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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Baptism, Communion, & Local Church Membership

A debate has been circling the blogs regarding the relationship between Baptism, Communion, and Local Church Membership. It began as far as I can tell when John Piper responded through the Desiring God Blog to the change made in Wayne Grudem's systematic theology textbook concerning baptism. Previously, Grudem wrote in favor of allowing both credobaptistic and paedobaptistic views to be allowed within a single denomination and its local churches. However, he has personally changed his view. The compromise within a local church to allow both seems to be too great for the credo-baptist.

The meat of Piper's response comes when he says:
When I weigh the kind of imperfection involved in tolerating an invalid baptism because some of our members are deeply persuaded that it is biblically valid, over against the kind of imperfection involved in saying to a son or daughter of the living God, “You are excluded from the local church,” my biblical sense is that the latter is more unthinkable than the former. The local church is a visible expression of the invisible, universal, body of Christ. To exclude from it is virtually the same as excommunication. And no serious church takes excommunication as an invitation to attend the church down the street.
You can find Grudem's response to Piper's here. It was both humorous and humble when Grudem said that his own wife found Piper's argument more persuasive. For a more comprehensive and detailed report of Piper's own understanding on this issue you can research these resources.

Since this foray, others have weighed in on the discussion. Over at 9 Marks Blog, you can find two entries by Mark Dever here and here. You can also find two good posts regarding this issue from a historical perspective written by Aaron Menikoff (Part 1 & Part 2).

In Menikoff's articles he references John Bunyan, author of of the famed Pilgrim's Progress, who made significant arguments why paedo-baptists should not be barred from the membership or communion of a local baptist church titled, Differences in Water Baptism No Bar to Communion (1673).

Sam Storms has weighed in with an article asking how these men (Piper, Dever, Mohler, Duncan) can really be Together for the Gospel if Dever and Mohler would not permit Duncan to receive communion at their church (because they do not believe infant baptism constitutes a real baptism and one must receive believer's baptism before one receives communion). Meanwhile, Ligon Duncan has stated that his response will be forthcoming.

My own view is fairly traditional within modern baptist circles. The church I pastor requires baptism by immersion after the evidence of genuine faith in Jesus Christ in order to become a member of the church and to participate in communion. However, we do not police the elements in such a way that a visiting Presbyterian could not participate although I would make it clear from the beginning before the elements are passed out what our church's view is.

Like Grudem's wife though, I find Piper and Bunyan's arguments to be weighty and biblical. I also find it contradictory to prohibit a Presbyterian from communion at the church I pastor, but would allow him to preach at the church I pastor, which I have done. This past summer I invited both a Presbyterian and Methodist to preach while I was out of town.

My hope is that this current debate will spark much fruit from future and current Ph.D students who will try to tackle these issues afresh in our day. Until then, I will be examining the more thorough writings that have been offered by Christians past.

Update: Ligon Duncan has begun his post series on why he, Piper, Mohler, and Dever can be Together for the Gospel but not together on various other doctrines.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

SBC Witness Interviews Dr. Rainer

Over at SBC Witness, Nathan Akin interviews Dr. Rainer, President of Lifeway Christian Resources. In the first installment of this interview, Dr. Rainer answers questions about upcoming projects from B&H Publishing, ongoing research on alcohol, calvinism, and church polity which will be released in future studies, and how his past has helped him for his present job.

In the second installment, Dr. Rainer will answer questions dealing SBC issues and will give advice for young pastors.

Reasons for the Resurgence of Reformed Doctrine

Dr. Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, has just finished his series titled, "Where'd All These Calvinists Come From?" Dever lists ten reasons for the present day resurgence in Reformed Doctrines among evangelicals. The following are his 10 reasons for Calvinistic growth:

Charles Spurgeon, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Banner of Truth Trust, Evangelism Explosion by D. James Kennedy, Southern Baptist Convention Inerrancy Controversy, Presbyterian Church in America, J.I. Packer's book, "Knowing God," R.C. Sproul & John MacArthur, John Piper, the rise of secularism and decline of Christian nominalism.

You can find the entire series here. Over the past seven years my theology has drifted toward reformed doctrine. When I began my studies at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in January 2001, I believed in the sinfulness of man and the eternal security of a Christian believer. I came from a Southern Baptist Church, with a very faithful and biblical preacher, who is not reformed in his soteriology. So terms like unconditional election, irresistible grace, and limited atonement were not preached either for or against (to my knowledge).

So my first introduction to reformed doctrines was at Southern Seminary through the teaching of particular teachers, teacher recommendations of books, and student conversations. It was at that point that I learned of Dr. John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church. Since my introduction to the preaching and books by Piper, my drift toward the reformed doctrines has grown significantly. My understanding of man's sinfulness has grown. I have moved from believing in the sinfulness of all men, to the total depravity of mankind. I have moved from using phrases like "once saved, always saved" to "but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved (Mark 13:13)." I have come to believe in doctrines like unconditional election and irresistible grace as articulated by John Piper in particular.

I am still laboring over the doctrine of definite or limited atonement in all its preciseness. But in conclusion, I would fit into Dever's list under the categories of John Piper and the SBC Inerrancy Controversy due to its push to focus Baptists on the true and faithful teachings of the Bible and its fruits that are evident now at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Why are College Men and Women Having Sex?

A recent survey conducted by researchers from the University of Texas questioned college aged students about their motivations for having sex. The top five responses men gave were:

1. I was attracted to the person.
2. It feels good.
3. I wanted to experience physical pleasure.
4. Its fun.
5. I wanted to show my affection to the person.

The top five responses given by women were:

1. I was attracted to the person.
2. I wanted to experience physical pleasure.
3. It feels good.
4. I wanted to show my affection to the person.
5. I wanted to express my love for the person.

The answers given by both men and women are not all that surprising given the shape our society is in and given our society's perversion of almost everything sexual. Perhaps the only surprising aspect of this study is the answers given by women, which seem to refute the commonly held notions that men are generally seeking self-pleasure and women are seeking love. The survey suggests that both men and women are primarily seeking to satisfy their personal physical desires.

The top four reasons for men and the top three for women were self-serving motivations.

Intimacy with the sexual partner was rated at 12 for women and 14 for men.

Not surprising though was how far down on the list that pregnancy was listed as the motivation, given that the overwhelming number of those surveyed were sexually active single men and women who were in college.

Perhaps what was most interesting for me were the statistics regarding the number of men and women (average age 19) who testified to having a history of sexual intercourse. Less than half of the men surveyed had in their past participated in sexual intercourse (233 out of 503). 110 of the men surveyed affirmed sexual activity, but had not gone so far as sexual intercourse.

More than half of the women surveyed had experienced sexual intercourse (664 out of 1046). 246 of the women surveyed had in their past been involved in various sexual activities but had not had sexual intercourse.

I was surprised by how much more sexually active the women were as opposed to the men in this survey. In all of those surveyed, 88 percent had gone as far in their sexual experience to participate in oral sex.

Now here is the most depressing stat: 65 percent of those surveyed reported themselves to be Christians. With the amount of information given, it is impossible to determine if the Christian men and women surveyed were more or less likely to have participated in sexual activity outside of marriage, but with the high percentages (88%) of those who had at least gone as far as oral sex, it seems likely that many of the Christians surveyed fall into this percentage.