Monday, July 25, 2005

More on the Brazilian Adventure

While I have my adventure to Brazil on my mind, let me fill you in on another experience there that had a lasting impression on me. What reminded me of this was the quote in the earlier post where my friend told me that we were "fundamentalists." Actually, that was the second time I was called that in Brazil, and the first time is was not a very fun experience.

I had gone with my friend to the local Brazilian Baptist seminary in Goiania, Brazil. There, I had the opportunity of meeting and talking with the seminary President. Since my friend was with me, the conversation was mainly in Portugese, even though both men spoke English very well.

I remember walking through the Seminary as the President showed us the facilities. They were nothing like what I was used to at Southeastern. In a word, the accomodations were humble. I also remember the President commenting on how poor most of the students were who came here. It was a financial burden on most of them to pay for these classes. I remember being moved by the sacrifices that many were making to be here, and I recalled how many small church pastors I had already met in Brazil who would love to have the opportunity to come.

The tour ended with us going into the President's office. I had a serious headache. I rarely get headaches, in fact, I believe that is the worst one I've ever had. I think that my brain's frantic attempt to digest all of the Portugese being spoken was about to overload it. That little mouse in my head can only run so fast on that wheel.

One thing that I was excited about was to see the President's library. I am a confessed bookophile, and I wanted to see what selections he had. Most of the books were foreign to me (imagine that!) so I was a little let down. I was also a bit surprised at how few were there, but I dismissed that pretty quickly as we sat down to talk.

As the conversation of the state of the Baptists Churches went on, I drifted in and out of the conversation. I couldn't contribute much, and I didn't understand everything anyway. After a bit of listening to the two men talk, I ventured to ask a question. I had noticed that the conversation had drifted around to theological books, so I asked if any of the major Systematic Theologies had been translated and published in Portugese.

The President told me that they had just recently published Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology into Portugese. I was pleasantly surprised. I had only recently acquired a copy of it myself. At that time, it was still recently new.

I indicated that I had just bought a copy for myself, and that I looked forward to reading it when I got back to the States. The President frowned. He told me that he had already looked through it, but he did not like it at all. He looked at me and said sort of off-handedly, "He has trouble with his Christology."

I was devastated. Everything that I had read from Grudem was excellent. A Christological error! How terrible! That's the king of heresies. Disappointed, I asked him what Grudem had written. The President of the seminary answered, "Grudem believes that Jesus Christ is fully God."

I blinked. Honestly, I cannot remember if he said that in Portugese or English. I know that my face must have betrayed my confusion. So he continued, "Grudem overlooks the fact that when Jesus emptied himself, as is taught in Philippians chapter two, that he ceased to be fully God. He cannot be fully God and man at the same time."

I was absolutely stunned. I cannot remember that President's name to save my life. I cannot even remember the name of the school. But I remember that conversation.

At that moment, many things occured to me. Of all the books I had seen, not one of them was a commentary. He had more collections of Karl Rahner than any Baptist ought to have, except maybe James White. His shelves were lined with philosophy books.

Then, I thought of those students. These were men who sacrificed time and money to be at this school. They were hungry to study the Word of God. At least, the few I had met had been. And their President was teaching them that it was an error to teach that Jesus Christ is Incarnate God.

I am, in general, an aimiable fellow. But his comments sent me into the closest thing to outright rage I have ever known. I am not proud of this. I think it had something to do with the terrible headache and culture shock and bewilderment. That's when I told him something to the extent of it being arch-heresy for him to say what he said, and that I couldn't believe what I was hearing. That's when he resorted to name calling. He said it in Portugese, of that much I am certain. It was the first time anyone had ever called me such a thing to my face in my life. He laughed and said, "You are a fundamentalist."

He outed me. I turned and left his office, leaving my friend to sit in a very awkward situation. He was wiser than me, and not nearly so hot headed. I was fuming, and I would have sold my shorts for a Tylenol.

In truth, I can't say for certain if that encounter was as bad as I remember. I do know that the substance of the conversation is accurate. It still pains me to this day to think that such heresy could be espoused from the highest level of a Baptist Seminary.

So, in case you were wondering, I am a wide-eyed, raving, foaming at the mouth fundamentalist. At least I am if you catch me with a splitting headache. Without the headache, I don't foam as much. Be careful around me with your heresies, I might bite you.

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