J. D. Greear on How to Respond When “Darkness Is Your Closest Friend”

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On Thursday afternoons we highlight the writing of J. D. Greear, Pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. Recently, J. D. wrote about the Christian’s fight for faith in the midst of darkness. 

Here’s an excerpt:

In a dark season, one of the biggest acts of faith you can do is to write a lament proclaiming your despair. Ironically, in giving voice to your despair and hopelessness, you are saying, “God, somehow I think your love is deeper and greater than all of this!” You may ask, “Where is the faith in Psalm 88?” It’s in the fact that Psalm 88 is recorded the way it is—unresolved and messy and painfulshowing that even in our darkest hours God is transforming the story of our lives into the total praise that’s in Psalm 89.

 

We all have seasons of Psalm 88. Some of us will stay there for years. Some of us may even reach the end of our earthly days without any resolution to our greatest pains. Be honest with God about it. But don’t stop there.

Read the full post here.

J. D. Greear on Three Reasons to Read Your Bible

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Every Thursday afternoon we highlight the writing of J. D. Greear, Pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. This Thursday we point you to a recent post from J. D. on three reasons we must read our Bibles. 

Here’s an excerpt:

Jesus was asked a lot of questions during his earthly ministry, and not once did he ever say, “You know, I get why you’re confused. The Old Testament is just so unclear.” No, he repeatedly peppered his opponents with the question, “Haven’t you read?” suggesting that if they had just known their Scriptures better, they wouldn’t have been making the mistakes they were making.

 

We won’t be able to understand everything. We’ll still have questions. And that’s fine. But what we need to know for life is plain.  The problem isn’t so much that there are parts of the Bible we can’t understand, but that we won’t obey the parts we do understand.

Read the full post here.

Recurring Themes in Baptist History

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Nearly every semester, I teach a course at Southeastern Seminary titled Baptist History: Heritage, Identity, Polity. Like any subject that you study historically, Baptist history is characterized by a number of recurring themes. Some of these themes represent perennial debates among Baptists, while others speak to historical developments that continue to influence Baptists to the present day. I try to highlight these themes during the course of the semester in my lectures and in our class discussions.

While there are no doubt other themes that could be highlighted, I point to six as being particularly important. These topics come up in class again and again because, well, they come up among Baptists again and again!

1. Reform vs. Restoration: Some historians interpret Baptists as a reform movement that arose among English Protestants, while others see them as a restoration movement that sought to bypass earlier movements and return to the purity of New Testament Christianity. Furthermore, how Baptists themselves have understood their own identity as reformers or restorationists has varied at different points in history. How one approaches this issue necessarily affects his or her understanding of Baptist identity.

2. Calvinism vs. Arminianism: From their earliest days, Baptists have enjoyed no consensus on doctrines such as predestination, the extent/intent of the atonement, the relationship between divine grace and human belief, and the eternal security of those who believe. Some Baptists have been strong Calvinists, while others have been convictional Arminians. Many Baptists (including most Southern Baptists today) have attempted to argue that a position between Calvinism and Arminianism is the most biblical position. While this is an important topic that should be considered first and foremost from a biblical perspective, historically, there is no such thing as “the Baptist view” of the doctrines of grace.

3. Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and Church Membership: While all Baptists affirm believer’s baptism, there is no unanimity in terms of how baptism relates to the Lord’s Supper and church membership. Historically, most Baptists have argued that believer’s baptism is prerequisite to church membership and participation in the Lord’s Supper. However, many Baptists believe that believer’s baptism should not be prerequisite to communion. A small but growing minority of Baptists believes that believer’s baptism should not be a requirement of church membership. This spectrum of views was already present by the middle of the seventeenth century.

4. The Relationship between Church and State: Baptists have historically championed full religious liberty and church-state separation. However, Baptists have frequently disagreed about the implementation of this principle. Some Baptists want religious liberty within the context of a broadly Christian nation, while others want the state to take a secular (though not secularist) approach and remain neutral on religious matters. In America, this particular theme has been a point of tension from the 1960s onward. Some Baptists accuse the Supreme Court and sometimes legislative bodies of advocating secularism while other Baptists accuse political conservatives of rejecting, or at least downplaying, the importance of church-state separation.

5. The Centrality of Missions: From the eighteenth century onwards, missions has been arguably the defining theme in Baptist history. Nearly every theological and methodological debate among Baptists has been related in some way to the desire of Baptists to obey Christ’s Great Commission in Matthew 28:18–20. As much as any denomination, Baptists are a tradition defined by a high level of commitment to evangelism, discipleship, and church planting. We have certainly witnessed this theme play in some of our family discussions in recent Southern Baptist life.

6. Increasing Denominationalism: As Baptists became more committed to missions, they were forced to develop increasingly elaborate denominational structures to better facilitate cooperation for the sake of missions. Sometimes, denominationalism has served as a catalyst to missionary efforts. At other times, denominational structures have arguably hindered effective missionary advance due to alleged bureaucratic expansion. For some Baptists, their denominational identity is part and parcel of their wider Baptist identity, while other Baptists see themselves as only partially—perhaps even peripherally—part of a Baptist denomination.

Again, I have little doubt there are other themes that could be highlighted, but these are the ones that stand out to me. To my thinking, it is impossible to understand Baptist history—or contemporary debates about Baptist identity, denominationalism, etc.—without some familiarity with these six recurring themes.