April 2013

Infanticide OK, Planned Parenthood rep says

April 5 2013 by Baptist Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Infanticide should be an option when a baby survives a failed abortion, a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman told stunned Florida legislators recently.

Addressing a House of Representatives subcommittee March 27, Alisa LaPolt Snow said the fate of a baby born alive after an attempted abortion should be left to “the woman, her family and the physician.”
A lobbyist for the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, Snow testified against the Infants Born Alive Act, which would mandate an abortion doctor provide life-saving care for a child who survives an abortion. After Snow’s testimony, some subcommittee members asked what Planned Parenthood’s position is in such a scenario.

“[I]t is just really hard for me to even ask you this question, because I’m almost in disbelief,” said Rep. Jim Boyd. “If a baby is born on a table as a result of a botched abortion, what would Planned Parenthood want to have happen to that child that is struggling for life?”

Snow answered, “We believe that any decision that’s made should be left up to the woman, her family and the physician.”

Rep. Daniel Davis asked, “[W]hat happens in a situation where a baby is alive, breathing on a table, moving. What do your physicians do at that point?”

Snow said, “I do not have that information. I am not a physician. I am not an abortion provider. So I do not have that information.”

Rep. Jose Oliva next questioned Snow, saying, “You stated that a baby born alive on a table as a result of a botched abortion, that that decision should be left to the doctor and the family. Is that what you’re saying?”

She replied, “That decision should be between the patient and the health-care provider.”

Oliva responded, “I think that at that point the patient would be the child struggling on the table. Wouldn’t you agree?”

Snow said, “That’s a very good question. I really don’t know how to answer that.”

The Florida Association of Planned Parenthood Affiliates issued a written statement April 1 after Snow’s comments were reported, initially by The Weekly Standard. That statement said:

“Last week, a panel of Florida state legislators demanded speculation about a vague set of extremely unlikely and highly unusual medical circumstances. Medical guidelines and ethics already compel physicians facing life-threatening circumstances to respond, and Planned Parenthood physicians provide high-quality medical care and adhere to the most rigorous professional standards, including providing emergency care. In the extremely unlikely event that the scenario presented by the panel of legislators should happen, of course Planned Parenthood would provide appropriate care to both the woman and the infant.”

Such events occur, however. The federal government enacted the Born Alive Infants Protection Act in 2002 after it learned babies who survive abortion were being left to die in some hospitals.

Pro-life blogger Jill Stanek, whose testimony as a nurse helped provide momentum for enactment of that legislation, expressed skepticism about Planned Parenthood’s commitment. It would be impossible for a Planned Parenthood clinic to “‘provide appropriate care to ... the infant’ unless it had neonatal resuscitation equipment, meds, and personnel trained to provide emergency care to preemies, which I happen to know is no easy task,” she wrote April 2. “I’m confident no [Planned Parenthood] in the U.S. has a neonatal crash cart ... and nursing staff certified in Neonatal Advanced Life Support.”

The House Civil Justice Subcommittee voted 10-2 for the bill.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)

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Guest column: ‘After-birth abortion’: a moment of clarity in the abortion debate

4/5/2013 2:25:59 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

N. Korean Christians seek prayer amid threats

April 5 2013 by Baptist Press

SANTA ANA, Calif. – Christians in North Korea have asked for prayer as their country’s leaders have heightened threats of war against South Korea and the United States, according to an April 4 Open Doors report.

“We know that our journey will not be an easy one, but we are sure that our faith, desperate hope and passionate desire will someday bear many fruit,” a Christian believer in North Korea said, according to an Open Doors source in the country. 

“No matter how difficult life is for us, we never blame or complain about our circumstances. God has promised us in the Bible that if we seek His Kingdom first, all other things will be given to us as well. Please pray for us,” the believer said.

Kim Jong-Un

North Korea, having launched a long-range rocket in December followed by an underground nuclear test in February, escalated its rhetoric April 4 by warning its military is authorized to wage “cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified” nuclear strikes against the United States.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the Pentagon is taking Pyongyang’s threats seriously, sending ballistic missile defenses to Guam, a Western Pacific territory that is home to U.S. naval and air bases. 

Open Doors, which received reports from underground Christians in North Korea describing a war-like atmosphere in the country, said April 4 that prayer for the already-persecuted believers in the communist nation is more important than ever.

Summarizing the message the North Korean people received from the “high command” recently, a Christian leader said, “We are to meet the decisive battle with a gun in one hand and a hammer in the other.”

The believer added, “The military army, navy, air force troops, strategic rocket troops, the red guards and the red youth guards are already in combat mode.

“Urgent meetings are being held everywhere, regardless if it is day or night,” the Christian said. “At those meetings, officials make decisions on what needs to happen in case war breaks out and everyone, including women, needs to be combat ready.” 

Open Doors sources in North Korea indicate that many cars on the roads are covered with camouflage nets and soldiers are wearing hats with camouflage dried branches.

“North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un released a statement to his people, saying that ‘If war breaks out because of the actions of the U.S. and puppet South Korean’s unpardonable behavior, they will end up with a disgraceful downfall, and our people will greet a brilliant new day of reunification. The day has come to show off the power of Military First and our great nation to the whole world,’” the Open Doors report said.

Despite their leader’s words, the people of North Korea continue to suffer under the fanatical regime, which rules the destitute country of 24 million people with a proverbial iron fist and has a special hatred for Christians, according to Jerry Dykstra, a spokesman for the California-based Open Doors USA.

The people of North Korea fear war and its consequences, Open Doors said, with many people in a hurry to purchase emergency food supplies and daily goods. The prices of such goods, including food, are skyrocketing, a North Korean Christian said.

Amid the turmoil, North Korean Christians expressed gratitude for fellow believers around the world “for their continuous love and support,” Open Doors said.

Dykstra called for increased prayers for North Korean believers in these days.

“Beneath the surface of the all the rhetoric of war and the possible launch of nuclear missiles are the suffering and persecution of the estimated 200,000 to 400,000 Christians in North Korea,” he said.

“Also, an estimated 60,000 to 80,000 Christians are in harsh political prison camps,” Dykstra said. “The government has been the No. 1 persecutor of Christians for 11 years in a row, according to the Open Doors 2013 World Watch List.

“We must respond now to the Christian leaders’ request to pray for them. Pray for Kim Jong-Un, that God will work in his heart and he will pursue peace and not war,” Dykstra said. 

“Pray for wisdom for leaders in the United States, South Korea and China. Pray for Christians who are put in even more danger due to war preparations. Pray families will find food to feed their families. Finally, pray that no matter what happens Christians will remain strong in their faith.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach.)
4/5/2013 2:17:09 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Composer, hymn writer Buryl Red dies

April 4 2013 by Laura Erlanson, Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – Prolific Baptist composer and hymn writer Buryl Red died April 1 at the age of 76.
Red was the founding musical director and conductor of The CenturyMen, a men’s choir made up of Baptist church music directors from around the world. Since their founding in 1969, The CenturyMen have performed across the U.S. and in at least 11 other countries, according to thecenturymen.com.

When The CenturyMen’s recording “Beautiful Star – A Celebration of Christmas” was nominated for a Grammy in 2000, Red told Baptist Press, “We see our work as a way to communicate the message of Christ with the secular world. I feel like our music can communicate beyond the musical language of the church.”

In addition to his work with The CenturyMen, Red is perhaps best remembered as composer of “Celebrate Life,” a musical created with lyricist Ragan Courtney, considered a landmark in church music. Released in 1972, Celebrate Life is still in print, sold by LifeWay Worship, the music division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

LifeWay worship director Mike Harland remembered Red in a blog post April 2.

“I’ll never forget the first time I saw a set of drums in a church,” Harland wrote. “It was there to be part of the groundbreaking youth musical, Celebrate Life.

“And, I’ll never forget the first time I saw an accompaniment track – it was in my church – Tate Street Baptist Church in Corinth, Miss. It was on a ‘reel to reel’ deck, and with it we sang Buryl’s classic collection ‘The Old Songs’ – another groundbreaking idea. Imagine modern, rhythmic versions of old hymns for a new generation – just who did that first? Not Chris Tomlin – no, it was Buryl Red.”

Harland also credited Red with introducing Baptists to the style of modern worship music that came out of the Jesus Movement in the 1960s and ‘70s.

“[Red] loved virtually every style of music,” Harland wrote. “As long as the presentations of it reached a level of excellence befitting the glorious Savior we love.”

The song “In Remembrance” from Celebrate Life has become a standard and is included in the latest edition of the Baptist Hymnal. Red conducted a choral performance of the song at the hymnal’s dedication ceremony in 2008, calling it “a highlight of his career,” Harland recounted.

Red’s output includes more than 2,500 published works; production of more than 4,000 recordings; the musical supervision, composition and arranging for several hundred shows, documentaries and musical specials for network and cable television; and the writing and editing of more than 50 music textbooks, according to information from a working program for an upcoming concert in Red’s honor.

A native of Little Rock, Ark., Red graduated from the music schools of Baylor University and Yale University before making his home in New York City. In the early ‘60s, he served as music minister of Manhattan Baptist Church, the first Southern Baptist Church in New York City.

An April 2 email from Diane Cobb, executive secretary of the Church Music Publishers Association, of which Red was a member, described a man who was considered a mentor by many.

“He was funny without trying to be or even knowing that he was,” Cobb wrote. “... Unpretentious, championed all instruments in the church before it was popular to do so, was brilliant, listened well, loved God, loved his lovely wife Virginia and family, and was kind ... he was the real deal.”

Red died in New York City, after a long battle with cancer. He is survived by his wife, Virginia, son Eric and grandson Adrian. A private funeral will be held April 9 in Manhattan. A memorial tribute concert is planned for April 29 at Central Presbyterian Church in Manhattan.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to The CenturyMen, c/o Kim Bowen, 1610 Russell Avenue, Jefferson City, TN 37760, or to The Broadway Inspirational Voices, c/o Michael Reeves Associates, 224 West 30th Street, Suite 1006 New York, NY 10001.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Laura Erlanson is operations coordinator for Baptist Press. Martin King, director of communications for LifeWay Christian Resources, contributed to this report.)
4/4/2013 3:11:34 PM by Laura Erlanson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Bible shaped America, historians at forum say

April 4 2013 by Tonika Reed, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – Scripture has had a tremendous influence on the rights of citizens throughout American history, two historians said at a recent Washington, D.C., forum.

“The Bible permeated both private expressions and the public announcements of those who shaped the new nation and its political institutions,” said Daniel Dreisbach, an author and a law professor at American University.

The Founding Fathers were not as religiously conventional as history textbooks make them out to be, he said.

“The Bible’s influence is not merely ignored in the scholarship; rather, many scholars contend that the leading founders – influenced by rationalism, the enlightenment – rejected biblical ideas,” Dreisbach said in the March 20 forum hosted by the Family Research Council.

Although many see the Founding Fathers as deists, Dreisbach said this may not have wholly been the case.

James Hutson, an author and a Yale historian, backed Dreisbach’s assertion that society tends to put the Founding Fathers in the box of deism. In reality, they may have been more religiously involved and may have believed in the intervention of a divine being – which would not align with the beliefs of deists, Hutson said.

Dreisbach also discussed the biblically laced language of the Founding Fathers. During a question-and-answer time, an audience member asked if the Founding Fathers used biblical language because it was such a part of their lives or if they were just being good politicians.

Dreisbach responded by explaining the Founding Fathers used biblical language not just in common speech but when discussing important matters, such as in policy debates.

“Saint Paul is cited about as frequently as Montesquieu or Blackstone, the two most cited secular authors, and Deuteronomy is cited almost twice as often as all of John Locke’s writings put together,” said Dreisbach.

John Adams’ statement that the Bible is a “republican book” shows many of the Founding Fathers saw the Bible as at least a “great textbook on civic morality,” Dreisbach said. The Bible’s early models of republicanism and due process appealed to the Founding Fathers, he told the audience.

“The Bible contains the most profound philosophy, the most perfect morality and the most refined policy that ever was conceived upon earth. It is the most republican book in the world, and therefore I will still revere it,” Adams said.

Hutson explained the history of rights in light of the Founding Fathers’ new republic. He defined a right as “the power to do [something] without interference.”

He also provided a brief history and explanation of subjective and objective rights. The Founding Fathers were afraid of composing positions of power and establishing rights because they had come from systems that did not enforce models of republicanism, due process or separation of powers, Hutson said.

“The great challenge that the founders confronted was how [to] nurture personal responsibility and discipline that facilitates self-government in a regime that is not guided by a tyrant with a whip and a rod,” he said.

Dreisbach has written widely on the Founding Fathers’ religious beliefs and American church-state relations.

Hutson has been chief of the Library of Congress’ Manuscript Division since 1982. He has written extensively on religion in relation to American government and on the life of John Adams.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tonika Reed is an intern with the Washington bureau of Baptist Press.)
4/4/2013 3:05:05 PM by Tonika Reed, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Cleveland church planter is Indians’ chaplain

April 4 2013 by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press

CLEVELAND – It’s easy to look at professional athletes and just see the money, fame and life in the fast lane. But after a year of serving with Baseball Chapel in Cleveland, Southern Baptist church planter Alex Ennes sees something else – real people who need to hear about Jesus.

“Everyone wants a little piece of them – their team, management, their coaches, fans,” Ennes said. “You have to position yourself as the one person who doesn’t want anything from them.”

Ennes, who in January began the process of planting a Southern Baptist church in Cleveland, was selected prior to the 2012 season by Baseball Chapel to serve the Cleveland Indians. Baseball Chapel is a 40-year-old ministry recognized by Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball to serve the spiritual needs of each team.

Alex Ennes, who serves through Baseball Chapel as chaplain for Major League baseball’s Cleveland Indians, is a North American Mission Board church planter in Cleveland.

Ennes leads a chapel service every week during the season when the team is in town. He also makes himself available for prayer and the spiritual needs players encounter. His wife Shari leads a Bible study for players’ wives and girlfriends.

Because the chapel services come on game day, Ennes has to remain flexible on his chapel messages. Usually, he gets 10 to 15 minutes for a message.

“Sometimes the message will be a very clear gospel presentation,” Ennes said. “You are trying to let those who don’t know the gospel understand it. Other times, as you get to know their lives, you try to help them see what the Bible has to say about some of the issues they are dealing with – as if I were preaching at my church, just much more condensed.”

As an experienced church planter, Ennes understands what it’s like to get to know his ministry context and to attempt to communicate the gospel within that context.

“As a church planter you’ve got to learn how you are going to meet people,” Ennes said. “What do you say and what don’t you say. In the professional sports world, there’s a way to talk to people and a way not to. Just like in church planting, you’ve got to get to know your community.”

Since the players’ wives and girlfriends stay behind when the players go out of town, Ennes believes his wife’s ministry has even more potential than his own. He said Shari has built strong relationships with several of the women simply by being present and listening when needed. Because players’ wives often come to a new city and don’t know anyone, they appreciate help learning their way around.

Shari connected with Meryl Masterson, wife of the Indians’ Justin Masterson, through their experiences as mothers and wives. Masterson said her relationship with Shari has been so important precisely because it is so unique.

Shari Ennes, left, connected with Meryl Masterson, wife of the Cleveland Indians’ Justin Masterson, through their experiences as mothers and wives. Ennes’ husband Alex serves as a Baseball Chapel chaplain for the Indians and a North American Mission Board church planter in Cleveland.

“Friends outside of baseball don’t really understand why we have to move three times a year,” Masterson said. “It’s hard to find friends who are truly going to be there for you ... to have one friend you know will be praying for you.”

Masterson said Shari has been an important mentor for many of the other wives and girlfriends in the Bible study.

“She’s just there to listen,” Masterson said. “It’s so great that we can say anything, and we know it’ll stay right there in that room. We know it’s not going anywhere with Shari.”

As he starts up a new congregation – Gateway Church River in Cleveland’s Rocky River area – Ennes believes his work as a chaplain may provide some additional credibility in the community.

“I talk about my role as a chaplain sparingly, but I will talk about it,” Ennes said. “It’s a great conversation starter. Many people in Cleveland don’t know what to do with a church planter. Tell them you’re starting a new church and you might as well tell them you fell out of space. But give them something they can identify with – like the Indians – it makes them feel like you’re part of the community.”
Follow Ennes on Twitter at @alexennes.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tobin Perry writes for the North American Mission Board. Through Send North America: Cleveland, Southern Baptists plan to start 91 new churches in the metro area by 2016. For more information about Send North America: Cleveland, visit namb.net/Cleveland.)
4/4/2013 1:15:05 PM by Tobin Perry, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Urban crisis: Churches can impart Jesus’ hope

April 4 2013 by Benjamin Hawkins, Baptist Press

FORT WORTH, Texas – Jesus is the answer to the problems that churches in urban America face today, Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) President Fred Luter said during an Urban Economics and Ministry Conference at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“You don’t have to be a Bible scholar to realize that we’re living in a time of crisis. You don’t have to know Bible prophecy to realize that we’re living in some very sinful and sick days,” Luter said, listing teenage pregnancy and abortion, homosexuality and gang violence among these problems.

However, Luter underscored the solution to these problems in Christ Jesus.

“People need to know the difference that Jesus makes in the personal life,” said Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans.

“They need to know that Jesus is hope for the hopeless. He is joy in the midst of trouble. He is peace in the midst of confusion. He is love for the unlovable. He is bread for the hungry, water for the thirsty. He is a friend even for the friendless.”

Luter said he learned these truths from his own experience – from the grace that God has poured upon his life and from his ministry in New Orleans. When Luter, a native of New Orleans’ lower Ninth Ward, became Franklin Avenue’s pastor in the 1980s, the church had 65 members. By 2005, when Hurricane Katrina devastated the city, there were 7,000 members. Luter led the church through the tragic hurricane, ministering even when his own home had been destroyed. He welcomed his congregation to a new sanctuary in 2008.

Southwestern’s Urban Economics and Ministry Conference, sponsored by the seminary’s Land Center for Cultural Engagement, featured scholars and ministers who addressed the economic, social and cultural challenges confronting African American churches in the 21st-century urban context. Speakers discussed the creation of wealth; the importance of marriage, the family and abstinence education; and the impact of black liberation theology in African American churches.

Craig Mitchell, associate professor of ethics at Southwestern, noted that many of the challenges that arise in the urban context are not a result of racial tensions.

“Racial discrimination is not the cause of most of our problems,” Mitchell said. Instead, these problems reflect class tensions and economic conditions that exist across racial barriers. For example, studies have shown that unemployment, rather than race, determines the crime rate in both black and white communities, he noted.

“A job makes all the difference in the world. God made us to work,” Mitchell said. Government programs that encourage people to remain in unemployment are actually harmful to society, he added.

In light of this reality, Mitchell said African American churches in well-to-do communities should help African American churches in low-income urban areas.

“For all these blacks who are going into the middle and upper classes,” Mitchell asked, “what are they doing for the ones who are still in the hood? ...

“We can’t do it alone,” he said. “We need to look at the reality of the situation. Those churches that are in the inner city are not going to be able to do it by themselves. They need the help of churches – black churches and other churches – in the middle and upper classes.”

While one church cannot reach out to every group in society and must therefore be faithful in its own context, Mitchell said, “the gospel was made to reach every person.” For this reason, he called churches to reach across racial and economic boundaries and cooperate with one another in ministry.

Experts in business, medicine and theology were among other speakers at the March 7-8 conference, including:
  • Antony Beckham, assistant professor of business at Trinity International University in Deerfield, Ill., who suggested that the urban church may be a catalyst for economic flourishing.
  • Freda McKissic Bush, an OB-GYN who serves as medical director for Pregnancy Choices Metro Jackson and the Henry M. Johnson Women’s Resource Crisis Pregnancy Center, who discussed the negative impact of casual sex among young people and the importance of abstinence, marriage and the family. Bush is co-author of Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex Is Affecting Our Children and Girls Uncovered: New Research on What America’s Sexual Culture Does to Young Women.
  • Anthony Bradley, associate professor of theology at King’s College in New York City and research fellow at the Acton Institute. Bradley, author of Liberating Black Theology and The Political Economy of Liberation, discussed the impact of black liberation theology in African American churches. Instead of creating an unbiblical theology to meet the needs of the black community, he urged theologians to apply the truth of the Gospel to the challenges confronted by African American churches.
Audio from the conference can be downloaded for free at swbts.edu/urbanministryaudio.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Benjamin Hawkins is senior newswriter for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.)
4/4/2013 1:04:49 PM by Benjamin Hawkins, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

‘Bible’ series concludes, now on DVD

April 3 2013 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE – History Channel’s “The Bible” miniseries concluded Easter Sunday with its second-best night, with 11.7 million watching the finale that included Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.

All total, the five-week series drew 56.8 million viewers, with more than 10 million tuning in each week.

It is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray at LifeWay Christian Stores and other outlets.

During the five Sundays it was broadcast, The Bible finished either first or second among cable programs. On Easter Sunday its 11.7 million viewers finished second behind the season finale of AMC’s “Walking Dead” (12.4 million).

Two professing Christians, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, are the executive producers. Downey told the radio program “For Faith & Family” that the “intention of making this series was to glorify God.”

Mainstream media sites have taken notice of the high ratings.

“Those are the kinds of numbers that get TV executives’ attention, and ‘attention’ in the TV business means copying,” Time’s James Poniewozik wrote. “Last year, History pulled meganumbers with Hatfields and McCoys; now NBC is developing a Hatfields and McCoys series. So I wouldn’t be surprised to see more religious epics coming to TV – stories aimed, like The Bible miniseries, at the comfort zone of believers.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press.)
4/3/2013 2:04:03 PM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

John 3:16 Conference addresses Calvinism

April 3 2013 by Aaron Earls, Baptist Press

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. – While stressing that the discussion between Calvinists and non-Calvinists in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is a family matter, speakers at the 2013 John 3:16 Conference outlined the differences between the two views and what they believe to be the issues hindering unity among Southern Baptists.

Frank Cox, pastor of North Metro Baptist Church in Lawrenceville, Ga., which hosted the conference on March 21-22, told attendees that the event would help them “engage in the conversation going on across the nation and the Southern Baptist Convention.”

Jerry Vines, pastor emeritus of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., opened the conference by saying it was not about anger or fighting anyone over these issues.

“Disagreement does not equal a lack of love,” said Vines, whose ministry organized the John 3:16 Conference and a similar conference in 2008 under the same name.

Photo by Aaron Earls
Jerry Vines, pastor emeritus of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., and a former Southern Baptist Convention president, was among the speakers at the John 3:16 Conference. Unity in the SBC will be disrupted when either Calvinists or non-Calvinists accuse each other of “being on the borderline of heresy.”

The 2008 conference responded directly to the five points of traditional Calvinism known by the acronym TULIP: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace and Perseverance of the saints.

This year’s event focused on six key questions pointing to theological differences between the conference’s speakers and those Southern Baptists who identify with Calvinism or the Reformed tradition. The sessions included both professorial and pastoral presentations by Baptist college and seminary leaders as well as pastors and evangelists.

Organizers said more than 350 registrants attended the conference.

Vines opened the sessions by answering what he referred to as “the burning question in Southern Baptist life” – For whose sins did Jesus die?

Using John 3:16 as his primary text, Vines stated that Christ died for “my sins individually, the church’s sins especially and the world’s sins universally.”

He called it a “logical fallacy” to use passages that speak of Christ’s death being for individuals or the church as evidence that it is for those alone.

“The whole matter of ‘For whose sins did Jesus die?’ ultimately goes back to the love of God,” Vines said.

“Does He love every single person in the whole world?” Vines asked. “I believe He does. I can say about everyone I meet, ‘This is a person God loves and for whose sins Christ died.’“

Adam Harwood, Christian studies professor at Truett-McConnell College in Georgia, in his presentation directly challenged the perspective on humanity inheriting the guilt of Adam’s sin.

Harwood contended that while all people have a sinful nature, only Adam is guilty of Adam’s sin because “according to the Bible, God judges people for their own sin.”

Harwood claimed that some Southern Baptists, particularly R. Albert Mohler Jr. and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, disagreed with this stance.

Harwood referenced an article Mohler wrote on his blog in 2012 titled “Southern Baptists and Salvation: It’s Time to Talk along with Mohler’s claim that a 2012 document signed online by many non-Calvinist Southern Baptists, called A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation, “appear[ed] to affirm semi-Pelagian understandings of sin, human nature and the human will –– understandings that virtually all Southern Baptists have denied.”

As described in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, semi-Pelagianism “affirmed that the unaided [human] will performed the initial act of faith” and “the priority of the human will over the grace of God in the initial act of salvation.”

Harwood said unity within the SBC may depend, in part, on Mohler retracting his claim.

Harwood also called on Southern Seminary to revise a faculty-written interpretation of the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M) which Harwood said goes beyond the doctrinal stands of SBC Baptist Faith and Message.

In Article 3 of the BF&M, humanity inherits from Adam “a nature and an environment inclined toward sin” whereas, in the SBTS interpretation, “the guilt of Adam’s sin falls on all.”

“I do not mean to imply that SBTS faculty don’t affirm the BF&M. They do so as part of the hiring process,” Harwood said.

“But the faculty exposition omits concepts found in the BF&M and replaces them with a theological viewpoint not found in the BF&M,” Harwood said, “namely that all people are guilty of Adam’s sin.”

Mohler declined comment on Harwood’s statements. A seminary official, in responding March 26 to Baptist Press’ request, said, “Unfortunately, we must respectfully decline the opportunity to comment at this time. Thank you for giving us the opportunity.”

David Allen, dean of the school of theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas, spoke in his presentation to the question, “Does faith precede regeneration?” Allen pointed to biblical evidence and statements throughout church history from both Reformed and non-Reformed theologians affirming that faith does precede regeneration.

To view regeneration as occurring before someone can respond to God in faith is, Allen said, “a theological deduction that some Calvinists make that is driven more by their system than it is by Scripture.”

Allen quoted Charles Spurgeon, a 19th-century British Calvinist, as saying, that Arminianism (a theological system often seen as the opposite of Calvinism) “marries Christ to a bride He did not choose,” to which Allen retorted that if regeneration precedes faith, “Calvinism marries Christ to a bride in a shotgun wedding. She did not have the choice to turn down His proposal.”

Emir Caner, president of Truett-McConnell College, addressed the issue from a historical perspective in answering, “What were the early SBC leaders’ view on salvation?”

Caner noted that Baptist churches from the historical lineage of the Sandy Creek Baptist Association practiced revivalistic evangelism methods 40 years prior to the birth of Charles Finney, who is often credited with originating them during the Second Great Awakening.

This strand of Baptist life, Caner said, ran concurrent with the stronger Calvinistic one from the Philadelphia Baptist Association and both have existed within Southern Baptist life since the founding of the convention.

Caner asserted that much of the theological disunity could be resolved if there was more evangelistic methodological unity, particularly using an altar call.

Southern Baptist history, Caner said, demonstrates that revival and the methods of evangelism associated with historic “revival meetings” will be what halts “discussion over doctrinal differences” and stops “theological infighting.”

Eric Hankins, pastor of First Baptist Church in Oxford, Miss., addressed the question, “Who are the elect?”

Hankins is the author of “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.” He wrote and submitted a proposed resolution affirming the sinner’s prayer to the SBC’s Resolutions Committee, which re-worded it before presenting it to messengers at the SBC annual meeting in New Orleans. The resolution passed overwhelmingly.

Hankins delineated between what he characterized as theistic determinism – God dictating the free choices of individuals – and other viewpoints which, Hankins said, recognize the freedom that humanity possesses.

In this discussion, there is “no middle ground,” Hankins said. “There is no mediating position. Either determinism is true and representative of the biblical data concerning salvation or it is not.”

Hankins said the question is whether the differing sides “will grant one another liberty in holding one view or the other.”

In the past, this liberty was granted, Hankins said, but no more.

“The peace has been shattered recently, not by us,” Hankins stated, “but by Southern Baptist Calvinists, who aver that our views on soteriology are deficient and outmoded.”

Hankins asserted that non-Calvinists must do more than simply critique Reformed theology without asserting any replacement options. He did this by referencing Molinism as “the best account of the Bible’s strong view of God’s sovereignty and equally strong view of libertarian freedom.”

“Calvinists think Molinism is too libertarian and Arminians think it is too deterministic,” Hankins said. “This, however, may be an indication that it is just about right.”

Named after 16th-century theologian Luis de Molina, Molinism is an attempt to solve many of the philosophical and theological issues associated with God’s sovereignty and man’s free will.

Hankins mentioned several prominent modern theologians who hold to Molinism, including William Lane Craig, Alvin Plantinga and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Ken Keathley.

Hankins also referenced religious historian Kirk MacGregor’s contention that leading Anabaptist theologian Balthasar Hubmeir “could be considered a proponent of Molinism fifty years before Molina.”

Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., concluded the conference by assessing the biblical nature of the sinner’s prayer.

While grateful for valid concerns critics have had over a “mindless repetition of a prayer,” Gaines maintained that the principle of a sinner’s prayer, despite it not being mentioned directly in the Scripture, can be drawn from the biblical text akin to such concepts as inerrancy and the Trinity.

Gaines responded to some who, as he put it, have been questioning the legitimacy of “asking Jesus into your heart.”

Poor discipleship, Gaines said, often is to blame for later doubts about salvation and should not be used as an excuse to reject the sinner’s prayer, which he claimed was affirmed and used at least occasionally by Calvinists such as Wayne Grudem, John MacArthur and Charles Spurgeon.

Despite the evident differences, Gaines said Calvinists “are not my enemy” and that both sides in the discussion should come together.

“The days ahead are difficult,” Gaines said. “We are going to need each other.

“I can work with them,” he said. “There is no need for a takeover. We need to live together.”

Vines, in an interview, said unity is possible because of the twin historic focuses of the SBC, noting, “Evangelism and missions have always been our unifying matter.”

Vines asserted that convention unity is possible when both sides of the discussion agree over the basic Baptist doctrines and accept the Bible as it is without trying to “squeeze into either theological basket what we think Scripture says.”

Vines maintained, however, that any unity will be disrupted “when either view attacks the other or accuses it of being on the borderline of heresy.”

Across the convention, Vines said he sees the issues being addressed best in a local context. “More and more what I’m witnessing is that as information is shared, as views are presented, the people in the local church pews are solving the problem.”

The John 3:16 conference, Vines said, is part of the unifying process.

“We’re brothers,” he said, “but we need to discuss these matters so that we all may say that which we firmly believe.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Aaron Earls is a writer based in Wake Forest, N.C.)
4/3/2013 1:51:10 PM by Aaron Earls, Baptist Press | with 2 comments

Expert predicts split ruling in marriage cases

April 3 2013 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court appears likely to provide defenders of the traditional definition of marriage with no more than a partial victory, a legal expert says.

After sitting in on the landmark arguments Tuesday (March 26) and Wednesday (March 27), Family Research Council (FRC) lawyer Ken Klukowski said he is “fairly optimistic” the justices will support the right of states to continue to define marriage. The federal government’s authority to define marriage, however, is an “uphill battle” at the high court, he said.

Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy will be the swing vote in both debates over the constitutionality of government definitions of marriage, Klukowski predicted.

The Supreme Court heard arguments March 26 on a challenge to Proposition 8, a 2008 California voter initiative that defined marriage as only between a man and a woman. On March 27, the justices considered the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which used the same definition for federal purposes.

Regarding Prop 8 and the possibility of a sweeping decision by the justices for nationwide gay marriage, Klukowski said he is “fairly optimistic that the court is going to correctly say that there is no invisible, previously unnoticed federal constitutional right to gay marriage whereby the people of the 50 states cannot vote on the issue.”

If the justices come to that conclusion, Prop 8 will stand, and similar decisions by states will as well.

“Everyone acknowledges marriage doesn’t show up once in the Constitution,” Klukowski told Baptist Press on March 28. “The only question is whether it’s an implied right that does not allow any of the 50 states to have any laws saying marriage is one man and one woman, that gay marriage is a federal right that all states must embrace and must do so now. It did not look like to me that there were five votes for that at the Supreme Court.”

In the Prop 8 case, “what will weigh more heavily on” Kennedy is his belief “this is an issue better left to the democratic process and that the federal Constitution does not include any empowerment to authorize unelected federal judges to shut down democracy on this issue and just declare a national, constitutional right,” said Klukowski, director of FRC’s Center for Religious Liberty.

Kennedy seemed drawn, however, in the arguments over DOMA to the view that a federal definition of marriage would interfere with the sovereignty of the states, Klukowski said. There are more than 1,100 federal provisions based on the traditional definition of marriage, including employee, Social Security and tax benefits.

During the DOMA back-and-forth, Kennedy “appeared to be only talking about federalism as a one-way street, not a two-way street,” Klukowski said. Federalism is essentially the division of power between different levels of government.

However the states define marriage, Kennedy appeared to signal the “federal government must cater to the states to provide benefit to whoever the state tells them is married, that the federal government cannot have its own separate definition,” said the FRC lawyer, whose organization filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of both Prop 8 and DOMA. “So that is the issue [the decision] will stand or fall on.”

The odds are “not strongly against” a favorable ruling on DOMA, Klukowski told BP, “but I think it’s an uphill climb” for DOMA to “survive on the merits.”

While he predicted Kennedy will be the swing vote either way in 5-4 votes in both rulings on constitutionality, Chief Justice John Roberts will be the deciding vote on the procedural issues in both cases, Klukowski forecast.

The justices could refuse to rule on constitutional grounds in both cases by deciding they should not be before the high court.

In the Prop 8 case, the court heard arguments on whether the initiative’s supporters had legal standing to appeal a lower court ruling when state government officials, including the governor and attorney general, refused to do so.

One of the procedural issues weighed by justices in the DOMA appeal was whether the House of Representatives leadership had standing to defend DOMA after President Obama’s administration refused to advocate for it.

The high court is likely to say Prop 8 advocates can defend the amendment in court, Klukowski said, although he acknowledged a “realistic chance” it may not. Regarding DOMA’s technical questions, however, he placed 50-50 odds on the justices throwing the case out.

Regarding DOMA, the Supreme Court heard arguments only on the law’s Section 3, which defines marriage as a heterosexual union and prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. DOMA’s Section 2, which was not challenged in this case, authorizes states to refuse to recognize gay marriages performed in states where such unions are legal. DOMA received overwhelming approval from Congress and was signed into law by President Clinton, who recently said he now opposes the measure.

Lower courts struck down both Prop 8 and DOMA, prompting appeals by their advocates to the high court.

While both sides in the marriage debate focused their interests on the Supreme Court, gay marriage was a hot topic on social media, too, with both sides speaking up.

A pink and red “equality” symbol by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) quickly became popular among gay marriage supporters on Facebook and Twitter, with Facebook fans “liking” it and some social media users even replacing their picture with it. HRC’s symbol normally is yellow and blue.

Traditional marriage supporters responded with their own logo. FRC promoted one showing a man and woman holding hands, while the National Organization for Marriage released one showing a man, woman and child. Both became popular among social conservatives on Facebook and Twitter.

Nine states have legalized same-sex marriage: Connecticut; Iowa; Maine; Maryland; Massachusetts; New Hampshire; New York; Washington; and Vermont. Gay marriage also is legal in the District of Columbia.

The Prop 8 case is Hollingsworth v. Perry. The DOMA case is United States v. Windsor.

The court is expected to issue rulings in both cases in June.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)
4/3/2013 1:46:21 PM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Indonesian police demolish Christian church

April 3 2013 by Baptist Press, World Watch Monitor

JAKARTA, Indonesia – When a backhoe tore down the barely finished walls of the Batak Protestant Church near Jakarta, Indonesia, the remaining pile of rubble became the latest setback to Christians trying to retain a toehold in the world’s most populous Muslim country.

The church, in the Bekasi subdistrict of Jakarta on the Indonesian island of Java, had been meeting in a residential house every Sunday for the past 13 years. When the congregation swelled to about 600 members, pastor Adven Leonard Nababan applied early this year for a building permit. The church obtained signatures of 60 non-Christian neighbors as required by law.

Certain the church had met all the permit rules, yet mindful that local governments in Indonesia can be slow to approve them, Nababan ordered construction to proceed – a not uncommon practice among churches in a country where applications often languish.

But when the walls began to go up in January, about 750 Bekasi Muslims took to the streets in protest. On March 5, police sealed the site and told church elders to demolish what had been built so far. They refused.
04-03-13indo.jpgThe Bekasi subdistrict of Jakarta dispatched a backhoe to the Batak Protestant Church on March 21 to knock down church walls that had been under construction since January 2013.

Bekasi officials declared the 60 signatures to be fake, and sent their own demolition crew to the church building site March 21, in a sector called Taman Sari. About 150 members of Batak Protestant Church, commonly referred to as HKBP, were waiting, singing hymns and praying.

“They locked arms and stood together in front of the church to stop the demolition team,” a Christian witness to the demolition said. “The HKBP pastor stood in the midst of his congregation. He said to them, ‘We are part of the Body of Christ.’”

“Not far from the HKBP pastor were about 300 Muslims who clapped their hands and shouted ‘Alahu Akbar,’ “ he said. “Some are members of the Islamic Peoples’ Forum and the Islamic Defenders Front. They wore white robes.”

The witness, who said he ministers to Muslims who have converted to Christianity – a touchy subject in Islamic societies – asked not to be publicly identified.

Civil Service Police Chief Dikdik Astra said he was simply following district orders. He denied assertions by the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation and HKBP leaders that he and Bekasi officials were pressured by Islamists.

Christian churches often have difficulty navigating the bureaucracies of local government.

Several kilometers from the demolished Taman Sari church is HKBP Filadelfia, denied a building permit in 2007. Among the country’s most notable cases is the GKI Yasmin church in nearby Bogor, whose building permit was revoked in 2008 due to opposition from residents. Members of both churches hold their Sunday worship in the street opposite the Jakarta State palace.

A pastor of the Rahmani Indonesia Church in Bekasi told World Watch Monitor he had considered applying for a building permit, but decided to postpone it until a new mayor was elected.

“One candidate promised that he would grant me the permit if he was elected,” the pastor said. As with the witness to Thursday’s demolition of the HKBP church, the pastor asked not to be named because of his work with Muslim converts to Christianity.

Indonesia held provincial and local elections in January. Most candidates in West Java came from political parties with conservative Islamic leanings, such as the Prosperous Justice Party, or PKS, to which incumbent provincial Governor Ahmed Heryawan belongs.

“A young, dynamic party with an Islamist outlook, the PKS made great gains in the 2004 parliamentary elections,” said a 2005 Council on Foreign Relations report on local Indonesian elections. “It has strong support on the western island of Sumatra. The party says it supports diversity, openness and freedom of religion, and has won widespread respect for its disciplined organization and strong anti-corruption message. Experts say, however, it is not yet clear if the PKS is really as tolerant as its members claim, or if a more restrictive agenda will emerge more strongly in the future.”

Indonesia’s presidential election is scheduled for 2014. Several Christian leaders in Bekasi told World Watch Monitor they expect tensions to rise as Islamic political parties use religion to win votes. Ninety percent of Indonesian citizens are Muslim.

“Islamist militant groups, such as the Islamic People’s Forum and the Islamic Defenders Front, have been implicated in attacks and arson on houses of worship and homes of members of minority religions,” according to a Feb. 28 Human Rights Watch report. “Such groups seek to justify violence by espousing an interpretation of Sunni Islam that labels most non-Muslims as ‘infidels,’ and Muslims who do not adhere to Sunni orthodoxy as ‘blasphemers.’ “

In 2012, Indonesia’s Setara Institute, which advocates social, ethnic and religious tolerance, reported 264 cases of violence against religious minorities, a 20 percent increase from its 2011 figures. On Jan. 31 the prosecutor’s office in Sumedang, West Java, jailed pastor Bernard Maukar of the Indonesia Pentecostal Church for three months for operating a church without a permit. Maukar denied the charges against him, but later told Open Doors International, a worldwide ministry to Christians under pressure for their faith, that he signed a prefabricated affidavit admitting the charge in a police station as members of the Islamic Defenders Front stood by.

Open Doors has recorded an average of 66 cases of church incidents per year since 1998, the end of former Indonesian President Suharto’s reign. Fifty-three years ago, church attacks averaged nine cases a year.

Indonesia is No. 45 on the 2013 World Watch List, a ranking of the 50 countries most hostile to Christians, published annually by Open Doors.

Amid the rubble of Batak Protestant Church in Taman Sari, the witness to the March 21 event said he managed to get a private moment with pastor Nababan.

“I managed to get closer to him and we prayed together,” the witness said. “This Sunday, he said that they will still meet at the church ruins, even though there are no roof and walls.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE – World Watch Monitor, where this article first appeared, is a California-based news organization reporting on instances of persecution or pressures facing the Christian church around the world. Used by permission.)
4/3/2013 1:39:32 PM by Baptist Press, World Watch Monitor | with 0 comments

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