Friday, April 25, 2008

Reformed Baptist-Fundamentalist: Is that Possible?

As I read various Southern Baptist blogs, one of the main topics is the disagreement over Calvinism/Reformed Theology/Doctrines of Grace within the convention. Since we are Southern Baptists, we must be fighting over something, and this appears to be the hot topic for now. As is normal in arguments, the two sides usually get painted as being more extreme than they are. For now, the two groups are the Reformed (with a home-base of Southern Seminary) and the Conservatives/Fundamentalists (Southwestern and New Orleans Seminaries). While the Reformed group emphasizes God's sovereignty and glory, the Conservative/Fundamentalist group focuses more on Baptist identity and man's responsibility and/or freedom.

As I look at the two groups, I realize that I don't fit perfectly into either one (although I do certainly lean more toward the Reformed group). On some issues, I tend to be more Reformed. On other issues, I tend to be more of a Conservative/Fundamentalist. Can a Reformed Baptist-Fundamentalist exist?

On the Reformed side of things, I believe that the Doctrines of Grace are biblical, even the much-debated Limited Atonement/Particular Redemption. I believe that God's will always occurs. I believe God does not allow, but rather causes suffering. I believe the 1689 London Confession is a much better document than the Baptist Faith & Message 2000. I believe that a multiplicity of pastor-elders is the biblical model for the church.

As for the Conservative/Fundamentalist side, I hold to a Historical Pre-millenialist view of eschatology, including a post-tribulation rapture. This basically means that I interpret most (certainly not all) of the book of Revelation literally. I like to teach more from the NKJV than any other version; this stems from my preference of the Greek Byzantine text. Regarding the use of alcohol, although I think we have freedom to use it as Christians, it seems unnecessary, unwise, and like poor stewardship to me. As for dating, I see it as completely unbiblical, and prefer the courtship model we see in the bible (this issue could probably fall on the Reformed side as well).

I guess I don't fit into either camp very well. That's fine with me; it keeps me out of at least some of the arguments. I still have to ask: Can a Reformed Baptist-Fundamentalist exist? I hope so because I think I am one.

10 comments:

Les Puryear said...

Eric,

You are the very first person I have read that believes exactly the same as I do. Brother!

Les

Scott said...

I'll sign up as well! Though I would consider myself pre-trib in my eschatology. I even like the Greek Byzantine text. So count me in that number of Reformed Fundamentalist.

Maybe another term could be "Fundamentally Reformed"...

In any case,

Eric said...

Les,

I'm glad to hear that I am not "way out in left-field" and that there are others who believe the same way.

By the way, thanks for all the hard work you put in on the Small Church Conference. I've enjoyed reading about it.

Eric

Eric said...

Scott,

I like your name better. "Fundamentally Reformed" sounds good to me. Thanks for the idea.

Eric

Rhea said...

Eric:

Question for you: you said that God does not merely allow suffering, but He causes this. Okay, when I first hear this, my knee-jerk reaction is "that makes God mean!" I imagine that this would be the knee-jerk reaction of a lot of people. I don't know that I actually completely disagree with your statement, but could you flesh it out a bit more, and explain it more? It's actually something that I've been thinking of about a lot....

David Rogers said...

Eric,

Although I can't say that I do this infallibly, I try, to the best of my ability, to just read and interpret Scripture as I see it, and not worry whether or not I fit in with any particular group.

I think the whole question of "labels" and "camps" gets in the way many times from being objective in our views.

Eric said...

Rhea,

I realize that a lot of people are uncomfortable with the idea that God causes suffering. I think this is because when we see people do things that cause suffering, their motives are almost always evil. Therefore, this leads some people to think that God can't cause suffering because that would make Him evil.

We know God is perfectly good. We also know that He is completely sovereign. For these to both be true, God must be able to bring suffering upon people and still have good motives behind what He is doing (even if we do not understand it).

If we look at the examples of Joseph and Job from the OT, we see in their testimonies that they attribute their suffering directly to God (see Genesis 50:20, and Job 1:21 and 2:10). Joseph realizes that God has done this for good. Job seems to later realize this, but at the end of the book.

A good illustration I have heard to describe suffering is one of a dogowner holding a mean dog by a leash. God is the dogowner and Satan is the dog. Sometimes God gives Satan more leash to cause more destruction, and sometimes He gives him less. God is ultimately the determiner of the suffering, but is not guilty of sin. Satan is the guilty one.

I much prefer the thought of God causing suffering to bring about a greater good, than I do Satan being the ultimate cause. Satan only has harm in mind.

I hope this helps a bit.

Eric said...

David,

I actually agree with everything you are saying.

I know there are at least some in the SBC who would say that there are only certain preexisting groups or camps a person can be a part of. I hope to show that I don't fit into any of those. Like you, I'm trying to live scripturally as best I can (and making plenty of mistakes while at it).

The last thing I want to do is begin yet another group. We certainly don't need that!

Thanks for your input.

Rhea said...

Eric:

That helps a lot....I had never thought before about how when ppl cause suffering, we have evils motives, but obviously in EVERYTHING God does, He has good motives. I had never really thought about the real issue behind it is the MOTIVE, and less about the actual whatever is being caused (whether it's suffering or something else). I feel confident in saying that the church that I attend believes that God DOES NOT cause suffering...but for me personally, I can see so much God's hand in my life, possibly moreso in the the suffering than in the blessings. I would even say that perhaps the only way for me to come to the Lord would be for him to have not simply ALLOWED, but actually CAUSED certain "suffering situations" in my life. I'm afraid that I might get labelled a heretic if I were to say that amongst many of my friends.

Eric said...

Rhea,

I imagine that the vast majority of Christians, regardless of denomination, believe that God allows, but does not cause suffering. We are certainly in the minority there.

If you do bring it up with your friends, I would suggest being slow and methodical about it, pointing to scripture the whole way.

We are told several times in scripture to rejoice in our sufferings. James 1:2-3 comes to mind. If God causes our suffering, it makes sense that we could rejoice during it. However, if Satan causes, and God only allows, our suffering, then what reason would we have to rejoice?

This is a difficult issue. I think you are on the right track. Thanks for making me think through it.