2014 is before us. I've decided to write afresh about some of the things I've come to believe are in scripture and are a bit different than I have held to in the past. To anticipate the surprise some may have with some of my theological positions, I will have to trace a bit of my journey for understanding.
You may not be convinced you need to go along with this read and I certainly understand that. If you do desire to go with me however, I welcome you, and I trust the review of my journey thus far, can be of some help.
Over the past fifty years I have served as Pastor to several great churches, not the least of which was Southcliff Baptist Church in Ft. Worth Texas. It was while there that a profound moment came to my life and ministry at the age of 40. You can see I'm going back some 33 years but this moment is needed for real understanding. So permit me this excursion in the past first, if you will!
Having been born into an alcoholic family with little or no church ties at all, you can understand my lack of biblical knowledge of any kind during my first ten years of life. My sister then started dating a Baptist preacher and all that changed for the good. It was off to church with some regularity. At age 13, under deep conviction and great childish fear, I responded to the gospel and was converted, baptized, and well on my way to a different kind of life.
My sister and that preacher she had started dating, married, and he quickly became my role model, the only real one I'd ever had, and just like him I wanted to be. At age 15 I "felt called to preach" and told him so. He wisely accepted my leanings and tested them in September of 1955 by asking me to preach for him on a Wednesday evening. I did and the rest is history, you can do the math.
Ordained at 16, called to my first church as pastor at 17, three weeks before my 18th birthday, and married by then to a 17 year old girl whom I loved deeply, and still do, I was young, immature, but at the time, in my own mind at least, on my way to being the best Baptist preacher/pastor Southern Baptists had ever seen.
My hero in the faith, my brother-in-law, and my sister had long since gone to Chile as missionaries, where they served for over 35 years, so I had lost the one pointing the way. I found another. He was my father-in-law. Fred was a SBC evangelist who had been working in the oil industry and the planning and resources board for the State of Oklahoma. All that changed after he was fired for witnessing on the job. So he began to preach and, after I met him, assisted him in some meetings, and then met his daughter, he quickly replaced my need for a direction setter spiritually.
It was at this time I began reading not only J.M.Carroll's book "Trail of Blood," but the reformed writers both old and new. It was A.W. Pink, with whom my father-in-law carried on a personal correspondence, that carried the day theologically for me. I now had my pace setters again. You can see the pattern setting up already.
I wound up being a rabid Landmarker, a Calvinist, a dispensationalist and having many other systems firmly in place as well. I eventually came to the place of a "Christ in me/Holy Spirit life" being as real to me as any system of thought and theology could possible be.
Don't misunderstand me here, please. All of this was genuine to me and I was learning to preach while developing sermons and reading all of this time. But it was, unfortunately, a dependence on the regurgitated thoughts of others in which my confidence lay. My preaching was Truth, as I heard it and knew it at the time, and, if people were to be believed, I did a fair to middling job of presenting it Sunday after Sunday. Add to that all the seminars and movements that capture preachers, and I must admit that I was one of the captured, I knew a lot of doctrinal truth for a kid. I'm not condemning them or me, just setting the background for what I want to eventually say.
Before my friends jump to my defense and tell me how much I helped them during those years, I've seen this happen on occasion when I share this, I want you to know that I'm aware God did some extraordinary things in me, through me, in others, and through them to me. He takes us where we are and I, along with several churches, was hungry for God to be God and He said "Okay" at the time.
But in the late seventies a life-changing event took place.
A couple, a woman whose husband had abandoned her twenty years before leaving her to raise her daughters which she did marvelously, and a man, whose wife had died of cancer, met. It was true love for them both. Marriage was decided upon.
When I heard about it, I was their Pastor remember, the first thing I did I'm ashamed to say was think of protecting my theology. I couldn't do the wedding because of my then held view of divorce and remarriage, which I had embraced from a seminar teaching that I had jumped into with both feet, and I had to let them know quickly that I couldn't perform their marriage ceremony.
The funny thing is they hadn't asked me to and didn't want me to, as a friend in Houston was going to perform the ceremony. But I blurted out one day, nonetheless, there was no way I could. That's when they told me about the friend in Houston.
Well, they married. They also graciously continued to love me, their somewhat self centered pastor, as evidenced by them serving on my Board of Directors for my ministry for years as lifelong friends.
But that did give me pause. Why had I been so quick to react and to protect my theology? The answer came to me rather clearly. It was because my theology wasn't mine at all. It was someone else's and my fear of being challenged was to the level of my ignorance of it not being my own at all.
So in 1980, at the age of 40 years, I began a journey. No longer would I teach anything in the pulpit that I had not found for myself. Whether it was divorce and remarriage or any other point of theological, my belief would have to come from my understanding and seeing in in the text of scripture FOR MYSELF which launched me on an incredible personal theological journey.
I did not then and do not now, discount Baptist tradition at all. I simply believe it is NOT my guide for belief or behavior as an absolute standard. I do not hold the BF@M as an absolute standard either. While I greatly appreciate the effort to catalogue our uniqueness as Baptists into a confession, I do believe we really are to be a people of the Book. So I can affirm a confession, but it will always be with a caveat of the need for me to see it clearly in scripture so what I teach and believe will be because I see it for myself in the text.
Out of all this there has come some clarity about some things theological that will be a bit different than what I saw in those early years. It will be some of those things that I will attempt to make clear in this year's post writings. I'm not asking anyone to agree with me, but rest assured, it will be what I think BECAUSE I've come to see it in the text of scripture and not because it's what Baptist believe or culture desires it to be so or my heroes have taught to be so.
This exercise is probably of little significance for anyone but myself and a few friends, but it will be my attempt to share what I see as really important to my journey. If it is of interest or help to anyone else, that will be a special blessing to me personally.
More to come.