I constantly learn from David. He is one of the most gracious men you will ever meet - or read. He is always chaste in his speech, civil in his deportment, and everything about him is seasoned with grace. David exemplifies the finest of who Southern Baptists are and what Southern Baptists believe. Most people know that David is the son of the legendary Adrian Rogers, has been educated at our Southern Baptist universities and seminaries, and has faithfully served Christ on behalf of Southern Baptists in mission fields abroad for two decades.
Recently David and Malcolm Yarnell, a professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, entered into an online debate over the importance of cooperation among Great Commission Christians. Malcolm Yarnell takes the position that the only true
Great Commission Christians are Baptists. Everyone else, including Methodists, Presbyterians, non-Baptist Congegrationalists, Reformed Churches, Assemblies of God, and other Christians are in 'unrepentant sin' (his words, not mine) and Baptists should not cooperate with them on the mission field or in any church planting endeavors.
David Rogers responds to Malcolm's views by brilliantly showing why Christians should never divide over "secondary matters" or "disputable matters." David's hypothetical illustration of the "Common Loaf Denomination" is one of the most precise and understandable Biblical rationales for cooperating with other non-Baptist Christians on the mission field and in kingdom work you will ever read.
Then, Dr. Yarnell responds to David. Please read the letter in its entirety. Below are a few of Dr. Yarnell's statements to David (quoted exactly), with my observations and commentary of Dr. Yarnell's words.
"David, if I were to make a guess, it would be this: you, my friend, are still searching out exactly what you believe in many of these matters! "I have read every one of David's letters, and it is evident that David is rock solid in his beliefs on baptism, the Lord's Supper, ecclesiology, etc . . . Dr. Yarnell even mentions that David expresses his views clearly. I find the statement that David Rogers, a Southern Baptist educated, long term career missionary is "still searching" exactly what he believes on baptism, the Lord's supper, etc . . . a little patronizing.
"My fear is that you have been brought to a precarious position by some of the worrisome trends in modern missionary thought and practice. These worrisome trends include, among many others, a confusion as to what exactly constitutes a Great Commission Christian, the invention of a distinction between "Baptist" and "baptistic," the affirmation or denial of the perspicuity of Scripture, confusion as to what it really means to cooperate with other Christians, and lack of clarity regarding a Baptist hierarchy of values."Since Dr. Yarnell is not with the IMB, I'm not sure if he knows that the mission and purpose statements of the International Mission Board, adopted by the trustees of the IMB and implemented on the mission fields around the world, define precisely what a Great Commission Christian is, affirms the perspicuity of Scripture, and lay out clearly the terms of cooperation with other Great Commission Christians while maintaining Baptist distinctives. Dr. Yarnell's remarks appear to be very similar to the letter sent by Drs. Keith Eitel and Paige Patterson to IMB trustees in 2003 which criticized the administration and missionary employees of the IMB for these very issues. The 2003 criticism was specifically and directly rejected four years ago by the IMB trustees.
In other words, David, let us be clear that on the basis of the long-standing Baptist interpretation of the Great Commission, the following groups specifically do not qualify to be called Great Commission Christians: Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, Presbyterians (and other Reformed Churches), Non-Baptist Congregationalists, Quakers, Methodists, Pentecostals, and Assemblies of God. I will not provide an exhaustive list, for that would require a dictionary, but suffice it to say that any other Christian group that believes or practices what these Christian denominations distinctively believe and practice may not be legitimately classified as Great Commission Christians, even if some of them may be classified as "evangelicals."I would be very interested in knowing if Dr. Yarnell's list of illegimitate Great Commission Christians is given to the public at large as an official representative of SWBTS, or merely his personal opinion? I would assume it represents his personal opinion and I affirm his freedom to express it publicly. It illustrates very clearly the direction some would like to take our board.
The errors of these other Christian churches are why some Baptists are more than willing to refer to them as "unrepentant sinners." When you disobey Christ, you are a "sinner." When you refuse to change your ways, you are "unrepentant." Thus, those who refuse to repent from their disobedience of Christ are "unrepentant sinners." This terminology seems to rub evangelical ecumenists in an especially noticeable way, which is probably why some of us readily use it. It helps bring forward important issues that are being buried in the rush of some naïve and errant children of the free churches to convert to Azusa Street, Canterbury, Geneva, Rome, and Constantinople.I will not comment on this paragraph. I believe it says enough on its own.
I wish to commend Malcolm Yarnell and David Rogers for this very informative dialogue. I respect both men, believe them to be very sincere brothers in Christ and have absolutely no problem in serving with either of them at the International Mission Board. I do believe that in David and Malcolm you have a very clear understanding of the tension and the give and take between two diametrically opposite ideological and missiological viewpoints. Whichever viewpoint ultimately prevails in the IMB and the SBC will determine the course of our future. The differing ideologies, in my opinion, are best illustrated in this cartoon sent to me by Art Rogers.