Panel Discussion: Mark Dever, Tony Payne, and Phillip Jensen
This discussion was mainly a question and answer session...so I'll post the question and then the corresponding answers.
I. Emeris from Ninevah, NY... "According to your definition of a church gathering around the word as opposed to our normal language of worship please define for us the Word of God around which we gather."
Jensen: "The word of God is the gospel encaptulated in the Scriptures which are the Words of God. Jesus Christ is the Word…I take it as the gospel of Jesus Christ in God’s words the 66 books we call the Bible."
Mark Dever then gestured at Tony Payne who just nodded...typical Dever humor;)
II. Rod from Gainesville... "Does the Bible teach membership?"
Dever: "Rod, are you asking how do we deal with our members that sound like Phillip Jensen…you don’t share with them that talk (jokingly)." He said to encourage your people to enflesh love of the congregation in which they are with.
Jensen: "Do everything Mark says…we have different histories…fundamental to Baptist thinking has always been membership." Then Jensen said that if he had no tradition he would be a Baptist…however, he thinks membership is not the right word. "Partnership in the gospel" is the right biblical word. He suspects that what is meant by partnership. In Australia membership is a consumeristic and passive word. He believes all Christians should be partners in the gospel in their local congregation. He finds this as a more common word in the New Testament. It is an expression in the local church that will reflect true membership to the invisible church. Not some consumeristic tendency or a "from time to time attendance".
Payne: He then shared the story of a school that St. Matthias church did something for Anglicans, namely that it instituted a partnership of people in the local congregation. This is against an Anglican thinking of the local church.
Dever: He agrees with a surprising amount of Jensen…if he lived in another century he would be a Baptist as well. Because of the way that church literature uses and has used the word membership he uses it as well as opposed partnership. He then pushed on being a member of numerous churches. Do you understand that any has a different responsibility to “partners” at one service as opposed to another.
Jensen: He thinks we can have dual membership in more than one church. Then if you go to war then you have to say where your real citizenship is (similar to countries). If you aren’t at war then you have the same responsibility to every congregation to which you are a partner.
Dever: He agrees…in regard to college students in practice. But he has a pastoral concern with how he thinks it would be used if someone in unrepentant sin they may use a multitude of relationships to dodge church discipline. Churches need to coordinate together to take care of their sheep.
III. Bob from VA... "To Phillip Jensen, Can you clarify eschatological position to show your perspective of the Old Testament church?"
Jensen: No, primary thought he had in regard to his lectures was not out of his millennial view. It does work with eschatological view that is presupposed into the text. Revelation 20 has only one reference to the millennial view. Technically he is an Amillenial. Believes we are in the millennium now…thinks that 1000 is a symbolic number. Thinks it is the character of apocalyptic literature. He respects both other views. Eschatology doesn’t influence enormously how you read the Bible. Hebrews shows largely how the Old Testament and New Testament are connected. He was working with what Hebrews does with Deuteronomy and Exodus. Jensen holds to insistance of reading both Old Testament and New Testament…it’s the only right way to read the bible. The interplay between the two is the only way to read the Bible properly. Better than trying to work from one’s view of the millennium backward he works forward.
IV. Peter from VA... "He is excited by the participation of multiple denominations...How can we partner together across denominations to work for gospel growth?"
Dever: As pastors we can encourage a larger view of churches by praying for other churches by name in our pastoral prayers. We aren’t in competition. That ungodly sense of competition often comes from the pastor.
Also, every couple months there will be several prospective new members that are from other local churches. They contact the pastor from that local church. Sometimes they send them back based on the circumstances that they have.
Jensen: He mentioned Iain Murray's book "Evangelicalism Divided"…as a helpful analysis of unhelpful divisions in churches. And another by Robert Horn "Student Witness and Christian Truth" outlines principles in which we can unite in common work and areas how we can’t.
Dever: Mark then invited Mike Gilbart-Smith down to describe the vision for what CHBC does with lunch time evangelistic talks. They are lunch time evangelistic talks around the city in partnership of Baptists, Evanelical Anglicans, Presbyterians, E-Free, another Baptist churches...and they are all partnering together for the sake of the gospel. They can’t be members of the same church, but they do agree on the gospel and work together for gospel purposes.
V. Stan from Mass... "Unpack the "avoid such people" phrase…he is looking for broader discussion of this…his context of ministry is in the most liberal mainline denominations of churches"
Jensen: His view of the church doesn’t think that membership partnership is the issue…rather what is the relationship between churches…but what about the relationship of churches? Dneominations are an association of churches…a religious real estate company. Allocation of religious resources…secular organization. It’s not a church…it’s a real estate company. Avoiding such people is avoiding in any kind of Christian fellowship. 2 John, "don’t even treat with these people." He said to resist giving a cup of cold water as a way to work with them. He said then that he goes to the real estate company does business…but he won’t eat with them, do tea with them, and won’t pray with them. Passage says avoid…but doesn’t say when…how far etc. He’s on a bus and won’t get off the bus, but he won’t go to a dinner party with them. Dinner table is an expression of fellowship. Should he not have realestate company with them? That is just the circumstances of his history. There are times that a minister will have to leave the building that his congregation built. If others are unrepentantly religiously…practicing adultery and participating in ministry…don’t put pearls before swine.
Dever: He just recenty spent time last week in Greenville, SC with Fundamentalists…he was the liberal. They were pressing on this doctrine of separation. They would applaud the things he does…they are afraid of the confusion of the gospel in association with the false gospels that liberal churches put forth in the same denominations. He thinks that hinks that participation helps perpetuation of untruths farther.
Jensen: Every movement encounters this at some time in the future…so should we all leave…try to have them removed…but then disassociate ourselves with them? He doesn’t see why Christians should give up realestate…he thinks they should kick him out...not that he should leave.
VI. Bill from KY, "Does the Anglican church receive state support?"
Jensen: They are a free church and receive support only from local membership. However, "down under" they can teach Scripture in state schools…it's not quite as bizarre as "in in God we trust" we cannot talk or teach about it.
VII. Gary from Long Island... He asked a question about Vanhoozer's new book "The Drama of Doctrine"...
Payne: "The Drama of Doctrine" (Vanhoozer) is a proposal that we don’t cherry pick things from the Bible. It’s like Sydney Theology as understood as Biblical Theology. Unfolding the Bible as a whole…this has very much informed the thinking of "Two Ways To Live".
Jensen: "Theodramatic presentation sounds like too much"…but Jensen doesn't know what Vanhoozer's talking about. He said it sounds like rejecting propositional revelation. The attempt of postmodern of narrative as opposed to propositional truth is not the gospel. It is an accommodation to the culture. Most helpful books he read on this Harry Blema “On the Christian Mind” If you are going to be a Christian think Christianly. We are the people of the Word. He’s a premodern…he thinks as the Bible thinks…believes in knowledge and words and the capacity of words to teach knowledge. One man was converted (postmodern) by Jensen’s brother’s preaching because he listened over 5 or 6 weeks of his expounding of the Scriptures. His worldview that words have no meaning was undermined by the demonstration of how words do have meaning.
Payne: He alluded that Jensen indeed wasn't understanding Vanhoozer;) He said that David Wells has been very helpful on this. His point is that when confronted with this worldview it’s not for tactics, but it’s a time for proclamation and action. You have to confront and preach the truth.
VIII. Greg from CT... "If a church is gathering of God under his Word…how does the para-church fit in with evangelism and discipleship of Christians?"
Jensen: He denies that there is a para-church. Local churches won’t support it if it says they are churches. Baptism, and the Lord's Supper marks of the true church. That’s not the issue (hmmmm???). He calls it a church…goes to a different church on Sunday. Thinks you can’t make it separate. He can’t find this in the Scriptures. He's happy with Christian development…but was upset that they would be their church taking up pew space. They came because they were required to by the para-church statement of faith. He sees them as different associations of Christians for different purposes. He doesn’t think it’s biblical. Para-church always undermines the church because the first loyalty of it's participants lies with the para-church organization. It’s like outsourcing it’s Bible study. It’s gutting itself of it’s purposes. Hatch, Match, and Dispatch.
Dever: He said that it's wrong to have just a jewish church or just a gentile. It’s okay to have a para- church organization called Anglican…etc. Thy are not in the Bible but they are good trying to coordinate good work for the gospel. He said it is problematic to define the para-church as a church because you are not defining to the world what it is and isn’t to be a Christian. You aren’t there for professors, janitors…just the students.
Jensen: He asked then, "Why don’t para-church ministries start taking responsiblity and become churches doing the sacraments?"
IX. Graham a fellow inten and he's from the UK... "If any gathering around the Word of God is best defined as a church then how do we apply passages such as discipline in those settings? How are we to understand other passages?"
Jensen: He doesn’t see a problem with Matt 18 and 1 Cor 5 in the context of his definition of a church…if people want to hides sins they will hide sins. You trust people until they show they are untrustworthy. Then you withdraw trust. Level of intimacy of the relationship will determine the level of trust. The level of discipline relates to the level of relationship that you have. Wary of going beyond the scriptures in discipline. Lax is an error, and cult is an error. We have to avoid both. A great deal of Christian wisdom is needed in this regard.
Payne: He argued that we should just use the word gathering. Short term, Long term, etc. Tyndale’s translation of ekklesia is of gathering everywhere...it's all Henry VIII's fault.
X. Bryan from Mass... He was discipled by 4 or 5 guys in Sydney years ago. His question was, "Why would you spend so much time building into someone that is only going to be there for a few months?"
Jensen: Because you’re only going to be there for a few months. "The church that gives away it’s members," should have been their mission statement. Their aim was to always give their members away. It’s their commitment to the people that are there. To disciple and build them up whil they have them.