How big is your tent?
This has become a real buzz phrase and question lately. In the SBC people like Wade Burleson are calling for a larger tent within our Convention. There has been a great deal of hub-bub about them weird tongue talkers serving in the SBC as church planters…both home and foreign. Burleson serves as an IMB trustee and believes that under certain parameters Baptists who claim to have a super-natural private prayer language should be funded as foreign missionaries…so long as this “private” prayer language stays…well…private. It is no secret that other Southern Baptists such as Paige Patterson do not believe that tongue talking falls within our Baptist understanding of the gifts of the Spirit and those who believe they practice such a thing, private or not, should therefore not be funded as foreign missionaries. If you are keeping score: I agree with Burleson on that point and respectfully disagree with Dr. P. As long as the private prayer language stays private…then it doesn’t bother me one way or the other.
So in that context, “how big is your tent”, is a very narrow question about what a “Baptist” Christian is, does and tolerates. But men such as Dr. Patterson would never dare say one who believes they have a private prayer language is not a born again believer. He’d never suggest they were not saved…he’d simply assume they were saved…and part of the greater family of God…but not really a “Baptist” and should therefore not be funded by Baptists who entrust the CP dollars to SBC institutions and agencies to send out men and women who do represent our character and doctrine well. I’m sure a man like Dr. Patterson would break out that winsome smile of his, wish the tongue talker well…and suggest they find a denomination or agency that they better represent. The debate within the SBC about what a Baptist “is” and “is not” rages on…to my amusement and at times great frustration (when good men are denied funding over a lesser doctrinal issue.)
But that is not what I’m asking you. This is not about how big the Baptist tent should be. I’d like you to think about how big the tent of God is. Is everybody who is “into Jesus” or everybody who “just loves Jesus” in the tent? What about people not so into Jesus? What about people who do not love Jesus? What about people who do not love the Jesus of the Bible? What are the chances they get in the tent?
There has crept into our churches a false humility which is nothing more than subtle attack upon the trustworthiness of the Bible and an attack upon the Biblical doctrine of justification. “God is so much bigger than me…I can’s say for sure…I’ll just leave that to him…” this rhetoric sounds spiritual and humble. Another popular attack is “I’m not going to put God in a box…I’ll let him surprise me…”.
The first problem with this thinking is that it implies that God has not already made His judgment regarding the pagans AND that He has not shared this judgment with us. There is a great principle of Christian spirituality that I believe and teach…that is “where the Bible is silent, I should be silent…where the Bible speaks, I should speak.” Does God, in His Word, ever tell us the fate of the pagan?
"He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. Mark 16:16 niv"
"“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14 niv"
"“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” John 3:16-21 niv"
"He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you. 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10 niv"
…the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” Revelation 21:8 niv
Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Revelation 21:27 niv
To say that I could go “on and on” is honestly, an understatement. I referenced passages from the New Testament on purpose…since in the New Testament the fullness of God is revealed…we therefore see the language used much more precise and specific…but these sentiments are surely confirmed in the Old Testament as well.
Now I ask you…in the face of these Scriptures…what would motivate a man to answer the question about the pagan’s destiny with an “I don’t know” response? What does this say about such a man? What does it say about his view of Scripture? What does it say about his understanding of the gospel? You see…under all the humble language lies an unsubmissive distrust of God’s Word, isn’t there? It is not as if we need to make a judgment as to “who is in” and “who is out”…God clearly has already done so…and has clearly defined it for us. If we say “I don’t know” are we not calling God a liar? Because we do know what He said…we just read several of His passages… was His Word confusing? Was He unclear? Do we not believe Him?
So the first and foremost reason why anyone would not or can not make a decisive statement regarding the destiny of pagans is due to a distrust of the Bible. This is why both Evangelical liberals AND Roman Catholics AND Eastern Orthodox folks ALL hesitate (at best) at declaring ALL pagans go to hell…all three groups have a real hard time taking the Bible at face value.
The second reason we’ll deal with next time…but I will give you a hint…all three of these groups I mention share it in common as well…
Friday, September 28, 2007
How big is your tent?