Dr. Doug MacLachlan presented this paper at Central Seminary’s fall conference on Oct. 17, 2011. Read part 1. Part two begins with the second of three indispensible necessities for authentic fundamentalism.
It was G. K. Chesterton who suggested that the Christian life is like a narrow pathway with deep ditches on both sides. For much of its history, large segments of the body of Christ have too often found themselves off the “narrow pathway” (the radical center) and in one or the other of these ditches. It doesn’t matter which ditch we fall into. In both of them, believers become muddied and defiled. In this condition, the watching world is once again receiving a skewed view of Christ and His body. Far too large a percentage of the evangelical world has descended into the “left ditch.” And doubtless, far too much of the fundamentalist world has descended into the “right ditch.” This tragic descent into the ditches mandates a deep commitment to a strong pursuit of the “radical center,” if we are to recover historic, mainstream fundamentalism.
Dr. Doug MacLachlan presented this paper at Central Seminary’s fall conference on Oct. 17, 2011. It will post here in two parts, today and tomorrow.
The church is God’s good family in man’s broken world.
In 1 Timothy 3:15, Paul defines the church as: “the household (the family) of God.” In effect, Paul is saying to our 21st century body of Christ: “Be what you are:” The family of God in a world of fractured families; a home-base for the familially disenfranchised! A very significant part of our calling as 1st century Christians and churches in a 21st century world is to be a place where relational warmth, familial love, gospel truth, and biblical exposition can be found. If we fulfill this function biblically and compassionately we will impact our world rescuingly and redemptively for Jesus Christ.
I know this first from Scripture, but second from personal experience. My familial pedigree has never been considered very impressive. I am the son of a bartender, and the grandson of a gangster. My first encounter with “family” as it was ordained by God to be was in the context of a local, fundamental Baptist church in the small village of Montrose, MI where I was raised. I brought nothing of value or status to the small community of believers in Montrose Baptist Church, except my eternal soul as a creature made in God’s image, and as a sinner for whom Christ died. That was enough for that body of believers to welcome me into their midst and invite me into their homes.
I grew up in Winston Salem, NC, a city of roughly 230,000. Not large, but by North Carolina standards, in the top five. Over the years, I’ve bumped into people from rural towns who have noted, sometimes with genuine deference, “Oh, you’re from the big city.” This makes me chuckle considering Winston would probably fit inside of Donald Trump’s living room. Our worldview is potently molded to our experiences such that it affects our perception of objective data and propositional truth.
If your experience of the Christian faith has been primarily independent, fundamentalist, traditional and conservative, operating in small to medium-sized churches, then your perception of evangelicalism may be similar to a small town resident visiting a large city. Bigger doesn’t mean better, but it is certainly different with diverse and multiple choices. This is not to denigrate traditional conservatives (whom I have affectionately nicknamed Tracons) or small towns. It is to illustrate perceptual distinctions. Why write about this? Let me explain.
Our church staff and elders attended the Gospel Coalition 2011 conference in Chicago this past week. What we experienced was simple, but profound, gracious, yet powerful. The subject matter, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, was well crafted and delivered from many regions of the older testament by gifted pastors and leaders. Some of you may have read the updates. While writing the updates and ruminating on the spectrum of participants and contributors at SharperIron, I considered the many articles and comments deliberating the topics of conservative evangelicals, culture, cooperation, fences, separation, etc. It occurred to me that “small town/large city” perceptions exist that skew an appreciation of the believers some have termed “fundagelicals.”
Perhaps it would be best to begin this document with a warning. This is going to be a long discussion. If you only read part of it, or if you only focus on a statement here or there, you are going to come away with a distorted impression. Consequently, I ask that you either read it carefully or not at all.
This past week, I participated in a conference on “Advancing the Church,” hosted by Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary in Lansdale, Pennsylvania. Over the years I have spoken many times at the National Leadership Conference held by the same institution. The difference this time was the involvement of Dr. Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. Capitol Hill is Southern Baptist and Pastor Dever is one of the most prominent voices within conservative evangelicalism.
Also participating in the conference were Dr. David Doran (pastor of Inter City Baptist Church in Allen Park, Michigan, and president of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary), Dr. Tim Jordan (pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Lansdale, Pennsylvania), and Dr. Sam Harbin (president of the host seminary). Several other fundamentalist leaders were present and participated in some of the closed-door conversations that took place with Pastor Dever.