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Archive for the ‘pragmatism’ Category

As noted here in a couple of previous posts, I am an alumnus of Louisiana College and a native of Alexandria. That being said, with the plethora of other issues on my plate, I had no plans to make any further comment on the situation at LC. However, it has come to my attention that an article has been published in the Baptist Message that reportedly focuses exclusively on Calvinism as being the source of the problems at LC. (One must pay to read the article in full, and I’m not a paying subscriber.)

No doubt Calvinism is a significant issue in the Louisiana Baptist Convention and it was the proximate cause for the latest controversy that has  resulted in LC once again appearing in the headlines of the local media and beyond. That being said, I wonder if those of you who are concerned about a perceived undue Calvinistic influence at LC could answer some questions for me.

As Dr. Aguillard noted in his statement regarding Calvinism and LC, he was chosen in part because he is not a Calvinist. As many of you know, another leading candidate for President at that time is a Calvinist and many on the Board of Trustees at that time did not want to see a strong Calvinistic influence at LC. Why then has Dr. Aguillard (until now) aided and abetted the Calvinistic influence at LC since 2005?  Since the liberals (or “moderates”) left the religion/theology department, (and I had long thought that that needed to happen) I’m not sure if there has ever been a time in which the majority of the full time Biblical Studies faculty have not been Calvinistic. If that is a bit of an overstatement, it certainly seems to me that there has always been a high percentage of Calvinists on the faculty since Dr. Aguillard assumed office and new faculty began to be appointed to fill vacancies in that department. Given their educational background and other factors, everybody knew or should have known that these men were Calvinists. Why is this only now becoming an issue? Are there no non-Calvinist faculty who could have been brought in instead? If a football coach is directed not to bring in certain kinds of players and he repeatedly does it anyway, what should be the result? If LC has indeed become “Geneva on the Red” as some Louisiana Baptists have alleged, who ultimately is to blame for this development?

Moreover, why was a Oneness Pentecostal on the LC faculty for several years? He was not on the religion faculty but he hosted a campus radio program that addressed spiritual topics and thus had a spiritual influence on the students. Getting rid of liberals and replacing them with those who are associated with heretical ministries isn’t quite the kind of change I can believe in. That’s the case for me even if it has only happened once. In addition, the Oneness group Phillips Craig and Dean performed at LC in 2005 (also on Dr. Aguillard’s watch) and ordained Oneness minister Randy Phillips reportedly spoke in chapel.  This cooperation with Oneness Pentecostals calls into question the level of commitment to the stated goal of returning LC to its Biblical and Baptist roots. Would M.E. Dodd or Edwin O. Ware have approved of such? Are we to infer from this that having a faculty member who is affiliated with a non-Trinitarian ministry and who had a spiritual influence on the campus is not seen as a serious issue by Louisiana Baptists?  I can assure you that some impressionable students as well as others will draw that conclusion, sadly.  This too was no secret as the man in question had a regular column in the Town Talk that noted his affiliation with a Pineville congregation that is affiliated with the United Pentecostals. I wonder what other involvement (especially with regard to spiritual influence) these non-evangelicals and non-Trinitarians have had at Louisiana College since 2005. The fact that they are not in the SBC aside, do any of you  believe that Oneness Pentecostal theology and practice is less problematic than that of Calvinistic Baptists?

While a significant Calvinist presence is naturally an issue at Louisiana College in a state where the convention is overwhelmingly non-Calvinist, it seems to me that there are more pressing issues with regard to the core curriculum, infrastructure, accreditation, etc. While the Christian Studies division is of obvious concern to pastors and those with an interest in what kind of religious teaching is going on there, the majority of students are not in that program. For years LC has had a quality nursing program and has also done very well in having students accepted to professional schools such as medical school and law school.  A good many students are likely to leave if the cloud of fear and uncertainty over LC doesn’t clear soon.

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Some of the most viewed posts in the history of this blog have concerned certain controversial teachings and actions of Mark Driscoll and especially the response (or lack thereof) from Calvinistic leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention and elsewhere who I thought should know better.  It was certainly the period in which I was most active in blogging, both here and elsewhere.  (Hopefully I will start posting more regularly in the near future.) To find these 2009 posts, you can click the “Mark Driscoll” category in the sidebar to the right, with the more important posts being here, here, and here.)

This evening while checking Twitter (a rare occurrence these days) I happened upon this review by Dr. Denny Burk of Mark and Grace Driscoll’s book Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together.  While the book evidently includes a good bit of profitable material, (as is the case with Driscoll’s ministry as a whole) apparently the content in the book regarding sexual practices within the confines of marriage goes beyond what some of us took issue with in the blog battle royal in which I was engaged in 2009.

After reading Dr. Burk’s review, I posted the following comment on that post:

Thank you for this review. I found your discussion of 1 Cor. 6:12 to be particularly helpful in light of how it is often used today.

While there is much to admire in Mark Driscoll’s ministry, I am sorry that he has chosen to put into print some of the things that have previously been hinted at on his website with regard to what many would consider to be questionable and/or deviant sexual practices within the confines of marriage. This includes (or in the recent past included) a link on the Mars Hill website to the website of a Christian sex toy vendor where sodomy was also discussed. But I have to say when looking into this issue a few years ago that I don’t recall any mention there or elsewhere of female on male sodomy!

Well, one plus (if you can call it that) is that now this is very clearly out in the open and those raising concerns cannot be accused of just dredging up the old cussing accusations. When I blogged several times about this almost three years ago, that was often the response, along with accusations of being a prudish rube from the “Old South” who doesn’t understand what it takes to reach people today in what is largely a post-Christian (if only in a nominal sense) culture. Ironically, my past is very likely much more wicked than the vast majority of those who defended the approach you call into question in this post, with some of them being pastors who are sons of prominent SBC ministers and in general being men who were raised in conservative evangelical homes.

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Your humble correspondent has long feared that some of the well known evangelical signatories to this document have at various times and to varying degrees pursued religion as a way to achieve political ends by other means.  It appears that my worst fears may be realized.

I make that statement not to necessarily call their genuine Christianity into question, but to question their judgment.  In recent decades, when there has been an opportunity for evangelicals to cooperate for some political end with those who confess another gospel, too often the gospel has received the short shrift.  After all, it’s much easier to attract large numbers for the sake of some political cause (however laudable) than it is to attract them with the gospel.

What is particularly ironic is that a number of evangelicals who have promoted the Manhattan Declaration and who are seeking to use their influence to persuade others to sign it have of late been calling for evangelicals to become more “Gospel Centered.”  Yet the Manhattan Declaration is a document that, like Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) of the 1990’s, affirms as Christian those who clearly do not confess the same gospel. It is particularly troubling to see those who have previously criticized such ecumenical initiatives sign on to this one.  Despite the claims of some prominent signatories to the contrary (claims which have been contradicted by at least one of the framers of the Manhattan Declaration, Chuck Colson, who was also one of the principals in ECT) I submit that the Manhattan Declaration is cut from the same cloth as ECT.

No compromise you say?  The Manhattan Declaration and ECT are apples and oranges?  Unfortunately, I cannot agree.  How can the following statements from the declaration (among others that could be cited) be anything but compromise, given that it is a joint declaration by Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and evangelicals?

We make this commitment not as partisans of any political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

we are compelled by our Christian faith

We are Christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences…

A truly prophetic Christian witness

It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season.   May God help us not to fail in that duty.

May God help us indeed.  In what sense could the evangelical signatories to this document be said to have proclaimed the Gospel by this action?  How is this a “truly prophetic Christian witness?”  I submit that it can only be said to be such if what amounts to the Social Gospel is in view.  A conservative Social Gospel will no more save than the liberal one.  God forbid that the Gospel be exchanged for a mess of ecumenical pottage.

John MacArthur, James White, Frank Turk, among others, have posted responses delineating why they cannot sign the document.  I commend their responses to your reading.

All the above being said, the document does have many statements that are unobjectionable.  Furthermore, I have no quarrel with co-belligerence with those of any faith or no faith on issues of mutual concern.  What is at issue is yoking together with non-evangelicals under the banner of Christianity when we are in fundamental disagreement over what a Christian is.

Unfortunately (for the sake of discussion of this topic) the holidays are upon us and I am unable to post at length regarding this issue at this time.  I may unpack things a bit further in the near future.

For the uninitiated, here are articles on ECT by James White and Geoffrey Thomas.

I also recommend reading Erwin Lutzer’s Why The Cross Can Do What Politics Can’t and John MacArthur’s Why Government Can’t Save You.

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I have been dealing with other priorities lately and haven’t been keeping up with the various blogs as I had been in the recent past.  But in case you haven’t seen them, here are some links to get you up to speed if so inclined:

Expository Thoughts links to several recent posts, including John MacArthur’s series “The Rape of Solomon’s Song.”  There were numerous comments on each of those posts that I haven’t begun to wade through yet.  For follow-up discussion on the Expository Thoughts site, see here.

For further discussion involving the TeamPyro bloggers, Tom Ascol and yours truly, see here.

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HT:  Chadwick Ivester

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