Neo-independent Baptists 2
Note: This is the second in a series of posts addressing the neo-independent Baptist movement. Today's post is by me, Tom Brennan. I am 45, a 1995 graduate of Hyles-Anderson College, and I pastor the Maplewood Bible Baptist Church in Chicago.
Jude tells us to earnestly contend for the faith. As I understand the last two words of that phrase, “the faith” implies the sum and substance of the body of doctrines taught in the Word of God which we are supposed to believe. Primarily, these are understood in our day as the fundamentals of the faith (notice those last two words) – the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, and the doctrines the Bible teaches about Jesus. Included in the latter would be such things as the eternal preexistence and divinity of Christ, the incarnation, the virgin birth, the sinless life, actual miracles, the atoning death, a literal resurrection, the Second Coming, and salvation by grace through faith. It is these which are critically vital to humanity’s eternal welfare. To quote from my book, Schizophrenic, “Beyond that, as an independent Baptist, I hold to other doctrines that I think the Bible clearly teaches and that are also important. But at the bare minimum, the man who holds [these doctrines] is my brother in Christ. We shall share Heaven someday. He is not my enemy though I may differ with him on a veritable plethora of other things. He is an orthodox Christian, not in a denominational sense, but in a doctrinal sense.”
Not only are such men not the enemy I further freely admit that there is much to like about them. On a personal level, they are neither remote nor arrogant. They are friendly, approachable, and often humble. They are just as willing to listen as they are to speak. Like many younger men in the independent Baptist orbit, they have seen the damage wreaked upon families by men of previous generations who were more married to God’s bride than their own bride, more conscious of God’s children than their own children. Josh Teis himself leads in this, and I love him for it. Where I find him I find his wife, giving, ministering, loving, and laboring together, and to all appearances they both have prioritized loving and leading their children. On the ministry side, I find a commitment to an accurate knowledge of history and theology. Additionally, I sense in them a heart that beats in tandem with the great heart of God. I see a passion for souls, an overriding urge that drives them to reach as many people with the Gospel as they possibly can while there is yet time. Would to God these things would be contagious indeed.
I can hear some of you now, muttering to yourselves as you scroll through this blog post on your phone. “Tom, you have made a good case. The men you are criticizing are not your enemy, indeed, you even admire them in many respects. Then why in the world are you launching blog salvos at them then? Why are you stirring up all of this fuss? We are brethren, and you are bringing division where there ought to be unity.”
Peter and Paul were brothers too. They shared the same heritage, the same doctrine, the same faith. They were co-laborers, serving God with great ability, sincerity, and devotion. Yet Scripture records, But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. Brothers? Yes. Enemies? Not even. Yet Paul deemed it necessary not just to remonstrate with Peter but to do so forcefully – withstood him to the face – and publicly – I said unto Peter before them all. Why? Because other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away. See, the problem does not lie just in the disagreements I may or may not have with what another brother in Christ does in his church. It is in the influence that is spreading out from those men, seeping into church after church, creeping up the walls like a rising flood tide that will eventually carry all before it.
The movement Josh Teis is forming around himself and other likeminded men holds the potential to carry away a tremendous number of solid men and strong churches, weakening them in a wide variety of ways just as the storm clouds on the American horizon grow bigger. As Pete Folger argued last week, “I feel compelled to warn those who are being influenced by these men and many others that there are serious dangers involved with the neo-independent Baptist movement. In the short time I’ve followed those who are part of this growing group I have witnessed radical change. From things as innocent as a more casual “look” for those leading from the platform to more serious concerns like fully embracing contemporary Christian music and abandoning positions on Bible versions, and the ecumenical movement, these changes have been rapid, concerning and lead me to believe that greater change is on the horizon.” It is not about just where the neo-independent Baptist movement is at; it is about where it is going, the speed at which it is heading there, and the numbers of God’s people it is taking with it. This is why this is not some little disagreement that can be expressed in private between two men in an exchange of letters or phone calls. It is vital to our future, and to the future of what I genuinely believe is the last, best hope for New Testament Christianity in America, the independent Baptist movement.
|Saints Peter and Paul by|
Guido Reni, c 1625
Like many of you, I attended a small Christian school that did not have much in the way of a sports program. We did, however, have a basketball team, one I was passionate about. For five years I started for that team, the bulk of that time as point guard. We were terrible when we started. The very first game our team ever played we lost 62-15 and it was not even as close as the score indicates. For years we struggled, mired at the bottom of the standings, like the Cubs, perennially the doormat of the National League. But as we matured in age and athletic ability, and we continued to play together something happened. We got good, or at least as good as a small Christian school with limited resources could get. And as we improved we discovered all the motivation necessary to work even harder at it, to get up at dawn to head to the courts at the park in the summer, to shoot foul shots until it was too dark to see, to dribble and pass and box out and run past the point of exhaustion.
My junior year of high school we made a run at the championship. We did not have the tallest or the strongest or the deepest team in the league, but we had experience, will, and a great desire to win. We did not capture that championship, but we gave it everything we had. We left it all on the court. We came <fingers pinched together> this close.
As the point guard of that almost championship team it was my responsibility to be a leader on the floor. I had to anticipate the mistakes of the other team and exploit them. By the same token, I had to envision our own flaws and do all I could to adjust for them. And the earlier I could spot those the better off we would be. I needed to see more than just my man or just this minute of the game. I had to see its flow, where it came from, and where it was going next. In Old Testament parlance, I was responsible to be one of the men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do. (I Chronicles 12.32) Often that involved paying attention to things days and weeks before the actual game, not only studying our opponents, but studying my own team. Where were we weak? Had our passing gotten sloppy? Were we reaching in on defense? Shooting too many threes? Parking in the lane for more than three seconds? Putting it all on our star player? In other words, I was to practice discernment.
When I saw something I said something. I did not yell, well, not much. <grin> Or at least I did not start by yelling. I started by bringing it up, and asking them to think about what playing sloppy like that against a good team would produce in the score at the end of the game. I was not attacking my team mates. I was pointing out errant actions that would result in damage for our team when we did face the enemy.
I use the word “beloved” a lot in my writing. I do it purposely, because Bible writers used it and because it keeps my heart right toward my readers. In using it here I am not trying to manipulate you; I am seeking to edify you. Beloved, I simply want to see our team do well, in the eyes of God and in the lives of a desperately needy humanity. There is no long-term good to be gained by heading down the now well-worn path of the contemporary movement, no good and much grief.
Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?