40 Years of Murder

40 years ago, the Roe v. Wade decision wasn’t even the biggest news story of the day

There have been several good articles today to mark the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling that States did not have the authority to criminalize abortion. Here are a few of the best:

  • How Abortion Became an Evangelical Issue — Al Mohler’s article from today’s Washington Post explains how evangelicals gradually became co-belligerents with Catholics in opposing abortion. Any of my fellow Southern Baptists who are not familiar with our denomination’s history on this issue (hint: the SBC wasn’t always so pro-life) should read this.
  • We Know They Are Killing Children—All of Us Know — John Piper: “For forty years this has meant that any perceived stress is a legal ground for eliminating the child. We have killed fifty million babies. And what increases our guilt as a nation is that we know what we are doing. Here’s the evidence that we know we are killing children.”
  • 5 Things You Didn’t Know About “Jane Roe” — The history of Norma McCorvey (the “Roe” of Roe v. Wade), including her conversion to Christianity and the pro-life conviction that came with it.

Abortion is a topic I’ve addressed several times on this blog. Here are some posts from the archives which may be of interest to you:

In that last post, you’ll also find some facts which conservatives today may find uncomfortable. For instance, did you know that two years prior to Roe v. Wade, the Southern Baptists passed a resolution seeking Federal legislation that would make abortion legal? Or that perhaps the most progressive legislation legalizing abortion prior to Roe v. Wade was signed into law by California Governor Ronald Reagan?

The good news is that both Reagan and the SBC, like “Jane Roe” herself, eventually became staunch defenders of life, which holds promise that the battle is worth fighting. Today’s abortionist may well be tomorrow’s abolitionist.

Combing the Net – 7/21/2012

The Dark Night in Denver: Groping for Answers — Al Mohler on the reality of human evil, and how to begin to make sense of yesterday’s shooting in Colorado.

Was the Batman Shooting Imitating a 1986 Comic? — This is a search for a different sort of answer. Not the most important question to be asking, but still curious.

Aspiring Sportscaster Among the Casualties — In what might be one of the saddest stories from Colorado, here is the story of a young journalist who was one of the 12 people killed in the movie theater shooting. The last entry in her blog was the account of her escape from a shooting at a shopping mall in Toronto last month. What are the chances?

Why Calvinism Should Not Divide the SBC — Paige Patterson and Al Mohler on cooperation among Southern Baptists with different understandings of the doctrine of election.

Ramadan FAQ’s — The Islamic holy month has just begun. Here are some of the main points for understanding what Ramadan is all about.

Nashville Symphony Chorus Auditions — I really wish I could sing in this chorus, if only just to be part of the “Symphony of a Thousand!” If anyone is interested in singing some really challenging literature with a great ensemble, you might want to look into this. Here’s a clip of the finale of Mahler’s 8th Symphony, which the NSO will be performing in September:

Why Local Laypeople Should Care About the SBC Soteriology Debate

Though I’m writing this post specifically for the benefit of members of my own church (Stevens Street Baptist in Cookeville, TN), hopefully this will have broader appeal as well, even outside the Southern Baptist Convention.

“Debate? What debate?”

That’s probably what most people around here would say in response to the title of this article. We tend to steer clear of the various debates that go on within the Convention… like the potential name change (to “Great Commission Baptists”) proposed at last year’s SBC annual meeting, or the Great Commission Task Force debate from two years ago. For better or worse, we don’t get caught up in those conversations.

While I believe there was merit to both of those discussions, they didn’t really mean that much to the average Baptist on the street, so it didn’t matter much that we weren’t paying attention. This year, however, there’s a debate going on that really does matter to Southern Baptists everywhere. It started a few weeks ago, and will probably figure heavily in the events that will take place at this year’s SBC annual meeting, which takes place in New Orleans this week.

Here’s the debate in as close to a nutshell as I can get it:

Ever since the Southern Baptist conservative resurgence that began before my birth — but especially within the last decade — Reformed/Calvinist doctrine has been gaining influence within Southern Baptist churches. The SBC’s flagship school (The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) has had a decidedly Reformed theological bent since Albert Mohler became the institution’s ninth (and current) president in 1993. Increasing numbers of young SBC pastors and lay leaders now identify as Reformed in their understanding of soteriology (the doctrine of salvation).

While there should be no reason that Reformed and non-Reformed Southern Baptists cannot fellowship and serve together in ministry, there has been growing animosity between some (on both sides), which has been thrust into the spotlight by the recent publication of “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”. This document, which has been signed by quite a few prominent Southern Baptists (including five former SBC presidents and two current seminary presidents; see the list of all signers), aims to draw a distinction to Calvinist doctrine and outline a set of affirmations which they claim represent “the vast majority” of Southern Baptists.

This has sparked a lot of helpful discussion online, and nothing I could write about the document itself would add much, so at the end of this post I will simply direct you to what I have found to be the most balanced and thoughtful contributions. But what I can do is show you why I hope that many members of my church (and others like it) will get involved.

One thing that pretty much everyone who has chimed in seems to agree on is that nothing is more important than the Gospel. Amen! So while as a Reformed Baptist I disagree strongly with much of the content of the statement, I agree wholeheartedly with its authors that how we articulate the Gospel is a critically important issue. Because of this, I am thankful that this much-needed discussion is happening, and that the vast majority of the debate has been civil and charitable.

The real problem in the SBC is quite apparent at the local level, and Stevens Street is no exception: Many Southern Baptists cannot clearly articulate the Gospel. I’m not talking about the distinctions between Reformed and non-Reformed understandings of certain doctrinal points; I mean the bare-bones essentials! Whatever the causes may be, the fact is that the doctrinal literacy of the average SBC church member has become very watered down, leaving countless professing believers unable to discern between orthodoxy and heresy.

This is made painfully clear here in Cookeville by the fact that large numbers of lifelong Southern Baptists have joined churches and/or been influenced by books marked by teaching that is not just contrary to the Baptist Faith & Message, but which stretches the bounds of orthodoxy to the limit. Even larger numbers of church members continue to fill pews in Baptist churches without any real grasp on the Gospel (which does not necessarily mean that the Gospel is not being taught).

So whatever the immediate outcome of the current debate ends up being, I hope that the long-term result is increased clarity and biblical fidelity in the teaching of the Gospel in Southern Baptist churches, and increased doctrinal understanding by lay members of those churches. It’s one of the reasons I’m so excited about The Gospel Project, LifeWay’s new curriculum that looks EXCELLENT, and is sure to be adopted by large numbers of SBC churches (including Stevens Street).

Paul wrote to the Corinthian church that “there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized” (1 Corinthians 11:19). I believe that, as painful as it is to have factions within the SBC family, the result will be the advance of the Gospel.

This is a conversation worth having, and if you’re still reading, I invite you to join it. Following are links to the most pertinent articles. I welcome your comments after you’ve had a chance to read up on the debate!

Recommended Reading

  • A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation — Straight to the source.
  • The FAQ’s — The best summary of the finer points of the debate. Consider this the “Cliff’s Notes” version if you don’t have time to read anything else.
  • Southern Baptists and Salvation: It’s Time to Talk — Al Mohler’s response has been the most influential response from a Reformed perspective. Clear, concise, and charitable, he acknowledges the legitimacy of many of the concerns of non-Reformed Baptists, but also points out the errors in their means of addressing those concerns.
  • It Is Time to Discuss the Elephant in the Room — Jerry Vines, one of the former SBC presidents to sign the document, provided a fitting counterpoint to Mohler’s article by defending the statement against Mohler’s charge of semi-Pelagianism, while affirming Mohler’s call for civil discourse about the subject.
  • Commentary and Observations from Tom Ascol — For those who really want to get into the nitty-gritty, Ascol’s ongoing response (the final part of which was published today) is very detailed and instructive. He closely examines each of the statement’s affirmations and denials and provides a thorough response.
  • So Why All the Labels? — Voddie Baucham takes a different approach to the issue, discussing why he feels terms like “Calvinist” and “Arminian” are helpful and clarifying. I agree.

Combing the Net – 6/7/2012

Cheap eBook Alert! — The Kindle version of The Masculine Mandate (my review) is now only 99 cents! I recently finished leading a group of young men from our church through this book, and we all benefited greatly from it.

Video and Photos Capture Transit of Venus — I’ve seen several good pictures of the Venus transit from earlier this week, but these are some of my favorites.

Why the GOP Can’t Afford to Ignore Ron Paul and His Many Fans — He’s not going to win this year’s nomination, but if the party wants to succeed in the future, they’re going to need to be able to reach the growing number of young libertarian-leaning conservatives.

Because if Ron Paul is right about the dangers of government overextension both at home and abroad, it means the GOP has to actually be serious about this limited government, living-within-our-means stuff that is supposed to be the very marrow of conservatism.

If they have to swallow some sour apples about returning the U.S. military to its original goal of just actually defending the U.S. and make the government respect citizens’ civil liberties, that should be a small price to pay to attract the loyalty, votes and money of a rising generation of activists.

It’s Time to Discuss the Elephant in the Room — The last couple days, I’ve posted responses from some Calvinistic Southern Baptists to the Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation, so today I wanted to share Dr. Jerry Vines’ response. It is the most thoughtful article I’ve read so far from a signer of the document. Vines is a former president of the SBC, a pastor of more than 50 years, and someone who, like Al Mohler, has influenced me and earned my respect. I’m thankful for his addition to the discussion.

How Does a Pastor  Deal With People Who Try to Monopolize Him After Sunday Services? — This is a really practical article about something pastors deal with all the time. How to best use that valuable time after services to shepherd the congregation as well as possible? How can they reach and serve those who don’t try to approach them? How can other church leaders help?

Four Reasons to Sing This Weekend — I love this list of reasons why we should participate (loudly!) in the congregational singing in our church services!

  1. Because we are commanded to.
  2. Because I am a man.
  3. Because I feel like it.
  4. Because I don’t feel like it.

Here is a song I’ll be singing loudly this Sunday:

Combing the Net – 6/6/2012

The Swiss Army Survival Tampon — 10 Survival Uses — Here are ten ways in which the Tactical Adventure Medical Preparedness Outdoors Necessity  (a.k.a. “tampon”) could save your life. Are you manly enough to keep a tampon or two with you at all times?

What Every Husband Should Know About Stay-at-Home Moms — I think my wife would probably affirm the description of life as a SAHM as an “epic battle against chaos”. I’m so thankful for her willingness to engage in this battle, and her ability to (more often than not) defeat her foe.

Charles Wesley’s Works Amassed Online — Dr. Randy Maddox and the Duke Divinity School have compiled and made available to the public every hymn and verse ever published by Charles Wesley, as well as a great many that he wrote but never published. This project was five years in the making! The catalog is available here. (HT: Trevin Wax)

FAQs About the Current SBC Debate Over Salvation — Here’s the “nutshell” version of the controversy going around the Southern Baptist Convention right now, including definitions of terms being used which may be unfamiliar to some, such as “soteriology” and “semi-Pelagianism”.

Southern Baptists, It’s Time to Talk — Al Mohler is right (as usual). In his comments on the document that’s got everyone in a tizzy, he calls for unity within the denomination, while expressing some serious reservations with the concerns brought forward in the document.

What does it mean to be “equal”?

Combing the Net – 6/2/2012

40 of the Most Powerful Photographs Ever Taken — Lots of a great stories behind these iconic photos. Many of them I already knew, but I’m looking forward to reading Do the Birds in Hell Still Sing?, the autobiography of the man in picture #21. I didn’t know the story behind this one, but it sounds as if it will be a fascinating tale!

Pictures of Beautiful Iran — Many Americans seem to think that Iran is nothing but a vast, arid desert. In reality, it is among the most varied and beautiful places in the world! They don’t call that region the “Fertile Crescent” for nothing…

Lehman Riggs: Cookeville Hero — Here’s a newly written article (penned by our district’s Congressional Representative) about a local hero who was himself captured in some iconic photographs near the end of World War II. In the video linked in the story, you’ll see a brief appearance by our church building, where Brother Lehman still serves faithfully in his 90’s.

What Does Paul Mean By “Able to Teach”? — Thabiti Anyabwile gives 9 considerations for discerning men who are “able to teach”, which is one of Paul’s criteria for selecting elders for the church (1 Timothy 3:2). These considerations are well worth remembering this weekend as our church prepares to call a new senior pastor on Sunday.

The Seduction of Pornography and the Integrity of Christian Marriage — Sadly, pornography is a huge problem among Christian men. Contrary to what many young men believe, the temptation to consume porn does not go away after marriage. Part two of this article is here.

I Can’t Wait to See This Movie — I absolutely LOVE Les Misérables! Both the musical by Claude-Michel Schönberg and the book by Victor Hugo are phenomenal, and the upcoming movie adaptation looks like it may actually do the story justice. They certainly found a great cast: Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe… no slouches here! Between this and The Hobbit, I may spend the entire month of December in the movie theater.

Combing the Net – 5/30/2012

Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall, Who’s the Biggest Spender of All? — An interesting CATO Institute analysis of the numbers behind a recent Wall Street Journal editorial which claimed that Obama is not the binge spender he’s often portrayed to be. Note that this is measuring the growth in annual spending, not the total amount spent.

The Pauls Build a Libertarian Machine — While it’s fun to watch the delegate counts in the GOP presidential primary season, it’s important to remember that there’s something bigger going on in our generation. Electing Ron Paul as president has never been the highest priority, which is why this election season won’t be a disappointment when (as is virtually guaranteed) Dr. Paul does not become our next Commander-in-Chief. All over the country, liberty-minded young people are becoming re-engaged in the political process, and many conservative-libertarian candidates are poised to win elections at the national, state, and local levels.

Dear Digital Son — A graduation message from an analog  father to his digital son, encouraging him to keep social media in its proper place, and to invest his time in things and relationships that last. Touching and witty!

How Al Mohler Uses Social Media — Social media isn’t all bad, though! Good insight here from a man whose Twitter feed, blog, and podcast have been very beneficial to me. “Leader, if you don’t engage social media in a responsible & credible way, for anyone under 29, you don’t exist.”

Piper and Meyer Talk Succession for the First Time — The way Bethlehem Baptist Church has implemented this succession plan to transition from John Piper’s pastorship to Jason Meyer’s is a great encouragement!

Connecting Theological Depth With Missional Passion — I’m very excited that our church is among the many that has signed up to help pilot The Gospel Project curriculum! Several of our classes (including the one in which I teach) will be using this curriculum during the month of June. At the above link, you’ll hear project editors Ed Stetzer and Trevin Wax discussing their approach to theology and missions that fueled the creation of this curriculum.

Is Pluto a planet? I vote yes!