EDITOR’S NOTE: BP Ledger carries items for reader information each Monday from various Southern Baptist-related entities, and news releases of interest from other sources. The items are published as received.
Today’s BP Ledger includes items from:
LifeWay Christian Resources
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
‘The Exchange’ hosts Michael Card
Written By Polly House
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (LifeWay)–For Michael Card, it’s always been about the Bible. Still is.
Card, an author, teacher and musician, said he had always been called to be a Bible teacher.
“I came of age in the ’70s, and there was a bunch of us who were just Bible geeks,” he said with a laugh. “We just couldn’t get enough of the Bible.”
Card was the guest for The Exchange, a live monthly webcast that presents programming on issues relating to church and culture and takes questions from viewers. Ed Stetzer, vice president of research and ministry development at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, is the host. Philip Nation, LifeWay’s director of ministry development, sat in for Stetzer on this webcast.
In the 1970s and ’80s when Card began his songwriting, there was a basic knowledge about the Bible throughout American culture. But, now, he said, there is more biblical illiteracy and his songwriting has changed to address that.
“I can never make assumptions that people will know what I mean in my music,” he said. “They may very likely have absolutely no clue about Scripture.”
He said that having biblically accurate lyrics may cause some to be critics, but that is good. “I have reached the age that I really don’t care if people agree with me,” he said. “If I can just cause them to open their Bibles, that’s OK.”
Nation told Card that he had been to one of his concerts in the 1990s and was blown away by the biblical depth of the music.
“I actually went up to you afterwards and asked you how you came up with such profound lyrics,” Nation said. “I’ll never forget what you told me — ‘They are right there in the Word.'”
Card is founder of a study/conference series called Biblical Imagination. The study, much of which is available on the “Biblical Imagination with Michael Card” page on Facebook, contains lessons, notes, videos and more, available for free on the site. He also presents the conferences at different locations around the country.
Card works with George Guthrie, author of “Read the Bible for Life” on the Bible studies in the Biblical Imagination series. Guthrie is the Benjamin W. Perry Professor of Bible at Union University in Jackson, Tenn.
“What is pressing on me now is how we have virtually no clue as to how Jesus turned the world upside down,” Card said. “When Jesus said God is kind to the unjust and the wicked, that was unimaginable.”
Card added, “Jesus changed people’s expectations. He was called to heal Jairus’ daughter, but she died while he was on the way to the house. When he arrived, though, he healed her from death! It created a whole new expectation. In Acts, Peter went to Joppa, where Tabitha had died. He went in and raised her up. It had just become an expectation.”
The archived webcast can be viewed at http://vimeo.com/20836111. The next webcast of The Exchange with Ed Stetzer is scheduled for April 4 and will be streamed live from Ireland. The topic will be “Subversive Kingdom.”
TMC Introduces Great Commission Minor
Cleveland, Ga. (Truett-McConnell College)–Truett-McConnell College faculty voted on March 1, 2011, to initiate a Great Commission minor. Beginning in the fall of 2011, incoming students will be required to take the classes outlined in the new minor and current students will have the option of taking the classes.
“Students can go to many schools and receive a strong liberal arts education. Students can also go to many schools and receive a strong biblical education. At TMC, we are grateful to announce the best of both worlds, the broadest of education,” explained TMC President Emir Caner.
Caner continued, “Truett-McConnell will equip students with the highest caliber education available in their field — whether that is business, science education, Christian studies or humanities — while also equipping students to love the Lord, love His Word, love the local church and love the lost. Graduates will be well trained in their field and passionate about their faith.”
The Great Commission minor will include the following courses: Theology I, Theology II, Bible Survey, Baptist History, and Evangelism and Missions or Missions Practicum. The minor will be put into effect with minimal change to the core requirements of the curriculum.
Truett-McConnell, in Cleveland, Ga., is affiliated with the Georgia Baptist Convention.
The Lord’s Supper: Discussing communion in Baptist life
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (SBTS)–A new book, “The Lord’s Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming Christ Until He Comes,” contains essays by various Baptist scholars addressing the biblical foundations, historic practices and contemporary applications of the Eucharist in Baptist life.
The book, released by B&H Academic, is part of the New American Commentary Studies in Bible & Theology series. The book’s editors are Thomas R. Schreiner, a professor of New Testament interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Matthew R. Crawford, a Ph.D. candidate in patristic exegesis and theology at Durham University in England.
Below, the book’s editors and various contributors answer questions from Towers, the campus publication at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
TOWERS: Why put together an entire book about the Lord’s Supper?
Thomas R. Schreiner: First of all, Jesus commanded us to observe the Lord’s Supper regularly. Therefore, we should reflect biblically on what the Bible teaches about Communion. Are we practicing the Eucharist in accord with the scriptures? We may regularly observe the Supper, but do we do so thoughtlessly and joylessly or with a lack of holy fear? Therefore, we spend a significant amount of space in the book unpacking the scriptures. We want readers to consider at a deep level the truth of the Lord’s Supper from the inspired word. Second, we are not the first Christians or the first readers of the Bible, for believers all through history have practiced the Supper. We would be short-sighted and foolish if we did not learn from those who preceded us. The views propounded in the history of the church also need to be assessed, so we have a number of chapters that survey and evaluate what has been taught about Communion in church history. The Eucharist is not an academic matter, for it is a picture of the gospel, and the right practice of Communion is itself a proclamation of the gospel. The Lord’s Supper is not merely a ritual or an add-on to our services. It is the proclamation of Jesus death until he comes.
TOWERS: What is the benefit of a book with each chapter written by different author?
Brian Vickers: Having multiple authors contribute to the same volume, particularly a topical volume like The Lord’s Supper, can be beneficial because each author brings a particular area of expertise to the book. Typically authors are not equally skilled in every theological discipline so on a topic like the Lord’s Supper, which has multiple biblical, theological, and historical levels, it can be difficult for a single author to address each level with relative competence. A book on a broad topic written by a single author would, usually by necessity, cover less theological ground than a book containing multiple authors. With multiple authors a reader is introduced to a wide variety of issues that would be very difficult for one writer to cover. A theological book with multiple authors isn’t by definition better than a book by a single author, and in many cases can be a great deal worse; but when a group of like-minded writers, each bringing a particular strength to the book, come together with careful and thoughtful editors, the result is a well-rounded, multi-level volume that will serve a large number of readers.
TOWERS: Why were you interesting in contributing to a book about the Lord’s Supper?
Jonathan Pennington: There are many reasons I was interested in studying more and writing about the Lord’s Supper. First, it was simply an area within the Gospels that I had not studied in depth. I greatly enjoyed reading on this topic and wrestling with the texts firsthand. Also, in recent years I have come to see the great importance of the Lord’s Supper in the life of the church. This has both vertical and horizontal aspects. Vertically, the Lord’s Supper is a crucial image of our relationship with God, speaking grace and peace to us. In the church where I serve as one of the pastors we end the service every Sunday morning with a celebration of the Lord’s Supper and it is a great joy! Horizontally, the Lord’s Supper is a powerful and important symbol of our unity as believers. To take the Lord’s Supper is not only to re-confess our need for God’s grace, but it is also a sign of our union and solidarity with one another in the body. We dishonor the Table if we disregard this horizontal aspect. Thus, we can see that the Lord’s Supper relates intimately to both the first and second greatest commandments — loving God and loving neighbor.
TOWERS: What is your goal for the book (as in, what effect are you looking to get from your readers)?
Matthew Crawford: Throughout the centuries, the Lord’s Supper has played a central role in the church’s worship and theology. However, Baptists, as our very name suggests, rightly emphasize the significance of baptism for our identity. Yet, if the emphasis upon baptism leads to a denigration or dismissal of the other great rite of the Christian church — the Lord’s Supper — surely something is amiss. Believer’s baptism by immersion is central to Baptist identity, but we should not forget that the partaking of the Supper in obedience to our Lord is just as central to our identity as Christians. Baptists are known by their view of baptism, but if we wish to be biblical, we must make the Supper as integral to our theology and praxis as the immersion of those who have believed in Christ. Therefore, our hope is that the book will help Baptists to think faithfully about the Supper, and to rediscover its role in the church’s worship accordingly.
TOWERS: How is understanding Communion as paschal (a Passover meal) foundational to the understanding of the Lord’s Supper?
Andreas Kostenberger: Paul wrote that “Jesus, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (1 Cor. 5:7). Understanding the Last Supper within the context of the Bible’s teaching on Passover taps into the biblical theology of Passover, which is essential to an appreciation of Jesus’ sacrifice for us at the cross. It shows the roots of the Lord’s Supper in the first Passover at Israel’s exodus from Egypt (see Exodus 12) where God told the Israelites to smear the blood of an unblemished lamb on their doorposts so the death angel would “pass over” their house and people would not die. This makes clear the notion of an unblemished lamb’s death for the life of another, which entails the concepts of substitutionary atonement and vicarious sacrifice. The New Testament teaches that this Passover symbolism culminated in the death of Jesus, who, as God’s Passover lamb (cf. John 1:29, 36), was sacrificed for us so that we “should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). So understanding the Lord’s Supper in light of the Bible’s teaching on Passover is absolutely essential and foundational.
TOWERS: Does it matter how a church chooses to administer the Lord’s Supper in their context – are all common methods equally biblical?
Gregg Allison: Because Scripture presents broad contours of how to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, as long as a church’s practice squares with these guidelines, it does well. Additionally, as it establishes its biblically-endorsed practice, the church is helped by historical theology and practice. Combining both biblical instruction and historical guidance, the practice of the Lord’s Supper will feature:
— Regular or, better, frequent observation: Because of what it does — proclaims the gospel as an enacted word, fosters remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice, signals the New Covenant relationship with God, benefits Christians as they participate in the body and blood of Christ, and portrays and stimulates unity — the Lord’s Supper warrants regular observation. The early church’s frequent — weekly — observance, continued in many churches today, provides a fine historical precedent.
— Distribution of bread and “the fruit of the vine” — either wine or grape juice (whichever one’s conscience permits): The use of these elements retains Jesus’ original institution of the Lord’s Supper and fosters a spatio-temporal bond of unity with almost all past and present churches.
— Emphasis on the Lord’s Supper and not the church’s serving of it.
— Participation of baptized Christians: As a New Covenant ordinance, the Lord’s Supper is celebrated by Christ followers — thus, non-believers are explicitly excluded — whose membership in the New Covenant church has been symbolized by immersion in water following a credible profession of faith.
— Celebration in an atmosphere of unity: 1 Corinthians 11:27-32 prohibits not unworthy participants — people who have failed to confess all of their sins during a fifteen second pause for self-examination — but unworthy participation. Thus, a church racked by division and Christians with unresolved broken relationships should move decisively to restore unity before observing this ordinance. Such a self-examined church then celebrates the future return and ultimate victory of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper.
TOWERS: How should the church member view taking communion?
Greg Thornbury: In light of my chapter, I am arguing that a church member should enter into the Supper realizing that their participation speaks volumes about the Church’s social presence. The meal examples the extent to which a congregation takes the Gospel seriously in practice as it shows who actually is a recipient of love by the community — the rich and the poor — both insiders and outsiders. Such love in practice is consistent with the memorial view, favored by many in the Baptist tradition. By remembering Christ’s accomplished work, we act differently as believing community.
TOWERS: How do local churches fall away from biblical practices of the Lord’s Supper?
Ray Van Neste: Historically (even in the OT) we see how easily we fall away from proper practices if we do not diligently pay attention to Scripture. So, one way churches move away from biblical practices of the Lord’s Supper is by losing their grip on consistent, solid biblical teaching. In these cases our own “traditions” tend to govern practice more than Scripture and people end up following a certain practice too often without knowing why we do what we do.
Secondly, sometimes even when there is attention to Scripture, we fail to appreciate the power and value of symbolism and ritual. Scripture consistently gives us pictures and practices to illustrate and embody key truths, concrete manifestations of these wonderful concepts. Somehow we got it in our heads that these symbols and practices were less important so long as we gave assent to truths. Yet, God, who is wiser than we, has given us these symbolic rites, such as baptism and communion, showing that we need them to help us grasp what we say we believe.
Both of these are examples of how we too easily think we are wiser than God and allow ourselves to be shaped by our culture rather than being transformed by the Word of God.
TOWERS: In the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, how do we see the fruit of “progressive pragmatism” in Baptist churches today?
Greg Wills: The pragmatism appears in the way we observe the Lord’s Supper. Our confessions, including the Baptist Faith and Message and the Abstract of Principles, affirm that baptism, which is the immersion of a professing believer, is prerequisite to participation in communion. But few of our churches invite baptized believers only. Indeed, some churches effectively invite all persons and raise no question as to qualifications.
We approach the Lord’s Supper with a casual informality that attempts to focus on the spiritual aspect in a way that in fact undermines it. In general we tend to discount its formal aspects. We feel free to alter the form if the change seems to offer some spiritual result. We hear of churches substituting other food and drink for the bread and wine. More commonly we ignore the fact that communion is an act of the church, and so we confidently administer “communion” in any setting in which we can borrow its divine sanction for our spiritual purposes. It never occurs to us that we may be perverting the Supper and disobeying Christ when we observe it at weddings or camps.
We have lost the sense of judgment that accompanies communion in the New Testament. The judgment that Christ undertook for us is ours by union with him as a body. Christ established his church and its ordinances as the visible embodiment of this reality. It was failure at this point that so aggravated the sins of the Corinthian church. They failed to love as a body, to discern the body, and to judge the body. This perverted their observance of the Supper. And for this God judged them: “That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died” (I Cor. 11:30). Do we believe this verse?
When we alter the forms that Christ gave us, or treat them with casual indifference, we are claiming that we are the better judges of spiritual effectiveness. It is rash presumption. Shall we escape judgment?
TOWERS: If a reader of The Lord’s Supper realizes his or her church does not line up well with biblical teaching concerning communion, then what can that person do to encourage biblical faithfulness with this sacrament in his or her church?
Jim Hamilton: It depends on the reader’s role at his church. If the reader is the pastor of the church, then he can begin to preach and teach on the issue and pray that the Spirit will work in hearts so that a smooth transition can be made to greater biblical faithfulness.
If the reader is not the main preaching or teaching pastor and realizes that his church is out of step with the Scriptures, he could lovingly give this book to his pastor, and pray that his pastor will read and pray and learn and then preach and teach and conform. Depending on what kind of relationship the reader has with his pastor, he might pursue a conversation with his pastor. Obviously this would require much humility and wisdom. James 1:5 tells us what to do if we lack wisdom, and that instruction should definitely be followed before any such conversation is pursued.
TOWERS: How do current pastors and churches avoid the “out-of-focus pastoral motives” of the Reformed Tradition?
Shawn Wright: I love the pastoral focus of the Reformed tradition. Calvin, Beza, Dort, and the Westminster divines weren’t first of all scholastics; they were pastors who cared deeply about the spiritual health of their church members. Their desire for the spiritual well-being of their churches led them to see more inherent power in the Lord’s Supper than Scripture allows, as I spelled out in my chapter. The way to counteract this is not for pastors to preach about how Calvin was wrong! Rather, they should do exactly what the NT calls on us to do: use the Supper as a means, by God’s grace, of focusing our spiritual attention on the realities of the cross. The Supper calls us to remember — in the deepest, biblical sense of that word — the death of Christ for his people. In this sense, I believe that Brian Vickers’s chapter in The Lord’s Supper is excellent at showing the pastoral focus of the Eucharist.
TOWERS: How, if it all, did your understanding of the Lord’s Supper change or develop during and after your look at Zwingli’s teaching?
Bruce Ware: Zwingli’s theology of the Lord’s Supper was more nuanced, qualified, and broad than I realized prior to this focused study. I’m grateful for his contribution that gives the “memorial view” a richness that commends it strongly to us Baptists.