August 2015

Should we watch murders on social media?

August 31 2015 by Russell Moore, ERLC President

I watched a video that I’m ashamed to say I viewed.
No, it wasn’t pornography – at least not the kind of pornography we typically think of. The video was the live shooting of two television journalists as they were reporting in Virginia. At the time, I saw the post on Twitter, which noted “unexplained shooting noises.”
When I watched the clip, I assumed there was gunshots around them and that the journalist and her interviewee had ducked for cover. It wasn’t until later that I learned that what I had seen was a cold-blooded murder streaming across my Twitter feed.
There’s been much debate as to whether news sources should show the video, or whether people should watch it on their social media feeds.
Many respected voices are calling this the equivalent of a “snuff film,” the sort of twisted video that feeds into morbidity and bloodlust. The killer himself recorded the bloodshed on his phone and immediately posted their deaths onto social media, where thousands, and perhaps millions of people, could watch it again and again.
On the one hand, I strongly believe that we should not hide from the reality of evil. That’s why, when many suggested media shouldn’t carry images of the falling twin towers after the September 11, 2001, attacks, I disagreed. We should see the images before us, if we as citizens are to know the depth of injustice with which we are called to address militarily. The Planned Parenthood undercover videos are awful, but I have encouraged people to view them, precisely because our consciences must be made aware of this injustice toward the most vulnerable among us.
So, what then should we make of this, what Charles Cooke [on the National Review website] is calling “the first social media murder”?
I don’t think we should watch the video.
I don’t think we should post it.
And I don’t think media outlets should run it.
Here’s why. We have no lack of consensus in our society that the gunning down of innocent people is morally wrong. To be fair, we do have legitimate debate about what to do about gun violence but not about the morality of the violence itself. The conscience of society is already awakened to the horror of such evil.
Moreover, our watching the video seems to feed into the wicked desires of the murderer himself. He chose, after all, to carry out this atrocity on what he knew would be a live television feed. He wanted not only to kill these innocents but also to broadcast their deaths. Perhaps he wanted the notoriety of killing. Perhaps he wanted to humiliate them with the recording of their deaths at his hands. We shouldn’t enable this murderer his wishes. He wanted not only to murder their physical lives but to murder their digital images as well.
As Christians, we ought to have very sensitive consciences to this. Our Lord Jesus, after all, was murdered by the Roman Empire, publicly humiliated on a cross where he was mocked by the populace for the shame of the way he was killed. The cross was meant to signal not only death but also the most shameful death possible, as a way of warning others not to commit the same acts. The church reclaimed the cross but not on Rome’s terms. The cross is explained, for us, in light of incarnation and the resurrection and the enthronement of Christ.
A videotaped massacre can easily be a kind of pornography, turning human beings – made in the image of God – into spectacles, all while giving the illusion of a safe distance between their suffering and the audience.
We can justify watching this as “being informed,” but there is a very thin line these days between news and entertainment. The last thing we should ever be entertained by is the taking of human life. That’s why our early Christian ancestors refused to go to the gladiatorial games.
This killer’s video isn’t exposing darkness. It is celebrating darkness. He put forward a kind of pornography of violence, and from that we must turn away.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Russell Moore is president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. This article first appeared at Russell Moore’s website,

8/31/2015 11:27:11 AM by Russell Moore, ERLC President | with 0 comments

Should I tithe when I have debt?

August 28 2015 by Art Rainer, SEBTS Vice President for Institutional Advancement

When faced with financial difficulties, the question of whether or not to tithe or give often arises. And the reason is simple. There is a desire to use every last penny to help get themselves out of the situation. If you have or are facing financial challenges, you have probably considered not giving. It may seem to be the most logical option for you. But before you decide to abandon your giving, consider the following five points:
God tells us to give. The Bible tells us to give and to do it joyfully. The concept of proportional giving (giving based on percentage of income rather than specific amount) is woven throughout the Bible. Personally, I think 10% of gross (before taxes) income is a great place to start and by no means a limit. Where should you give? Start with your local church.
Giving occurs first, not last. Also woven throughout the Bible is the idea that giving takes place first, not last. Giving is not about providing the leftovers. Giving is a prioritized act that often requires sacrifice. Before bills? Yes. Before debt? Yes. Before savings? Yes. Understandably, this prioritized act can be a massive challenge for those in financial distress. And we will get to that in point five.
God does not include an exclusion clause. When the Bible talks about giving, there is no “out.” There are no loopholes or exclusion clauses. There are no reasons provided for not giving. We give because He gave so generously to us. He gave us something priceless. He gave us something no dollar amount given could ever compare. He gave us Jesus.
We should not let one bad decision cause us to make another bad decision. There are cases where financial downfalls are completely out of our hands. But often, we are the cause of our own financial hardship. We didn’t budget our money. We bought houses, cars, and clothes we could not afford. We took out too many loans. We built up balances on high interest rate credit cards. Poor financial decisions do not give us reason to make another bad decision – not giving like God desires us to give.
God delights in those who obey when obedience is not convenient. In Mark 12:41-44, we see Jesus point out a poor widow who put two tiny coins into the temple treasury. In the midst of many rich people giving large amounts of money, He said she gave the most because she gave out of sacrifice. She gave when it was inconvenient. If anyone had a reason not to give, it was her. But she was obedient. God saw this and delighted in it. And God will delight in your decision to give even when it is not convenient.
A joyful attitude toward giving does not negate the fact that real sacrifice is taking place. Joyful givers can have a lot, have a little, or be in the midst of financial turmoil. Whatever your circumstance may be, find joy in giving, not because it is easy, but because you trust God with everything, including your finances.
(EDITOR'S NOTE – Art Rainer is vice president for institutional advancement at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and cofounder of Rainer Publishing. This article first appeared at his blog,

8/28/2015 1:17:15 PM by Art Rainer, SEBTS Vice President for Institutional Advancement | with 1 comments

KATRINA 2005-15: ‘We remember’

August 27 2015 by David Hankins, Louisiana Baptist Message

It’s hard to believe it has been 10 years since Hurricane Katrina left her mark across southeast Louisiana. Who can forget how we felt when we saw the broken levees, the flooded homes and churches, the devastation at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, the Superdome refugees and the broken lives.
Just a month later, approximately 200 miles to the west, Lake Charles and southwest Louisiana were coming to grips with the devastation left by Hurricane Rita.
As Baptists from New Orleans returned home to the devastation, Southern Baptists were there with hot meals, prayer, counsel and their own sweat to start the process of rebuilding. While we helped those in need, opportunity after opportunity occurred, and Southern Baptists shared the transforming gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Dennis Watson, pastor of Celebration Church in New Orleans, saw firsthand the combined strength of Southern Baptists. Within two weeks after Hurricane Katrina, Celebration Church’s relief center was serving thousands of families. “This was for a period of nine months,” Watson recounted, “and with the help of over 20,000 volunteers,” most of whom were Southern Baptists.
Through all of the disaster relief, recovery and rebuilding, thousands of people came to faith in Christ. Celebration Church reaches more people now than it did before the storm.
David Crosby, pastor of First Baptist in New Orleans, relays a similar experience: “Our local association, state convention and national entities were very important in the immediate aftermath of the storm and through years of rebuilding.
“Katrina washed our people out of the building and into the streets of our city,” Crosby said. “This may be the reason God allowed the storm to come – to change the way we do church.”
From across the country, thousands of volunteers from churches and schools came to help with the recovery. More than 3,500 volunteers from 404 churches, 34 state conventions and multiple associations assisted with the rebuilding of First Baptist in Chalmette. Pastor John Jeffries says the storm refocused their evangelistic endeavors.
Down the road from Chalmette is Poydras, where John Galey serves as pastor of Poydras Baptist Church. “We had five feet of water throughout all three of our buildings [auditorium, educational building and fellowship hall]. Almost all of St. Bernard Parish was under water,” Galey said.
When he returned October 2005, he was the first Southern Baptist pastor in the parish. The Missouri Baptist Convention adopted St. Bernard Parish and volunteers from Missouri poured into the area. Galey noted that “Missouri Baptists helped us when we could not even help ourselves.”
Since Katrina, churches like Celebration, First Baptist, Poydras and others are experiencing the phenomenon of members engaging the community in multiple and creative ways. New churches have started in the New Orleans area that reflect a passion to reach various people groups that live in the heart of the city and surrounding areas.
Today we are better prepared for a disaster. We know more about mobilizing people and resources for relief and rebuilding. We’ve learned the value of communicating and networking together. For Louisiana Baptists, we’ve learned afresh the importance of Southern Baptists cooperating together with the goal of permeating one of our nation’s great cities with the Gospel.
This fall, in conjunction with the 10th anniversary of Katrina, Louisiana Baptists will launch our Here for You initiative. This multi-platform, multi-year media strategy is designed to give every person in the state the opportunity to say “yes” to a relationship with Jesus.
So 10 years later, we remember the prayers, support and volunteers who flooded into our state. We remember how blessed we are to be a part of a family of believers who rally around each other during such catastrophic times. And we remember the challenge of our Lord to share His love with those living in New Orleans and beyond.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Hankins is executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. This column first appeared in the Baptist Message at, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)

8/27/2015 11:20:05 AM by David Hankins, Louisiana Baptist Message | with 0 comments

KATRINA 2005-15: ‘Test of our faith’

August 26 2015 by Fred Luter, Louisiana Baptist Message

Ten years ago our lives were drastically changed by Hurricane Katrina. Not only did it impact our city physically, but it impacted us spiritually and emotionally. It was a time we will never forget.
It was a test of our faith. It was a test of our belief. It also was a test of our willingness to come back and rebuild.
It took us two and a half years to get back in the church here (Franklin Avenue Baptist Church New Orleans). In the meantime we worshipped at several campuses – First Baptist Church in New Orleans, Istrouma Baptist Church in Baton Rouge and First Baptist Church in Houston.
Before Katrina we were the church gathered. After Katrina we were the church scattered.
Now we are back. However, there are a whole lot of folks who are still displaced and would love to come back home but have not had the opportunity.
I have great hope that things will continue to grow and our city will continue to be impacted and grow. We will never be the city we had before. But I think God has great plans for us in the city of New Orleans.

Always committed to returning

Once we saw the devastation in the city and our church, it was horrific. I was determined from day one that I was going to come back. We have been such a vital part of our community that I could not see us not coming back. Franklin Avenue has been a beacon of light and hope. If there was any chance the neighborhood would come back, Franklin Avenue would have to come back.
There was never a doubt at all we wouldn’t come back. But I didn’t know it would take us so long.
One thing I vividly remember when I was living in Birmingham and coming back and forth every week to the city. One of the members had put a cardboard sign in front of the church: “Pastor Luter, where are you?”
That brought tears to my eyes. To see that person concerned about her pastor and whether or not I was doing well was one of the stories that always sticks to me.

Proud of Baptist response

After the storm, one of the things I was most proud about was the response by our Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams. I brag about our disaster relief efforts. There are not a lot of organizations that have been able to do what we were able to do successfully.
Our teams came here, not knowing what was going to happen and what they were going to be confronted with. They went to every area of the city and not to help out just Southern Baptist churches. They helped anyone who needed to be helped.
The Times-Picayune ran an editorial at a time when the rebuilding process was going slowly. The editorial said that if Southern Baptists would have been responsible for rebuilding the city, it would have been rebuilt by now. That made me so proud.
I want to thank all of those who came across the country to help us out here in New Orleans. We would not be where we are without the assistance and prayers.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Fred Luter is pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, which was flooded by the levee breaks in New Orleans after Katrina. Luter also was the 2012-14 president of the Southern Baptist Convention. This article first appeared in the Baptist Message at, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)

8/26/2015 12:50:56 PM by Fred Luter, Louisiana Baptist Message | with 0 comments

‘My Last Column’

August 21 2015 by Phil Boatwright, Baptist Press

If you were a writer and you knew you could only author one more feature story, what would it be?
I’m a writer. Not quite in league with Ernest Hemingway, but nonetheless, a scribbler who has managed to con many an editor into thinking I know a predicate from a pronoun.
I once wrote a book, afterwards discovering the use of adverbs should be kept to a minimum. Leafing through it, I realized my book was all adverbs. If you find that confession amusing, I borrowed the witticism from David Niven, who authored four books with a skill I have yet to achieve.
Now, despite the provocative title to this piece, I don’t actually plan on this being my last column. But someday, my columns will cease. Either the editors at Baptist Press will finally realize that my improper use of commas is the least of my writing deficiencies; or I’ll get hit by a bus as I cross the street on my way to a press screening of yet another Marvel comic book come to screen life. Or, maybe I’ll just become a Methodist, a rather unlikely event. Whatever the future holds, that last writing assignment will eventually come.
This subject may seem somewhat macabre, so let me assure you, I haven’t had any premonitions, no sad pronouncements from doctors, no visions of a shadowy figure with a scythe. Lately, I have simply wondered how my journalistic epitaph would someday read. What would I be remembered for?
It would be nice to be remembered as a good writer. I understand the best writers get awards, but I’m a realist. Those punctuation problems will haunt me. And as birthdays creep past, now at an accelerated pace, acknowledgments from friend or foe don’t seem quite as important.
Do I want to be remembered as a lover of the cinema? Yes and no.
Ecclesiastes 3 tells us that there is a time to laugh and a time to dance. This supports the belief that we need recreation and fun, and can be interpreted as a defense for time spent at the movies. For me, movies are the essence of all art forms, and besides being amused and moved by many a motion picture, I’ve also learned about my fellow man, myself and my God. But the psalmist says in Psalm 101, “I will set before my eyes no vile thing.” So, I analyze Hollywood and its effect on our culture in hopes my efforts will aid others. That said, I want to be remembered for something else.
Though the majority of my readers have already turned their lives over to Christ, what about the one who has yet to make that most important of decisions? I’d like my last column to be aimed at him or her. It’s not the love of movies I want to be remembered for, but the declaration of my faith.
In this age when those who believe the Big Bang was the miraculous but undesigned birth point of existence, I maintain a belief in God’s existence. Despite my failings, foibles, faults and sins, I am assured that one day I’ll stand accepted before the most Holy God, because of His grace and Christ’s sacrifice. I want that same assurance for everyone.
For those who accept science as the answer to the unknown, here’s an experiment that begins with a prayer: “God, if You exist, reveal Yourself to me through Your Word. I will seek theological counsel, I will read the Bible, and I will pray in order to find Your true purpose for my life.” Give that exercise a year and I promise our Heavenly Father will not ignore the sincere entreaty. Or are you afraid to discover that even science had a Creator?
Since I have been writing about Hollywood for more than 30 years, I’d end my final editorial with this warning: to discern the media’s misconceptions and misdirection we must be grounded in scriptural teaching. Those teachings are the armor we need to put on – daily.
Lest you think this piece is narcissistic, allow me to ask, what will you be remembered for?
That’s what I’d say if this were my last column. But it’s not. I’ll be back next month; well, if I don’t get hit by that bus.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Phil Boatwright, in addition to writing for Baptist Press, reviews films for and is a regular contributor to “The World and Everything In It,” a weekly radio program from WORLD News Group.)

8/21/2015 11:01:53 AM by Phil Boatwright, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Four words every Southern Baptist needs today

August 20 2015 by Ronnie Floyd, SBC President

In this critical hour in our nation and world, I want to challenge each Christ follower and church to live by these four words.

1. Truth

In a day when people want to define their own truth, I believe we need to anchor our lives and ministries in God’s truth. I am speaking about truth that has always been true, is true, and will be forever true. Our churches, leaders, state and national conventions, and our state and national entities need to be fastened to the truth of God.
If we are not anchored in God’s truth, we will drift away from it. Our people and churches are challenged more in this area today than ever before.
Fastening ourselves to scripture is the only way to avoid ending up in a ditch or drifting away from God’s truth. In my newest book, Forward, I share in depth about the importance of truth.
I am anchored to the Bible. I believe in biblical inerrancy. I believe God inspired the scripture; therefore, it is entirely true, authoritative and trustworthy. It is God’s truth without error.
Do not assume your people believe and abide by this. Yes, this is our hope, but we must always lift up God’s truth, His scripture, as the authoritative and infallible word on all things.
The assault on God’s truth is relentless, and our people need to be encouraged to abide by God’s Word continually. Please do all you can wherever you are to lift up God’s Word. What He says, He means. God always has the final word.

2. Courage

We need courage more today than ever before. There is so much at stake in our nation and world. Pastors, churches and conventions must exhibit courage, always in love.
We need courageous pastors, leaders, churches and conventions. The need for courage will only grow in the coming days. I can illustrate this for you with two examples from just last week.
Union University, located in Jackson, Tenn., has announced they have withdrawn from the Council of Christian Colleges & Universities because two member institutions have endorsed same-sex marriage. President Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver and the Board of Trustees at Union exhibited courage in this situation. I applaud Dr. Oliver and the board, and may God keep Union University forever latched onto scripture.
Since 1985, Dr. Barry McCarty has served as the chief parliamentarian of the Southern Baptist Convention. At the end of last week, it was announced that Dr. McCarty and his sweet wife Pat are joining a Southern Baptist church and becoming Southern Baptists. Why? I will abbreviate what he stated:

  • Southern Baptists are committed to holy scripture and our statement of faith.

  • Southern Baptists are speaking out on culture issues with clarity and integrity.

  • Southern Baptists are penetrating lostness in North America and the world.

It took courage for Barry and his wife to make this decision. We love Barry and Pat. Even though they seemed like family already, we welcome them formally and rejoice in their future not only as Southern Baptists, but also as faculty at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
I call upon us humbly today to live and lead courageously.

3. Future

As we are fastened to scripture, living and leading courageously, we cannot lead looking backward. We must keep our eyes on the future. What does God have for you in your future? What does God have in the future for your church? What does God have in the future for our convention?
I cannot paint a perfect picture of what it will look like in my future or the future of my church; therefore, I certainly cannot do that for you or our convention. What I do know is where I am in my life, ministry, church and leadership, which leads to my prayer of conviction and surrender daily: “Lord, I am Yours, willing and available to do whatever it is You desire me to do in my life, ministry, church and leadership. Whatever it is, the answer is ‘Yes’.” I try to lead my church this way daily.
Learn from the past. Focus on the future.

4. Family

In this context, I am speaking of our Southern Baptist family. As we are fastened to scripture, living and leading courageously, and keeping our eyes on the future, we need each other more than ever before.
As a pastor or leader of a Christian institution or ministry, I would not want to fly solo in our culture today. I want to be part of a strong convention, denomination, or network that is latched onto scripture in a firm manner. This is why I have reiterated that we must position ourselves as a convention that is ready to receive churches that fully agree with us doctrinally, missionally and cooperatively into our denominational family. Thousands of strong, evangelical Bible-believing churches need a family such as ours.
Southern Baptists, we need one another and we need other churches and ministries who believe like we believe biblically, missiologically and cooperatively. Our task is bigger than any of us. We must find a way to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and make disciples of all the nations.
We cannot do this alone. We need family.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ronnie Floyd is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas. This column first appeared at Ronnie Floyd’s blog,

8/20/2015 11:23:01 AM by Ronnie Floyd, SBC President | with 0 comments

Ethicists & biomedical researchers

August 19 2015 by Barry Creamer, Baptist Press

Harvard psychology professor and author Steven Pinker, in an op-ed for the Boston Globe, makes his case for biomedical research to be unencumbered by moral abstractions.
Pinker concludes his Aug. 1 piece with a reference to the Greek mythological figure Sisyphus, who had the fate of perpetually rolling a boulder up a hill, only for it roll back down. Pinker argues that “the last thing” biomedical research needs is “a lobby of so-called ethicists helping to push the rock down the hill.”
While Pinker rightly notes the incredible advances and accompanying benefits afforded humanity through biomedical research and development, he is mystifyingly misguided about the proper relationship between science (or technology) and ethics.
I am tempted to argue with each of his claims. Something like this:
Pinker: “Some say that it’s simple prudence to pause and consider the long-term implications of research before it rushes headlong into changing the human condition. But this is an illusion.”
Me: “Somehow I suspect that famed physicists such as Robert Oppenheimer and Neils Bohr of the 20th century would disagree, along with whoever introduced kudzu to southern farmers.” The point is simply that pausing to apply a moral imagination to the future doesn’t kill research or its potential applications. But it might just avoid an otherwise unforeseen consequence as potentially destructive as the foreseen one was potentially beneficial.
Pinker: “Contrary to confident predictions during my childhood, the turn of the 21st century did not bring domed cities, jetpack commuting, robot maids, mechanical hearts, or regularly scheduled flights to the moon.” His point is that imagining technology’s future beyond a few years is futile.
Me: “Any attempt to claim that the moral imaginings of the late British authors Aldous Huxley and George Orwell are futile is, well, futile.” (Huxley penned Brave New World; Orwell, 1984 and Animal Farm.) Of course the technological imagination is incapable of accurately describing the future – we don’t know what new mold is going to grow accidentally in someone’s Petri dish. Still, the persistence of human nature in moral imagination can yield helpful discussions of what might come down the road if we choose this or that path.
I could go on. But these refutations only distract from the one truly disturbing implication of Pinker’s argument.
The gist of his argument is that ethicists should be silenced, at least in their efforts to restrain biomedical research’s progress, by the ethical imperative to make these biomedical advances. The advances are so great – the contribution to happiness so significant and extensive – that no ethical qualm is worth the delay it might bring to the application of science’s remedies to human suffering.
That demand is stunning.
A real ethicist – the kind Christian ethicist Paul Ramsey described during the last century – is willing to call for moratoria on all kinds of scientific endeavors. Human cloning and fetal stem cell research would start my list. They expect scientists to continue to push the boundaries and, sometimes, the push and pull between scientists and ethicists will end up reinforcing the boundary. Other times it will obliterate it.
While I wish the result were always the best, it’s not. But it is a lot better than having no tug-of-war at all. That is, ethicists might consider a progressive scientist a nuisance, but they and all of society benefit from having to address his attempt to go beyond previous limits, no matter who wins the argument. Humanity benefits not simply from a monolithic progression of one discipline’s progress, but from the interaction of a variety of ideas, perspectives, disciplines and practices. To think otherwise is to eliminate the value of other people in the mix.
Scientists don’t study ethics, unless it’s a hobby or they are multi-disciplinary. But even then, they are rarely focused on it. Specialization is a beautiful and powerful thing for humanity. Scientists and engineers know how to do things ethicists shouldn’t handle without adult supervision. But ethicists also address matters neither visible through the medical researcher’s most advanced microscope nor comprehended by even the most persuasive rhetoric.
I mentioned Pinker’s reference to Sisyphus earlier. In reality, it’s not just biomedical research, but advancing human flourishing which will always be akin to Sisyphus. The last thing we need is a scientist telling half the humans trying to keep the rock moving uphill to quit pushing. Scientists push from one side, ethicists from the other.
Each side should probably be a little more grateful for the help the other is giving. Certainly neither should wish for the other simply to go away.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Barry Creamer is president of Criswell College in Dallas and professor of humanities.)

8/19/2015 11:15:53 AM by Barry Creamer, Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Trigger warning! The Bible may disturb your emotional health

August 18 2015 by Trevin Wax, Religion News Service

Before you read this article, be warned! You may come across something you disagree with, or an idea that makes you uncomfortable, or a statement that causes offense. Please shut off your mobile device or close your browser, and back away slowly from your computer.
I’m kidding, of course. But only a little.
There’s a movement afoot in many universities and colleges across the country. It’s driven by the vision for the campus to be a “safe space” where ideas and words that make someone uncomfortable can be easily avoided. In New York magazine, Jonathan Chait describes it as a renewed strain of political correctness, a kind of “language policing” that poisons political debate and shuts down discussion.
In The Atlantic, Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff argue that this strain of political correctness is primarily about “emotional well-being,” protecting students from psychological harm. It’s “the coddling of the American mind,” they say, in a twist on Allan Bloom’s famous work, The Closing of the American Mind.
One example of turning college into a “safe space” is the recent trend of putting “trigger warnings” on books – alerts from a professor that something in the course may stir up a strong, emotional response from the students. The motivation behind trigger warnings is sensitivity to people who have had traumatic experiences, a way of letting them know they may be disturbed by what they read.
Unfortunately, in a collegiate atmosphere tense with the fear of perpetual offense, the number of “triggers” have multiplied, and many of the most important books in history are getting labeled, and in some cases, dismissed.
For example, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby gets a trigger warning because of its depiction of misogyny and abuse. The classic myths of ancient Greek literature get trigger warnings because of rape.
Can you imagine how many trigger warnings the Bible would get? If there has ever been a book that is designed to make you uncomfortable and challenge your way of thinking, it’s the Bible.
Christian radio stations love to say they’re “safe for the whole family,” but that slogan wouldn’t fit if they were reading the whole Bible out loud as part of their programming. Violence, abuse, torture, rape, slavery – these are the warnings we’d have to issue by the time we finished reading the Bible’s first book, Genesis.
The further you read, the more challenges you find to today’s political correctness. The storyline of the Bible starts with a God who created human beings in his image as the crowning achievement of his creation (trigger warning: speciesism!). He created humans male and female (gender binary alert!) to subdue and cultivate the Earth (ecology alert!), to join together as the two halves of humanity in covenant marriage (marriage discrimination!), to be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth with icons of his glory (overpopulation!).
After the human race revolts against God, the stories of the Bible follow a long line of humans who are idolatrous to the core, willing to substitute anything and everything for worshipping God (low self-esteem!). The diagnosis for humanity is bleak, but the thread running through the narrative is one of God showing mercy and grace to his chosen people, Israel, (ethnocentrism!) in order that he might one day bless the whole world.
For Christians, God’s rescue plan happens only through sacrifice – blood sacrifice that covers our guilt and shame (Sorry, PETA!). Their Bible climaxes with Jesus the Messiah who lives the life God always intended for humanity, shows the world what God is like, extends mercy to those who oppose him, and willingly offers himself as the final and ultimate sacrifice for the sins of the world. In the Gospels, the trigger warnings multiply: torture, injustice, abuse and execution.
No “trigger warnings” stitched onto the earliest New Testament manuscripts would have been more accurate than to say, “Warning – this story may change your life.” Because, for 2,000 years, people who encounter Jesus in the pages of the New Testament find themselves transformed. And week after week, they gather to sing and celebrate the breaking of his body and the shedding of his blood (trigger warning: torture!).
Whether or not you believe the primary message of the Bible, surely we can agree that it is counterproductive to try and shield people from the most influential book of all time. This is where trigger warnings, no matter their good intentions, let us down. They assume it is damaging to our emotional health to come into contact with powerful ideas that may disturb us or challenge our outlook on life.
I’m glad we live in a free society where we don’t have to worry about a totalitarian regime banning or burning certain books. But what happens when the tyrant forbidding us to read great literature is our own emotional well-being?
What happens when we sever ourselves from the books that made Western civilization? If the coddling of the American mind continues unabated, with its tendency to dismiss ideas that offend us, we may one day find ourselves in a brave new world, a world in which the powerful won’t need to round up and burn “dangerous” books by force, because the populace will have already burned them all by choice.
(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.”)

8/18/2015 11:56:27 AM by Trevin Wax, Religion News Service | with 0 comments

I implore you

August 17 2015 by Sharayah Colter, The Southern Baptist TEXAN

Having watched the videos depicting the barbarism of taxpayer-funded abortion in America, my stomach churned as I watched a scene that belongs in an MA-rated horror movie.
A full-grown human hand approaches a glass dish from the right side of the frame, tweezers positioned between the fingers where chopsticks would go. The tweezers pinch a pink fleshy limb, captured clearly by the camera. It is a hand, a wrist and an arm; no shoulder is attached. In the dish below the tiny arm, I see a leg. Eyeballs and lungs are among the other baby parts identified in the video.
Horrifyingly, some admit they watched these videos but remain unfazed. More than once, scripture refers to this as people who have “eyes to see but do not see, ears to hear but do not hear” (Ezekiel 12:2).
You and I elected to Congress many with these unseeing eyes. On Aug. 3, when the members of the Senate had a chance to pass a game-changing, life-saving bill to defund Planned Parenthood, they didn’t.
Be assured, however, this spiritual-physical battle is not over. As long as you and I are breathing, we must fight for those whose first breath is under siege – for the boy who cannot scream from within the womb when a metal instrument approaches to dismember him and for the girl who cannot run from her med-school-trained attacker.
Until we have made abortion unimaginable for every sane American, we follow the apostle Paul’s directions: “... let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). We don’t have the option of apathy or making excuses, of which there have been plenty: “I’m not political.” “I’m busy.” “The videos are gross.” “It’s not my business.”
Oh, but it is your business. Humans must not let other humans do this to each other.
So, while those with power, money and influence line up against us like a fifth-year senior linebacker set in his stance across from a string-bean freshman with porcelain bones, we press on.
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” we read in Romans 8:31. And one thing is certain: If God is for us, we dare not be against ourselves. Do not acquiesce to the temptation of putting a trendy spin on this “issue” for the sake of, well, anything at all. It may be cool in your circle to be self-deprecating and to apologize for everything under the sun in order to appear relatable.
But please, don’t apologize for me. This “issue” is zero percent about the thought process of those who find abortion acceptable. It is 100 percent about saving the lives of the babies who will be aborted today. And tomorrow. And this weekend.
Ponder this: If someone pointed a gun barrel to your forehead, would you take the time to tell the person that you empathize with what may have led them to think about killing you? Would you apologize for not understanding where they’re coming from?
I wouldn’t. I’d be crying, hyperventilating and sweating from every pore in my skin. Frantically, I’d beg for my life. And my begging wouldn’t necessarily convey anger, but desperation. Perhaps later I would be angry, and I bet you’d be willing to understand that. After all, it was unjust that someone held a gun to my forehead, causing me to be rightly angry.
There is such a thing: “Be angry, and do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26). By no means is this an easy task, but children’s lives are certainly worth our trudging through the muck and maneuvering this tight rope to defend them.
I implore you: Beg in desperation for these lives as fervently as you would your own life. Philippians 2 tells us to think of others as better than ourselves and to look out for the needs of others before our own. This is one way we live out that passage.
This is not merely an “issue of our times,” a platform on which to campaign, a hot-button blog topic or a re-tweetable hashtag.
This is laying down our lives for our unborn brothers and sisters – something Christ did perfectly when He died on the cross for me and for you. When any of us turn from our wicked ways, Christ will redeem us (1 John 1:9).
We have a duty to fight for the earthly lives of the unborn and the eternal lives of those who are convinced that the choice of one should trump the chance of another. “Open your mouth for the speechless, in the cause of all who are appointed to die,” we read in Psalm 31:8-9. “Open your mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.”
Resolve that we will be the generation that roars, “No!”
No, we will not let you kill innocent life. We won’t pay for it with our money, and we will push back with everything on the line. You may call us names, say we’re ignorant, blast our reputation or threaten us to pieces, but we will stand firm. We will stand for life. We won’t passively allow this to continue in our nation while we go on with the comforts of life, stick our heads in the sand and make weekend plans.
We, the servants of the Lord, will not stand down until our commander calls us home.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Sharayah Colter is a newswriter for the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)

8/17/2015 11:42:08 AM by Sharayah Colter, The Southern Baptist TEXAN | with 0 comments

What they sacrifice

August 14 2015 by Alex Sibley, SWBTS

Like most of the 50-plus students on this summer’s Oxford Study Tour sponsored by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, I wanted to get some classes out of the way so I could graduate on time and I wanted to see London.
So imagine my “surprise” when I felt conviction from the Holy Spirit while visiting sites of Christian historical significance.
Standing at the exact spot where the Oxford martyrs were burned at the stake because of their faith; visiting the place where Thomas Cranmer was imprisoned and had to watch as two of his colleagues were publicly executed; walking through the house where William Carey lived before giving up his life in Britain to serve as a missionary in India; seeing the tomb of John Bunyan, author of Pilgrim’s Progress; and being reminded of his literary contributions to the Christian world made primarily from prison – it was difficult not to ask myself the question, “Would I be willing to sacrifice what they sacrificed?”
As American Christians, we likely will not face imprisonment or execution as these Christians did (but then again, maybe we will), but it nevertheless does not hurt to consider what we are willing to give up for the sake of being obedient to God.
It is easy to say from a comfortable church building on a Sunday morning we will go wherever God leads us, but when God finally gets around to cashing that blank check and we see what we will have to give up, we may find ourselves a bit less willing to comply.
What if God’s will for your life is to go to prison for your faith? Will you obey?
What if God calls you to give up your life here, pack up your family, travel by boat seven months to India, and start a new life there, waiting seven years before you see your first convert and losing your spouse in the process (as He called William Carey)? Does God still have your compliance?
What if God tells you that your calling is to be burned at the stake for your beliefs? Would you still be willing to go “wherever God calls”?
I plan to graduate next May. I have been asked numerous times what I plan to do next. While the answer varies, I essentially tell everyone the same thing: “I don’t know.”
I have some ideas, of course. Some of my options are more appealing than others, and perhaps my fear that God will call me to the least appealing option is hindering me from truly considering what I will do. But after visiting these sites in the U.K. and being reminded of what past Christians have had to sacrifice for their faith, I can’t help but wonder, “If God does call me to that least appealing option, will I obey? Will I make the sacrifices He calls me to make?” It should be noted that this particular option does not involve being burned at the stake, which is what some have had to endure, so do I really have reason to drag my feet?
While I did get more out of the study tour than, “Hey, I saw Big Ben!” the one thing that’s pressing on my mind the most is something we all should consider: “Would I be willing to sacrifice what they sacrificed?” The answer should be easy, especially when we remember this encouragement: “… the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Alex Sibley is the senior writer/copy editor for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, who is pursuing a master of arts degree in biblical counseling.)

8/14/2015 11:15:28 AM by Alex Sibley, SWBTS | with 0 comments

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