Courage in Christian Ministry, Part 2

Desiring God 2000 Conference for Pastors

Courage in Christian Ministry

Thank you once again. It’s a great privilege to be here with you. Before I begin, I just want to say that we all owe Ben Patterson a great debt for what he shared with us this morning, and I want to show a little appreciation there. I want to do this not as a commercial but as a word of encouragement. Get the tapes. The reason why I suggest this is because there may be a moment when you, even more desperately than now, will need a word of encouragement and to hear from a brother. And that is one of the marvelous things that is our opportunity, by hearing a message again and again and hearing that word of testimony and exhortation.

What I was seeking to do last night was a review of Scripture just to get some biblical foundations about what courage in ministry is all about. In order to do that, we have to get at the key issue of what courage genuinely is. I was seeking to say the world has its own vision of courage, and that is informative, but it is not determinative for us. For in Christian ministry courage acquires far more than the world understands by the word, and is established in something far deeper than what the world understands. And yet, as the writer of the Book of Hebrews said, where we ended last night, “And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets . . .” (Hebrews 11:32).

We are in a similar predicament. Time will fail us if we seek to say all that should and could be said. So my exhortation to you based upon the message last night is to consider courage as a hermeneutical key in your reading of Scripture, such that the Lord through his word defines what courage is and exhorts us to the same.

Complications in Our Conception of History

Tonight I will be speaking about contemporary challenges, and in essence, I will try to bring all of this together, but the opportunity now is to look to historical examples of courage in ministry, to look at saints, exemplars, and models before us, those whose lives have born testimony to the importance of courage in Christian ministry. There is certainly an abundance of material. We also have to acknowledge the problem of history. In the modern academy, history is now a matter of deconstruction and revisionism.

People try to go back and to take for additional interpretations of history and to try to strip them bare and get back to what will serve a cause, because the claim is that there is no objective history. History is simply a matter of interpretation, it, like everything else, is a social construction, and history is meant to serve some purpose. And of course with feminists and other forms of historical investigation and ideology now out there, there is the suggestion that history really is rather meaningless.

Henry Ford believed the same. He said history is bunk, but the scripture instructs us otherwise, that we should pay heed to the workings of God among his people. And this means that our understanding of history is different from the received understanding of history, for our understanding of history is a providential conception of history. It is not just a series of events and of persons, of crises and wars and accomplishments; it is the story of what God, as the sovereign Lord of the universe, is doing in the process of history.

There are other complications in raising this issue. Herbert Butterfield in his book Man on His Past wrote this:

I should not regard a thing as historically established unless the proof were valid for the Catholic as well as the Protestant, for the liberal as well as the Marxist.

Well, this does raise a problem, does it not? For which examples will we choose as instructive to us about courage? If this were an assemblage of Catholic priests, in all likelihood we could not speak of courage without speaking of Sir Thomas More. Those of you who know his story would know why. Those of you who have seen A Man for All Seasons, the play and the screenplay by Robert Bolt, will see how Sir Thomas Moore was presented as a model of virtue and courage and honesty. And yet, Sir Thomas More presents some significant problems for us, seeing as it was More who pressed most vociferously for William Tyndale’s execution and persecution.

Courage Through the History of the Church

We said last night that courage always requires a context. And even though we do not have time to lay all of this out, we can sometimes see a courageous act undertaken by one whose ministry or position is not well established. But that does not fit a biblical conception of courage, which is always wedded to faithfulness. So we recognize that even in raising the issue of history, we step immediately into controversy. Adolf von Harnack, the great liberal historical theologian of Germany at the turn of the century said, “He who would be a church historian is of necessity a church politician.” Anyone who’s ever tried to write church history knows exactly what he means.

But without any apology, I want to go back through the history of the church. Harnack is exactly right, by the examples I choose, you will know where I stand, and I believe you will share admiration for those who demonstrated courage. I believe in the pattern of Christian history and in the history of the church we can see and discern lessons that are instructive to us in ministry. Rather than speaking chronologically and certainly not exhaustively, I want to take certain examples in a thematic structure.

The Courage to Stand

The first is the courage to stand. We are called to be the church militant until such time as the Lord shall establish the church triumphant. We are called in Ephesians 6:14 to stand, to wear the whole armor of God, to the end that we will be found standing. The church is called to stand rather than to fall, to stand steadfast rather than to retreat. And yet, the history of the church repeatedly demonstrates the problem of doctrinal confusion, of theological compromise, of unilateral disarmament on the part of the church in terms of its own doctrine, the stewardship of the treasury of truth. We see doctrinal antipathy, we see open theological revisionism taking place, not only in the theological academy and in theological seminaries and divinity schools, but also in the pews of our churches, an ad hoc form of amateur (and nonetheless equally deadly) theological revisionism.

There are examples from the history of the church indicative of resistance to such trends, opposition to false teaching, candor, and identifying heresy. The first of these is Athanasius, the great bishop of the fourth century, the bishop of Alexandria, a man who knew not how to compromise, a man whose ministry was interrupted by five separate periods of exile, any one of which could have ended with his death. This was a man who put his entire ministry at risk, not once but repeatedly for the cause of the truth of the gospel. He was willing to make an issue of the doctrine of Christ.

Athanasius is an example of uncompromising courage in defense of the gospel in Christian truth, and the occasion for Athanasius to demonstrate courage was the heresy of Arius, a presbyter who made the claim that there once was a time when the Word was not, that the Son was created, that he was not of the same substance as the Father. Arius, as so many modern heretics, claimed to have a high Christology, but his Christology was undercut by the very words of Scripture.

The issue was forced not by Arius, and not by so many others who were willing to tolerate Arianism, but by Athanasius, who as a bishop of the church said, “This cannot be allowed. Truth which is not defended is truth abandoned.” So he sought to defend the biblical christology of the pre-existent Christ who is of the same essence as the Father. The issue was forced to the Council of Nicaea in the year 325, when Arius had created such a controversy about the teachings of Arius that the emperor himself called the council for fear it would divide the empire.

The issue was over a word, and it wasn’t just over a word, it was over a syllable, and not only a syllable, but a diphthong. And that diphthong is the hinge between heresy and orthodoxy. Edward Gibbons said, “Athanasius was a mad man, for he would have torn the empire asunder over a diphthong.” The difference between homoousios and homoiousios, the difference between similar and of the same substance. Is that a matter of little consequence? Is this a matter of pedantic particularity? Or is it a matter on which the faith of the church stands or falls? Athanasius said, “If the Son is not of the same essence as the Father, the faith falls.” He said Christ is Homoousios. This was affirmed by the Council of Nicaea in 325. Harnack said, “But for Athanasius, the church would’ve fallen to the Arians most assuredly.”

In the Defense of Biblical Truth

From Athanasius, the lesson comes very clearly that steadfastness and costly courage are necessary in the defense of biblical truth. And that in the defense of biblical truth, definitions mean everything and vocabulary is always important. Language is a slippery thing. In the controversy in the Southern Baptist Convention, it was put this way by a man who was elected president in the midst of the controversy. He said, “The problem is the liberals and the conservatives have the same vocabulary, but they do not have the same dictionary.” The words mean different things on different lips.

The model of Athanasius reminds us that words are important, and that definitions are essential. It is not the same. It is not equivalent to say that the Son is of similar substance as the Father as to say he is of the same substance, homoousios. Athanasius also reminds us of the necessity of sacrificing safety in ministry and position in empire for the cause of the truth of the gospel. Exile, I don’t know what that word means to you, but it was a horrible reality in the first century, a horrible reality in the fourth century. This did not mean merely being taken out of home and away from kith and kin, away from church and ministry; it meant virtual imprisonment and constant danger, and Athanasius was willing to undergo that for the cause of the gospel.

Athanasius is a reminder to us of another issue in courage, and that is it isn’t over even when the lady sings. Many years after the council of Nicaea, Athanasius wrote broken heartedly to a colleague with these words, “I thought that all vain talk of all heretics, many as they may be, had been stopped by the senate which was held at Nicaea.” Sorry, it’s never over. The problem is perpetual. The temptation is always for the church to compromise. And you will notice the church is very seldom pulled away from the gospel except by the enticement of making it better, of updating, of translating, of making more palatable the ancient gospel. It is never over. The problem in the fourth century is among us now, the Arians among us are many and they are well placed.

Harold O.J. Brown said this, “Today heresy and orthodoxy have changed roles. It is fashionable, not dangerous to be a heretic, and dull if not unsafe to be orthodox.” There’s a great transformation here. Athanasius also gives us a great motto, contra mundum. Athanasius was confronted by one of his friends with an inside word that he thought would instruct Athanasius to a mature decision to withdraw from the fight. He said (I’m paraphrasing here), “Athanasius, you have to look reality in the face, the whole world is against you.” Athanasius said, “Well, then very well. If the whole world is against Athanasius, then Athanasius will be against the whole world.” I can tell you, in the midst of controversy, your friends will try to give you what they think is well-informed and helpful advice. They’ll say, “You can’t win. They’re all stacked against you.” Do we have the courage with Athanasius to say, “Very well, contra mundum. If the whole world is against me, then by definition I’m against the whole world. Let’s take it on.”

A Conscience Held Captive to the Word of God

The courage to stand, a second example, Martin Luther. What a massive and multiplex character. I love talking about Luther. And I can tell you, in the midst of personal confrontation and controversy, when courage is required, the Lord has spoken to me primarily through his word and also in a secondary sense by the testimony of the saints, and in particular Martin Luther. I have the entire volumes of the collection of Luther’s works in English translation and many other volumes I’ve been able to collect. There were times in the deep darkness when I would pull down one of those volumes and be encouraged, sometimes even to laugh. Luther was a whole man, and he tells us everything.

I mentioned to some folks last night, I think he never had an unarticulated thought. I tell my students in theology that I would love to have studied with Calvin but lived with Luther, just to get the nuggets that fell from the rich man’s table. That just would’ve been tremendous. I mean, there is no table talk about Calvin. Calvin spoke so carefully, measuredly, and reservedly. Luther couldn’t write the Institutes of the Christian Religion. He didn’t have that kind of structured mind and personality. That’s why God gave us Calvin. God gave us Luther for bombast. Luther is the trombone, and it’s just out there demanding to be heard.

Luther is to us as an advisor, a father figure. He is an encouragement to me because he was not only a preacher, he was a seminary president. He didn’t bear that title, but that’s what he was. And Luther is also an encouragement to me because he was a professional irritant. But Luther defines the courage to stand for the cause of the gospel, not just in a way that put his personal career off track, although we all know it did that, but put his life on the line.

In the Leipzig debate with John Eck, July 1519, Luther said this, “A simple layman armed with Scripture is to be believed above a pope or a council without it. As for the pope’s decretal on indulgences, I say that neither the church nor the pope can establish articles of faith, these must come from Scripture. For the sake of Scripture we should reject pope and councils.”

That was not just a breach of ecumenical relations here. If Athanasius was willing to see the Roman Empire divided over a diphthong, Luther was ready to see the whole Holy Roman Empire destroyed for the cause of the gospel. In 1521 at the Diet of Worms, he said this before the emperor himself present, before the assembly. The question came to him, “I ask you, Martin, answer candidly without horns, do you or do you not repudiate your books and the errors which they contain?” Now how’s that for a direct question? Listen to Luther’s response:

Since then, Your Majesty, in your Lordship’s desire for a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason, I do not accept the authority of popes and councils for they have contradicted each other. My conscience is captive to the word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.

It is recorded by his closest associates that his final words were, “Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise (Ich kann nicht anders).”

A Blessed Accusation

Well, all was not forgiven. On the 6th of May, his majesty presented to a diminishing diet, the final draft of the Edict of Worms, it reads this way of Luther:

He has sullied marriage, disparaged confession, and denied the body and blood of our Lord. He makes the sacraments depend on the faith of the recipient. He is pagan in his denial of free will. This devil in the habit of a monk has brought together ancient errors into one stinking puddle and has invented new ones. He denies the power of the keys and encourages the laity to wash their hands in the blood of the clergy. His teaching makes for rebellion, division, war, murder, robbery, arson, and the collapse of Christendom (other than that, he is all right). He lives the life of a beast. He has burned the decretals, he despises alike the ban and the sword. He does more harm to the civil than to the ecclesiastical power. We have labored with him, but he recognizes only the authority of Scripture.

Can you imagine that being the charge made against a minister of the gospel? Let me ask you candidly, could this charge be made against you? Could your enemies say, “We have reasoned with him, but he accepts only the authority of Scripture”? The Protestant and evangelical views of Luther are needless to say, quite divergent. Bilach, Chesterton, and others, as much as I love their writings, show their understanding of the gospel by their hatred of Luther. Historians say that Luther standing there and saying, “Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise” is the beginning of modern individualism. Luther was not standing there as Luther. Luther understood himself to be standing there as a vessel of the gospel.

Luther is a demonstration to us of courage to stand. And for Luther, it began so awkwardly in the torment (anfechtungen) of his soul, the deep depression, the fits of anguish he suffered as he was seeking to understand the gospel. At one point he said, “If I were to be involved in one of these anfechtungen (one of these fits) any longer than a few seconds I would die.” He threw himself on the floor, he sought to mutilate himself, to hurt himself, because he desperately sought to understand how he could be found righteous by a righteous God. And then he discovered the doctrine of justification by faith. As he read the Book of Romans, he read, “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17). And he said, “It is as if the windows of heaven were opened unto me.” And armed with that, he understood the gospel in its entirety.

So he put in personal courage at risk of his ministry, abandoning the monastery. He had once said, “If any monk could be saved by his monkery, it was I.” And instead he became a prophet of the gospel. He demonstrated physical courage with his life in danger. He demonstrated personal courage, theological courage, and emotional courage.

In the Face of Sickness and Death

Luther demonstrated courage in the face of death. He wrote to his father when he heard that his father was critically ill and he thought this may be the last opportunity he could write to him. He had hoped that his father and mother, who had become evangelical Christians and had repudiated Catholicism, would come to Wittenberg to live with him. But it was not safe for Luther to go to them. Even as provisions were being made, both his mother and his father grew too ill.

He wrote his father what he thought might be the last letter. Listen to this. Could you write your father this letter?

However in God’s wisdom your illness turns out, whether you live or die, it’ll be a heartfelt joy to me to be with you again with filial piety in service to show my gratitude to God and to you according to the fourth commandment . . . It does not look as if this will be possible.

He writes to his own father in the flesh:

Let your heart be strong and at ease in your trouble, for we have yonder a true mediator with God, Jesus Christ, who has overcome death and sin for us, and now sits in heaven with all his angels looking down on us and awaiting us so that when we set out we need have no fear or care lest we should sink and fall to the ground. He has such great power over sin and death that they cannot harm us. And he is so heartily true and kind that he cannot and will not forsake us, at least if we ask his help without doubting.

If it is His divine will that you should postpone that better life and continue to suffer with us in this troubled and unhappy veil of tears, to see and hear sorrow and to help other Christians to suffer and conquer, he will give you the grace to accept all this willingly and obediently. This life cursed by sin is nothing but a veil of tears. The longer a man lives, the more sin and wickedness and plague and sorrow he sees and feels, nor is there respite or cessation on this side of the grave. Beyond this is repose, and then we can sleep in the rest Christ gives us until he comes again to wake us with joy. I commend you to him who loves you more than you love yourself.

Within just a matter of months after the death of his father, just days after that letter was received, Luther’s mother was dying. He wrote to her first:

Dear mother, you are now well-informed about God’s grace. And know that the sickness of yours is his gracious fatherly chastisement. It is a slight thing in comparison with what he inflicts upon the godless, and sometimes even upon his own dear children. One person is beheaded, another burned, a third drowned, and so on. And all of us must say, “For Thy sake, we are killed all the day long. We are counted as sheep for the slaughter.” Therefore, this sickness should not distress or depress you. On the contrary, you should accept it with thankfulness as a token of God’s grace, recognizing how slight a suffering it is, even if it be a sickness unto death, compared with the sufferings of his own dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who did not suffer for himself as we do, but for us and our sins.

Ministerial Trouble and Pastoral Frustration

He had courage in the face of sickness and death, this is no ordinary courage. And again, this is not courage that denies reality. It is a courage that points to a reality more real than the reality of sickness and the reality of death.

Luther is also an example to us of courage in the face of ministerial trouble and pastoral frustration. He knew both, and he had ample occasion to have to deal with both. But what I find most encouraging is how he exhorted other ministers. He did so with words and with a stick. He wrote Philip Melanchthon in the year 1530. He was frustrated with Melanchthon. Listen to this word from a senior saint:

What good do you expect to accomplish by these vain worries of yours? What can the devil do more than slay us? What? I beg you, who are so pugnacious and everything else, fight against yourself, your own worst enemy, for you furnish Satan with too many weapons against yourself.

Is this not a word ministers need to hear? We keep giving Satan weapons to use against us. We are our own worst enemy. Luther said:

Christ died once for our sins. He will not die again for truth and justice, but will live and reign. If this be true and if he reigns, why should you be afraid for the truth? Perhaps you are afraid that it’ll be destroyed by God’s wrath. Even if we should ourselves be destroyed, let it not be by our own hands. He who is our Father will also be the Father of our children.

Now listen to this:

I pray for you very earnestly. I am deeply pained that you keep sucking up cares like a leech, and thus rendering my prayers vain. Christ knows whether it comes from stupidity or the Spirit, but I for my part am not very much troubled about our cause. Indeed, I am more hopeful than I expected to be. God who is able to raise the dead is also able to uphold his cause when it is falling, or to raise it up again when it has fallen, or to move it forward when it is standing. If we are not worthy instruments to accomplish his purpose, he will find others. If we are not strengthened by his promises, where in all the world are the people to whom these promises apply? But more of this another time. After all my writing, this is like pouring water into the sea.

What a word of confidence. The cause isn’t ours. Luther slept well at night, that’s the amazing thing. The entire Reformation seemed to rest on his shoulders, but he knew better. He thought, “This is God’s cause, not mine. I’m going to go home, kiss Katie, and sleep.” And to Melanchthon he said, “Why are you sucking up cares like a leach, engorging yourself with cares and troubles? The Lord will take care of these, and if not, he’ll take care of it later. And if we fail, he will find others to take our place.” This wasn’t an encouragement to Melanchthon to take his responsibilities lightly. It was to remember these really are not his responsibilities, this is not basically his cause.

To Those Suffering Persecution

Luther wrote to those also suffering persecution and threat of life. He wrote to the Christians in Braman in March 1525 after the martyrdom of one of their own. He wrote these words, and I quote:

These and others like them will drown the papacy in its god, the devil, and their blood. They will also preserve the word of God and its purity against the impure profaners of the word, the new false prophets who are now springing up and spreading everywhere. No doubt God in his grace is allowing them to die and spill their blood at this time in which so many errors and sects are appearing, in order to warn us and show us through them that the doctrine in which they have believed and taught and for which they have died and suffered martyrdom is the true doctrine which brings the right spirit with it. It was even thus that the holy martyrs died for the sake of the gospel in olden times, and with their blood sealed and certified the same.

He wrote to Leonard Kaiser, who was shortly martyred:

My dear Leonard, that your old man (a referenced to Roman 6:6) should be a prisoner in accord with the will and calling of Christ your Savior, and for you and your sins he also offered up his new man into the hands of the godless so that he might redeem you with his blood and make you his brother and joint heir of eternal life . . . It is therefore necessary that you cry out to him confidently in your prayers and that you cheer and sustain yourself with comforting Psalms amidst these raging of Satan so that you may be strengthened in the Lord, and not speak too timidly or softly in the teeth of the behemoth, as if you were overcome by him and feared the arrogance of Satan. Call upon Christ who is everywhere, present and powerful. Defy and ridicule the raging and arrogance of Satan in the certainty that he cannot harm you, and that the more he rages, the less he can do to you. It is just as Paul said, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

Luther was saying, “If you’re under Satanic attack, if you’re under demonic oppression and facing even the fear of death and the reality of martyrdom, laugh at him. Who is he after all? We have Christ.”

Pestilence and Resolution

Luther exhorted his own students time and time again about the necessity of courage in ministry, sometimes in unexpected ways and in dimensions that seemed very foreign to us. In 1527, he wrote to John Hess who had written to him inquiring as to whether it was lawful for a minister to leave his ministry in a town suffering from the Plague. Luther wrote to him:

When people are beginning to die, we should stay with them, make preparations to counteract the disease, and assure ourselves, especially those of us who have such responsibilities toward others, that we cannot leave or flee. We should be comforted by our certainty that it is God’s punishment set upon us not only to punish sin but also to test our faith and love — our faith in order that we may see and know what our attitude is toward God, and our love in order that we may see what our attitude is toward our neighbor . . . If the sick strike fear and terror into anyone’s heart, let such a person be of good courage and so strengthen and comfort himself that he has no doubt that is the devil who’s responsible for this fear, terror, and horror.

He was very clear that it is the responsibility of a minister of the gospel to stay ministering to his people in a time of great danger. Luther wrote these words before the Plague came to Wittenberg:

It seemed for many years during this particular round of pestilence that Wittenberg may escape, but it did not.

In December of 1538, two families were struck by plague within the city walls of Wittenberg, and it was clear that the Plague had made its visitation. Luther wrote this to the city, and preached it in a sermon, December the 1st:

Let everyone who has an obligation to wife, brother, child, sister or neighbors stay here to help. Each one of us owes it to his neighbor to be ready to lay down his own life. Even so as your pastor and substitute preacher, I am bound to remain in my pulpit. One hundred pestilences will not drive me from it. Moreover, together with my deacons, I am ready to visit the sick. If we die while engaged in this work of love, it will be well with us, for the hour of death will be sweeter to us than 100,000 years of life. On the other hand, if you flee with a bad conscience, the time will come when you would 1,000 times rather have died.

The Theme of Courage

The sources of Luther’s courage were richly biblical. When you read through the sermons of Luther, thousands of sermons still available to us, you’ll see how often the theme of courage comes. One in particular to which I would refer you is Luther’s sermon on John 14:1. He said this to his congregation:

God wants to admonish us to learn from the idolatrous world how to rely on the one true God. Therefore just as we see how everyone relies on his mammon or on his prince against his neighbor, so let us place our reliance against the devil and his retinue on our Lord and God, saying, ‘I defy you to try your greatest terrors on me. After all, what terror and harm can you inflict? Don’t you know that I have a Lord mightier than you, a Lord who can give more courage, comfort, and joy than you can inspire fear and torment?’ This is the meaning of the word of Christ spoken here, to believe in God and face without fear whatever may oppose and confront us.

The courage to stand is an absolute necessity of ministry, demonstrated gloriously for us, my brothers who have gone before us, Athanasius and Martin Luther.

The Courage to Stay

The second focus I have is the courage to stay. It’s one thing to stand sometimes, it is another thing altogether to stay. The first example to which I would direct our attention here is John Calvin, the great reformer of Geneva. In 1536, he arrived in Geneva intending to stay a few days, and yet it was Farel who convinced him he should stay and take leadership of the Reformation on Geneva. It had not been his ambition, but once he received this charge, he took it seriously. It was the seriousness with which he took the cause of the Reformation that led in 1538 to his banishment from Geneva, an exile of sorts.

The Steadfastness of Calvin

He was banished and exiled to Strasbourg where he preached at the French church. Calvin had not intended to lead the reformation in Geneva, and now Geneva was not convinced that Calvin should lead it either. But once Calvin left, Geneva fell into turmoil, and their despair reached such a point that they implored Calvin to return. He resisted, and he resisted heartily. He said this in 1540 in a letter to Sadoleto:

Although I am for the present relieved of the charge of the church of Geneva, this circumstance ought not to prevent me from embracing it with paternal affection. For God, when he charged me with it, bound me to be faithful to it forever.

And yet at the same time he would write:

Rather would I submit to death 100 times than to that cross on which I had to perish daily 1,000 times over.

In September 1541, Calvin returned. What do you do when you’ve been banished and are called back? What do you say? Calvin mounted the pulpit in St. Peter’s church in September 1541, knowing that every eye and every ear in the entire congregation was waiting to see what he would say upon his return, and to see what he would do in terms of his preaching ministry. What did Calvin do? He picked up on the verse where he had left off. He mounted the pulpit of St. Peter’s church and said, “When last I was with you, we ended here. Now we begin with the next verse.” Is that not courage?

When you talk about the courage of expository preaching, that’s it. And that makes the complaint that people won’t stand for this ponderous verse-by-verse exposition look rather pale. We have to more or less hit the highlights, like the Book of Romans and two sermons. And we’ll just go through and hit some highlights of the text. Here is Calvin who’s preaching got him exiled. And he comes back and these are his words:

When I preached to the people (on that first day back), everyone was very alert and expectant, but entirely omitting any mention of what they were sure they would hear, I gave a brief account of our office. To this, I added a moderate and modest commendation of our faithfulness and integrity. After this preface, I took up the exposition where I had stopped. Indicating by this that I had only temporarily interrupted my office of preaching and not given it up entirely.

It was the next verse in the same book.

Immense Physical Hardships

Calvin’s troubles in Geneva were not over when he returned in 1541, he was constantly surrounded by enemies, consistently betrayed by his friends. He found himself facing an onslaught of enemies close and far, known and unknown. He also suffered under tremendous physical hardship.

Some years back I was invited to be a part of a group known as the Calvin Colloquium, meeting at Davidson College. I went and met with them. And it’s pretty much what you would think it’s like, a group of scholars doing historical investigation into Calvin. Now it’s not a Calvin version of the Jesus seminar I would have you know, as if to say, “Did Calvin really say this or not?” But it is one of those interesting things when you get scholars sitting around a table, investigating neglected aspects of Calvin’s life. I will never forget a medical doctor, a faculty member at a medical school who had prepared a massive paper on Calvin’s health. Now I have to tell you, when I was contemplating the meeting, this was not a paper that arrested my attention.

By the end of this paper, it had not only arrested everyone’s attention, we had almost all become hypochondriacs. This was a man who suffered from ailments that are difficult for us to understand. He was in excruciating pain, even to write, to sit, to stand, or to preach. His very physical existence was constantly threatened. Most of us in ministry would have gone on disability. We would be more concerned with taking care of ourselves. Calvin was concerned with taking care of the church, feeding the church of God. He is an incredible example to us of what it means to stay in a ministry even knowing you are unwelcome.

An Exhortation to Martyrs

There’s one other word from Calvin I want to share with you, it’s very moving. On May 15th, 1553, Calvin wrote a letter to the five prisoners of Lyons. These were five theologians, five scholars who had been convinced of the evangelical gospel. And in Lyons they had dared to preach and teach the gospel, and they had been arrested. Calvin had sought by diplomatic means and legal maneuvering to secure their release. There are a series of letters he wrote to them. The letter just before this one is hopeful of their release. And yet by May the 15th of 1553, it was clear they would not be released. They would be martyred. Let me ask you, what do you write to brothers who have joined your cause, the cause of the gospel, but by your personal ministry, and now they prepare to die a horrible death by burning? He wrote them this:

Now at this present hour, necessity itself exhorts you more than ever to turn your whole mind heavenward. As yet we know not what will be the event, but since it appears as though God would use your blood to sign his truth, there is nothing better than for you to prepare yourselves to that end, beseeching him so to subdue you to his good pleasure that nothing may hinder you from following whithersoever he shall call. For you know, my brothers, that it behooves us to be thus mortified in order to be offered him in sacrifice. It cannot be but that you sustain hard conflicts in order that what was declared to Peter may be accomplished in you, namely that they shall carry you whither you would not. You know however in what strength you will have to fight, a strength on which all those who trust shall never be daunted much less confounded.

Even so my brothers, be confident that you shall be strengthened according to your need by the Spirit of our Lord Jesus, so that you shall not faint under the load of temptations, however heavy it may be, any more than did he who won so glorious of victory. In the midst of our miseries, it is an unfailing pledge of our triumph. Since it pleases him to employ you to the death in maintaining his quarrel, he will strengthen your hands in the fight and will not suffer a single drop of your blood to be spent in vain.

Calvin was saying, “You’re about to die. Let’s be real honest about this, the political and legal questions have now become moot. They’re determined to kill you for the cause of the gospel. So get ready. Jesus Christ himself desires to sign his truth with your blood.”

The Resolve of Charles Simeon

The courage to stay is exemplified not only by Calvin, but by Charles Simeon, a preacher in Cambridge from 1782 to 1836. Simeon found himself in a most awkward situation. Trinity Church in Cambridge was the church where Richard Sibbes and Thomas Goodwin had pastored. He found himself in this awkward situation because he was imposed upon a church by a bishop. He had come to embrace the evangelical faith when the congregation had not. So what did the congregation do? They had to allow him to preach in the morning, but they locked all the doors to the pews. So the congregation stood. At one point they tried to bring in chairs and benches but they were taken away, so he continued to preach.

He preached for 12 years to a congregation that had to stand outside the pews. Now what would most of us do? I dare say we would not put up with this for very long. If the congregation would not have us, we would not have the congregation. This was not Simeon’s approach. He took responsibility for teaching preachers to preach. He had no instruction himself, but as he listened and observed the preaching in the Church of England in his day, he came to the conclusion that it was not gospel preaching. He gave three questions that must be asked of every writing and every sermon: “Does this humble the sinner? Does this exalt the Savior? Does this promote holiness?” Over 2,500 of his sermons are collected, many of them preached to a standing congregation. He influenced an entire generation of preachers, and his influence continues even now among evangelicals in the Church of England. He said this:

My endeavor is to bring out a scripture what is there, and not to thrust in what I think might be there. I have a great jealousy on this head, never to speak more or less than I believe to be the mind of the Spirit and the passage I am expounding.

This is the courage to say nothing more and nothing less than what the text proclaims. It’s the courage to stand before a congregation, even a congregation that will not have you, even a congregation that locks its doors, and preach even a dozen years if necessary, but to preach nothing less and preach nothing more than the text of Scripture. From Simeon, in the courage to stay, we get the lesson of endurance, and a reminder of the security of a call that came from God after all, and not from a congregation. We learn about the courage to expound the word of God, the courage to deny a career ladder, and the courage to take a difficult charge and a difficult church.

In the free church tradition, if the congregation doesn’t want you, you can find yourself preaching not only to the aisles of a church, but preaching to the outdoors of a church. But will you stay and preach nonetheless?

The Courage to Confront

We’ve spoken of the courage to stand, the courage to stay, and now we’ll focus on the courage to confront. John Knox confronted two queens and took them on. I have no time to tell his full story nor even to sketch it in brief, but he was outraged by corruption and heresies in the church in Scotland, and by its denial of the gospel, he became a tutor to a wealthy family after his training, and found himself in the midst of a rebellion against the throne in the internessing warfare of the Scottish monarchy. He was arrested and sold as a galley slave to the French fleet. Very few men survived this kind of treatment, but in 1549 he was released, and he became completely committed to the Reformation then underway in England under the reign of Edward VI. It was in 1559 he returned to Scotland, and he went to St. Andrews under the threat of his life. This is what he said:

As for the fear of dangers that may come to me, let no man be solicitors, for my life is in the custody of him whose glory I seek, and therefore I cannot so fear their boast nor tyranny that I shall cease from doing my duty when God of his mercy offereth the occasion.

Here again, you have good friends who try to warn of the reality, and you have a man of God who says, “The reality I know, but I know something more real, the one who has called me.” Martyn Lloyd-Jones called Knox the founder of Puritanism. This is what he said of Knox in one of his biographical presentations:

What do we make of this man? He was a man for his age, a man for his times. Special men are needed for special times, and God always produces such men. A mild man would’ve been useless in this Kotlin of the 16th century, and in many other parts of this country. A strong man was needed, a stern man, a courageous man, and such a man was John Knox. Martin Luther was of the same mold. God uses different types of men and gives them different personalities. Different men are needed at different times. In those times a heroic, rugged character was needed, and God produced the man.

The Courage to Leave

We spoke of the courage to stand, the courage to stay, the courage to confront, and very quickly I’ll focus on the courage to leave. This one is tough. As it is likely that you know the historical background to the names I will mention, I will not take time to speak at length about them.

Charles Spurgeon was willing to leave the British Baptist Union because it would not define the gospel and come under a confession of faith that would honestly set forth what Scripture taught and required. He suffered for it so greatly that his wife said the trauma of leaving the British Baptist Union led to his death. Those who were his closest associates said just to look at the man and see his physical appearance from the beginning of this controversy to the end — the “downgrade controversy” as he called it — was to see a man physically die. But he understood that the Church of England was on a doctrinal downgrade, and if it were not averted and corrected, it would lead to the abandonment of the gospel, and thus he left.

Another example of the courage to leave is Gresham Machen, pulling out after the reorganization of Princeton Seminary and the abandonment of the responsibility on the part of the Presbyterian Church to hold Princeton to its confession of faith. He left. And the cost to someone like Gresham Machen and those who left with him was enormous. They lost position, they lost prestige, they lost ordination, and they suffered great indignities. And Machen also died quite early, quite untimely, and many believe of the stress of that controversy.

Now, is it not interesting that juxtaposed here in my presentation have been the courage to stay and the courage to leave. And we have to pray for godly wisdom to know which is the better part, and to which we have been called, and we have to pray for each other to know. In all likelihood, no man can know for the other. It comes down to where there is the call and the opportunity to either stay or leave to the glory of God. But we do know that there is a reason to stay where God gives the reason, and a reason to leave.

The Courage to Go

There is the courage to stand, the courage to stay, the courage to leave, and the courage to go. Dr. Piper will be speaking about that this afternoon. Christian missions in the first century or in the 21st century is about a willingness to leave everything and go. We are so comfortable, could we leave it behind? We love our families, our mothers and fathers, our kin and kindred, could we leave them? The gospel summons us by God’s call to go, and faithful have been the men and women who have gone. Since I’m out of time, I will leave that to Dr. Piper this afternoon.

The Courage to Suffer Loss

Since I’m out of time, I will leave that to Dr. Piper this afternoon and I will move to the courage to suffer loss, which is this courage to suffer in ministry. This is not a matter of staying or leaving or going, but a matter of being shoved, of being ejected. And here I would suggest for your consideration, the St. Bartholomew’s Day ejection of August 24th, 1662 when nearly 2,000 Puritan ministers were ejected from the Church of England and from their pulpit rather than conform to what they believed to be a violation of the gospel and of the true church.

When the Act of Uniformity was passed, their moment of decision came. They would either be uniform and remain in their churches, or be dissenters and be ejected. They chose to be ejected. They lost their income, they lost their pulpits, but they came to the conclusion that it would be better to preach in a potter’s field and to preach the gospel unhindered than to violate conscience in the gospel and stay in the stately pulpits of the Church of England.

The Courage to Die

Lastly, let’s consider the courage to die. This is a constant theme throughout the history of the church. Martyrdom from Stephen to the martyrs of the present leaves a trail of courage. Tertullian said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” This plants the gospel. There’s so much more I would like to say about this, but martyrdom really requires a separate message altogether. I do want to end on this word, which comes to us from Justin Martyr, a word that has encouraged me in thinking about Christian martyrs throughout the centuries. He said this, writing to those who are about to be martyred, “They may kill us, but they cannot harm us.”

What courage is there in that, what confidence? The body they may kill, but they cannot harm us. The truth abideth us still. The Lord reigns eternal. Names like Wycliffe and Tyndale and Polycarp, and so many others that are left to us as a heritage of martyrdom, and modern martyrs as well, remind us that they may kill us, but they cannot harm us.

Doctrinal Fidelity, Ministry Integrity, and Christian Loyalty

Lastly, here are three principles for your consideration from this historical review. First, consider doctrinal fidelity. I will let you weave all of this together from the texture of Christian history. But fidelity to doctrine, to truth, has been non-negotiable and absolutely essential, and men have been called to courage in the defense of biblical truth.

Second, consider integrity in ministry. If we allow the ministry to be defined by those who are not concerned for its integrity, we’ll find ourselves religious professionals who are of no use to the gospel. We are called to the integrity of ministry even when that puts ministry at risk.

And third, consider loyalty to Christ. Above all things, know that loyalty to Christ just as we are called in Hebrews chapter 12:1–2, will allow us to run the race with endurance, looking unto him the author and finisher of our faith. And for this cause, we find passion for the gospel and endurance for the race of the ministry.

Questions and Answers

It seems easy to look back on history and say, “Obviously that needed to be dealt with.” This is my fear, because as I look at arguments on the many different issues that we have to deal with, do you think in our climate that it is more difficult to really pinpoint when we need to stand? Because it seems like some of the issues are so blurry that you have debates about them. For a lay person it would seem, they come to these debates and they think, “Well, it all sounds good, which one do we choose?” Do you think that our time, our climate, or our culture is so different or so far from that?

No, but let me go back and say something. I appreciate the question, and it’s a good question. It’s one I hope to answer in my message tonight on contemporary challenges. But let me just go on to say that we face the hermeneutic of history by which we make the present so different from the past. I want to suggest that won’t hold for long. We’re dealing with human nature, we’re dealing with sinfulness, and we’re dealing with compromise as has been throughout. But there are new challenges. I think the new challenges would shock the men we discussed today and the women who are with them, as well as the enduring ones. And I’ll speak to that tonight. Thank you.

I’m just curious about a bibliography for your quotes from Melanchthon and for Luther. But then I also wanted to ask you, how do you think we should respond to the most recent Lutheran-Catholic accord regarding the statement on justification. When ECT first came out, I was displeased. It seems to be getting more and more confusing though as it goes along and the statements that are being made. What does integrity require us to say to that?

Could I piggyback on that? As a Baptist evangelical graduating from Luther Seminary here in St. Paul, I’m curious about the Lutheran-Catholic dialogue. Are Lutherans becoming Catholics? Are Catholics becoming Protestants? What’s happening?

I think I can answer those two in tandem. First, regarding the bibliography, just dive into Luther, dive into the deep end of the pool. For a look at Luther as pastor and exhorter, look at the Letters of Spiritual Counsel. It’s in the Library of Christian Classics series published back in the 1950s by Westminster Press. And it’s a wonderful volume.

Regarding the Lutheran-Catholic thing, I have observed some of those discussions. I’ve read the material. We in fact did a doctoral colloquium at Southern just looking at the issue of justification and taking that as the precipitating factor. The question was well posed over here, “Are Lutherans becoming Catholic? Are Catholics going Protestant?” Well, the Catholics are not becoming Protestant in theology.

It’s hard to answer this in a short amount of time, but if you read Vatican II, the definition of who a Protestant is changed remarkably. Before Vatican II, what were Protestants? They were heretics, separated brethren outside the church of the Lord Jesus Christ who were alienated, and except for rejoining the true Roman church are without the hope of the gospel. Guess who we are after Vatican II? We’re all Catholics and we don’t know it. Just read it. It says we are brethren who are ignorantly separated from the Church at Rome, as in one day we’ll find out we really were Catholics all along, and we’ll probably spend a little time in purgatory for being so ignorant, but after all, we’ll find out we were in the one true church.

Of course, Vatican II didn’t just bring us in, but also the Jews and the Muslims, which explains why the Roman Catholic Church no longer believes in evangelization of any monotheist. That is from Lumen Gentium in the documents of Vatican II.

So Vatican II allows the Catholic Church to hear a Protestant argument and say, “We believe that.” And to hear this argument and say, “Oh, we believe that.” But the definition in the dictionary is at odds, if you will point to the discussion. The way this works in the Catholic dialogue is they take one doctrine at a time, never anything comprehensive. So you can unplug something and plug it in and say, “We agree with that,” but you never have to systematize it. And that’s where you really discover the problem. And they do not deny the anathemas of the Council of Trent.

The Council of Trent, just read it. Every once in a while that’s a good devotional exercise, it is. Read the documents of the Council of Trent, where we’re consigned to eternal damnation — anyone who holds to the gospel of justification by faith. That has not been withdrawn. So I won’t take any more time other than to say I think the Lutherans have given up far more than the Catholics who don’t give up anything anymore, they just absorb.

As we speak forth truth and are courageous, is there some point that you see that maybe our courage is not going far enough to engage our culture, so therefore they see that we are not relevant? Studying history, it just bothers me that so few evangelicals did not do as much as some of the liberals to abolish slavery. I know there were some, but I want to make sure that we don’t keep staying on the wrong side so that those who don’t believe say, “You don’t engage the issues that are destroying people.”

Well, I hear the question. I do want to say that as a historian, the anti-slavery movement, the abolition movement, was really started among evangelicals, like William Wilberforce for instance, in England. And it was evangelicals in the North that largely pressed the theological, biblical case for the abolition of slavery. Unfortunately, there are many evangelicals, especially in the South, who defended slavery. And for that reason we need to make certain that our reading of Christian history is not antiseptic but honest. We have to admit where the church has been humiliated, as well as where it has stood on the truth. That is a word of warning to us, unless we are found not on the wrong side of history, but on the wrong side of the Scriptures. That’s a good point.

Being a Southern Baptist, it seems like pragmatism seems to dominate our denomination. How would you advise us on a pastoral level to interact with the idea of courage in ministry?

That is one of the refrains to which I often speak. The problem in evangelicalism as an ism, of which Southern Baptists are an example, sometimes an egregious example, is a threat of pragmatism. It’s the thought, “If it works, we go for it. If it attracts people, we throw ourselves into it.” Often, if not always, it’s generally for the cause of wanting to reach persons with the gospel. The question is, once we’ve reached them, is it with the gospel?

I find myself in a place of wanting to be very careful and not take cheap shots, because it’s very easy to say, “Well, I don’t have any pragmatic considerations.” But of course we do. I mean, we have to have pragmatic considerations. I mean, after all, we’re meeting in a building. It’s well lit and it has good acoustics. There are certain pragmatic issues to which we appropriately give attention. The question is, is it a pragmatic issue or means that distorts the gospel, that compromises biblical truth? Obviously, having a building and a sound system in lighting does not. But there are some evangelistic techniques, some programs, some understandings of what the church is all about that don’t have anything to do with the scriptural understanding of the church or the biblical gospel.

So I want to be careful because I hear some people speak about how unpragmatic they are, when that really isn’t the issue. We print nice periodicals, and we want them to be graphically appealing. That’s a means. Even with the periodical itself, we use the internet. There are pragmatic considerations. The question is, is it a matter of methodology that does not violate the gospel but is consistent with the proclamation of the gospel, or is it something that requires a compromise? And the pragmatism to which the brother speaks is often a pragmatism that just violates the gospel. It violates true worship and it violates authentic evangelism. It threatens to violate the gospel itself, usually not by what it states but what it fails to state or to proclaim. Great question.

From our perspective, it sounds like the men who are preaching here are preaching to each other as much as to us, and that’s a benefit to hear from your experience in the midst of what you’re doing. So thank you. I have a pastoral question, and part of it maybe comes from guilt within. I pastor a church in Canada, and I’m in the largest city, but I’m geographically isolated from a lot of places. Sometimes I feel like I’m standing on the edge of the prairies, and the people I’m ministering to and amongst don’t feel the winds that are coming from the distance. A gust will go by, and I’ll hear that there’s this new perspective on justification. I’ll read about the openness of God. I belong to the denomination in which Clark Pinnock is one of our professors. I have this desire to prepare our people to teach the word of God.

And yet, there’s this part of me behind that says, “There’s a battle going on in the distance.” We can stand and we can stay and we can die, but what do you do to support the battle? I mean, we have to prevail here, but what’s the pastor’s responsibility to engage, to do something from a distance? Because I have this feeling you went through what you went through as you were entering into it, but you were there because people in the grassroots were doing something. And sometimes I’m standing there saying, “I feel like I should be doing something,” but I haven’t got a clue what to do. I don’t want to think that I’m the guy to do it cause I don’t feel like I’m competent to vote and fight the battle.

You’re in the reformation. I mean, this is the problem of the 16th century. There are problems out there, the opposition of the gospel is widespread. The people in the pews basically don’t know it. They only know what they know, and they only know what they’ve been taught, and most of them don’t know much. Of course, one of the problems with the reformers was that they came to the conclusion that the clergy didn’t know much either, but that was a different issue. That’s why we don’t apologize for theological education. But if you read the history of the Reformation, a couple things happened.

Number one, leadership began to coalesce. The fact is there was a common movement. I mean, Calvin in many ways was taught by Luther, not directly and personally, but because of influence through the dissemination of written materials. We have to pray that the Lord will light a fire and that the fire will grow, but we need to feed our own people and educate them. I think we should exhort each other to be bold in making clear the public opposition to violations of the gospel and distortions of biblical truth. Even if no one hears, at least we have made our conscience clear. It’s a great question from a pastor’s heart, I appreciate it.

I minister in a context that I imagined a number of people are ministering in as well, where there is quite a bit of diversity. It seems that part of the enemy’s strategy is to get us to be ignored rather than to be engaged. The thought is, “We are allowing you to do what you do as long as you’re largely ignored, and you’re able to just stick right to your congregation and you don’t really have much evangelistic success.” The thing I’m struggling with and what I’d love your advice on is, when do we actually engage, and we look at the prevailing deism or unitarianism that we find in our area, and begin to engage and say, “We want to say publicly and clearly to this community that this is not the gospel of Jesus Christ”?

Tonight I’m going to speak about the tension between the call to be apologetical and polemical in ministry. It takes both in tandem. Just as Ben said, you have to say not only what is true but what is false. In different times and seasons, that balance of our own energy may shift just given what’s happening. These days, an awful lot of ministry, in order to be apologetic — that is, to give a good answer for the faith — is necessary polemical and to identify isn’t the gospel. And again, I don’t want to just be anachronistic, but I mean, that’s what the Reformation was all about. That’s why when you read Luther and Calvin and Knox and Zwingli and so many others, they had to say, “This is the gospel. And if this is, this other thing isn’t. And if it isn’t, we have a big problem.”

It is a very difficult situation, and this is not denominationally comfortable. Denominations are institutions, and even the most well-established denominations have a self-protection syndrome that is just unbelievable. They want to preserve the peace, because if you don’t, everything else might fall apart. A denominational culture feeds on sublimating controversial issues and concealing them. Rarely do denominational leaders say, “I am heartbroken over the compromise of the gospel in this denomination.” So it takes people at the congregational level. And polity plays a role here, I don’t want to be dismissive of that. Different polities have different mechanisms for dealing with the issue. I’m not by accident a Baptist, but by conviction. A part of that, and only a part, is the fact that if an institution gets out of line, it can be dealt with. That’s the good news about what happened in the Southern Baptist Convention, and it’s the good news now.

Now my job is to say to the trustees elected to Southern Seminary, “Listen, your task is not to come here and just bless what happens. Your task is to hold us accountable to the churches who elected you for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ and his gospel. Thus, your task of electing faculty is not perfunctory.” Thus, we have a faculty personnel committee on the part of the trustees who interviews at length everyone who’s already gone through my interview process, which is an ordeal. But frankly, I remind the trustees, “Don’t take my word for it, ask every question.” We walk through the confession of faith with every prospective faculty member, not only with me privately, not only in writing, but also before the trustees, so that accountability is sure. And where you lack that accountability, move toward trying to achieve that kind of accountability.

In returning to confessionalism, I’m wondering how we can maintain confessionalism without having excessive dogmatism beyond the scope of Scripture? Because inevitably our confession will be to some degree historically conditioned. I’m thinking that this century’s confessions of faith usually emphasize pre-millennialism. Without getting into all of the eschatological debates, it does seem interesting that in the 20th century we stressed that, and yet throughout the history of the church, amillennialism seems to be more of the dominant mode, whether or not it was in the past. I’m just wondering if you could comment on that.

Let me speak as an historical theologian first. When you look at all of the great creeds of the church, as remarkable as it is, there is no millennial position generally articulated in any of the great classical creeds. And there is none articulated in our institutional confession of faith, which is a derivation of the Second London Confession and from the Westminster Confession. One of the things I try to teach our students is that heresy precedes orthodoxy in construction, which is to say not that falsehood precedes the truth, it is to say that in terms of controversy, heresy precipitates orthodoxy when orthodoxy is the classical statement of what the church believed but never felt the necessity of stating so explicitly. After all, we talked about Chalcedonian Christology because at the Council of Chalcedon, the fourth of those great councils, what the church had assumed it didn’t have to say, it had to say explicitly, along with affirmations and denials.

I understand your question, and I don’t mean to dismiss it, but I don’t find much of a problem with dogmatism these days. I know it can be a problem. I would define that problem as speaking beyond Scripture, as you said. That balance is between what you have to articulate and what you can assume the church and every generation has to take up. For instance, we ask every faculty member to speak and to write a response to their biblical understanding of homosexuality. Now, I guarantee you that the founders of Southern Seminary in 1859 would have a stroke to believe they would have to ask the question.

It’s not outside of Scripture, and I would say it’s not dogmatism, it’s just faithfulness to biblical truth. I’m going to speak to this somewhat tonight about confessionalism, but there is a healthy and an unhealthy confessionalism. An unhealthy confessionalism believes that the confession of faith is the source of authority. Well, that’s not what a confession of faith or a creed is meant to be. A creed or a confession is meant to be a restatement in concise form of the truths revealed in Scripture. The confession must be accountable to Scripture, and the Scripture principle has to be maintained. If the confession becomes an end to itself rather than the means of faithfulness, then we have an idolatry, and we do have a dogmatism, and that is to be avoided. I just run into it so seldom that it isn’t one of my pressing concerns day by day. I see more of the abandonment of all confessional accountability. But it is a good question, thank you.

serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.