Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Two new titles from Founders Press: Soldiers of Christ and Stray Recollections

Founders Press is pleased to announce two new titles from two of the world's premier Baptist historians.

Basil Manly, Sr. and his son Basil Manly, Jr. played vital roles in shaping a number of the central institutions of the Southern Baptist community in its formative years in the nineteenth century, including the influential Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Undergirding their churchmanship was a vigorous Calvinistic Baptist piety that was expressed in sermons and tracts, hymns and confessional statements, letters and diaries, all of which are represented in this timely volume of selections from their writings. Here we have a wonderful window onto the vista of nineteenth-century Southern Baptist life with all of its glorious strengths as well as its clear failings.

Founders Press is glad to introduce the Manlys to modern readers with a new title by Michael Haykin, Roger Duke and James Fuller entitled, Soldiers of Christ: Selections from the Writings of Basil Manly, Sr and Basil Manly, Jr. We are now taking pre-publication orders on this 240 page paperback. It will retail for $17.95 but until July 31, you may purchase a copy for $12.95. The book is scheduled to begin shipping June 15.

*****

On the 15oth anniversary of the founding of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary it is fitting that a book should be published that provides more insight into the heart and mind of that institution's principal founder. Tom Nettles' Stray Recollections, Short Articles and Public Orations of James P. Boyce does just that. This book combines some never-before-published material by Boyce along with articles that have not been available since their original publication.

This 185 page paperback will retail for $14.95 but is available at a special pre-publication price of $10.95 until July 31, 2009. It will begin shipping on June 15.

For a very limited time both books may be purchased for a special price of $19.95. This offer is limited to web purchases only and ends June 19, 2009. Take advantage of this pre-publication bundle by placing your order at the Founders Online Bookstore.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's time for Southern Baptists to get serious on the allocation of Cooperative Program dollars


LifeWay Research recently studied attitudes toward the Cooperative Program (CP)--the ingenious giving plan that allows Southern Baptist churches to fund international missions, church planting and theological education, among other things. I actually was one of the 3500 pastors who participated in the study (in addition to 285 other ministers and 5245 lay persons). Mark Kelly summarizes one of the more interesting dimensions of the study:
A larger majority of pastors (62 percent) strongly agree that it is important for the Cooperative Program to allocate contributions appropriately among state, national and global ministries, missions and entities. Only 38 percent strongly agree the current allocation is appropriate among state, national and global ministries, missions and entities.
As the chart indicates, only 34% of the pastors surveyed believe that the entities that the CP supports "use the contributions efficiently" and only 32% think that "the state convention entities" that the CP supports "use the contributions efficiently" (more charts are available here).

Three years ago I wrote about the way CP monies are allocated and suggested that if the truth becomes widely known (of how much money stays in state conventions and how little actually makes it to support international missions--especially compared to the way the CP is promoted) then we could expect churches to start giving around the CP. This current LifeWay study suggests that I am not alone in my concerns.

It is time for Southern Baptists to change the way that Cooperative Program dollars are allocated. The simple truth is that far too many of those dollars stay in state conventions (for example, in Florida 60% stays in the state and that is "one of the best" percentage splits of any state convention).

Recently, International Mission Board trustees "approve[d] a budget for 2009 that includes no room to exceed the total number of missionaries currently under appointment" due to a lack of funds to do more. If every state convention would merely allocate 50% of the CP funds given by churches the IMB would not have to plan for no increase in the missionary force for 2009.

The Executive Committee of the SBC requested this LifeWay Research study on the CP. Now that the results are in, the Executive Committee should lead the way in calling for a serious, detailed study that leads to significant proposals for revamping the way that CP monies are allocated. In addition, pastors should become more involved in learning how the excessive amounts of CP dollars that stay in state conventions are spent and begin making proposals to get higher percentages of CP gifts to support international missions. After all, it is international missions that is used to promote the Cooperative Program and I am confident that most Southern Baptists would appreciate a higher percentage of their CP gifts actually making it to support the spread of the Gospel to the nations.

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Radio Interview on "Iron Sharpens Iron"

Chris Arnzen will interview me today starting at 3:00 EST on the theological roots of the Southern Baptist Convention.

You can listen to the interview live in New York & Connecticut on WNYG-1440AM Radio or over the internet at www.sharpens.blogspot.com or www.wnygspiritofny.com. There will be opportunity to call in with questions at: 1-631-321-WNYG (9694)

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Resolved: Southern Baptists need to get serious about ecclesiology

As we move closer to the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting it might be helpful to consider once again the rationale behind my resolution on integrity in church membership. This is the third consecutive year that I have submitted it. As noted in a previous post, another resolution (written by Malcolm Yarnell) that addresses some of the same things is being submitted this year by Bart Barber. I have also heard that other related resolutions may be submitted as well.

As I have repeatedly stated, I agree with everything that the Yarnell/Barber resolution says. It is much broader than mine and takes a different approach to what we all agree are important issues. It has garnered lots of support which indicates that a growing number of Southern Baptists are recognizing the need to get serious about our commitment to regenerate church membership. That is a hopeful sign.

I have been asked what I think will happen at the Indianapolis convention next month regarding these resolutions. Well, I am no prophet, but I fully expect that some kind of resolution will make it out of committee this year. After the less-than-stellar reasons given the last two years for not allowing the convention even to vote on it, I believe that this year's committee will want to avoid being put in the position of having to explain why they refused to allow a vote on an issue that is obviously of great concern to many Southern Baptists.

My hope is that a healthy combination of the two resolutions will emerge from the committee. For me, that would include, along with the basic affirmations of regenerate church membership and church discipline, three things: 1) a clear statement on the rationale, 2) a clear call for repentance for our past failures in this area and 3) a clear encouragement to denominational servants to be supportive of churches that seek to recover meaningful membership.

The rationale is important because if we do not acknowledge our problem, then the force of the resolved statements is diminished. The problem in the SBC is not that we have failed to affirm our commitment to regenerate church membership. We are on record in the Baptist Faith and Message that we do affirm it. Our problem is that we are not practicing what we profess and confess. By and large, our churches have drastically failed to maintain much of a practical commitment to our belief that the church is to be comprised of born again believers...only.

If a church only has 75% of its covenanted members actively participating then Baptists should regard that as a problem. But when only 35-40% of the members even regularly attend corporate worship once a week, its not just a problem, it is an ecclesiological catastrophe. It does not matter how many times we reaffirm our commitment to regenerate church membership as long as this tragic situation is not openly, plainly acknowledged to be a direct failure to honor God's Word in its teachings on what a church is and how it is to operate.

When our failure is acknowledged, then the only proper response for Christians is to repent. And if this is so, then why should we not say it and plainly call for it? Our Lord did not hesitate lovingly to call churches to repentance (read Revelation 2-3). Why should His followers be hesitant to do so?

Of all the complaints that I have heard about my motion the one that I find the most remarkable has to do with this--that it specifically, unashamedly calls for repentance. I don't understand the hesitancy, nor do I get why any Christian would be offended by such a call. The Gospel of Jesus Christ sets us free to repent. Christ died for our sins. He endured God's wrath for our ecclesiological failures as well as for our other sins. The Christian life is all about repentance and faith. We repent and believe every day. I don't have to pretend that I am better than I am--indeed, to do so is to cut myself off from the very grace that I need--because my standing with God is not based on my performance but on Christ's.

If we need to repent--and any failure to keep God's Word requires nothing less--then why should we not plainly admit that? I hope that the resolutions committee will see this the same way and will include plain language calling for repentance on any resolution that comes to the convention.

The need to encourage denominational leaders to "support and encourage churches that seek to recover and implement our Savior's teachings on church discipline, especially when such efforts result in the reduction in the number of members that are reported in those churches" (as my resolution states) is important because too often the exact opposite has happened. When a church begins to take membership seriously once again and the statistics drop (when the membership roll goes from 900 to 200), some denominational employees might be tempted to speak and act in ways that disparage that church and its pastor rather than offering the encouragement and support that they need.

If these matters are included in a resolution that gets recommended to the convention, I will happily vote for it. If the resolution that comes before the convention does not have these emphases in it, then I will attempt respectfully to offer appropriate amendments from the floor.

Only the Lord knows what will happen. As I have said for the last two years, the passing of a resolution is not my goal. My desire is to see this issue highlighted in such ways that it can no longer be ignored so that pastors and churches will humbly return to the biblical practices that we say that we believe as Baptists. In many respects, that is already happening, for which I am very grateful to the Lord. If the passing of a resolution this year can further that cause, then I pray the Lord will bring it to pass.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Other reflections on the 2007 ACP report

The Southern Baptist blogosphere is buzzing with comments on the ACP report that was released yesterday. Chris Elrod has a 30 minute video conversation with Ed Stetzer about it. Timmy Brister has weighed in with his typically insightful analysis.

The best comments that I have read come from Nathan Finn. Nathan teaches church history at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and is one of the sharpest thinkers of the rising generation of Southern Baptists. Some guys are easier to like from a distance. Nathan wears well. The more you know him, the more you love and appreciate him. His insights are prophetic and need to be read by every Southern Baptist pastor and church member who cares even a little bit about the association of churches known as the SBC. He asks the question, "Does the SBC have a future?" and succinctly highlights some of our very serious problems that certain leaders either refuse to admit or regard as traitorous to articulate. Nathan defies that mentality and speaks humbly, clearly and boldly. Just go read it.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Garrett on Calvinism in the Alabama Baptist, Pt. 4

Dr. Garrett helpfully distinguishes the internal, effectual call of God from the external, general call. Many less thoughtful critics of Calvinism fail to recognize this distinction and, consequently, often wind up dismissing a straw man in their critique of "irresistible grace." Garrett writes,
Dortian Calvinists normally differentiate the external, or outward, call of God from the internal, or special, call of God to salvation. The external call includes the public preaching of the gospel. It can be rejected. In fact, we are told that it is uniformly rejected by nonelect human beings.

The internal call, on the contrary, cannot be rejected and always results in conversion because the Holy Spirit is at work. Neither the new birth (John 3:8) nor the new creation (2 Cor. 5:17) nor "God's workmanship" (Eph. 2:10) can be resisted, according to Edwin H. Palmer in "The Five Points of Calvinism." Furthermore David N. Steele and Curtis C. Thomas in "The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, Documented" cite as proof-texts for irresistible grace numerous texts that specify God's internal call: Romans 1:67, 8:30, 9:2324; 1 Corinthians 1:1, 2, 9, 2331; Galatians 1:1516; Ephesians 4:4; 2 Timothy 1:9; Hebrews 9:15; 1 Peter 1:15, 2:9, 5:10; 2 Peter 1:3; Jude 1; and Revelation 17:14.

However, these allusions to God's effectual internal calling apply only to the irresistible grace that relates to internal calling. They do not invalidate the rejection of the outward call and indeed of the gospel of Christ by those who persist in unbelief (John 3:18, 5:47, 6:64; Rom. 11:23; Heb. 3:19).
I don't disagree with Dr. Garrett in his treatment of this point. His final comments on it, however, leave me wondering why he included them. Again, he writes,
We should never tell an unbeliever who scorns the message of the gospel that he or she can never be saved. Remember how the unbelieving, persecuting Saul of Tarsus became Paul the apostle!
No Calvinist would disagree. And no non-Calvinist would disagree. It may be that Dr. Garrett felt compelled to include this statement in case some might tempted to entertain the notion that rejection of the Gospel at any point means the forfeiture of any hope of ever being saved. With him, I renounce any such thought.

In his treatment of "unconditional election" Dr. Garrett makes the following helpful observation when commenting on Romans 8:29-30,
Dortian Calvinists are probably correct in interpreting "foreknew" as "loved beforehand" rather than "knew beforehand."
Furthermore, he observes,
The standard Arminian answer to the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election is to posit that God knew beforehand who would repent and believe and hence chose such persons to be the elect. As noted, such a position may rest on a faulty understanding of the biblical term "foreknew."
His main point of critique comes when he questions whether "the Augustinian-Calvinist tradition has over-individualized the doctrine of election and downplayed the corporate or collective aspect of the doctrine." While that may be demonstrable in certain writers, it is certainly true that belief in both is not mutually exclusive.

Dr. Garrett does not address perservance of the saints because, he says, "most Southern Baptists hold to this doctrine."

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Southern Fried Baptists

This may explain why this didn't make it to the floor of the convention in San Antonio but died in Resolution Committee deliberations.

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