I went to the planting of a seed–a confessional Baptist regional association. It is germinating, and I hope it grows. The general observation I have about being at a synod of Reformed Baptists is that the main thing is to understand, isn’t it? To understand what you want to achieve. Once you understand you can act, but not before. It reminds me, however, of All of God’s Children in Blue Suede Shoes. Kenneth Myers was good on gathering facts and making a case, but not as good on then prescribing action. So should I say that the first thing is to understand the ends and the second thing is to know all possible means toward those ends. That would make the third thing the choice, the evaluation of the means; after that is when action can ensue.
I am thinking about it because I just read Michael Anton on David French. Nobody who has followed evangelical luminaries for a decade (any decade, they tend to be consistent) can be surprised that David French is French Davidian. There are many good things to be said for evangelicals and evangelicalism, but you don’t get a reliable wisdom in its salient leadership or major projects. Evangelicals want influence, which is a means, but they have no consensus regarding the end in view. They rally around the flag of achieving influence as if it were an end in itself.
The first thing is to understand, and then the second things is to evaluate, and it is in the realm of evaluation that evangelicalism shows its failure. That’s when the mistake flows backward, like a receeding tide, and their initial understanding gets reevaluated. Even adecuate understanding is degraded as a result. And the only question for the observer is, how do we avoid that? It makes you realize how wisdom is indispensiable, and how the categories of classical philosophy are too deep to be readjusted. It makes you listen to the marginal critics because that is where evangelical critics start and finish, whatever their moment of apogee.
Remember David Wells, No Place for Truth? This was part of starting the Alliance, and that has been a cause (among other causes) of an effect. Confessionalism is growing, full subscription with confessional boundaries is growing in new places even if only by trial and error. Confessional subscription is battered about, disputed, distorted, shearing off among disillusioned early adopters, misunderstood. But a strong thing is a strong thing, and full confessional subscription is a strong thing. There are those who are incapable of accepting things associated with the roots of what they are, since they would rather think of themselves as severed from such roots. But, as a general observation about church history, the only thing to grow in is the inherited soil, and you have to do it by the roots.
I was at a synod of pastors who have memories of ARBCA, speaking of soil. There are memories they do not want to repeat, and there is a wealth of experience harvested. Reformed Baptists (Confessional seems to be the ascendant adjective now) have a confession drawing them nevertheless together and forcing them to try to understand the degrees of regard in which it is and should be held. I observe that the process of living brings different strengths in different periods. It is the process of growth. It is the process of maturity and death, and planting new seeds that grow again, things with energy and excess that have no reproductive capacity, but which give way to something that does, which then grows feeble but stores a wealth of experience.
I am forced to drive through fields of corn regularly, having been planted in a new place. This is my third summer doing so. I would never chose it, but it has been chosen for me. The thing about watching something God does is that you can draw authoritative conclusions from it, can’t you? I say that about the land through which I drive, and I hope to say that about this germinating association.