The first week of March found me in Bismarck, N. Dakota, my first visit to that region. They had arranged a nice blizzard for me – which I survived quite well. At least I can say I got a feel for the winters up there.
I really liked Bismarck: friendly, relaxed, but with a little bit of class. And the Church was just terrific. They understand the crucial importance of Christian fellowship and service (some friends of ours have just moved there and they had thirty folks waiting to off-load their truck when they pulled up to their new home).
My reason for going up to Bismarck was to promote the idea of the new Seminary to the congregation and to any in the community who would listen. I have to thank God for a very upbeat and positive visit.
I won’t bore you with a blow-by-blow account of my busy itinerary. Basically, I had a number of opportunities to drive home the importance of this Seminary venture. On the evening of the 3rd (Saturday), I spoke at a specially arranged banquet. My speech tried to blend the disturbing trends in evangelicalism with the more positive note of promise for the new ministry – the first of its kind in N. Dakota. The evening was a little disappointing on the face of it, although it seems that enthusiasm was generated by the presentations.
Far more promising was the Sunday service and its aftermath. The Lord gave me both clarity of thought and discernment in my messages (there are two services), and I was told that a lot of people were affected by what I said.
The gist of my message was that evangelicalism is facing a crisis of truth. Jesus claimed to be the truth incarnate, thus making truth objective and personal and locating it in Himself. By contrast, Brian McLaren, a leading light in the ‘Emerging Church,’ holds that objective truth is an impossible dream. We are wrapped up in our own culture (Church) and language (Christian concepts) and these only make sense within that limited culture-group. Hence, any one who would be a Christian cannot come to Christ through the propositions of the Gospel (since he/she is outside the Christian culture). Instead they must choose to enter that culture and appropriate the forms and the jargon. If they like it, they will adopt Christianity. (Hello Wittgenstein, what are you doing here?)
I commented that this is not the Gospel but just another expression of the sin nature – putting us in the driving seat.
From this introduction I equated Biblical truth with doctrine/theology, which was the reason the Scripture was given (2 Tim. 3:16b). I noted David Wells’ observation that many seminary Profs. are not at all interested in doctrine and do not care to inculcate it in their students. This is having dire consequences in our churches. For a church to be Christian it must reflect the revelation vouchsafed to it by God. When God’s revelation is not allowed to dictate to the church, the church becomes apostate. You wouldn’t go to a dentist if you knew his training was mainly in running a successful practice and not in actual dentistry. That ought to be our conviction with preachers too. If they cannot – or will not – handle the Word of God correctly (2 Tim. 2:15) then they are no more than hirelings who starve the flock.
In addition to this, I noted that most seminarians are routinely taught such things as the Big Bang, a local Flood, and that Jesus never actually preached the Sermon on the Mount. Further, they have to incur debt in order to learn this stuff! That was the platform for the seminary proposal: we need a solid, affordable seminary where people can learn the truth and learn why it’s the truth. I briefly set out the case for a Christian worldview and how that might be integrated into the life of the Church.
Responses were extremely favorable, including those from families in the church who could really help this thing financially. I am really encouraged.
We will keep you updated on things as we hear them. Please pray for the church to vote in favor of the next stage (which DV will include me being brought on staff a.s.a.p.). The vote is on March 26th.
God bless and thank you.