News Articles

‘Have we lost anybody?’ v.p. asks seminarians

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (BP)–“Legendary coach Vince Lombardi began the first practice of each season by holding up a football and saying, ‘This is a football … . Have we lost anybody?'” With that anecdote, Malcolm Yarnell, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s academic affairs vice president, held a football up for all to see. Then he held up his Bible and said, “This is the Bible … . Have we lost anybody?”

Yarnell based his Aug. 28 chapel address on Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 2:2, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Christ and him crucified.” Yarnell used three aids to deliver his message: a Bible, which he called “our standard for orthodoxy;” a passport, which he called “a symbol of our mission;” and a family album, which he called “a souvenir of our moral integrity.”

He began by asking the students and faculty to stand, hold up their Bibles and verbally affirm the Bible using Psalm 19 as a guide: “This is my Bible. It is the testimony of God. It is perfect, sure and right. It is pure, clean and true. It restores the soul and makes wise the simple. It rejoices the heart and enlightens the eyes. It endures forever and is altogether righteous. I desire it more than the riches of the world. In keeping it, there is great reward. Today, may I hear it and receive it, meditate upon it and perform it to the glory of God alone. Amen!”

Yarnell noted that liberal theologians have leveled several criticisms at conservative theologians who hold to biblical orthodoxy, calling it “a false presupposition.” To one such critic at a Baptist World Alliance session this summer, Yarnell responded, “Yes, the idea of biblical orthodoxy is a presupposition of mine.”

Warning that liberal scholars will seek to cause the conservative to doubt his or her convictions as if presuppositions are somehow wrong and illogical, Yarnell stated, “What they will not tell you is that every human being, including them, operates with presuppositions. The liberal’s presupposition is that his own personal opinion is the standard of truth.” By contrast, Yarnell said the Bible is the standard of truth. “All human systems must measure up to it, and if any of those human opinions disagree with the Bible, then the Bible is not wrong, they are wrong.”

While some fear the emphasis on the authority of a confession, Yarnell clarified, “We do not believe the Baptist Faith and Message is inerrant. It, however, is the authoritative document for employees of SBC agencies — not because it is inerrant, but because it is the confession which Southern Baptists have adopted for our guidance. Our authority to teach comes from God’s personal call to teach. Our authority to teach [at Midwestern] comes from the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. We submit to that authority.”

Yarnell then held up the passport of missions professor Ron Rogers, stating, “You would not believe the foreign nations to which Dr. Rogers has been to tell people about Jesus,” citing Haiti, Brazil, Hong Kong, Thailand and five other countries he could not name because of their resistance to missionary endeavors. With Rogers committed to leading seminarians to participate in international missions, and church planting professor Carroll Fowler encouraging students in North American church planting, Yarnell said their efforts are enhanced by newly named evangelism professor Tom Johnston. “And Phil Roberts is the leading seminary president among all six when it comes to missions — both North American and international,” Yarnell said. As a result, he said students will be amazed “by how God will use the seminary in personal witnessing.”

Just as an immunization given by a needle against a disease often hurts, Yarnell said the conviction of the Holy Spirit often brings pain to individuals with whom the gospel is shared. He encouraged students to be bold in their witness, stating, “If I do not offend people with the gospel here, they will go to hell there. I am afraid that in fearing for their sensitivities temporally, we will offend them eternally by not speaking Jesus to them.”

Holding up the family album of theology professor Mark DeVine, Yarnell quoted from Scripture, “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” He turned to a picture showing the family at Christmas “celebrating our Lord’s incarnation,” a picture of DeVine’s son being baptized by his father, and a picture of Jackie DeVine’s grandmother with an obituary which read, “Mrs. Erisman was baptized as a little girl in the creek at route number 10.” He called the album “a souvenir of moral integrity.”

The sanctity of Christ likewise should be reflected in the church through corporate integrity, Yarnell said, challenging Southern Baptists to improve their treatment of ministers. “When the personal agenda of an ungodly person in the church dominates the agenda of the church, it has lost Christ’s corporate integrity.” By treating other Christians according to biblical principles, Yarnell said the practice of discipline would discourage the rumormongering and backbiting that characterize some churches and Christian institutions.

And through testimonial integrity, Yarnell said the sanctity of Christ is upheld as Christians exhibit morally responsible lives. “A corrupted witness to Christ comes from the moral failings of Christians in their personal lives and from the moral failings of Christians in their corporate lives. How are they going to see Jesus, if you do not look like Jesus?”

Yarnell concluded by inviting non-believers to accept Christ, chapel participants to make Jesus the single focus of their lives and for the seminary community to allow God to be glorified through the teaching of sound doctrine.

“Is your vision to let God glorify himself as right doctrine is proclaimed, as people live lives of integrity, and as the lost are saved?” Yarnell asked. “If it is not, then get out of the way.” Holding up his Bible he restated, “This is the Bible. Have we lost anybody?”

    About the Author

  • Larry B. Elrod