Monday, September 9, 2013

A Look at BSF: Part 3 - Practical Concerns

In my last two posts, I looked at the unbiblical ministry classification of Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) and how their lack of church oversight leads to weak doctrinal teaching and vague statements in their notes.  Now I'm going to look at some of their rules which guide the dynamics of the organization as a whole.  All weekly BSF class meetings have the same structure:  opening time (announcements, singing, and prayer), small group discussion (led by the Discussion Leader), and the lecture (presented by the Teaching Leader).  There is also a weekly leadership team meeting to prepare for the next class meeting.

BSF is an interdenominational Christian organization; it does not adhere to one denominational view and anyone is welcome to join.  To promote participation BSF encourages each member to complete the daily homework questions and to discuss the questions in the small group setting by emphasizing that there is no right or wrong answer.  Therefore, a spiritually dangerous atmosphere is created within the BSF organization due to their ecumenical stance and the relativistic mindset that there is no wrong answer.

In addition, members are not allowed to talk about where they go to church or even what denomination they belong to.  This prohibition makes it difficult to discern and guard against unbiblical answers because the presuppositions of the individuals within the group are not allowed to be voiced and the organization ingrains the idea that no deeply held belief is wrong.

Prior to leaving BSF, I contacted my Teaching Leader many times about the theological and practical issues I had with BSF, including the points outlined here and in my previous post.  After I had communicated my concerns about God the Father being presented as a living person, my Discussion Leader commented during our small group discussion that the wording in the notes was weak on this point, recognized the fact that I didn't agree with it (the Teaching Leader must have spoken with her), and asked for someone else (on the other side of the room) to answer the question.  Based on the Bible, as well as the London Baptist Confession of Faith, the stance that God the Father is a living person is not just weak, it is wrong.  However, due to the BSF organizational structure, leaders cannot openly disagree with the notes.  The Teaching Leader can send comments on the notes to BSF headquarters, and future notes may be edited, but that's the extent of what she can do.  Obviously, a double-standard exists:  the BSF notes are right and cannot be wrong.

In that same discussion period, I also encountered the relativistic mindset championed by BSF.  Another group member (who seemed to be a new Christian) was very confused about the Holy Spirit being the breath of God and wondered if God breathes his Spirit into everything (not only all male & female individuals, but also animals).  I quickly tried to give biblical support against her universalistic and panentheistic statement; but after I made my clarification, another member reminded the group that according to our Teaching Leader there is no right or wrong answer, and that the important thing is to hear God speaking to you in your heart.  She was reading and studying from The Message Bible which encourages the mysticism of experiencing God by bypassing the mind.  The 'whatever feels good, this is what I think the Bible means' approach to Bible study is not edifying and it certainly isn't biblical according to Acts 17:11.

I couldn't even discourage the use of The Message Bible because in previous BSF literature, the Executive Director Susie Rowan had quoted scripture from it.  The Message is not a faithful translation of God's word; it is a modern version based on the critical text that is loosely translated using dynamic equivalence and not formal equivalence (thought-for-thought rather than word-for-word).  It is not doctrinally sound.  In addition, BSF literature also promoted Dallas Willard who encourages contemplative prayer and mysticism through spiritual formation.

While I appreciate the faithful work of my local Teaching Leader, I do not agree with the relative, contemplative direction of BSF.  In order to reach the next generation of Christians, Susie Rowan is compromising a strong doctrinal stance for a weak, post-modern position so that participants feel comfortable with the program.  I believe that the defense of proper doctrine is being sacrificed by BSF for the relativistic inclusion of everyone's "right" view.  The notes are weak and a correct view of scripture is not tolerated.  Therefore, it became clear that I needed to separate from this organization, (Eph. 5:11).  Modifying God's word so that it is palatable for the masses is not an honest way to approach Bible study and will not produce strong Christians or true converts.