How good it is to thank the Lord,
and praise to Thee, Most High, accord,
to show Thy love with morning light,
and tell Thy faithfulness each night;
yea, good it is Thy praise to sing,
and all our sweetest music bring.
O Lord, with joy my heart expands
before the wonders of Thy hands;
great works, Jehovah, Thou hast wrought,
exceeding deep Thine ev’ry thought;
a foolish man knows not their worth,
nor he whose mind is of the earth.
When as the grass the wicked grow,
when sinners flourish here below,
then is their endless ruin nigh,
but Thou, O Lord, are throned on high;
Thy foes shall fall before Thy might,
the wicked shall be put to flight.
Thou, Lord, hast high exalted me
With royal strength and dignity;
With Thine anointing I am blest,
They grace and favor on me rest;
I then exult o’er all my foes,
O’er all that would my cause oppose.
The righteous man shall flourish well,
And in the house of God shall dwell;
He shall be like a goodly tree,
And all his life shall fruitful be;
For righteous is the Lord and just,
He is my rock, in Him I trust.
– Ernest R. Kroeger, 1862–1934 –
(Based on Psalm 92, #179 in the Psalter, Tune: CHRISTINE)
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By Annie Johnson Flint — 2 months ago
“When thou passest through the waters”
Deep the waves may be and cold,
But Jehovah is our refuge,
And His promise is our hold;
For the Lord Himself hath said it,
He, the faithful God and true:
“When thou comest to the waters
Thou shalt not go down, but through.”
Seas of sorrow, seas of trial,
Bitterest anguish, fiercest pain,
Rolling surges of temptation
Sweeping over heart and brain—
They shall never overflow us,
For we know His Word is true;
All His waves and all His billows,
He will lead us safely through.
Threatening breakers of destruction,
Doubt’s insidious undertow,
Shall not sink us, shall not drag us
Out to ocean depths of woe;
For His promise shall sustain us,
Praise the Lord, whose Word is true!
We shall not go down, or under,
For He saith, “Thou passest through.”
– Annie Johnson Flint
By Allen S Nelson IV — 2 months ago
The doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone is so precious to us. As a quick reminder, justification is:
Forensic – that is, it is a legal declaration. Because Christ has fulfilled all righteous, and died the just death that sinners deserve bearing God’s wrath, and rising again in victory, those who trust Christ by faith are declared legally righteous. They are imputed with the righteousness of Christ.
Full – there is nothing that you can add to your justification. All Christians, all those who look to Christ in faith, are equally justified. It is complete. There are no degrees of justification.
Final – We are not awaiting a future justification. Christ’s work has been applied to us who are trusting Him. Our good works do not add to this and cannot add to this and are unnecessary to this in terms of receiving justification.
Justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone is why the gospel is good news. It is at the very heart of what Christ has done for His people.
Furthermore, the 1689 2nd London Baptist Confession of faith rightly states: “…[T]he justification of believers under the Old Testament was exactly the same as the justification of believers under the New Testament.”
No one. Not one single soul has ever been saved apart from faith in Christ. Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. Old Testament believers were saved by looking forward to the coming Messiah, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
This is what God does for His people by His grace.
Now, what we are doing in this post is considering, practically, how do we use this doctrine in battle?
I remind you of one of Satan’s attacks on the church: He is the accuser. He accuses the brethren. Part of the reason this continues to work on Christians is because Satan is right.
At least partly.
His accusations can carry weight because he reminds us of the guilt we’ve really experienced and do experience. The problem is, he does not tell the whole story. He doesn’t get to the last chapter. Christ has made sufficient atonement for our sins and clothed us in His own righteous robes.
So, I want us to consider practically how we this glorious doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone in battle.
1. When You Are Tempted, Remember Who You Are.
Yes, I know. All my fellow millennials can hear James Earl Jones playing the role of Mufasa right now telling Simba, “Remember who you are!”
The reality of our justification does not lead us to desire sin. Whenever we sin, we are forgetting who we are in Christ.
But this really does have a practical application to every believer. Remember who you are! In one sense, that’s the theme of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. He begins that letter with one long run on sentence reminding them of who they are in Christ (cf. Eph. 1:3-14).
Satan tempts the church to sin. To grumble. To divide. To complain. To sin egregiously.
But, if we are resolute in our doctrine of justification, then we are remembering we are new. We are forgiven. We are justified. We are adopted. We are in union with Christ.
Did Christ sin? No. Then why would we who are in Him be interested in that? How can we who died to sin still live in it?
The fundamental reality of who a Christian is can be put in very simple terms: Dear brother or sister, you are not who you once were! The reality of our justification does not lead us to desire sin. Whenever we sin, we are forgetting who we are in Christ.
When you are tempted, remember who you are. The doctrine of justification does not produce licentiousness or antinomianism. Not if we are remembering who we are.
2. When You Are Accused, Remember Whose You Are
Christians are the Lord’s and we stand in His strength (cf. Eph. 6:10ff). We are clothed in His armor. God owns us. And God will protect His church. Let the accusations come! Our Defender is stronger than our Adversary.
Though Satan does sometimes tell half-truths, he also sometimes tells outright lies. Accusing the church of things we are not guilty of. In those situations, remember you are God’s. God has adopted you in Christ.
Christ owns you. The One who has justified you is the one who defends you.
When you are tempted, remember who you are. When you are accused, remember whose you are.
3. When You Are Guilty, Remember Christ
There are times Satan will bring up your guilt and he’s right. You sinned. You sinned against a brother. You sinned against your children.
Your words or thoughts or actions or motivations or desires, they came short of the glory of God. You sinned. And now Satan attacks.
You can make excuses. I did this because this happened. Or like Adam and Eve we can blame others. Or we can even blame God. But to do any of that is to fall for Satan’s trap. It causes division or laziness or pride or continued sin. Don’t do that.
Rather, when we are guilty of sin, we must not make excuses. The doctrine of justification reminds us to look to Christ. We must remember, our justification never changes. Ever. We never become less justified because of sin. We are secure in Him.
There is, therefore, now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Look again to Christ!
This frees us. It frees us to repent. Christ has already paid for my sins. I can go to Him again in faith.
And while there are consequences for my sins, and there are times we do need to make restitution to others because of sin, there is never penance to God required for them. I don’t have to work for God to forgive me because I can’t. My forgiveness is wrapped up in what Christ has done.
The best thing a Christian can do when he or she is guilty of sinning, is to run again to our King. Run to Him in faith. Repent and rest again in all that God is for you in Christ.
Jesus paid it all.
When we sin, we are essentially telling Jesus to turn back and depart from us like Naomi said to her daughters-in-law. But Christ is like Ruth ever clinging to us and committing Himself to be with us even to our death. He is not letting go of His Bride.
The best thing a Christian can do when he or she is guilty of sinning, is to run again to our King.
Christians were once alienated from God, but that is no longer the case. The wrath of God for our sin is all gone. It has been propitiated by Christ.
Christ drank the foaming cup of the wrath of God down to the last dreg and there’s nothing left in that cup for you to drink, so keep drinking from the rivers of grace.
When you are guilty of sin, repent. Look to our Lord Jesus. Rest yourself in His completed work.
When you are tempted, remember who you are. When you are accused, remember whose you are. When you are guilty, remember Christ.
4. When You Are Self-righteous, Remember the Law
If Satan cannot get you to fall in an egregious manner, he can work to harden your heart in self-righteousness.
Look at all I am doing! Look how committed I am to the church! Look how committed I am to a biblical home! Look how much I read my bible! Look how much I am obeying!
Isn’t Satan so crafty? We know better than to allow those thoughts to be spoken out loud. But if you’re honest with your heart, those thoughts have crept in before.
When you think about your justification, consider what Christ did to obtain it: Perfect. Personal. Precise. Perpetual obedience to God’s holy and righteous law.
Let that humble you. You are just as far away from keeping God’s law for your justification as the most wicked reprobate, depraved, sinner you can imagine in your mind.
Listen to me carefully here: This is not me saying “Well, sin is sin, so it doesn’t matter.” And this is not me saying that the believer does not pursue real obedience to God. Absolutely we do, by God’s grace working in our hearts.
Christians were recreated in Christ for good works (cf. Eph. 2:10). Christians do good works. Those who don’t, are not believers.
But hear me now: There is nothing that you can parade before God that merits His acceptance of you. In and yourself you do not meet His holy standard.
Let the law humble you and drive you again to our good and gracious King! Put on His armor, not your own (cf. Eph. 6:10ff).
We stand, all of us, on equal ground before God as sinners. Oh but the grace we have in Christ! He is our hope. He is our boast. He is our all.
Not self. Christ.
The doctrine of justification, properly understood, does not produce legalism. Let us live holy in and by His grace alone.
When you are tempted, remember who you are. When you are accused, remember whose you are. When you are guilty, remember Christ. When you are self-righteous, remember the Law.
5. When You Are Afraid, Remember God’s Armor
We should not make light of spiritual warfare. Sometimes we can walk around with such confidence in Christ. But, sometimes, we can have very serious times of depression or fear or trepidation. Satan can paralyze the church, at times, with fear.
But I am calling us to remember what God has provided His church. Ephesians 6:10-18 lays out our spiritual armor that Paul calls us to put on. But what’s important to remember is that it is God’s armor given to us.
This is the armor Christ has worn Himself (cf. Isaiah 59:17) and won for His church and now gifted to His church.
When you are afraid, remember the armor. The doctrine of justification reminds us that ultimately, nothing, not the culture, not the government, not any false religion, no demonic power, absolutely nothing can separate us from Christ. Nothing can prevent the church’s final victory. Our armor is the armor of God!
When you are afraid, remember the armor.
When you are tempted, remember who you are. When you are accused, remember whose you are. When you are guilty, remember Christ. When you are self-righteous, remember the Law. When you are afraid, remember the armor.
6. When All Is Well, Remember Grace
I’ve painted a lot of negative realities of the Christian life here. Temptation. Accusation. Failure. Self-righteousness. Fear.
But, there are also times when we don’t feel the heat of the battle.
Now, we should never grow complacent. But when you wake up, and the kids are well, and the table is set, and the food is served, and Christ is enjoyed, and the saints are edified, remember grace.
The doctrine of justification reminds us that God is for us in Christ, and this is based on His eternal love and sovereign grace. Grace has brought you safe thus far and grace will lead you home.
The doctrine of justification reminds us that God is for us in Christ, and this is based on His eternal love and sovereign grace.
Think about it! You stand in this impenetrable breastplate. The fury of Satan is kept at bay from you. Your heart is content in Christ. You are at peace with the church. You are hungering and thirsting for righteousness.
Where is this coming from? My friend, the fountain of grace. Drink deeply. And do not forget the source of these blessings. And do not forget the cost of these blessings.
They flow to you from the wounds of our King. The One who came to us, and lived for us, and died for us, and rose again, and now reigns on high for His glory and for the good of His church.
When all is well, remember grace.
When you are tempted, remember who you are. When you are accused, remember whose you are. When you are guilty, remember Christ. When you are self-righteous, remember the Law. When you are afraid, remember the armor. When all is well, remember grace.
7. When Death Arrives, Remember Gain
The inevitable is just outside the door. It is a phone call away. It is a doctor’s report away. It is a tragedy away. It is a heartbeat away. Death is coming. You’ll cross that river more quickly than you realized you would.
This is a terrifying reality to those who are rejecting Christ. Those living in their shelter of hypocrisy. Those dressed in carelessness or complacency. Those clothed in Satan’s armor and in love with sin.
Friend, if this is you, your condition is dreadful. And death should be frightening to you. It will creep up on you before you are ready and in the blink of an eye you will pass from this life to the next. From a life of carefree rebellion against God into one that enters His righteous judgment for all eternity.
Your only hope is to run to Christ. The One who has secured perfection and suffered our penalty. The one who died and is alive forevermore. The One who is offered to poor and needy sinners. The one who will save the vilest of sinners who come to Him in faith.
You must repent and believe the gospel or death will only be the beginning of an eternal hell you can never escape.
But what about those in Christ? What about those dressed in His righteousness?
The Scriptures are replete with good promises: For me to live is Christ and to die is gain (Phil. 1:21). Precious in the sight of Yahweh is the death of His saints (Ps. 116:15). To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (cf. 2 Cor. 5:8).
How does the doctrine of justification practically equip us for daily living and spiritual warfare? Because it takes the greatest worry of mankind and turns it into a blessing.
Death is not the end. Death is the beginning. Death is gain for those who are in Christ. Christ entered heaven in victory and those who are trusting Him will follow Him there for they wear His own righteousness.
So, I look up and I see the hill. The battle there is fierce. But the King says. Go! Take the hill! For my glory!
But I might die. To win this ground for my dear Lord, what if it costs me my very life? I see saints of old who have perished striving to take this hill.
I am afraid.
What about my family? What about my children?
But then I think again of this doctrine. Christ has already won my greatest battle. He has reconciled me to God and turned my righteous enemy in to my friend. He has forgiven me. He has put my account upon His own and His account upon mine.
Death only means an entrance into the presence of Christ. It only holds out the promise of a resurrected and glorified body. Death, for those in Christ, is gain.
I am reminded: He is worthy. He is in me. He is with me. And the very worst thing that can happen to me, He has already made provision for: He has already conquered death for His Saints.
My Savior passed through death Himself. He tasted death under God’s divine judgment. His righteous life could not be contained by death. He rose again from the death triumphing over the grave.
And this very righteousness He has bestowed upon me by grace through faith. That means the death that couldn’t hold Him, can’t hold me either. All death does is deliver me from this weak mind and decaying body, and the sin that seeks to cling so close to me.
Death only means an entrance into the presence of Christ. It only holds out the promise of a resurrected and glorified body. Death, for those in Christ, is gain.
So, I will charge the hill.
Will you go with me?
Christ is worthy.
Christ is worthy of a church that remembers who we are. Christ is worthy of a church that remembers whose we are. Christ is worthy of a church that remembers Him. Christ is worthy of a church that remembers the high cost of our salvation. Christ is worthy of a church that remembers His armor. Christ is worthy of a church that remembers grace. And Christ is worthy of a church that remembers death is gain.
The doctrine of justification is not just for seminarians and scholars. It’s for the everyday believer. It equips us to go through life prepared for whatever providence may have for us, confident in all God is for us in Christ. It protects us in our most vulnerable moments of spiritual warfare and keeps the church moving towards God’s great goal of declaring Christ’s glory over every nation.
Theology matters. Press on brothers and sisters!
By Tom Ascol — 2 years ago
Last week our friends over at CrossPolitic (CP) posted a couple of podcast episodes that understandably offended large numbers of Christians who take God’s Word seriously. They did it in the name of “rowdy Presbyterianism,” serrated edge communication, and even brotherly love. Their original failure was bad enough. But their multiple follow-up defenses of their antics suggest that their mischaracterization of Baptists might be a feature, not a bug.
For the uninformed or slightly informed, what they tried to say is that the rampant individualism that permeates much of the Baptist and evangelical world can pave the way for transgenderism in America. But what they actually said is that Baptist theology “is the cause of” transgenderism. If you want to get up to speed you can go here to see the original source of the lingering stench they created when they intentionally stomped on some cow pies and then continued to track their mess throughout the reformed evangelical house. What they should have done once friends began to complain about the stink and collectively point to the source, was stop, remove their shoes, and start cleaning up the mess they made. That would have been both right and wise.
After all, that’s how Christians live, right? We are both believers and repenters. When the Corinthians became convinced by Paul’s rebuke that they had stepped in it what did they do? They grieved in a godly manner and repented and Paul commended them for it. “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter” (2 Corinthians 7:10-11).
Some may not judge what the CP men did as sin that needs to be repented of. Others understandably see the accusation as slanderous. In the spirit of 1 Corinthians 4:13, I would like to entreat my brothers to own what they have broadcast on their show and recant. Even if they cannot be convinced of sin, I hope they will at the very least realize that their words and actions have certainly catapulted way beyond the walls of wisdom and deep into the fields of foolishness. Either way, what was said should have been simply and plainly renounced.
Instead, they doubled down. “What stink? Let me explain to you why the sights and smells that you find problematic are really due to your hyper-sensitivity and not the poop on our shoes.” That basic thesis has been defended first by a follow-up podcast episode and then three (so far) written essays, not to mention various social media comments. The common theme in each is, “Hey, we didn’t do anything wrong. Why are your knickers in a knot?”
What They Actually Said
Gabe Rench has rightly appealed to people to “deal fairly with what we said.” I intend to do just that because burning straw men serves only to pollute the relational environment and is beneath the kind of good-faith engagement that should mark disagreements among Christians. Of course, the same is true about defending straw men when real men have actually been critiqued. More on that later.
In a CP show called, “From Slavery to Abortion to Transgenderism—The Church Led us to the Trans Movement,” David Shannon, Gabe Rench, and Jared Longshore were joined with video-guest, Jason Farley. Farley explained the rising transgenderism with its attendant mutilation of bodies with this statement (at 14:15): “This is just American Baptist Theology secularized.” At the end of that show, Shannon encouraged viewers to join the Fight, Laugh, Feast Club so that they could hear the rest of the conversation that would take place with Farley “Backstage.” Both of those shows are helpfully embedded in Gabe Rench’s article here.
Burning straw men serves only to pollute the relational environment and is beneath the kind of good-faith engagement that should mark disagreements among Christians.
That “Backstage” episode is entitled, “The Failure of Baptist Theology,” which precisely indicates that for which they actually argue during the next 27 minutes. That conversation, which continued without Longshore, opened with this exchange between Rench and Farley:
Rench: Let’s say I am Baptist Rench and you just said what you said.
Farley (laughing): I know. David gave me permission.
Rench: You came out and said that my view of waiting till my child is ready to confess faith in our Lord and then baptize them is, is related to the identity crisis found in transgenderism.
Farley: Yeah, I didn’t say “related to” I said, “is the cause of.”
Laughter by Knox & Rench
Rench calls that comment “a bomb” that Farley throws into the lap of faithful Baptist families, in essence saying to them, “you are the cause of the transgender problem.”
Farley: Yeah. Well, the pastor is, but yeah.
Farley goes on to talk about abortion being the church’s fault due to Christian parents because “we were the ones that started saying, “‘Not my kids,’ right?—that birth is not enough for me to say that, ‘Yes this is my kid’ because God doesn’t think in those categories. Right?”
Rench responds, “Right.”
Farely: Well, the categories that God thinks in are more real than any of the categories that I think in. So, if God looks at my kids and says,”‘Not my kids,” God is rejecting my kids before I ever do, then that’s a much deeper issue than [he does not finish his thought]. So then when the world comes along and says, “Well, look, they’re not even kids yet, right?”
Rench & Knox: Yeah
Farley: “We can kill them.” Just today, my 16 year old son who just got his driver’s license. We were driving home he was like, “Dad I was talking to my Baptist friend and I said, ‘So why aren’t you baptized yet?’ He was like, ‘Well you gotta make the choice and stuff.’ ‘Well, hurry up and do it.’ ‘Well, that’ s not really how it works, you gotta mean it and stuff.’
And he [Farley’s son] went on to say, “When your parents were adopted by God do you think that wasn’t going to include you? [Like God would say:] ‘I’ll take you but I don’t want your kids?’”
Farley quoting his son, who continues to speak for God: “‘I’ll be your dad but I won’t be your grandkids’ grandpa?’”
Rench: Right. Wow.
So here we have advocates of CREC theology applauding “God as grandfather” of “covenant kids.” More could be said but stop for a moment and just let it sink in a bit.
The grandfatherhood of God.
What about great-grandfatherhood? Are we to believe that when God adopts parents that He would seriously tell their grandchildren that He doesn’t want them? Does He really say, “I‘ll take you and your kids, but not your grandkids?” If yes, then why? If not, then…at what generation does the logic no longer hold?
I belabor this point for this reason: It makes clear what was actually said, affirmed, and commended by David Shannon and Gabe Rench and later defended by Toby Sumpter and Jared Longshore. You need to keep this in mind when you consider the defenses they offer when you listen to the 3rd video and read their written arguments. Because in the name of defending the points they actually made (as I’ve just documented) they actually try to defend that which they perhaps wish had been said.
What They Actually Defend
My purpose isn’t to critique every wrong thing that was said in this whole fiasco but rather to focus only on the foolish claims the CP guys made about Baptist theology and the problematic ways that they have responded to it once they were called to account. However, I do want to highlight the following comments by David Shannon. They added nothing to the purported explanation or defense of the erroneous and false accusations cited above, but they do reveal a wrong way of viewing the differences between Baptist and Presbyterian theologies (and therefore, practices).
Shannon: “I love my Baptist brothers more than they love me and I have evidence of that. I am part of a denomination, the CREC, that believes that Baptists and Presbyterians should not separate over the issue of baptism…. Every Sunday I am in communion and fellowship and membership with Baptists inside my Presbyterian church and we’re breaking bread at the table…. The way that Baptists view Presbyterians when it comes to be in relationship to them at the table in communion with them in membership in the church,… is that, ‘We’re friends but you can’t be a member of this church. You can’t have communion with us.’… Like if my children grow up and go to a Baptist church they have to be rebaptized.”
The assumption that a lower view of the importance of baptism is more loving than a higher view is unfounded. It is true that Baptist theology forbids any unbaptized person membership in the church. Of course, Presbyterian theology does the same thing—only those who have been baptized are proper candidates for membership in their churches, too. Baptists and Presbyterians are in complete agreement on this point.
Our differences are found in what constitutes baptism. Presbyterians practice paedobaptism. Baptists do not recognize that practice as legitimate baptism. We can fight (and, through the centuries, have fought) over what constitutes legitimate new covenant baptism, but we agree that only those who have been baptized can be members of our churches. There is nothing unloving to hold, following the clear teaching of the New Testament, the theological conviction that “Those who do actually profess repentance towards God, faith in, and obedience to, our Lord Jesus Christ, are the only proper subjects of this ordinance” (1689 Confession, 29.2). That means, in Baptist theology, only believers can experience biblical baptism. It has nothing to do with love but everything to do with biblical conviction. This is what causes Baptists to say that baptism is for believers alone.
Toby Sumpter doubles down on Shannon’s point a little later when he says that the practice of closed communion by a Baptist church is a “more extreme thing” than what Farley asserted about Baptist theology causing transgenderism. Both he and Shannon are confusing categories. Farley accused “Baptist theology” of causing transgenderism. A common practice for many (most?) Baptist churches for 400 years has been to fence the table against unbaptized people. The former is a scurrilous gratuitous assertion that scored points for being edgy and cool. The latter is rooted in careful exegesis of God’s Word that has resulted in deep doctrinal conviction that can be (and has been) debated. The effort to compare them and then to suggest that a long-held Baptist practice is “more extreme” than a silly assertion is a swing and a miss.
In Baptist theology, only believers can experience biblical baptism. It has nothing to do with love but everything to do with biblical conviction. This is what causes Baptists to say that baptism is for believers alone.
For what it is worth, I, a Baptist, have at times been uninvited to commune at the Lord’s Table with fellow Baptists while worshiping in their churches. By conviction, they regard the Lord’s Supper to be a local church ordinance for local church members. That is not my conviction, but I hardly find their practice offensive, unloving, or extreme. In fact, I rejoice that they actually care enough about it to take it seriously.
All this brings me back to my disappointment over the ways that the CP brothers have handled this whole unfortunate mess. Rather than deal with what was actually said, their defenses and explanations have centered on other things. For example, Shannon stated, “There are Baptist brothers who I don’t fit inside of the same box as American Baptist theological foundation system.” Gabe Rench echoed this defense in his written response to the controversy.
On our CrossPolitic show on Wednesday, my friend Jason Farley said the American Baptist theology turned-secular is why we have the trans culture that we have today (around the 14 minute mark). To be clear, I agree with Jason, and so did Knox and Pastor Toby. Also to be clear, we said the American Baptist theology, not Reformed Baptist theology. Distinctions matter, right?
Yes, distinctions do matter. Five minutes after Farley’s statement that transgenderism is “just American Baptist theology secularized” (in the original podcast) Shannon personifies the type of pushback that they anticipate that statement will evoke. Portraying Baptists who are trying to follow Christ faithfully he says,
There is a group of people that think that what they are doing—they are doing family worship, they are trying their very best, they are seeking to honor God in how they are raising their kids in every way, and saying, “We’re covenantal, we’re Baptist, but we are covenantal. Right?”
Which Baptists other than those who are Reformed would call themselves “covenantal?” It is disingenuous to suggest that Farley’s accusation was a sniper shot at “American Baptists” that excluded “Reformed Baptists” (or any other kind, for that matter) in light of Shannon’s characterization of the kind of Baptist that they are addressing. Further, the follow-up “backstage” episode during which they elaborate the charge is, as I mentioned above, entitled, “The Failure of Baptist Theology (my emphasis).” No distinctions. No qualifications. No exclusions. Just a shotgun blast with #8 shot.
On the episode that attempted to clarify their meaning (“Baptists vs Presbyterians? Christian Unity & Separation on Theological Issues”) Sumpter goes to great lengths to defend what Farley never said. After setting up his point by noting that Presbyterianism “can grow a certain kind of cancer” he remarks, “I’m a Presbyterian. I just hit myself.” For emphasis he added, “Were a bunch of Presbyterians white supremacists in the South? Yes.” Then he makes what he thinks is a valid point.
There’s really no difference in saying that and saying, “Does Baptist theology, can it grow mold? Can it grow cancer? Can it grow tumors? Can it become a corruption?” Who’s gonna say no? And, if Jason Farley says, “Hey, one of the tumors that Baptist theology can grow is radical individualism”…. James White is not even denying it; he’s saying non-confessional Baptist theology… is particularly prone to grow this kind of mold, to grow this kind of cancer. Does that lead to radical individualism… Does that turn into transgenderism? Yes.
I agree with this completely. “Who’s gonna say no?” But that is a different conversation from the one provoked by Farley’s broadside. Sumpter seems to think that Farley spoke in the subjunctive: “If Jason Farley says, ‘Hey, one of the tumors that Baptist theology can grow is radical individualism….,’” If that is what Farley had said, then no harm, no foul. Play on. But Farley spoke in the indicative. He asserted a statement as a fact. What he actually said is that the Baptist conviction of baptizing only those who confess Jesus Christ as Lord “is the cause of” transgenderism.
I wish someone would actually try to defend what he actually said and not what they might have wished he said. If the theological convictions and practices of Baptists are responsible for the transgenderism in our culture then at least try to make an argument to demonstrate it. Don’t take the worst examples of a theological position, or worse yet, a perversion of a position, highlight its deficiencies, and then claim to have made your case. If Baptist theology is the problem, then at least marshal some theological arguments.
The lack of such argumentation underscores another weakness of all the responses thus far, and that is the lack of any biblical engagement at all. I know some Presbyterians think my Baptist impulse to want actual biblical texts to undergird theological arguments and positions is a quaint type of biblicism. But if you are going to charge “Baptist theology” with failure and with causing the transgender movement in our culture, is it too much to expect at least a modicum of actual biblical exposition showing the error of that theology? If that is a request too great to bear could we at least have some proof texts cited? As I read the written responses and watched the videos it became increasingly evident that if the Bible were a virus then the CP shows and defenses would be in no danger of catching it.
If you are going to charge “Baptist theology” with failure and with causing the transgender movement in our culture, is it too much to expect at least a modicum of actual biblical exposition showing the error of that theology?
Well, much, much more could be said about the failures of the CP brothers in how they have handled the stink they have created. Rather than simply acknowledge the facts—that Jason Farley laid an egg with a slanderous statement that should be walked back—they have doubled down, tried to convince us of what we should have heard, suggested that those who find his accusation scurrilous and indefensible simply don’t know how to communicate like men, with a serrated edge, or especially like Jesus. As one young pastor friend graciously put it, these responses are “honestly close to gaslighting.”
While some might be impressed with all these moves, I, and I am guessing many others, have seen this play before. Rather than take the “L” and move forward, the typical way that most contemporary Christian organizations respond to legitimate concerns is to dismiss them as missing the point, being untoward, or having no relevance. Then the wagons are circled in hopes that the news cycle passes quickly.
Such responses always leave me cold because they are no different from those who have no Savior. Christians have no reason to resist owning our sin and failures. Our Lord was crucified and raised from the dead. We don’t have to pretend that we live sin-free lives or try to obfuscate or coverup when sin or shortcoming in our lives and ministries come to light. We can own it, repent, make things right, and move on in faith.
But that doesn’t seem to be the evangelical way anymore.
I hope better for the CP men.
After writing this I learned that both Jeff Wright and James White have responded to this fiasco. Both are worth your attention.
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