Monday, October 31, 2005

Lasering Lemke - Issue 2

Issue 2 - Biblical Authority – Will Southern Baptists submit their lives and opinions on the authority of Scripture, or will cultural and pragmatic pressures force us to “reinterpret”the Bible?

If Dr. Lemke gets anything right in his entire presentation he comes close to hitting the bull’s-eye as he tackles this pressing issue in SBC life. I’m not so sure the drinking and dancing illustrations serve well to prepare us for the weightier problems of marriage and divorce, homosexuality, pluralism and inclusivism. I’m certainly not for abusing the body with alcohol or dancing with a deacon’s wife in a smoke filled tavern nor am I for chewing and spitting the devil’s weed or smoking it in the form of a Camel or a Marlboro but I suspect that Baptists have struggled with these issues since the 1600’s in one form or another. Indeed the image of C.H. Spurgeon with a cigar in his mouth is proof that some small vice in the life of a Baptist is perhaps insignificant when compared to the overall progress of the Kingdom.

But even with a weak start Dr. Lemke hits the head of the nail with his observations. Southern Baptists are a compromising bunch. When a messenger at a Southern Baptist Convention is on the look out for his ex’s new husband you know we’ve come a long way down the road from 1845.

On marriage and divorce Lemke deserves only applause. A contributing factor that needs to be added is this. Many worship services have become nothing more than fashion shows on Sunday morning. Let’s face it folks, when an attractive member of the opposite sex dresses like a movie star on Sunday morning it catches the attention of red blooded Baptists. And when it comes to the youth group it gets even worse. My wife and I attended a worship service with my mother in the deep south during a summer vacation. When the youth choir went up to sing, one young woman was dressed in a form fitting white strapless dress and she had a tanned body that more than adequately accentuated the dress. Needless to say I do not remember what the special music was but I remember my thoughts; “Will she succeed in getting back to her seat without becoming topless?”

What kind of youth minister would permit such a display of flesh? What kind of parents would permit such provocative clothing? I fear the answer is worldly, compromising, Southern Baptists who have not tasted the redeeming savor of church discipline for so long that they have become ignorant of its prescribed presence in the scripture or in the church.

And get this, in the average Southern Baptist Church when the deacon’s daughter gets pregnant before marriage there is no public shame. When was the last time you saw a young pregnant teenage girl on her knees at the altar in your church? When was the last time you saw one repent and publicly ask for forgiveness? Instead of sharing in the shame and publicly crying with her over the sin we compound the error by hosting a baby shower for the expectant mother in the fellowship hall!

We may be too far down the road of compromise when it comes to sexual sin, divorce and remarriage to ever turn back. Just do a quick poll of how many divorced and remarried pastors are in your association. You’ll be surprised.

When it comes to homosexuality and women’s roles in the church, it’s just a matter of time until we capitulate. The homosexuality issue will bowl us over simply because we do not practice church discipline in other areas and if we try to revive it simply for the purpose of addressing homosexuality then we will be crucified in the press, the courts and in our own business meetings.

Women’s roles in the church are a problem that we simply do not know how to handle. It’s laughable that we say in our BF&M that women can’t be preachers when Beth Moore is perhaps one of the top ten preachers in the SBC and Anne Graham Lotz one of the top preachers in America is invited to speak at our SBC meetings. We seem to speak out of both sides of our mouths when it comes to this issue.

Inclusivism and pluralism are another matter altogether. It is in this area of the over arching issue that Dr. Lemke ignores the role of bad theology in the average Southern Baptist Church. It’s no wonder that our children think the way they do because that’s what we have taught them in church. From the cradle roll to the youth group we have impressed upon them the need to make a decision for Jesus and be baptized. We will baptize them as young as four in some churches! We will build a baptistery like a fire truck in another church and shoot off confetti when they get baptized. We indoctrinate and induct them into a system that perpetuates the myth that Christianity is just another life choice that people make. And we preach so much on the Love of God to the neglect of His wrath that we shouldn’t be surprised when our children espouse a Rodney King mentality. They really believe it’s all about them instead of HIM!

Even our confessional statements contribute to this downgrading of our theological stance. The Baptist Faith and Message statements on the Doctrine of Man from 1925 to 2000 when laid side by side show a marked improvement in the character and nature of man.
Man is getting better and better as our denomination evolves. The more man centered our denomination becomes the more errors creep in and the less willing we are to call sin - SIN.

Dr. Lemke’s Prediction/Warning: Unless Baptists refocus on living under the Lordship of Jesus Christ as itheChristian life is defined in Scripture, cultural pressures from within and without the church will lead to increased moral compromise and worldliness in our churches.

He’s right.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Lasering Lemke - Issue 1

Issue 1 - Doctrinal Integrity – Will Southern Baptists continue to stand for sound doctrine? Dr. Lemke’s illustration of the seminary student who in class during an in-depth discussion of the Doctrine of Christ blurts out “I didn’t come here to learn theology, I came here to learn how to grow a church,” is also simply an example of the lack of depth that the SBC seminaries tolerate.

I strongly suspect even with the conservative resurgence that not much really has changed since I attended seminary in the 70’s. With few exceptions the teaching was mediocre and the testing evaluated the student’s ability to memorize certain points and the goal of the seminary seemed to be as pragmatic as that of the student’s declaration. To be very blunt, I was not taught very much sound Southern Baptist doctrine or much else during my seminary years that could qualify as in depth teaching.

In fact one professor during my seminary years stated that he wished that on registration day in the fall they would just set up two lines and sell diplomas in the first line for those who were just in seminary for a degree and register the real students in the other line. But alas, that’s not the SBC way of doing things. We’re always more into numbers and therefore will do anything to increase enrollment in the seminaries including dumbing down the teaching, putting satellite centers all over the South where we least need them and starting a college at the seminary that competes for students with our state Baptist schools.

Could it be with our glaring preoccupation with enrollment that the convention is sinking to a lower common denominator of seminary education which is totally unacceptable? Could it be that Dr. Lemke and other seminary administrators and professors share some responsibility for this lack of interest in doctrine among seminary students? Could it be that they suffer from the same lack of education in Southern Baptist doctrine that I did when I graduated from NOBTS?

Don’t even ask me if I was ever exposed in seminary to the Doctrines of Grace or to the historical reality that the SBC was birthed by real flesh and blood Calvinists.

Dr. Lemke begins his discussion o

Friday, October 28, 2005

Lasering Lemke - Intro

This is the first of my eight blogs on Dr. Steve W. Lemke’s presentation, The Future of Southern Baptists as Evangelicals as presented to the Maintaining Baptist Distinctives Conference of Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in April 2005. I realize that due to the hurricane damage at the seminary that it might be perceived by some to be an untimely resurrection of an old topic, but life's mere distractions and even death cannot be allowed to interfere with the discussion and debate of important ideas.

Thus, we begin.

Intro – In the months that have passed since Dr. Lemke presented his paper on the Future of Southern Baptists there has been much discussion among Southern Baptists on its merits and its warnings. Without a doubt the issue he raises with Calvinism in the SBC has been and remains the most discussed portion of his presentation, however to dwell exclusively on that aspect of his writing misses the most poignant points of the entire work. Southern Baptists are not in trouble mainly because of Calvinism in the SBC, we are in trouble because we have many problems that have brought us to this critical stage of our history and as I will attempt to point out in these blogs – most of those problems have nothing to do with a growing "hyper-Calvinism" in our midst but rather have everything to do with an ever enduring pragmatism and an almost blind and unholy preoccupation with numbers and noses which is slowly rendering us impotent as an Evangelical denomination.

Dr. Lemke touches on some of these points briefly but he seems to be afraid to grab hold and shake them till they give forth the truth. Only in his handling of the “Calvinism problem” where he knows he is on safe ground in the Amen corner does he dare to shake so hard.