were Christians – now that’s 8 to 12% depending on who you talk to. How could we have ignored their concerns – these are our brothers in Christ. This makes no sense. Who was better positioned to tell people in the Middle-East about Jesus than the Palestinians?!!!

Now, I have to admit, as a "non-dispensationalist," my biases toward what Bob is saying here should be clearly revealed. At the same time, his argument (and I agree) isn't against holding to a dispensationalist eschatology. Its against allowing this one view (among at least three others, all held by conservative, Bible-believing evangelicals) to so dominate the evangelical landscape that it informs both our philosophy of missions and our foreign policy views in uniform.

Sometimes, when it comes to impacting the world, we can be our own worst enemy, and one of the things I appreciate about Bob is his willingness to say this.

Find the article in its entirety here.

So there you have it! There are lots of thought-provoking discussions presently going on in cyberspace. Happy exploring, and I'll have some more thoughts of my own in about a week.

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