Saturday, October 25, 2008

Prayer Blog - 10/25/2008

I learned on Wednesday night that I would be teaching Adult Sunday School Class 3A on Sunday morning as their teacher is out of town. I agreed to do so at the request of MDR. The text is I Samuel 24-31. Please keep this lesson in your prayers.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bible Trivia - 10/24/2008

Question: Which one of Revelation’s seals revealed a rider on a white horse?

Answer: 1st. (Revelation 6:1-2)

Comments: The first four seals in Revelation reveal the horses and riders of the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalyspe". At the opening of the first seal, a rider on a white steed is unveiled. The rider carries a bow with no arrows, and wears a crown. The white horse and its rider traditionally represent Conquest.

Then I saw when the Lamb broke one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying as with a voice of thunder, "Come." I looked, and behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer. (Revelation 6:1-2, NASB)

In Revelation 19, another rider on a white horse is revealed - a triumphant Jesus. (Revelation 19:11)

Prayer Blog - 10/23/2008, #2

LF and his mother Amy were slated to be evicted today. LF is presently on probation fom incident reported in the September 17th Prayer Blog. As such, he did not receive an SIS check as he was in jail last month and checks are not issued when one is incarcerated. He has until December 1st to secure a job but could use one faster. Please keep he and his family in your prayers.

Word of the Day - 10/24/2008

Charnel

A charnel is a repository for dead bodies.

After the death of the prophet Elisha, some Israelites threw a corpse into the charnel where Elisha's body rested. The corpse sprang to life when it contacted the Elisha's bones!

As they were burying a man, behold, they saw a marauding band; and they cast the man into the grave of Elisha. And when the man touched the bones of Elisha he revived and stood up on his feet. (II Kings 13:21, MASB)

Note: This engraving of this pericope was created by Matthäus Merian the Elder (1593-1650).

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 10/24/2008

My Thursday was spent predominantly at the church.

In the morning, my Bible Study met. MLM was nearly two hours late and even in MST (Moreland Standard Time) that is considered tardy. We knew he had an appointment with a neurologist concerning muscle fatigue and we were concerned. Fortunately, he received a relatively positive report. In the mean time, discussion centered around faith, politics, and professional wrestling. In other words, it was a typical study.

On Thursday night, my church league basketball team advanced to the league's championship game after having won only one game during the regular season. Dare I say that we are a "Cinderella Story"?

My pre-game speech centered around PCR’s wedding, slated for Monday, October 27th. I informed the team that we would spoil his honeymoon with a loss. It seemed to work as, after playing even during the first half (19-19), we were able to hold on to a late lead and win 46-39. MDR’s team had beaten us in our two previous meetings. I gave AND the player of the game award since it was her wedding we were saving. Not surprisingly, the next devotional will center on Kobe Bryant.

My devotional on this night was on Muggsy Bogues, at MPW’s request. At 5'3" Bogues was the shortest player to ever suit up in an NBA game. He later coached the now defunct Charlotte Sting of the WNBA and was still shorter than every player on his team. He viewed this as a strength. In his autobiography (In the Land of Giants: My Life in Basketball), he wrote, “The ball's on the floor more than it's in the air. And down there is Muggsyland. That's where I rule. Put the ball on the floor, and you gotta watch out for the little fella." I challenged the group to find ways to glorify God in their perceived weaknesses. (II Corinthians 12:9)

After the game, I ate with AND, JTH, ALK, and PCR. Surprisingly, we did not eat at Applebees, though some of my team did. Instead, we ate at TGI Friday’s. We debriefed on wedding plans for Monday. PCR and AND will be married in Myrtle Beach. I will be officiating while JTH will be the photographer. The planning did not take long as this is one of the most laid back weddings I have ever participated in. That is saying something too.

With the free time, AND shared another of her classic jokes: What do you call a cow in Antartica? Es-cow-mo. I would be lying if I did not admit that is my type of joke. Her husband’s embarrassment made it all the funnier.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 10/23/2008

Associated Baptist Press
October 23, 2008 · (08-101)

David Wilkinson, Executive Director
Robert Marus, Acting Managing Editor/Washington Bureau Chief
Bob Allen, Senior Writer

In this issue
Survey: On foreign policy, U.S. both blessed by God and on wrong track (743 words)
SBC seminary professor labels birth control a 'sin' (1,085 words)
Marse Grant, longtime N.C. editor, dies at 88 (846 words)
Counselor: Digital age poses pastoral challenges to church (767 words)
Opinion: Dark fears endanger America (925 words)


Survey: On foreign policy, U.S. both blessed by God and on wrong track
By Robert Marus(743 words)

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- A new study described as the first of its kind suggests Americans believe the United States is both especially blessed by God and especially responsible to use its power wisely.

Echoing the results of another recent poll, the survey also found that younger evangelicals are to the left of their elders on most major social issues except abortion.

Results from the survey, titled "Religion and America's Role in the World" and sponsored by the U.N. Foundation and the PBS show "Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly," were released in a Washington press conference Oct. 22. The poll of 1,000 adults -- plus an oversample of 400 evangelicals ages 18-29 -- found that majorities of the public believe that God has "uniquely blessed" America (61 percent) and that the United States should serve as a Christian example to the rest of the world (59 percent).

A similar majority -- 60 percent -- said the U.S. has a "moral obligation to have a role in world affairs."

However, other survey questions revealed what pollster Anna Greenberg called "a real ambivalence" about whether U.S. actions comport with the nation's blessings and responsibilities.

For instance, 79 percent of respondents agreed that U.S. involvement in foreign affairs sometimes causes more harm than good. And two-thirds (67 percent) said America's foreign relations "have gotten pretty seriously off track," versus only 25 percent who said they were headed "in the right direction."

Greenberg, vice president of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, which conducted the study, and other analysts found remarkable similarities in many areas across political and religious groups. Evangelicals were more likely to believe America was blessed by God and had a special moral obligation, more likely to be interventionist and more positive about the current state of U.S. foreign policy. But their numbers didn't depart dramatically from those of the public at large on most questions.

"We find very strong majorities favor the U.S. having a very active role in the world," Greenberg said. "Frankly, this was a surprise to me."

Timothy Shah, an expert on religion and foreign policy for the Council on Foreign Relations, said the results suggested to him that the American public has an almost Calvinist view of itself with regard to its international engagement.

"I think Americans, like Calvin and Calvinists, tend to have a sense that they are in a kind of covenant, a special relationship with God," he said. However, along with that covenant is a Calvinist "special vocation or sense of calling" and "an element of criticism" when policy decisions go awry.

"What the survey strikingly shows is that America and Americans, evangelical and non-evangelical, hold these things" -- that the U.S. is both blessed by God and responsible to be introspective in foreign-policy choices -- "in a remarkable tension," Shah said. "In other words, many Americans believe that they have this special relationship with God. But they also believe that America in fact falls short, and falls short pretty drastically."

Younger evangelicals were more liberal than their elders on a number of key diplomacy-related subjects. For instance, 58 percent of 18-29-year-old evangelicals considered combating global warming an extremely or very important foreign-policy issue, while only 47 percent of older evangelicals did.

Young evangelicals also were far more likely to consider global warming a challenge that required "immediate action." Their elders were more likely to say it was "a long-term threat" that required further study "before taking drastic action."

Younger evangelicals were slightly less likely than their elders to say the United States should set a Christian example to the rest of the world (77 percent of younger evangelicals versus 87 percent of older ones).

But, on abortion, younger evangelicals closely mirrored their elders, with significant majorities opposing legal abortion in most or all cases.

And young evangelicals were even more conservative than their elders in one area where views on abortion intersect with U.S. foreign policy: Approval for the so-called "Mexico City Policy," sometimes called the "Global Gag Rule" by abortion-rights supports.

The policy is an executive order, in effect from 1984 to 1993 and again from 2001 until now, that prevents non-governmental organizations from receiving federal funds unless they promise not to perform or promote abortion services in other countries. In the survey, 53 percent of white evangelicals 30 and over supported the policy -- but 70 percent of younger evangelicals did.

The survey, conducted Sept. 4-21, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.

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SBC seminary professor labels birth control a 'sin'
By Bob Allen(1,085 words)

FORT WORTH, Texas (ABP) -- A Southern Baptist seminary professor has sparked controversy with a recent sermon labeling use of birth-control pills a sin.

Thomas White, vice president for student services and communications and associate professor of systematic theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said in an Oct. 7 seminary chapel sermon that using birth-control pills is "wrong," "not correct according to Scripture" and, in some cases, "murder of a life."

White said one of the three ways the pill functions is to prevent a fertilized ovum from implanting in the uterus seven days after conception.

"The seventh day is seven days too long, and it's murder of a life," he said. "When the egg and the sperm meet, you have life.

"If you ask theologians, they're going to tell you that the egg and the sperm meet when the soul is implanted," White said. "There's no other time to say that God creates the soul and puts it in than that point in time. And so at that point you have life. You have at the moment of conception life, and yet the third aspect of birth control is to say that life cannot implant onto the wall as it normally would, and so that life is going to be flushed down, and that, my friends, is wrong."

After comments critical of his sermon appeared in a report on a local television station, White said in an e-mail to the Dallas Morning News that he doesn't oppose all birth control, but just anything that ends life after conception.

In his Oct. 7 sermon, however, White seemed to suggest that all birth control was contrary to God's plan. He said the root problem is that American society views children as a hindrance rather than a blessing from God.

White confessed that, after getting married nine years ago, he and his wife made the mistake of using contraceptives "because of my own selfishness."

"I wanted kids, but I wanted kids in not God's timing, but in my timing," he said. "I didn't want kids when I was in my M.Div. program, when I was going to have another mouth to feed, and it was going to inconvenience my ability to finish my course work and maybe move on and do a Ph.D. and all these type things. I wanted kids, but I wanted kids my way, my time, the way I wanted to do it, so I could plan my family out."

"Folks, you are not in control of your destinies -- God is," he said. "And the sooner we recognize that we are sinning when we say, 'I am going to control every aspect of my family' and we're not giving control to God, we don't trust him, we don't believe that he knows better than we do -- we think we know more than God does, and just like I did, some of you are involved in that exact same sin."

White said Christians joke about the fertile families that Psalm 127 -- "Behold, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.... Blessed is the man whose quiver is full" -- seems to uphold as an ideal.

"It's my attitude, too," he said. "I think about ten kids running around the house, and I think to myself, 'Lord, is that really a blessing?' That's what [God's] Word says."

White also faulted couples who have children, but then pawn them off on others to raise.

"We want to take our kids and push them off to the day care," he said. "Then we want to take our kids and push them off to the public schools, and then we want to take our kids and push them off to the church. And then when our kids mess up, we want to blame somebody else for our kid's problems."

"It's not a day care's responsibility, a church's responsibility or a school's responsibility to rear your children in the fear and admonition of the Lord," he said. "It is your responsibility to do so."

Wade Burleson, an Oklahoma pastor who blogs on Southern Baptist Convention issues at Grace and Truth to You accused White of "preaching personal opinions as if they were mandates from God."

"This type of legalism will destroy not only the fabric of cooperation upon which our convention was built; it will ultimately destroy the powerful message of the gospel, because tertiary matters are elevated to a primary status of debate within the SBC and people who disagree are excluded," Burleson said.

Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, and a former Southwestern Seminary trustee, criticized White's message as "extremely problematic, overly simplistic and unscriptural."

McKissic resigned from the Southwestern Seminary board of trustees last year amid controversy over his own remarks at a 2006 chapel service. In them, he acknowledged that he had spoken in tongues in his private prayer life.

Southwestern President Paige Patterson and other seminary leaders have denounced the practice, which has been the subject of controversy at other SBC agencies in recent years.

In a statement released to a local TV station, McKissic said he sees a pattern developing at the seminary of "adopting views not supported by Scripture, but preached as if they are in line with Scripture." He cited examples of the recent firing of a Hebrew professor because she is a woman and attempts to disqualify missionaries not baptized in Southern Baptist churches.

"This is fundamentalism run amok," McKissic said. "I am concerned that this great Baptist seminary is slowly degenerating into a fundamentalist indoctrination camp."

"These views represent a radical shift in Baptist life in the past few years," McKissic said. "You would expect this kind of thinking to have come from Bob Jones University or some independent fundamentalist Baptist seminary, but not SWBTS. All of these aberrant views explain why the SBC is a denomination in decline."

Richard Land, head of the SBC's ethics-and-public-policy agency, reacted to the controversy over White's remarks by saying he would not oppose all birth control. However, he did seem to oppose surgical sterilization as a form of contraception.

"The Southern Baptist Convention is not opposed to the use of birth control within marriage as long as the methods used do not cause the fertilized egg to abort and as long as the methods used do not bar having children all together unless there's a medical reason the couple should not have children," he said, according to WFAA-TV.

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Marse Grant, longtime N.C. editor, dies at 88
By Steve DeVane (846 words)

RALEIGH, N.C. (ABP) -- Marse Grant, editor emeritus of North Carolina Baptists' Biblical Recorder, died Oct. 17 at his home in Raleigh. He was 88.

Grant edited the Recorder from 1960-82, longer than any other editor in the paper's history. He previously was editor of Charity and Children, a North Carolina Baptist Children's Homes publication, from 1949-59.

Grant became one of the best-known North Carolina Baptists, attending more than 50 North Carolina Baptist State Convention annual meetings. Under his leadership, the Recorder's circulation peaked at more than 120,000 in 1978.

He had previously served as editor of two secular North Carolina newspapers, the Lincoln County News and the Morgan News-Herald. After his retirement, he wrote columns for the Charlotte Observer and the High Point Enterprise.

Grant was profiled in The North Carolina Century --Tar Heels Who Made a Difference, 1900-2000. The article, by former Fayetteville Observer editor Charles Clay, details how Grant took an unpopular stand on race relations in just his second month at the Recorder.

"God loves all people," Grant wrote. "To think that he prefers one over the other because of the color of skin is inconsistent with the teachings of the Bible."

Grant warned about turmoil ahead following what is some now call the "Conservative Resurgence" in the Southern Baptist Convention. In July 1982, he wrote an editorial saying political groups should not use the SBC.

"Marse was among the Baptist editors who had to try to make sense of the sea change in Baptist life that occurred near the end of his tenure," said current Recorder Editor Norman Jameson. "That he interpreted the changes through a lifetime lens of what he felt was being lost should be no surprise.

"I trailed Marse's career both as editor of Charity & Children and as BR editor. Marse and the Recorder ran stories I wrote as feature editor of Baptist Press. Additionally, we are members of the same church [Hayes Barton Baptist Church in Raleigh], so our lives have intertwined my entire career.

"Marse and his doting wife Marian have always been encouragers, strengthening my resolve and lifting high both the responsibilities and the possibilities of Baptist journalism. I am continually amazed at how many times an acquaintance from another era or another part of the country would call Marse's name and inquire about him. Until recent years when strokes disabled him, I could say he was doing well. Now I can say, 'well done.'"

R.G. Puckett, also a Recorder editor emeritus, said Grant was "Mr. North Carolina Baptist" during his tenure as editor.

"As a layman, he understood the view from the pew and traveled and worked incessantly for those causes that would enhance Baptist work and the well-being of the people of North Carolina," Puckett said. "He was a leader in spiritual and civic matters. He was deeply committed to what he would define as 'we the people.'"

Wilmer C. Fields, who was public relations director for the Southern Baptist Convention during much of Grant's tenure, said Grant dedicated himself "24/7" for 33 years to journalism in the Baptist cause.

"His vocational commitment set high marks for his contemporaries and all who would follow," Fields said. "Somewhere, somehow, there is newly written beside his name in the Lamb's Book of Life, 'Well Done!'"

When Grant announced his retirement in 1982, Tommy Payne, then chairman of the Recorder's board of directors, wrote an editorial calling Grant a fighter.
"Agree with him or not, you have to admire the effort that he puts into issues he believes in," Payne wrote.

Grant fought hard whenever he saw discrimination, Payne said.

"In the early 50's when it was costly to say segregation was wrong, Marse Grant did just that," Payne said. "He was one of the few early voices in our state to speak strongly about the needs of our black citizens, and the need to change laws as well as attitudes."

In an editorial just after Grant announced his retirement, the Raleigh News and Observer called him "a prod to the conscience of readers."

"Never one to fudge the issues or to apologize for his deeply held views, Grant turned what could have been a mere Baptist housekeeping chore into a lively and stimulating publication," the editorial said.

In an editorial announcing his retirement, Grant said many North Carolina Baptists had told him over the years that they didn't always agree with him, but were glad the Recorder could express itself when differences came up in Baptist life.
"I like to hear that, and the Recorder will remain free," he wrote. "North Carolina Baptists like it that way. They don't want their state paper to become a house organ."

Grant, whose first name was James, was born Sept. 13, 1920 in High Point, N.C. In addition to Marian, his wife of 66 years, Grant is survived by three daughters, Susan Grant Rawls of Statesville, N.C.; Marcia Grant Morton of Raleigh; and Carol Grant Potter of Raleigh; six grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; a brother, Truett Grant of Greensboro, N.C.; and a sister, Carolyn Grant DeLapp of Greensboro.

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Counselor: Digital age poses pastoral challenges to church
By Bob Allen (767 words)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (ABP) -- A mother and son were estranged. She demanded his password for a social-networking website to make sure he wasn't doing anything untoward. He refused because he felt it invaded his privacy. With such an impasse on his mind, Chris Hammon asked a group of fellow counselors what they were doing with pastoral-care issues related to social networking.

"They kind of responded, 'Well, what's social networking?'" Hammon, administrator for online learning at the Wayne E. Oates Institute in Louisville, Ky., told a group of Tennessee ministers Oct. 21. "I knew immediately we were in trouble."

Hammon followed up by trying to find people to write on the topic of social networking and pastoral care and counseling for a special issue of the *Oates Journal,* which he also edits.

"I'm having a very, very hard time finding anybody that can address that issue," Hammons said. "This is a big concern area that I'm hearing from young people who are struggling with this, but we don't have a pastoral-care group up to speed on even what it is in a lot of cases."

Speaking at a dialogue on "Crossing the Digital Frontier" co-sponsored by the Oates Institute and Tennessee Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Hammons said that is just one of the challenges facing churches in a digital age.

Hammon divided history into four separate eras based on the changing ways in which people have received and processed information.

The oral tradition, with its story form that produced the biblical text, gave way around 1500 to print. That in turn spawned the Reformation and led to the modern construct of authorized or official "gatekeepers" of information, such as government sources, religious authorities and newspapers.

Baby Boomers grew up in the broadcast eras of radio and television, with juxtaposed stories that trained their minds in non-linear thinking. Today's younger generation is the first to grow up with computers and by-the-minute news and networking as part of their daily lives.

For the first time, Hammon said, people from three different communication eras now exist in the same community, posing a myriad of leadership issues for today's "five-generation" church.

Today's young people process information like they learn to play a new video game, he said. They jump into the experience, go online for information they can use and network with others who share their interest. That is a far different experience than they find in a traditional church, where they are expected to sit in orderly rows and listen.

One response to that, Hammon said, is the emergent-church movement. But, he added, that doesn't help traditional churches, because if they lose their younger members they are also losing their future leaders.

Retaining them, on the other hand, presents the challenge of the "multi-layered expectations" of a younger generation looking for a church community relevant to them while an older generation that wants to worship the way they always have.
"The worship wars of the 1990s are about to come back with a new vigor," Hammon predicted.

"This group is going to want this, and the 'digitals' are going to want to be part of the conversation," he said. "The older people, that's not what they want to happen. So there's some tension there."

Hammon gave an example of one church where about 35 food-service workers who work night shifts and make most of their tips on weekends wanted to meet for a worship service at 1 a.m., after they got off work and before they went home. The church said, "No, we can't do that."

"We've got numbers of people who are working in healthcare and the younger the person the less seniority, and they get that 11-to-7 shift," Hammon said.

"Computer technology people work 24/7. Sunday's just not always the best time for their schedule. So what do we do about that?"

"One of the challenges is how we perceive our call in ministry," he said. "Is our calling to do most of the ministry of the church, or is our calling to empower and equip the ministry of the church?"

Many churches, he said, have been educated in the mind-frame that ministers are paid to do the ministry of the church. He said that is going to have to change in a day and age of multi-layered expectations and extra demands coming within religious communities.

"How do we use professional status to equip and empower this collaborative energy that is coming into congregations to help energize and empower these communities so that people are connected with one another and not just sharing space at different times?" he asked.

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Opinion: Dark fears endanger America
By David Gushee(925 words)

(ABP) -- The last two weeks of a presidential-election campaign are not likely to mark a high point in rationality and love. But still, one cannot help but be deeply disturbed by the dark divisions that descend on this nation every four years. No wonder we can't actually solve any of our problems. We're too busy hating each other.

In this election there are abundant signs of a strange and dispiriting paranoia. I would like to be able to say that the paranoia runs equally strong both ways, but in this case it seems more one-sided.

I get all kinds of communications suggesting that millions of Americans believe that Barack Obama poses a mortal threat to America. They further believe that anyone who could support him is morally deficient or worse. I don't really see those kinds of e-mails in relation to John McCain. Many millions don't prefer him as president. But they don't think he's the Antichrist.

Some of the rhetoric has at least points of continuity with that of previous campaigns and some contact with real policy issues. When Sen. McCain or others call Sen. Obama a "socialist," they reflect a long-standing debate over the progressivity of the federal tax code. It's harsh rhetoric, but at least it reflects a standard policy debate between Republicans and Democrats.

Rhetoric suggesting that Obama is weak or naïve because he's expressed a preference for engaging in diplomacy with enemy regimes is also par for the course. This is but the latest incarnation of a long-standing and often-effective strategy in which Republicans try to position themselves as tougher on defense and better able to defend the nation than Democrats.

The most anguished policy-related emails I have received have to do with claims that Obama is not only for abortion, but also for infanticide. Again, the argument about abortion policy is a long-standing one. In this case, Obama does indeed have a very liberal voting record on abortion. It is a major objection to his candidacy. But he is not in favor of infanticide. His votes on the particular bills that have attracted such charges, as factcheck.org has shown, were aimed at protecting abortion rights from legislative moves that he and others feared might undermine such rights.

Let's grant that attacks on Obama's positions on taxation, negotiations, and abortion are fair game in a political campaign. What's not fair game is what some have called the "othering" of Obama. By this is meant the effort to position Obama as a strange alien outsider who is "other" to the rest of America.

It's an othering strategy when critics persist in calling him "Barack Hussein Obama." Or when they say he "pals around with terrorists." Or that he hates America because he went to Jeremiah Wright's church. Or that he's a closet Muslim or an Arab in a terrorist sleeper cell. This escalating rhetoric is rubbing salt into our nation's cultural and racial wounds. It is also leading to early signs that the legitimacy of Obama's election will be challenged if he wins.

Already the groundwork is being laid for conspiracy theories. There is already the theory that Obama is supported by the "liberal media elite," which is essentially conspiring to engineer his election. This is taken as an article of faith by many. But incipient conspiracy theories gained more powerful fuel with the news of irregularities in ACORN's voter registrations. If Obama wins, and especially if it is close, many will claim that the election was rigged or stolen. And, once again, we may descend into the abyss of a president whose legitimacy is not accepted by a high percentage of those who did not vote for him. No matter whom one supports for president, surely no one can desire such an outcome. It would be disastrous for our nation to have another presidency whose very legitimacy is disputed. We cannot bear it.

Where are evangelical Christians in all of this? To the extent that evangelicals have bought into the anger, hysteria and othering of Obama, we have once again proven to be a source of cultural conflict and division rather than agents of reconciliation, as all Christians are called to be.

I fear that the Christian right will find in Obama, if he is elected, a useful target for their fund-raising appeals and constituent mobilization. However, they will be speaking to a dwindling number of Americans, as polls of younger evangelicals clearly reveal their movement away from the vision and agenda of the right.

These polls support my thesis that there is an emerging evangelical center, which has a broad moral agenda that includes -- but is not exhausted by -- abortion. My guess is that exit polls will show that Obama has made only partial inroads into this evangelical center, because of his voting record on abortion. Future Democratic candidates whose voting records are more moderately pro-choice or pro-life will do much better with centrist evangelicals. Black evangelicals will support Obama overwhelmingly, and recently released polling shows that Hispanic evangelicals are swinging toward Obama and the Democrats in a decisive way. This has significant implications for the future religious and political alignment of our nation.

My plea to all Christians is to remember who we are and whose we are. Jesus is our Lord. We are not free to engage politics in a way that violates his Lordship. This Lordship is interpreted differently by different Christians in terms of who they vote for. But on issues like civility, respect and truthfulness, our calling is more than clear.

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-- David P. Gushee is Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University.

Prayer Blog - 10/23/2008

MLM had a an appointment with a neurologist this morning concerning muscle fatigue. It was feared that his blood levels were off but the doctor surmised that given MLM’s active schedule that his fugures were normal. He was referred to a physical therapist for further evaluation at 1 pm. Please keep MLM’s health in your prayers.

Bible Trivia - 10/23/2008

Question: What is the name of the cave where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were buried?

Answer: Machpelah. (Genesis 23:19, 49:29-31)

Comments: Three generations of Israel's patriarchs and matriarchs were buried in the Cave of Machpelah. The burial plot was originally purchased after the death of Sarah. Abraham purchased it from Ephron the Hittite for the exorbitant price of four hundred shekels of silver.

So Ephron's field, which was in Machpelah, which faced Mamre, the field and cave which was in it, and all the trees which were in the field, that were within all the confines of its border, were deeded over to Abraham for a possession in the presence of the sons of Heth, before all who went in at the gate of his city. (Genesis 23:17-18, NASB)

Machpelah means "doubled" in Hebrew. Some have speculated this is due to the prestigious couples are buried there: Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Leah (Genesis 23:19, 25:9, 49:31, 50:13). (Rachel was buried elsewhere in Bethlehem.)

Note: This illustration is of Abraham weighing out the four hundred shekels of silver he paid for the Cave of Machpelah. (Genesis 23:16). The engraving by Gerard Hoet and Gillem van der Gouwen was first published in 1728.

Word of the Day - 10/23/2008

Brio

Brio is vigor; vivacity.

When Moses died, at the age of 120, he still had brio.

Although Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eye was not dim, nor his vigor abated. (Deuteronomy 34:7, NASB)

Note: The last act Moses did before dying was to view the Promised Land to which he led his people. This image, "Moses views the Promised Land" by Lord Frederic Leighton (1830-1896), was first published in 1881.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 10/23/2008

On Wednesday night, my survey of Adult Education class met as usual at UT. We received the unfortunate news that one of my classmates, DRT, was forced to drop the class due to work commitments. We are now down to seven. I feel like I am in Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. If I wind up dead, just remember I called it! (Note: This statue is located just outside of the Humanities Building where my class meets. It is one of my favorite UT landmarks.)

After class, I met JTH and ALK at Applebees. JTH and I “helped” ALK with a report she was doing on autism. I admitted my disappointment that ALK was not citing Jenny McCarthy. Then again, no paper is perfect. This picture is of the wall at Applebees. JTH insists that my beloved Audrey Hepburn looks strangely like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial in the photos. Sadly, I could not argue with him...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Prayer Blog - 10/22/2008

My grandfather, WCV Jr., has another doctor’s appointment tomorrow in Knoxville concerning his prostate cancer. At present he has two options: radiation and doing nothing. Given his age and the typical length of the illness, the latter may be the preferable option. Please keep him in your prayers as he faces this condition and makes decisions.

Bible Trivia - 10/22/2008

Question: Just before Joseph died what did he make the sons of Israel promise?

Answer: That they must carry his bones to Canaan after God delivered them from Egypt. (Genesis 50:26)

Comments: Near the end of his life, Joseph realized that he would die in Egypt. He made his brothers swear an oath that he would not be buried there, but rather in the Promised Land that God had promised his ancestors.

Joseph said to his brothers, "I am about to die, but God will surely take care of you and bring you up from this land to the land which He promised on oath to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob." Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, "God will surely take care of you, and you shall carry my bones up from here." (Genesis 50:24-25, NASB)

Hundreds of years later, after the conquest of the land, Joshua finally buried Joseph's bones in Shechem - within the borders of Israel. (Joshua 24:32)

Note: This image of Joseph's burial in the Promised Land was rendered by James Shaw Crompton (1853-1916)

Word of the Day - 10/22/2008

Flacon

A flacon is a small bottle or flask with a stopper, especially one used for perfume.

A woman in Bethany lovingly poured the contents of a flacon of perfume on Jesus' head.

a woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume, and she poured it on His head as He reclined at the table. (Matthew 26:7, NASB)

Jesus interpreted the action as preparation for his burial.

Note: This interpretation of "The Anoitning" was created by Macha Chmakoff.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 10/22/2008

I spent the first half of the day at the Hope Resource Center. I arrived at 8:45 am for the early morning prayer and did not get home until mid-afternoon. At one point we had four clients simultaneously, which LEB presumes to be a record.

I am slowy catching on to the jargon of the job. For instance, “super pregnant” seems to correlate to how pregnant one is in relation to how pregnant she thought was when she came. I also learned that “I had a really good STD today” simply means that the counseling session was enjoyable and not that the sexually transmitted disease was pleasurable. That explained a lot.

On Tuesday night, Dad and I ate at Calhoun’s. My mother was having a girl’s night out with some friends from church. They went to see the Secret life of Bees. Dad and I had a good conversation. I must note that you know a Tennessee football season is not going well when we are relegated to discussing politics.

After a very brief stop at MoFoS, I spent the evening with KLTW, KJW and RAW at their home. KLTW recently cut KJW’s hair. It looks good. KJW has been habitually sticking her tongue out of late. RAW and I naturally assume it is in homage to Michael Jordan. Well, we are hoping anyway.

In other KJW news, she will do just about any act that is preceded by the words “If you’re happy and you know it...” I use this line to get hugs frequently. Is that wrong? I wish eliciting affection from grown up girls was that easy. I don’t have to ask. That was wrong.

In other stories of us taking advantage of the toddler, we have also learned that KJW will respond affirmatively to any “do you love _____” question. On this night the child confirmed that she does indeed love flux capacitors. Who doesn’t?

KJW is still not close to potty training. KLTW now has told her that she will receive a Dora The Explorer toy once she has successfully gone to the potty. The toy was originally purchased to be a Christmas present but now will be given whichever comes first - Christmas or potty training. KJW has seen the toy, remembers it, and wants it. Still, as I was leaving, there was another dirty diaper to be changed.

Though we have not successfully potty trained the child, we have taught her to say “respect authority” a la Cartman from South Park. I'd say it is a fair trade off.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 10/21/2008

Associated Baptist Press
October 21, 2008 · (08-100)

David Wilkinson, Executive Director
Robert Marus, Acting Managing Editor/Washington Bureau Chief
Bob Allen, Senior Writer

In this issue
Poll: Latino Protestants switching back to Democrats this election (705 words)
Evolution critics added to panel that sets Texas school standards (545 words)
Book proposes 'triage' amid lukewarm church giving (987 words)
Baptism remains Baptists' symbol, but 'problems' must be answered (1307 words)
Although Bible says it, Baptists haven't settled it (669 words)

Poll: Latino Protestants switching back to Democrats this election
By Bob Allen(705 words)

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- According to a new survey, Latino Protestants view immigration reform as a moral issue on par with abortion and -- even after overwhelmingly voting for President Bush four years ago -- now lean toward Barack Obama in the upcoming presidential election.

The study of Hispanic Protestants, the vast majority of whom consider themselves "born-again" or evangelical, was released Oct. 16. It found that Latino Protestant voters, who comprise about 25 percent of the total Hispanic vote, favor Obama over the Republican candidate John McCain by a 17-point margin -- 50 percent to 33 percent.

That is a significant shift from a post-election survey in 2004, when 63 percent of Latino Protestants said they voted for President Bush over his Democratic challenger, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry.

Among Latino Protestant voters, 77 percent said their religious beliefs are important in influencing their views on immigration. Nearly 83 percent said a candidate's position on immigration is important in determining their vote this year. Twice as many trust Democrats to pass immigration reform that reflects their values (42 percent) than trust Republicans (20 percent.)

That doesn't mean the demographic is sewn up for Democrats, though. Support for Obama is 18 points lower than the percentage of the Protestant Latino vote that went for Democratic candidate Al Gore in 2000.

In the latest poll, Sixty-two percent of Hispanic Protestants said they have heard public officials speak negatively about immigrants, and 43 percent of those said they associated such negative rhetoric with both parties. A significant number -- 31 percent -- said they would leave their political party if it did not find a more positive way to address immigration reform and welcome immigrants.

Samuel Rodriguez, president of National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, termed Latino Protestants "the quintessential swing vote." His group was one of five that commissioned the survey.

"The biblical mandate to welcome the immigrant could not be clearer, and we draw our values from our Bibles," Rodriguez said in conference call with reporters. "This poll powerfully demonstrates that immigration is a profoundly religious issue for Hispanic evangelicals. We will vote our faith, and we will vote our values. It's time that all candidates take notice."

Jesse Miranda of the Jesse Miranda Center for Hispanic Leadership said Latinos are expected to vote in record numbers this year. "To many in this community, we see an awakening of this giant," he said.

With large Hispanic populations in key swing states like Florida, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado, Rodriguez said the Latino vote this year could be decisive.

Social issues on which many Anglo Protestants base their votes appeared less important to their Hispanic brethren than immigration. Three-fourths of Latino Protestants ranked abortion as extremely or very important in their voting decisions, and about 55 percent said the same for gay marriage. Rodriguez said while conservative Hispanics are comfortable with the Republican positions on those issues, many feel like the Republican Party doesn't want them because of their ethnicity.

The Democrats, meanwhile, appear more multicultural and have tried to move toward a more centrist stance on abortion and gay marriage. "Elections are won around the margins," Rodriguez said, offering a possible explanation for the pendulum swing toward Obama.

Miranda described the Hispanic conservative as "a political paradox in the United States," conservative in matters of faith and national security but more liberal toward immigration. He described those voters as "uncomfortable with either/or thinking" and said they cannot be taken for granted by either party.

"We are dreamers," he said. "We are the sons and daughters of Don Quixote, seeking the American dream."

Rodriguez said immigration reform "is not a second-tier issue to be considered post facto after abortion and gay marriage," but rather "a Kingdom issue" high on the moral agenda for Latino Protestants.

Miranda said the survey should be "a clarion call" to the next president.
The survey, conducted a month before the Nov. 4 election, polled 500 Latino Protestant registered voters by telephone. More than 80 percent of Latino Protestants self-identified as being born-again or attending an evangelical denomination.

The other sponsors were Faith in Public Life, America's Choice Education Fund and Gaston Espinoza, associate professor of religious studies at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif.

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Evolution critics added to panel that sets Texas school standards
By Bob Allen (545 words)

AUSTIN, Texas (ABP) -- Three of six members of a panel appointed to review proposed curriculum standards for science classes in Texas public schools have criticized evolution.

And the additions could have an impact far beyond the 4.6 million students in the Lone Star State's public schools.

Because Texas is one of the largest markets for textbook sales in the United States, publishers will use the standards in creating new textbooks, and then sell those books in other states as well. The Texas Freedom Network -- an organization that counters the Religious Right -- says the addition could have negative consequences for science education across the nation.

A conservative bloc on the Texas State Board of Education banded together to appoint three curriculum-review panelists critical of Darwinism. One of them, Stephen Meyer, is vice president of the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based group that advocates balancing evolution with teaching about "intelligent design."

The theory promotes the conclusion that life is too complex to have evolved by chance, but that it shows the hand of a powerful master designer. Critics call it a pseudo-science and an excuse to bring religion into the classroom -- simply an updated form of what used to be called "creation science."

Meyer and another panel member, Ralph Seelke at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, co-wrote a textbook that questions tenets of Charles Darwin's theory of how humans and other life forms evolved. Critics say that is a conflict of interest, because the book, Explore Evolution, could be on the list of approved textbooks when the state board finalizes its decision in 2011.

"It's simply stunning that any state board members would even consider appointing authors of an anti-evolution textbook to a panel of scientists," said Kathy Miller, president and executive director of the Texas Freedom Network. "Are they coming here to help write good science standards or to drum up a market for their lousy textbook?"

Casey Luskin, program officer for public policy and legal affairs at the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, said textbook authors are precisely the type of experts who should have input into curriculum standards. He accused the Texas Freedom Network of "manufacturing a controversy."

"We think the [Texas] Board of Education should be applauded for choosing a diverse group of scientific reviewers," he said. "Getting honest input from science experts with diverse views is imperative if we're going to build a world-class educational system."

Also joining the review panel is Charles Garner, a Baylor University chemistry professor who, along with Meyer and a Seelke, signed a Discovery Institute-sponsored declaration, "Scientific Dissent from Darwinism," that says: "We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged."

Veteran science professors from the University of Texas at Austin, Texas Tech University and Southern Methodist University round out the six-member panel. Two of them, David Hillis at UT Austin and Gerald Skoog at Texas Tech, have signed a "Scientists for a Responsible Curriculum in Texas Public Schools" statement that says "instruction on evolution is vital to understanding all the biological sciences" and "students are best served when matters of faith are left to families and houses of worship."

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Book proposes 'triage' amid lukewarm church giving
By Bob Allen (987 words)

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (ABP) -- Christians in the United States could engage every "unreached" people group around the world and stop up to two-thirds of child deaths for pennies a day if only they gave, according to a new book.

Because the church is not being mobilized for either, The State of Church Giving Through 2006: Global Triage, MDG 4, and Unreached People Groups says, a strategy of global "triage" is needed to focus resources on areas of greatest need.

The 18th edition of the report, from the Christian service and research organization Empty Tomb, explores giving trends as an evidence of church members' commitments to their professed Christian beliefs.

It cites evidence pointing to a tepid U.S. church far too similar to the church in ancient Laodicea, condemned in the third chapter of Revelation for being "lukewarm" as opposed to either "hot" or "cold." The authors say the U.S. church needs to change its self-centered indifference or risk separation from the larger body of Christ and marginalization from the culture.

Giving as a percent of income has declined since the 1960s, and the portion spent beyond the local congregation through benevolences, including missions, has declined steadily.

The overall level of giving to international missions work between 2003 and 2006 was about two cents of each dollar donated to the church. That compares to an average of eight cents per dollar spent on denominational overseas missions in the 1920s.

The study proposes a strategy of "triage," not calling for elimination of other activities, but addressing needs in a priority order to maximize the number of survivors.

"In defining triage categories for the church to address, there is sufficient Scripture to support a focus on helping, in Jesus' name, to stop preventable child deaths as a top priority," say authors John and Sylvia Ronsvalle. "These missions of preventable child deaths fit both the medical category of triage -- intervention can prevent death -- as well as the moral and spiritual focus of taking care of the weakest among us (e.g. Psalm 41:1, 72:13, 82:3-4)."

The book uses the benchmark of No. 4 in the Millennium Development Goals. The objectives were established by world leaders to fight global poverty. Goal No. 4 sought to cut by two-thirds the mortality rate for children under the age of 5 by 2015.

An estimated 9.7 million children under 5 die around the globe each year. About two-thirds of those deaths are due to preventable causes like diarrhea, measles, respiratory infections, malaria and malnutrition. The report calculates the cost to each U.S. church member for preventing those deaths: eight cents a day.

If members of Christian churches had chosen to give 10 percent of their income to their congregations in 2006, instead of the 2.5 percent actually given, it would have made an additional $170 billion available for church work. By one estimate an additional $70 billion to $80 billion a year would be enough to address basic needs of the world's poorest people. If the church had given even the same percentage of income U.S. Christians donated in 1968, the difference would have been $5 billion.

The book also says the Southern Baptist Convention has not motivated its 16.3 million members to support missionary efforts adequately.

SBC leaders say 2,800 more missionaries are needed to engage 5,900 people groups with little or no access to a Christian witness. At an estimated expense of $65,000 per cross-cultural missionary, the total cost for these missionaries would be $182 million a year. By comparison, the 2008 video game Grand Theft Auto IV took in about $310 million in its first day of sales.

The 2008 goal for the SBC's Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, however, was only $5 million larger than the 2007 amount. Had Southern Baptist leaders included the cost of sending those additional missionaries in the goal, they would have asked for an extra $11.16 per Southern Baptist church member. The average dollar figure per member given to SBC overseas mission work in 2006 was $17.

"There is growing consensus that the resources and methods exist to alleviate the physical suffering of people around the globe," the book says. "Church leaders also consider the task of presenting the gospel to every people group on earth an increasingly attainable goal.

"In both cases the problem is not that the needs are too great. The problem is that the available resources are not being mobilized to implement the available solutions."

Americans gave more than $128 billion to charitable causes in 2006. Most of that -- 70 percent -- went to churches and religious organizations.
In order to respond to global need, the book says individuals need to feel connected to a larger body.

"When church leaders are not providing strategic direction that helps set priorities to solve, not just cope with, global word and deed need, church members feel overwhelmed," it says, using the phrase the book employs to refer to global physical and spiritual needs. "They see the great needs but do not feel connected in a broad way that can help address those needs."

"Church leaders could empower their members by helping to set priorities that give those members permission to care about the entire need," it continues. "In the same way that triage provides battlefield medical units with the ability to respond amidst the chaos around them, a broadly accepted strategy of triage for global word and deed need could help replace hopelessness with engagement among church members."

"The Christian faith teaches that, until the return of Jesus, God's work will be largely accomplished through Christ's body," the book concludes. "If the part of the body of Christ located in the United States chooses not to carry its weight, the work of God will go on. However, if the church in the United States chooses to embrace the opportunities set before it, Christians in the United States could have a great deal to contribute."

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Baptism remains Baptists' symbol, but 'problems' must be answered
By Marv Knox (1307 words)

WACO, Texas (ABP) -- After four centuries, believers' baptism remains the symbol of Baptist identity, historian Bill Leonard stressed during a lecture series at Baylor University's George W. Truett Theological Seminary.

But in the 21st century, Baptists must respond to two pressing "problems" with baptism -- the widespread requirement that long-term Christians be immersed before joining a Baptist church and the rebaptism of church members, Leonard urged.

This year's Parchman Lectures contributed to the Texas Baptist school's ongoing celebration of the 400th anniversary of the Baptist movement. It began when John Smyth and Thomas Helwys led a group of English expatriates to start the first Baptist church in 1609 in Holland.

"Baptists were dissenters from the very beginning," noted Leonard, dean of Wake Forest University's Divinity School. The original Baptists first rebelled against what they saw as the corruption of the Anglican Church and its affiliation with the English government. Next, they split from the English Separatists for not distancing themselves far enough from the Anglicans.

And then they even dissented among themselves, he wryly observed. By 1610, that little Baptist church had split itself over the validity of its baptism.

"Baptists understood conscience and dissent in light of the need for sinners to be regenerated -- made new through conversion to Christ," Leonard said. "Yet in their assertion that conscience could not be compelled by either state-based or faith-based establishments, they flung the door wide for religious liberty and pluralism....

"Believers' baptism, ultimately by immersion, was thus a radical act of Christian commitment, covenantal relationships and anti-establishment dissent."

Their commitment drew from their identification with Christ, Leonard continued. Their relationships reflected the value they placed upon the gathered church. And their dissent against the establishment welled up from their insistence that God alone, not religious or government authorities, is Lord of the conscience.

Historically, "the call to uncoerced faith produced the appeal to conscience and the necessity of dissent," Leonard said. "It was the witness of the permanent minority, a group of people who never dreamed that their views would prevail this side of the Kingdom of God, but who demanded voice and conscience nonetheless."

They embodied their dissent by insisting on believers' -- adult -- baptism, refusing to baptize their infant children, he added. Their stand on baptism dissented not only from the practice of the established church, but also from the government, since at the time, English citizenship and church membership were considered the same.

"Baptism is the outward ... sign that links regenerate church membership, conscience and dissent as the central witness of Baptist identity in the world," Leonard insisted. "In short, believers' baptism does many things for the individual and community of faith."

His list included:

· "It is a biblical act, identifying the believer with Jesus and the movement he called the Kingdom of God."

· "Believers' baptism is a conversion act, demonstrating the new birth of an individual and incorporating that individual into Christ's body, the church.... For those early Baptists, baptism was public profession of faith. It still is."

· "Believers' baptism is a churchly act that marks the entry of believers into the covenantal community of the church. Baptism, while administered to individuals, is not an individualistic act. It is incorporation into Christ and his church."

· "Believers' baptism was and remains a dangerous and dissenting act that frees Christian believers to challenge the principalities and powers of church in response to the dictates of conscience." He cited the Standard Confession of 1660, in which early Baptists acknowledged the need for "civil magistrates in all nations" but pledged they would "obey God rather than men" when conscience so dictated.

The persistent significance of baptism for the Baptist movement presents a vital question, Leonard said: "What are we to do about it on the way through the 21st century?"

Specifically, he asked: "How will we deal with the two most pressing baptismal problems confronting many contemporary Baptist congregations -- rebaptism of non-immersed, long-term Christians and the rebaptism of Baptist church members?"

The requirement of rebaptism forpeople who were baptized as infants and now seek membership in a Baptist church "is perhaps the oldest and most historically divisive question in the history of the movement," Leonard said. "Baptist churches are on 'safe' historical ground if they have either open or closed baptismal policies."

Baptists have not always required rebaptism, particularly when the original baptism was part of the faith-life of the person's family and not a requirement of government, he reported.

Also, the common practice of rebaptism of church members in some congregations should lead Baptists to study issues such as "the baptism of children, the nature of conversion and the theology of baptism itself," he said.

To guide a 21st-century study of Baptist baptism, Leonard presented a set of questions for churches:

· "Do those churches that accept baptism from other traditions have a way of incorporating new members liturgically and 'covenantally' into a believers' church? Might a renewal of baptismal vows become a public profession of long-held faith in a new community of the faithful?"

· "Can churches that require immersion of non-immersed, long-time Christians articulate a clear biblical mandate for doing so, especially when 'New Testament baptism' is given to those who have made immediate profession of faith?"

· "Does immersion given to long-term Christians on the basis of a profession of faith require recipients to repudiate at least implicitly their earlier faith and the Christian tradition that nurtured them to grace?"

· "Should immersion of long-time Christians at least be distinguished from the immersion of new converts?"

· "Given that infant baptism is no longer mandated by state-based religious establishments, are Baptist churches that require immersion of all members prepared to declare that the churches from which would-be members come are 'false churches' or 'mere societies'?"

· "Given that the New Testament knows nothing of child baptism, can Baptist churches that require immersion of all members claim 'the true New Testament baptism' if they baptize children under the age of 12, when Jewish children confirm their faith?

· "Given that many Baptist churches accept children -- some even in the preschool ages -- as members, how will they define the nature of a believers' church?"

· "If Baptist churches baptize children, especially very young children, can they commit themselves to ... helping children remember their profession of faith and baptism? Can they develop clear, intentional methods for 'confirming' the faith of children once they confront the moral and spiritual dilemmas of adolescence and adulthood?"

· "What can some Baptist churches do to extricate themselves from the cycle of rebaptism given multiple times to professing Christians? If baptism is administered in the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, when does rebaptism become an act of literally taking the name of God in vain?"

· "As Baptists lose their culture-dominant status, how does baptism become a renewed sign of conscience and dissent in the world?"

· "How might Baptist churches again become 'a shelter for persons distressed of conscience' and a prophetic community that distresses the consciences of members and non-members alike in response to the great issues, ideas and injustices of our times?

· "Might the early Baptists' radical understanding of conscience encourage us to an equally radical concern for voice -- an environment in which everyone can speak even when the differences are vast and irreconcilable?"

· "Might a recovery of Baptist dissent compel Baptists to articulate ideas that inform and challenge the church and the culture, even when they will never secure approval by a majority?"

In a question-and-answer session, a participant asked Leonard about his answers to the questions. He replied that, true to Baptist heritage, they are questions to be worked out by congregations themselves.

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Although Bible says it, Baptists haven't settled it, historian says
By Marv Knox (669 words)

WACO, Texas (ABP) -- Throughout their history, Baptists have uniformly revered the Bible but passionately disagreed about what it means, historian Bill Leonard told a Baylor University audience.

Leonard delivered the annual Parchman Lectures at the Texas Baptist school's George W. Truett Theological Seminary Oct. 14-16. This year, the lectures supported the university's focus on the Baptist movement's 400th anniversary.

Baptists' earliest statements of faith proclaimed their affirmation of Scripture, noted Leonard, dean of Wake Forest University Divinity School.

The London Confession, published in 1644, stated, "The rule of this knowledge, faith and obedience ... is not man's inventions, opinions, devices, laws, constitutions or traditions unwritten whatsoever, but only the word of God contained in canonical Scriptures."

The Orthodox Creed, affirmed in 1679, declared biblical authority does not rely upon "authority of any man, but only upon the authority of God."

"Early Baptists recognized the complexity of reading, using and understanding biblical content, while insisting even the 'unlearned' could comprehend the text's most basic instruction," Leonard said.

But Baptists "often painted themselves into assorted theological and cultural corners" when their avowed loyalty to biblical authority clashed with "piety and practice, culture and conflict," he added.

"When such theological and cultural dilemmas inevitably occur, many Baptists adapt, even change, their theology while clinging to the rhetoric of an uncompromised biblicism," Leonard said. "And, being Baptists, when such differences occur, they often split, creating new communities gathered around diverse interpretations of pivotal texts."

That has been true from the beginning, he said. "Baptists are really the only post-Reformation Protestant community to begin with two contradictory theological perspectives, one Arminian, the other Calvinist," he added.

Arminians championed human free will, while Calvinists emphasized God's sovereignty. Since the 17th century, Baptists have been found at points all along that theological spectrum, Leonard said.

A century later, Baptist missions pioneers William Carey and Andrew Fuller "stretched popular theology to the breaking point" by promoting what Leonard called "evangelical inclusion." The pair emphasized the biblical mandate to take the gospel to the "heathen" around the world, while other Baptists vehemently disagreed, believing God could save the "elect" without human involvement.

In time, advocates of missions carried the day for most Baptists, a victory that redefined their understanding of God's plan for salvation.

A century after that, Baptists struggled with accommodating their theology to culture, Leonard added. The primary issue was slavery, and both sides claimed the Bible supported their position. This dispute further compounded when Baptist slaves cited numerous biblical references to support their cry for liberation.

In the 20th century, the question of accommodation to Scripture and/or culture focused on the role of women in Baptist churches, and particularly ordination, Leonard said. As with previous divisions, Baptists with polar-opposite positions each claimed to have the Bible on their side.

Even more recently, some groups of Baptists in the United States have debated the use of alcohol and the practice of personal piety, Leonard said. And as before, they all cited the Bible.

All these debates illustrate the fact that biblical interpretation and application "is neither a simple nor primarily an academic pursuit," he stressed. "It is a dangerous necessity undertaken implicitly or explicitly by every Baptist congregation and individual. [It] sent Baptists to jail and to the mission field [and] to the slave auctions. Interpreting the text is terribly dangerous, then and now."

Baptist debates over the centuries also show "no theory of biblical inspiration or analysis is adequate to make 'all things in Scripture plain in themselves' or 'clear to all,'" he said. "Theories about the text cannot protect Baptists -- or anyone else -- from the power and unpredictability of the text itself."

Based on Baptists' 400-year track record, Leonard concluded with a question: "What issues are Baptists currently claiming with biblical ... certainty that they will be compelled to apologize for in a century or two?" he asked.

"You see, the Bible may say it, and Baptists may believe it, but -- historically speaking -- that does not always settle it."

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Prayer Blog - 10/21/2008

One of my co-workers at the Hope Resource Center, JoAnn Genova, left work Thursday as her son-in-law Eddie was involved in an automobile accident which saw his truck collide with a wall. He is prone to seizures and he either had one preceding the wreck or he fell asleep at the wheel. He is in a medically induced coma after sustaining injuries including a broken jaw and broken femurs. Please keep this man in your prayers.

Church Sign - 10/21/2008

Church: Marble City Baptist Church (2740 Sutherland Ave; Knoxville, TN 37919)

Sign: “Be an organ donor/ Give your heart to Jesus/ Worship with us”

Commentary: This cheesy sign reminds its reader that Jesus said the greatest commandment is giving one's heart, soul, and mind to God.

And He said to him, "'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.'" (Matthew 22:37, NASB)

Jesus cites Deuteronomy 6:5 in this verse.

Bible Trivia - 10/21/2008

Question: Who fell asleep during Paul’s preaching and fell to his death out of a window, but was later revived by Paul?

Answer: Eutychus. (Acts 20:9-12)

Comments: During Paul's third "missionary journey", a young man from Troas named Eutychus fell asleep during one of his sermons and fell from a third story window to his death. Some commentators, including William Barclay (1907-1978) and F.F. Bruce (1910-1990), speculate that he did not die from the fall and translations differ on the point. Regardless of his condition, Paul revives him.

And there was a young man named Eutychus sitting on the window sill, sinking into a deep sleep; and as Paul kept on talking, he was overcome by sleep and fell down from the third floor and was picked up dead. (Acts 20:9, NASB)

Assuming Eutychus died, his is the last resurrection in the Bible.

Note: This oil on wood titled "Fall of Eutychus" was painted by Eric Pervukhin.


For further information on this story from this blog, see the April 1st edition of Bible Trivia.

Word of the Day - 10/21/2008

Poltroon

A poltroon is a wretched coward; craven.

Paul claimed that the Corinthians thought him a poltroon when present but found him bold when writing from a distance.

Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ--I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent! (II Corinthians 10:1, NASB)

Like many well published preachers, Paul faced the criticism that people would rather read him than hear him.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 10/21/2008

On Monday afternoon, I ate lunch with SMA at Litton’s. I asked if my old friend JLM was working. The hostess looked at me like I was crazy and I feared she had gotten fired. I was soon informed that she never works Mondays as needs at least a “couple days to get over the weekend.” Good to know.

We ran into my church’s youth minister TSC and one of his students, Tanner Fine. It is uncanny how often SMA runs into TSC. We noted this and TSC claimed he did not see SMA that often. We are fairly certain this was an attempt to evade stalking allegations.

SMA and I spent the day discussing politics and religion. It was interesting as he is very conservative and I am...not. My stance using Christian just war theory could not dissuade him from his support of the Iraqi war. He was able to point out some inconsistencies in my politics for which I am genuinely grateful.

We also talked about a religious program he had seen on the History Channel over the weekend. He was surprised to learn Armageddon was an actual location and we discussed traveling there. We thought about putting our names in rocks so that the end of times battle will stop with somebody going, “Hey, SMA was once here!”

On Monday night, I hung out with JTH and TK at MoFoS before JTH and I joined JDM and ANS for dinner. As you can tell TK is a diligent worker. He made this rubber band ball all by himself.

I also finally met RW who works at the Halls branch. She was visiting. I liked her very much. She showed me her tattoos, one of which displays James 4:12. We did have one minor dispute. It seems JBT had also promised her the skill crane at the Halls store at one point. You may remember I too have been promised the broken game. Until said machine is given away, we agreed not to fight over it.

Afterwards, JTH and I joined the former Couple X at Applebees. Marlana was our waitress. As usual, she was wearing a brightly colored shirt. We discussed it and she confessed, “I’m not a black person.” No kidding. She was embarrassed when she realized what she had said.

It was good to see JDM and ANS. We discussed ways to get JDM off of work for our basketball game on Thursday. ANS also educated us on Girls Next Door of whom she is a huge fan. She told us, “Bridget (Marquardt) is the only one that has real boobs.” Good to know. I note this because some day I will reference this in conversation and I will get a really shocked looked from the person with whom I am conversing. Now I have documented my source.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Bible Trivia - 10/20/2008

Question: Which king of Judah had his eyes burned out?

Answer: Zedekiah. (Jeremiah 39:7)

Comments: Zedekiah was the last king of Judah. His given name was Mattaniah (II Kings 24:17). When he became king at age 21, his kingdom was tributary to Babylon and its monarch Nebuchadnezzar, who gave him the name Zedekiah. Zedekiah, in direct defiance of the prophet Jeremiah, opted to make an alliance with Pharaoh Hophra, king of Egypt, which triggered the ire of Nebuchadnezzar. Jerusalem fell and Zedekiah was caught while trying to flee.

He then blinded Zedekiah's eyes and bound him in fetters of bronze to bring him to Babylon. (Jeremiah 39:7, NASB)

After seeing his own sons put to death, Zedekiah's own eyes were put out.

Note: This image of Zedekiah being taken captive was taken from a Bible for children, published circa 1900 by the Society for Promoting Christianity.

Word of the Day - 10/20/2008

Hebdomadal

Hebdomadal means taking place, coming together, or published once every seven days; weekly: hebdomadal meetings; hebdomadal groups; hebdomadal journals.

Manna was gathered by the Israelites six days a week with a double portion available on a hebdomodal basis.

"On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather daily." (Exodus 16:5, NASB)

The double portion was so that the Israelites would not need to seek food on the Sabbath.

This oil on canvas, "Gathering of Manna", was painted by Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665). It hangs in the Louvre Museum.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 10/20/2008, Part 4

I spent Sunday night, with JTH. We drove while waiting for ALK to complete handbell practice at her church, St. Mark United Methodist Church. There were two things of note from the drive. We past a dying deer howling in the westbound lane of Northshore Drive. It was a horrific sight that touched both of us. The only positive was that we called 9-1-1 to have someone tend it. I would venture that JTH calls 9-1-1 more than anyone in the city.

In more positive driving news, I hit 82 miles per hour across the “Hazzard Hump” as optimum conditions presented themselves. That is a record in Chanana II. The landing was amazingly smooth. I attribute it to excellent skill behind the wheel and the fact that Chanana II is not equipped with four wheel drive.

We arrived at the church at the designated time but ALK’s practice was not over. Unbeknownst to us, it was not close to being over. We tried to enter the church through each of its entrances and discovered that they were all locked. I prefer to think of it as us securing the premises.

One of the doors was marked SMEEP. I learned that this acronym stands for St. Mark Early Enrichment Program. Personally, I think it would make a great curse word and plan on using it as such.

When ALK finally met up with us, we ate at Calhoun’s. There was a debate over this mayonnaise bottle which was placed on the table. ALK doubted the wisdom of it being kept unrefrigerated. JTH defended the restaurant and the bottle’s description supported him. I document this as it is one of the few times he will ever be right when debating her, not because he is incorrect but because he is the man in the situation.

Shortly after I returned home, my parents came back safe from a National Kidney Foundation meeting in Minneapolis. Thank you for your prayers regarding their safety.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 10/20/2008, Part 3

After church, I went to the Lady Vols’ volleyball game. This last sentence presented a logistical nightmare. I drove JTH from Bearden United Methodist Church to Lenoir City to pick up CRF at his home. The three of us then went back to Bearden to pick up ALK from McAlister’s Deli where she was eating with her mother. We then picked up food from McDonald’s as the rest of us had not had time to eat before the game. We worried about sneaking food into the game. This was foolish as we could have carried a loaded bazooka into the building and no one would have stopped us.

We were joined at the game by PCR and Amber and sat in our usual seats. I never dreamt I would have standard seats at volleyball games. We paid $3 for tickets and they charge the same price for a normal sized pack of M&M’s. There is something wrong with that.

We saw the Lady Vols defeat Arkansas 25-21, 25-18, 17-25, 25-21. (Is their team the Lady Hogs?) This was my third game of the season and we have won each one I attended. For the second straight game, the opponent had a large Asian on the front line- Yun Tang. I do not know why I document this only that it seems strange in the south.

In my opinion, our best advantage was at libero. I am incredibly biased as I think Chloe Goldman is gorgeous. (She has a boyfriend, mom.) Arkansas’ answer was Phoebe Bautista. Though it was amusing to hear her name on the p.a. (she have the same surname as JTH’s favorite wrestler), she was perhaps the least athletic looking person I have ever seen involved in SEC Sports. She eerily resembled our Filipino friend GAB. She favored him so much that had she had the name “Glenda” I would have smelled a rat. Not only was Chloe superior, but she got two aces on service points, which was an unexpected bonus to say the least.

If anyone from the Lady Vols’ marketing department reads this, give out a date with Chloe as the prize. That would be a draw!

The big topic of a conversation was who needed a beat down more: the emcee or the cheerleaders. The latter won by a wide margin. We no longer ask why they are necessary. Them tapping their megaphones to the beat of the band's songs may be the most unmasculine thing EVER! Public castration might be less emasculating. I am fairly certain they could evoke homicidal thoughts from Gandhi. As an aside, their lone cheer, “Point Lady Vols” sounds fittingly like “I have no balls".

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 10/20/2008, Part 2

On Sunday morning, JTH and I visited Bearden United Methodist Church. ALK was performing with the church’s handbell choir (“Rings of the Lord”) during the service. The group played three songs, including the special music “Cadenzato” arranged by Tim Waugh. (Note: ALK is wearing a pink top on the end.)

ALK was great! The conductor Les Beaver apologized that the choir now only plays two octaves due to low membership. Compared to the last cultural event I attended in support of one of JTH’s love interests (the notorious Great Clogging Debacle of 2007), this was a triumph of epic proportions. I was disappointed that ALK did not wear the white gloves throughout the day.

I had a brilliant idea during the service. I never carry cash so I had nothing to place in the offering plate. I wondered how many people were in the same situation. I developed a new offering plate, complete with with credit card swipes! What do you think?

The sermon from “Preacher Mike” (aka Michael Sluder, MGS) was titled “Prayer” using the text Matthew 6:5-15 (The Lord’s Supper). He based his sermon on Richard J. Foster’s 1992 book Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home. He accentuated the three movements of prayer: upward, inward, and outward. The only thing I found odd was that he pronounced “hallowed” with three syllables. Is this a Methodist thing?

I spoke to MGS for awhile after the sermon. His last pastorate was at St. Mark United Methodist Church, ALK’s home church. His children still attend there. He is a graduate of Duke Divinity School where he took a preaching course with Will Willimon (WHM). I talked his head off but really enjoyed him.

I also got to see two former teachers Katherine Stooksbury (KBS) and Pat Orr (IPO), who taught me in third and first grade respectively at Sequoyah Elementary School. KBS had both hips replaced twelve weeks ago but was showing no ill effects. It was great to see both wonderful ladies.

Just to reiterate, the choir’s name is the “Rings of the Lord”.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 10/20/2008, Part 1

I had a relatively light Friday-Saturday. This means I got a lot of work done.

I did spend Friday night with the MoFoS crew. When I arrived JTH and TK were outside talking. They were distancing themselves from CTH, who was in the store with some acquaintances. (In this surveillance photo, CTH is hugging a man, a common sight these days.) CTH’s erratic behavior has alienated him from the rest of the store's staff. In fact, TK deleted him as a friend from the store’s MySpace friends. Likewise, JBT shorts his paycheck up to five hours as he does little work. Which is more harsh?

I must note that my surveillance photos have shown dramatic improvement over the past year. How long will it be before I get beaten down for these improvements?

JTH, TK, and I met JBT at Applebees. JTH requested a children’s menu to color. (I have no explanation.) Every crayon the restaurant has is green. While that is my favorite color, this seemed odd.

We spent the night discussing JBT’s girlfriend’s brother (who lives with him) JB’s vocabulary. He uses the words grimey, live, and wet repeatedly with meanings far from their original intent. We are attempting to develop a jargon of our own. The one thing we are certain of is that something that is horrid will be described as “electric eel”.



On Saturday, I watched the Vol Network’s pay-per-view telecast of the Tennessee football team's 34-3 victory over Mississippi State 34-3. The game pitted the last place team in the SEC East against the worst team in the SEC West. This would probably explain why none of the networks picked the game up. The game was closer than the score indicates. Coach Phillip Fulmer gained his 150th victory in his 200th overall game. Sincere congratulations.

Despite Tennessee's woeful season, defensive back Eric Berry has been amazing. His 72-yard interception return gives him 397 career return yards. This broke a conference record that had stood since 1949. He is only a sophomore.

In more important sports news from Saturday, it was announced that my church league basketball team will play at 6:30 pm on Thursday, October 23rd. At 1-5, we are still the #3 seed and play the second-seeded squad captained by MDR. We hope to see you there.