From the Dean

News items, published articles, and reading recommendations from Dean Timothy George

Page 2 of 171

The Dean Recommends: African-Americans, Missions, and a Chinese Teenager

By David Parks
July 2016

African-American Christians have a significant role in the global spread of the gospel for many reasons. One unique contribution was clearly illustrated as I was leading a few seminary students on a trip to a Southeast Asian country where I had previously lived. While we were there, I witnessed one of my students accomplish something in six minutes that I didn’t accomplish in six years.  

Jessie was simply walking across the field to get in position for the next pull in our game of ultimate frisbee with the local youth ministry. That’s when Wilson, a Chinese teenager, made a statement that completely shocked Jessie. If it had been said in an American night club, the music would have ceased with a loud awkward squeak, the waitresses would have dropped their trays full of glass-bottled drinks, and everyone would have been trying to decide whether to stare or just pretend they didn’t hear it. “I think it’s great that you’re from the U.S. That means that you have the equivalence of a white man.”  

As Jessie, an African-American student at Beeson, was trying to process the statement he had just heard, the teen went on to explain that he, too, shared in the white man’s credentials because of the length of time he had spent in Australia.  

Keep in mind that when Jessie repeated this first sentence from Wilson (not his real name), I had never experienced this particular encounter between an African-American and a Chinese youth.  Yet I immediately knew how the rest of the story was going to play out. And it made this white man very happy. Let me explain.  Read the rest at EMQ.

David Parks is Beeson's Director of the Global Center.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Wednesday, July 20, 2016
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Book Review: The SBC and the 21st Century - Reflection, Renewal, and Recommitment

By Mark DeVine
July 19, 2016

A review of The SBC and the 21st Century: Reflection, Renewal, and Recommitment, Jason K. Allen, editor (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2016), 266 pages.

“If a church calls itself nondenominational, nine times out of ten it’s Baptist.” So blogged the pastor of an Episcopal church in suburban Philadelphia.  He hoped to stem attrition from his congregation to that of those he deemed sheep-stealing Baptist wolves decked out in nondenominational sheep’s clothing.

The blogpost illumines certain urgent, paradoxical, and profound challenges addressed in the new volume from B&H on the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and the 21st century. This much needed and remarkable book adds to the rich conversation engaged by other important contributions including Southern Baptist Identity: An Evangelical Denomination Faces the Future (2009); Southern Baptists, Evangelicals, and the Future of Denominationalism (2011), and the uniquely insightful Southern Baptist Consensus and Renewal (2008), all three either edited or authored by David S. Dockery.

This new volume attempts to reckon with a lost Baptist heyday even as it seeks to find and forge a path forward. Southern Baptist ascendency between 1950 and 1980 gave periodic rise to an unseemly, triumphal, Baptist strut—rhetorically and otherwise. How distant must such halcyon days seem now, and how obnoxious such a strut appear, when “hiding” one’s Baptist identity is seen by many to serve gospel advance?

On the other hand, must not some deep-seated potency still churning within the still southern-shaped Baptist movement account in part for the Anglican pastor’s trouble? Serving Yankee Episcopalians on their home turf, he feels compelled to protect them from the clutches of closeted Baptist interlopers! What jarring paradox allows for both the pastor’s cocksure identification of surreptitious Baptists and his hope that exposure of that identity might give pause to the more dis-lodgeable parishioners under his care? Baptist weakness and strength juxtaposed, complex, indicative of spiritual vitality intertwined within a crises of identity.

Volume editor, Jason K. Allen identifies the enduring Southern Baptist mandate in the title of his introduction: “A Never Changing Witness in an Ever-Changing World.” Surely The Controversy within the SBC (1979-1989), however fractious and fraught with bitter fruits, did take a significant step toward recovery of that “never-changing witness.” But, just as surely, “the ever changing world” within which that witness must sound confronts Southern Baptists with an equally urgent and perhaps unprecedented challenge.

Allen sketches the foreboding contours of that challenge through a series of twelve questions—questions that must leave Baptists yearning for renewal both sobered and stunned. Consider these two: “Will we grow more unified around shared convictions and mission, or will we fragment over secondary concerns and tertiary doctrinal differences?” “Can we be content as a distinct cultural minority and remain faithful to the dictates of Christ in the face of social marginalization?” How distant does Martin Marty’s tantalizing assessment of Southern Baptists as the Roman Catholics of the South seem now? Firmly planted on the far side of such a reversal of cultural standing, how shall Southern Baptists move forward?

Repeatedly, the twenty contributors to this book reflect a certain staple of Baptist fixation without which, I believe, only a sad and retrograde future awaits. Fixation on growth.

Flip through these pages just catching glimpses and you might mistake it for some new baseball abstract from Bill James. Measurements aplenty, percentages everywhere, charts galore. Why? The great commission, that’s why. Not only in David Platt’s chapter dedicated to international missions or the other six concluding chapters focused one way or another on the advance of the kingdom of God, but throughout the book an irrepressible interest in evangelism, church planting, and missions presses its way to the surface.  

For many Baptists, numerical growth covers a multitude of sins. Where passion for growth morphs into obsession, fixation on growth can become a double-edged sword. What a woeful spectacle results from Bible-ignorant, gospel-forgetful, doctrine-devoid “growth.”

But woe unto us if we imagine for one second a bright Baptist future apart from persistent hunger to see the conversion of sinners.

If the infusion of a heightened passion for souls into the Baptist movement during the Great Awakenings and the rejection of hyper-Calvinist nonchalance running from Andrew Fuller to Charles Spurgeon endure, we should all rejoice. Other pressing challenges confront us, but none deserve attention apart from their relation to Great Commission obedience.

Among those other concerns addressed in this volume is the doctrine of the church and its repercussions for re-shaping congregational life and pastoral practice. Alongside the essential role of the church as equipper and launcher of evangelistic and missional enterprise stands the local expression of the gathered Body of Christ itself as a fundamental arena of divine blessing, sanctification, and worship. The church must send out and deploy but also gather together. The church is not only a means to an end but an end as well. “I will build my church,” He said.

John Mark Yates identifies the loss of confessional seriousness and church discipline as crucial indicators of ecclesial pathology. Refusal to maintain a robust conception of church membership and failure to guard the door to the church itself contaminates worship, compromises witness, abandons earnest discipleship, and weakens the care of souls. Could the current widespread crafting of local church covenants among newfangled, often reformed “Baptist” churches within and without the SBC signal serious efforts to address the concerns Yates articulates? Time will tell.

Hovering around the edges, sometimes poking through the center of conversation about the SBC is the older and larger reality of the Baptist movement within which Southern Baptists, even when unrecognized, live and move and have their being. Much of David Dockery’s historical survey and the heart of Christian George’s re-exploration of the Downgrade Controversy testify to this inextricable historical symbiosis—a familial Baptist bond perhaps more detectible and intriguing during this time of needed renewal than the decades of ascendency afforded.

Perhaps a bigger question mark hangs heavier, or at least differently, over the future of the Southern Baptist Convention than over the larger Baptist tradition itself. R. Albert Mohler Jr. and Collin Hansen highlight the importance and new complexities of Baptist relationship to other believers, especially other evangelicals, in this increasingly secular and post-Christian terrain we face. Could that growing, permeable, boundary between the SBC and the new “Baptist non-denominationals” prove fertile ground for fruitful partnership within an SBC “strategically reinvented” as Ronnie Floyd believes renewal will demand? Again, time will tell.

In the meantime, all who yearn to embrace fully what God might be pleased to do with us Baptists going forward can profit much from the competent, deep, and insightful engagement of the most crucial issues drawn together in this volume.

Dr. Mark DeVine is an Associate Professor of Divinity in the area of church history and doctrine at Beeson Divinity School. He is the author of Replant: How a Dying Church Can Grow Again and Bonhoeffer Speaks Today: Following Jesus at All Costs. DeVine has written extensively for theological journals and has contributed to Evangelicals and the Nicene Faith, Evangelicals Engaging Emergent, and The Disciple’s Study Bible.

Posted by Hunter Upton at Tuesday, July 19, 2016
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The Dean Recommends: Why Charismatics and Calvinists Need Each Other

By Adam Mabry
July 5, 2016

White-haired, suit-wearing Presbyterian lawyers don’t typically garner the fandom of teenagers, but Mr. Z did. Each week dozens of us would gather in his home. He would feed us and let us trash his house, watch movies, and play basketball. Each gathering would culminate in a Bible study. I met Mr. Z in high school because I was invited to his home for just such a study. For a year I kept coming back. This unlikely mentor taught us Ephesians. Verse by verse, he explained this beautiful book to us. His love for the Bible was infectious, and I caught it. I didn’t know it until later, but I’d fully embraced the doctrines of grace—doctrines I hold dear to this day.

As I matured, I would always go back to Ephesians. Like one of those well-worn paths beloved by hikers, Ephesians became my favorite trail to trek when I wanted to encounter the sovereign majesty of God. But something stuck out to me that I never got—something Paul prayed. He prayed that the Ephesians might know the “immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe” (1:19). No matter how hard I studied, power was never the result. Not this kind of power. Not until I met Pastor J.

Pastor J was like Mr. Z in a lot of ways. Both older guys, both wise, both godly, both with a deep love for Scripture, and both with a sharp intellect. But Pastor J had a different set of gifts. Pastor J would pray for people, and the things he prayed would actually happen. Pastor J would speak to people and say things about them no one else knew. As I got to know Pastor J, I came to understand that these were spiritual gifts. Again, my life was changed, and I embraced the miracle-working God.

These two men—one deeply Reformed, one powerfully charismatic—personify two words that have come to describe me. I’m a Reformed charismatic. With one foot I’m firmly planted in the historic Reformed world. A graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary, I sat under the feet of world-class professors like John Frame. Yet my other foot is planted elsewhere—in the world of the modern, global, charismatic movement. I admire the missionary zeal of the global south and east along with the spiritual power and miracle-producing faith they embody. Yes, it’s an odd space in the church world to occupy. Read the rest at The Gospel Coalition.

Posted by Kristen Padilla at Friday, July 15, 2016
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