Where Do We Go From Here?Tom Ascol
Cards and letters which have been received indicate that the initial issue of the Founders Journal has met with a warm welcome among ministers and laymen from across the country. A pastor in Valdosta, Georgia writes, "God bless your work. It is desperately needed!" His sentiments were echoed by many, and they highlight the rationale behind the Founders Journal. Although there are some valuable journals and newsletters available today which emphasize historic, biblical Christianity, none does so with a sensitivity to the particular ethos and heritage which are unique to Southern Baptists. This journal has emerged from within that context.
Our purpose is to encourage the return to and promulgation of the biblical gospel which our SBC forefathers held dear. Call it what you will--in essence it is nothing less than the divinely revealed truth that salvation is all of grace. It is the affirmation that God is absolutely sovereign in every dimension of life: creation, providence, and redemption. It includes the corollary affirmation that man, as a fully responsible creature who has been made in the image of God, owes unalloyed allegiance, devotion, faith, and obedience to his sovereign Maker.
Quite simply, the Founders Journal joins with that growing number of Southern Baptist voices in calling our Convention back to our historical and theological roots. The truth which R. B. C. Howell loved, we love. The gospel which W. B. Johnson, Richard Fuller, and P. H. Mell preached, we preach. The vision for the Convention which James Boyce, John Broadus, and B. H. Carroll held, we share.
No blind adherence to tradition motivates this desire to return to the faith of our founders. Nor is there any incipient desire to canonize our "Baptist fathers." Rather, as Bill Ascol points out in his article on regeneration, God's truth does not change. If what these men believed was true then, it is still true today. If they were correct in their understanding of the gospel, then it is incumbent upon us to have our own beliefs accord with theirs. If they were incorrect, then we ought to repudiate their views and renounce a significant part of this denomination's heritage. The question is open to debate, and should be addressed on the basis of what God's Word teaches.
A pastor from Palo Pinto, Texas, commends the first issue of the journal as "a fine balance of irenic polemics and devotional edification." This is precisely the spirit and balance which we hope to promote. We are not so naive as to believe that every Southern Baptist will join with us in returning to our theological heritage. Reasonable men who love the Lord and who desire to know His will occasionally differ in their interpretation of various biblical teachings. This has ever been the case. Where such honest disagreement exists, Christian charity should be extended while seeking to establish the biblical arguments for one's views. This journal intends to reflect such a spirit as it contends for the doctrines of grace.
It is hoped that by further education and familiarization with our denomination's doctrinal roots, others who disagree with our position will be encouraged to reciprocate a charitable tolerance toward us. Surely there is room in our convention today for those who stand with our early denominational leaders on matters of faith and practice. It is inconceivable, is it not, that past Southern Baptist giants like Boyce, Mell, Broadus, Carroll, Howell, Fuller, et al., were they alive today, would be excluded from or relegated to a "second class" status in denominational life? If the Founders Journal can help promote such tolerance it will serve a valuable purpose.
That is not to say that the journal is exclusively concerned with life within the SBC. Truth transcends denominational borders. Although our context is unique, our desire to see a return to orthodox, devotional Christianity is not. All who long to see the doctrines of grace applied to every area of life will find here a common concern. We are Southern Baptist, but we are not sectarian. Several who have shown an interest in the journal are of different denominational persuasions. A PCA pastor from Florida writes, "[I am] united with the doctrine and spirit of which I read in the first issue." Along with Presbyterians, others, including Independents and Baptists of various connections, have shown an interest in receiving the journal.
This second issue of the Founders Journal is being mailed out to nearly three hundred individuals who have requested it and have expressed an interest in purchasing subscriptions. The encouragement to proceed with regular publication has been enthusiastic. Following are a few of the many comments which have been received:
"Praise the Lord for such a publication! I trust that the Founders Journal will be blessed of God and have a wide distribution" (SB pastor in Illinois).
"I pray that our God will bless the Founders Journal and all your efforts to spread the gospel of His grace through the SBC" (SB pastor in North Carolina).
"I think this is a God sent blessing. Thanks!" (Elloree, South Carolina).
"I was thrilled to receive your journal and enjoyed reading it. I believe it will meet a great need among Southern Baptists" (SB student from West Virginia).
"Much needed step. It is time to go beyond the inspiration issue and concentrate on the application of Scripture in our lives" (SB pastor in Illinois).
'Very good beginning. Please stay with your intentions. Avoid becoming part of the current political struggle" [advice which we have every intention of heeding! - Ed.] (SB pastor in Kentucky).
"Anxiously awaiting next issue" (SB deacon in Florida).
Among those who have written to express appreciation for the effort, several have pledged their prayerful and financial support. Because of the support which many have shown for this idea, the decision has been made to publish four issues during 1991.
In order to come close to "breaking even" financially, a minimum of 400 subscriptions is needed. Even without these, there is a commitment to continue quarterly publications for the next year. If the journal is useful and ought to continue beyond the first year, then surely it is not presumptuous to anticipate that God will provide the necessary financial support through gifts and subscriptions. If everyone who expressed interest in helping to promote the Founders Journal could secure one or two additional subscriptions, this minimum could be easily reached.
Articles, book reviews, and news items will be received and considered for possible publication. Write for details regarding form, length, etc. Letters are also welcome and occasional questions which are pertinent to the scope and purpose of the journal will be entertained.
Many have asked what they may do to help. The first and foremost thing you can do is to pray for this effort Specifically, pray that God will own and bless it with a long and wide ministry.
Secondly, subscribe! There is included in this issue a subscription form and envelope for your convenience. On the form are spaces for additional names. You may order gift subscriptions for friends, or additional copies for yourself that can be distributed.
Thirdly, help promote the journal. Tell others about it and encourage them to subscribe. Here you may be creative. One pastor in Louisiana is challenging members in his congregation to "adopt a pastor" in their local association by purchasing gift subscriptions for area ministers. A pastor in California indicates that his church will consider ordering a subscription for each of their families. Perhaps you could subscribe for a missionary or denominational servant.
Fourthly, as the Lord enables you, you may make a tax-deductible financial contribution to the journal (make checks payable to the Southern Baptist Founders Conference, Inc., and specify that it is for the journal).
As we labor in our respective fields of service in the closing decade of this century, may the prayer of the Psalmist (80:19) be frequently upon our hearts and lips:
Cause your face to shine,
And we shall be saved!