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Wednesday, October 26, 2005 

"No Babies" for Liberals

It is about time I actually start writing again. I have had my fill of debating moderates and liberals who care less about honest debate and more about keeping their positions whatever the cost to their philosophical integrity. So here it goes.

Russell Moore of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has posted a very interesting commentary on liberal Protestants and their declining desires for childbearing. I find this intriguing in light of a debate I participated in on the subject over at the mainstream Baptist blog. Several folks were waxing rather ineloquently about how once again Dr. Albert Mohler had gotten something else wrong when he advised that the Bible calls for married men and women not to abstain from childbearing and/or childrearing for the sake of convenience. Despite the solid numbers Mohler presented about population growth, they still attempted to argue that there were already too many people on planet Earth to be calling all married couples to continue conceiving. It is unfortunate that one is not able to read that debate now because the author and moderator for that site under criticism from Evangelicals for his numerous scathing, reckless, and unsubstantiated claims regarding conservative Christians and Biblical truth has elected to hide all of his comments. Yes, ladies and gentlemen censorship is alive and well in liberal Christianity.

Back to the article . . . What I find most interesting about this is that only in America (and to some extent the Western world) do people have an aversion to childbearing. In every other part of the world, especially in African and Asian cultures, childbearing is not only a given, it is a rite of passage for men and women. This became glaringly obvious to me recently as I was speaking with four children from Burundi to whom I teach ESL for JCPS. The oldest girl, Sifa, asked me if I was married and I acknowledged to her that I was. She asked me in rather broken English, "Do you have babies?" When I said no, she got this sad look on her face and asked, "Teacher, no babies?" Sadly, I said back, "No, no babies." This was not only confusing for her, she thought it was downright embarrassing for me. I tried to assure her that we would soon have children, but that the timing was not right. I don't think she understood very well what I was trying to say. The rest of the day, she kept saying, "Teacher, no babies" in almost a criticizing, yet sorrowful tone. This was unprecedented to her for a man my age who is married not to have children.

All this made me reflect on that debate. For so many people around the world, children are a blessing of God and are not to be shunned or taken lightly. Barrenness in the Old and New Testaments was looked upon as cursing from God. Yet in the modern Western world, we have flipped that worldview on its head, making marriage and children curses on us. And this attitude is prevailing throughout society -- an "it's all about me" view that believes that entanglements like commitment and childbearing are things that cramp our style and keep us from doing what we really want to do. This will only lead to a society that looks so far inwardly for pleasure and gratification that it collapses as a result.

Until Christ is Formed in All of Us,

Wow! Great post DR!!!

This post strikes me powerfully in two ways. First - Mrs. Kayla and I have been married for 12 years. For those 12 years we've prayed and prayed for a baby. Yet - no answer to that prayer. We continue to pray and are now looking at foster and adoption. For people to say that children are an interruption to their lives is nothing but an expression of their selfishnes which is a result of being born in sin.

Secondly, are we so blind as to realize that God uses the family in the Kingdom? Look at the Old Testament and Israel. Look at the book of Acts. Look at your church! Ya' know.....the PCA has a little thing called Covenant theology.....it kind of centers on families......

To abandon children may be to abandon God's plan for the ages.....but who am I? Just a fella who lives in Virginia that believes......

I am bummed about Prescott cutting us out of the dance. He was soooo backed into the corner by you and Cks on that whole slavery-hermeneutics=no women pastors thing... and then whammo - he cuts us out.

bro, please don't take this the wrong way, i'm trying to ask a very legitimate question:

would you rather argue a person to christianity or would you rather see God's love pour through you into their life as a true encounter with the God Who Really Is?

i only ask because you seem to come across, sometimes, proud of your debates. i'm glad you can defend the faith. but is it your knowledge that makes you proud? or is it God's love and Christ in which you boast?

i certainly am no one to attack you- i'm guilty of my own issues. i even attempted to bring to light some of them last summer in my confessional post. perhaps it's time for me to make another, just to remind you that i am definitely guilty.

but i ask in as much humility as i can convey, from my heart, is it just false teachers you approach and reproach? or is it every man who does not profess Christ? do you do it with hostility? or do you do it with love, openly expressed love?

and do you attack over non-salvific issues, making them bigger than they are? or do you simply allow some things to slide, recognizing the debate will likely not change anything- but that it's not so big a deal as to fight over it?

i ask all these questions hoping you take them the right way. please understand i don't mean to cause a ruckus. i just wonder sometimes, what good it is to be a good debater, a knowledgeable debater, if the person still goes to eternal separation from God. that's all.

i pray you're having a good time and good life up in kentucky. if there's anything i can do for you, please let me know. take care brother.

until Christ is formed in us, indeed.

You make some good points.

"Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth.
Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!"

I have been reading some of the debate issues that might be referred to by a previous poster. My perspective is that in one instance, someone who claims to be one of us is maligning brothers and sisters. I don't know about Joe, but I want to fight for and protect my brother or sister. D.R. has not debated out of superior feelings, it has been by the Word and should open the eyes of a believer. This is just my view of the situation.

Brian, that sounds awesome that you are thinking about adopting. My wife and I are considering adopting a couple of children in the future. A good resource you should check out is Steven Curtis Chapman's site: http://www.shaohannahshope.org/

His organization provides financial assistance and information on adoption. I have heard many good things about it.

to Joe--

Hey, Joe. As one of the ones who caused Prescott to hide his comments, let me be the first to admit that things sometimes got a bit carried away with me at least. But overall, what D.R. and I hoped to accomplish was to keep Prescott accountable for his outlandish, insulting, incediary, and (sometimes) demonstrably false statements and conclusions. When pressed for argumentation to substantiate what he takes to be self-evident (and remember he is in a public forum, claiming to represent an enlightened, intellectual, and highly spiritual
Christianity), Bruce declared that he had no interest in any form of rational accountability. In essence, that's what his jettisoning of the law of non-contradiction entails.

D.R. is positively generous and great at rebutting ridiculous claims. Bruce was simply unwilling to see his positions questioned in ways that he was unable (or certainly unwilling) to answer.

I've never known D.R. to approach the non-saved in a spirit of hostility and rancor. Bruce claims to be saved and claims to speak for Christ. He believes his is a "prophetic voice." (That's what he wrote.)

We, as Christians, have every right to question, and condemn, whatever is not of God (yes, in a spirit of humility) especially when someone claims to speak for church. Bruce's unwillingness to be challenged is indicative of his own arrogance and blindedness.


the reason i bring such a challenge up is this: 2 and a half years ago i nearly debated a friend away. he is a gay catholic who wasn't out of the closet when we were friends in high school. he went to notre dame and by 2003 when i learned of his outing, i found myself ready to approach him. i debated him. often too harshly. and while in the last 2 and a half years, i haven't changed my stance on TOO many things (my opinion change wasn't because of him, it was because i learned more about the situations- creation for one), the main thing is that i changed my approach. i have another friend who claims his fundy-ness and really has a "take it or leave it, it's all or none" attitude about the Bible, but in essence what he says is, "it's my interpretation, all or none." and in some cases, he's too legalistic. his heart is genuine, his mind in the right place. but he comes across as belligerent on occasion. as did i when i first started discussing homosexuality with my other friend.

and i guess, what i don't want to see happen is for you to become one of those guys who would do this:

i have this calvinist friend in texas, and in one of our conversations i mentioned that it seemed like a lot of sbc calvinists would rather be presbyterian than baptist, would rather give to presbyterian missions than baptist missions. and if they're so in love with the presbyterians, why not just bite the bullet and do it? eventually the conversation led to me asking, "well i'm not calvinist, i hold a paradox view of it all," and asked, "does that mean you wouldn't worship with me? you wouldn't worship with the methodists?" and she said no. and one of her last statements was, "some day God will explain why we have so many different churches."

and that led me to think, "if we're going to heaven, us methodists and arminians and calvinists and baptists, and we'll worship God there, why not here?" by this point my internet connection had died, so i couldn't respond.

i guess what my biggest fear is, is seeing people get so stuck in one view of theology that they have no ability to let some things slide. and DR, we don't really know each other well enough to really know the others' heart, but rest assured, i mean no attack. i've just seen a lot of people take it too far. on issues that are not important to one's salvation. and yes, we are to correct and reprove as Paul says to Titus, but it's a matter of how we do it. and i just didn't want to see that happen with you.

i hope you understand.

Joe, let me go ahead while I have time and answer your first post -- then I will answer the second later today.

First, I don't often debate those who claim not to be Christians. One is because I do lack the charity at times, but also because I believe my calling rests specifically in regard to theological/philosophical problems within the church. I plan on working within a church body for the rest of my life. Now, having said that I do desire to evangelize and to explicitly proclaim Christ to the world. However, my gifting is not in evangelism. Thus, I employ my gifts to do what I feel most called to do at this time -- which is to interact on the internet and in life with those who are in the church, whether that be in agreement or disagreement.

As a calvinist, I don't feel that classic apologetics work without the Spirit of God having begun the work of regeneration in one's life. Thus debate directed toward non-Christians is useless in most situations, though it was useful in regards to men like Lee Stroebel, C.S. Lewis, and Josh McDowell.

Still, there are some who are exceptional at this like Voddie Bachaum and RC Sproul and Hank Hannegraff. Scripture is clear that we ought to contend for the faith and to be prepared to give an answer for the hope within us. So apologetics is essential in the Christian faith, as witnessed in the first 3 centuries AD.

In regard to your comment about me being proud of my debates, I would want to know specifically how you came to this conclusion. I admit that I am not the "humbliest person I know" -- not even close, but debate leads to something that is more important that offending someone -- getting people to think and hopefully change (including yourself). If it was in regard to what Kelly (CKS) said, then I would say it was adequetely answered by him and I appreciate his kind words therein. If otherwise, please let me know where I have been prideful so that I might be aware of it in the future.

Finally, I will address the salvific vs. non-salvific issues question in a later post. I have to go pick up my wife now. Thanks for the time you spent to write me and I know that you have good intentions. Know that I do as well.

DR, as far as taking pride in it, I guess I read into things more than I should have. I apologize for that statement.

Joe, allow me to finish what I started earlier.

1. In order to bring clarity on how I would argue to a non-Christian let me say that I have had a couple of conversations with gay men (offline) and neither time did I try to debate them, but rather I tried to explain what my position was clearly (since both had uninformed ideas about what Evangelicals actually believe -- which is often the case). I don't think a heavy handed approach is wise, especially if you have not committed it to a good deal of prayer beforehand. If the Lord leads you to do so by giving you an opening or by means of the Holy Spirit's clear leading, then confrontation can occur as well. The problem is that we often do what we desire rather than what God's desire for us is to do. In either case, however, God is sovereign over that person's salvation and can bring him or her to faith through the experience.

2. I am not sure where you were going with your story about your Calvinist friend, but I would say that 1) it is difficult for me to avoid some glaring problems I see in your understanding of Calvinists and Presbys, but I will do so for the sake of the real issue here (though I hope you realize that the real issue is truth, not denomination) and 2) worshipping in the same context and fellowshipping in the same body of believers are two different things. I have gone to several Passion events and worshipped alongside of Methodists, Presbys, and even hard-core Charismatic Pentacostals. I don't think that is any problem. However, I would not want to join a local body of believers that I felt had doctrine that was inconsistant with Scripture and as a minister I would not allow people to join a the church I was in if they had some glaring doctrinal problems (like Open Theism, strong Arminianism, free-grace views, and unrestrained charismatic beliefs). The local body of believers exists to, in unity, glorify God. Despite what might sound appealing in open membership, it would not only hurt the church, but undermine the authority of the pastor and elders whom God has placed in charge of the Church for the process of their sanctification. Unity is essential in a Church body. So I think your friend was mistaken in her words.
3. Finally in regards to salvation vs. non-salvation issues, I would say that, per Paul's calls to Timothy and Titus to sustain sound doctrine, to rebuke those who teach false Gospels (as he did to the Galatians and even to Peter -- who did so pragmatically), and Jude's words, to contend for the faith, there is little difference between these two categories. I would debate a Presbyterian on paedo-baptism (as I have), I would debate a pre-millenial dispensationalist on eschatology, (as I have), and I would debate an Arminian on Calvinism (as I have often done), but I would not view those people as being outside of the faith. Still, I find those issues important because they are spoken about in the Bible. They are relevant to how we live and what we think about God and thus are important to our sanctification, our becoming like Christ. And that is essential to our faith. Thus you are right in saying that is matters how debate is done.

So I hope that answers some of your questions regarding my views on debate. I do have a blog post that explores my views on debate further called, "Faith and Conflict." It can be accessed here:

Thanks for your comments. Let me know if I answered your questions completely and what you think about what I said in the above blog post. I look forward to hearing more from you.

I have to say something about all this.

1. The truth is offensive. We do NOT have to be offensive. The very nature of the gospel is offensive. To proclaim that individuals are sinners and they cannot attain salvation through their own effort is offensive.

2. We are to love people. Every Thursday night there are 3 couples and several singles in our home. Why do we do this? To show the love of Christ through meals and to help mentor young minds. DR has had several meals in my home...though I'm not sure if anything I ever said or did rubbed off...(hah!) Sometimes the topics that are discussed can be offensive. Yet, in the setting of friends these topics can be hashed out in a spirit of love and understanding.

3. A question to ponder....Are we to love God or people more?

4. Finally, I'm one those who made the jump from Southern Baptist to being a Presby. I've never been happier. It was not easy. I still love and appreciate Southern Baptists. They are my brothers and sisters in Christ. My decision to be a Presby was not due to anger or disappoint in the SBC. It was simply a progression in my theology.

I'm done now. I'm off to find a sweettart. (I love Halloween...there's candy everywhere!!!)

guys, i'm not trying to pick a fight. i just perceived something that seemed to remind me of past experiences and thought i'd throw out the red flag. try to understand, part of this goes back to your comments on emergent. yes, some have bad theology. but to you, I have bad theology, because i'm not a 5 pointer. you're not attacking me for that. are you going after the Methodists or the episcopalians? surely they believe in Christ as well. i guess what i'm saying is, at what point do you draw the line and decide who to debate and who not to debate? i only ask because i haven't decided exactly where to draw my line. anyway, i'm just wondering about that. ya'll have a good one.

Way to go for considering adoption and giving props to Steven Curtis Chapman! You know I love him and his site is great for infomation regarding adoption. I know this post is lame in light of all the others but anyways...I am still waiting on some words about Lakewood out in Houston. Peace out! Adrienne

Good call on not being "the humblest person I know". -Adrienne

Joe, I don't think you are trying to pick a fight and I appreciate your desire to get things right, whether we agree on those things or not. You are wrong about how I feel about your theology though. I don't think you have BAD theology because you are not a five-pointer. I would say that I disagree with your theological position regarding soteriology, but I wouldn't call you a thoroughgoing Arminaian or anything. At least you use the word "paradox". BTW, my SS teacher, Dr. Bruce Ware, isn't a five-pointer either, but I respect him deeply and I don't think I could ever hold my own with him in a debate.

However, there is a huge difference between sitting on the fence in regards to God's sovereignty and man's responsibility and embracing a position that completely neglects many, many passages of Scripture in order to hold on to a radical free-will theology (I am speaking of Open Theism here). Also a rejection of the Trinty and the exclusivity of the Gospel are inexcusible. And that was my point about Emergents. Now, I agree there are many folks who would consider themselves emerging who have solid theological positions. I am thinking Steve McCoy, Joe Thorn, and Marty Duran (who I believe are all Calvinists, BTW). But my problem with Emergent is the people who represent them nationally. The faces of Emergent, the leadership of Emergent, the majority of whom I would not want representing me and I believe to be at the least heterodoxical in many of their core theological views. The leadership of any organization is important. There is no exception in this case. Maybe there positions don't affect you, but doesn't it worry you in the least? If we throw out basic doctrine, don't you think that will hinder, if not destroy, our unity and ability to minister? I just don't understand why people are so quickly criticized when they critique this movement in any way. Maybe you can explain this to me Joe.

So, please continue to interact and realize that your thinking will change continuously over the next three to five years while you are in seminary and just out. At least that is what happened to me. We all need each other to keep us sharp and growing.

DR, I agree with just about everything you said. The only thing I disagree on is that the guys you mentioned before- Tony Jones, Brian McLaren, etc. are the actual leaders of the e.c. Andrew Jones made it pretty clear that there is no one real leader of the movement. And that is both a plus and a negative. I think too often we try to throw up the SBC's model over the EC model, allowing for those guys to be the executive committee or something of the emerging church movement. And maybe they are perceived, but I think there's much more autonomy than that. Of course that's good in that the more "liberal" leaders don't speak for all. It's also bad because of the human desire to perceive a real leader in charge- they want to put a face or two with the program. I'm desperately trying not to throw the whole thing away just because I disagree with what some of the "leaders" say. There's a lot of good in it, especially the missional emphasis.

That's really all I'm saying with regards to that.

Oh, and I guess I should add that I've got a little baggage that I carry around with me with regards to Calvinists, and I'm desperately trying not to sterotype. In undergrad my theology professor (whose notes I am actually recopying into another notebook, incidentally) stood up in class and resoundly and irritatingly explained, "to those of you who are calvinist and are telling people if they're not, then they are going to hell, you can stop. that is wrong thinking. anybody who says that should be disregarded." At the University of Mobile, it was a pretty big issue among a lot of relatively ignorant folks. My seminary roommate reported the same junk going on at William Carey College.

On the other hand I watched my home church (at the time, now I claim Edgewater) kick a ministry off their property because the leader was a Calvinist, even though she did not teach Calvinist theology per-se. That ticks me off, and while I was there, I was an advocate of letting the Calvinists be Calvinist and letting the others be other.

I've seen both sides- the overbearing Calvinist and the ignorant Arminian. And neither make me interested in their cause, which does not seem to be Christ at all.

So my baggage comes to light on occasion. And I apologize because I shouldn't let it affect me like that.

My seminary roommate reported the same junk going on at William Carey College.

Isn't William Carey College the old name of the undergrad program at NOBTS? I think it is.

Anyway, Joe, if I've got the identity of the school correct, you'd better believe that "same junk" went on there. I witnessed it personally. There was a group of overzealous and young Calvinists who seemed to take it upon themselves to contend for the faith (of Calvinism) is a pretty obnoxious way. In so doing, they ostracized themselves from the other students and caused lots of other folks to decide that Calvinism really was just as bad as their home pastor said it was. And it was a shame because these young Calvinists were generally pretty bright, fun folks. (And, by that point, I completely agreed with them on Calvinism.)

And then there were other Calvinists in the undergrad program who were just regular folks with no penchant for soteriological controversy with the other students. They had friends "on both sides of the aisle" so to speak. Generally, the Calvinists in the graduate program were a lot more low-key than their undergraduate counterparts. My best friend in seminary disagreed with me on just about everything (including Calvinism)--and to this day he's still one of my closest friends under the sun.

Anyway, just some thoughts.

CKS, actually you are wrong on this one man. William Carey is the name of the nursing program at NOBTS. Levell College is the name of the school now -- I don't think it had a name before that. What Joe is referring to is a Christian college in Hattiesburg, MS, where Mandy Trammell (if you remember her) went to school.

As for what went on at Levell, I would agree that often times it is undergraduate students who are the ones who are most divisive on Calvinism. That is because they are most prone to being arrogant. It happened at University of Mobile, at Union University, and at Boyce here in Louisville (though let me make it abundantly clear that there are punks on both sides of the issue at colleges -- thus fueling the debate). But what I find interesting is that very little real problems have occurred in the Seminaries. CKS is right that NOBTS was different from Levell in that regard. There was mutual respect, though there was great debate. People got irritated, as often happens when one is passionate about a view. But still it remained at least cordial, if not downright respectible.

Joe, I am sorry you have had those types of experiences. However, that does not mean that people can't debate in a civilized and respectful manner or that those things are not greatly important subjects to debate. When I first entered seminary I was an Arminian through and through. Then I realized others had a case. I moved to the center and sat where you are today saying that I didn't want any part of the debating and side-taking. However, what I realized was that I had to preach something. What was I going to preach? Monergism or synergism? I couldn't preach both and make any sense. How was I going to approach sanctification, glorification, Hebrews 6, Hebrews 10, John 6? All this made me realize that I had to dig deep and do the hard work for myself -- not for the sake of debate -- because it did matter in how I worshipped God, how I saw His salvation, and how I viewed evangelism, church growth, and discipleship. So I encourage you to press on in your study and be a person who rises above the debates in knowing God for the sake of His glory.

Guys, I've got friends like Brandon Smith, Hugh Donahoe, Blaize Stewart who are definitely Calvinist. You're right, at least in Lipsey it wasn't a big deal. The occasional joke from Brandon about coming over to the dark side. It was more humor, and on occasion legitimate discussion, than in your face "you're going to hell if you're not a calvinist" type stuff. When I get around guys like Page Brooks or Scot McKnight, though, I have to pay attention. Both are self-proclaimed "recovering Calvinists." The ears perk up. Not every Calvinist in undergrad at UM was a bad guy. A guy I knew named KJ is one of the smartest and well founded guys I've ever met, and he wasn't remotely obnoxious about it. It's guys like that who made me even entertain the idea. On the other hand, I'm reading my Theology notes from undergrad, given by my professor (a DTS grad) and he writes a theodicy on the problem of evil, and it's very much geared toward the concept of "moral responsibility." Chances are, I'll listen to him over anybody else, just because of who he is.

Anyway, I guess the thing is, for me, and it always goes back to this- if I'm Arminian, I'm still not going to hell, even if I'm probably wrong. If I'm Calvinist, I'm still not going to hell, even if I'm probably wrong. If I'm in the middle and can't bring myself to either extreme, but recognize that there are biblical elements to both, then by all means, I'm still not going to hell.

And that's really what my deal is. Theology is not my debate. I'll know what I can know, I'll defend it when I have to, to the best of my ability. But I'd rather just sit back and remember that the average guy out there doesn't give a pork butt who John Calvin or John Piper are. But this Jesus guy- they might like him. So, kinda like you said, DR, about you not being an evangelist... it's like this for me: I don't like the current church. They've burned me, they do things their own way, and that's their deal. But me- I would no more choose to be a pastor in one of those churches than I'd choose to get stoned to death (which in some cases, sounds about the same). That's what attracts me to the missional lifestyle. To the emerging "style" of church. I think you should check out Scot McKnight's rebuttal of James MacDonald- links at Missional Baptist Blog. Anyway, I'm out- I gotta go get some papers done. I leave for Atlanta a week from today and I'll be going to Canada the next day for a few days. Got some exegetical studies and papers to do.

It might be interesting to see how I pull this together, because I have an idea about it, anyway. I might post it when I'm done. Have a good one.


A favor: next time you talk to Hugh O'Donahoe tell him Kelly Salmon said "hello"--if you don't mind. Haven't spoken with him in a long time. Miss him.

Hey Brian--

I'd like to talk to you sometime about your recent switch to Presbyterianism. If that's cool, I can get your contact info from D.R.


Kelly S.


Sorry to use your blog here for non-topic related stuff.



I'd like to address your most recent post. You state that the average person wouldn't care who Calvin or Piper are but they might like this guy named Jesus. First, kudos to you "framing" the argument in that light.

I'd like to state that the reason people don't care who Calvin or Piper are is because the church has surrenderd any attempt at intellectual thinking.

Church history even bears out this fact. Look what happened when the revival movement began! Instead of equipping and educating the believers the worship service became "evangelistic". The church at large adopted the style of tent revival service.

Check out a great book by Os Guinness called "Fit Bodies and Fat Minds." (No comments from those of you who know me.....)

So, to DR, Kelley and the others....labor on teaching others and challenging what they think about God. We must turn the tide and make the church a "thinking" church once again instead of one that is seeking this week's experience.

So let it be written...
So shall it be done....

Da' Bishop

Note; Kelly - email me at bsanders@spiritfm.com

Brian, I really hope you weren't implying that I don't strive for knowledge.

We've certainly never met for you to mean that.

I definitely believe it's more important for most folks to get a good grasp on Jesus before they start worrying about Piper or Calvin. Quite frankly, there are a lot of people who don't have a freakin clue who the biblical Jesus is. And I don't mean that they don't "believe." I mean they believe in a Jesus that does not and has never existed. As DR would say about the Muslim or Jewish God- they are deceived. I want them to see Jesus and God as revealed in the Scriptures, through (my professors would be proud) a grammatical-historical context.

My friend's mom and I were talking the other day and she said a lot of very biased and generally uneducated things. My friend said, when she left, "she's a very godly woman, she's never missed a quiet time in as many years as I've known her." And I believe that she studies the Word. But that doesn't mean she's got the necessary tools to rightly interpret them. I can read e.e. cummings all day long but I may never understand what he's talking about, because I don't understand where he's coming from or what he meant.

Although yes, you can interpret the Scriptures without commentaries and such, it doesn't hurt to have some help. So someone has to be there to explain some things a little better. I'm down with that. But I think before they start worrying about Piper's theology or Calvinism or Beza and Arminius, I think they should try to get the "love your neighbor" thing down (go read the article about SBC volunteers refusing to give water away because it had Anheuiser Busch written on it).

And I'm going to pretend you didn't mean that I don't strive for knowledge- of Jesus or theology. Because you'd be wrong.

Joe -

I was not saying that you do not seek knowledge. Please don't read it that way at all.

I just want us to have a passion to educate the church. Yes - most people don't know who the biblical Jesus is because the church has not had solid theological teaching for the last 100 years.

There ya go.......

Da' Bishop

Joe, first, let me say that I have no clue how you could have gleaned from what Brian wrote that he was saying that you don't strive for knowledge. But you did suggest in your previous comments that deep knowledge of God was not essential to being Christlike. I would disagree heartily. William Carey because of his theology began the modern missions movement. Spurgeon's preaching, which was well known throughout England, was deeply theological in nature. Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, and John Wesley helped to bring about the Great Awakening in this country through deeply Biblical and theological preaching. Theology is exactly what people need. They need to understand the deep things of God, or else they will never be as missional as they could be. If you look at the Christians who have changed the world, Knox, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Spurgeon, Packer, and Piper, they share a love for the deep things of God. If we can introduce the people in our pews to this, we would be much more effective.

Now, you have a point in saying that we need to be more engaged in living a missions lifestyle. We need to apply that knowledge of God to our lives. But that knowledge is essential. Paul often implores us to know God, to seek His face, to seek to know the deep mysteries of God -- and he is the quintessential missionary. So in essence I think you are putting the cart before the horse. Lead men and women to know God, model this missional lifestyle, and people will follow and eventually lead. If you leave out the part about learning the deep things of God -- you will never see them lead, they will always need you to follow.

Finally, I felt like you set up a false dichotomy between "Calvin and Piper" and Jesus. I think you misunderstand the purpose of theology -- it is to know God better, thus allowing us to follow Him more closely. The people in the pews don't care about theology because we haven't given them a reason to care -- we act as though it doesn't matter, it is secondary. But that goes against logic. What we do is what we truly believe. The more we know and believe about the character of Christ, the more able we are to mimic Him. And we can't separate who God is from who Christ is or what the Holy Spirit does from what Christ leads Him to do. I encourage you to read Grudem's Systematic Theology while you are out of school as well as Packer's Knowing God. Those two men model best how theology and practice form one unit.

ok, i probably won't go out buying grudem's systematic theology anytime soon, or until i take sys 1 sometime. i have a book list about 30 deep already.

i don't have a problem with theology, unless the person speaking it is talking calvinism before he's talking Christ. all i'm saying is that we can't walk up to some guy on the street and start teaching calvinism or arminianism or anything like that. it's gotta start with Jesus. and most people have a huge misunderstanding of that.

so i'd start there. and believe it or not, the rest will follow.

but really, i have to say this, and i don't mean to cop out, but this whole conversation has gone well beyond my attention span.

i think really, in the long run, maybe that was my point the whole time. how many people would really want to sit down and listen to this stuff? i'm studying it and i'm bored to death with it. see, i know what i meant, and it's so poorly communicated online. you know what you meant, and i think in the end it's prolly closer than either of us knows.

but ya'll, i'm done. i gotta move on. i gotta find something else to discuss.

it's just how i am.

Hi Daniel,
At the risk of upsetting the Baptist blogosphere, I'd like to add a comment.
I liked your post and your commentary. I recently made a couple of posts on my blog about Dr. Mohler and the same topic, but be advised that I am a Catholic. (Does it count that I was once a Baptist?)
Here are the links to my posts if you’d care to visit.
I see you've also had brisk interaction about Calvin. Was everyone in your circle aware of Calvin's (as well as Luther's and Wesley's) perspective on contraception? Here's a real short summary.
Peace of Christ to all.

Joe, first I think you are really hung up on this calvinism thing to the point that you can't think critically about theology. That is why I suggested Grudem and Packer, because their view of theology is extremely doxological. And that is the purpose of studying theology -- in order to know God in order to see the glory of His great salvation and in order to praise Him. If you would pick up Grudem's Systematic Theology at a local bookstore turn to the intro and at least read it, I think you would see this.

"I don't have a problem with theology, unless the person speaking it is talking calvinism before he's talking Christ. all i'm saying is that we can't walk up to some guy on the street and start teaching calvinism or arminianism or anything like that. it's gotta start with Jesus. and most people have a huge misunderstanding of that."

I don't know any person who starts a conversation with a lost person speaking about Calvinism. However, I do know people whose methods of evangelism are informed by doctrines like Total depravity and unconditional election. Have you actually seen someone do this or are you speculating? Do you really feel this is an issue for calvinists and lost people or are your own experiences of conversations with calvinists causing you to draw conclusions regarding how they would evangelize? If you have seen this, then I understand your problem, but I have never met any Calvinist who discusses theology with a lost person in the way you have described. And could you please explain what you mean by your last statement. What people have a huge misunderstand of that? Calvinists? Lost people? The folks in the pews?

"i think really, in the long run, maybe that was my point the whole time. how many people would really want to sit down and listen to this stuff? i'm studying it and i'm bored to death with it."

What's stuff are you referring to that people don't want to listen to? If you are talking about our conversation here, then I would understand some what -- though I think it is vitally important to discuss the role of theology in the church, especially in light of the fact that all the battles in the SBC in the last 100 years have begun with theology. Many battles in churches are over theology (or are at least masked by it). And huge battles are being waged in Evangelicalism over issues that deeply affect how one views the character of God -- like open theism and the exclusivity of Christ's salvation. If you mean, however, soteriology, then I would say you are not only wrong, but misinformed. Christian colleges like the University of Mobile aren't the only ones where students are beginning to care about theological matters like Calvinism. It's happening in BSU throughout the country. Why do you think that Passion's headlining preacher is John Piper? Why do you think that men like Matt Redmon and Shane and Shane are the worship leaders for Passion events? It is because their music is deeply theological -- the very thing that college students long for - deep and probing knowledge about God. And finally, let me say on a personal matter that my wife, who is a normal women is enamored with learning deep truths about God. She would love to be where you are (or were) -- in a place where 24/7 you have people to discuss the deep things of God with and where professors are there to help you porbe the Word of God for meaning and significance both theologically and practically. Most Christians that I know aren't bored with theology -- they long to lap up water flowing from the fountain of God's Word. They are thirsty for more of the knowledge of God. That is exciting! And that is what Paul desired for the people of Corinth -- that he could feed them solid food, the deep things of God, but He couldn't get them past their jealousy and strife. And that is where we should be taking our people.

So Joe, I pray that God would make you prize the glory of His grace by giving you an understanding of His great salvation and the character of Him who sent Christ. I think if you could ever get past your negative experiences at UofM and encounter some more folks who are passionate about theology and you can see clearly how it informs their actions and lives, then you would see clearly why folks like me see theology as essential for the future Church.

I do hope we have challenged you though Joe and maybe you will leave this conversation with a curiosity regarding our passions for this stuff.

i'm studying it and i'm bored to death with it.

I really hope God will grant you a way in to the enjoyment of your studies. The life of Christian ministry, for better or worse (and I think it's for the better), is one of study, and study, and more study for the purpose of showing our people just how big a deal God really is. Without a passion for the deep things of God it would probably be a dismal life.

Hey, Bro. D.R.; glad to see a Louisvillian on the blogspot! I'm just up the road about 55 miles; lived in the 'ville for about 11 years before moving up here. I attended SBTS (for way too long), but it was great once the regieme change took place.

Anyway, I took my first pastorate outside of the SBC when I came here and have found life in the so-called "mainline" denomination (ABC/USA) to be quite an education in itself. But we shook the dust off our sandals this year!

If you hadn't read this article, I thought it might explain some things:

Birth Control, Not Liberalism,
Explains Mainline Decline, Researchers Say

by Greg Warner

CHICAGO (ABP) -- The decline of mainline church membership over the last century had more to do with sex than theology, according to research by a trio of sociologists.

The popular notion that conservative churches are growing because mainline churches are too liberal is being challenged by new research that suggests a simpler cause -- the use of birth control -- explains most of the mainline decline.

Differences in fertility rates account for 70 percent of the decline of mainline Protestant church membership from 1900 to 1975 and the simultaneous rise in conservative church membership, the sociologists said.

"For most of the 20th century, conservative women had more children than mainline women did," wrote three sociologists -- Michael Hout of the University of California-Berkley, Andrew Greeley of the University of Arizona, and Melissa Wilde of Indiana University -- in an Oct. 4 article in Christian Century.

"It took most of the 20th century for conservative women to adopt family-planning practices that have become dominant in American society," the writers said. "Or to put the matter differently, the so-called decline of the mainline may ultimately be attributable to its earlier approval of contraception."

While mainline churches could claim 60 percent of the total Protestant congregants in 1900, their share fell to 40 percent in 1960. Many religious observers and some sociologists attributed the drop -- and simultaneous growth of conservative churches -- to the lethargy of liberalism and the appeal of biblical certainty.

But simple demographics can account for almost three fourths of the mainline decline, the trio of sociologists said.

"In the years after the baby boom, the mainline [fertility] rate declined earlier than did the rate of conservatives. Only in recent decades has the fertility rates of the two groups become similar."

The researchers studied shifts in church membership from 1900 to 1975 and the accompanying differences in fertility rates between women in conservative churches -- Baptist, Assembly of God, Pentecostal, and the like -- and mainline ones -- Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopal, Lutheran, etc.

They also created a demographic model that projected what would have happened to mainline and conservative memberships if the difference in fertility rates was the only factor influencing membership during the same period. "The answer is that it would look remarkably like it does in real life," they concluded.

The trio also studied other factors that could have influenced the real-life shift in memberships. For instance, they looked at how many people switched from mainline to conservative churches during the period, and vice versa.

During most of the last century, more people moved from mainline to conservative churches than in the other direction. Conservatives were much more successful at retaining their church members, even when they married mainliners.

"The declining propensity of conservatives to convert to the mainline accounts for the 30 percent of mainline decline that fertility rates cannot account for," they concluded.

The researchers investigated other possible causes for mainline decline -- support for homosexual and abortion rights, a lower view of the Bible, a higher "apostasy" rate, and fewer conversions from outside the Christian fold. But they dismissed these other factors as "irrelevant" because none could produce numerical changes significant enough to explain the shift in church membership.

"Higher fertility and better retention thus account for the conservatives' rising share of the Protestant population," they concluded.

However, the authors suggested, the trends underlying the mainline's decline "may be nearing their end."

Fertility rates are now virtually the same between the two groups and will produce only a 1 percent decline in mainline membership over the next decade, they noted. "Unless conservative Protestants increase their family size or mainline Protestants further reduce theirs, this factor in mainline decline will not be present in the future."

Moreover, fewer people are now switching membership from mainline churches to conservative ones. While 30 percent of conservatives in the 1930s had come from mainline churches, only 10 percent of those counted among the conservatives in the early '90s had made the switch, the authors said.

That downward trend will continue -- if only because there are fewer mainliners left to make the jump.

However, the sociologists cautioned, it will be some time before the conservatives' "demographic momentum" exhausts itself -- perhaps 50 years -- because those born during the conservatives' belated baby boom of the 1970s will be filling those pews for quite a while.

I have heard so many excuses for the mainline's decline I have to ask, "So which is it? Mainlines really aren't in decline; mainlines are declining because of aging congregations; mainlines are declining because they haven't been able to get their message out well enough; yadda, yadda, yadda... If you see what masquerades as "birth control" these days, that might explain some of it!

Bro. Small Soul
Prescott Jay Erwin, Pastor
Brownstown FBC, Indiana

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About me

Paul was not interested merely in the ethical principles of religion or of ethics. On the contrary, he was interested in the redeeming work of Christ and its effect upon us. His primary interest was in Christian doctrine, and Christian doctrine not merely in its presuppositions but at its centre. -- J. Greshem Machen.

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