Friday, February 02, 2007

First Step Down the Slippery Slope

The following is a comment I posted in response to Wade Burleson's lament found here.

Thanks, Wade.

It feels SO MUCH BETTER to laugh even though the point deserves our tears.

You and I both celebrated our 45th birthday this year. I was burbling baby spit bubbles in a Fuller Hall apartment on Southern Seminary's campus just a couple of months before you arrived in the world. We don't remember JFK's assasination but we do remember RFK's and MLK's. I don't know about you but my first influences from TV (black & white - 3 channels to choose from) were laughs from Andy and Barney and the Vietnam casualty reports from Huntley and Brinkley. Both of our fathers are pastors devoted to doing all they can to change the world a little bit at a time by the power of Jesus Christ. Both of us have what my spiritual mentor calls a very high "justice quotient" in our personality. I believe you abhor some of the methods employed in the "Battle for the Bible" that was gaining good steam as we began our college years and gained "holy war" status as we began seminary.

I suspect, however, that we would disagree on the necessity of the battle in the first place. What I wonder is if you would agree with me as to the reason we are seeing doctrinal minutiea or denominational 'rubbish' smother the gospel work.

Please consider:

By the late '90s the "Battle for the Bible" had been won. A process for the orderly succession of "safe" convention presidents was secure. The likelihood of seeing a man or woman who balked at the term inerrant being nominated as a trustee to a convention institution or agency was nil. Seminary presidencies were in the hands of men who would assure the right professors were in and the wrong ones were out and they were virtually finished with that work. Yet for some reason, it was believed to be necessary revise the BF&M to, in effect, attempt to seal the deal.

I believe the first step down the increasingly slippery slope of narrowing parameters was the adoption of the revised introductory statement of the BF&M 2000. A Google search yields several comparative studies of the language. I find the following comparison (found at very compelling:

"The 1963 BFM grounds Baptist faith and practice on “Jesus Christ whose will is revealed in the Holy Scriptures.” The 2000 statement says, “Our living faith is established upon eternal truths.” In the 1963 statement the foundation for our “living faith” is the person of Christ. In the 2000 statement the foundation for our “living faith” is “eternal truths.” This difference should not be understood as two ways ofdescribing the same thing, but rather as two distinct foundations for faith and practice. The 1963 BFM identifies this foundation as Jesus Christ. The 2000 BFM identifies this foundation as eternal truths. The 1963 foundation is a person in whom we believe. The 2000 foundation is a set of truths which we believe. The first foundation is relational; the second is propositional. This foundational difference is manifest at a number of points in subsequent sections, particularly in the following section on scripture. This observation does not imply that the 1963 BFM is not invested in eternal truths which, in fact, are affirmed throughout the text. Rather, the distinction discussed here concerns foundations. In describing Baptist faith and practice, where do we start—with Jesus Christ or with eternal truths? The omission of the 1963 sentence which disavows creedalism supports the creedal authoritarian role the 2000 BFM has now assumed in Southern Baptist life."

When propositional thinking is elevated above relational thinking, the only result that can be expected is what we are witnessing and mourning today. After all, did not Jesus Christ come in obedience to His Father's will that we be shown that His law was always about relationship, not proposition?

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