LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--Christians need to hear the voices of Christian history in order to be built up in the faith and to learn about major errors that must be avoided, writers in the winter edition of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology contend.
The journal, a publication of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., includes essays on historical Christian leaders penned by theologians D.A. Carson and John Piper as well as Southern Seminary professors Timothy Beougher, Tom Nettles and Mark Terry. It also includes more than 10 book reviews.
Journal editor Thomas R. Schreiner writes the lead editorial.
“We all need models and mentors in the faith,” Schreiner writes. “The Christian life may seem abstract and disconnected from reality unless we see others living it out in practical and concrete ways.
“I have never met a believer who loves Christ passionately who has not been shaped and influenced by at least one other believer. If we have grown as Christians, we can likely point to others who lived out the Christian life in such a way that we were inspired to live in a way that pleases Christ.”
John Piper calls pastors to be men of unshakeable character and overwhelming humility like John Newton, who lived from 1725-1790. The author of perhaps Christianity’s most famous hymn, “Amazing Grace,” Newton was a debauched sailor and slave trader before his conversion. Afterward, he was a devoted husband and beloved pastor in England.
Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, recounts Newton’s profound metamorphosis from a “sinful wretch” to one ablaze for the glory of God.
“So why am I interested in this man?” Piper writes. “Because one of my great desires is to see Christian pastors be as strong and durable as redwood trees and fragrant as a field of clover -- unshakably rugged in the ‘defense and confirmation’ of the truth (Phil 1:7) and relentlessly humble and patient and merciful in dealing with people.”
Nettles writes about John Clifford, a late-19th-century British Baptist minister and leader whose personality far outstripped his theology.
A contemporary of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Clifford led the British Baptist Union away from historical doctrine by rejecting the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture and holding to aberrations of other orthodox doctrines.
“The mid-nineteenth century brought a noticeable shift in the thinking of many Baptists,” Nettles writes. “Clifford’s success and popularity, whether a cause or simply an indictor, marked a revolutionary shift in the Baptist self-concept.
“The Baptist Union opted rather for ill-defined doctrine so that external unity might be maintained and chose the path of Clifford rather than that [orthodox path] of Spurgeon.”
Terry gives a seven-year snapshot of the storied life and ministry of missionary Luther Rice, who was born in 1783. Often spoken of alongside the better-known Adoniram Judson, Rice made perhaps a more indelible impact on missions in the early days of Baptist life, Terry notes.
“Writers always link their [Rice and Judson’s] names,” Terry writes. “... They ignore Luther Rice for the more sensational career of Judson. Perhaps their emphasis is natural, but it seems hardly correct.
“It could well be that Rice made the greater contribution to Baptist missions. His indefatigable journeying and heartfelt appeals awakened Baptists to their responsibilities to a world in need. Rice’s career may have been more mundane, but it was no less meaningful.”
Beougher examines the ministry of Puritan pastor Richard Baxter, who lived from 1615-91, commending him as a model of pastoral leadership in evangelism and church growth. Baxter served as pastor in Kidderminster, England, for many years and during his ministry saw virtually the entire town converted.
Beougher points to Baxter’s humble beginnings to show that great leaders often emerge from the most unlikely of circumstances.
“When viewed in light of his later influence, Baxter’s early years were far from auspicious,” Beougher said. “No one could have guessed that this boy, born to Richard and Beatrice Baxter, would amount to much of anything.
“He was forced to live until the age of 10 with his maternal grandfather because of his father’s gambling debts. His early schooling proved a great disappointment. In six years he had four different schoolmasters, all of them ‘ignorant’ or ‘drunkards.’”
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--Mark Terry has never lost contact with Mark and Barbara Stevens during the couple’s three years as missionaries to the Philippines.
Terry, professor of Christian missions and evangelism at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, taught the Stevenses during their years on campus in Louisville, Ky., and keeps abreast of the couple’s work by way of their monthly newsletter.
Barbara Stevens and the couple’s 10-month-old son Nathan and 4-year-old daughter Sarah were injured along with nearly 150 others March 4 when a bomb exploded at the airport in Davao City, Philippines. Bill Hyde, a Southern Baptist missionary in the Philippines since 1978, was among 21 killed in the explosion.
In 1998, Mark Stevens was the first to enroll in Southern’s “2 Plus 2” missions program which combines two years of classroom work with two years of service as a missionary apprentice. Stevens became the program’s first graduate in 2000. That same year, the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board appointed the couple as career missionaries to the Philippines.
Terry receives the Stevens’ newsletter about once a month.
“They are outstanding young missionaries, very dedicated, very sharp young people who are truly committed to the cause of Jesus Christ and to the Great Commission,” the professor said. “If I was going to hold up an example good first-term missionaries, they would be splendid examples.”
During the family’s time in Davao City, Mark Stevens has coordinated efforts to reach Filipino tribal groups with the gospel. The Stevenses were injured by a bomb placed outside the arrival terminal at an airport Terry had flown through numerous times. Terry served as a missionary from 1976-89 in Davao City. He knows well the unrest in the southern Philippines.
“They were in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Terry said. “The Muslim separatists have been conducting a campaign of terror in the southern Philippines for the last several years. This is just one in a long series of explosions and terrorist acts perpetrated by Muslim separatists. They are trying to force the Philippine government to make the southern Philippines an autonomous or a semi-autonomous Muslim state.
“The missionaries know very well where they are serving is a volatile place. They understand that. The bomb wasn’t targeted at them. It was simply a random act of terror and they just happened to be there when it detonated.”
Terry also served on the mission field with Bill Hyde for more than a decade. Hyde and his wife, Lynn, came to the Philippines in 1978 to the capital city of Manila.
Hyde first worked as a music teacher at Faith Academy, a missionary boarding school. Later, he returned to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and obtained another degree before returning to Manila to work with the IMB in leadership development.
Terry said his path crossed with Hyde’s infrequently but remembers the late missionary for his personality.
“He [Hyde] was Mr. Personality,” Terry said. “He had an ebullient personality. He was very outgoing, very friendly. I didn’t see him very often. We were in Davao City and he was 500 miles north in Manila. Saw them once a year at the annual missionaries’ meeting, but I remember what a nice man he was.”
At Southwestern, Dan Crawford, professor of evangelism and missions, came to know Hyde and his family well.
Crawford said Hyde “would be the definition of servanthood. It doesn’t surprise me that he was the one who went to the airport to pick up other missionaries.”
David Porter contributed to this article.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The old joke about the small town that’s “not on the map” took on new meaning for three Southern Baptist Theological Seminary students in January.
Knowing little of the language and even less about the region, they spent two weeks exploring an Asian country*, specifically looking for villages that were not on any map. The goal was simple: make certain that International Mission Board personnel know the location of every family in the region.
The students hiked through rain, fog and snow, and in the end found only one unmapped location -- a small village with a handful of families. It wasn’t much of a find in the world’s eyes, but in the spiritual realm, in was a goldmine, for each of those persons needs to hear the gospel.
The trip served as a sampling of ministry possibilities for the students, all of whom are considering fulltime missionary service.
“I hope to go back,” said one of the students, Darryl Borden. “I feel a strong call to both -- both the foreign field and here at home.”
The students toted backpacks weighing some 40 pounds over hills and mountains, going wherever the Spirit led. At each village, they plotted its coordinates with a hand-held Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) system so that future missionaries could find its location. They also took a photo of the village’s entrance and exit.
They had tents but used them only once. At nearly every stop, someone took them in, providing meals and a place to sleep. The men had carried little food -- only a handful of “energy” bars.
“We were depending on the Lord for that -- for [lodging] and meals,” said another student, Chris Madison. “... The Lord just kept providing.”
As the men discovered, searching for unmapped locations isn’t easy. They would often come to a fork in the road, not knowing which trail to take.
“We had no idea which one went to a village and which one went to a rice patty,” Madison said.
One morning they woke up and discovered some eight inches of snow on the ground. They were dreading the hike in the wintry mix but soon learned it could be beneficial.
“It was sent by the Lord,” Madison said. “Because with snow, you can see your tracks. We were able to look at the snow and say, ‘Hey, there are a lot of tracks here, so there’s probably something down there.’ It actually served as a guide.”
While they were searching, they were praying for wisdom and safety. Those prayers were answered at one location when the men -- looking for water -- went unnoticed by government officials, who may have raised questions about the students’ journey.
“I walked into this one store and I started looking around,” Madison said. “I looked up and there were four officials sitting there playing a game. I backed out as nonchalantly as possible.
“We had the energy all of sudden to get up and leave.”
The trip simply gave the three men a greater burden for the lost, even though they had been prayerfully considering fulltime service on the mission field. “It’s a definite change,” Borden said of his deepened outlook.
*Because of security risks, the names of the trip’s location and participants have been changed.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--The future of the pro-life movement in America rests on Christian pastors and leaders courageously confronting the issue of abortion, a group of pro-lifers agreed in a panel discussion at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Two Southern Baptist leaders joined a pro-life Presbyterian activist and a former United States congressman to discuss the future of the pro-life movement in America. The seminary’s Carl F.H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement sponsored the Feb. 5 forum.
The panelists said that while the pro-life movement has momentum -- and in many ways is winning -- more could be done if pastors and leaders boldly confronted the issue of abortion on Sunday mornings.
“I know ministers in my local community who will not preach on the issue because they say, ‘There are people in my congregation that have had abortions and I don’t want to stir up the issue,’” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
“We are still suffering in our denomination from a generation and a half of theological malformation in our [Southern Baptist] seminaries -- malformation that has been stopped and reversed, and I praise God for that.”
Adding that he “expects better” from the next generation of leaders, Land said too many Christian leaders see abortion as a political issue instead of what it is -- a moral issue.
“It’s not a political issue,” he said. “It has political consequences. ... [Instead,] it is the most profound moral and spiritual issue of our time.”
Christians must remember that abortion has two victims -- the baby and the mother, Land noted.
“There are millions and millions of women suffering who desperately need to hear a word from their pastor about abortion,” he said.
Joining Land on the panel were R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary; David McIntosh, former U.S. Representative from Indiana’s 2nd District (1994-2000); Terry Schlossberg, executive director of Presbyterians Pro-Life; and Russell Moore, head of the Henry Institute and assistant professor of Christian theology at the seminary.
Moore agreed that too many pastors see abortion as strictly a political issue.
Such pastors believe that “you vote for pro-life candidates [and] you do that outside the walls of the church, but you don’t need to talk about it, because it’s not a biblical, theological issue in their minds,” Moore said.
Churches must confront abortion because the source of the problem lies not in politics but in the human heart, the panelists said.
“The culture of death in the human heart is far more dangerous than the culture of the abortion in the abortionist’s place of work,” Mohler said. “The one leads to the other -- from the heart to the abortion clinic [and] not from the abortion clinic to the heart.
“... We must reach the human heart. We must pray for that day when the idea that a woman would kill the baby in her womb would become such a moral horror that it would not be contemplated.”
The first-century Christians were clearly pro-life, Mohler said, pointing to an early church document -- the “Didache” -- that called abortion “murder.” It is believed the document was written around A.D. 100. Land added that the early church stood for the sanctity of life when the surrounding Roman culture often practiced abortion and infanticide.
“Abortion is one of the ‘thou shalt nots’ [and] it’s named by name,” Mohler said.
Many of today’s Christians stand in stark contrast to those early Christians, Mohler said, with some self-professing evangelicals remaining surprisingly silent.
“What we’re finding in the church today is a realignment,” he said. “Abortion is in many ways the critical criterion for this realignment. ... If abortion is not producing the realignment, it is at least revealing the realignment.”
The Southern Baptist Convention is an example that “moral sanity” can be recovered, Mohler said. Referring to pro-choice resolutions on abortion passed by Southern Baptist Convention bodies in the 1970s, Mohler said the convention has “a great deal of ground to regain, but thanks be to God we’ve been given that opportunity.”
Today the SBC is unquestionably pro-life, with the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message saying that Christians “should speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death.”
While the Southern Baptist Convention official policy is pro-life, the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s policy is pro-choice, Schlossberg said. She heads an organization seeking to guide the denomination back to its historical pro-life roots.
“The Presbyterian church has not always held a position in support of abortion rights,” she said. “In fact, that’s an innovation of modern history. ... We are a clear sign that in the Presbyterian Church the issue isn’t settled. We are a growing organization in a denomination that is losing members at a rate of more than 30,000 every year.”
A shift to pro-life belief is occurring, Schlossberg said, although the Christian church must stand taller in the debate.
“I don’t see adequate response from the church, even in the church’s own self-understanding of its role in this respect,” she said.
Abortion, though, is not the only issue that must be confronted in the church, Mohler said, citing sex as another forefront issue. Sexual freedom is a theme often championed by abortion rights proponents, he pointed out.
“If the issue of abortion were separate from issue of sex, it never would have arrived at the Supreme Court in the first place,” he said.
Presbyterians Pro-Life spends much of its time encouraging the teaching of biblical sexuality, Schlossberg said. PPL “is now as active in the sexuality debate in our denomination as we are in debates over human life,” she said. “Why? Because it’s perfectly clear to us that the connections exist”
The church must teach “God’s intent for sexuality in order for us to get to the issue of abortion,” she added.
McIntosh, who intends to run for Indiana governor in 2004, said youth leaders play a crucial role in the abortion battle.
“You can’t fudge it,” he said. “You can’t hedge it and not give a clear answer. Kids will keep probing with you.”
Former President Bill Clinton has said he developed his pro-choice views in church, Moore noted. To that, McIntosh said, “Be good stewards as youth pastors and maybe the future Bill Clintons will not be led astray.”
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--Momentum is on the side of the pro-life movement in America, but much work needs to be done, a group of pro-lifers agreed during a discussion at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on the future of the pro-life movement.
They pointed to polls showing that youth are more pro-life than their parents; to advances in technology that allow a woman to see a movie-like image of her pre-born baby; and to the fact that many pro-choicers are shying away from the term “abortion” altogether.
The seminary’s Carl F.H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement sponsored the Feb. 5 event.
“There is a weakening of abortion commitment as a single issue [among pro-choicers]. That comes across survey after survey,” said Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. “Every generation from 1973 to the present has been less committed to abortion as a single issue than the generation that has preceded it.”
Joining Mohler on the panel were Richard Land, executive director of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; David McIntosh, former U.S. representative of Indiana’s 2nd District (1994-2000); Terry Schlossberg, executive director of Presbyterians Pro-Life; and Russell D. Moore, head of the Henry Institute and assistant professor of Christian theology at Southern Seminary.
Poll numbers showing an ever-decreasing support for legal abortion are “sending a quake of fear into the hearts and a quiver into the spine of the pro-abortion movement in America,” Land said. Most polls, he said, break down as follows: 30 to 40 percent of Americans want to see most abortions banned, while 20 to 25 percent want all abortions legal.
“The battleground is for the people in the middle,” Land said. “... We are slowly but surely winning the struggle for heart and minds in America.”
A report released by the University of California at Berkeley last year found that 44 percent of people ages 15 to 22 support government restrictions on abortion compared to only 27 percent of adults.
“[Young people] understand that they could have been killed if their mother had decided to kill them,” Land said, adding that a “seismic shift” in abortion opinion has occurred in the last 15 years.
Advances in technology have helped the pro-life cause, panelists said, with 4-D ultrasound machines leading the way. Used by many pro-life crisis pregnancy centers in their conversations with women seeking abortions, the 4-D machine allows a pregnant woman to see her pre-born baby up close and in real time. Every tiny detail -- including the sucking of the thumb -- is visible.
“Medical research has not strengthened the pro-abortion cause,” Mohler said. “... Medical research has become a great impetus for the pro-life movement.
“We understand far more of what takes places in the womb than we ever did before.”
Mohler noted, “When you have the pro-abortionists arguing that it is an imposition on a woman to show her what is taking place in her womb, you know that that is an argument in moral retreat.”
The fact that few physicians are willing to perform abortions is another “great moral victory,” the seminary president said.
The panel drew a parallel between the pro-life movement of the 20th and 21st centuries and the abolitionist movement of the 18th and 19th centuries. Much like those who fought to abolish slavery, pro-lifers are fighting to change public opinion and public policy one step at a time, panelists said.
“Good men and women struggled against a government policy that was wrong and immoral and [that] treated a certain class of people as less than human,” McIntosh said of the abolitionist movement. “They knew it was wrong and they fought against it.”
Similar to the slavery debate, the abortion battle “won’t be won overnight,” McIntosh said. But he pointed to small victories -- including the current debate over partial-birth abortion -- as positive steps.
“That framed it in the other direction ... [and] gave the pro-life position the moral high ground,” McIntosh said. “In order to be against that, you had to be for clearly killing a fetus that would be viable if left on its own. ... You couldn’t look at the issue or think about the issue and not reach the conclusion that that’s what it was.”
“We have learned as a pro-life movement how to isolate certain issues to help America understand with clarity the reality of abortion. Every incremental step along these lines is to be celebrated,” he said.
The debate must be framed properly because abortion rights proponents are trying to skew the issue, McIntosh said. From a pro-choice perspective, he said, a pro-lifer’s arguments become “a substitute for a question of whether society [will] allow women to be free to pursue careers in the marketplace.”
“When I would take a pro-life position, [advocates of legal abortion] would be listening to that as, ‘Here’s a male who’s successful in his career [and] he doesn’t want me to have an opportunity to have a career in whatever I may choose to do.’
“We have to be careful and not allow the other side to frame it in those terms.”
The pro-life argument must stay on issue and stress the life of the unborn child, Land said.
“When we’re seeking to legislate against killing unborn babies, we’re not trying to impose our morality on pregnant women,” he said. “We’re trying to keep them from imposing their immorality on their unborn babies.”
While pro-lifers express hope that the U.S. Supreme Court will someday overturn Roe v. Wade, Land has hope that the high court will go one step further and simply reverse it. That, he pointed out, is what happened in 1954 when the Supreme Court issued its Brown vs. Board of Education ruling reversing the 1892 Plessy vs. Ferguson decision. In the Brown case, the high court ruled that separate but equal accommodations for minorities were unconstitutional.
If Roe v. Wade is overturned, the abortion debate will go back to the states. If reversed, abortion will be made illegal nationwide.
“If we get the right justices ... my prayer is that they will reverse Roe, and not [simply] repeal it.”
But pro-lifers must speak the truth in love, panelists said. McIntosh said that love must be expressed toward every individual involved -- including the women who have abortions.
“Pray for our opponents,” he said. “ ... We have to pray for everyone involved.”
Schlossberg, who heads a pro-life organization seeking to change the policy of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), said all Christians should be involved.
“Where this issue is concerned, your calling applies to the issue,” she said. “You don’t have to depart from your calling to address this issue.”
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--Shortly after President Bush delivered his State of the Union speech Jan. 28, Focus on the Family caught up with R. Albert Mohler Jr. and asked him to address a matter of even greater importance -- the “spiritual state of the union.”
The interview with the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president appeared online on Focus on the Family’s CitizenLink website.
Mohler said the spiritual state of the union is “mixed,” burdened by confusion over authentic Christianity.
“I really think it is a mixed picture, because America continues to demonstrate very high levels of religious participation -- and even claims of religious belief -- that are clearly distinct from the secularism of Western Europe,” he said.
“But at the same time, Americans are obviously having a very difficult time applying the beliefs they claim to hold to the issues of everyday life. And postmodern America is such a confusion of spiritualities that authentic Christianity unfortunately appears to be just one option among the others. It gives a whole new meaning to being ‘salt and light’ in the midst of this culture.”
Mohler described the church as “having a hard time understanding how to bear witness in this society and how to think in a way that is distinctively and consistently Christian.”
He gave high marks to Bush’s presidential address -- particularly his confrontation of a handful of social issues.
“I thought the president’s State of the Union speech was an absolutely remarkable and historic presidential address,” Mohler said. “The president put himself on the line, for instance, for a total ban on human cloning and for an end to partial-birth abortion, and a very bold initiative on AIDS and ... the mentoring of children of prisoners, etc.
“The president was trying to build a moral consensus on those issues of grave moral concern. The reason why that is remarkable is that America no longer has a moral consensus on those issues, and that to me is the chief symptom of what I think is our spiritual state.”
The simple fact that Bush had to address issues of life “demonstrates that the spiritual state of the union is not good, and it should not leave Christians satisfied,” Mohler added.
Part of the problem with the spiritual state, Mohler said, lies at the feet of professing Christians who simply blend in with the culture.
“If you simply look at patterns in the culture, from entertainment to moral issues ... there clearly is a great deal of compromise and accommodation in the church,” Mohler said. “[T]here are liberal denominations out there that advocate that accommodation is basically the only way to fit into this society -- or as they might put it, ‘to minister to it.’
“But we have to bear the scandal of the gospel as authentic Christians and say to the world there is a higher wisdom than the world’s wisdom. There is a word we have to speak to this culture, and that is a word that is rooted in the objective truth of God’s revelation and [that] tells Americans, frankly, what we often do not want to hear.”
The gospel message must be distinct, Mohler asserted.
“We do not present the gospel as one saving message among others,” he said. “We do not even present the gospel as a better way to heaven than any other way. We must proclaim the gospel the way Jesus defined it, and the Apostles preached it. This is the Lord who said, ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No man comes to Father but by Me.’ And when the Apostles, even upon threat of their lives, explained the gospel, they said, ‘There is no other name given under heaven and earth whereby men must be saved.’
“That is very difficult to get across to modern America. It sounds horribly intolerant, politically incorrect and exclusivistic. But it’s the gospel -- the only gospel that saves.”
A return to “biblical Christianity” is the only way the church will get out of its current confusion, Mohler said.
“We have to be, as the church, the community of Christ’s people under the authority of the Word,” he said. “That must affect not only the way we think, but also the way we live. And in so doing, we are going to stand out from this culture in a very distinctive way. Now, there are those who warn us that standing out in such a way will limit our opportunities for witness. That may be true, honestly speaking. That contrast between the church and the world may make some people love the world all the more, because they love its pleasures and they love its promises. But on the other hand, it is the only way the church can be the church and -- I would argue -- it’s the only way we can have a truly Christian witness.
“Because, after all, if we are saying to the world, ‘Just come join us, and we’ll add a little something to your life,’ there’s no gospel there. But what we’re saying is: ‘Come and be transformed by the grace and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ.’
“That’s a radical message. And what we need are Christians ready to live out a radical Christianity.”
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--The world needs more Christians who will humbly stand up for biblical truth and courageously confront the issues of the day, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said Jan. 28.
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president, speaking at spring convocation, said Christians should follow the apostle Paul’s example as found in Acts 20:18-31. It is there that Paul tells the elders of Ephesus that he did not hold back in declaring “the whole purpose of God.”
“This requires courage,” Mohler said. “It requires time. It requires wisdom.”
Mohler said that year by year an increasing number of basic Christian beliefs are mocked. It is difficult to explain to someone the plan of salvation, he noted, if they refuse to believe in sin.
“The task of Christian truth-telling in this age leads to social awkwardness,” he said. “... It leads to intellectual scorn.
“[Some people] look at you as if to say, ‘You’ll grow out of this one day. We all did. Civilization has. You’re just a little late.’”
Some pastors, he said, are preaching a “half gospel” to congregations starving for truth.
“You can’t tell the whole truth in every sermon,” Mohler said. “You can’t do it all in one day. It’s over the course of a ministry. ... The temptation for most of us is to try to get people to where they will not be offended when we get to [a particular text].”
Speaking truth in today’s world will lead to criticism, Mohler said, pointing to recent examples in which the Southern Baptist Convention has been the source of controversy.
In 1998, the SBC added an article on the family to its statement of belief, the Baptist Faith and Message. Convention supporters said it reflected a biblical model of marriage, but critics said it reeked of sexism. Mohler said his wife, Mary, a member of the committee that drafted the family amendment, received many media calls -- including one all the way from Australia. Mohler said the interviewer viewed the statement as bizarre and primitive.
Similar criticism followed when the convention adopted the 2000 BF&M as well as when it passed a resolution supporting Jewish evangelism, Mohler said.
He told how he was recently confronted with a simple question during a television debate. The question: What if you’re wrong?
“If we are wrong, then we are so wrong that the damage is incalculable,” Mohler said. “If we are wrong, then we are so wrong that we are promising heaven to people on false promises.
“... If it’s based upon a false promise, then we’re fools. If we’re wrong, then we’re so wrong that we repress people. If we’re wrong, we’re wrong about God having given us a law, and we’re wrong about what we understand to be sin.”
But if evangelicals are right, Mohler said, then they “have no real options” other than to stand up for truth.
“If we have a sure and certain foundation for what we believe and what we teach, then the only question is whether we’ll be faithful or unfaithful in the teaching,” he said. “The only question is whether we’ll be bold or hesitant in the telling.”
The controversies, Mohler said, boil down to one central issue -- the doctrine of revelation.
“It all really comes down to whether God has spoken,” he said. “Because if God has spoken and we know that he has spoken, and he has spoken to us in this Word ... then we are obligated for the teaching and telling of it.”
A model for bold “truth-telling,” Mohler said, is the apostle Paul, who never shied away from tackling a controversial subject.
“The pastor’s, preacher’s, teacher’s first responsibility is to feed the flock of God,” he said. “We have to decide whether we’re going to feed the flock the whole meal or whether we’re going to try to be a theological dietician.
“It is not loving to withhold truth for fear of truth that hurts or truth that may even offend.”
But the minister must also proclaim the truth to the world.
“The apostle Paul did not direct his ministry only to the church of God,” Mohler said. “[He also proclaimed it] in the public square, as he was habitually in his missionary travels in the marketplace [and] as he was contending for Christianity as a public truth.
“We want the world to hear us speak of the gospel, and we must go out into the world and tell the gospel.”
That gospel message must be proclaimed with humility, Mohler said, citing Acts 20:19 where Paul says he serves the Lord “with all humility.”
“It is to be the humility of the person, not the humility of the message,” Mohler said. “Unfortunately, in the Christian ministry, somehow in our own sinfulness we are prone to be humble about the message and rather un-humble about the person.”
Like the apostle Paul, ministers must preach the gospel even when no one is listening, Mohler said.
“When we face the Judge as pastors, as teachers, as evangelists, as missionaries, the question for us is not going to be, ‘Did they receive it?’ The question for us is going to be, ‘Did we tell?’” he said.
Mohler read Acts 20:26, where Paul says that because of his faithful proclamation he is “innocent of the blood of all men.”
“The judgment of the non-responsiveness to the gospel ... is either going to be justly laid at the responsibility of the preacher, the teacher, the teller or upon the hearer,” Mohler said.
“At the end of the day, will we be innocent of the blood of all men?”
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--If a man is stranded alone on an island from infancy until death and never hears the gospel of Jesus Christ, where will he spend eternity?
Do the trees and rocks provide the man with enough evidence to point him savingly to Christ’s atoning death? Or will he be viewed as innocent because he was ignorant of the only way to salvation?
The answer to the question of the “man on the island” separates the pure biblical gospel from non-biblical expressions of it, argues Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Russell Moore.
And it will be one of the tough questions answered at Southern Seminary’s annual “Give Me An Answer Collegiate Conference” to be held Feb. 21-22 at the school. The conference will address the various aspects of the exclusivity of salvation in Christ, seeking to answer the question “Why one way?”
Among the topics addressed will be the necessity of the doctrine of hell, the truth claims of non-Christian religions, the confusion over the “all will be saved” passages of Scripture and the conundrum of “the man on the island.”
Moore will address the question of the man on the island. The question is vital to establishing a biblical view of sin, salvation and evangelism, Moore said, for evangelicals must assert that salvation comes through faith in Christ alone.
“The discussion exposes all kinds of hidden assumptions that we have,” Moore said. “What we think about ‘the man on the island’ tells us what we really believe about how sinful we are. It tells us what we really believe about the necessity of the Great Commission.
“I think this question is the most important question facing the 21st century church. If those who never hear the gospel are saved apart from the preaching of the gospel, then there is no reason to give one dime to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Unless we come face to face with the lostness of the ‘man on the island,’ we are going to lose the biblical passion for those who have never heard.”
Moore said that it is especially important for college students to know what they believe.
“The next generation is in grave danger of losing this central truth of the gospel -- that salvation comes only through explicit faith in Jesus,” he said. “All that the church needs to do to raise a generation apathetic to missions and evangelism is simply to say nothing. The culture will take care of the rest.”
In addition to Moore, featured speakers will include seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr., Thomas Schreiner, Ronald Nash, Daniel Akin, Thom Rainer, Thomas Nettles and other members of Southern Seminary’s faculty.
For more information on the Collegiate Conference, call 800-626-5525 (ext. 4617).
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--Heather King thought God had called her to overcome her “fear factor” long before the concept of reality television was ever conceived.
As a high schooler in Dallas, the now-32-year-old King knew she was called by God to minister for his Kingdom. Her assumption, however, was that God would require her to relocate to a land far away from civilization.
“I thought God was going to send me to a foreign country as a nurse where I would be required to utilize nursing skills on myself because I would be forced to eat goat eyeballs or some odd concoction I previously would have considered incredible,” she said.
That day may come, but King’s ministry currently is at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary as the new director of women’s programs. King began the job on Nov. 1 after replacing former director Sharon Beougher.
She came to Southern Seminary after serving as WMU/women’s ministry director for the State Baptist Convention of Indiana for the past six years.
As the seminary’s women’s director, she plans to create two programs to equip women to minister to other women in the local church. She plans to begin a degree program as well as a certificate program.
The degree program will be a master of arts or master of divinity in Christian education with a 15-credit-hour focus in women’s ministry. The second program will be a women’s certificate program and will consist of eight non-accredited courses geared toward staff and lay women within the local church.
Above all, King hopes to provide encouragement for female students.
“By virtue of this position going fulltime, it communicates to students that the administration and faculty want to encourage and affirm female students in their studies and ministries,” King said. “I, too, desire to be an encouragement to students.”
King earned her bachelor’s degree in biblical studies from Criswell College in Dallas. She then earned a master’s degree in counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. She has applied for the doctoral program at Southern Seminary and plans to begin working toward a doctor of education in leadership degree (Ed.D.) upon acceptance.
She became a Christian while in the third grade after becoming cognizant of her need for salvation while reading and memorizing Scripture verses in Vacation Bible School.
“I can vividly remember several elderly women teaching my Sunday School class,” she said. “They taught stories about who Jesus was and what he did for me. I understood my need for salvation due to the memorization of the famous VBS verse John 3:16. And most importantly, I remember seeing my father make his profession of faith public.”
After sensing the call to ministry while in high school, King decided she would attend seminary someday, still uncertain of the specific area of ministry to which she was called. Since then, God’s guidance has continued to unfold.
“In the area of women’s work,” King said, “the opportunities are almost limitless. Work within the local church provides [numerous] opportunities. There are many more opportunities [for women] in the area of state work, denominational work and mission fields, along with writing and speaking ministries and para-church organizations.”
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--For decades Moscow was the capital of communism, the heart of atheism.
Public worship was prohibited. The proclamation of the gospel was forbidden. Christians surely gathered -- but only in private.
The fall of the Soviet Union now has made communist Moscow a relic of the past. However, from an evangelical standpoint, it’s hard to tell. Of the city’s 12 million citizens, roughly 10,000 are Christian.
Southern Baptist missionary Troy Bush believes Muscovites are open to the gospel, and he senses a responsibility to spread Christ’s message.
“Moscow is so large and so diverse,” Bush said recently in a telephone interview with Southern Seminary magazine, a publication of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “We as Southern Baptists are still in the early stages of our implementation of ministry and church planting in this area.”
When the Soviet Union dissolved in the early 1990s, Christians had high hopes; the fall of communism had resulted in an openness to the gospel previously unseen.
But for various reasons, it was slow to take hold in the Russian capital. Some Christian organizations set up shop in Moscow but did the brunt of their work in the countryside. They assumed that Muscovites wouldn’t be open.
Others looked at past Christian gatherings -- such as the 1992 Billy Graham crusade -- and decided that other Russian areas needed more attention.
The result was a Moscow on the back burner of many Christian organizations’ plans.
“Hence, what you had was a situation where Moscow was largely forgotten in terms of focused missions,” said Bush, who has been in the country since December 1999. “Not until about the last two years have any major evangelical missions organizations clearly defined church planting and evangelistic ministries in the city.”
Bush, a 1999 Ph.D. graduate of Southern Seminary, works with members of his missions team to design strategies that will be implemented to reach the city’s ethnic Russians. Part of his job involves equipping and mobilizing church-planting teams. Another part involves serving as a facilitator between Christians in Moscow and those around the world.
Bush’s team has a goal of seeing 140 Baptist churches in Moscow within five years -- a number that would equal about one church for each city district. Currently, there are 23 churches. The team also has a website -- reachmoscow.org.
To reach Muscovites with the gospel, Bush said, “we do have to define what that means.” He noted that Russians as a whole tend to be very philosophical. Because they enjoy philosophical discussions, they are quite open to discussing religious issues. “The idea that most Muscovites were once atheists I don’t think ever was true,” Bush said. “I think the academia and the intelligentsia largely were atheists, but most Muscovites are religious and have some type of religious practices. The majority of the people today would still say they are [Russian] Orthodox, but the majority of them have no active participation in the Orthodox Church.”
A city once void of public worship now finds itself at the heart of pluralism. Three million citizens are Muslim. The city has 16 registered Buddhist groups and five Jewish synagogues.
One study, Bush said, found more than 5,000 religious groups within the city.
“You have tremendous plurality in the city that is equal to most any major urban center in the world,” he said. “At the same time, because of all the changes Russians have been through, you find that most Muscovites have very syncretistic worldviews. It’s not uncommon to find someone who would be Orthodox and acknowledging that there is one supreme God and at the same time they may hold very, very strong elements of naturalism and rationalism. They also believe in reincarnation and see no contradiction at all.”
The city’s diversity, as well as its size, has been quite eye-opening for Bush.
“The complexity of Moscow and the size of Moscow has been a very humbling experience. We realize that we can’t mobilize [solely] as Southern Baptists to come here and work,” he said. “We’ll never be able to bring enough missionaries to do everything that the Lord desires to be done.”
Bush has discovered both barriers and bridges to the gospel. One barrier, he said, stems from many Muscovites’ belief that God is impersonal and distant.
“For many of them, they would view him as so distant and so impersonal that a personal relationship with him is not something that’s really achievable,” Bush said. “It’s not even something that many of them pursue. Generally, they feel that their life is controlled by fate, an impersonal force.”
But there are bridges to the gospel.
“Russian Orthodoxy has retained some key elements of the gospel, and those are elements on which we can build,” Bush said. “Muscovites today would say that the moral state of Moscow has declined dramatically. What that does is that it creates a stark background on which to proclaim the light and the truth of the gospel. I think that is a real bridge.”
Russian law forbids Bush -- or any foreigner -- from starting or pastoring a church. Consequently, Bush works closely with the Russian Baptist Union, discipling and teaching its members.
“None of our missionaries are going out and starting Southern Baptist churches,” he said. “We are leading folks to Christ and discipling them and discipling existing believers so that they can do the church planting themselves.”
So far, the Russian Baptist churches are small.
“Pray for the pastors and the leaders in the Russian Baptist churches here in the city of Moscow,” Bush said when asked how Christians could pray for his work. “Just 10 years ago there was only one registered Baptist church in the entire city of Moscow. Today there are 23 in the Moscow Baptist Association. Most of these churches are small, most of them are struggling.”
Of course, Christians also can pray for Bush and his family. He and his wife, Tina, have three children: JD, 10; Caleb, 9; and Sarah, 7.
“Pray that the Lord would lay upon peoples’ hearts a burden for the city of the Moscow,” Bush said. “[Pray] that the Lord would send workers for the harvest. We need workers.”