Session 5: Dave Burggraff–The Light of Apologetics for a Pagan Age
Introduction to Burggraff
It was an honor to hear this man for the first time. Our conference booklets introduced him this way:
Dr. Burggraff was saved at the age of 21. A graduate of the University of Minnesota, he received his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in 1975. In 1980, he was a part of the first graduating class of Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary, earning a Master of Divinity degree.
Following graduation, he planted and pastored the Faith Baptist Church of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, until 1987. For the next three years he served as pastor of the Grace Baptist Church of Owatonna, Minnesota. In 1988, he earned a Master of Theology degree from Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary. While serving at Grace Baptist Church, he taught at Pillsbury Baptist Bible College and Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Minneapolis.
Upon being invited to join the faculty of Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary in 1989, Dr. Burggraff began work toward a doctorate in theology at Dallas Theological Seminary. In 1991, with his doctoral courses completed, he returned to Lansdale to serve as the Dean and Professor of Theology. He was honored with a Doctor of Divinity degree from Maranatha Baptist Bible College in 1998. He was awarded the Ph.D. in theology from Dallas Theological Seminary in 2000.
Dr. Burggraff assumed the responsibilities of the presidency of Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary from 2001 until January, 2006. In 2006, he joined the administration of Clearwater Christian College where he presently serves as Vice President for Spiritual Formation and Ministry Development, and Professor of Theology. In addition to his responsibilities at CCC, Dr. Burggraff continues to teach as a part-time professor of theology at CBTS.
Message from Burggraff
Where do I begin? He gave us a 14-page paper on “The Light of Apologetics for a Pagan Age.” He wasn’t able to cover all of his detailed exposition of Ephesians 6. Too bad.
In this first session, Burggraff rapidly covered the first five pages of his handout. For the sake of brevity, I am just going to pull out excerpts from these first five pages.
All Christians love and venerate the Bible, but no tradition of Christianity loves and venerates it more than Baptists. Baptists “stand alone on the Word of God”–even to what many Protestants would deem an extreme. For Baptists, the Bible is the fundamental and supremely authoritative reference for religious life. It is truth.
Additionally, Baptists, especially fundamental Baptists, are known for their emphasis on conversion, and they believe in it in two respects. Each person must be converted away from sin–“born again.” Furthermore, fundamentalists have emphasized “full conversion”–a life of increasing holiness, of disciplined and fervent piety that more and more conforms to the pattern of obedience and goodness set by Christ himself. Alongside the Bible and conversion, another major emphasis of fundamental Baptists has been mission. They particularly support the work of evangelism and church establishment.
Everything mentioned above speaks of a body of people who believe they have access to truth, who believe that truth sincerely and personally, and who believe they must share that truth.  And therein is the rub. Nearly everyone they/we encounter outside the Christian community (and anymore within it) takes issue with our beliefs. It is fashionable today to speak of the theological posture of Western civilization–and American intellectual culture in particular–as post-Christian. Our most important, influential, and culture-shaping institutions and professions–law, medicine, education, science, media and arts–no longer accept the presuppositions of the biblical worldview, our beliefs, as part of their philosophical framework. Hence, the need for apologetics. But the challenge we face today is twofold: first, the matter (questioning) of truth and second, the method of presentation. Both of these go right at the heart of what we believe and do as Baptists and fundamentalists. This session will attempt to address both issues.
Burggraff defines “apologetics” as the “branch of Christian theology that seeks to provide rational warrant for Christianity’s truth claims. It contains offensive and defensive elements, on the one hand presenting positive arguments for Christian truth claims and on the other refuting objections brought against Christianity’s truth claims.” The problem is that no one is asking questions.
He also fleshed out for his audience, in a footnote, the postmodernist movement (and I join him in this nauseating topic by inserting a finger in my mouth).
Postmodernism came into vogue in the mid-1980’s, and the term is overused these days. But what are the hallmarks? The central idea that gave rise to postmodernism is the denial that absolute truth may be known objectively. According to postmodernism, the subjectivity of the human mind makes it impossible to discover objective truth. Objectivity is an illusion. In addition, when most persons hear postmodernism, they think of tolerance and diversity because those are the primary virtues postmodernism has elevated above every other moral value. Another feature of postmodernism is its suspicion of (bordering on utter contempt for) any claim that is made with certainty and authority.
Besides the classic characteristics, there are others. Postmodernism generally prefers subjectivity to objectivity and ambiguity over clarity. They are skeptical of logic, and they also distrust history. They question every form of dogmatism. But most significantly, postmodernism is hostile to every worldview that makes any universal truth-claim. In fact, it is fair to say that the whole idea of a “worldview”–or a comprehensive philosophy of life–is about as un-postmodern as possible. Postmodernism could be defined in a nutshell as the belief that no single worldview offers a universally and objectively true perspective on life and reality.
He asks the questions, “Is apologetics still possible in a society that no longer believes in objective truth as demonstrable by a predefined standard of rationality?” “How do we persuade others of the truth of the Gospel in a culture where a variety of rationalities exist?”
The key is to realize that the postmodern approach is selective. People are subjectivists when it comes to ethics and religion but not when it comes to reading the directions on their medicine bottles and computer manuals.
I am encouraged when Burggraff writes, “In the past few years the popularity of some postmodern theory, and ‘deconstruction’ in particular, has actually waned” and in a footnote: “Even though Brian McLaren, Sally Morgenthaler, Dan Kimball, Zondervan Publishers, etc., have had significant influence and time in the spotlight (the web) the overall effect is negligible. Works by evangelicals contra the emergent church have pointed out its inherent weakness. Note especially, D. A. Carson, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005); and Paul Engle and Paul Basden, eds., Exploring the Worship Spectrum: Six Views (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004).”
“Postmodernism is being questioned–and adapting our theology and methodology to incorporate postmodern thinking and techniques should be questioned as to its wisdom.” Hence, Burggraff questions the approach of Stanley Grenz (now deceased), Roger Olson, David Dockery, Rodney Clapp, Nancey Murphey, William Abraham, Brian J. Walsh, J. Richard Middleton, Philip D. Kenneson, Marck McLeod, Miroslav Volf, John Franke, Steven J. Land, and Henry H. Knight III.
Basically, Burggraff concludes this first part of his presentation with the fact that the events of September 11, 2001, gave “severe blows” to the postmodern paradigm. The idea is brought to an end on page six with “Without an objective moral order, postmodern proponents have no ethical standard beyond the contemporary social constructions of what humans are on which to base any ethical norms. When God is eliminated, humanity is annulled, and ethics is eroded. Only madness and anarchy remain (Prov. 8:36).”
My Personal Reflections on Burggraff’s Message
I really appreciated Burggraff’s tipping his hat to the early, brilliant church thinkers contra Arianism by strongly encouraging us to read Augustine, Athanasius, and Irenaeus. This is needed. For example, I just recently read What Da Vinci Didn’t Know: An LDS Perspective (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 2006) by Richard Neitzel Holzapfel (Ph.D. in Ancient History from the University of California Irvine), Andrew C. Skinner (Ph.D. in History from the University of Denver), and Thomas A. Wayment (Ph.D. in New Testament Studies from Claremont Graduate University). These men would oppose gnosticim, liberal deconstructionism of Scripture, and the idea of metanarratives in postmodernism; but they would blatantly reject the theology of these three early church leaders, blinded by today’s “Christianity” packaged by Arius long ago.
Second, Burggraff declared that 1,273 religions coexist equally in the United States of America. Referencing Ben Witherington III on the ancient culture of Rome, Burggraff clarified to us again what paganism looks like. It is not the absence of religious practice but when all religions are treated equal.
Wow. As we approach the Fourth of July celebrations in America, Burggraff burdened me for our dear country. As he said, “Somebody has to stop evil.” In the darkness, we are to be strong in the Lord. We are to use the whole panoply. We are to make use of rhema, little word.”
Hey, I also just finished reading The Irresistible Revolution—Living as an Ordinary Radical (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006) by Shane Claiborne (a postmodern emergent in his early thirties). On the tails of this exposure, Burggraff is a welcomed brother in the exploration of all the images of soldiering, military, and war in the Bible. Claiborne’s idea of rallying together under ecumenical paganism and false peace is not the answer to feeding and helping the world’s poor. Though they provide free health services to the homeless, the last thing we need is more local churches like Glide Memorial Methodist Church in San Francisco. Shane was reared in a dead United Methodist church. Who would he consider a hero–godly Lizzy Glide or the present liberal, Cecil Williams?
Session 6: Dave Barba–Dispelling the Darkness Through Planting Vibrant, Biblical Churches
Introduction to Barba
Dave and his wife launched out in 2001 with a new mobile, portable ministry (www.ipresson.com)  of helping church planters. As “Press On Ministries,” one of the latest ways they have been assisting in the advertisement of a new start up is by utilizing the program, “The Phone’s For You.” Priscilla (Prisca) and Aquila would have been stunned by today’s technology.
In Today’s Christian Preacher (Vol. 13, No. 4, Spring 2006), I read Dave’s article, “Church Planting to Evangelize.” He defends his main proposition. “Starting new churches may well be the most effective means of evangelism” with four reasons: 1. Church planting is full obedience to the Great Commission. 2. Church planting is good stewardship of evangelism funds. 3. Church planting helps us reach more people with the Gospel. 4. Church planting gets our people involved in ministry.
The exciting possibilities for reseeding in America are endless.
Message from Barba
He read I Corinthians 3:1-7 and mentioned that God is good to use us in spite of ourselves. He warned against being sectarian. There shouldn’t be Paulites and Apollosites. Only God gives the increase. This lead Barba to the question, “How many churches were planted?” and to his message outline.
- Church Planting is biblical.
- Church Planting deals not with dead organization but with a living organism. (And if you are healthy, you will produce “baby churches.”)
- Church Planting is full obedience to the Great Commission. (He places Jerusalem in Acts 1:8 as anyone who would drive to meet with your local fellowship on Sundays. We need to plant local fellowships in the areas not drivable to our local church.)
- Church Planting is a financial investment. Do the numbers.
- Church Planting is aggressive evangelism. You must be. A new fellowship is forced to find creative ways.
- Church Planting is now.
There are 1.4 million atheists in America. We are losing 3 million a year to secularism. Population is increasing. Some good churches have been lost to sin and compromise. We are also dealing with over reactive fundamentalism, intellectual pride, and expositing people into deadness. Presently, China rather than the USA is taking the forefront in reaching the 10/40 window.
(At this point, Barba provided a statistical analysis from secular sources on the maximum number for good relationships and management–150 people. He jokes that we can’t handle one another after this.)
- Church Planting uses God’s gifts, those who have the gift of evangelism. And then Barba provides a list of various characteristics that might describe a church planter (passion, flexibility, resilience, likeability, comfort with the fact that nothing is guaranteed except the presence of God, makes friends in Wal-Mart, loves Hebrews 11, and that you love to hit yourself on the head with a hammer, etc.)
- Church Planting is doable.
Because of time, Barba’s PowerPoint presentation on “This Phone’s For You” had to be shortened to about three minutes. The company has helped 20,000 churches in 20 years. As a result, there have been 1 million in church. Barba discussed the “Laws of the Harvest.” You contact many to keep a few. And then he provided the examples of 10 churches, the statistics of how many dial-ups were made, and how many came on the grand opening services (from the perspective of a rough average, 25,000 phone calls would bring 100 people on opening day). Dave has also created an “Existing Church” phone program.
My Personal Reflections on Barba’s Message
The guy is downright jovial. I really enjoyed his personality, and I am thankful for how he teams up with church planters all across the country.
I will consider the phone advertising, especially when one lady recently said something along these lines about our local fellowship. “I wish I would have known about you earlier. This local church is one of the best-kept secrets in town.” But believe me, it wasn’t me. The attractiveness was biblical exposition, hearing the voice of God verse by verse.
Through the work of church planting, may God’s Word run!
21. TRUTH–what a word! When you step outside the front doors of the large San Francisco city hall, this is the first word you notice clearly across the plaza, emblazoned in huge letters on the side of a building.
22. In the May/June 2004 article, “Drifting Down The River,” John E. Ashbrook of The Ohio Bible Fellowship writes, “The church must use literature, programs, and missions which are fundamental. The people must understand why the church makes the choices it does. New evangelical books, literature, and programs produce new evangelicals. That is what they are designed to do and they work. Don’t sell them. Don’t use them. Don’t participate in them.” I have to respectfully disagree for the very reason of the profit obtained for a fundamentalist through these very books cited by Burggraff. On the coffee table in our church foyer, Frontline and World magazines sit side by side to keep people informed. But overall, Ashbrook’s article is a sober warning, well taken.
23. From the June newsletter, it is exciting to hear of the ministry progressing at Community Baptist Church in Clayton, North Carolina. And SI member, Jeremiah Barba, thanks again for your ministry with the drama team in Idaho Falls.
24. How can you exposit people into deadness? Again, I respectfully disagree. SI member Scott Bennion (once a Mormon but now saved by grace) just sent me an expositor’s quote from Thomas Schreiner of Southern Seminary in Louisville. Please read this. He is critiquing wide evangelicalism.
“I have often wondered why biblical exegesis is not the consuming passion of pastors and students. Why is it, for example, that so many sermons have very little to do with what the biblical text is saying? … Biblical exegesis is often neglected by students and pastors because they consider it to be the special province of biblical scholars … Some people consider biblical scholars to be specialists who investigate and debate issues that have very little to do with practical everyday living … Students often relegate biblical exegesis to the scholarly shelf and abandon it as soon as they complete their academic coursework.
“Evangelicals have too often responded to the world of scholarship with an anti-intellectual attitude. Recognizing the glaring deficiencies of critical scholarship, evangelicals have sometimes responded by denying the need for critical and searching study of the Bible … Erasmus long ago revealed the error of such a mind-set with this penetrating remark: ‘People say to me, How can scholarly knowledge facilitate the understanding of Holy Scripture? My answer is, How does ignorance contribute to it?’ …
“The goal of exegesis is not to gain specialized knowledge in a particular field of study. The goal of exegesis is to gain a worldview based upon and informed by the biblical text. Ultimately, we all conduct our lives based on our worldview, our perception of life as a whole. Biblical exegesis should be the foundation in the building of that worldview. The complete building is ultimately expressed in our systematic theology … The question is this: Is [our] systematic theology faithful to the biblical text and logically rigorous, or is it contrary to the biblical text and logically in disarray? …
“Exegesis will not be the passion of students unless they see that it plays a vital role in the formation of one’s worldview. And intellectual inclination for exegesis, although crucial, is not sufficient. Exegesis will never be one’s passion unless one’s heart is gripped by biblical truth; only then will it lead to a deeper and richer joy in God (John 15:11). If one’s heart never sings when doing exegesis, then the process has not reached its culmination. And if one has never trembled when doing exegesis (Isa. 66:2), then one is not listening for the voice of God … .”
Todd Wood is pastor of Berean Baptist Church in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He received his B.A. in Missions, M.A. in Theology, and M.Div. from Bob Jones University. But more than anything he hungers for the A.I.G. degree affixed to Apelles (Rom. 16:10).