The Baptist Conference on the Holy Spirit was a wonderful experience. I want to join with others in saying that Dwight McKissic, the pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, TX, is a prince among men. He was generous, gracious, and humble at all times. Regularly during our conversations, he would ask me what I thought about things. That was amazing to me and very humbling as well. Most pastors of 2,000 member churches that I have met are wonderful men, but they are not often interested in the opinions of a 32 year old pastor of a 250 member church. That’s the SBC that I’ve known, anyway. We base so much on rank, influence, and what someone can do for us, or how interesting they are to us. Rarely, do we look for the value in each person. I really feel that Pastor McKissic does that and he was really an example to me. His assistant, Veronica Griffin, did an incredible job as the conference organizer. She really knew what she was doing, no doubt. Thanks Veronica for all of your hard work!
Overall, the conference went well. I especially enjoyed spending time with Dr. Sam Storms. He is a brilliant man with a passion for God and His glory. I was especially encouraged by his message on Saturday night where he laid out a perspective regarding the idea that Jesus ministered and lived by the same Holy Spirit that we do. The power that was in Jesus in now in us. The implications that he drew from that were remarkable.
I enjoyed meeting and spending some time with those who were representing a semi-cessationist view, Bart Barber and Robin Foster. Robin has a very sincere and gentle heart and it is obvious that He loves the Lord and seeks to honor Jesus in everthing he does. Bart is very intelligent and did a great job with his presentation. He and I have vigorously debated issues in the blogosphere over the past 6 months or so, but those debates have always been respectful, enjoyable, and challenging. He is no less in person. I am sharper theologically for having tangled with Bart and I am grateful that both he and Robin are in the SBC.
I also spent time with Wade Burleson, Ben Cole, Art Rogers, Jason Epps, Daniel Brymer, Bob Cleveland, Paul Burleson, Debbie Kaufman, Alyce Lee, Boyd Luter, and Dorcas Hawker. Dorcas has the best notes anywhere on the conference, if you want to read them HERE, HERE, and HERE). UPDATE: She also has a synopsis of ALL the relevant posts and news articles HERE. Check it out. Wade has a great synopsis of the Sunday worship service HERE and a summary of Dr. Sam Storms Saturday morning presentation HERE. I know that I missed some people, but it was a wonderful time.
I was pleased with my presentation on "Defining and Defending Continualism," and am proud to say that my presentation was the shortest in the entire conference at 35 minutes (members of my church will be shocked to hear that, I know!). I had prepared for a 50 minute presentation, but Pastor McKissic leaned back and asked if I could cut it to a half hour because we were running short of time and things had gotten backed up. Ugh. The previous speakers had all gone a bit over, and while individually it wasn’t a major deal, collectively it made the difference. I definitely wanted to be respectful of his instructions, so I started scrambling to figure out what I needed to jettison. My presentation would not make sense if sections were missing, I thought, so I decided to stick with the whole thing, but not elaborate much on each point – just let it speak for itself. I think that I was to the point, but I know that there is much more that I would have like to have said and I am sure that I left some with confusion. So, even though it felt hurried and incomplete, I trust that God used it to do His work.
My thoughts on this subject have been enumerated on my Holy Spirit posts in November, 2006 (click on Holy Spirit in Categories and move down – 4 posts). But, a couple of things seemed to jump out:
- Dr. Sam Storms and I were asked to defend the Continualist position. Bart Barber and Robin Foster were asked to defend the Cessationist position. Unless they got more detailed instructions that we got, the results were very interesting. Without collusion, Dr. Storms and I both defended the idea that all of the miraculous gifts of the Spirit are for today, including speaking in tongues. We each talked about tongues, but they were minor parts of our presentations, as they should be. Bart and Robin both focused on tongues almost exclusively. Again, they might have had more detailed instructions, but I wonder if they did that because the main issue for many cessationists or semi-cessationists is tongues? To me, tongues are not the big deal – they are just one of many gifts. For others, including the trustees of the IMB, it seems to be THE issue. That was educational.
- Some people expressed surprise at my statements that no one got saved from hearing anyone speak in tongues in the Book of Acts. No one. Anywhere. In Acts 2, the 120 spoke in tongues giving praise to God, and the people heard them in their own language. The result was confusion as they asked, "What does this mean?" Peter explained it for them by clearly preaching the gospel and 3,000 were added to their number that day. In Acts 10, those in Cornelius’ house spoke in tongues AFTER they heard the gospel and the Holy Spirit fell upon them. If these were intelligible human languages given for evangelisitc purposes, then what language was it? They were all Samaritans there, and at that point, they were all believers. In Acts 19, the disciples of John the Baptist, likewise, spoke in tongues and prophesied AFTER the Holy Spirit came upon them. Again, they all spoke the same language and had already believed. No evangelistic emphasis there. And, if they spoke in other human languages, what were they? Was there an interpreter? What was the purpose, since they all already spoke the same language?
I imagine that I’ll go to my grave before I get satisfactory answers to those questions. In my opinion, whether your argument is from history or from theological gymnastics based on some Bible verses, you do not have much of a leg to stand upon if you stand in the cessationist quicksand. I had everyone stand up at the beginning and I read around 15 passages to them recounting God’s miraculous works in the New Testament. I could have read way more, as there are over 150 passages in Scripture showing us the miraculous works of God through His people. Are we to believe that this work is over? If so, I don’t think that I could believe anything that Scripture says about God. Perhaps some can, but that would basically be impossible for me. It is becoming that closely connected to the character and work of the Lord for me. But, while it is a big deal to me, I continue to reiterate that it is not something that I want to divide over. I fully respect and desire to work with any other believers who have different positions than I do on this issue. There are more important things that we should be focusing on!
Well, as I stated before, the conference was well done. I didn’t agree with everything that every speaker said (on both sides), but I did agree with the gracious spirit of all who participated. May we have many more days like these.
UPDATE: Robin Foster has put much of his paper online HERE. We engaged in healthy discussion over his points. Jason Epps debated Robin’s paper HERE point by point. He provided an excellent analysis of the subjunctive mood of the Greek that Robin uses to buttress his point in the comment section of his post. It is definitely worth checking out for those who are interested in the minutae of this debate. Excellent.