Greg Linscott

Some Random Musings…

Category: The Blogosphere

Reflections, Part 3- Theological/Practical Concerns

Part 1 Part 2

Another common objection that has been aired is differences in doctrine and practice between churches like those in the MBA and the positions  and practices of MacArthur and Johnson. I will list and address some of the most frequently cited ones.

  • Speakers who have Charismatic/Continuationist leanings. GCC has in relatively recent days used C.J. Mahaney of Sovereign Grace Ministries to speak from the GCC pulpit and be featured as a main speaker for a conference directed toward college-aged people. John Piper would be another example of a well-known individual who has articulated a continuationist position.
  • Matters of Polity. John MacArthur and GCC are unapologetic advocates of elder rule, a modified system of Presbyterianism that does not include a human authority structure over multiple local congregations.
  • Theological Points of Disagreement. Well-publicized issues over the years would include the Lordship salvation issue, the blood/death of Jesus, and the eternal sonship of Christ.
  • Music. Need I say more?

The first matter is, like Mohler’s, complicated. There have been a lot of things I have heard and appreciated that have originated from people in the Sovereign Grace Ministries orb. I use and recommend Dave Harvey’s When Sinners Say I Do, for example, as a good resource for marriage or pre-marital counseling. How Can I Change? by Mahaney and Robin Boisvert is another good counseling resource. Many of the materials authored by Joshua Harris that I have read have value, and I would generally commend them to you. It should also be noted that things in that group are in a state of upheaval due to a couple of highly-publicized scandals, which I will not address here, not because they aren’t important, but because the point here is doctrinal/practical position, and not the conduct and behavior that deviated from their own established principles based on God’s Word.

Optimized-StrangeFire-GracetoYou-JohnMacArthurOne thing I think has to be taken into consideration is how John MacArthur (and Phil Johnson) have confronted the Charismatic matter directly. If you are going to do any reading or preparation on the matter at all, if you don’t go to Charismatic Chaos, you do yourself a disservice. It is a great resource, and JMac’s position comes out very clearly in it. To build on that, next month, their church is hosting a conference (and will publish a subsequent book on the theme) under the title of Strange Fire, confronting these matters quite directly. Their overall position as unapologetic champions of cessationism is well-documented and well-established.

Another consideration overlaps into the next matter. As prominent as MacArthur is nationally, he is not, in the end, a supreme dictator on all matters, but is one of several elders. My understanding is that the original invitation to Mahaney was not MacArthur’s personal idea. Putting it another way (though it isn’t a fully even parallel)- there are men in the leadership of the MBA who were not in agreement with the Phil Johnson invitation, and though that decision met the overall approval of the executive board, it was not, in the end, a unanimous decision. We Fundamentalists aren’t the only ones who have to live with decisions we aren’t always fully supportive of. I expect that would be to some degree applicable to the matter at hand.

The idea of polity differences is another frequently cited concern. As independent Baptists, we tend to favor some form of congregationalism (the “P” in B-A-P-T-I-S-T, of course,  being the priesthood of the believer!), usually coupled with a single pastor/several deacons arrangement. In the interests of full disclosure, this is currently the arrangement at our church, and we have no immediate or long-range plans to alter it.

At the same time, I know of several settings where Fundamentalists have had a form of polity similar to what is advocated and practiced at GCC. There are Bible churches in New England I know of, whose roots are in the IFCA, who have basically the same kind of polity structure as GCC. They used to invite some of the professors from my alma mater to speak at their Bible conferences all the time.

One of the knocks against TMC/TMS graduates can be that they have a reputation for going into a church with a long-time established history and practice of Congregationalist polity, and quickly bringing it to a point of upheaval and division because of their quick implementation of plural elder governance. This is a perspective I have heard from more than one GARBC pastor in the West. In my conversations with Phil, interestingly enough, he acknowledged the problem, saying that 1. The reputation was well-deserved, and 2. It was a problem. “I counsel these guys all the time to back off,” Phil said to me very candidly, noting that while they were convinced of the position, it did not rank high enough to divide a church over.

Without trying to make a hard case for one position over the other, one frequent objection I have heard communicated on this specific point is, “Well, they aren’t Baptist! Whatever else I might see in our MBA documents, the only pertinent passage in our Confession of Faith says that a “gospel church” is to be “governed by (Christ’s) laws,” and “that its only Scriptural officers are Bishops, or Pastors, and Deacons, whose qualifications, claims, and duties are defined in the epistles to Timothy and Titus.” However more specific any of us would get in our application, I do not think there would be anything there that would preclude a church that practiced either of the models I have referenced. In other words, it is possible to be a Baptist congregation and advocate some forms of plural eldership.

There have also been objections where Theological Points of Disagreement have been cited. I’ve mentioned some of the specific issues above. Without taking the time to analyze each one thoroughly, I have heard positions advocated by MacArthur in his “Lordship” materials, for example, from others in decidedly Fundamentalist settings (such as the FBFI, for one example). While not everyone would support everything he has said in these areas, I doubt every Fundamentalist Baptist would want to identify with every single, specific position someone like Mark Minnick has championed over the years, either. There are going to be some differences in our conclusions. Unanimity on every issue ought not to be a requirement for any form of collaboration.

I’ve said enough for now. I’ll give music its own post, next.


Reflections, Part 2- The Charge of Inconsistent Separation: The Matter of Mohler

Carl F. H. Henry, R. Albert Mohler, and Billy Graham talking during the week of Dr. Mohler's inauguration-

Carl F. H. Henry, R. Albert Mohler, and Billy Graham talking during the week of Dr. Mohler’s inauguration, 1993

When critiquing the selection of Phil Johnson as the speaker for this year’s Men’s Fellowship, a common concern that was raised was the inconsistent practice of separation. When asked to elaborate further, many people would point to the frequent inclusion of Albert Mohler as a speaker at Shepherds Conference. Albert Mohler is the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. One of the concerns most frequently cited with Dr. Mohler is his association with Billy Graham. Mohler chaired the Graham Crusade in Louisville in 2000. The seminary is also home to the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Ministry.

The Mohler issue is complicated. The conservative resurgence within the Convention has been well documented, and there is no doubt that Mohler has been among the most important figures in the movement. There is also no getting around the fact that Billy Graham has been a prominent presence within the SBC (not to mention American Evangelicalism) for decades. As I am understanding it, Mohler has explained that at the time he was asked to chair the crusade, he had expended most of his convention capital by purging the liberals from the seminary, and could ill-afford to alienate Graham supporters by distancing himself from the crusade. My understanding (and this is a fact worth is worth noting) though, that his agreement to associate with the crusade was conditioned upon there being no Roman Catholics or theological liberals involved in the Louisville effort- a condition the BGEA quietly consented to.

Regarding the matter of the school of Missions, Evangelism, and Ministry- it is my understanding that Mohler’s reforming was a process of years. One of the things that accelerated the transition process from theological liberalism to theological conservatism was the establishment of the School of Evangelism- a new institution under the Southern Seminary umbrella, that allowed an entire faculty to be built immediately from the ground up, while the School of Theology went through a more deliberate process of time. This new school was funded by a substantial donation by the BGEA.

Pastor’s School, Hammond, IN, 2008

Now, as someone firmly entrenched in a heritage of separatism, I understand why this course of action is of concern to many. At the same time, making changes, especially substantial changes such as the ones undertaken by Mohler and his conservative SBC colleagues, will not happen overnight. Even within our own historical tradition, there have been those who determined to remain and reform rather than immediately departing, and remained until they were expelled. It is possible to identify with someone’s position, disposition, and convictions without affirming everything in someone’s methods. I believe history will show that like Josiah of old, Mohler  was a man who eventually “purged the land,” though even in Josiah’s case, the process is said to have come to a state of completion in Josiah’s 18th year. To disparage PJ/JMac for association with Mohler who was associated with Billy Graham would be like disparaging Bob Jones University, who is associated with Ron Hamilton, who was associated with Jack Schaap… but I digress.

My observation is that under scrutiny, almost anyone will have a charge of inconsistency that will stick somewhere. The matter of association with Mohler is not, in my mind, any more problematic than  partnerships and identifications forged within Fundamentalism over the last decade or more.

To be continued…

Reflections on the 2013 MBA Men’s Fellowship, Part 1

Back in 2005, I had the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a fledgling discussion forum and group blog. I had already had some interaction as a participant on a few internet discussion sites, including a closed Baptist fundamentalist forum for youth ministers for a short-lived organization called Youth Imperative, and discussion on some other sites regarding Positive Action for Christ’s God-Focused youth worker’s conference. That site would be called Sharper Iron. It generated some early buzz, including discussion of Kevin Bauder’s “A Fundamentalism Worth Saving,” and site publisher Jason Janz’s “Young Fundamentalist Survey.” However, the item that really caused the biggest splash in those early days was the publication of a workshop Phil Johnson of Grace to You had presented at the 2005 Shepherds Conference, entitled “Dead Right: The Failure of Fundamentalism.” There was a tremendous amount of discussion, the most notable interaction taking place between Phil himself and David Doran, pastor of Inter-City Baptist Church and president of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary in Allen Park, MI (link 1 link2).

Since those days, I have found it interesting to see how conversations in the “blogosphere” have influenced matters in the “real world.” On a local scale, one of our most active church members here in Marshall came to our church from a more charismatic congregation. One of the things that God used to lead him to our congregation was reading Phil Johnson’s blog, “Pyromaniac,” and determining that Phil’s general doctrinal positions lined up with what was taught at First Baptist. Speaking more broadly, I think many people who either read or were involved in the discussion began to slowly change their perceptions of those once thought to be on the “opposing side.” One of the most recent manifestations of that took place earlier this month, when Phil served as the keynote speaker for the 2013 Men’s Fellowship for the Minnesota Baptist Association, an event for which I serve as the president (which means I coordinate that event).

Let me say that from the beginning, this was not a decision made without controversy. There was some resistance within the MBA ranks- and there were some who communicated to me that the only reason they did not attend the event was because of their opposition to the choice of speaker. When I would ask these individual to elaborate, concerns generally came down to…

  1. Inconsistent Practice of Separation.
  2. Theological/Practical Concerns.
  3. Music.

In the days to come, I plan to elaborate on each of these points, explaining in greater detail the concerns that were communicated to me as I understand them.  I also plan to clarify my own reasoning behind extending the invitation in spite of these concerns.

Perhaps you’ll find it interesting…

For those of you who might be interested…

…I have had two submissions published in the latest edition of the GARBC’s publication The Baptist Bulletin:
“The Blogging Pastor” and an accompanying review of The Blogging Church by Brian Bailey (with Terry Storch).

To My Fundamentalist Readers: What Have You Changed Your Mind About?

Prompted by Rod Dreher, I thought this would be an interesting way to begin the 2008 blog year. What have you, my readers, changed your mind about?

Immoderate Church Planting…

bbcer.jpgRyan Martin, blogger of some note, is featured in this month’s North Star Update, a publication of the Minnesota Baptist Association.

It is still unclear how he managed to convince the others to actually be pictured with him… 😀

Why I Love Brian McCrorie

Recently, an online friend of mine has mentioned that he feels he has wasted time in a conversation with me. Frankly, that’s a bit disappointing, particularly because he seems to think that in the process I haven’t been very loving.

Anyone who has followed the Fundamentalist Blogosphere knows that there has probably not been a person who agrees with me less than Brian McCrorie (whom I affectionately think of as BMc). That being said,I do believe Brian is a dear brother in Christ, and there are things I admire about him.

1. Brian is Loyal
Brian stands up for his friends- even when they may have been involved in unpopular, controversial matters. I can only imagine that Brian would be the kind of man you would find next to you as Paul did with Luke in 2 Timothy 4:11.

2. Brian is Passionate
I have often thought to myself that Brian doesn’t know how to be passive about much of anything. From his feverish embrace of Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee to his frequent promotion of Sharper-Iron-The-Best-Website-EVER, Brian is obviously a man of great enthusiasm. He brings to mind Ecclesiastes 9:10a (KJV)-

Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might;

3. Brian is Sensitive
Brian strikes me as a man of sensitivity and compassion. In this day of self-absorption and selfishness, this is truly something that should be lauded (Ephesians 4:32).

Brian, though we don’t often see eye to eye, you are my brother in Christ, and I am a better man for knowing you. God bless you in your ministry.

Noah Braymen Recaps the Weekender

Noah Braymen, a Des Moines native I had the pleasure of meeting this weekend, recaps the experience of the Weekender. Noah is an intern at CHBC. You may find his report of interest.

Together for the Gospel ’07

L to R: Ben Wright, Ryan Martin, and me.

Had an intense but very profitable time at the 9 Marks Weekender. I hope to post a report in the next day or two. Thanks to the folks at CHBC for serving the Lord and ministering to those of us who attended.

Mark Dever giving a “show of hands” invitational… 😉

Chicago 17, “In The Garden”, and Subtle Damage

When I was in high school, my best friend introduced me to the pop/rock group Chicago. If my memory serves me correctly, between the end of my sophomore and senior years, he and I wore out no less than 8 copies of the Chicago 17 tape between the two of us. Even today, I can still reproduce from memory some of the lyrics. I will spare you the exercise of reproducing such winners as “Hard Habit to Break,” “Stay the Night,” and so on. I’m guessing that at least some of you who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s are familiar with the material in question. But let’s look at the fairly innocent song, “You’re The Inspiration”:

You know our love was meant to be
The kind of love to last forever.
And I want you here with me
From tonight until the end of time.
You should know
Everywhere I go
Always on my mind
In my heart, in my soul, Baby-

You’re the meaning in my life,
You’re the inspiration.
You bring feeling to my life-
You’re the inspiration.
While I have you near me
I wanna have you hear me say (yeah)-
“No one needs you more than I need you.”

As someone who now has been married to his lovely wife going on 13 years this February, I must say this really bears little resemblance to what real love between a man and woman is all about. Read the rest of this entry »