This one goes out to all you born-again believers in Jesus Christ out there—the only people for whom this song is substantive theology rather than wishful denial.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
National Public Radio recently aired a segment concerning Sinclair Lewis's novel Elmer Gantry (listen to the interview here). One of the students, Robert Sagers, is a friend. I thought that he and the other two students did an excellent job fielding the questions and pointing NPR's audience (a group that really needs it) to the gospel. Take a little time to stop in and listen.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Few episodes of recent popular culture have been as ripe for analysis and pontification as Lauren Cleri's appearance on the Fox reality show "Moment of Truth." Contestants on the show win money by truthfully answering a series of increasingly personal and compromising questions. No matter how much a contestant has earned through previous questions, a single dishonest answer wipes out the entire balance (Prior to taping, each contestant has already answered the questions while under examination by a polygraph).
Cleri's appearance was noteworthy because she voluntarily chose to admit on national television that she wishes she were married to her ex-boyfriend and that she has committed adultery. After winning $100,000 and proceeding toward $200,000 by these admissions, Cleri then lost everything by dishonestly stating that she thinks that she is a good person. Cleri went home with no prize money and with the likely prospect of losing her marriage.
I can think of more ways to interpret this event than I have energy to write about. Lauren Cleri will be mentioned in a lot of sermons over the next few months to illustrate one thing or another. Here are a few of the ones that come to mind for me:
- Cleri's case illustrates the fact that a single lie can indeed undo a thousand previous truths told.
- Cleri barely concealed a smirk while she contemplated announcing to the world that she had committed adultery. Many preachers will likely use this story to demonstrate how shallow and uncertain is today's commitment to marriage.
- It is awfully important for people to develop early in their lives a list of convictions that start with the words, "Even for a million dollars, I would never, ever…"
- The ending comments of Cleri's contest ruminate over whether she has been able to forgive herself for the things that she has done. Her need for the forgiveness of her husband and family receives very little attention, and not at all does anyone address the idea that she might need to seek forgiveness from God.
In addition to these themes, I want to assert that Cleri's moment of dishonesty represents a remarkable moment of truth, not about her, but about the culture that we have built (and I believe that it is pretty doggone important to acknowledge that culture is not just the house that we live in—it is the house that we build for ourselves to live in). Cleri has abandoned all shame and has developed a brash openness about her own misguided (unguided?) sexuality. She's come to a place in her life where she's prepared to invite the world into her bedroom to peruse her lusts and deviancies. Yet ultimately, in spite of her twenty-first-century openness regarding her hormones, Cleri has lost the ability to be honest with her own self about the questions that really matter—Am I a good person? Why am I here? What am I supposed to be doing with my life?
In so many ways, hers is a story that is being played out all around us.
Monday, February 25, 2008
The Pew Forum has released a new Religious Landscape Survey (HT: Dallas Morning News Religion Blog). There's a lot of interesting (in a nerdy, I've-spent-way-too-much-time-in-a-library sort of way) data in there. Somehow stuck on the strange notion that, given the choice between solid scientific data and my off-the-wall opinions, you'll bother to read my opinions anyway, I offer them below:
- The lowest percentage of the religiously unaffiliated in the entire United States goes to the state of Mississippi. I wonder whether they took the poll before or after Pete and Delmar got baptized and saved?
- Only two categories of affiliation have a higher percentage of adherents than Southern Baptists (6.7%): Roman Catholics (23.9%) and "Nothing in Particular" (12.1%). I wonder which are more ready for evangelism, those already a part of some faith tradition or those adrift in no man's land?
- One error in categorization, if Lifeway Research knows what they're talking about, is that the Pew Forum failed to include the Southern Baptist Convention under "Pentecostal, Evang. Trad." :-)
- The highest percentile of Evangelical Protestant churches is in the 30-49 age range, not the "greying" ranges of 50-64 or 65+. With all the hand-wringing I hear over losing younger folks, that surprised me.
- A full 91% of Evangelical Protestants have two or fewer children at home. Considering the immediately previous age-range information, Dr. Al Mohler's observations about childbearing look more and more relevant every day.
- Back to the age thing. The only groups that beat the national average for ages 18-29 are: Historically Black Protestants, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Muslims, Buddhists, Other Faiths, and Unaffiliated. In other words, these categories are demographically "younger" than the national population.
- The most male-dominated faith in America is Hinduism, with Unaffiliated running a close second.
- This one had me scratching my head: Historically Black Protestants are more than twice as likely never to have been married than other Protestants.
- Most busy making babies? Mormons and Muslims.
- The buckle of the Bible Belt is not Texas; it is officially Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Tennessee. I'm now officially a missionary from my native state to the heathen of the Lone Star State.
There's really enough data there to go on for quite a while. I encourage you to look for yourself. The website (linked above) is quite user-friendly. Who knows how accurate it really is, but it certainly is interesting.
Many thanks to Bro. Robin Foster, pastor, blogger, and one of the proprietors over at SBC Today (he's not the one who looks a lot like Michael Bolton). Robin hosted a Baptist Distinctives Conference this weekend, and I was privileged to play a part. The people of Immanuel Baptist Church in Perkins, OK, are a warm and hospitable people, and I greatly enjoyed my time with them.
Speaking of Baptist Distinctives, can we take a moment to consider believer's immersion? I believe that the Bible is abundantly clear regarding how to baptize someone. Other people advance arguments in favor of affusion (pouring) or aspersion (sprinkling) as appropriate modes of baptism. They also advocate the baptism (by aspersion, generally) of infants against their will as a biblical practice. I think that they make these arguments not out of biblical fidelity but out of blind denominational loyalty. They, doubtless, think the same of me. Which is the case?
Here's one bit of evidence (not proof, but at least strong evidence). What do people decide who have otherwise rejected denominational loyalty? In other words, of the new denominations formed since, say, 1641, how many are immersionist and how many are not?
By the way, we're not counting the subdivision of groups that represent no significant change in theology. So, for example, the PCA and the PCUSA only count under the broader heading of "Presbyterians." And, of course, Presbyterians were around before 1641.
Friday, February 22, 2008
At the conclusion of Gods and Generals, Tracy and I returned home. We had not checked our answering machine since Thursday (this date was a Saturday in 2003). When we walked in the door, we saw that we had a large number of messages on our machine. While I carried in our luggage, Tracy punched the "Play" button on the answering machine.
And our lives changed forever.
Five of the six messages on our answering machine were from an OB-GYN in Arkansas. She had a baby and was looking for adoptive parents. SHE HAD BEEN CALLING SINCE THURSDAY!!!!! We were terrified that, unable to contact us, she and the birthparents had moved on to someone else. An immediate, breathless call to Arkansas calmed our fears. The family was still waiting to speak with us. A baby! Wow! We'd been married eleven years at that point.
This doctor had received a flier in one of our mass mailouts nearly a year earlier. All that time she had been keeping our flier, looking for an opportunity for us. So today, five years later, I tip my hat to Dr. Shirolyn Moffett.
I encourage you to listen to Peter Lumpkins's interview with Frank Cox over at SBC Today. It is no secret that I was enthusiastic about Dr. Al Mohler's candidacy for the presidency of our convention. Although I am glad that he is taking the steps necessary to continue as a leader in our convention for years to come, I was disappointed to see the possibility of his election end before it had really begun.
The interview with Dr. Cox assuages my disappointment somewhat. Surely Dr. Cox sounds like a godly man who knows what he believes, is a genuine conservative Southern Baptist, and has as firm and appropriate grasp on some of the key issues that face us as Southern Baptists today. I was particularly encouraged to read his comments about the Garner Motion. When the time comes to decide how to cast my ballot, Dr. Frank Cox will receive serious and positive consideration from me.
Tracy and I left Fort Worth to spend the afternoon with lifelong friend Keith Sanders and his fiancée Melissa. Keith and Melissa are now married, and he is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Keller, TX. Because Melissa has a Yankee upbringing, we took her to the theater at Grapevine Mills to watch God's and Generals. She humored us, but I'm not so sure that she was really into it.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
NOTE: You may have seen this post come out early, and then I deleted it, and now it is coming out late. Please forgive my blogging inadequacies.
Five years ago today I was cloistered in the SWBTS library, hard at work writing about revivals among the Confederate Army in the War of Northern Aggression (snicker, snicker) for Dr. Roy Fish's History of Spiritual Awakenings seminar. Tracy was also in Fort Worth for a ladies' retreat (I think it was an SBTC minister's wives' retreat). We were staying at the SWBTS Leadership Development Center.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Of course, everyone knows that the right way to promote your church is to develop materials to tell prospects about all of the things that you offer them: Programs for the kids, activities for them, etc. At FBC Farmersville we're developing new materials to give to people who visit our church. I guess I'm making a big mistake by leading off with this?
[EDIT]I have inserted the statement in its entirety, so you can read the whole thing in context.
So, you’re looking for a church home. What does First Baptist Church have to offer you? We offer you a cross to take up as Christ’s disciple. We offer you the chance to forfeit your vacation to serve a meal in a slum in Thailand, or carry gypsum wallboard up a flight of stairs to install into a Hurricane Katrina victim’s new home in Waveland, Mississippi. We offer you the chance to rush to church after a long Wednesday’s work, don an AWANA shirt, and lead a fifth-grader to a life-changing faith in Christ. We offer you a chance to lose your life, so that you might really find it.
We offer you a weekly confrontation with the Word of God. We promise that it will make us all uncomfortable sometimes. It will challenge our preconceived notions. It will make us think, and it might make us mad. It will ask us whether we’re doing the things that really matter in the long run. When the world says we’re worthless, God’s Word will pick us up and remind us what God thinks about us—God sees the value inside and loves us too much to leave us the way that we are.
We offer you the promise that you’ll have to do all of this alongside people who don’t look much like you and don’t always see the world the same way that you do. “One body...One Spirit...One hope...One Lord, One faith, One baptism, One God and Father of all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6) That’s what First Baptist Church of Farmersville is all about. Why should churches be divided along lines of age, race, wealth, musical preference, occupation, or leisure pursuit? Contemporary churches. Traditional churches. Biker churches. Surfer churches. Singles churches. Senior adult churches. Is that what Jesus intended when He founded the church? We think not, and we have determined to build a transgenerational, transpreferential church in which people find their unity around the things that really matter: Christ, our salvation in Him, all of the teachings of His Word, and the work that He has given us to do.
Is that the kind of church you’re seeking? I can’t answer for you, but maybe that’s the wrong question to begin with. The question is, what kind of church is God seeking for you? We’re betting that He’s looking for a church a lot like ours, and we welcome the chance to open a conversation with you about it.
Not long ago I posted a scenario for Republican defeat in November. Today I wish to post one possible recipe by which the Democrat Party could destroy their own chances for success.
If Barack Hussein Obama wins the primary race, even if only barely so, and if Hillary Rodham Clinton consequently takes the nomination by invoking superdelegates in a brokered convention, then I believe that Mrs. Clinton will have made a tactical error. Although she will retain the votes of those Democrats who could not countenance pulling any other lever (how long until that phrase is viewed as archaic?), I don't believe that any Democrat nominated under such circumstances could count on any Independent or crossover votes.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
As we observe monumental changes in the island nation of Cuba, my prayers continue to rise for brothers and sisters from that nation who serve Christ. They love their country and they love their Lord. They desire only to worship him freely and see His glory pour over their island. May God continue to bless them during and beyond this time of transition.
In case you don't know what I'm talking about, Fidel Castro has today resigned from his position leading the government of Cuba. See the New York Times report here. Castro's younger (76?) brother Raul has served in Fidel's stead for several months and now receives the office indefinitely and officially.
Monday, February 18, 2008
I've left a lot of threads hanging in the breeze over the past few months of blogging. Some of them are significant enough that people are asking me about them. This post doesn't really have a topic, other than an update on some of these miscellaneous items.
First, several of you have kindly inquired offline about the status of the potential adoption that I first mentioned here. To summarize, the adoption did not happen. That's the risk that you run when you get involved in this process. It never gets easy, but you get better at handling it.
Second, the Virtual Stock Exchange competition mentioned here. Ladies and Gentlemen, the winner's wreath goes to Steve Grose, the investor-baron of Australia. In the last couple of days he surmounted my months-long lead in the game. Congratulations, Steve!
Third, I have completed my sermon calendaring web application, and a couple of people have seen it running on my iPhone, but I'm still trying to figure out a way to offer it to people for free.
Fourth, I am building a different blog for our bipartisan effort to produce a clear-cut decision on the role of the Baptist Faith & Message in Indianapolis. I'll give you the details in a few days.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Looking back over the past two years, I see a lot of posts attacking Dr. Paige Patterson. I also see several affirmations of Dr. Patterson, mostly prefixed or suffixed with something along the lines of "...not that I agree with everything he does."
Well, I don't prefix or suffix my affirmations of love for the remainder of my friends, and I'll not do so for Dr. Patterson, either. Just so there will be at least one post of this type offered by somebody somewhere, here are my reasons why I love Dr. Paige Patterson.
- I love Dr. Paige Patterson because I am so thankful for what God wrought through him and others in the Conservative Resurgence of the SBC. I understand that many people hate him for precisely the same reason. You are entitled to your opinion; I am entitled to mine. The Conservative Resurgence was not the phenomenon of the Southern Baptist Convention becoming more conservative—the majority of Southern Baptists were conservative all along—but was the phenomenon of Southern Baptist conservatives becoming more assertive. Dr. Patterson epitomizes assertive conservatism, and I am thankful for what he has done.
- I love Dr. Paige Patterson because I have had the repeated, ongoing experience upon hearing him preach of saying to myself either (a) "I've said the very same thing myself," or (b) "I could have said that myself," or (c) "I wish I had said that myself," or (d) "I'm going to say that myself." I find that his theological viewpoint is very nearly identical to my own.
- I love Dr. Paige Patterson because you know where he stands. I admire someone who will take a position.
- I love Dr. Paige Patterson because he helps other people. I didn't realize the extent of this phenomenon until I took up blogging. I've long ago lost count of the people who, thankful for some online defense of Dr. Patterson, have come to me with stories of how Dr. Patterson took an interest in their ministry and assisted them at some point. Introducing Dr. Patterson at the recent SBTC Empower Evangelism Conference was one such young man who related advice that Dr. Patterson had given to him in a rough patch of a seminary pastorate.
- I love Dr. Paige Patterson because of his love for his wife. I'll be very shocked if I ever hear that Dr. Patterson has strayed from his marital vows—not so shocked with regard to other Christian leaders I have met.
- I love Dr. Paige Patterson because I have, since childhood, loved Labrador Retrievers.:-)
- I love Dr. Paige Patterson because he loves the Lord, the Word, and the Church.
- I love Dr. Paige Patterson because he has exemplified grace and restraint in his dealings with his very public, very ungracious, and very unrestrained accusers.
- I love Dr. Paige Patterson because he is a phenomenal storyteller.
- I love Dr. Paige Patterson because I know that, if I worked for him and I departed orthodoxy, he would fire me before I could blink twice. Maybe it would catch my attention and turn me back to the right path.
Most of you don't know me. I'm betting that very few of you know me as well as you think you do. But just to make sure that you can have some idea whence these ideas arise, let me add things that are not reasons why I love Dr. Patterson:
- I am not indebted to Dr. Patterson in any way other than our biblical debt to love one another. I came to my church, earned the vast majority of my degree, met my wife, adopted my children, accepted Christ, and came to my theological convictions all while I knew Dr. Paige Patterson no better than I knew St. Augustine. Although I once taught adjunctively for SWBTS, I began to do so before Dr. Patterson ever came to SWBTS.
- I have not spent any inordinate amount of time with Dr. Patterson. We converse with one another no more than four or five times a year at the most, and those occasions take place in public settings where our paths happen to cross.
- I do not intend to "make something of myself" by any association with Dr. Patterson. I am either (a) just confident enough in the Lord who called me, or (b) just arrogant enough in my own abilities, one or the other, to think that God took good care of me before I ever met Dr. Patterson and that God will take care of me from here until Heaven. [EDIT: Addition] For what it is worth, as my opinion goes, the key to avoiding this kind of temptation is to want the right things in life and to know (i.e., remind yourself) what you want. I've set it upon my heart to be faithful to the Lord and be content with wherever that takes me. Know what you want: the Lord's favor. Then you need not fear or use any man. [/EDIT]
No, the only explanation is this: I am thankful for what he has accomplished in our convention, largely agree with his theology, appreciate him as a brother in Christ, and enjoy his company on those occasions when I am in it. For all of those reasons and more, I love Dr. Paige Patterson.
If you wish to speak negatively of the man, you'll have no trouble finding a blog post somewhere to do just that. If you can't find an appropriate place, let me know and I'll be happy to direct you to one. But I would ask you to leave this one post—of all of the material out there on the Internet, this solitary post at least—as a forum to speak positively about Dr. Patterson. Those of you who would like to say something nice about Dr. Patterson and his influence upon your life or ministry, I invite you to do so in the comments.
Friday, February 15, 2008
SBC Outpost has reported that Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary rented facilities to the Tarrant County Republican Party (insert horrified gasp here).
I just completed an email conversation with the person who first handled these arrangements for SWBTS. This person no longer works at SWBTS, and in fact, no longer works in Southern Baptist denominational life at all. This person is not, to my knowledge, a close friend of the Pattersons and has no personal or professional reason to tell anything other than the truth about what happened.
Here's what I learned, for those actually interested in the truth.
- This SWBTS employee personally made it known to the Tarrant County Democrat Party that the facilities were available for them to rent as well.
- Not only did the seminary not promote the GOP event, but SWBTS also sponsored its own competing election watch party in a separate part of the same facility, advertising it in the newspapers inviting all of the community to attend.
- The idea to rent the facility to the GOP did not originate from the President's office and initially met with some skepticism from upper echelons of seminary administration.
- One condition of the rental attracted the notice of local media: The Tarrant County Republicans had to forego alcohol in order to use SWBTS's facility.
A man was going down from Chicago to Urbana, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. And by chance a theologian was going down on that road on the way to an SBL meeting, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Humanities major headed to a peace rally also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
But a Christian small business owner, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him in his own car, and brought him to an ICU and took care of him. On the next day he took out $800 and gave it to the hospital and said, "Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you."
The Humanities major ran for Congress, won, and introduced a bill to triple the small businessman's taxes, using the money to establish an enormous and expensive Federal bureaucracy to patrol the roadways looking for travelers in distress. For this action, the Congressman received the Nobel Peace Prize. The small businessman went bankrupt.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
What follows is a press release from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, will require additional surgery after a scheduled colonoscopy on February 11 revealed a tumor in his colon. An initial biopsy indicated that the tumor is pre-cancerous and further tests are to be scheduled, along with surgical options.
Mohler, 48, underwent major abdominal surgery in late December 2006, complicated by the development of bilateral blood clots in his lungs. Doctors will take special precautions to prevent a recurrence of the blood clots with this new surgery. Specialists are consulting on the case, and a decision on the date and location for the surgery is to be made in the very near future. The procedure is likely to require an extensive period for recuperation and recovery.
Mohler expressed gratitude to God that medical personnel found the tumor this early.
“Sometimes we take it for granted that we live in an age like this one, in which God has given us the blessing of medical technology,” Mohler said. “For most of human history, a tumor such as this one would have gone unnoticed until it was too late. I am thankful for modern medicine, but I am even more thankful that we live in a world in which our God hears us when we pray, a Father who listens to his children.”
Mohler said that Southern Seminary “would not skip a beat” during his recuperation.
“I have absolute confidence in the seminary leadership team. We will move forward with momentum,” Mohler said. “God has blessed and is blessing Southern Seminary. We do not take that for granted, and we pledge to be good stewards of that blessing, even through this time.”
Mohler said that his time of recuperation would necessarily alter some of his plans as he gives first priority to his health and his family.
“Some have asked how this new development affects my nomination to be president of the Southern Baptist Convention in Indianapolis this June,” Mohler said. “I have decided to give my greatest attention right now to addressing this new challenge and to ministering to my wife and children. This is clearly not the right time for me to accept this nomination. I have asked my good friend Robert Jeffress not to proceed with nominating me for president of our Southern Baptist Convention this year.
“Frankly that decision is made much easier by my knowledge that there is at least one strongly conservative, committed pastor who intends to be nominated in Indianapolis,” Mohler said.
Southern Seminary will release additional information as it becomes available. The Mohler family has expressed appreciation for all concern, prayer and encouragement.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Dear Bro. Burleson:
In the aftermath of last year's Garner Motion, a tiresome debate has ensued over the meaning and implications of this vaguely worded motion. I don't like the resulting confusion, and surely neither do you.
Nobody benefits from our continuing in the same unresolved conflict and languishing in confusion. Therefore, I propose the following:
Let us put together a bipartisan panel to join, if you consent, in the drafting of a joint resolution on the role of the Baptist Faith & Message. To the best of our efforts, we will seek to craft a statement that characterizes our differences of opinion with clarity and, so far as we can manage it, neutrality. Let us attempt to draft a resolution regarding which we can both agree publicly beforehand that a vote one way necessarily vindicates your point of view and a vote the other way necessarily vindicates mine.
Then, let us submit the resolution in Indianapolis this year and let us await and abide by the results.
Monday, February 11, 2008
Around the Internet and elsewhere various people have objected to the nomination of Dr. Albert Mohler for election as President of the Southern Baptist Convention. Among the reasons for objection have been the claim that Dr. Mohler's election would represent a conflict of interest, since he presides over the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Nobody has been able to offer any specific credible suggestion as to how a seminary president might advance his personal interests or the interests of the seminary as SBC President. Furthermore, the SBC has elected so many entity heads as SBC President in the past as to make the phenomenon not even noteworthy any longer. Yet still some people will persist in this objection. Why?
I make this observation: I have yet to encounter anyone who raises the conflict of interest objection who has absolutely no other objections to Dr. Mohler's election. In other words, the "conflict of interest" objection seems not to have strong enough legs to stand on its own. People who have other reasons to object to Dr. Mohler's election, according to my theory, latch upon the "conflict of interest" objection to buttress their real reasons for objecting to his election.
As evidence, I encourage you to do a little blog searching regarding this scenario. The office of First Vice President has the sole responsibilities of consulting with the President regarding appointments, presiding over portions of the annual meeting, and stepping into the presidency upon the inability of the President to fulfill his responsibilities. The only qualification for being First Vice President is to be able to be the President if required. If a person is unfit to be President, that person is necessarily also unfit to be First Vice President.
Last year, International Mission Board employee David Rogers was nominated for the office of First Vice President. His nominator suggested that a missionary—an employee of the SBC—was precisely who we "should have…leading us." I do not recall anyone from any point of view suggesting last year that it would be a conflict of interest for an employee of the IMB possibly to be in a position to influence the selection of trustees for the IMB (consulting with the President to make appointments, and possibly winding up as President himself to make the appointments).
If you can locate for me anyone who both objected to David Rogers's nomination last year on the basis of "conflict of interest" and is objecting to Dr. Mohler's nomination this year on the basis of "conflict of interest," then we will have located someone who is demonstrably operating out of a personal conviction (however misguided it may be) about conflict of interest.
Saturday, February 9, 2008
It's simple math, really. The GOP selects its nominee by a delegate system. Through the current state primaries and caucuses, the various candidates are accumulating delegates. Whoever has the majority of delegates at the time of the party convention this Summer will be the GOP nominee.
However, a great many of those delegates come from states that simply will not, under any reasonable forecast, yield any electors for the Republican nominee in November. Thus, although New York's 101 delegates, New Jersey's 52 delegates and Connecticut's 27 delegates will help to select the GOP nominee, those states will not do a thing to help that nominee get elected this Fall.
Many people tout John McCain's "electability." Of course, "electability" contests seem always to feature McCain-Clinton or McCain-Obama matchups in national popular-vote polls. The popular vote, my friends, does not secure you the Presidency. Ask Al Gore. To win, you have to win the Electoral College. One simple fact remains clear, reinforced by today's results in Kansas—John McCain cannot win in the South. With the low GOP turnout a McCain ticket is certain to produce in the South, the Dems may have a better chance of picking off some Southern states than they have had in my lifetime. McCain does a great job winning Republican primaries in the Northeast, but he cannot win there in November. He is not a wise selection for Republicans.
Let the argument begin, but I'll be taking names for "I told you so"s in November. [grin]
Friday, February 8, 2008
Thank you, Lord, for the Calvinists who have contributed so much to the kingdom.
Thank you for William Kiffin, that untiring and unflinching defender of believer's baptism. Thank you for his quick wit and sharp tongue. Thank you for his steadfast continuation in an erstwhile unpopular and minority view that has since, by Your grace and power, come to be the cherished belief of millions.
Thank you for Kiffin's nemesis, that unlettered tinker of Bedford, John Bunyan. His Calvinism, perhaps, contributed to his ongoing flirtation with the sprinkling of infants and kept him from ever fully being a Baptist, yet I thank you for his twelve principled years in Bedford Jail and the great heavenly beauty that flowed from his pen.
Lord, I thank you for Andrew Fuller, the midwife of Baptist evangelism and missions. Reawaken in your children, dear Father, an appreciation for the worthiness of the gospel and a commitment to share it with the world. Thank you for giving him a vision of your kingdom beyond his environs, and thank you for the generosity of the church at Kettering to allow their pastor to wander from the fens of Northamptonshire to the moors of Scotland to encourage missionary faithfulness among the Baptist brethren.
I thank you, Lord, for William Carey, the plodding soldier of the cross who sacrificed so much and yet endured in his witness. Thank you for moving his supervisors and supporters not to cut him off after seven seemingly fruitless years without any converts gained or churches planted. Thank you for the teeming masses that You brought into the gospel through Carey's faithfulness. Grant him the joy of your glory, dear Lord, now that the sorrows of his family life here on earth are no more.
Thank you, Father, for Boyce and Broadus and Manley. Thank you for their dream that Southern Baptists could raise up a legion of pastors—men with training to match their passion and calling—to carry the gospel into the burgeoning communities of North America and beyond. Thank you for the riches and comforts that they laid upon the altar in their quest.
And I thank you, O Lord, for a new generation of students with an appetite for the passionate writings of the sixteenth, seventeeth, and eighteenth centuries. I do not think it a coincidence that the century which contributed McDonalds and microwave dinners to cuisine also contributed Barth and Elliot to Christian thought and practice. I know that today there are some who claim the mantle of Calvin who have drunk freely at the well of evangelical ecumenism (and consequently, have drunk a great deal more than that!), but for the great heritage of so many other Calvinists, I thank you, O Lord.
I do not thank you for their Calvinism, dear Father. I think it a way of thinking often inclined to impose philosophy above the sacred text (and sometimes violently so). Sometimes I pray that You would protect us from the extremes of Calvinism. Yet for all of these men, whatever failures or weaknesses they embodied, their commitment to You was so evidently greater than their allegiance to any system devised by men. Without the men listed above, we Baptists would never have found evangelism and missions in the first place to ever be in danger of losing them. They have been among the first and most faithful to point us to the Great Commission. It is for this, their allegiance to the cross and their tireless labors for the kingdom, that I say to You, thank You, O Eternal Father, for these our Calvinist forebears and brethren.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Our cultural landscape in the United States of America is sometimes bewildering. Are we in good shape or is America going to Hell in a handbasket? The question is so vast and the data so variegated as to make daunting the task of giving a simple answer.
Nowhere is our culture's complexity more pronounced in my mind than as it regards the health of religious liberty in the United States of America. On the one hand, our multicultural society fares much better than its predecessors in handling some forms of religious liberty. A Mormon is receiving serious consideration as a candidate for the highest elected office in the land! A Muslim congressman was sworn in on the Qur'an. Significant conflict still ripples out from the government's invasion and occupation of the realm of education, but otherwise we've made great strides in providing equal access to our nation's liberties for people of all faiths.
On the other hand, an alarming intolerance for biblical Christianity rears its ugly head every in our government every so often…just enough to raise some serious concerns.
Jim and Linda Dawkins came to First Baptist Church of Farmersville not too long ago. Gregarious and passionate about their faith, these two quickly engaged themselves into the fabric of our congregation. Jim is Linda's second husband—her first husband, Gene Vallow, ended their marriage after he renounced his former profession of faith in Jesus Christ, departing orthodox Christianity. He had been very faithful and active in church throughout his courtship and engagement with Linda. His repudiation of our Lord was a complete shock for her.
Having previously been a very active Christian, Linda's ex knew all of the intricate doctrines of the Christian faith, and he determined to try to use them against her in the battle for the custody of their son, Will. He alleged that a Christian upbringing would turn Will against him because it would teach that Gene is destined for Hell. A Dallas-area court agreed, awarding sole custody to Gene simply because Linda believes the Bible and wants the freedom to teach it to her son.
Linda has a website and a blog. I hope that you'll visit Fighting for Will (and the Fighting for Will blog here) and offer her your encouragement. Her religious liberty has been violated at the hands of the state, and not over some trivial matter, but by abducting her son from her. I'm praying that God will raise up some modern day Williams or Leland to right this injustice.
I have resolved the following with regard to my own blogging in 2008:
- I'm going to take even more time between posts and attempt to write more substantively.
- I'm going to give even less attention to bickering within comment streams.
- I'm going to comment even less on other blogs.
- I'm going to blog even more about what I want to write and react even less to other people's posts.
I don't know that this will last forever, but I'm genuinely trying to find the right balance between my pastoral responsibilities, my family responsibilities, my spiritual responsibilities, and my blogging activities. At some times in the past, I've let blogging take too much time from other pursuits. I've done much better lately, but I've done so without letting my readers have any idea what was going on. I'm thinking about establishing a more careful discipline that you can count on…maybe posting something every Thursday, for example.