[Sub-titled---A Kind But Personal Rebuttal To A Post On Tents
I'm continuing this little trek of mine down memory lane and trying to show some of my theological changes and why. The "not so sure" part is because, since I've come to see the text of scriptures differently in some areas, the assumption can obviously be made, with some degree of certainty, that I've still a ways to go in correctly understanding some things. The text hasn't changed, just my understanding hopefully led of the Spirit, if not, hopefully He'll correct me. I think I'm in capable hands there.
This post also will address an assumption stated by another blogger as to "being under the Tent" when certain beliefs are/are not held by Baptists. My opinions only. No animosity. Just another person's view of an issue which, in Kingdom stuff, is permissible I would think.
There have always been two extreme views within Christendom about the Church. One has been to view the Church "only" in terms of Universal, or including all true believers everywhere. The other has been to view the church as "only" a local group, and the universal will not be a reality until heaven. This is because to be a church there has to be some structure such as a pastor to preach and lead in the ordinances. Where this structure is not in place, there is no church. I was, for several years in the latter belief system. The "Trail of Blood" was as important to me as my Bible in understanding the church. This period lasted from the late fifties to the mid- sixties. It was not because of what I was taught by my original Pastor and church, it was because of my association with Fundamentalists who seemed to know what they believed and defended it with fervor, if not scripture. But during that same time frame I began to read some of the foundational men of the Reformed category. A problem arose. They were not saying the same thing as my friends about the Church. By the late sixties, as I graduated from Seminary, I had come to a new understanding. Permit me to state it simply.
I now hold to both the "organism" idea, meaning the universal concept of all believers forming the Body of Christ, and a "local" group concept, meaning the forming of an organization that might vary in structure adapting to the context of culture. You can see I do not now believe there is an "absolute" that makes it when you leave one Baptist church to go to "another, you have to find the "other" to be exactly like the one you just left, as, say, would be true of a Roman Catholic or a Landmark Baptist. We're free to adapt our structure of things. Why? Here's where the scriptures began to be my guide instead of books written my men I admired. There is no model in the NT for an institutional local body called the "church". There is, in fact, no incident of any individual being examined and "joining" a local church, much less how that group looks and functions structurally.
Thus, I came to see that there is the Body, indwelt by His Spirit, and the groups in Corinth, Thessalonica, and Rome, but with no descriptive form related to us in scripture. This did not alter my believe as to the importance of the local group. [church] It did, however, show me how that group looks may vary out of practical necessity. The mission field and SBC Missionaries find the reality of this all the time in their work. Which is why for a BOT of the IMB of the Southern Baptist Convention operating in America to tell them how a group in Portugal is to look is odd if not detrimental, it seems to me. [ But that's another post at another time. Back to the point.]
What I'm saying is, I came to recognize that the Body is to live by biblical principles certainly. And He has gifted people with spiritual gifts for the good of the whole Body. But the structure or form of a local body, as to organization and function, is not the sacred thing. The life in us as the Body of Christ AND in us as a local group is the sacred thing.
The Body may see things differently. My agreements theologiclly are more in line with Baptist theology, as evidenced by holding to eternal security, baptism by immersion as a testimony of union with Christ, the ordinances being testimonial by nature, and a myriad of other things and that's why I'm Baptist. There are certainly differences in lesser things among Baptists, but agreement in the essentials, and importantly to me, a sharing of a missions endeavor second to none, is what makes me a Southern Baptist by choice.
I've also moved from a single pastor idea to a multiple pastor idea because of the scriptures using "Elders" in the plural with a rare exception as in say, the Revelation section. I guess the reason Southern Baptist stopped using the "Elder" concept, since we held to it originally, seeing The first President Of the SBC in 1845, Dr. W.B. Johnson, was an Elder with other Elders in his church, was because of the Cambellite controversy where they started using Elders and Southern Baptists started using "Pastor" as the preferable term. This in spite of the fact that the word "Elder" is used multiple times and "pastor only once in scripture. We tend to overreact sometimes don't we.
As to why we as Southern Baptist came to a single pastor idea, I would think it was because of the westward expansion where one Elder would go west, leaving the others behind of course, and wind up in a town, be recogized as the "parson" [person of standing as they thought of it] and serve a small group of people as a church. The rise of the Landmark movement with it's emphasis on structure and a single pastor, who, by the way, was the only one qualified to minister the ordinances, had it's influence also. [We faced several controversies as a convention over this movement, but would not give in.]
But my journey and change have been presented. Local body important? you bet. How it is to look set in stone, ie, a pastor, deacons, only the pastor can baptize, only the authorities can administer the ordinances? no way. The structure is not given in scripture.
Now, here's the rub. I've held this view for the past thirty-five years, long before the resurgence, and there has been no problem with me being a Southern Baptist. I've had the privilage [and with due respect to some, there is no arrogance intended here at all, but the Lord will be my judge on that] of preaching in Adrian Rogers deacons retreat where I taught the "Tabernacle in the Wilderness" to them as a favor to Adrian whom I greatly appreciated. I've pastored Jack Taylor, Bill Gillham, Rick Warren. I was pastor to people like Oscar and Carolyn Thompson, TW and Lavern Hunt, John and Virginia Seelig, all of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and my stated views on the Church as Body/local church body have never been a problem...UNTIL NOW.
It appears I can no longer hold to the views I have of the relationship of the whole Body and operate in a local group with flexability in forms and be truly SBC if...what was recently said in a post by a blogger is, in fact, true. This is a new thing for me after 35 years and I find it very uncomfortable. One can see why I am thinking something has changed in the SBC beyond the battle for the Bible for inerrancy. My freedom to interrupt the scriptures in regards to the Body/Local fellowship and remain a Southern Baptist is now being challenged if what was said in that post is true.
For those of you unfamiliar to the post, permit me to give a brief explanation.
Someone [our son Wade, but this is not personal with me] was challenged because he holds to the same views I've stated here. [With, I'm sure, some variations.] This comment was made in a blog post, and I quote, "Frankly, I believe that the problem is not that the tent is not big enough, [SBC is the tent] but that Wade has discovered that, on these issues of controversy, [The church as I've been describing] he is NOT UNDER THE TENT at all, and he wishes to be."
This statement, if accurate as to it's assessement of the SBC in regards to this issue, says I'm no longer a Southern Baptist. Well, my history with the SBC has been one where it's tent was able to handle the views that I've presented in this post, which views I and others hold...I hope it never will not.
A Saturday morning update...
I've had an exchange of comments with the author of the blog refered to in my post. The "tent" as he called it, that I took to mean the SBC, he now says was intended to refer to the "Baptist Faith and Message." In other words, the BF@M is what Wade is "outside of", in the opinion of the author, because the BF@M refers to closed communion NOT open communion.. I then ask him how the phrase "AND WISHES TO BE" made any sense. Does he mean Wade wishes he really could be a closed communion believer? The author said that statement in his article WENT TOO FAR.
I have read/do read the author regularly and believe him to be a stand-up guy. He has evidenced that here, in my opinion. I thank him for the dialogue.
My bottomline principle presented in my post stands for me personally.