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Southern Baptists must learn to ‘choose our baHies wisely’ ~. I
I Southern Baptists are a scrappy
bunch. We have never been ones to walk
! away from a good fight.
j The problem with being scrappy is that we are sometimes a little too eager to jump into the fray. I fear that Southern
i Baptists are about to stepinto a battle without properly calculating whether the conflict is wise.
The looming conflict to ! which I refer is the battle over
Calvinism. Like any battle this conflict could potentially escalate into an all-out war. Even as I write, battle lines are being con templated.
churches. While war has not yet been declared, the distinct sound ofsabers rattling can be heard.
Before Baptists enter this conflict, I want to urge caution. Battles are not to be entered lightly.
In the 5th and 6th century BC, the Chinese military strategist and philoso pher, Sun Tzu, wrote The Art ofWar. The book explained military strategies that still guide the American military today.
Sun Tzu’s is perhaps best known for this wise advice: “Now the general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple ere the battle is fought. The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand. Thus do many calculations lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat: how much more no calculation at all!” This advice is nonnal ly reduced to the old adage: “Choose your battles wisely.”
/ / The wise general does not fi~t every
~attle. He carefully calculates which ~les.are ~o~ fighting in order to ac
./’ ‘ohsh hiS ultimate cause. He has the
wisdom to walk away from the skir mishes that may cost much without really contributing to his primary mission.
The wisdom of this principle is af firmed by the teaching of our Savior himself (Luke 14:31) who urged kings to count the cost before they go to war.
Although I have strong convictions about the biblical and historic Baptist doctrine ofelection, I am convinced the battle over Calvinism is an unwise battle for Baptists.
The number ofAmerican fatalities in the Civil War ex ceeds that ofany other conflict
Many fear that this battle CHARL£S QUARLES in our history. The War Between has the potential to divide our lC VICe President the States taught us that battles national convention, fragment Integration of Faith between brothers are usually the state conventions, and split local and learning most costly.
Similarly, the conflict over Calvinism will likely result in
many casualties and, tragically, it will be a battle between brothers.
Brothers will become enemies and friends will become foes. Those who should be fellow-soldiers and allies in another conflict will engage each other. By the time the smoke ofthe battlefield clears, we will grieve too late at the toll the battle has taken.
What then is the battle we should wisely choose? The battle we must com mit to is the age-old battle for the Bible.
Though Baptists claim to have won that battle, we didn’t. It is critical that we renew our commitment to that battle and
Spiritual Essentials) exam to incoming freshmen to determine how well they understand the essential doctrines ofthe Christian faith.
These are not the lofty doctrines that only erudite ivory-tower theologians discuss and debate in the back rooms of dusty libraries; these are essential gospel truths that a person must understand and believe to be considered truly Christian.
Such doctrines include humanity’s sinful and lost condition, Jesus’ identity as God, the necessity of faith in Jesus for salvation, and our Lord’s bodily resurrec tion.
Here are some ofour discoveries: • 78 percent believe that all people are
basically good and have no real need for a Savior
• 65 percent cannot identify a simple definition ofnew birth in a multiple- choice question. They think that be ing “born again” means experiencing reincarnation or transmigration in which a person who has died returns to earth in another life fonn so that they can make up for the sins ofthe past.
• 54 percent think. that faith in Jesus is unnecessary for salvation. In their view, as long as a person believes in a god and has fallen in love with him, her, or it, he is right with that god.
• 42 percent believe that people go to heaven because oftheir personal morality rather than because of Jesus’ sacrificial death.
• 32 percent do not know that Chris- fight it without distraction especially attianity affinns the Deity ofJesus Christ, this moment in history. even though the NT repeatedly insists
The claim that Baptists did not win that faith in Jesus as God is necessary for the battle for the Bible will probably salvation. puzzle many readers. However, evidence • 25 percent do not know that Christi- to support this claim is plentiful; . anity claims that Jesus literally rose from
For the last three years, Lowslana the dead. College has adrniniste~d a newly- Overall, our freshman score~ ~ 67 developed BASE (BehefAssessment of percent on the BASE exam, a fadmg
August 18,2011 • www.baptisbnessage.com. [loUISIANA] BAPTIST MESSAGE
grade, despite the fact that 90 percent- percent ofthe college’s incoming fresh-
men claim to be Christians and nearly i
60 percent ofthem grew up in our own Louisiana Baptist churches!
Baptists seemed to have declared our \ victory in the battle for the Bible prema turely. We failed to recognize that real victory does not arrive with completion of an air campaign. Victory comes only after the long, arduous ground war.
True victory in the battle for the Bible did not arrive when the convention reas serted its commitment to our Baptist con fession and began to elect denominational leaders who revere God’s word.
Real victory in the battle for the Bible will come only when Baptist pastors faithfully expound God’s word every Lord’s day and when Baptist church members diligently study the Scriptures as an act ofpersonal devotion.
V-day will not arrive until those who claim to be God’s people know and cherish the fundamental teachings ofthe Bible.
When an entire generation that sits in our churches is completely unaware of the most essential truths ofour faith, will we turn from proctaiming the glories of Jesus’ deity, the grace ofan old rugged cross, the power ofan empty tomb, and the necessity of faith in Jesus, to fight , over divine mysteries that none ofus can fully comprehend?
In the face ofenonnous threats from universalism, naturalism, atheism, and mysticism, will we baUle each other over Calvinism? I hoPe not. We Southern Baptist scrappers do not need to go look ing for a new fight. We need to renew our commitment to an old one.
Charles Quarles is VICe Presidentfor Integration ofFaith and Learning at Louisi ana College and Dean ofLC:SO Caskey &hool ofDivinity.