"The Calvary Contender"

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Most folks, I think, know that I am a graduate of Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC. When I was a student, I used to spend a great deal of time in the University Library reading periodicals. One of the ones that I tried to look at regularly was a little newsletter called "The Calvary Contender," produced by some independent, fundamentalist Baptist ministry which I can't recall today. 

The attraction of "The Calvary Contender" was that it served as a basic report on all sort of evangelical and fundamentalist ministries that were "straying from the faith." One of the most damning things "The Contender" could say about an individual was something like, "He used to be a strong Bible-believing fundamentalist, but now he has compromised and become a 'neo-evangelical.'" That often became the code for all sorts of things, from approving of "mixed bathing" (boys and girls swimming in the same pool at the same time) to allowing "contemporary Christian music" (Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith) to using the NIV Bible, embracing Calvinism, reading John MacArthur, or forsaking a pre-tribulational, pre-millennial rapture. 

Those who "compromised" were "outed" by "The Contender" and read out of fundamentalism. I literally had nightmares that at some point, University President Dr. Bob Jones III would stand from the pulpit during the University Chapel and say, "I regret to inform you that Sean Lucas, graduate from 1993, has forsaken the faith, compromised, and become a neo-evangelical. You can read about it in 'The Calvary Contender.'"

I'm sure that those who ran "The Contender" were convinced that they were "earnestly contend[ing] for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3). But the way they went about it and the issues on which they focused may have been contending, but was too often contentious and distracted from Calvary.

It is no secret, of course, that Internet has made it possible for anyone to sign up for a blog and have their own "Calvary Contender," defending the faith from the safety of their Internet connection. To be sure, we need to contend for the faith, defend the truth, and seek to right real wrongs. 

And yet, one hugely important reason I'm Presbyterian (and no longer a fundamentalist Baptist) is because Presbyterians have processes for handling such things. We have Books of Church Order which we promise to use for our processes; we have the larger church to which we appeal when a local body refuses to act. And while there are extraordinary cases in which a entire Presbyterian denomination is so broken that the processes themselves don't work anymore (the old southern Presbyterian church being an example about which I've written and am writing a great deal), still if Presbyterian polity means anything, it means working through the processes and through the church's courts and not through our own "Calvary Contenders."

Why? Why should we work through the often slow, frustrating, confusing, and painful processes of our polity? Because it is in this way that we actually contend for, as opposed to obscure, Calvary. We work through these processes because we truly believe that the Gospel of God's grace works, that the Cross truly does reconcile, that a fuller sight of Jesus brings repentance. By working through the processes in our Books of Church Order--and not through our own personal "Calvary Contenders"--we keep the focus where it needs to be, where it should be, where it must be: on the Cross and Empty Tomb, on these grand redemptive events which are not merely accessories to the faith for which we contend, but are the faith itself.
Posted April 3, 2010 @ 12:19 PM by Sean Lucas
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