Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Recognizing the Phenomena of Evangelical Commonality and Embracing It

A Reformed Christian hears a particular sermon by a Dispensatonal Preacher, and finds him or her self in substantial agreement with that sermon. A Dispensational Christian hears a particular sermon by a Reformed Preacher and finds him or her self in substantial agreement with that sermon. A Baptist happens to visit a Lutheran Church and hears a particular sermon, and says to himself that sounds pretty "Evangelical".

What's going on in each of these incidents?

The Dispensational Preacher is still a Dispensaionalist. The Reformed Preacher is still Reformed. The Lutheran Pastor is still Lutheran. What is happening in each of the above cases is the hearer is recognizing a certain degree of theological commonality with the Preacher.

This kind of reaction and response that can be observed among the differing Evangelical denominations, church groups, and Evangelical theological camps is what I have chosen to call the phenomena of "Evangelical Commonality". This commonality comes out of the fact that amidst the differences that define the various theological camps of the Evangelical world, there is to varying degrees a common shared theological consensus that gives common meeting ground between those various camps.

Case in point: Many Dispensationalists are very Calvinistic. More then a few might tell you they are a 4 point, or 4 1/2 point, or even a full blown 5 point Calvinist. That means that on the issue of soteriology, from 80 to 100% of what they say is in sync with what the Reformed Pastor down the street is saying about that subject. But when you get into issues of eschatology and the relation of the Old Testament to the New Testament, the issues that define each groups difference from one another are clear.

For the most part, much of the Evangelical world intuitively understands this phenomena of Evangelical commonality and embraces it, taking it for granted. They hear a radio preacher like Chuck Swindol or John MacArthur, or Allister Begg, and appreciate these men for upholding fundamental foundational evangelical truth. It is not a matter of these men being Baptist, or Presbyterian, or Methodist, or Calvinist, or any other name you want to use to describe your Church or theology. It is a recognition instead of shared beliefs that cut across the lines of those denominational and theological camps.

In a previous post I took our Reformed Baptist friends to task for a persistent nagging tendency on the part of of some of them to want to claim this preacher or that preacher for their "Reformed Baptist" camp. This is a failure to embrace the concept of Evangelical commonality. Part of the reason for this failure is the prevalent tendency in recent Reformed Baptist history (the past 30 some years) to define the RB movement by those things that distinguish RB's from the rest of the Evangelical world. This tendency, (which I personally observed over many years), feeds an "us verses them" mentality that focuses on separateness from the rest of the Evangelical world, instead of recognizing the Evangelical commonality the Reformed Baptist movement shares with the rest of the Evangelical world.

I am not asking RB's or anyone else to give up their distinctives. But I am asking RB's as well as all other Evangelical groups and theological camps to hold those distictives in balance with that Evangelical commonality that to some degree or another, we all share with one another.

To put it in other words, I am asking the Reformed Baptist movement to acknowledge and embrace that Evangelical commonality. Why? Because until they do, they will continue to remain on the outskirts of the Evangelical world in spite of the clear basic Evangelical character of the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith.

If you choose to remain on the outskirts, that is your choice, and it is an unfortunate choice. It is also unfortunate that you will have to live with the consequence of that choice. Based on the history of other groups and movements who made that same choice, those consequences are not very pretty.

"So and so" may not be a Reformed Baptist, but they are an Evangelical brother. Can you in Christian love accept and embrace that without giving them your particular label? May God Almighty help you to do so...


~ The Billy Goat ~