Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Response to Fairwinds Baptist Church October 11, 2009 Sunday Morning Sermon, Part I

[Welcome new readers.  Before you go, please don't forget to check out the links to thirteen other Fairwinds responses listed on the right side of this page.  May the Holy Spirit be with you all!]

There are a number of REALLY good points in this sermon, such as the need to constantly evangelize for Christ.  Of course, there are a number of theologically confusing points that were thrown in that could use some clarification.  For instance, Pastor Carlo at one point mentioned in passing St. Paul's expression that we must "work out our salvation in fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12).  He didn't unpack this verse at all, even though it seems to contradict Pastor's later point that St. Paul had an absolute confidence in his salvation.  How can "fear and trembling," which St. Paul directly connects with a kind of salvation that gets "worked out," be used to support the idea of eternal security that Pastor Carlo constantly preaches?  Why does St. Paul elsewhere say that "I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified."  That doesn't sound very confident, in Pastor Carlo's terms, does it?  It is almost like St. Paul thinks that Christians must live a certain way or that they could be "disqualified."   According to Pastor Carlo, no one is ever disqualified once they begin running the race.

By the way, the critical listener will notice that Pastor Carlo throws in many, many verses into his sermons that he never really stops to take a look at (and from my experience, neither does the congregation).  While he can certainly construct his sermon however he sees fit, there is a kind of illusion that results when so many verses start flying in the air.  The illusion is that Pastor knows the Bible inside and out.

However, the critical listener will recognize that the number of verses that get thrown in to pad the basic points of the sermon are usually the same 20-30 verses over and over.  The only reason this illusion works is because these are more verses than most Christians have memorized in any type of systematic way.

The other side of this illusion is that Pastor Carlo's listeners come away with thinking that they have been fed by the Word, when in fact, the Word has barely just passed briefly under their noses.  Again, this in and of itself is not a bad thing.  I'm just saying that to get fed by the Word, it is sometimes necessary to slow down, sit down, put the Word in, and chew on it for a little while.  This almost never happens in Fairwinds sermons, and I wish I knew why.  All I can say is that I'm not sure if the members are really getting fed.  They are hearing the verses, but are they really being given a chance to digest them?  Any good teacher knows that for true learning to take place, the materials that are being presented must be limited in number and must be fully explored and critically examined, or else they basically fly in one ear and out the other.  This is just a fact of how our brains work, and the fact is exacerbated by folks who aren't functioning on the same intellectual plane that Pastor Carlo is.  I think the problem is even more exacerbated when the majority of the service is spent listening to Pastor Carlo speak.  If the majority of things said are flying in the majority of ears and out the others, then where is the average Fairwinds member getting fed?

I am concerned about this because I speak with Baptists all the times, including members at Fairwinds Baptist, and they never seem to really have a grasp on what the Bible says.  For instance, they know the Romans Road, but do they really understand the book of Romans?  They know John 3:16, but they never have really looked at John 3:5 in context.  Terms like "Melchizedec" are greeted with blank stares.

GRANTED: this is also true from many Catholics.  My purpose here is to question whether Baptists really know the Bible as well as they think they do, given the illusion they witness most Sunday mornings.  I really wish many of the Baptists that I meet would take a humbler approach to their knowledge of Scripture.  Rather than claim, like Pastor Carlos often explicitly does, that anyone who believes [X, Y, or Z] clearly doesn't know God's Word (which seems to implicitly state that we, who make this bold statement, DO know God's Word), I wish they would adopt the position of the Ethiopian Eunech from the book of Acts, who states "how can I understand this unless someone explains it to me?"  None of us know the Bible as well as we should, which means that none of us can trust that we (or our Pastors) by their own power can come to the 100% correct interpretation of Scripture.

We need the Holy Spirit to guide our understanding of the Scriptures, but we ALSO need to know HOW the Holy Spirit guides Christians to know the correct interpretation.  Catholics believe that the Holy Spirit protects the authorities in the Church when they proclaim their interpretation of Scripture.  Protestants generally believe that the Holy Spirit guides (protects?) everyone when they interpret the Scriptures.

I would simply say that the first model works, and the second one doesn't.  The first model works well for people who understand the truth is objective.  The second model works well for people who ultimately think of truth as subjective.

For 2,000 years, Jesus has been teaching his mystical body through the power of the Holy Spirit, who has especially protected Christ's vicars on earth, Peter and his successors (see Matt. 16).  The Pope and all the bishops united with him preach with authority when they pass on the Biblical truths once left with the saints.  (One reason many Protestants are drawn to Catholicism is that they recognize an authority of preaching that they always yearned for but ultimately never experienced outside the Catholic Church.)

For 500 years, the second model has led to nothing but subjectivism, relativism, denominationalism, and division.  Everyone interprets the Bible the way they think the Holy Spirit is guiding them, and there is no final authority to say where truth ends and falsehood begins.  Thus, innocent Christians around the world show up on Sunday morning and our fed falsehoods rather than the Truth who is Christ, and they have have no way of knowing it! 

Wow, this post quickly got side-tracked, so I think I will go ahead and publish it, and then create another post that actually address some of the points Pastor Carlo brought up in his sermon.

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