Saturday, August 16, 2008

Church Sign - 8/16/2008

Church: Zion United Methodist Church (1807 Duncan Road; Knoxville, TN 37919)

Sign: "All the world lives in two tents...Content and Discontent."

Commentary: Zion United Methodist Church is a small church near my home and has become my favorite venue for church signs. I go out of my way to drive by it at least once a week to see what clever new food for thought the church has provided. This particular sign reminded me of Philippians 4:11:

"Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am." (Philippians 4:11, NASB)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Bible Trivia - 8/15/2008

Question: According to Genesis, what physical imperfection did Jacob’s first wife Leah have?

Answer: Weak eyes. (Genesis 29:17).

Comments: Genesis gives a rare physical description when it characterizes Laban's two daughters, Leah and Rachel. The description of Rachel is straightforward. She is beautiful. In contrast, her sister Leah is said to have possessed "weak eyes" (Genesis 29:17 - ESV, NASB, NIV, RSV). The translation "weak eyes" has been prevalent since H.F.W. Gesenius (1786-1842) incorporated it into his foundational Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament.

And Leah's eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful of form and face. (Genesis 29:17, NASB)

The word used to describe her eyes is rak in Hebrew, which means "tender". Hence the ASV and KJV render her "tender eyed". Some newer translations like the HCSB and the NKJV depict her eyes as being "delicate".

Since this descriptor is being juxtaposed with Rachel's beauty many take it to mean that she was not as attractive as her sister. In this context, the verse implies that her eyes lacked luster and detracted from her beauty. The CEV follows this interpretation reading "her eyes didn't sparkle".

The Jewish historian Josephus (37-100) puts it bluntly "she was of no comely countenance." (Antiquities, I, xix, 7)

Note: This oil painting is "Dante's Vision of Rachel and Leah" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882). It was painted in 1855.

Word of the Day - 8/15/2008


Exoteric means suitable for or communicated to the general public.

Jewish leaders struggled with whether or not the Book of Ezekiel was exoteric material. The book was deemed so racy that at one time those under the age of 30 were not allowed to read the first chapter!

Note: This painting ("The Vision of Ezekiel") was painted by Raphael in 1518.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 8/15/2008

Thursday was a momentous day as SMA and I saved the planet, gave to the poor, and developed a marketing campaign for Christianity. We did this all in the process of emptying his storage unit.

We began by taking many, many items to a recycling center. Any time we perform this task, I always have the theme to “Captain Planet” running through my head. We were driving SMA’s father’s truck and had the entire truck bed full of recyclables. The irony of saving the planet whilst driving this gas guzzling monstrosity was not lost on us.

We then went to the Disc Exchange for the second time in a week. We left another substantial box of CDs and went to Comics Exchange and then Goodwill, where SMA donated picture frames. His generosity knows no bounds.

After this dramatic and touching act of charity, we sought a place to eat in the area. We first tried Kay’s Ice Cream. The Chapman Highway branch is now the only location in our area. They advertised a burger, fries, and soda for $3.99. On the door, a sign advertised their bologna sandwich. Any restaurant that pushes a bologna sandwich has to be good. Unfortunately we did not find out as they only accepted cash and I naturally had none and SMA inexplicably did not have any either. SMA was hoping to end a 21 year streak of not eating at the restaurant. We plan to go back on a Sunday where I can actually eat the ice cream and have a coke.

Instead, we went to the Chop House, whose lunch menu was surprisingly affordable. While parking, we resisted the urge to use the big truck as a monster truck by crushing the van below us (see picture for angle). We wondered what the driver would think if someone monster trucked their van for no apparent reason. Yes, monster truck is also a verb.

At the restaurant I questioned the waitress who gave me an option of the booth or table as to why anyone would actually prefer the table. Why would anyone ever pick a table when they could have a booth? What possible advantage is there? Is it an insult to my intelligence that people think I need to be asked if I would want the table? I probably analyzed that way too much...

In area news, the Wal-Mart in the area seems to have been reopened. The parking lot was full. The alternative explanation is that a new business exists in the building and simply kept all of the existing Wal-Mart signs up. I am pretty sure the Wal-Mart is back.

We then went to McKay’s and dropped more boxes of books and CDs. We left and got SMA an allergy shot and cleaned out his storage unit. When we returned, the order was still not complete. For the second time in a week our order was #718. I have no idea why I document that, only that the odds were remarkably low of that occurring.

Among the books he discarded was a paperback copy of Black Elk Speaks. It was the end of an era. Somewhere David Linge shed a tear. (I apologize for the inside joke.)

Now, I know you are thinking - what about the new Christian marketing strategy? While listening to talk radio, we heard a blurb about Sh’Ite Muslims. We began thinking about how many people they recruit just so that they can say that they are Sh’Ites. So we developed a new concept - Biyotch Christians. Does the word “gold” mean anything to you?

After a marathon day of do-gooding with SMA, I helped lead a Bible Study at the church. MLM and I have decided to teach the New Testament book-by-book. We did the gospels on this week. It went well. While there, I got a chance to see the finished product of the new gymnasium floor. It looks good. This picture is of the logo that rests in center court.

Afterwards I ate with my family at Calhoun’s. My father had been in Nashville on business so it was great to have him home.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 8/14/2008

Associated Baptist Press
August 14, 2008 · (08-79)

Greg Warner, Executive Editor
Robert Marus, News Editor/Washington Bureau Chief

In this issue
Man shoots Ark. Democratic chairman, menaces Baptist Building
Former Texas church planter files libel suit against BGCT, others
Americans act as Georgian Baptists call for aid, end to conflict
Truett-McConnell College calls Caner as president
C.W. Brister, longtime Southwestern pastoral-care professor, dies at 82
Opinion: View scandal in light of private and public story
Opinion: Developing 'Conservative radicals' in Christian higher education

Man shoots Ark. Democratic chairman, menaces Baptist Building
By Charlie Warren and Robert Marus

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (ABP) -- A man fitting the description of a suspect who shot and killed the chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party Aug. 13 menaced employees at the nearby Arkansas Baptist State Convention headquarters shortly thereafter.

"A middle-aged white man in a white shirt entered our building at 525 West Capitol [Avenue] with a gun," said Dan Jordan, the convention's business manager. "The operator recognized immediately there was a threat. We have a process in place where she called the building manager immediately to respond."

The Baptist Building is located six blocks east of the Democratic Party offices, also on Capitol Avenue, in downtown Little Rock.

Jordan said the man ran up the stairwell to the second floor of the Baptist Building with a pistol in his hand. When Kirby Martin, the convention's building manager, confronted him, the man cocked the gun and pointed it at Martin.

Martin asked what was wrong, and the man said he had lost his job. Martin was able to flee the threat, and the gunman went down another stairway and out the front door of the building.

"He left with a gun stuck in behind his back belt," Jordan said.

The building operator had called Little Rock police, who arrived soon after the man left the building. The gunman had jumped into a blue pickup truck on Arch Street, at the side entrance of the building, and sped away. Jordan said the police were in hot pursuit of him as soon as he drove off.

The man did not fire a shot while in the Baptist Building.

Bill Gwatney was reportedly shot three times in the torso after a man similar to the assailant's description entered the Democratic office, just moments before the Baptist Building incident.

According to KTHV-TV, the local CBS affiliate, Gwatney's assistant ran to a florist's shop next door to the office and asked a clerk there to call 911. "I thought maybe someone had gotten hit by a car," said Sarah Lee, the clerk. "She was just shaking really bad." But the woman said Gwatney had been shot three times by a man who had come into the office asking to see the chairman.

"She said she was waiting on the gentleman. He wanted to see the chairman. She tried to give him Democratic party stuff," Lee told KTHV. "Evidently, he walked on around her and went in the office and started shooting."

Police assailed the suspect on a high-speed chase to the bedroom community of Sheridan, about 30 miles south of downtown Little Rock, where they disabled his blue truck. At some point in the incident gunfire was exchanged, and the suspect sustained injuries that also proved fatal.

Authorities later identified the shooter as Timothy Dale Johnson, 50. He lived in Searcy, Ark., about 50 miles northeast of downtown Little Rock. According to several local news outlets, Johson lived alone and had been fired from his job at a Target store in Conway, Ark., earlier in the day. Conway is located about 25 miles northwest of Little Rock.

Authorities who conducted a search of his home said it did not turn up any writings, books or magazines that would provide insight into his motivation.

Gwatney, 48, was a businessman from a prominent Arkansas family that owned a bank and, later, a group of automobile dealerships. He rose to political power as a state senator from Jacksonville, a Little Rock suburb.

Gwatney was a close friend and political ally of the Clinton family. Bill and Hillary Clinton released statements calling him a "cherished friend and confidante" and saying they were "deeply saddened" by his death.

"The details and stories will be told for days to come through the local and national media, but the greater story involves the emotional and spiritual needs of those directly affected by these events," said Emil Turner, the state convention's executive director. "Their lives will be marked by painful memories and unresolved questions."

Turner urged prayer for the families of Gwatney and the gunman.


-- Charlie Warren is the editor of the Arkansas Baptist News, the journal of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.

Former Texas church planter files libel suit against BGCT, others
By Vicki Brown

EDINBURG, Texas (ABP) -- A former Hispanic church planter implicated in a 2006 Baptist General Convention of Texas scandal has filed a defamation lawsuit against the BGCT and several other Texas Baptist entities and individuals.

Otto Arango, founder of the now-defunct Piper Institute of Church Planting, was one of three pastors accused in 2006 of misappropriating funds the Texas convention provided for new Hispanic church starts.

In addition to the BGCT, the lawsuit names the Baptist Standard, the BGCT's news journal; David Montoya and Calvary Baptist Church in Mineral Wells, Texas, where he is pastor; Palo Pinto Baptist Association, which includes the Mineral Wells church; David Tamez and Dexton Shores and the Rio Grande River Ministry for which they worked; Roberto Rodriguez and the church he serves as pastor, Primera Iglesia Bautista in Harlingen, Texas; and Eloy Hernandez.

Arango's legal action stems from allegations that he and two other church planters, Aaron de la Torre and Armando Vera, misused BGCT church-start funds. The trio claimed 258 churches had been started in Texas between 1999 and 2005 through a training system Arango had devised. The system was based on the house-church approach.

Questions about Arango's reportedly lavish lifestyle and suspicions about the use of some funds prompted BGCT officials to ask an independent counsel, Diane Dillard of Brownsville, to investigate. Her team included Brownsville attorney and former prosecutor Michael Rodriguez, certified public accountant and fraud examiner Carlos Barrera and investigator Gregorio Castillo.

The investigative team reported that the BGCT had given more than $1.3 million for start-up funding for the program and monthly support for the Aranago, de la Torre and Vera. Investigators also noted that 98 percent of the congregations they claimed to have planted via the program either no longer existed or existed only on paper.

The team noted that the Piper Institute had delayed providing information requested of it and that de la Torre admitted to falsifying some documents.

Investigators also accused some BGCT staffers of poor oversight of funding, uneven management, failure to follow the convention's guidelines and failure to investigate when staff became aware of possible problems.

In the lawsuit, Arango alleges that the defendants made "false and malicious statements" about him, and that they have harmed his "reputation, credibility and integrity."

He alleges that the statements were published in the Standard's print edition and on its website "with malice and a lack of good faith."

The statements, he contends, convinced others that he had "stolen funds, had improperly used church funds and had lied about the number of new Hispanic Baptist churches he had started."

Arango's lawsuit, filed in Texas' 139th Judicial District Court in Hidalgo, primarily points to the convention and the Standard. He did not list specific charges against the other defendants.

Defendant Montoya, on his blog and in convention meetings, had spoken against Arango. He had also been openly critical of the way in which the Texas convention and its then-executive director, Charles Wade, had handled the situation.

Arango is suing for lost earnings, including back pay and benefits, retirement benefits, and lost future earning or diminished earning capacity. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for past and future mental and physical pain and anguish.

He also asks for unspecified punitive damages, claiming that the defendants "acted with malice, actual malice and/or a specific intent to injure" him.
Arango is seeking a jury trial in the case.

In a written statement, BGCT Executive Director Randel Everett expressed surprise and disappointment that Arango had turned to litigation. But, he added, "we believe this suit is totally without merit and that the BGCT has no liability in the matter."

"The Standard denies the allegations and expects to be exonerated," noted newsjournal editor Marv Knox, via e-mail.

The Standard is one of three Baptist state newspapers with which Associated Baptist Press has formed a news partnership. In addition, Knox serves on ABP's board of directors.

Montoya said he welcomes the opportunity to face Arango in a legal setting. "I will not settle with the man, period," he said in a telephone interview Aug. 14. "I want to go to court."

He argued that the legal confrontation is the only way the "full story" will become available to all Texas Baptists. "It is the only way we are going to get the complete investigative report out," he said, calling the BGCT report released after the investigation "only the tip of the iceberg."

Montoya added that a court hearing also "would be an opportunity to get E.B. Brooks and Otto under oath .... Then we will see these non-disclosure agreements they made with the BGCT."

Brooks became executive director of the Piper Institute in 2005, after retiring as director of the BGCT's missions, evangelism and ministry area.

Other defendants did not respond to requests for comment by press time.


Americans act as Georgian Baptists call for aid, end to conflict
By Robert Marus

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (ABP) -- Baptists in the United States and elsewhere in the world are responding with aid and prayers for their counterparts in the embattled former Soviet republic of Georgia.

It was unclear by midday Aug. 14 whether Russian troops and irregular bands of Russian sympathizers in the breakaway South Ossetia region of Georgia were obeying a cease-fire agreement that Russia and Georgia had reached the day before. But the conflict, which began a week earlier, has already cost hundreds of lives and displaced thousands of people on both sides.

"We pray that the conflict is peacefully resolved and opposing sides reconciled," said Malkhaz Songulashvili, the archbishop of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia, in an Aug. 9 statement posted on the organization's website. "We mourn about the death of soldiers, children, men, women, elderly from both sides who lose their lives even as I write this statement. We deplore injustice, aggression and the conflict resolution at the cost of civilian lives."

Songulashivli called on Georgia's Western allies to come to the aid of the tiny republic, wedged between Russia's southern border, the Black Sea, Turkey, Armenia and Azerbaijan. "We call on the international community, religious leaders and all the people of goodwill for their support of the long-suffering people of Georgia," he said.

Georgian and Russian leaders each contend that the other side provoked the conflict.

Russian troops responded with an overwhelming show of force to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili's attempt to assert control over South Ossetia. The province is regarded by international law as officially part of Georgia, but many of its residents consider themselves Russians and hold Russian citizenship.

However, reports Aug. 13 and 14 suggested Russian troops were ransacking the city of Gori -- outside of South Ossetia and not far from the Georgian capital, Tblisi. President Bush called on Russian leaders Aug. 13 to obey the terms of the cease-fire and withdraw from undisputed Georgian territory. He also said that U.S. military planes and warships would begin bringing humanitarian aid into Georgia.

Baptist World Aid, the humanitarian arm of the Baptist World Alliance, has provided an initial $10,000 grant to Georgian Baptists for relief work. "We condemn this wanton taking of human life, and mourn the death and suffering of all the peoples of this region," said BWAid Director Paul Montacute, in a press statement. "Baptists of the world pledge their support for all in need with their prayers, expressions of concern and their giving."

European Baptist Federation General Secretary Tony Peck said, "We are very concerned about the whole situation and urge a peaceful resolution of the conflict." He called on all European Baptists to pray for peace in the Caucasus region.

International Ministries of the American Baptist Churches USA has also designated a $7,500 emergency grant for Georgian Baptists to use to relieve the suffering, according to the American Baptist News Service. Reid Trulson, executive director of International Ministries, and Charles Jones, the agency's area director for Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, have both been in contact with Georgian Baptist leaders. Trulson said, "We are deeply concerned about the destruction taking place in Georgia and are praying fervently for the people of Georgia as well as for those who are causing this chaos."

Merab Gprindashvili, another Georgian Baptist leader, noted in an e-mail to Trulson that he had become a refugee himself even as he was trying to help others. Gprindashvili reported: "There are a lot of destroyed houses and many dead and wounded people in the villages. We do not know yet what has happened with our brothers and sisters. There are 35 baptized members living in the hottest spots in the conflict zone, and about 100 members in the neighborhood of Gori. Before the war broke out, we had started raising money [for a massive new "cathedral" church in Tblisi]. Of course, we have changed our mind and this collection will be used for the refugees. There are many things to be done."

Gprindashvili said refugees from several areas are coming to the Beteli Center, a new Georgian Baptist benevolent institution in Tblisi. "We will be more than happy if you can contribute something for the benefit of the refugees," he said.


Truett-McConnell College calls Caner as president
By ABP staff

CLEVELAND, Ga. (ABP) -- A Sunni Muslim-turned-conservative Baptist has been tapped as the eighth president of Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Ga.

College trustees voted Aug. 8 to name Emir Caner to the position. Caner is founding dean of the College at Southwestern, the undergraduate program at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. The appointment follows a year-long search for a successor to Jerry Pounds, who resigned last year.

Truett-McConnell Vice President for Academic Services Mike Simoneaux has served as interim president since Aug. 3, 2007. Caner will begin his duties Aug. 18.

According to a biographical sketch provided by the college, most of his family disowned him when Caner, born and reared a Sunni Muslim, became a Christian in 1982. He earned a bachelor's degree in biblical studies at Criswell College in Dallas, a master of divinity degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., and a doctor of philosophy degree from the University of Texas at Arlington.

Caner has authored or contributed to 16 books, including Unveiling Islam. His brother, Ergun Caner, serves as president and dean of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, Va. The school was founded by the late Baptist pastor, television evangelist and poltical activist Jerry Falwell.

The Georgia Baptist Convention financially supports Truett-McConnell and elects its trustees. At the convention's 2007 annual meeting in November, the college received a portion of $2,412,946 that had been earmarked for Mercer University. The redistribution of funds marked the final action in the split between the convention and Mercer initiated two years earlier, primarily over gay-rights issues.


C.W. Brister, longtime Southwestern pastoral-care professor, dies at 82
By ABP staff

FORT WORTH, Texas (ABP) -- C.W. Brister, Jr., who taught pastoral counseling and theology to generations of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary students, died Aug. 9, reportedly of complications from Lou Gehrig's disease. He was 82.

Brister was a professor of pastoral counseling at the Fort Worth, Texas-based seminary for 45 years. He held the title of distinguished professor emeritus of pastoral ministry, and the Southwestern School of Theology gives an award named for Brister annually to the most outstanding student in pastoral ministry.

"He had such a capacity for caring," Larry Baker, a former student of Brister's, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "He took a genuine interest in the people around him. He had a reserved personality, but he took initiative in relating to people."

Commodore Webster Brister, Jr., was born in 1926 in Pineville, La. He earned his bachelor's degree from Louisiana College and went on to earn his master's degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He received his doctorate from Southwestern, and did additional study at several prominent theological schools, including Princeton Theological Seminary and Oxford University.

Before going to Southwestern, he served as pastor of churches in Louisiana and Texas. He also served as interim pastor at several churches in Texas and Oklahoma.

Brister's son, Mark, retired last year from the presidency of Oklahoma Baptist University.

Besides his son, daughter-in-law and two grandsons, he is survived by his wife, Gloria, and his sister, Dolores Bausum of Beloit, Wis.

Baker -- pastor of the First Baptist Church of Sun City West in Sun City, Ariz. -- was scheduled to officiate at Brister's funeral, set for Aug. 15 at Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth.


Opinion: View scandal in light of private and public story
By Beth Newman

(ABP) -- The recent spectacle of John Edwards' confession of adultery managed to be at once pathetic and instructive.

While bearing in mind Lily Tomlin's observation that no matter how cynical one becomes, it's impossible to keep up, I can't imagine anyone but the most hardened political hack taking pleasure in these events. I am embarrassed for the man and pity his family. And without defending him, I will observe that he is far from the first political figure to commit this very unoriginal sin.

I call it instructive because it illustrates the difficulty, perhaps the impossibility, of ethical discourse, at least on a national scale.

On a very basic level, the scandal involves our confusion over the public and private spheres. Like all contemporary politicians, Edwards sought to convince us not merely that he was the most qualified to administer the complex machine comprising one third of our federal government. He sought to convince us that we mattered to him as persons. After all, aren't we all members of something called the American family? While an inkling of this idea has always been present, this age of instantaneous communication has intensified it tremendously. What the Edwards' family has discovered is that there is no longer a "private" sphere to retreat back into.

In a world in which pollsters routinely ask potential voters whether they'd rather have a drink with Sen. Obama or Sen. McCain, there seems no coherent reason for withholding any detail, no matter how sordid.

The question asked has been asked whether Mr. Edwards has any future public life at all, political or otherwise. I have no prescription for his particular future, but the difficulty in speaking of one reflects the quandary of how or to what extent we can even talk about such things.

Both sides of the political arena speak of a moral vision for America. It is fascinating that both presidential candidates have agreed, as of this column's writing, to address Rick Warren's questions at Saddleback Church. I presume they will speak there rather than at Wharton Business School to make a point.

In the past, roughly speaking, when the left spoke of a moral vision, it used words such as "justice" or "equality" while the right spoke of "character." The question, it would seem, is whether Edwards' failure of character will destroy his commendable desire to end poverty.

The difficulty is that there does not exist a national story that will allow us to negotiate these difficulties.

The church has such a story. We can, for example, cite chapter and verse to demonstrate that neither our money nor our sexuality can ever be purely private matters. Furthermore, our story contains a procedure for reconciling a sinning brother or sister. Our national story has no such resources, and we are thrown back on meaningless generalities.

Living the Christian story, however, means allowing ourselves to be claimed by the God who created a particular people, Israel, to be a light for all nations. Like Israel, the church, too, is not simply a set of personal beliefs, but a people called to worship and honor God in all of life.

This particular story, in contrast to the story of any nation, gives us resources to name and confess sin, to practice the peace of Christ in the midst of violence, and to see the face of Christ in the poor and suffering.

Most of all, this particular story trains us see that true justice requires the faithful worship of God: indeed that such worship is itself justice. As Augustine claimed, there can be no justice where God is not truly worshipped.

If all politics, as Tip O'Neill has claimed, is local, then all ethics is local as well. This means that through the Body of Christ in its particular local manifestations we learn how to embody the love and justice of God. This is neither a private matter nor a general truth, but a matter of becoming, through divine grace, a part of God's particular and peculiar people on behalf of the world.


-- Beth Newman is professor of theology and ethics at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond.

Opinion: Developing 'Conservative radicals' in Christian higher education

By David Gushee

(ABP) -- In his recent book, The Great Awakening, Jim Wallis suggests that it is time to move beyond the conservative vs. liberal paradigm to a framework he calls conservative radicalism. This is true in American culture, in evangelicalism and certainly in Baptist life. As the new school year dawns, I find myself increasingly clear that this is the vision I want to try to impart to seminary students and undergraduates here at Mercer. Perhaps others in Christian higher education will find it relevant.

Wallis defines this new term in this way: "To be conservative means to be rooted -- in a tradition, in faith, in core values. To be radical also means to be rooted (radical comes from the Latin radix, meaning "root"), which gives one a consistent perspective on the world. So these two -- radical and conservative -- may not be contradictory but in fact deeply complementary."

In other words, conservative radicals are tethered so tightly to Christ that they are consistently capable of a radical obedience to him.

Let's unpack that a bit further.

Students need to be conservative in the sense that they should conserve a central focus on Jesus Christ, the Savior and Lord of the world and the head of the church. They should conserve a lived-out belief in the centrality, truthfulness and authority of the Bible. They should, if possible, learn to read the Bible in its original languages with the highest degree of skill and hermeneutical ability that they can muster and become adept in its practical application.

Students need to be committed to conserving the church and its sacred mission. Many of our churches are floundering in Baptist life, and in many colleges and seminaries a calling to serve the church is seen as second-class in comparison with other opportunities. We need to graduate from our schools generations of students who will instead love the church and consider local-church service a very high calling.

Students must be taught to be committed to conserving Christian tradition. This does not mean a slavish (or knavish) worship of Luther or Calvin, Augustine or Aquinas. But it does mean that they cherish the gathered cloud of witnesses who have gone before us in Christian history, and that they learn to think with the saints rather than against them or without them. Certainly there will be times for dissent from the tradition, but even dissent requires an informed, respectful familiarity.

Students need to conserve the personal piety and high moral code that so many imbibed in their families and local churches. After my conversion as a 16-year-old, youth leaders taught the practices of Christian spiritual formation and personal morality with sufficient clarity that our group was rapidly led to anchor each day in prayer and to clean up our personal lifestyles. May the freedom students enjoy in most of our colleges and seminaries prove to be an occasion for the personal choice to continue to live in a way that pleases God and bears witness to a life of high moral purpose.

I also want my students to be radicals. As Jim Wallis puts it, "what we need most are people rooted in 'conservative' values and commitments but willing to be 'radical' enough to apply those very values in the real world."

Students should be radicals when it comes to loyalty to Christ as Lord. This requires the subjugation of all other loyalties, such as loyalty to a job, a lifestyle, a denomination, or a nation. Only a radical is willing to lose their job at a church because they are, for example, unwilling to permit class snobbery or xenophobia to prevail in local church life.

Students need to be radicals when it comes to loving every person whom God loves. Only a radical is willing to welcome the AIDS patient, the ex-con, the illegal immigrant, the doubter -- or whoever else God brings our way in the local church.

Students should be radicals when it comes to defending the human rights of strangers. Only a radical speaks up for blacks victimized in the criminal-justice system, or for suspected terrorists who have been tortured, or for those evicted from their homes because of predatory lending practices.

Students need to be radicals when it comes to innovating how to do church in a postmodern age. Driven by a "conservative" evangelistic commitment and love for the church, they must be "radical" in finding ways to advance these commitments in an age in which traditional ways of doing church are often ineffective.

Students should be radicals when it comes to personally living out the teachings of Jesus. May all of us nurture students who will care for God's creation, who will forgive their enemies and those who hurt them, who will resist violence, who will pray daily for the reign of God, who will tell the truth even when it might cost them, and who will keep their lifetime marriage commitments if they make them.
Students need to be radicals in racial reconciliation and justice efforts. May they create interracial community now and interracial churches in years to come. May they read, think, and dialogue across racial lines. I dream of my black students quoting Clarence Jordan and my white students quoting Howard Thurman.

On my office wall at McAfee there is a display of photographs of people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, William Wilberforce, Dorothy Day, Mahatma Gandhi, and Mother Teresa. All of the women and men pictured there were conservative radicals in the sense outlined. May our Baptist colleges and schools nurture the kind of young people who will follow their path.


-- David Gushee is distinguished university professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University.

Prayer Blog - 8/14/2008

JKM’s mother (and JEM’s) grandmother fell during the night at an assisted living center. This morning it was discovered that there was internal bleeding in her brain. The family was called in with the premise that the end was near. She has been suffering with leukemia like symptoms for some time and the family seemed as okay as possible with the situation when MLM visited the hospital. Please keep the Myers family in your prayers.

Bible Trivia - 8/14/2008

Question: What two books in the Bible say "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (wisdom)?

Answer: Psalms and Proverbs. (Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 1:7)

Comments: Two of the Old Testament wisdom books inform that the fear of God is the beginning of widsom. (Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 1:7) The Hebrew yir'ah is rendered "fear" in most major translations. (ASV, ESV, KJV, NASB, NIV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV, RSV). The Amplified Bible reads "reverent and worshipful fear".

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
Fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7, NASB)

The passage challenges the reader to make God a priority which in turn places everything else in its proper persepctive. In his paraphrase, The Message, Eugene H. Peterson (b. 1932) presents this verse as follows:

Start with God—the first step in learning is bowing down to God;
only fools thumb their noses at such wisdom and learning. (Proverbs 1:7, The Message)

Word of the Day - 8/14/2008


Insipience is a lack of wisdom; foolishness.

Paul wrote to the Corinthians that though the cross represented insipience to some, to he and his compatriots it was the power of God. (I Corinthians 1:18)

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (I Corinthians 1:18, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 8/14/2008

Wednesday was a light day socially and a very heavy day otherwise. JTH and I ate lunch at Soccer Taco where the food was as good as usual and the music was especially cheesy. Though I rarely give professional updates (as I find them dull), I will do so in this post:

I have been in discussions all week with Ralph Brockett (RGB), head of the adult education department that I have applied to. For reasons unknown to me, my application has not been completely processed and I will be unable to enter the program until January 2009. I have been invited to the program’s orientation on Monday (August 18th) and to take two courses in the fall, EP 520 and 522. These are two "core" courses that would give me the opportunity to work with RGB and Mary Zeigler (MHZ), the duo that would be supervising my studies. I would receive credit for the courses and it would be as though I started in the fall though I cannot be technically accepted until January. While on the surface this sounds like wonderful news, at the rate I have been going I am cautiously optimistic. Only I would start a program and then find out I actually never got in. Keep this situation in your prayers.

My training at the Hope Resource Center persists at a snail’s pace but is going well. I have two sessions of shadowing MLM before going solo. The center I will be working at will now be managed by LEB as the former manager LPQ is leaving to start a new program in Lenoir City. I am very happy for all involved.

The Church at Sterchi Hills continued to send me paperwork as they seek to fulfill their pastorate. Their process makes the Hope Resource Center’s look expedient.

Perhaps the most immediate news from Wednesday was that I finally received a prescription for azithromycin, an antibiotic for my sinus infection. If you could not tell, my schedule has been greatly limited the past week. It has not completely alleviated my sinus infection but has greatly reduced the pain. In fact, I can now look down without fear that my face will fall off.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bible Trivia - 8/13/2008

Question: What was Sarah’s name before God changed it?

Answer: Sarai. (Genesis 17:15)

Comments: The matriarch Sarah first appears in the Biblical text as Sarai (Genesis 11:29) and is so known until God personally changes her name. The occasion of the name change was the promise of a son to the previously barren woman. The Hebrew word שָׂרָה (sarah) indicates a woman of high rank, and is often translated as "princess" or "high holy one".

Then God said to Abraham, "As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name." (Genesis 17:15, NASB)

Word of the Day - 8/13/2008


To stridulate is to produce a shrill, grating sound, as a cricket does, by rubbing together certain parts of the body; shrill.

In Isaiah, the Lord promises to repay the Assyrians for their arrogance. He uses the illustration of removing a nest, leaving no birds to stridulate their protest of the theft. (Isaiah 10:14)

And my hand reached to the riches of the peoples like a nest,
And as one gathers abandoned eggs, I gathered all the earth;
And there was not one that flapped its wing or opened its beak or chirped." (Isaiah 10:14, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 8/13/2008

On Tuesday, I helped SMA clear out his storage unit. After the day’s events, he estimated one or two more trips before it was empty. My part of the process entailed accompanying him to the Disc Exchange and then to McKay’s. You might say I am an expert on such things. I think he needed moral support. Despite trading his mother’s VHS copy of Richard Simmons’ “Sweatin’ to the Oldies”, SMA was far more embarrassed to be seen in the possession of a Dave Matthews Band (DMB) CD. Amazingly, neither store accepted the DMB product.

I made a shocking discovery at the Disc Exchange, and not just that they have rearranged their DVD section. They are selling Hannah Montana action figures. Yes, we cannot even visit Knoxville’s artsy record store without being inundated by Hannah.

After the Disc Exchange took minutes to process our vast order, we took their rejects to McKay’s and waited for quite some time while they too processed crates of CDs. This was our view from a couch awaiting on order #718. We debated the financial waste of two flat screens and the prospects of SMA running for register of deeds under the platform of being the worst candidate ever, discarding all document on camera and setting local real estate back hundreds of years. You know we have been in the store a long time when I have exhausted my shopping capacity. In my defense, I am still struggling with the sinus infection.

In other SMA news, he plans to apply for an opening at the National organization to Protect Children. In this way, he could use his law degree to help children. He is excited by the prospects but assumes that because it is something he is excited by, his chances of obtaining the position are slim. I figure as long as he approaches the position with a positive attitude he will be okay. Keep this opportunity in your prayers.

Finally, Tuesday was ERM’s 26th birthday. Happy birthday, Erin! We miss you in Tennessee.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 8/12/2008

Associated Baptist Press
August 12, 2008 · (08-78)

Greg Warner, Executive Editor
Robert Marus, News Editor/Washington Bureau Chief

In this issue
Amid Criswell College turmoil, accrediting probation lifted
Faith leaders ask DNC, RNC to showcase anti-poverty plans
American Baptist leaders organize first-ever Burmese Baptist meeting
Opinion: Gay Christians can't wait any longer
Opinion: No true compassion apart from revelation

Amid Criswell College turmoil, accrediting probation lifted
By ABP staff

DALLAS (ABP) -- A bright spot has appeared amidst leadership turmoil at Dallas-based Criswell College: the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools has removed the school from its probation list.

The accrediting agency lifted the year-long probation at its June session, according to its website (

The agency placed Criswell on probation in June 2007 because the school had failed to demonstrate compliance with standards governing financial stability and "appropriate control" of financial resources.

Criswell officials believe an auditing error on the association's part caused what they described as an "unnecessary" probation.

"In the audit report, they picked up a wrong line as a deficit. They listed a $3 million positive as a $3 million negative. That made it a $6 million error," Criswell Provost Lamar Cooper explained Aug. 11.

Because officials of the accrediting agency act only once each year, Criswell administrators could contest the issue shortly after being placed on probation -- but not get the action revoked until this year.

Cooper said the college has encouraged the association to provide an option between annual meetings for member schools to seek redress for rulings they consider unfair.

The provost emphasized that Criswell never lost its accreditation.

The news comes at a time of significant turmoil for the school, which was founded by First Baptist Church of Dallas and has long been a bastion of the conservative movement in Southern Baptist and Texas Baptist life.

The school's former president, Jerry Johnson, resigned abruptly Aug. 5. The resignation came shortly after Johnson and at least one Criswell trustee publicly accused First Baptist and its pastor, Robert Jeffress, of planning to sell the institution's assets. The proceeds, they contended, would go to fund a massive new sanctuary that the historic church has proposed.

First Baptist, under the guidance of its legendary then-pastor, W.A. Criswell, established Criswell College in 1971. The church must approve appointment of the college's trustees, over half of whom must be First Baptist members, and the church's pastor serves as the school's chancellor. Criswell College is affiliated with the conservative Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

"For six months, the chancellor has been trying to cannibalize Criswell College to fund his building program at the church, which will cost $170 to $240 million," Johnson told the Dallas Morning News a week prior to his resignation.

The president also accused Jeffress of planning to stack the board with trustees who would agree to sell its campus and radio station, KCBI. The FM station and its two satellite stations broadcast over large portions of Texas and Oklahoma.

Criswell trustee Steve Washburn, pastor of First Baptist Church of Pflugerville, Texas, also accused the Dallas church of plotting to sell the school's assets, in a letter released in late July.

According to news reports, Johnson and some trustees, such as Washburn, have pointed out that the college is meeting financial and enrollment challenges. But Jeffress has advocated for a study to determine whether a need for the institution still exists.


Faith leaders ask DNC, RNC to showcase anti-poverty plans
ABP staff

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- Prominent faith leaders are calling on the United States' two major political parties to use their upcoming presidential-nominating conventions as platforms for showcasing how they would deal with poverty.

In a recent letter to presumptive Republican nominee John McCain and likely Democratic contender Barack Obama, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim and Protestant leaders requested that both use prime-time speaking slots at the conventions to outline their respective plans for combating poverty.

"As people of faith, we believe that it is immoral to ignore our nation's most vulnerable populations," the leaders wrote.

They pointed out that more than 37 million Americans, including almost 13 million children, currently live below the federally defined poverty level. Millions more, they noted, are one crisis away from joining the ranks of the desperately poor.

"As Americans, we believe enduring poverty undermines our country's economic strength and prosperity," the leaders said, pointing out that alleviating poverty requires national effort.

Faith leaders pledged to work together in the lead-up to the general election to "build the political and public will to combat poverty in the United States."

The letter's signers included David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World; Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches; Richard Cizik, vice president for government affairs at the National Association of Evangelicals; Jim Wallis, Sojourners chief executive officer; Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA; Steve Gutow, Jewish Council for Public Affairs executive director; David Saperstein, director and counsel of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; Sayyid Syeed, Islamic Society of America secretary general; and Eboo Patel, executive director of Interfaith Youth Core.


American Baptist leaders organize first-ever Burmese Baptist meeting
By ABP staff

VALLEY FORGE, Pa. (ABP) -- In October, the American Baptist Churches USA will convene the first-ever national conference for Burmese Baptist leaders serving in the United States.

More than 30 pastors and lay leaders are expected to attend the Oct. 21-22 event, to be held at Chin Baptist Church in Dallas. American Baptist Personnel Services and ABC Asian Ministries -- two divisions within ABC's home-missions agency, ABC National Ministries -- will sponsor the conference.

The event will help newly resettled pastors and lay leaders in local churches become familiar with American Baptist processes for attaining professional standing, ordination, and theological and continuing education.

Burma -- also known as Myanmar, the name given to it by the military junta that has ruled the Southeast Asian nation since 1962 -- was one of the first nations that Baptist missionaries targeted in the early 19th century. It has long been home to significant numbers of Baptists and other Christians, particularly from its many ethnic minority groups.

However, worldwide human-rights organizations and the U.S. State Department consider the Myanmar regime one of the world's worst violators of religious freedom and other human rights. Many Burmese Christian refugees have escaped to camps in neighboring countries as a result of the oppression. In recent years, many of those have immigrated to the United States.

The Burmese Baptist conference will provide an opportunity for networking and fellowship for Baptists from the Karen, Chin, Kachin and other Burmese minority groups. Many of them and their congregations have come to America from refugee camps in Thailand and Malaysia.

Following the Burmese event, the American Baptist Asian Pastors Conference and Asian Caucus Convocation will convene at Chin Baptist Church Oct. 22-24.


Among first missionaries in Burma, Baptists now help refugees in U.S. (10/4/2007)
Opinion: Gay Christians
can't wait any longer
By Peggy Campolo

Editor's note: The recent series of articles by David Gushee on homosexuality generated an unusual amount of response. ABP solicited these two representative responses -- from Peggy Campolo, an advocate for gay Christians, and George Guthrie, a professor at Union University.

(ABP) -- Thanks to Dr. David Gushee for his engaging article on Christian ethics as they relate to gay and lesbian Christians. I am a committed Baptist who has worked within the church of Jesus Christ for more than 20 years to foster the understanding and acceptance of my gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender sisters and brothers - I'll just say "gay" for shorthand. I can personally testify to the anguish gay people feel when rejected by church and family because of who they are. I have also witnessed the joy of the many gay people I know who have found church homes where they are loved and accepted.

I agree with Dr. Gushee that the majority of the church is devoid of the kinds of discussions that would enable its members to gain a sound, biblically based theology of sexuality and marriage. Sadly, that has left its people to be manipulated by political voices who influence public opinion on sexual issues to win elections.

Dr. Gushee is right on the mark when he states that the problems of gay Christians cannot be properly addressed without the church clearly defining the meaning of sex and marriage, and I think he would agree with me that those who reduce marriage to "plumbing and baby-making" are the ones who demean marriage. The church should be grateful to those gay Christians who are raising the right questions.

The current problems of straight people, as well as those facing God's gay children, cannot be solved until the church of Jesus Christ clearly defines for its people the meaning of celibacy, sex, marriage and what constitutes a family. However, as Dr. Gushee clearly states, the large majority of the church today is afraid to talk about divorce or discuss any of these matters, even as they relate to heterosexuals.

Dr. Gushee calls for "a careful, unhurried process of Christian discernment" on this subject. I join him in longing for that. But God's gay children cannot face exclusion any longer. They are raising the very questions that need to be addressed by all of us, straight and gay. The anguish and despair I have seen in the Christian gay community does not allow time for such a scholarly approach to be our first move. We who are called to love our neighbors as ourselves must get to know and listen to them NOW.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote a letter titled "Why We Can't Wait" from a jail in Birmingham, Ala. He made his point about racial equality by talking about his own four small children, and all of the other children of color who were growing up feeling like second-class citizens. Those children of God, those who do not happen to be straight, are the reason that I, and so many others who love Jesus and believe in the Bible's message of grace, demand justice for them NOW.

A pastor friend of mine, who has conducted too many funerals for gay children of God who ended their lives because they could no longer live the lie that their churches and families demanded of them, tells of a suicide note left by a young Christian. He dearly loved the godly parents who had accepted him but could not bear the anguish felt when their church excluded them along with him. His final letter to his mother and father read simply, "I didn't know how else to fix it."

Dr. Gushee's proposal for "a careful, unhurried process of Christian discernment" is a necessary wake-up call for the church. However, we must also find a way to end the exclusion and anguish of God's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children NOW.


Peggy Campolo, a follower of Jesus Christ, speaks at churches, colleges and conferences, advocating for civil rights and full inclusion in the church for her lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender sisters and brothers. A graduate of Eastern University, Peggy Campolo is a member of Central Baptist Church, Wayne, Pa., and serves on the advisory council of the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists. She is the wife of Baptist author and Eastern University professor Tony Campolo.

Opinion: No true compassion
apart from revelation

By George Guthrie

Editor's note: The recent series of articles by David Gushee on homosexuality generated an unusual amount of response. ABP solicited these two representative responses -- from Peggy Campolo, an advocate for gay Christians, and George Guthrie, a professor at Union University.

(ABP) -- There exists a fundamentalism on the theological left, as well as the more broadly published fundamentalism on the theological right. Both fundamentalisms communicate, "You must agree with my position and my applications or I will vilify you." These strident cousins eschew dialogue as compromise and often take an approach that shouts, "If I can label you, I have dealt with you; and if I can label the information you present (e.g., "this is just garbage"), I have dealt with your research and ideas."

In his ABP article, "Discernment, the church and homosexuality," David Gushee invites us to move beyond the shrill extremes and join him around the table of conversation. He wants us to consider a renewed emphasis on hermeneutics and theology as we reflect together on the important issue of homosexual couples and the church. I am thankful for the opportunity to join the conversation, for I could not agree more that we must raise the level of theological and hermeneutical reflection in Baptist life.

Therefore, let me begin by making sure I have heard those sitting across the table from me correctly. Those who wish to rewrite the church's traditional teaching on the practice of homosexuality seem to build their arguments on at least three primary foundation stones: 1) Homosexuality is constitutional, intrinsic to who the homosexual is as a person and, therefore, compassion demands that we affirm the homosexual in his or her sexuality; 2) Scripture does not address a "covenanted monogamy" form of homosexuality and, therefore, does not condemn such homosexual relationships; and 3) homosexual couples who practice "covenanted monogamy" should be affirmed in their relationship and welcomed as members in good standing in the church.

Of course, there are other arguments offered, but let's begin here and probe the hermeneutical underpinnings of these points.

First, constitutionality. Let's begin by agreeing that many homosexuals experience their sexual desires for the same sex as "inherent" to who they are. Some certainly would say "I have always felt this way." Yet, the science on the biological constitutionality of homosexuality (i.e. the "nature vs. nurture" question) is still in process. I am aware, of course, of the pertinent studies, such as the one by Dr. Simon LeVay, but prominent scientists disagree on how the data should be read (Indeed, LeVay himself is modest concerning the significance of his findings).

Yet, even if biology someday was shown clearly to be a primary factor in homosexuality, I want to suggest that constitutionality cannot serve as an appropriate basis for making a hermeneutical move to accepting homosexual practice. Why? Because there are other aspects of our existence that we experience "constitutionally" that nevertheless cannot be used as a basis to affirm behavior in line with that constitution. For instance, according to Scripture, we as human beings are sinners (e.g. Romans 7:18-21). Yet, of course, that cannot be used as a basis for affirming sin. In my experience of ministry, I have had womanizing men state, "This is just the way I am." Indeed, do those of us who are heterosexuals not at times experience the sexual tug, that jibbering monkey in our loins, which attempts to draw us to sexual expression outside of our marriages? I experience the sex drive as inherent to who I am; it is constitutional. Yet, it cannot be used to excuse acting on that impulse.

I am also concerned that there exists a short step from affirming homosexuality on the basis of one's constitution, to affirming other forms of sexual expression, such as pedophilia, on the same basis. Some of our homosexual friends would abhor the idea, but we are talking about constitutionality as a basis for making ethical decisions, and there are those in the global, heterosexual and homosexual communities who already put pedophilia forward on the basis of it being "natural." My point is not that all homosexuals are pedophiles, but that constitutionality forms a terribly poor basis for promoting an ethical stance on homosexuality.

Second, what of the argument on the grounds of covenanted monogamy? I know of no hard data on the practices of homosexual couples who claim to be Christians (and am open to being informed on the matter). It seems clear (in works such as The Male Couple), however, that homosexual men in general experience an astronomically high rate of infidelity compared to heterosexuals, with strikingly low rates of monogamy or even semi-monogamy.

I am sure there are homosexual couples that are faithful to one another, but, again, even if covenant monogamy was widely practiced among homosexuals, is a commitment to monogamy an appropriate basis for affirming a homosexual relationship? If so, why would it not be appropriate to use the same principle of "covenant monogamy" to affirm incest, for instance? Most ancient references to incest, whether Greco-Roman or Egyptian, focus on relationships between consenting adults, whether brother and sister or parent and grown child. Again, my point is not that homosexuality leads to incest, but that a commitment to "covenant monogamy" makes a poor basis for a hermeneutical move to affirm homosexual practice.

This then brings us to the question of Scripture and its interpretation. If our discussion is to be considered "Christian," it must come down to a consideration of what God has revealed as true in his Word. There is no true compassion apart from revelation. Thus, we need to embrace a rigorous "Berean" hermeneutic that is coherent in terms of the broad scope of biblical theology (e.g. God's mercy, God's wrath, the human condition, human sexuality, redemption) and compassionate in its application of truth to real-life contexts of homosexuals in the modern world.

That said, it seems to me the attempts to affirm homosexual relationships with Bible in hand fall primarily into two categories. Arguments in the first go something like this: "The Scripture does not condemn monogamous, covenanted, homosexual relationships but rather other forms of homosexuality," and "Jesus never condemned homosexuality but welcomed the outcast." Both are arguments from silence. Monogamous, covenanted, homosexual relationships are not condemned in Scripture, because they were unknown (indeed, unthinkable) in Jewish or Christian contexts of the ancient world. It is true that in the Gospels Jesus doesn't say anything about homosexuality. (Remember, though, that he does strongly affirm marriage as a creation ordinance involving a man and woman -- Matthew 19:4-6). But neither does Jesus address directly other forms of sexuality, such as incest, beastiality, pedophilia or sadomasochism. Arguments from silence weave a terribly thin hermeneutical thread from which to hang one's theological behemoth.

The other approach to hermeneutics involves a reframing of what the Scripture does say about homosexuality. For instance, it is suggested, that Genesis 19 really concerns the lack of hospitality on the part of the men of Sodom. Or Romans 1:24-27 is about idolatry and participating in homosexual orgies, not the practice of responsible homosexual relationships. Yet, I would humbly suggest, the convergence of word meanings, background information, literary context and other factors stand against these interpretations. For instance, in Romans 1:26-27, Paul lays great stress on the "abandoning" of or "exchanging" natural sexuality (between a man and a woman) for sex with a person of one's own gender. This is the central point in those verses. The creation ordinance of God has been abandoned.

As for context, two verses later in Romans 1:29, the apostle speaks of greed, murder, strife, deceit, gossip and disobedience to parents, among other vices. That catalogue plays a role in communicating the pervasive sinfulness of humanity, not merely the sinfulness of specifically idolatrous or orgiastic contexts. Homosexual practice, according to Romans 1, is part of a larger problem of human sinfulness, the rejection of God's intentions for the world.

I am sure to be accused of lacking compassion for those embracing a homosexual lifestyle, and that grieves me. Yet, is it a rightly applied compassion that affirms a lifestyle that too often compromises the physical and emotional well being of fellow human beings? The data seems to indicate that homosexual practice for both couples and individuals leads to a greatly reduced life expectancy (as much as three decades, and not just due to AIDS). Among homosexual men, for instance, there exists a much higher risk of rectal cancer and rectal trauma (which causes a much higher risk of a wide range of diseases). Is it compassionate to affirm such a lifestyle?

In conclusion, I agree that churches too often have neglected important ministry to those struggling with homosexuality. Yet, what is needed is not to rethink the church's stance on homosexuality, as Dr. Gushee suggests, but to rethink our response to homosexuals themselves. For some this will mean dropping a harsh posture, getting the facts on the challenges faced by those in the homosexual community, and opening our hearts of compassion. For others it will mean a renewed commitment to the whole counsel of God on human sexuality.


George Guthrie is the Benjamin W. Perry Professor of Bible at Union University

Bible Trivia - 8/12/2008

Question: Who wrote on the wall for King Belshazzar?

Answer: God. (Daniel 5:24)

Comments: At a great feast funded by King Belshazzar, a disembodied hand emerged and began writing on the palace wall: מנא ,מנא, תקל, ופרסין (Mene, Mene, Tekel u-Pharsin). After his wise men failed to interpret the message, Daniel was summoned and he informed the king that the hand was from God and that the king's death was imminent.

"Then the hand was sent from Him and this inscription was written out." (Daniel 5:24, NASB)

It is from this story that the idiom "handwriting on the wall" as an expression suggesting impending doom developed.

Note: This painting is "Belshazzar's Feast" by Rembrandt (1606-1669).

Word of the Day - 8/12/2008


Mendacious means telling lies, especially habitually; dishonest; lying; untruthful.

Jesus preached that the devil was mendacious by nature. (John 8:44)

“You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 8/12/2008

On Monday, I caught up with my friends that I had not seen during my convalescence.

I ate lunch with SMA and his mom, BCA, at Calhoun’s. I had not eaten there on a Monday in some time as the place is always packed on “Burger Monday.” It was a good experience. BCA picked up the tab and, as SMA remarked, our waiter was quite intense but made up it for by greatly resembling Harry Potter. It’s a shame the server did not resemble Hermione.

I had not seen SMA in many moons as he had spent much of the previous week on holiday at Disney World. He had a good trip though we did not speak of it much. Instead, we spent much of our time discussing the Olympics. The Decemberists’ “The Crane Wife” is actually being featured prominently in Olympic commercials. As always, I highly encourage you to sample some of their music.

In other SMA news, he convinced me to join his Fantasy Football League at Yahoo Sports. For once, he is beating the rush and founding his own league instead of being stuck with the leftovers in someone else’s. It should make the NFL season more interesting. I have never played fantasy football but project to fair as poorly as I do in NCAA Tournament brackets. In deference to this, I have named my team, Busey’s Bedlamites. Our live draft is presently slated for Sunday, August 31st, at 10 pm (though it is subject to change). If you would like entry into the league, let me know, as there are some spots remaining.

On Monday night, the MoFoS crew met at Applebees. As you may have noticed by the link, MoFoS now has its own MySpace page. It was good to see my friends though I was still very weakened by my recent illness and my depleted energy level at the later hour was apparent. In attendance were CTH, JTH, and JBT. SCB’s brother attended though she did not. After prolonging her Virginia vacation several times, she finally returned to Knoxville on Sunday night.

Unfortunately, JBT’s elbow has not healed well. As per the sehedule, he visited a doctor three weeks after he sustained an injury playing basketball. It was discovered that he still has a small bone fragment lodged in his elbow. He has three options and will likely need an elbow replacement. The elbow alone will cost $5000. Doctors fear that inserting a screw, another option, will almost certainly break the bone. Keep JBT in your prayers.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Prayer Blog - 8/11/2008

JBT’s elbow has not healed well. As per the sehedule, he visited a doctor three weeks after he sustained an injury playing basketball. It was discovered that he still has a small bone fragment lodged in his elbow. He has three options and will likely need an elbow replacement. The elbow alone will cost $5000. Doctors fear that inserting a screw, another option, will almost certainly break the bone. Keep JBT in your prayers.

Bible Trivia - 8/11/2008

Question: To what town was the boat headed from which Jonah was thrown?

Answer: Tarshish. (Jonah 1:2-3)

Comments: After God told Jonah to go to Nineveh, he proceeded to Joppa and boarded a boat destined for Tarshish. Tarshish was the opposite direction from where God had told him to go. Nineveh is to the east, Tarshish to the west. Nineveh could be reached by land, Tarshish only by sea.

But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. (Jonah 1:3, NASB)

It was on this trip that he was thrown and swallowed by the notorious "great fish".

Word of the Day - 8/11/2008


To larrup is to beat or thrash.

A Jewish council ordered the apostles larruped in hopes of silencing their preaching about Jesus. The ploy did not succeed as the apostles considered it an honor to suffer for Jesus' name. (Acts 5:40-41)

They took his advice; and after calling the apostles in, they flogged them and ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and then released them. (Acts 5:40, NASB)

:This image of the apostles being larruped was published by Johann Christoph Weigel in 1695.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 8/11/2008

Over the weekend, I ingested my body weight in snot. You probably did not want to know that, huh?

I spent the better part of Friday Saturday sick in bed. I am pretty sure I caught whatever illness KJW was struggling through earlier in the week. Unfortunately, my immune system is not as new as hers. Signs I am sick: The thermostat remained set at 70. I did not drive. I attempted to cook a meal. Yeah, it was bad.

On Sunday, I got back into commission by leading two Bible Studies. I am fairly certain I was no longer contagious. Well, I hope so anyway.

On Sunday morning, Sunday School met at RAW’s house. KJW greeted me at the door exuberantly. Hearing her shout my name repeatedly made me think that getting sick snuggling her earlier in the week was worth it. More or less...

To get my attention, she carried a stuffed duck (a plush toy, she is not yet into taxidermy) and said, “Quack” repeatedly making sure I knew that she knew what sound a duck made. After going through what several animals “say”, I asked her what a KJW said. After reflecting for several seconds she replied, “Mama!” (Note: This picture features KJW’s beloved “Frannie Bear” and not the duck in question.)

I modeled great priorities by teaching the class during the commercials and halftime of the United States’ basketball team’s 101-70 victory over China in the Olympics. (The game prompted KJW to bring her daddy his basketball.)

It was actually from this game that the day’s biggest revelation emerged. None of our class had any idea that Henry Kissinger (who attended the game) was still living! Wikipedia says he is 85 but I am fairly certain that he is closer to 206. You can’t trust everything you read on the web.

I must also add that my lifetime as a Dukes of Hazzard fan greatly reduced the pleasure of Olympic archery. Bo and Luke could hit smaller targets while hanging out the doors of the General Lee!. I am sure these shots emerged from the first take too...

As always, a WAM Quote of the Day has been posted.

On Sunday night, MLM and I convened the last Sunday of the Summer Breeze Bible Study with the college group aka Holy Haley and the Heathens. We covered the entire New Testament in one sitting! Needless to say, we went past the scheduled closing time, but that is more or less a given.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Prayer Blog - 8/10/2008

MLM has requested continued prayer for Austin Homes' Hands and Feet Ministries, on which he serves on the board. In the past week the organization received two resignations and he has five meetings scheduled this week in hopes of restructuring the group. Pray that the group's internal fractures are mended and that its going mission thrives.

WAM Quote of the Day - 8/10/2008

WAM attended Sunday School this morning. Towards the end of the session, he left as he had blocked MPW's car in. He soon reemerged with a banana peel. In all earnestness he informed:

"Have you ever tried slipping on a banana peel? It's a lot more difficult than it looks...You have to be running and put your full weight on the banana peel or else you won't slip."

I feel the need to add: 1. Children do not try this at home. 2. If anyone is injured in any way relating to this post, WAM nor I are not responsible. Well, I'm not anyway.