I have met Dr. White just one time. He introduced himself to me in San Antonio prior to the 2007 Southern Baptist Convention. He was extremely polite and had sought me out after the Sunday morning service at Castle Hills Baptist Church, a service we both had attended to hear Dr. Frank Page preach. I have nothing but positive things to say about him, his personal charm, and his ability to communicate his views.
The message he preached at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, however, precisely illustrates the trouble we are having in the Southern Baptist Convention. We have SBC leaders, including seminary professors like Dr. White, Southern Baptist agency Presidents, SBC trustees and other leaders who are preaching personal opinions as if they were mandates from God. This type of legalism will destroy not only the fabric of cooperation upon which our Convention was built, it will ultimately destroy the powerful message of the gospel because tertiary matters are elevated to a primary status of debate within the SBC, and people who disagree are excluded.
I listened to Dr. White's message from beginning to end. I would like to say I was shocked by what I heard, but frankly, my experiences these past three years have taken the edge of surprise off. One of our SBC missionaries who had been overseas for several years emailed me his concerns about what he heard Dr. White say in the message. The missionary confessed to me both shock and sadness. He wondered if Dr. White represents the direction our Convention is headed. I honestly believe that unless other conservative Southern Baptists besides myself begin to speak out and participate in Convention matters, Dr. White's opinions will shortly become mandated for the entire Convention.
The message he preached was about birth control. Can you imagine a policy requiring SBC missionaries swearing that they do not believe in birth control before they are appointed to the mission field? If you think that sounds far fetched, I simply remind you of other "doctrinal" policies being passed by Southern Baptist trustees infatuated with pushing their personal opinions on all others. Read carefully what Dr. White is saying about birth control and those who use it. The transcript begins at the 19:10 minute mark of the message.
"Behold children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward . . . Blessed is the man whose quiver is full” (Psalms 127:3,5a).
There is perhaps nothing in America that we have misunderstood as much as the fact that children are a blessing from the Lord. It says right here - “Behold children are a heritage from the Lord: the fruit of the womb a reward.” Think about what we do in our society, though, to undermine this one principle that’s taught here in Scripture. There is an entire industry that is built up on stopping or preventing children. We call it birth control, but we should call it contraception. We do not want to conceive and so we attempt to stop (it). In fact, we do this in so many different ways. We have sex education to teach our kids know how to do it properly. The newest survey was upset because the rising amount of people not on contraception had grown to seven percent rather than five percent. Think about those statistics. The nation is upset because seven percent of our population is not using contraception. We have the pill. We have the patch. We even have rods you can stick in your arm now that lasts for three years. We have all of these things built up to prevent children from being formed or born . . .
I’m not here this morning to go off on you, I‘m here to tell you something because I’ve made the mistake. When my wife and I were married in 1999, whether it was because of my own selfishness or because of improper information, we were on birth control. Birth control, they tell you, is not abortive in nature. But birth control has three functions. I won’t go into detail of those three functions because I don’t know how many kids we have (here), but the third function in that birth control is to prevent implantation on the uterine wall. And if it reaches that third function, that third function does not take effect until the seventh day. The seventh day is seven days too long, and its murder of a life. When the egg and the sperm meet, you have life. If you ask theologians they’re going to tell you that the egg and the sperm meet when the souls implanted. There’s no other time to say that God creates the soul and puts it in than that point in time. And so at that point you have life. You have at the moment of conception life, and yet the third aspect of birth control is to say that life cannot implant on to the wall as it normally would, and so that life is going to be flushed down, and that my friends is wrong.
I made the mistake. I’m not standing here telling you anything other than this: I don’t want you to make the mistake because of lack of knowledge. I want you to know that the third form of birth control known as the pill, that third form that it has is wrong – it is not correct according to Scripture.
Now I learned. We stopped. I also learned this: It was in 1956 that the pill was created by the person who founded Planned Parenthood. It was in 1976 that the definition was changed. And the definition was changed to say that life began not when fertilization took place, but that life did not begin until implantation on the uterine wall took place. That change in definition allows the doctors to tell you that the pill has no abortive feature. That change in definition allows them to print in their literature the pill is not abortive in any way. And so it markets and sells better to our nation. It eases our conscience. But the truth of the matter is our consciences do not need to be eased, we need to recognize that children are a blessing from the Lord. I confess to you this morning the reason that I was on - we were on birth control - I didn’t take it, but I was the spiritual leader of my house and it’s my fault that we did; the reason that we did it was my own selfishness. I wanted kids, but I wanted kids in God’s . . . not God’s timing, but my time. I didn’t want kids while I was in my M.Div. program where I was going to have another mouth to feed and it was going to inconvenience my ability to finish my course work and maybe move on and do a Ph.D. and all these type things. I wanted kids, but I wanted kids my way, my time, the way I wanted to do it so I could plan my family out. Folks, you are not in control of your destinies, God is! And the sooner that we recognize that we are sinning when we say, “I’m going to control every aspect of my family,” and we’re not giving control to God, we don’t trust Him, we don’t believe that He knows better than we do, we think we know better than God does. And just like I did, some of you are involved in that exact same sin!
I thought you could control it. I thought as soon as we made the decision to come off, we would have kids immediately. It wasn’t that way. My wife and I have never had natural children. We were married in 1999. The Lord is the giver of life. It’s not us. I’ll tell you more about that story later.
It continues on here after it says, “Children are a heritage from the Lord and the fruit of reward.” It says in verse four: “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” Now I tried to think who in the world around here would have a quiver full, and Dean Nichols came to mind. Dean, how many kids do you have? Three? Four? Five? Six? Seven? Now you can’t afford seven kids. Eight kids? Nine kids? Nine? Or Ten? Nine?
Do you have a quiver I could borrow? (A quiver with arrows is brought to the stage – laughter). How about that? Anybody needs a quiver you just go see Dean Nichols, he’ll take care of you. Now this is an interesting thing. “Blessed is the man whose quiver is full.” Nine kids? And he’s still alive, how about that? (Laughter) You see we joke, but this is the attitude that this verse is against. It’s my attitude too. I think about ten kids running around the house and I think to myself, “O Lord, is that really a blessing?”
That’s what His word says, “Children are a blessing . . .”
(Dr. Thomas White then goes on to explain the characteristics of an arrow and how they compare to our children. He describes how a warrior prepares an arrow by bending and curing the wood, and how that compares to parents training their kids. Dr. White then speaks of the sin of pushing kids off to daycare, public schools or youth groups, when it is our primary responsibility to train our kids, just as the biblical warrior would construct his arrows).
Society tells us that children will make a rich man poor, but the Bible tells us that children will make a poor man rich. And that’s the attitude that we need to have. It is the Lord who controls our life. He is God and we are not. He is the one in control, and we are not. If He gives you twelve kids, twelve blessings you have received. If He gives you three kids, three blessings you have received. It is not for us to plan our parenthood, it is for God to be the giver of life.
(Dr. White closes his message with a story of how he and his wife adopted a child in 2005 and a challenge to "let God be God" and acknowledge that we are not God by refusing to use birth control).
There are three sobering judgements I would like to make about Dr. White's message:
(1). When SBC seminary professors, SBC agency Presidents, and other SBC leaders preach their personal opinions as if they were mandates from God, then anyone who ever dares disagree or dissent is considered a sinner, or even worse, a liberal who denies the Scripture. This attitude by the legalists causes the pool of Southern Baptists deemed qualified to serve in leadership or cooperative missions ministry to shrink. This legalism also destroys the cooperative Southern Baptist ministry, and it is for this reason that these kinds of legalists must not be allowed to control the Convention. By the way, Dean Nichols, the man illustrated as having a 'quiver full' of kids is head of security of SWBTS and the husband of Mary Nichols, one of the International Mission Board trustees and member of the IMB trustee caucus who forced through other personal opinions as "doctrinal" policies that exceed both Scripture and the Baptist Faith and Message.
(2). Dr. White seems to be unfamiliar with the teaching of our Baptist forefathers on this issue of the creation of the soul. The claim that "all" theologians hold to his view that the soul is created by God at conception is a claim either built on misperception or misunderstanding.
(3). Here's hoping that our preachers are being taught the primacy of the gospel at our SBC seminaries and not the primacy of birth control. What changes lives is not the claim that Christians taking birth control are sinners, but the claim that God sent His Son to die in the stead of sinners.
Thy Peace (one of this blog's readers and commentors), you asked me for an illustration of legalism in the SBC.
I hope this post helps you understand why I write what I write.
In His Grace,