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Saturday, February 25, 2017

A life is not important, and other quotes

The posting of quotes by human authors does not constitute agreement with either the quotes or their sources. (I try to confirm the sources that I give, but may miss on occasion; please verify if possible.)

"A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives." -- Jackie Robinson

"A judge who likes every outcome he reaches is very likely a bad judge." -- Neil Gorsuch

"Tribalism has become mainstream political discourse." -- Ben Shapiro

"A mere business transaction does not make you culpable for what the other party in the transaction is doing." -- Bart Barber

Churches can’t organize their way out of a mess. They must agonize before the Lord until He brings them out of the mess. -- paraphrased from someone named "Max"

"My search for something to make me feel better ended with some one." -- Joseph Jennings

"Christians who don’t believe God sovereignly draws His elect to Christ are forced by their theological perspective to take a very pragmatic approach to evangelism. They become more concerned with what “works” than with what’s true, because their doctrine leads them to believe everything hinges on their own skill, cleverness, or persuasive abilities." -- John MacArthur

"We and you ought not now to pull on the ends of the rope in which you have tied the knot of war, because the more the two of us pull, the tighter that knot will be tied. And a moment may come when that knot will be tied so tight that even he who tied it will not have the strength to untie it." -- Nikita Khrushchev

"Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect." -- Chief Seattle

"When you hear a man tell you to put down your bible and listen to him -- run, don't walk, RUN to the nearest exit!" -- R. V. Clearwaters (perhaps paraphrased)

"Assurance is the believer's ark where he sits, Noah-like, quiet and still in the midst of all distractions and destructions, commotions and confusions..." -- Thomas Brooks

Friday, February 24, 2017

Politics and the pulpit

Something to think about:

“In our day of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms, a pastor would have to be blind and deaf not to know the preferences and personal biases of church members, whether it be about politics, entertainment or religion.” -- Wade Burleson

And new news:

“Christian mom blogger” has announced that she and soccer star Abby Wambach have “decided to hold hands forever.” I'll hold my breath. They have both ditched their previous “forever” commitments.

Always too little, and other links

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Pledge statement, or church call agreement

Over at the SBC Today blog, minister Kyle Gulledge posted a thread called Helps for the Pastor Search Committee. The “helps” include a link to a questionnaire and pledge statement in which the prospective pastor is queried whether he is a Calvinist, says he is not and pledges if he ever becomes a Calvinist he will resign and move on. The context or background for such helps are: (1) there are, apparently, Calvinists within the Southern Baptist Convention who, lacking honesty and integrity, accept non-Calvinistic churches with the hidden agenda of bringing them into the fold of Calvinistic soteriology; and (2) there are within the Southern Baptist Convention a number of who are vocally and actively working against the spread of Calvinism. The SBC Today blog plainly and persistently represents in this camp.

That questionnaire and the pledge are clearly about Calvinism, but it brought to me the question of the propriety of a pastor agreeing to such a pledge statement with a church. If the pledge statement were generalized to the broader doctrines of a church rather than just Calvinism, it might read something like this:

“With integrity of heart, I have received the doctrinal statement of this church and the statements of explanation by the Pastor Search Committee, and I pledge that if my theology ever changes to disagree with these views, I will share with the Staff and Deacons my new beliefs and work with them in transitioning to a new place of ministry that is more in line with my newfound theological stance.”

Such a pledge is foreign to my experience of pastoring, but it brought to my mind the following questions.

  • Is a “pledge statement” of this sort is a good idea? Is it biblical? Would you sign one?
  • If you agree, to what areas of belief should this principle of a pledge statement apply? What if there were to major changes in an ecclesiological belief (e.g. from strict communion to open communion, or vice versa)? What if there were to major changes in an eschatological belief (e.g. from amillennial to premillennial, or vice versa)?
  • If this is about honesty and integrity, would you stand behind and support his keeping the principle of the integrity of the pledge even if it something you believe he should change and teach the church to change? (E.g., the church practices segregation and the pastor changes to teach the church is “a house of prayer for all people.”)
  • What if the pastor has been there 20 years before he changes, as opposed to 2 years? (Considering that a pastor who has been at a church that long probably is not tossed about with every wind of doctrine, and has probably earned the trust of his church.)
With hope I asked on SBC Today for someone to comment about the general principle, but the people there wanted to argue about Calvinism. What about the general principle of making a pledge statement?

As I searched the internet, I found that it may be fairly common, at least within certain denominations, for pastors to sign some kind of “call agreement” with the church. At TheChurchLawandTax.com Richard R. Hammar writes, “The relationship between a minister and church is based on contract. One court observed that ‘one becomes pastor of a church pursuant to a contract, made with the person or body having the authority to employ’.” The United Brethren web site cites a signed Agreement of Understanding between the pastor and congregation, of which “The intent is to prevent future problems of misunderstanding.” This one is not about doctrines, but issues such as moving, insurance, housing, etc. United Church of Christ web site contains a link to “an updated sample call agreement.” This agreement is not doctrinal in nature, but deals with scope of work, insurance, termination, intellectual property/copyright agreement, housing, vacation, salary and such matters. It in fact supports the pastor’s “freedom of expression in the pulpit as it pertains to matters of faith and faithfulness, trusting you to be responsible to the insight of scripture, the work of the Holy Spirit, the traditions of the United Church of Christ, and the contexts in which we live our lives.”[i] There probably are call agreements than include subscription to at least fundamentals of the faith, but I did not readily find any when searching the World Wide Web.

It becomes apparent to me and those who minister as I do, that signed agreements are representative of an employer-employee arrangement.[ii] For certain purposes a government may assume pastors are church employees, and many churches and pastors approach their relationship as employer and employee. This is foreign to my experience, and I believe also foreign to biblical faith and practice. A preacher without integrity, who wants to pastor a church for the money, esteem or power, will likely have no qualms about the expediency of signing such a statement to further his ends. A signed pledge or call agreement might have value to wrest power from such an individual, either as a coercive or legal means. Is that reason enough to contract such an agreement?

The calling of a pastor is not to regurgitate and reinforce a church’s doctrinal statement. The calling of a pastor is to teach the word of God (Eph. 4: 9-13; 1 Tim. 4:11-16).[iii] Churches should have doctrinal statements that clarify and announce “those things most surely believed.” But at best they are simply declarations. They are human documents that must yield to the light of biblical doctrine shined upon them. If they are wrong, they should be changed. Neither a church nor a pastor should bind themselves to a human document when the Bible is our rule of faith and practice.[iv]

The position of a pastor is not that of church employee. There are many pastors who have falsely installed themselves as head of and lord over the church.[v] That does not justify rectifying the problem with another false relationship. Both the church and the pastor have responsibility for what is taught in the pulpit. If they cannot agree on that, they should amicably part ways. None of these things justify a pastor subjugating his call from God to become an hireling.[vi]

Two parting thoughts:
  • There are many unethical preachers who pretend to be what they are not. There have been such as long as I have been a preacher. Churches should be vigilant to not be taken in. Pledge agreements may hinder some but will not stop those who have no ethics regarding lying. Exercising spiritual discernment, rather than devising human methods, will go a long way toward resolving the problem. Nevertheless, some fools will fool some people.
  • I would not sign a pledge agreement – not because I do not want to be ethical, but because I neither want to bind my conscience nor enter into an agreement to become a church employee. Ethical preachers can act ethically without either.




[i] The United Church of Christ doesn’t seem to be Confessional (holding to a detailed confession of the Christian faith) and has a rather brief Statement of Faith. Nevertheless, as a liberal denomination it is likely that the pastor’s “freedom of expression in the pulpit” would at some point become too conservative.
[ii] Galatians 1:10 “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 9:18 “What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.”
[iii] If it is based in the word of God, to that extent one’s preaching will “regurgitate and reinforce” the doctrinal statement. “The first and principal duty of a pastor is to feed the flock by diligent preaching of the word.” – John Owen; 2 Timothy 4:2 “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.”
[iv] 2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
[v] 1 Peter 5:3 “Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock.”
[vi] John 10:13 “The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.” 1 Peter 5:2 “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre…” Hebrews 13:7 “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.”

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

“God comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable”

“God comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable” and variations of this often make the rounds of Christian quotes. A few people may even think it is in the Bible. The Dictionary of Christianese tells us “It wasn’t until 1987 that someone applied this catchy expression to the work of God and the work of the church.” The first religious use they found was in Religion and Republic: The American Circumstance (Martin E. Marty, Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1987, p. 82). The use there was not yet reduced to the pithy quote, but part of his description of two roles of the church -- “priestly” and “prophetic.” The priestly “comforts the afflicted,” and the prophetic “afflicts the comfortable.”

Before appropriated by Marty, it was (and is still yet) an expression used by journalists to describe their perceived role -- “The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”


The origin of the quote goes back to the complaint of a fictional Irish bartender in Observations by Mr. Dooley (Finley Peter Dunne, New York, NY: R. H. Russell, 1902, p. 240). He observed:
“Th’ newspaper does ivrything f’r us. It runs th’ polis foorce an’ th’ banks, commands th’ milishy, controls th’ ligislachure, baptizes th’ young, marries th’ foolish, comforts th’ afflicted, afflicts th’ comfortable, buries th’ dead an’ roasts thim aftherward.”
The newspapers appropriated a complaint against them to serve themselves, and then Martin Marty appropriated it for the Lord’s service!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Why post on Southern Baptist blogs?

“Why post on Southern Baptist blogs?”

Sometimes I am asked, “Why do you post on Southern Baptist blogs?”

First, for those who aren’t “frequent flyers,” let’s address “What is a Southern Baptist blog?” A blog is a regularly updated personal journal or diary on the World Wide Web (though it kind of morphs into other things). According to LifeWire.com, a blog is:
“A blog (also called a weblog or web log) is a website consisting of entries (also called posts) appearing in reverse chronological order with the most recent entry appearing first (similar in format to a daily journal). Blogs typically include features such as comments and links to increase user interactivity.”
A “Southern Baptist blog” is a blog that is run by an individual who is a member of a church affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention or small group of such Southern Baptist individuals. It could be primarily a personal blog that is run by someone who is Southern Baptist, but usually it intends to focus on issues that are important to Southern Baptists.

Second, I am not a Southern Baptist. I regularly read certain Southern Baptist blogs. Why? Since Southern Baptists are the largest group of Baptists it follows that the largest group of Baptist blogs are likely Southern Baptist as well. This is an issue of access. Further, since I share theological beliefs, ecclesiological practices and moral principles with Southern Baptists, we share some of the same interests. Finally, there are some Southern Baptist bloggers who are faithful students of the Bible, careful thinkers and provocative writers. So with “Southern Baptist blogs” there is access to well written themes that interest me. I apologize to neither friend nor foe for that.

OK, so I read. But someone will think, “Since you are not Southern Baptist, I don’t understand your posting here.” I get that. It may be confusing, because people will assume that you are Southern Baptist if you post at a “Southern Baptist blog.” I have been blogging since late 2005. I have been posting comments on Southern Baptist blogs for at least ten years, probably longer. I don’t remember for certain, but I think Bart Barber’s Praisegod Barebones blog may have been one of the first I discovered.[i] We have a mutual interest in Baptist history. He is one blogger who I believe is a careful student of the Bible, a clear thinker and effectively communicates through his writing (You can pay me later, Bart!). I have quoted Southern Baptist blogs on my blog and have had Southern Baptists quote mine. Way back when I stated I clarified that I was not Southern Baptist; long term bloggers I have interacted with know that I am not.[ii] But over the ebb and flow of the years there are those who come along and assume I am Southern Baptist, and the confusion is renewed. With that large front porch built, I add this small house of explanation.
  • I post on Southern Baptist blogs because they offer an open forum for discussion. Up until now those on which I comment/interact have not made being Southern Baptist a requirement for posting (though it might be an unstated preference for some). For the most part I comment on theological and moral topics important to Baptists. I am cautious, but do not completely abstain from posting on topics specific to the Southern Baptist Convention. Though the details may be specific to Southern Baptists – e.g. IMB & ERLC and amicus briefs – the topic may be relevant to all Baptists – i.e., religious liberty vs. spiritual adultery.
  • I post on Southern Baptist blogs because as Baptists we share many of the same interests and same concerns, from baptism to biblical authority to abortion. In sharing these interests and concerns, we can benefit from one another. Issues relevant to Southern Baptists aren’t necessarily relevant to only Southern Baptists.
  • I post on Southern Baptist blogs because they often discuss topics on which I believe I can offer valid observations based on experience, faithful teaching based on Bible study, and even support for the opinions expressed by others.
  • I post on Southern Baptist blogs because Southern Baptists influence other Baptists, and we can and should in turn influence them (for good, we hope). We don’t live in a vacuum. Some of my family are in your churches and some of your family are in mine.[iii] (Curiously, I have found some of the SB’s most ecumenical toward non-Baptists to be the least open to non-Southern-Baptist Baptists.)
  • I post on Southern Baptist blogs because they can benefit from the observations of an outside observer. Sometimes one can’t see the forest for being in the trees and can use the insight of one outside the forest looking in.[iv]
And three less important, slightly more light-hearted, but true nevertheless:
  • I post on Southern Baptist blogs because some Southern Baptists are individually closer in doctrine and practice to my non-Southern-Baptist Baptist church than they are to other Southern Baptist churches.
  • I post on Southern Baptist blogs because Baptists love controversy, and where else can you find more of it?
  • I post on Southern Baptist blogs because I am a Baptist preacher – and as Bart Barber recently wrote – “I’ve decided that when nothing more needs to be said, I’m just the guy to say it.”



[i] It definitely was “one of the first,” but may not have been the first; but who has any better blog title that that!
[ii] The SBC Heritage blog (now defunct) posted some of my historical blog articles, though they clearly understood I was not Southern Baptist.
[iii] While he was the SBC President, Ronnie Floyd unveiled an initiative to grow the SBC by aggressively recruiting churches to SBC’s work. If we’re good enough to recruit, perhaps we are also good enough to be listened to once in awhile as well.
[iv] For example, I have studied a lot of U.S. Baptist history and know more about Southern Baptist history than many Southern Baptists.

Ichneumonidae

Ichneumonidae (Ichneumon Wasps) are a parasitic family of wasps that (usually) lay their eggs on or into a host body (e.g. butterfly larvae/caterpillar). The caterpillar is the food source of the ichneumonidae larva once it hatches.

Charles Darwin discussed the ichneumonidae regarding his views on God and religion. He wrote, “I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars.”

Darwin’s persuasion or lack thereof is simply another belief system of his own making. It has no bearing on whether there is a God, whether he is beneficent and omnipotent, or whether he created the ichneumonidae and the caterpillars upon which they live.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Customs of Primitive Churches, deaconesses

Of deaconesses

XIV. The office of deaconesses is of divine original and perpetual continuance in the church. It is the same in general with the office of deacons, only it is chiefly limited to the care of the sick, miserable, and distressed poor. The scriptue marks of their office are, shewing mercysuccouring, &c. The way they are put in the office is by choice of the people, ordination, and other forms as in case of deacons. Their qualifications are laid down negatively and positively by the apostle Paul. Their reward is honour and maintenance. Their number should be proportionable to the need of the church. Their manner of performing the office is, with cheerfulness. Rom. xii. 8.

1. The divine institution of this office appears from the following texts. Phebe our sister--a servant [Gr. deaconessof the church which is in Cenchrea. Rom xvi. 1. The deacons must be grave &c. Even so must women [to be deaconesses] be grave &c. This is the obvious sense of the text. Our translators refer it to the deacons wives; and in order to make it sense have unnecessarily englished the original word by wives rather than women; and have foisted in the word their. But why should the deacons wives be described when nothing is said of the wives of the bishops? The learned Grotius translates the words thus, Even so must the deaconesses be grave &c. Rom. xii. 8 refers to this office. He that showeth mercy, with dilgence. The exception to this passage is, the word is he and not her; but many examples of the kind occur where no such exception takes place; neither can it here, because there is no officer in the church to which the words may be applied except the deaconesses. I am inclined to think that the neglect of the widow of the grecians in the daily deaconry (mentioned Act. vi. 1) is rightly account for by Salmasius, quoted by Dr. DuVeil viz. "that the hebrew women were preferred to the deaconry, and the greek women refused the honour." This [account] is approved by Cornelius a Lapide, Erasmus, &c. If it be just, it follows that there were women in the office before man.
2. Their office, like that of the deacons, hath the poor and helpless for its objects, but is chiefly confined to those things wherefor men are less fit. The helpless poor must be kept clean, and fed. The sick must be nursed, and tended, &c. for which, women are the most proper; therefore they are described as succourers Rom. xiv. 2. shewers of mercy Rom. xii. 8.
3. Their qualifications are described, Even so must the women [to be deaconesses] be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things, I Tim. iii. 11. to which may be added, a merciful, and relieving temper. Rom. xii. 8. ch. xvi. 2.

We cannot give any biblical narrative of the ordination of deaconesses, as no such transaction hath fallen under our notice. But think the history of the ordination of deacons may serve for a pattern, only varying some words. There is in the apostolical constitution (which according to Whiston are as ancient as the gospel) an account of such ordination, and the prayer that was used at the time. Book viii. ch. 19.[30]. Frequent mention is made of deaconesses in ancient church history.

Customs of Primitive Churches, pages 42-43

Regeneration, Menno Simons

14. Regeneration
Do you think, beloved, that the new birth is nothing else but that which the poor world hitherto has thought it to consist in, namely immersion in the water or the saying of the words, "I baptize thee in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost?" No, dear brethren, no. The new birth consists verily not in water nor in words, but it is the heavenly, quickening power of God in our hearts which comes from God and through the preaching of the divine word, if we accept the same by faith, touches, pierces, renews and changes our hearts, so that we are converted from unbelief to faith, from unrighteousness to righteousness, from evil to good, from carnality to spirituality, from the earthly to the heavenly, from the evil nature of Adam to the good nature of Jesus Christ (419a; II:215a). -- Menno Simons, His Life, Labors, and Teachings, John Horsch, Scottdale, PA: Mennonite Publishing House, 1916, p. 246

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Shocking

A recent intrigue in the Southern Baptist Convention has revealed that the Texas Prestonwood Baptist Church will be withholding their Cooperative Program giving -- "while the congregation discusses concerns about the direction of the Southern Baptist Convention."

I'm not an apologist for Prestonwood, but I find one charge against them particularly confusing. According to Brent Hobbs, "Yesterday’s press release indicated Prestonwood was withholding funding because of their concerns and that it likely would be restored if those concerns were satisfied. This is seeking to influence through financial pressure..." One heading in his article states, "Withholding Funds to Seek Influence Should Be Rejected."

Here is what is confusing to me. Why would an organization that gives influence based on funds complain about withholding funds to gain influence? The precedent is already set. There is influence/votes/power on a money basis. Don't believe it? See here.

According to Article III of their Constitution, "The Convention shall consist of messengers who are members of Baptist churches in cooperation with the Convention." The money basis is delineated in III.1.(3) "Has made undesignated, financial contribution(s) through the Cooperative Program, and/or through the Convention’s Executive Committee for Convention causes, and/or to any Convention entity during the fiscal year preceding."

Such cooperating churches are permitted two (2) messengers each, with "such additional messengers as are permitted below."
"3. The Convention will recognize additional messengers from a cooperating church under one of the options described below. Whichever method allows the church the greater number of messengers shall apply:"(1) One additional messenger for each full percent of the church’s undesignated receipts which the church contributed during the fiscal year preceding through the Cooperative Program, and/or through the Convention’s Executive Committee for Convention causes, and/or to any Convention entity; or"(2) One additional messenger for each $6,000 which the church contributed during the fiscal year preceding through the Cooperative Program, and/or through the Convention’s Executive Committee for Convention causes, and/or to any Convention entity.
You've made money a basis of a seat at the table of power -- and for more seats at the table. Now you must live with the other edge of this two-edged sword! It's the cost of your choice of doing business a certain way.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Is monogamy natural?

Is monogamy natural? Scarlett Johansson says no

That's right. Actress Scarlett Johansson says monogamous relationships are not natural “I might be skewered for that, but I think it’s work. It’s a lot of work. And the fact that it is such work for so many people — for everyone — the fact of that proves that it is not a natural thing.”

My first reaction was “another Hollywood personality spouting about morals and ethics.” But with a little reflection, I thought, “You know, she is right.”

Here it is, in the Bible:

  • 1 Corinthians 2:14 “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
  • Ephesians 2:3 “Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”
  • 1 John 2:16 “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”

American Harmony, and other music links

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.