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New Look, New Platform

Tonight SBCWitness migrated to a new look (the one you see) and a new platform (WordPress). If it causes any difficulties, we apologize. Because of the migration, many links have probably been deprecated, as have many feeds. We felt that the trouble was worth the upside of not having to work with Drupal (our old platform) any more.  So, enjoy the new look and platform.

Slate on Osteen

Slate.com just published a piece about Joel Osteen’s new book, Become a Better You. This article was just too well written not to share.

Christian Books and Christian Retail

Let me set the stage. You are an executive at a major Christian book publisher. The mother of one of the most recognized and influential Southern Baptists comes to you with a book proposal. She wants to publish a book on parenting. You think, “should we publish this book?” It seems like a no-brainer question, right? The author will have instant name recognition, and the book will probably top the CBA‘s bestsellers list if you publish it. The only problem is that the author of this book is Lynne Spears, the mother of Britney Spears. The publisher is Thomas Nelson.

Now, I do not want to criticize Thomas Nelson too severely here. They have published edifying works that I have on my bookshelves. They have published authors that I love and respect–people like John MacArthur and Wayne Mack. And to be honest, I commend them for rethinking and delaying the publication of Lynne Spears’s book. I do wonder, however, why they considered it in the first place. I am certain that they are not the only Christian publisher that would have seriously considered publishing it. None should have, though.

Also, I’m not trying to go all TMZ on another member of the Spears family. I’m just saying that as my wife and I are preparing to become parents, this potential work would not make the short-list for books that I would want to read in order to make sure I raise my child in the fear and admonition of the Lord. And without having read it, I am still confident that I would not recommend it if I were still selling books. Contrary to popular belief, you can judge many books by their covers (trust me, I can send you a list), and you can usually judge them based upon what you know of the author.

I love the Christian book industry. I really do. This is not meant to be a polemic against it, but a caution for it.

I worked in the field for several years at one of the finest Christian bookstores in America, and I had the privilege of working for one of the kindest, most connected, and well respected guys in the industry. I loved working there because the company represented much of what is right in the industry. The way the owner of this store treated his employees and customers put the “Christian” in “Christian Retail.”

As much as I enjoyed my time in the industry, I also saw some things that just made me shake my head. At one point, I worked keying in orders for books. For months, I poured over every page of every catalog we received from every Christian publisher. I read descriptions of books and often thought, “how is that edifying in the least?”

And that question is the crux of the issue. Christian publishers should–SHOULD–exist primarily for edification. Should they still make a profit? Absolutely. But their purpose should primarily be that of edification, and I will daresay that the bulk of what makes it to Christian retail stores fails that test. A book on parenting by the mother of the poster-child for wayward behavior likely doesn’t meet that criteria, and plenty of others that make it to the shelves fail that test as well.

Christian publishers and retailers have an obligation to God, and to their customers, to ask this question before all others. Before they even consider whether or not the book will sell, they need to ask, “will it edify?”

n.b. Before the Witness boys start sending me a bunch of emails questioning my manhood for reading People on a regular basis, let me alleviate your fears. Someone forwarded me the link. A hat tip to that person. You know who you are :)

John A. Broadus and Higher Criticism

I was reading the biography of T. T. Martin today, and found the following little story about John A. Broadus and his cautions regarding higher criticism. I thought that the readers of SBCWitness might enjoy it.

An unpublished incident in the life of President John A. Broadus given to me by one who was present: In the palmy days of higher criticism and modernism when they had not been unmasked and exposed as they have since been by such scholars as Robert Dick Wilson of Princeton, A. T. Robertson of Louisville, and others, a great mass meeting was held in Chicago to be addressed by the great and noted higher critic, Briggs, of New York, and President W. R. Harper of Chicago; when they had finished, it looked as if the Bible did not have half a dozen friends left in the audience. Just then some one arose and said, “President John A. Broadus is in the audience, and the people would like to hear from him.” The audience gave him quite an ovation. Coming forward as modestly as a school girl and beginning in his inimitable simple way, he congratulated them on having a great University in their city. He went on to tell of the great universities of the world and what they had meant to the cities where they were located. He then told of the great work of real Bible criticism and the great benefits coming from it.

Then all at once, he seemed electrified! Trembling all over, he raised his clenched right fist in the air and, shaking it, let fly a thunderbolt, “But beware, my brethren!” And again raising the clenched fist over his head and shaking it, his eyes flashing, his face livid, he again shouted, “Beware, my brethren! Jesus said, ‘Moses wrote of me.’ Jesus said, Moses wrote of me'”, and, turning, he left the platform. The effect on the vast audience was electrical. It looked as if every one wanted to go and get a rope and hang Briggs and Harper.

–T. T. Martin, Viewing Life’s Sunset from Pike’s Peak: The Life Story of T. T. Martin. 18-19. Louisville: A. D. Muse. 1939.

The Water, the Table, and the Finn

SBCWitness’s very own Nathan Finn just published a white paper entitled Baptism as a Prerequisite to the Lord’s Supper, although he is probably too humble to promote himself here. This work is worth taking the time to download and read. Make sure to check out this valuable contribution to our denomination.

Richard Fuller on Death

One usually doesn’t find great statements about death while reading a sermon on “Joy in the Lord,” but such was the case for me recently. I was reading a sermon by Richard Fuller, the third president of the SBC, from Series One of Sermons by Richard Fuller, and came across the following passage.

It is a noble spectacle to behold a Christian calmly meeting the last struggle, enduring with patience the pains of a protracted illness, and resigning himself tranquilly to the necessity of dying. But is it thus a Christian ought to die? Oh, no. It is the privilege of every child of God to have a desire to depart and be with Christ which is far better; to long with holy imparience for the Redeemer of his soul; to close his eyes upon the whole world and feel the sublime attractions of eternity; to exclaim, “My soul longeth, yea even fainteth for the courts of theLord, me heart and my flesh crith out for the living God, when shall I come and appear before God?” “Come Lord Jesus, come quickly.” It is the privilege of every child of God not only to rejoice when fig tree and vine and olive wither, but when the whole universe is receding from his vision. Then, when flesh and heart shall be failing, it will be your privilege, Christian, you consolation and joy, to look up and see the heavens opened, to triumph in an Almighty Saviour who is the strength of your heart and your portion forever, to rejoice in the Lord, to exult with transports ineffable and full of glory in the God of your salvation.

Fuller brings up an important distinction. Too often Christians speak of “dying well” as just resigning oneself to death–not whining, not complaining, just dying. Rather, “dying well,” is longing to be with Christ, longing to be free from this life, longing to see one’s God and Savior. “Dying well,” is a privilege that Christians have because of Christ and his work, and it is a privilege of which Christians too often do not avail themselves. We can and should do more than just resign ourselves to death. Even pagans and atheists can do that. The philosopher Epicurus said, “Death, therefore, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and, when death is come, we are not.” But this stiff-upper-lip kind of resignation to death is not the Christian’s portion. Rather, we have a hope, secure in heaven. We have a righteousness seated at the right hand of the Father. We have a reason to long to be free from this life that the unbeliever does not have. Let us change our thinking so that we long with a holy longing, even from the earliest ages, to be with Christ, which is far better.

Holiness and Holy Writ

Spurgeon's BibleEarlier this week Josh Powell posted Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s famous quote about holiness. Since holiness is such an important attribute for ministers, cultivating holiness is one of the primary concerns that each of us should have as a goal in our lives. We should constantly be striving to reflect the holiness of our Lord Jesus rather than being conformed to the passions of our former ignorance (1 Peter 1:13-16).

So how does we cultivate holiness? How do we begin to live out the holy lives to which we were called? What disciplines that we have help produce holiness in our lives? One of the most important, and most beneficial disciplines that we can pursue is memorizing scripture. One should not be content with merely reading and reflecting upon scripture. Actually knowing it should be our goal. Knowing scripture is vital for preaching, teaching, witnessing, and most importantly, for killing sin. To that end, I would like to recommend two websites that offer two different methods for memorizing scripture.

The first site is the “An Approach to Extended Memorization of Scripture” section of the First Baptist Church, Durhan, North Carolina. This site gives helpful instructions for how to daily use short periods of repetition to memorize large portions of scripture–even whole books of the Bible–over time. I have known numberous people who found this site beneficial to their souls, and I am thankful for this site.

The second site is the Figure 8 Scripture Memory System website. This system encourages reading and medidtating upon a chapter of scripture eight times a day for eight days. By doing this, one begins to master whole chapters of scripture. The system is a little more detailed than what I have described, so I recommend that you stop by the site and read up on the system.

Both of these sites are extremely valuable resources to believers. If holiness is one God’s goals for us, would we not be wise to avail ourselves of these means to its end?

A Heartfelt Plea

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., posted a heartfelt plea for prayer for Henderson Hills Baptist Church in Edmund, OK. The post also contains a valuable discussion about the autonomy of Baptist Churches. I encourage all readers of this blog to hurry over to Conventional Thinking and read his post.

An August Anniversary at the End of July

Yesterday marked the 150th anniversary of James P. Boyce’s delivery of his inaugural address at Furman University, Three Changes in Theological Institutions. We would do well to remember this occasion, because it was one of the most significant events in the history of Baptist higher education.

The changes Boyce proposed to Baptist theological education were monumental. They helped Southern Baptists see the need to provide education for ministers of every educational background, realize the necessity of thoroughly educating aspiring students to be the ministerial educators of the next generation, and ensure the theological integrity of their first seminary through the use of a confession.

In honor of this august anniversary, I ask you to consider this short section from Boyce’s address.

The scriptural qualifications of the ministry do, indeed, involve the idea of knowledge, but that knowledge is not of the sciences, nor of philosophy, nor of the languages, but of God and of His plan of salvation. He who has not this knowledge, though he be learned in all the learning of the schools, is incapable of preaching the word of God. But he who knows it, not superficially, not merely in those plain and simple declarations known to every believing reader, but in its power, as revealed in its precious and sanctifying doctrines, is fitted to bring forth out of his treasury things new and old, and is a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, although he may speak to his hearers in uncouth words or in manifest ignorance of all the sciences. The one belongs to the class of educated Ministers, the other to the Ministry of educated men, and the two things are essentially different.Boyce, James P. An Inaugural Address, Delivered before the Board of Trustees of the Furman University (Greenville, SC: C. J. Elford’s Book and Job Press, 1856), 13.

Join with us today in remembering this important piece of Baptist history, for as John A. Broadus reminds us, “This address by Professor Boyce proved to be epoch-making in the history of theological education among Southern Baptists.”Broadus, John A. Memoir of James Petigru Boyce (New York: A. C. Armstrong and Son, 1893), 142. Take time out of your schedule to read this monumental address today.

Who We Are

Nathan Akin is a New Testament and Old Testament teacher at Christian Academy of Louisville. He played basketball at Murray State University and competed in The NCAA Tournament twice as a Racer at Murray. Nathan received a degree in political science, and he is currently a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a basketball coach at Christian Academy. His father and three brothers (one is a contributor to this site) are devoted to full-time ministry, and Nathan happens to be the only Akin brother not married and so he gets the brunt of many jokes around the Akin family. His claim to fame is fouling Deron Williams of The Illinois Illini in the NCAA tournament.

Jedidiah Coppenger is a student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. While he is working on his Masters of Divinity, he has a number of jobs that keep him busy and pay the bills. The responsibilities for these jobs deal with everything from biblical and historical research to preaching to selling cell phones. All of this serves as a path that he feels will lead to the pastorate. Currently, he is a member of 9th and O Baptist Church, where he serves as a Sunday School Director. His father and brother are also in the ministry. When he's not fulfilling his responsiblities, he's checking the internet for the latest Chicago Cub news. Unfortunately, he quietly notes, it's usually not good news.

Nathan Finn is Assistant Professor of Church History at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches Baptist and church history classes at Southeastern College at Wake Forest. Nathan is a connoisseur of Reuben sandwiches, onion rings, and all the different flavors of Diet Coke. He is also a huge Georgia Bulldogs football fan. Nathan is married to the beautiful Leah and is the proud father of a little girl named Georgia Elisabeth. The Finn's are members of the First Baptist Church of Durham, North Carolina, where Nathan currently leads a Sunday evening home fellowship and will soon be teaching a Wednesday night class on hermeneutics. Nathan also frequently preaches and gives Baptist History presentations in local Southern Baptist churches.

Jason Fowler is the Archives and Special Collections Librarian at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He serves as a deacon and Sunday School Teacher at the First Baptist Church Fairdale, Kentucky. He is married to Michele. He is a self-proclaimed barbecuing genius, and he will argue until his death that pork barbecue (is there any other kind?) tastes best when served with a mustard-based sauce. When he's not working or smoking meat, you may find him trying to figure out how he can afford to use his University of South Carolina football season tickets this year with gas prices being so high.

Evan Lenow is the Director of Leadership Development at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also a PhD candidate in Christian ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In the fall semester, Evan will begin teaching the course, The Christian Home, in the philosophy and ethics department at Southwestern. During his time in North Carolina, he served as a Sunday School teacher and deacon at his church in Raleigh. Evan and his wife Melanie currently reside in Crowley, TX with their two daughters, Molly and Elizabeth. They are members of Birchman Baptist Church in Fort Worth. Evan has long considered himself an expert in the field of dessert-eating. After traveling to 23 states and 11 foreign countries tasting desserts all along the way, he has reached the conclusion that pecan (properly pronounced “pi-‘kän”—that’s a short ‘e’ sound in the first syllable) pie is the world’s best dessert, and he is available to provide expert witness testimony for any court cases involving dessert disputes.

Josh Powell is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Fairdale, Kentucky. He is a third-generation SBC pastor and a PhD student in Church History at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married to Allison, and they have two sons, Wilds and Levi. When he's not preaching, studying, spending time with his family, or blogging, he spends his time following the education choices of 18 year-old college football recruits that he hopes will attend the University of South Carolina.

Tanner Turley is a PhD student at Southeastern Seminary who often serves as a supply preacher for churches and youth events. He and his wife Marsha live in Wake Forest, North Carolina. The Turley's are members of Open Door Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC. He helped develop Figure 8 Scripture Memory System, an effective method for memorizing large amounts of Scripture. Tanner attended and played basketball for Kentucky Wesleyan College, but he bleeds Kentucky blue. On fall Saturdays, he has been known to mutter the phrase, "just wait until basketball season."

Philip Tyre is the Student Pastor at North Peachtree Baptist in Atlanta, GA and also an extension center student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary where he is working toward an M.Div. in Christian Education. Philip and his wife Emily are eagerly expecting their first child (a little girl) in July. They both love working with young people and have an intense desire to see all believers come to maturity in their faith. The perfect ministry setting for Philip would be one in which he could wear flip-flops, board shorts, and Hawaiian shirts all the time, even while preaching. He's pretty sure that's what everyone in Heaven wears, but he'll have to wait to see.

Charlie Wallace is the Children's Pastor at the First Baptist Church of Columbia, South Carolina. He and his wife, Emily, are both graduates of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary as well as the University of South Carolina (Go 'Cocks). His wife also has an excellent blog dedicated to motherhood, Biblical womanhood, and their young son, Jackson, who loves to hang out and goof off with his daddy. He also has a blog dedicated to parents of FirstKids ministries. He also loves reading about all sorts of topics as well as learning about how to influence the culture and reach as many people as possible for Christ.