The Joshua Convergence

The Florida Baptist Witness reports on a two-day gathering of “younger” SBC leaders near Orlando for the stated purpose of expressing their “support of the SBC’s conservative resurgence and its emphasis on biblical inerrancy.” Over 4o such pastors and seminary professors are attending the meeting held at Aloma Baptist Church in Winterpark. Seven “Principles of Affirmation” have been offered by the group. They are:

“1. Truth–‘This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night .…’ Joshua 1:8

“We affirm the inerrancy of Scripture and the need for Southern Baptists to continue ‘to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). We maintain that any departure from the sufficiency of Scripture in preaching, evangelism, counseling, missions, ministry, or ecclesiology strikes against the very truth and authority of God’s Word. Pride and human sinfulness will draw believers away from biblical truth if they are not eternally watchful. The battle for the Bible must be renewed in every generation. We take our stand to continue in that battle.

“2. Gratitude–‘As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you.’ Joshua 1:5

“We affirm our deep thankfulness for those who have taken our Convention back to its theological and spiritual moorings. Because of the prayers and personal sacrifice of these godly men and women, we are the beneficiaries of seminaries that champion God’s Word, evangelistic mission agencies, and a Convention committed to the Great Commission. We are deeply disheartened by anyone who would malign the motives of these godly leaders. Instead, we seek to continue in the direction they have established, joining them in service to the Lord Jesus Christ with the prayer that God’s hand of guidance would be with us.

“3. Service–‘Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth … as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’ Joshua 24:14-15

“We affirm a God-given stewardship of service in our Convention in order to bring about His kingdom purposes. Our Lord has said, ‘Whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant’ (Matthew 20:26). We are aware that – as with any human organization – the mechanisms of the Southern Baptist Convention can be manipulated. We commit to refrain from such practices. Instead, we will serve through any avenue God provides, not with the expectation of being elevated or honored, but only to please Jesus Christ. We seek a spirit of humility wherever we might serve.

“4. Holiness–‘And Joshua said to the people, ‘Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.’ Joshua 3:5

“We affirm personal purity and separation from worldliness. Convinced that a redeemed life produces the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:19-24), we abhor compromise of biblical holiness, modesty, and temperance in the name of Christian liberty (Romans 6:15). Though we do not endorse pharisaical legalism, we resist attempts to accommodate standards of holiness to vacillating cultural norms. To this end, we oppose the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages. Throughout its history, our Convention has stood against the evils of alcohol. The present generation can in good conscience do no other. Further, we are unequivocally opposed to the antinomian attitude in some Christian circles concerning unwholesome and immoral language, cynicism, and profanity. We feel strongly that the Bible condemns such actions.

“5. Unity–‘Now the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of meeting there. And the land was subdued before them.’ Joshua 18:1

“We are fully committed to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 as a summary of our common beliefs, and we desire full cooperation with all who share this commitment. Within our number are those with diverse positions on the doctrines of grace, aspects of eschatology, approaches to worship, and missions and evangelism strategy. While we cherish opportunities to discuss these differences, we reject all attitudes of mean-spiritedness, personal attacks, or intellectual and spiritual arrogance in these debates. Instead, we pledge to maintain a peaceable spirit and to work together in our common goal of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“6. Identity–‘That this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?'” Joshua 4:6

“We are wholehearted in our dedication to Baptist ecclesiology as expressed in Scripture for our understanding of what constitutes a local church. We are Baptists by conviction not by tradition alone, believing the fundamental principles which constitute a Baptist church are the very ones which made up a New Testament church. Such essential tenets of a believer’s church, founded upon the sole authority and sufficiency of Scripture, include regenerate church membership, believer’s baptism by immersion, believer’s Lord’s Supper as a memorial, church discipline, local church autonomy, congregational polity, confessional fidelity, priesthood of the believer, separation of church and state, religious liberty, and an unwavering passion to carry out the Great Commission. We should never be prideful in being Baptist, but we should always be thankful in being Baptist.

“7. Mission–‘That all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.’ Joshua 4:24

“We affirm our desire for the nations to hear the gospel of Christ. Based on this conviction, we are committed to be personal soul-winners, to lead our churches and Convention in evangelism, and to support worldwide church planting. We commit to give sacrificially to missions and to encourage our churches continually to increase their missions giving. We are convinced that the Cooperative Program has been unusually blessed of God as a tool for training and sending God-called servants to proclaim Christ. Without hesitation, we desire for all Southern Baptist churches to grow in their giving to the Cooperative Program and encourage our state conventions to send higher percentages of Cooperative Program receipts to the Southern Baptist Convention.”

I find within these principles some wonderful statements which deserve a hearty “Amen” (for example, the statements on truth and service). Other affirmations, though offered in a commendable and exemplary spirit, are marred by imprecisions both historical and theological. Some of that may simply be due to the vagueness of the language used. I would elaborate on the historical point but refrain from doing so because I have no desire to be further positioned as one who encourages alcohol consumption. I will simply say that, indeed, I oppose the “evils of alcohol.”

Regarding the theological imprecision, I find it ironic that the self-styled heirs of the conservative resurgence have actually taken up the language of the moderate resistance by affirming the “priesthood of the believer.” No individual believer consitutes a whole priesthood. The individualistic and subjectivistic spin that the moderates put on the reformation principle of the priesthood of all believers resulted in the perversion of this precious doctrine into little more than the adage that “every tub sits on its own bottom.” It is a little like advocating the “communion of the saint.”

I make no pretense of offering a thorough evaluation, just a few reflections. These principles will no doubt provoke lots of dialogue among Southern Baptists of all ages. Well they should. If that dialogue can be carried out in the spirit which the principles themselves affirm, that can only be beneficial for the SBC.