October 2017

Sola scriptura cited as Reformation bedrock

October 30 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

Sola scriptura is among the most important Reformation principles for believers to understand and apply. At least that’s the conclusion of some Southern Baptist Convention seminary professors on the Protestant Reformation’s 500th anniversary.
 
Sola scriptura (Latin for “by scripture alone”) is the doctrine that the Bible alone is humankind’s infallible rule for faith and practice.

Photo by Kevin Rawlings (Tyndale’s translation) via Wikimedia Commons

 

‘The highest functional authority’

Chris Chun, associate professor of church history at Gateway Seminary, told Baptist Press the Reformation’s 500th anniversary “might be an appropriate time to reflect if [s]cripture still is the highest functional authority in Southern Baptist life and practice.”
 
“Sola [s]criptura was the heart cry of Huldrych Zwingli, John Calvin, Menno Simons and William Tyndale,” Chun said in written comments, “and many lost their lives for believing that the Bible was their highest authority – no authority above the [s]cripture whether that be the pope or the councils! [The] notion that any literate person could study the [s]cripture revolutionized the concept of authority in the church.”
 
The Reformers’ emphasis of sola scriptura, Chun said, was highlighted by Martin Luther’s 1521 appearance before an assembly of the Holy Roman Empire known as the Diet of Worms. When asked to recant his writings, Luther replied, “Unless I am convinced by the evidence of [s]cripture ... I do not accept the authority of the pope or the councils alone ... I am bound by the [s]criptures.”
 
Luther’s speech at Worms, Chun said, “resonated with many likeminded bands of Protestant Reformers.”
 
Chun asked Southern Baptists to reflect on whether [s]cripture is “authoritative” in their “meetings,” “churches” and “associations.”
 
“For all intents and purposes, who really has the authority,” Chun asked, scripture or “pastors, committees, chairpersons [and] deacons?”
 

Scripture vs. ‘cultural norms’

Despite pressure “to conform to the cultural norms of the day,” Brent Aucoin, professor of history at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, noted that the Reformers’ “commitment to the authority of [s]cripture enabled them to courageously advocate positions that were then viewed as radical but today are generally accepted.”
 
Those positions included “the notion that salvation does not come by way of the church or through works, but rather by grace alone, through faith alone and in Christ alone,” Aucoin said in written comments. “[Martin] Luther and other Reformers saw this critical, but contested, notion taught in the [s]criptures and were willing, if need be, to sacrifice their lives and careers for it rather than have their views dictated by what the authorities of the day demanded.”
 
Some believers in the 20th century seemed to disregard sola scriptura, allowing “cultural norms to supersede [s]cripture when it came to formulating [their] views on segregation, interracial marriage, abortion and other issues.”
 
A reemphasis of sola scriptura is needed again today, Aucoin said, because “we see some who place themselves in the Baptist or evangelical camp allowing society rather than [s]cripture to determine their position on the morality of homosexuality and same-sex unions.”
 

Deeply convinced

Shawn Wright, professor of church history at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS), claimed Martin Luther’s “conviction that the Bible alone was able to give shape to our doctrine” served as a driving force in his life and ministry.
 
Ironically, Luther’s embrace of sola scriptura was spurred unwittingly by his Roman Catholic superiors when he served as an Augustinian monk, Wright wrote for a forthcoming issue of Towers, SBTS’s campus publication. Exhausted by Luther’s incessant confession of sins, his superiors made him get a doctoral degree in theology and lecture on the Bible, thinking that might “take his mind off himself.”
 
Yet to their chagrin, Wright wrote, after studying and teaching Psalms, Romans, Galatians and Hebrews, Luther concluded “the Bible was the sole authority in the ultimate determination of our doctrine and our practice.”
 
That conviction led Luther to renounce the pope’s authority in public debates and eventually receive condemnation from the Catholic Church as a heretic.
 
“Luther never recanted because he was deeply convinced that God’s Word alone was true and authoritative. His response to the church and the empire proves this,” Wright wrote.
 
“He preached tirelessly from the Bible. He wrote commentaries on several books of the Bible (his 1535 commentary on Galatians is a wonderful example of the mature Luther’s thought). He translated the New Testament from Greek to German (in 11 weeks!) so that laypeople could read, hear and understand the Bible for themselves. He himself was convinced that God used him simply as an instrument to make the Bible known,” Wright wrote.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

Related article:
Reformation insights highlighted by seminary profs
 

10/30/2017 7:19:03 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



World Series is latest challenge for pastor’s kid

October 27 2017 by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press

There’s no telling how many hours Scott McHugh and his wife Teresa have spent watching their son Collin play baseball over the years.

Photo courtesy of Scott and Teresa McHugh
For Houston Astros pitcher Collin McHugh, his mother Teresa has been a regular throughout his rise in baseball, from the little leagues, to high school and college ball, to five seasons in the minor leagues before catching on in the Major Leagues.


From little leagues, to high school ball in the hot Georgia sun, to his college years at Berry College, to five seasons in the minor leagues, Collin toiled through wins, losses, triumphs and failures – with his parents never far away.
 
Now they’re getting to see him on an even bigger stage, as Collin is a pitcher for the Houston Astros playing in his first World Series. With the series moving to Houston tied 1-1, Scott and Teresa will be there if and when Collin makes his World Series debut.
 
“It is a joy and delight for us to see him on that stage, all because we’ve watched him over the years and the process that he has gone through,” Scott McHugh said. “It is still surreal to us. It’s hard to imagine that your son is playing in the World Series.”
 
A former Southern Baptist pastor, Scott came to the Lord as a 20-year-old in college preparing for a career in the medical field. Within a couple of weeks of his conversion, he knew that the Lord was calling him into the ministry.
 
He left school in 1973 and began working in youth ministry a few months later at a church in Atlanta. Over the years he served in a variety of roles at churches in the Atlanta area before returning to college at Toccoa Falls to complete his undergraduate degree. He then graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary before moving to Naperville, Ill., to become pastor of Trinity Baptist Church.
 
In 1994, McHugh said he and his wife felt a strong call from the Lord to return to the Atlanta area. He started a church in Alpharetta and is now doing international work in Israel as president and CEO of Patriarch Global LLC.
 
The New York Mets drafted Collin out of Berry College in 2008. Over the next four years, he worked his way through the farm system – a sometimes grueling experience, especially for players like him who were drafted late, got small signing bonuses and often existed on little pay, lousy food and long bus rides.
 
But then Collin got the call in 2012.

Photo courtesy of Scott and Teresa McHugh
Scott McHugh, father of Houston Astros pitcher Collin McHugh, says having his son in the World Series “is still surreal to us.”


 
“Just to see that turn was an amazing thing,” Scott said. “We believe it was a God thing, that [God] has really given him not only determination but favor in the system.”
 
When Collin made his big league debut with the Mets – an impressive start in which he pitched seven scoreless innings, striking out nine and giving up just two hits – Scott and Teresa were there at Citi Field in New York.
 
Collin moved on to Colorado the following year for a brief stint before being released. After the Astros acquired him in 2014, he pitched just a few innings in the minor leagues before sticking with Houston for good. He won 11 games that year before an exceptional year in 2015 (19 wins, a 3.89 ERA and eighth in the Cy Young Award voting).
 
This year, Collin missed the first half of the year with an elbow injury but returned to win five games down the stretch. In the American League Championship Series against the Yankees, he pitched four scoreless innings in a loss in game three, his only appearance in the playoffs thus far in 2017.
 
“In all of this, Collin and [his wife] Ashley have kept their love for the Lord and their understanding that they have a platform and really a responsibility to honor Him and to stay focused in their walk as well as manage this highest level baseball career,” Scott McHugh said.
 
In a recent Sports Spectrum article, Collin talked about how he continues to cling to God during the ups and downs that invariably come in baseball and in life.
 
“If I had a terrible year this year or got hurt this year or won the Cy Young or won the World Series, if any of these things happen, all the variables that could happen in baseball, it’s not going to change the way [God] feels about me, it’s not going to change anything,” Collin said.
 
“For me, this year, I’m just trying to enjoy the time God has given me to play this game that I really do love. Everything is kind of icing on the cake at this point. Obviously, I’m going to go out there and work my hardest, and give it everything that I have and try to do some great things in this game, but He has already given me so much that I want to tell people about it.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tim Ellsworth is associate vice president for university communications at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee.)
 

10/27/2017 11:10:41 AM by Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Teen’s witness continues with memorial gift to IMB

October 27 2017 by Margaret Colson, Baptist Press

The Christian witness that Sarah Harmening shared in her short 17 years of life on this earth will continue to reverberate for eternity through a generous memorial gift presented by her family to the International Mission Board (IMB).

Photo by Chris Carter, IMB
David Platt, president of the International Mission Board, prays with the Harmening family, including, second from left, Scott, Karen, Sophie, Kristen and Katelyn, during a chapel service Oct. 25. “We praise God that even now Sarah’s life resounds for His glory,” he said.


The Alabama teen’s parents, Karen and Scott Harmening – along with their three other daughters, Katelyn, Kristen and Sophie – presented a check for $91,120 to the IMB on Oct. 25.
 
“This is what was donated and raised in honor of Sarah, her life and legacy. So we’re excited to bring the check for $91,120, all for [the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions (LMCO)],” Scott said as he presented the check to David Platt, IMB president.
 
Sarah died in a bus accident this past June as she traveled as part of an International World Changers team from her home church, Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Huntsville, Ala., to her first international mission trip to Botswana. See related story.
 
In Sarah’s final journal entry, which was written on the bus, she wrote about reading 1 Peter 5 and 2 Peter 1, reflecting, “So mostly I was just reminded of why I’m here and that God has called me here and has done so for a reason. So I know He’s going to do incredible things.”
 
Those “incredible things” already appear to be becoming reality.
 
“Sarah’s greatest passion in life was her relationship with Jesus Christ and making Him known,” said her mother Karen. “There was a fire in her bones for the spreading of the gospel.”
 
“This (the monetary gift to IMB) has been the perfect way to honor Sarah’s legacy because it is continuing her mission – and ours – lifting high the name of Jesus Christ and making Him known in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth,” she said.
 
Sarah’s passion inspired the hashtag “#servelikesarah” and theme “Live Redeemed” for her family’s gift-giving efforts.
 
The family chose to make the financial gift to the Lottie Moon offering, Karen said, because of the offering’s focus on international missions. The offering, in tandem with Cooperative Program gifts from Southern Baptist churches, supports international workers in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission.

Photo by Chris Carter, IMB
Karen Harmening visits with David Platt during the family’s visit to the International Mission Board on Oct. 25. The family wore T-shirts that said “Live Redeemed” with the hashtag #servelikesarah on the front, and one of Sarah Harmening’s final texts to her sister on the back. Sale of the shirts contributed to the family’s gift to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.


Kevin Moore, pastor, Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Huntsville, Ala., who accompanied the family to Richmond, Va., echoed the family’s sentiments, saying, “Sarah Harmening wanted more than anything to tell people about Jesus. She lived as a faithful citizen of heaven. She was sure of what she hoped for and certain of what she could not see.
 
“I pray that her life and example will inspire countless others to live their one life for Jesus Christ. This donation to the Lottie Moon offering is a memorial to her beautiful example.”
 
Accepting the memorial gift, Platt reflected on Sarah’s final text message to some of her friends, “We are like a wisp of smoke. We are only here for a moment. And this is not about us. Life is not about us. It’s about God who is eternal. So I want to dedicate the one moment I’m here completely and entirely to him.”
 
Platt said that Sarah “lived for what lasts forever. The fruit of that, in this gift to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, is going far beyond what anyone could have asked or imagined.
 
“We praise God that even now her life resounds for His glory so that others may hear the gospel in Botswana and beyond. We pray that this gift will be multiplied in souls saved and churches multiplied, and more people being where Sarah is right now – with God for eternity.”
 
The financial gift for international missions came through generous donors from the family’s church and community in Alabama as well as many donors from across the nation. Also, the sale of T-shirts with the “Live Redeemed” theme and “#servelikesarah” hashtag imprinted on the front contributed to the family’s gift.
 
Funds surpassed the Harmening’s initial goal, and the family remained prayerful. “We have been consistently praying over this monetary gift – that God will providentially guide its distribution, that it will be effectively used for life-changing ministry,” Karen said.
 
Nearly $30,000 of the funds given will be designated to three Lottie Moon projects in Botswana. The family is committed to “partner with those ministries in prayer” and possibly do “hands-on ministry with them,” she said.
 
The remaining funds, as well as any subsequent gifts, will go to the general LMCO fund for missionary support.
 
In Richmond, the Harmening family met with senior global leadership staff about missionaries and mission work in Botswana, which included a Skype call with a missionary serving in Sub-Saharan Africa.
 
To learn more about supporting missionaries in memory of Harmening, go to imb.org/servelikesarah.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Margaret Colson is a writer in Atlanta.)


Related article:
Student missions team involved in deadly bus accident
 
 

10/27/2017 10:58:36 AM by Margaret Colson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Reformation insights highlighted by seminary profs

October 27 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

As the world commemorates the Protestant Reformation’s 500th anniversary, Southern Baptist Convention seminary professors have highlighted what they say are among the most important Reformation insights for followers of Jesus today.
 

‘Great theological truths’

Malcolm Yarnell of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) said “the great theological truths of the Reformation” can be summarized under three main headings: sola scriptura (a Latin phrase meaning “by scripture alone”), “justification by grace through faith” and “the priesthood of all believers.”
 
First, the Reformers understood scripture as God’s gift to help them solve “the ever present problem of sliding into falsehood and error,” Yarnell, research professor of systematic theology at SWBTS, told BP.
 
“We are constantly needing Reformation, and [in scripture] God has given us what we constantly need to be reformed,” Yarnell said in written comments. “The question is whether we will listen to His Word in the power of His Spirit.”
 
The second great Reformation truth, Yarnell said, is that salvation is “entirely a divine work of grace.”
 
“Martin Luther followed all of the precepts of the medieval church and used continuously the sacraments she offered as means of grace. However, as he read and commented upon scripture to his students, Luther came to the conviction that he could never find true peace that way,” Yarnell said.
 
“It wasn’t until Luther reached the end of his efforts and in despair threw himself totally upon God’s mercy, expecting nothing from himself, that he received freedom from the debilitating fear of eternal damnation. His proper reading of Romans 1:16-17 brought him to see that the gospel of Jesus Christ is an entirely gracious gift that must be received by faith alone,” Yarnell said.
 
Third, a “great truth that we all need to hear from the Reformation is that the true church is the church of Jesus Christ and not the church of an elite clergy.” This doctrine – known as “the priesthood of all believers” – “undermines the tyrannical pretensions of any cleric or layperson (or of any group) who would usurp the sole lordship of Jesus Christ over His church,” Yarnell said.
 
“There is a hierarchy in the church composed of two levels: Jesus is the only Lord of the church, and everybody else is a servant of Jesus,” he said. “While there are different types of service in the church, there is only one Lord and King and Priest over the church, and that one isn’t you or me.”
 

‘A new paradigm’

For New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) professor Rex Butler, three historical vignettes from the Reformation recall three enduring principles.
 
– When Luther married Katharina von Bora, a former nun, “he established a new paradigm for home life among evangelical clergy. All married pastors ... owe Luther a debt of thanks,” said Butler, professor of church history and patristics at NOBTS.
 
At times, life with Martin and Katie, as Luther called her, “may seem like a TV sitcom,” Butler told BP in written comments. On one occasion, “Martin locked himself into his study for three days” to obtain quiet work time “in a house full of noisy children and a nagging wife.” Katie “finally took the hinges off the door and demanded that her husband come out and help her.”
 
Yet in the end, Butler said, the Luthers’ marriage exemplified Martin’s statement, “A wife is easily taken, but to have abiding love, that is the challenge. One who finds it in his marriage should thank the Lord God for it.”
 
– Anabaptist Kirk Willems should inspire believers to radical love of their neighbors.
 
“During the winter of 1569, a Dutch Anabaptist, Dirk Willems, was arrested by Catholic authorities and condemned to burn at the stake,” Butler said. “However, he managed to escape from prison by fashioning a rope from knotted rags and climbing over the wall. Dirk’s flight took him to a frozen stream, which he began to cross.
 
“His jailer followed after him but broke through the ice and cried for help to the only person available – the man he was pursuing. Remembering Jesus’ command to ‘love your enemies,’ Dirk turned back and rescued his pursuer. When they reached the shore, Dirk was returned to prison, later to be burned at the stake,” Butler said.
 
– The spiritual devotion of Swiss Anabaptists – who “desired to reform the church all the way back to the New Testament,” including the practice of believer’s baptism – should provoke today’s believers to similar devotion.
 
“Hidden away in the rural hills several miles east of Zurich, Switzerland, is the Anabaptist Cave. The earliest Anabaptists were students of Ulrich Zwingli, founder of the Swiss Reformation in Zurich. When Zwingli and the Zurich City Council condemned his former students and began to persecute them by imprisonment and even death, the Anabaptists sought fellowship and worship in secret locations,” Butler said.
 
“The Anabaptist Cave necessarily is difficult to find but worth the effort. The cave is beneath an overhanging stone, and a waterfall flows over the opening. The waterfall muffled the sound of the Anabaptists as they sang, prayed and preached,” he said.
 

‘The doctrine at the center’

Matthew Barrett of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary said the Reformers’ chief legacy was recovery of “the gospel itself.”
 
“Luther’s primary motivation,” Barrett told BP in written comments, “was doctrinal first and foremost, and the doctrine at the center was the unmerited grace of God in the gospel of His Son.”
 
“Luther was convinced that this gospel had been lost thanks to the influence of certain types of medieval Catholicism,” said Barrett, associate professor of Christian theology. “As Luther came into conflict with Rome, [which] was repeatedly unwilling to listen to his case, it became more and more obvious to Luther that the abandonment of the gospel meant that justification sola gratia (by grace alone) sola fide (through faith alone) solus Christus (in Christ alone) had been lost as well. And this was no small matter for Luther. ‘If the doctrine of justification is lost,’ Luther lamented in his 1535 Galatians lectures, ‘the whole of Christian doctrine is lost.’”
 
In the 21st century, “a host of doctrinal and ecclesiastical issues” seem to necessitate “a modern reformation” that draws from the 16th-century Reformation’s legacy, Barrett said. Of particular concern is the denial of sola scriptura by some who claim the Protestant tradition.
 
“The church throughout history has faced repeated attacks on the Bible from skeptics, but only in the 19th and 20th centuries have the truthfulness and trustworthiness of God’s Word been questioned, criticized and abandoned by those within the body of Christ. To the Reformers, this would have been unthinkable, yet this is the day we live in. Not only do Bible critics pervade the culture, but now they have mounted the pulpit and sit comfortably in the pews,” Barrett said.
 
“One of the most significant needs in the 21st century is a call back to the Bible, to a posture that encourages reverence, acceptance and adherence to its authority and message,” Barrett said.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

10/27/2017 10:51:39 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



California embraces gender identity laws

October 27 2017 by Kiley Crossland, WORLD News Service

The California legislature was a battleground for gender identity issues this year. Four landmark gender bills passed the state Senate and Assembly by the time the session ended Sep. 15, and California Gov. Jerry Brown signed all four this month.
 
On Oct. 4, Brown signed a bill that criminalizes long-term care facility employees’ “misgendering” of residents. The bill requires workers use transgender residents’ preferred pronouns and mandates that residents be allowed to self-identify their gender and use shared bedrooms and restrooms based on their gender identity, not biological sex.
 
Religious liberty advocates, including the California Family Council and the Pacific Justice Institute, said the bill threatened faith-based nursing homes and residential facilities with staff members who believe gender is unchangeable. After these groups pointed out the lack of religious liberty exemptions in a committee hearing for the bill, its author, state Sen. Scott Wiener, decried the “highly radical notion” that “religious views can create an exemption from complying with civil rights laws.”
 
“This is a movement in this country to try to completely gut civil rights protections and gender protections in the name of religion,” Wiener said.
 
In a case of strange bedfellows, two weeks ago the radical feminist group the Women’s Liberation Front issued a statement condemning the law because it “takes away the basic human rights of elderly and disabled women and girls to have a safe and private place away from men to use the toilet, shower, and sleep while in long-term medical care.”
 
On Oct. 15, the deadline for Brown to either sign or veto all bills, Brown signed the remaining three gender bills.
 
The “Gender Recognition Act” makes it easier for citizens to request a legal gender change on their birth certificates and introduces a third gender category, nonbinary, for state identification documents. Instead of requiring medical treatment and a court appearance, California will now require adults seeking a gender change just to submit an affidavit to the State Registrar. The bill also simplifies the process for parents to legally change the gender of their children.
 
Similarly, Senate Bill 310 makes it easier for a person in state prison to file a petition for a name or gender change. Existing law prohibits a prisoner from doing so without the permission of the secretary of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
 
Pro-family advocates argue the state legislature is methodically erasing biological gender from public discourse, a “fundamental breakdown of language.”
 
“Is gender a real thing, or the description of a feeling?” asked Greg Burt, director of capitol engagement for the California Family Council, a group that actively opposed all four measures.
 
“We believe government documents need to reflect biological facts for identification and medical purposes,” said Jonathan Keller, California Family Council CEO. “Secondly, the bill advances a falsehood; that being male or female, or no gender at all is a choice each person must make, not a fact to celebrate and accept. Laws like this will simply erase any meaningful gender definitions if being male or female is completely divorced from biological facts.”
 
The final measure, Senate Bill 396, expands transgender rights in the workplace. The bill requires employers with 50 or more employees to mandate training every two years on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation harassment. The measure also requires employers to display a poster on transgender rights and adds transgender and gender-nonconforming to the definition of an “individual with employment barriers” so they can use special state-designated services and programs.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kiley Crossland writes for WORLD News Service, a division of WORLD Magazine, worldmag.com, based in Asheville. Used with permission.)
 

10/27/2017 10:42:14 AM by Kiley Crossland, WORLD News Service | with 0 comments



48 Christians die in 9-day massacre by Fulani herdsmen

October 27 2017 by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press

Christian and human rights leaders in Nigeria are urging the government to protect villages from terror by Muslim Fulani herdsmen in the wake of a nine-day killing spree in Plateau State.

Screen capture from Sahara TV
Armed Fulani herdsmen such as this one are blamed for a string of attacks on Christian villages in Plateau State, Nigeria in October.


The killing of at least 48 Christians in several villages in mid-October, including women, children and the elderly as they slept, is part of a continuing assault on Christians by Fulani herdsmen who have joined forces with terrorist groups, Morning Star News reported Oct. 25, based on personal accounts from pastors and congregants.
 
“In the past few weeks, our people have been attacked by Muslim Fulani herdsmen who are collaborating with armed terrorists to invade our communities,” Morning Star quoted Moses Tsohu, a member of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) in Zanwrua village. “These attacks are being carried out daily. Every blessed day we witness the invasion, killing of our people and the destruction of their houses.”
 
In addition to the killings in the attacks on 13 Christian communities, nine people were wounded, churches were destroyed or abandoned, and 249 homes were ruined, Morning Star reported from villagers’ accounts. Some of the attacks occurred during dusk-to-dawn curfews and with security forces stationed nearby.
 
Yakubu Pam, northern chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), has urged Nigeria’s federal government to intervene, or the herdsmen will likely consume minority ethnic groups in the north. In an Oct. 17 media statement, Pam condemned the attacks in the Bassa local government area especially where women, children and the elderly were attacked as they slept. The herdsmen killed 29 Christians in Bassa during a curfew intended to restrict movement, Pam said.
 
Maj. Gen. Anthony Atolagbe, commander of a special security task force in Plateau, was investigating how the attack took place, the digital news site Today.ng reported Oct. 17.
 
The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), a grassroots non-governmental organization, repeated a longstanding cry for Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to declare armed Fulani herdsmen as terrorists.
 
“We condemn in very strong terms the persistent denial of the reality of the armed Fulani terror campaign across the country by the current administration of President Buhari,” HURIWA said in an Oct. 17 blogpost. The government has “failed to take concrete, verifiable and legal based actions to put to an end to the spectacles of blood curdling terror attacks of armed Fulani herdsmen.” HURIWA accuses Buhari of lacking zeal in stopping the armed herdsmen because of his Fulani heritage.
 
The Global Terrorism Index described armed Fulani herdsmen as terrorists as early as 2014, blaming them for nearly 1,250 deaths that year alone, a sharp increase over the 80 deaths they were blamed for in 2013.
 
The herdsmen have arisen in an ages-old dispute with Christian farmers for land rights. Among the herdsmen’s deadliest attacks in Nigeria, the Fulani killed 300 Christians in Benue in February 2016 and killed 200 Christians in Nasarawa in March 2017, it was widely reported.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor.)
 

10/27/2017 10:31:27 AM by Diana Chandler, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Illegal immigrant teen has court-approved abortion

October 26 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

A legal battle over whether the Trump administration is required to facilitate an illegal-immigrant teen’s abortion ended Oct. 25 when the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced she had terminated her pregnancy.

By Bjoertvedt (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ordered the Trump administration to permit a 17-year-old illegal immigrant to have an abortion while in federal custody.


ACLU senior staff attorney Brigitte Amiri, who represents the 17-year-old, said “justice prevailed,” according to an ACLU news release.
 
The abortion occurred less than 24 hours after the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled 6-3 that the teen – known in court documents only as Jane Doe or J.D. – was entitled to an immediate abortion. The court denied the Trump administration’s request for a stay while the ruling was appealed.
 
The three dissenting judges claimed the ruling wrongly implies a right to abortion on demand for all undocumented minors who reach U.S. soil. Abortion is illegal in Doe’s native country, according to court documents.
 
Andrew Walker, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s director of policy studies, tweeted following announcement of the abortion, “Remember that for groups like the @ACLU, a murdered child is a cause for rejoicing. Moloch [an ancient Canaanite deity associated with child sacrifice] is alive and well. God, have mercy on us.”
 
Doe said in a statement released by the ACLU that after being told she was pregnant, “I knew immediately what was best for me then, as I do now – that I’m not ready to be a parent.”
 
Doe said the government “provides for most of [her] needs at the shelter,” but they would not allow her to leave to get an abortion.
 
“They made me see a doctor that tried to convince me not to abort and to look at sonograms,” she said. “People I don’t even know are trying to make me change my mind. I made my decision and this is between me and God.”
 
A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Appeals Court ruled Oct. 20 the government had to release Doe by Oct. 31 to a sponsor who could help her obtain an abortion on her own. That ruling was seen as an attempted compromise between Doe and the Trump administration, which argued it was not required to expend any resources to secure abortion for an illegal immigrant minor being detained.
 
Doe appealed to the full court, which sided with her along ideological lines – with the six judges appointed by Democratic presidents ruling she should be granted immediate abortion access and the three Republican appointees disagreeing.
 
The case was sent back to a federal district judge, who hours later ordered the government to “promptly and without delay” transport the girl to an abortion provider, The Washington Post reported.
 
Judge Brett Kavanaugh – a member of the original three-judge appellate panel – wrote in a dissent to the full court that its ruling established a “novel” and “wrong” constitutional principle: “a new right for unlawful immigrant minors in U.S. Government detention to obtain immediate abortion on demand.”
 
A second dissent by Judge Karen Henderson claimed an illegal immigrant minor has no right to abortion and that the majority’s ruling “elevates the right to elective abortion above every other constitutional entitlement.”
 
Henderson, also a member of the original three-judge panel, said legal precedent has allowed restriction of undocumented immigrants’ rights of expression, of association, to bear arms and to be tried by jury, among others.
 
Then Henderson wrote, “But the freedom to terminate one’s pregnancy is more fundamental than them all? This is not the law.”
 
In support of the majority, Judge Patricia Millett – the third member of the original panel – wrote, “Today’s decision rights a grave constitutional wrong by the government.”
 
Doe’s case, Millett reasoned, was not an instance of “abortion on demand.”
 
“Here is what this case holds,” Millett wrote, “a pregnant minor who (i) has an unquestioned constitutional right to choose a pre-viability abortion, and (ii) has satisfied every requirement of state law to obtain an abortion ... That sure does not sound like ‘on demand’ to me.”
 
Millett noted Doe’s abortion would be paid for with private funds.
 
The court did not issue a majority opinion but stated its order was based “substantially” on Millett’s reasoning, expressed initially in an Oct. 20 dissent.
 
Amiri, of the ACLU, said the Trump administration’s “efforts to intervene in women’s decisions won’t stop with Jane. With this case we have seen the astounding lengths this administration will go to block women from abortion care. We will not stop fighting until we have justice for every woman like Jane.”
 
The ACLU had asked the federal district court to allow Doe’s case to proceed as a class-action lawsuit, according to The New York Times, to secure a right to abortion for as many as 1,000 unaccompanied, pregnant minors who have immigrated to the U.S. and are in federal custody.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)

10/26/2017 8:27:46 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



As protests loom, Tennessee Baptists denounce racism

October 26 2017 by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist and Reflector

With white supremacist rallies scheduled for this weekend in the state, a mix of ethnically diverse Tennessee Baptists gathered in a display of unity in Franklin on Oct. 25 to publicly denounce the white supremacist movement and racism.

Photo by Corinne Rochotte, Baptist and Reflector
Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, speaks during a press conference held Oct. 25.


“We don’t call press conferences very often but we believe it is impossible to stand silently by while the white supremacy movement plans to invade our state and perpetrate its evil Oct. 28 in Shelbyville and Murfreesboro,” said Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board (TBMB), during a press conference at the TBMB’s Church Support Center.
 
Earlier this month the Nationalist Front, a self-described “umbrella organization to bring unity and solidarity to the White Nationalist Movement in North America,” announced plans to hold anti-immigration rallies in Shelbyville and Murfreesboro.
 
“As Tennessee Baptists and as Southern Baptists, we are categorically opposed to the white supremacy movement and any movement that diminishes the dignity of any human,” Davis said.
 
The Saturday rallies, he said, are planned to oppose immigrants and refugees living in Middle Tennessee. “If history holds true, the intent of these groups gathering is to fear monger and fan the flames of racial hatred,” Davis noted.
 
“This bigotry has no place in our American society and it certainly has no place in the life of anyone who is a follower of Jesus,” he said.
 
Davis said the “movement is evil and is contrary to everything we are called to be as followers of Christ.”
 
He cautioned Christians to be on guard because “this movement preys upon people’s fears and the temptation is to buy into the rhetoric, especially since this group is targeting those who feel under-represented and disenfranchised.”
 
The Tennessee Baptist leader stressed that “we are not making a political statement today. That is not our intent. We are, however, prayerful that our governmental leaders will write laws that both offer security to America and are fair to all who seek shelter within her borders.”
 
The Saturday rallies also provide an opportunity to remind all Christians “that we are commanded to love our neighbors and to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with everyone, regardless of their race,” Davis said.
 
He countered the notion some people have that evangelical people are racists. “We are not. Our churches are full of compassionate, loving people who are quite the opposite of the hate-filled rhetoric dominating the public square. In fact, Tennessee Baptists are currently serving people of all races and ethnicities who were ravaged by hurricanes in Houston, Florida and Puerto Rico.
 
“We also serve here in our own state through compassion ministries, children’s and adult homes and a variety of other local church ministries aimed to serve all people.”
 
Davis stressed that Tennessee is a mission field, not a minefield. “We believe God has brought the nations to Tennessee that they might hear the gospel. It is our responsibility to share that gospel with every man, woman and child living in our state regardless of race or immigration status.”
 
Davis called on Christians to pray for the people of Shelbyville and Murfreesboro and that there will be peace during Saturday’s events. “Pray also for the heavy hand of conviction to fall on those who perpetrate evil. The Bible says we don’t wrestle against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities.
 
“We know this is a spiritual battle and we pray that the love of Christ will prevail in the hearts of men,” he said.
 
Jay Wells, pastor emeritus of Simeon Baptist Church, Antioch, and a director of the TBMB, observed that “America is a great country, with citizens from all over the world. I know there is no place I would rather live than here, particularly here in Tennessee.”
 
Wells said he rejoices in the diversity of Tennessee, with more than 145 different nationalities living within state borders. “Diversity is good … because it is God’s idea, not ours,” he said.
 
The African-American leader acknowledged that there are good and bad people in every race. “I am reminded that the Bible says that we all have sinned and fallen short of His glory. Because we have all sinned we all need to be liberated from the sinful nature that is in us,” he said.
 
“It is the sinful nature in us that makes us want to hurt each other and makes us want to devalue one another,” Wells noted.
 
He stressed the need for forgiveness. “I must develop the capacity to forgive, for if I can’t forgive my brother, than God cannot forgive me,” Wells said. “Dr. Martin Luther King said, ‘He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.’ ”
 
He also observed that “morals cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated.”
 
Wells joined with Davis in calling for prayer for governmental leaders to “write laws that will offer both security to our citizens and are fair and compassionate to all who seek shelter within our borders.”
 
Thi Mitsamphanh, pastor of International Community Church, Smyrna, came as a representative of one of many ethnic churches across Tennessee. “We are brothers and sisters in Christ who represent many nations, cultures and languages from all parts of the world. We love the same Jesus and serve the same Lord,” he said.
 
Mitsamphanh said the white supremacist movement and the planned protests in Tennessee “stand in opposition to the message of scripture. This movement spreads a message of hate, not love,” he stressed.
 
“The gospel affirms that every person is created in the image of God, that the Good News of Jesus is for all nations, cultures and languages, and that we should love all our neighbors. Now is the time for the church to stand in unity for the gospel and against this evil and hateful agenda.”
 
The Smyrna pastor said he is indebted to Tennessee Baptists who welcomed his family from Laos more than 30 years ago. “Because Christians chose to welcome and love our family, our lives have been forever changed. May Tennessee Baptists continue to show love, compassion, and the gospel of Christ to the nations whom God is sending to us.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector, baptistandreflector.org, news journal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.)
 

10/26/2017 7:58:42 AM by Lonnie Wilkey, Baptist and Reflector | with 0 comments



Utah team seeks ‘forgotten among us’ in Houston

October 26 2017 by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press

Mike Brooks is a plumber – and a busy one at that. But he felt God calling him to help in Houston with Hurricane Harvey disaster relief efforts. So, he and eight others from Baptist churches in Utah traveled to serve where they could on Oct. 15-20.

Photo by Steve Sidwell
Volunteers from First Baptist Church of Pleasant Grove, Utah, joined by a group from Redemption Hill Church in Eagle Mountain, traveled to Houston Oct. 15-20 to do demolition ministry for the North American Mission Board’s Send Relief. From left, Mike Brooks, Misha Brooks, Mike Bagley, Kerrigan Bagley, Eoin Bagley and Steve Sidwell.


“This hurricane is not over,” Brooks of First Baptist Church of Pleasant Grove, Utah, shared with his church the Sunday after the team returned home.
 
“The people there are literally exhausted,” he told them. “They go to work, if they still have a job, then come home and work some more. Bedtime conversations, we heard, are just grunts and groans from people aching all over.”
 
In addition to the Pleasant Grove group, Redemption Hill Church of Eagle Mountain, Utah, – including disaster relief volunteers from throughout the nation – went to the Houston area to help. The Utah teams joined up with a 23-year-old woman from Ohio who ventured to Houston by herself to serve. The work in some places has transitioned to rebuilding what previous volunteers have torn out, but the Utah team also found neighborhoods where nothing had been done.
 
Assisting the North American Mission Board’s Send Relief efforts, Pleasant Grove pastor Mike Bagley started talking with one man who wasn’t aware of Southern Baptist relief efforts. The conversation led the team to help the man with his flood-damaged house.
 
“You’re a blessing from the Lord,” said the man’s wife. “I was praying just last night for the Lord to send us someone to take out our tub and strip the floors.”
 
Working demolition, the Utah team discovered things not common in back home: cockroaches. Hundreds of them scurried about when their hiding places underneath waterlogged cabinets and sinks were removed.
 
“I’ve not been in a situation that bad [before this],” said Pleasant Grove missions pastor Steve Sidwell, who recalled at one point flicking off a cockroach crawling up his arm.
 
“People [are] living in this because they have nowhere else to go … living in these conditions and with the smell of mold growing in water-damaged walls, floors and furniture …,” Sidwell said. “God used us to help them.”
 
At one house, pastor’s son Kerrigan Bagley whispered to his dad, “Ask them if they need food.” But his dad, not wanting to insult the obviously-needy family, was hesitant to ask. Then one in the family said, “Do you have any food?”

Photo by Steve Sidwell
The Utah team on assignment from North American Mission Board’s Send Relief tore out moldy Sheetrock and scraped tile and tar off floors on their first day on the job in Houston.


“We all gave our lunches,” pastor Bagley said. Then he and Redemption Hill pastor Steve Pierson went to a grocery store and helped the family stock up with food. “It’s neat to see God move … and work through us,” Bagley said.
 
At one house, the Utah volunteers found a home owner, Nathan, pulling bent nails out of waterlogged wood he’d been removing from the exterior, straightening the nails, and using them to nail to new wood.
 
“Two months he’d been working on the outside,” Sidwell later told the Pleasant Grove congregation. “Two months with no job, no money, no FEMA. Southern Baptists helped.” So did one Utah volunteer’s gift of a hundred dollar bill to buy new nails.
 
The Utah team worked on the home’s interior, which was, until they got there, pretty much what it was when the family returned after Hurricane Harvey and the resultant flooding.
 
“People asked me, what difference can just one person, just one team, make in Houston,” Brooks said. “We accomplished in one day what Nathan hadn’t been able to do in two months, because he was busy outside. That’s two months sooner that he can go back to work and provide for his family.”
 
Brooks said at one home they found an elderly woman whose husband had died a year ago. She appeared to be overwhelmed by what needed to be done to her house and unable physically to do much of it. The woman said she hadn’t talked with anyone since the hurricane and was desperate for some human interaction.
 
Brooks’ 19-year-old daughter, Misha, spent time talking with the woman as the Utah team went to work – tearing out cabinetry, sheetrock, carpeting, linoleum, floors and subfloors.
 
After returning from Houston, pastor Bagley preached about Jesus walking on water and Peter sinking when he tried the same.
 
“What about the forgotten among us?” Bagley asked. “The person who is in the water needs Jesus to pull him out, and we are Jesus’ hands and feet.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press.)
 

10/26/2017 7:56:26 AM by Karen L. Willoughby, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Patterson-Humphreys atonement debate remembered

October 26 2017 by David Roach, Baptist Press

A 1987 debate on Christ’s atonement between Paige Patterson and then-New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) theology professor Fisher Humphreys may have had “greater significance” in the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) Conservative Resurgence than some have thought.

Photo courtesy of the Baptist Message
Paige Patterson, left, and Fisher Humphreys debated the atonement on Oct. 19, 1987, before 300 students and faculty at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.


That’s the conclusion of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary provost Jason Duesing, who has published an essay to commemorate the debate’s 30th anniversary in the Midwestern Journal of Theology.
 
Theological conservatives “had things well in hand” by 1987 in their quest to gain control of the SBC’s committees and trustee boards, Duesing writes. But the debate revealed a need for ongoing “theological examination in all of the Convention’s agencies” to ensure theological orthodoxy prevailed on every point of doctrine.
 
Among topics at issue in the Oct. 19, 1987, debate hosted by NOBTS was whether Christ died as a substitute for sinners to bear the divine punishment they deserved – a view known as “penal substitution.” Some 300 students and faculty watched the three-hour debate, which stemmed from a longstanding discussion of the atonement in person and in print between Humphreys and Patterson, then president of the Criswell Center for Biblical Studies in Dallas (now Criswell College).
 
Patterson, a leader within the Conservative Resurgence, argued penal substitution is “the ultimate model in the Bible” for understanding Christ’s death, Baptist Press (BP) reported at the time, and the “one indispensable model” on which the gospel depends.
 
Humphreys, whom some viewed as among the SBC’s moderate camp, said penal substitution was one of many biblical models for understanding Christ’s death and not necessarily the most important. He spoke of the atonement in terms of “sacrifice,” which he said does not always involve punishment.


Patterson, in reflecting back on the debate, told BP, “Dr. Fisher Humphreys is a great friend, a fine scholar and a formidable opponent for a debate. Even though I was a graduate of NOBTS, the faculty was in the camp of Dr. Humphreys and the students and other visitors were 90 percent in favor of their professor.
 
“So, I remember being pretty uncomfortable going into the debate,” Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said in written comments. “Fisher chose to debate the subject of the atonement along philosophical and theological lines. I elected to turn the debate to exegetical considerations. That decision gave the advantage to me.”
 
Humphreys, retired professor of divinity at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School, told BP he proposed the debate because he “hoped that in a small way a debate might help to reduce the conflict in the Southern Baptist Convention by correcting mistaken ideas some people had acquired about my understanding of Jesus’ saving work.”
 
“During the debate,” Humphreys said in written comments, “it became clear that both Dr. Patterson and I believe that Christ’s death and resurrection were historical events that really occurred in the first century; we both believe in the glorious Christian gospel that Christ died for our sins and was raised from the dead; and we both believe what the Bible teaches about the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
 
“Although some individuals were reassured by the debate, it unfortunately did little to reduce the broader conflict, so in my opinion it was a minor event in the life of the convention,” Humphreys said.
 
In 1987, Humphreys told Louisiana’s Baptist Message news journal his differences with Patterson were minor and technical. The two agreed, he said, on “what Paul calls in 1 Corinthians the fundamental, the first and foremost things.”


Duesing, a former vice president at Southwestern who served under Patterson, sees significance, however, in the points of disagreement.
 
The “often overlooked” debate, Duesing writes, suggested faculty members at seminaries given a clean bill of health by the SBC’s Peace Committee – including NOBTS – advocated some views “divergent” from the theology of rank and file Southern Baptists.
 
The Peace Committee was formed in 1985 and asked to determine causes of the SBC controversy. The committee’s major report, issued three months before the Patterson-Humphreys debate, said the controversy was primarily theological. The committee noted theological problems among faculty at some other SBC seminaries, but not NOBTS.
 
As evidence for his view, Duesing cited Humphreys’ contention that penal substitution seems unjust to some observers.
 
“In a human law court,” Humphreys said according to Duesing’s transcription of the debate, “when Jones is the mass murderer, you don’t let Smith die for him. ... For some people, this creates a problem for them. They’re saying, ‘Would God be doing something that looks like it would be wrong if a human judge did it?’”
 
In the debate, Patterson claimed Old and New Testament believers alike understood sacrifices as the punishment of a person or animal in place of a sinner.
 
“The penalty for sin is death,” Patterson said. When Old Testament believers “put their hands on the head of that goat or that lamb ... and they confessed their sins on the head of that lamb, they understood that lamb, that goat was dying the death that they should die. And that they were going to be free from sin because that guilt had been transferred.
 
“Now ultimately that’s exactly what John the Baptist does then when he points to Jesus and says, ‘Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world,’” Patterson said.
 
Both participants agreed, BP reported at the time, that the cross and resurrection were historical events, that Christ’s death reconciled the world to God, that the gospel must be believed and preached and that all biblical teaching on the cross is truthful.
 
Still, at the end of the debate, Patterson declined to sign a statement of agreement unless it also noted what he deemed to be significant points of disagreement.
 
Duesing claimed the debate “reveals a great deal not only about the views of the participants but also about the state of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1987.”
 
Patterson noted in hindsight, “I will forever be grateful to [Humphreys] for his investment in my life and for his proposal for this discussion and the written discussions that followed. With all of my heart, I love this fellow pilgrim and wish him the best for the future. I am also thankful for Jason Duesing’s assessment of the debate. Most of all, I remain thankful for Jesus, who gave His life for us all.”
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)
 

10/26/2017 7:50:49 AM by David Roach, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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