The Reformed Baptist Myth

ARBCA

Motion to amend the motion on having a motion.

I’m writing from Rockford, Illinois, where I am this week attending the General Assembly of ARBCA – the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America.  ARBCA represents one wing of the Reformed Baptist movement, the confessional associationalists located in North America.  By “confessional,” I mean that our churches are defined according to the teachings of the 1689 Confession of Faith in all its particulars, and by “associational,” I mean that we are convinced of our duty to associate formally with one another for mutual help and support.  These concepts are closely related, both in that our confession (in chapter 26, paragraphs 14 and 15) requires association, and in that true association requires the confessional subscription in order that we might commend one another and commit ourselves to one another.

Time spent among the delegates of the ARBCA churches demolishes that set of opinions which I think of as “the Reformed Baptist Myth.”  According to this myth, Reformed Baptists have a very narrow understanding of the term “Reformed.”  We are assumed to be merely 21st century baptistic evangelicals who happen to affirm some form of what is called “the points of Calvinism.”  These points are supposedly all we ever preach about, talk about, or think about.  Such is the view of us which is all too common among the ignorant ones of the broader Reformed community. Continue reading

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Occam’s Razor and the Perpetuity of Evangelical Scandal

furtick

Because dressing like a high school kid makes me soooo down to earth!

Occam’s Razor is the name given to the logical argument that the simplest theory to explain any given phenomena is likely the correct theory.  Since our judgment is often obstructed, we need to shave away needless assumptions and bits of argumentation in order to arrive at a reasonable understanding.  Scientists debate the legitimacy of the Razor as an empirical tool; certain complexities in nature (think of the construction of the living cell) suggest that complex explanations of material phenomena are often correct.  It is nevertheless a useful philosophical tool, particularly as a foundational principle of the common sense by which we ought to live.  If I awake in the morning to find branches from my trees scattered about the back yard, it is simpler to assume that we had a strong wind than it is to believe that demons attacked my trees during the night!  The sensible man will automatically adopt the simpler theory.

It is in this solid common-sense manner that I propose we apply Occam’s Razor to the latest evangelical scandal, whatever that scandal might happen to be.  Last week it was Steven Furtick’s intentionally provocative “God broke the law for love” clip.  A few weeks earlier it was Andy Stanley’s nasty accusations against small churches.  Years ago it was Mark Driscoll’s braggadocio about his belligerent bus-driving technique.  And of course we aren’t allowed to forget Perry Noble’s “Highway to Hell” Easter service, mainly because he keeps reminding us of it. Continue reading

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A Note from your Wisconsin Correspondent: the Returns Are In.

cruz victory

Last Man Standing

I have made a more concerted effort to stay away from political advocacy on my blog, wanting the focus to be on church matters.  However, I live in what is perhaps the most interesting political state in the Union, and the last few weeks have been very interesting.  I am writing for the sake of my non-Wisconsin readers (no doubt the majority) to try to explain what exactly is happening here. This is Part III.

Yesterday Wisconsin voted, and as usual the totals looked a lot like the Marquette University Law School Poll.  A few highlights:

  1. Ted Cruz defeated Donald Trump and John Kasich in the Republican primary: 48% to 35% to 14%. Of 42 delegates, Cruz has so far been assigned 36 (18 for the state, 15 for winning five of the eight congressional districts), Trump 3 (for winning one congressional district upstate) and 6 are yet to be determined (2 districts are still counting).  *Update: with the final count in, Trump and Cruz each took a majority in one of those remaining congressional districts.  Final tally: Cruz has 36 delegates, and Trump has 6.
  2. Bernie Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton in the Democrat primary: 57% to 43%. The Milwaukee Northside did not come out in droves.  Sanders netted 45 delegates, and Clinton has secured 31.
  3. As usual, Scott Walker keeps winning elections. Both candidates who decided to run against him in their respective races were defeated.  In addition to Trump, Judge Joanne Kloppenburg has now lost two races for the state supreme court while running against Walker rather than her opponent; Walker appointee Rebecca Bradley was instead elected to a ten-year term.

Here are a few observations on the results.  It should be no surprise to anyone that I am delighted to see my state reject the Donald so decisively.  Rejection is what this is.  Wisconsin is hardly Cruz territory; after Walker dropped out of the race most influential Republicans in the state endorsed Marco Rubio.  In the end, though, our primary was Trump vs. Conservatism, and Conservatism won.  I have tried this week to report, however, not editorialize.  Allow me a few minutes to do the latter now that it’s all over. Continue reading

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A Note from your Wisconsin Correspondent: Mr. Trump Goes to Dairyland.

trump

Enter the Donald

I have made a more concerted effort to stay away from political advocacy on my blog, wanting the focus to be on church matters.  However, I live in what is perhaps the most interesting political state in the Union, and the last few weeks have been very interesting.  I am writing for the sake of my non-Wisconsin readers (no doubt the majority) to try to explain what exactly is happening here. This is Part II.

2016 has been a most unpredictable political year.  Just when it seemed that conservatism was poised to make a national comeback, along came Donald Trump. Trump is not a conservative at all, but a modern-day Know-Nothing.  (That is not an insult, by the way; Know-Nothingism is an actual political movement.)  Last week, along with the other four candidates (in both parties) Trump arrived on the campaign trail in Wisconsin.  Today is our primary, and because it is the first in a few weeks and the last for a few weeks, it is being treated with outsized importance.

There are three things you probably know as we head to the polls.  One is that Trump has won more delegates than any other candidate so far, but without winning a majority of the votes anywhere.  His level of support differs state to state, but mainly it tops out somewhere around 40%.  Trump’s support, consisting mainly of people disengaged from the political process, is present in every state, and it exists here as well (although not, it would seem, in the big population centers of Southeast Wisconsin.)

Second, you know that Trump has had a “bad week.”  This appears to mean that he has flubbed various questions which are of interest nationwide, that his campaign manager has been charged with assault, and that it turns out his campaign staff didn’t realize the rules governing the nomination process.  (They’re geniuses, by the way; otherwise Trump wouldn’t have hired them.)

Third, you know that Trump is falling behind in all the Wisconsin polls.  What you don’t know is why, because it has little to do with the “bad week” as it has been perceived nationally.  Wisconsin looks on paper like ideal Trump territory: an industrial blue state.  Only he’s not making a good showing, and the reasons are not, so far as I can tell, showing up in the national media.  Here are Trump’s three losing battles which every Wisconsinite recognizes, but which Fox News et. al. haven’t figured out: Continue reading

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A Note from your Wisconsin Correspondent: Things Are Different Here

    cheeseheadsLife Behind the Cheddar Curtain

I have made a more concerted effort to stay away from political advocacy on my blog, wanting the focus to be on church matters.  However, for the last ten years I have lived in what is perhaps the most interesting political state in the Union.  I offer these reports for the sake of my non-Wisconsin readers (no doubt the majority) to try to explain what exactly is happening here.

A contested primary season gives insight into the diversity which exists between the states.  A great national contest which captures the attention of many moves slowly from state to state, and in each place it looks different.  In few places has it looked as different as in the Wisconsin Republican Primary.

This first post is an attempt to summarize the political realities on the ground in my adoptive state.  Tomorrow, when I’m not waiting in line to vote, I’ll summarize what has happened over the last week (which at least right now looks to be momentous). Wednesday we’ll look at the results and consider what lessons are to be learned.  But for today, I want to try to explain to those who haven’t lived through the Walker years why Wisconsin is different from everywhere else.  There are four reasons: Continue reading

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Time Zones, Creation, and Bureaucratic Overreach: A Question of Sovereignty

Dakota Midnight

Dakota Midnight

This week I stumbled across an interesting article from the Bismarck Tribune. It details the efforts of a North Dakota rancher to shift the boundary between Central and Mountain time far to the east of its current location, bringing it into closer alignment with the 1884 International Meridian Conference which originally established time zones.

Damien Bernhardt contends that at North Dakota’s far north latitude, summer light and winter dark are already exaggerated, and that the decision to locate most of the state in the Central time zone makes matters worse.  He describes a situation in which the sun sets at 11:30 at night, making life hard on those who rise with the clock but can’t get themselves to go to sleep before sundown. Continue reading

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A Series of Improbable Events

QUeen-elizabeth_3240651bToday I’m going to ask you to imagine an entirely unlikely sequence of events.  I don’t know why any of this would happen, but let us pretend that it might:

Imagine with me that you have been invited to Buckingham Palace and granted an audience with Her Majesty, Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and Head of the Commonwealth.  Even though I suppose the majority of my readers are anti-monarchist ‘Mericans, we can pretend.  Somehow, and for some reason, you have performed some service for the United Kingdom, Canada, etc., and now Her Majesty wishes to speak to you. Continue reading

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