Esse quam videri: Why Southern Baptists’ declining numbers isn’t all a bad thing

ncsealcolorAs a child matriculating my way through the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School system, I learned the motto of my beloved home state was Esse quam videri, which is Latin for To be rather than to seem. It seems to be a good choice for a state which grew up situated between our big bad, powerful colonial neighbor to the north — Virginia — and our uppity neighbor to the south with a (pardon the anachronism here) Napoleon complex — South Carolina. North Carolina was the humble colony (then state) in the middle, content to be what it is rather than seem more than it is. Whether that remains true today is a matter of opinion, but the state motto does seem fitting. To steal an oft-used phrase from a former head coach of the Carolina Panthers, when it comes to North Carolina, “It is what it is.”

What the Southern Baptist Convention is remains a matter of opinion as well. Numbers released the week before our Convention’s Annual Meeting, concluding in Columbus, Ohio, as I write this, have received a great deal of virtual ink from bloggers and pundits. And while I haven’t been able to watch or listen in to all of the goings on in the Buckeye State (We are first in flight!), I’m sure the numbers have been discussed from the podium and in the convention and exhibit halls as well. I know because I’ve been to those meetings before. Continue reading “Esse quam videri: Why Southern Baptists’ declining numbers isn’t all a bad thing”

A cause for careful celebration?: On Phillips, Craig and Dean and Trinitarian Christianity

Late Sunday night I posted The elephant is in OUR room: Shaking hands with Sabellius in the Southern Baptist Convention. I’d venture to say it is by far my most widely read and disseminated post in almost fifteen years of blogging, which isn’t saying much, except to say that people read it and commented on it. A couple of others sites picked it up and/or linked to it.

If you haven’t read it I encourage you to do so, but in a nutshell, the purpose of the article was to bring to attention the inclusion of CCM group Phillips, Craig and Dean (PCD) to the lineup of those speaking or performing at the Empower Conference, an evangelism conference sponsored by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC). They would be joining prominent Southern Baptists such as SBC President Fred Luter, ERLC President Russell Moore, former SBC President Johnny Hunt, and Lifeway’s Ed Stetzer. And it would not have been newsworthy were it not well known beforehand Phillips, Craig and Dean’s links to modalism.

Modalism is an ancient heresy which distorts the orthodox (and biblical) understanding of the Godhead. Christians believe in one true God who eternally exists in three Persons — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and that they are co-equal and co-substantial, one in nature and essence. Modalism, also known as Sabellianism (Sabellius was the ancient proponent of this heresy), teaches there is one God who reveals or manifests in three distinct ways — Father, Son, and Spirit, but when He is the Father He is not the Son, and when He is the Son He is not the Spirit, and when He is the Spirit He is not the Father. Hence, God manifests Himself in different modes.

For almost 2000 years Christians have consistently taught and believed that to deny the orthodox understanding of the Trinity was to deny the orthodox understanding of God, and thus place oneself outside of the realm or orthodox Christianity and salvation itself, which is why it was alarming to me that PCD was included in that conference lineup, for up until then there had never been a public denial of modalism by the members of the group. Continue reading “A cause for careful celebration?: On Phillips, Craig and Dean and Trinitarian Christianity”

A tale of 20 years: Albert Mohler and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

I’m a few years removed now from my time in Louisville, and if home is where the heart is my citizenship is in heaven while my body is here in Carthage, NC. That said, I’m very thankful for the time I spent in the Bluegrass State, and even more for the presidency of Albert Mohler at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. As a graduate of Boyce College who started my Masters at SBTS before moving to Ohio for a while, I was a direct recipient of the good God has wrought through Mohler’s presidency. He is a man with the conviction to lead (pun intended for those who get it), and the seminary and Southern Baptists are better off for it.

This week’s convocation at SBTS marks the twentieth anniversary of Mohler’s time there as President. Southern has changed drastically in that time, as a school enslaved to the tides of theological liberalism was taken back for the mission for which it was founded.

Do yourself a favor and first read this. It is the text of Mohler’s inaugural convocation address on August 31, 1993, entitled “Don’t Just Do Something; Stand There.” In it he set the tone for what would come at the school, to the glory of God.

After you are done reading that, watch the video below. It’s Mohler’s 21st convocation address, given yesterday, entitled “Don’t Just Stand There – Say Something: The Sin of Silence in a Time of Trouble.”

Thank you, Dr. Mohler. May your tribe increase.

Southern Baptists, Tear down that statue! The gospel matters most!

The gospel was prostituted this week, and I don’t mean by Joel Osteen, some overly pragmatic megachurch pastor, or some other prosperity gospel huckster. The gospel was prostituted by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA).

Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee for President, visited Billy Graham and his son Franklin, who heads up the BGEA, at Graham’s Montreat home last week while the former Massachusetts Governor was campaigning in the swing state of North Carolina. At the meeting, Graham told Romney that he would do anything he could to help support his election.

That apparently includes removing an article from its web site that lists Mormonism, Romney’s religion, as a cult. The Asheville Citizen-Times reported that the BGEA said the article was removed “because [they] do not wish to participate in a theological debate about something that has become politicized during this campaign.”

That’s all well and good, not wanting to politicize something, but then I have to ask the BGEA why the Grahams would put themselves in that position by hosting the Republican nominee for President in the first place, then saying they’d support his election. The Grahams, if anyone, have taken the lead in politicizing their ministry. Of course, this is not a new thing. One of the things Billy Graham is most famous for during his ministry was being a counselor of sorts, or at least having an audience with, almost every President of the United States since the 1950s.

The fact of the matter is that even though this removed article wasn’t just about Mormonism, but also including references to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Unification Church, Unitarians, Spiritists, Scientologists, and others, what prompted this removal was the Grahams following through on doing what they could to get Mitt Romney elected. Quite simply, they compromised the gospel for the sake of the Republican Party. Continue reading “Southern Baptists, Tear down that statue! The gospel matters most!”

Bold misuse of journalistic standards at The Biblical Recorder

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This post is the product of much consideration and prayer. I do not seek to single out a man, but a practice I feel is wrong and must be dealt with. The first portion of what follows is what was an unpublished draft of a blog I wrote back around the New Year. While I am passionate on the issue at hand, I decided not to publish it at the time. I have been wrestling with it ever since. However, today’s “news” story on The Biblical Recorder’s web site has driven me to reconsider. I will have more to say at the end of this now published draft.

I am so very thankful that the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and the editorial board of its paper, The Biblical Recorder, are not in charge of any Bible translations. Otherwise, Bible verses that non-Calvinists often use to try and disprove biblical soteriology might be in bold-face type. As it stands, I believe what the Recorder is doing is bad enough. Continue reading “Bold misuse of journalistic standards at The Biblical Recorder”