Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Is the Radical Jesus of Michael Moore and David Platt the Real Jesus?

David Platt is an admired, up and coming young Southern Baptist pastor and theologian. His new book Radical retails for $14.95 in Christian bookstores and has quickly become a bestseller. One reviewer praises the book by writing: "Pastors, if your people read and are not stirred, they are lost. If you read it, and are not convicted, you should be fired! If you choose not to read it, you will miss a blessing and are unqualified to lead anyone in anything involving the Kingdom."

The essence of Platt's Christian philosophy is found in this YouTube video. He argues that:

(1). The mantra of the American Dream is to advance yourself through hard work, ingenuity, and innovation, in order to "have it all."

(2). The frightening reality of the gospel is that "Jesus calls us to give up everything we have."

(3). If we form Jesus to look like us and be who we want him to be, then even when we gather together to sing our praises and lift our hands the reality is we are not worshiping the Jesus of the Bible, we are worshiping ourselves.

(4). We have a Master who demands radical obedience.

(5). The radical obedience demanded by Jesus for His followers is to sell everything we have to feed and clothe the poor people of this world and to proclaim Christ to the nations through missions and evangelism.

I disagree with David Platt's general premise, believing it to be unsupported by both the teachings of Jesus and the Scriptures. To be clear, I admire David Platt and believe he is living his life and guiding his church along the path the Spirit of God would have them go. David Platt's general premise, though, is that Jesus would have every Christian, every disciple, every follower radically obey Him by selling all of his or her possessions, giving the money to the poor or to missions, and then living a simple, frugal life on earth. This is where Platt errs. Jesus does not demand obedience to a call of radical wealth deinvestment from everyone because He doesn't issue that specific call to everyone.

Jesus Sometimes Calls His Followers to Radical Wealth

Michael Moore argues in his film Capitalism: A Love Story that "capitalism is the opposite of everything Jesus taught." When Michael Moore and leading evangelicals begin to say the same thing about what Jesus "taught," it is probably worth a look to see whether or not somebody is misreading Jesus.

Jesus clearly teaches that private ownership of property, capital and wealth is good (Matthew 25:14-30).  In the parable of the talents the businessman "entrusted to them his wealth"  so that his employees could cause his wealth to increase. Notice, the wealth was his, and the man's employees were instructed to increase it.  The man did not sell his wealth for the good of the community at large. He kept his wealth and sought to increase it. The capital used in this economic exchange came from his private, personal wealth. In addition, the businessman distributed his wealth "to each according to his ability." The notion that wealth should be dispensed "from each according to his ability" is completely contradicted by Jesus who said that wealth should be given "to each according to his ability." Prepositions do matter in the Bible.

Nowhere does Jesus ever teach that His followers are to reward or subsidize irresponsibility. The argument that poverty can be eradicated by Christian generosity contradicts Jesus statement that "the poor will always be among us" (Mark 14:7). Granted, there are times and occasions that God calls specific followers to the radical obedience of "selling everything" and giving to the poor, but those are rare times. Very rare.

The problem with the American dream is the love of wealth, not the abundance of wealth.  A radical Christian can be a multi-millionaire, fly in private jets, invest in the stock market, create new capital through innovation, hard work, and ingenuity and live in a nice home and possess nice things. Christ may never call this follower to sell it all. Christ asks His disciples to live in light of the following:

(1). The power to create wealth is a "gift" from God (Deuteronomy 8:18).
(2). There is no power on earth that has not been granted by God (John 19:11).
(3). God expects those given wealth to use it to create more wealth (Matthew 25:21).
(4). The follower of Christ is to love God more than the wealth he's been given (I Timothy 6:10).
(5). Christians should do with wealth what the Master says, and sometimes He calls for it to be sold and given away (Luke 18:18-23).
(6). God always calls us to be generous, but He always commends His people for the creation of new wealth through ingenuity, initiative, hard work (I Thessalonians 4:11-12).
(7). It is the love of money that leads to evil, and poor people are as susceptible to this sin as rich people.

Those in the know understand that the financial collapse in October 2007 was as much the result of the poor desiring to appear wealthy without hard work as it was Wall Street hedge fund managers desiring huge bonuses through bundling mortgage bonds. The poor obtained money through interest only loans, loans which the poor were able to refinance every two years because of rising home prices, homes which the poor should never have qualified to be able to purchase in the first place because of the basic economic principle that a borrower should always pay back loans not just the interest.  For example, it is documented that a Hispanic strawberry picker in Bakersfield, California, earning $14,000 annually was given every penny of a $724,000 home loan on which he only had to pay interest the first two years, and if the value of the house he purchased appreciated, then he would refinance with equity in the home. Taxpayers are now paying on that defaulted mortgage through TARP and the bailout of the banks deemed "too big to fail." Whose at fault? Wall Street? Sure. But what about the poor man's love of wealth? Can we not say that the poor struggle with greed as much, if not more, than the rich?

The poor's love of men has led many to a sense of entitlement. They bear as much guilt as Wall Street brokers. The problem is not the abundance of wealth or the absence of wealth. Neither is a sign of spiritual maturity. The problem is the love of wealth and the belief that everyone should be able to drive the same cars, live in the same kind of houses, enjoy the same kind of luxuries as everyone else. God didn't create the world this way. There will always be the poor, and there will always be the wealthy. We are called as Christians to be content with what we have been given, and through ingenuity and work hard to obtain more wealth, but to always have Christ preeminent in our lives. Nowhere do we find Jesus calling us to all live the same kind of life. Some Jesus calls to radically sell all and give to the poor, but not all. This is where David Platt's book radically errs.

I applaud Platt for writing on CNN's blog that his church gave away their financial surplus to poor churches in India, trimmed 1.5 million dollars from the church budget to drill water wells, and is adopting foster kids in the community. Our church has done some very similar things. We built a $250,000 water well drilling rig, shipped it to Niger, and are sending multiple teams to Niger to train the West Africans how to drill for water. We have also just helped build a hospital, school and mission training center in Niger to house the volunteer teams who come assist the people of Niger in learning how to farm and drill. We have helped build a 1,000 student Christian school in India and support an orphange in India that houses 300 street orphans, an orphanage run by our church members. We have begun an adoption program for foster kids in our community and are heavily invested in assisting the poor in our community through job training and financial assistance. We are working on church starts among Muslims in New York City, hispanics in Guatamala, and other regions of the world. In other words, our church is heavily invested in missions.

But the oil men in our church should continue to fly in their planes, invest in their companies, and make money through hard work and capitalistic ingenuity, unless Jesus specifically and personally calls them to sell out and give their assets and wealth away.  The Christian businessmen and businesswomen in our church should be wise as serpents and gentle as doves as they move among the wealthy in our state and nation, building relationships and companies to create more wealth to be used as God leads.  The wealthy in our church should not sell their large homes, or even their vacation homes, nor feel guilty for having them, but should be hospitable to the people God places around them. The abundance of wealth in the form of capital and assets is not inherently evil. Likewise, those with less wealth in our communities and our churches should not be envious of those with greater wealth, and should live within their means, realizing that God does not have the same financial destiny for everyone. The lack of wealth is neither evil nor a sign of spirituality, just as the abundance of wealth is neither evil nor a sign of spirituality.

In other words, what is radical about being a follower of Jesus Christ is the belief that God is the owner of everything we have in this life, and we will do with the wealth He's given us precisely as He leads us. However, His leading is not always the same for His people. Sometimes He calls His people to lifestyles of radical wealth in order to create more wealth so that His kingdom work can be financed.

One should admire the people who finance the ministries of the David Platt's of this world as much as the David Platt's of this world. They are both being used by God. Though it would be radically consistent for the publisher Ennis Pepper and author David Platt to give Radical away rather than charging $14.95, I applaud them both for ministering with the foresight and wisdom necessary to earn capital so that future ministry can occur through the wonderful writing skills of David Platt as they bring others into the kingdom of God.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Could God Have Come Up With a Better Way to Forgive Sinners? "Yes," says Richard Dawkins

The celebrated English atheist Richard Dawkins wrote on his blog some praise for the King James Bible in anticipation of the 400th anniversary of this translation (2011). In Dawkin's last paragraph in his post of praise for the KJV he writes:

"I have drawn a veil over the New Testament misogyny of Paul, the founder of Christianity: or the Pauline obscenity of every baby being born in sin, saved only by the divine scapegoat suffering on the cross because the Creator of the universe couldn’t think of a better way to forgive everybody."

I think the celebrated atheist's understanding of Paul's misogyny is false, misguided by mideival misogynysts who misinterpreted Paul. However, the purpose of this post is not to deal with Dawkin's incorrect assumptions of Paul's view of women, but rather to point out--and refute--the phrase that sinners are:

"...saved only by the divine scapegoat suffering on the cross because the Creator of the universe couldn't think of a better way to forgive anybody."


I would like to ask the venerable Dawkins how he thinks a capital criminal should be punished. Should a murderer be put to death? Should a pedophile be isolated? Should a thief be imprisoned? Should the envious, selfish, hateful and cruel person be praised instead of judged? What would you do with criminals if you were the perfectly righteous and holy Supreme Judge of the universe?

Methinks you are considering God all together like you think of yourself. You see Him as frail, weak, and impotent. You think He should forgive in the same manner we forgive others. We ignore the sin of others because we see our own sins. We justify the sins of others because we make excuses for our own sins. None of us love others enough to honestly and clearly identify sins, make no excuses or justifications for them, and then bear the just and righteous penalty due them. When is the last time you saw the brother of a murder victim go to the electric chair for the murderer? When is the last time you knew of the mother of a daughter who has been raped go to prison for the rapist and then spend the rest of her life behind bars arranging for the very real, emotional and spiritual healing in the life of that rapist? Who BOTH bears the penalty of sinner and loves that same sinner enough to bring him effectual change? I would propose you have never seen, nor will you ever see, such righteousness and love--except in the Creator of the universe.

"...saved only by the divine scapegoat suffering on the cross because the Creator of the universe couldn't think of a better way to forgive anybody."

My prayer for you is that your eyes may be opened to the holy and righteous nature of your Creator, the true nature of your sins against Him, and the remarkable love required to compel Him to pay for sins at the cross by bearing the righteous punishment due sinners. The teaching of the cross may be moronic (foolish) to you, but it is the only method and message of deliverance given to sinners by God.

Were I in your shoes, I may not understand it, I may not accept it, and I may even think it moronic ... but on the remote possibility that I may one day answer to the Creator who gave His Son for sinners, I would think twice before mocking Him by suggesting He could have come up "with a better way to forgive" sinners. By the way, Dr. Dawkins, you proposed no better way yourself.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Two Guarantees You Have In Life Have Nothing to Do With Health and Wealth

There is as much power in the testimony of a Christian man who dies of cancer while in love with Jesus as there is in the testimony of a Christian man who is healed of cancer and is in love with Jesus. There is no more of God's grace and favor on the life of a woman who is miraculously rescued from a sinking ship than there is on the life of another woman who drowns as a result of the sinking of that same ship. I have heard stories of Christian women who have been saved "by angels" from the wiles of rapists and murderers, but I also know wives of Christian missionaries and pastors who have been brutally raped and murdered. God's love, favor and acceptance reside upon the latter group of Christian women as much as the former group.

I recently heard a minister who says that God told him to "give away everything" and then God multiplied his wealth ten fold because of his obedience. That message is preached to the shouts and applause of thousands. I would love to hear a Christian minister say God told him to "give away everything" and when he did, he became materially poor and has remained so for years, but he possesses all the riches he needs in knowing Jesus Christ. I would also love to hear as much thunderous applause from those who hear that startling kind of message. Why? Because there is more power and substance in the latter testimony than in the former.

Why is it that we Western evangelicals put so much emphasis on "victory," success," and "material blessings?" The only guarantees any of us have in this life is that God loves us and He will never leave us. You may not be healed. You may not be materially blessed. You may not have a successful marriage. You may suffer at the hands of a brutal criminal. You may find out you are dying and there is no cure. You may receive bad news today. Yet our lives in Christ are built upon a much more of a solid rock than our perfect circumstances.

Some of us ought to go live in 10/40 window among radical Islamists, massive poverty, and barren wastelands of dry, dusty earth. It might help us realize that when our Christian messages of comfort revolve around material answers to our desparate prayers, the content of our message has been materially corrupted.

One of our church members received some difficult news the other day. I sat down and wrote a letter of encouragement. I felt impressed to send a poem with the letter and penned the following to lift the spirits of our church member. Maybe today God can use the poem to encourage those of you who may not be having  things happen in your life the way you want, or worse, the answer to your prayers are exactly opposite of what you have requested.

My Lord's Guarantee

There are days you’ll hear news that burdens your soul.
Words will come that cause you to feel less than whole.
Those times are planned by Me for a special reason,
To give you My comfort in your particularly dark season.

I may not make always make things perfect and secure,
But I will show you two things that are absolutely sure.
My unconditional love for you will never change or abate.
And your life is not in the hands of earthly chance or fate.

I have taken hold of you and supported you by My hand,
To ensure the evil around you will not forever stand.
Assurance of My love is found not in what you can see.
It is established in the personal faith you have in Me.

It may be that I designed this afflication to end with death.
For this reason you must trust Me with your every breath.
You came to this world with nothing but My love for you,
And it is this unfailing love that will see you through.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

When One's Definition of Sin Becomes Relevant, One's Dying to Sin Becomes Irrelevant

Our church hosts weekly meetings for people who are struggling to handle the pain their addictions to certain activities brings them. We are a host church that practices love and grace to all those who darken our doors, accepting the sinner wherever he or she is in life. We teach those who come to our recovery and restoration ministries how the greatest pleasures in this life come from our personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus. Jesus (a contraction of the Hebrew "Jehoshua" which means "He shall deliver") is the Messiah (Greek: Christ), the One anointed by God to deliver us from the bondage of our sins and the false belief that real pleasure comes from crossing boundaries God has drawn for our good.

Periodically we have hosted a ministry called Exodus International, a ministry of men and women who have struggled with homosexual sin, but are learning what it means to look to Jesus in faith that He will deliver them from their sins (Matthew 1:21: "You shall call His name Jesus, for He will deliver His people from their sins"). We open our arms to the people who come to conferences sponsored by Exodus, many of whom are not even sure that homosexuality is even sin. Ironically, many adulterers who come to our Celebrate Recovery meetings are not sure their sexual activity is wrong either ("How can something that feels so good with someone I love so much be considered 'sin'?").

Al Mohler published today an excellent article entitled So Why Is Incest Wrong? Mohler writes about David Epstein, a professor of political science at Columbia University. Dr. Eptein's wife also teaches at Columbia, and he previously taught on the faculties of Harvard and Stanford. Last week, Dr. Eptein was arraigned before a judge in Manhattan, charged with a single count of felony incest. According to authorities, Professor Epstein was for several years involved in a sexual relationship with his adult daughter, now age 24. Reading the statements by Dr. Epstein's attorney, arguing that Professor Epstein loves his daughter and that there is nothing unhealthy about a consensual, incestuous relationship between adults, I reflected back to something I had read earlier.

A little over three years ago three former leaders of the Christian ministry Exodus International, apologized for their involvement in Exodus and renounced their belief that homosexuality was "sin."  The three early leaders of this Christian ministry, Darlene Bogle, Michael Bussee, and Jeremy Marks, each explained what brought them to their change of heart. Darlene is very specific about the event that caused her to see that "what she had been teaching (i.e. "homosexual behavior is sin") was dead wrong." She writes:

As I was teaching at an Exodus Conference, a woman walked in and sat on the front row. She had long curly black hair and an infectious smile. Her eyes locked with mine, and although the books say there is no such thing as love at first sight, my heart knew better. Her name was Des. I walked to the other side of the room, recounting my journey of healing by rote, but my brain was whirling with thoughts and emotions that I thought were dead. Imagine, if you can, my shock and horror when I realized in that moment, that what I had been teaching was a lie!
I think Darlene has given us a prime example of the importance of everyone defining sin the way God defines it. The Apostle John writes "Sin is the transgression of the law" (I John 3:4). Since nobody but radical, orthodox Jews would argue that the ceremonial, sacrifical and and civil "laws" given by God for Israel to observe are still in force, the question becomes "To what law does God hold us?"

In other words, how do we know what "sin" is?

The young lawyer asked Jesus this same question, and Jesus responded that loving God and your fellow man are the two laws upon which all the law of God are built (Matthew 22:40). But that begs the question: "Are homosexuality, adultery, drunkenness, sexual immorality, stealing, incest, and other specific activities wrong?" Listen, again, to the Apostle John: "But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and sexually immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8). The New Testament Scriptures set forth the objective standard of God in about as clear a fashion as one could hope.

It would seem to me that the problem people in our culture and world have today is the unwillingness to define sin the way God defines it. The issue with people in evanglical churches is that we often wish to add to the law of God things that God never said ("don't put a woman in leadership," "don't drink," "don't dance," "don't go to movies," etc...)  but the problem with those outside the church is that they wish to take away from the law of God.

God has said homosexual behavior, adulterous behavior, drunken behavior, incestuous behavior, stealing, lying, idolatery, murder, sorcery, and other specific behaviors are outside the boundaries of moral behavior He has established His law for mankind. We all cross the line. He sent Jesus to deliver His people from the bondage, penalty and temporary pleasures our transgressions bring by opening up to us to an understanding of the eternal  pleasures we will find in our relationship with the Deliverer, Jesus Christ.

When a person's definition of sin becomes relevant (i.e. "the moment I saw my lesbian lover I knew that my teaching on homosexuality was wrong"), then one's dying to sin becomes irrelevant. Why die to sin when I can't even call it sin? The danger of allowing our definition of sin to become "relevant" is that we lose the power and pleasure of any relationship with the One whose name, title, and function is to deliver us from those very sins that put us in bondage in the first place.

Before, however, we condemn the homosexual, or the adulterer, or the drunkard, or the gambler, or all other "sinners" by pointing our proverbial finger, we might pause to consider this same Jesus has called our pride, our selfishness, our backbiting, and a host of other activities we seem to revel in sin. How can we who know the intrinsic worth of Jesus find fault in those who refuse to die to their sins when we struggle to die to our own?

My prayer is that today, like everyday, Jesus will convince me that I am the greatest of all sinners. My belief in the presence of sin in my life is the glue (faith) that ties me to the Person and work my Deliverer.

Friday, December 10, 2010

How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership by Dr. Alan Johnson

ALAN F. JOHNSON (PhD, Dallas Theological Seminary) is Emeritus Professor of New Testament and Christian Ethics and Emeritus Director of the Center for Applied Christian Ethics (CACE) at Wheaton College. He is the author of commentaries on Paul's letter to the Romans, 1 Corinthians, and Revelation and co-author with Robert Webber of What Christians Believe. His latest book, pictured here, is entitled How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership.

This book features a number of autobiographical accounts as to how various persons have come to change their minds about women in leadership. Well-known evangelical leaders—individuals and couples, males and females from a broad range of denominational affiliation and ethnic diversity—share their surprising journeys from a more or less restrictive view to an open inclusive view that recognizes a full shared partnership of leadership in the home and in the church based on gifts not gender. How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership offers a positive vision for the future of women and men together as partners of equal worth without competitiveness in the work of equipping this and the next generation of Christian disciples for the 'work of ministry' and service in the Kingdom of God.

There have long been attempts by fundamentalists conservatives to paint liberal moderate anyone who believes that women can be as gifted as men, can lead or teach men, or can hold positions of "authority" over men. Aside from the fact it is nigh impossible to define authority the way Jesus defines it (servanthood) and have any objection to women in leadership, it is a breath of fresh air to read a book edited by a bona-fide evangelical inerrantist who is showing that it is not God who is changing His mind about women, but fallen, fallible men who must change theirs.

The next time I hear an evangelical conservative complain that evangelicals are "listening to culture" and "changing their views on women" because of the feminist movement, I very well may send them a free copy of this book that once again proves it is not the Bible that fails men, but men who fail the Bible.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Patriarchy and the Family Integrated Church Emphasis in SBC Seminaries: A Potential Embarrassment for the SBC

There is a growing movement within far right conservative evangelical circles called the Family Integrated Church (FIC). The goal of the Family Integrated Church movement is for churches to conduct family worship, so as to not separate families into "age-group" ministries or worship (i.e. children, youth, married adults, etc . . . ). Family Integrated Churches desire "fathers to take their God-ordained role of spiritual leadership" and for a family to worship with their father, the spiritual authority and covering for all the family members. While the goals of the Family Integrated Church sound fine when one first hears them, it is the philosphical underpinnings of the Family Integrated Church that give the potential for future embarrassment to the evangelical church, particularly the Southern Baptist Convention.

The FIC movement is built upon the the principles of patriarchy. Patriarchy is a Greek word which means "father rule." In essence, patriarchy teaches that the male in the family (i.e. the progenitor or originator of the family) has the inherent authority over - and the power to rule - the entire family. In short, patriarchy is the belief in male dominance. Bill Gothard spiritualized patriarchy by proposing what he called "an umbrella of protection" provided by the father for the entire family, and any family member who remains under the "authority" of the father is protected from harm. Gothard's views express the the extreme logical conclusions of patriarchy within Christian circles.

Patriarchy Is NOT Necessarily Biblical

It is unnecessary to believe the Bible to hold to patriarchy, and it is possible to believe the Bible and renounce patriarchy and male domination. For example, Dr. Steven Goldberg, chairman of the Department of Sociology at the City of New York College, wrote a book entitled The Inevitablity of Patriarchy. Dr. Goldberg is not an evangelical Christian or Bible believer and says of his book:

"This book is not concerned with the question of whether male domination of hierarchies is morally or politically 'good' or 'bad'. Moral values and political policies, by their nature, consist of more than just empirical facts and their explanation. 'What is' can never entail 'what should be', so science knows nothing of 'should'. 'Answers' to questions of 'should' require subjective elements that science cannot provide."

Dr. Goldberg believes that the world will be male dominated because of biology - in short, testosterone. Goldberg believes patriarchy is the way the world is because males seek "attainment," "domination," and "power over others" because they are biologically bent to do so.

Likewise, many evangelical Bible-believing Christians who understand biology and the tendency of all men to dominate, renounce patriarchy or "this inherent desire to rule" as the anti-thesis of the Christian life as revealed by Christ and the New Covenant Scriptures. For example, the conservative theologian Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, author of the article I Believe in Male Headship writes that . . .

The word head is used five times in the New Testament to define the relation of Christ to the church. As will be shown below, the use of head is consistent in all of those texts.

Eph. 1:22-23. The passage that immediately precedes this text exalts the supremacy of Christ in his session. But in relation to the church, the role of Christ is described as being appointed as head for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. The headship of Christ is never over the church in the New Testament. Here, it is for the church. As head, Christ gives the church fullness. He provides for the church's growth. The function is not one of authority but of servant provider of what makes the church's growth possible.

Eph. 4:15-16. Christ is the head from whom the whole body grows and builds itself up. The function of the head in relation to the body is to provide it with growth. Headship is not an authority role but a developmental servant function.

Eph. 5:23. The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which is the Savior. As head of the church, Christ is its Savior. If head had meant authority, the appropriate designation for Christ would have been "Lord" instead of "Savior" which is consistently a self-sacrificing, life-giving servant role in the New Testament.

Col. 1:18-19. Christ is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead. Through his blood, shed on the cross, all things are reconciled to God. In a passage that celebrates Christ's supremacy over all creation, this text describes Christ as the source of the life of the church through his resurrection from the dead and because of the reconciliation obtained through his self-sacrificing servant ministry at the cross. Headship is not defined in terms of authority but as servant provider of life.

Col. 2:19. Christ is the head from whom the whole body grows. The function of head in relation to the body is not one of rulership but of servant provider of growth. Christ as head to the church is the source of its life and development.

This survey indicates that head, biblically defined, means exactly the opposite of what it means in the English language. Head is never given the meaning of authority, boss or leader. It describes the servant function of provider of life, growth and development. This function is not one of top-down oversight but of bottom-up support and nurture.

The Implications of Demanding Southern Baptists All Be Patriarchal

It's fine for individual Southern Baptists and Southern Baptists to hold to patriarchy if they choose, and it seems from the connections here that at least two Southern Baptist seminaries have chosen to advocated patriarchy and Family Integrated Churches. Faculty at Southern are currently being asked to begin the process of converting all "Leadership and Christian Ministry" degrees over to "Family Integrated Worship" degrees. The problems, and potential embarrassment for our Convention, come when self-appointed spokesmen for the Southern Baptist Convention act to the media as if all Southern Baptist churches and Southern Baptist individuals hold to and advocate patriarchy.

While some Southern Bapitsts cherish patriarchy and believe "complementarianism" is a compromise word, there are a number of Southern Baptists who believe the advent of patriarchy and Family Integrated churches could be detrimental to our Convention if it is ever allowed to be presented as the ONLY biblical, conservative, evangelical model for ministry and worship. We must remember that we are a cooperating Convention, not a conforming Convention.

The Problems of Family Integrated Churches

Southern Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky announced the hiring of Dr. Randy Stinson in the fall of 2006 as the dean of Southern’s School of Leadership and Church Ministry. Stinson also continues to serve as executive director of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. In the statement that Dr. Albert Mohler, Jr. made concerning the appointment of Randy Stinson as dean and the school's Family Integrated Church (FIC) specialist, he says that Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) holds to a “family-centered vision of church ministry.”

We commend Southern for their emphasis on "the family" but would like to caution all Southern Baptists about the dangers of accepting patriarchy as the "only" Biblical view of church ministry. Cindy Kunsman, a highly intelligent conservative, evangelical female inerrantist is writing on her blog about the connections between Family Integrated Ministries, patriarchy, and Southern Baptist seminaries, including Southern Theological Seminary. It takes persistence and concentration to work your way through her research at her blog, called Under Much Grace, but the end result is a gold mine of understanding of the potential embarrassment patriarchy could cause the SBC if left unchallenged from a Biblical New Convenant perspective. Cindy writes about the effects of patriarchal views in the local church:

The church, per the hierarchical view, becomes a family of many, many families over which the local elders preside. Men, as the heads of their families, become the focus of ministry in the local church, and ministry then proceeds from men to their individual family members. Church ministry is thus mediated by the federal head. As a consequence of this form of government, the wife holds no independent relationship to the church that is apart from the family or male headship.

Therefore, with the FIC emphasis, what does the local church do in terms of:
(1). Ministry to singles, particularly single women?
(2). Ministry to the divorced and widowed?
(3). Ministry to children whose parents are lost?
(4). Ministry to women who come from abusive homes?
(5). Ministry to families who are fracturing?

Obviously, FIC could provide answers to the above questions, but I am uninterested in the specifics and very interested in the principle, suggested by FIC as a "Biblical principle" that the father alone is the "head" and "authority" in the home. This type of "covering" provided by the male, seems to be a direct contradiction to the teaching that in Christ there is "neither male or female" and the head of of all individuals is Jesus Christ Himself. Further, there will be NO marriage in heaven, and the concept of the nuclear "family" with the male providing the authority needed for "Family Worship" is foreign to the New Covenant concept of Christianity. As Cindy Kunsman astutley observes . . .

Our natural relatives do not take precedence over our relationships within the Body of Christ.

The body of Christ is composed of divorced, widowed, orphaned, single, abandoned, outcast, rejected people - as well as families with a traditional father, mother and children. Demands that all Southern Baptist churches be Family Integrated Churches and offer only Family Integrated Worship, even if it occurs through producing pastors who graduate from seminaries that teach the Family Integrated Church concept, will eventually cause our Southern Baptist churches to lose their ability to minister to a dysfunctional and fractured society. The church of Jesus Christ transcends culture, and in heaven there will be neither marriage nor the giving in marriage. A slice of heaven on earth is when men and women are treated equally in the church of Jesus Christ and neither one gender, or the other, are viewed as the "authorities" or "rulers."

I sometimes wonder if our Southern Baptist seminaries teaching of male domination is the reason why Southern Baptist women are being bypassed for, or removed from, positions on seminary faculty, administrative positions at the IMB and NAMB, and other various positions where a woman has "authority" over a man.

I also wonder what some Southern Baptist leaders are saying publicly (and in private) about Sarah Palin?

Stay tuned.

In His Grace,


Thursday, October 21, 2010

One of the Costs of Real Leadership Is Being Misunderstood and Misperceived

By all accounts President Abraham Lincoln was a Christian man full of mercy and compassion. Several anecdotes from his life reveal a genuine love for his fellow man, even his enemies, including the ability to forgive and pardon those who personally wronged him. The United States Department of War complained of an increased lack of discipline within the ranks because troops knew that President Lincoln often pardoned soldiers who deserted the army. Lincoln spent the last week of his life granting hundreds of pardons to both Confederates and Union soldiers, sparing many from a death sentence.

However, Lincoln could also be tough as steel. Word reached President Lincoln that the Confederate States of America had issued orders that any black Union soldier captured in Confederate Territory was to be executed instead of taken as a prisoner.  The Confederates were furious with the January 1, 1863 implementation of Lincoln's "Emancipation Proclamation" and the resultant recruitment and deployment of black soldiers within the Union army. Upon hearing of the CSA's orders to execute black prisoners of war, President Lincoln issued his July 1863 "Order of Retaliation" which stated in part:

"The government of the United States will give the same protection to all its soldiers, and if the enemy shall sell or enslave anyone because of his color, the offense shall be punished by retaliation upon the enemy's prisoners in our possession.

It is therefore ordered that for every [Black] soldier of the United States killed in violation of the laws of war, a rebel soldier shall be executed; and for everyone enslaved by the enemy or sold into slavery, a rebel soldier shall be placed at hard labor on the public works and continued at such labor until the other shall be released and receive the treatment due to a prisoner of war."

It seems to me that principles of justice demand that when people full of grace are faced with the prospect of the weak and defenseless being unjustly harmed, the only appropriate response is an "eye for eye" approach to the abuser. That kind of tactic is not easy. It requires both moral discipline and strong leadership. In addition, when people don't know their leader personally, as was the case with most regarding President Lincoln, they will often base their opinions of the leader on his public writings alone. This would have led to a false impression. But being misunderstood is one of the costs of leadership. Those who lead should know this. It is also a sign of weak leadership when one is constantly trying to correct false perceptions of himself (or herself).

I consider President Lincoln one of the best leaders our nation has ever seen.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Case Study in How Fundamentalists Can Kill a Convention (Part 2)

During the aftermath of Peter Lumpkin's ridiculous post about Southeastern Theological Seminary and Peter's baseless accusation of a problem with rampant "drunkenness" on the campus of SEBTS, Dr. Danny Akin, the President of SEBTS, signed in to "comment" (comment #113) on Peter's baseless post. Dr. Akin was gracious but firm in his denial of Peter's charges. Peter Lumpkins responded to Dr. Akin by writing:

"Dr. Akin did not really address the main point of the two posts I’ve written."

I find that statement ironic since Peter invited me to debate him on the subject, but subsequently deleted every single one of my comments. Peter did not have the ability to delete Dr. Akin's comment, so he simply dismissed Dr. Akin as someone who "did not really address the main point of the two posts I've written." So,I will dialogue for a moment on Peter's assumptions in a place where he cannot delete what I write.

Question: What is the "main point" of Peter Lumpkins' posts? Here it is in Peter's own words:

Main Point:  "When one makes the consumption of intoxicants for pleasurable purposes, a consumption of which is widely accepted within our culture, into a mere unimportant, insignificant third-tier, non-gospel-centered, libertarian, amoral issue, what under the blue sky do you think is going to happen?"

Peter is perturbed that some faculty members and administrators at SEBTS have either taught moderation of alcohol from the Bible and/or have invited speakers to the seminary who hold to personal "moderation." Peter believes they are not only wrong, but they pose a danger to the SBC. To Peter and Southern Baptists of his ilk, total abstinence is a first-tier, gospel-centered, foundational moral issue. You either agree with his position of total abstinence, which is the ONLY "official" Southern Baptist position, or you are "immoral." If one dares teach "moderation" as the biblical position, as some professors at SEBTS do, then one can expect the sin of drunkenness to be rampant on the campus among the students.

Wade's response  to Peter's main point - Hogwash.

Let me be clear. What is hogwash is not Peter's personal conviction for total abstinence. I respect that and affirm him in it. What is hogwash is Peter's demand that every Southern Baptist conform to his interpretation of Scripture and accuse those who don't, as in the case of some at Southeastern, as immoral Christians or at best on the verge of rampant immorality. That kind of condemning spirit is legalism; or it could be called Fundamentalism with a capital "F."

Dr. Gresham Mechan, the great conservative Biblical scholar was once asked if he considered himself a "Fundamentalist" or liked being called a "Fundamentalist." Listen to his response:

"I regret my being called by a term that I greatly dislike, a "Fundamentalist?" Most certainly I do. (Stonehouse, J. Gresham Machen, p. 337).

John Piper gives seven reasons why Machen never spoke of himself as a Fundamentalist. To Dr. Machen, Fundamentalism meant. . .

(1). The absence of historical perspective;
(2). The lack of appreciation of scholarship;
(3). The substitution of brief, skeletal creeds for the historic confessions;
(4). The lack of concern with precise formulation of Christian doctrine;
(5). The pietistic, perfectionist tendencies (i.e., hang-ups with smoking, drinking alchohol, etc . . );
(6). One-sided otherworldliness (i.e., a lack of effort to transform the culture), and,
(7). A penchant for futuristic chiliasm (or: premillennialism).

The SBC should avoid Fundamentalism. It will kill us. We should never take third-tier issues of fellowship and place them in the first-tier category. I have written before on the freedom Christians should give one another on the issue of alcohol consumption. The Biblical command is to "abstain from drunkenness." Whether someone in the Southern Baptist Convention drinks wine, or beer, or alcohol--unless it is a violation of the law (such as "underage drinking" or "drunkenness")--should be none of our business.

The "main point" of Peter Lumpkins should be vociferously resisted by all Southern Baptists, vocally and in writing, because if the spirit of Peter Lumpkins is allowed to become the predominant and prevalent spirit of the SBC, our great Convention will die a slow death as it is strangled by Fundamentalism. Remember, the issue is NOT whether or not someone should be free to follow a personal conviction to abstain from alcohol, but the issue is whether or not one's personal conviction should be forced onto the entire Convention. Fundamentalism says it should.

God says it shouldn't (Col. 2:16; I Cor. 10:31; I Timothy 5:23 ).

In His Grace,


Monday, October 18, 2010

A Case Study in How Fundamentalists Can Kill a Convention (Part 1)

If one wishes to know the reason behind the numerical, financial and evangelistic decline in the Southern Baptist Convention, one need look no further than at a Fundamentalist Southern Baptist blog called SBC Tomorrow, owned by Southern Baptist Peter Lumpkins.

Mr. Lumpkins recently wrote a post entitled "Here Come Those Boozin' Baptists: A Problem for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary?" In the post, Mr. Lumpkins suggests that there is a problem with "boozin" and "drunkenness" at Southeastern Theological Seminary among students. Peter writes:

"Could it possibly be Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary is facing a crisis...perhaps a crisis where students are, shall we say, a bit more corinthianistic than they would like?

Is this possible? After all, when one of the faculty members rhetorically asks, over the cyberways, "Is alcohol a good thing? Sure! If it is taken in moderation," would it be surprising if a crisis were brewing amongst the student-body? Not from my side of the creek.

When one makes the consumption of intoxicants for pleasurable purposes, a consumption of which is widely accepted within our culture, into a mere unimportant, insignificant third-tier, non-gospel-centered, libertarian, amoral issue, what under the blue sky do you think is going to happen?"
Fundamentalist Peter Lumpkins has taken the five basic steps Fundamentalists use to destroy gospel cooperation:

(1). Make a third-tier, non-gospel doctrine a first-tier doctrine upon which without agreement no Christian fellowship will occur.
(2). Suggest that any "professing believer" who disagrees with the Fundamentalist's intrepetation is immoral ("corinthianistic") or perhaps "unsaved."
(3). Shut down debate on any questionable interpretation of Scripture by engaging in destructive personalized attacks against those who disagree.
(4). Delete or ignore any comment that places the Fundamentalist's logic in a poor light.
(5). Become so worked up over tertiary issues that eventually the power of the gospel is ultimately lost.

When I revealed the poor logic of Peter Lumpkins' post regarding Southeastern Seminary and their President Danny Aiken, and when I showed Peter and the readers how one of Peter's own commentors on his blog had suggested that he (Peter Lumpkins) had a "secret alcohol problem," I argued that the same tactic Peter uses against Southeastern was now being used against him. I suggested to Peter that his kind of writing (and his commentor's) was as David Miller suggested,  "the worst kind of blogging."

Peter's response to my comment was as follows (verbatim):

You conclude: "I have to agree with Dave Miller that this style of writing is the worst kind of blogging."

Know I've had a pretty rough day dealing with some necessities out and about Atlanta. I had much time to think about the last couple posts and whether what I wrote crossed the canons of moral reasoning I employ for so many daily decisions.And, I must say there were moments when I wondered if my many critics were correct. But then, Wade, I get home, fire up the computer, and upon doing so, my eyes crossed the short phrase from your inspired moment I quoted above...

it was...

it was a...

a bolt of lightening, a truly pentecostal moment, I say...

when I heard as Moses from the mountain...


like Elijah's whisper, it came to me...

with the Apostle Peter's confidence...

for sure, for sure, I tell you...

it was suddenly affirmed I did the right thing. I followed the hard path but nonetheless the right path.

Know, my Wade, your words pushed me toward a verse in God's Word which sealed within me the security I needed to know I did the right thing by posting as I did.

The verse is an Old Testament obscurity but as inspired as any word in the Sacred Book.

It reads, and I quote...

"And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass..." (Num.22:28)

Thank you, Wade Burleson. I am now in perfect peace.

With that, I am...


Posted by: peter
2010.10.16 at 06:05 PM
Ignoring the personal insult, I attempted to engage Peter, at his request, on the fallacy of his writings about a drunkenness problem at Southeastern Theological Seminary. Peter "unpublished" (he does not like to call it "delete") my comments, a practice that is common with him. After attempting to engage Peter regarding the his charge against the students of SEBTS, challenging him to rethink his uncharitable suggestion of "drunkenness" among the students because of the beliefs and teaching of certain faculty at SEBTS, and trying to dialogue on this matter at his invitation, I gave up after my comments were deleted and left a final comment that he also deleted.

My last comment began with a quote from Peter that appears at the bottom of Peter's most recent post where he attempts to justify his accusations against SEBTS students and faculty:

"The reader will note I have the comment posted on my own page. It’s becoming more significant that important links be cached since they too frequently disappear into cyberspace."

Peter, one might suggest that in light of you "unpublishing" (deleting) my most recent comment, a portion of which you quote in your 4:09 PM comment above, you ought to consider removing your statement, italicized above, from your most recent post.

"A hypocrite is in himself both the archer and the mark, in all actions shooting at his own praise or profit" (Thomas Fuller in Holy and Profane States--The Hypocrite (maxim I, bk. V, ch. VIII).
It is people with a spirit like that of Peter Lumpkin that cause the Southern Baptist Convention to fracture and shatter. I no more wish to be identified with the harsh, bitter and condemning spirit of the Pharisees than I do the theological liberalism of the Sadducees.

Every Southern Baptist keeps cheering the "victory" over theological liberals in the Southern Baptist Convention, but if we don't do something to shut down the Fundamentalists who possess the spirit of Peter Lumpkin, there will be no Southern Baptist Convention left within a generation.  Neo might have stopped all the bullets aimed at him, but when Fundamentalists begin aiming their six shooters, they don't stop till all those who disagree with them are dead.

Thank God not all Southern Baptists have the kind of spirit demonstrated at SBC Tomorrow. However, if the majority of Southern Baptists don't begin to speak up and out against the deceptive and ungodly practices of Fundamentalism, we might as well shut the doors on the SBC and turn out the lights.

Bill Hicks: When the Laughter Ends, Then What?

On January 30, 2009, David Letterman apologized to a national television audience for the one and only time he ever censored a guest comedian on The Late Show

Fifteen years earlier, on October 1, 1993, 32-year-old stand-up comedian sensation Bill Hicks found his routine entirely edited out of that night's Late Show broadcast. 

The censorship, approved by Letterman himself, rankled Hicks enormously.

The show would have been his twelfth and final appearance on Letterman. 

Hicks died of pancreatic cancer four months later, on February 26, 1994. 

Letterman's apology this past January, complete with an appearance from Hick's elderly mother, made for fascinating television.

Who is Bill Hicks?

While most people have never heard of him, many professional comedians idolize him. 

In 2005, 12 years after his death, Hicks' act was ranked in the top twenty comedic acts of all time by fellow comedians.

Comedy Central ranked Hicks 19 out of the 100 top comedians in the history of the world

In a poll taken just two years ago, the people of Great Britain ranked Bill Hicks #6 on the list of the top 100 comedians of all time. 

His act was edgy, vulgar, and "so ahead of his time," Rodney Dangerfield once quipped, "his parents haven't even met yet." 

Hicks glorified drug use and incorporated most of his experiences while high on cocaine, heroin, and LSD into his routine. He mocked all things sacred, southern, and sure. 

One of his favorite acts, introduced in 1984 during his first appearance on The Late Show, revolved around a fictional character named Elmer Dinkley from Enid, Oklahoma - a character Hicks continued to develop until his last public performance.

Bill Hicks and I had in common: We both were...

(1). Born in December of 1961.
(2). Raised Southern Baptist.
(3). Given "William" as our first name.
(4). Teenagers when we began speaking in churches.
(5). Fond of telling others about Enid, Oklahoma.
(6). Censored by peers in our respective fields. 
(7). People who like to make others laugh.

But there was one massive difference between Bill and me. Bill enjoyed mocking the sacred. He once placed in his routine this little bit:

My dad would say, "I believe that the Bible is the literal word of God." And I'd say, "No, it's not, Dad. "Well, I believe that it is." And I'd say, "Well, Dad, you know, some people believe they're Napoleon. That's fine. Beliefs are neat. Cherish them, but don't share them like they're the truth."

As Bill Hicks died of pancreatic cancer, he tried to get his Southern Baptist father to inhale mushrooms.

Bill Hicks died pushing artificial highs on his father.  Bill's laughter ended on February 26, 1994.

Today, my father and I laughed together over the phone. We're having fun, sharing joy, and talking about Christ and what He's doing in our lives and in the lives of others. We get excited about showing people the joy of knowing Christ and being enjoyed by Him. 

I share Christ with others because I know Him to be the way, the truth, and the life.

As I reflected on the life and death of Bill Hicks this evening, I couldn't help but ask myself the question:

"What makes me different from Bill Hicks, a man with whom I share much in common?"

There is only one answer.

God's grace.

Nothing inherent in me makes me different from Bill Hicks - I'm not inherently more intelligent, I'm not inherently better, I'm not inherently more enlightened. 

I, too, could have found my life wasted in a haze of drug-induced imaginations and razor-sharp confident humor - but God intervened and brought me to faith in Him. 

Therefore, I can't get angry at people who love a Borat/Bruno/Hangover, an x-rated atmosphere that trivializes sin, excoriates the sacred, and embraces every poor and temporary substitute for lasting happiness that only Christ brings. 

I would love the same things were it not for God's grace. 

Christ makes me laugh, but it is the kind of laughter that springs from a heart full of gladness, not the empty laughter of irony, vulgarity, or silliness - what Paul calls "behaving unbecomingly" (I Corinthians 13).

I have compassion for the Bill Hicks of this world. 

They cannot stop laughing long enough to ask what happens when the laughter ends.

Maybe you've read this blog because you are curious about Bill Hicks, so you Googled his name for more information about Bill's life and comedy.

If so, my prayer is that by God's grace, you will awaken to your need of God and come to faith in His love for you by sending the Messiah to obtain an authentic life of joy and purpose that lasts forever. 

The laughter rooted in the profane ends one day. 

The laughter and joy that comes from God lasts forever. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

What Sends a Person to Hell and Takes a Person to Heaven? It's Not What You Might Think

The answer most evangelicals give to the question that frames the title of this post is "Faith in Jesus Christ takes a person to heaven and a lack of faith in Jesus Christ sends a person to hell."

That answer is technically incorrect. A person is sent to hell or is taken to heaven based upon whether or not God considers them absolutely morally perfect in character and deed.

For example, listen to the Apostle Paul in Romans 2:7: "To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life." The phrase "persistence in doing good" is interesting. It's difficult to see in English the verb tenses of Greek. Paul's grammar refers to a continual, perfect conduct that includes right inner motives (i.e. "glory and honor" for God). In short, eternal life is the reward for absolute moral perfection while living on earth. The first three chapters of Romans is drilling into the minds of people that nobody, even the Jews zealous for obedience to the law, consistently, perpetually and perfectly obey God.

Be Ye Perfect!

God's demand for moral perfection is consistent with the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:48: "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." It is often said by preachers that "perfect"in this verse cannot mean "moral perfection," but rather "completeness." Not true. The demand of a holy God upon His Creation, specifically for those He created in His image, is absolute moral perfection. Without a perfect holiness and righteousness "no one will see the Lord."

Where do we find this standard of moral perfection? God stamps within the heart of each of us an understanding of morality. Theologians call this "natural law." One may go to the darkest locales in the most uncivilized parts of this world and find the most basic moral codes (i.e. "don't murder, don't steal, etc..."), but as in all societies, compliance to natural law is incomplete and corrupt.  God has written His standard in the hearts and minds of all men, but all men choose to transgress that standard (Romans 1).  It is the violation of this natural law--going contrary to conscience and the inner witness of what is right--that sends a person to hell. What's worse, because the standard of God is both inward and outward moral perfection (i.e. "motives, thoughts and deeds"), just desiring to murder someone (i.e. "hate") sends a person to eternal judgment. That corrupt desire of hate is contrary to original design of God for man.

Sin Against the Creator Sends One to Hell

Let me state the above principle as simply as possible: What sends a person to hell is NOT the rejection of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior but one's own sin against His Creator. God will send you to eternal judgment if you live a morally imperfect life, inconsistent with His character and His image which are stamped in you. But He is a also a just and equitable God. He will also give eternal life to any human who actively,  continually and perfectly lives a life consistent with the character of God (Romans 2:7).

At various times throughtout history, particularly with the nation of Israel,  the transcendent God condescended to man and codiefied His standard (i.e. "law") in order to further reveal mans' moral corruption. The ancients spoke of moral perfection as "light" and the lack of moral perfection as "darkness." The Bible is clear that the world is dark and God is "light." Jesus of Nazareth,  the incarnate God ("Emmanuel") come to earth, has "no darkness at all" (I John 1:5).  In these last days God has spoken to us through His Son, revealing the ultimate standard of moral righteousness. We see God's moral perfection in the person and conduct of Jesus Christ. Our sin, what the Bible calls "transgression against the law of God," is living a life that is inconsistent with the character, motives, and actions of Jesus Christ. The Son is the fullest revelation of God's standard of moral perfection. Christ came to "fulfill" the work of the Father on our behalf. We are imperfect people in need of a Savior. We are "transgressors" and "sinners" because our disobedience to God is real and personal. Christ's presence on earth gives greater light to the character of God and further condemns those who are not as they ought to be.

God will one day judge each and every sinner for living life short of His moral standard of perfection. Ancient theologians believed the only humans excluded from this impending "day of God's wrath" are those who die as "infants or imbeciles." The latter word is definitely not appropriate in today's world, but what the old theologians meant was "God's judgment will fall on every single sinner except those who die in a state of infancy and imbecility." The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message affirms this ancient belief by declaring: "Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original innocence whereby his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin. Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation." (Article III Man).

Hell Is the End of Willing Sinners

The point seems clear. God sends people to hell because of their own volitional sin. Though creation and the universe fell into a state of imperfection because of Adam's sin, and though humans are born in a state of imperfection because of Adam's sin, and though babies who die in infancy have received the penalty of physical death because of Adam's sin, God sends to eternal judgment only those who have personally and volitionally violated His moral standard.

That's pretty doggone bad news. Why? Because there is no single human being--not the Pope, not the Virgin Mary, not Mother Teresa, not Billy Graham, not anyone--who has ever lived a continuous morally perfect life. All have sinned and fallen short of God's standard and God's glory. We are all destined for hell because of our personal sins.

God Need Save Nobody

If God never intervened to save sinners He would remain just, holy, righteous and all the other attributes that you could ever think of that speak of His moral perfection. In other words, He would remain God. Sending sinners to hell is not the devil's work. It is the work of a holy, righteous God. Pharoah will be in hell because he disobeyed God. I deserve hell because I have imperfectly kept the standard of God's morality. Hell is not Dante's inferno. It is the withdrawal of God's gracious hand. It is total and complete darkness and isolation from people and from God as a punishment for moral imperfection. Those who loved darkness will be turned over to darkness. Though God is present in hell, He is present as Judge, and the punishment and righteous vengeance toward lawbreakers will be meted out righteously. "God will give to each person according to what he has done" (Romans 2:6). There will be various degrees of punishment in hell. The child sexual abuser will be punished far greater than the person who lived his life caring for children. For this reason, the person who is morally imperfect ought to be as good of a person morally as possible, for it is a "fearful and dreadful thing to fall into the hands of a living God" (Hebrews 10:31).

God's Blessing Are Reserved for Those With Absolute Moral Perfection

But what about heaven? What takes us there? Again, the only thing that takes you to heaven is complete, perfect morality and righteousness in thought, deed and character. You must be perfect. You can have no blemish on your record in regards to God's standard. There can be no sin. Your life must have been lived for the glory and honor of God. Every single thing you have done on this earth must be unselfish, peformed in love for the good of others and glory of God, and morally unblemished. What takes you to heaven is absolute perfection in compliance with God's standard of what is right (righteousness).

You don't have this perfect morality. I don't have this perfect righteousness. Nobody does. "There is no one who is righteous, no not one." Only God has perfect righteousness. Man lost his moral perfection when he rebelled against God by living contrary to His standard of moral perfection. For us to be taken to heaven, we need God. That's why the good news is so good. God came to earth (Emmanuel) and lived the perfect life required. He then promised to give all the blessings that come with perfect righteousness to anyone who will trust HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS TO TAKE THEM TO HEAVEN. When the righteousness of Christ is credited to the account of the believer through faith, God treats that believer as perfectly righteous. It's why the ancients used to say "God sees no sin in His people" judicially. It's why the Bible calls believers "saints." We have a perfect righteousness that is not our own, but comes from God, and is received by faith.

Listen to the Apostle Paul: "Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss. What is more I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness that comes from (my obedience) to the law, but a righteousness that comes from God and is found by faith in Jesus Christ" (Philippians 3:8-11).

The Great Transaction

I tell people that when one trusts the person and work of Jesus Christ, a great transaction takes place. God has given to Christ all the righteous judgment due my sin, and God has given to me all the blessings due the righteousness and obedience of Christ through His moral perfection in relation to the law of God. My faith in Christ makes me a "co-heir" of Christ. The rewards I receive for eternity, whatever they may be, are all the result of the perfect obedience of Jesus Christ on my behalf.

Heaven is different from hell in one regard. What I receive in hell I have earned. What I receive in heaven Christ has earned.

So, let's answer the question of the title of this post - "What sends a person to hell and takes a person to heaven?

Imperfect obedience to God's moral standard sends a person to hell.
Perfect obedience to God's moral standard takes person to heaven.

The Importance of a Christ-Centered Gospel

Until we Southern Baptists learn to teach people that absolute perfect righteousness takes a person to heaven, we will be prone to the error of telling people that "their decision" or "their commitment to God" or "their walk down an aisle" takes them to heaven. That kind of error is prevalent in Southern Baptist evangelism, and in my next post I will show how prevalent that has become.

What takes a person to heaven is the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. What takes a person to heaven is not election, not faith, not commitment, not anything but the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. Everything else has its place, but the perfect and absolute moral perfection of Jesus Christ is one's ticket to heaven. Reject the only Savior God gave to obtain a perfect righteousness in the place of undeserving sinners, then you will answer to God for your own moral imperfections.

That's the gospel truth.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Tribute to Debbie Kaufman

Debbie Kaufman, Southern Baptist blogger extraordinaire, is laying down blogging. Her last post at Ministry of Reconciliation explains the reasons, all good ones,  for her decision to quit blogging. Debbie has been a tenacious writer in uncovering deception in the SBC, including corruption and cover-ups in child abuse cases and the sexual exploitation of women, as well as being a bulldog while confronting a host of other issues. Many problems that would not have seen the light of day have actually been addressed and resolved because of her penchant for truth. She has been called names by those whom she has exposed, ridiculed by friends of those whose true character has been revealed by her writings, and has paid a high price for wanting to see truth and righteousness in the kingdom of Christ. She is a modern prophet.

She also happens to be a member of the church I pastor in Enid, Oklahoma. Our church is stronger because of her presence among us. Debbie ends her last post by writing:

"Something I have yet to see in my church are any of the unhealthy things I have dealt with while digging deeper into the SBC. I would like to concentrate on my church. There it is a place of sanctuary. It’s a place of spiritual health. A place of integrity. Something I need right now. Women are thought of highly and their talents are used as God gives them. Children are precious and people to be protected from harm. There we can disagree on things non-essential and it is taken seriously while treated with respect. You will hear no name calling or labeling because we disagree. I can feel safe sharing ideas, concerns, things I see in scripture, without retribution or without dictating one’s life. We also stress the Holy Spirit bearing fruit, which is patience, love, truth telling in all things, aiding people in need. Missions is a big part of who we are. We believe in people being Holy Spirit lead. All this is in response to the Holiness of God and that we are accepted by God because of what Christ has done not anything we have done. We are accepted by God. Period. It’s a great place to be, and where I want to spend all my time and talents."

See you in worship Sunday, Debbie.

We are glad you are a part of our family, and we will miss your writings.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

As a Fan of Christian Unity When Will the SBT Reconcile with the BGCT as It Did the BMA?

The Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) and the Baptist Missionary Association of Texas (BMAT) have announced an historic agreement (see Southern Baptist Texan, Baptist Progress) bringing two groups of Texas Baptists together who have been separated denominationally for a century.

Dr. Bart Barber, a Texas pastor who also serves as a trustee and adjunct professor at Southwestern Theological Seminary, calls this announcement "progress toward good biblical unity." Dr. Barber also mentions that no "doctrine" is being compromised in the merge.

What do churches of the Baptist Missionary Association believe? Examining the doctrinal statement of the Baptist Missionary Association of Texas, one notices that there are three short statements about God and creation, one statement about man's depravity, four statements about salvation, and SEVEN lengthy statements about the "true" church.

Google "Landmarkism" and "BMA" and you will have a supply of interesting reading material. I have written many articles on the infiltration of the tenets of Landmarkism into the Southern Baptist Convention. I have stated publicly that I don't mind at all cooperating with Landmarks in the Southern Baptist Convention, but most Landmarks would have a problem cooperating with many of our SBC churches. Why? Landmarks believe ...

(1). There is only one "true" church and it is the local Baptist church structured on proper polity.
(2). There is no legitimate baptism unless an "authorized" official from the "true" church baptizes.
(3). Gospel cooperation is attained only when "true" churches cooperate with each other in evangelism.
(4). Closed communion is a tenet of the New Testament and essential for proper church polity.
(5). There is no such thing as a "universal church." The local Baptist church of Christ is the true church.

Dr. Paige Patterson has served as a board member of BMA organizations and universities, and is sympathetic with Landmark beliefs. A prized first edition of Landmark founder J.A. Graves' tome The Great Iron Wheel sits on the coffee table in the Presidential mansion at Southwestern Theological Seminary.

Again, I commend the Southern Baptists of Texas for their step toward Christian unity by seeking reconciliation with the Baptist Missionary Association of Texas. My question is "When will the efforts toward Christian unity be extended toward the Baptist General Convention of Texas?"

One might answer my question by saying, "When the doctrine of the Baptist General Convention of Texas lines up with the doctrine of the Southern Baptist Convention of Texas and the Baptist Missionary Association of Texas, that's when."

If that indeed is the answer, then I suggest that the merging of the SBT and the BMA has nothing to do with Christian "unity" but the merging of two groups with similarly narrow and ultimately unbiblical ideological views of the local church. That's not "unity."
The Conservative Resurgence was said to have been about the inerrancy of the Bible, but the continuing fundamentalist domination within the SBC has led some to go far beyond the argument over the nature Scripture to only cooperating with those who agree on tertieary interpretations of Scripture. The SBT reconciling with the BMA and not the BGCT confirms what I've been writing for five years, but my hope is that the spirit of unity will extend toward the BGCT as well.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Judging Christians Who Practice Yoga as Theologically Incompetent Reveals a Bias

A recent essay by the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., warned Christians that yoga is contradictory to Christianity. Pastor Mark Discroll went even further.

"Should Christians stay away from yoga because of its demonic roots? Totally. Yoga is demonic," Driscoll said. "If you just sign up for a little yoga class, you're signing up for a little demon class."

Mohler received heavy criticism for his article calling yoga "contradictory" to Christianity. He responded to all the letters, emails and rebutal editorials by pointing out the following:

(1). Not one protest against his article contained a "theological" argument.
(2). More than 90% of the protests came from women.
(3). Those who protested are replacing Christianity with a religion of their own invention.
(4). Women who argue for yoga have no reference to "biblical Christianity."
(5). The evangelical world is in "worse shape" than he ever thought.

Even a casual attempt at research would have caused both Mohler and Driscoll to find websites such as Holy Yoga, which places their doctrinal statement on the front page. Under a detailed confession regarding the person of Jesus Christ, Holy Yoga is as theologically orthodox, if not more, than the Abstract of Principles of Southern Theological Seminary.

There are two main issues with Mohler's and Driscoll's comments about yoga. First, the spirit in which the comments are conveyed seems haughty. It sounds as if Mohler and Driscoll are saying those who oppose their statements against yoga are theologically incompetent. One of the tell-tales signs of spiritual arrogancy and an unhealthy debate is for one side to act as if the other side has no ability to counter one's arguments. Second, Mohler and Driscoll seem to be confusing a cultural bias with a theological argument. Instead of investigating what Christians who practice yoga actually believe, there is an assumption that Christians who practice yoga can't believe correctly.

One of these days we will realize that culture evolves, civilization's habits change, and peoples' perspectives alter over time. It used to be that culture considered fat people rich, prosperous and educated because people with access to an abundance of food became  fat and were the elite of soceity. Now, culture often discriminates against fat people, believing them to be inferior to the elite of society. Those kind of judgments are wrong. In my opinion we Southern Baptists should be very careful about judging a fellow believer who practices yoga by assuming they aren't theologically sound. It would akin to judging a fat Southern Baptist pastor as theologically unsound before we ask him what he believes.

The best way to discover whether or not Christians who practice yoga are involved in a "dangerous" practice or participating in a "demon class" is to ask the yoga participants what they believe about Jesus Christ. Any judgment against Christians practicing yoga before this happens is at best premature or at worst reveals some sort of cultural bias.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

If a Man Believes a Lie It Will Not Be Long Until a Man Lives a Lie

"No doctrine is so calculated to preserve a man from sin as the doctrine of the grace of God. Those who have called it a licentious doctrine did not know anything at all about it. Poor ignorant things, they little knew that their own vile stuff was the most licentious doctrine under heaven. If they knew the grace of God in truth, they would soon see that there was no preservative from lying like a knowledge that we are elect of God from the foundation of the world. There is nothing like a belief in my eternal perseverance, and the immutability of my Father’s affection, which can keep me near to him from a motive of simple gratitude. Nothing makes a man so virtuous as belief of truth. A lying doctrine will soon beget a lying practice. A man cannot have an erroneous belief without by-and-bye having an erroneous life. I believe the one thing naturally begets the other. Keep near God’s truth; keep near his word; keep the head right, and especially keep your heart right with regard to truth, and your feet will not go far astray."

Charles Spurgeon, The Holy Spirit--The Great Teacher