Archive for June, 2012

Kevin Bauder and Baptist Distinctives

Kevin Bauder, former President of Central Baptist Theological Seminary and current Research Professor of Systematic Theology at Central, recently wrote a book, published by Regular Baptist Press, entitled Baptist Distinctives and New Testament Church Order.  Earlier this week I purchased the book at the annual meeting of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches and attended a workshop where Kevin interacted with many pastors on related issues (a workshop moderated by Kevin Mungons of RBP).  I performed a hearty skim of the book and believe Kevin’s approach to Baptist distinctives is close to mine.  I was especially pleased that the emphasis on the New Testament approach to the Church or – as Kevin says it – New Testament authority was dealt with first.  I was also happy that Kevin said in the workshop that this single distinctive is the lynchpin for the other distinctives in the package that Baptists generally believe.

I think it is possible the Baptist historians have been better at identifying this lynchpin than Baptist theologians down through the years.  At least discussions about the so-called “primitive” church are plentiful (see Armitage, Orchard, Vedder, etc.).    While Baptist peoples have disagreed among themselves about whether the primitive or early biblical churches passed down the pattern for doing church in an unbroken chain through history (e.g., the landmark debate), one thing is clear.  Baptists look to the New Testament for doing church.  This makes them somewhat dispensational in disposition even if they don’t claim that label.  Baptists do not go to the OT for the pattern for how to do church even though OT wisdom can certainly be a guide for life in applicatory ways.  But the model is distinctively a NT one.

Out of this comes the main contribution of the modern Baptist movement in my opinion – the clarification of the significance of the local church.  This concept moved into mainstream evangelicalism over time and became a major competing model for doing church.

The Words of the Gospel of Eternal Life

I appreciate the recent article by Duane Litfin in Christianity Today, May 2012, entitled “You Can’t Preach the Gospel with Deeds and Why It’s Important to Say So.”  In some earlier posts and previous articles I have lamented the problem of expanding the definition of the gospel of eternal life to include within the umbrella of the definition the social implications of that gospel.  Hence, attempts are made to place what has been termed the “social gospel” under the definition of what the Bible means by the word gospel.  Litfin’s article assists us in the direction that I would like to see us go.  It is the biblical direction in my view.  It is also not a denigration of the responsibility of Christians to do social action as a witness to the gospel or an act of love in Jesus’ name.  But Litfin articulates with clarity the importance of the out loud declaration in words of the content of the gospel of eternal life.  Note this paragraph from his article:

“So let us say it again:  The belief that we can ‘preach the gospel’ with our actions alone represents muddled thinking.  However important our actions may be (and they are very important indeed), and whatever else they may be doing (they serve a range of crucial functions), they are not ‘preaching the gospel.’  The gospel is inherently verbal, and preaching it is inherently verbal behavior.  If the gospel is to be communicated at all, it must be put into words.”  (p. 41)

I have not yet read Litfin’s new book Word versus Deed: Resetting the Scales to a Biblical Balance.  However, in light of the CT article, I think I would find it agreeable and useful.  Beyond that, the expected harmony with Scripture makes the book an attractive purchase.  Interestingly, Jesus said in John 5:24, “…he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life…”  Our good deeds may point people to God so they can consider His work (Matt. 5:16), but salvation comes by believing in the words of eternal life.

Walter Kaiser and the Barndollar Lectures

I have more details on the Barndollar Lectures to be held at Baptist Bible College & Seminary on  September 10-13.  Dr. Walter Kaiser has confirmed the following topics for his four presentations:

Monday, “God’s Promise of the Land to Israel” – Gen 12:2-3, 7

Tuesday, “God’s Promise to Regather Israel Back to Their Land” — Jer 32

Wednesday, “God’s Promise to Revive the Nation and Unify it Once Again”–Eze 37

Thursday, “God’s Gift of a Revival in Egypt”–Isa 19

We look forward to having Dr. Kaiser minister to our students through these messages.  His clear teaching on the national and land promises to Israel has been a blessing down through the years. 

The Exceptional Beauty and Innocence of a Young Child

Last Saturday I spent a good part of the day with my son David, his beautiful wife Brielle, and the extraordinary young lady who is my 19 month-old granddaughter Ella (note the picture).  There is something of exceptional beauty and innocence in all young children.  When I watch her play, try to talk, and intereact with her surroundings, there is an almost surreal quality to the moment.  I had not seen this up close like this (where I would notice) since my three children were born (over 20 years ago now).  Such innnocence actually reminds me of what I wish human beings were normally like (at least the innocent part).  However, even young children of Ellas’s age show signs of temper, rage, and rebellion.  I don’t think my son David trained Ella to have those undesired traits.  Sin is not merely environmental.  Children don’t just learn to sin from parents and others in their lives.  No, there is something more serious going on.  Men and women are born with sin natures — that is, a propensity to go contrary to God’s design for them (Eph. 2:1-3 among other passages).   The absolute quandry we were in required the Cross of Christ as the only possible solution to render both the justice and the grace of God (Rom. 3:21-26) in our behalf–applied to us by faith and faith alone in Christ’s finished Cross-work.  I am thankful for Christ’s work for me in this way.  As a result I have hope that my innocence will return — in fact, I’ll have more than I have ever had, complete freedom from the presence of sin.  When Jesus returns he will begin to make all things right.  I long for that day.  Until then, I have a glimpse of things to come in the exceptional beauty and innnocence of a young child.

Eyes to See: God, Health, Resurrection, & Rapture

Recently, I had one of the strangest things happen to me.  I woke up one morning and my eyesight had changed overnight from farsighted to nearsighted.  I picked up my iPHone and could see it clearly where the night before I needed my glasses to make out anything clearly.  What a strange miracle I thought!  Then I looked up and it was all foggy when I tried to see long distance.  Ouch! In church I could not see the words of the songs on the screen, but could read my Bible clearly without glasses.  The week before the reverse was true.

Such an immediate shift caused some consternation to be sure.  But three doctors’ appointments later a natural explanation was at hand.   I had been given the drug prednisone by my general doctor for a skin rash.  That drug spiked the sugar in my system enormously.  As a result, the lenses in my eyes absorbed excess water and other materials.  This caused the lenses to bulge which changed the refraction in my eyes.  Hence, I went overnight from farsighted to nearsighted.  Of course, my doctors took me off the prednisone and I was put on medicine to help my system regulate the sugar.  The retinal specialist told me that it would take about six weeks for my eyes to return to the state they were in before the change occurred.  After the six weeks were up, another miracle of sorts appeared.  My eyes were actually “better” than they were before I had the recent problem.  All of my astigmatism was gone.  The very slight offset to my farsight was gone.  My far off sight was now perfect.  Even my close up sight was slightly better.  I thank the Lord for this even though I did not enjoy the process.

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