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

Up For Another Challenge: My 2009 Predictions

(1). The first real challenge for Barack Obama will come not from the Arab world, but from Russia.

For the past decade, with little fanfare from the west, Russia's government has gone underground in terms of her security forces' activies, her desire to arm Iran in that country's attempt to wipe out Israel, and her efforts to expand modern Russia's land mass (including the land under the melting ice of the Northwest Passage). Russian government leaders are already rattling their sabers at Obama over missiles in Europe, reminding those old enough to remember of Russia's battle with the John Kennedy administration during the Cuban missile crises of 1962.

(2). The attendance for the Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville, Kentucky will be the lowest for Southern Baptists since the late 1800's.

If ever there was a time to redefine who we Southern Baptists are, refocus on what we Southern Baptists should be doing, and re-energize tens of thousands of American young people who have spiritually awakened to the things of Christ - it is now. No better time to reorganize than when we have as few people attending the SBC as we did in the century in which the SBC was formed.

(3). The price of oil will settle in the summer of 2009 around the $75 to $80 dollar a barrel figure.

That means gas will average $2.50 to $2.75 a gallon by fall 2009.

(4). By the fall of 2009, the recession will show signs of ending, with an even worse economic problem looming - inflation, then hyper-inflation.

My Keynsian economics professors who provided for me my liberal finance education, actually turned me into a conservative economist by their off the wall statements in class, including this one: Government should never worry about deficits. All they have to do is print money.

Seems like Congress attended the same classes I did. The government bail outs of private industry, intended to provide economic stimili, in reality forces government to turn on the printing presses to cover government deficits. When that happens, the value of the dollar plummets, not just a little, but drastically.

Hyper-inflation has a track record. Every country that turned on the printing presses, including 1920's Germany, various 20th Century African republics, and several South American banana republics, found their people carting wheel barrows of cash into the grocery store to buy a loaf of bread. Hyper-inflation wipes out savings, crashes all stock investments and the stock market itself, and moves a country back to either bartering for goods or toward a precious metals standard of exchange in order to stabilize the economy. When our government confiscated all the gold and issued currency without precious metal backing decades ago, we were warned that the system would work as long as people had trust in the paper (might I add "worthless) issued by the government.

That day of trust is quickly coming to an end.

(5). The Texas Longhorns will face an NCAA probe into the recruitment of defensive tackle JaMarkus McFarland

The New York Times wrote a devasting article about the activities of some Texas boosters who attempted to coerce McFarland to sign with Texas. McFarland and his mother stood by their allegations of money being offered by Texas alumni (no coaches were involved).

(6). The OU vs. Texas football game in October of 2009 will be the most highly charged, electric atmospheres of any regular season college football game in 2009.

Bradford and McCoy will both be back. OU will be defending national champions. Both teams will be undefeated. The McFarland recruitment scandle will only worsen. There will be several scores to settle.

(7). The new movement within evangelicalism will be away from mega-buildings, mega-budgets, and mega-satellite churches that focus on electronics and media, to local congregations renting facilities, more emphasis on the preaching of the word, and missions (both local and international). We evangelical Christians will again remember that it is the preaching of the word of God that transforms souls.

Maybe this is a hope, not a prediction.

(8). The most anticipated comedy in decades will be This Side of the Truth, though this is one movie that I will refuse to see in 2009 because of the blasphemous, anti-Christ statements of its creator, the athiest Ricky Gervais (co-creator of "The Office").

I don't mind atheists. I don't even mind seeing movies made by atheists. I just don't wish to put money in the pockets of anyone who intentionally seeks to mock Jesus Christ in his public statements.

(9). I will get more email about William Paul Young, author of "The Shack," and his speaking at Emmanuel April 3-4, 2009 than any other event in 2009.

Before you write me, read number eight again. (smile).

(10). I will do better in my 2009 predictions than I did my 2008 predictions

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Do Southern Baptists Set Women Up for Abuse?

A Southern Baptist woman by the name of Mary Gruben (pictured here) wrote a guest editorial in the Abilene newspaper, which was published in the Sunday edition earlier this month. Lest someone dismiss Mary as a liberal, it would be wise to note what she wrote in the comment section that follows her editorial, " I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God. The Bible is the Word of God and without error." This inerrantist had some rather interesting things to say about her beloved convention. Her editorial appears in full below:

___________________________________________

"I love my Southern Baptist denomination, but may I tell you how very discouraging, disgusting and frustrating it is to be a woman in the Southern Baptist denomination? For two reasons, I believe that I have earned the right to be heard.

I was married to a violent and abusive man. When I talked to my pastor about the physical abuse, he asked me if I was "willing to give my life for my husband." When I could no longer follow that kind of warped thinking, I got a divorce. I began to realize that the God I know and serve loved my children and me more than that. After the divorce, I was told I should have tried harder and prayed harder.

Currently, I am a nontraditional college student at a local seminary, wondering what God may want me to do. I have already been told that my choices may be somewhat limited because (you guessed it) I am a woman. The Southern Baptist view of women is demeaning, to say the least. I am both shocked and saddened at the radical and desperate approach of banning books in an effort to silence those women who have broken rank and become pastors.

For many years, I have been rethinking the way the Southern Baptists treat women. It is wrong, and it is based on an old, traditional grave clothes kind of thinking. Old grave clothes stink!

Southern Baptists' "prominent" decision-makers' (whoever they are) view of women is like a two-legged chair. It just doesn't hold up. One of their favorite verses in Ephesians 5:22 does say, "Wives submit to your husbands graciously." The prominent Southern Baptist thinkers enforce that verse as meaning, "Wives obey your second daddy, and do it graciously." No place in the Scripture can I find where it says women are to have two dads. Do they not see verse 21 of that same chapter that says "Submit to one another." It seems to me that a lot of our "prominent" thinkers may be controlling and insecure. But as long as the wife can cook and sew, he just might keep her around.

Our Southern Baptist system sets women and children up to be abused. The "prominent" Southern Baptist thinkers have no idea the jeopardy their view places women and children in. They have given husbands carte blanche to do what they want to. It also gives the impression that the men are perfect and the women are flawed. It is a closed system when it comes to the woman's place at home and in ministry.

Since I've already blown it by speaking out like this, I might as well go ahead and say what else I've been thinking. Get over yourselves! And please, don't tell me that stupid joke anymore about, "If God can speak through a donkey, he can speak through a woman." It isn't funny.

In the Old Testament book of Esther, God gave us the story of a courageous young woman who saved the Jews from being annihilated. The end of the story might have changed if she had been a Southern Baptist woman.

If you'll excuse me now, I have to run. I am going to contact one of my FDLS (Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints) sisters to see if I can borrow a pattern to make myself a prairie dress."

A Scorecard Regarding My 2008 Predictions

One year ago, on January 1, 2008, I made ten predictions regarding 2008. I have made it a practice to offer predictions for the New Year each of the past three years. Before I offer my predictions for 2009 on New Year's Day, we will take a quick look back and formulate a scorecard for this past year's predictions. If you do not wish to read the entire post, just know that I failed miserably in my 2008 predictions. It's a good thing I have never claimed to be a prophet or else I would be stoned; that is, stoned more than I am already by those who like throwing rocks at me. My predictions for 2008 were as follows:

(1). A pastor with a strong commitment to the Cooperative Program will be elected President of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2008, defeating Al Mohler.

Correct. Johnny Hunt became President of the SBC. Al Mohler announced he was running for President, but later pulled out of the running.

(2). The Oklahoma Sooners will play for the BCS National Championship on January 8, 2009, in Miami, Florida, the very city where they won their last National Championship in January 2001.

Correct. Had I walked in to a Las Vegas casino and put down $100 bucks down on this proposition one year ago. I would have won over well over $2,000. My $100, however, was far better spent on family, the things of Christ and things with lasting value.

(3). The average price of gasoline will reach $4.00 a gallon by the summer of 2008.

Correct. This prediction was ludicrous at the time - happened just as I said - and now gasoline is back down to $1.50 a gallon in areas in and around Oklahoma.

(4). After declining an offer by Sheri Klouda in 2007 to settle for future lost wages, Southwestern Seminary will make an offer to settle in June 2008 when it is realized that the Klouda case is actually going to trial - only to discover, too late, that Sheri Klouda will ultimately allow a jury of peers to declare the verdict and judgment.

Incorrect. The judge said that he would not allow the case to be heard by a jury, simply because he said the seminary was a church, and the state cannot intervene in church matters. In the ever growing bizarre ecclesiology of the SBC, the seminary lauded the announcement that the seminary was a church. Soon the SWBTS baptistry will be completed and duly authorized baptizers will be immersing people under the watchful eye of the Pastor, er, President.

(5). The Klouda jury judgment in the summer of 2008 will be over eight figures.

Incorrect. See above.

(6). Hillary Clinton will be elected President of the United States in November 2008.

Incorrect. I'm not sure anybody could have predicted what did happen.

(7). The stock market will be static in the first half of 2008 (periodic big one-day losses and steady, small daily gains), only to rocket past 15,000 by year's end.

Incorrect. This, my friends, is why I shouldn't invest in the stock market.

(8). The IMB Executive Committee will be informed that they do not have the authority to bar from participation a duly elected trustee, and that if they wish this trustee to not participate in trustee meetings, they must make their rationale for this desire known to the Convention at large - at a time and place that the trustee in question will be allowed to speak in response - and then the convention will decide.

Correct.
The SBC attorney issued a statement saying that trustee leadership had no authority to bar me from trustee meetings.

(9). The world will mourn the loss of Billy Graham.

Incorrect. A stupid prediction; I promise never to make another silly one like this one ever again.

(10). The biggest national news coming out of the Southern Baptist Convention will be the report and/or response of the SBC Executive Committee to the motion to investigate the possibility of establishing a sexual predator database that will identify those Southern Baptist staff members and pastors who have been either convicted - or credibly accused - of sexual abuse.

Correct. In a bizarre twist, the SBC did more, wrote more, and talked more about why we would do nothing about this one issue than we have ever done for any proposal where we actually proposed to do something.

Go figure.

In His Grace,


Wade

The Difference of Six Inches and a 100 Million $'s

Five years ago my son was the MVP of a basketball tournament where his team, Oklahoma Athletes First, took first place. Kade Burleson, pictured on the back row far right, played guard in the tournament and averaged 24 points. At the time, Kade was 14 years of age and was 6'3" tall. Kade went on to play high school ball at 6A Enid High, earning All-Conference honors and honorable mention All-State. Kade played one year of college ball, but decided this year to concentrate on his business studies and transferred to Oklahoma University with the goal of entering the OU business college next year.

Kade's teammate on that AAU team - pictured standing on the back row, far left (opposite of Kade) - was a 6'4" forward from Oklahoma City. The young man, named Blake, was not very aggressive offensively at the time. He was averaging abuut 10 points a game. Blake had recently joined the team, and his mom or dad usually attended the games, but for family reasons, neither one were able to be at this particular tournament. In the hotel lobby before the championship game, I pulled young Blake aside and told him we needed him to be more aggressive offensively. I encouraged him when he got the ball inside to reverse pivot and go strong to the basket. I told him I felt there was nobody on the court who could stop him. Blake took my advice and scored 22 agressive points in the championship game and was also named to the all-tournament team.


My son stopped growing in height after his freshman year. Blake continued to grow and is now pushing 6'11" and most consider him best college basketball player in the nation. Blake Griffin is averaging 24 points and 15 rebounds at the University of Oklahoma as a true sophomore. It is projected he will be the first player taken in the draft next year and could sign a contract well over $100 million dollars in the first five years of his NBA career.

My son is home for Christmas and I made a couple of observations as we remembered that fun basketball summer of five years ago.

(1). I wish everybody in the SBC would listen to me like Blake Griffin did (wink).

(2). There are thousands and thousands of 6'3" guards. There are very few 6'10" posts.

(3). There are thousands and thousands of basketball players. Sadly, it seems there are not near as many committed to Jesus Christ.

(3). The most important six inches in life are not those that go up in terms of height, but the six inches that extend from the head to the heart. I told my son that I wouldn't trade him and the heart he has for people and the Lord Jesus Christ for any other man on the face of the earth. My son asked, "Even for 100 million dollars?" I said, "Even for all the wealth in the world."

(4). One of these days EVERYONE will realize the truth of Scripture - "For a man's real life in no way depends upon the number of his possessions." —Luke 12:15

Just a few random thoughts today before I head out in this 70 degree weather and play a little golf.

In His Grace,

Wade

When Words Are a Facade that Cover the Truth

As I was reviewing some files I collected earlier in 2008, I came across this New York Times article regarding Russia's recent crackdown on dissidents:

"Behind a facade of democracy lies a centralized authority that has deployed a nationwide cadre of loyalists that is not reluctant to swat down those who challenge the ruling party. Fearing such retribution, many of the people interviewed for this article asked not to be identified."

I am reminded that there is a mile wide difference between what a government, an institution, or a denomination says, and what it does. May we Southern Baptists match our words of soul freedom and religious liberty with actions that match our words. Interesting enough, the article was sent me by a SBC missionary who asked if the reporter was referring to Russia or our Convention.

If you have a hard time understanding the missionary's question, maybe you have never been on the dissenting side of an issue within the SBC.

In His Grace,


Wade

A Special Message from Our Family to Yours




From Left to Right: Charis, Logan, Rachelle, Wade, Kade and Boe Burleson say to all our friends:


Abraham Lincoln and His Faith in Jesus Christ

The late D. James Kennedy once preached a message that gripped me emotionally. Dr. Kennedy demonstrated how Abraham Lincoln entered the Presidency as a man intellectually acquainted with the Christian faith, but void of a personal relationship with Christ. In 1863 President Lincoln endured the pain of losing his own young son to death and felt the pressure of catostophic casualties among Union soldiers. While walking the killing fields of Gettysburg, the President himself was born from above. To begin this week of Christmas, I offer the excellent message of Dr. Kennedy regarding Abraham Lincoln and the President's transforming faith in Jesus Christ. Notice the little known but prescient words of the President to his wife at the moment of his assassination. Merry Christmas to all my friends who love the name of Jesus Christ.


TEXT: "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Romans 5:1



The most perfect speech ever uttered by mortal man was delivered on the battlefield of Gettysburg. It has been learned by unnumbered millions of children in school. It is actually an extended personification, where America is personified as a man who is conceived, born, dedicated, lives his life, engages in dangerous and perhaps mortal struggles, is born anew, and lives thereafter gloriously. Abraham Lincoln is immortal in the minds and memories of his countrymen, for on the battlefield at Gettysburg, this is what he said:

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

The world noted, far more than he ever thought, the words that were spoken there, though Lincoln's invitation to speak was an afterthought. The orator of the day, of course, was Edward Everett, perhaps the greatest in the land, who spoke for two hours. What did he say? No one knows. Lincoln spoke for two minutes and no one has forgotten! Remarkable, indeed. But the question I would ask of you today is: Is Lincoln immortal in any other way than merely in the memory of his countrymen? That, indeed, is a great honor, but it is little felt by those that are dead. Is he immortal in the far greater sense, next to which immortality and the memory of his people is but a pale substitute? Is he immortal in the real sense of everlasting life which Jesus Christ and Christ only can give to a man, or to put it another way:

Was Abraham Lincoln a Christian?

Now I, in preaching this message, am not endeavoring to merely exhume the bones of Lincoln for some kind of belated autopsy. But rather, this is another way of proclaiming anew that Gospel message with which he struggled all of his life in the hope that as we emphasize and sympathize with his struggles with the great verities of life and death and eternity, that some of you will ask yourselves the deeper and more relevant question: Am I a Christian? Are you?

Consider well the sixteenth President of the United States. Like the nation he described in its conception, Lincoln was conceived in the midst of great religious fervor. There was a revival going on in Kentucky in 1809 of the type associated with the evangelist Peter Cartwright. (By the way, when Lincoln was grown, he entered into a political contest with Cartwright in running for the same office.) But in the midst of a prayer meeting, young Tom Lincoln leaped to his feet in the midst of this religious fervor and began to dance around and sing. A moment or two later, a young lady by the name of Nancy, did the same thing. They were soon introduced, engaged, and shortly thereafter married. In the midst of that religious fervor, Abraham Lincoln was born to Tom Lincoln and Nancy Hanks Lincoln. Certainly a spiritually, encouraging beginning. His mother was a godly woman who sat Lincoln upon her knees day after day after day and read to him the Scriptures and encouraged him to remember it. Particularly, she encouraged him to learn the Ten Commandments. (Every parent should certainly have their children memorize the Ten Commandments.)

They had a profound effect upon Lincoln's life. He said that whenever he was tempted to do something wrong, he could still hear the clear tones of his mother's voice saying, "I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage . . . Thou shalt have no other gods before me . . . Thou shalt not steal . . . Thou shalt not kill . . . Thou shalt not bear false witness . . . " Abraham Lincoln became known, believe it or not, as the most honest lawyer east of China. As a young prairie lawyer in Illinois, when his opponents forgot or did not know some points in arguments, he would remind them. Once, when he was a shopkeeper, he walked for miles to return an overpayment of only a few cents by one of the customers. Lincoln also had a great regard for the Sabbath, as well. At one time during the war, when he was President, he went to Falmouth and there he visited with the general, who told him he was going to begin on Sunday the March to Richmond. Richmond was the heart of the Confederacy, its capital, and this well could mean the end of the war, for which Lincoln had so fervently prayed for so long. But the general brought it up because he knew of the opposition the President had toward beginning military initiatives on the Sabbath day. The President was silent for a long while. Then he said, "General take a good rest and begin on Monday morning."

Lincoln was never a member of any church. Would that the members of this church had as high a regard for the Sabbath as Lincoln did. I would like to express my appreciation to many writers who have contributed to this message. I have read thousands of stories about Lincoln, perused his entire total works, and numbers of biographies. I particularly appreciate William J. Johnson's excellent biography of Lincoln. My appreciation to the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington for sending me copies of historical documents and affidavits from their archives, and to the late F. W. Boreham, the great Australian preacher, whose Outline I would like to borrow for this message, and also, many others who have brought to my attention new information.

THE AGE OF IRON

Boreham says there were three mountains Lincoln climbed where his life was changed. The first stage he described as the Age of Iron, where he "climbed Mount Sinai with Moses" in his effort to keep the command- ments of God. He had learned the Ten Commandments on his mother's knee. Those commandments influenced his life in such an incredible way that he gave himself to studying them. When Lincoln was only nine, his mother sickened, and before she died she called him to her side and said to him, "I am going away from you now Abraham and shall not return. I know that you will be a good boy and that you will be kind to your father. I want you to live as I have taught you to love your Heavenly Father," and then her last words, "and keep His commandments."

Yes, Lincoln strove mightily to keep those commandments. But the question is: Was he a Christian? Listen to Lincoln's own words: "I am not a Christian. God knows I would be one." He said that he did not read the Scriptures like those clergymen in Springfield who opposed his election because of his skepticism. And they were right. When Lincoln came to Springfield, he fell in with some agnostic and skeptical friends who gave him, among other things, Volney's Ruins, a great volume of unbelief which attacked viciously and articulately the Scriptures. By the way, Volney's Ruins has been repudiated on every page, but Lincoln did not know that then. This had a tremendously chilling effect upon his boyhood faith, and he became quite skeptical. "I am not a Christian," he said in the Age of Iron.



THE AGE OF CLAY


The second mountain Lincoln climbed was described by Boreham as the Age of Clay, when he climbed Mount Carmel with Elijah, where he was clay in the hands of the Almighty Potter. What was Lincoln like? When he was a young man, he looked in a mirror one day and said to himself, "It's a fact, Abe! You are the ugliest man in the world. If ever I see a man uglier than you, I'm going to shoot him on the spot!" It would no doubt, he thought, be an act of mercy. What was his personality like as a young man? We've seen what he thought of himself, and of course, we can't help but conjure up some pictures of this rather unique looking gentleman. He was six foot four in a world of midgets, when everybody else was far shorter than they are today. He towered over everyone head and shoulders. Of course, there were those horribly long arms, the bane of his tailors, with these gigantic hands; that uncontrollable lock of hair on his forehead; deep dark eyes; sallow skin. Indeed, he could not see what any young lady could see in him. And yet, when you look at him sitting there in that great chair at the Lincoln Memorial, you can't help but feel that somehow there is a certain grandeur about this man who thought he was so ugly.

What was his personality like? One day a young lady that he had attempted to date said, "Abe Lincoln, you are illiterate, self-opinionated, overbearing and abominably ill-mannered." (She liked to beat around the bush.) What did Lincoln do? What, gentleman, would you do in a situation like that? He determined to completely change himself, and he turned to the Scriptures. He still had his mother's Bible, and he began to read in the Sermon on the Mount and other passages in the Bible about what God intended a man to be like. Was he illiterate? He became the most literate President we have ever known. As I said, his Gettysburg Address is considered to be the most perfect speech ever uttered by mortal man, but I disagree. I think his Second Inaugural Address is far superior even to that. Was he proud and overbearing? He became the humblest President we have ever had.

Someone once asked me what I thought was his most outstanding quality. I said it was his ability to forgive anyone anything because he was himself so humble. Lincoln's humility is further seen when, immediately after the war, he went to Richmond to the home of the President of the Confederacy who was, as you might imagine, "not home." His wife came to the door carrying a little baby in her arms, the baby of Jefferson Davis. The baby reached out to the President. Of course, Mrs. Davis was astounded to see Lincoln standing in her doorway. He took the baby into his arms and was given a big wet smack on the face. He handed the baby back to Mrs. Jefferson Davis and said, "Tell your husband that for the sake of that kiss, I forgive him everything." He was an incredibly humble man.

One time during the war Lincoln went to the home of General McClellan. Now McClellan had a hearty dislike for Lincoln, but he was a good general. Lincoln wanted him to become the general of the Army of the Potomac, because the war was not going well at all. When he arrived at his home that evening with an aide, the general was not home. The butler ushered them into the library, and they waited. They waited for over an hour. Finally the general came home, and the butler told him that the President of the United States was waiting to see him. But McClellan went upstairs. Ten, twenty, thirty minutes passed. Finally, the butler went upstairs and again said, "Sir, the President is still waiting for you." In a few minutes he came back down and told the President, "The general has gone to bed." If you were President of the United States, what would you do? Lincoln went back the next night. His aide said, "Sir, how can you put up with that ill-mannered boor?" Lincoln replied: "Why, I would be willing to hold McClellan's horse, if only he will give victory to our army."

He, indeed, was putty in the hands of the Almighty, and he had done this through studying the Scriptures. Theodore Roosevelt said that Lincoln mastered only one book and that was the Bible. He had committed thousands of verses to memory--many whole chapters--and he was trying to change his life to be what God would want him to be. He was a man whose life was filled with tragedy. His beloved mother died when he was but nine. Then his sister died. The woman he loved, Ann Rutledge, could never be his. After his father remarried, every Sunday his stepmother took Abe and his sister to the Pigeon Creek Hardshell Baptist Church. Here they listened to the fiery sermons about predestination, justification, foreordination, sanctification, and the new birth. He and Sarah sat in the front row and listened to it all but he never understood it.

He was married to a woman who certainly challenged his humility, Mary Todd. Lincoln is loved by people all over the world as the wife of the most beloved President the United States has ever had. But Mary Todd never saw anything good in him at all. As far as she was concerned he had terrible faults. He walked flatfooted, she said, with his toes turned down like an Indian. Furthermore, he slouched when he walked. He was head and shoulders taller than everybody else. Maybe he wanted to join the crowd. But Mary never saw anything good in this man. Poor Mary, or should I say, poor Abraham, but humbly he endured it all to the end.

THE GOLDEN AGE


Then the great tragedy of his life occurred when his little son, Willie, the apple of his eye, died. He was crushed. There is no doubt that he believed at this time strongly in the providence of God, though he could not understand and had rejected much else in the Bible, especially concerning the doctrines of salvation and redemption, which he could never understand due to the way it was presented to him. But he believed in God's providence, and he was to climb now, at last, the third mountain, Mount Calvary, with Saint John. This was what Boreham describes as the Golden Age. There he was to find something he had never seen before. Was he a Christian at this time? Ward Lamon, who had been his law partner, who had been his private secretary when he was President, who had been his bodyguard for years, and who knew him intimately, said of Lincoln, “...the melancholy that dripped from him as he walked was due to his want of religious faith."

But then little Willie died, the apple of his eye, his beloved son, his little boy. Lincoln was absolutely crushed. He was so overwhelmed with grief that he set aside every Thursday to mourn his death. After some period of time, when he would see no one on that day, but wept and mourned and lamented the death of his son Willie, Dr. Francis Vinton, rector of Trinity Church, came down to Washington from New York. He was a friend of the family, and was allowed in to see the President. Not wanting to beat around the bush, he told him it was not right to mourn thus over his son. He said, "Your son is alive in paradise with Christ, and you must not continue." Lincoln sat there as though he were in a stupor, and then his mind caught on to the words that Dr. Vinton had said, and he exclaimed, "Alive! Alive! Surely, sir, you mock me."

"No, Mr. President, it is a great doctrine of the church. Jesus himself said that God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." Lincoln leaped to his feet and threw his arms around this pastor. He wept openly and sobbed, saying, "Alive! Alive! My boy is alive!" From that day there began a change in Lincoln that even his wife Mary noticed. His religious views began to dramatically change. There is a remarkable letter that comes to us from an Illinois clergyman who talked to Lincoln after this time. He said this to Mr. Lincoln (Again, I commend him for his boldness): "Mr. President, do you love Jesus?"

After a long pause, Mr. Lincoln solemnly replied: "When I left Springfield I asked the people to pray for me. I was not a Christian. When I buried my son, the severest trial of my life, I was not a Christian. But when I went to Gettysburg and saw the graves of thousands of our soldiers, I then and there consecrated myself to Christ. Yes, I do love Jesus."

By the way, when I preached this sermon before, someone challenged that statement. Well, I would suggest they do what I do. Go to Washington. Go to Ford's Theater. Go across the street to the Lincoln Museum; ask for The Lincoln Memorial: Album-Immortelles in the O.H. Oldroyd Collection. The book was published in 1883, and the quote is found on page 366. But if you would rather not do all of that, then simply come to my study, and I will show you a photocopied page from that book on the stationery of the U.S. Federal Government Agency charged with caring for that museum. "Yes, I do love Jesus," Lincoln said.

Mr. Noah Brooks, sometime after that, longtime friend and newspaper correspondent, said, "I have had many conversations with Mr. Lincoln, which were more or less of a religious character, and while I never tried to draw anything like a statement of his views from him, yet he freely expressed himself to me as having a hope of blessed immortality through Jesus Christ." Lincoln said that he had found the peace that had eluded him all of his life.

"Therefore, being justified by faith" he now had peace with God. When a lady connected with the work of the Christian Commission later came to see him, he said: "I had lived until my boy Willie died without realizing fully these things [about the Gospel]. It showed me my weakness as I had never felt it before, and if I can take what you have stated [as to what a Christian is] as a test, I think I can safely say that I know something of that change of which you speak; [which is called the new birth, to which Lincoln alluded in that very speech: "that this country might have a new birth of freedom"], and I will further add, that it has been my intention for some time, at a suitable opportunity, to make a public religious profession."

Dr. Gurley was pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, which Lincoln attended regularly not only on Sunday morning but also on Wednesday night. One Wednesday night he sat in a little ante room right off the chancel with the door halfway open so that he would not disturb the worship of others, but that he might partake. Dr. Gurley said that Lincoln had wanted to make a public profession of his faith on Easter Sunday morning. But then came Ford's Theater.

He had just been elected for the second time six weeks before that. His spiritual understanding had matured greatly in the year and a half since Gettysburg. Every message was peppered with Scripture and spiritual insights. "His Second Inaugural Address is not only the most spiritual speech ever given by any statesman in the world," said one of England's leaders, "in my opinion, it is a far better sermon than most any I have ever heard preached in a pulpit." And I would include, most certainly, my own.

These words from his Second Inaugural Address are carved into the wall of the Lincoln Memorial: The Almighty has His own purposes.

"Woe unto the world because of offenses! For it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope--fervently do we pray--that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, "The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether." With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God give us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.

Lincoln had been to Calvary. His heart and mind were changed. The last speech he gave three days before his death was one in which he said that he was submitting a proclamation for a national day of thanksgiving to God. He said, also, that now that the abomination of slavery was removed, the next point on the agenda would be to get rid of the curse of alcohol which had so plagued the land. In his last meeting with his Cabinet on that Thursday morning in opposition to strongly held opinions by some of his Cabinet members, he said: "There will be no recriminations against the South."

If he had lived, the history of postwar South would have been far different, indeed. His last act was to issue an edict that henceforth, on every coin would be printed the words: "In God We Trust." Lincoln had been to Calvary. That night he was invited to Ford's Theater to see a play he wasn't really interested in. He had received that very day the news that the war was over. He sat in his chair in the presidential box that was supposed to be guarded by a soldier. He had talked about the curse of liquor that plagued the land. That afternoon a man from the South crossed the street and went into a tavern and had a number of drinks. His name was John Wilkes Booth. That evening a soldier from the North left his post, crossed the same street and entered the same tavern to have a drink while the aforementioned actor quietly opened the unguarded door to the President's box and went in.

Lincoln was sitting up talking to his wife, not paying any attention to the play. He said, "Mary, do you know what I would like to do now? Now that the war is over, we could go to the Near East. [Booth stepped up behind the President] We could go to Bethlehem where He was born. We could visit Bethany where those hallowed steps were so often heard." [Booth pointed his gun at the back of Lincoln's head.] Lincoln continued, "And we could go up to Jeru.." BANG! . . . the maddest pistol shot in history rang forth.

Lincoln was carried across the street to a boarding house (which is now a museum) and laid diagonally across the bed that was too short for his huge frame. On the next day, Good Friday, he died. He was going to make his public profession on Easter Sunday. Secretary of War Stanton, when he looked down on that bed at his cold form, said, "Here lies the most perfect ruler of men that the world has ever known."

Lincoln had climbed Mount Calvary, and he had come to know the Savior. Walt Whitman concludes his great poem, "My Captain, My Captain," where he pictures Lincoln as the captain of the Ship of State which has come through a terrible storm and now lies upon the deck:

My captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still; My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will; The ship is anchored safe and sound, its voyage closed and done; From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won; Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells! But I, with mournful tread, Walk the deck my Captain lies, Fallen cold and dead.

But we cannot leave him lying there upon the deck of the Ship of State, for I would like to add one of my own: a fourth mountain that Lincoln climbed. Beyond Mount Calvary, the fourth was Mount Zion, where he went up to, not the Jerusalem in the Near East, but to the Jerusalem on high to the heavenly Jerusalem, taken there by Christ to whom he had consecrated his heart, and in whom he now trusted for his salvation. He had abandoned his trust in the commandments and in his own strivings, and now he trusted in Christ. Yes, dear friend, at long length, Abraham Lincoln was a Christian. Are you?

Prayer: "Heavenly Father, I pray that if there are any here who are still trusting in their ability to gain access into Thy heaven by keeping the commandments that they will see the utter folly of that. If there are any here who still suppose that by attempting to improve themselves they may make themselves acceptable to Thee who is of purer eyes than even to look upon iniquity, cause them to turn from trusting in themselves and to trust in Jesus Christ, who alone is their hope of eternal life that they, too, may go up to Jerusalem on high by consecrating their hearts and trusting their lives to Christ. In whose name we pray. Amen."

D. James Kennedy A.B., M.Div., M.Th., D.D., D.Sac.Lit., Ph.D., Litt.D., D.Sac.Theol., D.Humane Let.

Merry Christmas,

Wade Burleson

Obama and Warren: Civil Disagreement at Work

Barack Obama is under fire from the fringe left for inviting Southern Baptist evangelical pastor Rick Warren to give the inaugural invocation. Some of the comments being made by left-wing radicals are absurd, illustrated by this blog, which advocates attendees at the inaugural drown out the prayer with booing. The reaction is further evidence that the fringe, on both the right and the left, are absolutely intolerant. Give credit, however, to Barack Obama. He stood before the press corp yesterday and explained his choice of Warren, by saying:

"A couple of years ago, I was invited to Rick Warren's church to speak, despite his awareness that I held views that were entirely contrary to his when it came to gay and lesbian rights, when it came to issues like abortion. Nevertheless, I had an opportunity to speak. And that dialogue, I think, is part of what my campaign's been all about -- that we're not going to agree on every single issue, but what we have to do is to be able to create an atmosphere where we can disagree without being disagreeable and then focus on those things that we hold in common as Americans."

The Southern Baptist Convention would do well express similar civility to those who disagree with our convictions. We may not be able to convince others of our views, but we may be surprised at how we are treated when we show respect and decency to those who disagree.

In His Grace,

Wade

Hardball Religion: Release Date - Spring 2009

I have spent the last several months working on a book that documents the intentional narrowing of the doctrinal parameters of fellowship and missions cooperation within the Southern Baptist Convention. Readers familiar with this blog will know the troubles I experienced at the International Mission Board of the SBC for speaking out against two doctrinal policies which IMB trustees adopted in 2005, doctrinal policies that exceeded the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. As a result of these policies, hundreds of otherwise qualified Southern Baptists were prevented from serving on the mission field. This book documents, in narrative form, the events at the International Mission Board that eventually led to trustees in leadership offering a motion to remove me from the board in order to discredit my character and silence my dissent. I then trace the events that led to the eventual unaminous rescision of that motion and the extraordinary action taken by the 2007 Southern Baptist Convention to repudiate the IMB's attempt to establish narrower doctrinal parameters for the SBC. Throughout the book I attempt to explain what is at stake if the SBC does not resist the trend toward neo-Landmarkist, separatist, ecclesiological fundamantalism, which cherishes Baptist Identity more than Christian charity. The book is currently going through the editing process at the publishing company and should be released sometime in the spring of 2009. Two of my fellow trustees have read the manuscript and confirmed to me that the facts presented in the book are precisely the way they remember events occuring at the IMB. The chapters of the book will be as follows:

Foreword
Chapter 1 Blindsided!
Chapter 2 At Home on the Range
Chapter 3 The Phone Call
Chapter 4 The IMB Policies That Became the Fuse
Chapter 5 The Chairman’s Outburst at Pensacola Beach
Chapter 6 The Day Adrian Rogers Died
Chapter 7 Discovery

Chapter 8 The Blog
Chapter 9 Teaching the Rookie a Lesson
Chapter 10 Closed Doors
Chapter 11 Those Weirdoes from Oklahoma
Chapter 12 Meet Me in St. Louis
Chapter 13 Trustee Leaders Trying to Save Face
Chapter 14 A Unanimous Reversal

Chapter 15 "Keep Your Mouth Shut and Your Pen Silent!"
Chapter 16 Religious Liberty and Baptist Freedom
Chapter 17 Turn Off His Mike!
Chapter 18 The IMB Motion at Greensboro
Chapter 19 The 2006 Southern Baptist Convention at Greensboro
Chapter 20 Reflections on the Historic 2006 Convention
Chapter 21 Welcome to the Neighborhood Dwight McKissic

Chapter 22 Sheri Klouda
Chapter 23 Continued Hostility at the IMB
Chapter 24 “What Idiot Said There Was No Investigation?”
Chapter 25 The Garner Motion in San Antonio
Chapter 26 Censured
Chapter 27 Resignation
Chapter 28 Future
After Word



In His Grace,


Wade

Watch Emmanuel's Christmas Pageant LIVE!

Watch the sixth of seven performances of Emmanuel Baptist Church's 35th Annual Christmas Pageant. Broadcast will be Tuesday night, December 16, at 7:30 p.m. Central Time. Click here to register.

Why Can't We Ever Admit We Might Be Wrong in Our Interpretations of the Infallible Word of God?

Last month the President of Bob Jones University publicly apologized for his school's racism. The President spoke on behalf of all of American Christianity and the problems that Christians, particularly in the south, had with slavery and racism. There are some who feel that any discussion of American Christianity's sins regarding race should never be discussed, much less used as a teaching tool for the present. I am of a different opinion, however, and so it seems is the President of Bob Jones. A discussion of our past sins is important for the integrity of our future. Bob Jones was absolutely correct in offering a public apology. However, though I commend the President for his apology, there was an interesting statement he made about the reason his university was racist:

(L)ike any human institution, we have failures as well. For almost two centuries American Christianity, including BJU in its early stages, was characterized by the segregationist ethos of American culture. Consequently, for far too long, we allowed institutional policies regarding race to be shaped more directly by that ethos (i.e. American culture) than by the principles and precepts of the Scriptures.

Did you catch that? American Christianity's view on "race," including two centuries of southern slavery, was because American Christianity followed culture rather than Scripture.

Sigh.

Christians in America, particulary conservative Baptists in the South during the 19th Century followed their interpretations of Scripture regarding slavery. Southern Christians, including Southern Baptists, promoted slavery because of their interpretation of Scripture, not the "ethos" of culture.

Let me illustrate. One of the passages that addresses slavery is found in Genesis.

"Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers. He also said, 'Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem.'" (Genesis 9:25-27).

Baptists, Presbyterians and other southern evangelicals in the 19th Century took passages like the above and taught that the Bible not only condoned slavery, but advocated it as a proper and just institution. For example:

"The right of holding slaves is clearly established in the Holy Scriptures, both by precept and example." Rev. Richard Furman, D.D., a Southern Baptist pastor from South Carolina.

"[Slavery] was established by decree of Almighty God...it is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation...it has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts." Jefferson Davis. (Dunbar, Rowland, "Jefferson Davis" Vol. 1, page 286).

Now, fast forward a couple of centuries and we have conservative, evangelical Christian Bob Jones University apologizing for their racism - but the fault lies with the "ethos" of culture, not their faulty interpretations of Scripture.

A Modern Application

Some modern evangelicals, including we Southern Baptists, would do well to remember history. There is nothing wrong with interpreting the Bible and coming to conclusions about what you believe. In fact, every Christian should study the Word and hold fast to that which we believe the Bible teaches, always being willing to elucidate for others our beliefs when asked.

But other than the diety of Christ, salvation by God's grace through faith in Christ, and the foundational Christian doctrines it would be wise for all of us to have a little humility about our "interpretations" of God's Word.

Any Christian who acts mean-spirited toward those who disagree, or tries to bully other Christians to believe a certain way through intimidation, would do well to remember Christian history and the number of times we have wrongly interpreting the infallible Word of God. Advocates of closed/open communion, or a particlar ecclesiology, or those who are pro/con women in ministry, or promoters of cessationism or continuationism, etc . . . should always LISTEN to others, COOPERATE with those evangelicals who disagree, and REALIZE that one day we may end up apologizing for our previous understanding of what the Bible teaches.

If you don't see yourself as possibly being wrong in your interpretations, you are precisely the kind of Southern Baptist that would have kept slaves and justified it by claiming God's "infallible, inerrant" Word condones it - without ever questioning that your interpretation could be wrong.

A little humility and a great deal of love should characterize all of us Christians when it comes to our interpreting the infallible Word of God.

And when we discover a mistake, we ought not blame it on "culture."

In His Grace,


Wade

It's Best to Never to Bite the Hand that Feeds Us

The Woman's Missionary Union has always been the backbone of missions both globally and domestically in Southern Baptist life. It is a little known fact that the WMU legally owns the name and the right to use both the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, but WMU never sees a dollar of the money collected through Southern Baptists who give to our Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong Offerings. The monies collected through these offerings are always sent directly to either the International Mission Board or the North American Mission Board. These two organizations thrive because the Woman's Missionary Union leads the way in the promotion of their respective missions offerings. Historically, the WMU has never backed away from their passion to see Southern Baptists involved in missions both through the prayer and financial support, and through mission mobilization.

The Woman's Missionary Union has always been there for Southern Baptists. During the Great Depression, Southern Baptists nearly lost the Home Mission Board to bankruptcy. It was the WMU who stepped into the gap and bailed Southern Baptists out of the embarrassment of losing the Home Mission Board. The WMU has been at the heart of our Southern Baptist missionary efforts. Until last year, the International Mission Board provided the WMU with a sizable monetary gift as a means of showing them gratitude for their support. That gift was eliminated last year, and this is the first year that WMU has had to make up the difference. Though the WMU said nothing publicly when the IMB announced that they would no longer be giving monetary support to WMU, there was a sense that the next year would be tough.

It has.

Day before yesterday, the employees of the Woman's Missionary Union were called to a meeting to announce difficult but preemptive measures that were being taken due to the economic down turn. The WMU is short two million dollars in revenue. The executive director of the WMU, Wanda Lee, is working very hard to keep all of the WMU's employees in place, not wanting to lay anyone off. To accomplish this, the employees of the WMU are having to take what amounts to a four week furlough, spread out over an eight month period, without pay. Obviously, these furloughs hit Southern Baptists employed by the WMU pretty hard. But my concern is not so much for individual employees as what it says about the SBC if we do not do something to help the agency that promotes our mission efforts.

During the difficult times of controversy in the SBC, the WMU has at times been caught in the middle, yet it has struggled to quietly maintain their place of influence in missions. Not one time has the WMU ever wavered from their original purpose and intent--to remain faithful to God and to Southern Baptists in keeping missions on the front burner.

I imagine the WMU will not publicly wave a flag, asking for Southern Baptists to step into the gap for them. However, in my opinion, this is a true test for those of us identified as Southern Baptists. Will we now turn our backs on WMU when they are at a low point, financially? The WMU's intention is to forge ahead so that Southern Baptists will continue to keep their focus upon the lost people of the world. Is it not time for Southern Baptists to stand in the gap for an old friend, who has proven itself over and over to be faithful to cooperative missions?

I call upon the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board, as well as all of our Southern Baptist agencies to place the WMU within their annual budgets in appreciation for the support these agencies receive through the Woman's Missionary Union. I also call upon our 45,000 Southern Baptist churches to consider placing financial support for the WMU within our local church budgets.

It's best to never to bite the hand that feeds us.


In His Grace,


Wade

The Rise of Neo-Landmarkism in the Southern Baptist Convention and the Disconnect from 18th and 19th Century English Baptist Ecclesiology

Southwestern Theological Seminary has some fine Christian leaders, but the seminary has become the poster child for the rise of neo-Landmarkism within the Southern Baptist Convention. Southern Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, also has a handful of professors who hold firmly to neo-Landmarkism, and advocate its principles as the Baptist norm. Dr. Barber, a former SWBTS adjunct professor, has recently challenged my view of the rise of neo-Landmarkism in the SBC, implying that the fully separatist, closed-communion ecclesiology promoted by some in the SBC, including Drs. Malcolm Yarnell and Paige Patterson at SWBTS and Dr. Hershael York at SBTS, is similar to the ecclesiology of certain English Baptists of the 18th and 19th centuries. The purpose of this post is to show how modern neo-Landmarkism in the SBC differs from the teaching of Scripture and the practice of our English Baptist forefathers in several fundamental areas.

Dr. Barber wrote and asked me: to answer the following question:

Could you spell out for me in specific and careful terms what you perceive to be the differences between Neo-Landmarkism and the theologies of John Smythe, Thomas Helwys, William Kiffin, William Carey, Andrew Fuller, Adoniram Judson, Roger Williams, or John Clarke in the period of their lives in which they were Baptists?

The men mentioned by Dr. Barber are for the most part English Baptists, with just a couple of them, including Adoniram Judson and Roger Williams, having any connection at all with the New World and America. There are at three key differences that I will point out in this post between English Baptists of the 18th Century and modern neo-Landmarkers in the Southern Baptist Convention.

(1). Authority

In neo-Landmark theology, the only people with "authority" to baptize, serve the Lord's Supper, teach, etc . . . are men who hold an "office" that bestows authority. In other words, authority flows from "the church" and not Jesus Christ directly.

English Baptists, however, believed that the Christian's authority came directly from Christ, not the church, and that the fulfillment of Christ's commands was the duty of all Christians. For example, John Gill, speaking for English Baptists, said this about baptizing converts . . .

Baptism is not a church ordinance, (and by that) I mean baptism is not an ordinance administered in the church, but out of it, and in order to admission into it, and communion with it; it is preparatory to it, and a qualification for it; it does not make a person a member of a church, or admit him into a visible church; persons must first be baptized, and then added to the church, as the three thousand converts were; a church has nothing to do with the baptism of any, but to be satisfied they are baptized before they are admitted into communion with it.


It is impossible for a neo-Landmarker to understand the above statement because "baptism" is a church ordinance, and the authority to baptize comes from "the church" and not Christ. This is why the rise of neo-Landmarkism in the IMB has led to the new policy that any missionary candidate baptized in a church that doesn't believe in "eternal security" will be rejected as a Southern Baptist missionary. Rather than asking the individual Southern Baptist about his or her baptism and what it meant to him or her, the IMB trustees are now investigating "the church" in which missionary candidate was baptized.

(2). Communion

In a neo-Landmark church, communion is "closed," meaning that nobody else but "local church members" can partake. The idea that a Christian who has not been "properly" baptized could partake in communion with Southern Baptists is almost deemed "heresy" by neo-Landmarkers.

But the English Baptists, including those mentioned above, believed the following according to Dr. Greg Wills in Baptist History and Heritage:

Few Baptist churches in America practiced open communion, but most in England did. Many practiced open membership as well--they admitted persons to membership based on their profession of faith alone, whether they had submitted to believer's baptism or not. Open communion Baptists in England claimed an impressive heritage. John Bunyan, the great Baptist preacher of Bedford, whose Pilgrim's Progress was and remains a devotional classic, practiced open communion and ably defended his practice. In the early nineteenth century, Robert Hall Jr., the brilliant and eloquent Baptist preacher whose writing brought him extensive fame, persuasively defended open communion views. Baptist Noel, the immensely popular Baptist preacher whose defection from the clergy of the Church of England brought considerable notoriety, promoted open communion from his prominent London pulpit. Spurgeon's church combined open communion with strict membership. The combination reflected well his commitment to evangelical unity and believer's baptism.


The church I pastor, Emmanuel Baptist Church, holds to open communion with strict membership, a pattern followed by many within the SBC but called unorthodox by neo-Landmarkers in the SBC like Dr. Malcolm Yarnell. Ironically, again, the rise of neo-Landmarkism in the IMB has led to a clamp down on the Lord's Supper being served in "house" churches within countries like China where there are no men who can act as "pastor" and serve it. Here you have the problems that arise out of a neo-Landmarker's faulty understanding of both authority and communion.

(3). Cooperation

Cooperation with evangelicals is a very, very low priority to a neo-Landmarker. In a neo-Landmarker's mind, it is more important for there to be "doctrinal" conformity and purity before there is any evangelical cooperation and unity. All doctrines to the neo-Landmarkers are important.

Thus, a statement like the following from English Baptist Charles Spurgeon would be hard to understand by a neo-Landmarker:

"I am persuaded that neither the Church of England, nor the Wesleyans, nor the Independents, nor the Baptists, have got all the truth.... I would persuade you, my Baptist friends, that your system is not perfect. Nor can church polity prevent heresy and spiritual death. You cannot, by Presbytery, or Independency, or Episcopacy, secure the life of the Church. Ecclesiology does not preserve spiritual life in a denomination, but the "presence of the Lord" in its midst." (Spurgeon, "Things Unknown" (1858), in MTP, 46:105; Spurgeon, "Christ Is Glorious--Let Us Make Him Known" (20 March 1864), in MTP, 10: 163).


Sadly, the rise of neo-Landmarkism in the SBC and IMB is thwarting more evangelical cooperation and causing missionaries overseas to have to shut down cooperation with other Great Commission denominations and churches. To some Southern Baptists, it is more important that a person be baptized in a Southern Baptist church than it is to extend the right hand of Christian fellowship in evangelical cooperation.

For these reasons I will continue to write against the rise of neo-Landmarkism in the SBC. I trust I have fulfilled my promise to answer Dr. Barber's question.

In His Grace,

Wade

Baptist Identity Movement Is "Neo-Landmarkist"

I received an insightful, concise email from a respected Southern Baptist Convention leader regarding the new Baptist Identity Movement in the SBC. With permission, and on the condition of anonymity, I share the email with you below.

___________________________


Dear Wade,

Technically, those identifying themselves as part of the “Baptist Identity” Movement (BIM) are what might better be defined as “Neo-Landmarkists.” This ideology (BIM) tends to distance themselves from the old style J.R. Graves Landmarkists who believed you could directly trace Baptists back to the Apostolic Church through a succession of supposed like-minded churches and movements. Modern day BIM personnel eschew this type of ideology in favor of a more watered down version of traditional Landmarkism.

Nevertheless, the BIM seems strangely out of step with the needs of Southern Baptists in the early 21st century. At a time when Southern Baptists face a world and an America that is demographically different from its core constituency of white Southerners, the BIM has chosen to look inward at the Baptist community itself for its work and mission. The movement’s quest for a purer more disciplined Baptist orthodoxy and orthopraxy has consumed most of their energies at a time when evangelicals face very real dangers from radical Western secularism and emergent Islam (both the missionary and jihadist varieties).

Baptists are called to witness to a lost and spiritually-dying world. When Baptists should be thinking about finding a broader consensus to face these spiritual threats, instead, many have chosen to wage cultural warfare with our own. Baptists have always forged their own identity through consensus of the entire community rather than allowing a fringe element to determine that identity for the entire community. This was true of the pro-Missionary Baptists of the early 1800s who overcame the anti-missionary impulses of some Baptists, the Southern Baptists of the late 1800s who turned back the forces of Old Landmarkism, and the Conservatives of the 1970s and 1980s who wrestled the Convention away from the moderates. Wade, in our own states both you and I thought that this latter battle for identity was important.

Fortunately, the Baptist Identity Movement does not speak for all Southern Baptists and soteriology and eschatology prevent even those that might agree in ecclesiology from mounting a truly unified movement. Baptist Identity people in various state conventions, for instance, remain split on these issues, and strangely enough, many of them who look to Southern Seminary for inspiration took a dim view of the John 3:16 conference and hold pre-millennial dispensationalism in disdain.

I remain hopeful that eventually Southern Baptists will view the Great Commission as more important than trying to police Baptist orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

Blessings,


____________ (anonymous by request)

Please Don't Call Me a Calvinist, But . . .

The following is a reprint of an article written by Wade Burleson, published in the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger in the June 1, 1995 issue. The editor of the Baptist Messenger asked Herschel Hobbs and Wade Burleson to write articles on Calvinism from differing perspectives to show how Southern Baptists can maintain friendship, cooperation and Christian unity though the Biblical doctrines of grace can be interpreted differently. Dr. Hobb's article, "God's Sovereignty and Man's Free Will," was posted Wednesday. Wade Burleson's article follows:

______________________________________________


When I was a kid I once became sick immediately after eating my first Fudgesicle. Not just sick, I mean really sick. For years I never ate a Fudgesicle because I thought, mistakenly so, that the fudge made me sick. It was only after much convincing and even greater personal courage that I again ventured to eat an ice cold Fudgesicle. Eureka! I loved it! My misconceptions had cost me years of immeasurable pleasure.

I remember the first time I can consciously remember hearing the word “Calvinism.” My youth director was attempting to explain what John Calvin had taught concerning salvation, and in looking back, it seems Calvinism to the youth pastor was like Fudgesicles to me - something to be avoided at all costs. I now believe that my youth pastor was teaching what he thought Calvin taught. In fairness, if Calvin had taught what the youth director said he taught, it was something to be avoided. Unfortunately, misconceptions about Calvinism may have led him to miss the joy of fully recognizing the wonderful love of God found in His grace for His people.

That’s why I don’t like to call myself a Calvinist. Spurgeon never hesitated to “avow myself a Calvinist,” but I’m living in an age when too many people have a distorted understanding of what Calvin taught. Besides, I don’t agree with many things Calvin did teach, such as infant baptism, church/state unity and church polity. Therefore, I only take the name “Christian” and point others to Christ.

But don’t misunderstand; many, many Baptists have never hesitated to call themselves Calvinists. James Boyce, founder of Southern Seminary; John L. Dagg, the fine Southern Baptist theologian of the 19th century, and Charles Spurgeon, the prince of Baptist preachers, were all fond of being called Calvinists. However, Spurgeon said, “We only use the term ‘Calvinism’ for shortness. That doctrine which is called Calvinism did not spring from Calvin; we believe that it sprang from the great founder of all truth (Jesus Christ). We would be just as willing to call them (the doctrines of Calvinism) by any other name if we could find one which could be better understood.”

With Spurgeon’s spirit in mind, and with my desire not to be called a Calvinist, I will use the nomenclature “Doctrines of Grace” to describe what Boyce, Dagg, Broadus, Manly, Mell, Williams and thousands of other great Southern Baptist evangelists, preachers and theologians have believed concerning salvation. Beside these men in the Hall of Faith stand men like Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Whitefield, Knox, Carey and Spurgeon plus an innumerable company of others throughout history who have proclaimed Christ to the nations.

THE TOTAL DEPRAVITY OF MAN

First, the doctrines of grace rest on the bedrock truth called The Total Depravity of Man. This doctrine teaches that all have sinned and that everyone has sin in the totality of his person. For example, the will is sinful, the emotions are sinful, the thoughts of man are only evil continually and all the actions of man are tainted with sin. It’s not that every person is as bad as he could be, but that every person is sinful in all he or she is. Even the good someone does in the eyes of other people is like filthy rags before a holy God.

Worse, there is no one who seeks God, and as a result, every sinful person is separated from God and couldn’t care less about finding his or her way to God. Natural man is lost in his sin and he loves it. Self rules the heart and self is unwilling to change so that God rules the heart. Therefore, total depravity teaches that man is wicked and sinful in every part of personhood, and it is impossible for the sinner to embrace the Son and love the Lord Jesus Christ because the sinner is satisfied (in love) with selfishness and evil. The prophet asks, “Can the leopard change his spots? How can you who are accustomed to doing evil change your ways?”

God graciously commands all sinners to repent rather than striking them dead immediately and bringing them before Him in judgment. God even more graciously commands all men to embrace His Son, the only Savior ever given for sinners. But, no sinner ever will believe or repent. Not one sinner will obey God because the sinner loves his sin, hates God (or at least the true God of the Bible) and embraces self more than the Creator. The invitation to take up your cross and follow Christ is universally given, but unfortunately, it is also universally rejected by sinners.

UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION

God knows no sinful man will naturally choose to repent and believe on His Son. Therefore He takes other steps, by His grace, to ensure that His Son will "see the travail of his soul and be satisfied." In other words, God will not allow His Son to die in vain. So God “unconditionally chooses” to change the hearts of literally thousands upon thousands and ten thousand times ten thousand people, or what the Bible calls "an innumerable company." This doctrine of grace, often called Unconditional Election, simply teaches that God first loved us in order that we might love Him. If a man is to be justified through faith in Christ, and if no man can believe in Christ because his wicked heart desires no Lord but himself, then God must choose to perform spiritual heart surgery. Regeneration, the new birth and quickening are all synonyms for this heart surgery God performs. Before a man will ever repent of his sin and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, he must be born again. This miraculous act of God, called "the new birth," is a work that He chooses to perform, and it is without conditions. In other words, God does not choose to regenerate a sinner (make him spiritually alive) because of the sinners’s wealth, fame, skin color, nationality, sex, goodness (humanly speaking!) or any other conditions found within the sinner, for God is not a respecter of persons. God's choice to redeem and regenerate undeserving sinners is a choice based on pure grace.

You ask, “Why does He not choose to redeem and regenerate the heart of every sinner?” I respond, “Why does He choose to redeem and regenerate the heart of any sinner?” You ask, “Can a sinner believe on Jesus Christ without this work of grace in his heart?” I respond, Will a sinner believe on Christ without this work of grace in his heart?” If he will believe and repent, he will be saved, for the Gospel is a “whosoever will” gospel. But when we see a sinner who is willing to believe in Christ, we give God the credit, "for in the day of His power, His people are made willing."

I know some of you are saying, “But I thought God simply looked down through the ages and saw I would believe, and then He called me ‘elect’.” Frankly, it makes no difference to me if you believe God looked to the future and saw you would believe and then called you “elect,” or if you believe the traditional view that God graciously overcame your sin and stubbornness and enabled you to believe, as long as you believe the third doctrine of grace, which is the cardinal truth of Scripture: Christ died in the stead of His people. In other words, the death of Christ was a substitutionary death. Christ died as a substitute for sinners who will trust in Him. He died in their place, and the righteous and pure anger of God due their sins was poured out on Him at Calvary.

LIMITED ATONEMENT OR PARTICULAR REDEMPTION

Why is not everyone in Heaven? Because Christ did not die for the sinner who refuses to embrace Him. To believe that Christ died for “the goats” as well as “the sheep” negates the symbolism of the Old Testament sacrifices and the direct teaching of both covenants of Scripture. Only the believing sinner had a substitutionary sacrifice. Only the sinner who laid his hands upon the sacrifice had the anger of God placated. Christ died as a substitute for sinners who will trust in Him.

If a sinner rejects his Creator, if he refuses to embrace the Son and if he dies while spitting in the face of the only Savior ever provided for sinners, then that sinner bears his own sin in hell.

The sins of every man will be punished; either at Calvary or in hell. It is the historic position of most who hold to the doctrines of grace that Christ atoned for the sins of all infants who die in infancy and the mentally challenged who die in their retardation. Thus, infants who die in infancy and those without mental capacity are in heaven, not because they are innocent (death is only for the guilty, and all died in Adam), but because Christ died for them and the Holy Spirit graciously regenerates them.

With the exception of infants who die in infancy and imbeciles, the unbelieving sinner will be punished for his own sins in an eternal hell. But those who trust Christ will be delivered. Often times this doctrine is called “Particular Redemption” to emphasize that not all men will be redeemed (universalism), but that only the bride of Christ, the church of God, believers, those who trust Christ, are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb (i.e. "the death of Christ").

IRRESISTIBLE GRACE

Every sinner experiences the grace of God in some form or fashion, for the sun rises on the righteous and the wicked. The preaching of the Gospel is an act of grace, as is being born into a Christian family, as is living in a nation that is Christian. However, as we have already seen, sinners are so wicked that all of these advantages are null and void to them. The sinner hears the Gospel but he is deaf spiritually. The sinner is commanded to repent and believe but he is a rebel at heart. Therefore it takes a wonderful work of the Holy Spirit to change his heart and cause him to be willing.

This fourth doctrine of grace is usually called “Irresistible Grace.” A better adjective would be the word effectual rather than irresistible. God’s grace is often resisted, but the Holy Spirit is an effectual worker. He gets the job done. As the appendix to the 1646 London Baptist Confession of Faith states in Article VII, “The Spirit of God doth not compel a man to believe against his will, but doth powerfully and sweetly create in a man a new heart, and so makes him to believe and obey willingly.”

So if you have a loved one who is a hardened sinner, a rebel toward the things of God, the absolute most important thing you can do for him is pray. God can save our families and nation without our prayers, but it seems He chooses not to save unless we pray, lest we take credit for the salvation of the lost ourselves.

THE PERSEVERANCE OR PRESERVATION OF THE SAINTS

Finally, the fifth doctrine of grace is called “The Perseverance or Preservation of the Saints.” Perseverance simply means a graced person keeps on believing in Christ and keeps on repenting of sin until he dies. Preservation is the divine side of perseverance and simply means He who began a good work in you will carry it on until the day of Christ.

All five doctrines of grace, sometimes called “The Five Points of Calvinism” seem to stand or fall together. However, it must always be remembered that our fellowship is around Christ Jesus. His person, His work and His attributes, and not necessarily around our systematic theology, no matter how beneficial it may be to us. Wesley and Whitefield came from both sides of the spectrum on this issue, and Baptists have disagreed over Calvinism and Arminianism from the beginning.

That is not to say, however, that I believe the doctrines of grace are not important. They have transformed my understanding of the Christian life. But I am not in control of whether or not anyone else can see the love of God in these doctrines, so I love and accept every brother in Christ who disagrees with my interpretations of Scripture. But the reason I take time to elucidate the doctrines of grace to those who ask is because of a threefold transformation in my life through an understanding of these doctrines:

(1). When I came to an understooding of God's grace, the everlasting love of God became real to me in ways I never before imagined. It became a transformational knowledge. When I believed that Christ died for me personally, that He came with a mission to save me and would not fail in it, then His unconditional, personal and eternal love for me came alive. Like the shephered who leaves the ninety and nine and goes after the lost sheep until he finds him and brings him home, so Christ came for me, threw me across His strong shoulders, and is now carrying me home. I love Him because He first loved me.

(2). I came to a sense of peace and soul satisfaction, like Job, that my "salvation is of the Lord." Rather than trusting in a religious formula or mantra, rather than trusting in my faith (which is sometimes weak), and rather than believing in any commitment that I make, I simply trust Jesus Christ and His work on my behalf. If He doesn't save me by His work, then I will never be saved. Even my faith and repentance are gifts given to me by His grace. Thus, if I am weak in either, I ask Him for more grace. Thus, when I sing the song "Have Faith in God" I really mean it. I have no faith in myself.

(3). Understanding the doctrines of grace has empowered me to share Christ with confidence. I realize that the mysterious and divine work of regeneration is produced by the Spirit of God as He interacts with the good news I share with sinners. The Holy Spirit produces new life in the hearers of the gospel, and it is not up to my ability to articulate, my intellectual prowess, or my human abilities. Thus, I share Christ and pray for the soul of that one I have loved enough to personally share the gospel. I am also reminded of the words of my Savior, "If you ask for bread from your earthly father will he give you a snake or a stone? How much more shall your heavenly Father give to you that which you ask." My heavenly Father is delighted to do the very thing I am asking Him to do.

May my description of Christ in this article be understood by my fellow Southern Baptists. However, if what I have written is not understood by even one of my brothers or sisters in Christ, may each one realize my desire to fellowship with fellow believers is based solely on our love for Jesus Christ, and not our various understandings of why it is we have come to love Him.

God's Sovereignty and Man's Free Will

The following article, entitled "God's Sovereignty and Man's Free Will" was first published by the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger on June 1, 1995. The article was written by Dr. Herschel Hobbs, Pastor Emeritus of First Baptist Church, Oklahoma City. The Baptist Messenger published another article on that same day, written by Wade Burleson, Pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church, Enid, Oklahoma entitled "Please Don't Call Me a Calvinist, But . . .". Herschel Hobbs and Wade Burleson were friends, and these articles are posted to show how two Southern Baptists, with differing interpretations of the doctrines of grace, can remain in fellowship, cooperation and friendship. "Please Don't Call Me a Calvinist, But . . ." will be posted here on Friday. Dr. Hobb's article is posted below:

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At the close of Billy Graham’s first London Crusade a Church of England clergyman said that Billy had set Christianity back a hundred years. Hearing of this Graham said, “I am disappointed. I had hoped to set it back two thousand years.”

From recent articles in other state newspapers we are told that a small group of Southern Baptist scholars seeks a revival of five-point Calvinism. They propose to restore our theology to that of the 19th century. Among others they cite James P. Boyce. Writers note that about the turn of the century Southern Baptists saw a shift from that extreme position to a more moderate one. Mentioned in this regard are E.Y. Mullins and W.T. Connor. Some of them would even claim the Apostle Paul as holding to the Calvinistic view. Such seems to be putting the cart before the horse by about 1,500 years. That is the reason for this article. At the risk of being misunderstood, I am more interested in what Jesus said and Paul wrote than what Boyce, Dagg, et al wrote.

So, like Billy Graham, we do not need to go back to the 19th or even to the 16th century. We need to go back to the first century.

Calvin emphasized God’s sovereignty to the neglect of man’s free will, both of which are abundantly taught in the Bible. More specifically Calvin held that before the foundation of the world God elected certain individuals to be saved to the neglect of all others. This is contrary to the very nature of God! Recognizing the place of faith, those who follow Calvin say that only the elect believe in Jesus as Savior. As I understand it, the opposite is true. Believers are the elect. I agree with Frank Stagg that election is not “a rigged television show.”

While Paul refers to election elsewhere, his extended treatment of that doctrine is found in Ephesians. Space forbids a thorough treatment of this epistle (see my New Men in Christ, Word, 1974, out of print). But I want to point out some salient facts in Ephesians.

In essence Paul says that God elected a plan of salvation (Eph. 1-2) and a people to propagate the plan (Eph. 3:1-6:20). But man is free to accept or reject either or both of them.

In Ephesians 1:4 we find the words “hath chosen.” This translates exelexato (ex, elexato). The latter Greek word has been anglicized as elected. The preposition ex intensifies the verb elexato. But note that Paul says that God elected us “in Him” or in God in Christ. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world [not a selected few] unto Himself” (II Cor. 5:19). “In love” (v. 4, KJV) more likely belongs in verse 5.

“In love having predestinated us.” Whatever God did, He did it in love (I John 4:8). Unfortunately many tend to interpret the English “predestinated” rather than the Greek word proorisas. The basic verb is horizo, among others things, to set a boundary. From it comes “horizon,” the limit or boundary of your vision from where you stand. The prefix pro means beforehand. So to set a boundary beforehand. I liken it to building a fence around a piece of land. The fence is Christ. In 11 verses (1:3-13) Paul uses “in Christ” or its equivalent 11 times (Greek text). So whatever God did He did it “in love” and “in Christ.”

“According to the good pleasure of his will” expresses God’s sovereignty. Which means that He can act in accord with His nature and purpose as redeeming love without the advice or consent of anyone outside Himself.

However, the Bible also teaches the free will of man as a person made in God’s image. To violate man’s free will would make him less than a person, only a puppet dangled on the string of fate. The Bible never teaches that. Man is free to choose, but is responsible to God for his choices. Otherwise God Himself is responsible for man’s sin, which is unthinkable! The free will of man is seen in Ephesians 1:13: “After that ye believed” or “beliveing.” Exercising faith is an act of the human will. To say that only those chosen by God can believe is to ignore the plain teachings of the New Testament. If this be true, then Jesus’ commissions to evangelize the world and the many pleas for lost people to believe in Him for salvation are meaningless.

God’s election of a people to propagate His plan refers to the church (Eph. 1:22-23). In Ephesians 3:10-11 Paul wrote that there “might be known by [dia, through as intermediate agent] the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” I Peter 2:1-10 clearly identifies the church as God’s chosen people “which in times past were not a people [a constituted nation], but are now the people of God.” But like the plan any segment of God’s people can accept or reject this role – but it/they are responsible to God for the choices made.

In 1814 the Baptists of the United States divided over the issue of evangelism and missions. The anti-missionary group (hyper-Calvinists) have dwindled almost to the vanishing point. The group committed to evangelism and missions has flourished. Southern Baptists, the most committed, are the largest non-Catholic religious body in the nation. If we counted infants, as do Roman Catholics, it is possible that the “Southern Baptist Convention could well be the largest in the nation. And Southern Baptists have experienced their greatest growth since 1900!

Hyper-Calvinism offers no incentive for evangelism and missions. I recall hearing George W. Truett say, “The church that is not missionary does not deserve the ground upon which its building stands. For the earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof, the world and they that dwell therein.”

God in Christ has done all that even God can do to provide redemption for a lost humanity. But each person through faith in His redeeming Son must receive it for himself. Refusing to so, such a person is lost without hope. Those who receive it receive eternal life. Christians and Christian bodies who of their own free will refuse to become God’s people to propagate His plan of salvation have saved souls but wasted lives.

If all of the Bible was lost except John 3:16, in this Gospel within the Gospel is the ability to save a lost humanity. And what does it say to us?

“For God so loved the world [not certain ones in it], that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever [anyone, anywhere, anytime] believeth [an act of man’s free will] in Him should not perish [be lost, destroyed, or go to hell], but have everlasting life.” This is not hyper-Calvinism but he Gospel in a nutshell!