Archives For Theology

Dutch Christians face opposition over statement on biblical sexuality
Christian leaders in the Netherlands are facing backlash over a statement affirming biblical sexuality, Baptist Press reported late last week. The Nashville Statement, released in 2017 by U.S. evangelicals including the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, in part affirms “that it is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism and that such approval constitutes an essential departure from Christian faithfulness and witness.”

In the Netherlands, where same-sex marriage was legalized in 2001, signers of the statement have been threatened with criminal prosecution, BP reported.

Harvest Church to drop lawsuit
Harvest Bible Chapel announced plans to drop a lawsuit against a reporter and a group of bloggers who released reports of mismanagement and poor leadership at the Chicagoland megachurch. Harvest and Pastor James MacDonald claimed defamation when they sued reporter Julie Roys and the team behind “The Elephant’s Debt” last October. Earlier this month, a judge denied the church’s attempt to keep subpoenaed documents private, Christianity Today reported.

MacDonald was scheduled to preach at the 2019 SBC Pastors’ Conference this June, but withdrew in December.

Dockery to lead Missouri university’s theology evaluation
A Southern Baptist university in Missouri will undergo an evaluation to ensure its “theological integrity is intact,” The Christian Post reported Jan. 11. Students at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar have protested the dismissal of Professor Clint Bass, who was fired after expressing concern over some faculty members’ theological views. SBU told The Christian Post it had intended to have conversations on theology in fall of 2019, but Bass’s dismissal and the public fallout moved up the timeline.

The theology review at the university, which is affiliated with the Missouri Baptist Convention, will be led by David Dockery, president of Trinity International University in Deerfield, Ill.

Hurricane relief continues in new year
Disaster Relief efforts in Florida and North Carolina are ongoing, Baptist Press reported Jan. 8, in response to 2018’s Hurricanes Michael and Florence. Teams are continuing to serve in affected areas, and plans are underway for college students to join the response during spring break. More information is available at SendRelief.org/GenSend.

Barna releases new insights on pastors and their work
Almost three-fourths of pastors feel content with their role, Barna reports, but more than half had another career before going into ministry. And a quarter another job in addition to their work as a pastor.

Supreme Court will hear pregnancy center case
The Supreme Court announced this month it will rule on a California law requiring pro-life pregnancy centers to inform clients of abortion options available elsewhere.

The FACT Act, passed in 2015, shares some similarities with an Illinois law that requires pregnancy centers and pro-life physicians to discuss abortion as a legal treatment option and, if asked, to refer clients to abortion providers. Multiple pregnancy centers in Illinois sued Gov. Bruce Rauner earlier this year over the law, and were granted a preliminary injunction.

Dockery elected to lead theologian group
The annual meeting of the Evangelical Theology Society focused on the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The group also elected David Dockery, a Southern Baptist and president of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, as president.

Zimbabwe’s Christian leaders see unrest as ‘opportunity’
The conflict between Zimbabwe’s president and its military could be resolved by a “winner-takes-all-mentality,” many of the country’s religious leaders wrote in a letter following President Robert Mugabe’s military arrest. But it doesn’t have to, they said, calling the the situation an opportunity for “permanent healing” in Zimbabwe.

Hillsong pastor won’t change marriage views, despite Australian vote
While Australian voters decided in November to legalize same-sex marriage, Brian Houston, who pastors Sydney megachurch Hillsong, said his view of marriage as between a man and a woman “will not change.”

Coming to the big screen: Apostle Paul
A silver screen version of Paul’s life is set for release next Easter. “Paul, Apostle of Christ” tells the story of a persecutor of Christians who became the world’s most famous missionary and martyr. James Faulkner stars as Paul, and “Passion of the Christ” actor Jim Caviezel is Gospel-writer Luke.

Bryan Price

Bryan Price

The notion that Martin Luther was a reformer of preaching is one that receives little attention. Yet the changes to preaching brought about by his influence were instrumental not only in helping people grasp the fundamental truths of the faith, but also in transforming the very nature of Christian worship.

As we mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Luther’s contributions to church’s thinking about the content, priority, and simplification of preaching still challenge us as modern-day pastors and worshipers.

Luther was a product of the preaching tradition of the medieval period, which, according to scholar Dennis Ngien, placed a significant burden upon the listener to do good works in hopes of earning favor with God. Grace was contingent upon performance, and Christ was emphasized as a judge who demanded righteous living.

But Reformation theology presented just the opposite view, emphasizing justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Consequently, as the Reformation challenged the theology behind the sermon, it also brought about a shift in the content of the sermon. In Luther’s preaching, good works were no longer a means to acquire grace, but were the result of having received grace.

Along with transforming preaching content, the Reformation also led to a renewed emphasis on its priority. Writer Hughes Old explains that where worship was previously centered around the sacraments, with very little emphasis on the proclamation of Scripture, Luther was adamant that when the church gathered, clear exposition of the Word was to be first in order. He believed since true biblical worship was always in response to the preached Word, worship in the form of the sacraments and singing should come after hearing the Word proclaimed, and not before. In fact, Luther saw the preached Word as sacramental in and of itself. In his view, it was through the preached Word that the worshiper encountered the living Word.

In my own experience as a church planter, during the early years when our choir was young and inexperienced, the running joke was that whoever attended Love Fellowship came just for the preaching, because the choir was certainly not on the level of many of the established churches in the area. We would laugh about it, but there was a part of me that wished we had the luxury of a glorious choir that could help set the atmosphere of worship.

Since then, and having read Luther, I now see how blessed we were. Having to do without the ideal choir allowed us to establish a church where the preaching was and continues to be the central part of our worship. In a day where choirs and worship bands are employed for their ability to draw crowds and keep people on their feet, I think a re-reading of Luther would be a tremendous benefit to the body of Christ who, perhaps in this area, has lost her way.

Lastly, the Reformation led to the simplification of preaching. Though he was undoubtedly one of the greatest theological minds in Christian history, Luther was compelled to make deep spiritual truths accessible to the common layman.

In my survey of contemporary sermons by popular preachers, I am beginning to think those who preach may feel they have not done an adequate job unless they have parsed not less than two Greek words and have offered the opinion of at least ten noted scholars. I am sure their people leave on Sunday proud to have a pastor with such a high level of academic training, but whether they understood what was said is up for debate.

I can recall an instance where I used the word “eschatological” during the sermon. Afterwards, a brother asked me what “eschatological” meant. I told him, it refers to the end times. He then replied, “Why didn’t you just say that?” I think Luther would offer the same critique.

The Reformation forever altered the theological landscape of the Christian faith, but it also changed how that faith was proclaimed, for the glory of God and for the edification of the people of God. For this reason, we celebrate Luther. May we who preach continuously re-evaluate our work in light of his, so that the people to whom we preach will grow in God’s grace and become increasingly confident in the righteousness of Christ as the basis for their justification before God.

Bryan Price pastors Love Fellowship Baptist Church in Romeoville.

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Boy Scouts of America President Robert Gates said last week that the organization should end its ban on gay leaders, a move that some Baptist leaders said was inevitable following the Scouts’ decision two years ago to allow gay-identifying youth to join.

The_Briefing“Back when they changed their thinking regarding the boys themselves, I knew that within a year or so they would reverse their stand with the leadership,” Georgia pastor Ernest Easley, chairman of the SBC Executive Committee in 2013, told Baptist Press. That year, messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution affirming “the right of all families and churches prayerfully to assess their continued relationship with the BSA,” and urging the removal of leadership who sought the policy change “without seeking input from the full range of the Scouting family.”

Gates said May 21 that “Between internal challenges and potential legal conflicts, the BSA finds itself in an unsustainable position, a position that makes us vulnerable to the possibility the courts simply will order us at some point to change our membership policy. We must all understand that this probably will happen sooner rather than later.”

Mentioning councils already operating in defiance of the policy on gay leaders and the Supreme Court’s expected decision on same-sex marriage this year, Gates said, “We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it would be.” The councils’ charters could be revoked, he said, but “such an action would deny the lifelong benefits of scouting to hundreds of thousands of boys and young men today and vastly more in the future. I will not take that path.”

Gates’ remarks reflect “an attitude that has infected many faith-based and religious organizations—and even entire Christian denominations,” blogged Joe Carter of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. “Like Gates, many religious leaders simply lack the courage to stand up to internally destructive dissidents for fear of losing the broader organization.”


LA Governor signs executive order for religious liberty
After legislators in his state struck down a religious freedom bill May 21, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed an executive order designed to protect “people, charities and family-owned businesses with deeply held religious beliefs that marriage is between one man and one woman.”

“We don’t support discrimination in Louisiana and we do support religious liberty,” Jindal said in the order. “These two values can be upheld at the same time.”


Gallup: Support for same-sex marriage at all-time high
60% of Americans support same-sex marriage, Gallup reported last week, up from 55% in 2014. The pollster also found Americans continue to overestimate the number of people who are gay or lesbian.


Theology debate among Arizona churches goes public
A group of churches in Arizona are working across denominational lines against the “progressive Christianity” they see evidenced at a sister church, Bob Smietana reports at ChristianityToday.com. The campaign, which includes a sermon series delivered at eight churches and advertised in the local paper, opposes the theology of The Fountains, a United Methodist church in Fountain Hills, Arizona. Pastor David Felten’s views include support for LBGT rights and rejection of the Virgin Birth, according to CT.


IMB missionary remembered in Malawi
An International Mission Board missionary who died of malaria last week is being remembered as “a mother to all.” Susan Sanson, 67, had been serving in Malawi with her husband, Billy, since 2000. The couple had no children, “but she didn’t feel the gap because we were all [her] children,” posted one student who knew her from her ministry at Chancellor College in Zomba, Malawi.


Illinois pastor details journey through anxiety
In an interview on Crossway.org, Joe Thorn, pastor of Redeemer Fellowship in St. Charles, shares about what he calls “the most difficult season in my personal life,” when anxiety got so bad he considered leaving ministry.


Millennials slightly less tuned in to TV
Barna’s report on what we watch on TV is fun and full of interesting facts, like the number of hours of television Millennials watch compared to older adults. (It’s two hours a day versus five for people 69 and over.) Other findings: Procedural shows scored big among Boomers and Elders, and almost everyone likes “The Big Bang Theory.”

The_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

The Illinois Baptist State Association’s Annual Meeting and Pastors’ Conference is in Springfield this week, beginning today at 1 p.m. Check our blog for coverage throughout the week, or at Facebook.com/IllinoisBaptist and Twitter.com/IllinoisBaptist.


“Parents, love your LGBT or same-sex attracted children and point them to a life of costly discipleship following Jesus,” Christopher Yuan told attendees at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s National Conference last week. The Moody Bible Institute professor’s journey out of a lifestyle of addiction, which included same-sex relationships, was shaped by the love of his Christian parents, The Christian Post reported.


After same-sex marriage became legal in their state Oct. 10, six magistrates in North Carolina stepped down rather than be required to preside over same-sex marriages, the Christian Examiner reported. “For me to do what the state said I had to do, under penalty of law, I would have to go against my convictions, and I was not willing to do that,” said Magistrate Gayle Myrick. “I want to honor what the Word says.”


Theologian R.C. Sproul said “the pervasive influence of humanism” is evident in a new survey produced by LifeWay Research and commissioned by Sproul’s Ligonier Ministries. The online survey of 3,000 Americans asked 43 questions about faith, covering topics from sin and salvation to the Bible and the afterlife.


It was announced last week that the network of 13 Mars Hill churches founded by recently resigned pastor Mark Driscoll will dissolve by the beginning of 2015. According to a Christianity Today report, the churches have three options: become independent, merge with an existing church, or disband.


Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore is one of the speakers set to address a Vatican colloquium on marriage and family later this month. The religious groups that will be represented certainly have their differences, Moore blogged, and the meeting won’t change that reality. “That said, I am willing to go anywhere, when asked, to bear witness to what we as evangelical Protestants believe about marriage and the gospel, especially in times in which marriage is culturally imperiled.”

 

Ronnie_Floyd_blogCOMMENTARY | Meredith Flynn

Ronnie Floyd is the first candidate to toss his hat in the ring for the next Southern Baptist Convention president. Although, in keeping with tradition, Floyd’s nominator actually did
the tossing: Southern Seminary President Al Mohler announced last month he will nominate Floyd for the convention’s top elected post at the annual meeting in Baltimore.

No one else has allowed his name to be brought forth so far. This unusual across-the-aisle nomination, and a potential single-candidate race, has several implications for Southern
Baptists:

1. The Calvinism debate doesn’t have to result in a hostile takeover for either camp. Mohler’s well-known and well-documented theological perspective is different from what is known of Floyd’s. In an open letter announcing the nomination, the seminary president and leading Reformed thinker lauded Floyd as a unifier. He specifically mentioned the theology talk that has dominated conversation over the past several years, pointing to Floyd as a leader who can move the SBC toward a common goal of reaching the world for Christ.

Mohler’s nomination of Floyd is likely the kind of unifying event SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page had in mind when he appointed an advisory committee to study how the two “sides” can work together.

2. The generation gap may be narrowing. Mohler has the ear of many young Baptists, as a seminary president and proponent of Reformed theology, whose adherents tend to skew younger. He is in the unique position of being able to steer 30-somethings toward active participation in Southern Baptist life, without being a 30-something himself. His nomination
of Floyd indicates he’s willing to guide young leaders away from a concentration on divisive issues and toward goals we can work on together.

3. With revival as the goal, Baptists are ready to rally around the Great Commission. Current SBC President Fred Luter made revival and spiritual awakening his platform during his two years of leadership, aiming to stem the decline in baptisms. “Fred Luter has led us so well as he has unified and inspired us,” Mohler wrote in his nomination letter. “Our next president needs to unify and inspire us for our next steps together.”

Floyd chaired the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, which presented a comprehensive strategy in 2010 to push funding to areas of the country (and world) that are less churched and often more urban. More recently, he organized two prayer gatherings to guide pastors and leaders toward personal and corporate revival.

“Pastors believe the Great Commission can be fulfilled in their generation,” Floyd blogged after the prayer meeting in Atlanta. If he’s elected in June, he’ll be charged with communicating that vision to a multigenerational, theologically diverse denomination.

Meredith Flynn is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist.

What the Conservative Resurgence bought for us as a denomination was a second chance to be theological, rather than dead.

Al Mohler, speaking at the B21 panel discussion in Houston