Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Question from Praisegod Polling

We've heard a great deal over the past couple of years about "secondary" this and "tertiary" that. It is a topic that engages a lot of discussion usually. So maybe this question will have some traction:

Which do you think is the most tertiary, least important commandment in all of the Bible?

53 comments:

Bob Cleveland said...

Evidence is that it's 1 Corinthians 14:39 ... "do not forbid speaking in tongues".

Well, that seems to be what IMB thinks, anyway.

:)

volfan007 said...

I would say that tertiary doctrines are things that the Bible does not clearly teach. The tertiary doctrines, or the gray areas of the Bible, are more personal convictions, or personal preferences. That's what I'd call a tertiary doctrine.

David

Anonymous said...

"Take a little wine ..."

But seriously, the use of these terms (primary, secondary, tertiary) is really meaningless. I know that Al Mohler used them effectively in one particular message. However, in doctrinal discussions and denominational life it is easy to use these words in a less than helpful way. I guess that is the point of your question.

I came to the faith at the end of the Jesus movement. I grew up in a liberal Presbyterian church. I attended various churches with friends through the years including United Methodist, Southern Methodist, Baptist and Episcopal. I went to EYC (the Episcopal Youth group) for a good stretch.

I became a Christian as a teenager, and when I turned driving age and could go to the church of my choice, I joined a conservative Baptist church. It practiced open communion, and it accepted into membership anyone who had been baptized as a believer by immersion. I was involved in Young Life, FCA and Campus Crusade through the years. I then went to an independent Baptist church in college, and in law school. Also attended the PCA church some in law school. Came back to an SBC church after law school and have been there since.

With that background, I think that there are lots of doctrines that relate to faith and practice that are not essentials for salvation. Doctrines about ordinances and other things, for me, are not essential for salvation or close fellowship with other Christians. My focus is on the universal church. The SBC church that I attend now practices open communion, accepts people who have been baptized as believers, regardless of the church they come from, and we have elders.

But having said all of that, it is not inappropriate for denominational agencies and denominations to practice and employ policies that are distinctive to their particular denominations. The only question is whether the policies are truly representative of the churches in the denomination.

Calling something primary, secondary or tertiary, therefore, has no meaning.

Any doctrine can become important enough to a denomination for that denomination to enforce it or craft policies around it. If I don't agree, then I work for change and try to persuade others. But calling the doctrine or policy "tertiary" doesn't do anything.

Now, having said that, let me say that I disagree strongly with the IMB policy on baptism. I don't mind the personnel committee looking into the baptism of candidates. But I would hesitate to call those baptisms invalid, as is being done now. They are valid enough for our church, for people to join.

On the so-called "private prayer language" I am a little more sympathetic. The SBC is not a charismatic denomination and never has been. I think it would be incorrect for the IMB to be sending charismatic missionaries from a denomination that is not charismatic. The BFM says nothing about tongues - nothing. But I believe that the vast majority of SBC churches do not practice that, and I have never been in one that has.

The so-called private prayer language issue should be looked into with care. But I do not want it to be a complete ban, so long as it truly remains private, and is not something that is talked about or discussed by the missionaries.

Louis

Bart Barber said...

Nobody really seems to want to answer my question. David came the closest. But I'm not asking anyone to define "secondary" or "tertiary." That's been done to death.

Rather, I'm asking for an exploration of which Bible doctrine is the most tertiary in the whole Bible. Anyone wish to advance a candidate?

Todd Benkert said...

Bart,

Definitions are important to this discussion because, I believe, your question assumes an incorrect definition. I thus cannot answer your question because I disagree with its premise.

For a doctrine to be "tertiary" does not mean it is "unimportant." Rather, a doctrine that is tertiary is a doctrine that, while indeed important, is one over which we can disagree but remain in close fellowship.

Blessings,
Todd

Bart Barber said...

Todd,

That's reasonable and fine. Let's do it this way, post BOTH the definition that you are using AND your candidate for the most tertiary Bible doctrine.

volfan007 said...

Bart,

There are so many that would fit into the tertiary doctrine category, but here goes. Here's my top two.

1. Whether you are pre-trib, or mid-trib, or post-trib.

2. using tobacco products.

David

Anonymous said...

Bob (comment 1) seems to have answered the question, at least from the IMB's perspective.
I would add two other commandments (since the question is what 'is the most tertiary, least important commandment in all of the Bible' [not what is the most tertiary, least important doctrine]): the food laws and circumcision. Peter is commanded 'Kill and eat' (Acts 10.13) and Paul sides with the strong that one is allowed to eat meat (Rom 15.1). Circumcision likewise is dismissed in spite of it being commanded (Gal 6.15; 1 Cor 7.19; cf. Gen 17.9-14).
Jason

Todd Benkert said...

Bart,

Not trying to be contrarian, but by the definition I am following one doctrine can not be more tertiary than another. It is or it is not. That is, our disagreement erects barriers to our continued cooperation or it does not.

In the SBC, the real debate is on which doctrines should indeed be considered tertiary (i.e., "doctrines over which Christians may disagree and remain in close fellowship, even within local congregations") and those which are secondary (i.e. "Christians may disagree ...[and] this disagreement will create significant boundaries between believers").

Since the CR, we are not debating first order issues that are essential to being a Christian. Rather we are debating which of the remaining doctrines are issues in which disagreement will lead to seperatation and which are issues in which we may disagree yet remain in partnership and cooperation with one another.

Such hot-button issues, as you are well aware, include but are certainly not limited to: Calvinism in its various forms, Alien Immersion, PPL, singular pastorate vs. plural eldership, various eschatalogical schema, teetotalism vs. drinking in moderation, etc.

Now, so that you don't get too frustrated with me :-) . . .

The tertiary doctrine that should be the least cause of division among believers, in my opinion, is the order and understanding of end times events.

Blessings,
Todd



BTW, on the definitions, I am generally following those definitions set forth by R. Albert Mohler in his article entitled "A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity."

http://www.albertmohler.com/commentary_print.php?cdate=2005-07-12

Bart Barber said...

Todd,

I, too, would employ Dr. Mohler's definitions. But I think you go too far in suggesting that items in the Bible black-and-white either are or are not tertiary. Mohler's definition, and consequently yours, defines the category according to the way that people react to the doctrines contained therein (or, rather, should react). Different people will see differently the appropriate categorization and reaction to different doctrines.

Therefore, a doctrine can be "most tertiary" if it is the doctrine with the greatest consensus as to its tertiary status. Or, you might advance a doctrine as "most tertiary" if you consider it to be the most plainly tertiary and therefore the doctrine for which people must be the most unreasonable to argue that it is not tertiary.

Bart Barber said...

David,

I like your line of thinking here. If I understand you correctly, you're saying that there is nothing actually commanded in the Bible that is tertiary. Rather, there are topics not addressed in the Bible that we nonetheless confront in this modern age, and that some of those questions are tertiary.

Do I understand you correctly?

Bart Barber said...

Jason,

Are kosher laws and circumcisions items that have been dismissed, or items that have been fulfilled? Is there a difference?

Bart Barber said...

BTW, I'm deliberately avoiding Bob's bait in the first comment. Our entire episode over the past few years has had to do with different understandings of what "speaking in tongues" actually is. I don't believe that human-induced emotionally-automated gibberish is speaking in tongues.

volfan007 said...

Bart,

You are correct about what I'm saying. I would say that tertiary doctrines are doctrines, or issues, or practices, etc. that the Bible does not clearly deal with. Therefore, we cant be dogmatic about personal convictions, i.e., whether women ought to wear dresses, or can wear pants; or, whether someone should eat in a restaurant that serves liquor, or not eat there due to them serving liquor. Things like that.

David

Andrew said...

in the age of poly-cotton blends, I would say "nor wear a garment upon you of two kinds of material mixed together." (Leviticus 19:19)

...or basically, all of the ceremonial, but not salvific, Law

Anonymous said...

O.K.

I give up.

Here it is - "Don't boil a calf in its own mother's milk."

Louis

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Bart,

You stay silent for a month then post back-to-back posts. You seem to be very well rested. :>)

I would agree with David, that really, there is nothing commanded in the bible that is tertiary. Now, we must remember, as some have already tried to stump the argument, there is a difference in ceremonial law and salvific laws.

Blessings,
Tim

CB Scott said...

How about the doctrine of a just war?

It don't matter if it is secondary or tertiary. We gonna fight anyway. :-)

cb

Todd Benkert said...

Bart,

I understand the point you are making and I don't think the answers are black and white in the sense that we can readily discern which doctrines are secondary vs. tertiary. But I do think that we need to work toward a consensus as a denomination on what doctrines are indeed secondary. The past couple years have shown that not everyone is in agreement on which issues belong to which classification.

Since the recent context of the secondary/tertiary debate has been the IMB personnel policies, allow me to apply this to that situation. Practically speaking, the BFM is the consensus of Southern Baptist thought that identifies primary and secondary doctrines. Thus, when the IMB makes policies that exclude persons who practice PPL are who are baptized by immersion in a church that does not believe in eternal security (both doctrinal issues), they rule these doctrines secondary when the consensus of Southern Baptist have ruled these doctrines tertiary. Those who believe these issues should indeed be secondary, should argue such at the Convention level rather than exclude missionaries in opposition to the Convention as whole. Polity-wise, the trustees have the ability to make these judgments. Ethically, however, I believe they err in doing so. Either we can cooperate with each other or not. If we cannot, we should make that decision at the Convention level and not at the trustee level.

Of course, the IMB situation is merely a symptom of the wider struggle in the SBC to find consensus in the midst of our theological diversity.

Blessings,
Todd

Todd Benkert said...

Tim,

If I understand you correctly then I would agree that there is no command in Scripture which is tertiary. However, I believe there are some doctrines on which Baptists disagree that are tertiary in the sense that we should not divide over them. Would you agree? (You don't have to agree on which doctrines fall in that category :-)

Blessings,
-- Todd

CB Scott said...

Todd,

Yes, we do have to agree as to which doctrines we can differ on and still be able to work, worship and fellowship together.

Therein lies the great problem.

cb

Anonymous said...

Bart,

Kosher laws and circumcision are undoubtedly fulfilled in Christ, as is the rest of the law (Rom 10.4), but this does not negate my point that this type of law is not binding for the Christian. Any Christian who chooses to place themselves under these laws does so by choice. This places these laws in the tertiary category, or whatever category we want to place them in. They are not binding on all or any, and to make them so is contrary to Paul's and Jesus' (cf. Mark 7) teaching.

Can someone explain the term 'salvific law' since I thought Paul argued that the law could not save (e.g. Gal 3.10-14)?

Also, the NT authors did not have the distinction between ceremonial and civic and 'salvific' (or whatever we call them) that we have. This classification of the types of commandments is modern.

Jason

Todd Benkert said...

C.B.,

I agree with you. I merely meant that Tim does not need to agree with me right now at this point in the conversation.

First, let's agree that there are tertiary doctrines. Then we can debate what those doctrines are.

In the end, I believe those doctrines not included in the BFM20OO should be considered tertiary by Southern Baptists and will argue such. But I cannot discuss with Tim and others that those items are indeed tertiary if we do not first agree that there is such a thing as a tertiary doctrine (that is, again, a doctrine on which Christians can disagree but remain in close fellowship and cooperation).

Hope that clarifies things.

-- Todd

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Todd,

Would you agree that Believer's baptism is not a tertiary doctrine?

Blessings,
Tim

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Todd,

A quick follow-up and then I must get ready for tonight.

I believe there are some doctrines on which Baptists disagree that are tertiary in the sense that we should not divide over them. Would you agree?

I can agree but, I would also state that the BF&M contains no tertiary doctrines.

Blessings,
Tim

Todd Benkert said...

Tim,

Absolutely, as would virtually all Southern Baptists (after all, that's why we're called "Baptists" :-). Believer's baptism is a secondary not tertiary doctrine; that is, one on which Christians disagree but which disagreement creates "significant boundaries" between us.

Thus, for example, I can rightly call a Methodist believer my brother in Christ, but would not recognize his infant baptism if he were to join my church.

Blessings,
Todd

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Todd,

You have roped me again so I will comment this time and turn off my internet service, because I really must get ready. :>)

Would it be wrong for me to teach that infant baptism is wrong? Thus we must reject infant baptism and teach that those who accept it are not following scripture?

Blessings,
Tim

Bart Barber said...

Of course, like all Praisegod Polling questions, this one is laying the foundation for a subsequent post.

Bart Barber said...

BTW, I think that the bifurcated categorization for which everyone seeks is the Ceremonial Law vs. the Moral Law.

None of the law is salvific, as Jason has noted. Nevertheless, we acknowledge that a great many commandments in the Bible (including all of those in the New Testament—God sure issued a lot of "law" AFTER the "gospel") validly indicate the difference between moral and immoral behavior apart from the question of their ability to impart salvation.

Thus, I think it bespeaks nothing of your morality whether you are or are not circumcised, while your treatment of your father and your mother does communicate volumes about your morality. Whether it saves you or not, it is moral to respect your parents. Whether it condemns you or not, it is immoral to disrespect them.

I think it quite a stretch to suggest that the authors of the New Testament were incapable of comprehending the difference between the two categories.

Alan Stoddard said...

Worship style

Todd Benkert said...

Tim,

Sorry to rope you in, brother. :-)
I know that ministry must come before blogging. I pray that you have a blessed service tonight.

In any case, so far we are in agreement. The very nature of the BFM, in my opinion, is that it identifies the consensus of Southern Baptists on those doctrines which are both primary (essential to the Christian faith) and secondary (essential to Baptist identity and cooperation). By design, the BFM has left out certain doctrines on which there is no clear consensus and/or disagreement on such issues should not be cause for division. IOW, the BFM has left out tertiary doctrines.

Of course, a particular Southern Baptist has the right to disagree whether a particular doctrine should have been added to the BFM because it is secondary or left out because it is tertiary. Based on this consensus document, however, I believe the Convention has the right to expect that its employees and trustees will not add to or subtract from the BFM because they think it too restrictive or not restrictive enough.

Blessings,
Todd

Anonymous said...

Would Gambling fall into this category?

Presley said...

Bart,

What do you think about gambling? No where in scripture is it taught on? Of course we would all agree that casinos and the like are bad for society so in that sense they are immoral, but what about gambling in and of itself?

From Oklahoma

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Would Gambling fall into this category?

July 16, 2008 3:34 PM

Don't bet on it!

Louis

Anonymous said...

Brother Todd,

Thank you for all of the insight you provide. While we may not always agree I do enjoy your posts. You state here:

“By design, the BFM has left out certain doctrines on which there is no clear consensus and/or disagreement on such issues should not be cause for division. IOW, the BFM has left out tertiary doctrines.”

I have always understood that additions to or changes in the BFM (1925, 63, 99 and 2000) were prompted by issues arising either in society or the church that we as Southern Baptists wanted to address. For example, the Article on the Family added in 1999 and the statement on women pastors in 2000.

That being said, simply because something is not specifically addressed in the BFM does not mean it is unimportant or that there is no consensus on the issue or that the convention has “by design … left out tertiary doctrines.” For example, it has been the practice of the IMB not to appoint anyone who has been divorced to the mission field (or at least it was for many years). Can you point to any statement in any of the BFMs dealing with divorce? Yet that has been the practice and no one seems to have a problem with that (I’m not speaking for either position, only addressing an example) because of the historical consensus of SB toward divorce.

Now Bart has asked: what is the most tertiary doctrine – or the doctrine which should least divides us. For my vote it would be setting time tables for the return of Christ. So long as we all agree that He is coming back, visibly, physically and soon – I would think the main point would be to make sure we’re ready.

Thanks again for your posts.

Grace,
Wes

Bob Cleveland said...

OK, serious (gasp) for a second.

Bart, as to your question, it's not commands that are tertiary.

The command to baptize and the command to be baptized, they're primary. IMB et al comes along and says who can and can't baptize you .. THAT's a tertiary issue.

Jesus says "as oft as ye do this....", to remember Him. That's a primary command. Somebody decides who can and can't do this in remembrance, that's tertiary.

There are others, but you get my drift. The question is a red herring. It's not the commands that anyone is saying are tertiary. At least not that I know of.

Now as to issues: I think it's the "who baptized you" deal. At least I'll start there while trying to remember all them others ones.

Grosey's Messages said...

mmm how about a new testament command about hats in church?
1 Cor 11.. however... I understand that this is more describing appropriate roles and issues of submission within the trinity and within nature (something which is by no means tertiary) .. however.. on the surface hats in church could be raised.

Todd Benkert said...

Wes,

Thanks for your affirmation and question. I do not know enough about the history or rationale of the divorce policy or any possible actions at the Convention level related to it to offer informed commentary on it at this point. However, such a policy does not speak to whether the issue is tertiary. I could envision a scenerio in which divorced persons are denied service on the pragmatic grounds. If the trustees have based that decision on doctrinal grounds and if the Convention has not spoken to the issue elsewhere, then I suppose I would add that to the list of IMB personnel policies that should be reversed. Indeed, the FAQ page on SBC.net (I realize this is not authoritative) acknowledges there is no consensus on the issue. http://www.sbc.net/aboutus/faqs.asp#3 They also list a number of other doctrinal issues on which Baptists have not taken a stand. I do not think it is proper for the mission board trustees to make policy decisions on such issues, regardless of any perceived consensus. Further, on the issues of PPL and Alien Immersion, there is not only no consensus, but a blatant disregard for the belief of a large number, perhaps even a majority, of Southern Baptists.

Back to the BFM, I think it is certainly demonstrable, that the BFM has intentionally left out certain tertiary doctrines. The statement on election, for example, is intentionally worded to allow for varying opinions including Calvinism. The statement on end times is intentionally worded to allow for various views on the millennium and tribulation. Etc. While Baptist polity allows for the IMB trustees to set their own policies, would you support the Trustees if they set a personnel policy that disallowed Calvinists or Dispensationalists or people who preached from the NIV from serving with the Board. If not, why not?

Respectfully,
Todd

p.s. I am gone on an all day fishing expedition tomorrow so will be unable to comment further until tomorrow evening :-). Blessings!

Alan Cross said...

Todd Benkert is making excellent points about the nature of the BFM regarding primary and secondary doctrines. Good thoughts, Todd.

As to Bart's question, the command for women to keep silent in the churches seems to be a tertiary command (1 Cor. 14:33-35). Women speak in Baptist churches all the time, from giving testimonies, to sharing announcements, to singing solos. The literal understanding of this is certainly disregarded for a view on authority and preaching, which is not really what is addressed here.

Also, the command about women and long hair and head coverings seems to be tertiary (1 Cor. 11:5-16). This is a pretty detailed teaching and it seems to have significance in its relation to the order of creation and God's plan for men and women. Yet, we do not enforce it. We take a metaphorical view regarding headship and submission and we do not take this literally, although Paul was very clear.

Now, I know the current arguments that we have that explain these passages away or that adapt them to our current practice, but they say what they say and we seem to disregard them.

We also seem to consider the teachings on unforgiveness as tertiary because we do not tell people that if they do not forgive then their sins will not be forgiven. That is what Jesus said.

We do not tell people that if they do not love their brother then the love of God is not in them and they remain in death. The Scripture says that if we see our brother in need but have no pity on him, then the love of God is not in us (1 John 3:11-18). The word for love here is agape and it is sacrificial love. Is this a tertiary doctrine in our churches? Do we tell people this, or believe it ourselves?

Apparently, Matthew 6:24 is a tertiary doctrine because our churches are full of people who are trying to love both God and money at the same time, and Jesus says that we will end up hating God if we love money. How many Baptists do you think are in love with their money? How many Baptist churches are in love with their material possessions like buildings and large budgets? How many pastors pursue larger salaries? Jesus says that you can't pursue both. Apparently, this is a tertiary doctrine as well.

We are told to not bear false witness against one another. Baptists do this all the time and think little of it. Apparently, this is another tertiary doctrine.

We are told to pray without ceasing and to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:17-18). We seem to struggle with this and do not take it seriously, or at least do not practice it. Another tertiary doctrine.

We are not to announce our good deeds before men, lest we receive our reward in full from men (Matt. 6:1-4). Another tertiary doctrine?

The list goes on and on and I hope that you can see what I am getting at. Here is my point: What good does it do to draw the lines and make sure that we are dividing appropriately when we do not even obey the doctrines that we agree are essential? Or, in the case of the passages on women, we clearly ignore the clear teaching of Scipture by adhering to cultural interpretations, yet we dismiss cultural interpretations on other passages as it suits us. Why? When our hermeneutic is as inconsistent as ours is, it is difficult to have real conversations on this issue, unless you are just going to cause everyone to divide over the issues that YOU say are important.

Maybe the doctrine that we actually obey says more about us than the doctrine that we can define and mentally assent to, because there are a lot of things in Scripture that are VERY clear that we treat as though they are tertiary for one reason or another. Is that because it is not expedient to confront the wealthy in our churches about the love of money and how they treat the poor? Is it because we dare not confront two people in the church who are holding grudges against one another and tell them that they do not need to partake of Communion until they work it out? Do we even believe this? Is what we do not more important than what we say we believe?

I understand the primary, secondary, and tertiary definitions. I am just saying that there is a whole other aspect here that we do not consider, and that is obedience to what the Word of God clearly teaches. Until we start doing that, we might be better off if we have a little more humility in the discussions that divide us lest we show ourselves to be relativists.

I am not trying to judge here, because I have logs in my own eye. I am just saying that we treat many doctrines that are very clearly affirmed as though they were tertiary by our lack of obedience or our lack of a call to obedience on these issues. That is a major issue that few want to deal with.

CB Scott said...

Alan and all,

You guys are just afraid to say the doctrine of a just war is tertiary.

The reason is you all know you are going to fight.

You want it to be a primary doctrine so you can justify your blog fights.

The reason is because you like it. :-)

cb

CB Scott said...

And soooooo do I :-)

cb

Jonathon said...

Is Baptism something we should break fellowship over? I don't mean baptismal regeneration, but simply baptismal mode (sprinkling or immersion).

I know some Presbyterian churches accept either mode, at the same time upholding the teaching that baptism is not part of salvation.

I am learning more and interested to hear why we are so persistent on immersion alone.

Tim Rogers said...

Brother Jonathan,

Is Baptism something we should break fellowship over? I am....interested to hear why we are so persistent on immersion alone.

Are you serious? Either you are joking or I do not understand your definition of break fellowship.

Blessings,
Tim

Dave Miller said...

I have written a book (which, of course, no one has seen fit to publish) that differentiates FOUR levels of truth.

1) "Brick Wall" truth is fundamental to the gospel. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15 that the truths surrounding the gospel were of "first importance." Around these doctrines we erect a Brick Wall of Separation. If you question these, you are outside the faith.

2) "Picket Fence" doctrine involves those doctrines which divide us into churches and denominations, but do not subvert the gospel. Baptism, church polity, even perhaps the Calvinist/Arminian debate in its more extreme versions. Around these doctrines we erect a friendly picket fence to establish boundaries, but we maintain a friendly relationship. We are next door to an Assembly church. We are friendly and cooperate on a few things (an Upward league, etc) but we maintain separate homes.

3) Dinner Table Doctrine is truth you can talk about around the dinner table and still maintain a family relationship. How you interpret certain passages of scripture, even details of end-times viewpoints would seem to fall into this category.

4) "Personal Space" truth are those lifestyle issues which are assigned to the realm of personal conscience. Paul defined these primarily as issues of food and drink, and observing the sabbath. I would put moderate use of alcohol and other personal issues in this category.

So, to answer your question, I would say the issue of whether moderate alcohol use is permitted is the prominent discussion that has the least biblical importance.

Tim G said...

Bart,
What gets me is the whole reality that one day I will stand before God and give an account! I have been looking at the commands in scripture and wow, there are many! I know my salvation gives me heaven, but my love for God should give me desire to live for Him in obedience! I am not sure we can put these on a level - I do nt see that as a God thing but rather a man thing due to our wide spread disobedience! We sure have messed things up!

debbiekaufman said...

Tim: The problem is not the commands and not desiring to obey them. The problem comes in the interpretation of these commandments, what they mean. Some have been rescinded due to Christ's death on the cross abolishing them. Many in the OT for example. Yet, there are those who are SB who want to continue keeping them. That would be teritary. As David Woolery has said, it's things the Bible isn't clear on, yet you may say your interpretation is correct and the Bible is clear on it. Thus the problem.

Anonymous said...

Todd,

No problem about the fishing trip. I spent yesterday at the hospital with my wife who is undergoing cancer treatments, and then had VBS last night so I wasn’t online much myself.

You wrote: “I do not think it is proper for the mission board trustees to make policy decisions on such issues, regardless of any perceived consensus.”

But that what they have been charged with for more than 160 years. That is why we as Southern Baptist elect Trustees from across our convention membership and why we broke from the “societal” method of business. Brother Todd, they are Trustees of the Convention who are charged by the convention to make precisely those decisions.

You further state: “Back to the BFM, I think it is certainly demonstrable, that the BFM has intentionally left out certain tertiary doctrines.”

This point with the illustrations you gave I concede. However, I think where we are truly disagreeing is in the nature of the BFM. This goes back to the question of whether the BFM is maximal or minimal. I for one don’t believe that those opposed to the IMB positions on alien immersion and charismatic “tongues” (or whatever else you wish to call PPL) would be in the majority across our convention. Time will tell I suppose.

Your question: “While Baptist polity allows for the IMB trustees to set their own policies, would you support the Trustees if they set a personnel policy that disallowed Calvinists or Dispensationalists or people who preached from the NIV from serving with the Board. If not, why not?”

I would not support such a policy – because it is a clear violation of the BFM (whereas the issues of alien immersion and ppl are not in violation of the BFM). Of course, disallowing dispensationalists would not be as big a problem for me 8-> (That’s a joke folks … that’s just a joke).

Grace,
Wes

Todd Benkert said...

Wes,

A few points to further the discussion on the nature of the BFM. First, my expectation that trustees not go beyond the BFM in doctrinal matters as not the same as believing the BFM is a "Maximum" statement. I am well aware that the BFM does not cover every doctrinal issue, nor can it. I do believe, however, that the BFM is our consensus statement and includes all primary and secondary level doctrines. Those doctrines not in the BFM are tertiary in that they should not divide us and keep us from cooperation as Baptists.

Second, the trustees have indeed been entrusted to make personnel and other decisions by the Convention. However, the Trustees should not be making doctrinal decisions. Some personnel decisions are based on non-doctinal, pragmatic bases. You do not hear complaints from me about the restrictions on body mass index, or on the age of children at deployment, etc. These are not doctrinal issues and, whether I agree with them or not, are within the domain of the trustees responsibility.

On the other hand, when the IMB trustees say that I cannot serve as a missionary because I was baptized in a church that does not believe in eternal security, the IMB is now making a doctrinal criteria not made in the BFM. What the BFM, not to mention every SBC church of which I have been a part, has left a tertiary issue (not a barrier to cooperation) the trustees have made a secondary one.

Whether or not there is a majority opinion on one view or another, I do not know. Anecdotally speaking, I tend to find the majority of Baptist pastors, students, and professors I know affirm a Believers baptism by immersion regardless of belief in eternal security. At the same time, those same people mostly oppose PPL. I for one think PPL is error, and at the same time think it ludicrous to expect someone to be rebaptized. The real question, though, is not whether there is a majority or opinion on the rightness or wrongness of the doctrine. What matters is whether the disagreements are one that Baptists have deemed as ones we must divide over and are barriers to cooperation. Not every doctrine on which Baptist share a consensus opinion are included in the BFM. Why not? Because not all issues are of a secondary status. We are free to disagree. If you think these issues are secondary, then get them added to the BFM. Otherwise, let's all work together for the cause of missions even if we do not agree on these tertiary issues. I for one, have no interest in further restricting Baptist cooperation.

Finally, I am confused at how the hypothetical policies I suggested would be a clear violation of the BFM, while the current ones would not. The BFM does not address any of these issues. What elevates some of the tertiary doctrines to a protected status while others are fair game?

Blessings,
Todd

Anonymous said...

Todd,

Thanks for the discussion, though I don’t know how much longer Bart is going to let us continue 8->

You state: “I am confused at how the hypothetical policies I suggested would be a clear violation of the BFM, while the current ones would not. The BFM does not address any of these issues.”

As you have pointed out, the BFM has been written to provide room for those of us who are Calvinistic in our theology (I am personally a 5-pointer), and for those of us with differing eschatological persuasions (personally mid-trib., moving closer to post). To write a policy disallowing Calvinists or dispensationalists would be in violation of the wording of the current BFM.

The BFM does not address ppm, but as you mentioned in your most recent post, most people you know (as most I know – etc.) oppose this move into charismatic practices. I’m not saying that you and I know the majority in the SBC, but as I stated before, I believe the majority would oppose this move.

As to alien immersion, you contend the BFM does not in fact address the issue of eternal security as it relates to a person’s baptism. I believe it does as I see the BFM written as a whole document. Article V: God’s Purpose of Grace states in paragraph 2: “All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.”

That is a statement on the eternal security of the believer as it appears in the BFM. It states that we as Southern Baptist believe in the eternal security of the believer through the grace of God. Of the 44,000 churches that cooperate with the SBC – as we believe in eternal security, when we baptize someone, we baptize them into that faith we have received and hold in common. If one is baptized by a church that does not believe in eternal security, then they are baptized by a church that does not believe the faith we have received and hold in common as a convention and expressed in the BFM.

I for one don’t have an issue receiving someone into my church who has been baptized by a non-Baptist church – provided that the doctrines of that church are in agreement with those of our church. I don’t see baptism or eternal security as tertiary issues.

Grace,
Wes

Todd Benkert said...

Wes,

I'm thankful for Bart's patience with us, but I guess he's moved on to his new post :-).

I too see the BFM as a whole document. However, that does not mean that believer's baptism should be interpreted as "believer in Baptist distinctives" baptism. Rather, I must be a believer in Jesus Christ, i.e. a born again person.

The article on baptism states: "Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer's faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer's death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead."

All of these things are believed by our Arminian brothers (the ones that baptize believers). Believer's baptism is valid because it is a baptism of a believer in Christ not because of a belief in eternal security or any other secondary doctrine. The only way we could consider an Arminian baptism invalid is if we were also to elevate eternal security to a first order doctrine and essential to Christian faith. If those who deny eternal security are not saved, then their baptism is not believer's baptism. If, however, Arminian Christians are indeed saved and brothers in Christ, then post-conversion Arminian Baptism is indeed believer's baptism.

If you believe that those who deny the doctrine of eternal security are not saved, then I believe you misunderstand Arminian theology. (BTW, I am not Arminian).

Blessings,
Todd

Todd Benkert said...

Wes,

To elaborate just a bit more...

You state, "we baptize them into that faith we have received and hold in common."

These are your words and not the words of the BFM. Rather the BFM states we are baptized as a symbol of our "faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour."

When the BFM describes Baptism as the "immersion of a believer" the question is: believer in what?

I submit that it is not a belief in every doctrine stated in the BFM, but in that belief which saves -- the belief in the person and work of Christ.

Blessings,
Todd

Anonymous said...

Brother Todd,

Sorry if it seems I jumped ship on you. We finished our VBS last night and we start a revival tomorrow (what was I thinking when I set this schedule???????)

I have enjoyed our discussion and look forward to other engagements in the future.

Grace,
Wes

Todd Benkert said...

Wes,

I've enjoyed our discussion as well and look forward to conversing with you again.

I pray that God will work mightily through these events and that he will give you the strength to sustain you this week.

Blessings,
Todd

p.s. Feel free to email me sometime (see my blogger profile).