Whitney: Pursue godliness with vigor
By Allen Palmeri
March 21, 2006
ST. PETERS – Donald S. Whitney, associate professor of biblical spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky., challenged attendees at the Southern Baptist Founders Conference Midwest March 7-8 at First Baptist Church of St. Peters to pursue godliness by applying biblical truths that were delivered in three messages March 8.
Whitney, who formerly taught at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, emphasized holiness, godliness, Christ-likeness and sanctification to the official count of 194 at the conference. It marked the fourth consecutive year of increased attendance, dating back to 2003.
“Classically, sanctification has been divided into mortification and vivification—cultivating certain things in life,” said Whitney, who has written several popular books, including Spiritual Disciplines Within the Church and Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health.
Vivification, as it would pertain to physiology, is the conversion of the lifeless matter of food into living protein matter in the process of assimilation. More directly, it is the process of giving life to something.
Holiness and godliness are similar terms, Whitney said. In the context of Founders, where Southern Baptists probe the historic Calvinistic doctrines that helped shape the formative years of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the pursuit of godliness, then, can be the pursuit of holiness.
“I think ultimately it is intimacy with Christ and conformity to Christ,” he said. “Conformity is both outward and inward. The intimacy is part of experiencing God, so to speak. Some people can have some mystical experiences without the conformity to Christ in practical ways, so they’ve misunderstood it. Some people like the Pharisees can do the outward conformity, to some degree, but miss the intimacy with Christ.
“The outward conformity is doing what Jesus did. We can’t do what He did as God but we can do what He did as man. He got alone to pray. We can get alone with God to pray. His custom was He was in the synagogue on the Sabbath day. Well, we can go worship God with the Lord’s people on the Lord’s day. But there’s also the inward conformity to the heart of Christ.”
Other speakers at the conference included: Roy Hargrave, senior pastor at Riverbend Community Church, Ormond Beach, Fla.; John Greever, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, Fenton; and Paul David Washer, founder, HeartCry Missionary Society, Metropolis, Ill.