Archives For Southwestern Seminary

By Eric Reed

Red BishopWe might feel sorry for the next president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Three of our leading SBC entities are without presidents, and the incoming convention president will find himself leading in the aftermath of a firestorm. At least we hope it’s the aftermath.

One resigned because of personal moral failure (Frank Page of the Executive Committee). One was removed for inappropriate comments about women and alleged inaction to protect abuse victims (Paige Patterson of Southwestern Seminary). Only one was not under a cloud (David Platt of the International Mission Board). Yet, his departure leaves a great gap in representation by the younger and reformed generation. A lot of people had pinned their hopes on Platt.

Here’s what the next SBC president faces: The EC, IMB, and SWBTS all need new heads. Their presidential search committees operate independently of each other and, officially, free from outside direction and pressures. Yet, with three major vacancies at the top, the SBC seems particularly vulnerable right now, and the next president will be expected to offer whatever assistance he can to stabilize the ships in the fleet. The new heads of those entities will just be getting their feet under themselves during the next SBC president’s first term. Helping them all is a tall order for the next guy.

What kind of leadership is needed in a season of change and uncertainty? How can he lead after this firestorm?

The next SBC president must be public. Past presidents Fred Luter and Ronnie Floyd were very public, both in mainstream media and Baptist press. Steve Gaines was less public, appearing rarely in the national media, especially in his first term. The new guy must be available to the press, write for publication often, and make effective use of social media.

The next guy must be winsome. In this era of failure and the resulting distrust, it will be up to the next SBC president to bolster public opinion of Baptists with thoughtful apologetics and likeable presentation. It won’t hurt to have a good personality.

The next guy must understand the times. Like the leaders in Issachar (1 Chronicles 12:32), he must be wise and culturally aware. He must take action befitting the age, bringing biblical response to today’s needs. Southern Baptists have been characterized as “tone-deaf” on the subjects of women and abuse. The next guy shouldn’t aim for political correctness, but he must rightly assess the needs of the people in the pews and the watching world.

Indeed, that’s a tall order.

Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.

The Briefing

Seminary president sorry for comments ‘hurtful to women’
Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, issued an apology May 10 for comments he made in sermon illustrations about domestic violence and the physical attractiveness of women. After the comments from 2000 and 2014 resurfaced online last month, more than 3,000 people signed an open letter from Southern Baptist women calling on Southwestern’s trustees “to take a strong stand against unbiblical teaching regarding womanhood, sexuality, and domestic violence.” Another letter in support of Patterson has garnered more than 500 signatures.

Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines addressed the Patterson controversy in a statement to Baptist Press, expressing his disagreement with the comments and noting, “The church especially is no place for misogyny or disrespect for anyone.”

The trustees of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary will meet May 22 at Patterson’s request.

Sermon stirs up Old Testament debate
North Point Community Church pastor Andy Stanley’s encouragement to Christians to “unhitch” their faith from the Old Testament revved up debate online about its place in the life of modern Christians. Theologian David Prince countered Stanley’s view, writing “Any attempt to sever Jesus from the entirety of Scripture amounts to fashioning a Jesus for your own purposes, one that changes with the times.”

High court ruling permits sports betting in all states
In a 6-3 ruling May 14, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a 1992 law that prevented state authorization of sports gambling. The decision — which reversed opinions by lower courts — means all 50 states may legalize and operate betting on professional and college sports.

Willow Creek elders apologize
The elders of Willow Creek Community Church have walked back their initial defense of former pastor Bill Hybels, saying they owe apologies to women who accused Hybels of misconduct. “The tone of our first response had too much emphasis on defending Bill and cast some of the women in an unfair and negative light,” said outgoing elder board chair Pam Orr. “We are sorry.”

Hybels stepped down from his role at Willow Creek in April.

Americans suffering from ‘loneliness epidemic’
A new survey by healthcare company Cigna found nearly half of Americans sometimes or always feel alone or left out. One possible solution: more frequent in-person interactions.

Sources: Baptist Press (2), The Christian Post, Chicago Tribune, Cigna

 

By Eric Reed

5-07-18 IB cover lgAfter our last issue of the Illinois Baptist went to press, we remembered what we left out of the article, “Why this one matters.” Our collection of items to look for at the Southern Baptist Convention in June should have included the forthcoming report on evangelism in the SBC by Steve Gaines’ blue ribbon committee. The panel, which includes Illinois’ own Doug Munton, pastor of FBC O’Fallon, is scheduled to present its study on the declining rate of baptisms in SBC churches and several key proposals to turn that around.

The report, by seminary presidents, SBC entity heads, and megachurch pastors, was to be Gaines’ parting word to the convention as he concludes two years as president. It is a very important word at crucial moment in the life of our denomination. We meant to say that in our May 7 issue previewing the Dallas convention.

We didn’t.

We forgot.

Gaines’ important prescription for recapturing the SBC’s evangelistic fervor got muscled out by breaking news about abuse of women and the argument over inappropriate statements by statesman Paige Patterson two decades ago.

The same appears likely to happen again at the convention in June.

Any one of these stories could be the headline coming out of Dallas:

“SBC shifts generation and theology in top leadership vote.”

“Proceedings slowed as messengers argue diversity among nominees.”

“Messengers debate ERLC leadership and another round of resolutions repudiating racism.”

“SBC speaks on abuse, women, and their place in the denomination.”

“Patterson announces retirement, takes final lap before exiting SBC stage.” Or, “Patterson unseated as convention’s keynote; denied final sermon after controversial comments.” (A special called Board of Trustees meeting May 25 at Southwestern Seminary may determine if either of last two headlines proves true.)

But the headline will likely not be: “SBC adopts new plan for evangelism to turn decline in baptism and refocus churches on leading the lost to faith.”

Why?

Because the overwrought news cycle of the current era has overtaken the SBC too. If only we could come out of Dallas writing stories about a fresh wind of God’s Spirit and our renewed commitment to share the gospel. If only we could file reports of our people falling on their faces in repentance for failing to share salvation with lost people, then hitting the streets to tell the good news.

Yes, all these news stories are very important. As a people, we must deal faithfully with women and our treatment of them in the church as well as the larger culture. But while we are doing that, we must remember what brought us together as a denomination in the first place. The world needs Jesus. And all today’s headlines are evidence of that great need.

Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.

The Briefing

Christian nation no more?
Most Americans do not believe America is a Christian nation today, even if many say it was in the past. About one-third (35%) of the American public believes the U.S. was a Christian nation in the past and is still a Christian nation today; close to half (45%) say the U.S. was once a Christian nation but no longer remains so; and 14% say the U.S. has never been a Christian nation.

SWBTS apologizes for photo
Paige Patterson, the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, apologized for a photo of white professors posing as rappers that appeared on Twitter and was instantly deemed racist. The photo featured senior School of Preaching faculty members gesturing and wearing bandannas and chains and was labeled “Notorious S.O.P.” One of them appears to hold a handgun.

Cedarville’s Philippians 4:8 rule
This spring, Cedarville University enacted new curriculum guidelines inspired by Philippians 4:8 and aimed at purifying coursework of erotic and graphic content. The university has spelled out new guidelines officially barring any materials that “may be considered ‘adult’ in nature, that represent immorality, or that may be a stumbling block to students.”

Religious freedom dying in Russia
Russia’s nationwide outlaw of Jehovah’s Witnesses will likely ricochet and strike other religions outside of Russian Orthodoxy there, said Donald Ossewaarde, an independent Baptist missionary forced to shut down his church in that country. He has exhausted his appeals on an August 2016 conviction of operating a church without a permit under the 2016 anti-religion Yarovaya Law. Ossewaarde, who is making plans to return May 8 to his home in Elgin, Ill., said every religion outside Russian Orthodoxy is considered a cult.

Students: Biblical views on sex ‘unChrist-like’
A student club at Seattle Pacific University recently protested against the Christian university because it adheres to biblical views on human sexuality and gender identity.  The club, called SPU Haven, which advocates for gay students, claims that the university’s “Statement on Human Sexuality” is “unethical, unscientific and unChrist-like,” according to College Fix.

Sources: Facts and Trends, Religion News, Christianity Today, Baptist Press, The Christian Post

The Reformation at 500

ib2newseditor —  January 30, 2017
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Rose Parade Jan. 2, 2017

When the Protestant Reformation gets its own float in the Tournament of Roses Parade, something big must be happening. Not that we needed the Pasadena tableau to underscore the upcoming event, but we must admit it was surprising to hear NBC’s Al Roker announce the 500th anniversary of the Reformation as three flower-covered church bells tolling “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” cruised by at 10 mph.

Would Martin Luther—ex-communicated, jailed, and persecuted for his pursuit of biblical faith—have been shocked to see his life’s work trussed in rose petals and paraded before cheering crowds?

I was.

There, following the surfing dogs, the Rose Queen, and the Salvation Army Band, was the Wittenberg Door, covered in black beans and poppy seeds, commemorating that All Hallow’s Eve in 1517 when the angry priest Luther nailed his complaints against the Catholic Church on the front door. Inscribed on the giant bells was “Faith Alone,” “Grace Alone,” and “Scripture Alone,” the three-sola distillation of Reformation theology.

Also at the front of the float was a man dressed as Jesus, waving to the crowd on one side of Colorado Boulevard and then the other. We can’t fault the sponsors, Lutheran Layman’s League, for their exuberance, for Luther himself redirected the attention of the faithful worldwide to the finished work of Christ as the only means of salvation. Not obeisance to saints or Mary, time served in purgatory, the purchase of “indulgences” for others or ourselves—only God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ can save us. So commonplace today, this must have sounded radical to Luther’s first audiences. Yet, here we stand, benefactors of his brave actions, celebrating his Halloween escapade and all that resulted from it.

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But five centuries after the fact, this anniversary is an opportune time for Southern Baptists to ask a few serious questions:

How Reformed are we? What was started by Luther was picked up, refined, and defined by John Calvin and others. The line from Calvin (and other Reformers) to Southern Baptists isn’t as obvious as is the line from John Knox to the Presbyterians or Luther to the Lutherans, but the Reformers have certainly informed our Baptist theology.

Some Southern Baptists fully embrace Calvin’s doctrines of grace, the sovereignty of God, and election, considering themselves “five-point Calvinists.” Others, who defined their position as “traditional” Southern Baptist in the 2012 debate at the New Orleans convention, accept some of Calvin’s points, but rely more on the verses about God’s desire that all would be saved. Some would say they live in the tension between Calvinism and Arminianism, between the sovereignty of God in bringing people to salvation and the free will of man to accept or reject God’s offer.

This anniversary is a good opportunity for churches to study the principles of Reformed theology and ask, How Reformed are we?

What is the appeal of Reformed theology? For people who have grown up in an era of slushy theology and postmodern uncertainty, Reformed theology offers clear, clean delineation of belief. It’s faith with handles on it. That might explain the appeal to Christians who were described as “young, restless, and reformed” in Collin Hansen’s seminal work by that name in 2008. Hansen capsulized a phenomenon that had been in development for two decades by the time he wrote the book, and must be credited in large part, in SBC life, to Albert Mohler. From his position as president of Southern Seminary starting in 1993, Mohler has schooled a generation of young pastors, theologians, and now seminary presidents.

What is the long-term impact of rising Reformed theology on the SBC? Not everyone is enamored by the growth of Calvinism in Southern Baptist ranks. Some leaders have expressed concern about the possible impact on missions and evangelism.

Certainly our theological debate has been invigorated in recent decades. A denomination given to pragmatic, applicable theology through the Baby Boom years has more recently turned to serious consideration of the nature of the gospel. Can committed Calvinists, “traditional” Southern Baptists focused on evangelism, and the “somewhat Reformed” all coexist in the SBC tent, with a shared purpose that unites us, despite differences over finer points of theology? Or is another schism coming?

What will happen to evangelism? Our denomination’s baptism numbers continue to decline. Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson, a “traditionalist,” continues to express concern that rising Calvinism will naturally cool the fires of evangelism.

International Mission Board President David Platt might demonstrate a new kind of Reformed pastor, for whom evangelistic work by God’s people has high priority in God’s sovereignty. Will Platt’s zeal prove characteristic of the younger generation who are following his charge: “For the nations!” Or will the soul-winning Calvinist prove to be an anomaly?

Now, 500 years after Luther struck the first blows for Reformation, these are a few of the issues Southern Baptists must address—before the parade passes by.

– Eric Reed is editor of the Illinois Baptist.