Combing the Net – 6/25/2012

The Message of the Bible in 221 Words — This is a great summary by D.A. Carson.

A Tale of Two Resolutions on the “Sinner’s Prayer” — One of the many nuances of the SBC soteriology debate going into last week’s annual meeting was the proposed adoption of a resolution that would officially affirm the use of what is often referred to as “the sinner’s prayer”. While a similar resolution was adopted by the Convention, the version that made it through committee to be voted on by messengers was quite an improvement on the original. Tom Ascol compares the two versions, and explains why this should not be seen as a “slap against the more reformed elements in the convention”.

What’s the Difference Between Typology and Allegory? — Short clarification on two things that are easily confused, particularly when interpreting Scripture.

Your Pastor Is Not Your Political Activist — This link is to the transcript of the John Piper sermon clip below (with links to the full sermon). Good stuff

Combing the Net – 6/20/2012

Finding True Love: Helping Your Child Chose the Right Instrument — This is a great article from NPR about musical instrument selection for kids. I was glad to see that they listed “Instrument Petting Zoos” as one of the best ways to help children (and parents) choose. The School of Performing Arts has been holding petting zoos for seven years; they are always super fun! We have three already scheduled for this Fall. Let me know if you want to attend one!

Explosion at Opryland Hotel — This doesn’t look like it’s as dramatic as it originally sounded last night, but it was bad enough to force an evacuation and do significant damage to the Convention Center. Thankful that no one was hurt!

Opposing Unconstitutional Wars — Rand Paul explains why he endorsed Mitt Romney, while also promising to stand up to the presumptive GOP nominee on the issues where he is an opponent of liberty: most notably on his stance on the President’s authority to declare war without the consent of Congress. In this regard (as in many others), Romney is virtually indistinguishable from our current President and his predecessor.

Reflections on the Election of Fred Luter — Denny Burk on the selection of the first black president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

I cannot overstate how deeply significant the election of Fred Luter is. Nor can I overstate the emotion that was in the room when he was elected. Baptist messengers from all over the South rose to their feet and cheered as they cast their votes for the first black president of the SBC. I myself tried to cheer and whistle as I held my ballot up, but I could not get anything out through the tears. And I wasn’t alone.

Calvinism Debate Shifts to Heresy Accusation — This Christianity Today article is another good report on the ongoing debate over “God’s Plan of Salvation” in the SBC. (HT: Owen Strachen)

SBC Pastors Polled on Calvinism and Its Affect on Convention — The results of the study mentioned in the previous article, and in Dr. Frank Page’s address at the SBC Annual Meeting. Of SBC pastors, 30% describe their churches as “Calvinist” or “Reformed”, while 61% report that they are concerned about the impact of Calvinism in the SBC. No wonder tensions are so high! (HT: Tom Ascol)

This Is The Gospel Project — The trailer for the new curriculum from Lifeway is also a great 3-minute summary of Biblical Theology!

Combing the Net – 6/15/2012

Jay and Katrina Didn’t Waste Their Lives — The story of a young missionary couple who died on the mission field in Zambia two weeks ago. Jay Erickson’s final blog post (“Pondering Death”) is even more poignant in light of his recent death. In it, he wrote of his contemplation of death, and of his struggle to overcome his fears which hindered him from speaking.

Black and White and Red All Over: Why Racial Justice is a Gospel Issue — Russell Moore on the difficult racial history of the Southern Baptist Convention, a denomination that originally came into existence before the Civil War as the result of a dispute with northern Baptists over slavery, and which was populated largely by segregationists as recently as a generation ago. How far we’ve come in such a short time, as the SBC will elect its first black president next week!

Let Wonder Lead You to Worship (Don’t Let the Devil Dumb You) — A great article that reminded me a lot of N.D. Wilson’s book Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl (my review).

The devil does not want you to wonder. Wonder is deadly to the domain of darkness because of its dangerous tendency to lead to worship.

So the devil is going to do his level best to keep you stupid — stupid in the sense of being sense-less. If he can’t damn you, he will try to dumb you. You must resist him.

How to Respond to the Video Game Crisis — There’s been a lot of talk lately about the influence of video games on young men (see this recent post), and this article is a very helpful addition to the discussion. Rich Clark exhorts Christians to think better about video games. He sees them as a new art form which, like others, can be used thoughtfully and responsibly for the benefit of society, but can also be a destructive influence.

Video games are a comparatively new medium, and as such they are the object of much skepticism and intrigue. Those who do not play games often view the medium as a waste of time at best and a corrupting influence at worst. Meanwhile, video game proponents—permanently on the defensive—make excuses for bad art and actual corrupting influences. We Christians must be truthful about these things, but neither side right now is telling the whole story.

Review/Summary of “Captivated: The Movie” — This documentary about “finding freedom in a media captive culture” looks very interesting. You can learn more about the movie at the film’s website. Here is the trailer:

What’s in a Name? Thoughts on the Southern Baptist Convention

For those who might not have heard, there was big news last night out of the Southern Baptist Convention’s executive committee meeting. SBC President Bryant Wright announced the formation of a task force to consider changing the name of the Convention. You can read the Baptist Press news story here, and I highly recommend reading the commentary by Albert Mohler (who will serve on this task force) about the complexity of this decision here.

I haven’t got nearly as much to say about this as Mohler and the many others who have weighed in, but I do have a few observations from a layperson’s perspective that might be helpful for Southern Baptists (and others) who don’t follow the ins & outs of the convention that much.

First of all, while I don’t love everything the SBC does, I do love the idea of the cooperative program, in which like-minded churches partner together to multiply the reach of the corporate body far beyond what individual Christians or congregations could do on their own. All Southern Baptists contribute to church planting and other evangelistic efforts around the world through the International Mission Board and the North American Mission Board. Organizations such as Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and the World Hunger Fund meet the physical and spiritual needs of countless numbers of hurting people… and they do it far more efficiently than corresponding government groups!

For these and many other reasons, the convention is a good thing. Thankfully, this discussion is not talking about changing what we do, why we do it, or even how we do it. The task force is simply (though there is nothing “simple” about it) investigating whether or not the name of the organization is itself a hindrance to the Kingdom work that the SBC is doing.

Here in the Southern United States, this doesn’t seem like a big issue, but the SBC has a truly global mission. As Mohler wrote, “that region gave birth to the Southern Baptist Convention, but it no longer contains it.” Missionaries and church planters in other parts of the country and the world have found that the label “Southern” makes it a challenge to share the gospel in a non-Southern context. If the task force finds that it is indeed a barrier to gospel proclamation, then I favor a name change.

At the same time, I realize that names are a big deal. There is a lot of history and sentiment wrapped up in the name of our convention, and I’m glad that no one wants to haphazardly discount those considerations in favor of a quick change. Whatever the eventual outcome of the ongoing conversation, I think the SBC (by whatever name we will know it) will be better for it.

Perhaps it’s only because my wife and I attended the Nashville Shakespeare Festival’s production of Romeo & Juliet on Saturday, but I can’t help but be reminded of Juliet’s words from Act II, Scene ii:

O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.

‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.

Conveniently ignoring for the moment the fact that Romeo’s initial response is that he would “be new baptized” (in order to receive a new name), let’s think about this for a moment. What is in a name? Would the Southern Baptist Convention by any other name smell as sweet? Would a different name change who and what we are?

I would like to think the answer is no. But, of course, the message of Romeo & Juliet is that those star-crossed lovers could NOT distance themselves from their names. The names we attach to things are important, and contain within themselves history, meaning, and a message. In many ways, the name “Southern Baptist Convention” contains within itself a particular history, meaning, and message, which, for better or worse, conveys much of the content of our faith. Is that really something we want to give up? Do we have a choice?

These are interesting questions to consider, and I look forward to following along with the debate. For now, I answer with Romeo:

By a name I know not how to tell thee who I am.” But I know whom I have believed, and will happily continue to partner with others to share the good news about Him with people from every tribe and language and people and nation… even those outside of the South!

Southern Baptist Education Debate

Over at sbcvoices.com, a website that tracks issues important to Southern Baptists and provides a forum for open discussion, several posts have been written recently about the merits and deficiencies of public, home, and private schooling. The comments on many of these articles have provided some vigorous debate — most of it very useful, though some has unfortunately gotten ugly, a tendency of blog comment threads to which Southern Baptists are not immune.

In particular, though, I’d like to direct you to this interview with Christie Wright, who is the Assistant Principle at Highland Rim Academy (where I am on the board of directors), and wife of local pastor Jeff Wright. I think Mrs. Wright has done an excellent job laying out the case for Christian education, and responding to her comment thread detractors with charity and grace. Well done!

Other recent “SBC Voices” posts dealing with education include:

Combing the Net – 7/8/2010

Did Americans in 1776 Have British Accents? — The answer to this question is more interesting than a simple “yes” or “no”.

When to Stop, When to Go, When to Slow Down — R.C. Sproul writes on matters of Christian liberty. When do matters of conscience turn into legalism? How do we avoid unnecessarily offending weaker brothers and sisters who choose to abstain from things on which the Bible is silent?

The Southern Baptist Convention is Yesterday’s News — A Politics Daily report on declining cover of the SBD Convention specifically, and all things related to religion generally, by the secular news media.

Practical Ideas for Family Worship — Here’s a followup post by Tim Smith. I posted his first article on family worship a couple days ago. Find it here.

Why Are Parents So Unhappy? — Al Mohler dissects an article from New York Magazine about how society’s view of parenting has changed over time, and why today’s parents are more likely to be unhappy. This helps to explain why fewer and fewer people are becoming parents today. The magazine’s assertion: “Kids… went from being our staffs (helping out on the farm and with family business) to being our bosses.” Mohler’s solution: “Christians must see children as gifts from God, not as projects. We should see marriage and parenthood as a stewardship and privilege, not as a mere lifestyle choice. We must resist the cultural seductions and raise children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and understand family life as a crucible for holiness, not an experiment in happiness.”

This is pretty darn impressive!