Building Bridges- A Caution

In my next few posts on Strange BaptistFire.com, I plan to draw attention to specific statements made at the recent Building Bridges conference. I hope that an examination of the substantive teaching presented at that event will be edifying to all SBF readers.

First, however, a word of caution is in order concerning the concept of “building bridges.” This caution comes from Jeff Noblit, one of the “Calvinistic” speakers at the conference and the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Muscle Shoals, AL:

Can a bridge be built to connect all these different [Southern Baptist] groups and keep us as one? I don’t know. I think building bridges is a noble task, and I’m very thankful for the effort, but we have to have some concerns. You see, one thing about a bridge (as R.C. Sproul pointed out) is a bridge has two-way traffic. I am not bringing in and embracing some of the things I see under the broad tent of “Southern Baptist.” If that makes me not a Southern Baptist, I’m not a Southern Baptist. I think it makes me a good Southern Baptist. One must consider the type of soil, the foundation that that bridge is gonna rest on on the other side. And there’s some bodies of water men have never even thought of building bridges across. No one’s ever suggested building a bridge from New York City to Liverpool, England- the divide is just too great. If we think this Convention’s gonna go forward for another ten, twenty, twenty-five years, there will be some radical changes. And possibly some significant splits- I hope that doesn’t happen, but there’s a great divide among us, and we need to be honest about it. You see, the bridge must be of God: Unless the LORD build the bridge, they labor in vain that build it. Jesus was not interested in patching old systems. The old system of Jewish religion was just too incompatible with the new wine of truth contained in Christ. If I have twenty or thirty years of ministry left, I do not plan to spend that time patching old wine-skins, and neither should you, ’cause it never works.

Readers are encouraged to listen to Jeff Noblit’s entire message HERE.

Next: “Building Bridges- The Basis on Which Bridges Can Be Built”

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18 Comments on “Building Bridges- A Caution”


  1. Willing to divide over Calvinism? Unless I missed something, Calvinism is what the Building Bridges conference was about, and so these bridges would be between Calvinists and non-Calvinists. Why in the world would churches break off over doctrines not essential to Christianity? Another example, methinks, of Calvinists being far too militant about their Calvinism.

  2. Barry Says:

    I just finished reading a compelling book, “The Mythmaker”, which deals extensively with just the topic that Noblit suggests here–that of Jesus’s attitude with the OT and the Pharisees–and breaking clean.

    Where we have been lead to believe, by the the early Church, that Jesus was at odds with both the Old Testament and the Pharisees and wanted to break with this Jewish tradition (and hence make it appear as though Jews were to blame for ills against him, on religious grounds, as opposed to the political link between Jesus and Rome), this work by Hyam Maccoby, goes into great detail to explain how authors and editors of the early Church deliberately twisted what was true about the Pharisees into what became, according to his research, an untrue picture of antagonism between Christ and his fellow Jews.

    It seems like there are more things being unearthed all the time.

    I’m still recovering from the myth of Santa Claus. What next?

  3. Andrew Says:

    Chris Roberts:

    I’m sorry if, taken out of its context, the above quote makes it appear as if Noblit was advocating a willingness to divide over “Calvinism.” If you listen to the entire presentation, disagreement over “Calvinism” alone was certainly not his focus in this section.

    Barry:

    Researchers are often quick to utilize any aspects of the historical record in such a way as to undermine the testimony of the Lord’s apostles so that they do not have to deal with the claims of the Gospel.

    -Andrew

  4. Barry Says:

    I am sure that for some researchers, Andrew, you are probably quite right.

    I have no doubt that there are some with a chip on their shoulder and do not do their work with the dispassion or neutrality one might expect.

    I wish there was kind of a litmus test or pannel of bone-fide scholars who reviewed material that was being assembled for publication and made comments which the ignorant reader, such as myself, could rely on as being accurate. It’s tough for any of us who aren’t in the position that some of these researchers are to count on them to be on the level.

    What makes me angry is the thought that some editor, say, 1,700 years ago possibly tampered with verses in order to misdirect us and we have something different than what was actually laid down earlier.

    It is bad enough when someone lies in person, when they do it in print–it takes alot to undo it.

    I think there is a special place in hell for people who deliberately lie in print as it takes so much spade work to even bring to the surface such evidence as we can use to make an informed decision.

    Although I admire a researcher’s honest attempts for uncovering the truth I think they have a very difficult, and for the most part thankless, job of uncovering things.

  5. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    If you listen to the entire presentation, disagreement over “Calvinism” alone was certainly not his focus in this section.

    This is true. In reality his main point was that there is a sickness in the heart of the convention. He divides between the resurgence of Calvinism in the Seminary and a greater emphasis on honest academics, and the lack of a resurgence, generally at the local church level. His main point, though this is embedded and not directly stated, is that while we won the battle for inerrancy we have lost the war if we leave the imbalance. That imbalance has to do with the sufficiency of Scripture as a rule of Faith (doxas) and practice (praxis). Inerrancy cannot stand if we do not trust Scripture to mean what it says. It would not matter if we found the original, date stamped, manuscripts, if we cannot agree with the exegetical meaning of the texts. Words without meaning are worthless and cannot be proven to be inerrant. It is a fruitless endeavor to say that we have the faithful transmission but do not understand it.

    Subtexted to this is the real meaning of evangelism. This is where it gets down and dirty. If, we have only a third or less of all SBC’ers in attendance, and the woeful state of the local congregations are even more to be pitied than the Seminaries, what does that say of those who fill our pews? And, what does it say for all the talk of the Great Commission, when we fail at the local level to make “students,” by teaching them both to keep (doxas) and to do (praxis) all that Jesus has taught?

    It has been said that when doctrine goes so does practice like a wagon that follows the horses over the precipice. However, this presents a great obstacle for Calvinism. Because the forces that are, recognize that an honest pursuit of Truth will spell doom for the pseudo-intellectualism that has held sway in the SBC for so many years. A fundamentalist hangover, no doubt. In Noblit’s firey sermon, and yes that is what it was, this is the big challenge. How do we reverse fifty years or more, generations of dumbed down congregants and pretension to the faith? They, those who remain have been made to feel comfortable in their sin. Noblit knows it.

    I half expected the men there to really get excited, but it seemed to subdued. In listening, I thought, this has got to stir revival. It didn’t! That is perhaps the saddest thing to come out of this conference. The men there should have been broken. That whole room should have been on their faces until the Holy Spirit came down. Oh, but that would have been so “charismatic”.

    I rambled. Are you going to address individual point in this presentation? It would seem that you could make quite a few posts out of this one. Of course, with the RPW series, you’ve already begun, eh?

  6. Darrin Says:

    I’m having some struggles myself, discerning how much I should press with the doctrines of grace in the local SBC church, after there has already been inappropriate responses and division regarding them. I appreciate the importance of brotherhood, but once these doctrines are impressed so powerfully upon the soul, they are difficult to set aside. The purpose of my desiring to impress these truths upon others is along the lines of Manton’s points showing the profit of teaching election in the church (in his sermon on 2 Thess 2:13) – that is, for the humbling of man, the extolling of God, the incentive to holiness, and the firm ground for our comfort. All this leads to having proper gratitude to the Lord, for as he says, “We cannot give thanks rightly without a just esteem of the mercy we give thanks for”. Yet are there times when it is best to set such discussions aside, temporarily or permanently, in order to focus on what is agreed upon?

  7. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    Well, what is agreed upon?

    The purpose of my desiring to impress these truths upon others is along the lines of Manton’s points showing the profit of teaching election in the church (in his sermon on 2 Thess 2:13) – that is, for the humbling of man, the extolling of God, the incentive to holiness, and the firm ground for our comfort.

    If we take just these three, with the knowledge that the DoG bring to the understanding of our depravity, only, I guess my answer to your question is no.

    I can grant that in evangelism intricate discussion of and deeper matters might actually cloud the initial necessary understanding for salvation. But, depravity is the first fundamental and without discussion of that, I do not know how a person would even be saved.

    I did not understand depravity intellectually, but I definitely knew it when I was saved. As time has gone on, the knowledge of it, and its answer have granted to me by grace exactly what you have said; a ever deepening grasp of God’s mercy for my comfort.


  8. The SBC as we have known it has been in a death spiral for quite some time, for many of the reasons that have been mentioned above. There are many things that are good about the SBC, most notably missions and quality seminary education, which are the greatest fruit of the CR.

    There are several strong currents currently moving in the SBC, which, even for the sake of missions, will eventually not be able to co-exist, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. There is a strong fundamentalist mentality that is pervasive in the convention. There is a strident anti-reformed sentiment that seems to be gaining momentum. There has been and still is an infatuation with numbers that coupled with the weak biblical understanding of so many, both pastors and laymen, lead to the acceptance of and proliferation of any and all of the church growth, seeker, and emergent methodology; which will lead to more unregenerate members. There is a resurgence, maybe even enough to be called revival, among many who are turning to a Reformed view of soteriology and a high view of God.

    I do believe that the Lord is using all of this to prune the SBC, and that the CR was the catalyst for the pruning process. As a people of God we will be pruned so that we will be able to bear more fruit. However, all pruning is painful, and to properly prune the vine sometimes you must cut off some of the live branches along with the dead wood. I also believe that state of the SBC will become worse before the process is finished.

  9. Darrin Says:

    I agree that the concept of depravity is critical to right doctrine. So if we believe our will is not also fallen, the logical conclusion is that we are due some credit for making the right choice, though few would claim that. Amazing, though, how this is so commonly accepted along with some assent that all glory is to God. Seems inconsistent. Also, I’m sure I should know this, but what is the “CR”?

  10. Barry Says:

    Interesting that Jews, dispite the fall from grace outlined in Genesis, do not believe in original sin. That came from Augustine.

    I discovered only recently that Jews did, and still do, consider the NT as completely heretical.

    I wasn’t aware of that, but it doesn’t surprise me.

  11. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    Conservative Resurgence

  12. Barry Says:

    Could you elaborate a little more Thomas?

  13. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    CR is the catch phrase for the actions taken to reverse the encroachment of liberalism in the SBC with spill over elsewhere. If I have my history correct the time span for the gelling and assent of conservative Chrisitanity in the SBC was between 1960 and 1980. There is alot of information written on the history. The kind men here can lead you to much of it but you can go here, if you like. Search the blog for CR. There are also many other references there.

    One of the results of the CR was that Al Mohler gained affirmation as one of its leaders which lead to his being named President of Southern. I think that is how it went. Now, his appointment is being questioned by those who are anti-calvinistic in the SBC.

    That is why it fits together. The reestablishment of the inerrancy of Scripture leads logically to its authority. Its authority for Doctrine means that a consciencious examination of it is dangerous for anyone who holds to any doctrines that cannot be exegeted. Exegesis requires interpretation based soley on the text without importation of rationalistic philosophical presuppositions such as libertarian free-will. Proper interpretation naturally should lead to teaching materials in SS’s. That is a bad thing, for some.

  14. Darrin Says:

    Barry,
    Thomas was just answering my question about the acronym CR which Morris referred to. Sorry for any confusion.

  15. Darrin Says:

    Disregard my last comment – I wasn’t keeping up.
    Thomas, I really appreciate what you had to say about the problem of upholding the inerrancy of the scriptures while disregarding their meaning and authority. And your words about philosophical presuppositions and the controversy surrounding teaching materials sadly hits very close to home.

  16. Paul Says:

    I had a good talk this week with someone who was at “Building Bridges”. He said that, although we have many in the SBC who give lip service to the Doctrines of Grace and other doctrines like inerrancy, for many, it appears to be theoretical rather than practical, i.e. to be practiced.


  17. […] Now, Jesus Christ is truly the “All-Merciful One,” but in a Muslim understanding this title is only applied to Allah, and so the document gives the appearance that Christians are seeking forgiveness from the unitarian God of the Muslims rather than calling our Islamic neighbors to repentance and faith in Christ, which is their only hope of eternal life. Brothers and sisters reading this post, “Loving God and Neighbor Together” is just the kind of bridge-building that Baptists must reject. We must not only reject seeking building bridges to other religions that are at enmity with the Christian Faith, but we must reject seeking common ground with other Baptists that would influence us to build such bridges and thus compromise the Great Commission. This, I believe, is an illustration of the necessity of Jeff Noblit’s warning, quoted in my last post. […]

  18. Gloria Says:

    Can I make an obvious, seemingly simplistic point… The Word and the Holy Spirit are the ONLY means of transformation and renewal. This being so… why do churches keep looking for humanistic methods and resources to bring about the Holiness of God? (Roman’s 12:2) The only means of bringing people first TO Christ and then closer to the image of Christ is through His Word. Churches are failing because they have become nothing much more than tax exempt country clubs. Get rid of the fluff… those worldly distractions that are anti-family (dividing and busying families). Get the fathers studying the Word and help them be the Priest of their home (Malachi 4:6).

    Getting into the Word might take a bit of guidance and work from administration, but with e-mail and web sites this is doable. Encourage (or better yet challenge) the members each day with a couple of “look again” type questions pertaining to the verses or section that will be taught in the upcoming Sunday Service. Families could use these daily questions as part of their family devotions and then gather together in small groups on Sunday to share their answers. This will help members go into the Word daily and prepare their hearts to eagerly anticipate a time of worship on Sunday as the Pastor expounds on these verses even deeper.

    This very process has changed my family’s life, though we haven’t found a church that incorporates it (still looking). Something very similar to this process is being done successfully in Bible Study Fellowship International where they help you to systematically STUDY the Bible daily and let It teach It’s own Truths. In fact it is through this very process that God opened my eyes to the doctrines of Grace straight through His Word, though I couldn’t even tell you if BSF is “Calvinist” or not.

    This approach may not sound like anything Madison Avenue (or the megachurch gurus) would incorporate to aim for increasing THE BOTTOM LINE… but God’s ways ARE opposite of man’s. We need to repent first, and go to Him to solve this problem, He will take care of the details. His Word truly is THE means of transformation and renewal.

    Who can give reason for doing this ANY other way than God’s.


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