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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Highlights from Why We're Not Emergent

I just finished reading Why We're not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be and I commend it highly. I am not reviewing the book, but wanted to give some highlights of why I enjoyed the book so much.

1. I liked how the authors showed how many emerging writers can be very dogmatic with their particular beliefs while at the same time question the dogmatic beliefs of others, especially Protestant Evangelical ones. The following is an excerpt from pages 43-44.

What bothers me is all the other times McLaren chastises us supposed moderns for being too linear and too persuaded of our own fallible interpretations, when, at the end of the day, he reaches his conclusions like every other mortal studying the Bible. He asks, "Does this make sense with the context? Does this fit together with other parts of Scripture? Does this piece together a myriad of readings without contradiction?"

We can know some things after all, then. We are not trapped in a hermeneutical spiral pulling us down into the morass of "all we have are our interpretations." There is meaning in the text. There are bad interpretations and good interpretations. Bell may list a series of stumper questions about the Bible to convince us that "the Bible is open-ended (Velvet Elvis, 46)," but he is certain that the first three miracles in the book of John are directly related to Dionysus, Asclepius, and Demeter, and that the reference to women being saved in childbirth is a direct reference to Artemis, and that the first chapters of Revelation follow the sequence of the Domitian games (Velvet Elvis, 64-65). It appears that the dance of uncertainty is fun but hard to keep up for a whole book, let alone a lifetime.

2. I liked how the authors showed how emerging and non-emerging churches are often times doing many of the same practices and disciplines, the only real difference is the language the emerging crowd are using to pump up their own and play down others. The following is an excerpt from pages 153-154.

The supposed radical difference between modern spirituality and postmodern spirituality is often nothing more than semantics. For example, many of Kimball's side-by-side comparison charts are especially guilty of hyperbolizing the differences between the modern church and the postmodern. Kimball says that preaching in the emerging church "teaches how the ancient wisdom of Scripture applies to kingdom living as a disciple of Christ" while the modern preacher "serves as a dispenser of biblical truths to help solve personal problems in modern life (The Emerging Church, 175)." Those two sentences would say the same thing if not for Kimball's choice of language, employing uninspiring words like "dispenser" and "solve" for the modern church instead of cool words like "ancient wisdom" and "kingdom living." Similarly, in the modern church "the Bible is a book to help solve problems and means to know God," and discipleship is based on modern methodology and helps." Conversely, in the emerging church, "the Bible is a compass for direction and a means to experience God," and "discipleship is based on ancient disciplines (The Emerging Church, 215).

Meanwhile, Pagitt says we must distinguish between storytelling and testimony time. "sharing our stories is not the same thing as giving our testimonies.... While not sounding like 'testimonies' in the traditional sense, these stories of the way God bubbles up in others' lives serve as testaments to who God is and how God acts in our lives. Telling and hearing these stories shapes us and forms us (Reimagining Spiritual Formation, 56-57)." So, let me get this straight. They aren't testimonies, just stories that serve as testaments to what God is doing in our lives. Sounds like a testimony to me.

3. I liked how the authors showed that when you reduce or conflate orthodoxy into orthopraxy you get something that looks very much like old liberalism. Here are two excerpts from pages 177-178 and 111-112.
According to the piece, "the movement's innovations go beyond worship and extends to theology. McLaren isn't preoccupied with hell--who's in and who's out." It seems to me to be the proverbial Wide Gate, and for a movement that has generated so much controversy, is completely un/controverisal. As an addendum, the paper lists nine characteristics of emerging churches: 1. Identify with the life of Jesus. 2. Transform the secular realm. 3. Live highly communal lives. 4. Welcome the stranger. 5. Serve with generosity. 6. Participate as producers. 7. Create as created beings. 8. Lead as a body. 9. Take part in spiritual activities.
Out of curiosity and for the sake of comparison, I looked up the guiding principles of the Unitarian Universalist Association on the UUA Web site: We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote 1. The inherit worth and dignity of every person; 2. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations; 3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations; 4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning; 5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large; 6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all; 7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. Both lists, for the record, are full of good and noble things; however, there is nothing said in either list of guiding principles about Jesus' death and resurrection and the need of both for our salvation...Hell is tricky because, though I may not be preoccupied with it now, when it is time to be "in or out" it may be too late to engage the topic.

Rob Bell is also suspicious of orthodoxy, putting it several notches below orthopraxy. For example, Bell admits that he believes in the virgin birth, but it is not as important as living for Jesus:

"What if tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus had a real, earthly, biological father named Larry, and archaeologists find Larry's tomb and do DNA samples and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the virgin birth was really just a bit of mythologizing the Gospel writers threw in to appeal to the followers of Mithra and Dionysian religious cults that were hugely popular at the time of Jesus, whose gods had virgin births? But what if as you study the origin of the word virgin, you discover that the word virgin in the gospel of Matthew actually comes from the book of Isaiah, and then you find out that in the Hebrew language a that time, the word virgin could mean several things. And what if you discover that in the first century being born of a virgin also referred to a child whose mother became pregnant the first time she had intercourse? What if that spring was seriously questioned? Could a person keep jumping? Could a person still love God? Could you still be a Christian? Is the way of Jesus still the best possible way to live (Velvet Elvis, 26-27)."

This emphasis on right living over against right belief is nothing new. It is, in fact, quintessentially modern, Adolf Harnack, the brilliant and popular promoter of Protestant liberalism, said the same thing at the turn of the last century: "True faith in Jesus is not a matter of creedal orthodoxy but of doing as he did."

Monday, April 28, 2008

Book Review: If You Could Ask God One Question

Williams, Paul and Barry Cooper. If You Could Ask God One Question. Surrey: The Good Book Company, 2007. 127 pp.

This short paperback is designed to engage skeptics who have common objections to the Christian faith. The authors answer 12 frequent questions asked by skeptics. These are the 12 questions answered: If You’re Really There, God, Why On Earth Don’t You Prove It?; Isn’t the Bible Just a Bunch of Made-up Stories?; All Good People Got to Heaven?; If Jesus Really Was Your Son, How Come He Got Killed?; If I Can Be Forgiven Everything, Doesn’t That Mean I Can Do Whatever I Like?; How Can Anyone Be Sure There’s Life After Death?; What About Followers of Other Religions?; Isn’t Faith Just a Psychological Crutch?; Why Do You Allow Suffering?; Why Do You Hate Sex?;& Why Don’t You Just Do a Miracle?

The chapters range from 6 to 12 pages. So the book is not designed to exhaustively give every biblical evidence for each particular subject addressed, however the authors do give a concise and powerful argument from Scripture that will open the skeptics mind to what the Christian faith does claim about itself.

For example in chapter 10 titled, “Why Do You Allow Suffering,” the authors point out that if suffering really proved that God did not exist, how much worse of a reality would this create for us:

The conclusion is this: if we decide to reject God out of hand because of the suffering we see in this world, then we must come to terms with something far worse than suffering: meaningless suffering. Because without God, there is no justice, no future and no significance to human life. The very thought fills the writer of Ecclesiastes with horror: “Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless (p. 96).”

Then the authors point the reader to Jesus as God’s remedy to our suffering:

At the cross, we see a suffering God, suffering for his own people because he loves them and wants to free them from all suffering in eternity. All that remains for us to do, as Jesus told the crowd still bewildered by the loss of life at Siloam, is “repent”, or to put it another way, “turn back to God.” And those words were not spoken by someone seeking to frighten, intimidate or bully. Neither were they spoken by someone who does not know what it means to suffer. In fact, they were spoken by a man shortly to die on your behalf (p. 101).
This book could easily be expanded into an effective sermon series to address new Christians. Of course the book should be given out to skeptics that any Christian meets during the week. I am thinking about displaying copies of this book and a companion book titled, Christianity Explored in our church building, making them available to members and visitors. I highly recommend If You Could Ask God One Question.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Reflections from Together for the Gospel '08

Like 5,000+ other individuals, I too just returned from T4G '08. You can find the audio of all the speakers at the T4G website. This conference like the one in '06 was thoroughly edifying to my soul for numerous reasons:

1. The messages were just the kind of spiritual food I needed. It is hard to know the weight of pastoral ministry if you have never pastored. All the speakers have pastored and the majority of them are still lead pastors at their churches. In particular, Mark Dever and C.J. Mananey always deliver soul food to the weary pastor, and they did not fail to deliver this year. Ligon Duncan and Albert Mohler instructed us who are younger in our years to stay the course on issues like Systematic Theology and Substitutionary Atonement. Both are widely being called into question especially in the Emergent Movement. Like wise teachers, they reminded us of the great value of these issues. Thabiti Anyabwile and John Piper brought great challenges for us. Thabiti called upon us to truly and un-hypocritically live out our faith seeing everyone as made in the image of God. Piper issued the challenge for us all to go outside the gate like Jesus and suffer for the cause. John MacArthur reminded us of man's complete inability to come to God apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, which helps the Pastor not get overly obsessed about success, but encourages faithfulness. Last, but certainly not least, R.C. Sproul delivered in my estimation the most powerful message centering on Christ becoming a curse for us. Just go and listen and worship.

2. The singing at these conferences is always encouraging, not because the newest and latest songs are used (they aren't) and not because of a grand orchestra of musicians (there wasn't one), but because 5,000+ souls gathered together sing with such passion and vibrance. I know it will not even compare to the singing that will take place in the next age, but I could not help but think of the line in the hymn Blessed Assurance, where it says, "Oh, what a fortaste of glory divine."

The hymns chosen always deepened the worship that had just taken place in the message. I am now encouraged to try to choose more carefully our own closing hymn as a result.

3. Visiting with friends was especially encouraging at the '08 conference. Back in '06 I came by myself. This time one of my best friends, Brent Blake (also a pastor) came along too. The conference is better when you can share it with a dear friend. Maybe in '10 extreme blogger Seth Bible might join us too.

Looking forward to 2010.

Baptist Faith & Message Article XVIII. The Family

Here is my final lesson on the BF&M 2000 that I have been teaching on Wednesday evenings.

XVIII. The Family

God has ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society. It is composed of persons related to one another by marriage, blood, or adoption.

Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime. It is God’s unique gift to reveal the union between Christ and His church and to provide for the man and the woman in marriage the framework for intimate companionship, the channel of sexual expression according to biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human race.

The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God's image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.

Children, from the moment of conception, are a blessing and heritage from the Lord. Parents are to demonstrate to their children God's pattern for marriage. Parents are to teach their children spiritual and moral values and to lead them, through consistent lifestyle example and loving discipline, to make choices based on biblical truth. Children are to honor and obey their parents.

Genesis 1:26-28; 2:15-25; 3:1-20; Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Joshua 24:15; 1 Samuel 1:26-28; Psalms 51:5; 78:1-8; 127; 128; 139:13-16; Proverbs 1:8; 5:15-20; 6:20-22; 12:4; 13:24; 14:1; 17:6; 18:22; 22:6,15; 23:13-14; 24:3; 29:15,17; 31:10-31; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; 9:9; Malachi 2:14-16; Matthew 5:31-32; 18:2-5; 19:3-9; Mark 10:6-12; Romans 1:18-32; 1 Corinthians 7:1-16; Ephesians 5:21-33; 6:1-4; Colossians 3:18-21; 1 Timothy 5:8,14; 2 Timothy 1:3-5; Titus 2:3-5; Hebrews 13:4; 1 Peter 3:1-7.


The inclusion of an article on the family in 1998 reveals the great upheaval in society surrounding the family. The family was and still is in such a crisis in our day that Southern Baptists felt compelled to address the crisis by adopting a significant statement (notice its length) on the family.

The Church should be front and center in this crisis concerning the family by obediently and joyfully living out God’s will in our own homes. However, the Church has dropped the ball in many respects when it comes to the family.

If we hope to recover God’s ideal for the family it will come when preachers faithfully preach God’s word from the pulpit, Christians earnestly seek to be faithful to God’s instruction, and when the Church in love practices accountability and discipline.

A. Family as a Foundational Institution

Read Paragraph One

When we think of institutions we likely think about government, banks, or educational universities and colleges. However, the most important societal institution is the family (I am thinking of institutions common to both the regenerate and unregenerate, so the church is excluded here). In many ways how the family goes, society goes. And we would all agree that as we take stock of the family presently, we are in agreement. The family is struggling mightily. And not surprisingly, our American society is struggling too.

I believe one of the main reasons why the health of the family and society are so interwoven is stated in the article in the last paragraph where it reads, “Parents are to teach their children spiritual and moral values and to lead them, through consistent lifestyle example and loving discipline, to make choices based on biblical truth.”

Godly character should be taught and modeled in the home to each successive generation, but this is not happening by in large today. Many families are not staying intact long enough to instruct and model biblical character to the next generation. Many families have three and four generations of passing on ungodliness and are incapable apart from a miracle of God of making any significant change. Still others are so intermingled with the world they are apathetic towards their children’s future or too selfish and preoccupied primarily with themselves.

And when the institution of family suffers all the other societal institutions suffer as well because when character is not taught, when virtues are not valued, when godliness is not modeled, then business and banking institutions value greed over stability. Governments become wasteful instead of being good stewards. National leaders become corrupt and try to perpetuate their own legacies by latching on to power even through deadly means. Schools fail to educate mainly because of the failure at home.

B. Marriage as Foundational for Family

Read Paragraphs Two & Three

One of the most significant reasons why the family is struggling today is due to our low view of marriage. The low view of marriage no doubt arises when marriage is separated from the truth it was meant to display, namely the marriage between Jesus and his bride, the Church.

Additionally, marriage is more and more being severed from its roots which are in God where he married the first man and woman. Marriage today is simply viewed as a social contract that can be broken for any reason in most states (no fault divorce).

When marriage is severed from God’s intent then we also lose sight of what is good and appropriate only in marriage such as having sex and raising children as the article states, “Marriage is…the channel of sexual expression according to biblical standards, and the means for procreation of the human race.”

In paragraph four, the statement says, “Parents are to demonstrate to their children God's pattern for marriage.” However, as the number of children born out of wedlock continue to rise, it becomes impossible for them to inherit godly patterns for marriage because they cannot be modeled by one parent. Furthermore the pain of having one or both parents disown their children through abandonment forever sears a child’s life and soul. It becomes near impossible for a child from this environment to even fathom a loving Father.

If the family is to be recovered then marriage must be recovered. And if marriage is to be recovered we must repent of our sin and turn to God for his instruction concerning the very institution he ordained. And when we do this we will recover important truths such as:

1. God’s expectations of a husband… “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25).” The article expresses that the husband fulfills this command in part by providing for, protecting, and leading his family.

2. God’s expectations of a wife… “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 5:22-23).” The article elaborates more on the role of the wife calling her the husband’s helper who works alongside him managing the family and nurturing their children.

3. The marriage covenant between a man and a woman should display in many ways the new covenant between Christ and the Church… “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:31-32).”

4. This truth leads us to the permanency of marriage just as Christ will never forsake his Church, so a husband should never forsake his wife and vice versa. 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 says, “To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.”

5. When sex is reserved for a man and a woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime, then children born out of wedlock become a thing of the past and families are much more prepared to bring a child into the world and properly model for them godliness.

What was very intriguing when this article was affirmed and adopted into the Baptist Faith & Message was the outcry against the statement “A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ.” Not surprising was the mainstream media’s attempt to paint this article negatively, but what was very surprising was the many Christians who denounced this statement because this statement comes directly from Scripture in Ephesians 5:22, 24.

C. A Biblical View of Children

Read Paragraph Four

Because our society has lost its positive view of children, Southern Baptists have deemed it necessary to also reaffirm a high view of children. First, we affirm that children “from the moment of conception, are a blessing and heritage from the Lord.” We say “from the moment of conception” because of the terrible reality of abortion and its fruits present in our society.

While our society continues to raise standards in how we treat our land and how we treat animal life, we are making little progress in how we treat young human beings. We even have at least one political candidate who confesses that he isn’t sure whether life begins at conception but inexplicably sides not with caution but freely fights for the right of every American to have an abortion for whatever reason.

Children are not to be torn apart in the womb through abortive measures. The Scripture describes the awesome nature of procreation in Psalm 139:13-18…

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them. If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you.

And Psalm 127:3-5 says of children, "Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them. He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate."

Children are not hindrances to be bemoaned, but rewards to be treasured. Children are not diseases to be rid of, but are blessings to be enjoyed. Children are not biological impediments that damper our futures, but human beings are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God which help parents know God more deeply and make life more meaningful.


The recovery of the family, marriage, and other institutions will occur to the degree that we humble ourselves and repent of our rebellion against God and his divine wisdom and begin to diligently search his revealed Scripture and embrace his perfect teaching regarding these vital institutions.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Quotes from David F. Wells

I just completed No Place for Truth, by David Wells last night. I thought I would paste some good quotes from the book. All of these particular quotes come from his last chapter titled, "The Reform of Evangelicalism."

On Modern Revivalism:

"At moments like this, the customary response to the sense of Christian inadequacy, whether in relation to God or some aspect of the Christian message, has been to call for revival. In the modern period, though, revival has frequently entailed little more than proceeding with business as usual and praying that God will spice it up with some new enthusiasm and effectiveness. This is the legacy of the Finneyite conception of revival as something that can be engineered by the Church with proper techniques. Working from such assumptions, the Church will almost certainly be inclined to think of its own rejuvenation as self-engineered. But this is simply to apply modernity's solution to a problem that modernity has caused, and that is a dead end (Wells, No place for Truth, 296)."

On the Image of God:

"If we view ourselves as beings made in the image of God, we will recognize in ourselves capacities for God, truth, and goodness--capacities that cannot be meaningfully filled by that which is not divine, not true, not good. As Augustine observed long ago, we will be restless and frustrated until these capacities find their satisfaction in the God for whom they are made (Wells, No Place for Truth, 298)."

On the Relationship between Theology and the Church:

"Why should theology not be content simply to think its deep thoughts alone in the learned guild, doing its work only among scholars? The answer, quite simply, is that the learned guild cannot properly serve as the primary auditor for theology, the wider culture finds it incomprehensible, and theology developed apart from the Church rapidly loses its character. A theology oblivious to the Church as the people of God soon loses a sense of wonder because it is cut off from worship, and it soon loses productive connections to the world because it is not driven by a commitment to service. It will lose its life and character. And, conversely, without theology there can be no Church, because theology holds the key to Christian identity, to Christian continuity, to genuine piety, to serious worship, and to the sort of Christian thought that seeks to bring the import of God's Word into our world (Wells, No Place for Truth, 292)."

Baptist Faith & Message Article XVII. Religious Liberty

XVII. Religious Liberty

God alone is Lord of the conscience, and He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to His Word or not contained in it. Church and state should be separate. The state owes to every church protection and full freedom in the pursuit of its spiritual ends. In providing for such freedom no ecclesiastical group or denomination should be favored by the state more than others. Civil government being ordained of God, it is the duty of Christians to render loyal obedience thereto in all things not contrary to the revealed will of God. The church should not resort to the civil power to carry on its work. The gospel of Christ contemplates spiritual means alone for the pursuit of its ends. The state has no right to impose penalties for religious opinions of any kind. The state has no right to impose taxes for the support of any form of religion. A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal, and this implies the right of free and unhindered access to God on the part of all men, and the right to form and propagate opinions in the sphere of religion without interference by the civil power.

Genesis 1:27; 2:7; Matthew 6:6-7, 24; 16:26; 22:21; John 8:36; Acts 4:19-20; Romans 6:1-2; 13:1-7; Galatians 5:1,13; Philippians 3:20; 1 Timothy 2:1-2; James 4:12; 1 Peter 2:12-17; 3:11-17; 4:12-19.

Religious Liberty Briefly Defined

Liberty of religion is an idea and law that modern day Americans take for granted. Every living person born in America that is living today has always been privileged to this freedom. For that reason I will define religious liberty as the term is rarely used today. Religious liberty is the freedom given to people to practice their faith and religious beliefs without any interference, especially by Kings and Princes in days past and by governments largely today.

The primary driving force behind this belief of religious liberty is that any forced or coerced prescription of religious beliefs upon a person or people against his or her will does not honor God. The assumption followed here, in a pluralistic society, is that no god desires forced submission and worship. However, there are many adherents to many religions who do not adhere to this assumption.

Baptist History and Religious Liberty

Religious Liberty as we have come to know it expressed in the Western World derives from Christian belief because it is the generally accepted position that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ does not desire worship that is forced or coerced. Now there have been certain people who have gone under the banner of Christ who have thought the opposite, but by in large this practice has been rejected today.

The rejection of forced coercion to Christianity as a movement has many of its roots in Baptist life. Baptists were some of the first Christians who systematically fought for religious liberty. And many good Christian men and women were persecuted for their participation in this movement to liberate the conscience away from the state.

The first sentence in the BF&M states, Baptists believe, “God alone is Lord of the conscience, and He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to His Word or not contained in it.” Early leaders in this movement believed that every person should have the right to interpret Scripture and commune with God according to their own consciences, not having to be led by men or a creed they differed with in interpretation.

John Spilsbury, the first pastor of Particular Baptists wrote, “No conscience ought to be forced in the matters of Religion, because no man can bear out another in his account to God (Nettles, An Exposition from the Faculty of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, 41).” John Smyth, one of the earliest Baptists wrote while in exile, “The prince must leave the Christian religion free to every man’s conscience (Nettles, Exposition of the Baptist Faith & Message, 41).”

Baptist forefathers, long before men like John Clarke and Thomas Jefferson, were writing and championing Religious Liberty (Nettles, Exposition of the Baptist Faith & Message, 41).” But not only were Christians championing the rights of men to freely exercise the Christian religion without interference from civil authorities or state endorsed churches, some were championing the right of all men to practice any religion in freedom. For example, Thomas Helwys said, “Let them be heretics, Turcks, Jewes or whatever it apperteynes not to the earthly power to punish them in the least measure (Nettles, Exposition of the Baptist Faith & Message, 41).”

The State and the Church

The battle for the freedom to practice religion in the Western world sprang from a rebellion against State Churches which dictated what could and could not be believed and what could and could not be practiced in Christian religion. In many lands, the Roman Catholic Church was the only recognized church and was the authority on every spiritual matter. In Germany, after the Reformation is was the Lutheran Church. In England it became the Church of England. In Scotland, it became the Presbyterian Church. And whatever the official church position was on a subject there was little room for differences. Thus, the religious liberty movement, which includes Southern Baptists, expressly state, “Church and state should be separate.”

We believe the state or governing authority has a role in religion, but it is not to dictate what the church should believe and how it should practice its belief. Instead, religious liberty advocates have taught that the state’s obligations to the church should be to ensure its freedom to worship without any interference. The BF&M states it this way, “The state owes to every church protection and full freedom in the pursuit of its spiritual ends. In providing for such freedom no ecclesiastical group or denomination should be favored by the state more than others.”

Christian advocates of religious liberty see the state as an ordained means by which God providentially executes justice based upon Roman 13. However, the state is not to interfere in the local church domain. The two should remain distinct. Membership in the state does not entail membership in a church. The BF&M endorses this principle as it reads, “Civil government being ordained of God, it is the duty of Christians to render loyal obedience thereto in all things not contrary to the revealed will of God.”

The BF&M further addresses how these two institutions interact at the end of the article. It reads, “The state has no right to impose penalties for religious opinions of any kind. The state has no right to impose taxes for the support of any form of religion. A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal, and this implies the right of free and unhindered access to God on the part of all men, and the right to form and propagate opinions in the sphere of religion without interference by the civil power.”

The freedom to express religious views has come under attack particularly over the issue of homosexuality. In our society today, the mere utterance that homosexuality is a sin will lead to the charge that you are homophobic. In a few countries in Europe and in Canada, pastors have been arrested and fined for merely reading Bible passages condemning homosexuality and expressing God’s judgment and condemnation of the practice.

These pastors have been arrested under hate speech laws. Activists in the homosexual community are trying to silence all opposition against homosexuality and these hate speech laws have been used to silence any criticism. Hate speech is any speech which is deemed to be potentially incendiary, and which might cause violence.

Now these pastors who have been arrested for hate speech are in no way calling for any violence against homosexuals. All they are doing is faithfully preaching against the sins the Bible names. Our very own country might see this same practice of jailing anyone who opposes homosexuality and speaks of it as a sin which God detests. As the BF&M states, we believe, “a free church in a free state is the Christian ideal, and this implies…the right to form and propagate opinions in the sphere of religion without interference by the civil power.”

Kingdom Work vs. Civil Work

Baptists have traditionally argued for a separation of church and state. However, Baptists still believe there is a place for the state to obediently carry out God’s ordained will for it as an institution. A real mess arises however, when Baptists or any other Christian group seeks to do God’s will primarily through the means of civil government. The Baptist Faith & Message says, “The church should not resort to the civil power to carry on its work.”

Southern Baptists need to strike a healthy balance of how to involve themselves in the civil arena. On the one hand, the political arena should never be our primary focus for how we meaningfully persuade people to embrace Jesus and his teachings. On the other hand, we should not completely neglect this avenue as a means to be salt and light. The example and work of William Wilberforce is an example of the good a Christian can bring about through government.

The bottom line is this: Genuine and permanent change can only be realized through the reception of the Holy Spirit and the reception of the Holy Spirit can only be attained through repentance of sins and faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. And most Christians agree that it is not the responsibility of any government to be the propagator of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Instead this responsibility and privilege has been given to the Church of God which is the pillar and support of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15).”

The Divine Origin of the Kingdom

The BF&M message says concerning Religious Liberty, “The gospel of Christ contemplates spiritual means alone for the pursuit of its ends.” At the heart of this statement is the Christian belief that God’s will is accomplished through a divine power. This world was created by God. This world is saved by God. This world will be renewed and transformed by God.

No human initiative or creation will be sufficient to save our souls from God’s judgment on account of our sin. No human initiative or creation will be able to make this world as it was in the beginning, only power of God will suffice. And understanding God’s overarching aim in history will help the church to understand where its primary focus should be.

In the New Creation, governments will pass away. In the New Creation, Congresses will cease to legislate. In the New Creation, there will be only one King, one Lord, one Prince. Jesus Christ will be known and named and honored as the King of kings, the Lord of lords, and the Prince of Peace.

Therefore it is the great responsibility and privilege of the church, his bride, to preach the gospel of Jesus. It is our means to increase his kingdom and see it advance today. AMEN.

Monday, April 07, 2008

1 Corinthians 5: Church Discipline, Part 2

Here is the second sermon on Church Discipline from my series on 1 Corinthians.

Introduction: Review of Part 1

1. Paul angered by the lack of Corinthian Church to discipline the man in sin.
2. Paul instructs the church to remove the man.
3. The reason for removing him was for his salvation (v5)

Paul now gives the church reasons why the man must be removed.

Now remember at the beginning, I said Paul’s concern was primarily for the church. He asks in verse 6, “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?”

In our modern culture we want to make sin out to be only a personal matter. So if we sin in their money, we tend to say our money is not the church’s business. So if we sin in their sex life, we tend to say our sex life is none of the church’s business. So if we sin in how we raise our children, well how we raise our children is none of the church’s business.

This is just evidence of how rampant worldliness has infected the church. It is evidence of how popular worldly sentiments trump the Word of God in many Christian’s lives.

Scriptures teaches here and on many other occasions that the sin of one member or one family can have terrible consequences on the entire body. When we allow the odious sin of one to go unchallenged then it will not be long until the majority says we have no business challenging anyone’s sin because we are not consistent.

One of the reasons today that we do not practice discipline is that we no longer recognize church leaders to have authority in our lives. When the preacher or the preacher and deacon confront a sinful person they are often blown off, and the church, because it lacks a tradition of discipline, has no recourse for the blatant disrespect shown for the proper authorities God has placed in our lives.

Or the one confronted gets upset, and they start going to another church and the pastor there is so delighted in adding to their numbers invites them to join without investigating why they left their past church. We just perpetuate the problems so rampant in our churches.

Association With Sinners

In verse 9 Paul has to clear up a misunderstanding about associating with sinners. We do not disassociate ourselves with unconverted sinners for as he says we would have to leave this world to do this, but that we should not associate with one who “bears the name brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.”


Four reasons

1. If we continue in our daily association with him then it appears to him that the situation is not dire and urgent. But the offender needs to feel the weight of the consequences of his unrepentant sins. We want him to come to church and listen to God’s word preached and sung and prayed, but they are no longer recognized as one in the community but as one outside.

2. Our continued association with one irreparably damages the reputation of the church in the community. Brothers and sisters, we so often lament the question of why the church seems so irrelevant today. Could it be partially because so much of what we offer the world is hypocrisy?

Are we not a people who have been washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ?

Our message says Jesus will forgive you of your sins if you repent and believe in him. You will also be given the Holy Spirit who will begin to transform you into the image of Jesus Christ. He will transform your lives. “The old things have passed away, behold new things have come.”

Yet when the world examines our claims they see few people interested in learning to observe all things Jesus has commanded. They see just as much sin in the church as they do in the world. They look at our marriage and divorce rate and laugh because it is no different than the society. Our children are committing sexual fornication at the same rates happening in the schools.

Some of the biggest gossips in the community are in the church.

Brothers and sisters, it is hard for the world to take serious what we ourselves don’t first take serious. O that we, like God would have passion and zeal for holiness and purity in this church.

3. The sin of one can bring judgment upon the congregation.

a. Look at the sin of Adam, it brought his entire posterity under sin.

b. The sin of Achan in Joshua caused his entire family to perish and Israel to be defeated in war.

c. The sin of David in murdering Uriah the Hittite, the husband of Bathsheba brought God’s judgment upon his family in two ways. God said on account of his sin, the sword would not depart from his family, and the son born to him by Bathsheba died.

d. So Paul argues that this man guilty and arrogant of sexual immorality will bring judgment upon the church.

4. Tolerated sin will cause the church to become more sinful and more tolerant of sin. Paul says to Timothy in his first letter, “Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful [of sinning].”

One of the reasons why sin is so prevalent in the church is because we have forsaken the Scriptures teaching on the practice of the rebuke. For so long we never confront anyone on blatant and public sin I guess telling ourselves it is not our business and so it continues and multiplies. If the church tolerates one divorce on unscriptural grounds, then it will tolerate many more. If the church tolerates one case of adultery, then many will be tolerated. We tolerate one act of sexual fornication, and many more will be tolerated. We will begin to give a pass on most every sin. Yet Scripture says, “Purge the evil person from among you.”

Scripture says that we should judge those in the church and God judges those outside the church. So if the church rolls are our domain, then how should we go about this practice?

First, we must submit ourselves to the teaching of God’s word. There will some who object to church discipline at the outset. But in reality what these are saying is: “I am not going to do what the Bible commands me to do.”

Brothers and sisters, I do not want to be part in a church filled with people who have no reverence for the word of God. If the word of God clearly teaches a practice, then we must work to see that it is correctly initiated and correctly sustained in order to be faithful and obedient to God.

We need to recognize that obeying God’s word is not always easy. We do not have the option to pick those practices that are easy and neglect those which are difficult. We do not have the option to only adhere to those which have been passed on to us, but also those through neglect which we must recover.

When the Bible reveals that we should not associate with Christians who practice immoralities and are unwilling to repent then we must be obedient to Scripture and not associate with such a one just like Scripture teaches for those who claim Christ and are idle (2 Thes. 3:6). We need, as Paul exhorts is 2 Thes. 3 “to not grow weary in doing good.”

In order to be the competent man of God equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17) we cannot take out the part about God's word being profitable for correction.

Second, we must create a culture in the church of accountability. This does not mean that I tell all my problems and concerns with every member of the church, but there needs to be for a man a few men and for a woman, a few women that you trust and will lean upon for Christian growth and accountability.

We have to know that the people in the church love us first before we will ever be able to receive rebuke and discipline. The reason why our children receive and accept discipline from us as parents is because they know we love them and we show it. On some occasions the reason why children will not tolerate parental discipline is because they do not sense a strong presence of love in the home.

When love and accountability are absent, church discipline is like having someone you only see once a month spank your kid for some disobedience. It just isn’t right is it? The only way church discipline works is if we are indeed a strong loving family in the first place committed to the well being of the church.

Third, in order to establish church wide accountability I believe we must raise the standard here at Little River of what it means to be a member. We need standards of conduct, and we have these located in the church covenant. My suggestion would be that we take a look at the covenant and upon agreement affix our names to it understanding that we are accountable to these words. We also need to write a policy for how church discipline will take place and again affix our names to it understanding that we will be accountable to the policy.

Fourth, one of the first acts of discipline that Little River needs to exercise is the excommunication of many of its members due to their habitual absence. In excommunicating them from our membership we would not be saying that they are not Christians because of their lack of attendance, but we as a community are no longer capable of discerning whether they are or are not because they have forsaken the fellowship of the saints so we will no longer be accountable for them because of the decisions they have made. Furthermore, we do not want the leadership of the church to be accountable for them before God when there is no way they can be because of their lack of concern for the people of Little River.

Fifth, we need to understand that corrective church discipline when done well will usually be settled privately and not before the church. Church discipline is not some practice where every person’s sins must be named before the church. We all truly understand that we are all sinners.
The Bible gives clear steps in Scripture for handling sin. For example when one brother sins against another brother Jesus tells us in Matthew 18 we go to the offender by ourselves. Usually this is where discipline ends because as God teaches us, we are to forgive others of their sins and when we are confronted with undeniable sin we must confess it and repent of it.

The only occasions where discipline comes before the church is when the offending party will not repent of clear sin and when the sin, as in 1 Corinthians 5 is so egregious and public that it must be dealt with publicly for the sake of the reputation of the church and God’s name.


By practicing church discipline we will:

1. Save lives
2. Be faithful to God’s word
3. Maintain the reputation of the church
4. Maintain our Christian witness
5. Increase holiness
6. Give the boot to much sin
7. Have integrity in church membership
8. Help our leaders be accountable to God concerning the flock
9. We will model godliness to the next generation
10. We will hand off the church in greater health to the next generation.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Baptist Faith & Message Article XVI. Peace and War

Here are my notes from my ongoing Wednesday evening study of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000.

XVI. Peace and War

It is the duty of Christians to seek peace with all men on principles of righteousness. In accordance with the spirit and teachings of Christ they should do all in their power to put an end to war.

The true remedy for the war spirit is the gospel of our Lord. The supreme need of the world is the acceptance of His teachings in all the affairs of men and nations, and the practical application of His law of love. Christian people throughout the world should pray for the reign of the Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 2:4; Matthew 5:9,38-48; 6:33; 26:52; Luke 22:36,38; Romans 12:18-19; 13:1-7; 14:19; Hebrews 12:14; James 4:1-2.

Christian Warfare vs. Modern Warfare

There is certainly a type of warfare in which the Christian should participate. So at the outset of this topic of war and peace we need to differentiate between godly warfare and ungodly warfare. And I am not talking about just war theory.

When one is transferred into the Kingdom of God’s Son, he is enlisted as a soldier for King Jesus. This truth is captured nicely in a hymn like Onward, Christian Soldiers.

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before! Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe; Forward into battle, see his banner go!

At the sign of triumph Satan’s host doth flee; On then, Christian soldiers, on to victory! Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of praise; Brothers lift your voices, loud your anthems raise!

Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war; With the cross of Jesus going on before!

The mission given to the soldier has similarities to a soldier in the Marines. For example, the Christian soldier is given permission to engage the enemy in the hopes that a victory might be secured over the enemy. However, the means, or the way we go about securing victory over our enemies, is different from modern warfare. Additionally, our enemy is a spiritual one and not primarily a physical one like we see in modern warfare.

Our enemy in Christian warfare is not mankind as Paul writes in Ephesians 6:12, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

As Scripture teaches us, mankind is not our primary enemy. Our enemies are fundamentally Satan, bondage to sin, and death. It is our enslavement to sin and its corruption of our beings which leads to division and violence between men and nations. So the goal for mankind is not to destroy one another but to be liberated from the powers and forces that lead us to violence.

Victory in Christ

Scripture teaches us that this needed liberation from evil powers and forces comes through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And the way we participate in the victory Jesus Christ made comes when we are united to him by faith. The old self is crucified with Christ. The Holy Spirit gives birth to a new self, in which the power of sin has been broken.

The primary means by which we wage warfare is the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ for it is through the hearing of the Word of Christ that we are saved and liberated from the powers of darkness. The Baptist Faith & Message says it this way, “The true remedy for the war spirit is the gospel of our Lord.”

There have been many remedies offered in the past to avoid war and there will continue to be many offered in the future, but if the peace is not rooted in Jesus Christ then it will not last.

Short-lived Remedies

There are many remedies offered today…

1. Economic sanctions are levied against countries in order to ensure peace.
2. Non-Aggression treaties are signed between nations
3. Appeasement was offered in the months leading to WWII.
4. The accumulation of great armies is often a deterrent to war.
5. The remedy of war unfortunately is often more war.

In older days past, in order to ensure the peace, princes and princesses from differing kingdoms and nations were married to ensure the peace.

Peace Through Marriage to Christ

It would seem that this approach has the most similarity with God’s plan for peace. Those who are united with Jesus Christ by faith are called the bride of Christ. Jesus is the husband and all those who will join Christ in marriage will enter into God’s peace, but all those who rebel against Jesus Christ, God will destroy.

The primary reason why Jesus Christ is the only true remedy to the spirit of war is that mankind’s heart is enslaved to evil toward God, and this rebellion against God’s ways leads to devastation in our relationships with one another. Only the new birth can enact the kind of permanent change needed for everlasting peace with our fellow man, and only the work of Jesus Christ can ensure our peace with God on account of the blood of Jesus which justifies us before God.

Given that our task is to bring the liberating gospel to all men regardless of ethnicity, tongue, or nationality we should not give ourselves to the type of ungodly warfare which leads to physical death and ensures that no further opportunities for real peace can be given. Thus the Baptist Faith & Message says, “It is the duty of Christian to seek peace with all men on principles of righteousness. In accordance with the spirit and teachings of Christ they should do all in their power to put an end to war.”

We are Peacemakers

Scripture is filled with teachings that instruct us on our responsibility to work for peace on earth.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God (Matthew 5:9).”

Romans 12:18-21 (NASU) “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath [of God], for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Romans 14:19 (NASU) “So then let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.”

Hebrews 12:14 (NASU) “Pursue peace with all men…”

In his own ministry, Jesus rejected violence toward others as a means by which would inaugurate his Kingdom.

a. He did not call legions of angels who were at his disposal for protection.

b. He commanded Peter to put his sword away when the authorities arrested him.

c. He did not militarize his followers at the height of his popularity.

Instead he inaugurated his kingdom through selflessness, sacrifice, and service to others faithfully leading people to God.

Godly Resistance

Jesus was not a complete passivist though. He taught his followers to resist evil but not in the standard practices of his day which resorted to more evil.

In Matthew 5:38-48, Jesus gave three examples of creative holy resistance tactics against evil.

a. turning the other cheek: turning the other cheek creates a dilemma for the abuser. Few would be willing to use their left hand to slap someone (for the left hand was unclean). His only option would be to quit hitting you (thus the violence would end) or because his left cheek is exposed, his only option would be to strike with a closed fist which only equals in society fought this way (if he did this then he would be saying you are his equal and he probably would not do this).

b. giving your tunic and cloak: If someone sued you for your tunic and you also hand him your cloak as well, you will be naked and your nakedness will bring shame on him who sees you. The desired hope is that the one who sues you will be shamed and recognize that suing for someone’s tunic is wicked.

c. going the extra mile: Going the extra mile beyond the legal Roman proscription of one mile would potentially cause the soldier to get into trouble and would turn the table on the Roman solider concerning who had power.

Being a peacemaker is not easy work. It takes wisdom and ingenuity.

Implementing Christ’s teaching in our own lives will help us work for peace in this world. If the church would truly model the kind of service, sacrifice, selflessness, and love that Jesus demonstrated we could truly turn the world upside down.

We should pray and work for the end of peace. The Baptist Faith & Message says, “The supreme need of the world is the acceptance of His teachings in all the affairs of men and nations, and the practical application of His law of love. Christian people throughout the world should pray for the reign of the Prince of Peace.”

Is There Such a Thing as Just War?

My own position is: where there is war where men kill one another there is also evil and wickedness. These kinds of wars are always the result of our failure to love God and love our neighbor.

The only occasion where war may be justified is when the greater evil would be to sit idly by when great injustices occur. But my belief is that few wars have been waged that fit this scenario. Furthermore, even when war is waged justifiably(?) it is still the lesser of two evils.

What we know to be true is that when our soldiers come home from wars and they have killed other human beings they are never the same. Most suffer for the rest of their lives with post-traumatic stress. And this makes perfect sense for we were never created for such barbaric conduct. Our soldiers and their families need our prayers on many fronts.


War is easy.
Wickedness is easy.
Retaliation is easy.

Peace is difficult.
Holiness is difficult.
Suffering wrongs is difficult.

But this is the work Jesus calls us to. Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”