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What Luther Says

'Choose Your Own Adventure' With The Southern Baptists

Who didn't love the Choose Your Own Adventure series of books when they were a kid?

I know I did!

Choose Your Own Adventure 
Choose Your Own Adventure is a series of children's gamebooks where each story is written from a second-person point of view, with the reader assuming the role of the protagonist and making choices that determine the main character's actions and the plot's outcome. Choose Your Own Adventure, as published by Bantam Books, was one of the most popular children's series during the 1980s and 1990s, selling more than 250 million copies between 1979 and 1998. Originally created for 10- to 14-year-olds, the books are written in the second person. The protagonist—that is, the reader—takes on a role relevant to the adventure; for example, private investigator, mountain climber, race car driver, doctor, or spy. Stories are generally gender and race neutral, though in some cases, particularly in illustrations, a male bias is evident. In some stories, the protagonist is implied to be a child, whereas in other stories, he/she is presumably a young adult. The stories are formatted so that, after a couple of pages of reading, the protagonist faces two or three options, each of which leads to more options, and then to one of many endings. The number of endings is not set, and varies from as many as 40 in the early titles, to as few as 12 in later adventures. Likewise, there is no clear pattern among the various titles regarding the number of pages per ending, the ratio of "good" to "bad" endings, or the reader's progression backwards and forwards through the pages of the book. This allows for a realistic sense of unpredictability, and leads to the possibility of repeat readings, which is one of the distinguishing features of the books.

I thought about them today after seeing a couple of news items from this past week involving the Southern Baptists.

In short, the Baptists are flirting with returning to "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3) in one sense and in regards to one particular issue, but they're also flirting with falling further away from the Biblical truth and into false doctrine in regards to another.

Seminary President Says Southern Baptists Drifting Toward Infant Baptism

Southern Baptists Change Policy On Speaking In Tongues; What They Now Accept...

Sadly, it doesn't seem like they're going to "change policy" on Infant Baptism, because Midwestern Seminary President, Jason Allen, says the practice of baptizing children at younger and younger ages has contributed to "unregenerate church members" in the SBC and added that "the point is not that a child cannot be converted" because "the point is that we should do our best to make sure conversion has happened in our children before baptizing them."

Um, yeah, no.

Meanwhile, they had no problem reversing a 10-year old ban on the controversial issue of "Speaking In Tongues" not because of any sincere though illegitimate concerns that there might actually be a Biblical case to be made to support the claim that Christians can and should speak in tongues, but mainly because the Southern Baptists are competing for converts with the Charismatic and Pentecostal churches in Africa!

So nice to see that the spiritual cancer that is the so-called "Missional Movement" hasn't just infected the Lutheran church alone.

It's incredibly sad, but true. You want proof? From the article...

"In 2005, the International Mission Board created guidelines that specifically disqualified all missionary candidates who spoke in tongues. For Southern Baptists, the practice, also known as glossolalia, ended after the death of Jesus’ apostles. The ban on speaking in tongues became a way to distinguish the denomination from others. These days, it can no longer afford that distinction. Southern Baptists are experiencing such demographic trauma of membership and baptism they need new constituencies among nonwhite population."

It's quite unfortunate indeed, but hardly surprising.

I mean, although this piece picked on the Southern Baptists, it's hardly a problem that's unique to only one denomination of the Christian faith.

Still, it demonstrates the importance of doctrine and practice let alone why we can't just be content with knowing WHAT we believe, teach, and confess, but that we need to understand WHY we actually believe, teach, and confess it.

Is Christianity a "Choose Your Own Adventure" religion? No, no it's not.

"Choose your own adventure." The mantra has expanded into our post-modern understanding of the world; it has seeped into every orifice in our culture and sensibilities, including how we view spirituality. People want options on this journey towards self-actualization. We want to determine our own course, our own pathway towards the transcendent. The idea of our spiritual path being dictated by something other than our own desires is unpalatable. Spirituality is product to be consumed, a product “I” control. And this ethos affects the church more than we would like to admit. 
I’m not saying we can’t have preferences regarding our personal spirituality, or styles of worship that we enjoy more than others. It is wonderful when a particular style of worship connects deeply with us. I also don’t want to write off the missional benefits of various expressions of church. 
But I do want to push back on the rampant consumeristic, individualistic spirituality that seems to be as much a part of church culture as it is part of popular culture. 
In a world that is set on hyper-individualized spirituality, the church is called to be a radically diverse, multi-ethnic, multi-generational community of people who are hesitant to define ourself by our differences, because we are unified by our common allegiance to Jesus. Christian spirituality is less about “choosing our own adventure” — an adventure that suits me — than it is about submission to Christ and journeying with His peculiar people. 
To be sure, “choose your own adventure” spirituality is not just a trait of “them” (the-big-bad-secular-world) but it is deeply inside “us” (Trinity-Bible-loving-church-attending-saints). I mean, look no further than the variety of sub-culture churches on offer. There are now goth churches, metal churches, man churches, café churches, vegan churches, and just about any other style that you can imagine. Not to mention the 33,000 Christian denominations that exist today. We no longer go to church with the flesh and blood that live in our neighbourhood, we travel across the city to get our custom-made fix. 
What grieves me is when I hear stories of people not attending, or begrudgingly attending, a church in their town or city because they could not find one that suited them. Either it was too traditional, too Catholic, too Protestant, too Pentecostal, too hot, too cold, not enough young people or not enough old people. At the end of the day, the options for church were not attractive to their spiritual palette. 
I don’t want to make light of the struggle it can be to find a church; but does this tendency towards seeing our individual spiritual desires fulfilled divide us from others who do not share our desires? In Galatians, Paul says: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” 
The fundamental reality of the church is that we are different, but part of the same family. We are one in Jesus. If we define ourselves by our cultural nuances (age, race, income level, gender, music styles) and personal spiritual tastes, and if we allow these things to become the reasons why we do not “feel comfortable” or “happy” in a church, does this not lead us to divide from people who don’t have similar preferences? The church is not a place defined by spiritual preferences of individuals, but by diverse people coming together under one Lord. It seems to me that St. Paul would be rolling in his grave if he heard how some of us talk about the finicky reasons we decided not to attend church. 
Is it possible what we want from church is not what we need? Maybe we, like the culture around us, want a spiritual experience that fits our unique shape. But what we really need is a spirituality that rubs against our radical individualism. Maybe we need to get out of our cultural bubbles filled with folks just like us and bump and grind with a more diverse body. And maybe we need to commit to journeying with them. 
In my church there is a man named Charlie who routinely shows up to church unshaven (not in a homeless-hipster way, just in a homeless way), and emanating body odour. He also drinks too much. Sometimes there is wine offered after the Sunday service and I notice he always goes for seconds. Charlie is not firing on all cylinders, and the fact that he has usually had a bit to drink before attending the service means he is not the greatest conversation partner, to say the least. 
Charlie is the guy in the church who I would feel much more comfortable avoiding. I would rather chat to the people who are just like me, taking Ellen-style group selfies and telling inside jokes. But the truth is that what I need most is not people like me. To become more like Jesus, I need Charlie. I need to feel the selfish pride welling up within me when I look down on Charlie for the things he has done in his life. In the deepest parts of me I need to feel that sinful urge to walk away when Charlie comes close. I need to bump up against Charlie to better understand the depths of sinfulness in my own heart.  
This is the kind of radical community that happens in Christ’s church. We cross cultural boundaries and embrace each other in the name of Jesus, and in the process we are changed. Christianity, in many ways, offends our post-modern notions of “choose your own adventure” spirituality. It calls us out of ourselves. It calls us to others. 
If I was able to “choose my own adventure,” I surely wouldn’t bring Charlie along. But, this adventure is not about me, it’s about us; and fundamentally it is about the work that Jesus is doing to make one humanity out of the many nations on earth.

I wanted to share that not because I agree with everything that was written, but essentially because it does make some very strong points that pertain to this discussion.

What's the foundation for it though?

Ephesians 4:4-7 (ESV) 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call — 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

The Church's unity is rooted in the Holy Trinity -- one Spirit (Ephesians 4:4), one Lord, (Ephesians 4:5), and one Father (Ephesians 4:6).

The "oneness" of Christ's Church, is rooted in Christ Himself, into Whom we are baptized (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 12:13). The same indivisible Spirit unites us all.

Now, please keep in mind that Ephesians 4:5 is not referring to the "act of believing" per se, but is talking about what is actually believed. That is, it's referring to true doctrine as confessed through the Apostles' Creed at Baptism (Colossians 2:6-7).

An interesting thing about Baptism, especially as it is the focus of one of the Southern Baptist news stories from this past week is that although Baptism as "new birth" cannot be repeated (nor may "Spirit Baptism" be separated from "Water Baptism" like many want to do all the time), that is not the emphasis in Ephesians 4:5.

Rather, Paul teaches that there is only one Baptism, into which Christ Himself and all Christians are baptized and thereby joined (Matthew 3:15; 1 Corinthians 12:13).

"For the true unity of the Church is is enough to agree about the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. It is not necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies instituted by men, should be the same everywhere" 
*- Augsburg Confession VII 2-3

Finally, and this is where I would attempt to clarify any potential misunderstanding from the commentary I just cited, Ephesians 4:7 demonstrates that unity, not diversity, is the point.

Modern individualism (a.k.a. "Choose Your Own Adventure" Christianity) and Postmodern Christianity, which are both fueled by rank consumerism (i.e., "felt needs") make it easy to treat Christ's Church as "All About Me, Myself, And I" when the Church is all about Jesus Christ, Who provides for our salvation and edification.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, playing "Choose Your Own Adventure" with the Southern Baptists (and other denominations that are open to playing loose-and-fast with the text of God's Word) will only cause you to drift farther and farther away from the Truth Himself, and, if you're not careful, can also cause you to be like some who "have made shipwreck of their faith" (1 Timothy 1:19).

Take comfort in knowing that you did not choose God, because He actually chose you (John 15:16-19; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Jeremiah 1:5; 1 Peter 1:2; John 6:4; Ephesians 2:8-9).

NOTE: I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or a Christian, Candy-Making, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this note, I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little over a year ago. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries. I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a dude's diary in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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