israel and the church

Perspectives of Israel and the Church: 4 Views – A Review

Chad O. Brand is the editor of Perspectives of Israel and the Church: 4 Views (the book).  Brand is a former associate dean of biblical and theological studies and professor of Christian Theology at Boyce College.  As the book’s title indicates, it presents four views of the biblical concepts of Israel and the Church: the Covenantal View, the Traditional Dispensational View, the Progressive Dispensational View, and the Progressive Dispensational View.  In addition to Brand there are four contributors to the book.  Robert Reymond, now deceased, was a professor of Theology emeritus at Knox College; Reymond presents and defends the Covenantal View.  Robert L. Thomas is a professor of New Testament Emeritus at the Masters Seminary; Thomas presented and defended the Traditional Dispensational View.  Robert L. Saucy, now deceased, was a distinguished professor of Systematic Theology at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University; he presented and defended the Progressive Dispensational View.  Brand, along with Tom Pratt Jr., presented and defended the Progressive Covenantal View. Pratt has no bona fide theological credentials of which to speak but attended Denver Seminary for a time and is (along with Brand) a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Faith, World, & Economics.  All of these men are evangelical Christian scholars and write from the perspective that the Bible is accurate and authoritative.

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary provost, Steve Lemke, has quite rightly said (as printed on the book’s back cover), “The issue of the relation of Israel and the Church is crucial in New Testament interpretation for soteriology, ecclesiology, and eschatology.”  In the book, the various authors attempted to present their individual conclusions about this relation.  Brand began the book with an introduction that presents a historical survey of Christian views on the subject matter.  After that, a chapter was dedicated to each view, with each author presenting his view and responding to the objections of that view from the book’s other contributors.

The first view presented in the book was Reymond’s Covenantal View.  This view is the predominant view of Presbyterianism.  According to this view, God has one covenant people which includes in its members all who have faith in Him.  Thus, there is no current distinction between Israel and the Church.  The “Israel” of God is not limited to or inclusive of all ethnic Jews.  Rather, Israel includes all those who are heirs according to God’s covenant promises.  Under this view, infant baptism replaces circumcision as a covenant sign for New Testament-Era people.  The role of infant baptism in Christian life was heavily critiqued by the other contributors; it is the weakest point of Reymond’s case.

The second view presented in the book was Thomas’ Traditional Dispensational view.  This view was popularized by the Scofield Reference Bible in the early 1990s and remains very popular with non-reformed Baptists and Pentecostals (Thomas, notably, is a professor emeritus at a reformed Baptist Seminary).  Dispensational views posit that ethnic Jews represent a separate people from gentile Christians.  In other words, Israel and the Church are not the same.  The soundness of this view is dependent on the continuing applicability of God’s land promises to the Jewish people – that the Promised Land is the rightful property of ethnic Jews.  Given that covenantal views reject the continuing applicability of these land promises, Thomas spent significant time in his chapter arguing that the land promises do in fact still apply.  To do so, he utilized several arguments from silence which refered to times when Jesus could have “cancelled” these promises but didn’t.  His method of argumentation provided a weak case which did not stand up to the rebuttal of Reymond who cited the parable of the wicked tenants as definitive scriptural evidence that ethnic Jews no longer hold rights to the land of Canaan.  The Progressive Dispensational View of Saucy was presented after the Traditional Dispensational View.  Save for some differences in hermeneutical method, the Progressive Dispensational and Traditional Dispensational Views are not discernibly different.

The final view presented in the book was the Progressive Covenantal View of Brand and Pratt.  This view is effectively the Baptist version of the Covenantal View given that it does not dependent on infant baptism as a replacement for circumcision as a covenantal sign.  “Replacement” is, in fact, a term which Brand and Pratt made a point of disassociating with their view.   According to the Progressive Covenantal View, rather than replacing Israel, the church has always been Israel and Israel has always been the church – the oneness of God logically demands one people of God who have always been His in accordance with divine election.  As its editor, Brand had the advantage of placing his view at the end of the book.  The other contributors did the heavy lifting, as it were, of battering one another’s views while making the best points of Brand’s.  In a sense, Brand had the same advantage that William of Normandy had over the beleaguered Harold Godwinson at the battle of Hastings – his opponents were already worn down from pervious battle.

Overall, the book is a very informative and fair one.  The scholars chosen to present each view are experts in their theological fields; there are no jobbers in the bunch.  Each man, with the exception of Thomas, held his own.  Christians who want to better understand the relationship between Israel and the Church would do well to read the book and engage in their own follow-up studies.  There are many potentially helpful sources referenced by the book’s contributors.  The ecclesiological and even political outlook of an individual Christian can hinge upon this issue.  That alone is enough to justify further study of the subject matter.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

**As a matter of disclosure, I received a free copy of the book in exchange for the promise to review it.

Other reviews of the book can be found here, here, and here.

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True Like Jazz – Postmodernism, The Ingles Parking Lot, and the Church Bible Study

“Count the errors therein.” Doug Groothuis

In January of 2014, I attended an apologetics conference at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary entitled “Defend the Faith.”  One of the more impressive speakers, in my opinion, was Dr. Douglas Groothuis of The Denver Theological Seminary. He gave a great lecture on “The Structure of Apologetic Reasoning.” During this lecture (which can be viewed here)[1] he lamented over the postmodern thought that passed for Christian reasoning in some circles.  Of particular concern was the book Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality by Donald Miller which is a recipient of an Evangelical Christian Publishing Association Platinum Award.  I can’t remember Groothuis’s exact words (they are on video if you want to find them) but according to him, Blue Like Jazz contained “one of the dumbest passages ever written in the English language”[2] on page 103.

Blue Like Jazz

A Screenshot from page 103 of Blue Like Jazz

Groothuis has written that this passage “is remarkable for its illogic and glibness…a marvel of confusion, contradiction, and distortion…”  Groothuis is both a Christian Philosopher and a jazz aficionado, so his particular derision for this passage is understandable.  Since attending that lecture, I’ve very much enjoyed the writing of Douglas Groothuis and thought almost nothing about Blue Like Jazz…until today.

After church, I went to the Ingles on West Avenue in Cartersville to buy some BBQ sauce.[3]  After making my purchase, I walked out to my car to return home.  I noticed through the back windshield of the Honda Accord Hybrid parked next to me a worn-looking copy of Blue Like Jazz.  Groothuis’ commentary flooded into my mind.  I looked into the car at the two women sitting therein.  “Should I talk to them?” I wondered to myself.  I wanted to but I was already late getting home because the preacher at the church I visited today gave three invitations in between stanzas of Softly and Tenderly.[4]  Furthermore, I’ve never actually read Blue Like Jazz.  What would I tell them, “Groothuis says this is postmodern nonsense”?  I’ve met zero persons here in Cartersville who know who Doug Groothuis is.  So, in the West Avenue Ingles parking lot, he carries about as much influence as some guy wearing slacks and a blazer holding a plastic sack filled with Kraft Honey BBQ Sauce.  Additionally, there was a very real possibility of scaring the two women in the car half to death by tapping on their window.  They pulled out while I was thinking the matter over so I left, too.  Having failed to engage them in conversation, I prayed to the Lord that He’d guide them.  These are the worries of a Christian apologist, that a church-goer might be a postmodern.

As providence would have it, I found myself right behind them on the way home; the Honda Accord pulled into my neighborhood.  I resolved to follow them home.  I told myself I’d note where they lived and plan a future conversation.  I hoped they wouldn’t notice and think me a creeper.  However, they did not go to their house, they pulled into the parking lot of the Tennis Courts and Swimming pool.  I pulled in alongside, parking next to them.  I motioned for them to roll down their window.  In a somewhat awkward introduction to conversation, I asked why they had Blue Like Jazz in their car.  (They were understandably uneasy as I explained that I noticed it back at Ingles.)  As it turns out, the driver’s husband was using the book in a study at First Baptist Church of Cartersville.  I informed them about Groothuis’ commentary about the book.  For the life of me, I couldn’t remember on what page the problematic statement was printed.

Ironically, the pastor of their church graduated from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, the very institution at which I learned that Blue Like Jazz was a piece of postmodern nonsense.   Now, I’m almost certain that Pastor Morton isn’t sitting in his office at FBC Cartersville plotting to turn his flock into postmodern.  At a church of that size, the pastor doesn’t always read the various books being studied by groups in the church.  He may not know anything about Blue Like Jazz and it’s entirely likely that some well-meaning study leader decided on his own to study that particular book.

I suppose I should read Blue Like Jazz for myself so that the next time I find myself in such a situation I can have a more meaningful conversation about the book with those who may be under its sway.  At the very least I know this – just because a church, even a Southern Baptist one, picks an award-winning evangelical book for a study doesn’t mean that the book is useful for edifying Christian consumption.

“There is little “realness” in Miller, except pertaining to his precious subjectivity. We need an objective and true Word from God, and less biography; more of God, less of self; more of the Kingdom, less of the psyche; more theology, less narcissism; more Bible, less drivel.” Doug Groothuis

Be careful out there, the Christian Bookstore or the church Bible study might be the most dangerous place you walk into this month…and be on the lookout for those socially awkward know-it-all Christian apologists out there; they mean well.  Maybe listen to what they have to say every once in a while.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

[1] I’m pretty sure this is the lecture in question.  The talk is an hour long and I’m not up to watching it over to find the exact statement.

[2] My paraphrase

[3] Baptists often each chicken on Sunday after church.

[4] I’m not exaggerating, he really gave three invitations.  No one walked the aisle and he finally let us go home.

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40 Harmful Effects of Christianity – #23

“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.” Exodus 20:4

This post is the twenty-third in a series that addresses a list of “40 harmful effects of Christianity” that originated on the American Atheists Facebook page and has since made its way around the internet. In this post, I examine the following “harmful effect” from the list:

Harmful Effect #23: The destruction of great works of art considered to be pornographic/blasphemous, and the persecution of the artists.

As is the case with the previous “harmful effect” addressed in this series, this particular harmful effect is not limited to Christianity.  History provides notable examples of the destruction of art by fascist (ex: Nazis), communist, and Muslim groups.  Certainly, communists wouldn’t destroy art because it was “blasphemous” given that communists are inherently atheistic.  However, communist China has outlawed what it deems to be pornography since 1945.  So, even by narrowing down the destruction of art to reasons of pornography and blasphemy, the atheist author(s) of this list can’t limit the destruction of art for particular reasons to Christianity.  Once again, he has merely pointed out a tendency of humanity that is not unique to Christianity and would in all likelihood exist without it.

Furthermore, his claim is feeble by its very nature.  Beauty, it is often said, is in the eye of the beholder.  What is a “great” work of art in the opinion of one may terribly lacking in the eye of another.   At best, the author can lament “the destruction of works of art that some people think if great by other people who don’t think it’s so great.”  In other words, “Somebody else did something I don’t like to something that I did.”  To this harmful effect, the Christian critic can curtly respond, “boo-hoo.”

Christians can, along with all others, recognize that aesthetic judgments about art are ultimately subjective.  However, ultimate moral judgment is grounded in the nature of God.  There are things, such as blasphemy, that God has expressly forbidden.  The destruction of blasphemous and pornographic works of art is a God-honoring action, despite the objections of those who don’t fear the Lord.  At the same time, the art produced by Christians can be aesthetically pleasing, even to those outside of the faith, while objectively respectful God’s moral demands.

In my next post in this series, I’ll address the following:

Harmful Effect #24: Slavery condoned by religious texts.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

 

Dunn 2016: SBC Presidential Candiate Q&A

As many of you know, I am interested in becoming the next SBC President. I don’t have any major movers and shakers to nominate me but I am in discussion with brothers about how it might be done. No doubt, big-time mega preacher nominees like JD Greear and Steve Gaines will get interviews in the Baptist Press or other big-money outlets. I’ll just have to get my own word out with the help of my friends and supporters. Recently, JD Greear was given an interview in SBC Voices, a Southern Baptist Interest blog. I won’t wait on them to call me. I don’t have to. I have my own blog outlets that are somewhat well-read in SBC circles. Below, I’ve taken the questions that SBC Voices asked JD Greear and answered them myself.

1. Why do you want to be SBC president? What do you hope to bring to the SBC over your tenure?

My absolute favorite band in the world is Pearl Jam. They sing a song called The Fixer that goes “When something’s broke, I wanna put a bit of fixin’ on it…When something’s lost, I wanna fight to get it back again.” That song makes me think of the Southern Baptist Convention. It’s broken and I want to fix it. It’s lost its way and I want to fight to get it back on the right path again. The convention has been broken before. We’ve been slaveholders and we’ve been theological moderates. We’ve corrected those errors. Now, it’s broken again. I think I can help fix it.

The convention is run by bureaucrats and megapreachers who seem totally detached from the concerns and lives of the every day Baptists. These men remind me of the Scottish nobles in the movie Braveheart. There’s a poignant scene in that movie where the nobles are squabbling over who should be in charge. William Wallace won’t have it. He rebukes them, saying, “There is a difference between us. You think the people of this country exist to provide you with position. I think your position exists to provide those people with freedom. And I go to make sure that they have it.” If there’s one thing I’d like to bring to the SBC over my tenure as President its concern for the collective mission of our individual churches. I’m not looking to be a star on the speaking circuit or sell my leadership books. I don’t have any to sell. It just want to be represent the every day baptists who support our convention. I want to see well-trained and well-grounded missionaries put on the mission field to share the gospel. I want to promote boots on the ground and not schemes and stratgies. I want to have a tenure that no one remembers for anything but good stewardship and the wise appointment of trustees, not press conferences and stunts.

2. What do you want to see change in the SBC? What do you hope stays the same?

I want to see the eventual elimination of LifeWay and the Ethic and Religious Liberty Commission. These entities are an embarrassment to the convention and a reproach to the body of Christ, in my opinion. They are run by celebrity Christians like Russell Moore, Thom Rainer, and Ed Stezer who seem more like PR men and booksellers than anything. Does Christ’s church really need PR men? The Bible says the world is going to hate us. Okay, I accept that. Now, let’s go win all the lost souls we can. Let’s do it as efficiently as we can, too. To me, North America seems as lost as anywhere else. I think we should combine NAMB and IMB into once missions board with one headquarters and one support staff. We have too much bloat and bureaucracy in the SBC, both of which are expensive.

What I want to stay the same is the commitment to the innerrancy of scripture. I want our seminaries to continue to teach from this commitment. They do now and I think it’s great. I also want us to sit back and think about the sufficiency of scripture. We don’t need a bunch of modern day prophets saying “God told me” unless they can pick up a Bible and show everyone else what he told them.

3. What can you bring from your life experience, particularly in the area of missions, to the rest of the SBC?

I’m not a professional pastor. Like almost all other Southern Baptists, I’m a pew sitter. In my life, I’ve been helped most when the Bible has been faithfully and accurately proclaimed from the pulpit. I want every Southern Baptist to be a faithful proclaimer of God’s word. Sadly, our church buildings may be our most immediate mission field. Years of easy believism and aisle-walking have to led a visible church that’s much bigger than the true church. If this weren’t the case, I think we’d see more pew-sitters proclaiming the gospel at home, work, and on the streets…not just doing that but making disciples. Instead, we’ve created professional preacher and missionary classes to do this stuff for us. I think the Southern Baptist Convention is in danger of seeing itself as a service provider. “Hand us your money and will hire missionaries and lobbyists. You can just sit back and play fantasy football.” This isn’t how it should be. I want us all to be mission minded. I don’t want someone’s money if they themselves aren’t missions-minded.

Of course, I’m not at all advocating for a reduction in our professional missions staff. If there is any organization on God’s green earth that takes the gospel to the nations better than the IMB, I’d like to hear about it! I want missions to be well-funded; I think if we trim the fat in a few places, we can do that.

4. One of the most important things that an SBC President does is make appointments. What will be the primary considerations in that process for you? What role will Baptist Confessionalism play regarding the BFM2000?

I wouldn’t appoint anyone who did not assent to the BFM 2000. Furthermore, I wouldn’t appoint anyone whose church polity didn’t reflect such an assent. Article VI of the BFM 2000 states “A New Testament Church of Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers.” The current SBC President, Ronnie Floyd, has a church with satellite campuses. So, too, do current candidates JD Greear and Steve Gaines. It’s a mess. I’d look for the sort of appointee who wouldn’t be afraid to kick churches like that out of the convention, no matter how much money those churches brought in to the SBC. If a church had a woman preacher, we’d kick it out. If a church “married” gays, we’d kick it out. Yet, when a church sets up a satellite campus empire, we seem to encourage it. We elect the pastors of these churches to be presidents of the convention amidst their humble-brags of how much money their churches give to the Cooperative Program. I can only conclude that the main concerns of the the current SBC regime are money, numbers, and influence.

John Wesley very notably said, “Give me one hundred men who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they are clergy or layman, they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon the earth.” Those are the type of men I’d appoint. I know it’s ironic to quote Wesley here, since his church polity didn’t match the BMF either but his statement is dead-on. I would look to appoint trustees just like Wesley described. Level-jumpers and influence peddlers need not apply.

5. What is your perspective on the ongoing Calvinist/Non-Calvinist debate in SBC life? Will that affect your thought process in making appointments?

This debate, quite frankly, reminds me of Star Wars Episode I, The Phantom Menace. In that movie, the a Sith Lord incites two sides to fight against each other to create an unstable situation. He uses that unstable situation to rise to power. I think Anti-Calvinist people in the convention create a Calvinist boogeyman. Then, they offer their own services as heroes to come in a save the convention from the Calvinists. They create enemies so they can be a hero, that’s terrible. There’s a movie called Dragonheart that I saw when I was a little kid. In the movie, Dennis Quaid plays a knight who makes his living hunting dragons. Eventually, he conspires with a dragon played by Sean Connery to work together to fleece villages. The dragon would attack a village and the knight would come in a pretend to kill the dragon, for a fee. Then he and his partner would move on to the next village. It was all a scam.

There used to be a very real boogeyman in the convention, theological liberalism. It’s gone. That dragon is slayed. Let’s not try and create a new one that isn’t a serious threat. I’ll be clear, I am a three-point Calvinists: TUP. If you’re four or five it doesn’t bother me. If you don’t share the gospel, you don’t belong in the SBC. If you think you can convince someone to get saved outside of the power of the Holy Spirit to convict a lost person of his sins, then you don’t belong either. Everything else seems like a technicality. I wouldn’t appoint anyone who was a hyper-calvinist (I’m yet to meet on the SBC). I also wouldn’t appoint anyone who was an “I see that hand” type of emotional manipulator (sadly, I think we’re not short of these types).

We’ll find out who was right about Calvinism when Christ returns. Until them, we have the same gospel and the same Baptist beliefs. Let’s press on together and not let unnecessary divisions get in the way.

7. With the recent downsizing of the IMB overseas missions force, what can local churches do to engage in mission themselves and help strengthen our collective work through the IMB?

I think local churches need to decide if they need giant buildings, Disneyesque children’s areas, and fog machines more than the world needs missionaries. Where should the money go? Let me be clear that local churches don’t owe the convention or the IMB any money. SBC cooperation is voluntary cooperation. Local churches need to decide if the IMB shares their mission. If it does, then they can get together and help the IMB. If not, they don’t have to participate. I understand that local church leaders are probably wary of donating to the IMB right. It hasn’t modeled good stewardship. If it does, I think local churches will be more than happy to partner with it.

8. What role do you think the Cooperative Program and denominational giving should play in SBC life and our work together?

None. I actually have written a book but it’s not for sale at LifeWay. It’s an e-book an it’s available for free to whoever wants to Google it and find it. The name of the book is The Cooperative Program and the Road to Serfdom. In that book I describe how the Cooperative Program is a product of 1920s era progressivism It’s terrible inefficiency and fund a big bureaucracy. It amazes me that local churches who don’t show up to vote at the annual convention still send in precious funds to the convention through the Cooperative Program. Giving to the Cooperative Program seems like some of the worst stewardship I can imagine. Other candidates for SBC Presidents run on how much money they give to the Cooperative Program. I’m running on the fact that I don’t give any.

9. The vast majority of SBC churches have under 200 people in attendance. What role do they play in SBC life? How can you help increase the involvement of smaller churches and their pastors in denominational leadership?

Exactly what is “SBC life”? The SBC technically exists once a year. Local churches exist every day. We don’t need to get together and get involved in “SBC Life,” whatever that is. Is it conference tours and books sales? Seriously, what is it?

The SBC should, in my opinion, do two main things: finance full-time missionaries and baptist education. I think we can do this efficiently by, like I said, trimming the fat. Furthermore, we shouldn’t need stellar leadership to do this. We just need some common sense people, I don’t care how big their church is or what color they are, to manage SBC causes in humility and out of care for others.

10. When you talk to young people and particularly young church planters, how would you encourage them to participate in the SBC?

I tell people, young and old, to not give one red penny to the Cooperative Program. I encourage them to identify seminaries and missions organizations that impress them and practice good stewardship and give to those institutions. Quite frankly, the world doesn’t need the SBC. It just needs the local church. The moment the SBC becomes more concerned with pulling in young people or being more “diverse” just so it can perpetuate itself if the moment it loses relevance. The church did fine without the SBC for 1815 years. God doesn’t need the SBC. The SBC needs God. He’ll deliver the people he sees fit to deliver.

11. What do you think of the Fake Seth Dunn Twitter account? Inquiring minds want to know. Who is behind this Twiter account?

I think it’s great. It’s actually run by me and the account description says as much. It’s a parody of me. I don’t really Tweet from it that much. Twitter can be a cesspool and I don’t interact their as much as I do in other social media outlets. People who operate anonymous Twitter accounts are anathema to me. People need to man up and put their names behind what they say. I think there are a lot of people who will agree with what I have to say here and my campaign platform, but they won’t tweet it out for fear of man. I’m not interested in building a big convention mega career. I don’t want in with the SBC establishment. I’m going to say what I think. I hope those who agree with me won’t be afraid to take on the establishment with me.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

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Seth Dunn for SBC President

Like most of the millions of Southern Baptists in this world, I am not professional pastor. I’m just a regular lay person from a small church. I’m appalled to see the direction of my denomination. For far too long it’s been run by a cabal of well-to-do megapreachers from well-to-do megachurches. These mega men, in my opinion, exist to sell their own books, speak at each others’ conferences, and push their unbiblical brand of satellite campus McChurch. I’m tired of it. They don’t represent me and they don’t represent most Southern Baptists. Someone needs to bring back order and accountability. I can be that someone. I’m a seminary-educated, lifelong attender of Southern Baptist Churches. I care for my denomination but I don’t care for the political games of the mega class. These men strive to nominate each other to lucrative positions of power and control the money of thousands of SBC givers. It’s time to nominate a regular layman to take their place. As a Certified Public Accountant, it’s been my job to keep people accountable. It’s time to keep our denomination accountable. Encourage the messengers from your church to nominate and vote for Seth Dunn to the office or President of the Southern Baptist Convention

The Issues

The Cooperative Program

My church doesn’t give a dime to the Cooperative Program. No church should. Cooperative Program giving puts millions of dollars into the control of layer after layer of state and national convention bureaucrats. Southern Baptist causes should be supported by direct giving, not by inefficient indirect funding managed by the intelligentsia. The most worthwhile SBC causes are missions and education. As SBC President, I would discourage local churches from funding the inefficient fiscal nightmare that is the Cooperative Program and opt to give directly to the International Mission Board and our seminaries. Past SBC Presidents and current candidates tend to commit thousands upon thousands of dollars to the Cooperative Program from the deep coffers of their megachurches. It’s almost as if they are trying to buy the presidency with their own church’s money. Giving to the Cooperative Program doesn’t prove that one cares about the SBC. The Cooperative Program is a detriment to the SBC. I prove I care by not giving it a dime.

The City of God vs. the City of Man

As SBC President, I would call for the end of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. God’s people do not need to employee six-figure lobbyists with offices in Nashville and Washington DC. The prayers of the saints are all the petition the church needs. Our seminary professors are more than capable of providing local pastors and local churches with guidance on emerging ethical issues. It is my sincere desire to send ERLC President and former democratic congressional staffer, Russell Moore, packing. When you mix religion and politics, you get politics. I’ve had enough of politics, just give me that old time religion.

LifeWay Christian Resources

Much material sold in LifeWay stores is not fit for Christian consumption. The way the SBC profits from the sale of heretical books such as Jesus Calling is shameful and sinful. LifeWay is little better than a pill mill, it’s an embarrassment. As SBC president, I would call for the end of LifeWay retail book-selling operations. The SBC should be out of the Christian retail business; it’s a dirty one. We should return to the days when LifeWay was “The Sunday School Board.” The organization should focus on producing quality Sunday School literature and publishing academic and conservative theological books. As SBC President, there is nothing I’d like to do more than see Thom Rainer and Ed Stetzer sent to the back of the unemployment line.

Education

The best defenders of the faith are educated ones. As SBC President I would encourage our seminaries to offer free, online bible interpretation and Christian Apologetics classes to laypeople. Our convention seminaries employ some of the best conservative theologians in the world. Sadly, our laity consumes some of the worst theological material (such as the weak ladies studies offered at LifeWay). Our laity needs to be brought under the influence of sound bible teachers instead of being sold fanciful stories of heaven tourism.

Streamlining Missions Operations

As SBC President, I would push for the merging of the North American Mission Board with the International Mission Board. Southern Baptists can hardly win the world when we can’t even hold the South! My own bible belt county in Georgia is 80% unchurched. The whole world is a mission field and it doesn’t need to be split between North America and everywhere else. With the IMB running a multi-million dollar deficit and calling home nearly 1,000 missionaries, there is little justification to maintain separate, expensive headquarters and support staff for the IMB and NAMB.

Baptist Distinctiveness

The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 means something. I would not compromise biblical principles by partnering with wild, charismatic organizations. This practice needs to stop. We don’t need the help of so-called modern day Apostles and their tongue-speaking cohorts. We serve a mighty God and can unite under our biblical distinctive to serve him.

Trustees

The most important duty of the SBC President is to appoint trustees  (technically to appoint members of the committee that facilitates the trustee appointment process) . I have no desire to appoint kiss-up sycophant trustees who are angling for the lucrative salary of the next convention job that comes available. As SBC President, I’ll appoint trustees who are concerned with respectful stewardship of convention resources. You won’t find me and my trustees gallivanting around the country creating press releases; we’ll work quietly in the background to get things done.

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I hope you’ll consider the great need to change the direction of the SBC and vote #Dunn2016.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

An Open Letter to the Members of North Point Ministries Churches

Dear Members of North Point Ministries Churches,

In the past few days, I have read four open letters written to Andy Stanley; one from Jonathan Aigner, one from Tom Buck, one from Hardin Crowder, and one from Dave Richmond.  These letters were written in response to Stanley’s recent derisive comments about small churches.  You’ve likely never heard of any of these men.  My name is Seth Dunn.  I doubt you’ve heard of me.  Neither I nor any of the men mentioned above are anywhere near as famous as the man who calls himself your pastor.  Like the men mentioned above, I am writing an open letter.  Yet, I’m not writing an open letter to one man, to Andy Stanley.  I’m not calling on him to repent or change his ways.  I’m writing an open letter to you.  Like you, I’m not a professional pastor, just a church-going Christian.  There is one Andy Stanley and there are thousands of you.  I’m hoping and praying that some of you will take my words to heart and take action.  I think you should stop giving your time to the churches of North Point Ministries.  I think you should stop using your talents to advance the goals of the churches of North Point Ministries.  I think you should stop giving your money to the churches of North Point Ministries.  I think you’re being had and I think it needs to stop.

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.  If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth.” 1 Peter 1:14-17

In 1995, Andy Stanley with a sour taste in his mouth from First Baptist Atlanta and his father Charles set out to do something that didn’t make biblical sense.  He set out to create “churches that unchurched people love to attend.”  Stanley’s idea to do so, while novel is hardly wise.  You see, the church isn’t something that a person attends at all.  The church is a body, not an event.  The Greek word translated as “church” in our English Bibles is the word “ekklésia”.  That word describes a group of believers called out from the world and set apart as holy to God.  Since the first century, the church has gathered together in local assemblies to worship God and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.   The church, the body of Christ, exists to honor God.  Those people who are lost in sin, who are dead in sin, are not a part of the church.  In fact, they are at enmity with God.  According to what’s written in the Bible, they shouldn’t at all enjoy the activities and beliefs of the church.  Yet, Andy Stanley set out to create local churches to which non-Christians (the “unchurched”) would be irresistibly attracted.  He’s put forth a twenty-year-long effort to make his vision of a church for the unchurched a reality and, now, more than 30,000 people attended services at North Point Ministries Churches each week.   How did he do it?

“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 18:24

Stanley did it the same way McDonald’s has done it.  There is something for everybody; McDonald’s has coffee for the adults and playgrounds for the kids.  Customers can expect the same food and the same service at any McDonald’s at which they stop.  They can also expect the things that they don’t like about other restaurants, like high prices, snooty attitudes, and hoighty-toighty dress codes, to be absent.  They can expect the same favorable environment.  Stanley has created a favorable environment for Bible-belt residents who don’t like church.  For one thing, Stanley made sure there were no crosses on the building in which the church meets, lest the unchurched people he was trying to attract be offended by this notable symbol of Christendom.   North Point church lays out top dollar to hire the most talented musicians available to play secular rock music at his church amidst concert-quality lighting effects.  Small group leaders aren’t required to be biblically knowledgeable but rather just willing to facilitate the church’s assigned bible studies.  Stanley’s sermons resemble feel good life-coaching rather than convicting expositions of scripture.   Going to a North Point Ministries Church is designed to be fun.  Like McDonalds, Stanley has created a certain environment…and franchised it.

The biblical model church looks nothing like North Point Ministries.  Stanley has created a mother church with satellite campuses staffed by “campus” pastors.  There is no such thing as a campus pastor in the scripture.  Rather, the biblical model is one in which every local church is self-governing.  Stanley’s is more representative of the Roman Catholic colossus than independent local churches.  Frankly, although many of you call Andy Stanley your pastor, he doesn’t even know your name.  He’s hired out other people to organize community groups, let by volunteers who do know your name.  Maybe your community group is your local church.  I ask you, for what do you need Andy Stanley and his franchise?  He provides the light show, the rock music, and the feel-good motivational speech every Sunday.  New Testament people of God need none of those things.  You don’t need his mega organization.  It needs you.  It needs you and your money for funding but, quite frankly, Andy Stanley is a man who has set himself up as a high-paid leadership guru and pawned you off on a volunteer whose job it is to facilitate your small group times.  That’s not a pastor, that’s a business man.

Andy Stanley, in my sincere opinion, is a businessman in the business of attracting people.  He uses, like so many others have, a veneer of religion to create community.  Andy Stanley, in my sincere opinion, only apologized for his offensive comments about small churches because of the potential of his comments to hurt his conference speaking and book sales revenues.  For the franchisor, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if the coffee and Happy Meals are bad for the customer’s health.  It matters if customers keep coming back, enticed by the experience, at rates significant enough to make up for the drop of any customers lost.  North Point Church members, you are customers.

“He’s a great humanitarian, he’s a great philanthropist.  He knows just where to touch you, honey, and how you like to be kissed.” Man of Peace, Bob Dylan

Andy Stanley, you need to realize this, saw you coming.  Your parents took you to church dressed in stuffy clothes to sit with stuffy people you didn’t like.  There were phonies.  There were legalists.  Some people were mean.  The pastor didn’t seem to care about you.  The music was lame.  It was pretentious.  You needed somewhere to go but not there, not to the stuffy church status quo.  So, you left and ended up at North Point.  They let you come as you were.  You didn’t have to change; you didn’t have to act different.  All you’ve done is jump from the frying pan to the fire.   Andy Stanley, with intention, created an environment that would attract you.  It didn’t have anything to do with biblical fidelity; it had everything to do with marketing.  You’ve been had.  You can find friends and community at any old organization.  The church is supposed to be something more.  As counterintuitive as it may sound to you, the church is supposed to be exclusive…members only.  There is one requirement for membership, turning over your life to Jesus Christ; repenting of your sin and living the rest of your life for His glory.  This involved a life change that is not attractive to those who haven’t found Christ.  Those who haven’t found Christ may be very fond of the rock show environment of a North Point megachurch but they will never be fond of Christ.

If you truly are a follower of Christ, if you really have found rest in Him, I encourage you to leave North Point.  Your friends from your community group will still be your friends and God will still be your God…but you’ll be out of Andy’s great experiment (and he probably won’t notice you’ve gone).   I promise you, it will be good for you and your family.  An adoctrinal ear-tickler knew your frustrations and played on them.  He saw you coming.  Ask yourself if North Point sermons generally challenge you about your sin or your lifestyle (like maybe some of these sermons at the stuffy old off-putting church of your youth did).  Ask yourself if lost people are challenged by those sermons and if those people, those people dead in their sin, enjoy them.  Like I said, you’ve been had.  Now… you know it, maybe you had already figured it out before reading this but you haven’t been sure about leaving.

You have a decision to make.  If you choose to leave, it’s not likely that many will come out with you.  I don’t expect 30,000 people to read this letter and empty the seats at North Point.  I do expect to a few to do so.  I expect a few to come to the realization to which so many others have come.  Christians don’t belong at North Point Ministries.  They belong at a local body of believers that respects the word of God found in the Bible.  I’m not out to sell you books or get your tithe money.  I’m just a regular Christian who wants what is best for you and your family.  You may be reading this convinced that I’m wrong about Andy Stanley; you may think him sincere and well-intentioned.  Does it matter?  If he is sincere, he is sincerely unbiblical.  When we all stand before God’s judgment (knowing that the road to Hell is sometimes paved with good intentions) it will only matter if we were sincerely biblical.

Make your move.  You won’t regret it.  Stay at North Point and I think you will.

Sincerely,

Seth Dunn

PS.  I invite former members of North Point Churches and those contemplating leaving to share their stories in the comment section.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

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Christian Commute Archvies

The player below contains archived episodes of my podcast, The Christian Commute.  I currently rent 2 GB of space from my podcast vendor, Podomatic.  From time to time, I have to delete episodes from the Podomatic server to make room for new ones.  Archived episodes can also be found, by title, and streamed at my archive.org site.  Archived episodes can also be downloaded from there.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.