Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A Breath of Fresh Air – Heretics Attack the Resurrection

I know it’s odd to consider liberal and heretical illogic that disparages Biblical faith in a good way. But that’s how I’m seeing it. It at least has unified the SBC blogging world from attacking their own.

The sarcasm being aside, though, the situation is rather irritating. In case you’ve missed it, Titanic director James Cameron is filming a ‘documentary’ on a 1980 archaelogical find of an ossuary box (casket). The bottom line is he believes the find contains the bones of Jesus. Yeah, right!

You can watch Dr. Al Mohler defend the orthodox position on Larry King here or read the complete transcript here.

And the best blog on the topic with helpful links is here.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Welcome to 21st century Corinth.

There is a strong movement, particularly within some younger pastors to indulge their carnality under a cloak of spirituality. Specifically, these churches host “Bible studies” or some type of community forum in bars, pubs, breweries or some other venue where alcoholic consumption isn’t just tolerated, it’s encouraged.

I understand some of these folks are genuinely trying to reach people with the gospel wherever they are (including bars). They are not the consideration of this post. However, many of these churches seem bent on getting as closely aligned with the world as they possibly can.

I’ve been contending for awhile, that if Southern Baptists weaken our position on alcohol abstinence, the next social issue will be gambling. Well, today a friend sent me a link to Damascus Road Church in Seattle, Washington. They are an Acts 29 church plant and have one of the most aggressive and offensive “Beer & Bible” promotions of all the pro-alcohol Acts 29 churches.

In what appears to be a promotional email for their men’s Bible study, Damascus Road Church says:

“In the Northwest, we consider coffee a meal and Beer liquid bread. AND we know from the Psalms, God has given us bread to strengthen man’s heart. (Psalm 104:15). So, join us from some hard words and strong brew as we gather like men to learn about what God expects of us as men.”

But the really offensive part is their promotion of “Men’s Poker Nights.” Yep, you read that correctly.

Damascus Road tells you:

It's not about poker, its about relaxing, enjoying the company of some men, making grunting noises, and laughing at Junior High humor. If you're a man, and you have 10 bucks, here's your chance to prove your poker skills or lack there of. Depending on the number of men who show, we will have several $5 games in before the night is through. Bring your favorite soothing beverage (barley pop, soda, water, etc.) and bring something fattening to eat! For the same price as a movie, you can enjoy some laughs and, if you're lucky, go home with a little extra. Invite your buddies!

I’ve been arguing that these new Libertines would soon be promoting gambling (after all, the Bible nowhere gives an outright prohibition!), equating it with money spent on some other form of entertainment.

Guys like me keep seeing this common thread in a lot of Acts 29 churches. And we’re wondering to what degree are our Southern Baptist churches being influenced by this kind of (un)Biblical application?

I have no doubt many, if not most, of these churches are orthodox in their doctrine. But I find the application of their doctrine (if in fact it is orthodox) woefully lacking.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Titus 3:5-6

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Black History Month, William Wilberforce and the SBC Alcohol Controversy

It is right and proper to acknowledge the role of William Wilberforce in his tireless effort to end the English slave trade. This year marks the 200th Anniversary of its abolishment and an upcoming movie, Amazing Grace, chronicles his story in this noble crusade.

I’ve been asking around for some feedback on the issue of slavery and its parallels to the alcohol controversy within the SBC. I haven’t gotten much from the few sources that I’ve queried. No one who adheres to a “moderate drinking” persuasion either in theory or practice has quieted my objections that the same thing that can be said of alcohol can be said of slavery. So, I’ll boldly publish these queries and see what wisdom the blogging world might shed on my thinking.

Of course, Southern Baptists have a dark history with this dark and evil institution. When our Baptist mission board refused to appoint slaveholders as missionaries, key leaders gathered in Augusta, Georgia in 1845 and formed the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Southern Baptists repented of their ties to slavery in a formal resolution adopted in 1995.

I suppose there remain a few racist SBCers lurking under a few rocks here and there. But our denomination has transcended the South and is now present in all 50 states and is America’s largest Protestant denomination. There are no voices crying for the return of slavery. Thankfully, we universally acknowledge the sin of slavery.

However, I’ve noticed a few parallels with a debate currently being waged on our most recent resolution, this one centering on alcohol.

Advocates of moderate drinking allege two major tenets to justify their position: 1) the Bible nowhere gives an outright prohibition of consuming alcohol; 2) the Bible sometimes portrays alcohol in a positive way. I will not here, at this time, delineate those arguments fully, since most have a good grasp on our controversy. Neither will I put forth the overwhelming textual evidence that portrays alcohol in a negative light. But, may I daringly say, those were the same arguments made by our Baptist forebears to justify slavery.

“Wine is sometimes portrayed positively in the Bible!” sounds mighty close to Richard Furman’s (pastor of the First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina) pronouncement back in 1838: "The right of holding slaves is clearly established in the Holy Scriptures, both by precept and example."

And factually, Furman wasn’t lying. There are Bible passages that portray slavery in a positive way, most notably Leviticus 25:44: “Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life.”

Regarding slavery we’d say, that isn’t the full counsel of God. So why can’t we say that regarding the consumption of alcoholic beverages?

“But Jesus turned water into wine!” Yes, and he also healed a Roman centurian’s slave (Matthew 8:5ff) with nary a word of rebuke against slavery. So, if we are to conclude that Jesus’ making of wine in the first century is an endorsement of 21st century distilled alcohol, then can we relax about the enslavement of people in our world today?

“But Paul told Timothy to drink wine!” Yes, for medicinal purposes. And he also told the runaway slave Onesimus to return to his Christian slave-holding master Philemon. If Paul was endorsing beer drinking, why wouldn’t we consistently argue he was endorsing slavery?

“But we drink in moderation, there is no abuse of alcohol!” Baptist pastor Basil Manly encouraged his slave holding colleagues with the same logic. In his 1836 “Lecture on Ants” to the Charleston Literary and Philosophical Society, he said: “It surely ought to comfort the abolitionists to know that although the ants do hold slaves, the masters are humane and gentle, and the slaves are contented, industrious, and happy.” Ah, yes, no abuses there.

No one within the SBC is arguing slavery or racial bigotry. Fortunately, the counsel of God has thunderously invaded our hearts and minds on this issue. In fact, I imagine this post will be highly offensive to many who hold to “moderate drinking.” But I believe the parallels are significant. I can only say that our pilgrimage to resist slavery and view it as ungodly and unbiblical was not based on any singular ‘smoking gun’ verse; but on the Holy Spirit implanting the mind of God in our hearts. We saw the whole counsel of God. Knowing Scripture never contradicts itself, we saw the “pro-slavery” passages in their proper view. I hope we will soon do the same regarding alcohol.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Black History Month

One of the darkest days of U.S. history occurred on April 4, 1968. On that day, a prominent preacher stepped onto the balcony outside the Motel Lorraine in Memphis, Tennessee, and was shot dead by an assassin’s bullet. The preacher’s name was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Had he lived, I believe America would be different today—and better. We may still have been struggling with pockets of racism, but this passionate follower of Jesus would have assailed (and conquered) the high places of racial prejudice. He certainly would have prevented the ‘takeover’ of the civil rights movement by proponents of ‘black power’ and the movement’s subsequent derailment from its true purpose.

But he would have done more, because the greatness of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was not exclusively in his attacks against racism. His greatness lied in his core belief—that the principles of Jesus Christ would give us a just and better society. And because of that essential belief, King is more than just a great black leader, he’s a great American. I’ve no doubt that Dr. King would have crusaded against pornography and abortion and a host of other evils that subjugate the human spirit. Dr. King was not a perfect man. He struggled with (and was too often overcome by) significant sin issues. But he was a clarion voice for the church to be engaged with its culture.

His “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” ranks, in my mind, as one of the greatest pieces of literature in American History. At one point King wrote:

“So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an arch-defender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent and often even vocal sanction of things as they are.”

February is Black History month throughout our nation and it’s a good time to reflect on the contributions of some fantastic Americans who happened to have been black. Two of my favorite Americans were black (Dr. Martin Luther King and Frederick Douglas). Their writings have helped to significantly shape my thinking about the church and its role in society. If you’ll study them and their writings, they’ll teach you one of the greatest lessons you could learn—the church of Jesus cannot be silent or idle in the face of injustice and immorality.

In the days of slavery, the prominent American poet Henry David Thoreau once went to jail rather than pay his poll tax to a state that supported slavery. His good friend Ralph Waldo Emerson hurried to visit him in jail and, peering through the bars, exclaimed: “Why, Henry, what are you doing in there?” Thoreau replied, “No, Ralph, the question is, what are you doing out there?”

Long before Dr. King had a dream of racial equality, Jesus had a vision for His church and prayed “that they all may be one” (John 17:21). Paul wrote “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). And in one of our favorite worship songs we sing of the redeemed church from “every tribe, every tongue, every people, every land” (Revelation 5:9). I love to see people of color in our congregation. It gives us a better visual picture of heaven. I feel closer to God when I’m worshipping with other races and I long to see our church even more integrated.

But leaving philosophical and religious writing aside, consider some more practical examples like the refrigerator, the clothes dryer, the ironing board, the fire extinguisher and the lawn sprinkler. All of these were invented by black Americans. We need to confront our own biases and prejudices and we need to lead our nation to confront its prejudices and racism. Mostly, we need to be engaged in the great battles of our time and advance God’s cause of justice.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Worth Reading

Baptist Press published a brief article by Douglas Baker that is worth your reading time. Baker’s insights, entitled “Inerrancy Isn’t Enough” encapsulate one of the key issues facing the Southern Baptist denomination. Here's a sampling.

It is not enough to trot out the usual statements about the importance of inerrancy and expository preaching. While these are laudable expressions of orthodoxy and practice, the reality remains that the mere mention of these words now too easily evokes expected agreement and adulation (a good hearty “Amen” in Baptistspeak), but little application and practice in pulpits and Sunday School classrooms.

Read the entire article here.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A Mess in Texas

Texas Governor Rick Perry, normally a friend of conservative families, rammed a controversial edict into Texas law, requiring young girls entering the sixth grade to be injected with a human papilloma vaccine (HPV). HPV is a horrible (sexually transmitted) disease and the vaccine does show promise of protecting against cervical cancer, though evidence is not conclusive.

However, some concerns are readily apparent.

Why by-pass the legislature? This seems to be an area where public participation, parental concerns, religious viewpoints and political debate should be expressed. Governor Perry has squashed this great hallmark of American government and is acting more akin to the British monarchy from which we revolted. And the requirement is a further erosion of parents’ rights over their children’s health. Parents, not government, are responsible for their children.

Why the hurry? Seems like the pharmaceutical company Merck’s monopoly on the vaccine and their subsequent contributions to Governor Perry’s political campaigns and that of a Republican Women’s group might be in play. With Merck’s rival GlaxoSmithKline close to releasing their own vaccine (Cervarix) perhaps that’s why Governor Perry is acting so hastily and irresponsibly.

Dawn Richardson, co-founder of Parents Requesting Open Vaccine Education (PROVE) said of Perry's order: "There are bills filed. There's no emergency except in the boardrooms of Merck, where this is failing to gain the support that they had expected."

And why vaccinate? HPV is a sexually transmitted disease. Sure, some young girls will behave in a sexually irresponsible way. But we are now going to forcibly vaccinate young girls who are chaste?

This is another sad example of a pro-family leader’s betrayal of causes important to American families. Let’s pray this injustice is corrected.

Friday, February 02, 2007

More Gobbledygook

Associated Press reporter David Lieb writes about Senator Matt Bartle’s bill to reverse Amendment 2, Missouri’s new (and America’s first) clone-to-kill law.

Matt Bartle is a relentless and conviction-driven politician. Incidentally, his 17 hour filibuster of Warren Erdman's appointment to the MU Board of Curators is a record for a one man filibuster. On the eve of the 200th anniversary of William Wilberforce’s successful campaign to abolish the slave trade in England, one can readily think of some similarities between Bartle and Wilberforce.

What struck me in Lieb’s article was this statement:

“Bartle's proposal would reverse language in last fall's ballot measure that allows a certain form of embryonic stem cell research to occur in Missouri. Instead, it would ban the cloning procedure and allow the Legislature to restrict state funding for research."

It is interesting how Lieb rightly identifies “a certain form of embryonic stem cell research” as a “cloning procedure.” That’s the trouble with Amendment 2. It legalizes the cloning procedure of embryonic stem cell research, while at the same time, making cloning illegal.

So, is cloning legal or illegal in Missouri? Well, with its 2,100+ words, Amendment 2 went to great legal gymnastics to re-define cloning. Still, reporters like Lieb and regular citizens like me know the truth. Embryonic stem cell research is cloning.