Is Egalitarianism within the Pale of Southern Baptist Cooperation?

In the year 2000, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) made complementarianism a part of its foundation for cooperation by including the doctrine in The Baptist Faith and Message 2000. Two additions to the BF&M are worth noting.

Article VI on “The Church”: “Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”

Article XVIII on “The Family”: “The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God’s image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.”

When Southern Baptists adopted the BF&M 2000, everyone understood the debate about complementarianism and egalitarianism to be a second order issue. Nevertheless, complementarianism was included as a basis for cooperation among our churches alongside a long list of other second order issues (e.g. baptism). Continue Reading →

Abortion clinic offers mothers the opportunity to embrace their deceased baby

A late-term abortion clinic in Maryland offers mothers the opportunity to cuddle with their deceased “baby” after the abortion is over, according to a brochure from the clinic. When I first read about this at The Federalist, I thought it too ghoulish to be true. And then I tracked down the source myself, and it turns out that it is true. And it is indeed ghoulish. Continue Reading →

How to know the difference between the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error

The apostle John explains to his readers how to tell the difference between the Spirit of God and the spirit of antichrist:

1 John 4:6We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”

This means that if you want to know Jesus and if you want to know the truth, then you must listen to His apostolic witnesses. If you refuse to listen to and to believe in the apostolic portrait of Jesus, you are listening to the spirit of antichrist (1 John 4:3).

This is John’s expansion of what Jesus himself said in the upper room discourse. Jesus told his apostles that he would uniquely reveal himself to his apostles and would enable them to faithfully communicate his revelation to the world:

John 14:25 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you [apostles] all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”

John 16:13 “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you [apostles] into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.”

The spirit of Christ is saying, “listen to my apostles.” The spirit of error says, “Don’t get hung up on the apostolic teaching; just focus on Jesus.” The spirit of error trades in the lie that we can know Christ apart from the apostolic revelation of him in scripture.

Even though Paul was not with the eleven when Jesus told them that he would guide them into all truth, we know that Jesus intends for us to view Paul as having the same revelatory authority as the other apostles. How do we know that? Because Jesus himself discloses this intention when he appears to Ananias in a vision and says this concerning Paul:

Acts 9:15-16 “Go, for [Paul] is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.”

Likewise, consider Jesus’ words about Paul in Acts 26:16-18:

Acts 26:16-1815 And I said, ‘Who art Thou, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 ‘But arise, and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; 17 delivering you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, 18 to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me'” (italics mine).

Jesus called Paul to be an apostle just as he called the other eleven. Jesus also specifically directed Paul to proclaim his name among the Gentiles. Jesus appointed Paul for this task and intends for Paul’s listeners (and now readers) to heed the message that Paul proclaims.

If Jesus chose and appointed Paul to bear His name among the gentiles, then who are we to gainsay Jesus? Doesn’t King Jesus have the authority to select and enable His own spokesmen? Jesus has chosen to reveal His words and deeds through apostolic witnesses, and he has directed us to listen to the likes of Paul.

When we read the apostolic testimony in the New Testament, we are hearing directly from Christ himself. It was not a generic spirit that inspired the words of Scripture. It was the Spirit of Christ that moved the authors to write what they wrote. Jesus describes the Spirit this way in John 15:26, “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father…He will bear witness of Me.” This is the Spirit that Jesus sends to inspire the apostolic witness. It is the same Spirit that inspired the Old Testament, and it is the same Spirit that Peter calls “the Spirit of Christ.”

1 Peter 1:10-1110 As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, 11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.”

Paul too spoke of “the Christ who speaks in me” in 2 Corinthians 13:3. That means that there is no daylight between Jesus and Paul when it comes to what Paul communicates to us in scripture. Paul speaks for Christ. If we want to be obedient to Christ, then we must obey the canonical words of Paul and of the other apostles. Those who wish to honor biblical authority will avoid attempts to pit Jesus’ words against Paul’s words, for the words of Paul and of the other apostolic authors of Scripture are nothing less than the very words of Christ.

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*The material above is an adaptation of pages 76-84 from my book What Is the Meaning of Sex? (Crossway, 2013).

Be careful how you jest…

“Like a madman who throws Firebrands, arrows and death,
So is the man who deals treacherously with his neighbor,
And says, ‘Was I not joking?’”

Proverbs 26:18-19

“Verses 18–19 could be taken to condemn any kind of antics (such as modern practical jokes played on a groom on his wedding day). While practical jokes can be destructive and hurtful, the larger context here implies that such may not be precisely the nature of the deceit implied here. Rather, this is a person who enjoys gossiping about or tampering with the affairs of other people. Such a person will purposefully confuse others and engage in a kind of social disinformation. When called to account, he or she will treat the whole thing as a game and be oblivious to all the hurt such actions created.”

Duane A. Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, vol. 14, NAC (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1993), 214.

Florist takes her case to the Supreme Court… again

If you aren’t familiar with Barronelle Stutzman’s case, you need to be (watch above). Barronelle is a 74-year old grandmother and florist who was sued by Washington State and by the ACLU after she declined to participate in a gay wedding. She serves gay people in her store. She has even hired gay people to work in her store. But she is a Christian and cannot in good conscience lend her talents to help celebrate a gay wedding. So when a gay man whom she had served for nine years in her store asked her to participate in his gay wedding, she told him that she could not because of her relationship with Jesus. She was apologetic, but she nevertheless did the right thing according to her Christian conscience.

Word got out on social media about what happened, and the government and the ACLU sued her for violating anti-discrimination law. Her case went all the way to the Supreme Court, and the court ruled in her favor, vacated the Washington State court’s decision, and ordered the State court to come up with a decision that respects the constitution. The state court refused to comply with the Supreme Court’s directive and ruled against her again! Now Barronelle is making an appeal (again!) to the Supreme Court for help.

The Tri-City Herald reports:

A Southern Baptist, [Barronelle] has argued that arranging flowers is artistic expression protected under the First Amendment.

“Barronelle serves and hires people from all walks of life. What she can’t do is take part in, or create custom floral arrangements celebrating, sacred events that violate her religious beliefs,” Kristen Waggoner, senior vice president of Alliance Defending Freedom’s U.S. legal division, said in a news release Wednesday.

“Because of this, the Washington Supreme Court upheld a ruling that threatens Barronelle with personal and professional ruin,” she added.

“Regardless of what one believes about marriage, no creative professional should be forced to create art or participate in a ceremony that violates their core convictions. That’s why we have taken Barronelle’s case back to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Progressives constantly gas light Christians and claim that we are crying wolf about being mistreated for our ancient beliefs about marriage and sexuality. The next time you hear them gas light us, I want you to remember Barronelle Stutzman. Both the state and the ACLU won’t leave her alone but are trying to ruin her financially unless she agrees to violate her religious convictions and to participate in gay weddings. It’s an abhorrent, ugly thing that they are doing to her. It’s hard to believe that this is still going on after all these years (and even after a Supreme Court ruling in her favor!), and yet here we are.

I hope the Supreme Court rules once and for all on the constitutional principle at stake in Barronelle’s case. This case is about more than her. It’s about all of us who believe what the Bible teaches about marriage. If the government can coerce her to violate her conscience, then they can do it to anyone. And that’s the issue.

Hearing God’s word on the first Sunday after September 11, 2001

I’ll never forget where I was on September 11, 2001. My wife and I were in our second year of marriage, and we were living in Louisville, Kentucky while I was working on my Ph.D. On the morning of the attacks, I was in our apartment, and she called me from work to tell me to turn the television on. I think both buildings had already been struck by the time I tuned in, but I was watching live television as the towers eventually crumbled to the ground.

The emotion of that day has left an indelible mark on me. The uncertainty. The questions. The very real concern that more attacks were imminent. The threat of a larger war. The horror of watching all those people die. The specter of gas shortages and economic collapse. I think everyone felt something like that, and that is why the churches across America were filled on Sunday September 16.

If you want to know something about a preacher’s theology, go and listen to what he preached on September 16, 2001. The two most memorable September 16th sermons that I heard were preached by John Piper (audio, transcript), pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota and by Tommy Nelson (audio), pastor of Denton Bible Church in Denton, Texas. In some ways, these sermons were very similar. They both built on the theological foundation of the sovereignty of God over all things, which includes His sovereignty over calamities like the 9-11 terrorist attacks. Both sermons also expressed the grief appropriate for the occasion.

Yet in many other ways, the sermons were very different. On the one hand, Tommy Nelson exuded a sense that America would rise up in its righteous might to settle accounts with its terrorist enemies. Nelson is a dispensationalist and offered the assurance that America would prevail in the coming military conflict because God supports nations that support Israel.

On the other hand, John Piper called his listeners to turn away from their implicit trust in American military might and national prosperity. Americans by and large had taken for granted their own security in the world. Piper said 9-11 proves what the Bible already teaches—that such security is an illusory fiction. Our hope is not in the military and its ability to protect from all danger. Our hope is in Christ, and nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35-39).

As I remember the tragedy of 9-11 this week, I also remember these messages. I am thankful for the reminder that I serve a God who is sovereign over all things, that I serve a Christ who once looked into the cold eyes of at a heartless Roman governor and said, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above.” I am thankful that while we have no basis for confidence in military might (Psalm 20:7), we have every reason to be confident in King Jesus who has promised to come again and to make all things new (Revelation 21:5). I am thankful for a Christ who loves sinners and who will one day banish evil from the new heavens and the new earth.

Calamities will come, and calamities will go. But God’s word will never pass away. In some ways these sermons are a study in contrasts, but they are nevertheless the same in the most important ways. I encourage you to take some time to listen to both of them and to set your hope completely on Christ.

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“9-11” by Tommy Nelson

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“A Service of Sorrow, Self-Humbling, and Steady Hope in Our Savior and King, Jesus Christ” by John Piper

How feminism treats heterosexuality as a problem

If you’ve ever wondered about the connection between feminism and LGBT identities, a recent article by Marcie Bianco at NBC News clears things up. Among other things, Bianco says this:

Men need heterosexuality to maintain their societal dominance over women. Women, on the other hand, are increasingly realizing not only that they don’t need heterosexuality, but that it also is often the bedrock of their global oppression.

Patriarchy is at its most potent when oppression doesn’t feel like oppression, or when it is packaged in terms of biology, religion or basic social needs like security comfort, acceptance and success. Heterosexuality offers women all these things as selling points to their consensual subjection.

Historically, women have been conditioned to believe that heterosexuality is natural or innate, just as they have been conditioned to believe that their main purpose is to make babies — and if they fail to do so, they are condemned as not “real,” or as bad, women.

Bianco goes on to tell the stories of two female celebrities—Miley Cyrus and Julianne Hough—who have recently turned from heterosexuality to LGBT identities. Bianco contends that Cyrus and Hough are in the vanguard of feminist liberation. Continue Reading →

Apostasy and Pastoral Preparation for the Conflict Ahead

David French has an insightful column analyzing the apostasy of yet another Christian celebrity. French writes:

As our culture changes, secularizes, and grows less tolerant of Christian orthodoxy, I’m noticing a pattern in many of the people who fall away (again, only Sampson knows his heart): They’re retreating from faith not because they’re ignorant of its key tenets and lack the necessary intellectual, theological depth but rather because the adversity of adherence to increasingly countercultural doctrine grows too great.

Put another way, the failure of the church isn’t so much of catechesis but of fortification — of building the pure moral courage and resolve to live your faith in the face of cultural headwinds.

French is certainly correct that people are falling away in large part due to a failure of moral courage. There is no question about that. Nevertheless, I would take exception with one part of his analysis. When it comes to “catechesis” versus “fortification,” it’s actually not an either/or but a both/and. There are lots of churches failing at catechesis, and there are lots that are failing at preparing people for the cost of discipleship. Both of these things are happening all at once all across evangelicalism. Continue Reading →

The Will of the Father and the Will of the Son in the Covenant of Redemption

A couple months ago, I wrote “A Clarification about a New Book on the Trinity” in which I addressed criticism of an article I wrote back in 2004. In my article, I had argued that the Son’s submission to the Father is a feature of the economy not of the immanent trinity. I based this conclusion on a certain reading of Philippians 2:6, which gives us a Pauline depiction of the preincarnate Christ.

Paul says that “although [Christ] existed in the form of God, he did not regard equality with God as a thing to be grasped for” (Phil. 2:6, my translation). The point was not that the Son’s essence or will had become separate from the Father’s. The Son’s submission was “functional,” which I understood to refer to the Son’s mission in the economy. I believed that the economy in some sense commenced in eternity with this agreement between the Father and the Son. Continue Reading →

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