"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Welcome to the Neighborhood Dr. McKissic

I have never personally met Pastor McKissic. I know him by reputation only, but yesterday enjoyed visiting with him over the phone. I found him to be quite engaging in conversation, very respectful of Dr. Patterson and Southwestern, and quite confused over all the events that transpired as a result of his chapel message.

There are two or three things I found that Dr. McKissic and I have in common regarding our service in the SBC:

(1). A complete shock over public statements that contained charges never communicated privately and personally.

As Dr. McKissic told the Associated Baptist Press he enjoyed lunch with Dr. Patterson and and his wife, Dorothy, following the chapel service. "I love Dr. Patterson, Dr. Patterson loves me, we had rich fellowship today," he said. "If they had a problem with it [the sermon], they didn't utter it to me at all."

The Press Release from the seminary said, authorized by the President, stated, "we reserve the right not to disseminate openly views which we fear may be harmful to the churches."

Dr. McKissic only became aware of the controversy over the Seminary refusing to post his message --- because it was "harmful" to churches and critical of a "sister agency" --- when a reporter phoned him for an interview. He was absolutely stunned. In his mind, the entire chapel service was uplifting, Biblically sound, and above all, Christ honoring. In addition, he was received well with applause on at least three different occasions. Imagine what went through his mind when learned his church members were being informed via the media that their pastor was teaching something harmful, and he himself didn't even know that what he preached was considered harmful?

It is only appropriate, when charges against a Southern Baptist leader are going to be made public, that the person against whom the charges are directed be informed -- FIRST. In fact, I would go further and say integrity demands that the person in question be informed privately before anyone other person, entitity or especially the public is informed. For that not to happen is unconscionable.

Dr. McKissic should have been told in private that his views are harmful to Southern Baptist Churches. He might have become angry with such a remark, but at least he would be able to say, "They told me in private what they said in public."

I wish God would part the heavens and utter the following words so that every Southern Baptist would never forget them --- "Do not make a public charge against a fellow brother without informing him specifically and privately what charge you are about to make." (see Five Salient Points).

(2). A bewilderment how conservative, evangelical Southern Baptist pastors who believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, and who base their messages on the sacred text, can be considered "harmful" or "heretical" by other Southern Baptists who disagree on interpretations regarding third tier doctrines.

According to the APB article, 'McKissic quoted from several Baptist scholars who offer biblical support for private speaking in tongues, including a quotation from Patterson's April 6, 2006, chapel sermon at Southwestern. "What do we conclude? The apostle Paul clearly said, 'Do not forbid to speak in tongues.'" McKissic quoted Patterson as saying. "It would be a mistake for evangelicals to forbid others to speak in tongues."'

Dr. McKissic's defense of his message with supporting footnotes can be found on Art Roger's blog and Marty Duren's SBC Outpost.

(3). A love for the SBC and her autonomous agencies, including the Presidents, trustees, and administrative staff of those agencies, but a growing concern that the SBC is narrowing the parameters of fellowship and cooperation.

Dr. McKissic said to APB in a follow-up story, "Because I said nothing during my message that contradicted the Bible or the 2000 “Baptist Faith & Message” [the SBC's doctrinal statement], I fail to see how my comments are viewed as outside of the Baptist mainstream."

In his message Dr. Mckissic said, "But I think it’s tragic in Baptist life when we take a valid, vital gift that the Bible talks about and come up with a policy that says people who pray in tongues in their private prayer lives cannot work in certain positions."

I have never spoken in tongues. I don't even know I agree with Dr. McKissic's interpretation of the texts regarding tongues, BUT I DO AGREE with his assessment regarding the narrowing of the parameters of participation and cooperation in our convention.

We must resist the growing tendency of some to demand that third tier doctrines, which in decades past have not been doctrines over which Baptists divided, be moved into the category of first tier doctrines, and exclude fellow Southern Baptists who disagree or give principle dissent. As Al Mohler states, "The misjudgment of true fundamentalism is the belief that all disagreements concern first-order doctrines. Thus, third-order issues are raised to a first-order importance, and Christians are wrongly and harmfully divided."

(see The Cooperative Program Means Cooperation, and A Theological Triage Test).

I'm honored to call Dr. McKissic a Southern Baptist. I'm glad that he is a leader in the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Texas Convention. I'm proud he is a trustee of Southwestern Theological Seminary.

And most of all I gladly call him a brother in Christ.

May his tribe increase.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Decide for Yourself

Transcript of chapel sermon by Rev. Dwight McKissic
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
August 29, 2006

__________________________


Good morning:

I’m delighted to be here today to share in this chapel service and, it reminds me, Dr. Patterson, when I came to Southeastern I went looking for a stoic and staid worship service, and it was much alive out there. And I have really appreciated this group of singers today, and that musician – we are looking for a pianist at my church and I want to talk to you afterwards and see if you’re looking for a job. Don’t go away because I need to see you before it’s over today.

I’m grateful for this opportunity to share today and I’m honored and privileged to serve as a trustee of Southwestern. I want to address a subject matter today. When I was asked to come and I asked the Lord about what he wanted me to share, he laid upon my heart a subject matter that took me many, many years in a pastorate to get a handle on. And I trust that this will help some of you who are probably also searching and grappling to get a handle on a subject that I want to address today. So I ask for your prayers as I deliver a message that I believe God has led me to share today.

I invite your attention to Acts chapter one, verse 5. Now I preached twelve minutes last time, so that means ya’ll owe me about thirty minutes today. Acts chapter one, verse five:

The words of Jesus.

He says, “For John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

I want to talk about the baptism and the filling of the Holy Spirit. There are seven passages in the New Testament which speak specifically of the baptism with the Spirit. Five of these passages refer to the baptism with the Spirit as a feature event. Four were spoken by John the Baptist (Mt 3:11; Mk 1:7-8; Lk 3:16; and Jn 1:33). One was spoken by Jesus after his resurrection. We just read it in this text, Acts 1:5. The expression “you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” means that this action was to take place at one particular time.

The KJV tells us that this event was to take place “not many days hence.” John the Baptist and Jesus referred to the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a future, historical event. The sixth time we see this phrase “baptized with the Holy Spirit” is in Acts 11:16, referring to the baptism in the Spirit as a fulfilled promise.

In Acts 11:16, Peter uses the term in reference to Cornelius and his household, who had also receive the Holy Spirit. Peter viewed the Gentiles receiving the Holy Spirit comparable with the Jews receiving the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, thus fulfilling the promises spoken by John the Baptist and Jesus.

The seventh, and last time we see this term, “baptize with the Holy Spirit,” is specifically mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:13. This passage speaks about the wider experience of all believers. We can conclude from these passages of Scripture that the baptism with the Holy Spirit was first of all a prophetic event fulfilled, a promised gift received, and a purposeful experience.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit may be properly defined as that activity of God whereby through his Spirit he brings the believer – at salvation – into a relationship with Christ and simultaneously into a relationship with the Body of Christ, the Church. So I want to raise a question today: Does the baptism in the Holy Spirit occur simultaneous with salvation or subsequent to salvation?

Don’t go to sleep on me now.

In the book of Acts we find four occasions for sure, and possibly five, where the baptism of the Holy Spirit occurred. No one occasion is identical to the other although there were some commonalities. In Acts 2:1-4, the 120 believers experienced the baptism and the filling of the Holy Spirit simultaneously accompanied with tongues at Pentecost. Also at Pentecost there were 3000 who received the gift of the Holy Spirit and salvation under the preaching of Peter, but no mention is made of them speaking in tongues.

The 120 were saved and received the baptism and filling of the Holy Spirit subsequent to salvation. The fact that the experience of the 120 was in two distinct stages was simply due to historical circumstances. They could not have receive the Pentecostal gift before Pentecost.

In Acts 8:12-17, we see where the Holy Spirit was received by the converts in Samaria after their water baptism. Philip preached the good news of the Kingdom of God and in the name of Jesus Christ they were baptized, both men and women. When Philip preached to Samaria, it was the first time that the gospel had been proclaimed outside Jerusalem. Evidently, because Samaritans and Jews had always been bitter enemies.

In Acts 8:16, it explains that although they were believers and had been baptized, the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon them. I believe that in this incidence and Samaria, God sovereignly withheld the Holy Spirit from them until Peter and John arrived so that they might see for themselves that God received even despised Samaritans who believed in Christ. There could be no question about it.

Also in Acts 8:26-40, we see the Holy Spirit directing Philip to go to Gaza to witness to an Ethiopian man. Thank God that the Ethiopians were included. The Ethiopian man, like the 3000 on the day of Pentecost, received the Word of God and was baptized. But there is no mention of tongues, a second baptism, or the laying on of hands. In verse 39 of Acts 8 it says he rejoiced in the Spirit as he got up out of the water when Philip baptized him.

Now Acts 2 is often referred to as the Jewish Pentecost, and Acts 8 is referred to as the Ethiopian Pentecost and the Samaritan Pentecost.

In Acts 10, verses 44-48, while Peter was preaching to Cornelius – the Italian, a Gentile – and his family and friends, the baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit fell on this Gentile. Unlike at Samaria when the Holy Spirit was given after water baptism, these Gentiles were baptized with the Holy Spirit while Peter was yet preaching.

In other words, you can’t put God in a box. He does things like he wants to when he wants to. He’s the sovereign God. There is no formula.

In Acts 19:1-7, we find an encounter of Paul with the disciples of John the Baptist in Ephesus. Paul asked them, in verse 3, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” Behind the question is the assumption that this was usually when it happened – when you believe, when we believe, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, according to Ephesians 1. They pled ignorant of the Holy Spirit, stating that they had been baptized into John’s baptism.

Paul related John’s baptism to the ministry of Jesus, and they were baptized in water a second time and received the gift of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Now to summarize this point: It is my belief that you cannot look to Acts for a fixed formula or a definite pattern as to how one receives the gift of the Holy Spirit. No one has the Spirit of God in a box. It is my belief that Pentecost instituted the Church, then all that remained was for Samaritans, Gentiles, Ethiopians, and Jews who were unaware of the gospel to be brought into the church representatively. This occurred in Acts 8 for Samaritans and Ethiopians; Acts 10 for Gentiles; and Acts 19 for the belated believers from John’s baptism. Once this representative baptism with the Holy Spirit had occurred the normal pattern applied. Baptism with the Spirit at the time that each person, of whatever background, believed on Jesus Christ. Baptism with the Holy Spirit is the initial experience of every believer at conversion.

Eph 1:3 says that “we have been blessed with spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” And one of those spiritual blessings, whether we realize it or not, that we received when we were saved is the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Now the question that many of you will have to deal with when you pastor and people join your church from various backgrounds, influenced by television ministries and what have you, is the question, “Is speaking in tongues the evidence of being baptized with the Holy Spirit?”

That’s the question that every future pastor here will have to deal with. It’s something you will have to work out in your own theological pilgrimage. And the answer to that question, based on biblical authority, as far as I’m concerned, is “no.” Speaking in tongues is not the evidence of being baptized with the Holy Spirit.

However, I believe it is not the gift of the Holy Spirit, but the Bible makes it clear that for some it is a gift that God chooses to give to believers.

Now it was in 1981, on this campus, when I took a class from Dr. Jack Gray, a missions professor, that he was teaching on spiritual formations in the spiritual foundations class at the time. And I probably bought almost 1500 books, Dr. Patterson, just trying to figure out the Holy Spirit. Well over a $1000.00, and every book I would read would influence me and I would change my mind with every book.

I was a young preacher, a young pastor, called to a church at 21 years of age, and I was having to work through this issue. And Dr. Gray had a 50cent booklet in class that, had I purchased that book first, it would have answered all my questions for me.

[Laughter]

He spent a whole week speaking on the Holy Spirit, and he made this statement in class one day, and it changed my life. He said, “Up until 11 years ago I knew the Holy Spirit as a doctrine, then I met him as a person.”

[That’s right, Amen!]

He said, “I knew him as a doctrine, but then I met him as a person.” That statement riveted me that day. We also had a week of study and prayer in that class, and we would use Peter Lord’s 21/59 prayer guide, and I grew up in a traditional Baptist church that was very anti-tongues.

I remember when the tongues movement broke out in our church, my pastor preached a sermon against tongues. He said that Jesus never spoke in tongues, and he never commanded anybody to speak in tongues. He took a hard stand, and so I adopted the position of my pastor until I got to Southwestern Seminary and Dr. Gray passed out this booklet on the gifts of the Holy Spirit that validated the gifts. And I studied Jack MacGorman’s book on the Holy Spirit, and Billy Graham’s book on the Holy Spirit. I’ve even looked at Dr. Patterson’s First Corinthians commentary where not all Baptists believe that the gift of tongues went out with the completion of the New Testament.

Some of the foremost leaders and thinkers and theologians among Baptist life believe tongues is a valid gift for today. And at 12noon, Dr. Gray challenged us to establish a daily time of praying through Peter Lord’s prayer plan, and I was at Ft. Worth dormitory here. Twelve noon was my 29/59 prayer time, and every day I let nothing interfere with that.

I wasn’t seeking the baptism of the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in tongues. I didn’t even believe in speaking in tongues. I was just going through my regular prayer time.

But I literally, on this campus, in the dormitory for the first time in my life, as I was praying, some strange words began to come out of my mouth. And I began to pinch myself and say, “what is this,” and the more I prayed I didn’t understand what I was saying. I said, “this must be what people call speaking in tongues.”

Now, I don’t believe that tongue-speaking is the evidence of the filling of the Spirit. Most of the religious scandals of our time have been led by men who practiced speaking in tongues. They certainly were not living a life that showed the evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit.

But I think it’s tragic in Baptist life when we take a valid, vital gift that the Bible talks about and come up with a policy that says people who pray in tongues in their private prayer lives cannot work in certain positions. That to me is contrary to what many of our foremost Baptist thinkers and leaders think.

[Amens heard]

[Applause]

Well you can understand I’m not the most popular man in the world, but at my age I don’t preach for popularity or applause, I preach what I believe is the truth of the Word of God.

[Applause. Laughter]

So, I don’t believe it’s the evidence, but I’m here to say that as the Spirit gives me utterance I pray in tongues in my private prayer life, and I’m not ashamed of that. I’m thankful for that. I don’t believe it makes me spiritual or superior or inferior to anybody. I have no prejudice or bias against tongues; however, I must stand on biblical truth and not popular opinion.

I do believe that all spiritual gifts listed in Scripture are operable today, and by the grace of God some Christians will experience the gift of tongues when filled with the Holy Spirit, although the teaching that all Christians should experience speaking in tongues as evidence of being baptized in the Holy Ghost is unscriptural. The Scripture does not preclude speaking in tongues for some when they are filled with the Holy Spirit.

As the Spirit rushes into the corners of their lives, awakening new desires for prayer and praise, speaking in tongues will naturally flow forward in some. Whatever your spiritual gift is, if you are filled with the Holy Spirit, that gift will be used to the maximum.

Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 12:13 that all believers are baptized by the Holy Spirit, but he also makes it clear 1 Corinthians 12:30 that all do not speak with tongues. Now since all Christians do not speak in tongues, it cannot be the proof of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

There is only one baptism in the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:5). “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” And I believer that’s referring to Holy Spirit that occurs at salvation. Being baptized is equated with being a child of God. Believers are never commanded in Scripture to be baptized, but to be filled with the Holy Spirit. As Dr. W.A. Criswell used to say, “one baptism, but many fillings.”

There is the ongoing filling ministry of the Spirit for power. There is only one baptism but many fillings. But all born-again believers are baptized in the Holy Ghost. All born again believers, who have experienced Jesus Christ as Lord, whether you’ve ever had a tongues speaking experience or not – you may never have one; that may not be God’s will for your life – but you have been baptized in the Holy Spirit. And the purpose of this baptism is to place believers in the Body of Christ.

Even carnal Christians are seen in 1 Corinthians 12 as having been baptized in the Holy Spirit.

The filling of the Spirit means the whole control of the Spirit, then enthronement of Jesus as Lord. When a person receives salvation, baptism with the Spirit, or the gift of the Spirit, I believe the Holy Spirit is resident. But when you’re filled with the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit is then president.

The filling with the Holy Spirit makes one experience Jesus as complete Lord. It is God-intoxication. Not drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit. Paul wrote of bringing every thought captive to Jesus Christ, to acknowledge his authority in 2 Corinthians 10:5. The fullness of the Spirit is for that specific purpose and service to bring every thought captive.

The promise in Acts 1:8 was power. And the service was witnessing. The report in Acts 2:4-11 was that they were “all filled” and unbelievers heard them telling in their own tongues of the mighty works of God. In Acts 4:31, believers were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God boldly. In Ephesians 5:18-21, the result of being filled with the Holy Spirit was that they would give thanks to God, that they would have submission in their lives, and they would acknowledge one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

The fruit of the Holy Spirit is the evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit, not one of his gifts. The gift of the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit himself.

In conclusion, where does the Bible teach that all Christians are to speak in tongues as the evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit?

Nowhere.

I also believe that non-Pentecostal evangelicals must recognize that the gift of tongues is a legitimate spiritual gift – that it always has been and will be a part of the church until Jesus returns. Some believers will experience the gift of tongues, and some will not. Pentecostals need to recognize that tongues is not a sign of spiritual power, although it does edify the one who is speaking (1 Cor 14:4). Baptists and other evangelicals need to recognize the Spirit-filled life and the fact that the Holy Spirit desires to have intimate fellowship with us daily for empowerment, fellowship, service, comfort, and guidance.

Now for what most Pentecostals refer to as a baptism of the Holy Ghost, I refer to as the filling of the Holy Spirit. However, regardless of what terminology we use, we both agree we need the fullness of the Holy Spirit to render effective service for Christ for our families, and even on our jobs.

Now as I hurry to my seat, how to be filled with the Holy Spirit?

Dr. Gray, in his booklet has several suggestions.

You need to remember that the Holy Spirit lives in you now. Thank God for his presence. We refer to the Holy Spirit as an it but he’s a person. He shouldn’t be referred to as “it” but rather “he.”

Know that he will never leave you, according to Hebrews 13:5. We’ve been sealed with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14). We need to get on our knees before God and thank him that he lives in our hearts now. We need to rejoice in him that he lives in us and he will never leave us. There is no complex formula given in the Bible or a certain order as to what do you do first, second, and third in order to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The Bible says ask and you shall receive. It’s God simple word to his children. There is nothing to fear in being filled with the Spirit. God blesses, Dr. Gray says, not blasts. He helps, not hurts.

To be filled with the Spirit is good, and will result in your good and God’s glory. It is as simple as this, and I’m not just preaching this for an academic purpose. I’m not just preaching this so that we’ll know more about the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. I agree with Dr. Gray. What I need, what you need, is to know him as a person.

When Paul said, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection.” That same power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead, that was the Holy Spirit. I need to know him intimately. I need to know him experientially. I need to know him deeply. So to be filled we need to request him to fill us.

We need to repent of our sins as he directs. When I asked him recently to fill me afresh and anew with the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit reminded me of a thank you letter I refused to send to my uncle because I was upset about something that had happened in my family, and the Lord made it clear to me that until I repented of that sin and sent him that thank you letter I would never enjoy his fullness.

And enjoying his fullness meant more to me than holding onto a grudge.

There may be some sin. There may be some insensitivity. There may be some issue in your life and in my life that keeps us from being filled. Ask the Lord to point that out to you. Ask him to search your heart, to try you, and if there be any wicked way in you, to lead you into a way everlasting. Believe him to fill you. Receive his filling. And we should do this daily.

Here’s what Jesus said if we want to be filled with the Holy Spirit. If you’re hungry, eat.

I love reading through a book of the Bible in chapel every day. That’s eating the Word of God. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst. If you’re thirsty, drink! Jesus said you’ll be satisfied, that you’ll never thirst again.

He says come unto me all you that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will do what? Give you rest!

I believe I was filled with the Holy Spirit the day I was saved. I believe I was filled with the Holy Spirit when I was 17 years of age, and I never spoke in tongues that time. I didn’t believe in speaking in tongues. But God got ahold of my life when I was planning on going to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville to study political science. I wanted to join my brother’s law practice and become a lawyer. But I fasted for three days seeking God’s will for my life, and he called me into the ministry and led me to Ouachita Baptist University. It totally changed my life and my outlook on life and gave me new direction in life.

I believe I was filled with God’s precious Holy Spirit when I preached my first sermon at St. Paul Baptist Church in March of 1974. I believe that at different times in my life, God has filled me and anointed me for a specific purpose and a specific task. But I believe God also filled me with the Holy Spirit even in a dormitory room on this campus just crying out to God to be in the center of his perfect will. As the song-writer said:

Like the woman at the well, I was seeking.
Sometimes for things that could not satisfy.
But then I heard my Savior speaking,
Draw from the well that never shall run dry.


If you want to be filled today, all you have to is cry out:

Fill my cup, Lord.
I lift it up, Lord.
Come and quench this thirsting of my soul.
Bread of Heaven, feed me till I want to more.

Fill my, cup.
Fill it up, and make me whole.

One baptism…but many fillings.

Jesus said, “If you being evil will give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him.”

There Is Nothing to Fear From Information: Information is Power

I am so grateful that the Lord allowed me to live in the Information Age. The introduction of the internet has enabled all of us to have the world at our literal fingertips.

When Christ came God orchestrated the western world to speak the common language of Greek. When the Reformation began to occur, God orchestrated the invention of the printing press. I believe the days ahead are filled with revival because of the manner in which we can spread the good news of Jesus Christ.

I was excited to hear that Southwestern Seminary was making available the Chapel Services for live internet broadcasting.

Today's message was delivered by Pastor Dwight McKissic, the Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. Dwight is also a graduate of Southwestern Seminary and currently serves as a trustee of the seminary.

I was unable to hear all of Dwight's message because of a staff meeting I had this morning, but I have learned that the message spoke directly to some very important issues we face as a convention. I did not hear enough to know whether or not I agreed with Dwight's premise, but when I went later to hear the archived message, it was not up on the Seminary's website.

The person responsible for the internet at SWBTS said that all Chapel messages are immediately archived and placed on the web. But he received a call from the administrative office of SWBTS saying that the message was not to be posted until it was "reviewed" by administration.

The audio message may be up soon, but my point is simply this:

We do not need to fear information in the SBC. We do not need to worry about what others will think if they hear opinions that are different than the status quo. Truth has no enemies, and we are not harmed by an environment where people can speak their convictions freely without fear of reprisal or censure. In fact, in that kind of environment, we will prosper.

I look forward to hearing Pastor McKissic's message in the near future.

The issue is not whether or not we agree with him ---

The issue is whether or not we have the ability to hear him.

In His Grace,


Wade

UPDATE: 5:00 p.m. I guess I will not be able to hear the message via the internet. The administrative staff of SWBTS has issued a statement. worth your reading.

The Cult of Personality within the SBC

Steven Flockhart resigned abruptly this past week as the Senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of West Palm Beach, Florida after the local paper uncovered that the pastor had lied about several things in his past, including his educational achievements. You can read the Palm Beach Post's story here.

There were three statements in the newspaper story that struck me as very odd. First, when the chairman of the pulpit committee was asked why the committee did not thoroughly investigate the background of the man they were bringing in view of a call to be pastor of their very large church, he responded,

"(There was) a significant endorsement because Johnny Hunt is a leading pastor in the Southern Baptist Convention," Mahoney said. "He's respected in both religious and secular circles."

Second, after the newspaper called the registrar's office at Liberty University to ask about Mr. Flockhart's alleged enrollment for his second "doctorate," the registrar first said they had never heard of Mr. Flockhart, then called back and said,

"They (the registrar's office) discovered he paid his registration fees directly to seminary President Ergun Caner. The pastor is enrolled and has paid in advance, said Ron Godwin, executive vice president and CEO of Liberty University. "I love those kind of students." He further said, "Flockhart is good friend of our chancellor, Dr. Jerry Falwell."

The third statement that struck me as odd was this one:

"Flockhart said he was "licensed to preach" in 1986 by Rev. Hunt and ordained by Hunt in 1990.Hunt appeared via videotape at Flockhart's first service at First Baptist last month and gave a ringing endorsement of his protégé. Like Flockhart, he also lists a degree from Covington on his résumé. It says he holds an honorary doctorate from the school."

I am amazed that we have an environment in the SBC where popular circuit speakers such as Johnny Hunt, Ergun Caner, and Jerry Falwell have enough influence over professional laymen in a large, metropolitan church to cause them to call a man without ever checking his resume. Doing a Lexus Nexus internet search would have uncovered the lawsuits against Mr. Flockhart, or running a simple credit report would have identified his financial struggles, and might have saved the church a tremendous amount of embarrassment.

Could it be that we have developed in our beloved SBC a climate where personality has more of a hold on people than it should?

In His Grace,


Wade Burleson

The Winner of the Best Definition for a Christ-Honoring, Theologically Conservative Evangelical

The Entry That Made Us Laugh -- Kelly Reed

"A Christ-Honoring, theologically conservative evangelical" is obviously defined as anyone who agrees with me. If you don't agree with me, you're a liberal.


The Winning Entry --- Tim Sweatman

Being a "Christ honoring, theologically conservative evangelical" means that Jesus is truly our Lord as well as our Savior. Not only are we trusting in His atoning death to pay the penalty for our sins, but we are also following Him in every area of our lives. We show our love for Him by obeying His commands, and we pattern our lives after His example of loving God and loving others.

Being a "Christ honoring, theologically conservative evangelical" means that we believe the Bible is the Word of God. As God's Word the Bible is true in everything it says. As God's Word the Bible is authoritative in our lives and in our churches. As God's Word the Bible is sufficient to guide and govern us in matters of doctrine and practice; it trumps human tradition, history, culture, and reason in these matters. Where the Bible speaks clearly we do not compromise, but where the Bible does not speak clearly we allow for differing interpretations, NOT because the Bible means whatever we think it means but because in some areas God has chosen not to reveal the clear meaning to us.

Being a "Christ honoring, theologically conservative evangelical" means that we proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to all people, both through our words and through our actions. We affirm that faith in Christ is the only way that anyone can be saved, and we affirm that through faith in Christ anyone can be saved. We are not called to give people religion, make them live moral lives, or make them members of a church. We are called to tell others about Jesus, support our claims about Him through how we live, and allow God to do His work of regeneration, conversion, justification, and sanctification in their lives.

Other Outstanding Entries Too Numerous To Name

But everyone one of you caused us to think long and hard about our understanding of ourselves, and others, as Christ-honoring, theologically conservative evangelicals.


Thanks, and have a wonderful Lord's Day.

In His Grace,

Wade

A Theological Triage Test

At the bottom of this post is a test I am asking readers of this blog to take. I would encourage you to read the entire post before you take the test if at all possible.

A SOLID IDEA FROM THE PRESIDENT OF SOUTHERN SEMINARY

I have a high degree of respect and admiration for Dr. Al Mohler, President of Southern Seminary. I do not agree with everything Dr. Mohler writes, nor do I agree with all of his theological or political views, I do admire his mental erudition and theological acumen.

Recently Dr. Mohler had a brilliant FIRST PERSON BP commentary where he said, "today's Christian faces the daunting task of strategizing which Christian doctrines and theological issues are to be given highest priority in terms of our contemporary context."

Dr. Mohler offers a very practical solution on how to resolve this problem. He suggests the establishment of a theological triage. "The word "triage" comes from the French word "trier," which means "to sort." Thus, the triage officer in the medical context is the front-line agent for deciding which patients need the most urgent treatment. Without such a process, the scraped knee would receive the same urgency of consideration as a gunshot wound to the chest. The same discipline that brings order to the hectic arena of the emergency room can also offer great assistance to Christians defending truth in the present age."

Mohler continues, "A discipline of theological triage would require Christians to determine a scale of theological urgency that would correspond to the medical world's framework for medical priority. With this in mind, I would suggest three different levels of theological urgency, each corresponding to a set of issues and theological priorities found in current doctrinal debates."

THE THREE LEVELS OF DOCTRINAL PRIORITY

The three levels Dr. Mohler proposes are summarized below:

First-level theological issues would include those doctrines most central and essential to the Christian faith. Included among these most crucial doctrines would be doctrines such as the Trinity, the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, justification by faith, and the authority of Scripture.

The set of second-order doctrines is distinguished from the first-order set by the fact that believing Christians may disagree on the second-order issues, though this disagreement will create significant boundaries between believers. Many of the most heated disagreements among serious believers take place at the second-order level, for these issues frame our understanding of the church and its ordering by the Word of God.

Third-order issues are doctrines over which Christians may disagree and remain in close fellowship, even within local congregations. I would put most of the debates over eschatology, for example, in this category. Christians who affirm the bodily, historical, and victorious return of the Lord Jesus Christ may differ over timetable and sequence without rupturing the fellowship of the church. Christians may find themselves in disagreement over any number of issues related to the interpretation of difficult texts or the understanding of matters of common disagreement. Nevertheless, standing together on issues of more urgent importance, believers are able to accept one another without compromise when third-order issues are in question.

SOME IMPORTANT CAVEATS

A structure of theological triage does not imply that Christians may take any biblical truth with less than full seriousness. We are charged to embrace and to teach the comprehensive truthfulness of the Christian faith as revealed in the Holy Scriptures. There are no insignificant doctrines revealed in the Bible, but there is an essential foundation of truth that undergirds the entire system of biblical truth.

This structure of theological triage may also help to explain how confusion can often occur in the midst of doctrinal debate. If the relative urgency of these truths is not taken into account, the debate can quickly become unhelpful. The error of theological liberalism is evident in a basic disrespect for biblical authority and the church's treasury of truth. The mark of true liberalism is the refusal to admit that first-order theological issues even exist. Liberals treat first-order doctrines as if they were merely third-order in importance, and doctrinal ambiguity is the inevitable result.

Fundamentalism, on the other hand, tends toward the opposite error. The misjudgment of true fundamentalism is the belief that all disagreements concern first-order doctrines. Thus, third-order issues are raised to a first-order importance, and Christians are wrongly and harmfully divided.


TAKE THE TEST (and comment on the results)

The following 10 doctrines need to be rated by you with the following point system.
Are they first order? second order? or third order doctrines?

1 Point --- An Essential Doctrine Necessary To Be Considered a Christian, for a Denial of this Doctrine is a Denial of the True Christian Faith.

2 Points --- An Essential Doctrine Necessary to be Considered a Southern Baptist Christian, and if One Disagrees With It, He Cannot Serve in Leadership of the SBC.

3 Points --- A Low Priority Doctrine that Is Not Necessary to Believe in Order to be a Fully Cooperating Southern Baptist (leadership, missionary, trustee, etc..).


(1). A belief that a person should (or should not) abstain from worldly amusements on the Lord's Day.
(2). A belief that speaking in tongues, either publicly or privately, can (or cannot) be a gift given by God to a person today.
(3). A belief that any Christian, whether ordained or not, can (or cannot) Biblically baptize the person he leads to Christ.
(4). A belief that the Biblical church is (or is not) only a local, visible church.
(5). A belief that Jesus Christ will (or will not) return to set up an earthly kingdom on earth for 1,000 years.
(6). A belief that a woman can (or cannot) serve as a deacon.
(7). A belief that God, from before the foundation of the world, elects (or does not elect), a definite number of sinners to salvation.
(8). A belief that a Christian can (or cannot) drink an alchoholic beverage, without getting drunk, and not sin against God.
(9). A belief that a Baptist church can (or cannot) be governed by elders.
(10). A belief that communion can (or cannot) be served by people who are not ordained, and shared by people who are believers but not members of your local church.

Score

Add up your total scores: Minimum points would be ten, Maximum points would be 30.

Proposed Score Card (Revised):

Below 27 --- You have difficulty serving with anyone who disagrees with you on these doctrines, and in fact would seek to remove persons from SBC leadership who disagree with you and urge those who don't believe the way you do to leave the SBC.

27-28 --- You believe Southern Baptists are a distinctive group of committed Christians, and though you might not seek to remove people from current leadership in the SBC who disagree with you on these doctrines, you would prefer that only those who are in agreement with you be nominated to serve in positions of leadership. In addition, you would contend earnestly to seek to convince your fellow Southern Baptists that your positon on these doctrines is the right one.

29-30 --- Though you have personal convictions on these matters, you believe that these issues are open for interpretation. Further, what an individual Southern Baptist person or church believe regarding these matters is not a determining factor for your fellowship, cooperation and respect. You are comfortable with anyone in SBC leadership who holds to differing views than you on these doctrines and do not see it as a matter of essential importance to try to convince others of your views.

How did you score, and what do you think about such a theological triage test?

By the way, not one of the above doctrines is addressed specifically in the BFM 2000. A couple of the doctrines are touched on briefly in a very general way, and not in a specific manner (for instance, the BFM speaks of the return of Christ, but not a 1,000 year reign).


In His Grace,


Wade Burleson

Shouting and Shaming Is A Sign of Weakness

My dad used to give the illustration of a preacher he knew who underlined a point in the notes he used for his Sunday sermon and then added this comment in the margin (point is weak, shout louder).

It's refreshing to be around someone who is so confident in his position that he does not need to shout at, or shout down, others. By the way, in denominational life shouting does not always mean the increase of the decibal level (though that is often the case), "Christian" shouting is what I call "shaming." It is the intentional put down of a person who disagrees with you before hearing the basis for his disagreement. It is the marginalizing of a person because you can't answer him (not that you won't, but you can't), so you dismiss him as a heretic. It is the "didactic" approach to theology and Christian exegesis ("By gosh, that's what Baptists have always believed, and so do I, and if you don't you are a heretic"). It is a form of religious dictatorship.

Baptists have historically abstained from such an approach. In fact, even during the 18th Century when many European Baptists were moving into liberalism, universalism and Unitarianism, the greatest Baptist scholars in the history of our Baptist faith wrote inductively to prove their positions, and refrained from assuming anything.

A Modern Day Case Study: Inerrancy

Daniel B. Wallace has taught Greek and New Testament courses on a graduate school level since 1979. He has a Ph.D. from Dallas Theological Seminary, and is currently professor of New Testament Studies at his alma mater.

Dr. Wallace is an inerrantist--- inductively. Josh McDowell says Dr. Wallace's writing on the subject of inerrancy is "top flight scholarship." To read Dr. Wallace's position on inerrancy is a lesson in scholarship, humility and the ability to avoid didactic reasoning. Thanks to Paul Littleton and my father for this link.

You can't help but read his article and sympathize with the character assassination that is currently taking place toward this fellow evangelical Baptist. He is being called on blogs a "liberal" and a "heretic." And yet, he is an inerrantist.

It seems that heresy among Baptists is now being defined in terms much narrower than it used to be. Years ago you could be considered a person who did not like to use the word "inerrancy" because it said more of the Bible than the Bible (according to those who held this view) said of itself. Yet back then, a non-inerrantists could be considered a brother in Christ, a fellow evangelical, and even one who held to a "high" and authoritative view of the Word of God.

Not anymore. Now, if you are an inerrantist, because you are one inductively (i.e. you don't assume inerrancy, you prove it, as does Dr. Wallace), you are considered a "heretic" in the eyes of some. Dr. Wallace's present day character assassination is an example of how good, solid, evangelical conservatives can be falsely maligned.

The Current Struggle In the SBC Is NOT Over Inerrancy

The struggle in the Southern Baptist Convention is no longer over inerrancy, but rather, it is over the same didactic approach to minor, non-essential doctrines of the faith (i.e. "Brother, you best believe this or you ain't one of us!"), and then shouting down fellow evangelical conservative Baptists who disagree. Or worse, attempting to remove them.

At first, we were told the resurgence was only going to remove those who did not believe the Bible to be the Word of God. Not many convention conservatives at the time allowed for the fact that some conservative evangelicals believe in the authority and sufficiency of the Word of God but refuse to use the term inerrant, for it says more about the Bible, according to them, than the Bible says about itself, as illustrated by Dr. Wallace's essay.

That is the past. Most people who struggle with using the Word "inerrancy" to define their view of the Bible have left the SBC. I use the word inerrancy all the time and have no problem with it. I believe the Bible is inerrant, but I am ahamed that we have labeled other evangelicals who do not use the word as heretics.

Now, there are those who wish to call me a heretic and marginalize me. I have issued some principled dissent on matters that are non-essential to the faith, and have raised concerns that we are seeing in some SBC agencies a creeping demand for conformity in the non-essentials, by those who take a didactic approach, and shout down those who dissent.

If we are not careful, we will rapidly become a convention that will so marginalize young, conservative, inductive exegetes that are now filling our pulpits that we will wake up one day and aske the question "Where did all the good SBC pastors go?"

There's no reason why we can't become a convention that promotes inductive study, exegetical and expositional preaching, and a gracious and kind spirit to those who disagree with our conclusions on the non-essentials. There may be a few SBC preachers and leaders who shout louder when their arguments are weak, but some of us are going to just need to get used to it, and remind everyone that we aren't going away as others have done.

Too much is at stake.

In His Grace,


Wade Burleson

The Blessing of Being Understood

Anytime I take the risk of putting my thoughts in writing, particularly in a public forum such as a blog, the possibility of readers misunderstanding the intent of my heart is very real. I wish everyone clearly understood WHY I post what I post. If they did, they would see I have no desire for any personal gain, no intention to denigrate people for their views, for I simply wish to make our convention the best organization possible for the most effective dissemination of the gospel. I believe that happens when we begin to talk to each other with respect, listen to one another with patience and do our dead level best to accept one another regardless of our differing views on the non-essentials of the faith.

I also think that we, in our discussions, ought to be able to appeal to Scripture as our ultimate authority (always being conscientious of our own fallible abilities to interpret the sacred text properly), to appreciate the art of logical consistency, and to always apply the Christian principles of grace and love toward those who disagree. Good theology is important, but so is a Christian spirit toward our brothers who may view things a little differently; grace and truth must go together.

But my intentions in writing these posts are sometimes misunderstood, on occasion unintentionally misrepresented, and maybe, just a few times, totally manufactured by others. Again, if those who disagreed with me were to truly see my inner desire to build bridges in the SBC that foster better cooperation across our diverse, conservative theological spectrum, there would be no animosity directed my way --- unless there are some who are more concerned with the politics of the convention than they are the mission of the convention. Then, because they can only think in terms of "politics," they will always question my intentions, regardless.

After reading several comments on a couple of recent posts I once again became a little discouraged, wondering if my writing skills were lacking, because a number of people were totally misunderstanding WHY I posted what I did.

Then I read this post from my father.

He understands.

In His Grace,


Wade Burleson

A Deafening Silence Fit for a Statue

I am surprised that some (not all) of my conservative friends in current Southern Baptist leadership do not comprehend what it is that I am saying in my blog calling for peace and unity in the SBC. A few have told me "you don't know what you are talking about," and one went so far as to say that just as there will never be peace between the Shiites and Sunnis, there will never be peace among moderate and conservative Southern Baptists until Jesus comes.

I don't believe that. I am of the firm conviction that there can be peace within the Southern Baptist Convention BEFORE Jesus comes.

We must acknowledge that, at times, there has been an unchristian spirit on both sides of the controversy. We must then do all we can to foster a spirit of graciousness and respect toward each other's interpretations of the Word of God (while not necessarily agreeing with one another). Then, we agree to cooperate in missions and evangelism for the sake of the gospel. Of course, we must agree that the gospel is the good news that sinners can be made right with God through faith in Jesus Christ. We are a diverse group of Southern Baptists after agreement on these fundamentals, but we need to celebrate our rich diversity rather than demand absolute conformity.

I am committed to the Southern Baptist Convention. I always have been, and always will be. When the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship was formed in Oklahoma in 1993, I nailed "95 Theses Against the Formation of the CBF" on the door of their organizational meeting. I was not condemning these Southern Baptists for who they were, but challenging them NOT to withdraw because we were stronger as a diverse body. Throughout the years I have been excoriated by the CBF for my "Fundamentalism." I harbor no ill will toward the CBF and wish them the best in their missionary efforts, but would ask that any evangelical conservative SBC pastor or church who is sympathetic with the belief that some "moderates" were falsely maligned and slandered to not leave the SBC, but remain and help us moderate the SBC in terms of love, grace and cooperation.

"But How Can You Love Someone Who Disagrees With You?"

In the past two weeks I have had people tell me that "moderates" are dangerous, evil, and Satanic, and that I am "naive" to want to cooperate with those who interpret the Bible differently than we do as theological conservatives. On the other hand, some moderates have told me that my Fundamentalist friends are mean, nasty and satanic in their dealings with fellow Southern Baptists

This is where I get really confused.

It seems that what is really wrong with our convention is that we have for so long picked sides (ex: "He's a liberal" or "He's in the moderate camp" or "He's a Fundamentalist) that we lose sight of the fact we are brothers in Christ. I am attempting to be more temperate and cautious in labeling people. I confess, when I come under attack, it is easier to label my attackers as "the enemy" rather than to dialogue with them, but I am absolutely convinced that every person in the SBC is a brother or sister in Christ and I can learn to love each of them, respect their views on Scripture, and cooperate and fellowship with them---- EVEN IF WE DON'T AGREE ON EVERY DOCTRINE -- because we join hands around a common cause and have a common bond of love for the Lord Jesus Christ.

I think all of us in the Southern Baptist Convention are capable of doing this, even my very conservative friends. Let me give you a recent example.

Dr. Billy Graham was interviewed by Newsweek Magazine this past month. Dr. Graham made some comments with which I, and most of my conservative friends, would disagree. You can read the entire interview here, but the following portion of the article clearly reveals Dr. Graham's moderate views of Scripture.

While Dr. Graham believes Scripture is the inspired, authoritative word of God, he does not read the Bible as though it were a collection of Associated Press bulletins straightforwardly reporting on events in the ancient Middle East. "I'm not a literalist in the sense that every single jot and tittle is from the Lord," Graham says. "This is a little difference in my thinking through the years." He has, then, moved from seeing every word of Scripture as literally accurate to believing that parts of the Bible are figurative—a journey that began in 1949, when a friend challenged his belief in inerrancy during a conference in southern California's San Bernardino Mountains. Troubled, Graham wandered into the woods one night, put his Bible on a stump and said, "Lord, I don't understand all that is in this book, I can't explain it all, but I accept it by faith as your divine word."

Now, more than half a century later, he is far from questioning the fundamentals of the faith. He is not saying Jesus is just another lifestyle choice, nor is he backtracking on essentials such as the Incarnation or the Atonement. But he is arguing that the Bible is open to interpretation, and fair-minded Christians may disagree or come to different conclusions about specific points. Like Saint Paul, he believes human beings on this side of paradise can grasp only so much. "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror," Paul wrote, "then we shall see face to face." Then believers shall see: not now, but then.

Debates over the exact meaning of the word "day" in Genesis (Graham says it is figurative; on the other hand, he thinks Jonah was actually swallowed by a whale) or whether the "Red Sea" is better translated as "sea of reeds"—which takes Moses' miracle out of the realm of Cecil B. DeMille—or the actual size of ancient armies in a given battle may seem picayune to some. For many conservative believers, however, questioning any word of the Bible can cast doubt on all Scripture. Graham's position, then, while hardly liberal, is more moderate than that of his strictest fellow Christians.

Asked about his son's use of the phrase "evil and wicked" in reference to Islam, Graham says: "I would not say Islam is wicked and evil ... I have a lot of friends who are Islamic. There are many wonderful people among them. I have a great love for them. I have spoken at Islamic meetings, in Nigeria and in different parts of the world." The father's view, then, is different from the son's. "I'm sure there are many things that he and I are not in total agreement about," Graham says. "I'm an old man, he's a young man in the prime of life."

A unifying theme of Graham's new thinking is humility. He is sure and certain of his faith in Jesus as the way to salvation. When asked whether he believes heaven will be closed to good Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or secular people, though, Graham says: "Those are decisions only the Lord will make. It would be foolish for me to speculate on who will be there and who won't ... I don't want to speculate about all that. I believe the love of God is absolute. He said he gave his son for the whole world, and I think he loves everybody regardless of what label they have." Such an ecumenical spirit may upset some Christian hard-liners, but in Graham's view, only God knows who is going to be saved: "As an evangelist for more than six decades, Mr. Graham has faithfully proclaimed the Bible's Gospel message that Jesus is the only way to Heaven," says Graham spokesman A. Larry Ross. "However, salvation is the work of Almighty God, and only he knows what is in each human heart."


Why Silence Over Dr. Graham, but Anger and Exclusion for Others?

There is a deafening silence from our Southern Baptist leaders regarding the remarks of Dr. Graham. These Newsweek remarks are just a portion of what Dr. Graham has said publicly about what he believes. His moderate views on women in ministry, the church, the priesthood of every believer, and other topics run directly counter to the BFM 2000. Yet, he is a beloved statesman of our convention.

Don't get me wrong, I think it is an appropriate silence from our leaders, but it is deafening because if anyone in the "moderate" camp of the SBC had made these remarks he would have been labeled a heretic so fast his head would spin.

Yet Dr. Graham's statue, dedicated at this year's Southern Baptist Convention in Greensboro, now stands in front of the Executive Headquarters of the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, Tennessee.

Here's my point.

I don't agree with Dr. Graham's views, but I would not stop him from preaching in my pulpit, serving as a trustee of one of our agencies, or even being a missionary from the SBC to the world at large --- not to mention seek to remove him from leadership or fire him from employment.

I propose that when we can come to the place that our common faith in Jesus Christ is the ONE thing that unites us, and though we teach ALL the interpretative views of soteriology, eschatology, ecclesiology, and missiology, we don't demand conformity, but celebrate our diversity --- ONLY THEN will the power of God fall on our convention in ways it seldom has.

"By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another" Jesus said.

It's time people started standing up for the little guy --- the missionary, the small church pastor, the dedicated Southern Baptist layman, who may not see eye to eye on every jot and tittle of any self-appointed doctrinal watchdogs of the SBC, and remind all of us that every believer is accountable to God, we have no creed but the Bible itself, and every believer is a priest unto God --- not just the Billy Graham's of this world.

Only then will the Southern Baptist Convention return to her heritage of a reverance for Scripture, free debate and conscientious dissent, cooperation in missions, and a love for our fellow man.

It's time for all of us to lay down our swords and pick up the plows.

The fields are white unto harvest. If you and I can't get over the past, and focus on building a bridge toward the future with all Southern Baptists, then the problem is possibly in our hearts, not our brother's.

In His Grace,


Wade Burleson

A Good Definition of a Christ-Honoring, Theologically Conservative Evangelical

It seems that we as Southern Baptists may be in an identity crises. I have heard different Southern Baptists described in the comments of the last post as either conservative, theologically conservative-moderate, or moderate, and scratch my head wondering whatever happened to the Antioch nomenclature of Christian.

In some things I would love to be considered moderate, or even liberal. I pray that people consider me liberal with grace, liberal in giving, and liberal in my godliness (how's that for a three point message :) ), and then there are other areas where I desire to be known as a conservative (particularly in my view of the Word of God and the person of Christ).

I am wondering if sometimes we get confused and call people "liberal" who are in reality very conservative in their views of Christ and the Word, but may be different from us in their interpretation of the text and their views on the application of the sacred text to our daily lives.

With that in mind, I wonder if there might be a definition for a "Christ-honoring, theologically conservative evangelical" that would encompass a high view of the Word of God and the person of Christ, while at the same time allowing for differences in interpretation of the Bible?

So, let's give it a shot . . .

In your view, what does it mean to be a "Christ-honoring, theologically conservative evangelical"

If possible, let's see if we can use words in the definition that are found in the Bible. It very well could be that we could come up with a description that defines who we are as Southern Baptists and help us restore a sense of identity among ourselves and respect among our evangelical peers.

In His Grace,

Wade

P.S. The winner will be announced Monday.

Back to the Past for a Map of the Future

During the 1985 Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas, Texas, I woke up before the crack of dawn in order to reserve twenty seats on the floor of the arena for each day of business. I was a young, motivated pastor. I wanted to be a part of a Convention that believed the Bible to be the Word of God. I wanted to do my part.

Yet, I was confused. I remember hearing Dr. Winifred Moore preach when I was a boy (he pastored the church my father eventually pastored), and I always thought Dr. Moore to be a rock solid evangelical conservative. But I was being told in 1985 that he had compromised his convictions about the Word of God. Rather than calling Dr. Moore and asking him personally (who was I to call such a man and waste his time?), I trusted the word of the people I admired, and thus labelled Dr. Moore "the opponent."

I was further confused because I was told other men like Dr. Daniel Vestal and Richard Jackson were also part of those who wished to lead our convention down the slippery slope of liberalism, from which we would never recover. Again, Dr. Vestal had pastored Southcliff Baptist Church in Fort Worth, the same church that my father eventually pastored while I was in high school. Dr. Vestal was highly respected among the people at Southcliff, and considered a solid evangelical conservative, so surely my confusion as to why he was now considered a "liberal" was simply because I was young and did not fully know how to identify a true liberal of the faith.

Then there were other men like Dr. Clyde Glazener, Dr. Charles Wade, Mr. John Baugh and others who, unlike the preceeding men mentioned, were considered absolute "heretics" by those with whom I associated. I did not know Drs. Glazener, Wade, and Mr Baugh, but I absolutely accepted the word of Bible believing men around me, men that I respected in 1985, and as a result of believing them, I determined to do I could to rescue the convention.

Now I realize I was fighting for the wrong thing. I should have been fighting for Southern Baptists to TALK to each other, to PRAY with each other, to COOPERATE with each other, to LOVE each other, rather than to divide into sides and conquer one another. True, classical liberals need to be removed from any positions of authority in the SBC, but it should be done in a proper manner, following all protocol and procedures established for such an event.

Read carefully. I do not regret any attempt to solidify our respect of the authority and sufficiency of the Word of God. Again, any professor in our seminaries who denies the faith, ridicules the Word of God, or makes a mockery of the person and work of Jesus Christ should be dismissed with haste.

However, I now realize that several good, solid conservative evangelical Christians have been slandered and maligned. Men who are gracious, gentle and gospel believers have been called liberal, heretics, and even worse.

God forbid.

I now have met everyone of the above named men. They all believe the Bible. They all love the Lord Jesus Christ. They all love missions.

They are our brothers in Christ.

There are thousands of kind, gracious, compassionate, Bible believing Southern Baptists in the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Baptist General Convention of Virginia.

In a few months I would hope Dr. Frank Page will be appointing men and women from both the above named Conventions to serve on boards and agencies of the Southern Baptist Convention, just as he said he would.

This time, if I hear that "liberals" are being appointed, I will not remain silent, but will hold accountable that Southern Baptist who seeks to divide us.

This time, if something is said about a brother in Christ that calls into question his character, theology or commitment to Christ, I will call the accused, and if it is untrue, I will then confront the accuser, first privately, then publicly if there is not reconciliation.

This time, I will not allow myself to become emotional or get angry. If some of my fellow Southern Baptists say things about my character, my theology, my commitment to the cause of Christ, I will do what I can to defend my conservative, evangelical credentials, but I will not get angry.

I am prepared. I am not leaving. I will not give up.

The Southern Baptist Convention needs to evaluate the tactics of the past in order to map out a better plan for the future.

In His Grace,


Wade Burleson

Body Mass Measurement and Culture

One of the policies that applies to missionary candidates for the International Mission Board involves an appropriate "body mass" for the individual applying to serve as a long term or short term missionary. The BMI (Body Mass Index) Policy is as follows:

Long Term or Short Term Missionaries

Body Mass Index Must be 30 or less for missionaries less than 35 years of age.

Body Mass Index must be 31 or less for missionaries between 35 and 44 years of age.

Body Mass Index must be 32 or less for missionaries between 45 and 54 years of age.

Body Mass Index must be 33 or less for missionaries 55 years of age or older.

You can measure your Body Mass Index over the Internet here

The Rationale for the BMI Policy

One of the staff members of the medical department gave me some very good reasons for such a policy via phone. Rationale included increased medical costs for missionaries on the field because of health problems related to weight. There were some other very practical concerns, that I will not enumerate here --- except for one. The very helpful medical department employee mentioned that in some cultures an overweight caucasion is an offense, and the missionary could be hindered in his/her work because of weight. Sensitivity to culture is necessary for any career missionary.

This BMI policy is an example of an extra-biblical regulation required by the International Mission Board for her employees. It is necessary for the IMB to have some policies that are not rooted in Scripture, but if we do, we must have very good reasons for them.

I just have a couple of questions which I would like to ask. I don't have the answers myself, but I think you will see that not everything is as black and white as some would like.

(1). In light of recent suggestions that no trustee should ever serve the International Mission Board without himself or herself being willing to abide by every policy required for IMB employees, should trustees of the IMB be required to abide by this BMI Policy as well?

(2). What happens if the IMB decides to send a SBC missionary to an island where body fat is treasured? What if, on this island, fat were beautiful and an outward picture of a loving heart while being skinny was a sign that you were "cursed"? Should we send a skinny American to the island and expect him to share the gospel ---with nobody being willing to listen? In other words, can we agree that being fat is not a sin, but that some might possibly choose to become fat in order to win people to Christ, or should we be so driven by extra Biblical policy that we never make exceptions for the sake of culture?

This is just some food for thought (pardon the pun),

In His Grace,


Wade Burleson

Get Behind Me Satan?

I consider Don Hinkle, editor of The Missouri Pathway a friend, as I do the Executive Director of Missouri, former Oklahoma Associate Executive Director, David Clippard. These men are doing all they can to strengthen all Southern Baptists in Missouri through their work and ministry.

However, in the August 15th issue of The Pathway, editor Don Hinkle, in an editorial entitled "The Bible is inerrant, but is it sufficient?" makes the following statement:

"It is one thing to declare oneself a conservative and affirm the inerrancy of Scripture, but it is another to affirm its sufficiency. There is, I believe, a strong, pervasive and somewhat subtle strategy unfolding today among 'evangelical Christians.' It involves the sufficiency of the Bible and it is, of course, orchestrated by Satan."

For fifteen years I worked on a special task force that helped young people leave the occult and the Satanic arts. In the early 90's I was a consultant to NASA as they worked with law enforcement in the State of Florida to prosecute one of their own, John Crutchley, who the media tabbed "The Vampire Rapist." I have probably taught over 25 conferences for law enforcement on Satanism. I realize that Satan is not always a "roaring lion" and will disguise himself as "an angel of light," and I'm sure there are a few people who would offer that I'm an expert on "Satan" for other reasons than the above :), but in light of a little experience with people who have been under the direct control and manipulation of Satan, I would offer the following perspective on Don's statement.

When we can come to the place where disagreements over the interpretation of the sacred text by evangelical Christians can be discussed, debated, and even argued without attributing the other side as being "orchestrated by Satan" we will move much further down the road in cooperation as evangelical Christians.

I'm giving Don the benefit of the doubt. I don't think he intends his language to be taken as "literal" as it sounds, but I would urge all my brothers who make very public statements to pull back just a tad on what could only be called rhetoric.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

A Personal Epiphany: Everyone Has A Filter

An epiphany is defined as "a comprehension or perception of reality by means of a sudden intuitive realization."

I have wondered why there has been such a dramatic, often emotional response to my efforts to articulate my Biblical opposition on a few issues confronting us in the Southern Baptist Convention including the decision to forbid the appointment of any missionaries who speak in tongues in their private prayers, the exclusion of missionaries who were baptized in a church that does not hold to eternal security, and the recent resolution requesting the refusal of appointment as trustee any Southern Baptist who does not hold to a personal abstinence conviction regarding the use of alcohol.

The continuing narrowing of the parameters of participation and cooperation in Southern Baptist work is a concern of mine, but what has startled me more than anything else is the often belittling, sometimes angry response of those who do not agree with me on these issues. It has been at best confusing, at worst, a little unsettling.

But yesterday I had an epiphany.

It happened as I was driving west on Owen K. Garriott, or Highway 412 for you outside of Enid, and I drove right by our church and the color video display screen on the church sign. The sign was functioning properly, and there were some great video announcements regarding the events upcoming at our church.

But the color was off.

The video screen was mostly yellow and green. The usual beautiful rainbow of vivid plasma colors that mark our sign was gone. We have had some problems with the sign since we were hit by lightening, and I picked up my cell phone to call Pastor Ted Kuschel, our Minister of Media, to let him know that we were having problems. I also wondered why Pastor Ted had not caught this, since he worked Friday and should have noticed the problem. I was just a little irritated.

Then, just as I was dialing his number --- I realized I had my golf sunglasses on. These fancy glasses filter out unwanted UV rays, but they also distort colors by dimishing any color but green and yellow, which makes things very crisp and clear on the golf course, but distorted in real life. Here I was upset with Ted for not getting the sign repaired in preparation for Sunday, but the problem was not the sign --- it was the filter on my eyes.

Had I not discovered my personal filter, and had Pastor Ted come down to the church at my beckoning he would have seen for himself a beautiful, multicolored display on our video sign. He would have told me there was nothing wrong with the sign and then he and I would have argued. I KNEW what I was seeing. He KNEW what he he was seeing. We were both looking at the same thing, but we were seeing it differently. I would have argued with him that color needed to be ADDED. He would have argued that adding any color would have distorted the already beautiful sign.

Here was my epiphany.

The gospel is a beautiful panalopy of brilliant color to me. It is Christ and Him crucified. As the Apostle Paul said, "I desire to know nothing else among you but Christ and Him crucified." Everything I say and write is an attempt to maintain the supernatural beauty of the gospel. When others seek to add to the gospel denominational regulations, performance oriented dictums, cultural prohibitions, and other man-made duties, I see the gospel being compromised, distorted, and ultimately marred. The beauty of the gospel is breathtaking to me, and anybody who seeks to add to it, destroys that beauty in my eyes.

But those who argue with me argue with all sincerity. To them, it is I who have "destroyed" the gospel. If I don't agree to their prohibitions and mandates, then my gospel is not truly the gospel of the Bible, and I am the one who is marring the gospel. I believe they look at the gospel through a filter. Maybe it is the filter of their upbringing, past personal disappointments or failures, or simply fear that a simple gospel, without certain prohibitions will lead to licentiousness.

Whatever the case, my personal epiphany has caused me to come to three conclusions:

(1). Never question the sincerity of my Christian brother who upbraids me for writing what I write. In his mind he is keeping the gospel "pure."

(2). Be patient with those who disagree. They may be unaware of any filter over their eyes, and only God can ultimately remove it.

(3). And for every person who will read this post and comment saying, "But Wade, YOU are the one with the filter over your eyes regarding the gospel!" I will simply respond --- "You may be right. That is why I am asking God to help me see the gospel in all its beauty without any of my preconceived biases. Pray for me that any filter I have over my eyes may be removed as well."

In His Grace,


Wade

God's Criminal in the Dock

William Cowper is one of my favorite 18th English poets. He wrote with a passion that could only proceed from a heart acquainted with personal brokenness and the grace of God. Upon the death of George Whitefield, Cowper penned the following poem. Whitefield, the great contemporary evangelist and friend of Cowper, was often maligned for his unfailing conviction of the sufficiency of Scripture, his steadfast determination to never compromise on the great doctrines of Scripture, and his willingness to reach the lost by preaching the gospel in places, and with methods, that the established church disdained. The poem is entitled "God's Criminal in the Dock" and should be of great comfort for any person who has suffered for staying true to Scripture and the gospel message.

Leuconomus (beneath well-sounding Greek
I slur a name a poet must not speak)
Stood pilloried on infamy's high stage,
And bore the pelting scorn of half an age;
The very butt of slander, and the blot
For ev'ry dart that malice ever shot.
The man that mention'd him at once dismiss'd
All mercy from his lips, and sneer'd and hiss'd;
His crimes were such as Sodom never knew,
And perjury stood up to swear all true;
His aim was mischief, and his zeal presence,
His speech rebellion against common sense;
A knave, when tried on honesty's plain rule,
And, when by that of reason, a mere fool;
The world's best comfort was, his doom was pass'd
Die when he might, he must be damn'd at last.

Now, truth, perform thine office;waft aside
The curtain drawn by prejudice and pride,
Reveal (the man is dead) to wond'ring eyes
This more than monster in his proper guise.

He lov'd the world that hated him the tear
That dropp'd upon his Bible was sincere:
Assailtd by scandal and the tongue of strife,
His only answer was, a blameless life;
And he that forg'd, and he that threw, the dart,
Had each a brother's int'rest in his heart!
Paul's love of Christ, and steadiness unbrib'd,
Were copied close in him, and well transcrib'd.
He follow 'd Paul-his zeal a kindred flame,
His apostolic charity the same.

Like him, cross'd cheerfully tempestuous seas,
Forsaking country, kindred, friends, and ease;
Like him he labour'd, and, like him, content
To bear it, suffer'd shame where'er he went.

Blush, calumny! and write upon his tomb,
If honest eulogy can spare thee room,
Thy deep repentance of thy thousand lies,
Which, aim'd at him, have pierc'd th' offended skies;
And say, Blot out my sin, confess'd, deplor'd,
Against thine image in thy saint, oh Lord!

No blinder bigot, I maintain it still,
Than he who must have pleasure, come what will:
He laughs, whatever weapon truth may draw,
And deems her sharp artillery mere straw.
Scripture, indeed, is plain; but God and he,
On Scripture-ground, are sure to disagree;
Some wiser rule must teach him how to live,
Than this his Maker has seen fit to give;
Supple and flexible as Indian cane,
To take the bend his appetites ordain;
Contriv'd to suit frail nature's crazy case,
And reconcile his lusts with saving grace.
By this, with nice precision of design,
He draws upon life's map a zig-zag line,
That shows how far 'tis safe to follow sin,
And where his danger and God's wrath begin.
By this he forms, as pleas'd he sports along,
His well-pois'd estimate of right and wrong;
And finds the modish manners of the day,
Though loose, as harmless as an infant's play.

Build by whatever plan caprice decrees,
With what materials, on what ground, you please;
Your hope shall stand unblam'd, perhaps admir'd,
If not that hope the Scripture has requir'd.
The strange conceits, vain projects, and wild dreams,
With which hypocrisy for ever teems,
(Though other follies strike the public eye,
And raise a laugh) pass unmolested by;
But if, unblameable in word and thought,
A man arise-a man whom God has taught,
With all Elijah's dignity of tone,
And all the love of the beloved John-
To storm the citadels they build in air,
And smite th' untemper'd wall, 'tis death to spare;
To sweep away all refuges of lies,
And place, instead of quirks themselves devise,
Lama sabacthani before their eyes;
To prove that without Christ all gain is loss,
All hope despair, that stands not on his cross;
Except the few his God may have impress'd,
A tenfold frenzy seizes all the rest.



May God give us more such criminals.


In His Grace,


Wade Burleson

Daemonolgia Sacra

I have often wondered this past year if we in the Southern Baptist Convention have forgotten who our real enemy is. With the tendency to divide into "us" versus "them," and the way we focus our energy on pointing out the sin in others, I wonder whether our real enemy has been ignored as he attacks us.

Richard Gilpin, M.D. (1625 - 1700) was a non-conformist physician and theologian who wrote a classic work entitled "Daemonolgia Sacra or A Treatise of Satan's Temptations." In introducing his treatise Dr. Gilpin writes (emphasis mine),

"Among those things that religion offers to our study, God and our own hearts are the chief. God is the first and last and whole of our happiness; the beginning, progress, and completement of it is from him and in him --- for in that centre do all the lines meet; but our heart is the stage upon which this felicity, as to the application of it, is transacted: upon this little spot of earth doth God and Satan draw up their several armies; here doth each of them shew their power and wisdom; this is treated by both; each of them challenge an interest in it; it is attacked on the one side adn defended on the other. So that here are skirmishes, battles, and strategems managed. That man, then, that will not concern himself in his inquiries, how the matter goes in his own heart, what ground is got or lost, what forts are taken or defended, what mines are sprung, what ambusheses laid, or how the battle proceeds, must needs lie under a just imputation of the greatest folly; neither can he be excused in his neglect by the most pressing solicitations of other things that seem to require his attendance upon the highest imaginable pretences of necessity: 'For what is he profited , that gains the whole world, but loses his soul?'"(Mark 8:36).

In light of Dr. Gilpin's insight, I would like to ask a question for your thoughts and written reflections:

What tactic does Satan use most successfully in causing you to lose your focus, and as a result, your inner sense of contentment that comes from Christ?

I am not looking particularly for scholarly answers, but personal, even painful testimonies of the devices used by our common enemy.

In His Grace,


Wade Burleson

August 22, 2006 Will Not Be The End of the World

The secular blogs are ablaze with predictions that Iran will launch a nuclear strike against Israel on August 22, 2006 ushering in the Apocalypse.

August 22 is Rajab 28 in the Islamic calendar. This is a special date for Muslims. Rajab 28 is the date the mighty Muslim leader Saladin entered and conquered Jerusalem (in A.D. 1187), putting the city under Islamic rule, a hallowed event in Islamic history.

The government of Iran has publicly stated that it will "formally respond to a Western package of incentives aimed at persuading it to suspend its uranium enrichment program this month." A li Larijani, the head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, said that "August 22 has been set for declaring (our) views."

Why August 22? Well, in addition to the anniversary date of Saladin's conquering of Jerusalem, the Persian Journal explains,:

"According to Shi'ite Muslim teaching, Abul-Qassem Mohammad, the 12th leader whom Shi'ites consider descended from the Prophet Mohammed, disappeared in 941 but will return at the end of time to lead an era of Islamic justice.

"Our revolution's main mission is to pave the way for the reappearance of the 12th Imam, the Mahdi," Iranian President Ahmadinejad said in the speech to Friday Prayers leaders from across the country.

The President believes that the Arab Messiah will turn Iran into a powerful, developed and model Islamic society.


Ahmadinejad refers to the return of the 12th Imam, also known as the Mahdi, in almost all his major speeches since he took office in August.

Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran is a Shiite fundamentalist who believes his actions will pave the way for the Arab Messiah to return. He is a fundamentalist fanatic, but there are three reasons why Iran will not launch a nuclear strike against Israel.

(1). Israel would destroy Iran with a nuclear counter attack if there were a nuclear strike in Israel.

Israel has repeatedly made this known to its Islamic neighbors. Iran's nuclear capability is shallow compared to the Israelis. At the most, a dirty bomb could be exploded within Israel (or launched toward Israel), but the forceful response of Israel to such a strike is the biggest deterrence.

(2). The Shiite leadership is out of touch with the common people of Iran.

Iran has one of the most progressive people in the Islamic world, but one of the most strident, fundamentalist governments of all Islamic nations. The disconnect between government and people will not last long. Dozens of coups have been planned over the last since the Ayotollah took power in Iran in 1979, and if the Iranian President were to plunge the nation into an unwinnable war, the people would rise up and over throw their President --- and he knows it.

(3). Islamic fundamentalists only understand, and are ultimately only defeated, by one thing --- a greater power than themselves.

You don't negotiate with fundamentalists, you defeat them. The United States and Israel are too close in both ideology and proximity (tens of thousands of US troops in Iraq) for Iran to attempt a strike against Israel on August 22.

If you live in Israel or the United States and are Jewish or Christian, atheist or irreligious, it is time for you to support the military of your respective countries.

As a believer in Jesus Christ I believe that the gospel changes the wicked hearts of men.

But as an American, I believe our military keeps the actions of wicked men at bay.

The Lord reigns over both.

In His Grace,


Wade Burleson

This Isn't Your Father's Convention

The former President of the Southern Baptist Convention, Bobby Welch, was quoted in this month's Southern Baptist Life as saying his greatest surprise at the Southern Baptist Convention was "that several Southern Baptist pastors actually came to a microphone and publicly promoted the drinking of alcoholic beverages and wanted the SBC to do the same! Actually, I never thought I would see that take place, and it is not only a surprise but an outrage! My father was addicted to alcohol, which contributed to his early death. He advised me that if I would never take the first drink I would never end up like he did. I did not, and he was correct!"

Bobby must have been having a sidebar conversation with Parliamentarian Barry McCarty during the resolutions debate because I sat through all the microphone speeches by the pastors who were against the alcohol resolution and did not hear what Dr. Welch alleges was said. In addition, Bobby adds this . . .

"I understand one pastor's blog site indicates he believes his drinking assists him in soul-winning! What a pathetic joke! These blogging Baptist pastors just blew their collective cork!"

I can only assume Bobby is referring to my blog entry entitled Conversion to Christ Over a Glass of Wine. I can also only assume Dr. Welch has never read this post, because I find it hard to believe that he would have read it and intentionally misrepresented what was said.

The SBC LIFE article brings clearly into focus five things:

(1). Southern Baptists need to start talking to each other instead of at each other --- we would really move far along in our work and our ministry if we showed a better Christian spirit than what we seem to be willing to display.

(2). Southern Baptist leaders of the past need to realize that if the battle for the Bible was really as critical as they said it was, then everyone in the current SBC better get used to Southern Baptist pastors who actually believe and teach what the Bible says. In other words, you can't fight for the inerrancy of Scripture unless you are willing to hold to the sufficiency of Scripture. The Bible is authoritative when it speaks to Christian faith and practice. Your traditions are fine, but if you can't support them from Scripture then you better not get angry with those in your convention who don't hold to your traditions --- you taught us to believe the Bible.

(3). The old fable "The Emperor's New Clothes" teaches the moral principle that the common man is afraid to say things contrary to established authority, and sometimes it takes someone, like a child, who is unimpressed with the power of the king in order to reveal the truth. There is a generation of men and women in the Southern Baptist Convention who are not necessarily children, but they are not impressed by denominational positions and authority. They are also not afraid to call a spade a spade. In the end our convention will be better when we realize that the blowing of horns, slogans and banners are no substitute for the Spirit, the Word and living life to its fullest in the power of Christ --- without pretense.

(4). The Southern Baptist Convention is changing. It is changing for the better. We are beginning to realize that the kingdom of God is much bigger than our denominational kingdom. Southern Baptists are becoming known for what we are for, more than what we are against. The Southern Baptist Convention is poised to become a true gospel denomination.

(5). We are going to have to learn to love each other when we possess different interpretations of the sacred text. I don't care if you agree with me on eschatology (premillenialism or amillenialism), ecclesiology (closed communion or open communion) or even soteriology (arminianism or calvinism), but when you tell me I must agree with you before I can serve with you then we are in big trouble as a convention. I think we are beginning to learn that lesson.

In His Grace,


Wade Burleson

Dispensational Theology and the Destruction of Iran

John Hagee is the pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, and a prominent televangelist and supporter of the nation of Israel. Katyusha rockets recently hit Cornerstone Church's Absorption Center in Kiryat Yam, Israel. John Hagee ministries is a strong advocate of the state of Israel, and his most recent book on the Middle East conflict, Jerusalem Countdown, reached number two in Publisher Weekly's monthly sales list and is approaching one million copies sold.

John Hagee is a dispensationalist. In his book he states that the real enemy is Iran, and that the Arab nations, including Iran, will align themselves together to destroy Israel, and that a peace agreement will be brokered by the U.N. --- led by the Anti-Christ --- and Israel will be saved from destruction, but for just a short period. According to Hagee, the peace will be broken when Russia, China and the Arab nations will come together again in an alliance against Israel, and will seek to destroy her after just a little over three years of peace. It is then, according to Hagee's book, that Jesus Christ return to set up His kingdom on earth.

I am not a dispensationalist, but I marvel at how many Christians believe it to be the orthodox understanding of the end times. There are many very real problems with dispensationalism, not the least of which is the teaching of the Bible that the Old Covenant with Israel has been abolished. But rather than go into great detail on eshcatology, I am simply pointing out a couple of concerns I have of regarding the end product of dispensationalism.

(1). Dispensationalism does not allow for the possibility that Iran will be defeated by Israel and/or the United States militarily, and that the people of Iran will be allowed to establish a pro-democracy government where they can worship and live in freedom.

(2). Dispensationalism does not allow for the possiblity that the world might endure a veritable World War III and come out the other side with greater peace, greater freedom, and greater productivity than ever before.

(3). Dispensationalism sees only one end to any world wide conflict, and that is the personal, visible, physical return of Jesus Christ to the earth.

(4). Dispensationalism runs the risk of bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ into disrepute, for if fifty years from now Islamic fanaticism is defeated, and all Islamic states moderate in their view of the world and Israel, then the question will be asked, again, what about the return of Christ?

(5). The gospel contains within it a personal eschatalogy for every human being. Jesus Christ will come for every person on the day of his death, just as He has since the beginning of time, and every person apart from faith in Christ will give an account to Him for how he has lived his life. This is the coming that really counts and it could happen any day for any of us.

My grandfather, Fred Cherry, was good friends with Arthur W. Pink. On the wall in my office I have a letter from my grandfather to Mr. Pink requesting a copy of his book "The Redeemer's Return." The letter is dated April, 1947, one year before Israel even became a state. Mr. Pink responds to my granfather's request a month later by saying his book, "The Redeemer's Return" is now out of print, and he closes the letter by saying this:

"My 'Redeemer's Return' was written 30 year ago, in the days of my spiritual infancy, when I received without question the teaching of older men. For 40 years I have studied prophecy and today it is my firm conviction that most of what has been written is guesswork!

I fully agree with the spiritually minded C.H. Spurgeon, who said: 'I scarcely consider myself qualified to explain any part of the Book of Revelation, and none of the expositions I have ever seen entice me to attempt this task, for they are mostly occupied with a refutation of all the interpretations that have gone before, and each one seems to be very successful indeed in proving that all the rest knows nothing at all about the matter.'

If you ask then, 'why then did God give us the Revelation?' I answer, 'to stain the pride of man, to expose our ignorance until such time as the whole of it is fulfilled.

My advise is, leave Prophecy alone, and concentrate on the practical portions of the Word!

You asked me which parts of my "Redeemer Returns" I no longer agree with? Answer, "The Signs of His Return,' particularly -- He has not come yet! and may not, for anything any man on earth knows, for thousands of years! May the Lord enable us to put first things first (Matthew 6:33) -- the Revelation is at the END of the Bible!"

Yours by Divine Mercy, A.W. Pink


Sage counsel indeed by a former dispensationalist who died with the more important matters on his mind.

In His Grace,


Wade Burleson