LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--A New York Times columnist’s “discovery” of evangelicals demonstrates just how far out of touch the media elite are from mainstream America, R. Albert Mohler Jr. wrote in the March 22 edition of World magazine.
Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote a response to a column by Nicholas D. Kristof in which the longtime journalist took his media colleagues to task for being “completely out of touch” with evangelicals.
Kristof called on his media brethren to take into account the growing influence of evangelicals and stop sneering at them, though Kristof made clear his own alarm at their clout. “I tend to disagree with evangelicals on almost everything,” Kristof wrote, “and I see no problem with aggressively pointing out the dismal consequences of this increasing religious influence.”
As evidence of an upswing in evangelical influence, Kristof cited a December Gallup poll in which 46 percent of the respondents described themselves as “evangelical Christians” and the faith of President George W. Bush.
The “elite national news corps,” Mohler observed in response, “is so far removed from ordinary Americans that evangelicals seem to have emerged from a forgotten ‘fringe’ into the national spotlight.”
“The fact that something like 100 million Americans claim to be evangelicals is almost unbelievable to journalists.
“They simply don’t know any evangelicals. Who are these conservative Christians anyway? And why don’t they just go home, and leave public debate to journalists and their liberal friends?
“Every few years the secular elite rediscovers evangelicals,” Mohler wrote, “and then treats conservative Christians like National Geographic announcing the discovery of an exotic new tribe. ‘These people are very interesting to watch,’ the secularists explain, ‘but just don’t let them get close to public policy and influence. They look dangerous.’”
Kristof chided journalists for mocking the faith of evangelicals and accused his colleagues of “showing more intellectual curiosity about the religion of Afghanistan than that of Alabama, and more interest in reading the Upanishads than in reading the Book of Revelation.”
Kristof wrote, “I cannot think of a single evangelical working for a major news organization.”
Mohler pointed out that Kristof’s obvious shock at evangelicals moving from the fringe to the mainstream reinforced the stereotypes the columnist has set out to dismiss.
“Well, elite journalists may take secularism to be normal, but that just demonstrates how distant they are from Main Street America -- the country outside the elite schools, clubs and newsrooms where reporters and editors decide what ‘normal’ is,” Mohler wrote.
“Some evangelicals see the Kristof column as a step forward. After all, his column asks fellow journalists to show conservative Christians some respect. But it’s hard to see how Kristof’s approach is anything but a well-intended failure. He ends up reinforcing all the stereotypes he sets out to dismiss.
“Nevertheless, his column is noteworthy,” Mohler wrote, “because such an influential journalist is now on the record in The New York Times accusing his colleagues of being ‘completely out of touch’ with evangelical Christians. But when it comes to this kind of bias, America’s elite journalists and news executives are not only out of touch -- they’re also out of excuses.”
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) -- United States Air Force chaplain Andrew Thornley recently demonstrated to a national television audience that the war in Iraq offers Christians a unique opportunity to minister to the families of deployed U.S. troops.
The war is also creating a wide open mission field for military chaplains, he said.
On March 19, Thornley, a 2000 graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., appeared on ABC’s popular morning show, “Good Morning America” (GMA) to discuss how parents can tell their children about the war.
Thornley spoke about the military chaplaincy with GMA host Charles Gibson and answered questions on war from a panel of children whose parents have been deployed in Iraq.
Thornley, who serves as an Air Force chaplain at McGuire Air Force Base in Wrightstown, N.J., said of the war effort, “It’s a difficult time on military families in general, but the military chaplaincy is ready for this. We are reaching out to the families. We do a lot of counseling.”
By fielding questions from a panel of children, Thornley demonstrated how his counseling ministry offers comfort to military families.
In answer to 7-year-old Cynthia Bensberg’s question, “Why do we have to go to war?” Thornley replied, “Cynthia, that’s a great question, and I’d ask a question to you. Wouldn’t it be great to live in a world where everybody got along, everybody was nice to each other, everybody told the truth and nobody wanted to hurt anybody else?
“That would be a great place to live wouldn’t it? Unfortunately, our world’s not like that yet. We live in a place where there are bad people who do bad things, and nobody wants to go to war. But sometimes we have to do that.”
When Emily Lucas asked how to make the time go by faster while her dad is serving in Iraq, Thornley encouraged her to pray. “If I were you,” he said, “I would just try my best to go about life as normally as possible. Think about your dad. Pray for your dad. Realize he’s over there doing this for you because he loves you, and he loves this country.”
Ultimately, however, military chaplaincy includes far more than simply explaining theories of just war to children, Thornley told Baptist Press. “My primary purpose for being a chaplain is to fulfill the Great Commission,” he said. “ This is in my mind one of the best kept secrets about doing ministry in America—that is, the mission field of the military...Indeed the fields are ripe for harvest.”
And according to ABC, an increasing number of soldiers are coming to appreciate the ministry of military chaplains as the war intensifies. With reports of U.S troops being baptized in the Kuwaiti desert and military churches overflowing, chaplains say that the danger of military conflict is driving soldiers to contemplate their spiritual condition.
Stephanie Walker, a soldier serving in Iraq, told ABC that the danger of war has made her think about her relationship with God more seriously than she has in years. “I get a little nervous out here and think, ‘Maybe I should get things straight,’” said Walker.
For Thornley, one of the most effective ways of ministering to military personnel like Walker has been through a small group ministry called, “Ministry Reaching Everyone.” This ministry brings soldiers and their families together for small group Bible studies, discussions, and prayer times. It brings a network of prayer support and Christian fellowship to the lives of transient military families, he said.
Prior to his ministry as a chaplain, Thornley pastored Southern Baptist churches in South Carolina for more than a decade.
In the final analysis, Thornley told GMA that it has been a great honor to minister to the families who risk their lives to protect our nation.
“They have very special families,” he said. “They are willing to put on the uniform and to defend the country. And in regards to that, it’s not easy. But everyone I‘ve found wearing the military uniform, every family, has just been exceptional in their character. So they can be proud of that.”
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--Lance and Shawna Fadeley know it’s just a matter of time. All within two hours, the phone could ring, the orders could arrive, and Lance could be transported along with several thousand other U.S. troops to the front lines of America’s war on terror.
If and when the call comes, Lance, a 2001 graduate from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, will go to perform his service to God and country as an active-duty chaplain in the 4th Infantry Division from Texas’ Fort Hood. No doubt, his ministry on the battlefield will be challenging. But, the separation and uncertainty for both Lance and Shawna will be even more so.
Shawna doesn’t plan on taking the hardship, loneliness and worry sitting down, though. While her husband is ministering to U.S. Army soldiers, she will be ministering to the Army families left behind.
“Lance loves his job,” said Shawna, who served as executive secretary to the dean of the School of Leadership and Church Ministry while the couple was at the Louisville, Ky., seminary. “God has called him to minister to soldiers. I have peace knowing that Lance is in God’s will. I am scared that when he leaves, it may be the last time I see my husband.
“... [But] I have great support groups here and am looking forward to ministering to those who will be staying here.”
Indeed, the ministry opportunities will be and are plentiful. A primary place of service for Shawna will be her local church.
“They are getting together a support group for families of deployed soldiers,” Shawna said. “... I am excited to be involved in that group. They are also thinking of having a women’s Bible study during the day. I told the pastor I would lead it.”
Shawna will also be involved in ministry on base, where the needs are great among the soldiers’ spouses.
“From the meetings I have been to so far, there seems to be a lot of needs to be met,” Shawna said. “A lot of the ladies are newly married with children and are not Christians. I feel that by getting to know these women by having them over for dinner and taking an interest in their children, a friendship may be formed.
“I am thankful our church wants to be involved with the families, and that will be something I will share with these ladies.”
On base, Shawna is already involved in the battalion’s Family Readiness Group (FRG). FRG is a group of about 55 spouses from Lance’s battalion which meets on a monthly basis. They gather to share news and offer encouragement to each other.
“I would like to get to know these ladies so they can trust me and call on me when their spouse is gone,” Shawna said. “Since I am not working, I would like to watch their children if they need a baby sitter, pray for their specific needs and just be there if they need help with anything.”
She is also participating in the Protestant Women of the Chapel (PWOC) group on base. Each week, this group of 50 women come together for fellowship, testimonies, music and Bible study. Shawna has volunteered to lead a PWOC Bible study, as well as an aerobics class.
“This may be the only day of the week the ladies are doing something for themselves,” she said. “And what a great environment [it is for them] to be around other Christian women and children and learning about the Lord.”
But Shawna’s ministry isn’t limited to church and Ft. Hood. She also has an important ministry at home -- to manage the household while Lance is gone.
“I will have to take care of the house [and] lawn and pay the bills,” she said. “For me, this will not be so difficult since I have done these things before. We don’t have any children and that makes it easier to keep up on these tasks. For spouses who just got married -- and some people do get married just because their boyfriend or girlfriend is leaving -- the household duties may be more difficult since they may have never paid the bills before. They do not know what bills need to be paid, how much is owed, where to send the bills, and they may not know when they are due.”
As challenging as it will be for Shawna at home, the separation from her husband will be the most difficult.
“Lance will not be able to tell me where he is going,” Shawna said. “He may not be able to communicate with me for three months or longer depending on what he is doing.”
For this reason, she knows that her most important ministry to Lance will not be in the home but will be in her prayers.
“I will pray for Lance daily,” she said. “I will pray that he can minister to those around him, that he won’t get discouraged when he comes to the road blocks while he is away. I pray that many will be receptive to him and that God reveals Himself to them.”
She takes comfort that Lance is where a sovereign God has called him to be.
“I am thankful God is in control,” she said. “He will be with Lance.”
And she has faith that God will use Lance in a powerful way.
“God called us back into the Army for such a time as this,” she said. “The military needs good chaplains right now. Many are not called to be there, and some do not preach God’s Word. That is really scary during this uncertain time.”
It is this assurance in God’s providence, love and care that she hopes to share with those other women who are left behind.
“I want to be available to these ladies, whatever their needs entail,” she said.
LOUISVILLE, Ky.(BP)--As war commences in the Middle East, students at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary are expressing confidence in God’s providence and hope for future missions efforts in Iraq.
In interviews following chapel services at the Louisville, Ky., seminary March 20, several students said they were praying with assurance that God would protect people in harm’s way and would expand His Kingdom through this crisis.
“My wife and I prayed last night for, of course, the safety of our troops over there [and for] the safety of the Iraqi people,” said Greg Gilbert, a master of divinity student from Linden, Texas. “Mostly, I think that I‘ll be praying that when this regime is toppled, that the country will be opened up to the Gospel. I would like to see missionaries flood in there and preach the Gospel to all those people.”
Many students watched the beginnings of American operations the night before. The sounds of explosions drove home the fragility of life and the urgency of the Gospel.
“I think the fact that it [the war] is so vivid makes you immediately think of the consequences,” said Dave Theobald, a master of divinity student from Hamilton, Ontario. “And as a Christian, I immediately think of their souls rather their lives. I‘m concerned about their lives, but I just hate the thought of people dying without knowing Christ.”
Yet, students are also confident that God is in control and that His will is being accomplished.
“The images were very sobering to see,” said Mark Schweitzer, a bachelor of arts student at Boyce College, Southern Seminary’s undergraduate institution. “... Holding a view of the sovereignty of God such as I hold, I have confidence that through His plan and according to His purposes He will bring about a good end to this.”
Students, however, do feel the apprehension and uncertainty accompanies war.
“I guess you have to be a little anxious about terrorist attacks here,” Gilbert said. “And, I hope Saddam Hussein doesn’t try to do anything unconventional over there--chemical or biological. But, I’m pretty confident.”
But, they said such uncertainty can be used by God for good.
“You know, times like this God uses,” Theobald said. “These people are more face to face with the reality of death. I‘m just praying that the Lord will use that to make people see the their need of Him and their own sin.”
Many students have friends and family involved in the conflict.
“I actually have [a friend] who’s over there,” said Kristin Sanford, a bachelor of science student at Boyce College. “He’s 19. And I‘m praying for him as a Christian that he’ll stand strong in his faith. And I‘m praying for all those who do not know the Lord, that this will be a time they would by the grace of God be humbled.”
Master of divinity student Kyle McDaniel has a brother-in-law who serves as a C-130 navigator in the United States Air Force. He doesn’t know where his relative is, and he is concerned for his safety.
“The American Air Force is amazingly superior,” said McDaniel, a Disputanta, Va., native. “But, you know, it doesn’t take superiority [to shoot someone down], it just takes a rocket hitting the wrong spot. But once again, ultimately, we don’t trust in our own strength.”
Indeed, God’s strength, sovereignty, and providence in war was a refrain echoed by each student. They each are praying that Americans and Iraqis will turn to this God in this time of crisis.
“I just trust that the president knows what he’s doing,” McDaniel said. “But more than that, like we prayed in chapel today, this isn’t ultimately in the hands of the president.”
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) – Even as war heats up in Iraq, Christians must continue to look to Christ and pray that God will bring eternal peace to the hearts of the Iraqi people, a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary said this morning.
During Southern Seminary’s regular Thursday chapel service, professors and students held a special time of prayer for America’s war with Iraq which began Wednesday night.
Herschael York, professor of Christian preaching, said believers should continue to focus on the gospel as the only force that will ultimately liberate the Iraqi people and recreate their nation by giving them new hearts. He prayed that the outbreak of war would also lead to revival of the faith among American soldiers and citizens alike.
“As God’s people, we are aware that apart from Him we can do nothing,” York said in the opening prayer. “We realize that only the Lord is our comfort. All war is an admission of our depravity. I pray that this might cause us to yearn and to long for the return of Jesus Christ. Make us truly, one nation under God.
“I pray that this might even be the beginning of a time of national revival. We have seen the images from the desert of American soldiers turning to Christ and being baptized in makeshift baptisteries there on the sands, we are reminded that salvation is from the Lord.”
Jim Orrick, professor of literature and culture at Boyce College, Southern’s undergraduate program, prayed that God would help Christians to realize that no nation is saved by its multitude of weapons but through Christ alone.
“A horse or a tank or a bomb is a vain hope,” Orrick said. “We know that your all-seeing eye is upon those who fear you so our hope is in you. Our soul waits for the Lord and (He is) our strength and shield.”
Don Cox, professor of evangelism and church growth, prayed for the soldiers and President George W. Bush and reminded those gathered that God is the ultimate sovereign power.
“In this great time of uncertainty, there are two things we do know: (God’s) unlimited power and (His) immeasurable love,” Cox said. “We pray that our soldiers would make their call and election sure and that they war might end quickly with a minimum number of casualties. We pray for President Bush not only as our leader but also as our brother.”
Kathryn Webb, associate professor of leadership and church ministry prayed that God would comfort the families and friends of soldiers fighting in Iraq. She also prayed that Christians would project a dynamic witness before a world torn by the war.
“We are here for such a time as this,” she prayed. “I pray that we might be enabled to love those who may be called our enemies.”
Dr. Daniel Block, professor of Old Testament, prayed that Christians would have a deep love for the Iraqi people even though the country may be seen as America’s enemies in the war. He also prayed for peace in the world and for eternal peace in the hearts of all lost men through Christ.
“We pray that love would triumph over hate, that compassion would triumph over ambivalence,” Block said. “We long for the day that swords would be beaten into ploughshares, that missiles would be beaten into tractors, when nation will not take up sword against nation and never again will have to learn war.”
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--College minister Kevin Twit thinks he has a solution to what many call the “worship wars.” Instead of arguing over traditional versus contemporary styles, Twit combines both and comes up with a new twist:
A traditional hymn set to contemporary music -- guitars and drums included.
Twit says the music has so influenced his students at Christ Community Church in Franklin Tenn., that many of them prefer these “new” hymns over contemporary music. Twit sings in a band, Indelible Grace, that travels the country performing its brand of music. The group has released a handful of CDs and has a website -- igracemusic.com.
Indelible Grace recently held a concert at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., where Twit spoke. His lecture Feb. 20 was part of the seminary’s Institute for Christian Worship speaker series.
“I want to challenge the idea that we have to lose the church’s tradition if we want to be relevant in our age,” he said.
Twit said he once saw an antique store sign that summarized his position: “My grandmother saved it, my mother threw it away and now I‘m buying it back.”
“What I‘m seeing from my vantage point working with college students is a real hunger and desire to buy back the tradition that the baby boomers said that we could dispense with,” he said.
While not criticizing the use of contemporary music -- such as praise choruses -- Twit said that hymn lyrics offer elements not seen in other styles. Among them:
-- Hymns are mini-meditations on the “paradoxes” of the gospel.
“The gospel is so much bigger than we think, and it’s so much more mysterious than we think,” he said. “... When you sing a hymn, you actually have four or five minutes to just sit in the mystery.”
One example of this mystery, he said, is Charles Wesley’s famous composition, “Amazing Love.” Twit pointed to one particular line written by the 18th-century hymnist: “How can it be, That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?”
“We should never get over that,” he said. “That should never cease to amaze us.”
Praise songs, Twit said, generally contain one thought repeated several times. While there are times praise songs can and should be used, he said hymns tend to go deeper.
“Hymns tend to actually start somewhere and go somewhere,” he said. “They take us through a progression. They will actually allow us to sit in this mystery that the judge of all would suffer death and set his prisoners free.”
-- Hymns offer a wider range of emotional expressions.
This is surprising to some, Twit admitted, because churchgoers often relate hymns to dullness and boredom.
But hymns don’t simply dwell on the positive, he said. For example, Anne Steele, who lived in the 18th century, wrote a song titled, “Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul” following a series of family deaths and tragedies.
Such songs can help comfort those in the church who are suffering, Twit added.
“They cover this huge range of emotions,” he said.
-- Because they were written centuries ago, hymns remind Christians of the rich history of their faith.
“It’s one of the most important reasons we need to keep the hymns -- kids need to know that the church is bigger than their generation, that’s it’s not faddish,” Twit said. “... It’s been here and it will [continue to] be here.”
Pastors and church leaders wrote many of the hymns, he pointed out.
“The reason we sing hymns is because they resonated with people and they have gotten a wider hearing,” he said.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--If a man spends his entire life alone on a desert island and is saved because he never heard the gospel, then Christians should stop missions and evangelism so the whole world will eventually be saved, a professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary said.
In addressing the question of the so-called “man on the island” at the seminary’s “Give Me An Answer Collegiate Conference,” Russell D. Moore, assistant professor of Christian theology, asserted that Scripture teaches the only way persons are saved is through the proclamation of the gospel. Contrary to much popular teaching, if “the man on the island” failed to hear the gospel, he would go to hell for his sins upon death, Moore said.
“If the apostles had believed pop evangelicalism’s version of what happens to the man on the island, you and I would be in hell right now,” Moore, also the executive director of the Carl F.H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement, said. “They understood something from the resurrected Jesus Christ that there is more at stake here than we think. The only hope for the man on the island is preaching.”
The third annual conference at the Louisville, Ky., campus drew more than 1,000 college students from across the nation. Fifteen speakers from the Southern faculty explored various aspects of the exclusivity of salvation in Christ by seeking to answer the Feb. 21-22 event’s theme question, “Is Jesus the only way?”
Many within Christendom teach that the “man on the island” will go to heaven when he dies because he never heard of Jesus and did not have an opportunity to believe, Moore said.
This teaching falls within two theological designations: inclusivism and pluralism. Both views hold that all or most expressions of religion lead to God and, ultimately, eternal life.
If those views are correct, Moore said, then Christians should cease missions and evangelism so that, eventually, nobody will know about Christ. This will ultimately result in the salvation of all because they will be redeemed by the excuse of never having heard the name of Christ.
“If pop evangelicalism is right -- that the man on the island is going to be okay because he has never had an opportunity to believe -- and God is going to say, ‘I’ll give you a pass because you never rejected Christ and you never really had an opportunity anyway,’ then let me suggest to you what you should do as the next generation of evangelical Christians: shut up.
“Stop witnessing, evangelizing and putting out tracts. And plan right now that when you have children you will never sing ‘Jesus Loves Me.’ And let’s band together as a church with the idea that what we need to do is cancel [the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions.] Bring all that money back here.
“[We should] gather together and never speak the name of Jesus again, with the hope that in several generations his name will be forgotten from the face of the earth, and then the entire world will be a bunch of men and women on the island who are innocent before God. And the entire world will be saved.”
Moore pointed to numerous passages in Romans, however, that depict Christ and the preaching of his gospel as man’s only hope. The gentiles faced a similar plight to that of the “man on the island,” Moore said, which the apostle Paul addresses in Romans 15:8-12. Paul was urging the church at Rome to send missionaries to the gentiles who had not yet heard of Christ.
Moore said Christians will see the Bible gives a clear answer to the “problem” of those who have never heard the gospel when they consider three questions: Is the man on the island ignorant of God’s existence? Is he innocent? Is he important?
The first three chapters of Romans answer the first question and show that man knows about God through the existence of the created order. Romans 2 shows that all men know about God by their conscience through “the law written upon their hearts.”
Those same passages in Romans also show that the man on the island -- like every person who stands outside the grace of Christ even if they have not heard the gospel -- is not innocent. Paul’s writing shows that all persons will be held accountable for breaking the law written upon their hearts, he said.
“You may say, ‘How is it fair if the man on the island wakes up in hell tomorrow?’” Moore said. “If you are asking that question, that tells you something about what you believe about yourself and what you believe about God.
“Basically, what you believe is we’re more or less okay and God really owes us every opportunity we can have to make the best of it. That’s not what Paul says in Romans 1. Paul says [we] make an idol out of anything.
“We don’t want [the true] God, we want something else. We want an idol. Scripture says because of that the man is going to be held accountable before God.”
Further, Moore said mankind continually sins. He paused for five seconds during his presentation and said afterward, “In that five second period you and I sinned enough to send us to hell for an eternity. You say, ‘Well, maybe you did, but I‘m sitting here and I‘m not thinking any impure thoughts or coveting anything.’
“But during that pause did you or I love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and our neighbor as ourselves? No, you didn’t and neither did I. God says that is what is expected of you as someone who is created in the image of God.”
Moore said Scripture also gives a resounding answer to his third question regarding whether the man on the island matters. The man on the island matters immensely because that man represents all Christians before they trusted Christ as Lord and Savior.
There are millions of “men on the island” in the form of unreached people groups, Moore said. This reality coupled with Scripture’s mandate that sinners are saved solely through the proclamation of the gospel should provide believers with an impetus to surrender some of the comforts of middle-class American life to reach the lost, he said.
“If it is true that the man on the island is going to hell, then you and I need to give up our idolatrous fascination with SUVs and DVDs and the comforts of middle-class American life and say that there is something more pivotal than that, and that is the gospel,” Moore said.
“That means that some of you need to be preparing to be that person on the boat taking the gospel to the man on the island. That means the rest of you need to be preparing to get that person on the boat because [the man on the island] is going to hell. What is the hope for the man on the island? It is you.”
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--Persons were saved during Old Testament times by the same means as those in the New Testament -- by grace through faith in Jesus Christ -- a professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary told a group of college students.
Daniel Block, professor of Old Testament interpretation at Southern Seminary, addressed the topic of salvation before the time of Christ, pointing to Christ as the only way for all time, during the “Give Me An Answer Collegiate Conference” which drew more than 1,000 collegians to the Louisville, Ky., campus Feb. 21-22.
Some Christians falsely believe that Old Testament saints were saved by keeping the law. Others say they were saved by “doing the best they could.” Still others believe those who lived during Old Testament times were not saved at all, Block said.
One of the keys to understanding salvation through Christ as being consistent with Old Testament teaching is in seeing that Israel’s covenant God “Yahweh” is the same eternal God as Jesus Christ.
“There is salvation by no other way than by the grace of God who revealed himself in person as Yahweh in the Old Testament and provided a way of forgiveness that was fulfilled and completed in the incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ, in the New Testament,” Block said. “The two names refer to the same person.
“The question, ‘What about before Christ?’ is an earthly question. With God, that question is irrelevant because there is no ‘before.’ God lives in the eternal present, and Jesus Christ was sacrificed in the eternal present (1 Peter 1:17-21). Thanks be to God.”
The most frequent answer Block hears to the question is that people in the Old Testament age were saved through obedience to the law. Most Christians say this even while quoting the apostle Paul in Romans 4:1-3, which says Abraham was saved by faith, Block said.
“Many of us wouldn’t believe [that Abraham was saved] unless it is affirmed in the New Testament. The witness of the Old Testament is rarely enough,” Block said.
When Scripture says “there is salvation in no name other than Jesus,” this does not mean the name “Jesus” by itself holds a mystical power that saves, Block said. Rather, it is the divine person behind the name -- God -- who saves. God is the same both in the Old Testament and New, he said.
A clue to seeing this truth is found in the meaning of the name of Jesus -- “Savior,” Block said. “Jesus” is the Greek form of the Hebrew name “Joshua,” which is short for “Yahweh has saved,” he said.
“But curiously the name is never used of God in the Old Testament. And when the angel tells Joseph that Mary’s child shall be called ‘Jesus,’ he is in effect affirming the saving action of Yahweh, though now it is not a matter of saving his people from the sins of others in Egypt but from their own sins.”
That the names are the same is even more apparent in John 18, Block said. There, Judas and a group of soldiers come to arrest Jesus, and when the men tell Christ that they are seeking “Jesus of Nazareth,” the Lord replies, “I Am.”
Most English translations render this “I am he,” but the pronoun “he” is not part of the Greek construction, Block said. A more accurate reading is simply “I Am.” The soldiers drew back and fell to the ground because the Lord’s answer echoes Yahweh’s self-introduction in the Old Testament. Jesus hereby claims to be the “I Am” of Exodus 3-4, he said.
Block said the fact that Jesus is the same as Yahweh of the Old Testament seems to be Paul’s point in Romans 10:1, 8-10 where the apostle begins in verse 1 by writing, “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for [the Jews] is that they may be saved,” and goes on to say in verse 12, “The same person is Lord of all, bestowing His riches on all who call on him. And whoever will call upon the name of the Lord [Yahweh] will be saved.”
How should readers of Scripture reconcile Old Testament sacrifices which individuals and priests carried out for the remission of sins with Hebrews 10:4 which says, “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins”?
The sacrificial system took away sins by pointing to the true sacrifice, Christ, “the lamb slain before the foundation of the world,” Block said. While the sacrifices themselves did not remove sins, when they were brought in faith and by persons whose lives were pure and clean before God, God accepted them on the basis of Christ’s atoning death, which was foreknown by God. As the Book of Hebrews insists, this is the only sacrifice that could actually take away sins, Block said.
“There is no contradiction here at all between [the Old Testament declarations and those in the New Testament],” Block said. “There’s only one sacrifice for sin and that is the sacrifice of Christ slain before the foundation of the world.”
Christ came in New Testament times and both fulfilled and clarified the redemption typified in the tabernacle/temple ritual and anticipated in the Old Testament.
“For clarification we need to wait until the New Testament when the seed -- now capital ‘S’ -- of the woman defeats the devil and death itself on the cross,” Block said.
As in the New Testament, salvation was by faith alone, Block said. He pointed out that the law was given after the salvation of the Israelites when they miraculously crossed the Red Sea. God gave the law so that Israel might live as those set apart as the covenant people of God, he said.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--Focusing on the question “Is Jesus the only way?” more than 1,000 college students converged on Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for a “Give Me An Answer Collegiate Conference.”
Students from as far north as Minnesota, as far south as Georgia and as far west as Oklahoma returned to their campuses to minister more effectively in today’s postmodern culture after the weekend event, said Scott Davis, director of admissions at Southern.
The third in a series of annual collegiate conferences at the Louisville, Ky., campus, the Feb. 21-22 sessions featured seminary faculty addressing a potpourri of topics related to the exclusivity of the gospel. Seminar titles ranged from “How Can You Evangelize but Not Antagonize?” to “Who’s Right, Christ or Cults?” to “Is the Doctrine of Hell Necessary?”
For Ken Schmidt, college minister at First Evangelical Free Church of Maplewood, Minn., the conference has become a staple of his college ministry calendar. Two years ago he brought 10 students, a number that increased to 20 last year and 32 for this year’s event.
“For the students, this is the most popular option we have of any of the conferences we go to,” Schmidt said. “There are all kinds of conferences they have a chance to go to, and this is the most popular one. ...This is the one they want to go to.”
Speaking of this year’s topic, Schmidt said, “This one is really relevant for us because we’re out on college campuses sharing the gospel. We’re dealing with these issues.”
Schmidt cited solid biblical content combined with immediate relevance as an attraction of the conference, with Davis reporting that other attendees gave similar input. “Many students stated that they thought very seriously about their faith and found encouragement in a world that does not love the things of Christ,” Davis said.
“We have heard many gracious comments about how the Lord seemed to use the conference for equipping collegians for ministry on their campuses and in their churches. That, in addition to the sheer numerical response, indicates to me that the conference was a success.”
Plans for next year’s conference are already in the works, Davis said, with the 2004 “Give Me An Answer Collegiate Conference” to be subtitled, “Has God Spoken?” and dealing with such issues as epistemology -- how humans come to know what they know, the sufficiency of Scripture and biblical inerrancy.
Workshops on Bible teaching, hermeneutics and interpreting difficult passages of Scripture will supplement keynote addresses by Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. and Daniel L. Akin, senior vice president for academic administration.
Many churches have already indicated that they plan to attend next year’s collegiate conference, with some even writing it into their yearly budget, Davis said. For a conference that began as a “low-key” recurring event three years ago, he said such progress is a remarkable work of God toward equipping college students for life and ministry.
Among next year’s attendees may very well be Patrick Stewart, pastor of the First Baptist Church of St. Charles, Ill., who has told organizers he wishes he had attended the previous conferences at Southern. “I’ve looked at some of the topics they’ve had, and I‘ve said, ‘How did I miss making that a priority?’” he said.
“I know that any subject they deal with here is going to have theological integrity,” Stewart said. “It’s going to have depth. It’s going to be solid.”
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--Toward the end of World War II, with Germany defeated and the Holocaust exposed, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower did something some of his advisors failed to understand -- he brought ordinary German citizens into the Jewish torture chambers, showing them what they had allowed.
A similar day is coming in America, R. Albert Mohler Jr. believes, when the nation’s citizens will have to come face-to-face with the reality of the horror they have allowed -- abortion. Mohler made his comments while speaking at a pro-life rally in Frankfort, Ky., in mid-February.
“I believe America will come to that point when Americans are going to have to walk through the technology of death,” the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president said. “They are going to have to walk through the abortuaries.
“They are going to have to enter the counsels of death on euthanasia. They are going to have to go into the laboratories where human embryos were created only to be destroyed, and they are going to have to see what we have made possible.”
Christians have a special understanding of the horrors of abortion, Mohler said.
“Only those who understand that human life is made in the image of God will understand why human life is sacred,” he said. “That profound biblical understanding is what brings us to understand that from the moment of conception until the moment of natural death, there is one and only one who is sovereign over life, and that is he who created us, who knitted us together in our mothers’ wombs, and who stamped us with his own image in order that we may glorify him.
“Thus, every single abortion, every single extinguished life robs God of his glory. There is no greater crime.”
More than 40 million abortions have been performed since the historic Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, Mohler noted, adding that the number is greater than the population of the state of California or the countries of Spain and Poland.
“Never in human history has death been so made a matter of technology and strategy and cultural agenda,” he said. “Never before has a people so accommodated itself to death. We are told that history is running against [the pro-life movement], that we are facing a tide of social progress and human liberty and human autonomy, [and] ... that we will never win on this issue. I do not believe that.”
Those on the pro-choice side, he said, have turned their cause into a religion.
“In this culture of death there is a worship of the artifacts of death,” he said. “There is a driving ambition, a commission of the agenda of death. Instead of cathedrals raised in the name of Christ, there are cathedrals raised in the name of death, and that cathedral has its own priest and its own acolytes and its own anti-theology.”
Thirty years of abortion have distorted Americans’ views on other issues of death, such as euthanasia, embryonic research and cloning, Mohler said. Some citizens have “lost even the ability to think in moral terms” and they “worship at the wrong altar,” Mohler said. “They follow a false god.”
Mohler quoted 18th-century preacher Jonathan Edwards as saying, “Repentance will always come. The question is when.” Likewise, the only question about America is when -- not if -- it will turn from its sinful ways, Mohler added.
“We must hope that it will come sooner and not later, for when repentance comes, we will know the cost -- the cost not only in the millions of lives destroyed in the womb, but in the hundreds of millions of consciences deformed by this atrocity.”