Friday, February 27, 2009

Baptist Identity People Don't Like Challenges

When I served as a trustee of the International Mission Board, Dr. John Floyd, Chairman of the Board, seemed to dislike anyone questioning him doctrinally. I personally enjoy fellowship with Dr. Floyd and his lovely wife Helen. They are gracious people, but Dr. Floyd's Baptist Identity ideology causes him to dismiss people who disagree with him as irrelevant or not "truly Baptist." Dr. Floyd has told me he is an avowed Landmark Baptist. I know he would be as comfortable in a Baptist Identity church as a duck would on a pond.

I have no objection with Baptist Identity people being a part of the Southern Baptist Convention. I can fellowship with them at any time, and on any occasion. But I have discovered that when doctrinal questions come up, or heaven forbid, doctrinal disagreement arises, Baptist Identity adherents have a tendency to ridicule those who disagree. If the ridiculing doesn't stop the challenge, then there are overt attempts to shut down comments. In the IMB committee process while we were attempting to debate whether missionary candidates should be baptized in a "Baptist Identity" church, or whether an SBC missionary candidate could possess real "Baptist Identity" if he or she could never possess a private prayer language. I experienced this kind of tactic first hand. Dr. Floyd refused to allow questions to be asked of the professional IMB staff about their thoughts on the policies, and then he would at times marginalize the ones asking the questions or challenging the "Baptist Idenity" policies.

The worst example of Dr. Floyd's tactics was seen in the letter Dr. Rankin wrote challenging the new Baptist Identity policies of the IMB. When Dr. Floyd eventually got around to giving all trustees Dr. Rankin's letter, only after being forced through parliamentary procedures, it was delivered to trustees with Dr. Floyd's handwritten notes and scribbles all over the letter. Dr. Floyd wrote words like "ridiculous," "unscriptural," "illogical," all over Dr. Rankin's letter as he commented on Dr. Rankin's objections to the policies. Dr. Floyd has rightfully been excoriated for his conduct, but the effect upon Baptist Identity people being vigorously challenged by Southern Baptists for both their beliefs and tactics is far reaching.

They shut down the ability for others to either comment upon or, heaven forbid, criticize their actions.

Now, the premier Baptist Identity blog, SBC Today, has chosen to terminate all comments. They may have found it difficult to biblically defend their Baptist Identity positions or they could have possibly felt embarrassed for one their own being exposed in his attempts to marginalize and ridicule challengers through using a false identity, but regardless of their motives, they have shut down comments. Again, I have found that on the whole, it is difficult for Baptist Identity adherents to graciously argue points or positions. It usually denigrates into name calling. One of these days Southern Baptists will awake to the fact that Christian unity and cooperation in the midst of debate and disagreement is a sign of health. But for some reason, Baptist Identity folks don't like being challenged.

Shame on them. The late President Truman once said "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." It seems that when our Baptist Identity friends can't stand the heat, they refuse to get out of the kitchen because they want to keep cooking, so they just bar Southern Baptists from the table of fellowship. Jim Champion, a frequent blog commenter with an excellent spirit and sharp mind, wrote this about SBC Today's decision to shut down comments:

I have thought of them (SBC Today) as the best Baptist Identity blog going. I enjoy their posts and the interaction. However, if they refuse to defend their arguments they are nothing more than a print editorial that happens to be on line.

Once upon a time Jeremy Green allowed comments, but because he got slaughtered by his commenters - and could not adequately defend his stances he stopped taking comments. I essentially stopped going to his "blog". Peter, Wade, Volfie, SBC Impact, Tim Guthrie and Tom Ascoll stand behind their blogs. I may or may not agree with any of them on one particular issue or another, but I will keep going back to them because they have the courage to take the hits.

If I want editorials I'll go to print media.

Well stated Jim. I made known to my Baptist Identity friends my intentions to call them out on shutting down the comment section last week. I expect them to open them up soon. If not, we should follow the example of Jim and simply read print media for the editorial comments.

In His Grace,


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Understanding Who "The Church" Really Is

The English word church is totally unrelated to the Greek word ekklesia, the word the Holy Spirit chose to use in the Scriptures. In the following article by my friend John Reisinger, the word ekklesia will be used instead of church until there is an agreed upon definition of the word itself. Though the article is rather lengthy, the careful study of the etymology of the word "ekklesia" will help avoid many of the pitfalls of the so-called "Baptist Identity" movement.

"One of the first difficulties in defining the word ekklesia is determining whether there are two different definitions for the word when it is applied to Christians. All agree the word is used for both a secular and a spiritual group. What about when the ekklesia is talking about the people of God? Does the New Testament Scripture use the word ekklesia two distinctly different ways or only one way? Almost all theologians since the time of the Reformation have spoken of the 'universal' (or invisible) and the 'local' (or visible) ekklesia and have given different definitions to both concepts. Different groups have emphasized one or the other of these two ideas.

The Plymouth Brethren magnify the universal/invisible concept. They insist the ekklesia is 'an organism' and not an 'organization.' They have no church membership (on paper), and no 'ordained clergyman.' Roman Catholicism and Landmark Baptists emphasize the local/visible concept of ekklesia. In their view the ekklesia is a visible physical organization, instead of an invisible organism, instituted by Christ and left in control of duly authorized leaders here on earth. Landmark Baptists call the universal ekklesia concept the 'doctrine of the great spiritual whore,' and Rome insists that one of the four marks of 'one the true church' is that the true church is 'visible.' Here are two quotes setting forth the Landmark position:

The New Testament usage of the term [ekklesia] denotes an assembly or a gathered group, a congregation . . . . . The words church and assembly are therefore synonymous. It is, therefore, essential for a church to church before it can be a church! That is, an 'assembly' must assemble before it can be an assembly. A church that has never assembled or met together in an organized fashion and for a specific purpose, never having been functional, would certainly not be a church in the scriptural sense! From: New Testament Church, by Dr. W.R. Downing, pp. 3 and 16.

As you can see, such a definition eliminates any possibility of a so-called 'universal/invisible' ekklesia. The ekklesia must be visibly assembled before it is an ekklesia. Any idea of the redeemed people of God bowing their hearts in worship all over the world being construed as the ekklesia is ridiculous to these people. There must be a visible gathering of individuals bound together under some form of constitution with leadership ordained by God and given authority to rule the ekklesia. This same group of individuals is not considered the ekklesia when they finish assembling and go their separate ways. It is only when they are 'assembled' that they are considered the ekklesia.

Mr. Downing uses the typical Landmark Baptist caricature of the 'universal church' to establish his position when he writes . . .

A "universal, invisible church" could have: No address or location, yet every church in the New Testament was located at a particular place… No pastor, elders or leaders that were functional…No deacons or property…No treasurer…No prayer meetings…No missionaries… etc. Ibid 18, 19.

It may seem strange that the Romanist and the Landmark Baptists are both so adamant against any idea of a 'universal' church. However, when we see that their respective concepts of authority are almost identical, it becomes very clear why they are kinfolk. Every group that emphasizes 'God ordained authority' for either their particular church practices or the authority of their 'duly authorized leadership' will always emphasize the so-called 'local/visible' church as the true ekklesia of Christ. Baptists who do this can be just as tyrannical as Roman Catholics. We will say more about this later. For now, I intend to argue that there is only one definition of the word ekklesia in the New Testament Scriptures even though there are two applications of the one definition.

The Definition of Ekklesia

The first question we must ask is, "What is the best way to translate the Greek word ekklesia."? Some people go into the various words used to define the meaning of 'church' in many different languages, Scottish kirk etc. This may explain history but it does not help us at all to grasp Scripture. The Plymouth Brethren use the word assembly and some other groups use congregation, but nearly everyone uses the word church which means nothing. I personally, until recently, would have said that 'assembly' was probably the best way to translate ekklesia. I would no longer do that. I would now translate it so that it clearly expresses exactly what everyone agrees is the actual meaning of the word. I would translate ekklesia as "the called out ones" since that is precisely what the word means. This is not only the true and accurate translation of the word ekklesia, it also demonstrates the first major truth, namely, that the ekklesia of Christ is they, meaning people, and not an it, meaning an organization. If you cannot speak of the ekklesia as 'they' but constantly think and speak in terms of 'it' you have not totally come out of Romanism!

Usually the first thing we do in trying to understand a specific doctrine in Scripture is translate the actually meaning of the word itself as clearly as possible into our language. We do that with words like justification, sanctification, and regeneration, etc. However, when we come to the word ekklesia we use the word church instead of actually translating the word ekklesia into its English equivalent. Ekklesia literally means 'the called out ones' and should be so translated. In failing to do that we ignore the first basic step that we otherwise always follow when trying to understand any specific doctrine. We always try, whether it is a Greek or a Hebrew word, to translate the word as closely as possible to an English word, or words. We try to stick as closely as we can to the original Greek or Hebrew. If we did that in the case of ekklesia we would say without hesitation, "the word ekklesia means 'called out (ones).'"

If everyone had a clear view of the true meaning of 'the ekklesia of Christ' issues like who should take communion, who should be baptized, when and how should discipline take place, the authority of eldership, etc., would all be looked at differently. All agree that the word Greek word ekklesia is a compound of two Greek words. The first word is "ek," and means "out," and the second is, kaleo (kal-eh'-o) and means 'to call.'

All agree that the word kaleo means 'to call' or 'called ones,' and the word ekklesia literally means the same thing except of the addition of the word 'ek.'' That means we merely add the word 'out' and it becomes 'the called out ones.' Ekklesia has nothing to do with 'calling an individual to join a local congregation.' In fact, biblical calling is totally spiritual and has nothing to do with the physical. We need only note a few verses where the word is used to clearly understand its meaning. These verses show that the 'kaleoed' and 'the Christians' are the same people.

Gal 1:6 "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel . . ." Does joining a local congregation have anything at all to do with being called (kaleoed) into the 'grace of Christ'?

Gal 1:15 "But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace . . ." Did this calling have anything to do with Paul joining a local congregation or in any way coming under the authority of a local congregation?

A shorter form, klesis (klay'-sis), of the same word, is often used. Here are a few instances.

Rom 11:29 "For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance." What does that text have to do with membership in a local congregation? What do any of the following texts have to do with anything other than spiritual effectual calling?

Eph 4:4 "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling . . ." Phil 3:14 "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Heb 3:1 "Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling…"

Did any local congregation, or any, or all, of the other apostles, or anyone else have anything to do with God calling Paul in the following verse? Remember this is the same word used in ekklesia. Rom 1:1 "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle…"

What does the calling in the following verses have to do with the concept of a local congregation? These verses are talking about regeneration, about being joined to Christ. The word ekklesia is talking about being 'called out' of death and being brought into Christ. The word has nothing to do with either defining or joining a local congregation.

Rom 1:6 "Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ…"

Rom 1:7 "To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints…"

Rom 8:28 "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."

Is Romans 8:28 assuring us that all is well because one is a member of a local congregation or because one is part of the ekklesia of Christ? I am sure you know the answer. I am also sure you realize that the two things just mentioned, membership in a local congregation and being a part of 'the called ones' (ekklesia) of Christ is two totally different things. It is understanding just why these two things are so radically different that opens up the biblical doctrine of the ekklesia.

Eklessia Is Another Word for Christian

I think it is easy to see that the words 'the called ones' are nothing less than another name for a Christian. A child of God is called, a 'believer,' a 'sheep,' an 'elect one,' a 'brother,' a 'saved one,' etc., and the same person is often labeled or addressed as a 'called one.' The above texts are clear. The ekklesia is Christians. All Christians are in the ekklesia and no one but chosen sheep are a part of the ekklesia. All of the ekklesia have been 'called out' to Christ Himself. It is the experience of being kaleoed out of the world that makes them Christians. They did not join the ekklesia¾they were joined to the ekklesia by the Holy Spirit.

Let's take that descriptive name, 'called out ones', and ask these obvious questions:

(1) Who is included in this group described by the Holy Spirit as the ekklesia, or 'called out ones'?

(2) Who is the Person who is calling, or has called, the ekklesia?

(3) To where or to what have the ekklesia been called?

(4) From where, or what, have the ekklesia been called out from?

(5) Why have these particular ones been 'called out' to the exclusion of others?

(6) What is the exact nature of this calling?


(1). 'The called out ones' are the people of God. They are the 'sheep who hear my voice' and gladly respond. They are the saved, the justified, and the born again who have been baptized into the living body of Christ. Simply put, 'the called out ones' is a synonym for the word 'Christian.' The ekklesia is another name for saved people¾all saved people, but only saved people. It is impossible to have a lost person in the ekklesia, or among the 'called out ones,' and it is just as impossible to have a saved person who is not a member of the ekklesia. Both of these things would be a contradiction in terms.

(2). The Person is doing the calling is God. We need only one glance at the texts above to see it is God Himself Who is the 'Caller' in every case. The calling is directly due to both God's purpose in unconditional election and His sovereign power in regeneration. It has nothing to do with man's will or an organization.

(3). We can say that ultimately they have been called to heaven itself. We can also say they are 'called to holiness,' 'called to peace,' 'called to life,' and many other things. For our purposes, we insist that the 'called out ones' are called into membership in the ekklesia of Christ. Each 'called one,' or each member of the ekklesia, has been effectually called out of sin and death into a living fellowship with Christ Himself.

(4). All of the 'called out ones' were once dead in sin. It was 'the call' that brought them out of death and brought them into life. Their calling is spoken of as a resurrection out from the dead as well as regeneration.

(5). The 'called out ones' are the same as the elect. All of the elect are 'called' and all 'the called' are the elect. All the sheep, the elect ones, will always 'hear' the voice of their Shepherd calling them and will gladly come. All of the 'called out ones' become part of the ekklesia simply because they, and they alone, are the objects of this special 'calling,' and they are the special objects because they have been chosen to be sheep. All the chosen are 'called' but only the chosen are 'called.' That is the same as saying, "All the elect are in the ekklesia, but only the elect are in the ekklesia." There is not a single exception to this fact, and we must again emphasize that being a 'called out one' has nothing to do with birth, baptism, or joining something.

(6) This calling is nothing less than effectual calling. The 'calling' extended to the elect sheep is actually regeneration. It is being born again and in no sense whatever is it "joining something." It is 100% spiritual and it is 100% the work of God, and in every case it is successful. The ekklesia, or 'called out ones,' will have no missing members. All without exception who are chosen to be in the ekklesia will be effectually called by grace and power and will become a living part of the ekklesia. Again this fact has nothing to do with any or all visible congregations. Someone has said, "THE Church will be found in the churches, but the churches are not THE Church."

I should not have to make this application, but I do so for clarity. The reality, or actual spiritual entity, that is created by this calling of the ekklesia is the spiritual Body of Christ and it cannot possibly have anything to do with a physical organization. We are talking about a spiritual calling. If the kaleo, or calling, that creates the ekklesia of Christ is nothing less than regeneration, then the thing created by that spiritual calling, namely, the true ekklesia, must of necessity be a God produced spiritual creation. It has to be first of all a living spiritual entity. The words 'called out ones' cannot possibly have anything at all to do with the physical organization or assembling of that which we today call a 'church.' The spiritual experience of effectual calling (kaleo) creates, in and of itself, the ekklesia of Christ and since that effectual calling (kaleo) is totally spiritual it follows that the thing created by that, calling the ekklesia, must also be spiritual and not physical.

What we will see as we proceed is that the whole 'visible/invisible' or 'local/universal' concepts expressed by those terms are simply not biblical ideas. They do express an element of truth but they are also loaded with error. At the most we may say, "The Word of God recognizes that the word ekklesia basically means 'Christians.' Sometimes an apostle will speak of all Christians, the elect, or all of the 'called out ones' of Christ, and other times he may speak of all the Christians, or all the 'called out ones' meeting in a given town or even in a house. However, in both cases the basic meaning of the word ekklesia remains the same. It means 'the called out (ones),' or Christians, in both cases." The difference is not a 'local/visible' versus a 'universal/invisible' concept where one is an organism and the other is an organization. The only difference is how many of the 'called out ones' are you talking about. In both cases the word means 'all of the Christians' either all for whom Christ died or all those in a given described area.

Men can, and do, create organizations and call them churches or fellowships, but only God the Holy Ghost can create the ekklesia of Christ. The ekklesia that God creates is the Body of Christ. Every person in that ekklesia is 'in Christ.' When man creates a physical organization and calls it a 'church' it will be a mixed bag. As long as we argue about 'visible/invisible' or 'local/universal' as a means of distinguishing between a 'spiritual' (universal) ekklesia and a 'physical' (local) ekklesia, we are missing the real problem. The real question is this: Does the New Testament Scripture conceive of the ekklesia, the 'called out ones,' as a spiritual organism created by the Holy Spirit or a physical organization created by men of like mind? Is the Body of Christ (which is never spoken of in the plural) ever conceived of as anything less than all of 'called out ones,' or 'the ekklesia of Christ'?

Let me mention another obvious implication. If any individual person evidences the spiritual marks of being one of Christ's sheep, or a 'called out one' can they be denied total acceptance in a group claiming to be a sheepfold of Christ? Dare we say, "I know that Christ, the great Shepherd, has put His mark of grace on you and sealed you with His Spirit. He has unconditionally accepted you as one of His 'called out ones,' however, before we will accept you into this sheepfold, or before we allow you to eat with us at His table, we must put our mark on you also."

Nothing I have said rules out the need for an organized local congregation of like-minded Christians, with a constitution, church officers, church discipline, and a lot of other things. I believe every child of God should be a part of a congregation of Christians and submit to the love and oversight of their brothers and sisters in Christ. However, that does not do away with either my personal responsibility to Christ or to all of my 'called out' brothers and sisters in other congregations. What it does mean is that in every thing connected with our idea of ekklesia, we have to make sure we do not believe and practice a lot of things that grow out of a totally wrong view of the ekklesia, or the 'called out ones.' John Reisinger: The Ekklesia .

If we understood the Biblical use of the word translated "church" as described by Reisinger above, then a great deal of error in the Landmark Baptist Identity movement would be avoided.

In His Grace,


Outraged Over a Question Asked About Jesus

Allow me to join the chorus of people who are outraged over assigning to Jesus cultural biases. Southern Baptists here, and here, and here have expressed appropriate anger over an inappropriate question raised about Jesus. How dare the author credit to Jesus the cultural biases of His day! How dare the author allege that Jesus showed partiality and favoritism to certain people based upon one's genetic composition! How dare the author discredit our Lord by presenting our Savior as someone other than He who considers each soul equal! Frankly, we should all be outraged at the thought that God carries the bias of human cultures.

One of these days I hope to see the end of people asking such silly questions.


I couldn't resist. But before you comment, I would ask you to pause and consider the logic of this post. Are there any similarities between the charge that Jesus was a racist and the modern conservative teaching that Jesus advocated an eternally subordinate position of females to males?.

Seems to me that evangelicals ought to be expressing outrage against both views.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Lessons In Leadership from the Red River Raft

Captain Henry Shreve of Louisiana
One of the most remarkable and little-known stories of American history is the source of many fascinating lessons on leadership. Captain Henry Shreve, pictured above, is standing on top of what historians call "The Red River Raft."

When Napoleon sold 828,00 square miles of French land to the United States in 1803, a transaction we call The Louisiana Purchase, U.S. President Thomas Jefferson determined that the United States had better explore this vast new land. Everyone knows that the President appointed Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to investigate the Missouri River, but very few realize that President Jefferson also organized two additional expeditions to explore the two other major rivers that dump into the Mississippi from the west - the Arkansas River and the Red River.

The Red River Basin
The team assigned to explore the Red River was called The Freeman-Custis Expedition, named after Thomas Freeman, a surveyor, and Peter Custis, a medical student, appointed by President Jefferson to lead the scientific team. The expedition was delayed for a variety of reasons but finally set off in May of 1806 from the spot where the Red River flows into the Mississippi River, on the eastern boundary of what we now know as the state of Louisiana. One month into the upriver journey, not yet even halfway across modern Louisiana, the team reached a settlement called Natchitoches. At the time, the Red River north of Natchitoches was unexplored by anyone but the Caddo Indians - and with good reason as the Freeman-Custis Expedition would soon discover.

The Logjam on the Red River
The expedition left Natchitoches and shortly came across an obstacle in the Red River, a hindrance that eventually become known as "The Red River Raft." In essence, the team had found the largest and oldest logjam in the history of North America. The Oklahoma Historical Chronicle describes the obstruction as being over one hundred miles in length. In some places the logjam completely closed the Red River, creating lake lagoons where the water backed up into tributaries. It was not a solid jam the entire way, for a few places along the Red River Raft being comparatively free of driftwood. But in some places men could travel across the Raft on horseback, the logjam being so dense and so aged that a considerable vegetable growth arose, including full grown trees. It was said that in a couple of places along the Raft, extending for several miles, one could even pass over the river itself and be unaware of its presence. In 1941, Dr. Norman Caldwell wrote a fine description of how the great Raft was formed centuries earlier:

Drift formations began at the mouth of the river as a result of a higher stage of water in the Mississippi, the waters of the lower Red River being at such times quiet or "backed up". Below Alexandria the Red River is naturally meandering and of slow current. Drift wood floating in such quiet water would accumulate into obstructions, such formations tending to "tighten" as the waters receded. Once established the raft continued to grow, the average yearly accumulations amounting to about one and a half miles of drift . . . As the obstruction grew and progressed up the river, it rotted away at its lower end and disintegrated, the river thus becoming clear again. The raft was thus like a great serpent, always crawling upstream and forcing the river into new lateral channels.

By the time of the 1806 expedition, the Red River Raft had grown to well over 100 miles in length and was continuing to snake north as the southern end decayed and the northern end grew. It made passage to the northwest via the Red River a journey filled with incessant fatigue, toil, and danger, doubt and uncertainty. In other words, it was unnavigable. This is the reason why the Freeman-Custis Expedition, what Thomas Jefferson himself had called at the beginning "The Grand Excursion," became a grand failure. No new geographic information about the upper reaches of the Red River was obtained.

The Red River mission was a political setback for President Jefferson. The materials that Freeman and Custis did collect were vastly overshadowed by the achievements of Lewis and Clark, who had returned in 1806. The Red River was one vast logjam, and there would be little exploration of northern Louisiana, southern Arkansas, southern Oklahoma and northern Texas because of the inability to navigate the Red River.

Enter Captain Henry Shreve

Henry Miller Shreve
Henry Miller Shreve ((October 21, 1785 – March 6, 1851) has often been called the "Master of the Mississippi," while others refer to him as the "Father of the Mississippi Steamboat." From an early age, he loved the river. Henry began his career on the river by river working on keelboats in the Ohio and Mississippi valley. In 1807, at the age of 22, Shreve made his first trip to St. Louis from the Ohio River valley. Within a few years, he was captaining his own vessel, transporting goods between New Orleans and St. Louis. Shreve is said to be the first captain of a steamship on the Mississippi, a ship he called "Washington." Though many had predicted the new steamship would fail, its shallow hull and deck-mounted engine allowed for easier navigation. Within a few years, Shreve had a fleet of steamships and revolutionized transportation along the Mississippi and rivers westward. But it was another invention of Shreve's that led to the breaking up of the Red River Raft.

The Snagboat patented by Shreve
In 1827, Shreve patented the snagboat, a boat he used to clear fallen trees and other debris that often clogged the rivers. Just a year earlier, President John Quincy Adams had appointed Shreve as Superintendent of Western River Improvements, a position he held for fourteen years through both the Jackson and Van Buren administrations.

Shreve was ordered in 1832 by Secretary of War Lewis Cass to clear the Great Red River Raft, now over 150 miles of dead wood on the Red River. The task, particularly in 1832, bordered on impossible. But through seven years of incredibly difficult work, extraordinary leadership, and dogged determination, Shreve and the United States Army Corp of Engineers successfully removed the Red River Raft. Shreve constantly battled inadequate funding from Washington, D.C. and the elements, but despite all obstacles, both political and natural, the massive Red River logjam was cleared.

Shreveport, Louisiana, named after Captain Shreve
The area of the Red River where the Raft was most concentrated is now named in his honor - "Shreveport." The people who live in modern Shreveport, much less those who live elsewhere, know very little about Shreve but were it not for his leadership, the areas affected by the flow of the Red River would not be nearly as thriving and progressive as they are today.

It was on April 11, 1833, that Captain Henry M. Shreve and the U.S. Army Engineers arrived at the lower end of the raft and began their work. Shreve brought four "snag boats" and one hundred fifty men to do the impossible. To understand the enormous effort required to clear the Red River Raft, one merely needs to read the contemporary descriptions of the work. Shreve and his men fought the heat, snakes, wild animals, quicksand on the river's shores, all the while fighting a constant battle for supplies from Washington, terrible shortness of funds, mechanical problems, Indian attacks, and a host of other impediments. But Shreve never quit. He never gave up. Eventually, the largest and oldest logjam in North America was cleared.
How Henry Shreve broke removed the logjam of the Red River is a fascinating story, one that teaches us several lessons on true leadership:

(1). What some consider impossible is only seen as a challenge to leaders.
(2). The people getting muddy doing the detail work often never see the end result.
(3). It is the ability to see the big picture that gives perseverance through problems.
(4). Logjams that prevent progress must be confronted, tackled, and intentionally removed.
(5). Those who criticize the removal of impediments to progress are the ones history forgets.

Friday, February 20, 2009

What the Animal Kingdom Can Teach the SBC

Tom Ascol has articulated quite well the great issue before us as Southern Baptists. In a post lyrically entitled What Shall We Be in the SBC?" Tom comes to the following conclusion "I really do believe that, despite our differences, Southern Baptists can work together if we can agree on the centrality and power of the gospel for all of life. I am convinced that a growing number of Southern Baptists believe this, too. Because of this, I anticipate better days ahead. My SBC missionary mother-in-law from the Far East sent me the following video that illustrates fellowship despite extraordinary differences. If the animal kingdom can do it, so should we Southern Baptists!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Who Is That Man Behind Senator Judd Gregg?

When Republican Senator Judd Gregg unexpectedly withdrew his name from Senate confirmation as Barak Obama's nominee for Commerce Secretary, his announcement took many people by surprise. Obviously, there were many factors behind his decision. Some Southern Baptists, however, may be interested in who showed up behind Senator Gregg in the CBS News pictures copied below. Some have asked me in the last few months, "Whatever happened to the erudite Ben Cole?" Well, from the looks of things he has landed in the middle of national politics and left the SBC behind.



Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"The Sermon Is The Preacher Up To Date"

"Preaching is the art of making a sermon and delivering it. Why no, that is not preaching. Preaching is the art of making a preacher, and delivering that. Preaching is the outrush of soul in speech. Therefore, the elemental business in preaching is not with the preaching but with the preacher. It is no trouble to preach, but a vast trouble to construct a preacher. What then, in the light of this is the task of a preacher? (or of anyone sharing his or her faith). Mainly this, the amassing of a great soul so as to have something worthwhile to give. The sermon is the preacher up to date." Bishop Alfred Quayle, American Methodist Bishop (1860-1925)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Wildness of Vitality or Thought Conformity?

A blogger friend who goes by the public name "Chris Ryan" recently sent me an excerpt from a book he is reading entitled "The Miracle of Dialogue" by Reuel Howe. The excerpt, given in full below, expresses precisely the conflict I see between the desires of "Baptist Identity" Southern Baptists who seemingly demand everybody in the SBC think the same way, believe the same way and look the same way they do, versus other Southern Baptists who understand the importance of dialogue with, and acceptance of, Southern Baptists who see thinks differently in non-essential areas of the faith. Read Howe's words carefully:

"In training a horse, it is important not to break his spirit because it is his spirit, during and after the training period, which will determine his style and endurance. Does education, we may ask, allow for the expression of the wildness of vitality during the educational process, or does it repress vitality in the interest of form and conformity? There is evidence that all education, theological education included, stifles the creative spirit of many students and burdens them with unassimilated and uncorrelated content. The form of knowledge has been substituted for the vitality of living and thinking.

Similarly we must ask, does religion allow for the undomesticated and the unconventional responses of people to the surges of vitality and the movements of spirit? In the area of thought, for example, many graduates of seminaries are so afraid of being heretical that they are unable to think courageously and creatively. Orthodoxy is not an alternative to heresy; it is the result of honest thinking about truth in relation to new needs and data, in the course of which points of view have been arrived at, tested, and abandoned. The sin is not in thinking heretically while seeking the truth, but in settling for heresy as a substitute for truth. When fear of heresy prevails, the forms of system have stifled the vitality of thought.

It is hard to understand why religion and its institutions, which should be a source of renewal for life, become the servants of a sterile conservatism. Why are churches not more commonly places where, in the spirit of Christ, creative wrestling with the problems of the human situation can take place? Why are church people in both their individual and organized lives so often conformists, substituting middle class conventions and morality for the searching, disturbing truth of Christ? The Church was brought into being to be the expression of that spirit in each generation, and yet the need and vitality of each generation hasbeen frustrated and complicated by the status quo pull of reactionary and ultraconservative spirits.

In thinking about conservatism, we should distinguish between monological and dialogical conservatism. The former is dumb and blind to all other values but its own; the latter keeps itself in a relationship of polarity with the liberal spirit and point of view. Yet each needs the other. Without the liberal position one would not dare to be a conservative; and the liberal is more freely liberal precisely because the conservative helps hold in focus the traditional viewpoint. Monological conservatism acknowledges no dependence, and contradicts Christ's spirit and teaching. Obedience to its spirit may be our mostserious sin because it tempts us to think that we own our institutions,and to exercise proprietorship in matters of the faith. Possessiveattitudes toward truth lead to a life of conformity and sterileorthodoxy. Orthodoxy is not our goal! New life, new meaning, new creaturehood is! The purpose of obedience to truth is not to graze in the flat lands of orthodoxy, but to climb the sharp, high, narrow ridges of faith in order that we may understand more and more the relevance of the revelation of God to our own age."

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dr. J.L. Dagg: Unable to Teach at SWBTS?

Dr. John Leadley (J.L.) Dagg (1794-1884) was the first Southern Baptist systematic theologian to be widely read and accepted by Southern Baptists as a whole. J.L. Dagg pastored the Fifth Baptist Church in Philadelphia for ten years (1825-1834) and would later serve as President of Mercer University in Penfield, Georgia (1844-1854). Mercer enjoyed tremendous growth and recognition during Dagg's presidency, eventually moving to its current location in Macon, Georgia.

Dagg's writing career as a theologian had more influence on Southern Baptists in the 19th Century than any other Southern Baptist. His Manual of Theology (1857), Treatise of Church Order (1858), Elements of Moral Science (1859), and Evidences of Christianity (1869) all continue to stand testament to Dagg's theological acumen and breadth of biblical understanding. The Southern Baptist Convention in 1879, just five years before Dagg's death, passed a unanimous motion (when is the last time that has happened?) that requested the "venerable J.L. Dagg (to) write a catechism . . . . containing the substance of the Christian religion" for the benefit of future Southern Baptists.

Southern Baptists held Dr. J.L. Dagg in high esteem. This is the same Dr. Dagg that had no hesitation to write that Christ atoned for the sins of the elect only. Dr. Dagg firmly believed and taught that Christ died as a Substitute for His people alone. The Father, according to Dagg, has chosen and loved from eternity a certain number of sinners from every tribe, nation and tongue (the world) and given these ungodly sinners to His Son to redeem. Dr. Dagg taught that the Bible promises that Christ will effectually and perfectly accomplish His intended work, and not one of the elect would - or could - ever be lost. Salvation is of the Lord. Thus, Dr. Dagg would never say to every single human being "Christ died for your sins," because he didn't believe Christ died for every single human being. Christ died as a substitute and atoned for the sins of the elect only. The evidence of God's love and saving grace is the sinner's brokenness and repentance over sin and a willingness to place personal faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Dr. Dagg wrote in Manual of Theology, Book 7, Chapter 4, "Doctrine Concerning Divine Grace:"

The supposition that Christ bore the sins of the whole human race is attended with much difficulty. Multitudes died in impenitence before he came into the world, and were suffering for their sins in the other world, while he was hanging on the cross. How could he be a substitute for these, and suffer the penalty for their sins, when they were suffering it in their own persons? And if he endured the penalty for the sins of all who have since died, or shall hereafter die in impenitence, how shall they be required to satisfy justice a second time by personal suffering?

J.L. Dagg had earlier set forth the Scriptures that indicate Christ died for particular sinners, those that God chose from eternity to redeem and sanctify for the praise of His grace.

The Scriptures teach that the Son of God, in coming into the world and laying down his life, had the salvation of a peculiar people in view: "Thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins."[Matt. i. 21] "The good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep."[John x. 11] "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church."[Eph. v. 25-27] The Scriptures also teach that the expectation of the Redeemer will be fully realized, and that not one of all whom the Father gave him will fail to be saved: "He shall see his seed. He shall see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied."[Isaiah liii. 10, 11] "All that the Father giveth me, shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." "And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day."[John vi. 37, 39] "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am."[John xvii. 24]

For those who would want the reason why God would redeem a certain specified number of sinners through Christ for the praise of His grace and determine to righteously judge other sinners outside of Christ for the praise of His glorious justice, Dagg would offer:

Those who are not included in the election of grace, are called, in Scripture, "the rest,"[Rom. xi. 7] and vessels of wrath."[Rom. ix. 22] Why they are not included, we are as unable to explain as why the others are included; and we are therefore compelled to refer the matter to the sovereignty of God, who, beyond all doubt, acts herein most wisely and righteously, though he has not explained to us the reasons of his procedure. His absolute sovereignty, is the discrimination which he makes, is expressed by Paul in these words: "He hath mercy on whom he will have mercy; and whom he will he hardeneth."[Rom. ix. 18]

Dr. Dagg believed, as have tens of thousands of Southern Baptists throughout our Convention's history, that those for whom Christ will be effectually redeemed, because Christ saved them through His work of atonement. In other words, it is the work of Christ that saves - not faith. Faith only evidences we have part and portion in the work of Christ. As Dr. Dagg so eloquently states:

In Rom. v.11, the only place in the New Testament where the word atonement occurs, the Greek word for which it stands, is the same that is rendered reconciling--reconciliation, in other places.[Rom. xi. 15; 2 Cor. v. 18, 19] The reconciliation is not between God and sin in the abstract, for such a reconciliation is impossible. It is a reconciliation of persons; and such a reconciliation as secures eternal salvation. "If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God, by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life."[Rom. v. 10] In Paul's view, all those for whom Christ's death made reconciliation or atonement, will certainly be saved; and therefore atonement cannot be universal, unless salvation be universal. It is possible to use the word atonement in such a sense, as to render the question respecting the extent of the atonement one of mere definition: but it is best to use the words of Scripture in the Scripture sense.

I read the incredibly precise and biblically saturated doctrine of grace articulated by Dr. Dagg and am blessed. But then I read statements from our current leaders at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary like the following:

"Southwestern will not build a school in the future around anybody who could not look anybody in the world in the eyes and say, "Christ died for your sins." Paige Patterson, President of SWBTS, February 5, 2009

“A consistent five-point Calvinist cannot look a congregation in the eyes or even a single sinner in the eye and say: “Christ died for you.” What they have to say to be consistent with their own theology is “Christ died for sinners.” Since Christ did not die for the non-elect, and since the five-point Calvinist does not know who the elect are, it is simply not possible in a preaching or witnessing situation to say to them directly “Christ died for you.” Dr. David Allen, Dean of SWBTS School of Theology, SWBTS Center for Theological Research, November 2008.

In light of the extraordinary narrowing of the doctrinal parameters of the Southern Baptist Convention in the last 15 years, a narrowing that has led to an emphasis on Landmark, independent, Fundamental ecclesiology and soteriology - which by its very nature leads to separation from those who disagree - I can't help but ask the following question:

Would Dr. John Leadley Dagg be able to hold a faculty position within the school of theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2009?

I have absolutely no problem with SWBTS having Landmark, independent, Fundamental separatists as faculty members, particularly since this is the ideology of the President. My problem is the notion that one is not truly a Southern Baptist deserving of ministry unless you happen to be ideologically in conformity with them.

Thousands of Southern Baptists are not, and neither was Dr. Dagg.

In His Grace,


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

From the Greatest Generation to the Worst Generation in Just a Single Generation

At some point this week Congress will most likely pass close to a trillion dollar stimulus package. This drastic measure, pushed hard by President Obama, will be in addition to the two trillion dollars Congress has already given away in the past year to "jump start" the U.S. economy. It may be also be just a tenth of what some economists estimate could become a ten trillion dollar government spending spree to fend off depression. The extraordinary 2009 spending policies passed by Congress are being based on economic principles called Keynesian Economics. John Maynard Keynes (1883 - 1946), a British economist, is often credited with the simplest explanation for the cause of the Great Depression, though his solution for getting out of it was for the most part rejected by his own generation.

Keynes believed in what he called "the circular flow of money." One person's spendings goes towards anothers earnings, and when that person spends his earnings he is, in effect, supporting another's earnings. This circle continues on and helps support a normal functioning economy. When the Great Depression hit, however, people's natural reaction was to hoard their money. Keynes believed that when people "stopped" spending, the circular flow of money collapsed and the economy came to a standstill - causing the Great Depression to deepen and lengthen even further. Most economists believe if it were not for World War II and the massive amount of manufacturing required to support a world wide war, the Great Depression could have extended well into the 1950's.

Keynes proposed a solution to end the Great Depression based on government. He wrote that governments should "prime the pump" with massive federal spending. By priming the pump he meant governments should "kick start" the money flow in the economy through governments actually buying things on the open market itself (i.e. real estate, banks, etc . . ) or by borrowing money to improve roads, bridges and public works. Keynes believed that once primed, the economy would once again see circle of money and their would be economic growth rather than contraction. Keynes ideas spawned a slew of interventionist economic policies proposed by liberal politicians during the Great Depression. But only government spending on "public works" eventually passed, and even then, under great opposition. The people of America in the 1930's just couldn't stomach government borrowing and spending that would increase the national debt, believing it would burden future generations.

When Keynes was asked, "Where will your economic theories and resultant government spending policies leave our country in the long run?" he gave his famous response:

"In the long run we are all dead."

In other words, Keynes didn't believe one should care about the long run as a nation. One should only think about the present. My economics professor at the university where I studied, a Keynesian himself, put it like this: "Why should the government care about borrowing trillions of dollars? When it comes time to pay, they can print money to pay what they owe."

Keynes flippant response brought him great criticism at the time. Why? Millions of people living in the 1930's and 1940's possessed different values than Keynes. These people, whom Tom Brokaw described as "The Greatest Generation," believed that a person should sacrifice for future generations. To them, the end was not death. They believed in legacy, future security and an eternal state. They had their eye on their own children and grandchildren. For this reason they revolted against Keynesian economics and a vast majority of the spending proposals liberals proposed in Congress during the 1930's and 1940's were rejected.

What has happened to our country since then? It seems that we as a people have gone from "the greatest generation" who sacrificed for the good of the future, to "the worst generation" who desire government to spend trillions to give us a better life, a better job, a better house -- and this transformation from selflessness to selfishness has occurred within the course of "a single generation."

May God help us all.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Some Wisdom from the United States Air Force

A C-130 United States Airforce jet was lumbering along when a cocky F-16 fighter pilot flashed by in his half billion dollar jet. The jet jockey decided to show off.

The fighter jock told the C-130 pilot, 'Watch this!' and promptly went into a barrel roll followed by a steep climb. He then finished with a sonic boom as he broke the sound barrier. The F-16 pilot asked the C-130 pilot, "What do you think of that?"

The C-130 pilot said, 'That was impressive, but watch this!'

The C-130 droned along for about 5 minutes and then the C-130 pilot came back on and said: 'What did you think of that?'

Puzzled, the F-16 pilot asked, 'What the heck did you do?'

The C-130 pilot chuckled. 'I stood up, stretched my legs, walked to the back, went to the bathroom, then got a cup of coffee and a cinnamon bun.'

Moral of the story: When you are young and foolish it is speed and flash that seems a good thing. But the older and wiser you become, the more you realize that comfort and slow is not such a bad thing after all.

Think about it.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Big Picture: Resisting Separatist Ideology

This past week in the blog world has not been a particularly pleasant one. Sometimes it helps to back up and try to show the big picture. I remind Southern Baptists that it is possible to disagree with an ideology or a particular point of theology and not attack the character of the person with whom you disagree. To fundamentally disagree with the separatism of a person who adheres to Landmark ecclesiology and tries to creedally enforce every Southern Baptist Church to practice closed communion is not the same thing as disliking the Landmarker. To publicly express disagreement with the ideology of Fundamentalism that urges separation from other evangelicals is not the same thing as attacking the character of the Fundamentalist. To make it known that you abhor any ideology that would compel the termination of a Southern Baptist who disagrees over the extent of the atonement is not the same thing as abhorring the person who is seeking the terminations.

To publicly reveal that Paige Patterson is voicing his desire not to have faculty members at SWBTS who hold to classical Calvinism is not to attack Dr. Patterson's character. As I have said on numerous occasions before, I believe Dr. Patterson is a brother in Christ and is due all the love and respect every follower of Jesus should be given. In addition, to call the ideology of Paige Patterson a narrow, Fundamentalist, Landmark and separatist ideology is not to attack the Christian character of Paige Patterson. Thousands of people can individually attest to Dr. and Mrs Paige Patterson's personal civility and kindness. It is not Christian character that is being exposed and questioned, but rather it is the separatist ideology of some in the Southern Baptist Convention that is being identified and resisted. It is their ideology that compels them to separate from other Southern Baptist Christians who disagree.

The Ideology of Separatism

After a ten year absence from personal participation in Southern Baptist Convention ministry at a national level, I began serving as a trustee for the International Mission Board in 2005. In the almost four years since that time my eyes have been opened to the effects of the separatist ideology held by many in strategic positions of power in the SBC. I have stated before that I believe with all my heart that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant and infallible Word of God. I have no problem confessing my belief in the veracity of the Bible.

But separatist ideology goes way beyond a commitment to the veracity of Scripture itself. Separatists have a hard time comprehending that interpreting the Word of God and teaching people what the Bible says is not the same thing as affirming the Word of God and telling people what the Bible is. It is because there are differences of interpretation among Southern Baptists regarding what the sacred text says that all of us who are Christ-loving, Bible-believing Southern Baptists must learn to cooperate with each other rather than separate from one another.

For lack of a better nomenclature, those Southern Baptists who adhere to "separatist" ideology are sometimes called Baptist Identity people. These separatists have trouble believing that Christ-loving, Bible-believing, Southern Baptists can actually disagree over what the Bible is saying and still cooperate in missions and ministry in the SBC. In fact, when they come across a Christ-loving, Bible-believing Southern Baptist who disagrees with them, they implement plans to attempt to forcibly remove them from ministry or service (i.e. "separate").

Examples of Separation

(1). This is precisely what happened to missionaries who believed, contrary to the beliefs of Baptist Identity people, that spiritual gifts (i.e. a private prayer language) still exists. Baptist Identity people, compelled by their ideology of separatism, successfully implemented policies to remove these missionaries from future service in the SBC.

(2). This is precisely what happened to missionaries who were not baptized "in a church that holds to eternal security," which Baptist Identity people believe is the only proper description of biblical baptism. Baptist Identity people successfully implemented policies to remove these missionaries from future service in the SBC.

(3). This is precisely what happened to female professors who taught Hebrew and history at Southwestern Theological Seminary, contrary to a specific interpretation of the Bible by Baptist Idenity people that "a woman shall not teach a man," at any time, in any spiritual manner. Baptist Identity people successfully removed these women from their ministries.

(4). This is precisely what is happening to autonomous Southern Baptist churches that make decisions that are contrary to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 and Baptist Identity leaders - Baptist Identity people are seeking to disfellowship that church.

A few years ago I defended First Baptist Church, Holdenville, Oklahoma from excommunication from the South Canadian Association because the church practiced open communion and receiving into membership people who had not been baptized in a Baptist church. The Baptist Identity leaders who brought the recommendation for disfellowship were all Landmark, Fundamentalist, separatists, including the Director of Missions. I successfully defended the church and the motion to disfellowship from FBC Holdenville failed at the annual meeting.

(5). This is precisely what is happening at Southwestern Theological Seminary in relation to classical Calvinists on faculty, both now and in the future.

We Must Resist Ideological Separation

Some are very angry with my two posts last week that called out the ideology of SWBTS administrators that compels them to separate from classical Calvinists at SWBTS. I would suggest that we should not be surprised with any attempts to separate from classical Calvinists at SWBTS. It is consistent with the separatist ideology held by the President and administration. Let the words of Dr Paige Patterson and Dr. David Allen, Dean of the School of Theology, speak for themselves:

"Southwestern will not build a school in the future around anybody who could not look anybody in the world in the eyes and say, "Christ died for your sins." Paige Patterson, President of SWBTS, February 5, 2009

“A consistent five-point Calvinist cannot look a congregation in the eyes or even a single sinner in the eye and say: “Christ died for you.” What they have to say to be consistent with their own theology is “Christ died for sinners.” Since Christ did not die for the non-elect, and since the five-point Calvinist does not know who the elect are, it is simply not possible in a preaching or witnessing situation to say to them directly “Christ died for you.” Dr. David Allen, Dean of SWBTS School of Theology, SWBTS Center for Theological Research, November 2008

The above, my friends, is the latest example of the reason why separatist ideology, the core feature of the so called Baptist Identity movement, must be resisted with all hands on deck. Southern Baptists have historically disagreed over the extent of the atonement. Some Southern Baptists have believed that Christ died as the Substition for every sinner, even those who will ultimately be punished in hell for their sins. Other Southern Baptists have believed, namely the Calvinists among us, that Christ died as a Substition for only those sinners God chose to deliver from their sins, sinners the Bible calls "the elect," "His people," "the Bride of Christ," etc . . .

This issue has never been one over which Southern Baptists have divided, nor should it be. I am not resisting Paige Patterson the man. I am resisting the ideology that compels Paige Patterson to separate from Southern Baptists who disagree with him. I would say the same thing to any Calvinist who had a similar separatist theology.

That, in my opinion, is the big picture.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Are Southern Baptists Blind or Blindfolded?

As time goes by I continue to wonder if Southern Baptists are actually blind or simply blindfolded. Our Convention is being transformed before our very eyes and I wonder if it is even being seen for what it is. Over three years ago, in a blog post entitled Crusading Conservatives vs. Cooperating Conversatives: The Battle for the Future of the Southern Baptist Convention I wrote these words:

When are people in the Southern Baptist Convention going to stand up and say enough is enough? The Southern Baptist Convention is now moving toward a time when everyone must look the same, talk the same, act the same, believe the same on the non-essentials of the faith, or else you will be removed as "not one of us." Today it is private prayer language vs. cessationists and the proper administrator of baptism vs. biblical baptism. Tomorrow it might be Calvinism vs Arminianism or dispensationalism vs. preterism. Where will it end?

The nature of independent, fundamentalist Baptists - Baptists who claim their true Landmark heritage through the ana-baptists of Europe and not the particular Baptists of England - is to separate from everyone who is not the "pure" bride of Christ. These separatists desire no cooperation, demand conformity, and are cock sure that every word they breathe is the mind of God. After a ten year personal slumber, I woke up three years ago and saw that this separatist, Landmark spirit is controlling our Convention and agency boards. I knew that if somebody didn't speak out against the narrowing of the definition of what it means to be a Southern Baptist, then those who "control" the SBC would wind up excluding, removing, and disfellowshipping anyone who didn't look like them. I spoke out for those who believe in the continuation of the gifts, but were removed from our mission field. I have spoken out on behalf of women who taught at our seminaries and were fired for being women. I have spoken out against the extraordinary efforts to turn the SBC into one giant Fundamentalist Baptist church.

This week I pointed out that the architect of the Southern Baptist Convention is now going after Calvinists. Dr. Paige Patterson has expressed his intentions to administrators and professors at SWBTS to not have anyone on faculty at Southwestern who holds to five-point Calvinism. This is not conjecture; it is fact. It is also consistent with his actions of removing anyone who doesn't believe like he. People like Sheri Klouda, who saw nothing wrong with a woman teaching a man Hebrew. People like trustee Dwight McKissic, who believe his gift of a private prayer language is from the Holy Spirit. People like certain professors who believed in the continuation of the gifts. Now Dr. Patterson has turned his eye of disunion to five-point Calvinists.

Ironically, the defenders of this purge in the Southern Baptist Convention, those who are closed-communion, Landmark, separatist Baptists, like Patterson himself, defend Dr. Patterson to the nth degree. Their ideologies line up with his. Unfortunately, the Calvinists are waking up at the time they are the ones in the cross hairs. At some point, the Calvinists who didn't believe me will come back and say, "You were right." I, however, am uninterested in being proved right. I am only interested in people removing their blindfolds and seeing what is happening in our beloved Convention.

I have no problem with Landmark, independent, closed-communion, separatist, fundamentalist Baptists participating in the Southern Baptist Convention. Their anti-women, anti-charismatic, anti-Calvinist, anti-cooperation, and "anti-everthing they are not," does sometimes give me a head ache. But, I do not want them gone.

I want them to stop removing Southern Baptists from ministry and service who aren't like them.

Patterson's Intentions Clear and Consistent

In a taped conversation with Paige Patterson last night, a young pastor who idolizes Dr. Patterson and holds to the same ideology to that of his mentor, asked Dr. Patterson about the "rumors" that he desired to remove the Calvinists from the faculty at Southwestern. The questions and answers, courtesy of the transcript provided by New BBC Forum, are as follows . . .

Interviewer: "I've been asked recently about a rumor that these economic challenges have been used as an excuse uh... to weed out certain professors at Southwestern who hold to a soteriological viewpoint with which you disagree. Is there any truth to that rumor?"

Paige Patterson: "Ummm... eh you... you know... eh uh... I certainly hope not. Uhhh... eh uh... eh... I've lived my entire life... of life in a goldfish bowl... and... as boldly as I know how to do it. Uhhh... we're not certain at all that we're going to have to eliminate any professor. We have been working very, very hard to... ummm... to cut everything else in the world so we don't have to cut professors and... uh... we don't know yet what we're gonna have to do, but we... we're hopeful that we don't have to cut any professors. If we do... ummm... I will not use a... uhhh... screen... uh... to do that with. Ummm... if if if... every decision that I make regarding faculty would be made with a view to assisting the school to be the best school it possibly can be. Ummm... we have every conceivable soteriological view on the campus... uhhh... in terms of five points of Calvinism. We have one-pointers, two-pointers, three-pointers, four-pointers, and five-pointers. Uhhh... I will say this. Uhhh... Southwestern will not build a school in the future around anybody who could not look anybody in the world in the eyes and say, "Christ died for your sins." If there is a problem there, then I believe there's a problem that Southern Baptists would not want to fund.

Interviewer: "True."

Paige Patterson: "And so uhhh... uhhh... that would be the case, but I wouldn't be hidin' behind a screen of economic matters... if I had to deal with that".

Interviewer: "Sure."

Paige Patterson: "And uhhh... uh... God willing... ummm... if He's gracious to us... God's people continue to give... maybe we won't have to lay off anybody else."

Interviewer: "That's what we're prayin' for. Yes."

The Confirmation that Calvinists are Targeted Is in the Tape

Other than the interesting fact the interviewer expresses agreement on three separate occasions in his little "interview," it strikes me that Dr. Patterson doesn't deny his agenda, but rather confirms it.

Listen to his words: Southwestern will not build a school in the future around anybody who could not look anybody in the world in the eyes and say, "Christ died for your sins."

Uh, Dr. Patterson, that is precisely what a five-point Calvinist will not do. A Calvinist will not tell just "anybody" that "Christ died for your sins." He will, however, look anybody in the eye and say, "Christ died for sinners. Do you know yourself to be a sinner and in need of a Savior? If so, Christ died for you."

Again, a five point Calvinist will never look just "anybody" in the eye and say "Christ died for you." He will not say that to the man who loves his adultery and scoffs at repentance. He will not say that to a woman who loves herself and will not bow to the Lordship of Christ. He will not say that to Adolph Hitler as Hitler takes Jews to the gas galleys. He will not say that to the sinner who has no sense of his sin. He will not say "Christ died for you" because he doesn't know if Christ did or not.

That's five point Calvinism.

The Calvinist believes that those for whom Christ died evidence Christ's death for them by their faith in the Son and their repentance of sins. God delivers, completely and eternally, only the sinners for whom He gave His Son. This is what Calvinism teaches. As Charles Spurgeon, the great Calvinist preacher of over 150 years ago, so eloquently declared about the elect and the reason God passes over them in judgment:

God will, God must, pass over us, because He spared not our glorious Substitute

The Calvinist is not a universalist. He believes that some sinners will be judged and condemned for their sins. These are those sinners for whom Christ did not die. It is the essence of five-point Calvinism, and these are the people Patterson wishes to purge from Southwestern. If Southern Baptists cannot see that the purging in the Southern Baptist Convention continues, and that anyone who doesn't agree with a particular ecclesiological, soteriological, pneumatological and eschatological ideology of those currently in charge and their vocal sychophants, then we are in a very dangerous place as a cooperating convention of autonomous churches.

There are a few Southern Baptists who do get it. Their blindfolds have been removed. Hopefully, more will follow.

In His Grace,


Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Forcibly Removing the Tulips at SWBTS (Part II)

There are a couple of observations I wish to make about the uproar over my post exposing Southwestern Theological Seminary President's expressed desire to remove all the known Calvinists from the faculty of SWBTS:

(1). This expressed intent to use the downturn in the economy to rid the faculty of Calvinists has been known by various SWBTS professors and administrators, but not all professors, for at least ten days. Meetings with professors were both individual in nature, and in a couple of instances, several professors at one time.

(2). Those who are "shocked" by the expressed intent to make Southwestern Theological Seminary the anti-Southern should be ashamed. Frankly, I am not as bothered by an ideological, independent, Landmark Baptist President's desire to remove Calvinists as I am his removal of a female Hebrew professor or his attempts to remove SBC missionaries who pray with a private prayer language. If you Calvinists are unwilling to protect the latter, then don't scream when they come after your brothers.

(3). For over three years I have grown quite comfortable with hostile attacks upon my integrity. When one is publicly called a liar and a slanderer enough times, he comes to the place where he no longer cares about the reaction about what he posts. But I will always care about the content of what I post, and I will only post the truth. And time always has a way of silencing critics, for time is the great revealer of truth. I continue to blog. I continue to stand by every word I write. You can rest assured that what I have written has been confirmed multiple times by multiple sources both at Southwestern and places of legal authority in Fort Worth, Texas.

(4). The uproar over the "leak" at Southwestern is humorous to me. No stone is being unturned to find who it was that let the cat out of the bag. My question, however, is different: Why is the President at SWBTS so concerned over who said what about SWBTS rather than what is being done to our seminary on the basis of his particular ideology?

(5). As of today, there has been a softening, and some say even a "retraction" of this past week's expressed intent to remove Calvinists from the faculty of Southwestern. Some say the retraction is an attempt to spite those who revealed the plan. If that happens, and Calvinists keep their job, I will receive no thanks from those who continued to be employed by SWBTS. Rather, I will continue to be called every name in the book (and some not in it). My satisfaction, however, rests in the fact that I prevented some removals based upon an a particular ideology that is consuming the SBC (anti-women, anti-charasmatic, anti-Calvinist, Landmark, etc . . ). Like I have often said, if we don't stop the narrowing, we will wake up and the Convention will resemble a large independent fundamentalist Baptist church in Kentucky rather than the historic, cooperative Southern Baptist Convention of years ago.

(6). There will be faculty reductions at SWBTS as there will be at Southern and other educational institutions of the Southern Baptist Convention. But, due to the uproar over the exposure of removing only the Calvinists at SWBTS, the chosen method of reduction, at least as of today, will be different.

(7). Southern Baptists better realize the path being taken by some leaders, and by God's grace, we better do all within our power to stop the forced removal of those people from SBC service and employment who don't agree with particular ecclesiological, soteriological and eschatological idealogues leading our Convention. This week was a solid step in the right direction. And, as the picture above shows, saving the tulips at SWBTS is on behalf of the next generation of Southern Baptists.

In His Grace,


Monday, February 02, 2009

Forcibly Removing All the Tulips at SWBTS

Dr. Paige Patterson met with professors in the theology school at SWBTS and implied the seminary would be letting go the Calvinist professors from the seminary, claiming that the lack of funds and the need to reduce faculty as the rationale for the impending releases. Odd, however, was the seemingly chosen method of reduction. It was not years of service, nor even the performance of the professors, but rather, administration sought to ascertain just who on the faculty were avowed "tulip" men, and those are the ones being let go. Some of the professors present at the meeting included men who specifically informed administration of their beliefs at the time of their hiring, and they were told at the time their beliefs were not a problem.

But it seems Calvinism is a problem to the powers that be at SWBTS. At least one professor from the philosophy department, himself on the brink of release, was present. The professors faced a grilling as to their soteriological belief system. They were asked to declare how many points of Calvinism to which they ascribed, and an even more penetrating series of questions were posed to that unfortunate soul who had the temerity to say "four" or "five" points.

Historically, dismissals at SWBTS have taken the backdoor approach of "You have a year to find a job," but the rough economic environment might speed that process up just a tad for these tulip men. Here's hoping they can make it through the spring.

Of course, it is the perogative of the SWBTS President to release whomsoever he will, but the forced, imminent departure of Calvinists from SWBTS illustrates just how far we have come since ideologues, who can't handle dissent, have taken charge of the Southern Baptist Convention.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson