Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Onward, Thinking Baptist

Yesterday, I paid a visit to a retired Southwestern Baptist Seminary professor. During his tenure, he saw around 25,000 students come through his classes and oversaw well over 50 Ph.D's. His name is Dr. Leon Marsh, and he is quite the character at a spry 87.

I enjoy Dr. Marsh's wit, and one then that he said made me laugh and it made me sad. He said, "Son, if you'll be a thinking Baptist you'll find that you don't have any competition." I hate it, but I am afraid he's pretty on target there, at he has been. I hope that things are changing.

Dr. Marsh and I do not agree on many things. He claims to be a 3 point Calvinist with a laugh. His idea of inerrancy and infallibility of the Scriptures are not the same. I did not argue with him but I let him have say his mind. I enjoyed his banter and candidness if not his theology. His love of Christ was evident, and his joy at our visit was apparent. I was thankful to have gone and hope to go back.

His comment on being a thinking Baptist stuck in my head. Thinking, after all, is no easy task. Even though many Baptists have grown up under "Bible teaching," I find that few have been forced to think through Scripture. Few have dealt with Romans 9 and Ephesians 1 concerning election. Few want to deal with the warnings against apostasy in Hebrews. We have no idea, in general, of what to do with the Old Testament and the law and grace relationship. I believe that the greatest struggle that many have endured revolves around church music, and that is sad. A good debate over theology and coffee is a about the best thing in the world. After all, how will we be conformed to truth if our errors are never confronted, and conversely, won't we be more grounded in the truth and confident of it after it survives a hearty challenge?

So I hope that the Church I pastor will be a thinking church. And I hope that we will trust one another enough to allow our assumptions about things to be questioned Scripturally.


Lisa writes... said...

Theology and coffee--sounds good to me! Let the thinking begin!

Anonymous said...

How about theology and a Diet Drink...I don't drink coffee....but I like the idea of being challenged to think...I want my 14 year old to THINK...that is my prayer...


CAulds said...

I heard Dr. Marsh speak a couple of times, to our congregation at the 1st Baptist Church of Arab Alabama, where I was a member for many years. The last time was probably ten years ago, it was in 2000 or 2001, I believe.

He astonished me by what he said, and I think my astonishment was mild compared to that of most of the listeners, who listened in what I thought was shocked silence. I didn't hear many "Amen, brother!"'s

He said, "You have no idea what you are asking ... for the government to preserve prayer in schools? To dictate prayer in schools? Whose prayer? Whose God? You don't want to open this can of worms, because the government will be fair to all religions, they have to be, and they will try to be 'equal' in the application of their laws. No. You want an impenetrable wall between government and church."

And I came away with a different point of view (apologies to Johnny Cash).