Sunday, July 31, 2005

Senator Frist: Principled or Pragmatic?

Thanks to Al Mohler for drawing attention to Frist's flip-flop on embryonic stem-cell research, thereby saving me the work I had planned to do.

What Frist knows that most Americans don't is that stem cells from adults and umbilical cord blood have demonstrated far more therapeutic promise to date than embryonic stem cells. It will be easy for many conservatives to interpret this switch as a Machiavellian strategy to appeal to more voters in the 2008 presidential election. But if Frist had any hopes of reaching into the religious conservative base of Republical primary voters, he can kiss those hopes goodbye. Religious conservatives might tolerate a candidate who is not as rigid as they are on this issue, but they won't tolerate a candidate they can't trust. They certainly won't trust Frist now.

Look for Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas to emerge as the religious conservatives' candidate of choice. If Senator Santorum of Pennsylvania wins his 2006 re-election bid (he's down in the polls right now to a Democrat considered by many to be pro-life), he could quickly become an attractive option, especially if he wins by a stronger-than-expected margin.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Words Mean Things

The ability to leave readers with the impression that you have just said something important, even if they don't know what you meant, sometimes seems to pass for a good argument. An example of such argumentation is available at Reformation 21, the new blog for the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals.

I suspect that this blog will provide plenty of great insight into the Scriptures. I'm confident that it will stake out a strong stand on some crucial issues. Expect it to be the kind of quality group effort that could put us amateur bloggers out of business. I'm predisposed to anticipate good things because the Alliance Council is as theologically solid an interdenominational fellowship as we are likely to find in this 21st century.

Unfortunately, Carl Trueman's article, "Is Fundamentalism the New Sex?" misses the mark. Some might prate (and they'd be right) about his proclamation that Led Zeppelin is at the pinnacle of Western music or the weakness of his central analogy. After all, sex to the Victorians may have been an obsession and a taboo, but at least they knew something about it; the same cannot be said of the media in relationship to modern fundamentalisms [plural intended].

Trueman's main point is that Christian fundamentalism (as he defines it) focuses too much either on the ancient past or the immediate present. Fundamentalists interpret the Bible with no respect for the "context of the marriage union of Christ and the church"—in other words, fundamentalists ignored what Christians have believed throughout church history.

My arguments with Trueman are two. First, he doesn't hold himself to his own standard. Consider his definition of Christian fundamentalism as "that attitude of mind which believes that the Bible must always be interpreted with no reference whatsoever to what the church throughout the centuries has considered it to teach." Perhaps I'm ignorant (I've been called worse), but where did that definition come from? To my knowledge it is wholly without historical reference, which is ironic in an article that is about respecting history. Trueman is right to identify and repudiate a defective understanding of Scripture, but to strictly identify this defect with Christian fundamentalism is a reach. It cultivates an imprecision that weakens his argument for the sake of a convenient albeit picturesque analogy.

Trueman's second imprecision is that he insufficiently defines his target. Who are these people who cavalierly spurn historical theology? He says,
[Fundamentalists] take it as basic that they should from the outset exalt themselves, their own moment in history, and their own radically limited horizons, to the status of ultimate criteria in interpretation and theological formulation.
I can't imagine that he is referring to all who resist denominationalism and believe in the autonomy of the local church. But if Baptists are not the targets, who are they? Maybe he is propagating the stereotype of Southern redneck Christians. If they're in his crosshairs, though, good luck getting the dart to stick. I suspect they might not be reading Reformation 21. Regardless, there is more to Christian fundamentalism than wielders of 20–pound King James Bibles. Our definitions ought to intersect with reality.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Thinking About Discipling Children

My church is transitioning from a popular children's program to the Kids4Truth program this fall. If you are frustrated with what you're using now, consider getting your hands on some samples right away. K4T is no magic bullet. Programs are not the solution; effective teaching about the God of the Word just might be. The truth is, it will probably take more commitment from your volunteer staff to run K4T effectively than some of the popular stuff that's out there. And since this is the first year of broad availablility, there are bound to be some bugs to work out.

What's so great about it? The K4T program isn't about fun and games, or a prize store, or a cram-it-in-your-brain-for-23.6 seconds Scripture memory program, or a 1-2-3-pray-after-me watered-down evangelistic strategy. It takes kids seriously. Kids are bright, and they're hungry for a challenge. Kids can learn doctrine. Serious doctrine. Kids can develop a hunger for God. K4T isn't easy for the kids or the adults. Many of your volunteers will probably learn some doctrine themselves (perish the thought). And did I mention it teaches doctrine?

I feel as though I should tell you a couple things. Bob, the founder and president, is a great friend from a good long while back. God saved us about a month apart from each other while we were serving as counselors in a camp. I've had a very, very minor role in the K4T ministry, but I have nothing to gain from this promotion. I'm sharing this because I'm convinced that many/most of our churches' children's ministries are in shambles, and K4T is one great step in the right direction.

Here's a great article by John Piper on children's ministries, by the way.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Round 3

You will know this name.
The more one probes the differences between Roman and Protestant, Liberal and Evangelical, the deeper they prove to be; beneath the cracks on the surface lie fissures which run down to the very foundations, broadening as they go.


Phil and friends have outdone themselves this time.

John Roberts and BJU

Yesterday's podcast of ABC's "Afternote" reported that Democrats are looking for documents from John Roberts' tenure in the White House Counsel's office from 1982-1986 that reveal whether he wrote anything on reinstating tax exempt status for BJU. Listen to yesterday's edition.

After BJU lost its case in the Supreme Court over the now-defunct inter-racial dating policy, President Reagan ordered the IRS to reinstate the tax exempt status, but the IRS sued the President and won again in a 1983 Supreme Court decision. The speculation is that Roberts provided key legal counsel to Reagan on the validity of his order to the IRS. Read more background.

The Afternote is a daily Washington political news digest. (Use this link in your podcasting application to subscribe.)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Maginot Line and the Modern Church

During World War I, France realized how unpleasant German invasion and occupation could be. To prevent a recurrence of those unpleasantries, the French built an intricate series of "impenetrable" defenses along the German and Italian borders during the 1930s. These fortifications became known as the Maginot Line.

Unfortunately for the French, the line wasn't quite long enough. The 1940 German invasion reached French soil quite easily in just five days. How? The Germans went around it, through the "impassable" Ardennes Forest and the impotent French neighbors Belgium and Holland. Read the longer version here.

The relevance to the modern church of this historical excursion is a matter of my opinion. Some of us who blog probably imply from time to time that we have a corner on truth. Perhaps I could be accused more often and more accurately than most of dislplaying such an attitude. What is to follow should be read as some "thinking out loud," not a dogmatic decree.

Here's my hypothesis: The modern church has constructed a Maginot Line. We have invested far too much energy on issues of far too little consequence—issues that are not at the center of the spiritual warfare we are waging. We've convinced ourselves that molehills are the tactical high ground that we absolutely MUST conquer, while we have foolishly abandoned the mountains. We have fortified the front lines that we perceived to be most vulerable, but we have left ourselves bare to the frontal assault of the Enemy.

It is on that point that I suspect we might be more foolish even than the French. At least France defended the most direct route of attack, requiring the Germans to drive their Panzer divisions miles out-of-the-way. Is it not possible that we have left our most precious possessions exposed? In our attempt to build fences around morality, have we failed to fortify the theology that ultimately defines morality and the theocentric approach to local church ministry that propagates it?

Again, this is hypothesis, not dogma. But can we really say (as some do) that the "fundamentalist movement" (to the degree that it is a movement) is theologically healthy? The contention that it is more healthy than the mythical "evangelical movement" is a relative statement. Such logic proves health no more than a man with kidney failure does when he compares himself to a man with terminal cancer. Whether it is truly healthy is a question for comparison to the Word, not to other people.

I do not mean to imply that Drs. Bauder and Doran agree with the substance of my argument, but I view their recent statements optimistically. They acknowledge a need for self-criticism that serious truth-seekers will be wise to consider. They are beginning to define a pathway to reformation that will create plenty of friction between ideas, but perhaps the heat from that friction will burn away the dross.

What seems unique to me about this moment is that the conversation is taking place publicly. But the danger of this conversation may be that we invest our energy in defending our own conclusions and our own rights. I like the fact that Bauder and Doran are starting by laying groundwork. As Unk would say, "This is good." Perhaps those of us on all sides need to suspend our kiln-baked opinions on the hot-button issues for a while as the conversation advances. Easier said than done, for me at least.

Monday, July 25, 2005

More Wells: Deep but Rewarding

Wells argues in NPFT that Our Time is distinctly characterized by the confluence of modernization and secularization. Modernization is the set of economic forces that causes our society to be organized around cities. Secularization is the set of forces (apparently economic, religious, philosophical, and pseudo-scientific) that divorces culture from the biblical worldview that served as the unrivaled infrastructure of Western society for centuries. For a more thorough but quite readable explanation of the development of these forces, read Kevin Bauder's articles on the erosion of Christian culture. At the time of this writing, the archives aren't working. Hopefully this is a temporary problem. In the meantime, you can also access the essays here and here.

Wells advocates a "sociology of knowledge." Although it sounds intimidating, it's essentially just the theory that "the way we think is the product of the society in which we live" (pg. 72). Although it seems intuitively true to some degree, it strikes me as impossible to verify or quantify.

Whether his diagnosis for the cause is accurate does not seem to affect the accuracy of his analysis of the symptoms, and it is this insight into the symptoms that I believe is the strength of the book. It might affect the accuracy of his solutions. I'm thinking through these things as I blog, so I may be forced to revise my conclusions. I would love to hear analysis or impressions along the way from others who have read Wells.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Another Game

A tougher challenge, at Paul's request. Again, googlin' is cheatin'. Who said it?
The religious system, adopted by many at this day, has very little of real Christianity in it. Many laboured performances are not published to the world, in which we find the duties of morality recommended with peculaiar elegance of style, and acuteness of reasoning, wherein we meet with little or nothing concerning the person, the work, or the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is like raising a superstructure, without a solid foundation. The great mystery of redemption by the blood of that Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world, appears to be of little or no use with such persons, in their attempts to promote piety and obedience.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Who Listens to His Wife More?

President Bush or Supreme Court nominee John Roberts? Hopefully Jane Roberts' views on life issues are taken more seriously than Laura Bush's were on the gender of the nominee.
A Roman Catholic like her husband, Jane Roberts has been deeply involved in the antiabortion movement. She provides her name, money and professional advice to a small Washington organization — Feminists for Life of America — that offers counseling and educational programs. The group has filed legal briefs before the high court challenging the constitutionality of abortion.

Prediction #2

Fast on the heels of the success of my first fearless Paleoevangelical prediction (I can't resist gloating—AG was the hot name back then) comes another glimpse of the future: In 2012 Ken Blackwell will become the first African American to appear on the Republican Presidential ticket. Blackwell comes to mind after an editorial he co-authored was published in the WSJ today. It's not an easy read, but it is a great analysis of how tax increases squelch economic growth in a Rust Belt state. In this case it's Ohio, which is why I waded through it.

I know everyone is looking for Condi to be on the ticket in 2008 or 2012, but I think she is more likely to pursue a gubernatorial office to get chief executive experience before she makes a presidential run. Blackwell is running for governor of Ohio in 2006, and I think he'll win. If he doesn't, you'll all forget by then. If he does, I'll remind you.

Worth Reading

David Morris breaks down Al Mohler's thoughts on "theological triage." I need to digest this some more myself.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Drinking from Wells

Several days ago I finished David Wells' No Place for Truth, Or "Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?" and found myself wishing I had pulled this book off my shelf years ago. O that seminaries had their students reading more of Wells and less of Warren. One of the central themes of his argument is that the Church has drunken deeply from the wells (pun intended) of Modernism, despite protestations to the contrary. I hope to share some selected quotes from time to time in coming days.
Evangelicals are antimodern only across a narrow front; I write from a position that is antimodern across the entire front. It is only where assumptions in culture directly and obviously contradict articles of faith that most evangelicals become aroused and rise up to battle "secular humanism"; aside from these specific matters, they tend to view culture as neutral and harmless. More than that, they often view culture as a partner amenable to being coopted in the cause of celebrating Christian truth. I cannot share that naivete; indeed, I consider it dangerous. Culture is laden with values, many of which work to rearrange the substance of faith, even when they are mediated to us through the benefits that the modern world also bestows upon us. [page 11, emphasis mine]
I subscribe to World Magazine and read it from cover to cover, but I wonder if World does not provide fuel for this mindset, with its incessant reviews of books, music, and movies from pop culture and its spiritualized, less artistic sibling. Perhaps there is benefit in the fact that World confronts some Christians for the first time with the need to filter their entertainment choices through a doxological grid. I find, on the other hand, that I need to remind myself that a positive, family-friendly review ought not to constitute in my mind a valid reason to partake.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

A Game

Just for fun, I offer a challenge. Who said this? (No fair googling.)
This is symptomatic of larger shifts in evangelicalism which leave many of us wondering where we belong. Old alliances that I once regarded as defining my theological existence have changed, and I don't feel at home any more. On the other hand, I feel at home in an increasingly wide and diverse fellowship that has little to do with denominational boundaries. The boundaries are being drawn or erased in places where some seem too narrow and others too broad. Uncomfortably I find myself wanting to say to some: "Too broad!" And to others: "Too narrow!" . . . My sense is that there must be a narrowing and a broadening of doctrinal commitments for advancement of what is so precious among many of us who are deeply sympathetic to doctrinal faithfulness and purity.
Should no one comment, I'll gladly take the hint and put this feature to a quick death. Perhaps a self-interview would be more interesting.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Doran on Theological Deference

Dave Doran, pastor of Inter-City Baptist Church and president of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, recently published a thought-provoking article titled “The Danger of Deference.” Two paragraphs near the end summarize the point well:
What is the relevance of this to contemporary church life? It seems that we need to re-evaluate the issue of deference, particularly as it relates to those who are advancing doctrines and practices that are contrary to the Scriptures. The concept of “contrary to the Scriptures” is very important—I am not suggesting that we impose our opinions, wishes, and judgments on other people; the clear teaching of the Bible must be the authority at all times. There are a lot of things about which believers and churches will disagree with one another, and as long as no clear doctrine of the Scripture is discarded or denied, then deference is right and necessary. But where matters of biblical doctrine are at stake, deference is not the right choice.
Biblical Fundamentalism must stand unflinchingly for the truth of God’s Word against false doctrine and practice no matter what its origin and who practices it. Within the circle of sound doctrine, there is room and need for proper deference toward one another. Outside of that circle, deference is really unfaithfulness to God and His Word. Any unity obtained that survives only because we are unwilling to confront error will be short-lived and ultimately destructive. The Apostle Paul knew that factious people who refuse to be corrected must be rejected for the sake of obeying God and protecting His people. It seems like we would do well to remember this important truth.
It is incomprehensible to me that this this article needs to be written, but the pluralistic, deferential spirit of this age is so often reflected in the evangelical and fundamentalist movements that Doran sounds a much-needed clarion call.

To be sure, there is a point of tension in this article. Several questions immediately leap to my mind:

1) How do we identify the "clear teaching of the Bible" and the "clear doctrine of the Scripture" to which Doran alludes?
2) What are the parameters of the "circle of sound doctrine"?
3) At what point do we cross the line between standing "unflinchingly for the truth of God’s Word" and imposing personal "opinions, wishes, and judgments on other people"?

I think these questions are legitimate, and the consensus answers will not be easily apprehended. Some common attempts to address these questions are insufficient. Regardless, we will learn a great deal about who is willing to defend militantly this circle of sound doctrine as we observe the nature and grounds of this debate.

Funny Theologians

From watching the sometimes hilarious video promo interviews, one gets the idea that this Together for the Gospel conference is going to be a great time. Funny and fellowshippy, but deadly serious as well.
"Too often too many pastors' conferences are characterized by the absence of theology, if not the deliberate avoidance of doctrinal distinctives and sound doctrine, and I think a neat characteristic of our conference is going to be the unashamed, humble accent upon doctrinal distinctives, beginning with the gospel, reformed soteriology, sound doctrine."—C.J. Mahaney
They mention people coming incognito. For those concerned about privacy, if I'm there and you're there, I promise not to blog your names without your consent.

HT: Justin Taylor

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Shameless Promotion

We just uploaded the first of (hopefully) a series of interviews with the conference speakers at the God Focused Youth Ministry Training Conference. In the first installment, I had the opportunity to talk with Frank Hamrick about his burden to challenge those who are discipling young people.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

When "Good Men" Disagree

From time to time discussions arise over thorny questions of orthodoxy, orthopraxy, and orthopathy. Often the discussion procedes to how diverse answers to these questions might limit fellowship and cooperation with other believers. I'm thinking about issues like immersion vs. sprinkling, Calvinism vs. Arminianism, providential preservation vs. supernatural preservation of God's Word in one translation, etc. Time and again, it seems to me that the final arbiter in many of these discussions is the statement that "Historically, good men have disagreed on these points of theology, so we are not required to separate ecclesiastically on these grounds."

Apparently, since good men have disagreed, divergent views may be tolerated and even overlooked. Concerning other issues (the thinking seems to go), all "good men" in history have agreed, and no differences of opinion may be tolerated today. Perhaps some examples of issues concerning which dissent is not tolerated come to your mind, as they do to mine.

This argumentation raises two immediate questions in my mind: 1) Who gave us the right and the capacity to identify "good men," and more importantly, 2) When did "good men" become the arbiters of the issues concerning which truth is too ambiguous to be defended zealously?

The historical analysis of arguments, definitions, and movements may be instructive, but it is not definitive. History is merely what men thought, said, and did—men who may or may not have been "good". Perhaps our historical analysis needs to be taken with a grain of salt. At the very least, it seems that our historical arguments need to examine more than the past 85 years of church history.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Pitfalls of Servant Leadership

I've been plodding through David Wells' No Place for Truth, Or "Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology?" The plodding is my fault, not his. The book is packed with arguments that started connecting scattered dots in my brain. One idea smacked me upside the head from out of nowhere over the weekend. Towards the latter stages of the book Wells discusses 20th century evangelicalism's trend of mirroring American culture to appeal to the lowest common denominator of the masses. He takes about four pages to illustrate this transition in the content of Christianity Today from 1959 to 1989. He then proceeds to explain how the best leaders today seem to be the best pollsters—those who can best figure out what the masses want are those that can best attract and keep a crowd. That's the basic context for this quote from pages 214–215:
To be sure, this is not a flattering way of describing those leaders who have succumbed to popular evangelical sentiment. It is more flattering to talk instead of 'servant leadership.' That has the ring of piety about it. But it is a false piety, for it plays on an understanding of servanthood that is antithetical to the biblical understanding. Contemporary servant leaders are typically individuals without any ideas of their own, people whose convictions shift with the popular opinion to which they assiduously attune themselves, people who bow to the wishes of 'the body' from whom their direction and standing derive. They lead by holding aloft moist fingers to sense the changes in the wind.
To be sure, this is not the kind of servant leadership Christ modeled, but Wells made me wonder to what degree it is the kind of "servant leadership" we see today.

Will the Promise Be Fulfilled?

I tape one show every week: Fox News Sunday. The All Stars make the McLachlan Group look like hack amateurs. I only wish I could see what happens between Brit Hume and Juan Williams on the commercial breaks. Anyway, last night I watched my tape from Sunday and was gripped by the closing comments from Charles Krauthammer and Bill Kristol.

The President had pledged himself to appoint a justice in the model of a Scalia and an O'Connor , and unless he does that I think he betrays his base and he betrays his promises. [After the commercial break Krauthammer clarified that he meant Clarence Thomas, not O'Connor.]
I think if the President nominates Gonzales it will be disastrous for the Republican Party and the conservative movement because an absolute core view of conservatives who have been fighting for thirty years is to begin to change the direction of the Court. Reagan tried with Bork. He was defeated. It was a great setback for conservatism. Conservatism has done very well on economic policy, pretty well on foreign policy, very badly in terms of affecting jurisprudence in terms of relinking constitutional law to the Constitution. A statement by President Bush that he wants to leave the balance on the Court as it is—of course Gonzales will sail through the Senate, not many Senators are going to vote against him—I think it will demoralize the conservative supporters of the President and will have bad effects for the Bush administration for the rest of its time. It will be the equivalent of the budget deal of 1992 . . . [If Gonzales is like O'Connor, this is] a statement that the Bush administration does not want to fundamentally change the character of American constitutional law, and that would be incredibly demoralizing to people like me.
And people like me.

Monday, July 11, 2005

You Might Be a Paleoevangelical If . . . (#4)

. . . you haven't received one of these cool visions yet.

Keep your eyes peeled next time you're on I-68 near Frostburg, MD. Have a camera handy.

If Worlds Collide

Many Christians eschew political involvement, and I respect their reasoning, particularly when the political activity is the kind that involves one of my fellow SEBTS students critiquing candidates from the pulpit. But I wonder how consistently those anti-politics principles will hold up when the US Supreme Court's recent Kelo decision hits home. In a nutshell, this decision allows state and local governments to claim private property and sell it to other private developers when it seems likely that the seizure and sale will increase the tax base.

Now guess who doesn't pay taxes: yeah, churches. So you do the math and conclude what properties are going to become prime time candidates for eminent domain proceedings.

Jared Leland, a lawyer for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, warned that letting cities use eminent domain to increase their tax base will increase the vulnerability of tax-exempt churches. "The decision will inevitably draw the bulldozers toward religious institutions first," he said.

full text of NYT story (free registration required)

HT: government employee

Friday, July 08, 2005

Growing a Church the Old Fashioned Way

While in the Midwest for the weekend of the 4th, I took a side trip to Rockford, IL, to interview Bob Bixby for the website of the God Focused Youth Ministry Training Conference. Bob is a speaker at the conference, and we'll soon be updating the website with some fresh content, including speaker interviews.

Since we scheduled the interview for Sunday afternoon, I had the opportunity to visit the church Bob pastors, Morning Star Baptist, that morning. Rockford is a funny town. Look at a map of how the town was designed and you'll see that the growth has been massively lopsided over the years to the eastern side, which isn't too surprising since Chicago is about an hour to the east. I noticed this lopsidedness as I drove by hundreds if not thousands of acres of corn fields on my way to the township hall far to the west side of town where the church meets. Since it's a township hall, they don't have their own signage. No PR campaign either, unless you count Bob preaching on a couple area radio stations, but the sermons he preaches are more likely to incite complaints from pluralists than to attract crowds. Contemporary music? Far from it. The only musical instrument in the building was an organ. Need I say more? Oh, and the final growth killer: church discipline. Bob didn't wear it as a feather in his cap, but the fact that Morning Star practices it came up almost by accident in our conversation.

So MSBC is way out on the wrong side of town, with no signs, no ads, no CCM, and painful church discipline, and I didn't even mention the expository preaching. But the congregation has more than tripled in size in the past couple years, and the Sunday evening and Wednesday evening attendance numbers are about 90% and 75% of Sunday morning, respectively. Rick Warren, eat your heart out. (His church with 82,000 "members" only managed to get 30,000 to attend on the one Sunday they rented Angels stadium so they could try to get the whole church in the same place at the same time.)

During my drive back to my parents' home that afternoon, I wondered what it is that contributes to the numerical growth (many are new believers) as well as the spirit of community and discipleship that was so plain in the 3 hours I was at MSBC. I could take guesses, but my limited exposure probably leaves me unqualified to think too much out loud. Regardless, it's refreshing to see evidence that the "40 days" way isn't the only way. It makes a Paleoevangelical's heart warm.

Yesterday I read Jim Eliff's article, "Southern Baptists, an Unregenerate Denomination," and noticed some striking similarities between Bob Bixby and MSBC and the kind of churches and pastors Eliff thinks we ought to be noticing. (HT: Tim Challies)
We might reverse some of our proclivity to continue as normal if we introduced our preachers more accurately in our evangelism meetings and convention settings. Try using this introduction: "Here is Brother ______, pastor of a church of 10,000 members, 6400 of whom do not bother to come on a given Sunday morning, and 8600 of whom do not come on Sunday evening. He is here to tell us about how to have a healthy, evangelistic church."

It might be better to ask a man to speak who shepherds 100 members, all of whom attend with regularity and all of whom show signs of regeneration—a man who, in the last year, has baptized 5 people who stick—rather than a pastor of 10,000 members, 7000 of whom do not come—a man who has baptized 1000 in the past year, 700 of whom cannot be found. The smaller, but more consistent numbers of the first pastor reveal a far more effective ministry and thus a far better example for other churches.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Why Bush Won't Appoint Gonzales

A rare Paleoevangelical prediction arises from a Tuesday WSJ Review and Outlook column.
Mr. Bush has often said he'd like to appoint a Hispanic to the Court, and there are several fine candidates, including Miguel Estrada, whose nomination to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals was filibustered during Mr. Bush's first Administration. As a war President, Mr. Bush will also want someone who has a healthy respect for executive power in fighting terrorism--such as the Fourth Circuit's J. Harvie Wilkinson. This argues against Mr. Gonzales who, as former White House counsel and now head of the Justice Department, would have to recuse himself from most if not all of the war-on-terror cases. A series of 4-4 rulings would be bad for the country on what promises to be a fundamental legal debate in the coming years and could be a matter of national survival.
If I'm right, we won't get Gonzales since he could not vote to uphold the President's national security objectives and strategies, not because the President has substantial concerns with his willingness as a Texas judge to create rights that have nothing to do with the Constitution and actually abolish the rights of the unborn. Or perhaps I'll be right that he will not be appointed but wrong on the President's decision-making process. And then there's the slim possibility that I could be wrong and Gonzales will be appointed in 5 minutes.

You Might Be a Paleoevangelical If . . . (#3)

. . . you read a message on a church marquee that says, "Patriotic Worship Celebration July 3rd," and you spend the rest of the day wondering exactly what they were worshiping and celebrating last Sunday.

Monday, July 04, 2005

On the "Young Southern Baptists"

LifeWay President discusses them at the Convention. Some baby, some bathwater.
“The SBC needs to be able to write on a napkin what its message is,” he said. “Unfortunately we are more known for what we are against than what we are for. I don’t want to have to apologize or think twice before telling someone I’m a Southern Baptist. I don’t want to worry about how they’ll respond or take something I say.”

Harris’ comments came near the end of the two-hour rally hosted by Draper and attended by more than 400 people. Draper introduced the need to involve younger leaders in the denomination at last year’s SBC annual meeting in Indianapolis. He followed his convention address with a series of columns challenging Southern Baptist leaders to “make a place at the table” for younger leaders. He’s spent the past six months visiting nearly a dozen locations around the country for dialogue sessions with younger leaders.
Apparently independent Baptists are not the only folks who have a deep psychological (i.e. fleshly) craving to feel like part of a "movement."

Friday, July 01, 2005

An Old Testament with an Agenda?

So suggests Michael Rydelnick of Moody Bible Institute.
Just as today there are many versions of the Christian Bible -- each choosing different words to translate the Scripture for diverse audiences -- there were different versions of the Hebrew Bible in the three centuries before Christ, Rydelnick said. However, when Protestant reformers turned away from the Latin Bible of the Roman Catholic Church to re-translate the Old Testament, Rydelnick noted that they accepted a version of the Hebrew Bible that had been influenced for centuries by rabbis who wanted to obscure the Messianic message in the Scripture. [emphasis mine]
For another likely example, see my earlier post.