Dave Miller has posted an interview with Trevin Wax, the managing Editor for Lifeway’s newest intensive Bible study, titled, “The Gospel Project” at SBC Voices, a SBC Blog site to help keep Southern Baptists informed on current issues. You may read Dave’s interview and Trevin’s answers
by clicking HERE.
I want to respond here to a number of comments Trevin makes. First of all, I have no problem with the production of the project if there was a legitimate need expressed for such a project as this. I do have a problem with the way it is being marketing and that is the extent of my issue. I will address that in more detail at the end of this response.
Statement #1… “How do we encourage people to study the Bible in a way that shines light on the supremacy of Jesus Christ in all things?” Supremacy as in soteriology and conversion, which are the heart and soul of Reformed Theology and we can expect this select group of writers to “go soft on unconditional election and irresistible grace?” I would not expect anything of the sort from this group.
Statement #2, “We are driven by this same approach to the Scriptures — one that has a long heritage in Baptist life.” Given the strong historical underpinnings of Reformed Theology in the storied history of the SBC and the only more recent shameful move away from it, I would certainly expect to hear more from some guys than others. Hey, history is history, right? Ask the Jews about today’s historicity of the Holocaust. Seems the significance of history is all too often in the eye of the beholder, or in many cases the eye of the writer.
Statement #3, “(In fact, one of the quarters in the 3-year cycle is called “Atonement Thread.”) The goal is to show how all the stories of the Bible are telling one overarching story of redemption through Jesus Christ.” The interesting focus here is the “one overarching story of redemption”. Let’s see, reservations go up or go down?
Statement #4, with respect to the “gospel”, Trevin wrote, “This announcement calls for a response: repentance (mourning over and turning from our sin, trading our agendas for the kingdom agenda of Jesus Christ) and faith (trusting in Christ alone for salvation).” I am sure the role of regeneration will come up somewhere in this presentation.
Statement #5, “The uniqueness of The Gospel Project does not mean other curriculum options are not theological or gospel-focused – any more than calling your congregation Life Baptist Church means that the other churches in town are all dead.” That was an interesting illustration to say the least. Seems like I have heard similar remarks about folks who differ on what the true gospel really is.
Statement #6, the nitty gritty, “No. When we put together the initial advisory group to give us some initial insight into the scope of topics we should cover, we invited people who were known for emphasizing the Christ-centered nature of the Scriptures. The advisory council is made up of people who think that way (and most were connected with Ed in some way).
But this “Christ-centered” emphasis is not exclusive to Reformed folks. That’s why eight of the eleven council members are Southern Baptist. The other three are Baptist, but not SBC.” Who can argue against folks who are promoting “the Christ-centered nature of the Scriptures”? After all, SB’s are people of the Book! The obvious problem is where we center Christ in our theology. We all are Scripturally based. Interesting choice of words here. Trevin says being Christ-centered is not exclusive to Reformed Folks so as to include non-Reformed folk but notice his next statement, that is why 8 are SB and 3 are just Baptist; failing to mention that ALL are decidedly Reformed, especially the 3 non-SB folk. I am sure that was just a slip of the tongue there.
Statements 7 and 8 are very interesting. #7, “As far as how many are Reformed or not, I honestly do not know how many points people claim.” Nice touch. Reformed, absolutely; how reformed, who knows! #8, “That (the indoctrination of the DOG in SB churches) wasn’t a question or even a topic of conversation that came up in those initial meetings, as far as I can recall. The conversations were about how we could structure this curriculum in a way that points to Christ, not Calvinism.” Here is the real problem I have with this project. It is a Calvinist project that points to Christ. Any way you slice it, that is what it is. Man up! Anyone who has half a brain KNOWS that this is the case. Otherwise this last statement would have been moot. It is what it is. That is the problem.
Statement #9, “We think it is great that leaders like D.A. Carson, Matt Chandler, James MacDonald, and Danny Akin would take the time (without compensation) to give us their input in how to shape a curriculum. That’s a dream team for us.” These three gentlemen are card carrying unapologetically Reformed in their theology. Nice Dream Team for some; not “all of us”.
Statement #10, “Yes – at least I think so. We’ve never asked anyone if they were Calvinists. We ask them about the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.” I believe Trevin is telling the absolute truth when he said, “we never asked.” I believe that 110%. The BF&M 2000 has most certainly garnered much more mileage than it was ever intended to get in today’s SBC! That is a fact.
Statement #11, Response to the question, will we hear about the TULIP, regeneration etc, Trevin;s response, “I don’t think so, but it depends on the non-Calvinists. We are not going to bring a doctrinal system to the text, but we do have convictions about the text as Southern Baptists.” In otherwords, while the terms are left off, the concepts are no doubt there. My contention all along has been, I would expect no less from these individuals who have both the responsibility and obligation to themselves and to the God they serve to write from the depths of their hearts and conviction. I would be sorely disappointed if they did not.
I will conclude my comments with the following statement from Trevin. “In the end, many people will not prefer this curriculum because it is confessional at the core. For those who are inside our denomination, I think there will be two groups who will not like this curriculum: SBC Calvinists who believe their soteriological system IS the gospel and want to push Calvinism rather than Christ, and anti-Calvinists who think any inclusion of Reformed writers (or someone who once met or even read a Reformed writer) entails a conspiracy or agenda to push a particular view of soteriology.
First of all, everyone and I do mean EVERYONE knows that good Calvinists do believe “there soteriologal system IS the gospel” so that is correct but everyone also knows that no good Calvinist pushes Calvinism over Christ. Is that not a great definition of a Strawman or what? Second, all those anti-calvinists out there ‘who think any inclusion of Reformed writers (or someone who once met or even read a Reformed writer) entails a conspiracy or agenda to push a particular view of soteriology.” Another nice little condescending touch; after all, anyone who is not Reformed is illiterate or incapable of being theological so the only objection they could possibly come up with is “the writers association with reformed Theology.” Why should I be alarmed? Silly me.
“Both of these groups are misguided.” We may not be as misguided as Trevin thinks.
Once final comment for Trevin. I have suggested and will continue to do so, the following simple solution to this whole issue. Name the project, “The Gospel Project: A Reformed Perspective.” Perspective is certainly fair and is not necessarily suggesting that it is “fully reformed” if your contention is that it is not. Most of the folks that I have talked with would be relatively satisfied with that modification in the title.
Here is why I believe it is fair and responsible on Lifeway’s part. If the demand was to produce a piece with this theological leaning, then identify it as such so those looking for it till know that is what it is. The only possible objection would be, it will not sell. If that is the case, then it ought not sell. It would be highly unethical for Lifeway to intentionally sell a program to churches that do not want a Reformed perspective in their literature. While I know that has already been done to some degree, this move is unprecedented in Lifeway’s history. Lifeway is aware of the relationship SB churches have with it and they are also aware of the connotations the phrase, “The Gospel Project” will garner in the marketplace. Seems to me the Reformed effort to “hijack” the term gospel is similar to their doing the same thing with grace. It is a highly effective move and will continue to be so.
Lifeway’s refusal to market this project for what it is will only lend to the argument that this project has been produced to help reformed pastors who go to pastor non-Reformed churches do the tough work of reformation. That is a fact and once again, everyone knows the stakes. I implore you to do the right thing and convince Lifeway to correctly label this project that you all ought to be proud of and do not cheapen its impact by refusing to label it for what it is.