Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Why I Am A Calvinist (part 3)

The stumbling block for many in embracing ‘Calvinism’ is the teaching usually labeled ‘limited atonement.’ It is offensive to many. It was to me as well (and sometimes still is). But when I understood that Jesus’ atonement must necessarily be ‘limited’ in some way or other, I chose the least offensive and the most Biblically supportable.

The two choices for the Christian are clear. Jesus’ atonement is either limited in its application, available and sufficient only for the elect and no one else. Or it is limited in its effect, really saving only when a repenting sinner believes in its power to forgive.

The traditional Arminian position became very distasteful to me as I studied the Scripture and began to understand that Jesus really and truly did something on Calvary’s cross. He did more than just create a possibility of salvation. He truly saved sinners on the cross. If Jesus bore the sins of the entire world (without exception) and if God poured out His wrath on His Son at the cross, then the sins of the entire world are forgiven.

I put it this way. Was sin taken care of at the cross or not? Were my sins forgiven at the cross around 33 AD when Jesus died or were they forgiven in 1972 when I put my trust in Christ? I contend the former. My sins were paid were, forgiven and blotted out when Jesus died. That necessarily means (since the Bible clearly rejects universal salvation) Jesus died only for the elect.

Jesus came, not to enable men to be saved, but to save them:

Luke 19:10 “For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Matthew 1:21 “…and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

1 Peter 3:18 “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.”

Titus 2:14 “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”

Jesus, through His death on the cross, reconciled us to God:

Romans 5:10 “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.”

2 Corinthians 5:18,19 “And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.”

Colossians 1:20-21 “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight.”

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Why I Am A Calvinist (part 2)

I know the OT/NT tension between law and grace. But apart from that, the Bible presents a consistent and coherent picture of God. When I operated under the theological assumption that God gives equal opportunities to everyone, I couldn’t find much OT support. In fact, what I encountered in the OT was exactly the opposite. The OT presents a clear picture of God’s unconditional election.

Consider these three areas:

1. The choosing of Israel as His chosen nation:

• Deuteronomy 6:6,7 “For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. 7The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people”

• Deuteronomy 10:14-15 “Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the LORD’S thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is. 15Only the LORD had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day.”

2. The choosing of the Patriarchs:

Abraham over his brothers Nahor and Haran

• Genesis 12:3 “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
Isaac over Ishmael

• Genesis 17:18-19 “And Abraham said to God, ‘Oh that Ishmael might live before You!’ Then God said: ‘No, Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him.”

Jacob over Esau

• Genesis 25:23 “And the Lord said to Rebekah, ‘Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body; one people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger.”

Joseph over his brothers

• Genesis 37:6-7 “Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.”

3. The choosing of Levi as the priestly tribe:

• Deuteronomy 18:5 “For the LORD thy God hath chosen him [Levi] out of all thy tribes, to stand to minister in the name of the LORD, him and his sons for ever.”

Clearly, God had His own purposes. And lest anyone think it was because God foresaw faith and chose these because they would chose Him, I offer Paul’s argument of God’s choice of Jacob over Esau in Romans 9:11 “For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth.”

These OT examples were another reason that compelled me to embrace the “Calvinistic” understanding of God’s salvation. Combined with credible and overwhelming NT verses on this matter, it is pretty clear God does the choosing in matters of salvation.

Critics argue God would be unjust to randomly elect only some persons for salvation in the age of grace (NT). Using that premise (which I personally deny), why was God not unjust for randomly electing only some persons in the age of law (OT)?

Friday, May 26, 2006

Why I Am A Calvinist (part 1)

I don’t really know when, where or how I became a Calvinist. I suppose some preachers would say since I don’t remember the exact date, I am really not a Calvinist.

My parents were (and are still) Arminian leaning (now that I know what that means) so I didn’t get it from them. My home church (I was there for the first 22 years of my life) was also Arminian leaning; my college (William Jewell College) was neo-orthodox and I never heard the terms John Calvin, doctrines of grace, reformed theology there. My seminary (Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) taught me more about Tillich, Schleirmacher, Bultman and Moltmann. Though I can’t be certain, I’m sure I heard of Calvin somewhere in the mix.

For me, it has been a sincere journey of questions about the Bible; of trying to understand better and fully its teachings. There are many reasons why I am a Calvinist, but four really stand out thunderously in my mind and in my theological journey. Those four issues, in no particular order are 1) man’s radical corruption; 2) the OT picture of redemption and salvation history; 3) the nature of Jesus’ atonement; 4) God’s initiative in salvation.

There are several major reasons that have stood out in my mind as being substantial in shaping my theology on this issue. By focusing on these, I am not saying these are the only convincing issues. Rather, I am highlighting that in my mind, they are weighty considerations for embracing this doctrine.

Man’s Radical Corruption

There are a lot of verses that underscore this doctrine but that are not, of themselves, conclusive of this doctrine. For instance:

• Genesis 6:5 “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

• Titus 1:15 “Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.”

• John 8:44 “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.”

One can argue that the first verse applies only to the generation of Noah. That assertion cannot be refuted from the text alone. I would concede the verse is primarily historical (speaking about Noah’s generation); but I believe it also offers a general description of mankind in general.

One can argue on the Titus passage that the mind of the unbelieving is defiled, but not totally defiled. The text, on its own, does not allow me to argue ‘total defilement.’ So I have to concede this verse, on its own standing, leaves the door cracked open for the possibility that man is not ‘totally’ corrupted. However, when taken within the larger framework of scripture, its meaning, I believe, is meant to show the ‘total corruption’ of man.

Regarding John 8:44, again the back door is open for someone to textually argue that the verse is not universal. Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees (8:13) and the passage applies only to them. Again, I believe the passage speaks universally of the nature of sin, but it has to be used as an addition to the foundation.

There are however, verses which conclusively advocate man’s radical corruption. Man does not seek righteousness; man is dead spiritually; man is blind; man is a slave to sinful desires and the devil. The primary verse on this issue is:
• Romans 3:10-12 “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: 11There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. 12They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”

This monumental verse is joined by others:

• Romans 8:7-8 “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”

• 1 Corinthians 2:14 “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

• Ephesians 2:1-2 “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; 2Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.”

• John 8:34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin.”

• John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

• John 6:65 “"No man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father."

Further, Matthew 11:27 says, “…no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son wills to reveal to Him.” And John 15:16 states, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide…”

Scripture overwhelmingly teaches my radical corruption, or “total depravity” (to use the dreaded TULIP acronym).

I agree with Martin Luther's assessment: “Here the bottom falls out of all merit, all powers and abilities of reason or the free will men dream of, and it all counts nothing before God. Christ must do and must give everything.”

Thursday, May 25, 2006

What a week!

It’s been a blistering week for me. Personal and ministry issues have demanded an unbelievable amount of my time. Blogging had to be postponed and I knew my regular readership of two would understand.

It was a blistering week for Wade Burleson as well. He’s the trustee of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board who blew the whistle on some shenanigans of the board (secret policy changes). The trustees had their regular meeting this week in Albuquerque.

First, a retiring trustee seemed to allude to Wade as a Texas Longhorn… “a point on both ends and a lot of bull in between.”

Second, Tom Hatley, rotating off as Board Chairman attacked Wade and his blogging. Hatley acted more like czar than chairman. He has arbitrarily kicked Wade off of trustee forums and committees and chided Wade for disclosing material talked about in forum…even when it was talked about publicly previously.

I hope the rest of the trustees will wake up. With such a close election of a new chairman, it seems they are well awake. Still, the establishment’s candidates seem to have achieved victory and when Hatley launched his verbal grenades, no trustee came to Burleson’s defense. Evidently, they were so shocked at the Chairman’s un-Christian behavior that by the time they recovered from their horror, the agenda was moving forward.

Things will not by normal at the IMB’s BoT for quite awhile.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Frank Page Reconsiders

Marty Duren is reporting on his blog that South Carolina pastor, Frank Page, has reconsidered being nominated for president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Early information on Page, is that his church is a strong Cooperative Program supporter. Negatively, he has authored a book, “The Trouble with Tulip” in which he makes some ridiculously disparaging comments to those who have a reformed perspective of salvation.

We should know more soon.

Senator Reid says English as national language is racist

“Dingy Harry” Reid, Democratic Senator from Nevada and the minority’s leader, just doesn’t get it when it comes to America. After last night’s vote in the Senate that overwhelmingly approved (63-34) an amendment to the immigration reform bill that declares English is the national language of the United States, Reid blabbered to the Associated Press: “Although the intent may not be there, I really believe this amendment is racist, I believe it is directed at people who speak Spanish.”

One recent poll found that 84% of Americans want English to be our official language.

One study showed there are 322 languages spoken in the United States, ranging alphabetically from Abnaki to Zuni, and in number of speakers from English (215,423,555) to Kalispel (4). Read that information here.

I’ll take Teddy Roosevelt over Harry Reid any day of the week (and twice on Sunday...isn’t that how the saying goes?) President Roosevelt said, “The one absolute certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, or preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities. We have but one flag. We must also learn one language and that language is English.”

Opponents of official English often refer to articles by Professor Shirley Brice Heath of Stanford University, who asserts that "[i]n rejecting a national language academy, the founding fathers made clear their choice not to designate a national tongue…."

Well, Professor Brice may be overstating the case just a bit. Remember, the founders didn’t think to protect religion either. That shows up as the first amendment in the Bill of Rights. All fifty-five delegates spoke English. Though they were fluent in other languages and some documents of the Revolutionary War were printed in French and German, it is clear they presumed English would dominate America as the nation's unifying language. And, after 1789, researchers cannot find a single example of Congress approving multilingual publications during the time of the founders.

Six years after the Constitution became law, Congress deliberately rejected a request to publish copies of federal laws in German (which gave rise to a pernicious myth that, by one vote, German failed to become our national language). Two years later, Congress rejected another similar request. Their debates referenced the cost of printing in multiple languages and the confusion that might result from problems in translation—concerns as valid today as two hundred years ago.

John Adams said “English is destined to be in the next and succeeding centuries more generally the language of the world than Latin was in the past or French in the present.”

Noah Webster envisioned the same. He wrote in 1786: “A national language is a national tie, and what country wants it more than America?” Webster also wrote: “It must be considered further, that the English is the common root or stock from which our national language will be derived. All others will gradually waste away -and within a century and a half, North America will be peopled with a hundred millions of men, all speaking the same language.”

And in 1811, President James Madison (author of the Constitution) signed the Louisiana Enabling Act, establishing the conditions under which Louisiana could become a state. It required the laws, records, and written proceedings of the new state to be in English.

The founders loved, appreciated and valued the English language. They clearly recognized the threat of bi-lingualism long before American had 322 different languages. We can respect national heritages, but we must have a single, uniting, national language.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Past SBC Presidents' CP Giving

Unless you've just come from the Methodist Church you know that Ronnie Floyd has recently been announced as a nominee for president of the Southern Baptist Convention. His nomination has been criticized because the church he pastors, First Baptist Church—Springdale, AR reportedly gave a paltry 0.27% to the Cooperative Program last year (or 1.8% to “joint SBC causes”).

EthicsDaily.com (not my favorite site for news, especially news of the Southern Baptist Convention) had good information about our past SBC presidents’ CP giving in a February article that you can read here. Since I don’t want to pour over hard to find and probably inaccessible ACP reports, I’ll take their reporting at face value.

According to the article, current SBC president, Bobby Welch, pastor of First Baptist Church—Orlando, FL has given at least 15 percent through the Cooperative Program for the last 30 years. Other past presidents who were commended “with records of strong Cooperative Program support” included Jimmy Draper, Morris Chapman and Jim Henry.

The others who didn’t score so well are: (approximate CP percentages)

Adrian Rogers (1979,86-87) Bellevue Baptist—Memphis, TN 4%
Bailey Smith (1980-81)First Southern Baptist—Del City, OK 1.19 %
Charles Stanley (1984-85) First Baptist—Atlanta, GA 2.5%
Jerry Vines (1988-89) First Baptist—Jacksonville, Fla. 2.3%
Ed Young (1993-1994) Second Baptist—Houston, TX 0.5%
James Merritt (2001-02) First Baptist—Snellville, GA 2-3%
Jack Graham (2003-04) Prestonwood Baptist—Plano, TX 0.5%

Anthony Jordan, Executive Director of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma has an article on this. I'll try to post that later.

The Missouri Baptist List heats up

There is a pretty active group of Missouri Baptist pastors that have an internet discussion list (the moderators allow non-Missourians and laypeople to post as well). I read a really good post from Rob Ayers, pastor of Camp Branch Baptist Church in Sedalia.

Here’s some of what he said regarding the controversy over Ronnie Floyd.

Here is the tension - no one wants to tell other churches how to do their business (church autonomy) yet I think we can agree (at least I hope so) that someone who is going to be nominated to lead our Convention whose church only gave .27% (that is point two seven percent) toward our cooperative effort should not be - period. And it truly perplexes and amazes me how some of our convention leadership could even suggest that they support him.

That is the tension. I’ve written myself, that while we may not be able to agree that 10% giving to the Cooperative Program should be a qualifier for office holding in the SBC or the MBC, surely we can agree that 0.27% is a disqualifier!

Rob goes on to make some other suggestions for our denomination:

Two things should happen:

We should clean our proverbial house, and put it in order - clear out the fat, and run our enterprises in a faith driven, mission minded, high risk oriented manner. We should not run our faith driven, church led institutions like a Fortune 500 corporation (nor should we run our churches like a corporation - I reject in total the John Maxwell approach, "the pastor as CEO" and embrace the Lord's servant/leader approach "those who will lead will serve"). This, if done well, will reinstitute the trust that has eroded between the institutions of the SBC (MBC) and the people in the pews.

We should require that those who lead, model cooperation through leading their churches in sacrificially giving towards our Cooperative effort. The goal here is not how much a church gives - but at what level of sacrifice they do give. There must be some lie that abides out there that says "we can't do it all" - and you know, we can't. The Lord can - and if we trust in Him, He can accomplish great things through us - it is called FAITH. A church CAN give a tithe to our cooperative effort, and CAN do missions in their neighborhoods too. It might mean less carpet on the floor, or cutting out the Java house in back. It might mean cutting out those padded pews, or using the air-conditioner less - none of these things are required, and merely shows our weakness as a people, not a strength in comparison to other believers throughout the world.

I will repeat this here: To which shall we vote for if given the opportunity - the mega-pastor who has a wonderful teaching ministry, and people flocking to hear him in a multi-million dollar facility who also has a television program who, although gives a large amount to SBC causes, it only rises to a paltry total of 1.8% of undesignated receipts? Or would we honor and place in leadership Bi-Vocational Pastor who manages well a flock of 50 souls, who believe, breath, and practice missions in both their neighborhood and around the world. This same Pastor leads his church in giving 15% of undesignated receipts into the Cooperative Program at a sacrifice - a sacrifice of his salary, of putting new carpet on the floor, buying literature from Lifeway - all because this church have placed a priority on discipleship and missions, and have determined that giving for the cause of Christ and his Kingdom is much more important than their own comfort (I am not saying that me our mine have arrived at this ideal - we definitely have a lot of work to do - yet this is my goal for us).

I suspect in the current climate, that the mega-church pastor will be elected - He will jet across the country over the next two years, and receive anywhere between $100,000 to $150,000 per year in honorariums for his service.

I have since learned that Rob has his own blog. You can read it here. And I did some slight editing to the above.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Et tu Brute`?

Al Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and one of my favorite Southern Baptists, just joined the fray in supporting Ronnie Floyd's nomination for SBC President

You can read it at Dr. Floyd's webpage here.

Dr. Mohler had every right to send Dr. Floyd a personal letter. I question his judgment in allowing it to be publically posted. I stand by my earlier posts.

P.S. I'm kidding about the title...just struggling to find some poetic humor to my rather dismal feelings.

The Distraction of Denominational Disagreements

There is a time to fight with each other. When wolves invade the sheepfold, we know we are not among friends. The SBC conservative resurgence was a needed and necessary denominational fight.

J. Gresham Machen was a Presbyterian who would have been all-too-familiar with the issues of our Southern Baptist fight of the 1980s. He became a professor at Princeton Seminary in 1906 and fought in the 1920s to keep that precious university rooted to its theological tenets.

He and the other conservatives who engaged that battle lost. In 1929, the Presbyterian General Assembly voted to reorganize Princeton’s boards, effectively giving theological liberals control of the school and Machen and his supporters left Princeton and founded Westminster Seminary.

Seventeen years before that fatal vote in 1929, Machen was given the honor of addressing the Opening Convocation of the seminary. Here is some of what he said:

Beneath the surface of life lies a world of spirit. Philosophers have attempted to explore it. Christianity has revealed its wonders to the simple soul. There lie the springs of the Church's power. But that spiritual realm cannot be entered without controversy. And now the Church is shrinking from the conflict. Driven from the spiritual realm by the current of modern thought, she is consoling herself with things about which there is no dispute. If she favors better housing for the poor, she need fear no contradiction. She will need all her courage. She will have enemies enough, God knows. But they will not fight her with argument. The twentieth century, in theory, is agreed on social betterment. But sin, and death, and salvation, and life, and God—about these things there is debate. You can avoid the debate if you choose. You need only drift with the current. Preach every Sunday during your Seminary course, devote the fag ends of your time to study and to thought, study about as you studied in college—and these questions will probably never trouble you.

The great questions may easily be avoided. Many preachers are avoiding them. And many preachers are preaching to the air. The Church is waiting for men of another type. Men to fight her battles and solve her problems. The hope of finding them is the one great inspiration of a Seminary's life. They need not all be men of conspicuous attainments. But they must all be men of thought. They must fight hard against spiritual and intellectual indolence. Their thinking may be confined to narrow limits. But it must be their own. To them theology must be something more than a task. It must be a matter of inquiry. It must lead not to successful memorizing, but to genuine convictions.

The Church is puzzled by the world's indifference. She is trying to overcome it by adapting her message to the fashions of the day. But if, instead, before the conflict, she would descend into the secret place of meditation, if by the clear light of the gospel she would seek an answer not merely to the questions of the hour but, first of all, to the eternal problems of the spiritual world, then perhaps, by God's grace, through His good Spirit, in His good time, she might issue forth once more with power, and an age of doubt might be followed by the dawn of an era of faith.

Taken from an address on "The Scientific Preparation of the Minister," delivered September 20, 1912, at the opening of the one hundred and first session of Princeton Theological Seminary, and in substance (previously) at a meeting of the Presbyterian Ministers' Association of Philadelphia, May 20, 1912. It was first published in The Princeton Theological Review, Vol. 11, 1913. This essay was scanned and edited by Shane Rosenthal for Reformation Ink. It is now in the public domain and may be freely copied and distributed. Original pagination has been kept intact for purposes of reference.

I’m not enough of a Machen scholar to know for sure, but I can’t help wondering if he was not greatly disillusioned by the end of his career. His address speaks of an “us-against-the-world” mindset. Within a decade, he would be embroiled in an “us-against-us” fight. I am not suggesting we ignore internal problems. Internal disease is as deadly as external wounds. Many liberals urged Southern Baptists to focus on evangelism and missions while our seminaries and institutions were oozing deadly doctrine and philosophies.

My question is, are we there again? Can we address our differences as conservative Southern Baptists without launching an all-out war against each other? Can we find ways to dwell together in unity and keep a shared focus on a common enemy—the world? The issues tearing us apart are significant. They are not merely a tiff, or a misunderstanding. The events of recent months are but a symptom of different beliefs that have long been present in our convention.

Are we getting pulled into what Machen called “the questions of the hour” and losing our focus on “the eternal problems of the spiritual world”? Perhaps. Perhaps we are.

Machen said the men who would fight the battles of the church and solve her problems must be men of thought. Some have already given serious thought to various positions and beliefs. Perhaps we could do some more thinking.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

SBC Insider Morris Chapman offers hope

Sadly, Dr. Akin, President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, has weighed in supporting Ronnie Floyd’s nomination. It appears his email was written and delivered after Dr. Chapman’s most excellent piece.

I’ve referred to Dr. Chapman’s blog post, entitled Diminishing Returns, several times in the past couple of days. For you lazy readers who won’t click the link, let me include some of my favorite lines.

“We are drawn to do things as the world does them. To lose power from above all too often drives us to generate artificial power of our own making.”

This is my favorite. This is a concise summary of the problem facing our denomination. No further comment needed.

“When a president of an entity publicly endorses a potential nominee or nominates a candidate for elected office, he potentially alienates some who otherwise hold him in high esteem because they differ with the person he has embraced publicly for an elected office.”

This is exactly what has happened in my mind regarding Drs. Patterson and Akin. Why are agency presidents, dependent upon generous support by Southern Baptists of the Cooperative Program, so publicly and enthusiastically support a pastor from a church that gives only either .27% or 1.8% to the CP or “joint SB causes”, depending on which number you go with? These men are presuming upon the generousness of churches like mine (currently 10%...up from 7% six years ago).

“Among the other 16 million people are there not sufficient leaders to make and accept nominations for the elected offices of the Convention?”

Thank you, Dr. Chapman (president and chief executive officer of the SBC Executive Committee, arguably the most powerful SBC entity) for enlarging the tent. Yes, I believe there are such leaders and am hopeful they will emerge before we convene our annual meeting in Greensboro.

Floyd Nomination--Is There An Integrity Gap?

Dr. Paige Patterson, President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, for whom I have tremendous respect, decided to move from a silent observer to endorsing Dr. Ronnie Floyd as President of the SBC. I have lost some respect.

I agree very much with the reasoning of Dr. Morris Chapman on this subject. His post last Friday entitled Diminishing Returns is “must-reading” for this topic. Denominational leaders of our entities should remain neutral. In addition to the issues Dr. Chapman raises, I think it’s highly inappropriate for an entity that belongs partially to me to be promoting a candidate I do not support. Why does SWBTS’s website contain Dr. Patterson’s personal endorsement? I can only assume Dr. Patterson is using Southern Baptist time and Southern Baptist resources to lobby for someone only a fraction of Southern Baptists support. Wasn’t that a part of what the conservative resurgence decried? I’m not suggesting the issue is as grievous; only that there are similarities.

Second, Dr. Patterson reportedly said FBC Springdale’s child baptistry was “blasphemous”. This was reported by the Founders website in 2000, reporting on a Patterson interview with Mark Dever. Admittedly, FBC Springdale was never named by Dever, but one wonders whether Patterson has had a change of mind. Is the famed fire-truck baptistry with confetti cannons no longer “blasphemous” because it is in his friend’s church? Patterson evidently hasn’t published any clarifying words to this rather clear hypocritical stance.

Third, Dr. Patterson, who is dependent upon Cooperative Program support, is promoting a candidate who pastors a church with a shameful record of CP support. You’ve all heard the numbers. FBC Springdale’s CP giving is .27% (that’s point-two-seven percent). Even if you combine that with “joint SBC causes” the number only raises to 1.8%. What ingredient is more important to Southern Baptists than the Cooperative Program. We all know it isn’t music that holds us together; theologically we’re Arminians and Calvinists; church methodologies don’t hold us together. How can Dr. Patterson so easily overlook this glaring deficiency in Dr. Floyd’s resume?

Fourth, Dr. Patterson had a slip of the tongue (I hope) in his posted support of Dr. Floyd. He said "...Dr. Floyd has built one of our greatest churches in a smaller community..." Dr. Patterson knows only Jesus builds the church (Matthew 16:18). What has happened to that razor sharp intellect that sliced liberal light-handling of the scriptures in the 1980s? Woe to us for electing any pastor who builds churches. But aside from the sloppy comment of not ascribing church building to Jesus, why is FBC Springdale “one of our greatest churches”? Greatest implies there are not so great churches. Buildings, baptisms and budgets aside, what sets FBC Springdale higher than other churches? Isn’t this more of the tired old mantra that Southern Baptists have been hearing for decades?

I am sure FBC Springdale is a fine church, filled with noble Christians led by committed staff and a passionate pastor. I mean to detract nothing from them. But with over 16 million Southern Baptists, can we not find one candidate who has wider appeal and fewer objectionable issues than this pastor?

Friday, May 12, 2006

SBC Presidency fiasco

Some of you may not be aware of what is becoming quite a fiasco regarding the upcoming presidential nomination at the Southern Baptist Convention in Greensboro.

At this year’s annual Bible conference at FBC Jacksonville, FL, Jerry Vines called fellow conservative leaders Paige Patterson and Paul Pressler onto the stage and gave them affirming words for their role in the SBC conservative resurgence. Vines himself, had resigned as pastor and the conference was his last speaking engagement with the church. Vines then called Bailey Smith to the stage and then announced in some form or another, that Johnny Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church, Woodstock, GA, would be nominated as SBC President. Johnny Hunt has since declined the nomination.

Now we’d have to assume he changed his mind. He preached at the conference shortly after, if not immediately after, the announcement. It’s hard to imagine Dr. Vines just jumped up in front of the gathering to announce a candidate he had not talked with or consulted. I cannot fathom the other leaders had no previous knowledge of why they were being called to the platform. And it’s difficult to imagine them proceeding with this public announcement without Hunt’s blessing.

Hunt, this past Sunday, publicly declined the nomination and at the same time announced he would nominate Ronnie Floyd, pastor of FBC Springdale, AR and the Church at Pinnacle Hills. His announcement can be read here.

Floyd has immediately been criticized because of poor Cooperative Program giving by FBC Springdale. The steady decline of CP giving has been tabulated here. Even the Florida Baptist Witness ran an opinion story critical of Floyd’s nomination. It can be read here.

Founders Journal website re-ran a piece they originally did in 2000 criticizing Springdale’s fire truck baptistry and confetti cannons. It's called Of Fire Engine Baptistries and Blasphemy.

Personally, I do believe the CP numbers, no matter how you spin them, are too low for Floyd to be given the honor of SBC President. I am hopeful of a better alternative. That person may be publicly announced as soon as Monday.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Missouri’s Initiative Petitions

Missouri’s Secretary of State (Robin Carnahan) will be busy for a while. She and her staff, partnering with county clerks throughout the state now have the job of completing a wonderful process somewhat unique to the Show-Me State—citizen initiative petitions. The Kansas City Star reported that Stacie Temple, communications director for the secretary of state’s office, said “This will be a significant workload.” That may well be the understatement of the week.

Of course, Carnahan should be happy that only six made it to the finish line. Eighteen initiative petitions were circulating this Spring…almost higher than the pollen count.

Heading the list is the infamous petition from the self-named Missourians for Lifesaving Cures. Of course, it depends on whose life you are talking about. If you happen to be a human in the embryonic stage of life in a petri dish, the group isn’t interested in the least in saving your life. Rather, they intend to exploit you for research purposes to benefit humans a little further developed (can you tell I'm a member of Missourians Against Human Cloning?). But I’m getting off point. They spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 million to get nearly 289,000 Missourians to sign their petition to inscribe embryonic stem cell research and human cloning into law.

The Committee for a Healthy Future also turned in excessive signatures for their drive to place on the ballot a constitutional amendment to raise taxes on tobacco products. They want to raise Missouri’s current tax rate of 17 cents a pack to 80 cents a pack. That group contends Missouri has one of the highest smoking rates in the nation but with one of the lowest tax rates. The national average is 92 cents a pack.

Another group wants to roll back the General Assembly’s changes in Medicaid. They’ve proposed statutory changes to continue Missouri’s program beyond 2008.

Missourians in Charge spearheaded two constitutional amendments. The first will shore up eminent domain laws, blocking the government from seizing private property and giving it to another private landowner. Their second proposal will further cap spending limits for the General Assembly.

Yet another group, Give Missourians a Raise turned in signatures for a proposal to raise the state minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $6.50 an hour and have it adjusted annually based on changes in the Consumer Price Index.

One proposed constitutional amendment has already been certified by the Secretary of State. It would reauthorize for 10 years the one-tenth percent sales/use tax for soil and water conservation and state parks and historic sites.

If you’ve been keeping track, that’s seven items. It may be a confusing November!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The DaVinci Code

The DaVinci Code is a slam on Christianity. It’s bad enough that the writer uses Christianity as the back drop to his fictional plot. It’s worse that he claims his revisionist writing is factual. Dan Brown needs to decide which literary genre to pursue—fiction or history. There are so many books on the market slamming the claims of The DaVinci Code that I shouldn’t be using space writing about it. But I’ll be addressing the issue in my preaching and teaching ministries in May because of the issue of relevancy. Christians don’t need a primer in Brown’s novel. They need a primer in historical Christianity. The truth is clear. The church has always believed Christ to be divine. Brown’s assertion that the Council of Nicea created that doctrine is absurd to anyone with half an objective brain. And that’s why we must engage our culture on this movie. The glory of Christ is too precious to pass a blind eye and deaf ear to our culture’s irreverence towards the One who alone can save them from eternal hell. We need to warn them. Blasphemers will encounter the Living, Eternal Son of God.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Memphis Declaration

Having attended the Together for the Gospel in Louisville last week, I’ve intentionally been out of the blogging loop. So it was news to me that some 30 Southern Baptists had been invited to Memphis to take part in a pow-wow over the direction (or lack of direction) the Southern Baptist Convention is going. I was pretty excited about it, but admittedly, am disappointed with the document they have developed.

I was generally in favor of Wade Burleson and his positions taken throughout the IMB controversy. I believe the actions of the IMB trustees are seriously flawed. I believe they sinned against Wade Burleson and have not yet repented publicly of their sin. Their positions on the policy changes and their new gag order are problematic.

But, as one who is sympathetic with the anti-establishment movement that is occurring within the SBC, I am confused by the Memphis Declaration. I wish they had followed the example of Martin Luther’s 95 theses, rather than the Baptist Faith and Message. The first half read like something from the World Council of Churches. Generally, the document reads like the group wants ecumenical evangelism. Knowing some of these folks, I know that is not what they are saying. But a document should stand on its on merits. The reader should not have to know the minds and spirits of the authors.

I don’t want to pick apart the Memphis Declaration because it seems a sincere attempt by humble Christians to help Southern Baptist find their way out of the mess we are in. But perhaps some critical reflection from a semi-supporter would help strengthen the movement.

Paragraph 1 sounds like the liberal mantra of the 80s… “no creed but Christ!” While the Scriptures are sufficient, are the signers trying to say, we need not further clarify our understanding of the Scriptures? In paragraph 2, the group disparages “narrowing cooperation” while praising “parameters…consistent with our rich theological heritage.” Yet, they never delineate whether something is a needed parameter or a narrowing. I think I know what they mean, but they didn’t state it. They commit this same error when they speak of “articles of faith that are not essential to Christian orthodoxy.” What is not essential? What’s triumphalism? Is that loving our denomination over loving the Lord?

The second half of the document reads much better. The group began speaking specifically, or at least, began addressing things that are absolutely true, regardless of the application. Their “pledge to the local church as the primary focus of our ministry” is a great statement. You can read it below. Some signers have blogs where they’ve given further commentary. I’ve linked to them. And if you want to sign the document, send an email to atr1300@yahoo.com

Memphis Declaration
May 3, 2006

We, as men and women who share a heritage of Southern Baptist identity, declare that we stand together and confess Jesus Christ as the one Lord to whom we must reckon an account for our words and motivations in this gathering. We further acknowledge that the Word of God is the sole basis of our confession and cooperation, and we are confident that God has sufficiently revealed in it all that is needed to direct Southern Baptists in fruitful cooperation toward Kingdom ends that bring glory to Jesus Christ, who is himself the focus of divine revelation.

We publicly declare before all Southern Baptists that we believe the unity, mission, and witness of our denomination is seriously threatened by the introduction of narrowing cooperation through exclusionary theological and political agendas that corrupt the healthy and mutual fellowship we enjoy as Kingdom servants. We believe that the parameters of Baptist cooperation in missions and evangelism must be consistent with our rich theological heritage, and that all attempts to impose excessively restrictive criteria on participation in Southern Baptist missionary work are counterproductive to the advance of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Because we desire to be and to remain faithful to our confession of Jesus Christ and his Word, we do not keep silent, nor shall we, since we believe that we have a common message to speak in this time of great need for unity and Kingdom focus in our convention. In view of this shared conviction, we declare the following:

We publicly repent of triumphalism about Southern Baptist causes and narcissism about Southern Baptist ministries which have corrupted our integrity in assessing our denominational bureaucracy, our churches, and our personal witness in light of the sobering exhortations of Scripture.

Therefore, we commit ourselves to a renewed pledge to integrity demonstrated by accountability in our denomination, both before God and each other, lest in preaching the meekness of our Lord to others we ourselves will be found guilty of wicked, sinful pride.

We publicly repent of an arrogant spirit that has infected our partnership with fellow Christians in the advance of the gospel of Jesus Christ, without the hearing of which men are incapable of conversion.

Therefore, we commit ourselves to a renewed pledge to partner with Great Commission Christians for the glory of Jesus Christ, who is proclaimed with power when his disciples are at peace with one another.

We publicly repent of having condemned those without Christ before we have loved them, and that we have acted as judge of those for whom Christ died by failing to live with a redemptive spirit toward them.

Therefore, we commit ourselves to engage culture actively at every level by living redemptively as the Body of Christ in the world.

We publicly repent of having forsaken opportunities to reason together with those who share our commitment to gospel proclamation yet differ with us on articles of the faith that are not essential to Christian orthodoxy.

Therefore, we commit ourselves to building bridges where there have been none, in listening more and talking less, and in extending the hand of fellowship to all who share our confession of Christ and our commitment to extend His Kingdom.

We publicly repent of having turned a blind eye to wickedness in our convention, especially when that evil has taken the form of slanderous, unsubstantiated accusations and malicious character assassination against our Christian brothers.

Therefore, we commit ourselves to confront lovingly any person in our denomination, regardless of the office or title that person holds, who disparages the name of our Lord by appropriating venomous epithets against our brothers and sisters in Christ, and thus divides our fellowship by careless and unchaste speech.

We publicly repent of having misplaced our priorities on the building and sustaining of institutions of secondary and far inferior importance than the local church.

Therefore, we renew our pledge to the local church as the primary focus of our ministry and service to advance the Kingdom of God and bring glory to his Son.

We publicly repent of having disrespected the sovereign grace of our Lord Jesus Christ by falsely presuming that our strength as a people of God is found in uniformity rather than unity within the parameters of Scriptural authority.

Therefore, we commit ourselves to honor our identity as people of one Lord, one faith, and one baptism, whose affirmation of biblical authority does not necessitate absolute uniformity on all matters of doctrine or practice.

We publicly repent of our inattentiveness to convention governance by not seeking to hold trustees accountable to the body which elects them to preserve our sacred trust and direct our entities with the guidance, counsel, and correction necessary to maintain the integrity of those entities.

Therefore, we covenant with one another to assist in the preservation of our convention’s sacred trust and fulfill our biblical responsibility to hold those trustees elected to serve our entities accountable, and to pray for them as they seek to fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities.

Finally, we believe the conversations that have begun in these days express our desire to preserve the Southern Baptist Convention should God, in his providence, so choose to sustain our witness and strengthen our commitment to these ends. We pledge, therefore, to one another that we will continue this dialogue by inviting others in our respective spheres of influence to participate with us by seeking to renew our commitment to denominational accountability, institutional openness, moral and ethical integrity, and properly prioritized Kingdom efforts.

Steven P. Hardy, NC
Ginny Brant, SC
Pamela Walker Blume, NC
Ken McLemore, VA
Ben Carr, OK
Martin S. Duren, GA
Arthur T. Rogers, KY
Benjamin S. Cole, TX
Thomas Ascol, FL

Jason Helmbacher, OK
Alden Stephens, FL
Wiley Drake, CA
Jason Sampler, LA
C.B. Scott, AL
Roy Hargrave, FL
Wade Burleson, OK
Wyman Dobbs, West Africa
Rick Thompson, OK
Phil Newton, TN

[Don Hinkle, MO, was there as a media representative]

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Missouri Cloners One Step Closer to a Culture of Death

The Missouri pro-cloning movement turned in their petitions Monday with 288,991 signatures, more than enough to get the measure on the ballot. It was really a formality (hey, $4 million can buy almost anything!). And we'll be seeing a few more formalities in coming days. Formalities such as the Secretary of State throwing out a few signatures by those who properly filled out the tedious notarized statements stating they mistakenly signed the petition that was available on most street corners in the state by paid signature gatherers. That will bring the number down to about 288,879.

The Secretary of State will then authenticate the measure. Then the Governor will formally place it on...I'm prophesying...the November ballot. That leaves only the formality of the lawsuit filed by Missourians Against Human Cloning. If the Supreme Court should take up the matter, the drama might be prolonged, but I'm guessing they'll drive the final nail in the coffin and skip taking up the case, letting the Appeals Court ruling stand.

This means Missourians will have to decide about human cloning. Will we legalize a process that, until about 10 months ago, was unanimously referred to as "cloning"? Will we reduce the earliest stage of human development--embryonic life--to a research object? Will we prejudicially deny life to humans created in scientific laboratories? And will we revive Untermensch, the Nazi philosophy that there is such a thing as a sub-human race?

There is a better way to research cures for the diseases that plague our times and our loved ones. Adult stem cell research. It doesn't kill the donor.