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

A Kinder, Softer Southern Baptist Convention?

Southern Baptist Conventon President Johnny Hunt has announced he will seek a second term as President of the SBC, telling the Georgia Christian Index that the SBC "is a ship “adrift” and so low in the water that it probably needs to rid itself of some unnecessary cargo to float and be healthy and strong again."

Hunt's solution to the problem in the SBC is to offer a document entitled The Great Commission Resurgence Declaration” which offers a 10-point plan for rekindling fervor in SBC life for Jesus’ missionary mandate and “shock” the SBC out of apathy and infighting.

Two prominent SBC leaders, Paige Patterson and Jerry Vines, have signed the GCD "with caveats." These two men should be commended for wishing to identify with the majority of Southern Baptists and current leadership of the SBC and signing the GCD - while at the same time maintaining their integrity by issuing caveats. Dr. Vines explains the need to sign the GCD "with caveats":

I agreed to allow my name to be added to the Great Commission Resurgence Document “with caveats” for two reasons.

First, I want to affirm my trust in the intentions of our president, Dr. Johnny Hunt, and Dr. Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. I join them in a desire that the Southern Baptist Convention have a resurgence of winning people to Christ. As a past president of the Convention, a member of the Peace Committee and the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 Committee, my motivation has always been to keep us true to the Bible and faithful to carry out the Great Commission.

Second, I added “with caveats” with a specific definition in mind. I mean “with caveats” in the dictionary sense of “with reservations” or “with explanations to prevent misunderstanding.” I do not sign a document carelessly, nor without a careful understanding of the meaning of its wording.

Is it possible that the fact Paige Patterson and Jerry Vines signed the GCD "with caveats" means the Southern Baptist Convention is becoming a kinder, softer Convention? Just a decade ago, these two men were at the forefront in removing from SBC service anyone who wished to affirm the basic tenets of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message with caveats.

Were the same spirit of a decade ago to be prevalent at this year's Convention in Louisville, Kentucky both Dr. Patterson and Dr. Vines, because of their refusal to sign the GCD without caveats, would be:

(1). Removed from SBC service, including the Presidency of SWBTS, and
(2). Called "anti-evangelistic" or not true Southern Baptists, and
(3). Labeled "liberal" and "un-cooperative," and
(4). Given no opportunities to ever speak on platforms across the SBC, and
(5). Encouraged to leave the SBC and begin their own Convention.

Maybe the SBC is changing. We should allow Dr. Vines and Dr. Patterson to express their disagreement with the GCD by signing it with caveats. The SBC is big enough to handle any signee who wishes to affirm the major intent of a Convention approved document while making known certain "caveats." We are not a creedal people. We are a cooperative people. Were the SBC to affirm President Hunt's 2009 Great Commission Declaration, I will oppose any attempt by Southern Baptists to remove Paige Patterson and Jerry Vines for their refusal to sign the Great Commission Declaration without caveats. Loving these two men, in spite of their reservations with the GCD, is the sign of a healthy cooperative Southern Baptist Convention.

In His Grace,

Wade

Changing the CP Formula Is Not the Answer

Paul Chitwood, Chairman of the International Mission Board is wrong. The International Mission Board is in a financial crises, and Chitwood has proposed a solution to the problem. He suggests that the Cooperative Program formula should be changed so that more Cooperative Program money, in terms of percentage, should go to the International Mission Board.

Chitwood writes: "Only 18 cents of each dollar given through the CP in my state will ever make it to the overseas mission fields. While some states do indeed forward more money, they are the exception."

There has been no stronger advocate of the work of the International Mission Board in the last three years than I. Our church has four couples serving in all regions of the world through the IMB as well as several journeymen. We increased our Cooperative Program giving by 5% last year, and it was my privilege to visit five of the eleven overseas regional IMB headquarters in the past four years. There are several reasons why changing the formula for the Cooperative Program is not the solution to the fiscal problems facing the IMB. At the risk of upsetting a few who have been my strong advocates while serving as a trustee of the IMB from 2005-2008, I feel it is incumbent to share why I believe Paul Chitwood is incorrect.

(1). Lost people live in North America, including the United States. Missions within our borders is as important as missions across our borders. The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma funds Baptist Collegiate Ministries, Disaster Relief Ministries, Chaplaincy Ministries in the oil fields, hospitals, and nursing homes, and gives training and support to thousands of pastors who minister to people in their respective communities. This does not include all the BGCO ministry that occurs at our state Baptist colleges, nursing homes and retirement centers, and children's homes - all of whom receive support through the Cooperative Program. In addition, our SBC seminaries and other SBC entities, including the North American Mission Board, are involved in the training of all our ministry and mission workers, and a change in the CP formula to give the IMB more money necessitates giving to the other SBC ministries in North America less.

(2). The International Mission Board already has the largest single offering within the Southern Baptist Convention called "The Lottie Moon Offering." Over half the budget for the International Mission Board ($150 million) comes from Lottie. No other Southern Baptist entity comes even close to having that kind of revenue stream. If more revenue is needed, increase giving to Lottie.

(3). At some point the International Mission Board is going to have to address the dysfunction that occurs in terms of strategic planning, communication and implementation of core changes within the International Mission Board. There is nothing wrong with change, but when administration in Richmond changes things in East Asia without input from those on the ground, then you have the equivalent of the Senior Pastor telling the children's coordinator how to operate the nursery. Somehow, someway, administration in Richmond has got to get better at hearing and listening to the troops on the ground. Tens of millions of dollars could be saved if missionaries were the ones telling Richmond what was needed and Richmond supported the needs of those in the middle of the harvest. The new changes at the IMB, just like New Directions a decade ago, look great on paper. The problem is most missionaries have no clue what is happening. Sure, that will change in time, but until there is a much better system of listening to those on the ground, I would be against throwing more money into a system that sometimes seems to spin in circles.

(4). Trustees are going to have to take responsibility for ridiculous policies, initiated by them, that disenfranchise local Southern Baptist churches across the nation. When I have dozens and dozens of pastors telling me they would rather directly support mission work sponsored by their churches than to submit to what they believe to be extra-biblical and non-essential policy demands of the IMB, then Houston, we have a problem. For example, when there is a vacancy in a financial office in a major region, and a newly called SBC missionary with a background in finance within the business world is not allowed to fill the overseas vacancy without the required "two years of language school," then we have policies superceding ministry. By the way, in this real world example, the finance position remains vacant. It seems to me that flexibility and a minimum number of policies (including the rescinding of ridiculous extra-biblical and non-BFM doctrinal policies) should be a requirement before we even begin to discuss changing the CP formula. When the system continues with dysfunctions, it makes no sense to pour more money into the system.

(5). It would seem that the root issue of a lack of funding at the International Mission Board is NOT the formula of the Cooperative Program, but the general decrease in giving to the CP by churches across the SBC. Churches across the board are reducing their giving to the CP everywhere - but in Oklahoma. Here in Oklahoma our state keeps 60% of CP monies. 40% is sent to the Executive Committee in Nashville, Tennessee. Of that 40% percent, the International Mission Board gets half. The other half is divided among NAMB, the seminaries, and other SBC ministry.

The average church in Oklahoma has increased CP giving to nearly 9.5% of church receipts over the past five years, while the average Southern Baptist church in other states has reduced CP giving to just above 5%. Oklahoma SB chuches give significantly more to the CP than SB churches in other states. Why is that? I might suggest that the BGCO agencies are professionally run, staffed and quite effective. Having served both at the state level and the national level in the SBC, I am more comfortable with the accountability, stewardship and ministry effectiveness of the 60% that stays in Oklahoma than I am with the 40% that goes elsewhere. I know where all the dollars go in Oklahoma. There is a high level of trust at the state level, and an absence of the ugly politics, particularly in the past decade, that have harmed other states. I am thrilled we in Oklahoma send what we do to national and international causes, and I believe our national agencies are improving in terms of their financial accountability. However, the way for the International Mission Board to receive more money from Oklahoma is NOT to change the CP formula, but rather, to continue to encourage the healthy giving to the CP that already characterizes our state.

So, I believe Paul Chitwood, Chairman of the IMB, is wrong. The CP formula does not need to change in order to help the IMB during their fiscal crises. We Southern Baptists simply must continue to be involved in reaching people at the local level, treating others with respect and grace, and seeing all our ministries as Southern Baptists as important. When the tide comes into the harbor the water rises and all the boats rise together. To artificially raise one boat over the others simply ignores the serious question as to why the tide of money seems to be going out of the Southern Baptist Convention harbor in the first place.

In His Grace,


Wade

"I'm Just a Kindergarten Christian Who Doesn't Know Any Better But to Do What God Says"

Last night I experienced a measure of real revival in my life by observing a man who was converted to faith in Jesus Christ at our Paul Young Weekend last April 5-6, 2009. The man's name is Ronnie Cue. He followed Jesus in believer's baptism on Easter Sunday, April 12, 2009. Ronnie's son, Brett Cue, is a professional motocross racer. Brett, too, along with his mother Jeris, and his two sisters have also recently come to faith in Christ. Just like dad Ronnie, all the Cue family have recently professed their faith in Christ through believer's baptism. None of the Cue family, especially Ronnie, have had any religious or church experiences throughout their lives. Emmanuel is the first church they have ever attended.

Two years ago Ronnie was sued by his neighbor. Ronnie lives north of town, out in the country, and he had built a race track for his son Brett and Brett's friends to race their motorcycles in training for professional motorcycle races. Ronnie's neighbor, the one that sued him, is a world renowned sculptor and artist. According to the sculptor and his wife, the poweful motorcycles interrupted the artist's ability to concentrate during his work. Ironically, I had led the sculptor to faith in Christ in his studio just a little over a year ago, and at the time, though I did not know Ronnie Cue, the sculptor and his wife told me of the lawsuit over the racetrack. I could tell the issue was a very traumatic one for the artist and his wife - who themselves had just begun attending Emmanuel. The little country community in which both families live is tightknit, and other neighbors were choosing sides. It was just in the last two months both the defendents and the plaintiffs in this lawsuit had become members of our church.

Last Friday the lawsuit was finally heard in court. Contrary to some, I do not believe it is unlawful or unbiblical for judges to determine civil matters among Christians. There are times when judges are absolutely necessary for a variety of reasons. Regardless of whether or not you agree, the fact of the matter is this particular lawsuit had become part of these two families' lives long before any of them came to faith in Christ or involved at Emmanuel.

New Christians and the Word of God

Last Sunday morning we continued our study through I John and we came to I John 4:7-12, probably one of the greatest passages in Scripture on the love of God. The message, entitled "The Practical Implications of 'God Is Love,'" followed the text, with only a few illustrations from me that helped illuminate application that I derived from the text. I sought to show that when we love others we are giving evidence of being born of God. To be "born of God" is what the Apostle John calls ‘the new birth’ or to be ‘born again’ (John 3:3). When we love people, we are demonstrating that we have been born into God's family, that God is our Father. Clearly put, love in our hearts for our fellow man is a little like the “divine gene," for God is love. When He gives birth to His children, He gives His kids the ability to love as He, by His nature, loves us. As Henry Scougal wrote in his classic work The Life of God in the Soul of Man:

“True religion is essentially an inward, free, self-moving principle of divine life.”

This life of God, according to the Apostle John, is manifested in our love for others. Christianity is not mere formalism, nor is it simply mental assent, or even a methodical discipline in areas of morality - the essence of true Christianity is that you and I really care about the people of this world. The Apostle puts it clearly in the text: “Anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (I John 4:8).

The model that John gives that illustrates God's kind of love is Jesus Himself. In I John 4:9-10 we read probably the greatest statement regarding the love of God in all of Scripture. The emphasis is on what God did for us. “In this is love” – God showed, God sent, God came, God propitiated. The Greek word hilasmos is translated propitiation. It was used by the pagans to 'appease and render favorable the gods.’ Of course, we cannot propitiate (appease) God - ever. The Creator God cannot be appeased by our gold or silver, or the works and labor of our hands, but the good news is that God loved us and did for us what we could not do for ourselves. He came to live under the righteous law, fulfilling it in every jot and tittle, possessing a perfect righteousness. Jesus Christ died under the law for us a sinnner's death, substituting His life for ours, and in this God the Father is "propitiated." God remained just while justifying the ungodly in the gift of His Son. God gave us this gift. He sent Christ for us, He delivered Christ for us, He provided Christ for us - in this love is demonstrated.

When you and I love others like God loves us, people see God. There is a verse right at the end of I John 4:7-12 that seems out of place at first glance. John says, “No one has ever seen God.” (v.12). Why does John say this? Because John is emphasizing God is invisible, but since the immortal, invisible, infinite transcendent God abides within each of us and we demonstrate God's kind of love to others, people see God in us. There is some very real truth in the song, "You're the only Jesus some will ever see."

That was last Sunday's message. It is my policy to ignore both criticism and praise when it comes to messages I preach. I consider that if I am faithful to the text, then it is not my message, but God's, and some will like it and some will not. But one thing I know is this: God's word is powerful and transforms lives.

Ronnie Cue heard it. Yesterday morning after our Men's Discipleship Ronnie wished to speak to me. He said that he wished to "lay aside the lawsuit." I was puzzled and said, "But Ronnie, you were the one sued." He said he knew that. He had also been told that the judge would most likely rule in his favor in twenty days, since the race track was on his own private property (over a half mile away from his neighbor), and personal property laws are very strong in Oklahoma on behalf of the owner. Yet, Ronnie explained, he wanted to go to his neighbor's studio and express his love for them and tell them that he wanted to do what was best for them, even if that meant removing the racetrack he has spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of man hours building - not to mention thousands of dollars defending himself in a lawsuit.

I asked him why he wished to do this. He simply said that the Word of God had convicted him last Sunday that he should lay aside his rights and do something to display his love for his neighbors, in the same manner Jesus displayed His love for him. He said that his neighbors and their lives were more important than his own, or his son's, comfort and convenience.

The Meeting Tonight

Tonight, I went with Ronnie Cue to visit with his neighbors. He is not a man of many words, but he simply and clearly told his neighbors he loved them and he was sorry his racetrack had caused them so much discomfort and pain. He said that he wanted them to know he would remove the track, look for land to build another one, and wished that they could be friends in spite of all that had occurred.

The plaintiffs in the suit had already told me their attorneys had told them that the judge would rule in Ronnie's favor. Yet here was Ronnie, offering to lay down his rights for their sake. The wife of the artist wept. The artist, a man of few words himself, expressed his gratitude and then we all gathered around for prayer. Upon leaving, among the hugs, plans were being made for the two families to get together. All this after two very difficult, painful and expensive years of a lawsuit that had left tons of hurt feelings on both sides.

My, my, my.

As I was driving Ronnie back to his house I asked him how he felt. He looked at me quietly for a moment and then said, "I feel great. You know, as I listened to all the guys discuss the Bible this morning, most everything went right over my head. Those guys have been Christians for so long and know so much. What I know is what happened tonight. This is real. I'm just a kindergarten Christian who doesn't know any better than to do what God says, and God told me through your message last Sunday that I was to do this."

It could be our Masters Degree pastors and Ph.D theologians in the Southern Baptist Convention could learn a great deal from Ronnie Que, a kindergarten Christian. What would happen if Southwestern had done something similar for Sheri Klouda? What if FBC Jacksonville were to do something similar for Tom Rich? What if the Missouri Baptists were to do something similar to Ronnie Cue?

It could be what hinders us from loving others is our own haughtiness and pride about what we know in terms of our doctrine, and a corresponding lack of listening to God speak to us through the simplicity of His commands.

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God and everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God" (I John 4:7).

In His Grace,


Wade

An Example of a Genuine Christian Apology

Someone over at SBC Today crafted an apology for posting an inaccurate allegation that the Baptist General Convention of Texas was eschrowing Lottie Moon funds. Let me take this opportunity to congratulate the unnamed author of the apology for writing one of the finest examples of what a Christian apology should actually look like.

First, it was honest and transparent - to the point of even naming two men on the SBC Today team who insisted that the inaccurate post should remain up even after it had been discredited by people in the know, bringing disrepute on the entire SBC Today team.

Second, there were no flowery, super spiritual phrases in the apology - just a simple, easy to understand confession of wrongdoing and a sincere expression of regret.

Third, there were no "but"'s - as in "We are sorry, but . . ."

Fourth, there were no additional shots at the BGCT in the apology - frankly, and refreshingly, there were phrases that placed all the guilt on SBC Today, and an acknowledgment that the BGCT's heart "beat for missions."

Finally, there were clear statements as to what SBC Today should have done - which is evidence that a similar mistake should not happen in the future.

Well done, and everyone to whom SBC Today apologized would be wise to forgive them. As for me, I will never write about this particular gaffe by the SBC Today team again.

In His Grace,


Wade Burleson

Forgiveness Granted Where the Problem Isn't

Dr. Bart Barber, former adjunct professor at Southwestern Seminary and a 2009 SBC nominee to serve as trustee of the agency which paid him a salary (SWBTS), has expressed his sorrow for his "contribution to the imbroglio" over the false allegations that the Baptist General Convention of Texas eschrowed Lottie Moon funds.

Even though Bart blames "IMB administration" for his error, and even though the unnamed IMB administrator, according to Bart, never directly identified the BGCT as a Convention eshcrowing funds, and even though Bart claims he "accurately reported someone else's inaccurate information," I believe it is incumbent upon Southern Baptists to accept Bart's apology for publishing false information and not bring up Dr. Barber's error in judgment again.

However, there are a couple of things Bart wrote in his lengthy apology, unrelated to anything in his original inaccurate post about the BGCT, that should raise even more questions in the minds over anyone who is being considered as a nominee to serve as a trustee of one of our Convention's agencies.

Bart wrote the following about the BGCT:

It would be unlikely for anyone to have placed into my mouth a lower opinion than I actually hold regarding the BGCT . . . My (low) opinion about the BGCT long predates the events of the past two days . . . (My post about the BGCT) matched up precisely to the reality that I could imagine to be most likely . . . The entire situation (i.e. publishing inaccurate information about the BGCT) puts me in the bitter-tasting situation of having somewhat wronged an institution that I dislike and owing it an apology. So, to the BGCT, I apologize for not taking greater care in reporting damaging information about you. And, although I believed the story, I am glad to learn that this is merely a situation of lackadaisical inattentiveness toward Lottie Moon money on your part rather than deliberate withholding of these much-needed funds from our missionaries

I don't know about anyone else, but when I read the above, it makes me think the problem is not the inaccurate reporting of damaging information regarding the BGCT, but rather the heart of animosity toward fellow Southern Baptist believers at the BGCT. In other words, while I believe all of us should forgive Dr. Barber for his inaccurate post, it is the published expression of animosity toward brothers in Christ that seems to me to be the very problem we face in the SBC. After reading all the other things Bart says about the BGCT in the midst of his apology to them, it kind of makes me hope Bart never has to publicly apologize to me. Smile.

Until we can get to the place where we can disagree with people, loving them as part of the family of Christ while we disagree with them, we may find it very, very difficult to be the salt and light Christ has called us to be. What would be great is for the people involved, including Bart and the Finance Office at the BGCT, to get together over lunch and visit as brothers in Christ - with hearts of love for each other. The polarization that breeds animosity is precisely why the SBC is in the mess we are in.

The post in question would never have been written without the ill-will toward the BGCT in the first place. It is this ill-will, that causes some to label conservatives as "liberal" for no other reason than to justify the animosity toward brothers in Christ that is the real problem in our beloved SBC.

In His Grace,


Wade

P.S. The one question Bart should answer is this one: "Who asked you to post your article?" Bart said he posted the article about the BGCT because he "was asked to post it." The answer to the question of who asked him would be very revealing in terms of understanding the dynamics of our Convention's troubles.

"Praise God No Stones" Are Used for Assassination of Character in Texas or There'd Be No Rocks Around the Baptist General Convention of Texas

Yesterday, there was a scathing article at SBC Today , written by Bart Barber, that the Baptist General Convention of Texas was escrowing Lottie Moon Funds. In other words, the BGCT was so short of cash, Bart alleged, that they were refusing to send the money raised for Lottie Moon to the International Mission Boad. The same article containing the serious allegations against the Baptist General Convention of Texas was duplicated on SBC Today. The Baptist Identity men at SBC Today offer no comment stream for her readers. However, in the Praisegod Barebones comment stream the Vice-President for Business and Finance of the Southern Baptist Convention denied the eschrowing of Lottie Moon funds by the BGCT had occurred, and in fact, proved that the money had been sent. Rand Jenkins of the BGCT chimed in and adamantly denied the allegations by the SBC Today crowd. Then, the President of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, David Lowrie, commented and demanded the posts be removed.

Yet, Wes Kenney remains stubborn. He wrote:

Several members of the SBC Today gang have been working on this today, and have confirmed with sources both within and without the IMB that (our allegations of the BGCT eschrowing funds), is in fact, (the) case.

Kenney goes on to implicate two other state conventions, without proof or names, who he alleges are doing the same thing.

Rather than pausing after the onslaught of criticism at their inaccurate blogging and harmful allegations against state conventions, Wes Kinney, Tim Rogers, Bart Barber, Robin Foster, Joe Stewart, Scott Gordon, and John Mann, began trying to put out the fire they started by NOT removing the posts in question and apologizing, but by secretly ALTERING the originals, changing some phrases and deleting some words without informing their readers.

Then there was an addendum (in red) indicating the funds were not escrowed, and then there was later added a sentence that some sort of "reporting" error was involved. In the comment stream, Wes Kenney, Tim Rogers and others started claiming they did nothing wrong, and their source was "factual" just "in error." Now the altered posts state that there is a "report" by "IBM sources" that the BGCT is escrowing funds, with the red clarifying entry completely removed. The only "source" who would have ever alleged that the BGCT was eschrowing funds would have to be one of a handful of SBC of Texas trustees. There is no indication on SBC Today or Praisegod Barebones that their initial blogs were incorrect, and the shortened entries shift blame to make it look as if the problem is the administration at the IMB.

This seems to be the pattern of the SBC Today crowd. They write things that are false (anybody remember the time stamp fiasco?), then they alter posts to make themselves look better (without any disclosure of the alterations), and then they try to shift the focus on to other things (take a look at the "new" post at SBC Today regarding "The Shack"). By golly, if somebody is going to call us on our lies and deceit, then we are going to point our finger at the liberals in our midst.

This would all be so sad if it were not so funny.

Somebody owes the Baptist General Convention of Texas an apology. I also do not believe SBC Today staff and Bart Barber should remove their posts, or alter them any further, or change them, or hide them. The Baptist Identity crowd should let them stand AS WRITTEN (of course, admitting the changes), just as over 1,000 posts on Grace and Truth to You remain standing after three years, without alteration. The BGCT blog fiasco should be a healthy reminder that one either needs to stand behind what is written, or one should apologize for getting it wrong.

"Praise God No Stones" are used for those who assassinate character in Texas or there'd be no rocks around the headquarters for the BGCT.

In His Grace,

Wade

Fifty Ways to Leave Left Behind - Roger Snow

One of areas in which I find refreshing disagreement among Southern Baptist theologians and pastors is over discussion of the end times. We have a healthy mix of dispensationalists, amillenialists, historic premillenialists and preterists in our midst, and as I have said for years, eschatology ought not be one of those areas over which any of us should divide in terms of our cooperative ministry. I have recently come across a book that offers a simple, yet effective way for Southern Baptists to be challenged in their end time belief system.

FIFTY WAYS TO LEAVE LEFT BEHIND is a book by Southern Baptist Roger Snow and presents an opposing presentation to the views represented in the LEFT BEHIND series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. FIFTY WAYS traces fifty parallels between Exodus and Revelation to demonstrate that Revelation follows the pattern of Exodus from beginning to end.

Both Exodus and Revelation begin with tribulation, both books begin with a prophet in exile, both prophets have a burning bush experience, both prophets tell of a promised-land, both lead to great plagues on the wicked, both feature two prominent witnesses, both show a woman escaping from a dragon on the wings of an eagle after which she is married to the LORD. The first book begins with twelve tribes and ends with seven lamps in the new tabernacle, the second begins with seven lamps and ends with twelve tribes in the new temple.

Seeing these parallels enables one to see that Revelation follows a consistent story line and makes it untenable to break the book up into different segments for different eras of history or for different nationalities as is necessary for the logic of the LEFT BEHIND series.

There are a couple of reviews posted at Amazon.com and there is a review by Dr. Walter G. Nunn printed in The Alabama Baptist January 17 issue. Endorsers include Dr. Frank Page (recent president of the SBC), the late Dr. Robert G. Witty (Founder and first president of Luther Rice Seminary), and Dr. David Garland (Baylor University). I would highly recommend you at least read the book to broaden your perspective regarding end time discussions.

Some of the questions author Roger Snow raises include:

Should we expect that babies will be raptured from the earth before the Great Tribulation begins?
• If babies are raptured to avoid the harsh events of the tribulation, would it be reasonable to conclude that no babies would be born for the next seven years for the same reasons?
• Would that indicate that God showed more mercy to those babies than to Holocaust babies or babies down through history who died in wars or famines?

Why did the Apostles think it so urgent to name a new apostle to replace Judas?
• Were they expecting to rule on twelve thrones?

When Jesus said the vineyard (kingdom of God) would be taken away from them and given to those who would produce its fruit, to whom was he speaking?
• To whom was that vineyard (kingdom of God) given?
• If the stewardship of the vineyard (kingdom of God) changed hands, how could it be thought of as being postponed?

If we regard these times as being the worst of all times because of the evil we see, what period in the history of the world would we regard as being better?
• When did the world begin to get worse and worse? Is this a proper way for us to think?

If sun, moon and stars were regarded as symbols of the Jewish family in Joseph’s prophetic dream, why wouldn’t we think that failure of the sun, moon and stars in Jesus prophecy or in John’s vision referred to the blotting out of the Old Covenant Jewish Order?

If John’s being caught up to Heaven in Revelation 4 represented the rapture of the church, wouldn’t it be logical to say that John represented the church at the coronation of Christ in chapter five?
• If John represents the church in both those places wouldn’t one have to conclude that the church will be forced into extreme weeping immediately after entering Heaven?
• Associated with this line of thought one would have to ask how any angel in Heaven does not currently know that Jesus is Worthy? How could such a question remain unanswered long enough to reduce John (the church) to weeping?

Should the woes pronounced by Jesus in Matt. 23 and 24 be considered a curse on Jerusalem and Judaism?
• What did Jesus mean when He told the women of Jerusalem …weep for yourselves and your children…?

When Jesus held “this generation guilty of all the blood from Abel to Zechariah” was He including those of “this generation” of Matt 24:34?
• Are all generations equal in righteousness or evil?

Did the believers just after Pentecost sell houses and lands anticipating the destruction that Jesus had predicted? Were they selling while the times were still good?

If branches were broken off and Gentiles were grafted in, what were they grafted into?
• What did the tree represent?
• If the tree represented the holy remnant, then who was the remnant in the first century?
• If the believing Jews represented the remnant in the first century, then how did we come to think of unbelieving Jews as representing the remnant in the twenty-first century?

If Pentecost was the “last days” spoken of by Joel the prophet, then what was it the last days of?

If Jesus made clear to the Apostles that their rule was not to be like the Gentiles (lording it over people) then why do our models of end times demand that the kingdom come that way?

If Paul said that the gospel had been preached to every creature under heaven (Col 1:23) then wasn’t Paul saying that Jesus words about the gospel being preached to the whole world had been fulfilled in his day?

How could the writer of Hebrews speak of living at the consummation of the ages?

If Revelation 20 and the Great Judgment are followed chronologically by the descent of the New Jerusalem (heaven) and the literal presence of the throne in chapter twenty two, then where do the barbarians of chapter twenty two come from, since all the wicked were cast into Hell in chapter twenty?

If we can only have success after Jesus is physically present, then why did He tell the disciples that it was better for Him to go away?
One of the reasons we must work hard to keep the Southern Baptist Convention free to debate, discuss and disagree over tertiary matters is to help create and foster an environment where authors like Roger Snow can challenge us to examine what we say we believe. In the end, we are all better theologians when we are challenged to think through our areas of beliefs. I just hope and pray we have a spirit of love toward those with whom we may ultimately disagree.

In His Grace,

Wade

The Problem With Inerrancy in the SBC

The following is written by an unashamed inerrantist. Were someone to ask me, "Wade, do you believe in the inerrant, infallible, and inspired Word of God?" - I would answer, Absolutely yes! Yes! Yes! Yet, I am beginning to discover that we inerrantists have caused certain problems to arise in the Southern Baptist Convention. Whereas the Conservative Resurgence claimed that the Convention would be delivered from certain death through our so-called "Battle for the Bible," I am becoming more and more convinced that we inerrantists have caused more problems than we have solved. The following is a short list of a few of those problems.

(1). We have claimed to believe in the inerrant Word but have failed to practice its teachings.

When an inerrantist can be hostile, bitter, angry, conniving, self-serving and vindictive toward fellow Christians, then no matter how much we claim to believe in the inerrant word, our conduct contradicts our profession. Jesus said His disciples would be known by their love, but it seems we Southern Baptists are sometimes more concerned to be known for our inerrancy initiatives than our loving lives.

(2). We have succombed to the particular dangerous sin of arrogance, believing we know the mind of God on all matters unrelated to the primary doctrines of the person and work of Jesus Christ.

It used to be that Southern Baptists could interpret the Bible in freedom, defend their different views, and cooperate in spite of our differences. But now we are in an age when we inerrantists have lost sight of what it means to give freedom to fellow inerrantists being able to interpret Scripture differently. The Southern Baptists at The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood believe that men and women should be restricted to very different roles within the family, church organizations, and the rest of society. Typically, members of CBMW view positions of leadership and authority to be reserved for males only.

Christians for Biblical Equality teach that men and women were both created in the image of God, and that the Bible intends that they function in a full and equal partnership. Talents, including the ability to preach, teach and to lead, exist throughout both genders.

Both CBMW and CBE are conservative Christian groups. Both believe that the Bible is the authoritative, inspired and inerrant Word of God. Both groups are staffed with honorable, devout, intelligent, thoughtful, rational people. One of the problems with we inerrantists is that we have lost the ability to be humble and simply say, "I could be wrong. I will hold to my position, because I believe it is the right one, but I will never sever fellowship, relationship or cooperative ministry with you because we have the same Father and are part of His family."

(3). We have at times acted as if we worship the Bible more than we do the God revealed in the Bible.

Bibliolatry is as off base as the religion of Islam. The Islamic belief system is based on a superstitious view of the Koran, with orthodox radicals believing it can only be read in the original language of Arabic, that it cannot touch the ground or lie underneath any other book, and that the Koran itself is holy and sacred and should be revered. True Christianity has never had such a view of the Bible. When we inerrantists forget that it is the God that the Scriptures reveal who we are to worship and not the Scripture itself, then we will come to the place where the gospel of Jesus Christ is superceded by religious fanaticism.

(4). We have turned to signing creeds as the measure of inerrancy, and have forgotten that the definition of inerrancy revolves around what the Bible is, not the forced acceptance of specific interpretations of what the Bible says.

I read where William Thornton pointed out that Tony Cartledge has reported the following:

"At a recent orientation session, my friend [who had been a field supervisor for SEBTS students] was told that he not only had to agree to work within the guidelines of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message statement, but he had to sign an affirmation that he supported it.

But that's not all. He would also have been required to sign a statement indicating his support for the Abstract of Principles, the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy, and the "Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood."

One of these days, unless the course is corrected, Southern Baptists at the annual Southern Baptist Convention will have to have pins stapled to their badges identifying all the documents they have signed, with the very real possibility that the number of pins needed for verification shall hang as far to the floor as the badge of that poor soul from the 1960's who was pinned with his ninetieth year of perfect Sunday School attendance.

(5). We inerrantist argue more about the Bible than we talk about Jesus.

A Great Commission Resurgence is needed because what our world needs is Jesus. Whether they understand or appreciate inerrancy is irrelevant. Whether they understand and appreciate Jesus determines their future destiny.

The world is on fire and we are putting it out with the gasoline of inerrancy. It's time we focused on dousing the fire with the water of the gospel. Next time you read an article about the problems caused by people who don't hold to inerrancy, you remember these problems caused by some of us who do.

In His Grace,


Wade Burleson

Walking Where SBC Preachers Fail to Tread

The sordid case of former Southern Baptist pastor Darrel Gilyard is coming to a just and appropriate end. Gilyard has entered into a plea deal with prosecuters for multiple sex crimes, and will receive his sentencing this Thursday, May 21, 2009 before a media circus in state court. Gilyard is agreeing to his guilt on all charges and to three years incarceration in a state facility and then three years probation. He will also carry a permanent record identifying him as a sexual predator/offender. The court has also mandated periodic psychiatric evaluations and ongoing counseling.

A handful of leaders in our Convention, as detailed here last September, 2008, neglected to fulfill their God-given responsibilities to shut down Gilyard's ministry and provide help to his victims. Alas, a young Southern Baptist woman, a Gilyard victim herself, approached the unenviable task of bringing Gilyard to justice with the zeal of a modern apostle. Tiffany Croft began her blog with the goal of treading where we Southern Baptist pastors and leaders feared to trod. With all the negative press from official channels in the SBC regarding blogs, it would be great to see someone like Tiffany be given credit using a blog to bring about good in our society.

It has been my privilege to speak with Tiffany on a couple of occasions, and I have followed her blog with interest over the past couple of years. She has sent an email to her friends about the plea agreement, and I reproduce it here, with her permission, to express my heartfelt gratitude to Tiffany.

Thank you so much for your prayers, encouragement and support - you will never fully understand how much it meant to me! I have really struggled in this journey as it was exhausting and so many things I would rather not even know (details and the depths of this garbage) and though there were many times I wished I could just lay it all down, and forget it all - I am so thankful that we saw it through. I have had the opportunity to "be there" to help carry the weight for so many and I know that it has helped me to heal as well, and has also made sense of the past.

Many of you already know that the blog became a huge source of leads and lead to many other witnesses and victims (many were still to scared to testify) - all of these were passed along by me to the State Attorney and they acted on each and every one, in the early days it was a whirlwind. Eventually it settled into waiting as they pieced all of the pieces together and figured out how the case would actually look. The blog then became a place for people to vent, to ask questions and get information about court hearings etc. It served its purpose, I believe that it was meant to be a tool, and I am thankful.

When I had my dealings with Gilyard all those years ago, as a 17 year old girl, I felt so ashamed and wondered how I could have been so blinded, how could I have trusted so completely this man? I also believed fully in the sovereignty of our Savior, so I questioned Him one night, "I know you have plans for me, I don't understand why you allowed this to happen to me. I can either be angry with you that you allowed this, or I can acknowledge that you allowed it for a purpose that I can't understand." I decided the latter. I dealt with my pain, anger, trust issues, shame....and I decided that I was not going to carry it any longer - whether I ever knew the purpose for it or not, I was surrendering it. All of these years later, it has not consumed me through the years (Hallelujah), I rarely even thought of it other than in ways that I have shared it to help others. When I saw him preaching on television, I was not consumed with anger, I felt fear (for any unwilling victims) but I also felt pity for him, living a lie.

But the night I saw him on the news over a year ago after having been arrested, I felt such a surge of strength rise up within me and I KNEW what I needed to do. I released tears that I hadn't cried in years (as memories surfaced) but I felt so strong and I knew that something had to be done this time to make sure that everyone knew and did not let him get away again - it was time. The warrior within me cried out, not for vengeance, but it was as if my warrior cry lined up and joined the cry of our Heavenly Father - it was time for David to face Goliath, and I was never once afraid - the Rock and my fortress were all around me and I knew that you were all covering me with prayer! So you have all had a mighty hand in all of this. Thank you and God bless you!
Kudos Tiffany Thigpen Croft. May your tribe increase.

In His Grace,

Wade

On SBC Bullies and How To Deal With Them

One of the ugly truths of modern Southern Baptist politics is the issuance of threats and intimidation against people who happen to disagree with positions held by certain SBC leaders at either the local, state or national level. It is my belief that the only way to root out such ungodly actions is to expose them. Most bullying tactics against Southern Baptists are performed in private, with the perpetrators hoping their intimidation tactics will never see the light of day.

One such example of bullying tactics was made known to me yesterday by Kevin Crowder. Kevin has given me permission to publish his experience, believing as I do, that the best way to stop such bullying tactics is to let Southern Baptists know that they are real. It seems that a Missouri Southern Baptist leader named Kent Cochran read some of Kevin's comments on my blog, comments where Kevin agreed with the premise of my post, and sent Kevin an email expressing his hope that Kevin never be allowed to pastor a Southern Baptist church. Ironically, Kevin and I do not agree on many things, but I really appreciate this young pastor, and am horrified that a Southern Baptist leader in Missiouri would issue what seem to be career threats against Pastor Kevin. Kevin wrote to me:


Wade,

I wanted to pass an email along to you that I received today from a man named Kent Cochran in Republic, MO. I know little about him other than he is part of the Missouri crowd led by Roger Moran. My only goal is to begin and finish seminary at the moment and minister in whatever way the Lord allows. I have already felt negative pressure as a result of my going to Covenant Seminary. This email has sort of hit me hard. For the first time ever I have been confronted with someone who would seek to stop me from ministering solely on the basis of minor doctrine. I only forward this to you as I know you are a walking library of knowledge of such sad affairs and felt it would not be good to simply keep it to myself. I begin seminary in 3.5 weeks and should be less of a pesky presence on grace and truth. :)

For His Glory,

Kevin Crowder
Sullivan, MO


Kevin forwarded to me the following email sent to him from Kent Cochran. The bold emphasis is given by me to highlight what I find most disturbing in what Kent writes to Kevin:

KEVIN:

I read your comments on the Wade Burleson website regarding alcohol(p.104-105).... just as clearly as I can let me share with you that you are wrong ...dead wrong.

What you are promoting is a 'spiritual dead-end'. I pray that you will never be allowed in church leadership or influence with this kind of carnal attitude.

You are letting others influence you away from being obedient and seeking holines and perfection. While we never fully obtain perfection it is God's desire that we always seek it.

You are literally running the other direction...

My hope for you is that you do a 180 degree turn and quit putting your faith in 'methods'...

Let's talk in May 2014 and see how your attitude has changed...

Kent Cochran
Republic, Mo.

Kevin, just a friendly word of advice from one who has learned a great deal over the last few years regarding people who intimidate and threaten.

Expose them and then ignore them. Keep your focus on Christ, and keep doing what you believe is right in your conscience.

Over time, people see through empty threats and real leadership comes into focus for them. I went back and read what you wrote, and frankly, you had some excellent thoughts. You and I have not always seen eye to eye, but know that I am proud to call you a brother in Christ and my prayers will be with you as you enter seminary. If and when you need a recommendation as you seek to enter future SBC pastoral ministry, don't hesitate to put me down as a reference.

I always admire men and women of courage who stand up to bullies.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

We May Be Surprised At Those We Meet in Heaven: A Lesson from the Life of Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin, born February 12, 1809, is considered the father of the evolutionary theory. As such, he is widely condemned by Christian authors, preachers and religious scholars as the anti-thesis of everything Christian. His view of common ancestry, the belief that all species of life have evolved over time from common ancestors, has become the predominent scientific belief regarding the origins of man.

However, what few if any realize is that Darwin, from 1867 until his death in 1882, contributed annually to the work of the South American Missionary Society for the propogation of the gospel to the natives of South America. Sir James Sullivan, vice president of the Society, had sailed with Darwin on the Beagle in 1831. Sullivan, a compassionate and devout Christian man, was shocked by the state of the natives of Tierra del Fuego, a people Sullivan believed to be the basest and lowest of all civilizations in the world. Charles Darwin agreed and told Sullivan that it would be utterly useless to send missionaries to Tierra del Fuego.

Sullivan ignored his friend's advice and led the South American Missionary Society to send Christian missionaries to Tierra Del Fuego. The missionaries had astonishing success among the natives. Christian churches were planted, the natives were taught how to farm and cultivate, a written language was created for the people, and civilization among the natives prospered. It would be three decades after Darwin's initial voyage to Tierra del Fuego that he would be compelled to call the progress among the natives there "most wonderful" and confess to Sullivan that the advancement among the people "charms (or shames) me . . . It is a grand success." He then made it known that he would be proud to be elected "an honorary member of the South American Missionary Society" - a request which SAMS honored.

Darwin's love for missions, nor his service to the board of mission society, nor his finacial contributions to support missionaries in Tierra del Fuego, nor his burial in Westminster Abbey proves that Darwin was a Christian. But most peoples' lack of knowledge about these events in Darwin's life and the unwillingness of the modern world to point out these facts, may be just another indication that when Jesus enters the stage of human history again and closes the curtain on the world as we know it, we may all wind up being suprised to discover those whom Jesus has called unto Himself.

Nobody is beyond His reach.

In His Grace,


Wade Burleson

The Measure of Fundamentalism in the SBC

A Southern Baptist named Peter Lumpkins has recently announced the publication of a new book he has written entitled Alcohol Today: Abstinence in an Age of Indulgence. Peter's position is that total abstinence from alcohol is the only Christian, Baptist and truly biblical position on alcohol. Any believer in Jesus who believes consuming alcohol is not the sin, but rather the sin is the violation of the biblical commandment against "drunkenness," is called a "hedonist" by the book's promotional materials. The men who promote the book are a "who's who" of the Baptist Identity movement, men who have a very specific list of what defines a true "Baptist" - a list which includes a mandatory belief in total abstinence. Lewis Moore, former trustee of the International Mission Board, operates Hannibal Books. Paige Patterson praises the book by saying:

"Abstinence is not merely wisdom, it is obedience to Christ and holiness before God"
Patterson's quote is an example of the problem Fundamentalism causes in the Southern Baptist Convention today. Patterson, like Lumpkins, places abstinence in the non-negotiable category of "obedience to Christ" and "holiness before God." To disagree with their Baptist Identity convictions is to argue with God Himself. This is precisely the reason the SBC is having a hard time in keeping young pastors engaged in Convention matters. The newest generation of evangelicals have more in common with the conservative theologian Gresham Machen who opposed Fundamentalism over fifty years ago because of what he called "the pietistic, perfectionist tendencies which include hang-ups with smoking, drinking alchohol, etc . . . ".

I commend Peter Lumpkins on publishing his new book. I also applaud his personal conviction of total abstinence. No Christian should question either Peter's commitment to Christ nor his personal convictions regarding alcohol. However, what Southern Baptists must resist is any attempt by Peter Lumpkins, Paige Patterson, John Sullivan and other Baptist Identity leaders to present total abstinence as the only view of alcohol compatible with "holiness." We all should respect total abstinence as a personal conviction of a brother in Christ, and we all should consider it an essential Christian conviction among those believers who are unable to drink alcohol without getting drunk, but if we allow any Baptist to present total abstinence as the "only" Christian and Baptist view on alcohol we are in danger of succombing to Fundamentalism in the SBC. I would much rather be personally led by the Spirit than by a man who claims his view is law for me.

For those who wish to comment regarding this post, please pay close attention to the subject matter. I am not writing about the pros or cons of total abstinence. The point of this post is that all of us must resist the easy temptation of equating our personal beliefs regarding tertiary matters on par with obedience to Christ, and demanding others comply with our views.

Only Fundamentalists do that.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Sometimes You Might Feel Better In The Dark



Photograph was sent to me and alleged to have been taken on Thursday night, April 2, 2009 at the Lariat Sandridge Energy drilling platform, south of Fort Stockton, Texas. Update: Chadwick Ivester says in the first comment that it is a fake photo - a copy and paste from photoshop.

He seems to be right. It's a great picture - just fake.

A Humorous Guide to Religious Differences

CHANGING A LIGHT BULB THE RELIGIOUS WAY

How many people does it take to change a light bulb?


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Charismatics: Only 1
Hands are already in the air.


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Pentecostals: 10
One to change the bulb, and nine to pray against the spirit of darkness.


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Presbyterians: None
Lights will go on and off at predestined times.


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Roman Catholics: None - Candles only.


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Baptists : At least 15
One to change the light bulb, and 3 committees to approve the change and decide who brings the potato salad and fried chicken.


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Episcopalians: 3
One to call the electrician, one to mix the drinks and one to talk about how much better the old one was.


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Mormons: 5
One man to change the bulb, and four wives to tell him how to do it.


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Unitarians :
We choose not to make a statement either in favor of or against the need for a light bulb. However, if in your own journey you have found that light bulbs
work for you, you are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your light bulb for the next Sunday service, in which we will explore
a number of light bulb traditions, including incandescent, fluorescent, 3-way, long-life and tinted, all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence.


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Methodists: Undetermined
Whether your light is bright, dull, or completely out, you are loved. You can be a light bulb, turnip bulb, or tulip bulb.
Bring a bulb of your choice to the Sunday lighting service and a covered dish to pass.


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Nazarenes: 6
One woman to replace the bulb while five men review church lighting policy.


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Lutherans: None
Lutherans don't believe in change.


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Amish:
What's a light bulb?

The List of Charity Donations and CEO Salaries

Forbes has listed The 200 Largest U.S. Charities, a few of whom have indirect connections with the Southern Baptist Convention, including In Touch Ministries, which reported a two million dollar reduction in assets last fiscal year.

Mike Sense has culled through the above list and posted some of the Chief Executive salaries of these large non-profits. You may be surprised with some of the information provided. You may also be left wondering about some information that may have been left out. One wonders about the monetary size of non-profits like Lakewood Church, Potter's Church, and other mega-churches and how they and the pastor salaries line up with the list provided by Forbes.

Landmarkism Is a Growing Problem in the SBC


In the 1960's a fellow named Bob Ross published a book entitled Old Landmarkism and the Baptists. I had never heard of this book until Bob Ross sent me an unsolicited email over three years ago. Bob, a Southern Baptist himself, wrote to me that he was concerned about the resurgence of Landmarkism, particularly in the Southern Baptist Convention of Texas, and that he would send me his book on Landmarkism. Bob himself published his email to me on the Internet over three years ago, but now I'm publishing it here for you to read for yourself

___________________________________


From: Pilgrimpub@aol.com
Sent: Thu 2/23/06 3:31 PM
To: wwburleson@hotmail.com


Dear Brother Burleson:

I have read some of your comments on Landmarkism, and I surely hate to see it apparently rising again to some significance among Southern Baptists.

I spent the first several years of my Christian life in Landmarkism, after having been baptized at Parkview Baptist, Jackson, Tennessee in 1953 by a godly and beloved Pastor (now deceased) who introduced me to the writings of J. R. Graves.

I left the SBC over Neo-orthodoxy in the schools (particularly at Union University) in 1954, and spent the next eleven years of my life advocating Landmarkism among independent Baptists. In the Providence of God, I was enabled by His grace to study my way out of it and abandoned it in 1964.

Since I knew Landmarkism very well from the "inside" of independent Baptists and saw its divisive and sectarian character, I wrote a book, OLD LANDMARKISM AND THE BAPTISTS, briefly discussing the history and teachings of Graves and other Landmark Baptists, including myself. If you have not seen the book, I will be happy to send you a free copy. It is a 188-page paperback, fully documented.

Over the past 41 years, I have received many testimonies from readers -- especially preachers -- who have been helped by my various writings on the erroneous theories and practices of Landmarkism.

Here in Texas, as recently as this week I read the SBTC Texan magazine article by Jim Richards which advocated some of the principles involved in Landmarkism (Feb. 6, 2006, page 5). I hate to see the SBTC leadership get on this dead-end trail which leads to the type of Landmark sectarianism which I have witnessed among independent Baptists, the American Baptist Association (Texarkana headquarters), and the Baptist Missionary Association (Little Rock headquarters).

I have tried my best to maintain fellowship with Christian brethren who hold to Landmarkism, but they usually have held me at arm's length and regard me as a heretic!

Bob L. Ross
Pilgrim Publications
Pasadena, Texas


_______________________________________

The desire to maintain fellowship with all Christian brethren is something which all of us should strive to attain. Landmarkism, however, leads people to separate and divide rather unite and cooperate. Lord willing Southern Baptists will continue to speak out and resist any Landmark Resurgence within the SBC.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

The Only Certainty Is God is God and I Am Not

I am a Southern Baptist by conviction and by choice. Our church supports the Cooperative Program and our missions offerings, and we willingly fellowship, cooperate, and support the SBC. Anyone who reads Hardball Religion knows my commitment to our Convention.

There is a great deal that we Southern Baptists can learn from fellow Baptists in either the Baptist World Alliance or other Baptist organizations, conventions or agencies. The following article is written by the Executive Director of Texas Mainstream Baptists, David Currie. In my opinion, David articulates quite well why all of us should be humble about our interpretations of the Word of God in those areas that are not fundamental to the Christian faith. Some will dismiss what Mr. Currie writes because of his association with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, but we Southern Baptists do so to our detriment.

Currie's article, orginally printed in his Rancher's Rumblings, is printed for you below:

"Throughout the history of the church, there have always been those afflicted with the disease of certitude. They know the truth. They know God's thinking on everything. No matter the question, they have the answer, because God has revealed it to them. And any who disagree with them are heretics.

Michael Sattler was killed by church members who had succumbed to the crippling effects of certitude. In The Anabaptist Story, Dr. William R. Estep records what happened to Sattler:

"On a spring day in May, 1527, Michael Sattler was sentenced to death at the imperial city of Rottenburg on the Neckar River. The sentence read: Michael Sattler shall be committed to the executioner. The latter shall take him to the square and there first cut out his tongue, and then forge him fast to a wagon and there with glowing iron tongs twice tear pieces from his body, then on the way to the site of execution five times more as above and then burn his body to powder as an arch-heretic."
What terrible things did Michael Sattler do to deserve to be put to death in such a horrible and cruel manner? According to the religious authorities of his day, Sattler wrongly "taught, maintained and believed that the body and blood of Christ were not present in the sacrament" and "he taught and believed, that infant-baptism was not promotive of salvation.

Baptists today agree with Sattler's theology. But in 1527 he was considered a heretic. Church members said he did not believe the Bible. He disagreed with those in authority and power. And he paid for his faith with his life.

In 1527, the Church called Sattler a heretic for teaching and believing contrary to "absolute truth." Today's Baptists consider the Church's absolute truth of 1527 to be heresy. On the other hand, today's Baptists consider Sattler's heresy of 1527 to be mainstream Baptist doctrine.

By the same token, might there be something considered "absolute truth" in 2009 that will be viewed as heresy 500 years from now?

The Bible is absolute truth. Where we get into trouble is by confusing our interpretations with the Bible itself. Our interpretations of the Bible are never absolute truth - and any who believe otherwise are sadly deceived, laboring under a controlling delusion.

Consider the content of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. At best, statements of faith are the best efforts of people at the time they're written. But using a "statement of faith" as an "instrument of doctrinal accountability" is both dangerous and evil. That's precisely what the SBC has been doing increasingly for the past 9 years, having wielded the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message as that "instrument of doctrinal accountability.

When the Southern Baptist Convention was formed in 1845, the founders did not adopt any creed or statement of faith, saying: "Confessions are only guides in interpretation, having no authority over the conscience."

W. B. Johnson, first president of the SBC, explained: "We have constructed for our basis no new creed, acting in this manner upon a Baptist aversion for all creeds but the Bible."

Today we recognize the wisdom of their decision, knowing that, if they had written a Baptist Faith and Message in 1845, it would almost certainly have included, under the heading "The Christian and the Social Order," language such as this:

In the spirit of Christ, slaveowners should treat their slaves with respect and dignity. Slaves should likewise obey their masters.
In fact, you can be sure that they would have cited - prooftexted, that is - scripture at the conclusion of the section in the same way that they cite carefully selected scripture as support in the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. And they would have been perpetrating a malignant interpretation of Scripture by endorsing great evil.

I am not opposed to doctrinal accountability on fundamental issues. Employees of any SBC, BGCT, or CBF institution or agency should affirm their belief that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh, that Jesus was born of a virgin, and that the Bible is God's inspired Word and our authority in matters of faith and practice.

The problem with Fundamentalists, however, is that they have too broad a definition of what is a "fundamental issue." Yes, there are a few theological beliefs, as I've just stated, on which all Baptists should be expected to agree. However, there are many, many more on which the Scripture is open to interpretation - and on which good and faithful Baptists can and do disagree.

No Baptist, no missionary, no employee should be required to affirm every word of a statement of faith written by others - especially in matters that are not essential to salvation. Such nonessential matters include the role of women in the church and the structure of the family. Arrogance is symptomatic of the disease of certitude in nonessential matters - left untreated, it will cripple the Church.

You know, it is highly probable that, 100 years from now, most Southern Baptists will be very comfortable with both the idea and the reality of women pastors. Based on the experience of others, it is likely that this changed understanding will start in rural churches where congregations cannot afford to pay a full-time pastor.

For many years now, residents of rural communities have seen the local Methodist pastor do a good job of preaching and ministering - and, in many rural Methodist churches, the pastor is a woman. Increasingly, Baptists understand Paul's words to Timothy on pastoral qualifications as advice for a specific first-century culture rather than as a theological rule for the ages. They believe that God is making His intent clearer as He calls more and more women to all kinds of ministry, gifting them so well that no one with eyes to see or ears to hear can deny their call.

In responding to God's call, these women simply want to be obedient, to live out their call to preach the Word, visit the sick, baptize those who confess Christ as Lord, hold the hands of the dying and the bereaved, and to voice a prayer.

And yet it is over this issue - on which sincere, genuine Baptists should be able to earnestly disagree - that Southern Baptists have fired seminary professors and forced faithful missionaries to leave their fields of service. The disease of certitude is hurting God's work, hampering those God has called, crippling the church.

The problem with certitude is that, so often, what we are so certain of turns out to be dead wrong. Some early Judean believers taught that no man could be saved unless he was circumcised (Acts 15). The church members who burned Michael Sattler at the stake were sure they were right. Our ancestors were so sure the Bible taught they had the right to own other persons created in God's image that they fought a war for that "right." SBC leaders are so sure that they're right to require Baptist missionaries and seminary professors to affirm a faith statement written by someone else that they'll fire those faithful servants if they refuse to sign away their consciences.

No, we do not burn our fellow believers at the stake anymore, but we still "tear pieces from the body" of their work or their reputations with the "hot tongs" of untruth. Paul Pressler - one of the two co-conspirators in the 1979 Fundamentalist Takeover of the SBC - told a Houston television interviewer in 1982, "In some of our Southern Baptist seminaries, not a single professor believes the Bible is the Word of God." Do you think he really believed that?

We may "cut out the tongue" of a long-term missionary by silencing his or her witness on the field simply because he or she cannot in good conscience affirm the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. We may "forge fast to the wagon" those whose freedom to follow God's direction is hindered by required adherence to a human "instrument of doctrinal accountability."

History - and our own experience - tell us that human beings are often wrong. We are sinful people, unable to fully comprehend the mind of God or the teachings of Holy Scripture. Those who forget this basic truth are guilty of arrogance. Imposing one's own certitude on other believers in nonessential matters can become great evil. We must always have the humility of our Lord, and our humility should remind us that we don't fully know the mind of God on any matter. As Paul wrote, "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror" (1 Corinthians 13:12, NIV).

If we are to carry God's love through His Son to a world that needs Him, we must stay open to the work of the Holy Spirit within us. But staying open to the work of the Holy Spirit within us means repenting of our arrogance and laying it at Jesus' feet. It means admitting that we don't know everything. And it even means opening ourselves to the possibility that our interpretation might be wrong and the interpretation of our brother or sister might be right.

In other words, staying open to the work of the Holy Spirit within us means staying open to the work of the Holy Spirit in others, too - and to the call of God upon their lives."
Good words, David. The only certainty is that God Word is infallible, but those of us who interpret His Word are not. In short: God is God and we are not. Humility in the heart is a good antidote to absolute certitude on matters non-essential to the fundamentals of the Christian faith.

In His Grace,

Wade