Saturday, September 29, 2007

Really Together in the Gospel

Registration is open for Together for the Gospel 2008 (T4G). Last year I had some impassioned things to say about T4G in a previous post (let's just say I discovered my anger). My gripe was that women who had registered for the conference were asked to give up their places so that more pastors could attend. My issue was, why were women the only one's asked to give up their places? Anyone who was not a pastor should have been asked to give up their spot. I think it led to the situation where some pew-sitting-couching potato guy could attend the conference, but a woman actually involved in ministry (university ministry, youth, women-t0-women, missions, etc) could not attend. I don't think this was done maliciously but it was an administrative decision that did not bode well for regarding women as partners in the gospels. While I stand by the validity of my original protest, I am very glad to say that my concerns have now been assuaged. The registration for T4G reads: "If you are a pastor, church leader, or an individual heading towards the ministry, please join us - and, brothers, bring your Timothy's! Women in ministry and wives are also welcome, yet keep in mind that each will focus on pastoral ministry". While being clear that the conference is orientated towards pastors, there is also a willingness to allow women to attend and to benefit from the teaching and fellowship of T4G. This is a good thing. That is what "Together" in the gospel should really be about. It allows the conference to remain committed to training pastors, to retain its complementarian ethos, but does not exclude any particular group. T4G gets the Bird-man stam of approval!

Over at the T4G Blog there is an interesting series of posts about exactly how "together" the conveners of T4G are (Al Mohler, C.J. Maheney, Al Mohler, Lig Duncan, Mark Dever). They obviously have different points of view about baptism. What is more, Mohler and Dever (as Southern Baptists) would not give communion to Lig Duncan if he came to their church since he's a Presbyterian. On baptism, I'm siding with Piper and first-edition-Grudem, because, even as a Baptist, I think that non-Baptist's can be members (what I would call "associate members") of a local Baptist church if they have a real and authentic faith. On communion, Lig Duncan is welcomed to have communion in my church any time, in fact, if he did come I would probably insist that he leads the communion service (but if we went out for lunch afterwards we'd probably have a very free and frank exchange of ideas about N.T. Wright and Reformed Orthodoxy). This is not because I am "soft" on Baptist distinctives, rather, it is because I am "tough" on the theological implications of the gospel. If we really believe that the gospel is theological and not just a ticket to heaven, then the gospel has got to affect our ecclesiology (or doctrine of the church). The "church" consists fundamentally of the gospelized, viz., of those who believe, confess, and profess the good news of Jesus Christ. We baptize those who are gospelized. But being gospelized (converted and commissioned) takes precedent over baptism which is a symbol of the gospel itself. Similarly, for the Lord's Supper, that meal is an effective sign of gospel fellowship, and all those who confess Jesus as Lord and Saviour are welcomed to attend. This meal foreshadows who will be at the wedding supper of the Lamb. Jesus has already sent out his invitations and how can I withold communion from someone that the Lord has invited to the eschatological banquet? What gives the sacraments/ordinances (delete as preferred) their power is the gospel. These symbols of the gospel were meant to facilitate fellowship rather than to hinder it. This isn't going for the lowest common theological denominator (gosh darn it, "household" means slaves and retainers not children), but we must not allow the emblems of the gospels to interfere with the ends for which the gospel was given.


Ross said...

Hi Michael

You write:

'On baptism, I'm siding with Piper and first-edition-Grudem, because, even as a Baptist, I think that non-Baptist's can be members (what I would call "associate members") of a local Baptist church if they have a real and authentic faith.'

Wow! Such openess! Such generosity! After my faith has been judged and tested, I get to be a second class member. An Associate no less. Not a real member, mind you, but at leat I get to walk through the church door without being beaten with copies of Songs of Fellowship or the Baptist Hymnal.

At least I will be in good company because presumably this is the status you would also give Calvin, Zwingli, Luther, and Pope Benedict assuming, that is, you think he has a true and authentic faith. Calvin, I mean. And that's before we discuss the man who took children in his arms and blessed them. But let's not go there ...

Tell you what, to make matters simpler, why don't you join my church? We will accept you as a full member and we won't even interrogate you about your faith. We will assume that if you want to spend a couple of hours with us each Sunday and are able to say the Creed that you mean business. Whoever is not against us ...

We even accept Australians.

Now there's inclusiveness for you.

Love your blog. Keep up the good work.

ReformedChristian said...

Hi Mike,

I know Lloyd Jones preached at my old church but I am not sure if he was allowed to take communion. In spite of Ross' comments we as reformed baptists would be open to Calvin and Zwingli etc in spite of the fact they would persecute us for being baptists. I agree with Piper (as always) and believe we should have an open policy to all who have been accepted into fellowship by our Lord.


Dane Ortlund said...

Good post. I'm a paedobapist and I don't find your position obnoxious at all.