Just So You Know, I Hate Labels

by | Jun 12, 2015 | Faith

It would be unfair to the Nazarene church to say that I grew up a Nazarene. I was raised in a nominally Christian home where Jesus, the church, and the Bible were respected and held with a certain sort of reverence, but only at arm’s length. The Bible was not something that was whole-heartedly embraced and the gospel was not the center of my family’s operations. For years, when asked about “my story,” I often would reply that I grew up a Nazarene and became a Southern Baptist in the later years of my youth. And, in essence, that was true, but it wasn’t fair because I knew nothing of the history or theology of the Nazarenes with which I would previously identify. And it wasn’t fair because I also didn’t know anything of the history or theology of the Southern Baptists with which I was now identifying. I had really only stopped going to the local Nazarene church and started attending the local Southern Baptist church. And if I were to be completely honest, the church I went to was a matter of convenience and preference. I chose the church I attended not based upon convictions, but rather, where my friends were. But I was a teenager with no idea about soteriology, ecclesiology, or any other doctrine, so who could really blame me? I had simply identified as a Nazarene insofar as my mother identified as a Nazarene, whose mother identified as a Nazarene.

However, it was during my time at the First Baptist Church that my desire to learn more about the Bible first presented itself. And it was at that point, around my junior year of high school, when I first started reading the Bible and fell in love with spending my time studying it and talking about it with my friends who would listen. It was also around this point that I started spending time with new friends that I never had before. I developed relationships through my girlfriend (now my wife) with people who would go on to become my mentors and close friends. And I am glad to say that I still maintain these relationships today. It was with these friends that my ties to Baptist churches began to take root; though early on I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what made Baptists distinct from any other denomination.

I had briefly attended the Nazarene church in town and found no immediately recognizable differences from the Baptist church other than its size; the Baptist church was substantially bigger. I had a couple of friends in the Church of Christ and I knew that they didn’t use instruments in their worship but aside from these aesthetics, I had no clue what actually made me a Baptist, let alone a Southern Baptist.

Over time, these distinctives would become clearer and, as it turns out, and only by happenstance, I landed then where I fall today. I have shifted quite a bit on my views over time – pretty far from where the Nazarenes are historically. I now affiliate myself with the Southern Baptist Convention out of conviction although I still have some theological disagreements with them as well. I believe that there is room in the SBC for what I believe to be the correct theology and ecclesiology that I hold to but I do believe that the convention as a whole will have to shift on certain issues and reform in certain ways in order to become the “people of the book” that they have long identified themselves as. I hope to write about these issues as I wrestle with various texts and with the problems I find within my denomination. Although these issues exist, I am still a Baptist because there is enough room in the SBC that allow for these disagreements under the Baptist Faith and Message on secondary and tertiary issues.

As time progressed, with a love for reading and studying the scriptures, consulting friends and commentators, and discussing the Bible with my professors, I naturally grew to develop my theology. I came to a Calvinistic understanding of the gospel. I do not believe that my journey toward a Calvinistic soteriology is anything extravagant or anything necessarily worth reading about; I simply see it in the biblical text. And I acknowledge there are others who have come to very different conclusions on their soteriology. But what I found myself doing, and others who believed likewise, was building my belief system upon what I could and could not accept about God and his character rather than defining it by sound exegesis. And to reject a doctrine based upon emotions or preference is an extremely dangerous hermeneutic which leads to disastrous consequences. My convictions ought to have been rooted in scripture as I had been convinced the Bible is a reliable and authentic document, written by those who claim to have written it. My hermeneutic had to be based upon sound exegesis of the texts and not on what I like, don’t like, or what is culturally acceptable at any given moment. St. Augustine has a quote that succinctly summarized my problem, “If you believe what you like in the Gospel, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the Gospel you believe, but yourself.” My convictions had to be based upon what the eyewitnesses of Christ say.

Now, it is at this juncture that it must be stated that I’m not accusing everyone that disagrees with me of ignoring the Bible. This is not the case. I’m accusing them of allowing their emotional presuppositions to define how they read the Bible. That is, in regards to difficult texts that don’t immediately comport with their current theological system. In an effort to avoid sounding arrogant, I must also acknowledge that I am not free of this bias myself. I only bring this up here because Calvinism seems to be a dividing line in the SBC and other theological circles and I am simply stating that this is why I believe that Calvinists get their soteriology correct and others do not. But I am open to discuss any doctrine, especially with those that disagree with me, so long as it can be done with gentleness and respect, using scripture and exegesis. On some issues, I take a hard stance, not because I’m arrogant, but because I believe that there is truth and there is error. There is a correct theology and there are incorrect theologies. And this should not be shocking; no one believes anything that they know to be false. I’m not necessarily bull-headed but I do think I’ve got it right on certain issues. But I welcome discussion and healthy debate.

After high school, I went on to Oklahoma Baptist University where I received my BA in Religion with a minor in Computer Science. If you want a short concise summary of my current belief system, then I am a Calvinistic, confessional, credobaptistic, complementarian, influenced by guys like Al Mohler, John MacArthur, Tom Schreiner, Don Carson, Kevin DeYoung and John Piper. I’m your stereotypical millennial born out of the young, restless and reformed movement. One might even call me a borderline fundamentalist. I approach issues with an evangelical perspective and try to operate as consistently as my human limitations will allow. Oh, and I also hate labels.

Currently, as a result of my love for theology, I have been given the opportunity to build and maintain a website that advances what I love and believe in. In 2012, with the help of others, WikiGesis.com was launched and in 2014 we turned it into a company. The website hosts a database of theological articles written by various pastors, students, and scholars from various locations around the world. It has been created for the purposes of making academic scholarship available to anyone who wants access to it, to give students a place where they can study a particular passage, and to equip pastors with a resource that will help edify their churches. I’m continuing my theological education at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY and I hope to eventually get into the field of biblical academia. I am married to my wife, Erica, and we have two beautiful children, Benjamin and Haddie.

I’m a Calvinistic credobaptist who tries to think things through with a biblical perspective. As a member of a Southern Baptist church, I hold to the Baptist Faith & Message. More specifically, my belief system can be accurately represented by Southern Seminary’s Abstract of Principles. These are the presuppositions that you will find I bring to the table when discussing any particular issue or doctrine. If you want more biographical information about me, you can find it at my website, wikigesis.com.

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