Friday, November 07, 2008

Justin Taylor on Steve Lemke's scholarship

Dr. Steve Lemke, Provost at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and featured speaker at this week's "John 3:16 Conference," recently published an article in The Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry (vol. 5, no. 2, Fall 2008), entitled, "What Is a Baptist? Nine Marks that Separate Baptists from Presbyterians." I read the article shortly after it came out and was greatly disappointed. Much of what he included in the article has appeared before and I have already interacted with it here, here, here and here. I resisted dealing with the new article for many reasons. Tim Brister has interacted extensively with the article.

Instead of writing about it, I emailed Dr. Lemke and asked if we could talk about what he has written. I am confident that Dr. Lemke has no desire to misrepresent anyone's theological position nor any historical record. But he has. Due to his busy schedule we have not been able to talk, yet, but I genuinely look forward to the opportunity--not to try to "win" an argument. I quit caring about that long ago. My desire is to understand how he and I can read the same sources and come to such radically different understandings of what they actually say.

Justin Taylor has offered a critique of Lemke's article that is both even-handed and cool-headed. He writes as an "outsider" to the particular SBC angst that exists in some sectors over the rise of reformed theology. He also writes as an accomplished and recognized scholar, whose recent editorial work on the ESV Study Bible will serve evangelicals for generations. Beyond that, Justin is a very well-informed, gracious Christian brother. He has no axe to grind.

His critique of Dr. Lemke's article, though far from exhaustive, is revealing. Upon reading it I was reminded of J.I. Packer's commendation of John Woodbridge's book, Biblical Authority, which is a critique of the popular "Rogers/McKim proposal" on biblical inerrancy. Packer wrote that "exposing shoddy scholarship" is an "unpleasant task" but that Woodbridge's book was "a nasty job nicely done." Justin's critique of Dr. Lemke's article was no doubt an unpleasant task, but it has been carried out in an exemplary manner.

Read it. First read Dr. Lemke's article. Then read Justin Taylor's critique.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

John 3:16 Conference, take 2

Diane Lytle alerted me in a comment that Dr. Steve Lemke has explained the purpose of the announced John 3:16 conference coming up this fall in Woodstock, Georgia. Dr. Lemke writes,
This conference is intended as a majoritarian Southern Baptist response to the "Building Bridges" and "Together for the Gospel" conferences. The announcement of this conference has already provoked considerable buzz and speculation in the blogosphere.
As I wrote in response to Diane, Dr. Lemke's "majoritarian Southern Baptist" descriptor is at best best ill-stated and at worst a joke perpetuated and believed only by those who refuse to deal with the implications of the fact that the majority of Southern Baptists can't be found! If Dr. Lemke's description turns out to be accurate, then about 60-70% of those who sign up for the conference will not even show up!

When will people who know better begin to speak honestly about "the majority of Southern Baptists?" The majority of Southern Baptists don't care enough even to attend worship services in the church to which they belong.

I appreciate Dr. Lemke's candor in letting us know that the conference was provoked by concern over the Building Bridges and T4G conferences (although the latter is not in any way promoted as a "Southern Baptist" event). Based on his words, obviously the planners of the Woodstock conference believe that they will speak for the "majority" of Southern Baptists. It will be very interesting to hear what their understanding of the "majoritarian" mentality is, although it does not take much imagination to speculate on this.

Nevertheless, my hope remains that, regardless of the rationale behind it, the conference will be marked by a Christ-honoring spirit and thoughtful, helpful presentations.

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