Saturday, July 28, 2012

"Though He Is Dead, Yet He Speaks:" Phillip Channing's Message of Encouragement to Jonathan Merritt

Rachelle and I have spent the last several days doing mission work in all five burroughs of New York City. Gotham has long been a favorite destination for us for historical, cultural and missional reasons. Our NYC friends include a long-time coach with the New York Giants, a Manhattan Seminary President, and one of the greatest urban missionaries of our time. Through these connections, we were able to spend time in Brownsville, Queens with the disconsolate poor as they sought free legal advice from Graffitti 3. We enjoyed an evening discussing New York history with the Upper West Side cultural elite as we mingled during a reception at the New York Historical Society. We were introduced to many people at Columbia University, Union Seminary, Riverside Church and the World Council of Churches and saw first-hand what happens when Christ's atoning death and physical resurrection are relegated to myth or fable (stories to come). We spent an afternoon with our mission team from Emmanuel in Harlem, walking among the West Africans and their trade tables as we sought to financially and spiritually help those African men who are supporting their families a continent away. Through these experiences and dozens more like them this past week, it was reinforced in my wife and me, once again, that the human condition is universal. C.S. Lewis describes it as "a God-shaped hole."  God is gone from the lives of many New Yorkers--and just as the world is drawn to this city of over eight million inhabitants, our hearts are drawn toward the people of New York.

The evangelists in the subways who shouted condemnation to passerbys in the name of Jesus Christ did nothing to fill the God-shaped hole of those who walked by. They caused us to cringe. I am quite certain that nobody has ever been drawn toward God by strangers screaming "Repent." The ancient prophets spoke of impending judgment with tears in their eyes and love in their hearts; a much superior presentation of the gospel than the fraudulent New York subway prophets who proudly bear the name Christian but are sadly dispossessed of Christ. Beavers have incisors on their bottom jaw that never cease growing, and if for some reason those teeth are knocked out of alignment, the incisors will grow into the roof of the mouth and eventually pierce the brain, causing a tortuous death. Those subway "evangelists" have gotten themselves out of alignment on the love and justice of God toward sinners and seem to me to be morally long-in-the-tooth and spiritually dead. It is infinitely wiser to follow biblical principles and seek to lead sinners to faith in Christ and repentance of sin through deeds and words of unconditional love and immeasurable kindness. This past week has again proven that this style of evangelism actually works.

The Roosevelt Island Revelation

Across from the United Nations, situated in the East River between Manhattan and Queens, sits Roosevelt Island. The New York Insane Asylum used to be housed on this island (1800's), and I could tell you a half-dozen captivating stories of courageous people who found themselves labeled by society and institutionalized at Roosevelt, only later to leave the asylum and change for the better the city and culture that originally sent them away. There is a little crazy in all of us, but the difference between those who live life isolated from the world and those who wind up changing the world becomes the courage of conviction. People of courageous conviction, no matter the persecution, are able to change their world.

Rachelle and I were sitting on a park bench in Roosevelt on Friday morning when I received a text from Bob Cleveland. He mentioned Jonathan Merritt in his message, and I was not sure to what he was referring. I intentionally left my computer in Enid for the week and had been out of touch with all that was happening. It was while we were on Roosevelt Island that I accessed the Internet, via my phone, for the first time in several days. I googled "Jonathan Merritt" and knew instantly that Jonathan might desire a program that erases one's Internet identity more than Catwoman (Dark Knight Rising fans will understand). The publicity of Jonathan's same-sex sexual liason is enormous. It was troubling for me to read many of the articles because my thoughts were on the Merritts and the embarrassment and pain being experienced by Jonathan and his family in having secret sins being made public (without consent) via the Internet. What Jonathan did was immoral, not illegal. Rather than rehashing the events of this past week, it might be best to read Ed Stetzer's blog on Jonathan Merritt's confession of his immoral homosexual liason.

The homosexual activists have gone ballistic over Jonathan's words in Stetzer's interview. One even called Jonathan a douche. Why are the homosexual activists angry? Because Jonathan called his sexual activity with another man "sin." Catch that? Jonathan had the courage of conviction to call his sexual activity outside of marriage "sin." Good for Jonathan. Sin is precisely why we need a Savior. I am not surprised by Jonathan's same-sex sexual desires. Nor am I discouraged by Jonathan's moral failure--in fact, I am attempting to reach him to come speak at Emmanuel. Jonathan may better understand the gospel than many other Southern Baptists. The gospel is for sinners. Christ loves sinners. God forgives sinners. The good news is for sinners. There is no gospel, there is no grace, there is no Savior, there is no cleansing, there is no forgiveness, there is no redemption, there is no restoration, and there is no salvation where there is no sin. After a few hours of digesting all the news and interviews related to Jonathan Merritt this past week, I came to the following conclusion: Jonathan Merritt may very well become the Southern Baptist person most able to influence the next generation toward genuine faith in Christ and real repentance of sin.

The Courage of Conviction

Riverside Church, located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, is the church built by John D. Rockefeller. The church's theology is progressive and liberal. The authority of Scripture is disdained, and church leadership is open to gays and lesbians. Riverside, like many liberal churches, have determined that same-sex sexual activity is not sin. Union Theological Seminary, next door to Riverside, would argue the same thing. So would the World Council of Churches across the street. Homosexuality is not immoral. It is normal. It is of God. It is natural. It is lovely. It is good.

However, on May 5, 1985, Dr. Channing Phillips, the African-American Executive Pastor of Riverside Church, preached a Sunday morning message entitled "On Human Sexuality." Dr. Phillips took as his text the woman caught in adultery and spoke to all issues regarding human sexuality. When it came time to address homosexual behavior, Dr. Phillips stated that there was "good news and bad news" regarding same-sex sexual activity. The bad news, he said, was that homosexuality was sin and was contrary to the parable of human sexuality given in Genesis that man should cleave to a woman. Then, Dr. Phillips expounded on why all sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage is sin. The following words, a direct quote from the sermon, are stunningly courageous and truthful (emphasis mine).
"The point is that the gospel does meddle with our lives! If we take Jesus' words seriously, not just that adultery is sin, or that lust is adultery; the point is that as far as the biblical understanding of human sexuality is concerned, any and all deviation from the parable given in Genesis and referenced by Jesus, whether within heterosexual or homosexual relationships, is sin, is contrary to the will of God. And no theological or exegetical sleight of hand can erase that "word of the Lord."
The good news, Phillips continued, was that God forgives, just as Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery. Yet, though Jesus accepted the woman personally, there was no affirmation of her adulterous and immoral behavior, for Phillips rightly pointed out that "after saying 'neither do I condemn thee,' (Jesus) goes back to the inescapable parable from Genesis, and says to each of us, whatever our sexual orientation, 'Go and sin no more.'

This, dear readers, is from the progressive pastor of the liberal Riverside Church in Manhattan.

Who is Dr. Phillips Channing? You may not know that he was the first black man ever to be officially nominated at a Democratic National Convention to be President of the United States. He was powerful civil-rights leader, a prominent theologian, and a national political figure--and he had the courage of his convictions to speak the truth. Dr. Phillips Channing died two years after preaching his message on human sexuality at the tender age of 59. One of these days I will write a post on the number of courageous, loving truth-tellers who have died at the age of 59.

Though Dr. Channing is dead, yet he speaks.

Jonathan Merritt, be encouraged. We look forward to hosting you at Emmanuel Enid. You are a living, breathing testimony that the good news is for sinners, not for people who are offended with the label 'sin.'

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Only Thing Worse than a Church Full of Women Reading 50 Shades of Grey Is a Church Full of Men Reading Fidelity: What It Means to Be a One-Woman Man

Over the years I have dialed back on giving written criticisms of what fellow Christians write, say, or teach. My current pattern is to write on my perspective of truth, trusting that if what I believe (and write) is sound, then those in error will be captivated by the Spirit. Christians personally and publicly criticized by name, especially on a blog,  often are so blinded by the thick fog of humiliation that even the strongest rays of truth are unable to enlighten the mind.  Very few of us possess the uncommon grace needed to respond to criticisms with humility, grace, and when appropriate, corresponding correction. We often fancy ourselves gatekeepers of the truth, thinking that we must attack our opponents to protect what we defend--forgetting that the lion of truth has never been caged in the first place and is in no need of guardians.

With that caveat, this post is out of the ordinary for me in that I am identifying by name Doug Wilson and The Gospel Coalition in order to register my vehement opposition to their views on sex and marriage. My friends Dee and Deb (Wanda) at Wartburg Watch are doing extraordinary work for the Kingdom through their writings. I do not spend a great deal of time reading blogs, but these two delightful deipnosophists are worth reading every day. Even better, their eclectic commentators have amazing insights into culture and Christendom. As I perused the comments at the end of Dee's article Doug Wilson: Fashionable Calvista Has Disturbing Views on Slavery, I came across the following comment by Jeannette Altes regarding Doug Wilson's views on sex between a husband and a wife:

"He (Doug Wilson) believes the part of the whole ‘biblical roles’ packages is the concept of ‘authority and submission’ and he makes no bones about what he is talking about – sex. He equates the ‘authority and submission’ of ‘the marriage bed’ with the law of gravity. I’m sorry if the following quote makes some squeamish, but it is straight out of his book…

“A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.”


“True authority and true submission are therefore an erotic necessity.”

Does anyone else here see in this the implication that sex itself was designed to be a violent conquering act and women were designed to submit to it? This man is sick. He is justifying rape. How is this supposed to mirror the relationship between us (God’s children) and God? I wonder if he really see God in that way?

I have to say that if that is his view of sex, I pity his wife."
I was shocked when I read the comment above.  I thought Jeannette might have misunderstood Doug (or misquoted him), so I did a little research myself, and lo and behold, I discovered that Jeannette is not only accurate in her assessment of Doug Wilson's writings, she is almost too kind in her critique of his views. Below is what Doug writes about sex and marriage  in his new (correction: 1999) book Fidelity: What It Means to be a One-Woman Man (emphasis mine):
"When we quarrel with the way the world is, we find that the world has ways of getting back at us. In other words, however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts. This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage. This means that we have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed.
I think I am going to be sick. I now write to Mr. Doug Wilson, the author of the above paragraph: "As a Christian man who believes the Bible is inspired and infallible, who holds steadfastly to particular redemption and the exclusivity of Christ, and who will never compromise on the gospel truth--I find your words offensive. What you have written is unbiblical, anti-Christ (in its truest sense) and harmful to anyone who seeks to have a marriage that reflects the grace of God by loving one's spouse as Christ loves the church. Grace never ends in subjugation. Grace always compels through self-less love." There, I feel better. What may ultimately be even more revolting for me is the knowledge that the Gospel Coalition's official blog actually praises Doug Wilson for his views.

I have given the benefit of the doubt in the past to the Gospel Coalition for multiple reasons. Things have changed. Until the Gospel Coalition recognizes the extraordinary and dangerous views of Doug Wilson regarding sexual subjugation of women by men, and until the Gospel Coalition apologizes for their official endorsement of Doug Wilson's unbiblical views regarding the husband/wife sexual relationship, I will consider the Gospel Coalition to be an entitity that poorly reflects"the faith once delivered to the saints" and will discourage any and all participation or cooperation with those involved.

The pornographic book 50 Shades of Grey is revolting to me. The only thing worse is Doug Wilson's views on sex and marriage in his book Fidelity, views endorsed and praised by The Gospel Coalition.

It seems to me that both books have been set on fire from hell.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Spirit-Led Living for the Christian Is the Only Way to Live

In a couple of weeks my wife and I will be in Manhattan with one of our church mission teams. Emmanuel Enid is assisting in planting a church among West Africans who live in the Bronx. Our church sponsors a remarkable Christian ministry in Niger, Africa and we have discovered that many men have left their families in west Africa and moved to New York City to earn a living. Our hope is to connect with them and replicate the growing church that is reaching Muslims in Niger. We will only be in New York City for a couple of mid-week days with our mission team, but if possible, I am hoping to slide over to Tim Keller's Redeemer Presbyterian Church in mid-town Manhattan on Wednesday night to hear him teach.

Recently, Tim Keller published an article entitled Old Testament Law and the Charge of Inconsistency. In this article he writes, "I find it frustrating when I read or hear columnists, pundits, or journalists dismiss Christians as inconsistent because “they pick and choose which of the rules in the Bible to obey.” What I hear most often is “Christians ignore lots of Old Testament texts about not eating raw meat or pork or shellfish, not executing people for breaking the Sabbath, not wearing garments woven with two kinds of material and so on. Then they condemn homosexuality. Aren’t you just picking and choosing what they want to believe from the Bible?”

Keller goes on to show in the article how Jesus Christ calls both adultery and homosexuality contrary to God's design for men and women (Matthew 19:3-12).  He then gives a 'short course on the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament.' Keller brilliantly shows 'the surpassing significance' of Christ, and how the Old Testament foreshadows the work of Jesus Christ--a work that Christ completely fulfilled--on behalf of sinners. He rightly shows that to continue abiding by the Old Covenant laws of ancient Judaism one would "deny the power of Christ's death on the cross!" I could not agree more with Dr. Keller on this point. However, I believe Dr. Keller makes a major error when he writes, "the coming of Christ changed how we worship but not how we live."

Christ's Coming Changes Everything

The coming of Christ changes everything about the way we live. We are now people led by the Spirit, not people led by Law. We listen to the voice of Christ, and are no longer bound to ANY Law of the Old Covenant.  The Temple laws, the dietary laws, the Sabbath laws, the circumcision laws, the gender laws, the tithing laws, the hiearchial laws of authority, and all other laws of ancient Israel have been 'annihilated' by the death and resurrection of His Son (see Hebrews 10:9).

The hermeneutic or interpretative principle that leads Christians to live differently than Old Testament Jews is foreshadowed in the transfiguration of Christ. Jesus went to a mountain with a few of His disciples, and while on top of the mountain, Jesus was transfigured by Jehovah. In other words, God changed Christ's appearance in the presence of Peter, James and John (Mark 9:2-9), and they caught a glimpse of the Eternal Lawgiver. Notice closely what happens next, as recorded by Mark in his gosepl.

Mark writes that when the disciples saw Jesus transfigured, they became very afraid. Their fear was heightened when they saw the lawgiver of Israel (Moses) and the prophet of Israel (Elijah) suddenly standing next to the Eternal Lawgiver (Jesus the Anointed One). This amazing site transfixed the disciples. Peter, not knowing what to do or say, blurts out, "Teacher, it is good that we all are here. Let us make three tents: One for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah." (v.5).

Suddenly, the earth shook, a cloud descended and blanketed the moutain and the disciples fell on their faces in fear. A Voice spoke to the disciples saying, "This is my beloved Son; listen to Him!" When the cloud disappeared the disciples looked around and saw NOBODY BUT JESUS. Moses the ancient Lawgiver of Israel and Elijah, the ancient prophet of Israel were gone. God was saying, "Everything about the way you live is changing. Follow the direction of My Son." The original two words that form the last sentence of God's instructions to the disciples are "akoute auton" - Hear Him!

Christ Alone Is Our Authority

Christ's voice is the voice to which we listen. He supercedes the Old Covenant law of Moses and the Old Covenant sayings of the prophets. Hear Him! The Old Covenant possessed a "fading glory" (II Corinthians 3:13) and has been destroyed. The New Covenant, signed and sealed by the blood of Christ, is far superior in nature and glory! It changes everything about how we live.

Whereas in the Old Covenant you looked to your obedience to Laws for your right standing with God, in the New Covenant, you look to Christ's obedience and by faith in Him you are "declared righteous" by God. Whereas in the Old Covenant you reaped the rewards of your personal obedience to the law ("If you do this... then I (Jehovah) will do this"), in the New Covenant, you reap all the rewards of the personal obedience of Another. As Paul says, "I have a righteousness of my own that does not come from my obedience to any law, but a righteousness that comes from God and is mine through faith" (Philippians 3:9). All of my hope and confidence in life is in Him. All of my hope and confidence is in Him! I love Him, and I listen to Him! He is my Master. I "akoute auton." I hear Him!

There is, however, a slight problem. Unlike the disciples that walked with Christ on earth, we can't see Christ visibly or hear Him audibly. We can't physically walk with Him, personally and audibly talk with Him, privately eat with Him, or publicly minister with Him--so how in the world do we "hear Him" since He's gone? Of course, we have the record of what He said to the disciples who came before us, and we study His words carefully. But Jesus gives us another answer to this question. Right before He left the disciples to "Go and prepare a place for those who love Him," He said something astonishing. "It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you . . . When the Spirit of truth comes, the Spirit will guide you . . ." (John 16:7-8, 13).

New Covenant believers must resist any imposition of religious laws that restrict the leadership and guidance of the Holy Spirit. In a coming post I will show you how institutional structures, church traditions, and religious performances can all mitigate against Spirit-led living for the believer.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Sometimes I Write Things I Later Regret: An Example

Every now and then I write something that I later regret. Last July 3, 2012 I sat at the breakfast table and wrote a post entitled Early London Baptists and the SBC: A Comparison.  I thoroughly enjoyed writing the post, and stand by the content, but it was the last paragraph where I erred. I wrote: "There's room in the SBC for Baptists who flirt with pelagianism and flout humanism. However, let it not be said they are either historic or traditional in their soteriological and theological views. They are neither." You may ask, 'What's wrong with it?' The best answer to your question is given by Dr. Roger Olson, professor of theology at Truett Seminary in Waco, Texas. He called me out in an article he posted on his own blog. I would encourage you to read Dr. Olson's article and follow his logic. He is correct, and he is absolutely right in calling me out. Below is my response. I have eaten my share of humble pie in the past, and I have rightfully received a big dose tonight. Hopefully I can go on a diet soon! :)


Dr. Olson,

Your post is excellent. With your writing and teaching schedule there is no expectation on my part for you to respond to my comment. I feel compelled to affirm my agreement with you on one major point of what you have written above, and gently disagree with another major point.

First, I agree with your assessment of my poor grammar and even worse spirit in the last sentence of my post. After reading my words again, and more importantly, through your eyes, I wholeheartedly see (and agree) with your assessment of my writing. My post in question was written at the breakfast table in about an hour and fifteen minutes. My silly use of 'flout' was neither caught nor corrected to the appropriate word 'flaunt.' But more importantly, the spirit conveyed by the last sentence in my post was  not only completely inappropriate,  it was morally wrong.  What bothers me most is that I didn't see what I was conveying at the time, but that God had to use you to point it out to me. I repent. I cannot promise I will not make a similar mistake in the future, but I can express my desire to be more on guard against such a poor choice of words, words that do convey a hostile spirit of attack upon my fellow believers. Thank you for rightly exposing it, calling me out, and allowing me here to express my regret and repentance.  While this is not the first time I have been guilty of such writing, by God's grace the instances of it will diminish. Thanks for being willing to listen to the Spirit in calling me out.

Second, I do  disagree with your assessment (and Glen Stassen's) that the 1644 London Confession was influenced by Menno Simons. I live in Mennonite territory in Northwest Oklahoma, and I understand the kinship of Mennonites with Baptists on the issue of ecclesiology, and if the London Confession's focus was on ecclesiology, I might be in agreement with Stassen's viewpoint. However,  the point of my post was to reveal the differences in soteriology between the London Baptists and the European Anabaptists. The 1644 London Confession is predominately theological and focuses more on soteriology than ecclesiology (at least in my opinion). Without doubt, Menno Simons and the Mennonites influenced Baptists in London on the separation of church and state, but the writers of the 1644 London Confession were influenced by people other than Menno Simons.  James Renihan says it better than I could when he writes: "This First London Confession of 1644, published prior to the Westminster Confession of Faith, was heavily dependent on older, well-known documents. Probably the best and most detailed Confession available to them was the True Confession of 1596, a document that had been issued by men of stature like the famous commentator on the books of Moses, Henry Ainsworth. About 50% of their Confession was taken directly from this older document. In addition, they relied very heavily on a book called The Marrow of Theology, written by a very famous and important puritan, William Ames. They brought together this material from the sources available to them, for one specific purpose: to prove that they had a great deal in common with the churches and ministers around them. Yes they had some differences, but they were only minor and not central. They were not wild-eyed fanatics intent on overthrowing society as it was known. To the contrary, they were reformed Christians, seeking to advance the principles on which the reformation had been built to their logical conclusion."

Regardless of our disagreement, I wish to once again thank you for your post. It was needed.

Wade Burleson

Saturday, July 07, 2012

The Bald Eagle Has Bad Character: A Perfect Emblem

My friend and fellow historian, David Christy, is news editor for the Enid News and Eagle. Today he has written a fascinating column entitled Out of Many, One. Franklin gives the history of the bald eagle being chosen as the national emblem of America. Two very influential early Americans, Benjamin Franklin and James Audobon,  publicly and adamantly opposed the bald eagle as America's national bird. Benjamin Franklin wrote, "He is a bird of bad moral character; he does not get his living honestly. You may see him perched on some dead tree, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the labor of the fishing-hawk, and when that diligent bird has at length taken a fish, and is bearing it to its nest for the support of his mate and young ones, the bald eagle pursues him and takes it from him."

I respectfully disagree with Mr. Franklin. With our burgeoning federal welfare rolls, our grotesque increases in disability payments, and a veritable buffet of government handouts where the majority of Americans are now given what they did not themselves earn--I think the bald eagle is a perfect emblem for our country. Benjamin Franklin desired the turkey as our national bird because what he called "the wonderful moral qualities of the turkey." One wonders if Franklin were alive today to see what America has become if he would change his mind about the bald eagle being America's emblem.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Early London Baptists and Today's SBC: A Comparison

Just forty years after King James authorized the translation of the Scriptures into the English language, several Christians could be found in London, England who were politely refusing to be members of the Anglican state church. My maternal ancestor, John Donne, was Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral at the time. He, like all his fellow English religious and political leaders, held a dim view of those non-conformist Christians they falsely called Anabaptists. It is difficult for us Baptists in modern day America--we who cherish personal liberty and freedom above all things--to even begin to comprehend the persecution that our Baptist forefathers in London, England experienced during the 1630s and 1640s. Any Christian deemed a traitor to England for refusing to baptize infant children, or any Christian determined to be a heretic for teaching doctrines contrary to official Anglican soteriology risked public execution in the courtyard of St. Paul's as a warning to fellow countrymen. In 1641, those Baptists who were meeting in the seven congregations within walking distance of St. Pauls were placed squarely in the spotlight of persecution. An English church and political leader published a pamphlet entitled A Warning for England, especially for London; in the famous History of the frantick Anabaptists, their wild Preachings and Practices in Germany. The pamphlet warned the English that the 1534/1535 Anabaptist rebellion in Munster, Germany could be replicated in London, England if the Anabaptists (meaning the Baptists) in London were not silenced. The last sentence of the pamphlet issued an ominous threat to those Baptists living in London at the time: "So, let all the factious and seditious enemies of the church and state perish; but, upon the head of king Charles, let the crown flourish! Amen."

The leaders of the seven Baptist churches in London, England came together to discuss how they could make known to England's political and religious leaders that they were not heretics, nor were they Anabaptists, nor were they traitors to the crown. They decided to issue a confession of what they actually believed about salvation in order to refute the rumors. Their confession, published for all of London to read, became known as The 1644 Baptist First London Confession of Faith. This is my favorite Baptist confession of all time. It was written two years prior to the 1646 Presbyterian Westminster Confession of Faith and as such is untouched by Presbyterian ecclessiology or the English politics that resulted in the English Civil War. This 1644 First London Confession of Faith is lingquistically simple, supremely biblical, sweetly evangelical, and succinct when compared to later Baptist confessions. It brilliantly shows that the New Covenant is superior to the Old Covenant (a truth Presbyterianism misses), that there is equality among all Christians (a truth that is in direct opposition to clergy superiority and laity separation taught by Catholicism), and that the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper are commandments of Jesus Christ (not "church" ordinances as later taught by Landmark Baptist churches who err in emphasizing "the authority the church" rather than the authority of Christ).

In addition to the items mentioned above, three things stand out in the 1644 First London Confession of Faith that should speak clearly to any Southern Baptist who claims to know the historic traditional Baptist view of "God's Plan of Salvation."

(1). The London Baptists disavowed any ties to Continental Anabaptists.

This is seen in the title page where the Baptists wrote: ""The Confession of Faith, of those Churches which are commonly (though falsely) called Anabaptists." These London Baptists were NOT Anabaptist, did not wish to be known as Anabaptist, and disavowed any association with Anabaptists.

Why is this important? Dr. Paige Patterson wrote a book on Anabaptist Balthazar Hubmaier where advocates his Anabaptist theology. The seminary he leads, Southwestern Theological Seminary, regularly hosts conferences honoring Anabaptists. Interestingly, the children of European Anabaptists are Mennonites, General or Free-Will Baptists, and other Arminian evangelicals, not Southern Baptists. Though some Southern Baptist leaders today wish to identify closely with European Anabaptists, the early London Baptists of 1644 wanted nothing to do with continental Anabaptists. They considered the European Anabaptists unorthodox in their soteriology and other important theological doctrines, while maintaining sympathy for their ecclesiology and separation of church and state views.

(2). The London Baptists thoroughly owned Calvinistic soteriology and repudiated Arminianism.

Take a moment to read what these 1644 London Baptists believed and taught about original sin, election, particular redemption, effectual calling and the perseverance of the saints. Those early London Baptists believed like most English and American Baptists of the 1600's, 1700's, and 1800's -- beliefs epitomized by the words of a twenty-two year old London Baptist preacher named Charles Spurgeon in 1853, "I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist; I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist; but if I am asked what is my creed, I reply, 'It is Jesus Christ.'"

These early London Baptists loved Jesus Christ. They wrote of Him. They spoke of Him. They preached Him. They magnified Him. They honored Him. Their confession of faith was designed to show the Anglican Christians that the differences they had with them were minor and ecclesiological, not major and doctrinal. After the publication of the First London Confession of Faith, Daniel Featley, a Westminster politician, Anglican theologian and chief Baptist critic, wrote of the confession:

"If we give credit to this Confession and the Preface thereof, those who among us are branded with that title [i.e. Anabaptist], are neither Hereticks, nor Schismatics, but tender hearted Christians: upon whom, through false suggestions, the hand of authority fell heavy, whilst the Hierarchy stood: for, they neither teach free-will; nor falling away from grace with the Arminians, nor deny originall sinne with the Pelagians, nor disclaim Magistracy with the Jesuites, nor maintain plurality of Wives with the Poloygamists, nor community of goods with the Apostolici, nor going naked with the Adamites, much less aver the mortality of the soul with the Epicures and Psychophannichists: and to this purpose they have published this confession of Faith, subscribed by sixteen persons, in the name of seven Churches in London" (emphasis mine).

Read the above paragraph carefully again. Featley is rightly telling his fellow Englishmen that the London Baptists were NOT doctrinal heretics based on their confession. However, he despised the Baptists as people and would later write his belief that they could not be believed. He wrote: "they cover a little rats-bane in a great quantity of sugar." Ratsbane is rat poison. Featley believed that the London Baptists could cover for their political and ecclesiological heresies with sweet theological writings that are Christian and orthodox. One wonders what Featley would say of the so-called 2012 Statement of Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God's Plan of Salvation which boldly and forthrightly denies original sin and proclaims free-will, the very things Featly calls heresy? It's one thing to cover rats-bane with sugar; it's altogether different to call rats-bane sugar. The self-proclaimed modern traditional Southern Baptists when compared to early London Baptists seem no more Baptist, no more traditional, and no more theologically orthodox than rats-bane is sugar.

(3). The London Baptists gained influence in England throughout the late 1600s and America in the 1700s because the First London Confession of Faith was accepted as a statement of Christian orthodoxy.

Stephen Marshall, a member of the Westminster Assembly, once again publicly attacked London Baptists in 1645 and called them heretics. However, the influential John Tombes replied by pointing to the First London Confession of Faith and publicly proclaiming the Christian orthodoxy of the Particular Baptists of London, England (source: John Tombes, Two Treatises and an Appendix to them Concerning Infant Baptisme (London: George Whittington, 1645), 31, 34. The statements are in the second treatise, entitled "An Examen of the Sermon of Mr. Stephen Marshal, about Infant Baptism, in a Letter sent to him).

In closing, the current controversy within the Southern Baptist Convention needs to be understood within the context of Baptist history. I am a Bible-believing Baptist. I believe in Christian freedom, New Covenant superiority, gender and racial equality, congregational governance, and the grace of God in saving sinners through faith in the person and work of His Son Jesus Christ. I hold to the First London Confession of Faith. My creed is Jesus Christ, but I am a Baptist because I believe we Baptists have historically believed the Bible. Those Baptists who deny original sin, proclaim free-will and human works to obtain divine favor, and altogether deny historic Baptist soteriolocial principles are the ones who need to explain to the rest of us why indeed they have strayed from the was clearly, boldly and unashamedly proclaimed by our London Baptist forefathers.

There's room in the SBC for Baptists who flirt with pelagianism and flout humanism. However, let it not be said they are either historic or traditional in their soteriological and theological views. They are neither. (Author's Note: I have been rightly called out on what I have written this last paragraph by Dr. Roger Olson. I repent. Rather than delete what I wrote, I have used the strike-through and linked you to my apology entitled Sometimes I Write Things that I Later Regret: An Example).