January 2009

Good news doesn’t have to be long

January 30 2009 by D.E. Parkerson, Special to the Biblical Recorder

Dr. M. Ray McKay, homiletics professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary back in the 1950’s offered this wise advice to those in his class who were training to become pastors: “Try always to preach because you have something to say, not because it is 11:00 o’clock on Sunday morning.” Very good advice indeed!

Every preacher has heard the time-worn suggestion to “Stand up, speak up, and shut up!”  Preachers generally know when to stand up, and when to speak up. The hard part for some preachers is to know when to shut up.

One pastor came into the pulpit on Sunday morning with a bandage on his chin. Before reading his text, he explained his injury: “I had my mind on my sermon this morning when I was shaving and I cut my chin.”

When the service was over a member remarked, “You should have kept your mind on your chin and cut your sermon.”

Soon after I arrived to serve as pastor of a church several years ago one of my finest deacons said, “Preacher, you can preach as long as you want to on Sunday mornings, but we go home at twelve o’clock.”

I replied. “I learned early in life that any preacher who has not struck oil by twelve o’clock should stop boring.”

The gospel of Jesus Christ is good news. In fact, the word “gospel” means “good news.”  

It doesn’t take all day to tell good news. However, no sermon, whether long or short, will have the power to change laypersons in the pew if it has not changed the preacher before he arrived in the pulpit.

Knowing when to stop is not just a problem some preachers have. Speakers in many fields, especially in politics, have difficulty finding a good stopping place. William Henry Harrison, for example, delivered a two-hour, 9,000-word inaugural address in 1841 into the teeth of a freezing northeast wind. He came down with a cold the following day, and a month later he died with pneumonia. George Washington’s inaugural address, on the other hand, included just 135 words.

One orator said to his audience, “I have discontinued long speeches on account of my throat ... several people have threatened to cut it.” It was possibly the only way he would ever have learned how to stand up, speak up, and shut up.

Will Rogers was presiding on one occasion as toastmaster at a meeting being addressed by a tediously long speaker. At the conclusion of the address, Rogers told the crowd, “You have been listening to that famous Chinese orator, On Too Long.”

The next time you hear a speech or sermon that goes on and on and on, ask the speaker if he (or she) has a relative who is a Chinese orator.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Parkerson writes a weekly column called “The Paper Pulpit,” where this column was originally published, and is a retired pastor.)

1/30/2009 5:46:00 AM by D.E. Parkerson, Special to the Biblical Recorder | with 0 comments

Texas educators to keep asking for evaluation of all theories

January 30 2009 by Jerry Pierce, Baptist Press

GRAPEVINE, Texas — Leave it to the "experts" instead of "scientifically illiterate" elected officials to decide what constitutes legitimate science education for your kids.

That's the message The New York Times editorial board and Darwinist advocacy groups want recorded as the moral of the story after the Texas State Board of Education last week caused the scientific establishment to smile and then frown in the course of one very influential, closely watched board meeting.

It was a net win for friends of honest scientific inquiry — albeit a tentative one that will be challenged fiercely before the final vote to ratify the new standards during meetings March 26-27.

In the meantime, however, the Texas education board ought to be applauded for its initial approval of language that requires students to "evaluate the sufficiency or insufficiency of common ancestry" as it relates to the fossil record and to "assess the arguments for and against universal common descent in light of this fossil evidence."

The board, in its once-a-decade review of science curricula and standards, acted after a public hearing and advice from a panel of mostly Darwinist scientists and educators to drop a 20-year-old state requirement that students evaluate the "strengths and weaknesses" of all scientific theories, which it did in a close vote.

After that vote, however, the board astounded the evolution-as-immutable-truth crowd, allowing amendments that included the "arguments for and against" language directed at key evolutionary tenets of biology.

Between now and March, activists opposed to critiquing evolution have promised to fight to remove the new amendments. Those who are committed to free academic inquiry should also join the battle by thoughtfully explaining why Darwinism deserves scrutiny as much as any other theory that involves conjecture about things that cannot be tested in a laboratory.

The Texas Freedom Network, which bills itself as "a mainstream voice to counter the religious right" but is rarely mainstream, is among those that has vowed to fight the new amendments.

The network's president, Kathy Miller, likened the amendment to allow critique of common ancestry to a "Hail, Mary" football pass that would be called back on further review, adding that the amendment "could provide a small foothold for teaching creationist ideas and dumbing down biology instruction in Texas."

Of course, no reasonable person — creationist or not — wants biblical creationism taught in public school science classes. In a pluralistic culture, even elective Bible classes are not without danger. Moreover, I don't want a public school teacher explaining Genesis to my kids. You wouldn't either.

What's more, I want my kids, who attend Texas public schools, to know evolutionary theory backwards and forwards. I'm not afraid of them learning what is the consensus of the scientific establishment, but that same establishment is terrified of students learning that Darwinism and neo-Darwinism might not be foolproof.

Miller's claim that criticisms of evolution are part of a Trojan horse strategy for introducing sectarian religion into public schools is the rallying cry in this fight, and it couldn't be more absurd.

The tack of the evolution-as-immutable-truth crowd is to cry wolf about a theocratic conspiracy of Christian fundamentalists who want six-day Genesis creation crammed down the throat of every school kid — Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, secular, you name it.

Related to that is the clever move of evolution proponents to equate biblical creationism — religious viewpoint — with Intelligent Design (ID) theory — a scientific investigation into the apparent design in the known universe and in living things.

ID proponents are a varied lot, from secular Jews such as philosopher David Berlinski to Roman Catholics like physicist Michael Behe and Christian evangelicals like mathematician and philosopher William Dembski of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Guillermo Gonzalez, an acclaimed astronomer whose research has been covered in respected journals such as Nature and Science.

In closing its editorial about the Texas school board, The New York Times wrote: "The lesson we draw from these shenanigans is that scientifically illiterate boards of education should leave the curriculum to educators and scientists who know what constitutes a sound education."

When the arguments for free academic inquiry encroach on Darwinism's place as the great meta-narrative of human history and existence, Darwin's defenders resort to character attacks at the rate of bullets flying from an automatic rifle.

(One wonders if anyone on The Times' editorial board has ever bothered to read Dembski or Berlinski or Gonzalez.)

Nevertheless, these ad hominem attacks are evidence that the other side is running low on substantive arguments. That's good news for those of us interested in a sound science education for our children. When the Texas school board meets again in March, may free scientific inquiry win the day.

(EDITOR’S NOTE — Pierce is managing editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.)


1/30/2009 4:34:00 AM by Jerry Pierce, Baptist Press | with 2 comments

How clear is Obama's theology?

January 19 2009 by By Mark Coppenger

EVANSTON, Ill. (BP)--Several years ago, when we began to plant Evanston Baptist Church, we knocked on doors throughout the city, asking people what they thought the Gospel was. And then we gave them a card with the answer. Their initial responses to the question were all over the map, from "love people" to "a kind of music" to "Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John." Very few mentioned the atoning death of Jesus Christ or the necessity of repentance. 


Most understand that the word "Gospel" somehow connects to Jesus, but the multiple, conflicting takes on Jesus are notorious. Some books portray Him as a savvy CEO or salesman, others as a Che Guevara fan. Some would have Him to be nurse, others a general. The options are limitless, as with a Rorschach Test. Everybody can like Jesus since He's so malleable in the human understanding. I suppose that's one reason it's easy for lost musicians to record Christmas songs.


Which brings me to our president-elect, Barack Obama. Certainly, his parents were in no position to share the Gospel. Indeed, his father made sure he was tutored in the anti-Gospel of Islam. Then, by his own account, Obama did not discover the Lord until he met pastor Jeremiah Wright. But what sort of Jesus was that?


It proved to be a Jesus from which candidate Obama ran headlong in the midst of the campaign. Wright is a proud disciple of James Cone and other "black liberation" theologians, and, thus, his ministry centers on sectarian longing and grievance. He knows the same eisegetical maneuvers familiar in feminist and homosexual pulpits.


Yes, Obama professed Jesus to be his savior during the Saddleback forum, but one has to wonder whether he sees this salvation as exclusively Christian. A few years ago, while a member of Wright's church, he told a Sun-Times religion reporter that there were "many paths to the same place." I'm reminded of our Christmas trip to Arkansas to see our parents. We thank God for the Budget rental car, a Toyota Camry, which carried us to Little Rock and Arkadelphia. But we could have taken the Amtrak, or flown Southwest or American, or crammed everything into our Corolla, or rented a Malibu or Taurus through Enterprise or Hertz.


And what shall we make of the homosexual Episcopal bishop, Gene Robinson, asked to pray at the "opening inaugural event" at the Lincoln Memorial Sunday? Robinson's participation was announced after the withering fire Obama received from homosexuals for asking Rick Warren to pray at the inauguration proper. Actually, it may be that the homosexuals have a point, for Robinson began his prayer with the words, "O God of our many understandings." That sounds a lot like "O God of our many paths to the same place."


When Wright and Robinson talk of salvation, you have to ask not only what we're saved from, but what we're saved to. Surely, the latter means a growing appreciation of and conformity with the whole counsel with God. But when I examine the Wright and Robinson agendas, I'm more likely to think of the "deadly sins" of lust, envy and pride. (Preaching through Proverbs this winter, I'm constantly coming across these concepts.)


So I hope that Warren and other evangelicals who might have Obama's ear could help him see the Gospel clearly. It could make a huge difference to his administration.


I was doing army reserve duty in the Pentagon when, across the river at Ft. McNair, President Clinton announced his "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on homosexuals in the military. It was his fallback position, for his earlier to attempt to open the floodgates was a political disaster. Now, by all accounts, Obama will give it another go. Pressured by his homosexual constituency and their enablers, hopeful that Americans have "matured" sufficiently to let him do it, he seems eager to normalize homosexuality at every turn, whether in the wedding chapel or the infantry battalion.


A president infused with the true Gospel, the biblical Gospel, might well be able to make out the voice of God in the midst of political clamor. A voice reminding him that we live under both a created order and a tragic fall, and that only fools ignore them.

Mark Coppenger is pastor of Evanston (Ill.) Baptist Church and professor of Christian apologetics at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a former president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary


1/19/2009 11:11:00 AM by By Mark Coppenger | with 1 comments

First Person: Your prayers can change our country

January 10 2009 by Richard Land, ERLC

"First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy 2:1-4).



      NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Shortly after Election Day, I released an open letter to President-elect Barack Obama in which I told the new president that I would pray for him, his family and his administration, noting that I would pray that God would bless him with “safety, health and all spiritual blessings.”

      What prompted my promise to pray for the president-elect? The Scriptures are clear: While as a Christian I am a citizen of both the earthly and spiritual realms, I am under the authority of the civil magistrate (Luke 20:25). I am compelled to be a good citizen of the state “for conscience sake” (Romans 13:1-7).

      In the Apostle Paul’s first letter to Timothy, Paul wrote that the first priority in our fulfillment of our civic duties (“first of all,” 1 Timothy 2:1) is to pray. We are to remember everyone, including all those in authority over us, with “petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings.” Paul sought to underscore the fact that proper conduct within the body of Christ includes praying for and respecting those in power as a primary spiritual civic duty.

      Those in the first-century church, including the original recipients of this letter, were no doubt chafing under the yoke of a thoroughly pagan (and antagonistic) state that harbored no thought of affording the masses religious freedom.

      Remember, the New Testament churches existed in occupied lands, under the watchful eyes of Jewish religious leaders in some areas, and everywhere under the steady and hostile glare of the Roman government leaders and their local lackeys, who were decidedly negative about any worship that didn’t involve their gods.

      Joining the Apostle Paul on missionary journeys, Timothy experienced the fact that those in authority were hostile, often violently so, to followers of Christ. Paul experienced firsthand the wrath of those who opposed his proclamation of the Gospel. And he understood that Christians abused and victimized by government authorities would not be predisposed to remember such officials in prayer.

      The Apostle Paul was well aware that during His earthly ministry Jesus had promoted respect for the state, for His Kingdom was not primarily of this world. Jesus did not confront the Roman state directly, but taught respect for the civil magistrate (Matthew 22:21). Paul also would have known, as a rabbi, that in the Old Testament, God likewise told the Jews who were in captivity to respect those who took them from their homes (Ezra 6:10; Jeremiah 29:7).

      Matthew Henry, the great 18th-century British expositor, commented on 1 Timothy 2: “Our duty as Christians, is summed up in two words; godliness, that is, the right worshipping of God; and honesty, that is, good conduct toward all men.” Thus, Henry concluded, by such means those who do not know God will be more likely attracted to the Gospel.

      This teaching of the Apostle Paul, as summarized so aptly by Matthew Henry, reminds us that while we are commanded to be “salt” and “light” in the world (Matthew 5:13-16), we also are to seek to live peaceably with all men. That includes respect for whatever civil authorities God has allowed to be in power.

      It is likely that, as with every person who has occupied the White House in our lifetimes, we will disagree with at least some of President Obama’s positions on social and moral matters. If we contend with his decisions with bitterness and an unflattering spirit, we run the high risk of bringing dishonor on the name of Christ.

      We should urge those within the Obama administration to apply biblical principles and values in their decision-making. However, it could well be that how we convey our concerns will have as much, if not more, impact on our ultimate success than the nature of the concerns themselves. We must be mindful of our Gospel witness. We can, and must, disagree without being disrespectful.

      You may not have voted for our new president, yet I imagine that as a follower of Christ you are thoroughly convinced of God’s Divine Providence. God is not surprised at who is serving in the White House, in Congress or in any other office in Washington, D.C. We can be confident that God does not ignore an institution He Himself ordained -- civil government (Romans 13:1-7).

      We can pray:

      -- for the safety of President Obama and his family, that God would foil the attempts of those who wish to harm him, that his family would be protected and blessed, that they would always trust God and know His Scriptures;

      -- that our president and other national leaders would look to God for His wisdom in dealing with the difficult issues of the day;

      -- that Christ would be glorified by the decisions made in the White House, the Congress, and the courts, and that good would triumph over evil in every policy decision;

      -- for policies that encourage moral behavior and attitudes, that prescribe justice for those who do wrong, that do not fetter our right to speak freely, and that recognize the foundational strength and importance of biblical marriage;

      -- that we would be willing to make the necessary hard choices and become a part of the solution to the troublesome problems we face as a nation and, that as churches and Christians, we would be particularly sensitive to those who are struggling and defenseless; and,

      -- that we would put our faith in God, not in man’s plans or government programs.

      If we are not faithful in going to our knees in intercession for our new president and other national leaders, we can be assured that evil will be more likely to prevail. We hope that you will join us in praying for our new president, his family, and for those who advise him.

      We have developed a prayer guide that can be downloaded at iLiveValues.com/prayer and distributed as you desire. We are hopeful your church will set aside time on Sunday, Jan. 18, or sometime during the week of President-elect Obama’s inauguration, to lift up to our Heavenly Father our new president and all those in earthly authority.

      Our prayers can change our country–they will change us.


Richard Land is president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Download a prayer guide.











1/10/2009 1:29:00 PM by Richard Land, ERLC | with 0 comments