May 2005

Seminary president's remarks 'grossly unfair' : Tuesday, May 31, 2005

May 31 2005 by

Seminary president's remarks 'grossly unfair' : Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Seminary president's remarks 'grossly unfair'

Concerning comments made by President Akin of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, as reported in the recent Biblical Recorder, I am distressed. I consider it to be in poor taste for a seminary president to refer to sister institutions in such a demeaning manner. One should expect better from a person in such a responsible position, certainly one who proposes we marry "right belief with right behavior." Yet, inasmuch as he heads a Baptist seminary, I am assuming his critique of other divinity schools in the state includes those at Gardner-Webb and Campbell. The contents of his assertions are absurd. The very idea of accusing these divinity schools of "having no confession of faith," and "standing for nothing," is both un-Christian and insulting to those institutions, their faculty and staffs, and the worthy purposes which they embody.

As a graduate of the Campbell University School of Divinity, during my years there I was blessed daily by faculty, staff and fellow students participating in a divinity school intentionally seeking to be Christ-centered, Bible-based and Ministry-focused. I found it to be a school of deeply spiritual men and women who love the Lord and serve him faithfully in their educational callings. This divinity school also operates as a vital member of Campbell University, a university with a glorious Christian purpose and decades of service in educating tens of thousands of North Carolina Baptists.

In my opinion, President Akin's comments were grossly unfair, untrue, unkind, and un-Christ-like. As one Baptist who knows better, I do not intend to be drawn in by his fallacious and deceptive rhetoric; perhaps he himself suffers from the "double-speak" condition.

Chris Taylor

Clayton, N.C.

5/31/2005 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

Speech fits a political rally : Tuesday, May 31, 2005

May 31 2005 by

Speech fits a political rally : Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Speech fits a political rally

I am disturbed with the content of Danny Akin's speech at Southeastern Seminary's rally for Conservative Carolina Baptists. I wonder who appointed him to "prescribe the formula for N.C. Baptists' future"? It appears he made this a political rally, rather than a Christian crusade. He cited seven pledges he made when taking control at Southeastern. Some of his statements were what all Christians believe, while others pointed to politics, such as becoming "rabid dogs" for evangelism.

He castigated CBF for claiming evangelism is "the presence of Christ in the world," and admitted he didn't know what that meant. I prefer "the presence of Christ," over "rabid dogs" (raging, furious, mad dog-style). Aren't we Christians "Christ followers" (presence)?

He added fuel to the fire about the Convention budget's four giving plans, thus promoting division, and he touted the 2000 BF&M as pure gospel. To further the controversy, he accused some divinity schools in our state of "saying 'we have no confession of faith.'" However, he neglected to name the schools or provide proof that it's true. Maybe he meant to say, "They have no creed such as the SBC does now!"

Akin speaks of the Bible being his authority, but the Bible does not speak of its own authority. All authority belongs to God alone. The Bible speaks of Christ's authority (Matt. 5:29), so Jesus Christ is my authority! I believe the Bible and revere its word, under Christ and through his Holy Spirit to interpret as he leads (priesthood of every believer).

Prayer was missing from Akin's formula, but he did mention "love" once, and said we need to wed right belief with right behavior. Perhaps President Akin will reconsider his own actions, words, and formulas, as well as his doctrines.

Ray W. Benfield

Winston-Salem, N.C.

5/31/2005 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

Where has the servant pastor model gone? : Tuesday, May 31, 2005

May 31 2005 by

Where has the servant pastor model gone? : Tuesday, May 31, 2005
Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Where has the servant pastor model gone?

The editor's commentary on religion, politics, and trouble in the local church is clear and right on target. We have too much angry power plays going on in many churches. Sadly this approach is modeled after mega-church polity and is being taught at seminaries. Where has the servant pastor model gone? Another dimension of this battle is taking place in the North Roanoke Association where I live. Several churches have withheld funds creating a financial crisis. Recent listening sessions brought out the comment: "We won't give unless we know we can trust you." This is defined as to whether we will adopt the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.

In our case we have two churches with female pastors and an even larger number where women serve as deacons. It appears to me the power plays have no end and only generate mistrust and hostility. What happened to the days of agreeing to disagree, but giving to widen the sharing of the gospel in the local setting?

I commend the editorial thoughts and hope more of us will major on missions and minor on theological differences.

Gene Scarborough

Rocky Mount, N.C.

5/31/2005 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

What are we fighting for? : Thursday, May 26, 2005

May 26 2005 by

What are we fighting for? : Thursday, May 26, 2005
Thursday, May 26, 2005

What are we fighting for?

I am distraught over recent strides toward both Democratic and Republican parties in Baptist camps. As a disclaimer, let me admit that I do favor one particular political party, but am not a straight-ticket voter.

As an "evangelical," however, whatever that word has come to mean, let me make something patently clear. Within that word is the word from the Greek (eu aggelion) meaning good message, or good news. Thus the word itself should mean someone whose primary life purpose is to share the message of Christ.

Jesus was clear that the kingdom was not a political entity. When he asked to give what is Caesar's to Caesar, he did not mean the whole palace (please forgive the bad Las Vegas joke). He also asked to give to God what is God's.

Quick question, believers: whose domain is greater, Caesar's or God's? Whose legacy of riches would we want to inherit? The application is that we have invested in what will rust and fade, and have not sought out those who risk an eternity of Godforsakenness with a burden in our hearts and souls.

Roger Williams is actually reeling in his grave over multiple factions in our denomination. Those who claim to be the true heirs of Baptist faith, those who tighten the reins to choke soul freedom, and those who believe that the first question of the judgment will be whether we voted Democrat or Republican. When so many of our neighbors don't know Christ, what are we really fighting for? Things of eternal value, or finite, ephemeral things? Now is the time for missions. Period.

Seth Smith

Hendersonville, N.C.

5/26/2005 12:00:00 AM by | with 0 comments

Baptists and freedom : Tuesday, May 24, 2005

May 24 2005 by Bernard H. Cochran

Baptists and freedom : Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Baptists and freedom

By Bernard H. Cochran

The non-fundamentalist Baptist church of which I am a long-term member has had only two unanimous congregational votes in its history - and one was on a motion to adjourn. This is descriptive of the single most distinctive characteristic of Baptist churches remaining true to their heritage - the insistence on the freedom of the local congregation from rigid control by actual or wannabe "bishops" at the national level and freedom within the congregation for members to differ with one another and/or with the minister on matters of faith and practice. The expression: "Four Baptists, at least five different opinions" is not far from the mark.

Baptists began in England in 1609 as a radical, separatist group and experienced persecution because of their unwillingness to submit to the authority of the crown or to a religious hierarchy on matters of faith. The view that, since Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, his denominational affiliation is clear, and that he established the First Baptist Church of Jerusalem is, happily, not widely held.

That Baptists have fiercely defended the freedom to differ - even with themselves - is evidenced by the fact that there are presently - as of last Monday morning - at least 24 different Baptist denominational groups in America. These divisions have occurred because of differing theological and ethical perspectives as well as racial factors. At meetings of the Baptist World Alliance it has been reported that German Baptists, distressed at witnessing some American Baptists smoking, have dropped their beer steins in shock and dismay.

Historically Catholics and Baptists have been at opposite ends of the spectrum regarding authority and freedom. The Catholic Church is organized by authority from the top down - from the Pope to the hierarchy to the local priest to the individual members. Essentially, one yields to authority or leaves. Baptists are congregational in church government, authority residing in the will of the local congregation - from the bottom up - with freedom from any state or local denominational control. The minister serves at the will of the congregation; the congregation does not always follow blindly and unanimously the will or dictates of the minister. It is ironic that Catholics are moving, however glacially, toward more freedom, while the current Southern Baptist "hierarchy" has moved toward a more rigid control of congregational faith and practice.

This authoritarian and seriously misguided position of the current leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention is based on the false analogy that theology is like mathematics. Two and two can only be four; therefore only a flawed sense of charity or inclusiveness can allow it to be five or seven. The early Baptists rejected the practice of coercion in matters of faith and practice and insisted on persuasion. Complete religious freedom would allow all religious groups to convince others of the correctness of their views, not coerce them to conformity. Coercion "stinks in God's nostrils," declared the early Baptist champion of freedom, Roger Williams.

The medieval church was convinced that truth is one and must be defended, leading to persecution and death during the Inquisition. The colonial Puritans of Salem, Massachusetts believed sincerely that the execution of witches was mandated by Scripture. They were consistent biblical inerrantists who concluded that "what I think is not important; it's just what the Bible plainly teaches." Therefore, the biblical command: "You shall not allow a witch to live" (Exodus 22:18) must be followed by all "Bible-believing" Christians. They were not the first biblical inerrantists nor, unfortunately, the last.

Current Biblical inerrantists, including many Baptists, are selective in their biblicism, refusing to follow the "plain" teaching of Scripture by performing the marriage of divorced persons, refusing to condemn pig-pickings, or rejecting the death penalty for adultery. It is gratifying that progress, although slow, is evident. We now burn only selected translations of Scripture, not the translators themselves.

Throughout their history Baptists have a great deal of which to be ashamed: slavery defended adamantly from Scripture, segregation and racism embraced defiantly, and arrogance as the "one true faith" proclaimed without a trace of humility. The Baptist commitment and contribution to freedom of conscience, however, is the denomination's highest achievement. This historic Baptist principle was once taught at all theological seminaries of the Southern Baptist Convention but clearly, as contemporary events reveal, no more. We allow our birthright to be stolen at our peril.

(EDITOR'S NOTE - Cochran is professor emeritus in the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Meredith College.)

5/24/2005 12:00:00 AM by Bernard H. Cochran | with 0 comments

Family Bible Study lesson for June 5: Life Begins at Reception : Friday, May 20, 2005

May 20 2005 by Phillip Hamm

Family Bible Study lesson for June 5: Life Begins at Reception : Friday, May 20, 2005
Friday, May 20, 2005

Family Bible Study lesson for June 5: Life Begins at Reception

By Phillip Hamm
Focal Passage: John 1:10-13; 3:5-8, 14-18, 36

I remember my older brother and I sitting in the pastor's office when I was nine. The pastor went through John 3 and the story of Nicodemus. I understood being born of spirit, but I couldn't comprehend being born of water from a woman. So our salvation talk began to take a downward turn towards the birds and the bees. The more he attempted to explain the more questions I asked and the more embarrassed my then 13-year-old brother became.

Nevertheless, our pastor regrouped and explained salvation in such a way that made sense to me and I surrendered my life to Christ. I tell this story to show the difficulties we may have while sharing the gospel. Therefore, in order to be prepared, we must begin to understand the concepts involved in salvation.

Source of the New Birth

(John 1:10-13)

Jesus is the only way to eternal life. This is a concept that becomes a stumbling block for many in our culture. Some may say that God is closed minded only to allow one way to Heaven.

I remember standing before my bride some years ago and affirming our wedding vows. Imagine after hearing the pastor read our vows that I paused and said: "Honey, I promise to be faithful to you 98 percent of the time. I'll only run around on you 2 percent of the time." Needless to say, I would still be single right now. Why? Because my wife is closed minded? No! Because a healthy marriage is only done one way and that is by being totally and completely faithful. God isn't trying to be closed-minded by stating that Jesus is the only way to eternal life, He is trying to protect us from all the wrong options that will condemn us to hell.

Agent of New Birth

(John 3:5-8)

The Bible tells us that the Spirit convicts of sin, leads to all truth, and comforts us. Explaining His role in salvation is difficult, but the passage clearly indicates that we must be born again through the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit works in our lives for salvation much like switching on a light in a dark room. As you enter the room you can't see much of anything. You grapple your way through the room with fear, anxiety and uncertainty. You can't even see enough to find your way to the light switch. But when someone else turns the light on for you, you can see your way. The fear and uncertainty are gone. You can see and respond to what is in front of you.

This is a very simplified example of the role the Holy Spirit plays in our lives. Because we were spiritually dead, we couldn't do anything for ourselves until the Holy Spirit came and illumined our soul, providing for us the opportunity to respond to God's gift of salvation.

Initiator of the New Birth

(John 3:14-17)

God initiates salvation to the world because He loves us unconditionally and sacrificially.

Jack Kelly, a USA Today reporter, told the following story. "We were in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, during a famine. It was so bad we walked into one village and everybody was dead. At another village we saw this little boy. You could tell he had worms and was malnourished; his stomach was protruding.

"Our photographer had a grapefruit, which he gave to the boy. The boy was so weak he didn't have the strength to hold the grapefruit, so we cut it in half and gave it to him. He picked it up and began to walk back towards his village.

"When he entered the village, there on the ground was a little boy who I thought was dead. His eyes were completely glazed over. It turned out that this was his younger brother. The older brother kneeled down next to his younger brother, bit off a piece of the grapefruit, and chewed it. Then he opened up his younger brother's mouth, and put the grapefruit in. We learned that the older brother had been doing that for the younger brother for two weeks. A couple days later the older brother died of malnutrition, and the younger brother lived."

The older brother's love was completely sacrificial and unconditional just like God's love. God's love for this world is so strong that He gave His only son to redeem us. It is our responsibility to live a life worthy of such love.

5/20/2005 12:00:00 AM by Phillip Hamm | with 0 comments

Family Bible Study lesson for June 12: Not Guilty by Association : Friday, May 20, 2005

May 20 2005 by Phillip Hamm

Family Bible Study lesson for June 12: Not Guilty by Association : Friday, May 20, 2005
Friday, May 20, 2005

Family Bible Study lesson for June 12: Not Guilty by Association

By Phillip Hamm
Focal Passage: Romans 3:19-26; 4:1-3; 5:1-2

Do you remember the Los Angeles riots of 1992? Do you remember the television scenes of stores being looted and cars being torched? The riots began when the police offers who had beaten Rodney King were acquitted. Although that wasn't the proper response to the acquittal, we all have that built in tendency to want and demand justice. We want wrongs to be righted and the guilty to be punished. This attitude for justice exists within us because we are made in the image of God and He demands a price to be paid for sin.

Our Guilt Revealed

(Romans 3:19-20)

Paul explains in this passage the current condition of all people. The Old Testament law was given to reveal to the world God's standard. By doing so we each become aware that no one can attain that standard. From the beginning of our life we each show evidence that we are guilty of breaking God's law.

A salesman's call was answered by a child who whispered, "Hello?" He asked to speak to the boy's parents and the child replied by whispering "they're busy." The salesman then asked if anyone else was there. The boy said the firemen were there. The intrigued salesmen asked to speak to the firemen, and the boy replied once again by whispering "they're busy too." The salesman asked if anyone else was home and the boy replied the police were there as well. "Can I speak to the policeman?" the salesman worriedly inquired. Again the boy replied "they're busy too." The salesman didn't know what to think at this point and getting a little worried asked the boy what exactly were his parents, the firemen and the policeman doing. And the boy said with a smile in his voice "they're looking for me."

Just as we do, the little boy unknowingly revealed his own guilt. Therefore, God is aware of our sin and demands that it be paid.

God's Righteousness Revealed

(Romans 3:21-26)

God acquitted us from all our sins. However, God's holiness doesn't allow that our sin simply go unpunished. He requires payment for our sin. That payment came through the death of Jesus on the cross.

Justified by Faith

(Romans 4:1-2)

I remember being taught the definition of justification as a child: "just as if I'd never sinned." This gift is what Jesus offers to us by His death; complete and total forgiveness. There is nothing we need to do to pay for our sin; Jesus has already paid that bill. In fact, there is nothing that we can offer that would pay it. Our responsibility is merely to receive this gift. Any attempt on our part to earn salvation is not only impossible but insulting. Salvation is by grace through faith and not of any type of earned effort, or else, we would have something to brag to God about. The only thing justification leaves for us to brag about is God's rich grace.

Results of Justification

(Romans 5:1-2)

So what happens now that we have had our sin paid for by Christ? Very simply stated, we live like it. The passage states that through justification we have been given peace, access to God, grace, joy and hope. It is now our responsibility to live a life of gratitude to God for the great gift He has given to us. 1 John 2:4 says that "He who says 'I know Him' and does not keep His commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him." It is now our duty and our privilege to live a life of character, love, purity, etc. We live like this not because we need to earn salvation, but because God has so generously given us salvation. He has acquitted us from all our sin.

5/20/2005 12:00:00 AM by Phillip Hamm | with 0 comments

Formations Lesson for June 5: Submission : Friday, May 20, 2005

May 20 2005 by Julia Ledford

Formations Lesson for June 5: Submission : Friday, May 20, 2005
Friday, May 20, 2005

Formations Lesson for June 5: Submission

By Julia Ledford
Focal Passage: Hebrews 5:5-10

Jesus, the Eternal High Priest

(Hebrews 5:5-6)

We learn early in school that the subject of a sentence is a word that indicates who or what performs or undergoes the action named by a verb. The writer of Hebrews found it important to declare in essence that Christ did not glorify Himself as the "subject" of life. Rather than seeking self-aggrandizement as the divine Son of God, Jesus accepted His God-appointed role in humble, obedient submission to God's will.

The author of Hebrews reflected on the words of God at Jesus' baptism in which He called Him "Son" and declared, "Today I have begotten You." The word "today" is to be understood in the sense of eternal status. What Jesus had always been in the Godhead was confirmed, verified and revealed at that time. As F.F. Bruce explained: "The eternity of Christ's divine Sonship is not brought into question by this view; the suggestion rather is that He who was the Son of God from everlasting entered into the full exercise of all the prerogatives implied by His Sonship."

Christ, who is from all eternity one with the Eternal Father, submitted to be the eternal priest who would mediate between sinful humanity and the Holy God. His priesthood was viewed as being like that of the priest Melchizedek who was revered in his time as having no historical beginning or end.

He Learned Obedience Through Suffering

(Hebrews 5:7-8)

Jesus knew what it was like to pray in anguish with tears. At first glance, these verses appear to mean that Jesus prayed to avoid death on the cross. But the gospel record indicates that Jesus was committed to drink the "cup" of suffering on behalf of sinners. The statement may reflect instead that His prayers of anguish were directed toward overcoming our sin through death and that His prayers were heard in the victory of resurrection over death.

I think the most interesting statement is that, "he learned obedience through what He suffered." I learned obedience through suffering at the end of my mother's keen switch and I continue to learn obedience through the consequences of sin.

Why would Jesus, the sinless Son of God, need to learn obedience? Most likely the meaning is that Jesus learned through personal experience what it means for a human to obey God. Having learned that, He can understand and guide us through the suffering that comes when we choose to oppose the world and seek to live in obedience to God.

He Became the Source of Eternal Salvation

(Hebrews 5:9)

One who is going to be the source of eternal salvation would need to be perfect and scripture declares that to be the case with Jesus. Yet, the wording here is "having been made perfect." William Barclay explained that the Greek word teleioun, translated "perfect," referred to something that fully carried out the purpose for which it was designed. With that in mind, the writer of Hebrews is conveying that Jesus had been shown to be perfectly fitted to be our High Priest.


There is a sobering summary statement that God's appointed High Priest is the source of eternal salvation to "all who obey him."

I don't know about you, but I cannot say that I always obey Him. Therefore, I take heart when I look back at verse 2 and read: "He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray ..."

The hope expressed by the author of Hebrews is that we can trust and obey the High Priest who understands and mediates a perfect salvation for us.

5/20/2005 12:00:00 AM by Julia Ledford | with 0 comments

Formations Lesson for June 12: Purpose : Friday, May 20, 2005

May 20 2005 by Julia Ledford

Formations Lesson for June 12: Purpose : Friday, May 20, 2005
Friday, May 20, 2005

Formations Lesson for June 12: Purpose

By Julia Ledford
Focal Passage: Ephesians 2:1-10

In the book Hope for the Flowers by Trina Paulus, a caterpillar began climbing a mound seeking ultimate happiness, only to find at the top that he was on a heap of tangled, writhing and frustrated caterpillars.

In disillusionment, he wandered aimlessly until he came across a caterpillar spinning a cocoon. He sensed there was something essential to be found for his true nature in the act of denying himself and entering the cocoon. His higher nature was released and he eventually rose above his former way of life with new freedom, dignity and joy.

Salvation can be viewed as a spiritual and practical metamorphosis, and this passage celebrates the change that God accomplishes in our lives through Christ.

We All Begin with the Same Need

Ephesians 2:1-3

Paul's emphasis from start to finish is on our inability to accomplish for ourselves what God has done for us. It is impossible for anyone who is dead to make himself or herself alive again. Just as a dead person does not come when called, neither do we respond to God's call when we are caught up in the tides and currents of cultural influences that deny the power and authority of God. Paul paints a pretty bleak picture of our state of being before we are made new in Christ.

God Gives New Life

Ephesians 2:4-6

Out of infinite love and unfathomable expanses of mercy, God has rescued us. When we were hopelessly entrapped, living with a deadness toward God and others, God raised us to new life together with Christ. We are new people, with a new purpose and even a new homeland.

We are no longer of the earth nor are we bound for an eternal grave because of our willful tendencies. Our citizenship is already in Heaven and we are to live in that context. Paul was talking practically, not just theoretically, as the rest of the passage reveals.

Salvation is for God's Glory and Man's Good

Ephesians 2:7-9

For all eternity, throughout the cosmos, there is no basis for human boasting, only for praising God. Even the faith by which we turn to God is available to us as a gift. The reason for salvation is purely and simply His kindness. We deserve nothing by means of merit, no matter how well we have lived our lives day in and day out. Repeatedly the scriptures sum up the human state in these words:

"There is none righteous, no not one" (Roms. 3:10).

"For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Roms. 3:23).

"All our righteousness is as filthy rags" (Is. 64:6).

Re-created with Purpose

Ephesians 2:10

In 2 Corinthians 4:7, Paul taught that we hold the precious treasure of the gospel in earthen vessels "to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us." Paul utilized the image of a clay jar that had been fashioned for a special purpose.

A similar craftsmanship motif is utilized in our lesson and could have been reminiscent of Jeremiah's call by God to observe a potter at the wheel shaping and re-shaping a clay pot (Jer. 18:1-6).

The point of Jeremiah's observation was that God is in control and not ourselves. Paul had a similar thesis as he stressed that God has created us anew in Christ Jesus and fashioned us for a purpose, which He has in mind.

The purpose is simply good works, but we must not let the simplicity cause us to dismiss the critical meaning. Goodness is the essence of God's nature and, therefore, of His requirement for those who would seek to live in His kingdom now and forever.

5/20/2005 12:00:00 AM by Julia Ledford | with 0 comments

Dissension - the Baptist way? : Friday, May 20, 2005

May 20 2005 by Tony W. Cartledge

Dissension - the Baptist way? : Friday, May 20, 2005
5/20/2005 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge | with 0 comments

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