This week OCC is sponsoring the annual Preaching-Teaching Convention. P & T is kind of like a homecoming. Our campus will be invaded by people from many parts of the U.S. Classes will not meet either on Tuesday or Wednesday, resuming Thursday morning. While we were on the mission field, there were about 18 years that we were unable to attend this convention. Our first convention after that hiatus was a special treat. We have become accustomed to it, but it is really a good convention. This year should be as well. Guest speakers coming in include Dave Ferguson from Community Christian Church in Naperville, IL, David Faust from Cincinnati, OH, Jeff Vines from Savannah, Georgia, Ben Merold from St. Charles, Missouri, as well as others more frequently connected to the college.
Our home church, College Hts. Christian Church, just kicked off a 40 Days of Purpose program. In services this weekend, members participated in a 2-hour long multicast by Rick Warren. I have done some reading in Warren’s Purpose Driven Church, but (it may be embarrassing to admit this) I have not read through the Purpose Driven Life all the way. We will be leading a small group in our home on Thursday evenings. I have resisted leading a small group for the past several years, as I have been pretty busy with my doctoral work (I gave up Wednesday night service). I thought that I should consent to lead one of these groups, so I did. They wanted groups consisting of 7-10 adults. Ours has 13, so I declared it “closed.” We should have a pretty good mix: a couple young married couples, some mid-life singles, some married couples our age, and a bit younger. I am looking forward to it.
Let me comment a bit on the multicast. It was a thoughtfully produced video presentation of an introduction to the book, that the Christian exists for the purpose of:
I had read some criticisms of Rick Warren before watching the multicast. I would categorize as coming from one of two positions:
- Staunch Restorationist Arminianism. If being a life-long member of the Stone-Campbell movement makes me a Restorationist, I suppose I am one. If forced to commit to take a Calvinistic or an Arminian position, I would be much more inclined to land on the Arminian side. At the same time, my brief incursion into graduate education at an interdenominational educational institution at Columbia International University introduced me to J. Robertson McQuilkin, who liked to describe himself as a Calviminian. I like that, and have used it to describe a position that chooses not to be locked in to a specific theological perspective, but rather (to quote McQuilkin again), “to live along the golden mean of Biblical tension.” Therefore, when I read a fierce criticism of Rick Warren that is written from that polemic stance, I prefer to cut him some slack.
- Strict Fundamentalism. I once knew a minister who over a period of about 12-15 years who seemed to draw the circle of the truly redeemed so tightly that I wondered whether or not there was room for anyone else in the group except for himself. As I read this particular criticism of Rick Warren’s book, I was reminded of that minister. A constant diet of such a polemic spirit may produce cerebral Christians who trust more in their cerebral capabilities than they do in the redeeming work of Christ. I choose not to participate in such wars.
Should one believe that I no longer believe in absolute truth? Absolutely not! So far I have successfully resisted the temptation to drink the postmodern kool-aid. I believe in what Francis Schaeffer called Truth truth. However, whereas I may find some tendencies in Warren’s book with which I disagree, I refuse to look upon him as the enemy. Those of us who name the name of Christ have a common enemy (1 Peter 5:8). I refuse to act as if my brother in Christ were my enemy, regardless of however right I may be when compared to his wrongness. Perhaps I came to this position after having lived for years on a mission field, but I figured out long ago that anyone who is a son of my father must be my brother. Warren is a Baptist, and I am not, but we are fighting on the same side! I used to enjoy arguing with Baptists! I stopped participating in that sport a long time ago. That reminds me of some very good friends, who, years ago took their youngest child out of the public school system and put him in a private Baptist school. Several years later when he (as an adult) became a Baptist, it caused no small amount of anxiety. Talking with them, I remember saying, “I can think of a lot of things that would be worse than becoming a Baptist!”
One more comment, and then I will quit. In the Warren multi-task, there were some very moving baptismal scenes. Warren talked about watching videos of baptisms and being moved to tears. He came across as genuine. He was moved, as was I. Though videos of baptisms that take place at our church are not as beautiful (our baptistery is your basic water tank, whereas the Purpose Driven video showed beautiful baptismal pools as well as baptisms in the ocean), they are at the same time every bit as moving.
I may comment more on this in the coming weeks. If I find something that I think needs to be corrected, I may mention that. The purpose of the church though is to get unsaved people into a relationship with Jesus. And that trumps pointing out the doctrinal errors of those that we ought to treat as brothers.
Our speaker at Perspectives last Monday night (Dr. Jim Frost from Southwest Baptist University) taught at a Baptist college in California many years ago. Rick Warren was one of his students. He told us that he could tell us some Rick Warren stories. He refrained, except to say that Rick Warren had TP’d his home. I hope that by now Warren has grown up. 🙂