Two sons leave today with other young men for a student conference held yearly in Johnson City, Tenn., where about 150 Christians ranging from 15 to early 20s hear 40 hours of lectures over five days.
Last year I was a paying participant and chaperone at the Biblical Worldview Student Conference, even having the occasion to chastise one of my sons on the last day for violating the rule against being out of one’s room after curfew.
The boys left an hour ago in the family van to Milligan College, which hosts the event among hills, forests and vistas, with other church pals ages 15, 16 and 18. I am confident they will be stimulated and informed by speakers such as Calvin Beisner, a founder of Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation (focus on environmentalism) and John Hodges, who studied composing under Leonard Bernstein. Mr. Hodges’ topics are music and aesthetics.
Last year I was delighted attend because one of my favorite authors, Gary North, gave five lectures about economics, universities and getting a degree without having to sit in a classroom. The economics speaker this year is Bojidar Marinov, who founded a group called Bulgarian Reformation Ministries.
I HAVEN’T CHATTED with Mr. Marinov about his talk, but I’ve read his essays about foreign missions and Christian worldview. Mr. Marinov typifies the intellectual and theological premises of the training camp that is Biblical Worldview Student Conference.
His argument is that the American church’s privatization of Christianity and its neglect of God’s law has given American missionaries abroad a truncated and personalistic view of the gospel that prostrates the good news before idolaters and manmade religion. In narrowed form, Christianity still has no choice but to interact with ideologies such Mohammadanism and Marxism. But it offers a weak claim for Christ, both upon the individual and upon his church, school, courts, universities and civil government. Scripture teaches that every area of life is under Christ’s purview and authority as prophet, priest and king, and yet American protestantism’s majority report, until about 40 years ago, refused to account for these claims.
Before exploring Mr. Marinov, I want to confess why by sons’ departure has left me seeking solace from God.
A series of remarks by one son suggest a disregard of God, a carelessness about His claims and the furtherance of His kingdom. The young man’s widening reading, his outside work and his dealings with other people seem to have dissolved the certainties taught by his mom and dad. His maturation has thrown doubts about what he hears on the Lord’s Day and at family worship. He’s his own man, and that seems to make these claims about Truth not exclusive, but merely parallel to the world of science fiction and his intellectual pursuits online. My wife, Jeannette, says such drawings back are well described by Nancy Pearcy in Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Minds, Morals, and Meaning, a book that has enthralled and disturbed her.
As do many Chattanooga churches, we had the Lord’s Supper this first Sunday of the month. A part of our service to God was the reading aloud of a prayer that says in part,
We confess that we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. We have dealt unjustly and uncharitably with our neighbors. We have not sought first thy Kingdom. Thou hast revealed thy wonderful love to us in Christ and offered us pardon and salvation in Him; but we have turned away. We have run into temptation; and the sin that we should have hated, we have committed. Have mercy on us, most merciful Father! *** Take us for thy children and give us the Spirit of thy Son *** .
The rite of the church is one mixed with threatenings against unrepented-of sin and joy at the certainty of forgiveness for those who deny themselves the throne of their own hearts. The Lord’s Supper reminds us God wants us to keep short accounts.
A TEENAGER IS WONT to assert his independence in such a way that in preparing to depart his family he also seems to announce he is departing the faith. Would to the glory of God this fear not be true.
Some of the careless comments uttered in my house have forced me to elevate my sense of God’s sovereignty in salvation and perseverance of the faith. I realize that if my children become faithful Christian men and women, their salvation is from God alone, and not my and Jeannette’s best efforts. I have my duty, but God reserves to Himself the grace of sorrow and repentance in my children. My four have been raised to be Christians, but I cannot presume on the basis of good parental effort that God will save them, as we say, and lead them to holy lives.
My goal with the children in the home is to instill in them such a love for God they are continuously aware of his government and dread offending him, which the prayer indicates God’s people are all too ready to do.
I BRING UP THE BULGARIAN missionary to highlight the father’s dilemma. Mr. Marinov’s talk will encompass a personal walk with God by reminding his listeners of God’s omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence (all knowing, all present and all powerful). These attributes of God should encourage a personal love and awe for the savior. Mr. Marinov perhaps will go on to suggest how the church and mission should live out and teach that Christianity, as lived out among its peoples, affects the business world, law, medicine, child rearing, warfare, prisons, copyright, farming, science experiments and everything else.
My boys have heard me talk about sovereign grace and the total jurisdiction of God all their lives. What Mr. Marinov says won’t be new. I hope by the power of the Holy Spirit they will be moved by catching sight of the broader, cultural visitas sketched in the lecture hall.
Mr. Marinov tells how a U.S. missionary group opposes the ideas of “advancing a new culture, and one that will conquer the existing cultures of the world.” Missionaries should not try to change actions and culture of would-be converts, these partisans say. A church or missionary that does not address the whole man and the entire culture with its far-reaching premises becomes just another service provider, a source of religious experience, Mr. Marinov counters. Defenders of the religion of Mohammed or Karl Marx would never consent to limiting their systems in like manner.
“The missionaries have accepted the lie of the enemy that they are not supposed to be social reformers, only save souls. They refuse to preach culture because they have accepted the twisted definition of ‘culture’: designer jeans, fast food and reality TV. The real culture of Western civilization — legal codes, the Declaration of Independence, individual liberties and the limited state, Common Law, the Puritan work ethic, and the future orientation of economic enterprise (all products of biblical law and worldview) are outside the legitimate areas of preaching and teaching for the vast majority of missionaries. While Christianity has a superior philosophy *** for every area of life, the very point of Deuteronomy 4:5-8 ‡, most missionaries have failed to make that superior philosophy known to those to whom they preach.”
MISSIONARIES SHOULD address individuals, he says, but have the nation in view as they present the gospel. In building a covenant community, Mr. Marinov says, the missionary should develop a system to help develop the poor and the needy and aid entrepreneurs and the self-help spirit. He should develop a system of tansferring the faith to the next generation through Christian education. He should help his hosts develop an understanding of God’s character and ways by helping create a covenant rules for life and action. Deuteronomy 4:5-8 tells of the magnificence of God’s law as perceived by the nations; without use of the general equity of God’s commands, little depth is likely to emerge in the Christian community.
“Modern missionary organizations have deliberately truncated their theology of missions and the evangelistic message to the level of personal ‘witnessing,’” Mr. Marinov says, “and the existentialist philosophy of experience. The comprehensive evangelistic message of the law of God has been abandoned, and thus the success of foreign missions has been destroyed. The mission field needs to be redefined according to the concept of foreign missions in Scripture if we are to influence the world again for Christ.”
The Christian dad in Chattanooga and the missionary in a former Eastern Bloc country face the same obstacles. Personal regeneration among his listeners — need that! Conversion is followed by the need for godliness and reformation-oriented good works in each person’s sphere of influence.
Bojidar Marinov, “Don’t Plant Churches, Build Covenant Communities,” Faith for All of Life, July/August 1011
Bojidar Marinov, “The True Origins of Foreign Missions,” FFAL, May/June 2010
BWSC’s websiste is http://www.westminsterkpt.org/bwsc/index.htm
‡ “Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the Lord our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon him? And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day?” — Deut. 4:5-8