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

The Nashville Tales: Lessons from Chaucer

My maternal grandfather (16 times) was a medieval poet named Geoffrey Chaucer, widely regarded as "the father of English Literature." He is best remembered for the classic medieval work entitled The Canterbury Tales, a set of stories told by a miscellaneous collection of pilgrims on their way from London to Canterbury, a city which had become a magnet for Christian worshippers after the murder of Thomas Becket in Canterbury's cathedral in 1170. The Canterbury Tales is often studied in English literature college courses, but for a great read, avoiding the medieval English of Chaucer, I would encourage you to purchase the recently published translation by Burton Raffel.

The Wall Street Journal describes The Canterbury Tales as:

. . . a human drama, in which the more than two-dozen pilgrims bicker and challenge each other. The redneck, self-employed Miller annoys the Reeve, a farm-manager who makes his living by pleasing the gentry; the aristocratic Knight cuts the Monk off in mid-story for being too damn gloomy; the celibate academic Clerk from Oxford clashes with the worldly and much-married Wife of Bath, who has no time for book-learning but insists that she should be made a professor anyway (of Love Studies, which she understands in depth).

What motivates all these pilgrims to journey to Canterbury is their desire to pay respects to the beloved Archbishop Becket who had been murdered by King Henry's soldiers. In the medieval ages, the king governed the church. King Henry did not take too well with Becket questioning various actions of the king, and it is said that days before the Archbishop's murder, King Henry raised his head off of his sickbed and queried, "Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?"

Four knights heard their king and took his question as a command. They journeyed to Canterbury and murdered the Archbishop as he prepared for vespers. The knights killed Thomas Becket because he dared to question the authority, actions, and leadership of the king.

A Modern Parallel to the SBC

In many respects Southern Baptists have become as hierarchial as Roman Catholics and Anglicans. Though we have no pope, it could be argued that there is a College of Cardinals within the SBC. Most dramatically, a separatist Landmark element within the SBC seems to desire to remove from our Convention anyone who disagrees with them, or simply questions them. These separatists prop up the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message as a tool that helps them propel from fellowship anybody who disagrees or happens to question the authority or actions of a fellow Southern Baptist conservative resurgence leader.

The most recent and bizarrre example of this tactic comes from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Malcolm Yarnell. Southern Baptist pastor and theologian Dr. Tom Ascol recently questioned, in writing, the wisdom of other Southern Baptist professors and pastors who seem to want to make Calvinism a dividing issue within the SBC. Dr. Yarnell responds to Dr. Ascol's criticism of the John 3:16 Conference by alleging that Dr. Ascol shares communion with a Presbyterian (gasp) and should not be considered an orthodox Southern Baptist. Dr. Yarnell writes:

Dr. Ascol is not willing to affirm the Baptist Faith and Message in its entirety. Let it be clearly noted that communion with Presbyterians is certainly within the prerogative of Dr. Ascol's local church as a free church. However, communion with Presbyterians is outside Southern Baptist orthodoxy, at least according to the common confession of the Southern Baptist Convention. A reading of articles 6-7, especially the first paragraph of article 7, of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 will demonstrate how communion with Presbyterians is outside the confessional mainstream of Southern Baptist life.

Unlike the medieval ages when knights simply took out bishops who questioned the authority of the always orthodox king, foot soldiers of the Landmark and separatist leaders of the Conservative Resurgence will only rest when pastors, churches and people who do not agree with them are removed from the Southern Baptist Convention. The weapon of choice is the accusation that those who disagree with Landmark, separatist theology lack "Southern Baptist orthodoxy." The 'liberals' are gone, so we have to create new liberals. There is nobody left to slay in the SBC but those who are busy about doing the work of Christ - within and through - the SBC. So now, to continue the fight, some must make their fellow conservative evangelicals in the SBC - people who have chosen to cooperate with the SBC - as the enemy of "orthodox" SBC'ers. The idea that closed communion is THE "orthodox" and only proper view of communion in the SBC ought to send chills up the spine of every Southern Baptist who cherishes missions cooperation. Dr. Yarnell writes about Dr. Ascol and his church's view of fellowship with a Presbyterian:

The Southern Baptist Convention may be facing a similar problem to that which it faced with Liberalism.

Good night.

If something doesn't change in the Southern Baptist Convention, and soon, a modern day Chaucer will arise to write The Nashville Tales - a collection of stories of those who have been pushed out of SBC cooperative ministry by "Christians" who have never become confident enough in their faith to be able to handle questions. If that happens then evanglicals will be talking of the SBC using the past tense.

In His Grace,


Wade Burleson

Cocksure Christians Cause Continual Conflict

. Every Tuesday morning inside an old bar our church has purchased and converted into a building we call "The Grace Place," a large group of Christian men gather for discipleship and encouragement. I enjoy these weekly Bible studies which we have held on a regular basis for the last seventeen years. Our usual method is to open with prayer requests and praise reports, followed by a time of prayer. Then we take a chapter from the book of the Bible we are studying and assign two or three men to read the text aloud. After the text is read, I will offer a few observations and then ask the men for their thoughts and comments.

This past Tuesday morning's text was I Peter 4, and the discussion began around I Peter 4:6 which states:

For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.

The men at the Bible study offered four different observations and interpretations of this verse, including the following:

(1). The dead are those who lived in the antediluvian age, and the gospel was proclaimed to them by the Spirit as much as to those living in Peter's day.

(2). The dead are those who are "spiritually" dead, and the Spirit makes them alive through the preaching of the gospel.

(3). The dead are the martyrs who have died for their faith in Christ, and the judgment they received "in the flesh" was the judgment from the men who put them to death, but the Spirit makes them alive to God.

(4). The dead are those who Christ proclaimed victory to after his death at Calvary - but before His resurrection - when He took "captivity captive" and carried from Hades those He redeemed by the Spirit.

The various positions were elucidated, not so much advocated, by those who offered them, and we all listened with respect. The spirit was loving, the discussion healthy, and when it was all over I learned a great deal. Not all of the possible interpretations of that text can be correct. In fact, I am quite comfortable in saying that there is one correct interpretation of the sacred text found in I Peter 4:6.

That which stands out to me about our Bible study, however, is the love, respect and Christian charity shown by all the men toward each other - even those who disagreed with the various interpretations offered.

As I left "The Grace Place," I thanked the Lord for bringing me to a church full of people who would rather gently elucidate than proudly advocate. I also realized that those in the Southern Baptist Convention who are so cocksure about their interpretations of Scripture (i.e. "tongues have ceased," or "the gift of tongues continues"; i.e. "God is trying as hard as He can to save every person," or "God only desires to save the elect"; i.e. "women can't teach men the Bible," or "women can teach men theology," etc . . . ). I have absolutely no problem with any Southern Baptist believing any of the above examples, or any Southern Baptist explaining why they believe what they believe.

It is the arrogant, cocksure approach that a specific interpretation being advocated is the only possible correct interpretation that winds up causing conflict in the SBC. May God give us all a little humility to understand we are fallible men and women, and it is much better to elucidate one's views rather than advocate them.

In His Grace,


Wade

A Team Must Win to Be In

I arrived home at 12:30 a.m. this morning from Norman, Oklahoma after experiencing the loudest crowd at Owen Field in the history of Oklahoma football. The 2000 Oklahoma vs. Nebraska game in Norman, which vaulted OU into the number one national ranking, was also played in front of a riled up crowd; but last night's raucous game is unsurpassed in OU history in term's of electricity. When I arrived home I watched the game on Tivo, much of it fastworded between plays, in order to see if middle linebacker Austin Box, a longtime family friend and fellow Enidite, actually played as well as it looked like he did from my viewpoint in the stands. He did, and the story of OU's improvement on defense since the red-shirted freshman Box was inserted at middle linebacker is the biggest story coming out of the game.

The Harris Poll and the Coaches Poll have been released and OU is number 2, behind Alabama - the place they should be in my opinion. The BCS poll will come out later this afternoon, and I am writing this before we know whether or not OU passed Texas in BCS standings. If the Big 12 South ends in a three way tie between three one loss teams (Texas, Tech and OU), then the highest ranked BCS team will be declared the winner of the Big 12 South and will play in the Big 12 Championship game against Missouri in two weeks. I predict that OU will pass Texas in BCS standings, if not today at least by next Sunday if can they beat OSU next Saturday night.

However, for all those Texas fans who will gripe about OU passing Texas, even though Texas beat OU in week four of the season, chew on the following:

IF OSU beats OU next week, it will be TECH, not Texas that goes to the Big 12 Championship game. There is not one soul in the BCS system, the Big 12 Conference, or anybody else who would want TECH in the Big 12 Championship game with Texas sitting on the sidelines. Therefore, everyone involved in the BCS system will be pulling for OU to beat OSU in order to make the Big 12 and BCS Championship games what they could be, and should be, to make the season exciting at the end. If OU wins, then the question is - who goes to the Big 12 Championship game of the three one loss teams?

The answer should be a simple one:

If OU loses, Tech is in. If OU wins, Texas or OU is in.

Don't put the hopes of Texas on the backs of an OU win.

Put the hopes of OU on the back of an OU win.

Rank OU ahead of Texas, or you risk a really messed up BCS.

Wade

OVERSOLD: Pastor David Cowan, Hosea and Gomer, and the Story of Crissy Moran

My son will tell you I am a movie buff. He and I thought of starting a father/son movie Christian review web site along the lines of Siskel and Ebert, but wisdom prevailed. We have father son outings where we go see the newest release and talk about life's lessons learned through the film, always applying our Christian worldview to weed out the chaff. I've probably seen hundreds of movies in my lifetime, but are three movies that have made an impact on me from a theological and spiritual perspective. The first was when I was a 10 year old kid watching the television movie Brian's Song for the first time. When Brian died, I cried. It was the first time in my life death impacted me through a movie. I have now spent years working with people facing death, and the feelings I have about death are still the same. The second time a film moved me in a spiritual and theological manner was just a couple of years ago when watching the epic C.S. Lewis film Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. When all in Narnia seemed lost and hopeless, and the people were facing certain death at the hands of their enemies, the Lion reappears, steps majestically onto the rock and roars. I know it may sound corny to some, but the imagery in that movie that portrayed Jesus Christ rescuing His people, making death and all His enemies a footstool, moved me to tears of joy.

The third time a film resonated with me theologically was yesterday when I watched a thirty minute movie called OVERSOLD.

Pastor David Cowan and Elevation Church

My friend, David Cowan, emailed me to tell me that a story he had written, a modern parable of Hosea and Gomer, was finally ready for distribution in the form of a short film. David is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and is pastoring a Southern Baptist Church plant in Phoenix, Arizona, called Elevation Church, in Phoenix, Arizona. With the help of his church and producer Paul Morrell, the short film has been released for download over the Internet. David asked that I watch the film and let him know what I thought. I went to the offical web-site and purchased the download to watch in my office.

It goes without saying that even Hollywood blockbuster movies are fake. They are not real life. Actors wear make-up, stories are made-up, and scenes are set-up. Even if a movie is a biography or based on a true story, it is still just a movie. But those movies that have moved me in terms of my view of life and God have been movies conveying a profound message. Brian's Song was based on the true story of professional football player Brian Picalo, his losing battle with cancer, and the friendship he had with fellow Chicago Bear teammate Gale Sayers, and illustrated for me the importance of relationships and the impact of death The Chronicles of Narnia was a movie built on the allegory of the battle between good and evil, and the ultimate victory of Jesus Christ over the forces of darkness. OVERSOLD is about how Jesus Christ pursues sinners until He wins them over with His incredible, unconditional, effectual and eternal love.

Crissy Moran

OVERSOLD is a short film that is a modern day parallel to the Hosea and Gomer love story found in the Bible. It stars former porn star Crissy Moran, now a follower of Jesus Christ, as the "Gomer" character. It depicts a young pastor who receives an inheritance after the death of his parents in a car accident. He takes a sabbatical to Las Vegas to visit his only surviving relative, a step-brother. In Vegas he meets a dancer and begins to court her. After a couple of weeks the pastor discovers the woman he loves is actually a stripper. Rather than turn his back on her, the young pastor offers to marry her if she will leave Vegas and her life behind and return with him to the church he pastors. She says yes to his proposal, and that is where the story gets really interesting. One of the best scenes in the movie is when the church members discover their pastor has actually married a former stripper. When the pastor's wife begins to feel out of place in her new home, and when the pressure mounts to pay off the huge financial debt she owes her former handler and boyfried, she returns to Vegas. We then follow the pastor as he returns to Vegas to "redeem" his wife. Anyone who has read the book of Hosea in the Bible knows that the movie script is an adaptation of this timeless story of God's love and redemption.

OVERSOLD is basically a video message of hope, targeted towards those that suffer from addictions to porn or are connected with the dark world of the sex industry. It is a film that pours light into dark places, and it is already being used to enlighten many with the grace of God. The film was produced on a small budget, mostly the savings of producer Paul Morrell, and is the dream and vision of the pastor and people of Elevation Church in Phoenix, Arizona.

Crissy Moran, the lead actress in the film, has had her life radically transformed by the power of Jesus Christ. She told me yesterday that it is her hope this film will be used by God to show women and young girls caught up in the porn industry that they are not beyond the reach of God's love. In addition, it is her desire, as well as Pastor Cowen's, that this film cause Christian men to awaken to the truth that viewing porn is not a "victimless" act. Crissy is attempting to remove, through legal means, all of the porn clips of her on the Internet. She may not succeed, but it is my prayer that those who are tempted to search for Crissy Moran porn clips will actually be led to OVERSOLD and discover a testimony that will transform the soul. Pastor David Cowan narrates the movie, and at the end, he gives what I believe is the money quote:

God pursues a love relationship with you that is real and personal. God is truly the God of second chances. You might feel like that all your chances are spent, that there is no hope, that for you all hope is lost.

But this story tells us just the opposite. God tells us, "No, no, there is hope for you. There is grace for you.

Pastor Cowan goes on in his narrative to address prostitutes, strippers, porn addicts, escorts, and other people affected by the billion dollar sex industry in America. He closes by challenging the viewers of the movie to open their lives to Jesus Christ, who unlike others, "will never leave you or abandon you."

My prayers are with Elevation Church, Pastor David Cowan, Crissy Moran and the movie OVERSOLD. I thank God that a Southern Baptist Church and a Southern Baptist pastor have taken the risk of bringing the story of God's love for sinners to people who might never have heard it through traditional church means. They also realize that people in our church pews are sometimes just as hopeless and desparate as those in the back alleys of Hollywood. Pastor and Mrs. David Cowan and Crissy Moran will be at Emmanuel, Enid next year to help us with a regional Men's Purity Conference. May God use their stories and their movie OVERSOLD to lead lost, desparate men and women to a knowledge of the saving love of Jesus Christ.

Go, download the movie, and help support those Christians that are reaching people in the porn industry with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In His Grace,

Wade

The Real Story of Survivors in Gabon, Africa


My fifteen year old son sent in his application for his summer mission work today, and he is praying about the country where he hopes to spend several weeks sharing Christ and starting churches. I shared with him the following story when he sent off his application as an encouragement to take every decision and every need before his Lord in prayer. Walker Moore, President of Awe Star Ministries, shared with me this story while we visited during last week's Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.

It seems that a group of young people and adults from America went to Gabon, Africa a few summers ago to share the gospel of Jesus Christ among the native Africans. The Lord moved in powerful ways and over three hundred people placed their faith in Christ. A church was planted with a native Gabon believer serving as the church's pastor. Shortly before the missions team was due to leave Africa to come home to the States, Muslim extremists, upset with the number of conversions to Christianity in the community where the team was ministering, broke into the place where the American teenagers and their sponsors were staying. The thieves stole all 20 of the American's passports, all the cash the team was carrying, and their yellow fever cards.

When the robbery was discovered, the teenagers, having been taught in their training that God is in control of every event, and that the first response of every need is to pray, gathered in the courtyard of where they were staying and began to pray. They worshipped, they sang, they prayed. The kids all acknowledged that they were helpless, but they knew their heavenly Father knew who stole the passports and money, and they asked Him to simply see to it that their valuable possessions were returned. A passport in Gabon is worth $5,000 on the black market, but the kids didn't consider the impossibilities, only that with God nothing is impossible.

They were praying and worshipping into the wee hours of the morning, when one of the teenagers noticed a sack being thrown over the wall. At first he thought the Muslims were throwing things at them, but then he went over and opened the package he found every single one of the 20 passports, every single dollar that had been stolen, and every single yellow card. The native African Christians who had been praying with the American teenagers began to dance and rejoice.

Within days, word of the event had spread throughout the country and many came inquiring about the power of this "God of the passports." The Gabon church continues to grow to this day because some American Christian teenagers and their sponsors were able to take God at His word. He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we could ever ask or think.

What are you praying for today? CBS may announce the winner of Survivor Gabon in a few weeks, but in my opinion, the real survivors from Gabon are those kids who displayed their faith in the power of their mighty God and His Son Jesus Christ.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

"I Would Die for You" --- The Story of BJ Higgins

_______________________________________________
Walker Moore and I served together as chaplains of the Tulsa Police Department in the late 1980's. At the time Walker was on staff at First Baptist Church, Tulsa, Oklahoma. In 1992 I moved to Enid, Oklahoma to become pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church, and Walker prepared to resign from FBC Tulsa to begin a ministry to teenagers and their parents called Awe Star Ministries. Awe Star Ministries was designed to help 14,15,16, and 17 year old kids go through a rite of passage into adulthood - through missions. Over the past fifteen years Awe Star Ministries has placed thousands of young people in 39 countries of the world to share the gospel, plant churches and make the tranistion to adulthood.

Walker is currently the number one missions speaker on the Southern Baptist missions tour, particularly Global Impact weekends (GIC's) which are held at Southern Baptist churches around the nation. One of the reasons Walker speaks during the main services at churches like Prestonwood, Second Houston, FBC Dallas, etc . . . is because of the stories he tells of kids transformed through their involvement with missions through Awe Star. Our youngest son, Logan, turns fifteen tomorrow, and we are giving to him as a birthday gift the story of an Awe Star fifteen year old who gave his life for Christ on the mission field - in 2005.

BJ Higgins went with Awe Star ministries to minister to the people of Peru in the summer of 2005. During that summer over 5,000 Peruvians gave their lives to Jesus Christ through the ministry of the Awe Star team that included BJ Higgins. While ministering the gospel of Christ, fulfilling his rite of passage from childhood to adulthood, BJ caught the bubonic plague. Awe Star missionaries are taught that nothing is out of the control of a sovereign God, so when things happen beyond our control, prayer is the answer. When Awe Star staff and BJ's own father asked BJ whether or not he was praying for God to heal him, BJ responded that his prayer is that his life be used by God for the furtherance of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and if that means he lives, he is asking for healing. But, if the gospel is furthered through his death, he is asking God to take him home.

BJ died in late summer of August 2005 of bubonic plague.

The story of BJ's life, written by his parents Brent and Deanna Higgens, with excerpts from the journals of BJ, is called I Would Die for You. It is #1 on Amazon.com's bestseller list among teenagers. The story has impacted hundreds of people, including our soon to be fifteen year old son Logan - as well as his father. When Southern Baptists write petty, mean or un-Christian things about me or others I love, I think of BJ Higgins. When I am tempted to lose focus on what is really important, and catch myself getting caught up in the politics of a denomination, I think of BJ Higgins. BJ didn't talk about missions, he lived it. BJ wasn't concerned about his own legacy, he was captivated by Christ's legacy. BJ understood that a man is not really ready to live until he is fully prepared to die at any moment.

I want to thank Walker Moore and Brent Higgins for being an encouragement to me this past week at their Awe Star headquarters in Tulsa. I went to Tulsa for our Baptist Convention of Oklahoma, but I came away blessed by two men who fully comprehend what it means to change the world one life at a time. I close with the words of BJ, written in his journal before he died:

I will not be satisfied.
I will not let my passion be held in a bottle.
I will not let my light be hidden.

I will stand up.
I will let my voice be heard.
I will lead. I will serve. I will fight.
I will tell people about Christ.
I will unsheathe my sword.

It's time to raise a revolution.
God will give me the strength.

BJ Higgins, Marty, 1989-2005

The Problem of Calling People Hyper-Calvinists

At the John 3:16 Conference last week, Dr. David Allen, Professor of Preaching at Southwestern Theological Seminary, spoke in opposition to "Limited Atonement." Dr. Allen offered that many theologians known as Calvinists, including John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, and John Bunyan did not believe in a particular redemption (i.e. that Christ died for the elect), but they believed that Christ died for every sinner without exception, even those who will receive the condemnation of God in hell. I had no problem, at all, with either Dr. Allen's remarks nor the defense of his proposition. I found Dr. Allen displayed excellent scholarship, and enjoyed his presentation, though I would in the end disagree with a few of his conclusions.

There was one area of Dr. Allen's presentation, however, that did cause me some sadness. Dr. Allen felt it necessary to call several individuals "hyper-calvinists," including modern Baptist James White, 18th Century Baptist theologian John Gill (whom Charles Spurgeon called "my mentor in Israel"), and George Ella. Ella was listed as a "hyper-calvinist," along with about a dozen other individuals in one of Dr. Allen's handouts. I thought Dr. Steve Lempke of New Orleans, who followed Dr. Allen in the program, was dead on when he made the observation, "I am not sure that there is such a thing as a living hyper-calvinist. I find that those who call others hyper-calvinists have simply run into people more calvinistic than they are." The reason the "hyper-calvinist" label bothers me is because those who use it seem to believe that the alleged hyper-calvinist is not preaching the gospel, has no concern for the lost, and is not orthodox in his view of salvation.

Dr. George Ella, approaching 70 years of age, is a member of our church. He is a prolific author, having written many excellent biographies of 18th century saints, including Augustus Toplady, William Huntington and John Gill. The first time I met George was at the Oklahoma City Airport when I picked him up after flying in from Germany. He was crying. I asked him if everything was all right. He explained that he had spent the previous five hours sharing Christ with the young lady seated next to him. His soul was burdened for her salvation. George spent years among the Lap Indians of Finland, sharing Christ while serving as a missionary to the Laps. These Laps, the poorest of the poor and the outcasts of society in Finland, grew to love George. Dr. Ella learned their language, lived with them in their tent villages, ate their food, and became their father in the faith. This is the same George Ella, the linguist, who learned nearly 20 languages in order to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with people in their native tongue. This is the man Dr. Allen called a hyper-calvinist. If Ella is a hyper-calvinist, may God give the Southern Baptist Convention more of them.

I think that if it is the desire to build bridges in the Southern Baptist Convention, it would probably be best to avoid tagging people who believe differently from us with "labels" other than those things which Christ calls them. They are forgiven, they are brothers, they are His people, they are children of the King. My brother in Christ, Dr. David Allen, may disagree with Dr. George Ella on issues of the atonement, but it might be helpful if we avoided labeling people "hyper-calvinists" and simply discuss the issues of disagreement.

In His Grace,

Wade

"Foreknowledge" Means More Than Just to Know

Last Friday morning Dr. Chuck Kelley, President of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, was called upon by Dr. Vines to open the John 3:16 Conference with prayer. Before Dr. Kelley prayed, he said that we are in a crisis of evangelism unparalleled in the history of the Southern Baptist Convention, caused by a resurgence of Calvinism. He then thanked the organizers of the John 3:16 Conference for hosting such an important event to determine the appropriate response to Calvinism. From the opening comments and prayer, I felt that the second day of the John 3:16 Conference might be just a tad tougher on Southern Baptist Calvinists than the previous night. I was correct. Over the next few posts I will offer some observatios about the second day of the John 3:16 Conference beginning today with Dr. Richard's land assessment and response to the Calvinistic doctrine called “Unconditional Election.”

Dr. Richard Land, President of the Christian Life Commission; “Unconditional Election.”

Dr. Land’s title for his presentation was called “Congruent Election: Understanding Salvation from an Eternal Perspective.” Dr. Land is a D.Phil from Oxford, and is both bright and articulate. He stated clearly in his introduction that he did not believe at all in L of TULIP (Limited Atonement); he believed totally and completely in P of TULIP (Perseverance of the Saints); but as he would show in this particular session, he only believed in fractions of Total Depravity, Unconditional Election and Irresistible Grace as defined by the Calvinists. Then he made his money statement, “If God had chosen to send Jesus to die for the elect, He would still be a loving, merciful and gracious God – but, that is not what the Bible teaches.”

Land proceeded then to explain what he believed the Bible to teach in terms of election. He began by showing what he called “The Leland Compromise,” which is the name designated for the view of salvation held by 19th Century Baptist John Leland. Dr. Leland believed in both the eternal purpos of God in election and the freedom of the human will. He believed that the preaching most blessed of God is that which emphasizes God’s sovereign grace with a little bit of Arminianism sprinkled in. Land said that Baptists in the south, seventy years before the formation of the SBC, followed Leland's view, emphasizing BOTH God’s sovereignty and human free will. Land observed that we Baptists are always at our best when both truths are emphasized. He added that too many preachers today try to rationalize one truth over the other.

Dr. Land then personally confessed “I believe election is consistent with the free will of man.” He then suggested the more difficult question is “How should election be defined?” Dr. Land proposed that some of the early leaders of the SBC, commonly called "The Founders," taught that God “unconditional elects” certain sinners to salvation, while excluding others. Dr. Land said this "Founders" view of election was contrary to the view of election held by the majority of Southern Baptist laymen at the time. Accordingly, said Dr. Land, some SBC leaders today hold to a view of the Calvinistic doctrine of "Unconditional Election" - a view not held by the majority of the SBC.

Dr. Land said this Calvinistic view of election arises when Baptists confuse the Old Testament teaching of God electing the nation of Israel with the New Testament teaching of God electing sinners. The former he called “Abrahamic election” and the latter he called “Salvific election.” He said Presbyterians confuse the church of the N.T. with Israel of the O.T., and Southern Baptists who hold to Presbyterian ecclesiology have made the same error and taught that God elects certain sinners (not all) to salvation, just like God chose one nation Israel (not all nations) to be His people. He then explained that Romans 9-11 is a consideration of NATIONAL election, and nowhere in Romans 9-11 is personal election to salvation the subject. He said Dr. H.A. Ironside helped him see that the Apostle Paul was referring to nations in Romans 9-11, not individuals.

Dr. Land then became specific on what he believed what the Bible taught about election. He quoted Romans 8:29 which states that we are elect according the “foreknowledge” of God. Dr. Land said God desires all (pas) men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. God willeth all men to be saved, and He has given His Son as a ransom for all, but He does not violate our freedom. He will not force us to be converted. He allows us to choose for ourselves.

But, according to Dr. Land, this is where God's “foreknowledge” comes in to play. God knows all things that happen in time - now. There is no "future" to God. Everything is now to Him. God treats sinners as either “elect” or “non-elect” because He knows what the sinner will choose from eternity. Time is irrelevant to God. Again, the future is the now to God. Therefore, He desires all to be saved, He gives His Son for the atonement of all sins without exception, and all that is lacking is the sinner’s reception of what God has provided, and God will treat sinners based upon His knowledge of how they will choose.

Dr. Land then made clear what is required for God to “elect” a sinner. “As the sinner attempts to respond to the saving work of God, then God gives to that sinner saving faith.” In other words, God gives the faith, and treats the sinner as His elect, His child, etc . . . when God sees “an attempt to respond.” He does not turn a deaf ear to the sinner who calls upon the name of the Lord. But, what makes Dr. Land’s view different from classical Armianism is Dr. Land believes God knows the decision of that believer BEFORE creation, and He gives eternal salvation based upon that sinner's initial "response" to God's redemption. God does not give that initial response, but God responds to the sinner's response. And, God treats that sinner who responds as one of "the elect" because God knows what the response will be from eternity. Thus, the title for Dr. Land's talk – Congruent Election. Dr. Land quoted C.S. Lewis who said “To God all the physical events and human acts are present in an eternal now.” God has all knowledge, and He knows which sinner will choose to receive what God has provided in Christ Jesus for every sinner.

My Disagreements With Dr. Land’s View of Election

I appreciated Dr. Land’s desire to protect the reputation of God as a loving and gracious God. It seems to me that most of the speakers at the John 3:16 Conference, including Dr. Land, were seeking to prevent what they perceived to be a Calvinistic belief in partiality – that God creates some sinners in order to save them, and He creates other sinners for the purpose of condemning them. However, if Dr. Land and others would think through their belief that God's "foreknowledge" is simply God "knowing" who would receive His redemption, then they would see that they also are faced with the dilemma of God creating people He knows He will ultimately condemn. God simply knowing the future "free will" choices of sinners does not exempt God from the accusation that He creates sinners with their destiny set before birth of ultimate condemnation.

If in the fulness of time a sinner, one that God knows will not choose to receive the redemption God has provided, comes to the moment of decision, it is impossible for that sinner to choose to receive Christ - for if he did, then God's "knowledge" would be imperfect, and God would not be God. In other words, if salvation is dependant upon a sinner’s response to God’s redemption, and if God simply knows how the sinner will respond, then God is creating sinners that He knows will never believe. He is therefore creating sinners that He will ultimately condemn. Why not just not create them?

To avoid this dilemma of asking why God creates sinners that He knows He will ultimately condemn, some Baptists, like Dr. Greg Boyd, now teach “open theology.” "Open" theists make the claim that the future is “open” and “unknown” to God. This denial of God's omniscience allows the claim to be made that God is TRULY desiring all sinners to be saved, so much so that He creates every human being with the sincere HOPE that the sinner will respond, but He does not really know if the sinner will - or will not - respond. This gives to open theists the peace of mind that God is not creating sinners He knows He will ultimately condemn. The future is open to God - it is unknown.

There is, however, another view. It is the orthodox, historic Baptist, and biblical view of "election." The very view Dr. Land seems to oppose. This view of election is held by those who believe the Bible teaches every human being justly deserves the condemnation of a holy God because every human being is a rebel against God. This rebellion (sin) is not God's fault, it is man's choice. While God takes no pleasure in the death and condemnation of the wicked, He does justly choose to bypass some sinners for deliverance from their rebellion in order that His holiness and justice might be made manifest. However, God has also graciously chosen to save an innumerable company of sinners through Jesus Christ for the praise and the glory of His grace. To those whom He has chosen to redeem, He has also freely given to them all things associated with their redemption, including the gifts of faith and repentance. Those sinners who repent and believe in Christ have experience God's gracious power, for "in the day of His power, His people are made willing." The belief that a sinner will only find Christ lovely when God awakens that sinner to the beauty of Christ is to give to God all the credit for a sinner's salvation.

God's grace and the absence of God's grace is a little like darkness and light. There is no such thing as darkness – it is simple the absence of light. One never really appreciates light until there is a comprehension of darkness. So too, God may choose to righteously punish sinners by bypassing them with His grace in order that those who experience His grace might appreciate what it is that they have received from their gracious God. Bottom line, it seems to me that if Southern Baptists really believed that every sinner is responsible for his or her rebellion to God, and that God is under no obligation to convert and deliver a rebel, then there would be no complaint that God chooses not to save every sinner, but there would be a remarkable astonishment and an unbridled joy that He has chosen to deliver even one sinner - not to mention the innumerable company of sinners the Bible says God has chosen to redeem.

Dr. Land is not an Arminian. He did an admirable job attempting to combine God’s sovereignty with man’s responsibility. However, I think both were not emphasized quite enough. Man is responsible - to obey God perfectly. God holds man responsible for this perfect obedience. Yet, no man seeks God. No man obeys God. No man listens to God. We are all rebels. We are all sinners. The fact that a great number of us will one day repent of our sins and fall in love with Jesus Christ is because He first loved us. Our salvation is due to God's unconditional choice to redeem us and shower us with His favor, which includes the softening of our hard hearts and the vivifying (regeneration) of our spiritually dead hearts. I agree wholeheartedly that if a sinner desires God to save Him, God will. But for a hardened rebel like me to even begin to desire Christ's Lordship, and for me to even come to the point that I hate my rebellion to God, then God must first change my heart. We love our rebellion way too much, and just as it is impossible for the Ethiopian to change the color of his skin or the leopard his spots, so it is impossible for those of us accustomed to doing evil to change our ways.

Contrary to what Dr. Land stated, I believe that when Southern Baptists sometimes talk like a little like Arminians might talk, or when we Southern Baptists sometimes theorize like Arminians theorize, or when we Southern Baptists sometimes debate like Arminians debate, we Southern Baptists might need to just do a little more biblical preaching and a little more gospel singing. The most powerful preaching of the Bible, and the most effectual singing of the gospel, comes from the preaching and singing that exalts the biblical truth that “God saves sinners through Jesus Christ.”

I am reminded of the story of Charles Spurgeon leading his congregation in singing one of the hymns of the famous Arminian Charles Wesley. The congregation sang:

“Long my imprisoned spirit lay, fast bound in sin and nature’s night.
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray; I woke, the dungeon flamed with light.
My chains fell off, my heart was free. I rose went forth and followed Thee.”

Spurgeon closed the hymn book and exclaimed “Wesley, where is thine Arminianism now?”

I really think when Dr. Land and other Southern Baptist preachers preach the Word, which both he and other Southern Baptists do quite well, the theorizing of congruent election goes out the window and God is given sole credit for sinners repenting and turning from their sin.

God's foreknowledge is not simply God "knowing" facts about His people; God's foreknowledge is God's everlasting love for His people. Adam "knew" his wife Eve and she conceived. God "foreknew" His people and they were redeemed. Thank God for his everlasting love (Jer. 31:3).

In His Grace,


Wade

When Election Becomes Foreknowledge

Last Friday morning Dr. Chuck Kelley, President of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, was called upon by Dr. Vines to open the the John 3:16 Conference with prayer. Before Dr. Kelley prayed, he said that we are in a crisis of evangelism unparalleled in the history of the Southern Baptist Convention, caused by a resurgence of Calvinism. He then thanked the organizers of the John 3:16 Conference for hosting such an important event to determine the appropriate response to Calvinism. From the opening comments and prayer, I felt that the second day of the John 3:16 Conference might be just a tad tougher on Southern Baptist Calvinists than the previous night. I was correct. Over the next few posts I will offer some observatios about the second day of the John 3:16 Conference beginning today with Dr. Richard's land assessment and response to the Calvinistic docrine called “Unconditional Election.”

Dr. Richard Land, President of the Christian Life Commission; “Unconditional Election.”

Dr. Land’s title for his presentation was called “Congruent Election: Understanding Salvation from an Eternal Perspective.” Dr. Land is a D.Phil from Oxford, and is both bright and articulate. He stated clearly in his introduction that he did not believe at all in L of TULIP (Limited Atonement); he believed totally and completely in P of TULIP (Perseverance of the Saints); but as he would show in this particular session, he only believed in fractions of Total Depravity, Unconditional Election and Irresistible Grace as defined by the Calvinists. Then he made his money statement, “If God had chosen to send Jesus to die for the elect, He would still be a loving, merciful and gracious God – but, that is not what the Bible teaches.”

Land proceeded then to show what he believed the Bible teaches in terms of election. He began by showing what he called “The Leland Compromise,” which is the name designated for 19th Century Baptist John Leland’s view of soteriology (i.e. "the doctrine of salvation"). Leland believed in both the eternal purposes of God in election and the freedom of the human will. He believed that the preaching most blessed of God is that which emphasizes God’s sovereign grace with a little bit of Arminianism sprinkled in. Land said that Baptists in the south, seventy years before the formation of the SBC, follwed Leland's view of soteriology that emphasized BOTH God’s sovereignty and human responsibility. Land observed that Baptists were always at their best when both truths are emphasized. He added that too many preachers today try to rationalize one truth over and against the other.

Dr. Land then personally confessed to a historic Baptist understanding of salvation by saying “I believe election is consistent with the free agency of man.” He then suggested the more difficult question is “How should election be defined?” Dr. Land proposed that some of the early leaders of the SBC, commonly called "The Founders," taught that God “unconditional elects” certain sinners to salvation, while excluding others. Dr. Land said this view of election,held by the Founder of the SBC, was contrary to the views of the majority of Southern Baptists laymen at the time. Accordingly, some SBC leaders today hold to "Unconditional Election," contrary to the majority of the SBC.

Dr. Land said the Calvinist's view of election is based upon confusing the Old Testament teaching of God electing the nation of Israel with the New Testament teaching of God electing of sinners. The former he called “Abrahamic election” and the latter he called “Salvific election.” He said Presbyterians confuse the church with Israel and Israel with the church, and Southern Baptists who have turned to Presbyterian ecclesiology have made the same error and taught that God elected certain sinners (not all) to salvation. He then explained that Romans 9-11 is a consideration of the NATIONAL election of the Gentiles, and the setting aside of the NATION of the Jews (at least for a season), but nowhere is personal election to salvation the subject of romans 9-11. He said Dr. H.A. Ironside helped him see that the Apostle Paul was referring to nations in Romans 9-11, not individuals.

Dr. Land then became specific on what he believed what the Bible taught about election. He quoted Romans 8:29 which states that we are elect according the “foreknowledge” of God. God desires all (pas) men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. God willeth all men to be saved, and He has given His Son as a ransom for all, but He does not violate our freedom. He will not force us to be converted. He allows us to choose for ourselves.

But, according to Dr. Land, this is where God's “foreknowledge” comes in to play. God knows all things that happen in time - now. There is no "future" to God. Everything is now to Him. God treats sinners as either “elect” or “non-elect” because He knows what the sinner will choose from eternity. Time is irrelevant to God. Again, the future is the now to God. Therefore, He desires all to be saved, He gives His Son for the atonement of all sins without exception, and all that is lacking is the sinner’s reception of what God has provided, and God will treat sinners based upon His knowledge of how they will choose.

Dr. Land then made clear what is required for God to “elect” a sinner. “As the sinner attempts to respond to the saving work of God, then God gives to that sinner saving faith.” In other words, God gives the faith, and treats the sinner as His elect, His child, etc . . . when God sees “an attempt to respond.” He does not turn a deaf ear to the sinner who calls upon the name of the Lord. But, what makes Dr. Land’s view different from classical Armianism is Dr. Land believes God knows the decision of that believer BEFORE creation, because there is no future in terms of God. He transcends time; thus the title of his talk – Congruent Election. Dr. Land quoted C.S. Lewis who said “To God all the physical events and human acts are present in an eternal now.” God has all knowledge, and He knows which sinner will choose to receive what God has provided.

My Disagreements With Dr. Land’s View of Election

I appreciated Dr. Land’s desire to protect the reputation of God as a loving and gracious God. It seems to me that most of the speakers at the John 3:16 Conference, including Dr. Land, were seeking to prevent what they perceived to be a Calvinistic belief of partiality – that God creates some sinners in order to save them, and He creates other sinners for the purpose of condemning them. However, if Dr. Land and others simply thought through their orthodox view of "foreknowledge," they would see that any belief in the omniscience of God has Him creating people who knows He is going to condemn. In other words, if salvation is dependant upon a sinner’s response to God’s redemption, and if God simply knows the sinner’s response because of His foreknowledge, then God is creating sinners that He knows will never believe. He is therefore creating sinners that He will ultimately condemn. Why not just not create them?

To avoid this dilemma of why God creates sinners that He knows He will ultimately condemn, some Baptists, like Dr. Greg Boyd, now teach “open theology.” Open theology makes the claim that the future is “open” and “unknown” by God. This denial of omniscience allows the claim to be made that God is TRULY desiring all sinners to be saved, so much so that He creates every human being with the HOPE that the sinner will respond, but He does not really know if the sinner will - or will not - respond. The future is open to God - it is unknown.

There is, however, another view. It is the orthodox, historic Baptist, and biblical view of "election." This view of election is held by those who believe the Bible teaches every human being justly deserves the condemnation of a holy God because every human being is a rebel against God. This rebellion (sin) is not God's fault, it is man's choice. While God takes no pleasure in the death and condemnation of the wicked, He does justly choose to bypass some sinners for deliverance from that rebellion in order that His holiness and justice might be made manifest. But He also graciously chooses to save an innumerable company of sinners for the praise and the glory of His grace in Christ Jesus. It’s a little like darkness and light. There is no such thing as darkness – it is simple the absence of light. Yet, you never really appreciate light until you understand darkness. So too, God may choose to righteously punish sinners by simply bypassing them with His grace (i.e. “the absence of saving grace”) in order that those who experience His grace might appreciate what it is they really have from Him in Christ. Bottom line, it seems to me that if Southern Baptists really believed that every sinner is responsible for his or her rebellion to God, and that God is under no obligation to convert and deliver a rebel, then there would be no complaint for God choosing not to save any sinners and a remarkable astonishment that He would deliver even one.

Dr. Land is not an Arminian. He did an admirable job attempting to meld God’s sovereignty with man’s responsibility. However, I think both were not emphasized qite enough. Man is responsible to obey God perfectly. God holds man responsible for this obedience. But no man seeks God. No man obeys God. No man listens to God. We are all rebels. The fact that a great number of us will one day repent and fall in love with Jesus Christ is becuase He first loved us. Our salvation is due to God's unconditional choice to redeem us and shower us with His favor, which includes the softening of our hard hearts and the vivifying (regeneration) of our dead hearts. I agree wholeheartedly that if a sinner desires God to save Him, God will. But for a hardened rebel like me to desire it, God must first change my heart.

Truthfully, when Southern Baptists sometimes talk like a little like Arminians might talk, or when we Southern Baptists sometimes theorize like Arminians might theorize, or when we Southern Baptists sometimes debate like Arminians might debate, we Southern Baptists might need to just do a little preaching and a little singing. The most powerful preaching of the gospel, and the most effectual singing of the gospel, comes about when we preach and sing the chorus we Southern Baptists all believe “God saves sinners through Jesus Christ.”

I am reminded of the story of Spurgeon leading his congregation in singing one of the hymns of the famous Arminian Charles Wesley. The congregation sang:

“Long my imprisoned spirit lay, fast bound in sin and nature’s night.
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray; I woke, the dungeon flamed with light.
My chains fell off, my heart was free. I rose went forth and followed Thee.”

Spurgeon closed the hymn book and exclaimed “Wesley, where is thine Arminianism now?”

I really think when Dr. Land preaches, which he does quite well, the theorizing of congruent election goes out the window and God is given sole credit for sinners repenting and turning from their sin.


The John 3:16 Conference at FBC Woodstock

I am outside Atlanta, Georgia attending the John 3:16 Conference hosted by Jerry Vines Ministries at First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Georgia. Dr. Vines said the Conference was intended to be "a theological assessment of, and response to, five-point Calvinism." I came to hear what Southern Baptist leaders were saying about this subject, but more importantly, to ensure that there was not an attempt to denigrate or exclude Southern Baptists who might hold to what some call the doctrines of grace. I was pleasantly surprised Thursday night to hear not only some good preaching, but very little denigration of those who hold to Calvinism in the SBC, and even a handful of compliments extended toward them. The Conference is being held in the chapel of FBC Woodstock which probably seats 1500 people, and concludes Friday afternoon at 5:00 p.m. eastern. This post will be a short evalutation of the first three speakers.

Johnny Hunt, Host Pastor and First Speaker

This is only my second time to hear Dr. Hunt preach, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Johnny is very articulate and has some tremendous skills as an orator. It is easy to see why thousands will come to hear him preach every week. He calls himself a country preacher, but his polish and passion would rival those of ancient Greece. His text was Psalm 119:33-40 and he titled his message "Leading With the End in Mind." After a brief introduction, Dr. Hunt broke the text into eight major petitions from the pen of the Psalmist.

I. A prayer for education (v. 33).
The Psalmist prays "Teach me your ways . . . and I will keep it to the end." Dr. Hunt explained that a commitment is made by the writer before the truth is revealed. Many Christians wish to know in order to debate, but the Psalmist wished to know in order to obey. Johnny said our emulation as pastors should match our exhortation, and he revealed that he himself attended Sunday School every Sunday and was taught by a layman in his church. Johnny pointed out that our churches would experience revival if we were as committed to obedience as the Psalmist.

Each point of Dr. Hunt's message was articulated clearly, faithful to the text and sprinkled with appropriate illustrations. His points included, II. A prayer for illumination (v. 34); III. A prayer for direction (v. 35); IV. A prayer for inclination (v. 36); V. A prayer for attention (v. 37); VI. A prayer for realization (v. 38); VII. A prayer for protection (v. 39); VII. A prayer for aspiration (v. 40).

Dr. Hunt did say what seems to be the obligatory word against bloggers who work on their computers instead of knocking on the doors of the lost, but all in all, he preached an excellent expositional message.

Dr. Jerry Vines, Conference Host and Second Speaker

Dr. Vines used John 3:16 as his text and preached for about an hour. He is a very eloquent speaker, and Dr. Hunt introduced him as one third of the great trifecta of modern expositional preachers: Stephen Olford, Adrian Rogers, and Jerry Vines. Dr. Vines' hair is quite a bit more gray than the last time I saw him, but his preaching is just as good as ever. He said in his introduction that John 3:16 is an anwer to the "isms" of this world.

"For God" -- is an answer to Atheism.
"So Loved" -- is an answer to Fatalism.
"The World" -- is an answer to Nationalism.
"He Gave" -- is an answer to Agnosticism.
"His Only Begotten Son" -- is an answer to Mohammedism.
"That Whosoever" -- is an answer to Calvinism.
"Believeth in Him" -- is an answer to Legalism.
"Should Not Perish" -- is an answer to Annihilationism.
"But Have Everlasting Life" -- is an Answer to Arminianism.

Dr. Vines then gave us a four point outline of John 3:16 describing God's love.

First, God's love is global. Second, God's love is sacrificial. Third, God's love is personal. Finally, God's love is eternal. His message was excellent, and like Dr. Hunt's message before him, it was true to the text. Dr. Vines used a number of Greek references in his messages, from the text, so his message was exegetical as well. My favorite statement from his message was "Some people call me a Calvinistic when I preach one text, and some people call me an Arminian when I preach another text. I simply preach the text and let the chips fall where they may." I gave a hearty amen to that statement, and hope that the same could be said of my preaching.

If there is one thing I felt Dr. Vines sought to emphasize, it was that the word "whosoever" in the Greek is the Greek word 'pas' which is used 1228 times in the New Testament, and it means "anyone, anywhere, anytime." It includes "the whole and every part of" the world. Again, I have never met a Calvinist who would disagree. The "whosoever" of John 3:16 is modified by "believes," and "anyone, anywhere, anytime" who believes in Christ has eternal life. The million dollar question is "what causes a man to believe?" The third and final speaker of the night sought to answer that question.

Paige Patterson, the Third Speaker: 'Total Depravity.'

Paige Patterson was the first of what Dr. Vines called "the scholars" who will present messages to respond to each of the five points of Calvinism. Dr. Patterson's assignment was to review total depravity. He read a lengthy text from Romans 1:18-32 and Romans 3:9-26, and after a few introductory remarks, he said the purpose of his message was to answer three questions regarding depravity including, "What does depravity mean?" and, "How does depravity come about?" and finally, "What can a dead man do?"

I really enjoyed Dr. Patterson's message. He is funny and self-deprecating. I found myself laughing out loud on several occasions. I enjoyed his message as much as I did the previous two, and there was really just a couple of statements in Dr. Patterson's message with which I disagreed.

First, in answering the second question - "How does depravity come about?" - Dr. Patterson gave his personal opinion that no human being is born guilty before God because of Adam's sin, but we are all condemened for our own sins. Dr. Patterson's view seems to me to be a direct violation of the teaching of Romans 5, and the truth that all men (and women) are condemned for the sin of one man (Adam). I hope to be able to ask him a question about this in the Question and Answer time Friday afternoon, for I find that those who struggle with the idea that we are condemned for the sin of the first Adam often wind up denying that we are saved solely by the obedience of the Last Adam.

In addition, in answering the last question - "What can a dead man do?" - Dr. Patterson said that a dead man can believe. He then used Abraham and Romans 3 as an illustration of a dead man (in terms of child bearing) who "contrary to hope, in hope believed" and gave birth to a son when it was impossible. Abraham is an example of what a dead man can do. Dr. Patterson said that the sinner is really just sin sick, not dead as we consider dead, in that it is possible for that sinner to believe. So, according to Dr. Patterson's view, eternal life follows faith - and faith is within the ability of all those the Bible calls spiritually dead. Thus, the idea that regeneration (life) precedes faith is unnecessary in Dr. Patterson's view of salvation. These two points of disagreement may be major to some of my Calvinist friends, but they are minor to me, since without doubt, the gospel was preached by Dr. Patterson.

In addition, to Dr. Patterson's credit, he gave a pat on the back to those he calls his Calvinistic pastor friends in the Southern Baptist Convention. He said that at least they were "preaching the Word" in the pulpit, which is more than can be said of most pulpits in the United States. Dr. Patterson, along with Dr. Vines and Dr. Hunt, all disagree with most of the five points of Calvinism, but one must give them credit for acknowledging that some Southern Baptists disagree with them, and as long as both sides go about preaching the Word and the gospel, Southern Baptists ought to be able to cooperate for the sake of the Kingdom.

I appreciate the John 3:16 Conference and commend the men speaking for their passion to preach the Word of God. I will try place my thoughts on the second day of the John 3:16 Conference sometime Saturday.

In His Grace,

Wade

Dad, Is the World Coming to an End?


As I drove my 14 year old son to school this morning he asked me, "Dad, do you think the world is coming to an end?" Yesterday was my son's first experience with Presidential elections in terms of his own personal interest, being of the age that he is beginning to pay attention to the future of our United States. I asked him what he meant by his question and he explained that he had heard several Christians say that Obama's election is a sign of the end of the world. I would have laughed had I not read similar statements by Southern Baptists on the internet. For instance, Big Daddy Weaver points out that one Southern Baptist pastor has written:

Obama is the most dangerous man in America. He is a greater threat to this nation than is Bin Laden....Obama will kill this country as we have lived free in it like no other before.... We must defeat the Obamas, Carters, Clintons . . . or they will destroy this nation.

I thought that the statements above were hyperbole until the author of them, when asked by other Southern Baptists if he actually wrote them, stated "I made those statements and many more like them. I stand by them for they are true." Then, he asks us to pray for Bin Laden, er, Barack Obama.

At some point we Southern Baptists need to realize that extremist statements like the above only do damage to our Convention's reputation, our country, and our stature in the evangelical community. Not to mention the fact that the Bible specifically teaches that all governmental leaders are "ordained" (i.e. "appointed") by God (Romans 13), and in fact, God calls them His "servants," so to "fight" against them is to fight against God. Barack Obama is our President, and the notion that he is worse for our nation than the man who masterminded 9/11 passes the boundary of Christian civility and moral decency.

I told my son, "No, son, the world is not coming to an end. God has given us Barack Obama to be our President. He is called God's servant in the Bible, and we trust that God will direct Him for the ultimate good of our nation to fulfill God's purposes for our world." I then encouraged my son to lift up Barack Obama and his family, to pray for them and their protection, and to do his part to speak a kind word about our next leader. He got out of the car, with a spring in his step, now believing that the world is not coming to an end, but more importantly, committed to show others that it is possible for Southern Baptist Christians to know and believe that President Barack Obama is precisely who God intended to be our next President, and to commit to pray for him, support him, and to show kindness toward him in the days to come. Would to God some of our Southern Baptist pastors would know and show this as well.

In His Grace,


Wade Burleson

An English Visual Test of Individual Perception

My dad sent me a link to a video about awareness. I found a variation of it on the internet, and thought you might enjoy testing your perception and awareness abilities.



In our churches, our Convention, and our families, is it possible that we are missing things because we aren't looking at the big picture? Is it also possible that this awareness test reveals we sometimes deny what others see since we ourselves haven't seen it, only because we haven't focused?

Interesting things to think about.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

A Modern Parable: Selfish Attacks Lead to Defeat

Colonel Norman Lamb (U.S. Army, ret.) and I attended the Oklahoma versus Nebraska football game Saturday night in Norman, Oklahoma. We gave up our regular seats at the invitation of our friend, Jakie Sandefer, in order to watch the game in his suite. We were able to view the University of Texas vs. Texas Tech football game on the television while watching the OU game live. The UT vs. Tech game was an instant classic, and we die-hard Sooner fans rooted like crazy for our former offensive coordinater Mike Leach, now the head coach of the Red Raiders. Former OU coach Barry Switzer and his wife Becky joined us in the suite where Switzer mentioned he had been on the phone with his friend Mike Leach encouraging him to "run the ball" on Texas - just like Oklahoma State had done. It was quite entertaining to hear Barry's stories and analysis, particularly since ESPN was honoring the coaches and players involved in the 1971 Game of the Century between Oklahoma and Nebraska. Former Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne and Switzer are great friends, and Tom was very gracious as he spent time in the suite drawing up some football plays on miniature chalk boards which will be lacquered and auctioned off for charity by the Switzers.

Former Oklahoma quarterback Claude Arnold, who led the Sooners to their first national championship under Coach Bud Wilkinson in 1950 was celebrating his 84th birthday last Saturday, and was a ton of fun to visit with in the suite. Former OU running back Joe Washington, now a director of football operations at Oklahoma, joined us as well, as did former Oklahoma assistant coach Charlie North, who became director of football operations at Texas A&M before recently moving back to the Norman area. Watching both games with all the coaches caused me to appreciate how differently they view games compared to the average football fan like me. Their analysis of what was going on was quite revealing.

One of the most intersting conversations for me personally last Saturday night was with former Oklahoma All-American football player and Cleveland Browns All-Pro running back Greg Pruitt. Greg was on the cover of Sports Illustrated (Nov. 22, 1971) the week before the "Game of the Century," joined in the photo by Nebraska linebacker Bob Terrio, both posing beneath the headline: "Irresistible Oklahoma Meets Immovable Nebraska." Nebraska was #1 in the country, Oklahoma was ranked #2. The 1971 Husker "Blackshirts" defense included seven first-team All-Big Eight selections, four players who would earn consensus All-America recognition during their careers and two Outland Trophy winners. This 1971Nebraska defense is still considered by many to be the greatest in college football history. The Sooners' 1971 record-setting wishbone was led by the late All-American QB Jack Mildren who rushed for over 1,000 yards, but was also a very good passer. His weapons were Heisman candidate running back Greg Pruitt, who I've already mentioned averaged a stunning 9.5 yards per carry in 1971, and a speedy split end named Jon Harrison. Future College Football Hall of Famer Tom Brahaney was the anchor at center. The Nebraska offense was led by flanker Johnny Rodgers who would go on to win the Heisman Trophy the next season. ABC-TV would broadcast nationally to the largest audience ever, an estimated 55 million viewers, and they had Chris Schenkel doing the play-by-play.

Wikepedia says that the signature moment of that 1971 game, if not the first 100 years of college football, was Nebraska's Johnny Rodger's 72 yard punt return for a touchdown. I still vividly remember Johnny Rodgers being hit hard when he caught the punt, bouncing off of one of his own players without going down, and then twisting and turning, dashing and dodging, all around the Sooners en route to his historic touchdown that helped Nebraska defeat the Sooners 35 - 31. You can see the actual punt return in the video below. Greg Pruitt believes Rodgers' punt return was the key moment of the game, and without it, Nebraska would not have won.

What Greg Pruitt told me last Saturday night was the untold story of why Johnny Rodgers scored on the punt return. Pruitt said that the punt coverage team, including him, had lanes which they were assigned to cover in order to prevent a big return by Rodgers, whom all Sooners knew to be a dangerous returner. However, Greg told me he made a very personal, selfish decision that led to Johnny's touchdown.

It seems Greg Pruitt and Johnny Rodgers had made acquaintances while both were seniors in high school. They had both been high school All-Americans and had begun a friendly back and forth banter as to who was the better runner and the bigger star. In 1971 both were in the running for the Heisman Trophy, and both were the stars for their respective teams. As Greg ran down to cover the punt, he had only one goal in mind - he was going to hit Johnny Rodgers as hard as he could. He was going to put Johnny in his place - "knocking him on his butt." Everything Greg had learned in practice that week about staying in assigned lanes to prevent a long punt return, all the encouragement OU coaches had given him and the other members of the punt team to be disciplined, and all the thoughts Johnny had of being part of a team to accomplish a greater purpose went out the window due to a selfish decision based upon his desire to "put Johnny in his rightful place."

In short, the outcome of the punt had become very personal to Greg.

So, Greg ran down the field, and if you watch the video tape again, you will see him as the first person to hit Johnny Rogers. He broke down and left his assigned lane, ignoring all coaching instruction, and leveled a hit on Johnny that would have normally knocked him down. However, Johnny fell into a teammate, and instead of falling to the ground, Johnny bounced off his teammate and eventually ran the ball in for a touchdown. Greg told me that hecause he made the punt return personal, he contributed to OU's ultimate defeat.

Greg's anecdote reminds me that in the Southern Baptist Convention, we are all a team, working together toward a united goal. There is really no room for anyone going after someone else personally, whether it be an attack on character or motives. Some Southern Baptists may not like what other Southern Baptists believe on tertiary matters. Others may not like the influence some Southern Baptists have on the movement and direction of the SBC. But, in the end, we all have a role to play, and it is always best for the team to avoid selfish, personal attacks on one another.

Discuss the issues. Debate the doctrines. But in the the end, leave off the personal attacks. If we don't, it will only lead to the ultimate defeat of our cooperative efforts.

In His Grace,


Wade Burleson