Saturday, March 29, 2008

Attorney General Mukasey exonerates Calvinists

Tim Ellsworth calls attention to an important statement by Attorney General Michael Mukasey. When asked about profiling Muslims, Mukasey said,
"So far as focusing investigations, we investigate where the threat is coming from. The threat is coming from Islamist extremism. It's not coming from Calvinism." (emphasis added)
It is obvious from this statement that Mukasey has no aspirations to serve in the Southern Baptist Convention (or in a certain Fundamentalist Seminary) after his retirement from government service. Founders Ministries might, however, be interested in talking to him about becoming legal counsel for the ministry.
HT: Tim

Friday, March 28, 2008

Hotlinks 3.28.08

Aaron Turner is a pastor-turned-church-planter who had developed a web-design and online marketing business to support himself so that he can be free to travel anywhere to pursue his new calling. He does great work and he is a faithful brother. Check out his work.

Heritage Baptist Church in Owensboro, Kentucky is hosting what promises to be an excellent Missions Conference July 13-16, 2008. The speakers, including Conrad Mbewe from Zambia, are outstanding.

Joe Thorn has expended a few brain cells in thinking through a paradigm for the church he serves. He calls it "The Table, the Pulpit and the Square." It is powerful in its simplicity.

Have you ever wondered how chapel services affect the prayer life of a well-trained seminary student? Andrew Lindsey's prayer gives a glimpse into the impact that recent chapel messages made on him.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Censoring the Gospel Update: Letter from the Publisher

When a Christian repents his repentance should be as notorious as his sin. When an organization does something wrong or foolish and then takes measures to correct their actions I believe that the decision to change should be as made known as widely as was the mistake.

Reggie Joyner, Founder of ReThink, the publisher of the curriculum that decided to eliminate the story of Christ's death and resurrection from their preschool curriculum this year, has issued a letter to the churches that use their material. In it he reaffirms his and his staff's commitment to the gospel message and its need to be clearly taught in their materials. He also acknowledges that the explanation that was posted on their website defending their decision "does not accurately reflect" their oganization's position. While he is not posting the letter on their website, he has sent it out very widely and has granted permission for it to be forwarded to interested parties. A friend sent me a copy this morning.

In the letter, Joyner pledges two things to those who use their materials: they will "teach the cross to every age group" and every Easter "the death and resurrection of Jesus will be included" in their preschool curriculum.

While there are certainly questions that remain about how the original course of action ever came about--questions that must be addressed internally within the organization--we should be grateful for this quick response and promise not to excise the Gospel from future lessons on Easter.

Monday, March 24, 2008

8 year old interview with Timothy George

Wyman Richardson recently posted an interview he conducted with Timothy George back in 2000. It is very good both for its content and perspective. They talk about Reformed Theology and there is hardly anyone better to discuss that topic than Timothy. Wyman asks good questions and appropriate followups so that this interview affords us to gain helpful insights from a theologian who has spent much of his life examining the history and theology of Reformed thought. Also, since the interview took place in 2000, it is interesting to read Timothy's views on a "Reformed resurgence" from the perpective of 8 years later.

You can read the whole interview here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Censoring the Gospel

When the Gospel is lost I guess it really doesn't matter if you withhold the facts of Jesus' death and resurrection from children. That seems to be the rationale behind one publisher of children's Sunday School curriculum. The guys over at Two Institutions blow the whistle on this knavery. You must read the publisher's explanation for yourself.

HT: Mike Hall

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Truth Happens

The wise man tells us to "buy the truth and do not sell it" (Proverbs 23:23) and Jude admonishes us to "contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (3). These and other texts imply that truth will not always have smooth sailing or be received with welcome arms. But opposition is no excuse for retreat, no matter how hostile it might become. The history of martyrs is a stark reminder of this.

This video by Linux illustrates how ideas that finally win the day go through 4 phases: 1st, they are simply ignored; 2nd, they are ridiculed; 3rd, they are strongly opposed; and 4th, they triumph.

Of course, Linux is simply making an observation without any regard to God's providence. But this does seem to be a discernible pattern that can be traced in the history of ideas. Think about the spread of Christianity in the early centuries of the church. Or consider the advance of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, or the development of modern Baptists in the 17th century.

Regardless of where the Lord places us in His historical agenda, our responsibility is clear--we must humbly accept the truth of His Word and, as faithful stewards of it, keep preaching, teaching and living it regardless of the responses we see.

Because of the faithfulness of Christ, our confidence, in the words of Balthasar Hubmaier, is this: the truth is immortal.

HT: Orrin Woodward

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

John 3:16 Conference, take 2

Diane Lytle alerted me in a comment that Dr. Steve Lemke has explained the purpose of the announced John 3:16 conference coming up this fall in Woodstock, Georgia. Dr. Lemke writes,
This conference is intended as a majoritarian Southern Baptist response to the "Building Bridges" and "Together for the Gospel" conferences. The announcement of this conference has already provoked considerable buzz and speculation in the blogosphere.
As I wrote in response to Diane, Dr. Lemke's "majoritarian Southern Baptist" descriptor is at best best ill-stated and at worst a joke perpetuated and believed only by those who refuse to deal with the implications of the fact that the majority of Southern Baptists can't be found! If Dr. Lemke's description turns out to be accurate, then about 60-70% of those who sign up for the conference will not even show up!

When will people who know better begin to speak honestly about "the majority of Southern Baptists?" The majority of Southern Baptists don't care enough even to attend worship services in the church to which they belong.

I appreciate Dr. Lemke's candor in letting us know that the conference was provoked by concern over the Building Bridges and T4G conferences (although the latter is not in any way promoted as a "Southern Baptist" event). Based on his words, obviously the planners of the Woodstock conference believe that they will speak for the "majority" of Southern Baptists. It will be very interesting to hear what their understanding of the "majoritarian" mentality is, although it does not take much imagination to speculate on this.

Nevertheless, my hope remains that, regardless of the rationale behind it, the conference will be marked by a Christ-honoring spirit and thoughtful, helpful presentations.

Brister cools off Global Warming Debate

Finally, someone has brought much-needed sanity to the recent Global Warming flap in the SBC. Through extensive research and interviews, Timmy Brister has brought together information that cannot be found in any other single source. The combination of cool heads and hot air make for the kind of moderate climate that breeds the kind of seriousness that much of this denominational debate deserves.

I think his post deserves some kind of environmental award.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

T4M--Together for the madness

Jesse Phillips is hosting a Together for the Madness pool to pick the NCAA National Basketball Champions. All of the details are available on his blog, where you can sign up to be included in the fun.

Basketball has a special place in our family because it is the sport that God used to help us think more world-viewishly about His glory. Through a local home-school athletic association our children have particiated in basketball for the last 12 years. Until this season, I actually had the privilege of coaching my daughters' teams. Now I get to a spectator as both my son, Joel, and my daughter, Grace, compete with their teams in the Florida Christian Activities Association's state tournament Thursday and Friday. Though I am not on the bench, I do have the vantage point of a fan who is always offering assistance to the officials on the floor. None of them has thanked me yet, but I feel certain that they appreciate the help!

So, if you are interested in following the greatest sport being played by the best college teams in the best sports month on the calendar, go check out T4M.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Brister accepts call to Grace in Cape Coral

Tonight Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, where I serve as Senior Pastor, called Tim Brister to become our Associate Pastor. He has accepted that call and hopes to be on the field the last week of May.

The process has been very deliberate and marked by clear indications of the Lord's guidance throughout. Tim has recently compared it to giving birth.

This picture was taken last week when the Bristers visited Cape Coral and Tim was recommended to the church as a candidate for the office. The response from the church has been enthusiastic. Tonight at the close of our worship service we were able to have a live video chat with him and witness him accept the call in front of the church.

I figured out tonight that Tim is 3 months younger than I was when I was called to come serve Grace as pastor in 1986. We like to pick 'em young and keep long around here! I look forward to the privilege of working along side him for many years, if the Lord wills.

Pray for Timmy and Dusti (and Nolan) as he finishes up his last few weeks at Southern Seminary and prepares to transition to life in the subtropics.

Friday, March 07, 2008

The Audacity of Hope: An Open Letter to Barack Obama

I received the following from Kairos Journal today:
Dr. Robert P. George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, has been one of the great defenders of the sanctity of life and traditional marriage in our time. One of his students, Sherif Gergis, a 2008 Princeton Graduate and Rhodes Scholar, has written a powerful letter to U.S. Senator Barack Obama on the subject of the protection of unborn human life. Professor George has asked that the following letter be read carefully and distributed widely.
Sherif's letter is brilliant in its simplicity. Here is the final paragraph:
Can we provide every member of the human family equal protection under the law? Your record as a legislator gives a resounding answer: No, we can't. That is the answer the Confederacy gave the Union, the answer segregationists gave young children, the answer a complacent bus driver once gave a defiant Rosa Parks. But a different answer brought your father from Kenya so many years ago; a different answer brought my family from Egypt some years later. Now is your chance, Senator Obama, to make good on the spontaneous slogan of your campaign, to adopt the more American and more humane answer to the question of whether we can secure liberty and justice for all: Yes, we can.
Read the whole letter here.

Bill Wagner: Calvinists are "less missional"

SBCtoday has posted another of their informative interviews. This time it is with Dr. Will Wagner, former IMB missionary and professor at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. He was the first person to announce his candidacy for the SBC presidency to be decided in upcoming convention meeting this June.

Among the many questions Wagner addressed, one had to do with the resurgence of Reformed theology in the SBC. His answer was rather convoluted. After acknowledging that he finds the question "very interesting," he offers what he hopes is a "blunt" response.
I feel that we as Southern Baptists are a very large organization. And there is ..
There is plenty of room for Calvinists and Armenians [sic] within the Southern Baptists. I think tha we should not really make this that much of an issue.

However, I have spoken to a lot of our missionaries overseas and its a very strange thing because our missionaries have said that we are beginning to get more and more people out on the field who are Calvinistic in their theology, and it is strange, but those that are Calvinistic are not nearly as desirous of winning people to Christ as they are about talking about theology. So I am little bit fearful, that if Calvinism begins to have too much influence, that we might go the way of some of the other Protestant denominations have gone and that is to deemphasize our missions.

Now, I know of a lot of tremendous missionaries who are Calvinists. But I say, by and large, Calvinists have a tendency to be less missional in their approach.
Dr. Wagner seems like a very nice man. He has some thoughtful responses to the questions that he was asked. I appreciate his candor in responding to this one. My own experience has been far different from what he has described. Most of the Southern Baptists I know who are Calvinistic are very evangelistic, and most of the missional guys I know are rather Calvinistic. That holds true for those who are in the states and those who are serving in other countries.

Missionaries from our church helped plant the first church among an unreached, overwhelmingly Muslim people. We have another family preaching the Gospel at one of the international crossroads of Muslims who come from some of the most restricted countries in the world. Another of our families is researching and trying to chart information on unreached peoples that have been overlooked or unknown to modern missiologists. God has recently opened a door for our church to become aggressively involved in evangelistic and church planting efforts among one of the most unreached people groups in the world. We are partnering with other Southern Baptist churches who share our theological and missional convictions.

Again, this may simply be a difference in relationships and experiences between Dr. Wagner and me. However, his suggestion that the SBC may go the way of liberal mainline denominations is, at best, terribly ill-informed. Even a superficial reading of history shows that it is the lessening of Calvinistic convictions, not their resurgence, that has led to spiritual and doctrinal decline among Baptists and other evangelical groups. Listen to Tom Nettles' presentation at the Building Bridges conference or read his article in the soon-to-be-mailed issue of the Founders Journal on, "Why Your Next Pastor Should Be a Calvinist."

I am grateful for Dr. Wagner's willingness to address the question with such a charitable spirit. Obviously, I do not share his fears. The resurgence of Calvinism within the SBC bodes well for our churches and missional efforts. It is leading to a reexamination of what the Gospel actually is, which is leading to a recovery of that Gospel and a more thoughtful, biblical approach to proclaiming it. And that is the foundation of reformation and revival.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Doing the work of an evangelist at UPS

You must read Timmy Brister's post about an encounter he had this week during his graveyard shift at UPS in Louisville. Determining how to honor one's employer by giving a full day's work for a full day's pay while not overlooking opportunities to speak of and for Christ can be tricky business. Sometimes we don't speak because we are intimidated or fearful. Sometimes we do speak when we should remain silent and our job.

Tim's story points the way forward through his own example of faithful, evangelistic zeal that is wedded to a humble, genuine desire to honor his employer.

Read it and be encouraged and challenged.

Monday, March 03, 2008

John 3:16 Conference

Jerry Vines Ministries is hosting a "John 3:16 Conference" at First Baptist Church, Woodstock on November 6-7, 2008. While the final schedule of the meetings will be posted later, according to the website, the following lineup is listed.
  • John 3:16 - Dr. Jerry Vines
  • John 3:16 to the entire world - Dr. Charles Stanley
  • Total Depravity - Dr. Paige Patterson
  • Unconditional Election - Dr. Richard Land
  • Limited Atonement - Dr. David Allen
  • Irresistible Grace - Dr. Steve Lemke
  • Perseverance of the Saints - Dr. Ken Keathley
No explanation or elaboration is given about the rationale for the conference. All of the speakers are gifted, competent ministers. Hopefully the messages will be made available online. This has the potential to be one of the best contemporary engagements of the so-called five points of Calvinism by those who, generally, disagree with them (or at least most of them).

While, given what I know about the preachers, I do not expect to agree with many of their conclusions, I welcome this kind of theological dialogue. Isn't it great that Southern Baptists are talking about important matters of biblical theology rather than whether or not to ordain homosexual men to the gospel ministry?