Friday, January 27, 2006

Reflections on Being Baptist

Well, I got off work, couldn't sleep, and now I'm tired and insane. So bear with me on this post cause I'm playing with my new picture editor. See the sidebar if you want it. Quite often, I wonder just why I am a Baptist. No, seriously, stay with me here. I am like the Catholics in some respects. I was born a Baptist, raised a Baptist, and likely I'll die a Baptist. What's more, each of those three "Baptists" can be given the adjective "Southern." Even more, I am one of those who dislikes being told my beliefs are wrong. Isn't that traditonal? I'm often left wondering if I would have become a Baptist if I'd been born and raised in, say, the Methodist church. Lord knows I'd have left a Pentecostal church as soon as I was old enough to know better. I've always thought the Moonies were, well, weird, so no worries there. To this day I still have no idea where the Presbyterian and Episcopalian congregations are, so we can safely eliminate that possibility as well. What does that leave? Let's see, Catholics (one small church conveniently located behind the local hospital) and your plethora of Independent Fundamental Baptists. Maybe it's just as well, my family were Southern Baptists due to my grandmother's side. As I've grown older and done things like gone off to college and "gotten liberal," I found that I pay more and more attention to what I believe and what my church believes. I've come to realize that I haven't the foggiest clue what my church believed while I was growing up. About all I can really vouch for is that we "believed the Bible" and that we were "against sin." Oh, I know now that the preacher knew his stuff, but I'm talking about Joe Blow in the pew. Speaking of going off to college and getting liberal, I attended what I consider to be a "moderate Baptist" institution. It's one of those where you get a top-notch education, mentioned in national magazines and such as a "Top 10-50-100-whatever" school. I know now they weren't Calvinist (nor was I at the time, and I'm still not). They sure were Pelagian, Arminian, and modified Open Theist. Lord knows I still struggle with a Pelagian mindset to this day. R.C. Sproul says that's not uncommon; it's our natural mode of thinking. But I sure had some naive and uninformed notions of Christianity due to this education. Don't worry, I'm still naive; it's just my naivete is informed now. But as I've come up here to Louisville and went off the fundamentalist deep end, I've learned quite a bit about what it means to be a Baptist. And by all accounts, I love it. Southern really does celebrate its Baptistness and encourage us to learn about our heritage. You can't go to school here and not leave thoroughly Baptist in your thinking. As such, what one must do is sit back and reflect on the ride. And it's been a wild and wooly ride. It wouldn't be distinctively Baptist otherwise. From Disney to Open Theism to the Homosexual Agenda to Teetertottertalism to the Emergent Church to the Doctrines of Grace, everything about my experience at Southern has done one thing: it has made me more like Jesus, and made Satan so mad that as the sin in my life has decreased, my weaknesses have become stronger as Old Steve gets worked over by Legion. In the journey to become the true "New Kind of Christian," my thinking has become more and more biblical, my preaching has become more and more Scripture-focused, my doctrine has become more fundamentally orthodox, and a drive has been instilled in me to put God's glory first above all things. I find myself enjoying His word in ways that can only be described as childlike. I can honestly say the only time in my life I was like that was in the 3 years after I was saved. You can blame a Pelagian mind-set for the intervening 5 or 6 years until God's irresistible grace kept moving me towards sanctification as I started my first couple of years of studies at Southern. I find myself awed at His providence in my life. And as a result, I demand a high view of God from myself and others. I don't mean to say that I expect everyone to believe like me. Quite the contrary, God really crucified that attitude in me once I got to college and realized it wasn't that simple. Being exposed to postmodern thought really allowed me to hear what others thought before I went out and thumped 'em with my trusty King James. At least such a bankrupt philosophy was good for something. I'm quite comfortable now letting people believe what they want, provided they hear the truth from me. Of course, that doesn't mean I "let" my church members believe just anything. A good pastor corrects his sheep, and that's something I strive to do--teach correct doctrine and correct error in my church. I should say His church, not mine. And that's another thing that has been as traditionally Baptist as the disagreements--a belief that one's doctrine must be correct and that one's church must follow that doctrine. And as a Baptist who desires right doctrine, I want to make my personal theology as correct as possible. That's why I'm investigating the doctrines of grace. That's why I'm learning to preach expositorally (is that even a word?). That's why I'm learning what a biblical church and marriage is. And I'll proclaim it loudly from the pulpit when I learn it. So close this incoherent, disjointed ramble, why am I a Baptist? Because Baptists are like me. We want to glorify God in all we do--in our doctrine, churches, marriages, and personal lives. And we want to do it together. And, of course, no one glorifies God better than we do! Anyone else is just "lee-uh-burr-all."

2 Comments:

Blogger The Archer of the Forest said...

I always find that an interesting question. I was not really much of anything growing up, my parents avoided church religiously. My mother had sort of grown up marginally Presbyterian and my father was an even more (less?) marginally Methodist. They were your typical 60s submarine protestants who surfaces on Christmas and Easter and the rest of the time you never saw them.

When I lived in South Africa briefly(long story) I sort of was baptized as an Anglican because the mission there was the only civilization outpost around. I went to high school run by Catholic clergy. And coincidentally a Baptist college.

I kind of surfed around the first few years I was in college. I went to about every type of church imaginable: Orthodox, Roman, Baptist, Methodist...even a Unitarian service once (which is a great story I will have to tell you some time). I liked the Catholic liturgy but not some of the doctrine. I liked the people at various other churches, but not some of the doctrine. Sometimes I didn't even like the doctrine OR the people. I finally floated back to the Episcopal church as a good Anglo-catholic and have been there ever since.

For some reason, its where I belong. After the gay bishop thing, I asked God several times if I needed to find another church, but I always was answered in no uncertain times that I am where I need to be. Until I hear otherwise, that settles that.

1/27/2006 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger Stephen Newell said...

Really, that's the way it ought to be. If you're where God has placed you, that really should settle that. As long as one is seeking right doctrine and practice, one should be fine.

1/27/2006 04:49:00 PM  

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