William F. Buckley’s Advice for Christian Activists

William F. Buckley (1925-2008), who was perhaps the most well-known conservative in America over the last fifty years, passed away yesterday. He was 82. Like many political and ideological conservatives, I am a Buckley fan, though admittedly a latecomer to Buckley fan-dom; I am a bit too young to have known much about Buckley when he was active in public life. But I like what I do know. Check out the numerous summaries and assessments of Buckley’s life and contribution at National Review Online, the website of the influential conservative periodical that Buckley founded in 1955.

In memory of Buckley, Christianity Today has reprinted a 1995 interview that Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center conducted with Buckley. The topic was the role of Christian conservatives in politics. It was a major (and controversial) topic in 1995, just a year after Newt Gingrich and company captured control of Congress with no small assistance from the Christian Coalition. It remains a major (and controversial) topic in 2008 as Christian conservatives wrestle with the realities of the current political landscape. I commend the article to you.

Race and the SBC

I just read an article in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (excerpted from an article originally in The Washington Post, which is much better by the way) about the Southern Baptist Convention reaching out to minorities. The featured picture was of Eric Redmond, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Temple Hills, MD, and 2nd VP of the SBC. The article basically states that many of the larger denominations in the US have seen a departure of members or at least stagnant growth in recent years.

One way that some denominations are countering this decline is by reaching out to African-Americans, Hispanics, and other minority groups. The article notes that the SBC has probably the farthest to go in order to diversify due to our history of poor treatment of African-Americans and our predominant "whiteness."

In honor of Black History Month and just an interest in racial issues, does the SBC have any hope in this area? Can we overcome our history and become a multicultural convention? What do you think?

On an related note for you history buffs, PBS has been showing "Eyes on the Prize" all month, which is a multi-part documentary of the Civil Rights movement.

What Kind of Man Are You?



I have heard it said before, “You can tell a lot about a man by what is on his I-Pod. We live in a day that is much different than that of our forerunners in the faith, in that we can listen to the sermons of men on a weekly basis even if we live far from them. In the past chapel sermons from our Southern Baptist Seminaries would have been unavailable for listeners that could not attend or would require pounds of cassette tapes delivered to their front door. Now, I can put sermons from all six of our Southern Baptist Seminaries from years at a time on a device that weighs about a pound. It is an intriguing time, so with all this technology and the ability to listen to men from all over the country I became inquisitive about what others have on their podcast folders.

Here is what I have on my I-Pod:

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Josiah Roberts Coppenger!!

Here's my little man. You can read and see more here.


Asleep on momma

Tornado at Union University

*Updated 2/5/08 9:16 p.m. CST* David Dockery was just interviewed by phone on WREG. Major damage at Union including all women's dorms destroyed and heavy damage at men's dorms and academic buildings. See below for more. 

According to news reports out of ABC 33/40 in Alabama (here and here) and the Commercial Appeal in Memphis (here), a tornado has apparently hit two dorms at Union University in Jackson, TN. There are no reports of injuries as far as the reports say, but there seem to be people trapped in the dorms. I will update as soon as more info becomes available. Please keep Union University, Dr. David Dockery, and the students at the university in your prayers tonight. There is a second round of storms heading through Arkansas right now and are due to hit West Tennessee overnight or tomorrow.

*Updated 2/5/08 8:20 p.m. CST* More reports out of Memphis reporting the same at www.wreg.com.

*Updated 2/5/08 8:36 p.m. CST* Dr. Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist in Memphis, was just interviewed live on WREG Channel 3 in Memphis. Dr. Gaines has 2 daughters at Union and they called their dad to tell him that their dorms were hit by tornadoes as well as a commons building. Apparently, the campus was prepared and the students were huddled in inner rooms/bathrooms. According to Dr. Gaines, Dr. Dockery has asked faculty members to come get students whose dorms have been damaged and take them to their homes. Continue to pray for Union as well as the entire Mid-South area. One of the meterologists on WREG stated that in 30 years of covering weather in Memphis, this was the worst set of storms he had ever seen.

*Updated 2/5/08 9:16 p.m. CST* Dr. David Dockery was interviewed on WREG. 8 male students are trapped in a dorm. They are okay, but stuck in a dorm. All women's dorms have been destroyed. Men's dorms have been heavily damaged. All students have been moved to the Penock building. There are 1,100 students living on campus. All classes have been cancelled through Feb 13. At that time, a decision will be made about the rest of the campus. 2 academic buildings were heavily damaged. They had another tornado hit in 2002, and he said that this damage was 10 times worse.

*Updated 2/5/08 9:53 p.m. CST* A new report was posted at the Commercial Appeal out of Memphis (available here). The news story reports that 2 dorms were destroyed and the roof of a classroom building was sheared off. According to Tim Ellsworth, Union's communications director, most of the cars on campus have been destroyed or damaged and 2 dorms "have been reduced to rubble." Jennings Hall, which houses the Christian Studies, Communications, and Music departments has sustained major roof damage. 

*Updated 2/5/08 10:08 p.m. CST* WREG Channel 3 in Memphis just showed video from Union's campus on their 10:00 news. The damage is devastating. I imagine it will be even worse when video can be taken in the daylight. Please pray for Union University and the people of the Mid-South area. There are 2 confirmed deaths–one in Shelby Co. (Memphis) and one in Fayette Co. (Somerville, TN, east of Memphis).

*Updated 2/5/08 10:28 p.m. CST* News report posted by the Jackson Sun (newspaper in Jackson, TN) available here.

New Article Available on Betrothal View of Divorce

Back in October, I posted an entry discussing the betrothal view of divorce and remarriage. The issue of divorce and remarriage continues to be a hot topic and one that I find my students are struggling to come to a consistent position. This issue probably generates the most response in my classes, and I have devoted an extra week of class this semester to the topic based on last semester’s discussion.

In the October 20, 2007 issue of Christianity Today, David Instone-Brewer wrote an article regarding his view of divorce and remarriage that is perhaps the most permissive view found within evangelical circles. Now there is a new article on the other end of the evangelical spectrum from Instone-Brewer. David W. Jones, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, has recently had an article published in Bibliotheca Sacra. His article is entitled "The Betrothal View of Divorce and Remarriage" and can be found in the January-March 2008 edition of BibSac. This is an academic journal that can be found at the libraries of your nearest seminary, divinity school, or university with a religion department.

Much of what Jones discusses in the article may also be found in the audio from his presentation at Southwestern Seminary’s 2007 Baptist Distinctives Conference on "The Family." Jones offers lexical and contextual support for the betrothal view and provides and academic source for those doing research on the issue of divorce and remarriage, specifically as it relates to the betrothal view.

The Legacy of Russ Bush From a Student’s Perspective

In my years at Southeastern Seminary, I was privileged to have a great deal of personal interaction with Dr. Russ Bush. I took his infamous Intro to Philosophy course on the MDiv level at SEBTS (contrary to popular opinion, he did allow questions in class–we had 2 for the entire semester). I also took two PhD seminars from him and worked to develop an orientation to American culture seminar for new international students. I was privileged to eat a few meals at his home, and I shared his weakness for Dairy Queen soft serve. There are too many memories to share them all, so I want to relate just two.

The first came from his philosophy seminar that I was taking the semester he was diagnosed with cancer. It had become tradition for Mrs. Bush to bake cookies for the students in his PhD seminars and interrupt the class one day to bring the freshly baked treats and sodas. For some reason, Mrs. Bush found a extra soft spot in her heart for this group of philosophical delinquents and decided to grace us with her presence at least four times. The first two times, Dr. Bush happily welcomed her into the room to interrupt the seminar for half an hour. On the third occasion, you could see that he was a little frustrated but happy to see his wife. I imagine that he mentioned to her at home that the interruptions were preventing him from covering the material for the class. On the fourth time, he simply gave up. There was no frustration, no rush to get back to class. He gave in to the hospitality of Mrs. Bush for the students, and you could see the love he had for his wife even if she prevented him from covering all the material he wanted to discuss for the day.

The second memory came from a trip to an apologetics conference 6 months after he was diagnosed with cancer. I shuddered when he walked into the room to listen to my paper. The sinking feeling in my stomach came from the fact that I was presenting a paper on the work of Francis Schaeffer. I had read almost everything Schaeffer had written–Dr. Bush had known Schaeffer. I knew that I had no chance to exhaust his knowledge of the subject, and I was certain he could exhaust my knowledge quickly. On the way back from the conference, we were driving back up I-85 from Charlotte. He asked me about my dissertation so I bounced a few ideas off him regarding my premature dissertation topic. He looked over at me and mentioned a topic related to my dissertation that he said he had never been able to figure out. He then told me to answer that question in my dissertation so it could be settled in his mind. The very idea that I could answer a question unsettled in such a brilliant mind as Dr. Bush's was a ridiculous thought to me. The fact that he genuinely expressed to me that he thought I could do it was probably one of the most encouraging moments of my academic career.

Dr. Russ Bush was a brilliant man and an impeccable scholar. He also had a caring and loving heart. He will be missed by Southern Baptists, especially his former students like myself.

David Dockery Reflects on the Life and Ministry of L. Russ Bush

L. Russ Bush: In Piam Memoriam

On Jan. 22, L. Russ Bush III (1944-2008), was ushered into glory. After an intense two-year battle with cancer, the Lord has called Russ home.

Russ Bush was a man who deeply loved Christ and honored His Word. I will always remember the young, dedicated philosophy professor who constantly challenged his students to do their very best.

For those who looked on from a distance, Russ Bush often seemed aloof and overly concerned with the minutia of philosophical arguments. Some thought of him as more interested in his subject matter than in his students. But for those who knew him well, this was hardly the case. His friends knew him as a soft spoken, genuinely kind, Southern gentleman, but most of all, we thought of Russ Bush as a committed Christ-follower.

Russ Bush was a faithful friend to many, a dedicated husband to Cindy and a person who deeply loved the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. His life and work were deeply rooted in "the faith, once for all delivered to all the saints" (Jude 3). He understood his calling in light of the apostolic exhortation to always be ready to provide a reason for the hope that shaped his life (1 Pet 3:15).

His lasting contribution will be the significant work on “Baptists and the Bible.” His commitment to the truthfulness and the authority of God's Word was a hallmark of all that he was and all that he did. He served as an editor over the past 20 years for the “New American Commentary.” Russ was honored by his colleagues across the evangelical world by electing him as president of Evangelical Theological Society and the Evangelical Philosophical Society. Moreover, the administration and board of trustees at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary have provided a lasting tribute with the naming of the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture at the seminary.

No one will ever fully know all that Russ Bush did to keep the doors of Southeastern Seminary open during the turbulent years of transition in the late 1980s and early 1990s in his capacity as chief academic officer of the seminary. Southern Baptists will always owe him a great debt for his service in this key role.

I was privileged to sit in his philosophy of religion class during my first year at Southwestern Seminary. It was there that I was introduced to one of the truly fine Southern Baptist thinkers for this generation.

For the past 30 years it has been an honor to call him my friend. We have worked together on various projects through the years. Russ was a constant source of encouragement for me and countless others.

For years I always looked forward to sharing a meal with him at the Southern Baptist Convention each year. While his life has seemingly ended before we were ready, we trust God's providence and rejoice that Russ's suffering has ceased. Moreover, we give thanks that he has entered the presence of our Lord, where I am sure that he heard the words "well done, good and faithful servant." My life, along with hundreds of others, has been blessed by knowing and learning from our dear friend. On this day, we give thanks for the life and work of L. Russ Bush III.

David S. Dockery, president
Union University

Ezell Above Board on Financial Issues

The question of the SBC presidency always brings about other questions. One of the key questions has to do with the percentage that a church gives to Great Commission causes, with a particular emphasis on Cooperative Program giving. Since pastor Robert Jeffress declared his intention to nominate Dr. R. Albert Mohler for SBC president at the 'O8 convention, this question has surfaced. Fortunately for us, Pastor Kevin Ezell is the type of man who leads the type of church that is comfortable showing the SBC how they allocate their money. Let me just say how thankful I am for the generous, strategic pattern of giving that this statement reveals. 

Also, if you are new to this discussion, you might check Bart Barber's recent piece on it. It touches on some of the complexities present.  

Why Dr. Mohler for SBC President?

In case you couldn't think of any, Tony Kummer has put together a nice list of reasons why Dr. Mohler would make a great SBC president. Can you think of anymore reasons for Mohler '08?