Saturday, September 22, 2007

Convergent: Southeastern Seminary and the Emerging Church

We Southern Baptists are blessed to have six theological seminaries spread out all over the country. Most aspiring ministers of the Gospel are within driving distance to at least one of these institutions, and all are fine places to prepare yourself for ministry. But lately, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is becoming my favorite!

Granted, thats saying a lot for a two-time graduate of Southern, but I have been particularly impressed with Danny Akin since he assumed the Presidency of this institution. This week I'm actually on the Wake Forest North Carolina campus for the Convergent Conference, which has featured Ed Stetzer, J.D. Greear, and most notably, Mark Driscoll, all of which are speaking about the emerging church and how evangelicalism should view it.

Tonight Dr. Akin closed the Friday series of meetings with a message from 1 Corinthians about appropriate Christian behavior and cultural engagement. As always, he showed an unapologetic commitment to the authority of Scripture, while at the same time demonstrating himself well-versed in N.T. Wright, and others whose theology helps to undergird the worldiew of many in emerging church circles.

Honestly, the fact that he invited Driscoll to speak is alone a sure indication of his fair treatment of the subject. I would venture a guess that the Missouri Convention, after its convoluted and hopelessly confused statements on the subject,* would not have given Driscoll the same ear . . .let alone the same respect.

Nevertheless, Akin's move to hold a conference on emerging church issues, while far from total accomodation of everything in the movement, clearly signaled his recognition that cultures are changing in North America and that the church bears the responsibility of reaching them. This requires a commitment to the unchanging Gospel, but it also requires a presentation of that Gospel in changing ways.

Anyone attending these meetings will go away with two facts about Southeastern Seminary that have been clearly demonstrated: 1. The commitment of this institution to the supreme and sole authority of Scripture has not, and will not, change. 2. The commitment of this institution to play its part in reaching everyone with the Gospel will not change either.

In the end, I suppose thats what I like best about Southeastern, and Akin. His primary passion is the evangelization of lost people. He said at this year's Southern Baptist Convention that as long as he is President of Southeastern, he would allow nothing to be raised to an issue that would be a detriment to this cause. With this in view I say, long live his Presidency!

*Regarding the Missouri Convention's statements on the Acts 29 network, two things are helpful to know:
1. Dr. Mark DeVine, Professor of Theology at Midwestern Seminary, actually gave an excellent report that for some reason seemed to be totally misunderstood by Convention leadership.
2. Acts 29 has published a response to the contentions of the Missouri Convention that clear up any misconceptions about this organization's doctrinal fidelity.


CB Scott said...

I, for one, am glad it happened. I know you are a straight shooter, Joel. I take heart in your evaluation of the event. I, too, believe SEBTS is rapidly becoming the "Flag Ship" for the next century in SBC life.


Anonymous said...

As a layman, i was very intrigued by the conference when i first heard it announced. Here are my observations:

1. Much of what i heard from the SBC presenters was very reactionary. It seems that the SBC is woefully behing the times regarding the issues surrounding the emergent/emerging church.
2. With that said, i thought Stetzer did an excellent job. It is awesome that he decided to stay with the SBC because his voice and unique prespective is much needed.
3. Driscoll called out Doug Padgitt. Rightfully so, in my opinon. My question now is this? Will Danny Akin and teh rest of the staff be courageous and call the NC Baptist Association to task for inviting Padgitt to speak at an upcoming conference? It is quite shameful to me as a southern baptist to have a man like Padgitt speaking at one of our state convention's conferences.

Overall, I do applaud SEBTS for having this conference and inviting Mark Driscoll. Though i still believe that the SBC should be more proactive in the future and stop clinging to some of its traditions moreso than biblical matters. I think this is a welcome first step in the right direction.

Joel Rainey said...

Good to hear from you. Not sure how to feel about your contention that SEBTS will be the new "flagship," as I am still very fond of my alma mater. Still, I have been very, VERY impressed with much of what has come out of Wake Forest of late. Thanks for chiming in.

Regarding #1 in your response, I'm not sure we were at the same conference. What I heard from Akin and Reid wasn't at all reactionary. However, you are absolutely right regarding #3. Driscoll's comment "shame on you" for the NC Convention inviting Doug Pagitt was spot-on, and with all the banter about things that don't matter, North Carolina should make more noise about this.

Anonymous said...


I haven't stopped by your site in a while but just saw this article

and it made me think of you. Low and behold you blog is already on it.

Jason Vaughn

Anonymous said...

Is Mark Driscoll really part of the same movement that has Brian McLaren as a leader? The one who said in his new book:

“With no apologies to Martin Luther, John Calvin, or modern evangelicalism, Jesus (in Luke 16:9) does not prescribe hell to those who refuse to accept the message of justification by grace through faith, or to those who are predestined for perdition, or to those who don’t express faith in a favored atonement theory by accepting Jesus as their ‘personal savior.’ Rather, hell—literally or figurative—is for the rich and comfortable who proceed on their way without concern for their poor neighbor day after day.” Jesus “calls them to grow their good deeds portfolios for the common good, especially the good of the poor and marginalized.”

Jason Vaughn

Anonymous said...

Ok I went and did some research and answered my my question. One of these movements should change their name.


Joel Rainey said...

Let me encourage you not to think solely in terms of "labels." This did not begin as "two movements" but one.

In that sense, I can answer your question by saying that Mark DRiscoll and Brian McLaren are both a part of the Emerging church in the same way that both Rick Warren and Robert Schuller are [were]a part of the church growth movement.

EC began with very relevant and legitimate questions about the modern church, and whether it had become so enculturated within modernity that it now is impotent in a postmodern world.

The difference between the "streams" of the EC is not this question, but rather, the answers they provide. Guys like Driscoll, Donald Miller, Erwin McManus, Dan Kimball, etc. are seeking to answer the question by reforming the church to be both "Biblically faithful" and "Culturally fruitful." In short, they answer with the Gospel.

As for the Emergent Village group (guys like McLaren, Steve Chalke, Rob Bell, Doug Pagitt, etc.), well, I'm not sure what they are answering with, but it isn't the Gospel.

Again, if you want to be accurate (and frankly, Biblically truthful) you can't simply "write off" the Emerging Church. You have to entertain the questions that are asked (which I think are totally legitimate), and then judge who is faithful and who is not based on who stays faithful to the Biblical text in their answer.

Hope this helps, and also that all is well with you.

Anonymous said...


I can't find your e-mail so I'll send it here. So for the last couple of weeks I've been listening to Mark Driscoll and I must say I'm impressed. Some of the most powerful and down to earth teachings I've ever heard. Not my style, but my style is that of the old SBC thats dying and not reaching anyone. Thanks so much for referencing Mark. Also, I thought you'd be interested I got kicked out of a church for being reformed. The associate pastor is an old friend and the pastor decided to talk to me about the dangers of Calvinism. so yea I miss your church. Anyway I'm looking at moving too St. Louis now and I'll be up in D.C. Dec. 12-15. I'd love for you and your wife to meet some of my friends and I want to see the kids too. I also managed to get a tour into the West Wing if you and your wife care to join us. Hope to see you soon.

Jason Vaughn

Joel Rainey said...


You can email me from this site, actually. Sure, it would be great to see you again.

You know, just because I'm not there anymore doesn't mean the church still isn't.

New name, new pastor, new faces, and the one elder left who started the church with me is now moving to PA. But they would welcome you there.

When you move to St. Louis, I have some good churches I could reccomend as well. Send me a message and let's talk.

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