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We Interrupt These Reports

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

We interrupt these reports on the National Leadership Conference to provide an update on our building situation and ask for your prayers.

As has been mentioned in previous posts, Messiah Baptist Fellowship is in the process of trying to purchase a church building for our use.

We were originally scheduled to go to closing on February 1, but there was some difficulty that the selling church experienced that led to a delay in this process. We are currently meeting in the building, but we do not own the building, as yet.

Anyway, the update is that closing has been re-scheduled for tomorrow, Wednesday, March 1, 2006 at 4:00 p.m. Please pray for us that everything works out well and that we are able to complete this purchase for our church and that God would allow us to use this new building for His glory as we move forward for Him.

In Christ,

Pastor Frank Sansone

File under Church_, Personal_, Conferences_

Shaping the Future - Pastoral Internships

Two of the sessions that I had the privilege of attending at the National Leadership Conference dealt touched upon the concept of Pastoral Internships. It is refreshing to see that a number of the bigger sized (by this I mean 400 or more, not necessarily the mega-churches) Fundamental churches are beginning to understand and pursue this type of ministry as a regular function of their ministry. It is one of my hopes and prayers that we will be able to be involved in this kind of ministry as a church before too long. (Of course, I envision the work of God going forth across the Delmarva Peninsula in such a way that strong, Fundamental, Baptist churches are able to be found throughout the Peninsula some day, but that is still a little down the road.)

Prior to coming to Messiah Baptist Fellowship in December of 2004, I spent the previous five plus years at Hardingville Bible Church in New Jersey under the leadership of Pastor Mark Franklin. This church has had an ongoing Pastoral Internship program for a number of years now and can happily point to a number of men in the ministry who have "graduated" from the internship program at HBC and are now out serving as Pastors (and a missionary). During my time there I had the opportunity to work with three of these interns and eventually ended up becoming one of the interns myself (albeit my "internship" was different in nature than the normal internship program). It is a neat thing for the church (and I am sure for Pastor Franklin as well) to be able to see the men that come in mature in their faith and in their ministry skills during their time involved in the internship program at HBC.

The two sessions that I went to that touched on this area of ministry were "Are you Helping to Shape the Future? Let's talk about Internships" by Pastor Mark Franklin of Hardingville Bible Church in Monroeville, NJ and "Making Sure We Are Making Disciples: Comprehensive Methods for Church Planting in a Changing World" by Pastor Dan Brooks of Heritage Bible Church in Greer, SC.

Both of these men presented helpful ideas in this area (Pastor Brooks' presentation dealt more tangentially upon the topic as part of his overall presentation, while Pastor Franklin's presentation was focused upon this issue). Obviously I have seen Pastor Franklin's ministry in this area first-hand and up-close, so there was not a lot that was necessarily "new" to me in this presentation, but it was good to see him present it to others who were not familiar with his ministry. Pastor Brooks is one of those guys who must have a memory like a steel trap. He was the President of Inter-Society Council at BJU back when I was first elected as Vice President of Bryan Society in 1988 or so. As far as I know, I have only seen him maybe two times since then - once at a conference at the Wilds and once this past week. In both cases, he addressed me by name - even though I cannot imagine how he could remember my name after all these years (it is one thing for me to remember him - he was ISC President, Pastor's a fairly large church in the Greenville area, speaks at conferences like this one, etc., but for him to remember me is quite a feat).

In Pastor Franklin's presentation, he dealt with the Scriptural responsibility of training men in ministry and the Shepherding role of the Sr. Pastor in this process. He dealt a little bit with everybody favorite verse on discipleship and leadership training (2 Timothy 2:2) and particularly mentioned some of the things that we know about Paul's relationship to Timothy. He also dealt a little bit with the Old Testament example of the "sons of the prophets" who seem to have been men being trained by Elijah and Elisha.

One of the things that is revealed as you look at the relationship between Elijah and Elisha and Paul and Timothy is that there seems to be a number of areas where the younger men followed in the steps of their "mentors". Of course, that should not surprise us, since Christ said:

Luke 6:40 The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.


Three areas that Pastor Franklin mentioned specifically is that when Pastors train Pastors the younger Pastor should be developed in his education, exposure, and experience. He also reminded us that "More is caught than taught" in a setting like this.

I want to spend a lot more time on this down the road and the whole concept of training men for ministry, but that would require time that I do not currently have.

Just my thoughts,

Frank

File under Conferences_, Ministry_

Separation from Professing Brethren

In a previous post, I mentioned that I wanted to take some time this week to interact with some of the workshops and general sessions that were presented last week at the National Leadership Conference.

As I try to track down a couple of things that I need for two of the workshops, I thought I would start out by dealing with Dr. Kevin Bauder's presentation on Separation from Professing Brethren.

Dr. Bauder's presentation was a very helpful presentation. Not because what he presented was necessarily novel (in my mind, it was not novel at all), but because it was put together clearly and practically. It was also interesting in that he ultimately did not answer many of the questions that he ended up posing.

For those who were not there, I will present a brief background, synopsis of the presentation and then discuss and interact with some of what was presented.

Background:
This presentation was born out of presentation that Dr. Bauder was asked to present in another location about how should Fundamentalists respond to Pastor John Piper. For those who have been living in a foxhole, Dr. Piper is the Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota and is widely considered one of the leading spokesmen among the conservative evangelicals. He is also very popular with many of the "Young Fundamentalists" (and a number of the not-so-Young Fundamentalists) and his popularity led to a resolution and paper regarding Dr. Piper at last year's annual meeting of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship at Faith Baptist Church in Taylors, South Carolina. (In my opinion, both the paper and resolution were fair.) Rather than stick specifically to the topic, Dr. Bauder has done us a greater service by dealing with the principals regarding separation instead of just focusing on one particular application - although he uses the specific application as a type of "case study." In case you are wondering why Dr. Bauder would have been asked to present this issue in the first place, Dr. Bauder also lives and ministers in the Minneapolis area at Central Baptist Theological Seminary and has interacted with Dr. Piper on numerous occasions.

Synopsis:
Dr. Bauder broke his presentation down into four areas: Definitions, Biblical Evidence, "The Matrix" (A Theory of Separation), and A Test Case.

In the section of definitions, he dealt with three key concepts that need to be understood in this discussion. Those concepts were 1). A Professing Brother, 2). Fellowship, and 3). Separation.

In the section of Biblical Evidence, he provided a chart that discussed thirteen key Scripture passages that deal with separation and dealt with the circumstances and required actions from each passage.

In the section he entitled "The Matrix", he presented his "Theory of Separation". This theory of separation involved dealing with three key questions.

1. What level of fellowship is being considered?
2. What manner of difference exists between two brothers? What level of error is involved?
3. What is the attitude of the brother toward whatever differences are held?

In the last section, he dealt with issues that would unite and issues that would divide between he and Piper and asked the question: At what level(s) is fellowship possible, and at what level(s) would it be required?

Evaluations and Comments:

Dr. Bauder dealt with a needy topic in a way that should be a help to those who sometimes get sidetracked on the principle of separation. He purposely did not pose the question as dealing with "erring" or "disobedient" brethren (at least according to reports I heard before the session), since that tends to get side-tracked into a discussion of the meaning of "disobedient." I think, by doing so, he helped to move the discussion along and he also faced the reality that unless two people completely agree then, by definition, one of them must be "erring" in some areas.

In many ways his "Matrix" which he views as a three-dimensional grid based on the questions listed earlier, is very close to the type of picture that Dr. Dave Doran gave in his earlier general session where he dealt with a circle and a fence and various places between that circle and fence. In both cases, the key is that as you approach the center, you have more fellowship. As you move away from the center there is less fellowship (or more separation - depending on your emphasis).

One of the comments that Dr. Bauder makes seems to highlight some of the errors usually made in regards to separation.
Making fellowship an all-or-nothing matter is a serious mistake. This mistake is committed by some fundamentalists and some evangelicals. If evangelicals perceive that any level of fellowship is warranted, they often assume that every level of fellowship is obligatory. If fundamentalists perceive that any level of fellowship is impossible, they often conclude that total separation is obligatory.


It is because I agree with part of this assessment that I have no problem fellowshipping with other non-Baptist Fundamentalists - at some level (e.g. The American Council of Christian Churches), while still understanding that I would never plant a church or do missions work with the same individuals due to doctrinal differences.

I do believe, however, that one of the problems that come up is in the deciding about how serious the various areas are that require separation. For instance, I believe that refusing to separate from apostasy is a serious error. As Dr. Bauder said (I hope I got all this quote right):
Refusing to separate from apostasy is not a denial of the Gospel, but it is a denigration of the Gospel.


Dr. Bauder's three questions are definitely a helpful guide for our decision making in the area of separation, although I think it is understood that we will probably answer some of these questions differently - which leads us back to the issue that always seems to divide us - where do you draw the line in application.

One small critique I have (admittedly very minor) is that in his description of separation, he gives two possible approaches:
Separation occurs whenever subjective fellowship is truncated or impaired, particularly when the impairment arises because of a limitation in objective fellowship.


Separation involves more than merely limited fellowship, it also indicates an element of censure or rebuke.


Later on, however, when giving his own approach, he makes the following statement:
In all instances when subjective fellowship is limited by disagreements about the faith (limited objective fellowship), some element of censure is at least implied.
Therefore, I believe the most fruitful understanding will arise by using the first definition, i.e., that brethren are separated whenever they do not experience (subjective) fellowship.


It seems to me that Dr. Bauder's approach does not really make a choice between the two approaches, but really redefines the first approach to include the censure element of the second approach. However, as I said, this is a minor point and I feel as though I am nit-picking by even bringing it up.

One last comment before I throw this out to you to comment and critique.

I believe that his third question is actually a key question:

The question:
What is the attitude of a brother toward whatever differences are held?


I would include with this the idea of the knowledge level of the brother in this area where there is a difference held.

In other words, a person who has knows the issues at hand and moves away from a proper stand is to be held more suspect than the one who is relatively ignorant (about a particular issue), but takes an improper stand.

Anyway, these are my initial thoughts about this presentation. As Chris Anderson might say, "What Say You?"

Just my thoughts,

Frank

File under Conferences_, Fundamentalism_, Christianity_, Ministry_

One More Quick Lansdale Conference Note

Monday, February 27, 2006

As I mentioned in my last post, I was able to attend the National Leadership Conference at Calvary Baptist Church in Lansdale, Pennsylvania this week. I made a few general comments on the last post, and I intend on making more specific comments on my future posts, but I did want to add this quick little comment with the hopes that some of my fellow bloggers may carry it along a little. (I know that at least Bob Bixby's blog is read by Mark Farnham, for instance.)

I would like to make a call for a return for accessibility of the seminar notes.

In the old days, when you arrived at the conference and they gave you your big tan notebook (so much better than the red notebooks given at some other places:) ), the notebook was filled with (mostly) detailed notes from all general sessions and the workshops. It was nice to have all that available.

Now, I can understand some reasons why they might have wanted to adjust that. For instance, some would read the notes and decide which session they wanted to hear based on the notes - and often this would penalize the really well-prepared and researched guy because his notes were so thorough that you kind of figured, "I have everything he is going to say right here, let's go to this guy instead."

I can also understand that there are some who do not want the notes from the sessions they are not interested in and it is a waste of money to give them the notes.

My plea - Have some kind of table set up in a centralized location with all the notes of completed sessions and workshops available for people to pick up the ones that they are interested in getting. For instance, I would have loved to pick up Joel Tetreau's notes on decision making in the church, but could not find a copy of them. (I guess it was too popular. Joel).

This would allow them to wait until after the sessions over before the notes are distributed except to those attending a particular session, while still providing the notes for those who were interested. It will also prevent guys like me from going room to room looking for the notes from the completed sessions.

I know that some of the notes are provided on the web-site. Two problems with that: 1. There were many sessions (at least from last year) that did not make it up to the web-site. 2. Sometimes looking at the notes will help in deciding about ordering a CD of a particular session. (For instance, I happened to grab a copy of Dan Davies workshop even though I did not attend and I now think I want to order that workshop on CD - anybody reading that went to that session who cares to comment before I order it?).

Just my thoughts,

Frank

File under Conferences_, Fundamentalism_

National Leadership Conference

Friday, February 24, 2006

I got back late this afternoon from attending the National Leadership Conference at Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary in Lansdale, Pennsylvania. Real life and ministry will probably mean that I do not get a chance to post much about the conference until after the weekend, but I will make a couple of quick comments.

I enjoy attending the National Leadership Conference. This is my sixth year and I have been challenged every year. Dr. Dave Burgraff has done an excellent job at co-ordinating the conference and his leadership will be missed as he heads down to Clearwater Christian College. Dr. Sam Harbin has some big shoes to fill as he steps into his new role as President of CBTS.

One of the things I enjoy about the conference is the opportunity to see friends that I rarely get to see. This year was especially nice in this regard as it is my first year of being "out on my own" and I was able to catch up with the staff from the church where I had served as an Assistant from 1999-2004. My former Pastor, Mark Franklin, even did a couple of sessions that I attended: Ministry Mega-Shifts: Staying on Course in a Changing Culture and Are You Helping to Shape the Future: Let's Talk about Internships. It was also nice because I was able to actually meet, in person, some people who I have only gotten to know over the internet and the blogosphere.

Another one of the things that I enjoy about the conference is the fact that it tends to provide an intellectual challenge that few conferences seem to provide. The perspective at the NLC is such that there are at least representatives from most of the mainstream Fundamentalist schools. They also tend to, well, bring up the topics that are not often addressed. Some of the ways that they end up being addressed are occasionally "out to lunch", but at least the topics are discussed.

Beside sitting on the two workshops by Pastor Franklin that I mentioned above, I also had the opportunity to sit in on six other workshops and all but Tuesday nights Evening Services and General Sessions. A few of these sessions had some material that I want to consider and evaluate in the next couple of weeks - probably via this blog.

Quick votes:

Best Workshop Presentation: Dr. Kevin Bauder on Separation from Professing Brethren runner up: The Relevance of Irrelevance by Dr. David Doran of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary.

Best General Session: Dr. Kevin Bauder on Preaching Worth Listening To

Most Passionate General Session Presentations: Pastor Lukus Counterman and Pastor Jason Janz

Most Humorous Moment: On Thursday night, a Canadian Pastor (I did not get his name) was giving his presentation of a Canadian's perspective on Fundamentalism. In this short perspective he commented that we need to change our translation, change our music, change our dress code and change our politics. In the middle of this presentation, he did one of those things that Pastors sometimes do where he asked for an "Amen." He said, "Amen, Amen?" and I heard no one respond. Maybe you had to be there.

Most Humorous Moment 2: I did not witness this myself, but the hypothetical question to Jason Janz about attending an Evangelical conference on blogging struck me as funny when I heard about it later.

One of the benefits of the online age with a conference like this is the opportunity to not only hear these presentations and workshops, but also to advance the conversation beyond even what was originally given. It is my hope in coming days to continue to reflect upon (and blog about) The Seven Sins of a Dying Church presentation by Kevin Schaal (or more likely, the articles upon which the presentation was based), Turning Our World Upside Down, the concept of internships and mentoring men into ministry, and other workshops and general sessions.

Just my thoughts, (for now)

Frank

File under Conferences_, Fundamentalism_

My Response to Dr. Burrell's Response

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Last week, Dr. Dan Burrell began a series of posts entitled, "Challenges and Opportunities for Conservative Christian Colleges" in which he proposes to "explore the strengths and weaknesses of Christian colleges serving this generation of students."

On its surface, this sounds like a noble venture and one that could (and probably still might) prove useful in opening up avenues that may need to be discussed.

In Dr. Burrell's first post in this series, entitled Challenges and Opportunities for Conservative Christian Colleges - Part 1 - Transformation verses (sic) Conformity, Dr. Burrell began by addressing the issue that schools should be focused upon encouraging transformation in the lives of the students rather than just encouraging conformity. I agree with his main point, and said so in my first post (my exact words were "I agree that there should be more of an emphasis on transformation than just conformity.").

While I agree with the concept behind his first point, I was disappointed with some of the things that he said in supporting that as well as with the way that he linked BJU with schools like Texas Baptist College and Hyles-Anderson College in that post. I addressed some of my disappointments in a post a couple of days ago in a post entitled "Conservative Christian Colleges." In doing so, I also made a comment on Dr. Burrell's blog directing him to the post so that he could have a chance to respond. Well, earlier tonight I checked things out and discovered that he had responded to my comments - both in the comments section of my blog and the comments section of his blog (as well as writing a post to indicate that he had responded).

I will not reproduce either my original article or his comments here, since they are already linked above. I would, however, like to make some related comments and respond to some of his response tonight. I am leaving for the National Leadership Conference in Lansdale tomorrow and will probably not be available to comment while I am gone.

Before I get into the specifics of his response, I would like to make a few comments that I feel are important.

* I believe that this discussion can and should be a civil discussion. In light of that, I apologize for my use of the term "obnoxious" a couple of times in reference to a comment made by Dr. Burrell. I should have chosen a better word to describe my views of the comment in question.

* While this discussion may be of interest to the two of us in particular, I believe it is important that we consider the fact that many others are reading these words. (In fact, many more are reading this than I expected - you are a popular guy, Dan. I never knew how popular you were until I started to see the number of referral's that have come my way from your post.) It is because of the fact that others are reading this that I feel so strongly that we need to make some of the important distinctions that I called for in my first post. A comment on Dan's blog by a Norman Mayfield immediately after his reply to me reveals why I think this is so important.

Dr. Burrell I am very interested in your comments because I have several grandchildren that I have been praying would go to a Christian college. Can you name me a school that you think is doing a good job? If BJU is not the answer, is a state school any better? I have one granddaughter who went a state school here in Florida. Lived with her boyfriend all through school (Now they are marrried) she has a great job but has no interest in church and is very liberal politically. She was raised in an IFB church. What is the answer?


With the way that Dr. Burrell has painted BJU with the "broad brush" that he uses and included BJU with the more "radical" schools, he is leaving an impression about BJU that I feel is a false impression based more on stereotype and inaccuracy than of fact.

If someone is looking over and considering a school like BJU and comes upon Dr. Burrell's site, they are likely to leave with the same impression that Mr. Mayfield seems to have received - that BJU is not a viable option anymore, at least in Dr. Burrell's view. (And based on his response to that comment, perhaps to Dr. Burrell it is not.) I feel this would not do justice to BJU and would hope that no one allows his comments to influence them too strongly on this important decision in life.

* While I doubt anyone would make this mistake, I do want to clarify that the comments that I have made on my last post and that I will make on this post are my own comments and are not in any way an "official" response from BJU. As far as I know, BJU is not even aware of this discussion.

* In Dr. Burrell's original comments to me on his blog, he clarified a little regarding his intended targets of the critique.

In the interest of full-disclosure, I would tell you that the "under-the-covers" experience I recounted occurred at Hyles-Anderson. I'll just briefly state that while you might take umbrage with me inclusion of the likes of TBC and HAC with BJU, there are many "connections" between the schools including faculty and student recruiting pools. For example, I am largely using, for the sake of this discussion, colleges that have or do advertise in the Sword of the Lord which is probably the largest Independent Baptist circular of its kind.

I strongly disagree with his characterizing BJU as in the same category of these other schools, as I commented in response to this on his blog. I also disagree that there are really that many connections between the schools - at least not anymore. As far as their being a "connection" between the faculty, a look through BJU's Bulletin revealed one out of over 300 faculty members who had any kind of degree from HAC - Dr. Walter Freemont (a mostly retired teacher who stopped actively teaching when I was a Sophomore back in 1988-1989) - and that degree was an L.H.D. given years ago.

Now to some of the specifics of Dr. Burrell's reply to me.
* Regarding my concern of his "lumping" BJU in with schools like Texas Baptist College and Hyles-Anderson College, Dr. Burrell makes the following points (the full comments can be found in the comments section of my original post on this topic).

First, BJU is the oldest and most pre-eminent of the conservative Christian and Independent Baptist colleges I cited and most all of those which I didn't cite. Texas Baptist is run by a total Hyles sychophant (Bob Gray) and Hyles-Anderson proudly cited its BJU "heritage" while I was there in the late 70's and early 80's and I assume they haven't changed the names of the dorms named for various Jones' and Ma' Sunday, etc… Wendell Evans, the long-time president of HAC is a very proud of BJU and in years past, there were multiple BJU grads on faculty and staff. Quite a few kids transferred back and forth between the two institutions and I know of several HAC board members who sent their children to BJU.


The problem with this comment is that the evaluation he is giving is theoretically about "Challenges and Opportunities" and one would assume that those "Challenges and Opportunities" would be things that need to be dealt with today, not references to things that are 30 years in the past. Was there a closer relationship between BJU and HAC (for instance) in the 1970s? Sure. Things were a lot different back then. A lot of the Hyles "baggage" had not come to fruition yet, back then (for instance Sumner did not publish his "Saddest Story Ever Told" until 1989).

The current situation is vastly different, however. It was comments directed against BJU and PCC at a Hyles "Pastor's Conference" that led to the original PCC video. As I mentioned above, BJU has one faculty member out of over 300 that has any type of degree from BJU. Tthey have two with degrees from Southern Illinois University, does that mean that they are to be connected, too? As far as the other way around, Hyles' catalog mentions Dr. Evans, whom Dr. Burrell mentioned, as a graduate of BJU and three other full-time faculty members and one part-time faculty member. I find it interesting that, in light of his more recent post regarding the SBC, Dan wants to give the SBC a pass on the issues that he perceives as part of their past, yet does not extend that same courtesy regarding past "connections" BJU may have had with these other schools.

I still hold to my contention that Dr. Burrell is unfairly connecting BJU to these other schools and would be more accurate (and more helpful) if he had separated the more "far right" schools like TBC & HAC from the more "main stream" Fundamentalist schools like BJU, MBBC, and NBBC.

* Dr. Burrell replies to my comment about the difficulty of critiquing his comments due to his lumping of the schools together.
I had commented:
By lumping these significantly different schools together, he actually makes the discussion hard to critique because when refutation of a particular illustration is made, Dr. Burrell can claim, "Well, I wasn't speaking of that institution when I made that comment."


Dan Replies… That's a supposition without any basis in fact. I have not dodged any refutation of my theses using that line. I'm not going to claim exact applications in every situation and will offer broad generalizations based on experience and personal observations, but will use specific examples only as anecdotal support.


I should clarify that I was not claiming that Dr. Burrell was going to be dishonest here. I am sorry if it came across that way. I was indicating that the lumping tends to give the impression that the particular represent all the schools that are so lumped and when comments are made that this would not be true at X institution, the answer can be made that X institution was not in question with that example. But that the objection would need to be raised and the effect of the objection is deflected because, "well I wasn't talking about that institution." Until the objection is raised and answered, however, it gives the impression that the situation describes the situation at all the schools included.

The reality of the situation is that this is exactly what happened with the comment about fearing to read the Swindoll book for fear of getting kicked out of school for reading a New Evangelical author. Dr. Burrell responded by saying:
In the interest of full-disclosure, I would tell you that the "under-the-covers" experience I recounted occurred at Hyles-Anderson.


If I had not made a comment about this, would this clarification have been made or would people be left with the impression that BJU would kick someone out for reading Swindoll?

Dan goes on to comment regarding this particular comment.
However, in spite of the occasional gracious and independent professor, we both know that there was a general policy against reading what they described as "neo-" or "new" evangelicals.


I disagree with this assessment completely. As Andy Efting mentions in the comments on this blog, Dr. Berg recommended "Hand Me Another Brick" while he was teaching Principles of Leadership. Dr. Minnick highly praised "Rediscovering Expository Preaching" by MacArthur and his seminary profs. This is not an "occasional gracious and independent professor" - this is the Dean of Students and one of the most popular Bible teachers at the school. I was never told what I could or could not read while at BJU (profane things excluded, of course). If there was ever such a general policy against reading New Evangelicals, they did a lousy job of expressing this policy, at least when I was there starting in 1987. (Even if there was a general policy against reading them - which there was not - this is a long way from getting kicked out for reading them, btw.)

* In regards to my comment that "His comments reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of the goals of these schools", Dr. Burrell comments:
I don't think so. It's not that I don't "understand" their goals. I disagree with how they want to reach those goals.

However, in the original post that had prompted my comments, Dr. Burrell had said,

In the end, most Christian college students would benefit from a structured and discipline environment, but one that has as its goal "transformation" and not "conformity."


I appreciate, however, this clarification in his reply:
There is an unhealthy emphasis on the role they assume they have in setting a standard (which, I believe, most rightly belongs to the church). There is inadequate emphasis on explaining the position and allowing debate to occur about their positions.


I do agree that this is a good question for discussion. "What roles should the schools have in setting a standard and how much debate and discussion is allowed in that setting of a standard?"

* In response to my comments regarding the institutional nature of some rules, Dr. Burrell makes a couple of comments that deserve comments.

Surely he is correct that he understands institutional rules because of the institutional rules that his own school must have. What prompted that comment, however, was his lumping together of institutional rules like "lights out" and "rising bell" with moral issues of "slipping out
and going to a concert.

I don't believe he is correct, however, when he states that "the method of rule enforcement in more than one school has turned good kids into rebels." I am not sure that someone else's wrong behavior can turn good kids into rebels. Of course, that discussion is a much more time- consuming discussion than I have time (or space) to get into for now.

I also found interesting the following comment that he made in response to this point.
But unlike Scripture, societal norms do change and a periodic re-examination of the rationale for some rules and how they are enforced might change the atmosphere and reputation of some Christian colleges/universities for the better.


It would seem to me that this is exactly what happens at BJU. There have been evaluations that eliminated the Family-style dinner every night and then later on Sundays. There have been evaluations that led to the dropping of ties after lunch and then after chapel. There have been evaluations that resulted in ending the requirement of hats for ladies on Sundays. There have been evaluations that resulted just in the last year or two that resulted in adjustments to the lights out situation. It seems that the re-examination is already occurring.

* In response to my comment about false assumptions, in particular the assumption that a disciplined environment equals not "enjoying" your college years, Dr. Burrell has indicated that he "made no such co-relation (sic) other than to relate what IS a common part of the thought process of students". Fair enough. I would hope that he would help to dispel that assumption made by the students, especially if he does not agree with the assumption. I apparently wrongly assumed that the comment "Guess which argument wins?" indicated he agreed with the argument.

*In response to my comment about a false dichotomy, his answers to the three parts indicate the following:

1. Regarding my comment that he was assuming the kids were going to do things anyway, he comments:

"There was no assumption made – it was an example and a hyperbolic one at that. I do believe that unnecessary rules indeed give good kids with good hearts and good values cause to behave rebelliously and it seems unnecessary to me. "


If he would change the word "cause" to "an excuse", I may not have a problem with this statement.

2. Regarding my comment that he was assuming the opposite of permissive is rebellion, he makes the following comment:

The opposite of permissiveness is not necessarily rebellion and I did not insinuate that. I would concur that rebellion is often caused by inconsistency. It is also caused by harshness, unreasonableness, unkindness and many other factors. None of us have the right to be rebellious against authority. At the same time, authority should wield it's power wisely taking care to not incite rebellion in its charges. Isn't this what Paul was referencing when he warned fathers to avoid "inciting" their children "to wrath"?


I can accept that comment. Upon reading his original comment, it seemed as if he was saying that because the one situation was strict instead of permissive it would breed rebellion.

3. Regarding my comment that "it is obnoxious ... to suggest that someone would be kicked out for reading Chuck Swindoll," he makes the following comment:

No Frank, it is realistic and I could prove it. Not simply at HAC or Texas Baptist, but at BJU, PCC and other places where I have the testimonies of students who were warned and/or reprimanded for reading "non-approved" books written by people that didn't fit their mold. In many cases, there is a clear double standard and I will actually cite some examples of that double standard when it comes to Southern Baptists in my next article.


I dispute this statement, as I already indicated above. For one thing, there is a change of terms involved here. He had earlier spoken of getting "kicked out" for reading Chuck Swindoll and now he speaks of being "warned" or "reprimanded". I still disagree that even the warning or reprimanding would happen at the AACCS schools, but even if it did, that is different than being kicked out for it.

Regarding the double standard that he mentions when it comes to Southern Baptists in his next article, without tackling the whole next article, I will comment that the "double standard" that he mentions is not as he presents it. The appearances at BJU by Ankerberg and Keyes were different situations. Ankerberg had spoken in chapel (I was there). Chapel is a religious service and so having a Southern Baptist at a religious service was an issue that needed to be corrected and Dr. Bob corrected the situation when he found out. When Alan Keyes spoke, it was at a convocation - an academic setting - so there was not an issue of being religiously allied with compromise or false teaching. .

I appreciate the gracious tone of Dr. Burrell's response and pray that I have responded in kind.

Just my thoughts,

Frank

A sad day in the blogosphere

Sunday, February 19, 2006

By the looks of things over at Nos Sobrii (renamed Let's Be Serious) it appears that one of the most intelligent blogs in Christendom has gone the way of the original Pyromaniac. After all the heat with the way his words were purposely misrepresented by Every Tribe Entertainment to the New York Times (and FBI!), it was probably inevetible, but he will be missed.

While I may not agree with Dr. B on everything, it is usually to my detriment. Here's hoping that he finds a way to come back even better as Mr. Johnson did.

Especially disappointing, however, is that all of the old posts are gone. There was much that was there that was valuable that now seems to be gone forever. I wish that when these bloggers disappear they would keep the old blog up for awhile at least (although I can imagine there are reasons why Dr. B may not have wanted to). I would love to have read the last couple of weeks of Unknowing (I guess that's what I get for not being a frequent enough visitor to know that the unknowing was going). Especially for the bloggers with a free service (like Blogger), it would seem keeping up the old blog for awhile would be doable.

Just my thoughts,

Frank

Conservative Christian Colleges

Friday, February 17, 2006

Dr. Dan Burrell, over at Whirled Views, has begun a series on "Conservative Christian Colleges." I have appreciated some of the things that Dan has written. In particular, I thought his post If this a "Peaceful Religion" was very good.

I am sure that Dr. Burrell's education and experiences are much greater than mine. I have to say, however, that as I read Dr. Burrell's first post of this series I am disappointed. I am not disappointed because he is trying to make some constructive criticisms about Christian colleges - I agree there are definitely areas in which some things should be evaluated in this area. I am not disappointed with the concept of the first point he has made - I agree that there should be more of an emphasis on transformation than just conformity.

I am disappointed, however, because in his attempt to bring out the need for change, Dan has instead focused upon the extremes and fed into the stereotypes that are already prevalent. He has also given more ammunition to those who are unable or unwilling to explore the situations for themselves.

One of the examples of what I am disappointed with is his inclusion of Bob Jones University in the discussion with Texas Baptist College and Hyles-Anderson College. To anyone who has spent much time around the schools (and I assume that Dr. Burrell has done so) would readily recognize that we are talking apples and oranges. Neither side of this equation would want to be associated with the other. If the discussion is going to focus on schools like Texas Baptist College, then by all means, have that discussion, but don't paint with such a broad brush that you are including BJU in that discussion. If the discussion is going to focus on schools like Bob Jones University, then by all means, have that discussion, but include the related schools (such as the AACCS schools like Northland Baptist Bible College, Maranatha Baptist Bible College, etc.) and don't throw HAC and TBC into the mix and make your discussion so broad that it becomes meaningless.

By lumping this significantly different schools together, he actually makes the discussion hard to critique because when refutation of a particular illustration is made, Dr. Durrell can claim, "Well, I wasn't speaking of that institution when I made that comment."

For example, he makes the comment:

... turning into a rebel without a cause by sneaking under his covers at night with a flashlight to read a book by Chuck Swindoll and fearing that the dorm supervisor would catch him reading the words of a new evangelical and getting kicked out of school -- which was how I spent my four years at a Christian college.


Now, I don't know enough about Texas Baptist College to know if that is an accurate description of their policy or not, but I do know that "reading the words of a new evangelical" would not be a reason to fear at BJU (or Northland or Maranatha, etc.). In fact, I found much usefulness out of reading "Hand Me Another Brick" by Charles Swindoll while at school.

My biggest issue with Dr. Burrell's article, however, stems from the following:

1. His comments reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of the goals of these schools.
For instance, he makes the following comment:

In the end, most Christian college students would benefit from a structured and discipline environment, but one that has as its goal "transformation" and not "conformity."


The implication of this statement is that the goal of the colleges is "conformity" instead of "transformation." Frankly, this just reveals a false view of the Fundamental Christian Colleges (at least the ones I would consider in the mainstream - the AACCS schools). Dr. Berg, the dean of men at BJU, repeatedly focused his APC and PC meetings while I was at school on this very fact. He has even written a very well received book that deals with this topic, Changed into His Image.
The reality is that the solid institutions do indeed have transformation into Christ-likeness as their goal. This is taught in the staff meetings, in the department meetings, in the meetings with student leadership, etc. Now, there are some among the students (and occasionally even among the staff) who still do not "get it", but that is not because it is not the goal or because it is not taught or promoted.

2. His comments reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of the institutional nature of some of the rules.
For instance, he makes the following comment in the context of "BJ's reputation of hyper-control over every aspect of the student's existence":

I'm talking about being told what time to turn their lights out, what radio stations they can have programmed in their cars, what time they must get up, rules about turning in your roommate if you find out they listen to Phillips, Craig and Dean or slip out to a Stephen Curtis Chapman concert.


The reality here is that Dr. Burrell has mixed institutional rules designed to facilitate order in the dorms (lights out, rising bell - rules that are not expected for those not living in the dorms), with rules that are dealing with greater moral issues. While Dr. Burrell may disagree, for a student to "slip out to a Stephen Curtis Chapman concert" is a violation of the agreement that the student has made with the school in becoming a student and also reveals a lot about the individual's character and disregard for the authority under which he has placed himself. It also is a public display of rebellion against that authority (not to even bring into the discussion the issues of the music and environment itself). When a student condones that kind of practice by not confronting the student who has sinned and, in turn, contacting the Administration that the student has sinned against, it reveals a problem in that student's life as well. (Contrary to popular opinion, I was always instructed as a "spiritual leader" on campus, that we had a responsibility to confront the individual in question and not just turn them in. It was the generally accepted understanding that the best scenario was to confront the person and encourage/help the individual take care of this with his proper authorities.)

While he indicates that he understands the need for rules (and I am sure he does since he has a school, with rules, himself) and even goes so far as to say that he understands some rules are necessary for decorum and civilization in the dorms, his previous statement shows that he does not appreciate the different nature of these types of rules.

3. His comments support false assumptions.

For example, Dr. Burrell states:
Others will say, it's supposed to be a place to develop discipline. I've even used the argument with kids telling them, "Think of it as four years of bootcamp. You salute smartly, obey respectfully and serve your tour of duty. Then when you are discharged, you are equipped and free to work out your own faith." These smart-allecked kids look right back at me and say, "Or I can go to a good accredited school without so many rules, not compromise my own standards and enjoy my college experience." Guess which argument wins?


This statement makes the false assumption that being in the disciplined environment of a place like BJU automatically equals not "enjoying" your college experience. I went to BJU. (I would think the example he gives would be better as a comparison to West Point than bootcamp, but that is another story). I was there for 4 years of undergrad, 2 years of graduate school and 2 years on staff. I thoroughly "enjoyed" my college experience and my time at BJU (if I did not, I would have taken one of the scholarships that I had available to me and left). The reality is that the rules at a place like BJU are not a problem for students with good attitudes. Did I want to stay up later on some nights when I was in the dorms? Yes, I have always been a night owl (I still stay up very late). Was it something that made my college experience "unenjoyable" because I had to be considerate of my roommates and obedient to my authorities in this area? No. (Of course, they have loosened some of those rules since I was in the dorms.)

The reality is that Romans 13:3 seems to play itself out very clearly in a place like this:
Romans 13:3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:


4. His comments encourage a false dichotomy.

For example, Dr. Burrell states:
All in all, I'd prefer that my kid put on a pair of shorts and a T-shirt, run down to Pensacola Beach in his car playing Dave Crowder Band, laying on those white sandy beaches for a couple of hours reading Josh Harris' book on "Not Even a Doubt" than I would have him turning into a rebel without a cause by sneaking under his covers at night with a flashlight to read a book by Chuck Swindoll and fearing that the dorm supervisor would catch him reading the words of a new evangelical and getting kicked out of school.


This statement is simply wrong on sooo many levels.
* It assumes that the person/persons in question is going to do what they want anyway and that therefore we should not put something in their way that makes their doing what they want a matter of disobedience or rebellion. Using this logic, we should not have any rules or laws since having those rules and laws merely encourages rebellion since people will break them anyway.

* It is simply obnoxious to assume that the opposite of permissiveness is rebellion. The reality is that rebellion is much more commonly the result of inconsistency than discipline.

* It is obnoxious (at least in the context of the mainstream fundamental schools) to suggest that someone would be kicked out for reading Chuck Swindoll and that they would have to do it "under his covers."


I may take some time to deal with his eight suggestions at the end (I actually agree with some of them if worded differently) in a later post, but this post is running too long as it is.

Just my thoughts,

Frank

File under Fundamentalism_, Popular_, Education_

Blog Comments

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Things on the blog have taken a back seat lately due to real world ministry. As I am sure my regular readers are aware, the church that I Pastor (Messiah Baptist Fellowship of Salisbury, MD) is undergoing a major transition as we are in the process of buying church property for the first time in the seven year history of the church and moving to that new location.

We are excited about the possibilities for ministry that this new building could provide, however, we understand that whether we actually get the building or not is in God's hands and we are trusting that He will make His will known as we continue to wait on His timing concerning this situation.

BLOG COMMENTS

It was just over four months ago that I began this adventure in blogging. I have discovered some things about this process during the last four months.

1. (Notice that I did not use bullets - oops b*******) I have discovered many more people come to the blog than to a regular static web-site - at least if the relative popularity of A Thinking Man's Thoughts versus our church web-site (www.messiahbaptistfellowship.org) is any indication.

2. I have discovered that people whom you have no idea who they are actually do read these things. I thought initially I would only have a few friends and acquaintenances drop by, but I have had people from South America, China, Taiwan, Africa, Australia, Europe, and the Middle East (among others) come by for a visit. I also have discovered (via seeing them show up on referrals and then checking them out) that I have been honored by receiving "Blogroll" status on some sights of people whom I have never met in person or online - including one in Canada that lists Billy Graham as one of his favorite sites (hmm, go figure). In addition to the Blogroll links, I have had articles linked to by other sites in Australia, Canada and (of course) the U.S.

3. I have discovered that I am probably not a "every day" type of poster. Having read some other individual blogs, however, I have found that this is not a unique phenomenon. The "group blogging" thing seems to have a lot of appeal, but, hey, I am a Fundamentalist after all! :)

4. I have discovered that I tend to be much better at "responding" than "initiating" when it comes to posting and discussions. Even some of my most read posts - the series on The Best and The Brightest (including The Best and the Brightest - Redux, The Best and the Brightest - Criteria for Evaluation, The Best and the Brightest - Handling Questions, and The Best and The Brightest - The Idea of Fundamentalism and the Movement of Fundamentalism ) - was actually a response, first to an attitude and comments that I had seen repeatedly and then a response to a question that came from the first response.

5. I have discovered that despite my temptation at times to do the Phil Johnson thing and shut 'er down, I kind of like it and it is one of the only things that I do on the computer that my wife actually likes instead of tolerates.

6. I am thinking about transferring this blog over to wordpress (http://athinkingmansthoughts.wordpress.com), but I want to test it out for a little while before making the switch. I would love to hear comments from anyone who has made the switch from Blogger to Wordpress (or vice-versa) with your evaluations and suggestions. One question I have about the switch besides the overall functionality of the two services - does it kill all my Google juice?

Just my thoughts,

Frank

File under Blogging_, Personal_

Our First Sunday in the New Building

Thursday, February 09, 2006



Sunday, February 5, 2006 was an exciting day for Messiah Baptist Fellowship as we held our first services in the new building at 1308 Robins Avenue in Salisbury.

While there is still some uncertainty about the building situation, it was great to be able to get into the building and have our Sunday services and a Fellowship Lunch at the building.

For the morning service, we had a men's quartet and we spent some time examining the concept of God's timing. In particular, we noted that God's timing is Perfect, Purposeful, and Powerful.

The Fellowship Lunch and the afternoon service was a good time together as we looked at the concept of God's Goodness (yes, I actually took a detour from our Sunday Night series on Colossians this week) and then celebrated the Lord's Table.


File under Church_

The End of The End or only The Beginning?

Friday, February 03, 2006

If you have been in anyway reading the Christian blogosphere over the last couple of weeks, you have surely read about the controversy surrounding the movie, The End of the Sphere.

For the two of my readers that may not be aware of the movie and have missed out on the controversy, the story around which The End of the Sphere is based is about the martyrdom of five missionaries by the Auca (now Waodani) tribe in South America in 1956. These five men - Jim Elliot, Roger Youderian, Nate Saint, Pete Fleming, and Ed McCully - desired to reach this tribe with the saving message of salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ. When the tribe killed these missionaries, some of their widows and other family members came back and managed to reach many in the tribe with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (Elisabeth Elliot's books, Through Gates of Splendor and Shadow of the Almighty are great sources for further reading on this topic for those who have not read them.)

The controversy over the issue has centered on two issues. 1. The watering down of the Gospel message in the film and 2. The selection of homosexual activist Chad Allen to play the two parts of Nate Saint and Steve Saint in the movie.

Pastor Jason Janz, an Assistant Pastor at Red Rocks Baptist Church (formerly South Sheridan Baptist Church) in the Denver area, has written a lot on this topic in the last couple of weeks on his blog SharperIron. Since I kind of assume that almost everybody who actually reads my stuff has probably already been to and regularly visits Sharper Iron, I don't want to be too redundant with what is already over there. If you have not kept up with this, but would like to do a little catch up, Jason has posted a Summary of the Movie Controversy that gives the relevant information and links.

I have been kind of reluctant to post anything about the issue over here for a couple of reasons. 1. I have been waiting anxiously to read Jason's post on the lack of Gospel content in the movie, and 2. The topic is pretty much everywhere else and I am just one more voice adding to the noise and I think most of us are getting very tired of the subject. I actually have only even posted over there about three or four times regarding this issue.

On a side note (and hopefully humorous to you as it was to my wife and I), there is a new poster over at SI that goes by "Frank". My wife, who in general has been kind of negative about SI, was reading SI the other day for the first time and was reading the comments by "Frank" and becoming more and more upset - at ME! She had to stop reading and ask me (in essence), "What are you thinking?" because she thought that "Frank" was me and could not understand how in the world I could be making the kind of arguments that were being made by that person and she said, "this doesn't sound like you at all". She was incredulous that I would make the kinds of arguments being made there. Thankfully, I was able to relieve her fears and explain that I was not the poster named "Frank" and pointed her to a couple of my posts on the topic, which restored her confidence in knowing her husband. (BTW, "Frank", if you are reading this, please do not take offense - my wife knows me and was sure that what you were saying would not match her thinking about what I would say about this topic or how I would say it.)

Back to the issue itself. Just a few random thoughts.

1. I wish that somehow the issue of the lack of clarity of the Gospel message in the movie had taken a larger role in all the hub-bub about this movie.

As I said in an email about this to some friends a couple of weeks ago,

To be honest, I don't look for Hollywood to ever present a clear presentation of the Gospel in a favorable light. I don't go to movies and I don't rent movies (not condemning others here, just stating where I am at) and I don't get this latest "evangelical" obsession with viewing every movie that may have some remote Christian connection as the "next great thing" in the way of evangelism - e.g. The Lord of the Rings, The Passion, Chronicles of Narnia, Left Behind, etc.


2. I am tired of seeing this issue equated with secular movies that Christians like also having homosexuals playing key roles (e.g. Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire).

This is not the same issue for a couple of reasons.
1. The company that made this claims to be a Christian company.
2. The company that made this has claimed that they made this with a Christian goal.

The films that they are comparing it to were made by secular companies with the primary goal of producing an interesting and profitable story.

3. I am also tired of seeing the comments that this is only an issue because of Chad Allen's homosexuality - and that if it were a different sin, then it would not be an issue. Usually comments like this are made in the manner of "if it was an adulterer, no one would have objected."

The reality is that this is confusing a couple of factors. The issue not really one sin versus another. The issue not only involves the sin itself, but the promotion of that sin and the antagonism against Biblical Christianity in that promotion of the sin. Chad is not merely a homosexual actor, he is a homosexual activists. IF the choice had been Tom Cruise to play the part, I would have a problem with it as well - not just because of his (alleged) fornication with Katie Holmes (?), but more importantly because of his outspoken advocacy for the cult of Scientology.

4. I am really annoyed at the treatment of Dr. Kevin Bauder by ETE and the NY Times (assuming that the NY Times is reporting the words of ETE accurately and they really did call the FBI over his comments). The way that they have twisted his words to turn a non-threat into some type of threat is disgusting, if not libelous.

5. I am as disappointed in the justifications for the actions and the follow-up comments that have been made by Mart Green and Steve Saint as I am in the original casting decision. They have used a "dream" as justification. They have said (or at least been quoted by Chad without disputing Chad's quotes) some things about Chad and his sinful lifestyle that make it appear as though they condone it (which I am pretty sure they don't).

6. It is disappointing that what Chad seems to have gotten out of the movie is that it is a message of forgiveness and love, without having an understanding that both of those concepts are centered in Christ if properly understood.

7. I am reminded again of the fact that no man is an island (HT: John Donne) and all that we do and say has potential to effect others.

8. I pray that God manages to use the story and the controversy for His glory and rejoice in the fact that God is in control.

Just my thoughts,

Frank