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.”
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.”