Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Trip Through Your Wires

I am not always proud of my Southern Baptist heritage. And when I read this, I kinda lost more hope.

They don't really want servant hearts; they want ultra-Baptists. And based on #'s 4, 5, 9 and my feelings on 10, I don't qualify. I can't decide if that's bad or not.

Southern Baptists made me sad today...


Michael Gilley said...

You know, these "qualifications" change every five to ten years anyway but my gut feeling is they wouldn't "pass" many of the great missionaries of the church let alone Lottie Moon (ode to Furhman) or Paul himself. I hardly agreed with my own SB heritage going through school but I was never ashamed of it until I came to Fuller and saw how the rest of the Church views the convention. A hindrance to biblical Christianity in areas of ecclesiology (#5) and fundamentalism in areas of inner church life (#9&10) are but a few issues that cause my fellow classmates to roll heads when they discover the reason I held up my hand for questions of tradition and women in ministry.

When Jim Wallis spoke at our school during the time of the Primaries he spoke of many wonderful conventions and forums that are occurring all over the nation with denominational and church leaders coming together to discuss immediate issues the Church needs to focus on (e.g., justice, health for the poor, feeding the hungry, counseling the needy, restoring the environment, etc.). Then he mentioned that he got the chance to meet with R. Molher of THE Southern Baptist Theological Seminary about the same issues and he expressed that he at least began to listen to some of them beyond the same old issues of homosexuality and abortion, at which point most of the audience seemingly rejoiced! I am not proud of not only the unbiblical model of missions that the sbc has put into practice (read Lessie Newbigin!) but also the fundamentalist picture of what a "good" Christian should look like, lest we all swig some beer (#10) or give away what we have to the poor (#4).

What to do? What to do?

JD & Jen said...

amen brother gilley.

the missionary policies of the sbc have bothered me since that missionary from japan spoke at crv. remember him? he talked about how the missionaries in japan refused to sign the 2000bf&m because they wouldn't allow women to be preachers. subsequently, the sbc pulled out of japan and left them high and dry. to me, that's a problem; putting doctrine above the gospel.

going to an sbc school for me has been good. it has really helped me to focus on what the true gospel message is and how that message effects our dealings with the rest of humanity. thankfully i've had the privilege of sitting under a new testament professor who derives his theology from the bible and not some systematic book (which gilley and i have talked about before) or a document made by flawed men. there are, however, some professors who would rather uphold the 2000bf&m (this might be because they're also in administrative roles and their jobs depend on it). i disagree with this stance. while the 2000bf&m may tell us what southern baptists "believed" from 2000 until they decide otherwise, it seems to me that many sbc'ers put this document above the bible (which sometimes i think that the sbc might even put that above the point of the issue. all too often it seems that the sbc would rather have the bible placed on a pedestal above Jesus and the message above the cross. granted the bible tells us that message, but i think sometimes that we elevate the bible to a place that it doesn't need to be. does that make sense? or am i the only one that has experienced that?)

anyway, i haven't read any lesslie newbigin, but i'm working my way through "the spontaneous expansion of the church" by roland allen, which lesslie newbigin wrote a forward to. i really appreciate the view that roland allen offers to the field of missions. basically, for those who haven't read it - and from what i've read so far (i started RIGHT before the semester started, so i haven't quite finished it despite it being a small book) - allen more or less espouses that missionaries sent by missionary societies would have to follow the rules of that society or the church that supports the society. this, inadvertantly causes "native" work to be hindered because the missionary society/church would have to have their own missionaries working in the churches and leading things. and of course, these missionaries would have to follow the rules and would thereby make their congregants follow the rules. also, this hinders native work because all too often the rules of our societies are culturally bound, obviously causing problems with different cultures that a missionary would encounter. he goes on about other things, which you would have to read his book to get because i'm not trying to write a report here.

his context was the anglican church in the uk, not the sbc in the us; but think about the implications. as the sbc cracks down on their own missionaries and makes them follow the 2000bf&m, they are hindering not only native work but missionary work in general. as i read your post and communicated it to jen, we were both appalled. while i've known that the imb holds their missionaries to strict standards, i guess i wasn't aware that namb did as well. there are many things on that list that would disqualify us from namb work. notably #4 and #10 (i don't practice glossolalia, but neither am i a cessationalist. and school loans might keep us from a lot until we get them paid off). but i believe that as much as the sbc has erred in many aspects, they are issues that can be fixed. i know that i myself cannot fix these problems, but i would like to work toward that end.

unless y'all think that that desire might prove fruitless, then let me know.

Michael Gilley said...

Aye! good thoughts. I always manage to misspell at least one thing. Newbigin's main argument is that the church's missiology wholly depends on its ecclesiological state in relationship so that the two can never be placed exclusive of one another. In other words, you cannot have missions while the church is splitting. Although God nevertheless works through our mess (praise Yah forever!) it is nonetheless a begging in the most desperate sense for such an interceding. For Newbigin's view of Scripture is that the greatest sin (corporate) is a splitting of the church thus dividing missions right through its message's core! The cross was none other than to bring all peoples from all the earth (tongues in an undoing of the Babylonian Tower!) together under the final Lordship of one king. Therefore, this is much more complex than we try to make it—a nationality thing if it were. Newbigin speaks of reaching out not to other nations as though we have the secret to salvation and they need our democracy, which is a lot like what you are speaking of JD. Ever since the Victorian Ages and european-based "missions" all sorts of native peoples have had the distinct pleasure of meeting Western thought, which for the Victorians so often emerged as sexual tension taught to be unfit for civilized society all the while suppressing an ever-growing immoral rage. In fact, missions for the West, and especially, the sbc as of late, all too often envolve missions of culture and socio-political constructs rather than the gospel of Jesus the Christ.

I wrote a lot more than this but then Blogger decided to crap out on me when I submitted it! Needless to say, I am a little upset but my main point was this: surely the "rules" are to aid God's vessels rather than the vessels being made for the rules.

Didn't Paul embarrass the Philippian Christians?

Also, JD I agree that the Bible can all-too-easily become what it is not, or at least what it was not meant to be. I was talking last night to a friend going to SBTS and he asked me if I thought we should cling to the things that God has done in our lives much like the twelve stones or if we should always only cling to Christ. My first reaction was that Christ too can become an idol, if we twist him so far out of the context within which he came to this world that he ceases to be what he came to do. If we continually strive to cling onto a Christ figure we will almost always transform that figure into the closest denominator that for us resembles security and survival. I think the Bible is no different. The book has a purpose and it too, as a created thing, has limits set before it just like every other created thing expressed in Job. I found myself wondering if the sbc would be any different if respectable theologians were the ones leading it.

Michael Gilley said...

Oh, and PS, we can come down pretty hard on the Pharisees sometimes maybe not realizing the anti-legal impact the Reformation has had on us all. The truth is, Jesus came from Pharisee country and he was most likely so harsh with them because they were closest to where he came from. I know I do that all the time. I hold people from back in Missouri to a higher standard in a lot of ways, although I honestly try not to. My point is: following the Torah was not bad but the very best thing to do and I don't think Matthew would have disagreed with that at all. He would have just said Amen I'm afraid. BUT it makes no matter in the world nor the kingdom in an eschatological sense if it does not bring life to people who need it most. In essence, that was the whole point of the Torah as interpreted by Christ—or so given in the four accounts of him. While Christians are most certainly accountable to the Law in Christ, it ought to be through love and not through condemnation. I.E., you'll notice the orientation of that list is negative, focused on who can't do the work of God as opposed to who is encouraged to. Just some thoughts.

JD & Jen said...

southern baptists have made me sad for a long time. having grown up southern baptist and seen the history of the convention and the direction where it's going, my heart breaks that we've been carnal the right word?...about the way we've handled things. and as much as i disagree with furhman on his bashing other religious convictions, i applaud him for creating in his class an atmosphere where it was ok to question your long held beliefs and traditions in favor of something more logical, more biblical, and something less historically/tradtionally bound.

during the course of that class, i seriously questioned the validity (relevance?) of the southern baptist convention. i questioned whether or not i should be going to a southern baptist seminary and whether or not i would fit in. i've been called a liberal and been told i went to a liberal school (by people who went to mobap, a "renegade" entity in the missouri baptist convention). and most of the questioning that i had started from what i had learned of the missionary policies of the sbc (and some of the politics of the mbc. the sbc/mbc seems to be very catholic to me at times.). thankfully for the mbc, it now has a very godly man who recognizes the need for people and churches within the mbc to repent. i don't know how much longer he'll be around, though.

anyway, after i read your post, sarah, and after i read gilley's comment and posted my own, i asked jen what it would be like to not be southern baptist. what do you think? since i came to school here, i've been resolved that leaving the sbc would not be a smart move because that wouldn't be solving any of the problems that exist and would only be, possibly, contributing to the problem. but would bringing up these issues only cause more division? it seems like everything now-a-days causes division. and i wonder if anyone in the sbc (or mbc) would be mature enough spiritually to handle such criticism? such bluntness that requires them to seriously re-think the things that have been going on since the conservative take-over (which has reared its ugly head with almost over-whelming implications).

i agree that the list of "qualifications" to be an sbc missionary are very negative. in fact, they aren't really qualifications. they're more like limitations or restrictions. didn't Jesus use people despite their limitations? no education, tax-collectors, teenagers, political activists, etc. in fact, the qualifieds seemed to be the ones that Jesus didn't want. He wanted people who would rely on the power of the Holy Spirit and the sovereignty of God to take care of the issues in their lives that needed fixed. has the sbc seen any of this or taken these facts into account? sometimes it doesn't seem that way.

i really feel like the sbc has left its bearings and gone after things other than what they originally formed for (slavery? how scandalous). earlier this month, i taught youth vbs at a local church. the material was horrible. like the children's material, it was all about truth. i thought that would be a wonderful thing for youth to be taught. but i don't feel like lifeway got it quite right. would you like to know how we can know that God is real? because He does things for us. but what happens if God doesn't do things for us? does that make Him any the less real? no. why are we teaching these things to our youth, who desparately need to hear the truth of the bible: that God is real because He IS. no question about it (i'm sure both of you could expound on that more. if so, please do.) and i can't even go into the rest of the week. it was so bad that during the adult vbs, the teacher didn't even use the material. he taught from his own stuff (since he was a professor from the seminary).

what has happened to our convention? i don't know. there are still some great guys out there who are concerned about the eternal destinies of people and the glory of God being proclaimed among the nations. but these people, unfortunately, are not in charge of our convention. would it be better for them to not be sbc? i don't know. the sbc still does great things in places, but the internal workings of the convention are in shambles and politics are over-shadowing the positive things (at least in the public eye, which of course we shouldn't be concerned about. but gilley did make a comment about how people at fuller feel about the sbc, so i thought i would contribute something).

there are other things that could be said about the short-comings of the sbc but i have neither the time nor the probably the space to address those. you don't have to think very hard to come up with some, so i'll assign that for homework.

but in summary, i'm quite tired of the sbc as well. for sake of cheap schooling and sentimental feelings, i'll remain one until i at least graduate. and while i agree with quite a few sbc doctrines, there are still many that i don't agree with (along with a lot of questionable practices). i wish that we could figure out the answers here in blog-land, but the majority probably won't be solved until Jesus comes back again. maybe we should start praying for that and let Him sort it all out.

sbc? something else? what do you think?

DeliveredJude said...

Well, let me first say that I will not compare with your previous comments to this post.

Now, the Proud Mary reference is "rolling, rolling, rolling like a river." That's how I feel like life is going. It's just rolling on.

Thank you for your prayers faithful friend. I'm glad that our friendship was reconciled so long ago.

Sarah Lewie said...

Boys, I gotta say, it is SO hard to keep up with you! But I love the discussion! =)
I posted some of my feelings on Gilley's blog yesterday, but I'll expound:
I haven't read any of the books you're talking about, but that's cause I'm lame and read, you know, Reeves' books. =) But I get what you're saying. It's much easier for us to put an object or a goal or a vision above people. People change and adapt and can be cranky or diverse or passionate. A BF&M (or even scripture sometimes!)doesn't seem as hard to deal with. If we charge people to conform to our stance, b/c it's written down, then we don't run the risk of conforming to someone else. In essence, loving them as Christ loved us.
And I can understand that anyone in a position of leadership wants their ministry to be centered on Christ and I too would have trepidations in hiring someone to proclaim the Word that hasn't dealt with their sin or gotten healing from something or couldn't give honor to God through their words and actions.
BUT on the flip side, people err. (Anyone remember the fall?!) If someone wants to proclaim the Word of Truth but has had a history of poor budgeting skills, most college grads would never go on a mission trip!
The thing that really got me (granted, most of it did) was #10: the whole glossolalia thing. I can't do it, but why would someone who can or promotes it be automatically outed? IT'S IN THE BIBLE! Oh wait...I remember, just b/c it's in the Bible doesn't necessarily mean it's true, does it?!
I've gone back and forth on whether or not to stay in the SBC. With the exception of Alliance in BoMO, I've been in a Baptist church for my whole life and I really can appreciate a lot of what they do. But, like I told Gilley, they really have to start making some decisions affecting more than just old white men. They need to make a stance on women in ministry and social issues.
You know, I heard that S. Bapt #'s were dwindling. And looking at it, I'm not really surprised.

You know what though? I harp on them for not loving, but how am I loving them? That's something to think about...

Michael Gilley said...

Several things here.

First, whenever we hear labels such as "liberal" or "conservative" it is important to appropriately nuance them. In my experience the word "liberal" has been used as an ad hominem attack to shut down the argument rather than defined term to aid in the argument's discussion. During the last trip I took to MO my father was telling me about a few people he who had asked about me and upon learning that I was at FTS he was told that it was a "liberal" school. Now, was this based on any cogent points or was is it the case (as I guessed) that these people have never actually had any connection to FTS to form a logical opinion of the institution? I try to ask people the reasons for their opinions when such labels are used.

Second, I think before people in general can handle such criticism it's going to take a lot of patience and social change within church life, which the Millennial generation seems to carrying out, although at times a bit too reactionistic in my opinion and with motives to cater to a particular culture. It might be the case that it doesn't change for the longest time although, JD, I wouldn't go as far as folks like Miroslav Volf who argue the catholic Church will not be unified until the eschaton. Sure this will certainly be true but I still hold some hope that we will do away with our pride before then, if it be the Lord's will to tarry. Perhaps the only legitimate reason for the Church's split in the first place (on the head of the Bishop of Rome) was because of distance the limitations of communication. Well, we don't have that problem anymore. Some food for thought.

Third, I agree JD that the Lifeway material lately has been extremely watered down to say the least. In many cases I would agree that it misses the point. Involved in college ministry I saw the amount of material printed through Lifeway's publishing house that is geared or much less targeted towards college students but on so many levels completely misses the point. Especially this was true in a college town like Bolivar where most of my students were taking Bible classes. But on a general note, the overall ethos of the material was reveling of what Lifeway thought that age group was expecting. To say the least, it would have been better if sixth–eighth graders read it. All this to not say the biblical interpretation behind the material was often way off and relied on twenty-first century Western folk Christianity.

Fourth, I want to make clear (because I'm not sure in hindsight how my comments may have come off) the general attitude of students at Fuller toward the sbc are not judgmental, although on several levels I would argue the Church has that right, but more or less in sadness and at times mourning. They are waiting for things to change because, as many see it, the sbc has been an attractive light in the past that has led so many people down wrong paths that primarily stray from the church universal. Of course these concerns are mainly due to the arrogance apparent in the sbc and especially when it comes to ecclesial matters. This really matters to me because it is certainly sectarian in such fundamentalist ideals of walling ourselves in an adapting "us and them" mentalities. Such habits have caused these problems in the first place. The Church at large does not agree with several stands the sbc is taking. That alone means something to me. For the same reason, #10 in the list hurts my feelings because so many of my friends who practice this gift of the Spirit, brothers and sisters in Christ, move the world for his name but they are told in this document that they are not fit for taking the gospel of Christ to other peoples. That is a shame.

Lastly, I am getting ready to join a non-denominational church here in Pasadena, not because I am against joining sb churches, but because there are only two sb churches here: one I visited and had about twelve older people attending on Sunday morning with a pastor of little to no biblical training; and Mosaic, a very large church that meets in different locations but has to hide the fact its a southern baptist church to achieve that. I don't go there because it, like so many other sb churches, is primarily seeker-sensitive and I know I would not grow much at hearing the stereotypical evangelistic "talks" and high emotionalism in music every Sunday. I am not closed off to sb churches in the future but they will have be able to take my mind, which I assume might take some searching.

Michael Gilley said...

Yes, Sarah, it's interesting how southern baptists on one hand decide what they want to believe in the biblical texts and what is in "another context," but on the other hand proclaim the Bible is inerrant and infallible and perfect and so on and so on. Double standards anyone? I find that such thinking happens when you attempt to cater to people through flattery, which I think is a direct result of 21st century western political philosophy infiltrating church leadership and coupled with strong emphasis on the so-called numbers game.

JD & Jen said...

"The Church at large does not agree with several stands the sbc is taking." -- could you expound on this please? i guess being at an sbc school i'm immune to what is going on on the outside.

JD & Jen said...

it's funny that this post and these comments have included quite heavily the topic of glossolalia. my education professor today talked about glossolalia and how he doesn't necessarily believe in it. he said that he didn't find the gift as being valid and made the point that it isn't (nor shouldn't be) a normative practice, much like our pentecostal brethren maintain. i've actually never heard any professor here flat-out dismiss glossolalia as invalid before today, but i think maybe he was speaking more from an american church standpoint as opposed to perhaps an apostolic church standpoint; and certainly in so far as it pertains to "languages/tongues of angels."

my personal view on the subject (and i could be totally wrong. just what i've gathered from what i've read) is that the original gift of speaking in tongues was not necessarily given to show that the "spiritually inclined" could communicate with angels and God (isn't that why Jesus came, died, left, and sent His Holy Spirit?). it seems to me, from reading the passage in acts, that the gift of tongues came down upon the disciples in the midst of other ethnic peoples. why does this matter? well, if almost everyone in the roman empire at that time spoke greek, then what would be the point of the having the gospel preached in the original home languages of those present? wouldn't it make sense that that instance would be more of a showing of the universality of the gospel?

and when paul talks about "speaking in tongues of men and angels," isn't he making a distintion? the apostles in acts spoke in the tongues of men, not of angels. and whose to say that paul was speaking of that instance in acts when he wrote 1 corinthians? (i'm sure a greek scholar could correct me on this. i am only reading from the english)

and what about those people who have the ability to learn a gazillion languages. william carey, who only had 5 or so years of formal education (up till the age 12) learned at least 6 languages beyond his own english. whose to say that isn't a spiritual gift?

i don't know. just some thoughts. i'm sure i could be totally wrong, so correct me if need be.

Michael Gilley said...

By stands I mean doctrines or in many cases creeds. I covered most of this in my first comment: a great deal of the Church right now is dealing with pressing issues including peace. (Although the majority of church and denominational leaders opposed the Iraqi invasion as a valid solution the sbc was silent.) The vast majority of the sbc still tends to stand behind the Republican party as though there is no other Christian choice primarily due to the issues of abortion and homosexuality completely disregarding peace, justice for the poor, environmental issues, etc. What I mean is, a good deal of the church looks at the sbc as a fundamentalist group who still being in the church of Christ, shame us from time to time because of their overall lack of critical assessment and engagement with the powers that be both nationally and internationally. Now, every denomination/tradition has its problems and shortfalls but it only takes one quick look at ecclesial schools (Fuller) to see how many students from the sbc are there and how many sb churches that will accept students from said schools. Honestly, I was cautioned by at least five separate people about going to Fuller! The rest of the church sees this and knows the sb attitude toward them. In main, this is their beef with the wandering children of the sbc. For many I talk to there is a wanting for dialogue to open. Just take a guess at whether the sbc is involved in the World Council of Churches or not.

On glossolalia, I did a short study on this earlier this year before the summer. Basically it's not as neat and tidy as we'd like to make it sometimes. In short, the theme being presented in Acts is the reverse of the fall of the tower in Babylon and the confusion of languages. Instead, the Spirit is moving amongst all the nations and they are speaking together through different tongues. At times the term takes on a very practical meaning such as real languages but at other times it does in fact take on a more mystical meaning that makes known the mysteries of the Lord (tongues of angels). This was a commonly accepted practice in the ancient near east and Mediterranean area. It was commonly associated with being caught up in the higher heavens through visions. Yes, it is a spiritual gift, and yes, I know people here who have come form other places in the world where they have both seen such things and experienced them. I cannot express enough that we are deprived in the West of such sightings. We shouldn't fall prey to Troeltsch's Analogy, especially when it comes to matters of faith.

Anonymous said...

On the subject of financial responsibility, I'm not sure what's wrong with that. I mean, like anything, it can be taken too far, but simply acquiring a credit report doesn't seem unreasonable.

Church membership... well, there's better ways of measuring your commitment to Christ and "the church" than church membership. Yes, it'll be more subjective, but I've found being overly dogmatic about things isn't the best way of going about something.

The bit about personal ethics I agree for the most part. There is the bit about alcohol consumption... While God asked me not to drink, drinking in moderation is not a sin, so... I think we should go back to what Paul said here, severely paraphrased: if it bothers my brother, I will not do it, but it's not something I believe is sinful. Same with smoking.

Homosexuality and abortion, well, yeah, both are spoken against by God so that seems pretty straight forward. Just again the applicable cliche "love the sinner, not the sin."

The one I absolutely disagree with is the speaking in tongues. The Bible is pretty explicit about tongues being a legitimate spiritual gift. As long as it's interpreted we're good to go. Denying this is like giving the Holy Spirit "the hand."

All in all, not totally unreasonable, but again it depends on how strict they get with the subjective "measures of faith and commitment."

J-Way said...

Sara! It is so good to hear from you my friend. It makes me sad that you are so distressed about this. Certainly I am no lover of the SBC, as you well know, however they are able to use their funding and conduct their business as they see fit. Furthermore, the Bible teaches us that we shouldn't worry about things like this. If you want to be a missionary, do not be dependant on the SBC. Luke Ch. 12 says that we aren't to worry. If money is what you're worried about, that is needing finances to do missionary work, Luke says to sell all your posesions and just go and do it. Not that I'm saying to do that, just don't let the SBC get you thinking they are the only way you can do God's work. They are merely one way. Anyway, I'll talk to you later my friend. Rock on!

TenaciousT said...

I think I slam the SBC at least once a week, so just know that's where I'm coming from. But I honestly don't see a problem with the NAMB list. I don't particularly feel like expounding, but I just wanted you to know what my vote was, as somebody coming from a similar perspective.