Great Commission Resurgence: the good, the bad
June 16, 2010
I watched the report of the GCR committee given yesterday at the Southern Baptist Convention. The GCR passed, which is probably a good thing if it will result in some necessary fiscal and structural changes. As for the motives and rhetoric surrounding the GCR, I remain unimpressed.
Unlike the mainline denominations, the SBC is at least preoccupied with something worthwhile. I much prefer a committee report on evangelism over yet another committee report on human sexuality. The SBC can be thankful for that! The issues that currently dominate SBC energies are a far cry from those that are dividing the mainline and weakening the mainline’s unity with the worldwide Church.
As I suspected would be the case, the urgency surrounding missions was heightened by explicit statements on the certain damnation of those who do not hear the Gospel. This urgency was then supplemented by an appeal to the conscience of those Christians who fail to evangelize or fail to fiscally support such efforts. The statistics are, of course, duly presented. The general rhetorical force intends to place the blame of pervasive “lostness” on those without a “heart” for missions. As such, salvation is contingent upon the work of those who bring the Gospel to the lost, both personally (e.g., witnessing to a co-worker) and through organizations (church plants, mission boards, etc.). Here, the operative doctrine of God implies a God who depends upon the initiative of his heralds. The salvation or damnation of any particular person or “people group” depends upon the resolve of those in the pews and those in the field. On this scheme, God’s electing purposes are limited by the reach of the visible Church.
My objection is that God could very well limit himself as such, but Scripture says nothing of the sort — because Scripture does not deal with the “how” of God’s call and regeneration of persons outside the Church. Scripture does not deal with this “how” because Scripture is concerned with the immediate situation of the Church where God has made covenant and the Gospel is being proclaimed. The lack of knowing “how,” apart from this explicit proclamation, does not entail a certain denial of the possibility. The internal work of the Holy Spirit, combined with the outer witness of a fallen but ordered creation, can very well be the means by which God reveals his promises to those outside the Church. That’s one possible understanding among others. We have to tread carefully here and perhaps not at all, but we cannot make the opposite error of treading confidently where God’s works and ways are not wholly revealed.
[By the way, you’ll have to forgive the picture. It was too funny not to use!]