More on Bethlehem’s Position on Baptism

After my last blog, people asked why the elders at Bethlehem Baptist (John Piper’s church) are proposing to change its requirements for membership. The new policy being proposed by the elders is that under certain conditions members need not be baptized by immersion after coming to faith. Of course, the change would have to be approved by the congregation before the policy would go into effect.

One of the reasons that the elders are moving in this new direction is that “the doctrinal bar of the eldership at Bethlehem” has been raised significantly in a statement of faith titled “Bethlehem Baptist Church Elder Affirmation of Faith.” Here is the section on baptism:

12.3 We agree that historic Christian differences concerning the time and mode of baptism are not part of the defining beliefs of Treasuring Christ Together. Until the day when wider agreement can be reached, we desire that each local church or fellowship of churches search the scriptures and be fully convinced in their own mind as to what the Bible teaches concerning baptism. We believe that each church should practice baptism. It is not negligible. We believe it should be practiced with an obedience of heart, which submits to the authority of God in scripture according to the light that each church has. We do however deny the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, whether concerning infants or adults. We believe the doctrine of baptismal regeneration is not only contrary to Scripture but is seriously undermining to the gospel of justification by faith alone.

Apparently, the following statement is to be added to the above statement of faith:

We believe that baptism is an ordinance of the Lord by which those who have repented and come to faith express their union with Christ in His death and resurrection, by being immersed in water in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (source).

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John Piper on Accepting the Unbaptized as Members


John Piper, Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN

Pastor John Piper has just made a stunning announcement concerning who will be accepted as members at his Baptist church.

“The Council of Elders believes that membership requirements at Bethlehem should move toward being roughly the same as the requirements for membership in the universal body of Christ . . . The most obvious change this involves is allowing the possibility that a person may become a member who has not been baptized by immersion as a believer but who regards the baptismal ritual he received in infancy not as regenerating, but nevertheless (as with most Presbyterians) in such a way that it would violate his conscience to be baptized as a believer. The elders are proposing that under certain conditions such persons be admitted to full membership” (“What the Elders Are Proposing”).

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Military Chaplains Pressured Not to Pray in the Name of Jesus


Lt. Gordon James Klingenschmitt, a chaplain and a priest with the Evangelical Episcopal Church, has accused the Navy of religious discrimination.

The Washington Post reports today on an little known controversy among the ranks of chaplains in the U.S. military:

“Evangelical Protestant chaplains are fighting what they say is a legacy of discrimination in hiring and promotions, and they are bridling at suggestions they not pray publicly ‘in the name of Jesus.’”

You can read the full story here.

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Watching and Waiting With Apprehension and Prayers

My wife and I are watching the impending disaster as it creeps ever closer to the shores of our home state. We are apprehensive about our family and friends who live in and around the New Orleans area and who are preparing for the worst.

One of my friends from high school just evacuated his family at 4pm this afternoon. They left Covington, LA to head back toward our hometown DeRidder, LA (which is in the southwest part of the state and out of the way of the storm). The westbound traffic on I-10 between New Orleans and DeRidder is crawling along very slowly. In some spots it is taking about an hour to go ten miles.

My mother and father went to eat at Wendy’s with friends after the evening service at FBC DeRidder. They saw evacuees all over town. The hotels are full, and others are just wandering around with no place to go. My parents and their friends ran into a family of evacuees in line at Wendy’s. They were traveling through town with no place to go, so my parents’s dinner partners invited the family to stay with them at their house.

As we watch the coverage on the television and as the stories of the evacuees come trickling in, Susan and I are heavy-hearted tonight. We know that tomorrow morning may witness one of the most fearful disasters we have ever seen.

The million persons who are fleeing will likely not be able to go back home for at least a week or more after the storm is over. And when they get back, it is not at all clear that anything will be there. My high school friend who was leaving did not know if his home or his job would withstand the storm. They literally stand to lose everything before the day is out, and there’s nothing to do about it except run.

Our hearts and our prayers are in Louisiana tonight.

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What do college students do when they aren’t studying?


My Greek teacher Rev. James Lipscomb and I during one of our tutoring sessions at his home in Ruston, LA (circa 1994).

“What do college students do when they aren’t studying?” According to the Wall Street Journal’s Naomi Riley’s review of two books about college life, college students are primarily engaged in idleness.

No, they are not studying and going to class forty hours a week. They certainly are not becoming avid readers. Rather, they are in pursuit of the ideal represented in their ubiquitous watchword: “fun.” “Fun” includes among other things a great deal of binge drinking (often beginning on Thursday night and going through the weekend) and frequent casual sexual encounters.

This sad state of affairs comes as no surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention to the decline of university life over the last thirty years or so. We are no longer shocked by Jay Leno’s undergraduate “Jay Walking All-Stars” who don’t even know who the vice-president of the United States is. We simply assume that a significant number of undergraduates will be idle dead-heads who really don’t learn that much by the end of their seven years of college.

There was a time in the history of higher education in America when going to college meant going to get an education. To be an undergraduate student was more than merely hanging around old buildings with books in them.

My own undergraduate experience began with the same shiftlessness portrayed in Ms. Riley’s article (minus the partying and dissipation). Academically speaking, I was just there to get a piece of paper. Somebody told me I needed that paper, so I was there to get it. I had no clue about how an education could enrich one’s life and faith. But that all changed during my sophomore year.

During my second year in college, I entered into a profound crisis of faith. As a result of one professor in particular and a few other key influences, I came to doubt the reliability of the sourcebook of my faith: the Bible. It was as if someone had yanked the rug out from under me and I had no where else to stand.

But God used this spiritual and emotional crisis to drive me to a whole new perspective on Him and my education. In addition to being driven back to the Bible, I became blood-earnest about understanding history, philosophy, theology and all the other big worldview disciplines that have impacted Christianity over the centuries.

For me, it wasn’t an academic exercise, it was a matter of spiritual life and death to understand the Bible and where it came from, to understand the history of theology, and to think God’s thoughts after others who have gone before.

My love of the Greek Bible began in earnest during this period because I knew that I had to read this book for myself. I could no longer allow the secularists to tell me what the Bible is, what it is saying, and where it came from. I had to know God’s revelation for myself or I felt as if I would drown in the morass of conflicting opinions about it.

I’m not saying that everyone’s experience should be like mine or that everyone should go to college so that they can become a New Testament professor. What I am saying is that an education is not coextensive with a piece of paper. Many people with the piece of paper don’t have an education.

An education relates to how we view the mind that God has given us. Are we going to be passive receptacles for the world’s tripe, or will we discipline ourselves for the glory of God to learn about Him and the world in which He’s put us? An education is not just about knowledge (though it certainly includes that!), but it is also the formation of our character under God and the shaping of our minds according to a biblical worldview.

I fear that the majority of what passes for undergraduate education today is very far from such an ideal. May God allow us to see this tide turned in our generation for the glory of God.

(For more on philosophical and theological roots of the current crisis, see my review of George Marsden’s The Soul of the American University: From Protestant Establishment to Established Nonbelief.)

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Pro-Life and Hip-Hop: Nick Cannon’s Amazing Video

Nick Cannon and His Mother

It’s not often that a rap video brings a tear to your eye. But my wife and I watched one tonight that did.

Some of you may know Nick Cannon from the hit movie “Drumline” or perhaps from his new show on MTV, “Nick Cannon Presents Wild ‘N Out.” What you may not know is that he released a music video this summer that is powerfully pro-life.

The lyrics to the song tell the true story of Nick Cannon’s mother. When she became pregnant with Nick, she was an unwed teenager. She made it all the way to the operating table of the abortion clinic when she realized that she was about to do something awful. So she got up and walked away from the clinic and away from the abortion. The rest of the song is a “thank you” to his mother for letting him live. The video closes with Nick embracing and thanking his real-life mother.

The music video to the song “Can I Live” is one of the most poignant pro-life messages that I have ever witnessed. Reading the lyrics alone won’t really convey the emotional wallop that you get from watching the video. So I highly recommend clicking here or here to see it for yourself.

Kathryn Jean Lopez from National Review Online writes:

“Cannon’s new music video ‘Can I Live?’ tells a tale that’s very different from a gangsta’s paradise of dirty dancing and booty calls that Cannon may be sandwiched in between on MTV or BET. In the song, the hip-hop pop star tells his life story — or at least the beginning of it and his mom’s close call with abortion.

“Cannon, 24, appears in the video as a ghost (or an angel, if you prefer) and sings, ‘Mommy, I don’t like this clinic. Hopefully you’ll make the right decision, and don’t go through with the knife decision.’

“A scared teen, his mother was on a gurney — that’s how close the call was — but got up, and, at least in the video version, ran.

“He points out to his mother something she got on some level, or she wouldn’t have gotten up: ‘That’s a life inside you, look at your tummy. What is becoming Ma, I am Oprah bound. You can tell he’s a star from the Ultrasound.’

“The video images tell a stirring, gripping story regardless of where you fall in the abortion debate.”

Go watch the video and buy the single. We should support something that is bound to save many lives that might otherwise have been snuffed out.

(R. Albert Mohler talked about the video on his radio show. You can download the mp3 of Mohler’s program here.)

(HT to Justin Taylor whose blog first brought this video to my attention.)

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“No Miracles Allowed”

Today’s Washington Post runs a story on the Intelligent Design (ID) debate titled “In Explaining Life’s Complexity, Darwinists and Doubters Clash.” One opponent of Intelligent Design explains why he thinks ID is unscientific: “One of the rules of science is, no miracles allowed. That’s a fundamental presumption of what we do.”

Isn’t it telling that the proponents of Darwinism reject ID based solely on the presumption that ID can’t be right. There’s no serious engagement of the arguments and data cited by ID proponents, just an a priori dismissal.

This just goes to show the atheistic naturalism that is at the heart of much of modern science. This God-less presumption concerning human origins is no less a faith commitment than those who would argue otherwise.

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“Politicized Scholars Put Evolution on the Defensive”

Even the title of the story reveals that the New York Times is on the war-path against intelligent design: “Politicized Scholars Put Evolution on the Defensive”. This article reads like an opinion piece, but it’s not. It’s reported as straight news. There is no serious engagement of arguments in this article, just the usual ad-hominem accusation that Intelligent Design scientists are politically motivated culture warriors.

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The Gospel for Porn Stars and Porn Addicts


“. . . and such were some of you” (1 Corinthians 6:11)

After two critical posts, it’s time to say something constructive. Even if I can’t agree with the methods of the XXXChurch, I do want to affirm their desire to take the Gospel to every sinner. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is just as much for porn stars and porn addicts as it is for any other sinner on planet earth. Continue Reading →

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