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”

Phillips, Craig and Dean’s statement rejecting modalism

Since news came out about Phillips, Craig and Dean signing a statement affirming the Baptist Faith and Message (I’ve written about this story here and here), I’ve seen a few posts and tweets stating they have have not anywhere rejected modalism. I now post this, the statement they signed and gave to the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, to show that posts and tweets to that effect are not accurate.  You will can read for yourself the statement below.

I certainly understand the tendency to be skeptical and the calls for discernment. I would hope anyone who knows me or has spent any time reading me or talking to me knows I take such a need in the church very seriously.  I respect anyone’s right to continue to be skeptical. I simply post this to show that there is a place and a time where they have explicitly rejected modalism (Sabellianism), and here it is…

You can also download the statement in PDF format here.

Grace and peace to you.


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”

The elephant is in OUR room: Shaking hands with Sabellius in the Southern Baptist Convention

[UPDATE THURS JAN 9, 2014 – 8:06PM: In light of new developments in this story, I have chosen to keep this posted but also point you to my new post — A cause for careful celebration?: On Phillips, Craig and Dean and Trinitarian Christianity. Please read it.]

Is the doctrine of the Trinity something worth standing resolute on anymore in the Southern Baptist Convention? The question, seemingly obvious among the people who turned back the liberal tide and fought for the inerrancy of Scripture 35 years ago, must be asked in the early days of 2014 when one looks at the schedule for the 2014 Empower Conference, an evangelism conference put on by the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC).

Go ahead. Take a minute to look and then come back. Continue reading “The elephant is in OUR room: Shaking hands with Sabellius in the Southern Baptist Convention”

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!”