Posted by: baptistthinker | August 17, 2012

Why I Still Feel The Pull of Fundamentalism

From time to time, I still feel pulled towards Fundamentalism. If you don’t know, I grew up an Independent Fundamental Baptist. If you already know, you’ve probably only heard my negative experiences in it, for one reason or another. But I have had lots of good experiences in Fundamentalism. In fact, I often hesitate to take potshots at Fundamentalists as a whole(different camps are another matter), and for some of the same reasons as John Piper. I grew up around some of the best and worst of Fundamentalism. I was heavily influenced by both Jack Hyles and John R Rice. My church sent students to Bob Jones, Hyles-Anderson, and Pensacola Christian. I sat under Jack Hyles and Jack Schaap. I went to Hyles-Anderson and Northeast Baptist(dropped out of both). I graduated from our church-run Christian school. One of my Sunday School teachers, Mr Reece was very instrumental in helping me to memorize Scripture. My father was an assistant pastor. Both of my parents taught in our school. I was in church all the time. I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I left Fundamentalism for a variety of reasons. One of them being that I rejected certain things that I was always taught as a Fundamentalist. Things like “you can’t be a good Christian if you use any Scripture translation other than the KJV”, or “The KJV is the only word of God for English-speaking people”, or “women can’t wear pants(aka, women can’t wear pants and be [good]Christians)”, or “all modern Christian music is of the devil(told to me by the same people who would take modern Christian music and play it on the piano instead of with guitars)”, or “Southern Baptists are liberal and joining the SBC makes you a partner of evil deeds and heresy”.

But, at times, I still feel the pull of Fundamentalism. I wake up some days, and think about going back to Fundamentalism. I think about looking for an IFB church in my area that’s relatively sane and normal. I haven’t really been able to articulate why I feel that way though. I suppose that living as a Fundamentalist for so long may be part of it, but I suppose that perhaps there really is something about it that makes sense to me. I don’t know that those have have never been in Fundamentalism could really understand the way it affects a person’s life, especially when you’ve grown up in it. But I’ve still been puzzled as to why I still feel this pull. So, over the past couple days, I’ve done some thinking on the matter. This would probably make a better conversation face-to-face with someone, but I really just feel like blogging about it tonight. So I’ll talk about the reasons, in no particular order.

1. Fundamentalists believe in some kind of separation from the world. In some cases, they take it too far. But this is not necessarily a bad thing(except where they take it too far). We are to be in the world, but not of it. I think that too often, many evangelicals are more “of the world” than simply “in the world”.

2. Fundamentalists believe strongly in evangelism. Too often, the rest of evangelicals(even Southern Baptists) are more concerned with building relationships with people before witnessing to them. Whereas Fundamentalists tend to be more aggressive in personal evangelism. They recognize that witnessing to the lost is a matter of heaven or hell, and that we can’t just wait to build a relationship with the lost before witnessing, but that we must witness immediately. They will witness to friends, relatives, neighbors, co-workers, the person in front of them at the grocery store, their waitress, or anybody else they run across. I’ve heard a number of well-meaning SBC pastors say things like “evangelizing to people you don’t know isn’t effective. You have to earn the right to be heard by them. You have to be their friend first.” I just don’t see that as Biblical. We don’t see the Apostles going into cities where they built friendships and witnessed to people once they earned their respect. We see the Apostles going into cities, and immediately finding people to witness to then and there. They would locate Jews worshiping in the synagogues, and they would get up and preach Christ. They would find pagan religious sites, and preach Christ. They would search out a crowd, and preach Christ. I do recognize that there are certainly times when you’re not going to “be heard” by someone until they get to know you a bit. That doesn’t negate the fact that we need to preach the Gospel immediately. That doesn’t mean you don’t witness to them before they get to know you better. I really think that the Fundamentalists have got this right, that the Gospel must be proclaimed, whether or not a person knows you well.

3. Fundamentalists tend to do all their preaching and teaching in their church from a single translation. Usually that translation is the King James Version, because many IFB’s are KJV-Only or KJV-Preferred. On a personal note, I am King James Preferred. That’s because I grew up hearing the King James preached from. I think it’s an accurate translation. I accept it as the word of God. But that’s neither here nor there right now. The point is, that Fundamentalists tend to use one translation for all preaching and teaching in their church. I think that this is hugely beneficial to new believers, old believers, and children. For one thing, a plethora of translations being used can be confusing to new believers(particularly when you’ve got a teacher using a dynamic equivalence and a preacher using a formal equivalence. Or vice versa). For another thing, I do believe that it is easier to memorize Scripture when you’re part of a church that uses only one translation for preaching and teaching. I wonder if Ed Stetzer has done any research on that?

4. Music. Quite frankly, I prefer hymns. Not all the hymns, because some have bad theology and whatnot. But I prefer singing hymns from a hymnal in harmony with the rest of the church. Granted, I can’t sing worth a dadgum, but I certainly enjoy singing hymns over most(emphasis on the word “most”) modern Christian church music. There is certainly some good modern church music. Hillsong has a couple good songs(although I don’t really recommend them), and Matt Redman certainly has some good stuff. But I find that much of modern church music has some bad or weak theology, and it’s all written for guitar(the guitar is a fine instrument, but it seems like the law of church music today is “Thou Shalt Play Guitar”). I’d really recommend reading “Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns“, which is a fine essay on the very important matter of worship music in church.

5. Independence from Conventions and Associations. While I appreciate the Southern Baptist Convention(after all, I am currently a Southern Baptist), and what the SBC does, I do have some issues with the SBC. Let’s start with Lifeway. Lifeway is a ministry of the SBC, it’s involved with selling books, and creating Sunday School material. Sometimes that SS material is deficient(I recently saw SS material that urged children to act like Christians until they became Christians. There’s something very wrong with that.), but more often we see books in Lifeway bookstores being sold that don’t fall in line with SBC theology(or orthodox Christian theology in general). Now, I wouldn’t necessarily have a problem with that if Lifeway were simply a Christian bookstore, unattached to the SBC. But, it is a ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention, and thus should sell material that is in accordance with SBC beliefs and principles. After all, the SBC requires that it’s employees not engage in conduct or lifestyles that do not fall in line with SBC principles and beliefs, so why is the standard applied to employees but not books?

Conduct which brings embarrassment to LifeWay or impedes its credibility with constituents is unacceptable. Conduct or other actions
inconsistent with that normally expected of Southern Baptist denominational employees and other Christians are unacceptable. Similarly,
conduct or other actions perceived as inconsistent are unacceptable. Examples of such conduct are involvement with alcohol, illegal drugs,
pre-marital or extra-marital sex, cohabitation apart from the marriage relationship, homosexuality, and outside interests and pursuits which
would normally be considered incompatible with LifeWay’s mission.
Consistent with this purpose, LifeWay’s policy is to ensure all applicant and employee behavior meets LifeWay’s standards of acceptable
conduct. As a part of this policy, an individual’s current and past conduct is reviewed. Therefore, please respond accordingly to the inquiry
below. A yes answer does not automatically disqualify you from further consideration for employment, as each individual’s circumstances
are reviewed. source

Further, I also have issues with the co-operative program, and how money is shuffled between state conventions and the national convention and the different missions agencies. For example, most of the money sent by the state conventions to the NAMB is sent back to the state conventions. Most of the money sent by SBC churches to the NAMB(last I read the figures) winds up going back to the state it came from. There is more money being kept in the “Bible Belt”, than is being sent to help plant new churches and send missionaries to northern and western states in the US.
Of course, I also have a problem with how the conservative churches in the SBC get grouped with those that are more liberal, theologically speaking(there’s not much of a process for removing an SBC church from the SBC except in rare circumstances). Fundamental Baptists don’t necessarily have that same problem. Well, some do. Most Fundamental Baptists are to one degree or another associated with different “camps”. You have the Sword of the Lord camp, the Hyles-Anderson camp, the Lancaster Baptist camp, the Bob Jones camp, and on and on it goes. However, a Fundamental Baptist church can easily walk away from such associations. I have known pastors who have separated themselves from the Hyles-Anderson camp for different reasons. I have known others who distanced themselves from the Sword of the Lord camp when Shelton Smith became editor. Sometimes there are Biblical reasons for such separation, sometimes there are not. But I do think it is better for a church to be able to walk away from associations with certain groups or churches without having to go through a process to do it. Now, this doesn’t mean that I’m totally against associations. I think they can be useful(the Co-operative program works well at getting missionaries out on the field. But it also means churches know less about the missionaries they are helping to send out).

6. Another pro about Fundamentalism, is that there is a little more emphasis on modesty. But that’s also a con for Fundamentalism, because often there is too much emphasis on modesty. You might ask how that can be, but then you’ve maybe never been around Fundamentalists. Many Fundamentalists believe that wearing pants as a woman is automatically immodest because pants are “men’s apparel”. Going to different churches/schools, you’ll find a different criteria for what is modest and what is not. Some churches, a ladies blouse cannot go more than three fingers below the neckline without being “immodest(code for sinful)”, other churches it might be one finger. Some churches, a girl’s skirt can’t go above the middle of the knee, at others it might be above the middle of the calf. So as you can see, there can be a bit too much emphasis on it. On the other hand, I think in many more mainstream evangelical/sbc/whatever churches, there is too little emphasis put on modesty. Since leaving Fundamentalism, I have been in church on occasion where there have been “nice” church girls who are dressed a bit immodestly. Of course, I’ve also been in Fundamentalism where I’ve seen girls who have been dressed modestly but their attitude is anything but modest. Biblical teaching on modesty is often lacking from more mainstream evangelicals, but Fundamentalists can sometimes go overboard in their teaching on the matter. Sidenote: I still find skirts far more attractive on a woman. Just my preference. I’m going to get in trouble for that, probably.

7. As John Piper says, they resist trendiness. A few years ago, when David Platt published his book “Radical”, many SBC’ers and mainstream evangelicals were quite breathless about it. I saw very few people who were really sitting back and examining the book, and those people were almost always Fundamentalists. When Rick Warren came out with “Purpose Driven Life”, the people that I primarily saw saying “Hey, there are some problems with this book” were Fundamentalists. Fundamentalists can sometimes be a little extreme on that, but at the same time it’s a good thing to sit back and examine something carefully before jumping on the bandwagon.

8. Fundamentalists believe the Bible is true, and they act like it. One thing I can say for Fundamentalists, is that they quite often try to live what they believe the Bible says. They really, truly, believe the Bible. They accept it all as the word of God.

This is probably nothing near a full list. There are probably other reasons I could put forth. And I suppose that at least part of it is the knowledge of the way my life would have probably turned out had I stayed in Fundamentalism. But that’s another story for another day, and I don’t know that I’ll explain it here.

Posted by: baptistthinker | August 4, 2012

IFB’s React To Jack Schaap’s Firing

With Jack Schaap being fired, the internet has been abuzz. Both current and former IFB’s are discussing the matter, and the responses are fairly predictable. Here’s what I’ve been seeing around the web currently.

From the Online Baptist IFB Community Forum.

From poster Wichbla: “He had an affair with her and that’s all that matters. The conspiracies involved don’t really matter. He has ruined his life and brought more embarrassment to the IFB churches plus shaken the faith of weaker and newbie Christians. How did this man really think this was going to turn out? Affairs between 16 old girls and 50 something year old married men never work out right. Especially men who pastor mega-churches.”

To quote Ed Stetzer yet again, it’s not adultery. It’s abuse. IT’S ABUSE!

From a pro-Hyles-Anderson Facebook group written by Steven Lynn:

A Hero Has Fallen

A hero has fallen; it’s tragic, but true
A hero has fallen; it’s now up to you.

We’ve all been shocked, frightened, betrayed
But remember my friend, the cause is unchanged.

I know you’re in pain; he is my friend, too;
But we must move on; the torch goes to you.

The valiant general is fighting no longer
Time, then, for us to stand that much taller.

Our commander’s been snared by sin’s dreadful chains
But take heart, look up; our Saviour remains.

A hero has fallen; a blow, not at all slight
But he’s only one man– we can still fight.

A hero has fallen; but have we forgotten?
That the greatest of men, is a man, in the end.

We’ve all been hurt by this hero who’s fallen
But come now, rise up; will you forsake your calling?

Was it this man you served, who saved you from Hell?
Or in all the confusion, did He die, as well?

Things will never again be like days past
But I will continue to serve ’til the last.

So rise up, men of God; you’re not finished yet–
Your job is not done, ’til you’ve breathed your last breath.

I will rise, I will stand, I will run, I will fight
Not by my strength, but by His holy might.

Shall my blood mix with his, as it flows from my veins–
Will he be there, always, to share in my pain?

Or my blood be alone, as it falls to the ground
Nonetheless, I will fight, ’til in death, I go down

From Bob Gray(Texas, obviously):

May I present the practical side? There exists more molestation cases proportionately reported in the 42,000 churches of the Southern Baptist Convention than in the 22,000 independent Baptist churches. Consider the largest denomination in our nation, the Catholic Church, and then think on their sexual transgressions for a while. This is not to take lightly one person who is violated by a leader in a church.

Somebody, on the pro-Hyles-Anderson Facebook group I linked to up above asked “Where are the poems for the family of the girl?” Here’s the responses:
Shane Henderson:

If you don’t have anything positive to say, than don’t say anything.

Stephanie Dawn Millen(you can just feel the disdain that she has for this girl dripping off every word):

More than likely nobody’s been talking about how much they love her because they don’t know her and she’s never influenced their life. But if you’d like to write a poem about her be my guest.

From the official Hyles-Anderson Facebook Page:

Dinmar Quilantang

God gave a pastor according to His heart so God had no mistake at all for giving a such a dynamic pastor for you FBC, The leaders of the church should protect the pastor for the sake of the ministry of God. God entrusted His man to the members of the church so the members will be the one to take care for the pastor, providing the needs of the pastor at uplift his leadership in the ministry. King David committed an adultery in the bible but God is with Him. We are claiming as a baptist as a real church of Christ, so what other religious group will say to us as a baptist. If God gave me a chance to be one of the leader of ptr. schaap, I will never leave him, I will never let him and the ministry of God put in the embarrassing situation. I will fight for him. and If I found out that the pastor had committed adultery(like what happened) I will talk to the pastor seriously with love and concern for the ministry, for the sake of the ministry of God and for those who are not yet matured Christians. God is the only one who has right to remove His man in a certain church not the member. There is no such thing as a perfect church even in the time of the Lord Jesus Christ. The FBC were so blessed. spending your whole life in the ministry is not easy for the pastor because your pastor is liable to his all members. In 11 years of Pastoring your church is not easy, the sleepless, unselfish, wholehearted dedication of the man of God is a must like what ptr. jack schaap did. He did everything for you to grow in your faith, God said “Touch not my anointed”. wake up brethren in Christ, Let us support pastor Jack schaap, I know you will be blessed by God if you do this. Pray. and ptr. jack schaap be back in the church

A video from Edwin Montanez:

Posted by: baptistthinker | August 3, 2012

Jack Schaap Fired For Sex With A Minor

Jack Schaap isn’t just anybody, Jack Schaap is the pastor of a megachurch in the United States, First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana. And this week, he has been fired for having sex with a minor.
First Baptist Church

At this time, we deeply regret the need to announce that First Baptist Church has dismissed our pastor, Dr. Jack Schaap, due to a sin that has caused him to forfeit his right to be our pastor. First Baptist Church is in full cooperation with our local authorities in their investigation of this matter. Our church grieves over the need to take this action and the impact it will have on our people.

We ask that everyone pray for the families involved and pray that the situation will be handled in a Christ honoring manner. We look forward to the days ahead as we continue to service the needs of our surrounding community and the Chicago area.

Now, I for one, congratulate FBCH on finally doing the right thing when it comes to this sort of thing in the church. It isn’t all that long ago that Dave Hyles, the son of former pastor Jack Hyles, was quietly shuffled from church to church after having affairs with married women, and allegedly preying on minors, which didn’t stop when he got moved from one church to another. And that certainly wouldn’t be the only case of someone in authority at the church preying upon minors. The church did report the matter to the police, which is good. They did the right thing.

One can already see the defenders coming out of the woodwork however. There are those who clamor “let him without sin cast the first stone!”, or “judge not lest ye be judged!”, in both cases taking those verses out of context. There are those who would rather that we just didn’t talk about this at all. But I believe it is indeed necessary to talk about these sorts of things, as I noted when SBC Evangelist Sammy Nuckolls was arrested for videotaping women undressing in the bathroom. We also have those defenders who are coming out saying “she seduced him!”, or “it’s not his fault, the problem is probably that she was dressing wrong!”. To those people, I say “Phooey!” Jack Schaap is alleged to have been counseling this young girl for sex abuse issues(why he was doing it alone is another question entirely, no pastor should ever counsel any woman alone except his wife). Do you get that? She had been sexually abused, and Schaap preyed upon her. He looked at her like a wolf looks at a piece of meat, and he targeted her. He knew she was wounded, and she would be an easy mark. I don’t care if this girl was dancing naked in front of Jack Schaap, he is a fifty-four year old man and she was a sixteen year old child. He knew better than to do this. He knew not to touch her. He knew to leave her alone. He has no excuse at all. There’s nothing that he can say that makes this okay. It was wrong. It was sin. If it’s not legally criminal in his state(as is being debated), it’s still morally reprehensible, it’s morally wrong, and it should absolutely be criminal. He was acting as a counselor, and he raped a counselee. This knowledge about Jack Schaap’s abuse of a sixteen year old girl makes some of his sermons much creepier, like this one where he makes statements like:

Is she good in bed?(asking a teenage boy about his girlfriend)

Do you know how many times your daughter sneaks out in the wee hours of the morning to have sex with her boyfriend? Well, not my
daughter. I’ll take pictures for ya’.

Jack Schaap was one of my teachers in Bible college, when I went to Hyles-Anderson College. At that time, he didn’t preach sermons like that. Though he seemed a bit smarmy, like most HAC’ers, there wasn’t anything that I noticed at that time that was strange about him. When he took over First Baptist Church of Hammond, I thought it would be a good thing. I thought that maybe he would take the church in a good direction, and that things would change in a positive manner. Some things did. But in recent years, he has preached in a very graphic manner on sex, teenage sex, and sexting. Some of his sermons have been quite troubling, because of the things he has said.

It really brings me no joy that Jack Schaap is being investigated by the police and the FBI for his sexual encounters with a minor girl. It brings me no joy to hear that there are possibly other victims coming forward. I feel very badly for FBCH, because it seems like they’ll never have a pastor who really preaches the Gospel and not legalism. Not to mention the fact that congregants are now having to deal with this, with losing a pastor to “deep sin”, and with trying to heal from those wounds. These wounds will be deep, and the church is going to struggle for some time. And I’m praying for them, that they’ll get a good pastor that will preach the Gospel clearly. I’m praying for healing. I’m praying for Cindy Schaap, who now faces her own horrible dilemma. Does she stay with the man that she has loved for thirty-some years in spite of what he did? Or does she leave him? No matter what she does, people will hate her for it, and complain about it. I pray for Jack Schaap’s children, who are dealing with this too, and trying to reconcile all this in their minds. I pray for the church leadership, that God will give them wisdom in dealing with this. I pray for the victims of his sexual advances, who have their own demons to fight because of what he did to them. And I pray for Jack Schaap, that he will repent of his sin, and turn to Christ and the Cross for salvation and healing of his own soul. But that doesn’t mean that Schaap should be given a pass for his crimes and sins.

Ed Stetzer’s Post On This
Links to news stories on this

A few months ago, I posted about the arrest of Evangelist Sammy Nuckolls on video voyeurism charges. I just got an update on his multiple cases today.

Via Watchman on the Wall:

I am writing now in case any of your faithful readers are looking for an update on the Sammy Nuckolls case. It’s been 7.5 mos since his arrest. He is still unrepentant and still trolling the streets of MS. Did you ever buy a t-shirt or watch from Sammy where he said all the proceeds were going to feed starving orphans? “Buy a $20 watch – feed 200 starving children,” Well, he KEPT ALL of that money – tens of thousands of dollars – and YOU are now unwittingly funding his highly adept legal defense with ur purchases! Sammy has NEVER apologized to any of the over two dozen women and children he got caught taping. His lawyer just keeps on filing continuances and motions to drop the charges. Sammy is evil and devious and should never be trusted again by anyone in the church or the secular world. His fancy lawyer had him run over to AR over the Easter weekend to enter two quick guilty pleas while no one was looking (his preliminary hearing was scheduled later in the month and Sammy wanted to avoid the press.). Sam received two 5 year suspended sentences plus two fines (under $1,500 total) and was required to register as a sex offender. Both prosecutors in both Counties refused to offer him ANY plea agreement and both cited his ARROGANT, NON-REPENTANT attitude as the reason for NOT reducing charges. Check out his Prentiss County Sex Offender picture:

A whole lot of ur readers claim to know this man. Have any of you ever seen him so happy? Does this look like the countenance of remorse and contrition? Sam also, temporarily, managed to avoid both State and National Sex Registries by registering only in Prentiss County (Booneville, MS his current residence of record) – his lawyers knew that this loophole existed. Thank the Lord that one victim followed through until that loophole was closed and now, at the very least, he is on the National Sex Offenders Registry for the next 15 years.

Y’all can talk forgiveness as much as you want, but Sam specifically targeted high school girls and he filmed multiple minors, although for various reasons only ONE of the minor’s tapes is being charged in the state of MS. Sammy doesn’t want ur forgiveness because he doesn’t feel bad about what he’s done. There is not one single known case of Voyeurism Paraphilia that has ever been cured. Ever! Not even through chemical or physical castration. Sammy PICKED Youth Ministry as his career after he attended a Lifeway-FUGE Camp in Panama Beach, FL where in his own promotional material he claimed that was where his “excitement” for youth ministry was first inflamed. Sammy spoke to about 10,000 different kids every year, ages 11-18.

He stands a good chance of walking on probation or no charges at all in every jurisdiction because this crime isn’t treated by law enforcement as seriously as it should be. But make NO mistake. Sammy WILL re-offend! He couldn’t stop taping girls long enough for his baby’s adoption to become final. And while out on bail, he talked his brother-in-law, SBC Ps. Matt Wilburn into letting him accompany Matt on his rounds as the Women’s Basketball Team Chaplain, at a MS regional university, so that Sammy could attend the devotionals in the locker rooms. Sammy isn’t even CLOSE to being repentant let alone slowing down.

Baptist Thinker, it’s time for you to write an update on this story. His “new” trial date is 7-30-12, although his lawyer will undoubtedly keep filing new continuances. Please, BT, help protect the children of MS from this unrepentant evil-doer. What good is ANY church that feeds it’s most vulnerable lambs to the wolves just so the leadership doesn’t have to admit that evil in the pulpit does exist? Man is fallen, evil exists everywhere. But how about a few Godly men standing up and calling for the incarceration of this sinister video-rapist in order to protect future victims?? Sammy is embracing his sin and evil. Pray for justice and pray for the girls of MS!!!

Posted by: baptistthinker | April 15, 2012

Richard Land, Race, and Southern Baptists

If you haven’t heard(like me), Richard Land, an SBC ethicist and radio talk show host, recently made some comments on the Trayvon Martin case and race. Now, before getting into the comments themselves, let me say that I really don’t have any dog in this hunt. I’ve read all the public facts on the Trayvon Martin case, and I don’t really know what to say about it. Was it cold-blooded murder? Probably not. Was it an avoidable killing? Absolutely. Was Zimmerman right to eventually use his gun? That remains to be seen, but my own guess is no. Do I listen to Richard Land? No. If I want to listen to political talk radio, there’s always Hannity, Limbaugh, and Beck, all of whom are way more entertaining than Land. I do have a dislike for Land, but that is because he and guys like Beck(and the preachers I grew up around) are constantly trying to wrap Jesus up in the American flag, and are far more concerned with politics than they are with Jesus Christ and His mission. Or at least that is how he seems to be. But I always try to give all parties a fair hearing. And I read Richard Land’s post carefully, to see what problems there are with it, if any.

To start with, much of what Richard Land has had to say on the Trayvon Martin case has been plagarized. This is an odd thing for an ethicist to do, especially a Christian ethicist. Land’s comments primarily focused on what he titled “race-baiting” in the case, accusing men like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson of fanning the fires of racial hatred. Now, whether or not that is true, that is not the point of my blog post. Richard Land is more of a political commentator, than a commentator on religious issues. Rather than being a servant of Christ and attempting to promote peace and unity in this situation, Land chose to go for the easy shot against those he perceives as political enemies.

Now, as a white man, I think that many white people tend to view accusations of racism and hate crimes quite differently than minorities. Why? Because most of us have never really experienced racism. And most of us don’t particularly think of ourselves as being “racist”, or “prejudiced”. Now, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have prejudices. We do. Just like most people. Think about it, if you drive by “the ghetto”, how do you view most people living in that neighborhood? If you drive by a trailer park, how do you view the people there? What if you drive by an upper-class neighborhood? Or in a neighborhood like Spanish Harlem? Many of us look at people who are different than us, either ethnically, economically, religiously, or whatever, and our initial reaction is to pigeonhole those people and class them together with our general attitude about those people.

It’s a sinful attitude, when we look at a class of people and view them in a light based on our preconceived notions about that class. If we are suspicious of somebody we encounter who appears or is Arabic, and suspect them of being a terrorist, that’s sinful. If we walk through the store, see an African-American youth walking in our direction, and clutch our purse tighter or put our hands on our wallet, that’s sinful. If we see a white man wearing a NASCAR t-shirt and suspect them of being a racist redneck, that’s sinful. If we see an Hispanic family at Wal-Mart and suspect them of being illegals and think “let’s send them back to Mexico”, that’s sinful. If we see a rich man and think “he got his money through dishonest means”, that’s sinful. If we see a person buying groceries with food stamps and think “they’re milking the system and are lazy”, that’s sinful. Making a judgment about a person based on where they are ethnically, economically, religiously, or however else, is sinful. Absolutely sinful.

So now we’ve got that out of the way. And this is important, because Richard Land later made comments that justified the idea that being worried about a black man over a white man is an unfortunate, but legitimate concern.

Land says he stands by his assertion that President Barack Obama “poured gasoline on the racialist fires” when he addressed Martin’s slaying and that Obama, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton have used the case “to try to gin up the black vote for an African American president who is in deep, deep, deep trouble for re-election.”

Land, who is white, said in an interview he has no regrets about his remarks. He said he understands why the case has touched a nerve among black leaders, but he also defended the idea that people are justified in seeing young black men as threatening: A black man is “statistically more likely to do you harm than a white man.”

“Is it tragic that people react that way? Yes. Is it unfair? Yes? But it is understandable,” he said.

Now, regardless of the accuracy of Land’s statement above, it’s still a bad statement to make. Suppose that Land’s statement that a black man is “statistically more likely to do you harm than a white man” is actually true. What’s the point of making the statement? Isn’t Land here, essentially doing the same thing that he is accusing Sharpton and Jackson of doing? Trying to make out “that other ethnic group” as being somehow the enemy. But are Land’s statements true? I’m sure his statement could be argued. I’m sure that one could use statistics either way. Personally, I don’t care which way the statistics go. Crime is a problem, because sin is a problem. Some crimes are found more often among one ethnicity than in another. Statistically, you’re more likely to be murdered by a serial killer who is a white male than who is a black male. Statistically, if you are reading this and you’re white, you’re more likely to be killed by a white person than by a black person. It’s sin that is the issue, not race or ethnicity.

So really, let’s not pull out endless statistics about race and crime in the United States. It’s not important. What is important is that Richard Land made horrible comments, that really need to be addressed. Notice that Land said that this is simply a case of black leaders trying to “gin up the vote for Obama” among black people. Was it a necessary comment? Was it helpful? Did it add meaningful insight to the issue of Trayvon Martin’s killing? Or did it simply add fuel to the fire of those who see what is going on and say “this is all race-baiting without all the facts of what happened”? This was simply a case of another political commentator being ignorant in what he had to say. Like Rush Limbaugh and Bill Maher, Land simply said something indefensible. But then Land decided to defend what he said, and piled more fuel on the fire by making the statement that a “black man is more likely to do you harm than a white man”. How on earth does that help? If you’re wanting to genuinely talk about racial issues, making statements like this doesn’t help.

Now, I know that Richard Land helped to push the SBC towards making an official apology to African-Americans some years ago. So what? Does that somehow exempt him from making dumb, stupid, sinful statements later on in his career?

One of the biggest problems with this, has been the noticable silence from other SBC voices on this. Richard Land is not exactly small potatoes in the SBC. He’s a major player, and has been for some time. For this reason, I would argue that major SBC voices need to publicly repudiate Land’s statements, and call him to repentance. Richard Land wasn’t engaging in conversation about race issues, he was taking a political position. He wasn’t discussing the case, he was taking a stand on how he viewed it, and firing at anybody who disagreed. In doing what he did, Richard Land has embarrassed many Southern Baptists, including myself. Richard Land really needs to step back and think about what he said and why he said it. I don’t believe this was something Jesus would have said. And I’m not perfect, I don’t always say what Jesus would say. But what I see here, is a proud man refusing to back down from comments that were wrong to make. I really hope that Richard Land is not representative of most Southern Baptists, because he’s certainly not representing me. But the problem is, as I said before, Richard Land is a major voice in the SBC. And for that reason, other major voices in the Convention need to come out and speak on this. Somebody like Al Mohler, Russell Moore, Bryan White, or even Fred Luter(the man thought to become the next president of the SBC-and the first African-American president).

Richard Land isn’t representative of the Southern Baptists I know. He isn’t representative of me. I hope, quite honestly, that somebody other than African-American pastors I haven’t heard of decides to step up to the plate and take on Land’s comments. They are a disgrace not only to the convention, but they also represent the Lord Jesus Christ very, very poorly. In fact, they don’t represent Christ at all. Land is speaking from his own heart, from his own prejudices. Not from Scripture, not from Christ, and not from God.

Posted by: baptistthinker | April 4, 2012

God’s Provision In Sickness and Suffering

For those who read this blog who don’t know me personally, you may be a little surprised to find out that at thirty years old I’ve been hospitalized close to a dozen times(number is probably higher than a dozen), had three major surgeries, a stroke, heart attacks, atrial fibrillation, and bleeding ulcers. I had my first surgery at age 3, my second at 16, and my third at age 25. My last surgery was open heart surgery, to replace my mitral valve. Since my valve replacement, I’ve been in the hospital on average once a year.

In August of last year, I went into the hospital because I was in superventriculartachycardia, brought on by atrial flutter. In October, I had an ablation, a medical procedure that cauterizes a small bit of tissue within the heart to stop atrial flutter. In early March, I went back into the hospital for the same problem. While in the hospital, one of the doctors thought I may have pnuemonia. So besides my heart doctor, I also had an infectious disease specialist looking at me, and a hematologist who gave me a blood workup to try to find the cause of all my illnesses. After leaving the hospital, I had an appointment set up with the hematologist at his clinic, a clinic that mostly specializes in cancer treatment. He discovered that I probably have(we need one more test in June to confirm the diagnosis) Lupus Anticoagulant, an autoimmune disorder that attacks my blood cells(among other things, and causes migraine headaches which is a frequent problem for me). This is probably the reason for all of my major surgeries. Also, I learned that I have something on one of my lungs, which we are going to be keeping an eye on for the next year or so. It’s possible that it’s a bit of scar tissue from an infection, but it’s entirely possible that it’s something else(cancer). It wasn’t on any CT scans last year, so, who knows what it is. If it grows, then we know we have a problem.

Today, I spent time with my cardiologist, and we decided to perform another ablation. My doctor doesn’t want me to stay on this drug I was put on in the hospital, a fairly powerful drug designed to keep my heart in a proper rhythm, but that is also worse for my liver than a daily shot of whiskey. And the drug is fairly expensive, about half a week’s paycheck for a month’s supply.
In any event, I expect to be a fairly poor man again this year. I just can’t seem to find a job that pays well in this economy, especially with a bum ticker as well as another job impediment. I owe more money to hospital stays than 99% of people owe on the vehicles owned by their family. The other 1% would be people like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.

It’s really quite frustrating for me. I could deal with the once-a-decade major medical problems. Those were nothing to me. But over the past few years, I’ve been getting frustrated with all the expense of the hospital stays, and the medical problems I’ve been having. I can’t get insurance, really haven’t been able to get on any. Or the stuff I can get costs more than I make. I think to myself “Really God? Why can’t you pick on somebody else?! It’s not fair! Why do I always have to be the one who is in pain, who winds up in the hospital, who has to owe gobs of money, who hurts? Why me?”

A few weeks ago, I went on a mission trip with my college and career group at church to East TN. One night, we sat around talking about Acts 12. We spoke about how God allowed James to be killed, but broke Peter out of prison. As we sat there talking about it, I started thinking about the passage. I thought about how it’s not always God’s will to free us from our circumstances. God let James be killed, but released Peter. Why? Because God had a purpose in it. His plan for Peter’s ministry went on longer than His plans for James’ ministry. And as I thought on the passage, I discovered that I was identifying myself with James. I feel like God desires for me to remain in this place, rather than to release me by healing me here and now. As much as I would love to be released from my circumstances, like Peter was, it seems that God’s plan for me, at least for now, is to be James.

As I’ve spent more time thinking about the subject, it also occurred to me that God will heal me, that it’s always God’s plan to heal His children. Now, don’t get concerned that I’m going off on some “faith healer” tangent here. See, I believe that God heals in three ways. First, He can and does heal miraculously, through divine intervention.(See Acts 3, where God uses Peter and John to heal a lame man, to allow Peter and John to draw an audience in order to preach the Gospel). Second, God uses medicine to heal(see 1 Timothy 5 where Paul instructs Timothy to drink a little wine for medicinal purposes). Some people into the word of faith nonsense claim that God doesn’t heal through medicine. But see, I believe that medicine exists because of God, and that God sometimes wills to heal people through medicine. Third, God heals by taking His people home to be with Him. In Revelation 21:4, God promises that there will come a time where there is no more sorrow, no more pain.

God’s plan for His children, is that we will eventually be healed from all our diseases. Our sickness exists for a couple of reasons. Because of the Fall, we have sickness and death. Sickness will always exist here on this present earth. But our sickness also exists because God allows it. Look at the story of Job, and how God permitted Satan to attack Job. God knew what Satan would do. But God allowed Satan to attack Job, in order to eventually purge Job of pride, and to show Himself righteous and mighty. God allows sickness in the life of His children for specific purposes. It might be to purge us of sin. It might be so that we can better be witnesses of Christ, and so that we can tell of His goodness in our suffering. It might be so that we cherish Christ more. There are any variety of reasons why God might allow sickness and suffering in our lives.
My problem, is that while I intellectually know all this, I struggle really feeling this in my heart. Too often my emotions get in the way, and argue with me about the pain and suffering I’m going through. I struggle with seeing God’s hand, with knowing that God loves me. And I struggle with loving God through it all. I struggle with treasuring Christ above my health and well-being. But I thank God that my love for Him does not determine His love for me. He loves me even when I struggle with loving Him. He is faithful to me, even when I am faithless. Look at Hebrews 11, the Hall of Faith, look at the names included. People who through faith conquered kingdoms, but who sometimes were faithless to God. Gideon, Samson, even David who committed adultery and murdered a woman’s husband. But God was still faithful. And even when I struggle with being faithful to God, God is still faithful to me.

God has continually provided for me in my sickness. I still have a job. I still have friends, family. I have a roof over my head, and food to eat. Maybe I can’t afford a better car that I’ll soon need yet. But mine still runs with over 200,000 miles on it. He has provided for me with a church family who willingly prays for me. I can still read, I can write. I can walk, I can run(sort of). And God may be allowing my sickness and pain, but He is a good Father, and this can only be good for me. I don’t know what He has in store, but it is for my benefit. So praise the Lord, O my soul, praise His name. For He is good, He is righteous, He is merciful, He is holy, He is just, He will provide. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for my Lord is with me. His rod and staff comfort me. Let Him purge that from my life which is hindering my relationship with Him. May my sickness draw me closer to my Lord. May I be more useful to my Lord because of what I am going through.

Some further material:
Don’t Waste Your Cancer

The Resurrection and The Life

The Revelation of God in Suffering
Death, Disease, and the Gospel
The Faithful Endurance of Suffering

Posted by: baptistthinker | March 19, 2012

Would You Be Comfortable With A Calvinist Attending Your Church?

Here is a question for any pastors who read this blog, or anybody else in general. Would you be comfortable with an individual who is a Calvinist being a part of your church? Would you allow him to join, or only attend? Could he take part in ministry, or not? Does it depend on the individual? Please vote, and pass it along to your friends.

Posted by: baptistthinker | March 9, 2012

That’s My Crowd

Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
(Col 3:9-11 KJV)

I was thinking this week, while I was listening to some music. I’m a big fan of country music, I enjoy Nascar and the Rodeo. I enjoy southern Gospel, Bluegrass Gospel, and Country Gospel. I’m more comfortable around a crowd of rednecks, typically, then I am around any other group of people. A few years ago, you’d have only found me hanging out with a bunch of rednecks. I didn’t care to hang around people who weren’t like me. I guess most people are like that, if we’re honest with ourselves. And as I was thinking about this, it occurred to me that most of my current friends aren’t anywhere close to being rednecks. Some of them prefer to listen to Christian rap(which I confess a fondness for as well, compared to most genres of Christian music), some of them to Hillsong, or Chris Tomlin, or Matt Redman. Some of them like punk rock, and some like Justin Bieber. Some are more into dining at restaurants I don’t like, or shop at stores that I consider snooty and pretentious. Some of them read crappy literature, and some barely crack a book open.

Some of these people that I consider among my closest friends, aren’t anything like me. In fact, they’re sometimes the opposite. Some of them are much younger. Some of them are talented musicians(I’m not). So why do I hang out with these people? Why do I spend my time with people who are nothing like me, who enjoy crappy films or listen to music I can’t stand? Why do I hang out with people who wouldn’t go with me to a country concert or a pro rodeo?

The answer is simple. We’ve got something in common far more important than musical tastes, clothing styles, and entertainment preferences. We’ve got Jesus Christ. That makes us family. It makes us closer than family in some cases. My best friend who I grew up with, a man that I can say that I love, he and I don’t have that in common. And even though I would enjoy going to a concert or out to dinner with that old boy, I wouldn’t enjoy our time together like I do with my friends who love Jesus. And even though some of these people drive me nuts at times, they’re my family. They’re my best friends. Christ brought us together into His family, where we are children of God. Being a Christian really is like being a member of a family. I think I’m the crazy and cranky uncle usually in this family, and there are the weird aunts, senile old men, overenthusiastic young people, and we’re all family. We are all in Christ. And that’s all that is needed. I still love country, wearing flannel shirts, big trucks, Wrangler jeans, white-tipped cigars, George Jones, and hanging out with rednecks. But I’d rather hang out with my brothers and sisters in Christ, even if they’re nothing like me. That’s my crowd.

Posted by: baptistthinker | January 2, 2012

What Is A Priority In Seeking A New Church?

I’ve been thinking on this for a few months now, what are good priorities to have in seeking a new church. Primarily, I have been thinking on this because I have been prayerfully considering leaving my current church. I won’t get into the why I’m leaving my church here, but I think that my reasoning is sound. I hesitated at first, when I thought of leaving my church. I’ve been with this church for a few years now. It’s been a place where I’ve grown spiritually, where I’ve met good Christian friends who love the Lord and who have encouraged me in my walk with the Lord. It’s a church that loves evangelism and missions, and places a high priority on those things. But there are other things, that have caused me to desire fellowship elsewhere.

So now, I’m seeking a new church. I’ve made a list of various churches in my area that I would like to visit over the next few months, or several months, however long it takes. I’ve been creating a spreadsheet, that will feature what I’m looking for in a church, what I think is a priority, and also some preferences, and how these churches “measure up”. Of course, the spreadsheet alone won’t make the decision for me. It may be that while seeking a new church family, I find one that doesn’t necessarily measure up to my spreadsheet but is a great fit for me anyway. Just as I’ve prayed for wisdom in leaving my church, I’m now praying for wisdom in seeking a church.

Here are some things I consider a priority:

1. Solid Biblical teaching and preaching. This is major. I don’t want to go to a church that simply preaches from the Bible, about Christ. But one that preaches Christ, and preaches Scripture. I don’t want to go to a church that teaches me that I have to try harder, that I have to do better, that I have to be better. I don’t want moralism. I don’t want legalism.

2. Being doctrinally sound. This one is a biggie, I don’t want a church that is waffly on doctrine, or that has faulty theology. I’ve been in those churches before, it’s not a good place to be. It helps if they are Reformed in their doctrine, and they must be Baptistic. No paedobaptism, thank you very much.

3. Provided I someday get married, this church should be a place where I would want my wife and children to learn about God and Jesus Christ. I can’t be a part of a church where I have to go home and explain what was wrong with what was taught from the pulpit every Sunday. I want my church to be my partner in teaching my family about Christ. While I would primarily be responsible for preaching the Gospel to my family, my church should be helping me in that. Just like I should be helping my church in preaching the Gospel. I want a church that will help teach me to teach the Gospel to my family.

4. Has to be a place where I can help serve in some way. I don’t want to be a pew warmer. I want to help in any way I can. At the same time, I don’t want to be overloaded with responsibility and work. I’ve been there before, and that can burn you out. But I don’t want to just be a “member”, where being a member really doesn’t require anything.

5. Understands and is willing to practice Biblical church discipline. Too many churches today don’t. I want a church that loves people enough, and where the leaders love the flock enough, to practice church discipline.

What I consider a preference:

1. The use of hymns. Now, every song doesn’t need to be a grand old hymn from 200 years ago. But it’s nice to have them, to sing them. I could care less about singing “I could sing of your love forever(27 times until it seems like forever)”, but give me a song that has meaning and depth and substance. The hymns have that. Hymns like “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”, or “The Love of God”. But don’t necessarily leave out modern hymns like “In Christ Alone”. I love good Christian music that has sound theology(sidenote: the music must have sound theology, whether modern or old. That’s a priority). Music has the ability to shape the theology of the church. For further information on this point, check out the book “Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns”.

2. The use of hymnals(super-preference!). This is just one that would make me super-happy at a church. I love using songbooks during the music at church. I can sort of read music, and I know by looking at a songbook when I’m supposed to sing higher or lower. I prefer to sing harmony over melody. Project screens are fine and all, but not nearly as much fun as an entire congregation singing in harmony. Melody gets old after a while.

3. Has a standard translation for teaching and preaching. I’m not saying that they need to be KJV-Only, or ESV-Only, but I think it does something for a church when they say “in our teaching and preaching, we are primarily going to be using the _________ Translation.” Why? Because it kind of keeps everybody on the same page. Further, it encourages the memorization of Scripture. It is, I think, easier for the children of the church, and even the older folks, to memorize Scripture when their church is on the same translation.

These are just a few things that I’ve been considering. I’ve struggled long with this decision. I don’t want to simply be a “consumer”, and I don’t want to treat the church with a Consumerist Mentality. I don’t want to just say “well, the church isn’t doing this thing that *I* would like them to do, so it’s no good.”

Here are a couple links to check out on this:
When should I leave my church?-Tim Challies
What things should I look for in a church?-CARM
When to leave a church.-RC Sproul

Posted by: baptistthinker | November 11, 2011

Book Review: Knox’s Irregulars

Last night, I stayed up way past the normal time I turn in, reading a new Christian novel e-book that I found out about on Twitter, called Knox’s Irregulars by J. Wesley Bush. I was immediately intrigued, because it was Christian science fiction. It is rare that I read modern Christian novels, and even rarer that I enjoy them. I am a lover of classical literature, and most modern novels, particularly Christian novels, don’t really stand up well next to the classics. However, I was pleasantly surprised with Knox’s Irregulars.

Knox’s Irregulars is set in the 25th century, on a distant planet that humans have colonized. There are two groups of humans inhabiting the planet, the New Genevans, a small group of Reformed Christians and others living on the south end of the planet’s continent. The other group is the Abkhenazi, a much larger people group, whose religion and politics could best be described as a cobbling together of New-Age spirituality, Islam, Marxism and Nazism.

The Abkhenazi group is rather poorly off, economically, because of their political/religious reasons. As we see in Islamic and Marxist nations, the people always suffer greatly due to the political and religious views of those nations. But their soldiers fight with the fanatical devotion we see from Islamic fighters and the Nazi soldiers. Further, they attempt to engineer evolution in humans through experiments on their prisoners and subjects, something we’ve seen from Nazism.

The New Genevans, on the other hand, are a mostly Christian group, primarily Reformed Christian(read: Calvinist), although there are those who don’t adhere to Christianity in their midst. They tend to be more prosperous than their Abkhenazi, promoting jealous from their neighbors. What the Genevans lack in sheer force, they tend to make up for in technology. But technology isn’t everything when one is greatly outnumbered.

When war starts between New Geneva and the Abkhenazi, Corporal Randal Knox is forced to take the lead of a ragtag band of survivors who make it past the first clash with the Abkhenazi, and who are now attempting to make it back to the main force of the army. When this small band of survivors finally makes it to the primary city where the main force of the army was supposed to be, the Abkhenazi now occupy that city and are keeping the New Genevans prisoner. Knox is faced with a decision, attempt to make it back to the army much farther south, or attempt to get the underground milita groups working together to defeat the Abkhenazi. Knox is also drawn to the young medic that is part of his group, a beautiful young woman, and attempts to begin a relationship with her.

The writing in this book draws you in and engages you. The author is evidently a well-read man, judging by his use of different philosphers and thinkers and mentions of historical events. It has always been my experience that the best authors are men who read well, and this book would seem to prove my point. His characters have depth, although the author doesn’t go into needlessly long detail about who his characters are and what they do. Not only is the story engaging, the characters realistic, but there is also a bit of theological work in here, making it much more interesting for those of us who are Christians. I would strongly recommend this e-book for a read, particularly if you enjoy science-fiction. If you don’t, this book would still be enjoyable for you I think. It’s worth every penny you spend on it, and more.

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