Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A Tale of Two November 15ths

On November 15, 2005 a new policy adopted by the IMB regarding the forbidding of a private prayer language stated than anyone who possesses this spiritual gift has disqualified himself from representing the Southern Baptist Convention on the mission field.

I do not have a private prayer language. I do not want one. But I have several friends who profess to have this gift, and I know them to be Christ honoring, Bible believing Christians. Several Southern Baptists, some of whom you know, speak in a language unintelligible to men in their prayer closets.

I believe our convention is such that they should be able to represent the Southern Baptist Convention on the mission field.

On November 15, 1999 Judge Paul Pressler and Paige Patterson spoke at the Arkansas Pastor's Conference at First Baptist Church, Springdale, Arkansas. An account of their messages to the pastors can be found in a BP article entitled Patters and Pressler Caution Baptists Against Detractions from Evangelism.

Patterson is addressing the notion that the Southern Baptist Convention is large enough to be represented by people who are all over the soteriological spectrum. We have room for 5 point Calvinists and those who would not consider themselves even close to Calvinism. The BP writer states, "Patterson described Southern Baptists as a people who believe the Bible to be the Word of God as their final authority, that salvation is by grace through faith alone and that adult-like faith witnessed by believer's baptism provides a testimony to a watching world. "If we believe those things all fall within the purview of the Baptist faith, then there's plenty of room for all of us in these various emphases that we bring. I think they're all very helpful."

I agree.

I think we as Southern Baptists need to keep a broad view cooperation. Our abiity to cooperate with each other and represent the Southern Baptist Convention should not be based upon a conformity of interpretation of non-essential doctrines.

Let's not get distracted from our goal of missions and evangelism.

In His Grace,



Jim Shaver said...

There was one phrase that stuck out in Patterson's comments and I noted it in 1999. Your blog today brings it back to mind.

Patterson said, “Any person who holds to five-point Calvinism will never be in any danger in this convention as long as he does not allow it to lead him to unscriptural conclusions -- such as we ought not to give invitations and things like that. (emphasis mine) When he gets to that point, either implicitly or explicitly, it has now become a hindrance to evangelism and missions.”

Now what does our President mean when he says “unscriptural conclusions?” (note. Dr. Patterson was President of the SBC at the time.) Does he mean conclusions that do not agree with the leadership of the SBC? How can a three or four point Calvinist ever believe that a five point Calvinist has not come to an unscriptural conclusion?

The fact is five point Calvinists are suspect within Southern Baptist life. Dr. P. H. Mell who was President of the SBC for 14 terms would not fit in the “new” SBC. His book on predestination is not within the boundaries of pragmatic Southern Baptist theology.

When Dr. Patterson says “such as we ought not to give invitations” does he mean that a local church cannot decide for itself how it will conduct worship? Has he forgotten that the local church represents the highest level of authority within Southern Baptist life? Does he mean that Southern Baptists now have it right and all our Baptist ancestors who didn’t give altar calls had it all wrong? Does he approve of Rick Warren’s method of extending invitations?

And what does our esteemed leader mean when he says “things like that?” More “unscriptural conclusions?” According to whom? And what pray tell could they be? Does he mean the Doctrine of Unconditional Election? Does he mean the Doctrine of Limited or Particular Atonement? Does he mean Holy Spirit Regeneration rather than human decisionism?

If you ask me - “Things like that” really leaves a lot of rope available to hang Calvinists.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Wade,
I agree with you. On a side note, my biggest confusion is why they don't allow it during private prayer time. Isn't that a time between a person and God? Have not all Christians (or most) at one time at least felt "taken over" by the Holy Spirit, even if not by speaking of tongues. I do not speak tongues, but there have been times I've been so deep in prayer that I knew the Holy Spirit was just dwelling in me, and taking over my emotions, and my prayer.

Anonymous said...

Pastor Wade, I doubt you are going to get much response to your post given the SBC Convention has asked for your resignation or removal. I don't think any one else wants that kind of "heat". I am not a member of the SBC, however I am very familiar with the "issue" at hand because I was raised Pentecosal. Now before you or your readers get the idea that my purpose here is to debate the teaching, let me say that I don't have a pray language either and have had my misgivings about the whole "tongues" thing pretty much my entire ministry (15 years). That is not to say I do not believe it is real or viable or even "valuable" for today, I just admit that growing up in and around it's excercise I have had my doubts about the authenticity of SOME events. However, my main reason for commenting is that I applaud you for your "openness" to the idea and not wishing to split theological hairs as it seems the SBC has decided to do. I live in a relatively small community - population of approximately 55k. Some one has suggested that if everyone in our community decided Sunday morning to attend a worship service "somewhere" there isn't enough churches to house them all. I am not so sure that is a true statement, because it seems there is a Baptist church on every corner, and a Pentecostal church on the opposite corner. There are 16 churches of the same Pentecostal denomination within 30 miles of each other, none of which average attendance of more than 200 and most only average around 50 to 75. I personally find that fact to be very disturbing given the "churches" central goal and message to preach Jesus to a lost and dying world. I realize that as an outsider to the SBC my comments will not carry any more weight or influence than the "paper" it is being written on, however I guess my purpose here is to remind the SBC that there is a world watching and that there are certainly greater issues that need to be addressed than whether or not a person has a prayer language or not. I would think given the state the world is in, much less the church, the SBC would be grateful just to have someone willing to go to the mission field, no matter whether they prayed in tongues or Martian. Any one who is willing to sacrifice that much to take the Gospel to those who have never heard it doesn't need "prayer police" to enter into private prayer closets to "monitor" and "approve" the conversation between these wonderful people and God - whether you believe in it or not. I would think that if anything you would want to adopt a policy that required all of us living here in the safe haven of the States to spend an hour each day in prayer FOR the missionaries, not policing them. For what it's worth.

Anonymous said...

We will continue praying!
Stand strong! We have found no one, yet, among our IMB fellow workers, who agree with what the trustees have done in their policy changes or to Wade.
IMB workers

Mike Sense said...

I agree. As a staff member of a partnering organization of the IMB it GREATLY concerns me. I have labored next to people with which I shared great doctrinal differences, yet grew to truly respect that while respecting the authority of Scripture. In a time where evangelicals are falling in love with the gospel and rightly saying no to "temple theology", we should be wisely pouncing on the opportunity to link arms to reflect the gospel of the glory of Christ. I have always recognized the IMB as a pioneering organization in this endeavor (though I disagree with some of their missiology). However I fear that the organization is cutting its own legs in an ever-changing geo-climate. More harm than good seems down the road.

Can you imagine if the Church in China narrowed their guise such as currently is happening? Instead, they recognize their differences and press forward...the love the Lord more than themselves.

Wade, as I read about men like Os Guinness and Francis Schaeffer, men who had compassion for the lost, yet held an equal vigilance for the Church, I can't help but yearn for today's leaders to emulate them.

For some reason this ordeal sounds like "'seminary theology' gone wild". The pendulum is swinging so far that we will risk having temple theology...this isn't meant to be a negative comment, rather mournful. I was so excited to hear that my organization was partnering with IMB because it rang the bells of change. Groups are beginning to link arms, put missiology differences aside because of the beauty, joy, glory that is found within the gospel of Christ Jesus. There is a job to do...as the Church we've "found our moment, found our mission"...I pray we press onward. You are assisting in this goal.

Kudos Wade! Know that I have been blessed Old Testament-like leadership and wisdom. It blesses me as I'm a young missionary and makes me yearn for me and others to fall on their faces and further fall in love with the Gospel.

Anonymous said...

I became a Southern Baptist because that, while blessed with many spiritual gifts, I knew that the chief message of the gospel was to "go into all the world." That message far surpasses any other, truly fulfilling Jesus' command to " . . . love your neighbor . . "
In my opinion, my previous church affiliation was not directing focus toward that goal. As Southern Baptist, our denomination obeys that directive very well.
When used properly, the spiritual gifts edify, not divide the church body. Almost no one speaks up for the many of us who strive to use our gifts in the way the Bible teaches. That message results in peace and harmony, not division. Therefore, Southern Baptists have nothing to fear from any of the gifts that are applied biblically. Also, we must accept what the scripture teaches in this as well as all areas of Christian service.
Definitely, the message of salvation must remain foremost.

Anonymous said...

Can I just say that I completely agree. Baptists were not intended to be "watchdogs" on those issues that reside within orthodoxy. I wonder if the supporters of this proposal, when face to face with someone who help the belief of a private prayer language, could tell them they were not adequate to share the gospel in a foreign country?

francie said...

maybe i'm too young or not a true baptist - but i whole heartly agree - i work for a local rescue mission - by nature of who we are - a para-church ministry - we work along side and within the permeter of many denom. i've have worshiped along side of many of my methodist, presby. luthern, ecip., and non-denom. families - i have come to greatly appreciate them and many facets of their organization - because we put side minor details and all agree on the majors - cradle, cross, and crown so to speak - for over 95 years we have seen churches work together through us at the Mission to reach many for Christ - one great example - we have a penacostal who runs our kichen - he is co-leading a youth group with a local presby. pastor-who is life long presbyterian - Joe is amazed daily at how God is breaking down the denominational barriers to reach the lost in this rural - yet very high churchy area - the youth group has gone from a handful to over 30 weekly - and it's not because of joe or pastor herb - it's because two men of God looked past the minors to see the majors - lost youth -

if we can see this in the context of the rescue mission - why can't we see this same thing happen in context to the sbc - it can - we just need to all God to be in charge and stop majoring on the minors so to speak

sorry for the lengthy post - thanks wade for continuing to dig for the truth and proclaiming it - i'm honored to call you my brother in Christ!

In His Grip,

Anonymous said...

Has anyone done the research to know how many Southern Baptists (what %) have a private prayer language, or believe it is appropriate/Biblical for their fellow members to do so?

Using phrases like "the practice has never been widespread in Baptist churches" indicates that there is a recognition that somehow it is there and possibly biblical, just not "Southern Baptist."

Decisions (tongues/authorized baptism) of such serious impact as to narrow the grounds of participation and cooperation among Southern Baptist should not be based on a 'sense' or personal 'observation' - the decision should reflect the greater intent of cooperating Southern Baptists.

Historically, the Convention would be the appropriate place to gauge or 'poll' such sentiments/convictions and it may do so at the next convention. However, political maneuvering in such a context could be employed to avoid any such disclosure. One way or the other, decisions need to be based on sound information and at least in this case I don't think the data has been collected yet.

I think this is an important 'plank' in discussing the motion against you. If you are swimming against the tide of Baptist conviction on both accounts - it would be important to know, because the discussion then changes to how should a majority conviction relate to a minority conviction - focus on what does draw us together, knowing Him and making Him known - missions.

Many blessing on you,

1040 Worker

Anonymous said...

Wade this is Rex, just read the outline of your sermon on James 5:19. I wrote a 20-page article in 1994 from only reading the Bible. In December 2004, I added 38 more pages from studying history. The first page says: “The Truth of Acts” “Two Denominations” “The devil’s greatest victory was confusing his greatest defeat…Calvary”
If all your learning came from nothing but the Bible, would you wonder why James was selected to be the pastor of the Jerusalem church? Why was one of the apostles not chosen? They had three years of college with Jesus. Since James was a scoffer, he never got to the first grade with Jesus until after the resurrection.
Until I studied history, I figured it was just politics…James being the brother of Jesus.
History gave the real reason why James was the pastor, and why his “judgment” was chosen over Peter’s truth in Acts 15 at the First Church Counsel.
Hegesippus: “James obeyed a lifelong Nazirite vow, consecrated, holy from his mother’s womb.”
Numbers 6:27 “Nazirites…shall call down my blessings upon the people of Israel; and I myself will personally bless them.”
Original Foxes Book of Martyrs: “To him (James) only was it lawful to enter into the holy place…his knees, by oft kneeling (for craving forgiveness for the people) hardened like the knees of a camel…called ‘Just’ and ‘safeguard of the people.’ Pharisees said to James: ‘all the people and we ourselves are ready to obey thee.’”
The revised Foxes Book of Martyrs makes James look like a Baptist preacher. Why did it change the picture of James being a Catholic priest to a Baptist? Because some fundamentalists believe the end justifies the means and they want James to look Baptist rather than what he really was.
What was James? He was a Christian ingrained with Jewish laws. He called himself (James 3:1) “we teachers of religion…” He had a 40-hour week job being a go-between the people and God. He was the most respected man of all Israel. Because of the outcry of the people when he was martyred, King Agrippa fired the high priest who ordered his death. Calvary eliminated James’ job. Why didn’t James quit? We will never know.
Wade, can you see the letter sent to Gentiles in Acts 15 as their Faith and Message? If Peter’s words had been in the letter instead of James’ it would have been our first BFM and Catholics could never have grown from it.
What was the Counsel’s purpose? Peter said, “…all are saved the same way…” (Acts 15:11) It was to determine how Gentiles could be saved. It boiled down to: Christ plus the law or Christ plus nothing.
Peter shamed them: (Acts 15:10) “Are you going to correct God by burdening the Gentiles…Don’t you believe that all are saved the same way, by the free gift of the Lord Jesus?”
There was no further discussion. The debate was over until James got in his two cents. His letter omitted Peter’s words and proclaimed laws must be obeyed (Acts 15:28) “…to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things:”
What! He did what Peter said would be correcting God. He put a burden on Gentiles and even said the burden was necessary. Men have tried to correct God since God made him.
Wade, you see men of the IMB doing this. When they proclaim ‘private prayer language’ is prohibited, they are in essence saying it is not of God. And if it is not of God, then the only other source is the devil. That is thin ice…to declare the things of God to the devil is blaspheming the Holy Spirit.
You explained James 5:20 except “shall save a soul from death.” That doesn’t fit Baptist doctrine does it? James is saying if this Christian is not turned around his soul is going to hell. There is no way to twist his words to mean something else.
I see the same knowledge he had in this verse as he had in Acts 15. His knowledge was wrong in Acts and it’s wrong in this verse.
I’ll conclude that the truth of the Bible, in our hands today, is God’s perfect word any way you look at it. Any untruth is not Scripture but is of the devil, ignorance, or otherwise. That’s why it takes the eyes of Jesus through the Holy Spirit to interpret the Bible and not by some committee.
Rex Ray

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your courage sir to simply share your convictions in such a gracious and Christ-like manner. It's not easy to be alienated by one's colleages for simply holding another position on issues the larger church has debated. I am also especially offended that the Baptist church would exclude those with a private prayer language. We need people who have an intimate relationship with Christ to share who He is with others - not merely those who express an intelectual adherence to doctrine in a "fill in the blank" manner. I am not Southern Baptist - but I am so saddened the denomination so fears the diversity in the Body of Christ that they expunge and censor so many members. The Catholic Church is criticized for restricting communion to those who adhere to the real presence of the Eucharist- I see no between the strong arm tactics being used by the Southern Baptists in this case - except that the issues of concern are more secondary and less essential to the essence of the Gospel. The whole Church loses out as well as those who would be evangelized in the future.

Anonymous said...

Having been a Christian more than 60 years and now a Southern Baptist I have learned that denominations like each of us has their favorite scriptures and parts of the scriptures we like to preach and teach over and over again.

We also have scriptures that we just as soon God had not put in the bible. Whenever possible we ignore them.

I have often thought that a good preaching series could be entitled “Things I wish God had not said”.

For Baptist preachers they might start with 1 Cor 14:5 Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues… or maybe 1 Cor 14:18 I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all; or how about…1 Cor 14:39 Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues .

Strangely in my many years as a Southern Baptist, I have yet to hear a sermon or read any Baptist Sunday school publications pertaining to the above scriptures.

Finally as we can see the above writer would not qualify to be a Southern Baptist Missionary…since he says he speaks in tongues, encourages others to do so, and even forbids others to forbid it.

Well he may be a Christian but he certainly is NOT a Southern Baptist.