Monday, September 24, 2007

David Dockery Supports "Narrowing of Parameters"

Dr. David Dockery, president of Union University, is a brilliant theologian and an exemplary Christian gentleman. As I will reveal in an upcoming post, Dr. Dockery was significantly responsible through his published works for instilling within me a passion for the biblical doctrines that define us as Baptists. To his credit, Dr. Dockery realizes the specious nature of claims that a commitment to inerrancy is faith-commitment enough to guide any Christian enterprise. In this Baptist Press article, Dr. Dockery has endorsed an effort by Dr. Ray Van Neste and Dr. Denny Burk to narrow the parameters of cooperation in the Evangelical Theological Society. At present, the only ETS doctrinal statement simply reads, "The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs. God is a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory." Van Neste, Burk, and Dockery (among many others) support the adoption of a more narrow and robust set of theological parameters to govern membership and practice within the ETS. Will anyone question their commitment to the "sufficiency of the scriptures"? After all, these men have apparently concluded that even those who affirm the inerrancy of the written Word of God might misread it and come into doctrinal error serious enough to make them something other than an Evangelical Christian. I do not question the belief of these men in the sufficiency of the scriptures, but perhaps some will. Will anyone question their willingness to cooperate with other believers? After all, the clear outcome of this action would be to make ineligible for participation in ETS those who are currently able to participate. If all current and potential members of ETS were theologically acceptable to the three, there would be no need and no campaign for the stricter theological statement. I do not question the cooperative nature of these men, but perhaps some will. Will anyone label these men as Fundamentalists or Legalists? Probably so. All it takes to earn those labels from somebody somewhere is a commitment to the smallest kernel of biblical truth. I believe that they are neither Fundamentalists (in the pejorative sense) nor Legalists, but perhaps some will make the allegation. Quite simply, here is what has happened—the ETS tried to employ as minimalist a theological statement as it thought would work to bring together Evangelicals for cooperation in a tightly-defined scope of activities. Because only God knows the future and the scope of human depravity, the founders of ETS did not foresee how some might skew the ETS's Doctrinal Basis. Now, with a few years of history under its belt, the ETS has come to see the weaknesses in their minimalist statement. They are narrowing the parameters of their cooperation not to take the ETS away from its raison d'être, but to try to keep it anchored there. It is a common scenario. It is a common need. It is a common-sense solution. Bravo to these men for championing it.


Bob Cleveland said...

I have an idea, then. They could adopt the Baptist Faith & Message. That would be "narrower" than what they have now.

And this is the "mother group", not an associated entity, which wants to do the narrowing.

In our case, the SBC itself .. analogous to the ETS .. has said they wanted to stick to the BF&M and not narrow beyond that. That seems a bit different to me, but what do I know?

Paul said...

Bob's right. This isn't apples and apples. If a sub-group of the ETS decided for the whole group that they were changing the statement then we'd be talking about the same thing. If the ETS changes its doctrinal statement it would be no different than the SBC as a whole modifying/amending the BF&M, which it has now done at least three times. What the IMB has done is to amend it on their own without the blessing of the SBC as a whole.

Big difference.

Big Daddy Weave said...

I think this instance of "narrowing the parameters of cooperation" has much to do with THIS

A big part of the story seems to be that Dockery & Company are bothered that some Catholics can affirm the doctrinal statement of the ETS....

Alan Cross said...

Nice try, Bart. What the ETS is doing has absolutely nothing to do with the current controversies in the SBC, which, unless I am wrong, appears to be what you are referring to. If you are honestly not, then I will be happy to withdraw my assumption. The situation in the SBC is that a small group of trustees have de facto ammended the BF&M AFTER we had all agreed to the current version through their changes. At the very least, we now have a different view of baptism than what the BF&M articulates, not to mention the PPL restrictions. How is this analogous to what the whole ETS is deciding to do?

As for the strictest possible view of inerrancy, I am all for it. I always have been and have no problem saying so. But, the ETS, as Paul has said, has the right to decide upon its doctrinal statement as they see fit, just as the SBC, as a whole, has the right to do the same thing.

volfan007 said...

i'm get more impressed with dr. dockery all the time.


volfan007 said...

that's supposed to read...."i'm getting more impressed with dr. dockery all the time." note to self....typing too fast leads to errors. but, i am getting more impressed with dr. dockery all the time. the job he's done at union u. is amazing.


Bart Barber said...

To all:

I agree entirely with following our polity. But polity has not been the only topic of discussion over the past two years. There has been the constant drumbeat accusing people of some nefarious intention to "narrow the parameters of cooperation"—that the "narrowing" itself is "dangerous" or "spooky" regardless of the methodology employed to implement it. There has been the insistence that the BF&M, as it currently stands today, is too narrow and needs to be broadened. Finally, there have been assertions that, once the CR had settled the question of inerrancy, further adjustment of things would be evidence of some sinister desire to make people agree on every point of doctrine.

1. Although we might differ over fine details of the process in which we make decisions, I affirm that the ultimate and absolute final right of directing SBC entities lies with the messengers to the convention. We are all, I would hope, in agreement there.

2. I have no desire to have everyone in the SBC agree on every point of doctrine, nor do I know anyone who possesses such a desire.

3. I admire Dr. Dockery for taking this stand in the ETS.

4. I think this episode simply illustrates the fact that groups periodically need to revise their governing documents to address new issues as they arise.

5. Nobody can deny that these proposed ETS revisions constitute a proposed narrowing of parameters at ETS.

Debbie Kaufman said...

Bart: I agree with David Dockery's move here and I would agree with it if this were the problem we are facing in the SBC. It is not however. I think you know that. Putting something like this up and trying to compare the two is an attempt to prove something that does not exist and anyone who has read on these issues for long will clearly see that. Confusing doesn't work Bart. People are brighter than that. Even those in the pew. Especially those in the pew.

Bob Cleveland said...

Bart: Tell it to the missionary candidates who've been rejected, and to the missionaries who were edged out by said narrowing. Maybe they'll buy it, but I don't.

The ex-missionary with whom I've had several meals over the past year should never have had to leave the IMB; especially as a result of an effort to solve problems that didn't exist.

Sean M said...


Your second comment/argument is really no argument at all. I would almost bet the farm that you are a proponent of defined parameters for cooperation. Your gripe is that you just don't agree with the parameters as they are now being implemented. No matter where the lines are drawn there will always be some crying "foul" because they fall outside the lines. The fact is it would be irresponsible of all Southern Baptists to just inherit a set of guidelines without considering where we are at the given time. And, once again, no one is arguing that these missionaries should leave the field. Surely there are other methods of survival outside IMB. I'm sure your argument is heart-felt and well-intentioned, but such arguments do not negate the need to clearly define the guidelines by which we cooperate.

And Debbie,
Your technique of insinuating that Bart has insulted the people in the pew or is somehow brainwashing the less intelligent (of which I must be one) is nothing but irresponsible and distorted emotionalism. I suppose this sort of rhetoric is meant to insult those who agree with Bart. Good job.

Tim Guthrie said...

So Debbie,
Where should the line be drawn in the SBC specifically. No generalities please, specifics. I am hearing this argument you make but have yet to read specifics. Could you please try. Also, why is it lately that you find it so easy to put people down and label them and call them names by making accussations about their intent etc? Is this not what you decried a few months back?

Debbie Kaufman said...

Sean: It's easy to label that which you do not agree with as emotionalism. I label it as fact. I do have a brain. Believe it or not. Yep, even we females can think all on our own. We taught and raised children such as yourselves didn't we?

Tim: I draw the line at liberalism. Denial that the Bible is true, denial that Christ is all that he says he is etc. Other things are going to be different in interpretation than your view. There is not such thing as doctrinal purity. At least until heaven. Even amongst those who now may agree with you. Probe long enough and there will be disagreement among those who now share your view. Then what? Where will the dividing line be for you, Bart etc. then?

Ben Macklin said...

Bart -

Have you read the intro of "The Baptist Faith and Message" study guide by Herschel Hobbs, especially page 12? He states, ". . . Baptists have their differences. . . .So long as these differences do not deny the authority of the Scriptures or the Lordship of Jesus Christ, they should be resolved in Christian love."

Is Hobbs too generous in his latitude? I don't think so.

Hobbs gives the example about a literal 6 days of creation theory in Genesis 1 vs. a "day-age" theory as a disagreement that should not divide believers. Who get to decide if "age-dayers" (for example) are right enough to be be welcome in ETS?

grace and peace,

Ben Macklin