Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Encountering Those Of Different Faith Traditions

John Armstrong has an excellent post on ecumenism within a missional context if you haven't seen it do so. It is well worth the read. Here are some highlights of his post:
A regular reader of this blog, who is Roman Catholic in his faith and practice, told me that he was recently at an A.A. men's retreat conducted the Jesuit-run retreat center. This retreat was specifically geared toward men involved in A.A. but it incorporated the Spiritual exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola. Because of this Catholic connection the retreat included Catholic prayers such as the angelus, the rosary, the daily and Sunday mass, morning prayers, as well as evening eucharistic adoration and benediction. In such settings no one is forced to participate in these spiritual practices that are specifically Catholic but all are invited to participate to whatever degree they choose to do so. What follows is an account writer (end edited by me) of the letter my Catholic friend sent to me a few days ago.
“There was a man at the retreat from out-of-state who had traveled some distance to be there. He is a Baptist and, according to my Catholic friend, has a very close relationship with Christ. He accepted the invitation to be the prayer leader for morning, angelus, and before-meals prayers. He also participated in the mass and received holy communion with the rest of us. I personally told him that I was very impressed at his willingness to share in these aspects of Catholic spirituality and practice. He shared with me that even though he doesn't agree with some of the teachings of the Catholic Church he sees much value in the practices and disciplines...“My own spirit was lifted up by this brother who had so much respect, not only for his other Christian brothers in A.A., but also for our own Catholic tradition. I'm sure some Christians on both sides of the Tiber would be scandalized by this story but I saw it as a genuine work of the Holy Spirit, and totally consistent with the spirituality of St Ignatius.”

What do I make of my friends letter? What do you make of it? I think it perfectly reflects the very missional-ecumenism that I teach and practice through the witness of ACT 3. I do not believe that we have settled our very real differences in some important areas of theology and practice. At the same time I do not believe that we are living in a sixteenth century context any longer. Some act as though we are still fighting the exact same battles in the exact same way. When they believe this way they will always continue to stoke the fires of controversy saying Catholics are not Christians or their church is heretical. Others live as if we are in a pre-Vatican II time warp. This is true of many conservative Protestants and some very conservative Catholics as well. When I began to really study Vatican II (for myself) I realized how totally wrong the ideas were that some has taught me about this Council. Rome does change, in spite of the oft mentioned idea that she does not. Any careful reading of Vatican II, especially the parts on the kingdom of God, ecumenism and mission will prove this point. Because Rome does not “revise” history but functions as a “living” tradition many Protestants act as of nothing has really changed but this is a failure to understand how Rome changes...I was once an anti-Catholic, or at least I was publicly known as such. (In my book I explain this chapter of my life clearly and openly so I will save that story.) The most important thing that changed all this for me was not reading theology, though I have read thousands of pages of Catholic and evangelical theology. The most important single change came about by meeting living, breathing, loving Christ-centered people like the Baptist and the Catholic in the story that my friend shared with me. How has this unfolding story of missional-ecumenism worked in your life? I would love to hear your story and add it to the bigger story we are all a part of by God’s sovereign grace.

I whole-heartedly agree that Christocentric living is the best way to move beyond our prejudices of other traditions within Christianity as well as other faith traditions. Truly at the end of the day differences do not matter in the long run as long as Christ is at the center though there are some differences that still need to be addressed. Love is more important than doctrinal agreement as it is the sum and substance of the Law:
35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, to test him.
36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?"
37 And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.
38 This is the great and first commandment.
39 And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
---Matthew 22:35-39 (RSV).

Friday, January 15, 2010

Mainstream Baptist: On Heros and Heretics

More on Al Mohler and Tony Cartledge: Mainstream Baptist: On Heros and Heretics.

Baptist Responses To Haiti

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Executive Coordinator Daniel Vestal explains how to best respond to the earthquake in Haiti.

See also: Prominent Baptist pastor in Port-au-Prince confirmed among dead in Haiti and Baptists Today Blogs: The way we are.

Lottie Moon: "A Champion Of Biblical Inerrancy"?

We all know Lottie Moon as perhaps the most famous Baptist missionary or at least the most well known one, but according to Paige Patterson she is "a champion of biblical inerrancy:"
In a story that's been largely overlooked (who reads Baptist news during the holidays?), Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary unveiled several shipping crates purported to contain remnants of Lottie Moon's rented house from P'ingtu City, China, along with personal possessions and other 19th century antiques from the area.

Seminary president Paige Patterson displayed open crates reported to contain "some of Moon's furniture, such as chairs and a stove, as well as shingles, bricks and other remains from her house in P'ingtu, China," according to the article, which offered no information about how the items were authenticated as being Moon's.

Since Moon is known to have lived exceedingly frugally in a tiny dirt-floored house, the 35,000 pounds of materials reportedly contained in the shipment must have included many tons of bricks and clay shingles, as well as a lot of stuff that never belonged to Moon.

As expected, Patterson used the occasion to praise Moon as a champion of biblical inerrancy, something I've heard him do since the old "School of the Prophets" days at Criswell Bible College back in the 1970s. According to the article, Patterson prefaced his dedicatory prayer over the artifacts with a talk that "explained why Lottie Moon is so significant to Southwestern Seminary and the Southern Baptist Convention 'in the aftermath of the conservative renaissance of the convention.'"

This is nothing short of idolatry---though Lottie Moon indeed is a Baptist hero. Paige Patterson's zeal to prove his beliefs are the only correct ones have clouded his views of Lottie Moon. It is ironic that the fundamentalists believe that women cannot preach the Gospel at home but allow them to preach the Gospel abroad. Anyways what are your thoughts?

Al Mohler And Tony Cartledge: Heresy And Heroism

In a recent Blog post Al Mohler critiques an article by Tony Cartledge on Crawford H. Toy and famous Baptist missionary Lottie Moon. Dr. Mohler's Blog post is entitled "Heresy is Not Heroic — Is Crawford Howell Toy a Baptist Hero?" Of course to Dr. Mohler the answer is no because "doctrinal purity" is more important than whether someone lives a Christ-like life or not so there is no surprise there.

All Baptists admire Lottie Moon---it is ingrained within our upbringing from when we are younger sending money to Lottie Moon mission offerings. However most do not know the story of Crawford Howell Toy who was engaged to Lottie Moon. However because Toy championed biblical criticism over the absurd belief in biblical inerrancy. It has been rumored that he and Lottie Moon broke their engagement off because of his "theologically liberal" beliefs.

Indeed Crawford Toy is a Baptist hero of faith because of his commitment to intellectually living out his faith in the same way that Lottie Moon lived out hers on the mission field. Despite the fact that Toy later became a Unitarian, he should be celebrated for his contributions to Baptist life because he was not afraid to stand upon the traditional Baptist principles of soul competency, liberty of conscious and the right to dissent---despite the pressures of the "status quo."

Anyways here are some of the more critical parts of Dr. Mohler's post:
The most troubling section of Cartledge’s article has little to do with Lottie Moon, however. After stating his admiration for Lottie Moon’s “willingness to suffer deprivation because of her devotion to Christ and to missions,” Cartledge then states, “Increasingly, I have also come to admire Crawford Toy, who was no less devoted to Christ, and was willing to suffer rejection by Southern Baptists rather than surrender to the narrow-minded demand that he forgo scholarship and limit his teaching to popularly accepted notions.”

The admiration of liberal Baptists for Crawford Howell Toy should be a matter of both amazement and genuine concern. It is also a telling indication of how many of those identified as “moderates” in the Southern Baptist Convention controversy actually view the Bible. To celebrate Toy is to celebrate his beliefs about the Bible. Those beliefs were not heroic.

Neither is biblical inerrancy and elevating the bible as an idol heroic.

As later became clear, Toy drank deeply from the wells of theological liberalism and Biblical criticism during his years in Germany.

In his inaugural address as a professor at Southern Seminary, Toy argued that the Bible has both a human and a divine element. As his theological pilgrimage revealed, Toy would use this hermeneutical distinction in order to argue that the Bible contains nothing but truth in its divine element, even as its human element shows all the marks of human fallibility. The human element contains both errors and myths, but the Bible’s “religious thought is independent of this outward form.”

Because the bible indeed contains elements of "Mythic Truths" as well as downright absurdities that are in error---however, the bible is divinely inspired despite being the product of fallible human hands. After-all, it was sinful humans who did the actual writing and compiling of the bible.


Nevertheless, Toy’s theological trajectory did indeed take him not only out of the Southern Baptist fellowship, but out of the Christian faith altogether. During his time at Harvard, Toy eventually became a Unitarian — a faith that denies the deity of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity. He also accepted an evolutionary understanding of religion which accepted religion as a purely natural phenomenon.

In other words, Toy became what Christians throughout all the centuries of church history and in all the major traditions of the Christian Church would rightly identify as a heretic. He abandoned faith in the deity of Christ and abandoned the Christian faith. Yet, moderates in the SBC controversy often celebrated Crawford Toy as a hero and as a theological martyr for academic scholarship. Tony Cartledge continues this tradition by expressing his admiration for Crawford Toy, going so far as to claim that he “was no less devoted to Christ” than Lottie Moon. “There’s more than one way to be a hero,” Cartledge concluded.

I can only hope that Tony Cartledge either does not understand or does not mean what he writes in this article. To declare Crawford Toy and Lottie Moon to be equally devoted to Christ defies both common sense and theological sanity.

Idolatry of the bible is theological insanity.

As Old Testament scholar Paul House, now of the Beeson Divinity School, has argued, the roots of Toy’s later heresies were found in the presuppositions of his hermeneutic as he set forth his thought in his inaugural address at Southern Seminary. House does not question Toy’s personal integrity, noting his honesty in presenting his own beliefs. Toy himself recognized that his beliefs changed even during the years he taught at Southern Seminary. The key issue is that Toy’s understanding of the Bible left him completely vulnerable to every heresy and doctrinal aberration. Broadus rightly warned Toy of this danger at the time of his resignation.

Fundamentalism is a heresy and doctrinal aberration.

We should grieve the example of Crawford Howell Toy and learn from it, even as we are inspired by the courageous and Gospel-centered witness of Lottie Moon. The story of Crawford Howell Toy contains a cautionary message for every Christian teacher, seminary, church, and denomination. The elevation of Crawford Toy to the status of a hero alongside one of Christianity’s most famous Gospel missionaries is both tragic and scandalous. Heresy is not heroic.

Fundamentalism is what's not heroic.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Salvation Army News

Harsh critics:

Free housing deals for Salvation Army officers create image problem

The Salvation Army, a religious organization best known for helping the homeless and addicted, does not lavish great wealth upon its officers. But as part of its compensation package, it does provide them with housing.

See full article: Here.

Memo to Salvation Army: Clear the check before spending the cash