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Ready for Reformation?: Bringing Authentic…
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Ready for Reformation?: Bringing Authentic Reform to Southern Baptist…

by Tom J. Nettles

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What is the difference between a prophet and a pessimist? Sometimes only time can tell the difference between the two.

At the height of British imperial glory, Rudyard Kipling penned his famous poem "Recessional". Rather than spilling forth with uncritical praise, Kipling issued a warning:

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe-
Such boasting as the Gentiles use
Or lesser breeds without the Law-
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget, lest we forget!

Dr. Tom Nettles is professor of historical theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. In the spirit of Kipling, Nettles warns the Southern Baptist Convention of the danger of lethargy and pride. Glorying in past accomplishments will blind us to our errors, and will stunt fuller biblical reform.

With deep gratitude to God, we acknowledge the recovery of biblical authority brought about through the conservative resurgence in the SBC. Nettles himself played a part in the recovery through his influential book Baptists and the Bible.

The first article of The Baptist Faith and Message clearly defines our convictions regarding the inerrancy and authority of Scripture. This is what we believe about the Bible. But how effectively does that belief work itself out in the local church?

Nettles pleads for unity built on solid biblical theology. We should not aspire to be a common-denominator denomination. He writes, "An unwillingness to confess a body of definite truth often betrays a sickness unto death already at work."

Regarding preaching, Nettles asks, "Does inerrancy guarantee biblical preaching?" No, and the proof can be found in the plentitude of shallow-sermon pulpits. Conservative credentials and sincerity do not fix flimsy exegesis. He states, "No amount of zeal or earnestness to prompt sinners to commit to the message will transform error into truth."

Nettles outlines the history of evangelism among Baptists, and applies the lessons to contemporary practices. He wonders why only 25-35 percent of SBC members can be found worshipping on any given Sunday. Certainly this is not indicative of a biblical view of evangelism and the gospel. He says, "Perhaps less baptisms with greater pastoral and church discernment would be better than more baptisms under the same programmatic conditions that have governed the last fifty to seventy-five years."

In a powerful chapter on grace, Nettles argues against synergism, the idea that grace is "a cooperative effort." Showing a Trinitarian understanding of the atonement, Nettles says, "When a person ignores the particularity of the grace of all three persons of the triune God, he courts theological disaster." Nettles shows the pastoral significance of these vital doctrines.

Finally, in writing about the doctrine of the church, Nettles addresses three issues ripe for change. We must recover a biblical view of membership, eldership, and church discipline.

So, is Nettles a prophet or pessimist? His exalted view of our sovereign God keeps his book far from the language of defeat. Nettles knows God is able to stir His people to a greater love and application of the truth. There is both warning and hope found in the verse, "Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it."

Therefore, Nettles serves as prophet in warning us not to stop the reformation on the doorstep of inerrancy. A house full of precious treasure from the Lord awaits those who press on and live out their confidence in the Scripture. Nettles concludes the book by saying, "We must learn to see Christian doctrine as so relevant and revitalizing that its implications redefine our entire being."

Purchase a copy of this book, and discover new areas of needed reformation in your own ministry. ( )
  wisdomofthepages | Mar 22, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805440593, Paperback)

Tom Nettles believes that Southern Baptist churches are still in the midst of reformation-reformation that began with the conservative resurgence but continues today. It continues because reformation requires much more that the recovery of biblical authority. Reformation must penetrate deep; it requires time, patience, sacrifice, and honest self-criticism. Modern day reformers must enact a serious reengagement with doctrinal and practical ideas of the past, for failure to do so may result in an aborted reformation.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:04:38 -0400)

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