From the Dean
The Dean Recommends: Mark Dever on Assurance in the Protestant Reformation
Retrieval for the Sake of Renewal
Several years ago Mark Noll wrote an article titled “So You’re A Baptist—,” in which he asked: “What is the best way to take account of the world’s self-described Baptists? Do they constitute a movement with any real cohesion? Or is the term ‘Baptist’ so flexible that it designates only a loosely defined collection of heterogeneous fragments clustered haphazardly in one vaguely outlined section of the world Christian landscape?”
That last question refers to the fact that more Baptists reside in North America than anywhere else—this despite the fact that Baptists are a considerable presence in some non-Western regions, such as Nigeria, and Nagaland in India. In his recent article “The Baptist Exception,” Philip Jenkins observes that this fact makes Baptists an outlier among world Christian communions. In most Christian communions, global south Christians have strongly outpaced their northern world counterparts. Jenkins also cautions: “Mere numbers say nothing about the nature of faith or the quality of practice.”
The nature of faith and the quality of practice are the major concerns for the newly formed Center for Baptist Renewal, organized earlier this year by two professors, Matthew Emerson of Oklahoma Baptist University and Lucas Stamps of California Baptist University. The Center is a bold initiative calling for “Baptist catholicity”—an open engagement with the Great Tradition of Christian believing and thinking across the centuries. The Center’s leaders want everyone to know that they are not “just Baptists playing Anglican or Roman Catholic. That's not what we mean by Baptist catholicity. Instead, what we are trying to do is to help Baptists better situate ourselves within the broader body of Christ and the historic Christian tradition.”
The Dean Recommends: What are we preparing our children for, if not how to face difficulty?
What advice would you give a newborn child? (I ask because a friend gave birth early this morning.) Perhaps you’d quote my father’s favorite Scripture verse: “My son, if you would serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trial.” (Sirach 2:1) Maybe you’d quote my favorite statement from Saint Ignatius Loyola: “Nothing worthy of God can be done without earth being set in uproar and hell’s legions roused.” Or you may choose my favorite Scripture verse: “If what I say is false, produce the evidence; but if what I say is true, why hit me?” (John 18:23)
If a newborn child could understand, wouldn’t he panic? Mightn’t he ask, “What kind of world did you bring me into?” There was a time when most people weren’t surprised by the pains and struggles of life. People a hundred years ago endured inconveniences and burdens that would be unimaginable today.
In our day, we who have access to so many conveniences, protections and assurances, seem sometimes to demand as our birthright a life free from pain and disappointment. And it’s become a commonplace today to see the apparent fragility of university students (at least in America) who demand “trigger warnings” lest they hear something unpleasant or objectionable, and “safe spaces” to retreat to should they be so unfortunate as to be exposed to an idea they don’t like. In fact I read not long ago in a professional periodical of the hiring of an academic administrator whose qualifications included “certification in Safe Spaces.” Read the rest by Fr Robert McTeigue at Aleteia.
Originally published on May 10, 2017.
The Dean Recommends: Congregational Worship Should Be Peculiar
Variety may be the spice of life, but it’s not the substance.
And yet, given the way many of us evaluate the worship services at our churches, you’d think novelty was an essential mark of a healthy church.
The pull toward something “fresh” is understandable since your church’s worship service probably looks similar week-to-week. There’s singing, prayer, Scripture reading, a sermon. Throw in the Lord’s Supper, a benediction, a baptism, and maybe a couple other things, and you have the elements of most liturgies. The order may be flexible, but there’s consistency in what happens each week.
So, maybe it’s unavoidable to think on occasion, “Don’t we do this every week? Can we mix it up a little bit? Don’t we want it to stay fresh?”
We would do well in those moments to remember that the weekly routines we repeat in corporate worship by faith are doing far more than we can see or feel. When we know that, as we gather with the church, we may learn to see repetition as something to embrace rather than endure. Read the rest by Matt Damico at the Center for Baptist Renewal.
Originally published on May 8, 2017.