Sunday, October 22, 2006

A Fly in the Holy Water and an Enemy at the Gates

Oklahoma is filled with Southern Baptist pastors that are both bright and biblical, and they make me proud to be an Oklahoma Southern Baptist. Several of these pastors blog, and do a great job of causing me to think --- deeply.

One such pastor is Paul Littleton of Faith Baptist Church, Sapulpa, Oklahoma. His blog -- caught in the middle -- is a must read, including this post from a few weeks ago.

"I was talking to a friend recently who told me an interesting story about the fall of Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire to the Ottoman Turks. I've done a little research and haven't been able to confirm the story historically, but even if it is nothing more than legend it makes a profound point. [It's possible that the point is even stronger if the story isn't true since that would mean that people tell this story for the explicit reason of shaping ideas and behavior rather than just relating some interesting history]

It's said that while the Ottoman Turks were breaching the walls of Constantinople the people were inside debating a theological issue. The question was this: 'If a fly lands in holy water, does the fly make the water unholy, or does the water make the fly holy?'

Meanwhile, the Turks invaded and overthrew Constantinople raping and pilliging the city. One fact that is historically true is that The Church of Holy Wisdom was soon converted into a mosque.

I often think that the evangelical church, and my denomination in particular, is busy debating things that may in fact have some limited theological value, but we do so to the neglect of much weightier issues around us. The North American continent is one of the very few places in the world where Christianity is on the decline. Meanwhile we debate whether or not we can cooperate in missions and education with people who might pray in tongues in private, whether we show enough gratitude to denominational leaders of the past and present and whether a person who drinks alcohol without getting drunk has committed an unholy act. It should be no surprise if we get sacked by an army of Turks."

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

P.S. I originally saw Paul's essay referred to in Todd Littleton's blog.


Paul said...

Wade, I'm often confused with my older, more intelligent brother Todd. I am, however, the author of caught in the middle, and if I do say so myself, the better looking. ;)

RKSOKC66 said...


As you know from my comments over the last six months I'm just a layman and I don't have a "professional stake" in this.

For nth time, I repeat that your points are correct in terms of not "artificially" narrowing the parameters beyond the BF&M -- especially when a careful handling of the Biblical text supports your conclusion that the anti-PPL rules are not in-sync with the best interpretation.

It will be interesting to look back on this debate in five years and see where it went.

A Downside:

The issues you breach may serve as a foil that your opponents in this debate respond to -- causing this thing to take on a life of its own.

The Upside:

You are in the advance phalanx of a movement to usher a tide of cooperation in the SBC. In retrospect, today will be seen as a seminal moment. A bandwagon effect might spring forth ushering in cooperation across the SBC. Could we be at the beginning of the end of the period of encroaching Balkanization that is all too prevalent in SBC life? Could we be at the thereshold of a new surge cooperation -- enabling us to sharpen our focus on "the big stuff" rather than side-show events?

My own assessment:

Wade: Keep on going. Keep on sticking to the facts. Keep up your pursuasive argumention. Keep up your irenic spirit which stubbornly stays focused on the issues while steering clear of replying in-kind to personal attacks.

Don't give up your vision. You can't for two reasons:

(1) You've already crossed the Rubicon

(2) To some, the PPL issue -- in isolation -- might be a "Fly in the Holy Water" type issue. But in reality this issue is a precusor to a "fresh air" movement in the SBC; ramping up the spirit of coorperation as the SBC marches forward. We don't have to always march in lock-step but we have to be marching forward. The MORE troups that are marching forward the better.

Liam Madden said...

Because I work late, its always tempting to be the first one to post on a new thread. Kind of like being the kid in class who wants to be the first one to write on clean chalkboard.

The story is a good one, and like all good stories, as you said, even if it's not true, it still makes a very good point.

It is interesting to note, too, that the 4th Crusade was begun at the height of Papal power; More than any other pope, Pope Innocent III sought to extend the "plenitudo potestatis" (the secular power) of church.

Using that authority, Innocent III
extended his influence over many European monarchs (arguably, the most power that the church ever had over the state in the history of the papacy).

Still further, Innocent also undertook a persecution of Christian or quasi-Christian groups he considered "heretics," ordering or approving of actual massacres of the Manicheans and Albigensians. His persecution of quasi-Christian groups is considered by historians as a prelude to the Inquisition and its torturous practices.

Innocent III personally ordered the 4th Crusade, but it went badly from the start. It was Western European (Venetian) troops (not Muslims) who sacked Constantinople the first time A.D. 1204), fatally weakening it before the later assault by the Muslims.

Pope Innocent III makes an interesting case study in Christian leadership because he seemingly did all the right things: 1) sought to extend the church's influence over political affairs, 2) sought to punish persons he deemed to be in theological error, and 3) called for a broad military reponse to an undeniably real military and religious threat. He did all of the "right things," but in every case, the outcome wasn't good. After Innocent III, the church never again held the same influence over secular politics, a split between Western and Eastern Christianity was created that has never been healed, and the crusades themselves were neither successful in retaining control of the holy land nor of destabilizing the dynasties of the Seljuks or their successors the Abbuyids.

Wade, what's your analysis of what went wrong for Innocent III, and what lessons can we draw from that today?

Bryan Riley said...

Amen and amen. We are swallowing camels and straining out gnats. I find myself, when I spend time debating the issues, often taking my eyes off of Jesus and placing them squarely on myself: how reasonable I AM, how smart I SOUND, how foolish someone else is, how well I CAN CRAFT WORDS (of course, I then later see my typos or mispellings because I spout off at the mouth without pause and prayer), etc. and etc. And, in this, I clearly can't be fixing my eyes on Christ, His plan and purpose and magnifying Him, no matter how "right" my arguments may be.

We need to be sounding the trumpet for showing the world the One and only, Jesus the Christ, through our words and especially our deeds, and stop trumpeting Baptists, ourselves, our doctrine, or anything else.

Rex Ray said...

There is no ‘Holy Water’ in the whole world except revealed by a spear in our Savior’s side. This water was produced by blood turning to water caused by the agony of his Father forsaking his Son.
If this was a hurt in the heart of Jesus, how much hurt was in the heart of God?

Oh, that we could fathom the Price that was paid to redeem our souls, maybe we would not argue over the condition of a fly.
Maybe we could love each other because we love Jesus and join together in lifting him up to a lost world.
Rex Ray

Unknown said...

Wade, that is Paul Littleton. His brother, Todd, is his older brother and also an Oklahoma pastor.

Bill Scott said...

This is a much better allegory than Nero Fiddling while Rome burned. I do agree that it is striking the similarities. I fear however that our greatest problems are within our “city gates.”
Bill Scott

Gary Snowden said...


Just a quick clarification. The blog that you cite above is Paul Littleton's rather than Todd's.

miriam plowman said...

That's a great word!

J. Guy Muse said...

Joel Rainey had something similar a while back that I copied out to keep...

Many years ago, the British Navy arrived on the Atlantic coast near what is now Quebec. They were told to wait until reinforcements arrived and then begin attacking the city. Growing bored with the wait, the commander of the British fleet decided to do a bit of target practice, and so he ordered his gunmen to fire the ships cannons with the goal of destroying all the statues of the saints, which sat on top of a nearby cathedral. By the time reinforcements arrived, most of the ammunition was used up, and there were insufficient military resources for the British to soundly defeat the French. Two hundred years later, Quebec is still a french city, because the British decided to "fire on the saints" instead of the enemy. --read on Joel Rainey's blog

Hepzibah The Watchman said...

I had heard this debate addressed before by another preacher, and her answer was quite insightful - If I am physically healthy and fit and I sit next to someone with a contagious disease - does my health make them well, or does their disease make me sick?

America has been infected - not entirely because we sat next to the sick person for we had already been living and unhealthy lifestyle before the infection. That unhealthy lifestyle made us more prone to the infection. It will take a turning around (repentance) to be healed.

Great post and may God bless you indeed. said...

Sorry for the confusion over brothers Todd and Paul

They are both great pastors in Oklahoma and I take the 5th on who is better looking!


wade said...


I read several good blogs and hesitate to recommend any for various reasons, not the least of which is there are trustees at the IMB who try to hold me accountable for everything written by people I recommend others read. Every now and then I will post connecting to a blog that is beneficial, as I did today. said...

William Madden,

Talk about a softball :).

Pope Innocent's problems:

(1). More concerned with politics than the gospel.

(2). He defined 'proper' doctrine by fiat, and any dissenters were called heretics.

(3). The use of his power to punish dissenters caused others to fear speaking up or out.


I'll stop there.



Rusty Guenther said...

I recently heard the stuff going on in the SBC described as "rearranging the deck chairs" on the Titanic. While I hope and pray the SBC does not go the way of Titanic, I see how the illustration could fit.
As someone who faces the issue of PPL and cooperation with other Baptist churches on a weekly basis, thanks for your grace and resolution concerning cooperation.

Kiki Cherry said...

"I often think that the evangelical church, and my denomination in particular, is busy debating things that may in fact have some limited theological value, but we do so to the neglect of much weightier issues around us."

Amen. To be honest, I rarely get on the blogs anymore for that very reason. And when I do, I think, "why is all this peripheral stuff being magnified,when there are completely lost regions like ours all over the country?"

Nine out of ten people in our region are lost. Most of the ones who are saved have never been discipled.

We need people up here who will come and plant their lives in an area that desperately needs Jesus. Pray with us that God will send more laborers. It's not glamorous, and it won't help anyone climb any ladders. But it's worth it from a kingdom perspective.

Sometimes we feel so overwhelmed. There are multiple avenues of ministry we could follow, but we can't possibly pursue them all.

Just having a full-time campus ministry, raising support and planting a church is already more than we can handle.

We have one DOM over 9 counties. One of those counties does not contain even a single Baptist church. Everyone up here is forced to wear multiple hats.

The cool thing is, people can serve here even if they don't have a firm grasp on church history or typically use words like soteriology and eschatology.

We have a wide open mission field. If people are serious about reaching the lost in our country, then this is one of the places to do it. Yet it doesn't seem like flocks of ministers are heading in this direction.

You don't even have to know or be liked by the "right" people to serve up here.

What matters to our leadership is that you love God, are in His Word, listening to the Holy Spirit, and are willing to plant you life here and give yourself away on behalf of your lost and dying neighbors.

Bill Scott said...

The British were the victors of the Seven Years' War and also the victors in the decisive Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759. Ultimately in the Treaty of Paris, signed in 1763 the French gave up all claim to Canada.

When you visit Quebec it is not hard to notice the abounding French Culture and language, however the Brits were the victors. Canada still has very strong ties to Great Britain.
Bill Scott

Bob Cleveland said...

On the other hand...

This would all be a "right on, you tell'em brother" thread if it was all we were doing. Personally, I view this as recreation, with the added benefit of sharpening some iron. My real Kingdom work is, by a vast majority, elsewhere.

Anybody out there .. is this all you do for the Kingdom?

I didn't think so.

Carry on.

Wayne Smith said...

Wade and Fellow Bloggers,

This was my devotional for yesterday and I wonder if maybe this is happening in the SBC. What are all your thoughts, fellow Bloggers? I just don't see the Hearts of some people.


Scripture Reading: Luke 17:11-19

Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?”

The ten lepers who called out to Jesus were outcasts because of their disease. Together they faced a slow, miserable death as their bodies wasted away.

But then they met Jesus. And he said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests,” as the Hebrew law required (Leviticus 14:1-3). The lepers must have been confused at first, but as they followed Jesus' instructions in faith, they were healed. But only one of them came back to thank Jesus—and that person was a Samaritan, a foreigner.

Let's note three important points about this story:

First, all ten had faith to cry to Jesus and be healed. But only one had a faith that took him in gratitude to Jesus' feet and to a healing of a greater kind. Are there levels of faith like this today?

Second, Jews and Samaritans normally stayed apart, but the condition of the ten lepers brought them together. If Christians today saw that they all had the same basic condition and the same needs, would they set aside their differences? Might a deeper understanding of our need and God's grace change the complexion of our churches?

Third, Jesus was moved by the gratitude of the one, but grieved by the ingratitude of the others. Why is gratitude so rare? What does it say about our faith?

Lord, may the lessons of this story become clear to us. Change us to be more like you, we pray. Give us faith, gratitude, and love for one another in you. Amen.

Today is a ministry of The Back to God Hour
In His Name
Wayne Smith

Bob Cleveland said...

And I should add that it's not all the SBC is doing, either. But the analogy does cast light on what's important.

Also, on the fact that the decisions being made now, the new rules, etc, are going to have an effect on the future. Unfortunately, in the absence of real vision, it'll be too late when the mistakes are discovered. The ship will have taken on too much water to keep sailing.

All of which makes discussing airing, exposing, all the more important.

John Moeller said...

Debating theology is a hobby for the most part, but becomes a frustration when it affects the cause of Christ as it is now doing in the SBC. It then becomes critical to know where the SBC stands as a whole on various items to determine if I am a Southern Baptist or not.

I was Baptist but I am no longer able to stand with the Southern Baptist’s. My ancestors were Baptist, my family is Baptist, but as a Baptist, I operate in many of the Gifts of the Spirit. I thought that the SBC was ok with that but, clearly, they aren’t.

I read the blog from time to time, and am amused and saddened that such “scholarly” theologians could really believe cessation-ism and that touching alcohol is a sin. If the gifts ceased then by what spirit are the “gifts” being given to the ones like me who operate in the gifts? If alcohol is a sin, then are Jesus, Timothy, and Wade going to hell because they drank wine? Paul should go too since he told Timothy to have some.

If the debate was just that, then I’d be OK with it, but missionaries and millions of lost souls are in jeopardy because of the blathering at the SBC and Satan is laughing and souls are going to hell.

Strider said...

In the parable of the talants SB's are the ones given five. Most of us act like we have been given one and squander even the one. The Boss is on the move around the world. He is doing new and exciting things. Someone has noted that every move of God has been opposed by the previous generation. (Andrew Murrey prayed his whole life for revival in South Africa and opposed it when it finally came). Now we have been praying for God to move among us and in our world and where are we? In 1976 at the launch of Bold Mission Thrust the world was dark and unreachable but we set up our little goals anyway. In response to that and other small steps of faith God has blown the Gates of Hell to the ground in country after country after country. We are moving like never before in answer to unprecedented opportunity. It is no wonder that some are debating 'flies on the water'. It is no wonder that caution and fear are being paraded as wisdom and stewardship. They are neither. Let us move together under His leadership and if we err let it be said we erred on the side of too much faith!

OC Hands said...

As I was worshiping in church yesterday, my first in my home church after several months of interim work, I was struck by an intriguing thought. Surely you remember the illustration about the awesome majesty of Jesus compared to that of a king. If the King of (whatever country) came into the room, all would rise in honor of his stature as the king.
But if Jesus came into the room, all would kneel or fall on their faces to honor the King of Kings.
My thought was this:
Let's say we are all in a rooom arguing as to who can be a member of our group, having already dismissed several who did not qualify. Then Jesus himself enters the room. What would be the topic of conversation then? What would Jesus say about our "rules for membership?" Would we be so bold as to ask Him to send others out of the room? or would he chastise us for making our 'rules' to exclude certain ones who don't meet our standard? And, would he invite back into the room some of the others that we had sent out?
It really made a difference in my thinking to imagine Jesus as being visibly present. Somehow I think we may tend to forget that He is actually present at all times. But imagining him standing right beside me or in front of me does put things in a different perspective. Seems to me that this picture would focus our attention on the things that matter eternally, instead of concentrating on flies in the holy water or what someone does in his private prayer life.
Just a thought.

irreverend fox said...


are we starting to ask if the sbc should simply indentify ourselves "evangelicals" and drop the "baptist" tradition from our identity? said...


I'm not advocating that at all.


irreverend fox said...


why not?

Kiki Cherry said...


We get our Messenger a little late, and just received the Oct. 12th issue.

So sorry to hear about the youth from your church who were in that bad accident. Our prayers are with your church and their families. said...


Just not a desire I have.


Thanks for the encouragement.


irreverend fox said...


I know that type of question puts you on the spot, I'm sorry.

But I think that might be the best thing for us. I know, I know...something like that would never happen in at least 20-30 years.

I would support such a hypothetical as that might be.

Wayne Smith said...

We Baptist could and should be evangelicals and still not loose our identity with the Holiness of God's Inerrant Word.

1. or e·van·gel·i·cal or E·van·gel·i·cal or e·van·gel·ic or E·van·gel·ic christianity of particular Protestant churches: relating or belonging to any Protestant Christian church whose members believe in the authority of the Bible and salvation through the personal acceptance of Jesus Christ
2. or e·van·gel·i·cal or e·van·gel·icwith strong beliefs: enthusiastic or zealous in support of a particular cause and very eager to make other people share its beliefs or ideals
3. or e·van·gel·i·cal or e·van·gel·icchristianity relating to the Christian Gospels: relating to or based on the Christian Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John

In His Name
Wayne Smith

SelahV said...

imbliz: well said... don't know if one can join or not. I think they can. I have a dear friend who is a dear friend of several Amish families in Kentucky, I'll ask her....selahV

Rex Ray said...

Let’s see—you said on Monday, October 30, “I have received probably 100 comments favorable for a statement of cooperation…there have been 4 that could be considered critical of it including the 2 that focused on Ron’s comment—for the sake of keeping the focus on the issue at hand I am closing the comment section.”

Well, well, well—what kind of truth and grace is that? Should Ron’s comment be deleted because two people didn’t like it? He wrote what he thought was the truth. Let’s hear what these two guys say. I thought discussion was the basis for your blog. To shut the post down is what Hitler did to newspapers.

Wade, a few times you have disappointed me, but this is the first time I’m angry. You say you want to change the SBC, but you’re not going to do it with your tail between your legs.
Rex Ray

tb joshua ministries said...

Thank you for posting such magical words, I feel super blessed after reading this! May Jesus bless all of you and shower all of his blessings on you.