April 2015

Going to court

April 30 2015 by Jeff Iorg, GGBTS president

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments April 28 about laws related to the constitutionality of same-sex marriage. While the ruling won’t come until this summer, most legal experts and court watchers believe the end result will be legalization of same-sex marriage.


Jeff Iorg

Many will decry their decision with dire warnings about the damage this decision will do to our country. Others will celebrate it as a courageous application of the law guaranteeing the rights of everyone who wants to marry whomever they choose. While my viewpoint is reflected in the first option, it’s also important to keep the decision in perspective.
The Supreme Court has been wrong – disastrously wrong – on multiple occasions in the past with dreadful consequences. For example, in Dred Scott v. Sandford, the court effectively legalized slavery – leading to the Civil War. Or another example, Plessy v. Ferguson was used to justify “separate but equal” reasoning – institutionalizing segregation for 60 years. And, the worst decision in my lifetime – Roe v. Wade – has contributed to more than 55 million abortions since it became law.
The Supreme Court decides what is legal, in the current cultural milieu, and has always been politicized in its decisions. That’s not new or news. The court does not decide timeless truth, or what is moral or ethical. They decide what is legal, always with deference to current cultural pressures. They interpret the Constitution, deciding what principles apply in cases that come before them. As these examples demonstrate, they have been wrong – tragically wrong – on major issues in past years. All indications are they are about to be wrong again.
How should we respond? With deference as much as possible, being models of living under the rule of law. With disobedience, when conscience demands and a contrite willingness to experience whatever consequences befall us.
Our country – and subgroups in our country – have survived bad court decisions before and can again. It will be challenging, but it can be done.
Get ready. You are likely to have the opportunity.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jeff Iorg is president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif.)


4/30/2015 10:11:14 AM by Jeff Iorg, GGBTS president | with 0 comments

Why Southern Baptists canceled an appearance by Ben Carson

April 29 2015 by Trevin Wax, The Gospel Project/Religion News Service

Last week, Ben Carson, the renowned neurosurgeon and likely presidential candidate, withdrew from speaking at the pastors’ conference that precedes the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). After several weeks of criticism, primarily from younger pastors, the organizers of the conference asked him to step aside and he agreed.
Why did a controversy erupt over Ben Carson? After all, there is historical precedent for politicians speaking at this conference. Mike Huckabee spoke in 2009 and 2013. Condoleezza Rice and George W. Bush have sent greetings via video. And Carson is admired by Southern Baptists for his personal story and political principles. He is a religious man (a Seventh-day Adventist) who believes in human rights for the unborn and upholds the historic meaning of marriage.


Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons
Ben Carson speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Md.

Observers on the outside may see younger pastors’ protesting Carson and jump to two wrong conclusions:

  1. They may assume there is a leftward political shift among pastors from the millennial generation. Perhaps a conservative stalwart like Carson was too polarizing for younger pastors who are moving to the left on political issues?

  2. They may assume younger pastors believe churches should withdraw from the political realm and create a sharp separation between the church and politics.

There is indeed a generational shift in the Southern Baptist Convention, but both these conclusions miss the true nature of what is taking place.
Regarding the first assumption, the problem for younger pastors was not that Carson is too conservative politically, but that he is not conservative enough theologically.
Younger Southern Baptists who reach across denominational lines in support of life, marriage and religious liberty are less likely to be enthusiastic about a pastors’ conference lineup that may, in some way, communicate unity around a political platform rather than the gospel of Jesus.
Regarding the second assumption, younger pastors are not withdrawing from political matters. They questioned the propriety of a potential presidential candidate addressing a convention of Baptists. Younger Southern Baptists fear that a display of partisanship will sacrifice the meeting’s ability to be a prophetic voice in relation to both parties. The desire is not to withdraw politically, but to engage prophetically.
To be sure, there is a generational shift in the largest Protestant denomination in the United States. But it is not a shift in doctrinal and moral convictions. It is, instead, a shift in how the generations see themselves in relation to the United States.
Older Southern Baptists tend to see the U.S. as the Bible depicts Israel; that is, an exceptional nation founded on biblical values. Because of this heritage, we have been especially blessed of God, and we are called to steward that blessing for the rest of the world. This leads to the moral majority’s vision for society. The church has a privileged place in society and serves as a moral ballast upholding traditional family values.
Younger Southern Baptists see the U.S. as the Bible depicts Babylon; that is, we are exiles in a land that marginalizes and opposes historic religious views. Far from being a “moral majority,” younger pastors are more likely to see their role as a missionary minority: speaking truth to power, witnessing to the good news of Jesus in a world that is increasingly hostile to a Christian worldview. Accordingly, there is less emphasis on bringing change through political mobilization and more emphasis on dealing pastorally and compassionately with the implications of a secularizing society.
The Ben Carson controversy represents this underlying generational shift, from the days when the SBC saw itself as reflective of the country’s traditional family values, to the days when the SBC sees itself as a dissenting minority. Younger pastors are grappling with the reality that Christian moral convictions do not reflect the majority culture’s values. Their reticence to hear a political pundit like Carson, even when they would largely agree with his beliefs, is rooted in a desire to be faithful to Christ in American culture – as prophets, not partisans.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Trevin Wax is managing editor of The Gospel Project and author of multiple books, including “Clear Winter Nights: A Journey Into Truth, Doubt and What Comes After.”)

4/29/2015 11:23:18 AM by Trevin Wax, The Gospel Project/Religion News Service | with 0 comments

It’s time to love Baltimore

April 28 2015 by Joel Rainey

Human beings are, at one and the same time, created in God’s image and likeness, and separated from God because of their sin. And the more human beings you have located in the same place, the more obvious those two realities become.
Living within the shadow of Baltimore, Md. for over a decade, I can recall many moments when that great city has reflected the very glory of God. But this morning, I am heartbroken, because as the rest of the world observes the riots that currently threaten the peace of this wonderful city, they are witnessing how truly depraved we can be.
Last night, Baltimore suffered from a significant and self-inflicted wound. In a scene that defines the perfect storm created by racist history, corruption, lawlessness, distrust and violence, our city revealed itself as being under demonic influence.
That’s what you watched on CNN last night. But what you didn’t see is how God is already at work among the chaos. What happened on the cross is itself testimony to the fact that God is often most highly glorified in the midst of chaos, confusion, deep depravity and anger. And underneath the surface of the coverage national media are giving to this city, He is doing it again!

Contributed photo
City pastors praying over Blood gang members.

Last night, rival gang members who committed to join each other to hunt down and kill white police officers agreed to meet with Baltimore area pastors, who spoke to them of a peaceful, orderly approach to justice informed by a gospel message that can bring peace and order to their souls.
This morning, pastor Tally Wilgis and the wonderful people of Captivate Church are feeding kids. In an area of the city where 84 percent of the children are on a free or reduced lunch program, when school is cancelled, they don’t eat. So the body of Christ is feeding more than 100 of them.
Pastor Brad O’Brien and the folks at Jesus our Redeemer are currently coordinating help and aid to the hundreds of police officer, firefighters and National Guard personnel that will be setting our city back in order.
Pastors Mike Crawford, Joel Kurz, Dan Hyun and many others opened their church facilities so that God’s people could pray, frightened citizens could find refuge and the church could begin forming a response to serve this city that Jesus died to save.
These are just a few things that took place last night. God was, and continues to be, at work in mighty ways. History tells us that moments of spiritual awakening are often preceded by societal chaos. Our network of churches – many of which are found within Baltimore’s city limits – believe with all our hearts that this is God’s desire. And we know this because in the midst of bloodshed, we are reminded through the cross that Jesus Himself was the first to bleed for this city.
So as strife and unrest continue to threaten Baltimore, our churches are running toward that need, and taking with them the greatest story of reconciliation in all of human history!
Want to help us? Please point everyone in your church here. Every dollar donated will be channeled directly to Baltimore area churches for the exclusive purpose of helping them serve the city, and bring reconciliation through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
My friend and colleague Mike Crawford said it best last night. “Satan wants our city, and he can’t have it!”
As other opportunities for service in Baltimore continue to develop, you can contribute right now to help these men and their churches bring true peace.
It is time to love Baltimore!
Again, the link is here.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Joel Rainey is the lead strategist for engagement with the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network/Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. This article first appeared at his blog, joelrainey.blogspot.com)
4/28/2015 11:24:41 AM by Joel Rainey | with 1 comments

Supreme Court & marriage – preparing our churches

April 28 2015 by Ronnie Floyd, SBC president

One of the most powerful features in our upcoming Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in Columbus, Ohio, will occur in our final afternoon session on Wednesday, June 17. This is not the year to leave the annual meeting early!

The Stakes Are Rising

The U.S. Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments this week for and against redefining marriage in America. Marriage between a man and a woman is a God-ordained institution; the courts in our land do not need to attempt to redefine what God Himself has already clearly defined.
Yet, this week the stakes continue to rise regarding marriage in our nation. If the Supreme Court rules to redefine marriage, the continual attack that is already taking place on religious liberty will escalate.


Ronnie Floyd

Hear me clearly: If we lose the freedom of religion, then all the freedoms we have today will begin to diminish.
What is at stake is great. This is undeniable. We do not control the Supreme Court. At this point, our number one role must be to pray. Regardless of the outcome, may God have mercy on America and teach us how to live daily.

Preparing our churches for the future

It is incumbent upon us to do all we can with all we have to prepare our churches for the future. The Supreme Court may rule on this issue within days of or during our convention in Columbus and, regardless of the outcome, our churches need to be prepared. We must respond to the issue and toward those who may have differing opinions in a way that would represent our Lord Jesus Christ in the highest manner. Unquestionably, things are changing, and the way we address this issue must be done with the truth of God in one hand and the love of God in the other hand.
Our Southern Baptist churches must rise in this moment and minister to people of all ages who are wrestling with all the challenges of the sexual revolution in America. Children and teenagers need help. Parents need help. Adults of all ages need help. Pastors, Christian leaders and churches need help.
Since this need is so pressing, I appealed to our 2015 Committee on Order of Business to allocate some time for us to address it on Wednesday afternoon during the SBC annual meeting. I am thankful to Andrew Hebert, our chairman, and the members of this committee who provided us with an answer to this need.
We created an SBC Presidential Panel for a session titled “The Supreme Court and Same Sex marriage: Preparing Our Churches for the Future.” I prayerfully thought about who could contribute to this conversation and sought counsel from others. I am absolutely thrilled with who God has put together. I will lead this panel with five gifted people, each of whom has valuable insight into this discussion.
The Presidential Panel includes:

  • R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Ky.

  • Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Nashville

  • Rosaria Butterfield, writer, speaker, educator, pastor’s wife and author, Durham, N.C.

  • Ryan Blackwell, senior pastor, First Baptist Church, San Francisco

  • Matt Carter, senior pastor, The Austin Stone Community Church, Austin, Texas

While most of us are very familiar with the giftedness and contributions of Albert Mohler and Russell Moore, the other three leaders also will bring a special perspective. Recently, I listened to the powerful testimony of Rosaria Butterfield concerning this issue. You will not want to miss her insight. Additionally, my 31-year-old dear friend, Ryan Blackwell, has pastored San Francisco’s First Baptist Church for four years. Matt Carter has pastored in the capital city of Texas since 2002 and speaks into the lives of people weekly who live and navigate through cultural issues.
Spread the word and join us for the final session of our 2015 Southern Baptist Convention. Do not miss any session of the SBC, including this final session. Let’s experience our convention all the way through the final prayer with a great expectation for God to encounter us powerfully.
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Ronnie Floyd is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas.)

4/28/2015 11:20:17 AM by Ronnie Floyd, SBC president | with 0 comments

Is the SBC in golden era of theological education?

April 27 2015 by Jason Allen, MBTS president

Since the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) founding in 1845, the SBC’s primary – and most unifying – effort has been collaborative missionary efforts. That was our raison d’etre in 1845 and it remains so today.
Yet, even during the SBC’s earliest years, theological education was an accompanying concern. Early SBC luminaries such as R.B.C. Howell, W.B. Johnson, Basil Manly Sr., Basil Manly Jr. and, most especially, James P. Boyce called for a common theological institution in the South.

A seminary is founded

By the mid to late 1850s, Boyce had arisen as the effort’s most prominent and successful leader. Boyce’s “Three Changes in Theological Institutions,” delivered as his inaugural faculty address at Furman University in 1856, called for a dramatic reconceptualization of theological education that would produce a clergy abundant in number, well learned and doctrinally sound. Boyce’s vision was realized in three short years with the founding of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1859.


Jason Allen

For nearly 50 years Southern Seminary enjoyed sole status within the SBC. Given its uniqueness as the only Southern Baptist seminary and the celebrated status of its faculty, it is difficult to overestimate Southern Seminary’s influence on the SBC during the first 50 years of its existence.
Yet, even in the early decades an uneasy relationship existed between Southern Baptist churches and their seminary.
An intuitive suspicion of higher education in general – common in the 19th-century agrarian South – intensified when concerns related to higher criticism, Baptist origins and, into the 20th century, the fundamentalist/modernist controversy arose. By the early decades of the 20th century, modern biblical criticism had moved from occasional occurrence to more common acceptance by Southern Seminary’s faculty.

Southern Baptists move westward

Nearly 50 years after Southern Seminary’s founding, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary was birthed. Under B.H. Carroll’s leadership, Southwestern Seminary emerged out of Baylor University.
Carroll, pastor of the prominent First Baptist Church in Waco, was a titanic figure in Texas and Southern Baptist life. Southern Baptists, like the rest of the country, had moved westward, and by the early 20th century the need for a complementing institution was apparent. Texas Baptists – and their financial and demographic strength – were more than ready to support Southern Baptists’ second seminary.
During the interwar years in Southern Baptist life, the SBC morphed from a loose collection of churches into a more functioning denomination, as witnessed through the establishment of the Cooperative Program, the adoption of the first convention-wide confessional statement and the formation of the Executive Committee. This era also saw the more formal engrafting of Southern and Southwestern seminaries into the SBC, wherein they reaped the benefits of the Cooperative Program and came under more direct SBC control.
Under Carroll’s leadership and that of his notable successor, Lee Scarborough, Southwestern Seminary’s rise was meteoric. So much so, by the 1960s its enrollment rivaled – and then surpassed – that of Southern Seminary. By the latter decades of the 20th century it was Southern Baptists’ most influential seminary in terms of enrollment, prominence of alumni and broad popular appeal due to its comparatively conservative faculty.

Post-war expansion

The post-war era, especially from 1945-1960, was a period of dramatic denominational expansion. The SBC had congealed into a more structured, operationally mature and nationally ambitious denomination. SBC annuals from this period reveal a sense of near-unbounded optimism.
During these 15 years, Southern Baptists added four seminaries. New Orleans Seminary, which began as a Bible institute in 1917, was formally converted into Southern Baptists’ third seminary in 1946. Over the next decade, Southern Baptists would imagine and found three more theological institutions: Golden Gate Seminary (1946), Southeastern Seminary (1950) and Midwestern Seminary (1957).
Intramural theological disputes appeared almost without end in state papers throughout the SBC’s first century of existence. Yet, widespread theological controversy, which could potentially lead to significant schism within the SBC, occurred only episodically, most especially in the Toy Controversy, the Whitsitt Controversy and the Fundamentalist/Modernist Controversy.
By the mid-20th century, theological liberalism nevertheless was well entrenched – if not widely perceived – in Southern Baptist seminaries. Higher criticism, the documentary hypothesis, naturalistic explanations for scripture’s miraculous events and a denial of the historical accuracy of the Bible were all commonly held among SBC professors.
During this era, seminary leadership tended toward the managerial, not the theological. Like the SBC as a whole, programmatic and administrative concerns tended to displace doctrinal ones at the seminary level. This is clearly reflected in trustee minutes from the 1950s, where enormous energy is given to the tedious, administratively mundane, all the while faculty additions occurred with little attention given to theological matters.

Liberalism metastasizes

These realities, the need for faculty members at the newly launched seminaries and Southern Seminary’s 1958 controversy coalesced to spread heterodoxy. Dubbed the Lexington Road Massacre, 13 theology professors were dismissed from Southern Seminary in 1958. The establishment of Southeastern and Midwestern seminaries provided the perfect “work needed/help wanted” scenario, leading these professors to relocate to Wake Forrest and Kansas City, thus metastasizing theological liberalism within the SBC.
By the end of the 1950s, a pronounced theological divergence existed just under the surface between Southern Baptist seminaries and the churches they ostensibly served. This dissonance continued to grow in scope, public awareness and convention-wide concern. This can be seen most especially through the Elliott controversy of the early 1960s, the Broadman Commentary controversy of the late 1960s and, as an artifact, the Hollyfield Thesis of 1976.

Denominational controversy & institutional recovery

By 1979, when the Patterson-Pressler coalition formally launched what has come to be known as the Conservative Resurgence by mustering enough votes to elect Adrian Rogers as SBC president, there was undeniable dissonance between Southern Baptist seminaries and the vast majority of SBC churches.
What began in 1979 took nearly three decades to play out: electing conservative SBC presidents, appointing conservative trustees, securing conservative seminary presidents and building conservative faculties. The culmination of the Conservative Resurgence was the SBC’s adoption of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000.
So now in 2015, theological education in the SBC is in many ways where it started in 1859, with uniformly conservative seminaries serving the convention’s churches. And that is, in part, why I believe we are now enjoying the golden era of theological education in the SBC.
Jason Allen continues this theme in Parts II and III of “Are We Enjoying the SBC’s Golden Era of Theological Education,” at his website, jasonkallen.com.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jason Allen is president of Midwestern Seminary.)

4/27/2015 11:12:21 AM by Jason Allen, MBTS president | with 0 comments

Swaziland clinic an eye-opener for Carolina med student

April 23 2015 by Hunter Johnson, IMB Connecting

MBABANE, Swaziland – On a Thursday morning in January, the hospital admitted a 13-month-old boy with a two-week history of diarrhea, according to his mom. It did not take long for us to realize that he was more than just a little dehydrated. In fact, this little one’s organs had started shutting down, and his newly placed IV was not working.
One of the doctors attempted to insert an IV on the opposite arm and then tried to place one along the wrist. Because of the volume of fluids this child was going to need, the doctor decided the external jugular (in the boy’s neck) would be a better selection. Three attempts were made on the left and then two on the right. Another pediatrician made four attempts to place the IV. A surgeon was enlisted to help, but his two attempts at placing the IV also were unsuccessful.


The medical needs of precious children in Swaziland – and the utter lack of basic medical supplies to care for them – was a real eye-opener for Hunter Johnson, a fourth-year medical student from North Carolina.

Next, we wanted to try placing the IV in the child’s leg bone or in a vein near his groin, but none of the physicians had done that before. The job was about to be entrusted to me, a fourth-year medical student who had just stepped off the plane. Fortunately, an ICU doctor agreed to insert the IV into a vein the boy’s groin. But, that area of the hospital wasn’t prepared for the procedure – or any procedure, for that matter. There was no line placement kit, no Lidocaine, no sutures, no scalpel, no gauze, no sterile water, no scissors, no tape, no Betadine and no needles or syringes.
The equipment was gathered from all over the hospital and, after treating him the best we could, we left the boy in his mother’s arms and moved on to other patients.
In the United States, doctors would have put this little one on a breathing tube because he was exhausted from breathing too quickly. The work would have been done and appropriate changes to fluids and electrolytes would have been made reflexively. He likely would have had more than one IV providing fluids. Most importantly, he might have lived until the morning.
But we were not in the States, and the morning brought heart-breaking news.
I am still not sure why his death caught me so off guard. It could be because I had not experienced the death of a pediatric patient until then. It may be because when we left, he looked better and more alert so I was not expecting anything but improvement. However, I think the most likely reason is that I have never seen a child die from something as simple as diarrhea.
Diarrhea killed this baby, and it happens every single day across the world. I was so naïve. Never again will I leave the hospital simply assuming my patients will all be alive when I return in the morning. Never again will I assume that people know things that seem so obvious to me – like the fact that two weeks of diarrhea every day is a cause for concern.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Hunter Johnson is a fourth-year medical student who volunteered with Baylor College of Medicine’s HIV pediatric clinic in Mbabane, Swaziland, in early 2015.)

4/23/2015 10:39:07 AM by Hunter Johnson, IMB Connecting | with 0 comments

You = woman of influence

April 22 2015 by Katie McCoy, Baptist Press

In a study on biblical womanhood with a fabulous group of student wives last fall, we looked at everything the Bible has to say about being a woman. Throughout the pages of their stories, they all had one thing in common: influence.
Pick a woman in the scripture who is known for anything and you’ll find she was a woman of influence.
Think about Deborah (Judges 4-5). She stirred up a military leader to faithful action when he wanted to run away from a problem. She exhorted him to trust the Lord in the face of overwhelming odds. She was a true leader. She never made their success about her – in fact she pointed out the strengths of everyone else. Influence.
What about Esther (Esther 4-8)? She was planted in a pagan palace so she could influence a king to spare her people from ethnic cleansing. No military intervention. No revolution. Just one woman submitted to God. Influence. And her predecessor, Vashti? She was de-throned after digging her heels in against the king’s request. Why? Because even pagan politicians knew that women had influence.
Don’t forget about Abigail (my personal favorite). She was the picture of grace under fire, defusing the temper of a future king and intervening in what would have been an out-of-control conflict (1 Samuel 25). Quick-witted and sharp-minded, she spoke with wisdom, diplomacy and skill. Influence.
And it isn’t all good influence, either.
Sarah (Genesis 16) convinced her husband, Abraham, to fulfill God’s promise his own way instead of waiting on God to work. Influence.
Remember Jezebel? She influenced her husband Ahab to deal treacherously with a landowner and the nation of Israel to serve the pagan gods of surrounding nations (1 Kings 19,21). Influence.
And it all began with Eve – she pulled her husband Adam into doing the one thing he knew he wasn’t to do, persuading him to disobey the Lord (Genesis 3). Influence.
Eudoia and Syntyche must have had some strong personalities for Paul to tell them to get along. Apparently their riff was causing some serious issues in the church at Philippi (Philippians 4:2). Influence.
And then there’s Miriam. She influenced all of Israel’s women to celebrate their deliverance after crossing the Red Sea. All the women followed her lead (Exodus 15). But then she helped instigate a rebellion against her brother Moses about who was going to be in charge (Numbers 12). Because of it, God struck her with leprosy, stalling the entire nation from moving forward. (Thankfully, she is remembered on a positive note – see Micah 6:4 – Aren’t you glad we aren’t known for our worst moments?) Miriam’s words had weighty consequences. She was definitely a woman of influence.
These women weren’t necessarily in some great position of power or financially wealthy. They just used their influence right where they were.
The woman at the well in John 4 went from covering up her past to using it as the introduction to telling her whole town about Jesus, all because she met the Messiah. Huge influence!
Priscilla was uprooted from her home in Rome and started over in Corinth but that didn’t stop her from nurturing a young preacher named Apollos (Acts 18). Influence.
These were ordinary women. Much like us, they probably didn’t feel like they had particularly extraordinary lives. But they all had influence. The question was how they chose to use it.
Maybe you find yourself in the middle of interpersonal conflict like Abigail or discouraged by the lack of faith-filled action like Deborah. Or maybe you’re starting over in a new city, new school or new ministry like Priscilla. Perhaps you feel stuck in a scenario that seems irredeemable like Esther. Or maybe you’ve experienced the Messiah like the woman at the well and are ready to start telling the people around you about Him.
Whoever you are, wherever you are, you are a woman of influence. And the question for you and me is, how will we use it?
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Katie McCoy is the editor of BiblicalWoman.com where this column first appeared and is pursuing a Ph.D. in systematic theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.)

4/22/2015 12:24:41 PM by Katie McCoy, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

How religious liberty dies – new rules of secular left

April 21 2015 by R. Albert Mohler Jr., Guest Column

The vast high-velocity moral revolution that is reshaping modern cultures at warp speed is leaving almost no aspect of the culture untouched and untransformed. The advocates of same-sex marriage and the more comprehensive goals of the LGBT movement assured the nation that nothing would be fundamentally changed if people of the same gender were allowed to marry one another. We knew that could not be true, and now the entire nation knows.
The latest ground zero for the moral revolution is the state of Indiana, where legislators passed a state version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which Gov. Mike Pence then signed into law. The controversy that followed was a free-for-all of misrepresentation and political posturing. Within days, the governor capitulated to the controversy by calling for a revision of the law – a revision that may well make the RFRA a force for weakening religious liberty in Indiana, rather than for strengthening it.
Business, political and civic leaders piled on in a mass act of political posturing. The federal RFRA became law in 1993 in a mass act of bipartisan cooperation. The act passed unanimously in the House of Representatives and with 97 affirmative votes in the Senate.
President Bill Clinton signed the bill into law, celebrating the act as a much needed protection of religious liberty. Clinton called religious liberty the nation’s “first freedom” and went on to state: “We believe strongly that we can never, we can never be too vigilant in this work.”
But, that was then. Indiana is now.
Hillary Clinton, ready to launch her campaign for President, condemned the law as dangerous and discriminatory – even though the law in its federal form has not led to any such discrimination. Apple CEO Tim Cook took to the pages of The Washington Post to declare that the Indiana law “would allow people to discriminate against their neighbors.”
For its part, the Post published an editorial in which the paper’s editorial board condemned a proposed RFRA in the state of Georgia because the law would prevent the state government “from infringing on an individual’s religious beliefs unless the state can demonstrate a compelling interest in doing so.”
So, The Washington Post believes that a state should be able to infringe on a citizen’s religious liberty without a compelling interest? That is the only conclusion a reader can draw from the editorial.
The piling on continued when the governor of Connecticut, Dannel Mulloy announced that he would even forbid travel to Indiana by state officials, conveniently forgetting to mention that his own state has a similar law, as does the federal government.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) piled on, as did a host of sports figures from across the country. More than one pundit pointed to the irony of the NCAA trying to posture on a question of sexual morality, but the pile-on continued.
Law professor Daniel O. Conkle of Indiana University stated the truth plainly when he said: “The reaction to this law is startling in terms of its breadth – and to my mind – the extent to which the reaction is uninformed by the actual content of the law.” Similarly, University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock, a proponent of gay marriage, stated: “The hysteria over this law is so unjustified.” He continued: “It’s not about discriminating against gays in general or across the board … it’s about not being involved in a ceremony that you believe is inherently religious.”
Nevertheless, the real issue here is not the RFRA in Indiana, or Arkansas or another state. The real issue is the fact that the secular Left has decided that religious liberty must now be reduced, redefined or relegated to a back seat in the culture.
The evidence for this massive and dangerous shift is mounting.
One key indicator is found in the editorial pages of The New York Times. That influential paper has appointed itself the guardian of civil liberties, and it has championed Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender causes for decades now. But the paper’s editorial board condemned the Indiana law as “cover for bigotry.”
The most chilling statement in the editorial, however, was this: “The freedom to exercise one’s religion is not under assault in Indiana, or anywhere else in the country. Religious people – including Christians, who continue to make up the majority of Americans – may worship however they wish and say whatever they like.”
There you see religious liberty cut down to freedom of worship.
The freedom to worship is most surely part of what religious liberty protects, but religious liberty is not limited to what happens in a church, temple, mosque or synagogue.
That editorial represents religious liberty redefined before our eyes.
But the clearest evidence of the eagerness of the secular Left to reduce and redefine religious liberty comes in the form of two columns by opinion writer Frank Bruni. The first, published in January, included Bruni’s assurance that he affirmed “the right of people to believe what they do and say what they wish – in their pews, homes and hearts.” Religious liberty is now redefined so that it has no place outside pews, homes, and hearts. Religious liberty no longer has any public significance.
But Bruni does not really affirm religious liberty, even in churches and in the hiring of ministers. He wrote: “And churches have been allowed to adopt broad, questionable interpretations of a ‘ministerial exception’ laws that allow them to hire and fire clergy as they wish.”
The ability of churches to hire and fire ministers as they wish is “questionable.” Remember that line when you are told that your church is promised “freedom of worship.”
But Bruni’s January column was merely a prelude to what came in the aftermath of the Indiana controversy. Now, the openly-gay columnist demands that Christianity reform its doctrines as well.
He opened his column in the paper’s edition published Easter Sunday with this:
“The drama in Indiana last week and the larger debate over so-called religious freedom laws in other states portray homosexuality and devout Christianity as forces in fierce collision. They’re not – at least not in several prominent denominations, which have come to a new understanding of what the Bible does and doesn’t decree, of what people can and cannot divine in regard to God’s will.”
Bruni issued an open demand that evangelical Christians to get over believing that homosexuality is a sin, or suffer the consequences. His language could not be more chilling: “So our debate about religious liberty should include a conversation about freeing religions and religious people from prejudices that they needn’t cling to and can jettison, much as they’ve jettisoned other aspects of their faith’s history, rightly bowing to the enlightenments of modernity.”
There you have it – a demand that religious liberty be debated (much less respected) only if conservative believers will get with the program and, mark his language, bow to the demands of the modern age.
Christianity and homosexuality “don’t have to be in conflict in any church anywhere,” Bruni declared.
He reduced religious conviction to a matter of choice: “But in the end, the continued view of gays, lesbians and bisexuals as sinners is a decision. It’s a choice. It prioritizes scattered passages of ancient texts over all that has been learned since – as if time had stood still, as if the advances of science and knowledge meant nothing. It disregards the degree to which all writings reflect the biases and blind spots of their authors, cultures and eras.”
So the only religion Bruni respects is one that capitulates to the modern age and is found “rightly bowing to the enlightenments of modernity.”
That means giving up the inerrancy of scripture, for one thing. The Bible, according to Bruni, reflects the biases and blind spots of the human authors and their times. When it comes to homosexuality, he insists, we now know better.
This is the anthem of liberal Protestantism, and the so-called mainline Protestant churches have been devoted to this project for the better part of a century now. Bruni applauds the liberal churches for getting with the program and for revising the faith in light of the demands of the modern age – demands that started with the denial of truths such as the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection of Christ, miracles, the verbal inspiration of scripture and other vital doctrines. The liberal churches capitulated on the sexuality issues only after capitulating on a host of central Christian doctrines. Almost nothing is left for them to deny or reformulate.
It is interesting to see how quickly some can get with the program and earn the respect of the secular gatekeepers.
Bruni cites David Gushee of Mercer University as an example of one who has seen the light. “Human understanding of what is sinful has changed over time,” Bruni quotes Gushee. Bruni then stated that Gushee “openly challenges his faith’s censure of same-sex relationships, to which he no longer subscribes.”
But David Gushee agreed with the church’s historic condemnation of same-sex relationships, even in a major work on Christian ethics he co-authored, until he released a book stating otherwise just months ago. Once a public figure gets with the program, whether that person is David Gushee or Barack Obama, all is quickly forgiven.
Bruni also notes that “Christians have moved far beyond Scripture when it comes to gender roles.” He is right to understand that some Christians have indeed done so, and in so doing they have made it very difficult to stop with redefining the Bible on gender roles. Once that is done, there is every reason to expect that a revisionist reading of sexuality is close behind. Bruni knows this, and celebrates it.
Taken together, Frank Bruni’s two columns represent a full-throttle demand for theological capitulation and a fully developed reduction of religious liberty. In his view, stated now in full public view in the pages of The New York Times, the only faiths that deserve religious liberty are those that bow their knees to the ever most costly demands of the modern age.
It is incredibly revealing that the verb he chose was “bowing.” One of the earliest lessons Christians had to learn was that we cannot simultaneously bow the knee to Caesar and to Christ.
We must choose one or the other. Frank Bruni, whether he intended to do so or not, helps us to see that truth with new clarity.
(EDITOR’S NOTE –R. Albert Mohler is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. This column originally appeared on albertmohler.com.)

4/21/2015 10:37:15 AM by R. Albert Mohler Jr., Guest Column | with 0 comments

Call to Prayer: Marriage & the Supreme Court

April 20 2015 by Russell Moore, ERLC president

The Supreme Court will soon decide whether states can legally choose to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. It is a watershed moment in our nation’s history.
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission has filed briefs with the court; argued in public and in private about why marriage, defined as the union of one man and one woman, matters as a social good; and more than there is space to list here.
But beyond all this we as Christians and churches need to pray – because marriage is not just another culture war issue.
As Christians we know that it is not even possible for any government to actually redefine what God has defined from eternity. Marriage is about more than registering relationships at a courthouse.
Marriage is about the common good and flourishing of society, but is also an icon of the union between Christ and his church, embedded in the creation (Ephesians 5:22-31). Without a Christian vision of marriage, we have no Christian vision of the gospel.
As a church we need to pray that marriage will not be treated as if it were a tattered house standing in the way of government construction – there to be plowed out of the way in the name of progress. And yet, on the other hand, we must pray and ask God to give us wisdom so that moving forward we would be able to spell out with convictional kindness why marriage matters, in light of who we are as men and women and in light of the gospel mystery of Christ and His church.
We ought to pray that Jesus would overcome the atrophy that we’ve allowed our own marriages and families to fall into for too long. The belief in our churches that culture was enough to keep marriages intact has been exposed as a disastrous folly. With chaos like adultery, abandonment and divorce running rampant in our pews, how did we fail to see that we were then, in that moment, outsourcing our marriages and our families to culture?
But most of all, we must pray that, regardless of whether our land’s highest court recognizes the unchangeable or not, we will hold steadfast. We must love our neighbors enough to have the confidence of people who have heard a word from God and the compassion of a people who are on a mission with God. We must learn from our Savior, who was neither shocked by the Samaritan woman’s sexual sin nor afraid to speak a word of repentance to her conscience. “Woman, go get your husband and come here” is our model: an unashamed assessment of sin and an unrestrained invitation to come to Jesus.
The stakes are high. The price of getting marriage wrong is steep, and as in the rest of the sexual revolution, children will foot much of the bill. It matters tremendously to our nation and to future generations that we agree with God on this.
Let’s pray that the Supreme Court gets this right and stays within the limits of its authority – recognizing that the state did not create the family, and it cannot recreate it. And at the same time let’s pray with confidence, knowing that regardless of how the court decides, on the other side of our culture wars there is a sexual counter-revolution waiting to be born again.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Russell Moore is president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. For information on the ERLC #PrayforMarriage initiative, visit erlc.com/prayformarriage.)

4/20/2015 11:46:15 AM by Russell Moore, ERLC president | with 0 comments

Discipling Guys

April 16 2015 by Andy Davis, 9Marks

The idea of pouring into younger disciples was engrained in me from the very beginning of my Christian life. But in the last two decades, I have seen more specifically the need to focus on training men.
Every follower of Christ, should be taught to obey everything Christ has commanded. Yet God places a special burden of leadership on men, and there is no better way for men to be prepared to shoulder that burden than in the context of a committed mentoring relationship with a godly man in a local church.

Our context: Widespread gender confusion

There is a systematic, Satanic attack on the very concept of gender, and with it, gender-based roles at home and in all society. Leaders in the church need to be very aware of the nature and seriousness of this attack and rise up to meet the challenge with good, biblical ministry to both men and women.
Because of this, boys don’t enter the world knowing how to be godly men; they have to be trained into it. Of course, the primary training role for that formation should be the boy’s father. He is to disciple his son every day in the Word of the Lord and in the pattern of godly living.
But while godly fathers are by far the best disciplers of young men into Christ-like manhood, spiritual fathers can play a vital role as well. This is where a mentor, a pastor, or a discipler can step in and take the young man beyond where his father has left off. In a day of rampant absenteeism among biological fathers, the next generation of spiritual leaders is yearning for godly men to step up and serve as an adoptive spiritual father.

A few basic principles in discipling young men

1) Conform them to the “two patterns.”
The New Testament reveals two “patterns” of discipleship to which every disciple must conform: the pattern of sound teaching (2 Timothy 1:13) and the pattern of godly living (Philippians 3:16). There must be a doctrinal/biblical/bookish side as well as a “life on life,” role-modeling side.
According to the first pattern, we must saturate men’s hearts in scripture and in sound theology. Use the classics from church history: Calvin’s Institutes, the writings of the Puritans, the sermons of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and so forth.
The second “pattern” (example of godly living) is worth an extra comment when it comes to manhood. Young men may very well never have seen a godly husband love his wife as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25), or a godly father bring up his children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). It would be excellent to have a disciple regularly observing the home life of his mentor, because some things cannot be learned but by example. This is why Paul says, “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
When it comes to church leadership, opportunities for this abound:
            allow them to watch you meet with a grieving family as you prepare a funeral;
            take them with you to conferences at which you may be speaking;
            have them with you when writing your sermon;
            spend time with them on your knees in praying through the church directory;
            take them with you to the hospital;
            lead them in outreach activities in the community.
In order to shape the hearts and lives of future leaders, these two patterns must be employed.
2) Impart a vision of godly leadership.
Make this vision of leadership plain: God is raising up men to lead at home and in the church. In both the Old and New Testaments, God establishes men to lead his people in every generation, and that should be a clear goal of your discipleship relationship.
In the context of discipling relationship, your goal is to help a younger brother understand that the church needs wise leaders who will teach sound doctrine and shepherd Christ’s flock in humility and strength (Acts 20:17-38; 1 Peter 5:1-4). God may be raising him up, preparing him to be a part of a godly group of elders who will lead the church. And this leadership must be along biblical lines if we are to achieve the Great Commission Christ entrusted to us.
Finally, a young man should understand that you expect him to be doing this same type of discipling of young men when he is “fully trained” (Luke 6:40).
3) Warn about the two failure modes of male leaders: tyranny and abdication.
Some husbands and church leaders embrace their role as leaders with an ungodly ambition. They make tyrannical decisions that ruin the lives of their families and churches. Such men are abusive, and the people they lead do not flourish under their leadership.
To combat this failure, we must teach young men the principles of servant leadership that Jesus espoused in Matthew 20:25-28. Leaders serve the people they lead, and we must display that.
On the other hand, the far more common error for men is abdication. Adam was put in the Garden of Eden “to serve and protect it” (literal translation of Genesis 2:15). “Protect” implies an encroaching evil, and that manifested itself in Satan’s treacherous attack on the mind of Adam’s wife in the very next chapter. Eve did all the talking. Adam, “who was with her” (Gen 3:6), stood there and did nothing. Far more husbands and fathers, and possible church leaders, abdicate their responsibilities than use their position as tyrants.
Therefore, we must teach young men to step up to embrace the role of leadership with courage and humility. Again, your own role modeling of this cheerful willingness to lead in the pattern of Christ is vital. The young men need to see you leading both at home and in the church, neither as a tyrant, nor as a coward. Your own hospitality plays a critical role in this: have them over frequently to watch your patterns of gentle leadership with your children and the loving way you encourage your wife.
4) Engender godly ambition based on 1 Timothy 3:1.
Paul says, “If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a good thing.” This is a godly ambition for the future, and every young man in the church should have it. Even if God does not bless the man with the gift of teaching necessary to the office, the rest of the attributes listed in 1 Timothy 3:2-4 are common to all Christian men: above reproach, husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money, managing his family (children) well.
These virtues provide a roadmap for discipling young men. And even if they don’t show themselves as gifted teachers, they can still receive the same training as other future elders, because that doctrinal instruction will serve them well as future husbands and fathers.
So, a mature mentor should wisely implant a burning coal of godly ambition to be a future elder in the young man’s heart, and then fan it into flame as a central goal of his discipleship.
5) Give them opportunities to serve, then evaluate their service.
The discipler should constantly seek specific ministry tasks he can entrust to his disciple, appropriate to his level of development. That might involve opportunities to teach, evangelize, lead prayer meetings, do menial support tasks, plan events or run the audio-visual booth.
Perhaps you can entrust a man with a Wednesday night Bible study, and then take notes on how he did. In general you want to give gentle and loving feedback.
Or allow a man to organize a summer outreach event. He can research what other churches have done to connect with lost people, and let him come up with an idea, organize and run it. Then evaluate the event, emphasizing the positive aspects, but giving clear guidance on ways to grow.
When evaluating performance, it’s vital for the mentor to be super-encouraging as a rule. The disciple truly yearns for the approval of his “spiritual father.” And so consistent words of love and admiration (like Paul does for Timothy) are essential to the relationship. Having said that, good, specific and constructive criticism is also required.
6) Challenge them to memorize Scripture.
No discipline has been more helpful in the process of my spiritual maturity than the memorization of extended portions of scripture. This commitment is quite doable, and will pay back huge interest for the investment made.
Scripture memorization will help a young man in his own personal walk with Christ, in his evangelism, in his (present or future) marriage and parenting, and in his ministry of the Word. This has been a central pillar of my discipleship of young men for decades.
7) Identify a “pipeline” of future leaders in your local church.
Be watching some men who may have the requisite characteristics to be a future disciple: faithful, available, teachable. A healthy local church will have an ongoing pattern of discipling young men as future husbands, fathers and church leaders.
8) Pray daily for their growth.
Follow the patterns of the apostle Paul in praying for spiritual development in your disciples. Pray Ephesians 1:15-19 and 3:14-21 for them. Pray Philippians 1:9-11 and Colossians 1:9-14 as well. Let your disciples hear you praying these things for them, and encourage them to pray them for you as well.

A sweetly rewarding ministry

Discipling eager young men for future leadership in the home and the church is one of the most sweetly rewarding aspects of ministry that I’ve ever encountered. May God richly bless your efforts as you pour into the next generation of leaders of the glorious church of Jesus Christ!
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Andy Davis is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina.)

4/16/2015 10:47:23 AM by Andy Davis, 9Marks | with 0 comments

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