Entries Tagged as ''

The Bible and Baptist Identity

Baptists are a people of the Book.

It is a slogan we have all heard before, and when we are at our very best, no doubt these words ring true. As a denomination Southern Baptists have now spoken out loud and clear for the inerrancy of Scripture for almost three decades. For this, we should be grateful. But any denomination that is committed to the truthfulness of Scripture will wrestle with what the Bible teaches, so it is only natural that we find ourselves in the midst of several family debates about faith and practice.

For the last few years Southern Baptists have been debating aspects of our Baptist identity. Sometimes we debate Baptist principles themselves. For instance, there is an ongoing question as to whether or not a plural elder leadership model is consistent with the traditional Baptist belief in congregational church government. The ordinances are also being debated. Churches, seminarians, bloggers, and even trustees are discussing the nature and validity of some baptisms. Others have considered the possibility of allowing non-immersed Christians to be members of their churches. When it comes to the Lord’s Table, an ongoing question is whether communion should be “open” to all professing Christians or “closed” to only those believers who have been properly immersed. Even the character of regenerate church membership is being debated as Baptists consider issues like the proper age for baptismal candidates and the nature and function of corrective church discipline.

Then there are those debates that are not related to Baptist principles per se, but rather focus on appropriate boundaries for Southern Baptist belief. Is it kosher for Southern Baptists to affirm some spiritual gifts traditionally associated with the Charismatic and Pentecostal traditions? Are there particular worship practices that are inappropriate in a Southern Baptist context? Is it proper for women to serve in any authority positions, or can only men serve in teaching or leading positions in a local church? How many of the “points” of Calvinism can someone hold to and still be considered a “good” Southern Baptist?

Of course, all of these debates occur in a denomination that is committed to local church autonomy and liberty of conscience, so a variety of opinions exist on each of these issues. And these are just the things that conservative Southern Baptists debate; our moderate friends bring a whole list of other issues to the table.

As Southern Baptists continue to discuss these and other important issues, we would do well to remember that, as the Baptist Faith & Message says, our inerrant Scripture “reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried.” In other words, the Bible alone is our ultimate authority for faith and practice, including Baptist identity.

It is tempting to appeal to what is popular when we discuss controversial issues. But what is popular may not be what is biblical. It is tempting to appeal to Baptist history—either recent or ancient—when we argue for specific positions. But Baptists are not infallible, and just because something may have been true of some Baptists in the past does not mean it is biblical. It is tempting to appeal to the practices of other Christian traditions when we try to defend our convictions. But other Christian traditions often miss the mark when it comes to biblical fidelity. It is even tempting to appeal to our current or historic confessions of faith when we make a case for certain beliefs, but we must always remember that minor (and sometimes not so minor) differences exist between the various Baptist confessions. More importantly, because most Baptists believe that confessions are non-inspired summaries of what most Baptists believe at a particular point in time, no confession is ultimately authoritative except insofar as it accurately conveys biblical teaching. And even then a confession’s authority is a derived authority, being grounded in Scripture and not in the confession itself.

I am thankful we are debating important theological and methodological issues; again, this should be expected in a denomination that takes the authority and sufficiency of Scripture seriously. But we must be willing to make the case for our positions from that Scripture rather than our own opinions, popular sentiment, history, the teachings of theologians, or even confessions of faith. We must be a people of the book as we debate our Baptist identity.

My prayer is that God will grant us great wisdom and abundant charity as we continue to wrestle with who we are and who we ought to be as Southern Baptists. I hope you join me in that prayer.
 

 

  

Dr. Mohler “On Faith”, Atheism, and an Onslaught Against Christianity

picDr. Mohler has recently produced several works on the topic of faith. He has recently been asked to participate in a panel discussion over different topics of faith. The group discussion is called “On Faith” and is being presented through Newsweek magazine and The Washington Post. The first topic of conversation is “If some religious people believe they have a monopoly on truth, then are conversation and common ground possible? If so, what would be the difficulties and benefits of such a conversation?” The panel includes many notable names including Desmond Tutu, Sam Harris, Richard Land, Brian D. McLaren, and Cal Thomas. Dr. Mohler's answer is entitled "Telling the Truth about Truth."

 Dr. Mohler also composed two articles on the topic of Atheism at his website. He states that “2006 has been a big year for atheism.” He writes in his blog an article entitled “No Conflict Between Science and Religion?” and in his commentary section “The New Atheism?” In the blog article Mohler focuses in on a recent conference on the topic of science and religion held at Salk institute for Biological Studies. Mohler states that “Evidently, the event was an opportunity to declare open warfare on belief in God.” Dr. Mohler states on his site that

“The New Scientist described the meeting as an evangelistic rally for disbelief in God: It had all the fervour of a revivalist meeting. True, there were no hallelujahs, gospel songs or swooning, but there was plenty of preaching, mostly to the converted, and much spontaneous applause for exhortations to follow the path of righteousness. And right there at the forefront of everyone's thoughts was God.”

In his commentary he writes of a recent cover story from WIRED on the topic of a rising New Atheism. Dr. Mohler points out from the article that “In ‘The New Atheism,’ WIRED contributing Editor Gary Wolf explains that this newly assertive form of atheism declares a very simple message: ‘No heaven. No hell. Just science.’” The article from WIRED focuses on three prominent Atheists (whom Gary Wolf interviewed for much of his article), and the article is quick to point out that these men not only don’t believe in God, they also are evangelists for this non-religion. These three men are Richards Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett.

 Dr. Mohler’s articles are very insightful and worth reading sense vitriolic atheism seems to be on the rise and will become more prevalent. We are made more keenly aware of the assault the post-modern culture is making on Christianity. We must be steadfast in our convictions and in our knowledge of the “faith once for all delivered to the saints.” We realize that we do not hope that people will come to believe in some abstract, Supreme Being, but we hope that they will come to have an intimate knowledge of the God who became flesh. We hope for their belief in the God who bore the cross and our sins in His own body and the God who provides salvation and relationship through that mediator. Understanding that God says in Psalm 14 “The fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God’ they are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.”

 Dr. Mohler sums it up best at the end of his blog by asserting that “Right there at the forefront of everyone's thoughts was God? Yes — inevitably so — even at a forum held to declare his non-existence.” We must understand that we are not righteous, we do not seek after God, but we do serve a savior who, “came to seek and to save that which is lost”. A savior who came to bring light to the dark and the dark has not understood this light. We realize through grace we have had this “Light” revealed to us, even as we pray for those that are blinded and unable at present to see the Light of the World. 
 

 

Why I Am Thankful for My Local Church

There are many things I am thankful for this Thanksgiving season. I am thankful for all that God has done on my behalf through Jesus Christ. I am thankful that God has blessed me with such a wonderful wife, and that he has blessed us with such a precious little girl. I am thankful for a couple of great jobs, more godly friends than I deserve, and innumerable little things the Lord uses daily to remind me of his goodness and his grace.

One thing I am particularly thankful for this year is my local church, the First Baptist Church of Durham, NC. Leah and I began attending FBC in July of 2005, joining the church October a year ago. The church is exactly what we needed. We came to FBC from a church that was filled with many problems, so much so that the church nearly split over integrity issues among the ministerial and lay leadership. Frankly, we were right at the center of the controversy, having made public some of the issues that had been going on behind the scenes for almost two decades. It was an unfortunate experience, and one from which we were eager to recover.

FBC was like a breath of fresh air. Our pastor, Andy Davis, is one of the very best preachers I have ever heard, and is the most gifted teaching pastor I have ever sat under. He is also a man of integrity; what you see is what you get, and what you see is a humble, godly man and great role model. Our other ministerial staff are all talented, godly, humble men as well. And I have never seen a finer crop of deacons in a Southern Baptist church.

FBC is one of the two healthiest churches I have ever been a part of. Oh, we are not perfect by any means, but the congregation is growing spiritually and numerically. We are united in our common purpose and, more importantly, our common gospel. We are mission-minded, with numerous foreign and domestic mission trips planned for this year. We are blessed with the strongest Sunday School ministry I have ever seen. We are soon launching a counseling ministry, in the hopes of providing biblical counsel to hurting souls in our church and in the community.

I just cannot tell you how excited I am about our church. FBC is just what the Great Physician ordered for the Finn family, and this Thanksgiving season, we are truly thankful that He led us to such a wonderful local church.

Some Pastoral Wisdom from Andrew Fuller

Many a pastor, denominational leader, and seminarian has noted how difficult it can be to maintain personal piety while being a "professional" student and/or practitioner of Christianity. Indeed, it is scary–and a testimony to the power of sin–how easy it is for the sermons we listen to and the books we read to become nothing more than a mere exercise in outward devotion, while all the while our soul slowly atrophies due to spiritual neglect. The following is from a sermon preached by Andrew Fuller, longtime pastor of the Baptist church in Kettering, Northamptonshire, England. Fuller, who was arguably the most influential British Baptist of his era, was also a tireless advocate for foreign mission, a defender of Baptist principles, and an imminent theologian. The title of this sermon is "Preaching Christ," and these words are just as applicable in the modern SBC as they were to turn of the 19th century British Baptists.

A REMARK which I once heard from the lips of that great and good man, the late Mr. Abraham Booth, has often recurred to my recollection. "I fear," said he, "there will be found a larger proportion of wicked ministers than of any other order of professing Christians!" It did not appear to me at the time, nor has it ever appeared since, that this remark proceeded from a want of charity, but rather from a deep knowledge of the nature of Christianity, and an impartial observation of men and things. It behoves us, not only as professing Christians, but as ministers, to "examine ourselves, whether we be in the faith." It certainly is possible, after we have preached to others, that we ourselves should be cast away! I believe it is very common for the personal religion of a minister to be taken for granted; and this may prove a temptation to him to take it for granted too. Ministers, being wholly devoted to the service of God, are supposed to have considerable advantages for spiritual improvement. These they certainly have; and if their minds be spiritual, they may be expected to make greater proficiency in the Divine life than their brethren. But it should be remembered, that if they are not spiritual, those things which would otherwise be a help would prove a hinderance. If we study Divine subjects merely as ministers, they will produce no salutary effect. We may converse with the most impressive truths, as soldiers and surgeons do with blood, till they cease to make any impression upon us. We must meditate on these things as Christians, first feeding our own souls upon them, and then imparting that which we have believed and felt to others; or, whatever good we may do to them, we shall receive none ourselves. Unless we mix faith with what we preach, as well as with what we hear, the word will not profit us. It may be on these accounts that ministers, while employed in watching over others, are so solemnly warned against neglecting themselves: "Take heed unto yourselves and to all the flock," &c. "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them; for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee."

I find this passage very convicting; perhaps many of you do as well. This is just one more example of how Baptist history has wisdom to bear on our contemporary context. 

Reading the Bible Christocentrically: Part 2

Tombs of Jerusalem's Kings2 CHRONICLES 14-16: ASA 
 
 When reading a narrative a reader must look for clues, themes, etc that foreshadow what will happen at the end of the story. After reading the whole story, those clues and themes make greater sense, and are read in light of the rest of the story. When reading stories like Romeo and Juliet, The Odyssey, or The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, etc we do not dissect the earlier episodes without putting them in the context of the entire story. It would be like analyzing act two of Romeo and Juliet without seeing the clues and themes that foreshadow the tragic movement of the plot. The same must be done when reading the OT, because there are "clues" and themes that point forward to fulfillment in Christ. Recently I preached through several of the OT kings, and Asa was one king that I looked at.

ASA

 The story of Asa is found in 2 Chronicles 14-16. Asa begins as a righteous king who does "good and right in the eyes of the Lord (14:2)." The land is quiet and at rest under his kingship, and even when Zerah the Ethiopian marches against Asa with a million man army, he is defeated. Asa is granted a miraculous victory from God and rest because he trusts in the Lord and cries out to Him for deliverance (14:11-12). This is the fulfillment of Yahweh's promises to David (2 Sam 7). David's sons are to be warrior-kings who fight for His people, in dependence upon God. God promises to cut off David's enemies and give rest to the people and the land. David's Son will be a Son of God (i.e. Adam, ruling as God's representative). There is conditionality. When David's sons are disobedient they will be chastened with the rod. When they are faithful there will be blessings of power, peace, etc. Asa's humble dependence upon Yahweh as a faithful son is already bringing those blessings.

 A prophet, Azariah, comes to Asa and preaches to him. He tells Asa that "The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you." The King is the representative head for the people. When the kings are faithful the nation is blessed. When the kings are unfaithful the nation is cursed (i.e. sins of Manasseh eventually responsible for the exile). The head-body relationship of King Jesus with his church is not something that just shows up in the NT. The King embodies the nation as its head. So, there is ALWAYS a need in Israel for a king who obeys God wholly (i.e. who seeks Yahweh and does not forsake Him) so as to bring victory and peace for the people. Asa applies Azariah's preaching and brings religious reform to Judah and removes idolatry. He even removes the Queen Mother. Leithart writes, "Asa is a true disciple, who hates his mother to follow Yahweh (Lk 14:26; Leithart, 1 & 2 Kings, pg. 116)." His reform is bringing a reunification of Israel and Judah (e.g. Ezek. 37), because some from Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon see that "the Lord his God [is] with him (15:9)."

 Yet, the story takes a bad turn, where Asa ends up relying on man, not God. King Baasha of Israel comes up against Judah (with a much smaller army than Zerah the Ethiopian). Asa makes a treaty with Syria, giving the treasures of the Temple to form an alliance with Ben-Hadad. Syria defeats Baasha and Israel. It is not stated why Asa relies on Syria rather than God. Two possibilities as I see it: 1) He thought he could handle a smaller army with his own ingenuity rather than God (pride) or 2) He was afraid.

 Hanani, the seer, confronts and condemns Asa for his action. God's judgment on Asa is that from now on war will characterize his kingdom rather than peace (i.e. cursing and chastening of 2 Sam 7). Asa relied on God against the Ethiopians, but in this matter he relied on the King of Syria. How could he do such a thing? "For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars (16:9)." Asa is no longer a humble Son of God. He is depending upon man (the arm of the flesh). Asa does not receive the rebuke. He throws Hanani in prison.
      
  Asa ends up getting a foot disease, and the Bible says that "even in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but the physicians (16:12)." A sick king symbolizes a sick nation. All the stability of his earlier reign is gone. Asa actually ends up having his own tomb constructed for himself, and he is buried there after his death in Jerusalem.
      
 Instead of reading this episode merely as an historical portrait of a Davidic King, we should read it as one episode in the big storyline of the Bible. This storyline is dominated with the theme (clues) of the Son of God/David/King of Israel/Messiah. Asa is a messiah, an anointed king. Israel is looking for and needs a faithful Son of David to rise up, who will be loyal to Yahweh, relying on Him only, who will defeat their enemies and bring peace. Yahweh will answer His Son in times of trouble, if the Son will only rely on Him. The problem is that David's sons are loyal and humble and dependent only for a little while. They all fall short, and the people's hopes for a warrior-king lie dead in Jerusalem tombs.
      
  There is a promise that a man will come along who will crush this power of death (Gen 3:15). He will be a Son of David (2 Sam 7), who sits on an eternal throne. Yet, every single king in the OT ends up dead and rotting in their own tombs because the wages of sin is death. Asa starts off so well with victory and peace, relying on God. Yet, he ends up digging his own tomb, where he lies dead, embalmed with spices (16:14).
       
   In the big storyline we see the familiar refrain of a Son of David buried in Jerusalem, and yet you come to the NT and there is a Son of David who does not need his own tomb. He borrows one for three days only. And when the ladies come to embalm him with spices on Sunday morning, as the Jews had done with every other King who died before, all they found were grave clothes because he was not there. Why? Because eyes of the Lord had run to and fro over the whole earth seeking to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart was loyal to Him, and those eyes rested on one man, Jesus Christ. He had every opportunity to rely on the arm of the flesh as Asa had (Wilderness, Garden of Gethsemane, Cross, etc.), but he relied on God. He did not forsake the Lord; he was found by the Lord. God lifted up his dependent child, out of the dust of death, and seated him on a throne where all of his enemies are being put under his feet. He is the warrior king defeating his enemies and bringing quiet to the land (Heb. 2). As this king's great, great, great, great……….Grandfather had written, "Now I know that the LORD saves His Messiah (anointed); He will answer him from His holy heaven with the saving strength of His right hand. Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the LORD our God. They have bowed down and fallen; But we have risen and stand upright (Psa 20:6-8)."

Jon Akin

An Election Day Prayer

Heavenly Father,

We come to You in the name of Jesus Christ, our great Lord and Champion, the One who reigns on high above all earthly powers. We thank You for all that He has accomplished on our behalf, according to Your perfect plan and for the glory of Your Name. We thank You for the way You sovereignly rule our world, bringing all of human history to its ultimate consummation in Christ. And we thank You that Your gracious purposes infinitely exceeds the greatest desires of our hearts.

Lord, on this Election Day, we thank You for the nation in which we live. We know, Father, that untold billions of people live in other nations. We know that countless millions are our brothers and sisters in Christ, many of whom will never enjoy the freedom of worship that we enjoy until they pass into the next life. We thank you for a nation where we can freely worship You, where we can publicly preach the gospel, where we can freely share the good news of Jesus Christ with our family and friends. We thank you for a nation that is prosperous and powerful, though we recognize these as Your good gifts, subject to your divine providence and never to be taken for granted. And we thank You for many godly leaders, from local to state to national government, men and women who not only seek goodness and justice–which even a pagan can do because of your common grace–but seek these things for Your glory. Thank You for the way You have blessed America. We earnestly pray Your blessings will continue, not because we deserve them, but because You are a merciful and gracious God.

Father, on this Election Day 2006, we bring many concerns before You. First and foremost, we pray that Your will be done in whom is elected to public office. We pray that, in Your kind providence, those individuals who are elected will be honorable men and women of integrity, who seek to pass and govern laws that uphold justice and protect those who cannot protect themselves. We pray that, in as many cases as is possible, those individuals who are elected will be brothers and sisters in Christ, Your blood-bought children who are devoted to You and who are committed to a Christ-centered, biblically informed world and life view. We pray that referenda will be passed in many states that honor Your moral law and Your revealed will for humanity. We pray that You will be pleased with the choices that are made today.

Lord, we also pray that You will protect us from the temptations of the evil one on this election day. Lord, protect us from the temptation to place our trust in human government, for even though it is ordained by You, it remains tainted by the power of sin and corrupted by the wicked desires of men. May our trust ever be in Christ alone and in Your promises. Lord, protect us from an ungodly desire for power, manifested among so many Christians who allow politics to replace their passion of the gospel. And may we never confuse the two! Lord, protect us from the temptation as Christians to believe that the future of American politics belongs to us, and that we have the ability to do anything more than sway a particular election at a particular point in time, and even that only by your providence. Father, keep us humble, regardless of whatever political influence we may assert today or on any given day. Lord, protect us from the temptation to become disillusioned with morally just politics because of the sins of any leader. Lord, may your truth ever be seen to be greater than the strengths or failures of any one man, no matter how large his pulpit or how vast his influence. Lord, protect us from civil religion, from equating our faith with the platform of a political party or your plans with the election of a particular politician. Rather, may we always recognize the proper spheres of church and state, and may the line between the two never be blurred, that both may be preserved according to your kind pleasure.

Father, grant us wisdom as we vote today. Help us to vote in ways that honor You. Give us the strength to vote in ways that reflect Your character and not our own worldly desires. And Father, in all these things, may You be glorified and may Your purposes be realized. And we pray all these things in the matchless name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.