Author Archive | Denny Burk

“Battle for the Minds” at Southern Seminary


When I first came to Southern Seminary to apply for the Ph.D. Program in 2001, I went to the Boyce Centennial Library and checked out a 1996 PBS documentary titled “Battle for the Minds.” Back then, it was only available on VHS, and it was not allowed out of the library. You had to watch it right there in the AV lab.

After seeing the documentary, I searched high and low to obtain a copy of this video for myself. When that proved impossible, I began trying to find a copy online and have searched for it at different times over the years. I searched and searched, and it has eluded thus far… until today. Someone shared it on YouTube about five days ago, and a friend sent it to me this afternoon.

The story of Southern Seminary’s recovery from theological liberalism is well-known at this point, but this documentary is not a sympathetic look at that recovery. In fact, the producers would not have viewed it as a “recovery” at all but as a regression. The documentary focuses on the debate over women in ministry, but through the course of the video it becomes clear that the issues were much deeper. At heart, the debate was about biblical authority, which had been shunned by many on the faculty at that time.

When the video was produced, many of the theological “moderates” hoped that there still might be a chance to stop the conservative resurgence at Southern Seminary. We all know now that this was not to be. But things didn’t seem so clear for those in the midst of the struggle in the mid-90’s. This unsympathetic video bears witness to that.

When I first watched this documentary 18 years ago, it was only five years old. Nevertheless, the documentary bore witness to a Southern Seminary far different even from what I experienced in 2001. It is certainly a world away from what Southern Seminary is now.

This is a time capsule worth the time to watch.

Is social justice unjust?

I want to post a brief note about Noah Rothman’s new book on social justice titled Unjust: Social Justice and the Unmaking of America (Regnery, 2019). I just finished it a couple days ago and found much that is helpful in it. Rothman outlines a brief history of social justice movements and argues that its current incarnation has collapsed into identity politics. In short, social justice is not about notions of individual liberty and justice but about righting historical wrongs committed against various identity groups.

Rothman is not denying that certain groups have experienced injustice. On the contrary, he argues that certain classes of people have in fact experienced historic oppression and that their plight demands justice. His contention, however, is that so-called “social justice” has devolved into recriminations between identitarian movements on both the right and the left. He criticizes both sides of this conflict as extreme and poisonous to our common culture.

Nevertheless, Rothman’s focus in this particular book is the identitarian movement of the left called social justice. Here is Rothman in his own words:

The American tradition of political idealism is imperiled by a growing obsession with the demographic categories of race, sex, ethnicity, and sexual orientation—the primary categories that are now supposed to constitute “identity.” As groups defined by these various categories have come to command the comprehensive allegiance of their members, identity alone has become a powerful political program. As it turns out, it is not a program that appeals to the better angels of our nature.

Identity has always been a part of our political culture, but lately the practitioners of identity politics have been less interested in continuity and legitimacy than in revenge. This retribution is antithetical to the conciliatory ideals by which injustices perpetrated in the name of identity were once reconciled. The authors of this vengeance reject the kind of blind, objective justice toward which Western civilization has striven since the Enlightenment. They argue, in fact, that blind justice is not justice at all. Objectivity is a utopian goal, a myth clung to by naïve children. We are all products of our experiences and the conditions into which we were born, whether we like it or not. Those traits set us on a course that is in many ways predestined.

The identity-obsessed left believes that Americans who are born into “privileged” demographic categories—male, white, and heterosexual, among others—will have an easier time navigating life than their underprivileged counterparts, among them women, ethnic minorities, and the LGBT. Those on the right believe the opposite is true: the historically marginalized have had the scales tipped in their direction. The so-called “privileged” majority not only has lost its privileges but is often stripped of its essential rights.

The paranoia which can ensue from this division is the venomous progeny of identity politics. Its practitioners call it social justice.

This idea of social justice has developed into a way of life. The study of identity long ago ceased to resemble an academic discipline. Its tenets are as inviolable as any religious dogma. [pages xii-xiii]

Rothman contends that social justice practitioners have left behind a liberal ideal of justice for the illiberal ideal of retributive and distributive justice. Retributive justice involves punitive social action against historically privileged groups while distributive justice requires redistribution of goods and capital to historically oppressed groups. This kind of justice foments division and hostility which in turn unravel the social fabric of the nation. In short, Rothman believes that the current incarnation of social justice is going to be the undoing of America unless its illiberal tendencies can be reversed.

I do not intend this to be a full review and have only given the briefest sketch of Rothman’s work. Nevertheless, Rothman has evinced a provocative thesis that I think deserves a wide hearing.

David French lecture on Intersectionality

Yesterday, David French lectured on intersectionality on the campus of Boyce College and Southern Seminary. It was a pleasure to have David on campus, and his lectures were really stimulating. The first lecture is already posted on SBTS’s YouTube channel (see above). I expect the other two lectures to be posted very soon.

David explains that the basic foundation of intersectionality is the commonsense observation that people have traits that can make them members of more than one marginalized or oppressed class of people. He argues that this particular observation about the complex way that people experience discrimination or oppression is fundamentally true.

David also argues that if that was all there was to intersectionality, there wouldn’t be much of a controversy about it. Intersectionality as a description of human experience is not controversial, but intersectionality as a prescription for social action is. And it is the latter that he takes aim at in all three presentations.

If you’re interested in learning more about intersectionality, the best short introduction to the subject that I have read is Joe Carter’s article “What Christians Should Know about Intersectionality.” Elizabeth Corey’s introduction is longer than Carter’s, but it is no less helpful and worth the time to read: “First Church of Intersectionality.”

I have commented on intersectionality over the years on my blog, but my basic objections to it are in a little post titled “Two ways in which intersectionality is at odds with the gospel.” Andrew Sullivan offers a powerful critique of intersectionality from a secular perspective in “Is Intersectionality a Religion.”

If you want to take a deep-dive into some actual intersectional theory, I recommend Kimberlé Crenshaw’s seminal essay, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics,” University of Chicago Legal Forum 1989, no. 1 (1989): 139-67. For a popular introduction to Crenshaw’s theory, see her recent TED Talk, “The urgency of intersectionality.” Patricia Collins and Sirma Bilge have a book-length introduction to intersectionality in a work titled Intersectionality, Key Concepts (Malden, MA: Polity, 2016).

Grieved beyond Words… and Resolved

The Houston Chronicle has published part one of an extensive investigative report on sexual abuse within Southern Baptist Churches (there will be two more installments in coming days). They uncovered 250 ministry leaders and volunteers who have been convicted as sex offenders and over 700 of their victims. Those numbers alone are horrid, but I agree with the report that there are likely many other such instances that were not uncovered by this investigation.

The report reveals horrors that have long been out of the light of day. Without question, the most difficult parts to read are the testimonies from the victims. They are beyond heartbreaking. I can hardly imagine what some of these dear souls have been through and how difficult it must have been to come forward. But I am grateful that they did. Continue Reading →

Pro-choice semantic games: Don’t fall for them

Thanks to two Virginia politicians and the President’s state of the union address, the country has fixed its attention on the brutality of late-term abortion. Pro-choice advocates are responding as they usually do by trying to distract everyone from the reality of abortion:

Pro-choicer: “Nothing to see here, move along.”
Casual observer: “But that really seems like a small person being killed in an abortion.”
Pro-choicer: “You sound like you’re against women’s healthcare. And also, science.”
Casual observer: “But the baby…”
Pro-choicer: “Don’t you believe your lying eyes. It’s just a clump of cells… you know, because of science and stuff.”

The problem for pro-choicers is that the later the abortion occurs, the harder it is for them to succeed with the “clump of cells” evasion. Anyone with eyes can see what is happening, and the old dodges fall a little flat.

The recent focus on political leaders who support the right to kill unborn humans at any point up until birth (and in Northam’s case, perhaps even after birth) means that they are having to come up with new evasions—the silliest of which I just read this morning. According to Axios, these are “The Facts” about abortion that should mitigate your concern about late-term abortions:

• In an interview with CNN, Barbara Levy, the vice president of health policy at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said, “The phrase ‘late-term abortion,’ is medically inaccurate and has no clinical meaning.”

• Jennifer Conti, a fellow with the advocacy group Physicians for Reproductive Health, also told CNN: “In obstetrics, we don’t divide pregnancies into terms. ‘Late term’ is an invention of anti-abortion extremists to confuse, mislead and increase stigma.”

Did you catch the argument? It goes like this: Pro-lifers aren’t using the medically correct terms to describe late-term abortion. Therefore, you shouldn’t care that it’s legal to kill unborn human beings at any time up until the point of birth.

If that seems like a non-sequitur to you, that’s because it is. It is also one of the most pedantic and lame evasions that I have ever heard out of the pro-choice side. They are playing semantic games and hoping the casual observer will be too stupid to notice.

To all the casual observers of the abortion debate: Your eyes aren’t lying. Little people are killed in late-term abortions. Some people think it should be legal to kill those little people all the way up to the point of birth. Don’t let anyone distract you from that simple, central truth about abortion—especially those who think you are too stupid to know any better.

Democracy Dies in Darkness: Misinformation from both Washington Post and NY Times about the President’s remarks on abortion

President Trump just finished his state of the union address moments ago. The speech was wide-ranging, but I have to say that his remarks about abortion were the most hard-hitting that I have ever heard in a state of the union address. He exposed the Democrats’ extremism on the issue by referencing their support for late-term abortion and (as in the case of the Governor of Virginia) their support for allowing some babies to die after birth.

The New York Times already has a “fact-check” posted on this part of the President’s speech, and the “fact-check” is in error. Here it is: Continue Reading →

David French to lecture at Boyce College and SBTS

David French is coming to Boyce College and Southern Seminary next week to deliver a series of lectures titled, “What Is Intersectionality? Understanding How Intersectionality and Identity Theory are Shaping College Campuses and the Nation.” Here is the where and the when of the event:

Date: February 13, 2019
Time: 10am – Session 1
11am – Session 2
1:30pm – Session 3
Place: Heritage Hall (on SBTS campus)

I cannot tell you how eager I am to have David on campus. He has long been one of my favorite writers and thinkers, and it is a real privilege to have him as our guest. I had the opportunity to hear David lecture on Intersectionality a few years ago, and it was phenomenal.

If you are in or around Louisville next Wednesday, I cannot recommend these talks highly enough. I hope to see you there. Continue Reading →

Senator Ben Sasse introduces legislation to protect infants who survive abortion

Senator Ben Sasse just delivered an impassioned statement to the United States Senate. In it, he introduced a piece of legislation and appealed to Senators to come to the floor of the Senate to pass an “Abortion Survivors Protection Act.” This is a direct response the vile remarks made by the Governor of Virginia over the last two days. Here is a rush transcript of Senator Sasse’s statement: Continue Reading →

How seared is our nation’s conscience that she tolerates this cruelty?

Two items have appeared in the news this week out of Virginia that ought to shock every decent person who sees them. Both of them involve elected officials in Virginia arguing for infanticide. And, no, I’m not being hyperbolic. I want you to see this for yourself to establish exactly what happened.

First, Virginia State Delegate Kathy Tran has proposed a bill that would guarantee a right to abortion even when the mother is in the process of giving birth in the 40th week. Republican legislator Todd Gilbert pressed the point in a hearing with Tran. You can watch the exchange above or read below:

Gilbert: So how late in the third trimester could a physician perform an abortion if he indicated it would impair the mental health of the woman?

Tran: Or physical health.

Gilbert: Okay. I’m talking about mental health.

Tran: I mean, through the third trimester. The third trimester goes all the way up to 40 weeks.

Gilbert: So to the end of the third trimester?

Tran: Yes. I don’t think we have a limit in the bill.

Gilbert: So where it’s obvious that a woman is about to give birth, she has physical signs that she’s about give birth, would that still be a point at which she could still request an abortion if she was so certified? [pause] She’s dilating?

Tran: Mr. Chairman, you know, that would be a decision that the doctor, the physician, and the woman would make.

Gilbert: I understand that. I’m asking if your bill allows that.

Tran: My bill would allow that, yes.

Yes, you read that correctly. Tran argues that it ought to be legal to kill a child at the 40th week as the child is coming through the birth canal. If it is surprising to you that such a thing is legal (even if rarely done), be surprised no more. This is exactly what Roe v. Wade and its companion decision Doe v. Bolton have established. Roe makes this kind of barbarism into a “constitutional right” through every stage of pregnancy—right up until the point of birth.

Second, if Tran’s testimony didn’t send chills up your spine, then this certainly will. The Democratic Governor of Virginia Ralph Northam went on a radio program this morning to defend Tran’s 40-week abortion bill. The host asked Governor Northam about Tran’s remarks the previous day. He was asked specifically about whether the bill allows a woman to have an abortion after she has gone into labor at the 40th week of pregnancy. This is what the Governor said:

If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother. [emphasis mine]

You can watch Gov. Northam’s statement below:

Now just think about what this means. Governor Northam is going even further than Tran. He is saying that a fully delivered baby could be left to die on the operating table if that is what the mother and the physician want. A fully delivered baby!

How did we get to the point that we are considering whether or not to throw away the life a fully delivered baby? How did we get to the point that a fully delivered baby’s life may not be protected in law? I thought every person had an inviolable right to life under our Constitution? Well, apparently not according to Governor Northam.

If you have been paying attention to the abortion debate in America at all, none of this will be surprising to you. The pro-choice position excludes the unborn from the human community. It gives no consideration at all to the human life that is growing inside a mother’s womb. It says that a woman’s so-called “right to choose” trumps the right of another person not to be killed. That is the pro-choice position. It is no surprise that we now have a governor who is saying that a fully delivered baby’s life is disposable and subject to a woman’s “right to choose” as well.

The United States of America has the most liberal abortion laws on the planet, and that is due to Roe v. Wade. That infamous decision makes it legal to kill unborn people at any point during pregnancy up to and including the point of birth. Because of that, Roe v. Wade has presided over the killing of 60 million unborn human beings since 1973. That is the holocaust times ten. And now there is a Democratically elected governor who would expand this barbarism to include those children who survive birth. How seared is our nation’s conscience that she tolerates this cruelty?

The state of New York has recently passed a similar bill, and the state legislature cheered after its passage. It was an abominable display. I hope and pray that the same ugliness won’t make its way to the state of Virginia. If you live in Virginia, you need to call your representatives and oppose this with all your might. You need to flood their phone lines until this bill is stopped.

I am reminded that the pro-life cause has a long way to go. So many people in our nation have hardened their heart to the humanity and dignity of the weakest among us. Today is proof of that.


UPDATE: Senator Ben Sasse is virulent in his response to Governor Northern, and I sympathize with his consternation. He writes,

This is morally repugnant. In just a few years pro-abortion zealots went from ‘safe, legal, and rare’ to ‘keep the newborns comfortable while the doctor debates infanticide.’ I don’t care what party you’re from — if you can’t say that it’s wrong to leave babies to die after birth, get the hell out of public office.

Why you should consider using LOGOS in your Bible Study – Part 2

Over the years, Bible Software has become an integral part of my research, sermon preparation, and classroom instruction. As I explained yesterday, I have used many products over the years, but over the last year and a half LOGOS has begun to assume a central place.

The first thing you need to know about LOGOS is that it is first and foremost a digital library. It is a program designed to give you access to books—and lots of them. The size of your library depends upon what base package you buy. The higher the base package, the more books you get. As I noted yesterday, I have used LOGOS for about 13 years, and right now I have an upper level base package (Diamond). In addition, I have purchased some books that aren’t included in my base package, which expands the library even more. Recently, for example, I have been writing a commentary on 1 Corinthians. So I have purchased commentaries on 1 Corinthians not included in my package, and I will probably end up purchasing more.

The resources that I have at my fingertips in LOGOS 8’s Diamond package are immense. The commentaries on the Bible include the NAC series, NIGTC, ICC, Black’s, Pillar, and a host of others. There are countless English translations available, including all of the major ones that ordinary readers would wish to have access to. For me, the most valuable books are the original language texts—in particular the Greek and Hebrew Bibles. As usual, these are morphologically and lexically tagged so that you can use them with the lexicon of your choice. I use BDAG and LSJ for the New Testament and HALOT and BDB for the Old. In addition to that, there are a number of very good Greek grammars available, including A. T. Robertson’s classic work and Stanley Porter’s Idioms of the Greek New Testament.

The resources available on LOGOS 8 far surpasses those that were available in software I have used in the past (like Gramcord and BibleWorks). In fact, there is no comparison on that front. Nothing replaces a good bricks and mortar library in terms of biblical and theological research. But the only software that even competes in the area of biblical studies is LOGOS.

I cannot overstate the value of being able to access these materials at any place and at any time. Over the last several years, my work has come to include a great deal of travel. Being able to have a significant portion of my library with me wherever I go is huge. And at this point, I haven’t even said one word about the features in LOGOS, only the library. But that aspect alone makes LOGOS an indispensable tool for me.

The user interface in LOGOS has improved dramatically over the years, but I think that LOGOS 8 may be the best yet. It does feel more intuitive and up to date than previous versions. As I mentioned yesterday, the software runs more swiftly than previous versions, with searches being about ten times as fast as they were in LOGOS 7.

In part one yesterday, I wrote that I have been looking for a replacement for the now defunct BibleWorks program that I had been using. One of the things that is really important to me is recreating the workspace that I had in BibleWorks. The LOGOS “Layouts” have infinite flexibility and can be customized and saved. The folks at LOGOS have already created a “BibleWorks” layout for folks like me who are transitioning from BibleWorks. So you don’t even have to set it up for yourself. Below is a screenshot of mine:

BibleWorks users will notice that the logic of the three-pane interface looks very much like BibleWorks, with search pane on the left, original text in the middle, and analysis on the right. This information is the bread and butter of exegesis, and LOGOS 8 puts the information at your fingertips faster than it ever has in the past.

The above layout is what I might use when trying to mimic the workflow of BibleWorks, but LOGOS 8 allows me to go way beyond that. What LOGOS 8 does that BibleWorks does not do is that it also gives me immediate access to a vast array of resources. And for me, that means that access to commentaries is paramount. So in addition to the BibleWorks layout, I have also created separate layouts for individual books of the Bible that I am studying. Those layouts have all the relevant commentaries that I use for a given biblical book in addition to some of the analytical information in the above layout. To give you an idea what this looks like, I will show below what my layout for 1 Corinthians looks like:

In this layout, I have Richard Hays’ commentary open on the left, the NA28 open on the top right, and BDAG open on the bottom right. Each of the panes has other resources open, and all I have to do is click the tabs to access them. Notice that when I am reading commentaries, I always keep the Greek text and lexical analysis within my line of sight. This saves so much time—to have this all on one screen rather than have to switch back and forth among hard copies of several different books.

If I were to expand on all the feature included in LOGOS, it would push this review far past any reasonable length. There is a sophisticated note-taking system within LOGOS that many users value very highly (I haven’t used it yet). There is also a graphical interface called “Canvas” that allows users to make their own analysis of biblical texts. I mention them here not because I’ve used them but simply because many users love them (see here for example).

One feature that I really enjoy and that I have used in my classes is the Psalms explorer. This tool allows users to analyze the Psalter by genre, book, authorship, musical style, structure, and tags. It is difficult to show how this works, but here is a screenshot:

Notice that the left pane has hyperlinked information about genre, authorship, etc. You can see, for example, exactly how many lament Psalms there are under the genre section. You can then click on the lament Psalms and all of them will appear in the graphical interface to the right. Once you start clicking around in here, you will be amazed by how much information is packed in. That is why I use this when introducing the Psalms to my students. It really helps them to see the big picture within the Psalter. Again, this is just one helpful feature among countless others that I cannot fit into this review.

I love LOGOS 8 and am currently using it all the time in my studies. For me, it has become a regular part of research, sermon preparation, and even classroom instruction. The packages range in price from $294.99 to $10,799.99. That is a wide range, but the cost to you is going to depend on how much you can afford and how big you want your library to be. Most people are not going to pony-up more than ten grand on a computer program. But many will find it reasonable to look into some of the lesser expensive packages that are nevertheless packed with many useful resources. You can compare packages here and price them here.

The good news is that LOGOS is offering a launch discount on Logos 8–10% for first-time base package purchasers or 25% for upgraders. This deal only lasts until February 7, so if you’re going to order you’ll want to do so before then.

LOGOS 8 has become an invaluable resource for me. I am certain that it will prove to be valuable for many who read this review. Therefore, I give this software my highest recommendation.

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