In what game are the winners filled with regret, while the losers are filled with relief?The answer: Virtual Stock Exchange. If you do really well playing with fake money, you wind up asking yourself, "Man, why didn't I do that with real money?" On the other hand, if you have a really lousy game and lose, you reassure yourself, "At least I wasn't doing that with the egg & butter money." You know, it seems like everybody runs some sort of game who has a blog. Wes Kenney did football picks. Kevin Bussey did some sort of blogger popularity game. So I thought to myself, what kind of game could I promote that would be fun for everyone involved, but would reinforce every stereotype about conservatives. Then it hit me: Greedy Capitalism! So, just click here to join our own little Baptist stock market game. I've named it the "Ledger A" Baptist Investment Club. The name comes from the life of the greatest Baptist capitalist of all times, John D. Rockefeller. At the Rockefeller Archive Center you can still see Rockefeller's "Ledger A"—his first personal accounting ledger that he started when he was just sixteen years old. Rockefeller was faithful to tithe from his humble beginnings and spent the last years of his life working full time trying to give his money away to charity. You'll need these details to join the game: Game ID: ledgeraclub Game Password: rockefeller The game will begin on Tuesday, September 3, 2007 (Monday is a holiday) and will end on Friday, November 30, 2007. After the game starts, no new players wil be admitted (if the market crashes and we all go into the hole, it wouldn't be fair for someone to join in mid-stream at $0).
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Saturday, August 25, 2007
The Fifth Century Initiative
Recapturing the Baptist Vision
Baptists embark upon their fifth century of modern existence beginning in 2009.1 Seventeenth-century Baptists asserted several New Testament precepts that we can isolate as the distinctive tenets of Baptist identity. These concepts coalesced for the seventeenth-century Baptists into a prescription of interconnected propositions for congregational reformation.
Four centuries have nearly elapsed. As the fifth century of modern Baptist existence dawns, the key New Testament precepts that define us have recently waned in influence and support among Southern Baptists. We are forgetting who we are—who Christ has called all Christians to be. At a moment when we once again need spiritual awakening and reformation, the New Testament prescription that served so well in the first and the seventeenth centuries beckons us again.
An initiative is in order to place before God’s people once again a vision for renewing the New Testament foundation of our congregations. Several tasks await faithful Baptists who would pursue this end:
- The Restoration of Biblical Literacy: None of the initiatives stipulated in this document are feasible in their fullest sense apart from a concerted campaign to acquaint the Southern Baptist people with the sacred text. Southern Baptists must develop viable congregational strategies for pursuing biblical literacy among our members.
- The Pursuit of the Great Commission: New Testament congregations are a construct intrinsic to the gospel and universally relevant to all people, cultures, and ages. Our congregations must visit afresh the Divine imperative to reproduce themselves throughout the world, embracing opportunities to engage the task with greater vigor than before.
- The Proclamation of the Gospel: Southern Baptists must regain a confidence in the power of the unadorned gospel to win the lost and to effect a lifetime of transformation. A confidence in the converting power of the gospel is in many ways the theological premise underlying the entirety of the Baptist vision.
- The Recovery of Regenerate Church Membership: Southern Baptists must restrict membership to visible saints.
- The Defense of Believer’s Immersion: Troubling signs of erosion have appeared on the bedrock of Baptist belief—the ordinance of believer’s immersion. Southern Baptists must assert not only the biblical certainty of this doctrine, but its biblical importance. Christian immersion is the nonnegotiable initial act of obedience for every Christian disciple.
- The Development of an Updated Southern Baptist Church Covenant: Many issues have emerged in the past century to pose new challenges to congregations. An updated covenant would greatly assist in recalling Southern Baptists to covenantal accountability as foundational to congregational life.
- The Renewed Exercise of Biblical Church Discipline: Several leaders have done significant work to commend to Southern Baptists the biblical mandate for church discipline and to provide practical guidance for the recovery of church discipline in lapsed churches. Building upon this work, the Southern Baptist Convention must assert these reforms not merely as one way to “do church” but as the New Testament model for mutual accountability among Christians.
- The Rehabilitation of Congregational Church Polity2: Baptist polity has far too often degenerated into the unholy pursuit of personal agendas. After an embarrassing hiatus, Southern Baptists have found once again the New Testament basis for congregational church governance. Now we need practical guidance to demonstrate how to restore the Lordship of Christ in the midst of congregational church governance.
- The Mobilization of the Universal Priesthood: Southern Baptists do well to consider one of the most robust New Testament doctrines for Christian mobilization—the recognition of all believers as members of a universal Christian priesthood with responsibilities for spiritual service. If the members of the congregation are all regenerate, then all are obligated to participate in the congregation’s mission.
- The Revitalization of Cooperative Association: Pragmatism and an inappropriate competitive spirit have sometimes marred relationships between sister congregations. Also, the waning of Baptist identity has diluted the fraternal doctrinal accountability that has historically marked the relationship between churches in their associative bodies. Southern Baptists need to recover a healthy cooperative life that encourages healthy congregational life.
1The year 1609 is, if nothing else, the first year to which the vast majority of historians—successionist or non-successionist—can point and identify genuine Baptists. Whatever disputed Baptist existence occupied 1608, the modern phase of the movement begins in 1609.
2Congregational church polity describes a broad category of polity with many viewpoints on such matters as the number and role of elders.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
The Family: Reclaiming a Biblical View of the Family, Womanhood, and ManhoodSWBTS's Center for Leadership Development will present The Family conference September 13-14, 2007 in the Smith Center. Speakers include the Pattersons, Dr. Russ Moore, Dr. Mark Liederbach, Dr. Tom Eliff, and Dr. Richard Land. No topic is more timely, and these speakers are qualified to dispense just the prescription that the families in our churches need. I highly recommend this conference.
Engage ConferencePrestonwood Baptist Church will host the 2007 Engage Conference October 22-24, 2007. Keynote speakers will be Jack Graham, James Macdonald, James Merritt, and O. S. Hawkins. Keith and Kristyn Getty will provide worship leadership. Teaching responsibilities will prevent me from attending the whole thing, but I may sneak in for Tuesday and part of Wednesday. All of the preachers are top notch. Graham has a real heart for encouraging younger pastors. I attended a Paul-Timothy event at which Hawkins spoke, and he gave some very helpful, practical advice that has helped me ever since. I've never heard the Gettys in person, which motivates me strongly to attend. If any of you plan to attend Engage, please let me know. You'll only be a few miles from Farmersville, and I'd love to meet you face-to-face that week.
Monday, August 20, 2007 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Four Southern Baptist pastors have announced their intention to launch a new blog that grows out of their conversation about a renewed focus in biblical discipleship and Baptist identity. The pastors are Wes Kenney, of Valliant, Oklahoma, Robin Foster, of Perkins, Oklahoma, Joe Stewart of Littlefield, Texas, and Tim Rogers of Statesville, North Carolina. All four have already established blogs of their own. Kenney, who will share blog administration duties with the other three pastors, said that SBCToday.com will launch September 10 and will feature articles and audio files on subjects ranging from theology to sermon delivery to building a godly household. According to Kenney, the blog will showcase articles from “some of the best and brightest in Southern Baptist life.” The four founding pastors will post articles that function very much like a standard blog with comments and dialog. The articles from guest contributors, as well as the audio files, will not allow comments. “As a fifth century dawns for churches called Baptist, there is budding a renaissance of Baptist beliefs. In an effort to aid and participate in this revival of Baptist distinctives, we’ve decided to launch this new blog,” Kenney explained. “We also believe this discussion can be carried on in a courteous and respectful manner. We hope that we can highlight and clarify the distinctives that made Baptist churches a mighty force in missions and evangelism. Our sincere intent is that God will be glorified through the renewed focus on these foundational matters.” For further information, contact: Robin Foster (405)547 1222 email@example.com Wes Kenney (580)933 6940 firstname.lastname@example.org Tim Rogers (704)876 2264 email@example.com Joe Stewart (806)385 4414 firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
This post is the culmination of a series of posts. For your convenience, I list them all here:
- Reading the Camel: Before
- Of Muslims and Mormons
- Of Muslims and Mohammed
- Of Muslims and Mohammed: Redux
- Of Muslims and Mars Hill
- Of Muslims and Middle-Eastern Culture
- This Post: Of Muslims and Mohler's Triage
The results of my July sidebar poll were overwhelming. More than 97% of respondents believed that reverence of Mohammed as a prophet and of the Qur'an as valid scripture were incompatible with Christianity. To become a Christian necessarily involves, for the Muslim, the rejection of the prophet Mohammed and the Qur'an—or at least so say I and most of you. The book The Camel does not include these concepts in its presentation of the gospel to Muslims.
So, this is an issue dealing with the very nature of the gospel. A bona fide tier-one issue.
Obviously, I have no problem with taking a stand on tier-two issues. I'm even willing to offer a forceful opinion on tier-three issues, although these ought not to mark denominational boundaries. Anything in the Bible is worthy of discussion and our earnest attempts to understand it. But we're constantly chided for daring to acknowledge the existence of genuine tier-two issues. We're told that we should only draw lines on tier-one issues—only in connection with the gospel itself.
Well, here, by definition, is a tier-one issue. I am not asserting thereby that every question regarding the Camel has been definitively settled, but I am asserting that the subject matter is the very nature of the gospel. This is a tier-one question.
I've found myself wondering often whether the "irenic" among us really want to discuss even tier-one issues—whether there is an implicit and false presumption that tier-one issues were all settled long ago and therefore that the task of earnestly contending for the faith does not remain for us today.
In a comment on an earlier post on this blog, Wade Burleson made me aware that items concerning the Camel have come to the table in IMB board meetings. Here is an example of a tier-one issue coming before one of our trustee boards. I have completed my analysis of the Camel, and will leave the ball entirely in other people's courts—Greeson's to make revisions, the IMB's to reconsider its endorsement, other missionaries to share how they correct the Camel in their practice, someone to demonstrate where the Camel is incompatible with C5 and C6, someone to make a convincing case for the compatibility of Christianity with revering Mohammed and the Qur'an, etc.
As I watch how other people deal with this issue (or ignore it altogether), it will tell me a lot about whether people are opposed to needless division only, or whether they are simply opposed to certain personalities, or even to the idea of theological distinctives at all. Certainly there exists the temptation to take every question, even a tier-one issue, and sweep it all into the category of tier-three. This temptation is especially pronounced among ecumenists, as evidenced by the current status of the World Council of Churches. Let us remember that they did not start out where they are today, but eventually succumbed to the temptation to demote biblical doctrine to the category of adiaphora in virtually all cases. Dr. Mohler had a name for the result of succumbing to that temptation. Let us pray that any advance of such an approach will fall to defeat within the Southern Baptist Convention (and indeed, wherever it may be advanced).
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Contextualization through Indigenization Most foreign missionaries spend years trying to make the Gospel fit contextually into the Muslim community. The movement I was now studying seemed to leapfrog over contextualization directly to indigenization as it naturally took on the cultural complexion of the Muslim community from which it sprang, because it was led by Muslim-background believers. We had not realized how much local Christianity in the country was identified with Western culture. As we drew closer to the Muslims we were trying to reach and to our Muslim-background believer partners we began to see things through their eyes. In their eyes Western Christianity was associated with the same American culture they viewed on television, leading many of them to reject the Gospel as an extension of American culture. Muslim-background believers overcame this obstacle by rejecting Western culture and, along with it, Western expressions of Christianity. Yet they were able to embrace the Gospel within their own cultural patterns. As a result the Gospel found an indigenous home and was able to spread rapidly through their community. -The Camel (2007), 39.Western culture is not a Christian culture. We cannot deny that Christianity, more than any other system of religious thought, has impacted Western culture. However, I think the best we could say about modern European culture or American culture is that Christianity is the most prominent religion against which our culture is in rebellion. As I critique The Camel, let me be clear on several points:
- I recognize and am heartbroken about the degree to which Western culture serves as an excuse in other parts of the world for people in their rejection of the gospel.
- I do not believe that missionaries ought to be converting people to Western culture.
- I do not even assume that missionaries to Muslims will be Westerners. One of my colleagues in Ph.D. studies was a Korean native who had grown up as a missionary in South America from Korea. We're not the only ones on the block doing missions. I should hope that the things I have pointed out in The Camel would be equally objectionable to a Korean missionary, an American missionary, an Uzbekistani missionary, or a Kenyan missionary.
8. A Gospel that translates. Finally, it is important for readers to know that unlike Islam, which is bound forever to the Arab language and culture, we have a Gospel that translates. Every time the Gospel enters a new culture, it must be translated into the language and worldview of that culture. This is part of the genius and power of the Gospel: It translates eternal truth into local forms and expressions just as God in Christ translated Himself into a particular human form and Jewish expression. . . . .<discussion of John 1> While it is biblical and appropriate to translate the Gospel into the language and culture of the Muslim community, we must never confuse the use of Arabic names for God (Allah) and Jesus Christ (Isa al-Masih) with an endorsement or acceptance of the Muslim religion. Bridges are built to take us from one place to another and should never become an end in themselves.I affirm with Greeson the need to translate the gospel into the language of the Muslim community. But what does it mean to translate the gospel into Muslim culture? To aspire to do so presumes, it seems to me, that one possesses a pretty sharp scalpel and a pretty steady hand for the separation of the conjoined twins of Islam and Islamic culture. As I said above, Islamic societies have proven much more adept at interweaving their religion into virtually every aspect of their culture. It seems to me that, when we're talking about so-called "cultural translation," the phrase "the gospel" denotes the very things that cannot and should not in any sense be "translated." We can draw upon the tools of analogy and illustration to explain the gospel, and these tools will necessarily change from culture to culture. I know that I preach a little bit differently at an Ozark rural church than I do in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. But the gospel preached is something that I carefully, doggedly, deliberately seek not to change to fit the culture. Certainly, we see the deformed mutations of Christianity that populate America. We see how the gospel has been translated into the American Dream as the "Prosperity Gospel." We've seen the gospel translated into Southern racial segregation as the Ku Klux Klan. This idea of the "cultural translation" of the gospel has been, it seems to me, among the most damnable things in Christian history. Why, again, would we want deliberately to cultivate this approach to Christianity among Muslims? In the New Testament, we have Jews, Greeks, Romans, Ethiopians, Turks (to speak anachronistically), Egyptians, etc., etc., etc., but we have only one gospel. The goal of The Camel is to translate the gospel into "Muslim culture." Yet if we wind up with mosque-attending, Qur'an-toting, Mohammed-revering, salat-performing folks as the end product of our efforts, I fear that what we have done, rather than the translate the gospel into "Muslim culture," is to translate the gospel into Islam. <edit>A good friend has provided this link for us all to consider on the subject of Christian-Muslim relations. Unbelievable!</edit>