The Baptist Identity - Chapter Three

Discussion in 'Books / Publications Forum' started by rlvaughn, Jan 2, 2002.

  1. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    HERE IT IS. FINALLY, I have gotten back to the The Baptist Identity project. Hope someone still cares :( .

    CHAPTER THREE - CHURCH FREEDOM

    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Church Freedom is the historic Baptist affirmation that local churches are free, under the Lordship of Christ, to determine their membership and leadership, to order their worship and work, to ordain whom they perceive as gifted for ministry, male or female, and to participate in the larger Body of Christ, of whose unity and mission Baptists are proudly a part.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    After an introduction, Shurden addresses "church freedom" in four divisions - The Church: Free to Follow Voluntarily; The Church: Free to Govern Obediently; The Church: Free to Worship Creatively; and The Church: Free to Minister Responsibly.

    The author maintains his use of 20th century bibliography. Of the four freedoms, Dr. Shurden's presentation of number three is probably the most controversial, and confirms this book is definitely a polemic for the "liberal" Southern Baptist viewpoint. In light of the fact the Shurden purports to define "that essence...that constitutes being Baptist", it seems unusual that he tries to fill this "freedom" with ideas that are at the least questionable as what degree they are held by Baptists.

    First, he includes that ambiguous phrase "under the Lordship of Christ." As far as Baptist confessions go, this phrase seems to mean all things to all people. The controversy over the deletion of this from the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message seems to indicate that conservatives see it as a dodge of Biblical inerrancy and that moderates hold it as a necessary element of their "orthodoxy". Most Baptists would agree that the church answers to no higher authority - to Christ alone. But is this what the professor means by the phrase? Or does it have some hidden agenda; is it a 'code word' to the enlightened? It is hard to tell, since he does not seem to develop the phrase in the chapter. Second, he serves us three tiny words - male or female. The church is free to ordain "male or female". The author doesn't follow up too much on this, but he does say, "A congregation may call whomever it wishes, women or men, to serve as ministers or deacons (p.38)." Whatever Shurden may believe about women in the ministry, surely he doesn't think holding that women may be ordained defines the essence of what it means to be Baptist! Does He? Though one can select historical passages to imply that ordaining women has long been held by Baptists, the total historical record shows that this has been at best a vagary among Baptists. Third, Dr. Shurden once again makes his plea for ecumenism. Baptists are free "to participate in the larger Body of Christ, of whose unity and mission Baptists are proudly a part." But he overstates the case. Sure, some Baptists are ecumenical. More are not. Does this freedom to be ecumenical define the essence of what it means to be Baptist? The author takes several opportunities to praise the ecumenism he so sincerely wishes upon Baptists. Among the adorations of Penrose St. Amant is that he was "an ecumenical churchman and a thoroughgoing Baptist (p. 33)." And, "Baptists have a theology of the church that encourages relationships with non-Baptist Christians (p. 36)." Striking again, he says "...the Baptist notion of ecclesiology {the study of the church}, does not by any means preclude interdenominational or ecumenical activities by Baptists" and "All Baptist groups, therefore, would be wise to break out of their self-imposed isolation from other Christian groups and enter into ecumenical dialogue and action (p. 39)."

    Why didn’t Shurden leave out these details and let us be free to decide what it means to be free. Surely we all agree that an individual Baptist church is an autonomous body and may decide to do any of these things and many more. But, please, don't suggest that holding these things to be scriptural somehow defines the essence of what it means to be Baptist. The all-inclusive Baptist only wants to include others who are all-inclusive!!

    In my opinion, the real purpose of Shurden's work is not so much to historically or doctrinally identify Baptists, but rather to present these four freedoms as what he thinks SHOULD identify Baptists.

    [ February 02, 2002: Message edited by: rlvaughn ]
     
  2. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    Though I disagree with the basic premise of Walter Shurden's book, I do not disagree with everything he says. Here are a few quotes I like: "...the individual is always an 'individual in community'...the church should only include those persons who have deliberately committed themselves to the way of Christ...But one must not equate faith in Jesus with mere intellectual assent to doctrinal ideas...Baptists hope to implement the rule of Christ through the mechanism of the full participation of the congregation...Congregationalism never meant isolationism of Baptist churches from one another...No organization exists in Baptist life that is superior to or legislates for Baptist churches...The Baptist freedom for worship aims at an authentic spiritual offering being presented to God (pp. 34-40)."
     
  3. Bob Alkire

    Bob Alkire
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    rivaughn, thanks for the good work. Will be waiting for next chapter.
     
  4. Bob Alkire

    Bob Alkire
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    rivaughn, I know you have a lot going on but your fan club is waiting for chapter 4, please.
     
  5. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    Bob, thanks for asking. I have actually started on getting it together, but haven't had luxury time to sort it all out. Check back soon. [​IMG]
     
  6. David Cooke Jr

    David Cooke Jr
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    Rlvaughn,
    Understand that my response may be colored by the fact that I attended FBC Macon (where Dr. Shurden attends) while I was a law student at Mercer, that he is a friend of the family, and I consider him a wonderful preacher and scholar. I still bump into him when we visit FBC during holidays (its my wife's home church). I know him as "Buddy" so I may slip and refer to him that way.
    Re: whether "under the lordship of Christ" has any hidden meaning or is a code word phrase, I can't speak for Buddy, but I would contrast this with "under the lorship of the Pope" or "under the lordship of the pastor/clergy". We serve Christ, directly, without need or intereference from clergy. Also, since Christ is our Lord and the word made flesh, everything about our faith and practice, as well as our interpretation of scripture, should be based on his life and teaching. He is the cornerstone of our faith.
    As for why did Buddy include "female" in who we can ordain, I don't think he means to be Baptist you must approve the ordination of women. It simply means each congregation is free to chose their own pastor, and if they choose a woman, no one has the authority to tell them not to b/c they are autonomous.
    As for your closing assertaion that Shurden is really making a wish-list of what he hopes Baptists were, I beg to differ. First, because each of the principles-soul freedom, bible freedom, church freedom, and religious freedom, have been held dear by Baptists for centuries (we may disagree about the import of theses values, but we have held them for years). Second, I don't think Dr. Shurden would dishonestly present propoganda clothed as history.
    This is a favorite book of mine-I'm glad you're reviewing it and providing me with another point of view. Keep it up.
     
  7. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    David, thanks for resubmitting your comments that were deleted.
    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by David Cooke, Jr.:
    ...Dr. Shurden...I consider...a wonderful preacher and scholar.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>I can't speak to Shurden as a preacher, but I do consider him a scholar. That I differ from him and think he erred in several ways with this book does not change the fact that I respect him as a historian and a scholar. <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>..."under the lordship of Christ"...I would contrast this with "under the lorship of the Pope" or "under the lordship of the pastor/clergy". We serve Christ, directly, without need or intereference from clergy. Also, since Christ is our Lord and the word made flesh, everything about our faith and practice, as well as our interpretation of scripture, should be based on his life and teaching.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>I think the phrase "under the Lordship of Christ" could definitely mean the first thing to which you refer. But, in light of the recent controversy in the Southern Baptist Convention, I think it is more likely to encompass the second thing you mention - a method of interpretation of the scriptures. As I said, since he does not really develop the phrase in the chapter, it is hard to be sure what he had in mind.
    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>As for why did Buddy include "female" in whom we can ordain, I don't think he means to be Baptist you must approve the ordination of women. It simply means each congregation is free to chose their own pastor, and if they choose a woman, no one has the authority to tell them not to b/c they are autonomous.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>He probably doesn't think that you must approve the ordination of women to be Baptist. But he did make a point to insert the phrase. What I'm thinking is that if he had simply said "local churches are free...to determine their...leadership...to ordain whom they perceive as gifted for ministry" he would have fairly represented something with which all Baptists could agree, but by inserting "or female" he presents something with which most Baptists do not agree. I say this in light of the stated purpose of the book - "to identify...that essence...that constitutes being Baptist (p. 1)."
    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>As for your closing assertion that Shurden is really making a wish-list of what he hopes Baptists were, I beg to differ. First, because each of the principles - soul freedom, bible freedom, church freedom, and religious freedom, have been held dear by Baptists for centuries (we may disagree about the import of theses values, but we have held them for years). Second, I don't think Dr. Shurden would dishonestly present propaganda clothed as history.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>To your first point, I agree that these principles are foundational to being Baptist. But I believe that as presented in this book, they include too many modifiers to fairly represent the broader base of Baptist thinking. Or put another way - the four freedoms must be part of Baptist thought, but not with all the phrases included by Shurden, and the four freedoms alone are not enough to identify Baptists. To your second point, I don't think Dr. Shurden is being dishonest, but I do think he is somewhat driven by certain inclinations (just as fundamentalists emphasize the opposite extreme). I also don't think he is presenting propoganda as history because (1) he sincerely believes this to be correct, and (2) he is careful to not present this as history, and almost never refers to anything written before 1900.
     
  8. Bob Alkire

    Bob Alkire
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    rivaughn, My brother are we going to get chapter 4? I'm waiting, I have enjoyed the others and think you did a great job on them and now want(need)more.
    Bob
     
  9. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    Brother Bob, I was just thinking last week that I have failed to follow through on the 4th chapter of the book, and need to get back to that. Thanks for reminding me. I am at a very busy juncture, and don't think it likely I could have it on before June. I have some review saved in a file, but have never finished it. Stay on me til I get the job done. [​IMG] :eek:
     
  10. Bob Alkire

    Bob Alkire
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    rivaughn,Thanks my brother, will do.
    Bob
     
  11. td

    td
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    I would echo Mr. Cooke's comments about Dr. Shurden. I met him in 1986 when he preached a revival at our church. He later became our interim pastor. He is an outstanding preacher.

    I have not read this book, but the premise sounds similar to his 1987 work "The Doctrine of the Priesthood of Believers". Thanks for the review rlvaughn.
     
  12. Bob Alkire

    Bob Alkire
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    My brother, we are still waiting. That is what happens when you do a good job people want more!!
    Bob
     
  13. Bob Alkire

    Bob Alkire
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    My brother, we are still waiting. That is what happens when you do a good job people want more!!
    Bob
     
  14. Bob Alkire

    Bob Alkire
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    Still waiting, I know you can do it.
     
  15. Bob Alkire

    Bob Alkire
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    Still waiting, I know you can do it.
     

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