Monday, February 11, 2008

Restoration Movement . . .what's that?

I get that good people disagree on the subject of baptism. I understand that.

For the record, I believe that the Bible teaches the following about baptism, as experienced in the first century:
  • It is by immersion. No serious Bible scholar believes otherwise.
  • It is of a believer. Infants were not immersed in the early church.
  • It is for the remission of sin and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38)
  • It is the time and place where we die, are buried, and raised to new life in Christ (Romans 6:1-8)
  • When we are baptized, we are clothed with Christ, and identified with His body, the church. (Galatians 3:27ff)
  • It is the point at which we are saved. (1 Peter 3:21)
I realize that there is a significant segment of the Christian community that disagrees with that last point. For as long as I can recall the debate about the timing of baptism in the salvation experience has raged. Are we saved and then baptized, or are we baptized and then saved? I get all that.

I even get that some people, having experienced four years of a Christian college education at a "Restoration Movement" institution of higher learning will disagree with that position. Our best schools have never turned out mind-numbed Christians cut with an Alexander Campbell shaped cookie cutter.

What I don't get, though, is how a graduate from one of "our" colleges can write to me, as one recently did when applying for the youth ministry position at our church:
I am unfamiliar with the Independent Christian Church. I will have to do some research. Obviously, I didn't learn anything about it at [Nameless West Coast Christian College]. With all the different denominations represented there, I figured the school was non-denominational.
Okaaaay. He was concerned about our church's view of baptism. I told him, essentially, what I wrote above. His response:
Thank you for taking the time to share with me a little bit about your church. However, I will respectfully withdraw my resume from consideration for your youth ministry position. Although I do respect your belief about baptism, I believe the way forward for the future of the Church is to side step dogmatic theology and make room for everyone who accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior of the world in spite of our theological differences as long as they maintain the basic tenants of the historical faith.
Again, I understand that we might disagree. What I cannot fathom, though, is how this young man could graduate from [Nameless West Coast Christian College] and not understand that, for Independent Christian Churches, "the way forward" is all about finding the way back to our New Testament roots.

I am thankful that a person cannot matriculate from my alma mater without understanding this concept. Do my fellow alums always agree with it? No. But they do learn it and understand it. I realize that this young man does not represent the majority of Independent Christian Church college graduates. Perhaps he doesn't even represent his own alma mater fairly. But if he does, if I'm wrong and today's graduates believe that baptism is just another dogmatic doctrine to be side-stepped on the road to an I'd-like-to-teach-the-world-to-sing-in-perfect-harmony sort of theology, in the words of one old professor of mine, "I fear for the brotherhood."


Anonymous said...

"THE WAY" forward for the future.
A "SIDE STEP" off the narrow path.
I'm very concerned about the future of the Church and blurring the lines is NOT "THE WAY". I believe the study materials we use at South need to have a more thorough review and critique of their doctrinal stances.
Liberalism creeps around our church like a wolf of falsehood.
In matters of faith Unity.
In matters of opinion Love.
I miss Bob Palmer!

Anonymous said...

"I believe the study materials we use at South need to have a more thorough review and critique of their doctrinal stances."

I can't say that I critique it all, but the areas I have followed up on have met what I consider "correct doctinal stances." What areas are you concerned about?

"Liberalism creeps around our church like a wolf of falsehood."

Wow - I've not noticed that... I've been in a wide variety of Sunday School and Wednesday night classes, and it hasn't crept in any of those. I know there are some strong opinions held in our church, some of them I strongly disagree with -- but they are not related to our salvation so I love and let go.

So if this is a real post (I always wonder when they are anonymous - if this was a real concern of yours I'm sure you wouldn't do it from hiding) -- exactly what areas our South's doctrinal stances off base, and where is the 'falsehood' being taught? That's a pretty strong claim.

Anonymous said...

Nothing like the inability to edit posts...

"exactly what areas our South's doctrinal stances off base"

should be

""exactly what areas are South's doctrinal stances off base"

Debbi Rountree said...

I agree wholeheartedly with Rob. We have to be able to determine that line between "faith and opinion". I truly believe that our leaders are always aware of what is being taught. I think that whomever sent this anonymous reply was very incorrect in the statement about Bob Palmer. He is the one who defined the lines between faith and opinion, and if you ever had the chance to talk to him, you would know that he stood his ground on issues of 'faith' but was also very adamant about issues of 'opinion'.

Julia said...

While I believe that the first, anonymous, post on this blog was “real” I doubt the sincerity and intent behind the post. If indeed the message was one of concern for the future of South, then why not step forward in a loving and open manner and raise these concerns first with the eldership and staff, why not submit a prayer request with such concerns? To provide unsolicited criticism is one thing, to do so anonymously, without citing specific instances and again without going through the appropriate channels, therefore giving sufficient credit to the leadership at South, is not only cowardly, but also subversive, divisive and inflammatory.

If indeed our poster was prayerful about these areas of concern, and believed them to be Spirit, led then why raise them under the guise of anonymity? The nature and manner of the posts causes me to question the motivation and intent. I think that what is occurring at South is amazing! We as a congregation are being challenged to take the focus off our self, off our building, off our own collective well-being. We are being challenged to “Be the Church” and I am not referring to a building. We are being challenged to feed His sheep, rather than ourselves. We are being held accountable and are being stretched, do we really mean what we say, and do we really believe what we profess to believe. It is one thing to say that we know that this life is not about us, but it is an entirely other thing to live as though we know this world, this life is not about us. It is about having an authentic faith, an authentic relationship with the Father and with each other. There is no room for anonymity in a church that is striving for authenticity, in a church that is striving to be real, in a church that is striving to be there.

There is room for disagreement, but to suggest that we have “blurred the lines on doctrinal stances” and are harboring the “wolf of liberalism” within our doors is to make a heavy accusation and to provide a strong criticism against the leadership, staff, and body as a whole, of which I think our anonymous poster considers him or herself a member.

David H. Willis said...

I don't know anything about "South" but I do know that Frank has uncovered a trend in our movement at large. To many it doesn't seem to be happening yet one day we look around and ask, "How did this happen?" It's gradual, it's subtle and, yes, it's happening."

Debbi Rountree said...

Again, I have to ask, can someone please show me concrete evidence of where we are becoming "liberal" at South? It's a little disconcerting when you say that, yet don't have anything to back it up with. I've been a member at South for over 50 years (no comments...) and we are teaching the same Biblical 'doctrine' now as when the church was started. Again, there is that line between faith and opinion. When the music went from 'traditional' to 'contemporary', there were those who thought this was Biblically wrong. This is an example of the faith/opinion issue. Baptism (immersion) will always be taught at South, as will those doctrines that we find in the Bible. We have tremendous leadership, both the eldership and the staff, who are continually making certain that we stay on track, Biblically. We cannot get faith and opinion mixed up.

Soren said...

Wow Frank, you really opened a can of worms, eh? I'll side-step the "in-house" issue that you are dealing with (although I don't know any preacher from South who did anything but preach the truth about salvation).

Brother Willis is correct. This is an alarming brotherhood trend. New church works especially are notorious for hiding or minimizing their Restoration Movement roots. I don't think we should preach the RM or lift up the forefathers as anything other than truth-seekers who helped us immensely, but we're talking about Bible doctrine here. And something as significant as the plan of salvation. Sadly, it seems like fewer and fewer people think it's a big deal.

Brotherhood doctrinal squishiness gets my blood boiling (as you well know), but what can I really do about it? We must try to have influence where we can, preaching the truth in love. And hope and pray that some people will get it.

Thanks for proving once again that you are not as padded as I once thought :-)
Love ya brother!

Frank Weller said...

Trust me, there is nothing soft or padded about the doctrine at South. I think the anonymous poster, when writing, "about the future of the Church" is referring to the church in general (this the capital "C"). As for making sure the study materials that we use at South receive a thorough review and critique - I have no problem with that. Wally is aware of every bit of curriculum that our small group leaders use.

Does it all have the "Restoration Housekeeping Seal of Approval?" No. For example, one of our groups is going through Bill Hybels' book, Just Walk Across the Room. The book, which is about evangelism, espouses a "faith-only" salvation position. The small group leader knows it; Wally knows it; I know it. The leader teaches accordingly.

As South grows, we will find ourselves being more and more unable to review everything that is being taught. That is okay, though, so long as we teach our people to be like the Bereans, who "were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true."

We teach our people to search the scripture for truth, we trust them to do so, and we are available to them when they do it.

I think that is a course of action of which Bob Palmer would approve.

As for the rest of the post . . .Yes, liberalism creeps around our church. Scripture says that Satan prowls around like a roaring lion. Paul said that people would draw to themselves teachers who will say what itching ears want to hear. There is truth there for every church, not just for South. Do I think we're in imminent danger of swinging "to the far left?" No.

The slogan is, "In matters of faith, unity; in matters of opinion, liberty and in all things charity." In matters of faith, I believe South has complete unity. In matters of opinion, we have liberty (perhaps more than "anonymous" would like."

Nevertheless, I'm willing to extend a little charity to our anonymous poster. If you're not registered as a blogger, it can be a little intimidating putting your name out there. And anyway he (or she) loved Mr. Palmer. I miss him, too.

Soren said...

I'm with you Frank.

We have used "Just Walk Across the Room", some Beth Moore stuff, and Rob Bell's "Nooma" vids )and others stuff too). We have also used a lot of Restoration Movement teachers/preachers/writers, but that doesn't mean that we give a blanket endorsement to EVERYTHING a particular person believes/teaches.