Romans 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Convention Lowlight

Yesterday I began with the good. Today I must reflect on the bad and the ugly.

Let me start by saying that I have a tremendous respect for Dr. Morris Chapman. He currently serves as the President of the SBC Executive Committee. Some would say that his is the most powerful position in our convention—if not a close second to the elected President. Dr. Chapman is one of the men responsible for the Conservative Resurgence. Along with men like Adrian Rogers and Paige Patterson, he stood strong in the face of opposition and steered this denomination back from the brink of theological liberalism. In doing so, they accomplished something that no other denomination has ever accomplished. Some have been able to stem the tide of liberalism for a season. But none have ever moved a denomination back to theological conservatism. While we were pleased at this year’s Annual Meeting to recognize the sesquicentennial of Southern Seminary, I agree with Dr. Mohler that the greater anniversary we should celebrate is the 30th anniversary of the Conservative Resurgence. I praise God for Dr. Chapman’s role in that.

With that being said, I have been disappointed in Dr. Chapman’s vocal opposition to the Great Commission Resurgence. In fairness to him, of course he is not opposed to the Great Commission. Neither is he opposed to many of the axioms of the document penned by Dr. Danny Akin. But he has expressed loud opposition to Axiom IX. He was vehemently opposed to allowing Dr. Johnny Hunt to appoint a committee to look across the SBC to see if we can do things more efficiently and effectively. That opposition disappointed me—but not as much as the presidential report he presented to the convention on Tuesday.

Rather than being a report, it was a diatribe. He lashed out against “every ecclesiastic fad that promises innovation at the expense of confessional fidelity, against every subtle temptation toward uncooperative narrowness and unorthodox ecumenism.” Those things seem worthy of standing against—until he elucidated.

Dr. Chapman used the “fad” point as an excuse to attack Mark Driscoll. Granted, he didn’t attack him by name, but he did mention Driscoll’s reputation for using “crude themes” and “vulgar language.” While I do not advocate the language Driscoll has used in the past (for which he has since publicly repented), I do admire his theological steadfastness and evangelical success in the godless and pagan community in which he pastors. I don’t know of many Southern Baptist pastors who could reach the people that God is reaching through Driscoll. Also, his Acts 29 Network is empowering hundreds of young pastors to pursue their calling to plant churches—without discouraging and deflating them with the seemingly endless bureaucracy of the North American Mission Board. NAMB can learn a lot from Acts 29.

It was “faddish” at this year’s meeting to rail against Driscoll, but Dr. Chapman’s next point was most offensive. His point of “subtle temptation toward uncooperative narrowness” was obviously aimed at the rising number of professing Calvinists in our denomination. I have written about my personal “labels” before, so I don’t need to go into that again. Suffice it to say that I am Calvinistic (if that’s even a word), but not a Calvinist. According to my understanding of Scripture, the atoning sacrifice of Christ is sufficient for all. My 5-point Calvinist brothers and sisters do not agree with me. That’s fine. They are not Hyper-Calvinists and I am not an Arminian. Furthermore, I have never met a Calvinist—even the staunchest Supralapsarian 5-pointer—who would say that “divine sovereignty alone is at work in salvation without a faith response on the part of man.” True Calvinism affirms the necessity of a faith response. Their whole understanding of man’s role in salvation is couched in terms of his responsibility. They simply believe (biblically, I might add), that man’s faith response is generated by a work of the Holy Spirit. By implication and by verbal accusation, Dr. Chapman pronounced that those who hold to “Doctrines of Grace” (a favorite term of the Calvinists), are more interested in their theological systems than they are in evangelism. That is a blatantly false and slanderous accusation.

As I have said, I have a deep respect for Dr. Chapman because of his role in the Conservative Resurgence. The Conservative Resurgence that he helped to lead has given the Southern Baptist Convention the foundation we need to cooperatively pursue the Great Commission. It has also driven us back to the Bible for our theology. As we seek to understand the tensions in Scripture between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility, we will all fall short of completely understanding the mind of God. That is a good thing. That should force us to interact with those who disagree with us and drive us all back to the Bible for further understanding. Our theological disagreements on secondary and tertiary issues should not lead us to misrepresent one another by painting verbal caricatures. It should instead lead us to interaction and dialogue and further cooperation. After all, isn’t cooperation in accomplishing the Great Commission what we’re supposed to be about?

More to come….


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