Saturday, October 22, 2011

Egypt: Arab Spring or Persecution Winter

The cold wind of persecution or the warm spring breeze of freedom and democracy. What are the Coptic Christians of Egypt feeling? Their churches are being burned, their lifestyle disrupted, their very lives in danger. Why can't they be allowed to live free, at peace and safe?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Excerpt from Rick Warren's Inaugural Prayer, January 20, 2009

"May all people of good will today join together to work for a more just, a more healthy and a more prosperous nation and a peaceful planet. And may we never forget that one day all nations and all people will stand accountable before you."

I'll add a baptist "Amen!" to that.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

In Quest of Barak Obama's Faith

In reading about Barak Obama’s faith in his own words in his #1 New York Times Bestseller The Audacity of Faith I come away with the following impressions.

1. Barak was nurtured in and by his mother’s lack of formal faith. He describes her life as “devotional” in that she saw the value and beauty of each individual and the world around her, but, as well, she was skeptical, secular and with an attitude toward the various faiths we might call broadly ecumenical.

2. For Senator Obama the Scriptures of the Judeo-Christian faiths are not inspired in the theological sense that traditional Christians believe them to be. Example: “…nor am I willing to accept a reading of the Bible that considers an obscure line in Romans to be more defining of Christianity than the Sermon on the Mount.” (p. 222). He does not see the texts of Scripture as complementing one another by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but rather as differing opinions in opposition to one another requiring the interpreter to choose one and discard the other.

3. Whatever salvation means to the Senator he does not state it in terms of believing in Jesus as personal savior. Of course, I am responding here to the way he describes his faith in this one book, so he may have expanded his view of salvation in another book, on the stump, or in personal conversations with friends.

4. He basically views abortion as a “good thing” and stands opposed to those who, in good faith, cannot bring themselves to accept it even for the supposed good of the mother. He does not speak in terms of expecting the pregnant woman to make sacrifices on behalf of her baby, of bringing a new precious life into the world, or making their child’s life better than their own in spite of the influence of his mother who believed “in the ultimate value of this brief life we’ve each been given” (p. 206, italics mine).

5. Barak accepts his mother’s fundamental faith “in the goodness of people” (p. 205) essentially discounting the Bible’s theological doctrine of the nature of humanity. Here’s how he applies this view to the abortion issue; “I explained my belief that few women made a decision to terminate a pregnancy casually; that any pregnant woman felt the full force of the moral issues involved and wrestled with her conscience when making that heart-wrenching decision;…” (p. 197). Are abortion, war, criminal activity, or global warming, for that matter, just the unintended consequences of the mistaken actions of good people wrestling with their consciences? Will President Obama be able to look into the soul of Valdimir Putin (as “W” says he did) and see that he is a good man despite the Russian incursion into Georgia or her posture towards the nations of Eastern Europe?

6. Barak describes a foundational lack of assurance about matters of faith. In recounting a conversation with one of his daughters he says “I wondered whether I should have told her the truth, that I wasn’t sure what happens when we die, any more than I was sure of where the soul resides or what existed before the Big Bang” (p. 226).

Like most Americans, even those who disagree with some or all of his political, social, and religious ideas, I like Senator Obama. I am delighted that (despite continuing problems in our nation) his nomination for President by a major political party has witnessed to the progress in race relations that America has made since the days of Jim Crow. His book is very well written and entertaining, and I like the family role model that he, Michele, and their children are setting for the families of our nation. I will pray for him, and where possible agree with him and support him, if he is elected President. He will be, as I have felt about all Presidents in my lifetime, my President.

His unorthodox “Christianity” is his choice. For many in the American Baptist Churches in the USA his theological doubts and weaknesses are similar to their own. He is welcome among us and, if he is not officially settled elsewhere, I invite him to become part of the ABC, often described by our leaders as the most diverse group of Baptists in the country. But, I have to confess, I hope he will come to believe the Bible. I hope He will understand it is God’s Word and not simply the fantastic thinking of religious fanatics wandering in the desert somewhere. I hope he will find assurance of salvation through personal, sincere commitment of his soul to Jesus Christ. And, I hope he will understand that seeking the good of all people in the world requires a commitment to standing for righteousness whether one is President or not.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I Could Have Told You

The National Geographic has been pilloried recently in the press because of its apparent fibbing on the so-called “Gospel of Judas.” Remember the commercial exploitation of this topic two years ago, and the public debate by, probably, mostly liberal theologs about what it could mean? Now it appears (according to scholars in the field – I’m not one) that the “Gospel of Judas” is the Piltdown Man of biblical criticism. World Magazine reports (June 28/July 5, 2008) “National Geographic’s characterization of the text has proved grossly misleading.” and academic opinions indicate “…that the Gospel of Judas is nothing more than a Gnostic fantasy authored in the second century to legitimize a sectarian view of the life of Jesus.”

When defining Christian faith it is always best to stick with the scriptures, 66 books inspired by the Holy Spirit of God for the purposes of revealing God in Jesus Christ and bringing all who will believe to a saving relationship with Jesus. I’ll take John’s word (or Paul's, or Isaiah's) over Judas’ any time.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Any Relevance for Today?

He wrote it in 1928 but this quote from E. Stanley Jones is still relevant today. It comes from his book Christ At The Round Table.
"Through pyschoanalysis you may come into the kingdom of the somewhat relieved mind; through social emphases you may come into the kingdom of a better and juster social organization; through education you may come into the kingdom of interesting fact; through systems of mental suggestion you may come into the kingdom of improved health; through self-culture you may come into the kingdom of refinement, but if you come into the kingdom of God, you must be converted. When Jesus, Son of Fact, uses the word 'except' in connection with conversion, there is no exception to that 'except.' The church will never sophisticate itself away from this need of conversion."
Surely no one who has read Jones, the famous Methodist missionary of India in the last century will accuse him of legalistic interpretation of scripture (at least, I would think not). So if he has it right even 'progressive' denominations, local churches, pastors, and laymen & women, have this need to go back to what the Bible teaches to have at the center of their social and political agendas the baseline of scripture teaching. The kingdom of God is through Jesus, and He must be the heart and soul of our actions in this world, and we only know God's truth about Him from the Bible.

Friday, April 11, 2008

What Does President Carter Mean?

I have not given much attention to the New Baptist Covenant. Given the personalities who invented it, and their approach to religion and/or Christianity I estimated that it would be a liberal religious group dedicated to community service, but with little or no concern to also promote traditional Christian theology. The glowing reports I’ve heard seem to be coming from people I think would fall into that liberal -activist category. I am neither surprised, nor critical. If Baptists of the liberal sort wish to focus their religion on social concerns it is not a new thing. I would, however, hope that they would be forthcoming enough to make clear that their “social gospel” is not, nor is it intended to be, the biblical gospel of heart salvation.

Jimmy Carter’s defining words make that very clear to any who would think them through. He said (as quoted in MMBB Tomorrow Spring 2008); “For the first time in more than 160 years, we are convening a major gathering of Baptists throughout an entire continent, without any threat to our unity caused by differences of our race or politics or geography or the legalistic interpretation of Scripture.”

Essentially that sounds like “You can be whatever you are or want to be, and believe whatever you wish to believe and still be considered Baptist.” The practical, political, and spiritual naiveté is enormous, but I certainly applaud the idealism.

The biggest problem for me in President Carter’s underlay of the New Baptist Covenant is his assertion that “legalistic interpretation of Scripture” is a threat to Baptist unity. I must ask, as a Baptist who believes in a revelatory Christian faith, what is " legalistic interpretation of Scripture?"

Is it legalistic to believe that God has spoken in an objective form by revealing the Bible?

Is it legalistic to believe that anyone calling himself a Christian should take that book seriously?

Is it legalistic to declare, as God has, that Jesus is His Son, God manifest in the flesh?

Is it legalistic to expect that someone declaring himself to be a Baptist Christian should believe that Christ is literally risen from the dead as the Bible fully discloses?

Is it legalistic interpretation to place at the heart of our social action an invitation for those to whom we minister to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved when the Bible makes this the paramount calling of the Christian church?

If those things are to be discounted and disbelieved as merely legalistic interpretations of Scripture, how can the New Baptist Covenant be considered any thing other than a posse of political groupies, and where do we then find the things Baptists are supposed to believe?

Does that make sense to anybody in the New Baptist Covenant?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Truth to Power

Going through old files I came across a letter I wrote to the ABCUSA General Secretary back on July 13, 2002 just after Roy had been installed. I thought I'd share with you the concluding paragraph. I wrote;
"I'm trying to speak truth to power. You're it, the power! You have the position, the moral influence, and theological persuasiveness to forestall the retreat from faith in God's Word that afflicts our denomination. I ask you to be a General Secretary who truly makes a difference for ABC by proclaiming God's disclosure of truth. I ask you to be a leader like the Judges of old who brought back God's people to Him when they strayed, a prophet to the denomination, not just a good administrator who lets entropy take its course."
I was convinced back in those days that Roy could reverse the direction of the denomination by being personally strong in his support of actual biblical authority based upon the truth that God really did inspire the Bible and Christian denominations are required to believe and teach its doctrine. I still think that there is a slim possibility that if he would become an outspoken evangelist for ABCUSA churches and organizations to yield themselves to the teaching of scriptures, come what may, the denomination could be returned to the biblical, or at least a more biblical path. I encourage him to try, though the trying will be a major effort, and would become the overwhelming focus of his ministry as General Secretary. But, I think that's what we need.