Monday, August 22, 2011

One Colossal Failure

For many years I have addressed both publically and privately the dangers of style-driven worship approaches, age-segregated worship and an abandonment of teaching solid theological foundations. In fact, in this blog we have addressed these issues numerous times. My argument has been that in a well-intentioned attempt to grow our churches, we have given people what they want, often at the exclusion of what they need. The danger has always been that we would raise a generation of believers with no theological foundations or understanding of Southern Baptist distinctives. 

Well…we are now seeing more and more quantifiable evidence of this problem as demonstrated in the following editorial. This information in the article is not from some unknown Baptist school, but rather Louisiana College, which has been a strong Southern Baptist institution for decades. The shallowness of those in our churches, of all ages, as well as the rapidly declining state of our churches can only be described as one colossal failure. It’s time we admit our failures and make immediate changes!

Southern Baptists - ‘choose our battles wisely’
Dr. Charles Quarles (Dean, Louisiana College)

For the last three years, Louisiana College has administered a newly developed BASE (Belief Assessment of Spiritual Essentials) exam to incoming freshmen to determine how well they understand the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. These are not the lofty doctrines that only erudite ivory-tower theologians discuss and debate in the back rooms of dusty libraries; these are essential gospel truths that a person must understand and believe to be considered truly Christian. Such doctrines include humanity’s sinful and lost condition, Jesus’ identity as God, the necessity of faith in Jesus for salvation, and our Lord’s bodily resurrection.

Here are some of our discoveries:
  • 78 percent believe that all people are basically good and have no real need for a Savior.
  • 65 percent cannot identify a simple definition of new birth in a multiple choice question.  They think that being “born again” means experiencing reincarnation or transmigration in which a person  who has died returns to earth in another life form so that they can make up for the sins of the past.
  • 54 percent think that faith in Jesus is unnecessary for salvation.  In their view as long as a person has believed in a god and has fallen in love with him, her, or it, he is right with that god.
  • 42 percent believe that people go to heaven because of their personal morality rather than because of Jesus’ sacrificial death.
  • 32 percent do not know that Christianity affirms the Deity of Jesus Christ, even though the NT repeatedly insists that faith in Jesus as God is necessary for salvation.
  • 25 percent do not know that Christianity claims that Jesus literally rose from the dead.
Overall, our freshmen scored 67 percent on the BASE exam, a failing grade, despite the fact that 90 percent of the incoming freshmen claim to be Christians and nearly 60 percent of them grew up in our own Louisiana Baptist churches! Baptists seem to have declared our victory in the battle for the Bible prematurely. We fail to recognize that real victory does not arrive with the completion of an air campaign. Victory comes only after the long, arduous ground war. 

True victory in the battle for the Bible did not arrive when the convention reasserted its commitment to our Baptist confession and began to elect denominational leaders who revere God’s Word. Real victory in the battle for the Bible will come only when Baptist pastors faithfully expound God’s Word every Lord’s day and when Baptist church members diligently study the Scriptures as an act of personal devotion. V-day will not come until those who claim to be God’s people know and cherish the fundamental teachings of the Bible. Dr. Quarles warns that we do not need to go looking for another battle (Calvinism).  We “do not need to go looking for a new fight. We need to renew our commitment to an old one.”

NOTE: this is excerpted from an editorial in the Baptist Message, News Journal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, August 18, 2011.

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