November 2018

Moore: Church must recall loyalty to help lonely

November 30 2018 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

Christians need to recall where their greatest allegiance lies to help Americans living in a time marked by loneliness, Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore said during a Washington, D.C., forum.

Used with permission from The Trinity Forum
Sen. Ben Sasse laughs in response to comments from ERLC President Russell Moore during a Nov. 26 discussion in Washington, D.C., hosted by The Trinity Forum.

Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, addressed the evangelical church’s role while responding to Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., during a Nov. 26 conversation sponsored by The Trinity Forum. Sasse spoke on themes from his new book Them: Why We Hate Each Other – and How to Heal, including Americans’ “crisis of loneliness,” as he describes it in the book.
Helping lonely and rootless fellow citizens requires that evangelical Christians remember they have a more preeminent identity than being Americans, Moore told a capacity audience at the National Press Club. Christians need to recall they are people with loyalties to something greater than the nation itself, he said.
“Only then, I think, can we say to rootless, exhausted, tired, lonely Americans, in the words of Jesus, ‘Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest,’” Moore said. “Only then can we learn to sing to ourselves, ‘Jesus loves them this I know for the Bible tells me so.’”
Nearly half of Americans 18 years and older sometimes or always feel alone (46 percent) and/or feel left out (47 percent), according to a 2018 survey by the health-care provider Cigna. More than half (54 percent) feel like no one knows them well, the survey reported.
In addition to their isolation, Americans are more polarized and divided, as well as more angry at one another, said moderator Cherie Harder, The Trinity Forum’s president, in introducing the discussion.
Americans have “more material abundance than any people have ever known in all of human history,” but they are simultaneously “feeling more and more spiritually impoverished and more and more lonely, much less communally connected” than at any time in their lives, Sasse told the audience.
While Americans seem to think “political tribalism is a really big deal in this moment,” it is “far more symptom of our moment than cause,” he said. Instead, “the digital revolution through which we’re living is much bigger and more important and longer lasting than the political moment that we’re in,” he said.
“We are using politics to fill in for deeper, more meaningful kinds of community.”
The digital revolution will make being “placeless” even more possible, Sasse said. Happiness is deeply informed by whether a person has a sense of home, he said, adding a person “can’t be rootless and happy.”
“What we have happening right now in American life is a whole bunch of people going through the digital revolution where we’re hollowing out place.”
Demonstrating the decline in rootedness, Sasse said:
– “The nuclear family is in statistical collapse.” Fifty-nine percent of babies born to women less than 30 years of age have no meaningful connection to their father, he said.
– “Friendship is in an absolute, devastating atrophy.” The average American had 3.2 friends in 1990; today, he or she has 1.8, he said.
What the church has to offer “rootless, lonely” Americans are the things “that are the most offensive at the surface level to the outside culture,” Moore said. They include, he said:

Exclusive truth.

The culture’s primary objection to the church currently seems to be “not that we are too dogmatic in our beliefs,” Moore said. “It’s that we do not believe what we actually say we believe.
“Does the church have the ability to speak to the moral imagination in a way that says, ‘You don’t have to agree with us, but you can be confident that when we are speaking, it is not in service to some other agenda – political, social, market-based – but actually because we are, as Jesus puts it, bearing witness to the truth.’”


“[C]hurches that are the most actively evangelistic are also the ones who most are connected with their neighbors, most love their neighbors,” he told the audience.


“A group of people who actually believe that there is a devil is less likely to make devils out of other people, their neighbors,” Moore said. “Having an understanding of demons ought to lead the church not to demonize other people.”
Christians should think intentionally about how they rank their identities, Sasse told attendees. He has several identities, including husband, father, Christian, conservative, Republican, he said. Something is wrong if his Christian identity is subordinate to his Republican identity, he said.
“[I]f you don’t have identities that precede your political identity, I don’t think our politics can work either,” Sasse said.
The solution to loneliness and rootlessness will not come quickly nor through politics, he said. Digital tools will help only if used in a purposeful way, he said.
“Social media can add genuine value when it’s supplementing extant, human, flesh-and-blood, bodily relationships,” Sasse said. “When social media supplants bodily, incarnate relationships, it has net destructive effects.”
Americans need to consider digital tools “as things that advance some purpose that we’re self-consciously adopting,” he said. “When we use social media poorly, I think it’s usually because it’s an end in itself.”
The Trinity Forum is a faith-based, nonprofit organization based in Washington that seeks to develop leaders for cultural renewal and to promote human freedom and flourishing.

11/30/2018 11:12:16 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

First lady addresses opioid crisis at Liberty

November 30 2018 by Timothy Cockes, Baptist Press

First Lady Melania Trump spoke to students at Liberty University Nov. 28 about the opioid crisis in America. She urged students to make wise choices during this time in their young lives.

Screen capture from YouTube
First Lady Melania Trump was one of several guests during convocation, which was hosted by political commentator Eric Bolling, who lost his college-aged son to a drug overdose in 2017.

“I know college is a time to build your independence, experience things on your own terms and make decisions on your own behalf,” she told students. “I am here to remind you that some of those decisions, though they may seem minor at the time, could negatively impact you for the rest of your lives.”
The opioid crisis is one of the three pillars that Trump has focused on in her “Be Best” initiative aimed at helping young people in America.
“I’m here speaking to you in my official capacity as first lady, but I want you to know that I’m also here as a mother,” she noted. “Rather than lecture you about the dangers of drug abuse as most mothers would and should, I’m going to tell you what I have learned in this past year because I believe education and learning is key to making the right decisions on your own behalf.”
Trump said she learned that people often become addicted to these types of drugs unintentionally after being prescribed legal doses of drugs for an injury or surgery. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in 2016 and 2017 more than 17,000 deaths were attributed to overdosing on commonly prescribed drugs. More than 130 people reportedly die each day due to overdosing on opioids.
“I have learned that addiction can begin with something as innocent as an injury,” Trump said. “I have learned that many people who become addicted to drugs that are too ashamed to ask for help and I have learned that addiction is a disease and people need and deserve treatment.”
She emphasized the importance of seeing the problem as part of “a human story and an opportunity to save lives” rather than as merely statistics.
The First Lady urged students to seek help if they or someone they know is struggling with addiction in order to remove the stigma and battle against the crisis in the nation.
“I believe that as the next generation we have the potential to not just reduce but eliminate the statistics I mentioned earlier,” she said.
Melania Trump was one of several guests during convocation, which was hosted by political commentator Eric Bolling, who lost his college-aged son to a drug overdose in 2017.
Other guests included Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar II and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen.
Bolling thanked the panel of guests for their willingness to be involved in the event and said, “this is a crisis that these people truly care about.”
“I think one of the most important things we have going on here,” he said, “is creating awareness and removing the stigma of opioid addiction and abuse in order to save lives.”
Azar and Nielson spoke about what each of their departments are doing to fight against the opioid epidemic in the country. 
Nielson noted that Homeland Security is trying to eliminate the problem of illegal drugs entering America from other countries. Azar said Health and Human Services is working to reduce the amount of legal drugs that are prescribed to patients.
“Since January 2017, legal opioid prescribing is down 23 percent,” Azar said. “[President Trump] committed by the end of his term that we would reduce it by a third, and we’re already at 23 percent.”
The panel of guests also participated in a question-and-answer time with the students from Liberty, which included a question about the role that faith-based organizations can play in assisting the national government with fighting the opioid crisis in America.
“Our president is deeply committed to the role of faith-based organizations not just in the opioid crisis but throughout how we deliver services to our people,” Azar said.
“In 2018, we are putting out 2 billion dollars of grants, 1 billion of that can be used by states and given to faith-based organizations to use for the work they are doing,” he said.
Melania Trump closed out her remarks by reminding the students of the importance of education about opioid addiction and to be courageous enough to make a difference. 
“In the past we didn’t talk much about it and it came so far that now we really need to step up,” she said. “I believe in your unending potential to change our world for the better.”
Liberty University is in partnership with the Southern Baptist Convention of Virginia.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Timothy Cockes is a freelance writer in Lynchburg, Va., and student at Liberty University.)

11/30/2018 11:12:07 AM by Timothy Cockes, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Hawaii Baptists get missions training, tweak budget

November 30 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Messengers to the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention (HPBC) received evangelism training from International Mission Board (IMB) personnel and welcomed into their fellowship congregations in Okinawa, Japan and the Philippines.

Photo by Clyde Kakiuchi
Chris Martin leads a time of prayer for the two new church entering the HPBC. Members joined him on the platform to lay hands on the members of the new churches.

Gathering around the theme “We Are Hawaii Pacific Missions,” 191 messengers and 87 guests met Nov. 8-9 at Olivet Baptist Church in Honolulu. In addition to churches in Hawaii, the convention’s 155 cooperating congregations include churches in Guam, Saipan, American and Western Samoa, South Korea, Japan, Thailand and now the Philippines.
The 2019 budget of $2,375,000 marks a nine percent decrease from the current year. The decrease is attributable largely to a shift in the way some expenses are classified, according to the HPBC. Anticipated receipts include $1,300,000 in Cooperative Program (CP) receipts from churches; $150,000 from the North American Mission Board and $65,000 from LifeWay Christian Resources.
The convention will continue to forward 20 percent of CP receipts to Southern Baptist Convention missions and ministries and retain 80 percent for funding Hawaii Pacific missions and ministries. The budget does not include any shared ministry expenses.
The day before the annual meeting, Hawaii Pacific Baptists received missions and evangelism training from eight IMB missionaries. The training was held during a Missions College One Day event also hosted by Olivet Baptist. Topics covered included strategies for striking up gospel conversations and how to engage unreached people groups.
Among addresses at the HPBC annual meeting, Pastor John Reimer of Koza Baptist Church in Okinawa, Japan, spoke on “clarity from God’s viewpoint.” Citing Psalm 90:12, he said, “God wants us to know the passing of time because time is important to God. He wants us to make the most of our time. What are you going to do with your remaining days?”

Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention Executive Director Chris Martin, far left, stands with new HPBC officers, left to right, Sterling Lee, first vice president, Alan Krober, second vice president, Lizzy McElrath, recording secretary and Steve Irvin, president.

An IMB regional director for the East Asia region spoke from Luke 2:10-11 on believers’ call to “bring good news of great joy.” “What is worse than being lost?” he asked. “Being lost and no one is looking for you.... It is our responsibility to look and find the lost.”
HPBC executive director Chris Martin underscored the annual meeting theme and told messengers, “Now is the time for us to be on God’s mission.”
Messengers voted to receive two new international churches into their fellowship: Central Baptist Church in Okinawa and International Baptist Church in Manilla, Philippines.

Elected as HPBC president was Steve Irvin, pastor of Pali View Baptist Church in Keneohe, Hawaii.
Officers reelected included: first vice president, Sterling Lee, pastor of First Baptist Church in Pearl City, Hawaii; second vice president, Alan Krober, pastor of Mililani (Hawaii) Baptist Church; and recording secretary, Lizzy McElrath, a member of Olivet Baptist.
Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 7-8 at the Kauai Beach Resort in Lihue, Hawaii, on the Island of Kauai.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Based on reporting by the staff of the Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention.)

11/30/2018 11:11:54 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Puerto Rico Baptists expanding Kingdom post-Maria

November 30 2018 by Baptist Press Staff

Southern Baptists of Puerto Rico gained nine new congregations at the group’s 2018 annual meeting, held just over a year after Hurricane Maria cut church attendance by as much as a third in the U.S. territory.

CIBSPR photo
Messengers vote at the 2018 annual meeting of the Convención de Iglesias Bautistas del Sur de Puerto Rico (Convention of Southern Baptist Churches in Puerto Rico).

“To the expansion of the Kingdom of God” was the theme as the Convención de Iglesias Bautistas del Sur de Puerto Rico (CIBSPR), the Convention of Southern Baptist Churches in Puerto Rico, held its first annual meeting since 2016.
Newly elected president David Colón, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Logos in Santa Isabel, called the Nov. 17 meeting historic because of the newly added churches and participation that allowed the election of a full slate of officers.
In an interview conducted by newly elected assistant treasurer Andrés Laracuente, Colón said the work of Southern Baptists will likely flourish on the island.
Now Puerto Rico’s convention has young pastors who are also experienced as part of the board; they want to put the expansion of the gospel above everything, Colón told Laracuente. Colón expressed a desire to see Southern Baptist churches in every town in the territory.
Felix Cabrera, Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) second vice president and pastor of Iglesia Bautista Central in Oklahoma City, Okla., spoke to guests and 96 registered messengers on the importance of unity among churches in expanding God’s Kingdom.

CIBSPR photo
Felix Cabrera delivered the keynote address at the 2018 annual meeting of the Convención de Iglesias Bautistas del Sur de Puerto Rico (CIBSPR), the Convention of Southern Baptist Churches in Puerto Rico.

“Today, if we want to fulfill the motto of this annual meeting, ‘To the expansion of the Kingdom of God,’” Cabrera said, “if we want to see Matthew 16:18, that the doors of Hades will not prevail, ... let’s make a commitment that there will be no space for the tribes nor the division ... among the Southern Baptists in Puerto Rico.
“United, we must put the gospel above everything and before everyone,” Cabrera said.
Cabrera, a Puerto Rican native, is relocating to the island in December as a North American Mission Board church planting catalyst. Iglesia Bautista Ciudad de Dios, a mission congregation Cabrera is currently planting in San Juan, is among the nine congregations that affiliated with CIBSPR at the annual meeting.

New churches

In addition to Cabrera’s church plant, eight other congregations affiliated with CIBSPR [were] at the meeting, the group reported.
Completing the list of new churches, with respective locations and pastors, are Iglesia Bíblica Metro, in Carolina, pastored by Laracuente; Iglesia Bautista de Lajas, in Lajas, pastored by Francisco Santiago Cruz; Iglesia Bautista Comunidad de Gracia, Guayanilla, pastored by Junior Martínez; Iglesia Bautista El Fundamento, Catano, with pastor Fredy Toledo; Iglesia Gracia Redentora, Vega Baja, with pastor Xavier Torrado; Iglesia Bautista Resurrección, Isabela, pastored by José Ponce; Iglesia Bautista Bethel del Sur, Ponce, led by Gerardo L. Rivera; and One Church Comerío, Comerío, led by Jorge Santiago.
The new churches bring the Southern Baptist presence to about 80 churches and missions in the territory, according to SBC church profile statistics.

New strategy

CIBSPR unveiled a new strategy centered on three initiatives, namely pastoral training, evangelism and missions, and fellowship. A slate of new officers comprising experienced pastors, young pastors and church planters give the convention an advantage in accomplishing its goals, leaders reported.
Carlos Rodriguez, appointed this year as a NAMB Send missionary to Puerto Rico, and Jonathan Santiago, coordinator of the Send Relief Ministry Center on the island, expressed a desire to cooperatively work toward spiritual restoration there.
Serving is a major component of CIBSPR’s strategy, leaders said, focused on assisting and equipping local churches in Kingdom expansion, and exhorting churches to remain focused on the gospel and evangelism.


Immediate past president Luís Rodríguez, pastor of Iglesia El Lirio del Valle Casa Para Las Naciones in Loiza, led messengers in approving a budget and selecting a slate of officers, board members and regional representatives.

CIBSPR photo
Newly elected Southern Baptist leaders in Puerto Rico are, from left, Félix Cabrera, Andrés Laracuente, Gil Ramos, José Ponce, Luis Caraballo, Fredy Toledo, Francisco Reyes, David Colón, Junior Martínez, Raúl Torres, Xavier Torrado, Carlos Rodriguez, Tomás Morales, Antonio Colón, Carmelo Medina, Jonathan Santiago and Edmundo Rosaly.

Messengers approved a budget of $32,000 comprised of anticipated Cooperative Program (CP) gifts from membership churches. A total of 11 percent of receipts, or $3,500, will be allocated to evangelism and missions in cooperation with NAMB and the International Mission Board, according to documents the CIBSPR gave Baptist Press. In 2018, the CIBSPR received $39,092 in CP receipts and forwarded $4,217 to the SBC for national and international missions.
Joining president Colon and assistant treasurer Laracuente are vice president Martinez, secretary Torrado, assistant secretary Gil Ramos, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Renacer in Lares, and treasurer Raúl Torres, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Oasis de Amor in Penuelas.
Messengers elected Luis Caraballo, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Ríos de Agua Viva in Levittown, as Metro/East representative; Tomas Morales, pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista de Utuado, in Utuado, North representative; Antonio Colón, a member of Member of Iglesia Bautista Logos, Santa Isabel, South representative; and Carmelo Medina, pastor of Iglesia Misión Urbana, Mayaguez, West representative.
New board members are Ponce; Toledo; Francisco Reyes, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Raham de Guayama in Guayama, and board attorney Edmundo Rosaly, a member of Iglesia Bautista La Gracia in Yauco.
See the Biblical Recorder’s update on Puerto Rico a year after Hurricane Maria.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Compiled by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press general assignment writer and editor, with reporting by Andrés Laracuente, assistant treasurer of the Convención de Iglesias Bautistas del Sur de Puerto Rico.)

11/30/2018 11:11:28 AM by Baptist Press Staff | with 0 comments

Tiny ‘beka’ stone helps confirm, clarify scripture

November 29 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Archaeologists’ discovery of a small weight from the period of Israel’s monarchy helps confirm the Old Testament system of weights and the existence of Solomon’s Temple, two Southern Baptist archaeologists say.

Screen capture from YouTube
A 3,000-year-old stone weight, known as a "beka," was discovered by archaeologists in Jerusalem.

A “beka,” a stone weight equivalent to about one-fifth of an ounce, was discovered by archaeologists with the Israel Antiquities Authority in dirt taken several years ago from under Jerusalem’s Western Wall, the Times of Israel reported Nov. 21. Equivalent to the biblical half-shekel, the beka was placed on a scale and used to measure the amount of silver that Jews – age 20 and older – were required to pay when they entered King Solomon’s Temple. In that era, according to The Times, there was no half-shekel coin.
“The little things are often the most remarkable,” said Steve Andrews, professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. “... Historically, this discovery confirms the system of weights and measures used in Bible times. Such weights, called beka, are rare, and only a few have been found.”
This beka is particularly unusual because the Hebrew word beka engraved on it appears to be rendered as a mirror image of standard Hebrew script – as though a craftsman accidentally engraved it like a seal, The Times reported.
Though the Temple tax and the half shekel are mentioned elsewhere in scripture, Andrews told Baptist Press (BP) in written comments, the word beka appears only twice. It appears once in Genesis 24:22 when “Abraham’s servant gives a gold earring or nose ring weighing a half-shekel to Rebekah after she watered his camels.” And it appears again in Exodus 38:26 when “a half-shekel weight of silver is required of each Israelite during the construction of the Tabernacle.”
“Later, this became the amount of a Temple tax for those going up to worship in Jerusalem,” said Andrews, who has participated in at least a dozen archaeological digs.
For Bible students, discovery of the beka weight “helps illustrate the actual value of the golden ring given by Abraham’s servant to Rebekah, which in today’s gold price would equal about $900,” Andrews said. “On the other hand, the silver half-shekel given by each Israelite to help build the Tabernacle would be worth today about $2.75. Interestingly, the Tabernacle was to be funded by a small gift from all and not by a few donors with large gifts. Each Israelite was expected to have a part in the work by offering a fair share.”
Daniel Warner, professor of Old Testament and archaeology at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, told BP the beka’s discovery helps confirm the existence of Solomon’s Temple, which was destroyed more than 2,500 years ago.
“Note clearly the precise location of the find,” Warner said in written comments. “It is where one would expect it to be found ... just below the southwest corner of the Temple Mount proper. This would place it before the entrance to the Solomonic Temple,” where Jews would have needed to measure out their Temple tax.
The only remaining Temple structure in Jerusalem is the Western Wall, which was part of the Second Temple constructed by Jews after they returned from exile in Babylon. “But sure enough, evidence is emerging very clearly – maybe not as fast as we would like – that there was an earlier temple structure here, and the only one ever mentioned to be here is Solomon’s,” Warner said.
In the end, Warner said, the beka discovery is “powerful for sure” and can “attract attention to the biblical text.” But “it cannot change a mind to believe” the gospel. “Only the Bible” itself has power to change minds and hearts.

11/29/2018 11:26:11 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Louisiana search committee accepting nominations

November 29 2018 by Baptist Message and BP Staff

Submitted Photo
Waylon Bailey

The Louisiana Baptist Convention’s Executive Director Search Committee is receiving nominations for a successor to David Hankins, who has announced his retirement effective June 30, 2019, having led the convention since 2005.

Search committee chairman Waylon Bailey, pastor of First Baptist Church in Covington and chairman of the convention’s Executive Board, said in a news release the process for recommending candidates, or for interested individuals to apply, entails sending names and resumes to or, via mail to Dr. Waylon Bailey, c/o First Baptist Church, 16333 Hwy. 1085, Covington, LA 70433.
Materials must be sent electronically or postmarked no later than Jan. 15.
Bailey was elected as the search committee’s chairman during its inaugural meeting Nov. 27 when the 15-member committee began developing a profile of the type of candidate they are seeking to lead Louisiana Baptists.
“We want to do our very best for the future of our state,” Bailey said. “Our state needs Louisiana Baptists in order to be its very best.”

11/29/2018 11:26:02 AM by Baptist Message and BP Staff | with 0 comments

Five honored as evangelical scholars during ETS

November 29 2018 by SEBTS and BP Staff

Five evangelical scholars were honored during the Southeastern Theological Fellowship dinner held in conjunction with the Evangelical Theological Society’s (ETS) 70th annual meeting, Nov. 13-15 in Denver.

Dr. Kevin Vanhoozer, research professor of systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill., addressed the importance of holding fast to the Word of God, the gospel and the Spirit’s power in biblical scholarship.

The fellowship, which held its first dinner in 2013, seeks to build camaraderie among academicians from multiple denominations and encourage excellence in scholarship for the glory of Christ.
Bruce Ashford, provost at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., welcomed guests from seminaries, liberal arts colleges, research universities, publishing houses and other entities to the dinner.
Addressing the attendees, Ashford spoke of “the unified vision of reality that theological scholarship can offer.”
“If the Christian life could be compared to an exam in which we are measured by our faithfulness to Christ in a particular historical context, many of us feel like the 21st century is an insanely challenging one,” he said. “We find it challenging precisely because we are Christian scholars working in a secular age.
“Western higher education will lose much of what is good about it unless Christian scholars fulfill our role as salt and light,” Ashford said.
The honorees, representing five different seminaries, colleges and universities, received awards for their excellence in research, writing and displaying the characteristics of a Great Commission scholar in both the classroom and Christian scholarship:

  • Peter Gentry, Donald L. Williams Professor of Old Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

  • Nathan Finn, provost and dean of the university faculty at North Greenville University in Tigerville, S.C.

  • Matthew Emerson, Dickinson Chair of Religion and Associate Professor of Religion at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee.

  • Kevin Vanhoozer, research professor of systematic theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Ill.

  • Matthew Pinson, president of Welch College, a Free Will Baptist college in Nashville.

After accepting his award, Vanhoozer addressed the audience on the importance of holding to the Word of God, the gospel and the Spirit’s power in biblical scholarship.
“Let us form a society not of biblical literature,” Vanhoozer said, “but a society of biblical literacy.”
See the Biblical Recorder’s coverage of the ETS’s three-day meeting in Denver here.

11/29/2018 11:25:53 AM by SEBTS and BP Staff | with 0 comments

First gene-edited babies ‘a bridge too far’

November 28 2018 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Evangelical bioethicists have joined many of their secular peers in condemning research that reportedly led to the birth this month of the world’s first genetically edited babies. In addition to echoing secular scientists’ concern about so-called “designer babies,” the evangelicals objected to destruction of embryos that occurred in the gene-editing process.

Screen capture from the Associated Press
A team of scientists in China reportedly has helped achieve the first live birth of genetically edited human babies.

The reported birth of genetically edited twins in China has not been confirmed, according to media reports, and the research has not been published in an academic journal. Chinese scientist He Jiankui, who led the project, is scheduled to discuss his work in Hong Kong at an international conference on gene editing that began Nov. 27.
Scientists who reviewed materials He provided to the Associated Press (AP) said they could not confirm the gene editing worked or rule out that harm was done to the twins.
“Here is another instance where the cautionary principle should give us pause,” Southern Baptist bioethicist C. Ben Mitchell told Baptist Press (BP). “We are not tinkering with plants and animals, as considerable as that might be, but with human beings. Not only should we proceed with extraordinary caution, but we should not move ahead without the assurance that we could reverse any augmentation we make. Worse than a lethal genetic mutation would be a lethal genetic mutation we engineer in ourselves, even if our motives are good.
“Furthermore, we must protect against the trivial editing of genes for traits like physical appearance, athletic ability or musical aptitude,” Mitchell, Graves Professor or Moral Philosophy at Union University, said via email. “Although it’s difficult to distinguish between genetic therapy and genetic enhancement, it is still obligatory if we’re to move forward ethically.”
He, a scientist at China’s Southern University of Science and Technology, announced Nov. 25 that a Chinese woman had given birth earlier in the month to twin girls named Lulu and Nana. The twins were conceived via in vitro fertilization (IVF), and their DNA was altered using a gene-editing tool known as CRISPR to protect them from contracting HIV, a virus their father has and from which the couple wishes to spare their children, He said in a video statement.

Screen capture from YouTube
Chinese researcher He Jiankui said "families need" technology that allows them to edit the genes of their unborn children.

In all, He has edited the genes of embryos for seven couples, according to AP, but only one pregnancy has been reported.
“Gene surgery is and should remain a technology for healing,” He said in his video statement. “Enhancing IQ or selecting hair or eye color is not what a loving parent does. That should be banned. I understand my work will be controversial, but I believe families need this technology, and I’m willing to take the criticism for them.”
He told AP he practiced editing the DNA of mice, monkey and human embryos for several years before he attempted to use the technology on a human baby that was permitted to live until birth.
For the allegedly successful birth of twins, 22 embryos were created via IVF using the couple’s eggs and sperm, 16 were edited and 11 were used in six implant attempts before pregnancy was achieved, AP reported.
While AP did not specify what happened with the unused embryos, bioethicist Joy Riley, executive director of the Tennessee Center for Bioethics & Culture, told BP they presumably were destroyed or frozen, both morally problematic outcomes.
Mitchell said “the unnecessary and wanton destruction of human embryos is a bridge too far, even if the effort is to heal others. We would not tolerate for a moment the killing of a dozen individuals to harvest their organs for transplantation. Why would we allow the destruction of living members of the human race in an attempt to treat others?”
Riley, a physician, told BP that He’s research is “morally problematic” and seems to be “a product of not seeing a human as more than his or her genes.”
“We are created in the image of God, and that’s far, far more than just our genetic makeup,” Riley said. “When we start picking and choosing which genes we want to continue having, we are taking part in an experiment that is not ours.”
According to AP, even if He’s gene edit was successful, the gene he removed in attempting to prevent HIV could increase Lulu and Nana’s risk of West Nile virus and dying from the flu.
AP quoted a Pennsylvania scientist as stating He’s research is “unconscionable” while a Seattle scientist told NPR that it has caused humanity to enter “the room with the word ‘designer baby’ on the door.” The Chinese university where He works launched an investigation and said his work “seriously violated ethics and standards,” AP reported.
According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, Michael Deem, a physics and bioengineering professor who assisted He, is under investigation for the venture by Rice University in Houston, where he teaches.

11/28/2018 10:50:17 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Thom Rainer to teach at Southeastern part-time

November 28 2018 by SEBTS and BP Staff

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) has announced that Thom Rainer, outgoing president of Lifeway Christian Resources, will join the faculty as part-time distinguished professor of church revitalization and leadership in January.
SEBTS President Danny Akin said in a news release, “Students will have the incredible opportunity to sit under the instruction of one of the most gifted and innovative minds in the evangelical world. This is a great day for SEBTS.”

Rainer, 63, told LifeWay trustees Aug. 27 he intends to retire when a new president is named or in August 2019, whichever comes first.
He also has launched the nonprofit Revitalize Network to provide networking, consultation and resources for leaders of churches needing revitalization, working in partnership with LifeWay, the North American Mission Board, California Baptist University and Brentwood Baptist Church in metro Nashville.
Rainer has served as LifeWay’s president for 13 years, leading the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) entity to Bible study curriculum growth for five consecutive years, creation of LifeWay Research and the B&H Academic book division; and relocation of LifeWay’s offices to a new facility in downtown Nashville.

He has authored more than two dozen books, including I Am a Church Member, I Will: Nine Traits of an Outwardly Focused Christian, Becoming a Welcoming Church, Autopsy of a Deceased Church and Eating the Elephant: Bite-Sized Steps to Achieve Long-Term Growth in Your Church.

Thom Rainer

He is on the web at and engages in two podcasts, “Rainer on Leadership” and “Revitalize & Replant with Thom Rainer.”

Rainer holds master of divinity and doctoral degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he served as dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth and professor of evangelism and church growth from 1994-2004. During this time, he established and operated as president and CEO of the Rainer Group, a denominational consulting firm, from 1990-2005.
Rainer, in the news release, said, “I pray God will use us to be his instrument toward moving congregations to greater health,” while Akin said Rainer’s new affiliation with Southeastern is “an unbelievable gift to our school.”

11/28/2018 10:50:03 AM by SEBTS and BP Staff | with 0 comments

Most churchgoers still abstain from alcohol

November 28 2018 by Carol Pipes, LifeWay Christian Resources

Most churchgoers say the Bible teaches against drunkenness. But that doesn’t stop about four in 10 from taking a drink now and then, a study released Nov. 27 shows.
While 41 percent of Protestant churchgoers say they consume alcohol, 59 percent say they do not. That’s a slight shift from 10 years ago, according to the LifeWay Research survey, which was conducted Aug. 22-30, 2017.

In a 2007 phone survey by LifeWay Research, 39 percent of Protestant churchgoers said yes they consumed alcohol while 61 percent said no.
Gallup surveys during the last 75 years have typically shown that two-thirds of all American adults have occasion to drink alcoholic beverages, including 63 percent in 2018.
“While alcohol consumption continues to be seen as mainstream in the United States, churchgoers’ attitudes about drinking haven’t changed much in the past decade,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.
Nearly 9 in 10 of churchgoers (87 percent) agree that scripture says people should never get drunk. That’s up from 82 percent in 2007.
But when it comes to total abstinence, fewer than a quarter (23 percent) of Protestant churchgoers believe scripture indicates people should never drink alcohol. A majority (71 percent) disagree.
The share of churchgoers who say scripture teaches against any kind of alcohol consumption has decreased six percentage points during the last decade. In 2007, 29 percent said scripture directs people to never drink alcohol; sixty-eight percent disagreed.

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When Christians drink socially, many churchgoers believe they could cause other believers to stumble or be confused. In 2017, 60 percent agree and 32 percent disagree. The portion who say drinking socially could cause others to stumble dropped slightly from 63 percent in 2007.
Researchers also found slightly more than half of churchgoers say scripture indicates all beverages, including alcohol, can be consumed without sin (55 percent) and that Christians exercise biblical liberty when partaking alcohol in reasonable amounts (54 percent).
Attitudes and behaviors related to alcohol use vary based on age, geography, denominational affiliation and other demographic factors.
Male churchgoers are more likely to say they drink alcohol compared to women (48 percent vs. 37 percent).
Lutherans (76 percent) and Methodists (62 percent) are more likely to say they drink alcohol than Baptists (33 percent), non-denominational (43 percent) and Assemblies of God/Pentecostals (23 percent). (See related story.)
Churchgoers ages 18-34 are evenly split on their alcohol consumption with 50 percent saying they drink and 50 percent saying they don’t. Forty-one percent of churchgoers ages 35-49 say they drink, while 59 percent do not; 44 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds say they consume alcohol, while 56 percent do not. Churchgoers age 65 and above were the least likely age group to say they drink alcohol with 32 percent saying yes to drinking alcohol and 68 percent saying no.
Among churchgoers, those with a higher education are more likely to say they drink than those with less education. Churchgoers with a graduate degree are most likely to say they drink alcohol (62 percent) followed by those with a bachelor’s degree (59 percent), some college (46 percent) and those who are high school graduates or less (26 percent).
“Churchgoers’ perspectives on alcohol are not changing very fast,” McConnell said. “The majority believe that biblically they can drink, but they choose not to.”


LifeWay Research conducted the study of 1,010 American Protestant churchgoers Aug. 22-30, 2017. The survey was conducted using the web-enabled KnowledgePanel, a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. For this survey, a nationally representative sample of U.S. Protestant and non-denominational adults (18 and older) which attends religious services once a month or more often was selected from the KnowledgePanel. Initially, participants are chosen scientifically by a random selection of telephone numbers and residential addresses. Persons in selected households are then invited by telephone or by mail to participate in the web-enabled KnowledgePanel. For those who agree to participate, but do not already have internet access, GfK provides at no cost a laptop and ISP connection.
Sample stratification and base weights were used for gender, age, race/ethnicity, region, metro/non-metro, home ownership, education and income to reflect the most recent U.S. Census data. Study specific weights included for gender by age, race/ethnicity, region, and education to reflect GSS 2016 data. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. Margins of error are higher in subgroups.
Comparisons are made to a LifeWay Research phone survey conducted in April-May 2007 among 1,004 Protestant churchgoers.
LifeWay Research is a Nashville-based evangelical research firm that specializes in surveys about faith in culture and matters that affect churches.

11/28/2018 10:49:52 AM by Carol Pipes, LifeWay Christian Resources | with 0 comments

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