Thursday, June 28, 2012

Pondering the Kingdom of God This 4th of July Weekend

This week I read the on-line translation of Leo Tolstoy's The Kingdom of God Is Within You. Tolstoy seeks to prove in his 1894 work that it is inconsistent with the character and teachings of Christ for any Christian to resist evil with violence. Tolstoy (1828-1910) is considered by many as the greatest novelist of all time, and his writings had tremendous influence on Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. I had not known until this week who influenced Tolstoy in his own thinking on this subject.  In chapter one,  entitled The Doctrine of Non-Resistance to Evil Has Been Professed by a Minority of Men from the Very Foundation of Christianity, Tolstoy credits American abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879) with writing a declaration that cemented in Tolstoy the belief that Jesus was teaching in Matthew 5:39 "that the establishment of universal peace can only be founded on the open profession of the doctrine of non-resistance to evil by violence."

Tolstoy printed Garrison's entire 1838 declaration in chapter one of The Kingdom of God Is Within You. Paragraph two of Garrison's declaration affirms the following:
"We do not acknowledge allegiance to any human government. We recognize but one King and Lawgiver, one Judge and Ruler of mankind. Our country is the world, our countrymen are all mankind. We love the land of our nativity only as we love all other lands. The interests and rights of American citizens are not dearer to us than those of the whole human race. Hence we can allow no appeal to patriotism to revenge any national insult or injury..."
Regardless of one's agreement with Tolstoy or Garrison regarding non-resistance, Christians in America would do well to pause prior to this 4th of July--before any musical celebration in church or patriotic message from the pulpit--and ponder whether we are making it clear to our fellow Christians that "the kingdom to which we belong is not of this world."

Monday, June 25, 2012

On Vacation in Alabama after Our Daughter's Wedding

Rachelle and I are in Alabama with our son Logan after the Convention in New Orleans and a wedding last weekend in Destin, Florida. We were scheduled to hold the ceremony on the beach, but Tropical Storm Debby had other plans for us and we moved the ceremony indoors. Rachelle and I have four children, a daughter and three sons. Charis, our daughter, was married to Travis Downey this past Sunday and mom and dad are absolutely thrilled! Not only was the ceremony fun and celebratory, more importantly, the young man that has joined our family is a wonderful sports writer in Jackson, Mississippi, a man of faith, and a very gentle soul. It's been a hectic few days for us all, so our youngest son, Logan, and our oldest son Kade and his wife Anne, will be joining us in Alabama for a few days of vacation. Charis and Travis are on their honeymoon and our only regret is that our middle son Boe is unable to join us due to his work back in Enid. We are very appreciative of all those who traveled long distances for the wedding, and especially those who came to Destin from Enid. It was a wonderful weekend! I will be taking a few days off from blogging and will post upon my return to Enid next week! I hope all my faithful readers enjoyed the video reports from the Convention in New Orleans. Below is the bridal portrait of our daughter Charis. Thanks for all your well-wishes and support!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Saturday Night on Bourbon Street: Day 1 (June 16, 2012) of the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans

Logan, Rachelle and I arrived in New Orleans Saturday evening at 9:00 p.m. After freshening up a bit and a late supper, Logan and I made our way to Bourbon Street to do some street interviews. We asked a couple of questions about the Southern Baptist Convention and the potential name change to Great Commission Baptist Convention. We were not surprised that nobody had heard of the Southern Baptist Convention, nor were we shocked that most people associated "Great Commission" with paying some kind of fee. What struck home to both my son and me was the vast and utter lostness of the people on Bourbon Street. We sit in our comfortable churches, gather in our convention halls for annual meetings, and focus in on doctrinal differences by issuing various white papers on traditional Baptist beliefs. Yet, while we pontificate and bloviate, men and women outside our doors are dead on the inside and living in a virtual hell. I entered Bourbon Street wanting to know what people thought of the SBC -- I left Bourbon Street two hours later realizing it makes absolutely zero difference what people think about the SBC. As long as we Southern Baptists think more about our Convention than we do the kingdom of Christ, we will focus on the politics of our convention and less about the power of the Christ to change lives. People didn't want to talk with me about the SBC, but they sure wanted to talk about the difference between religion and a relationship with Christ. Some were hostile. Others were attentive. Logan and I both learned a great deal. You'll see snippets of our evening on the embedded video below. Monday evening I will post a brief video blog previewing the Southern Baptist Convention. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

7 Years: The Seed of the Weed Has Bloomed in the SBC

It was in the fall of 2005, nearly seven years ago, that the trustees of the International Mission Board established a doctrinal policy that exceeded the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message and excluded otherwise qualified Southern Baptists from serving on the mission field. I had been elected by the Southern Baptist Convention to serve as a trustee of the IMB the previous summer, and after my fellow trustees set up their new doctrinal standard without convention approval, I was faced with a difficult decision. I could either resign in protest over what I called at the time "the narrowing of the doctrinal parameters of Southern Baptist missions cooperation," or I could remain a trustee of the International Mission Board and begin a blog to make Southern Baptists aware of what was taking place at their cooperative Southern Baptist missions organization. I chose the latter.

Ironically, the two new doctrinal policies at the IMB did not affect me personally. I have never had a "private prayer language," nor have I ever seen the need for one. Also, I was baptized "in a Southern Baptist church." I would qualify as a missionary under the two new doctrinal policies. However, I felt strongly that to exclude other Southern Baptists from the mission field over how they pray in private, especially when the 2000 BFM is silent on the matter, was an act that went beyond the appropriate authority of IMB trustees. Also, for the IMB trustees to adopt a definition of a "proper" baptism that places qualifications on the baptizer and the "church" where the baptism takes place, is historically a Landmark doctrine and practice and not a Southern Baptist doctrine. Something had to be done to correct the error of the IMB trustee board. That error was not so much IMB trustee leadership personally holding to cessationism or Landmark ecclesiology; rather, their error was demanding ALL Southern Baptists believe like them by passing doctrinal policies that excludes from missionary serve those who disagree with them. Only the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in session has the ability to change the doctrinal standard of cooperation.

SBC trustees were never called to be the doctrinal watchdogs of the Southern Baptist Convention. Nor do they have the authority to establish a doctrinal basis for our coooperation as Southern Baptist churches, especially by implementing doctrinal demands that go beyond the 2000 BFM. The Southern Baptist Convention, through adopting the infamous Garner Motion, is in agreement with me. One day (possibly very soon), Danny Akin and Al Mohler may actually see the light on the Garner Motion and thank those responsible for its passage.

Seven Years Ago Was the Seed of the Weed

I have often been asked why I drew a line in the sand over the "private prayer language" and "baptism" policies. Most Southern Baptists have very little patience with what they believe to be a charismatic practice (praying in tongues in private), and even more Southern Baptists have little understanding of the dangers of Landmarkism. "Why", I was asked, "do you draw a line in the sand over these particular issues?"  IMB trustee leadership was furious over my public opposition, particularly since hundreds of Southern Baptists were reading my blog and writing trustees and asking "What are you doing?" In order to avert attention from the real issues we faced, trustee leaders sought to make me the issue. This led them to attempt very poorly thought out actions against me, including a motion for my removal from the board (later rescinded), the adoption of a new policy that demands that all IMB trustees (and I quote) "publicly support board approved policies that they cannot privately support." This latter policy, in my opinion, is the most absurd policy ever passed by a Southern Baptist agency in the history of our Convention. I, of course, voted against it, and continued my written opposition to the IMB doctrinal standard that exceeded the BFM. Why would I be willing to go through such an attack against me personally? Why would I put my family, my church, and my ministry in the line of fire?

Because of what I saw coming.

I told a few people privately, and I told them seven years ago, that if people didn't start drawing a line in the sand over attempts to narrow and constrict the doctrinal parameters of Southern Baptist cooperation, then we would eventually get to the place that Calvinists would be told they are no longer welcome in the SBC. Then, we would come to the place that those Southern Baptists who are not dispensational in their eschatology would be told they are not welcome. The only Southern Baptists that would eventually be left are those who would believe just exactly like those small, independent, separatist Landmark Southern Baptist churches and those who lead them. I remember what Jerry Falwell said when he joined the SBC, an act that drew heavy criticism from his fellow separatist, Landmark Baptist brothers - "I haven't changed, the SBC has changed."

Today, Jerry Vines has written an article on his blog entitled It Is Time to Discuss ALL of the Elephant in the Room.

I don't like it when people say "I told you so," so I'll close this blog post by saying I am increasingly uninterested in a convention that repeatedly defines its existence by what it is against than what it is for. I don't particularly like self-acknowledged Calvinists, and my theology is about as anti-John Calvin as any theology can get -- however, I despise a convention fretting over doctrinal conformity to the neglect of mission urgency. I'm coming to New Orleans with video camera and microphone in hand in order to help de-weed the garden.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

What a Difference 125 Years Makes In Baptist Inerrancy

History is like medicine; you may not like it, but you're in trouble without it. A few Southern Baptist leaders seem to suffer from history deficit disorder which manifests itself in askewed views of what defines "traditional" Baptists. For example,a handful of Southern Baptists recently issued a statement defining "the traditional Southern Baptist understanding of God's plan of salvation." These Southern Baptists, some of whom served as leaders of the SBC in recent years, would verbally squash anyone like a bedbug who dared implied they did not believe the Bible. "We are inerrantists!" would be their retort. It's interesting to me that these self-professed inerrantists have titled their white paper "The  Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God's Plan of Salvation..." instead of "The Biblical Teaching of God's Plan of Salvation...." Of course, they would argue "We are Southern Baptists who believe the Bible. Our traditional Southern Baptist understanding of God's plan of salvation is precisely what the Bible teaches!"


Here's just a sample of what these modern Southern Baptist inerrantists believe (from their paper).

(1). We deny that Adam’s sin ... rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned.
(2). We deny that (Christ's) atonement results in salvation ...
(3). We deny that there is an “effectual call” for certain people ...
(4). We deny that election means that, from eternity, God predestined certain people for salvation ...
(5). We deny that any person is regenerated prior to or apart from hearing and responding to the Gospel.

 Pelagius might well have considered the above denials orthodox statements of Christianity, but traditional Baptists would not. For example, 125 years ago this spring, Charles Haddon Spurgeon confronted growing liberalism in the Baptist Union by writing the following words:

"We believe that Calvinism has in it a conservative force which helps to hold men to the vital truth" (The Down Grade, The Sword and the Trowel, April 1887)

Spurgeon went on to write:

"In proportion as ministers deny... the old Calvinistic form of doctrine, they commonly become less earnest and less simple in their preaching, more speculative and less spiritual in the matter of their discourses, and dwell more on the moral teachings of the New Testament, than on the great central truths of revelation."

It's not my desire to debate my Southern Baptist inerrantist friends who are attempting to present The Traditional Understanding of God's Plan of Salvation. I simply wish to point out some irony. The word "irony" has its etymology from Latin. Its early meaning was "to disassemble by speech." This means that the Romans considered something "ironic" when someone wrote (or spoke) words which were obviously contradictory to circumstances or history.

It is highly ironic that modern Baptists--Baptists who claim for themselves the title 'biblical inerrantists"--are now actually arguing for the very things that their famous inerrantist Baptist forefather claimed were signs of a denial of Biblical inerrancy and the gospel.

Maybe the issue among Southern Baptists has never been inerrancy. Maybe the issue among Southern Baptists has always been our sin of pride within.

Monday, June 04, 2012

FOX's Jason Whitlock Is Right About the Spurs and Heat

Jason Whitlock writes about the sports world for FOX sports. He is an African-American male and his articles-- often on subject matters that other writers have little courage to address--are well-written, albeit sometimes tainted with bombastic adverbs and adjectives. Recently Jason caused a firestorm in the media world for an article he wrote suggesting that the San Antonio Spurs were a better team than the Miami Heat, even though the Heat had better individual players. The reason the Spurts were a better team is because they were more coachable. The Heat players, particularly LeBron James and Dwayne Wade, had "difficult upbringings (that) make it hard for them to trust and submit to the will of authority figures. We know James was raised by a teenage mother who had some problems. We know Wade’s mom had problems with drugs and Wade credits an older sister for his upbringing. Jason goes on to point out that LeBron James and Dwayne Wade are his two favorite players, and he thinks they are "good" men, but his admiration for them does not negate his belief that their upbringing impacts their team.

Jason wrote: "It’s my belief Wade and James have childhood emotional scars that impact their ability to consistently operate in a team environment. Most of us have childhood emotional scars. Some scars — any kind of parental abandonment — are just deeper than others."

After a firestorm erupted over his column, Jason Whitlock followed up with today's article (June 4, 2012), and did not back down. He wrote: "Despite the whines of my ignorant critics, this isn’t up for debate. This truth is played out in all aspects of American life. Step inside any classroom and the academic honor roll is populated, in general, by young people reared by two involved parents, and the kids who are struggling academically are reared in abandonment and dysfunction."

The fact that Jason Whitlock is advocating structure in the American home (i.e. "young people reared by two involved parents") and being criticized for it, says far more about our society than it does Jason Whitlock. Well done, Jason. This is one OKC Thunder fan that appreciates what you have written.