Southern Seminary forges missions partnership with east Africa September 9, 2003
LOUISVILLE, Ky.—The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has forged a three-year partnership with International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries in East Africa that will involve seminarians in proclaiming the Gospel to unreached people groups in the region.
Officials from both the seminary and IMB signed the partnership during a Sept. 2 chapel service. Through the partnership, students and faculty members will assist IMB missionaries in East Africa with research and Gospel proclamation efforts in the region over the next three years.
“Southern Seminary has a goal to get 10 percent of the faculty and 10 percent of the students involved in overseas missions and preferably to East Africa,” said Twyla Fagan, director of Great Commission Ministries at Southern Seminary.
“Among the things we will do is send research groups to research people groups. The partnership will involve sending people to unreached people groups and seeking bridges to preach the Gospel to them. Those involved will better get to know the culture there.”
The East African region includes 144 nations that contain more than 100,000 people. Of those nations, 105 have no Gospel witness, John Sapp, IMB’s regional director for East Africa told the chapel audience.
The IMB is focusing on those 105 nations. The region includes Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rawanda, Burundi, the Congo and southern Sudan.
“We’re not among them and we don’t know their language, their way of life, or their worldview,” Sapp said. “I hope in the next three years those nations become part of your vocabulary and part of your understanding of what God is up to in that corner of the world.”
Southern Seminary marked the partnership Sept. 2-5 with a celebration that included a replica of an African village on the seminary lawn, an African worship service and various African-themed exhibits.
“Today is one of those historic opportunities for Southern Seminary as we are connecting to the purpose for which this institution was established, even as we are making a new partnership for the future,” Seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr. said.
“In 1859, when Southern Seminary first opened its doors, [founding] President James Petigru Boyce stated [that] the ambition of this institution [is] to water the world with the Gospel.
“One of our responsibilities as a school is to seek not only to talk about missions and to teach missions, but to be involved in missions at the present and we are very excited today to be starting something new.”
One area in which students will be particularly valuable is leadership training, Fagan said. Seminarians will teach indigenous leaders of churches already planted by missionaries.
Sapp urged seminarians to gain encouragement from believers in East Africa who continually face persecution from other religions such as Islam. The Muslim faith dominates parts of Africa’s east coast, including Tanzania.
“I hope you get to meet some of the believers who are now paying a dear price for naming Jesus Christ as the Lord of their hearts, who are wanting to follow Him in believer’s baptism,” Sapp said. “[They] live in a community that is 99 percent Muslim [located] on the coast of Tanzania.
“I’ll guarantee you those folks, as they go to bed at night, know what the term ‘fear’ means. I believe as you and I continue to be obedient to God’s call upon our lives, we’ve got to remember that what He gives is peace that can overcome the fear that the world wants to hand out.”
Seminary class experiences ‘ministry evangelism’ August 29, 2003
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) -- Fourteen students from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary recently learned firsthand how meeting physical needs and proclaiming the Gospel can work hand-in-hand to lead people to Jesus Christ.
The students traveled to the First Baptist Church of Leesburg, Fla., July 7-11 as part of a Southern Seminary class entitled, “Ministry Evangelism.” During their time in Leesburg, the students observed the extensive network of ministries in place at FBC—which includes men’s and women’s shelters, a crisis pregnancy center, a benevolence center, a medical clinic, a children’s home, and many others.
They also attended classroom sessions co-taught by Don Cox, associate professor of evangelism and church growth at Southern and Charles Roesel, pastor of FBC of Leesburg.
Participating in several of the church’s more than 70 ministries gave students the opportunity to learn how social ministry can provide an entr...e for the Gospel, Cox said.
“I think for the students, it helps them begin to see that as we seek to share the Gospel with people in the world that there’s a great need to meet the personal physical needs that people may have,” he said.
“The main learning objectives were to form a biblical foundation for doing ministry evangelism and to learn how to do ministry evangelism practically by looking at not only the reading of the class, but also actually experiencing a model where that’s being done on our country.”
Gayle Fee, a master of divinity student from Rochester, N.Y., saw firsthand how meeting physical needs opens a door for the Gospel when she got the opportunity to share Christ with a client at the church’s crisis pregnancy center.
Two weeks before Fee arrived in Leesburg, the woman had given birth to a child she might have aborted had it not been for the counseling she received through the church. When the woman returned to the crisis pregnancy center with her two-week-old baby, Fee shared the Gospel with both the woman and the center’s director.
“We had the opportunity to share the Gospel with a woman who had chosen not to abort her baby, and we were able to hold the baby and just see the fruit of that ministry,” Fee said.
Ministries like the crisis pregnancy center exemplify what Cox labeled, “ministry evangelism.”
“Ministry evangelism is simply caring for persons in the name of Jesus Christ,” he said. “It is meeting persons at the point of their need and ministering to them physically and spiritually.
“Ministry evangelism is sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with people as we meet them at the point of their need, which can be often a physical need.”
Over the years, First Baptist of Leesburg has developed a reputation for successful ministry evangelism.
When Roesel arrived in Leesburg 26 years ago, the church averaged approximately 300 people on Sunday mornings and Roesel had contacted every person on the church’s prospect list within six months.
Then the church initiated a number of ministries designed to meet physical needs in the community, and the congregation exploded to more than 7,000 members. Today Roesel says that he never runs out of prospects.
For David Fee, a master of divinity student from Rochester, N.Y., Roesel’s expertise in ministry evangelism served as an invaluable educational tool.
“From a pastor’s perspective, what was really nice about this trip was Dr. Charles Roesel,” David Fee said. “He’s been in the ministry for 50 years, so we had an extended amount of time where people fired off just any and all practical questions they had about ministry. He covered a lot of things, and he had a lot of great things to say.”
According to Cox, the class was such a success that there may be similar travel classes offered in the future.
“One thing the students saw was some of the people who have actually been led to Christ in the ministry,” Cox said.
“It was fulfilling to know that the Lord can use you to encourage those guys that are there.”
The Battle of Montgomery: Where Should Christians Stand? August 27, 2003
Judge Roy Moore, Alabama’s now-suspended Chief Justice, has at least two major weapons in his arsenal as he fights the Battle of Montgomery--a set of powerful arguments and all the right enemies. What began as a skirmish in the nation’s culture war has now expanded into a full-blown battle, with both sides seemingly prepared to dig trenches and fight to the finish.
The controversy began long before Moore was elected the state’s chief jurist in 2000. During his days as a circuit court judge in Gadsden, Moore had placed a plaque listing the Ten Commandments in his courtroom. A legal challenge led to a court order requiring Judge Moore to remove the Ten Commandments. The judge refused and only the intervention of the governor prevented further action.
Alabamians knew Judge Moore and his intentions when they elected him to the state’s highest judicial office three years ago. As the judge told Fox News’ Sean Hannity, “They knew what they were electing.” Two years ago, Chief Justice Moore had a 5,300-pound monument featuring the Ten Commandments placed in the rotunda of the state’s Judicial Building. Predictably, groups promoting the secular agenda sued to have the monument removed.
Nine months ago, the Federal District Court ordered the removal of the monument. Judge Myron Thompson ruled that the monument is “nothing more than an obtrusive year-round religious display.” After months of legal maneuvering and appeals, the order is apparently soon to be enforced.
Anticipating this showdown, Chief Justice Moore declared that he would not--indeed could not--remove the monument or comply with the judge’s order, because to do so would be to violate Alabama’s state constitution, which acknowledges “Almighty God.” Last Friday, the state’s Judicial Inquiry Commission suspended the Chief Justice from his duties, finding him guilty of disobeying a lawful order from the federal court. Unless the state’s Court of the Judiciary finds otherwise, Chief Justice Moore is almost certain to be removed from office.
The state--with the whole nation watching--now faces the prospect of a showdown between the judge’s supporters and whatever authority is called upon to remove the monument. The chief’s fellow justices and the state’s Attorney General will not defy the order. Several prominent Christian leaders have jumped to Judge Moore’s defense. Some, like Focus on the Family founder Dr. James Dobson, warn that the nation stands at “a turning point, a pivotal point in the history of this country.” Furthermore, he said, “There are times when you have to respond to a higher law.”
Others, including Dr. Richard D. Land of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice, argue that Chief Justice Moore is harming the cause of religious liberty and the rule of law by defying a lawful court order. As Land explains, “If we disagree with a judicial interpretation of the law (which makes it the law until it is changed) ... then we must change the judges and, if necessary, change the laws.”
With hundreds--and potentially thousands--of Christian citizens being urged to go to Montgomery to defend the monument and the Chief Justice, we face the very real possibility of an ugly confrontation. Serious Christians had better think hard and think fast before we find ourselves in a very public debacle. We had also better pay close attention to our arguments, for they are sure to be turned against us if we are careless.
With so much at stake, let’s try to think carefully as we review the critical issues.
First, Chief Justice Moore is certainly correct in his insistence that the Ten Commandments monument is fully constitutional. Nothing in the First Amendment touches even remotely on this issue, and the founders would certainly be flabbergasted to think that a federal judge would find such a display unconstitutional. Judge Moore is absolutely right in asserting that the Ten Commandments have long been acknowledged--even by the courts--as the foundation of our legal system and its moral precepts. After all, the Ten Commandments are inscribed on the wall of the U. S. Supreme Court--at least for now.
Second, the groups behind the federal lawsuit are a rogue’s gallery of secularists, including the American Civil Liberties Union (Alabama chapter) and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The ACLU is notorious for its determination to purge the public square of any Christian reference. The Americans United organization is, if anything, perhaps more extreme in its secularist agenda. Both groups are zealously committed to a secular vision for America and oppose everything from voluntary student-led prayer at school sporting events to the presence of any religious symbol on public property. A quick look at these opponents tilts the argument significantly in Judge Moore’s favor.
Third, James Dobson’s warning that we stand at a crucially important moment is well taken. The secular tide threatens to deny history, distort the laws, rob believers of their freedoms, and push the nation into a brave new world of secularism--with all vestiges of authentic Christianity removed from public view and safely restricted to private settings. Let’s call this what it is. The secularists hate the Ten Commandments because the authority of the law eventually depends upon a divine authority, or all morality is absolutely relative and endlessly negotiable. The Ten Commandments remind us that morality is not relative. This explains the secularists’ hatred of the monument.
Fourth, Richard Land and Jay Sekulow have the rule of law on their side, and years of experience defending Christian liberty under their belts. Christians cannot turn to the courts when we want rescue and then disobey the same courts when we lose. Chief Justice Moore is not helping his case--or the cause of religious liberty--by refusing to obey a lawful order of the court. His arguments fail to sustain his refusal to obey the order. It is by no means clear that his obedience of this order would in any way imply that he, or the state of Alabama, is failing to recognize the authority of Almighty God. Did the state fail in this acknowledgment for all those years before Judge Moore established his monument? Land and Sekulow have put themselves in the line of fire in this controversy--and they are right.
Fifth, Judge Moore has not yet exhausted all the legal avenues of appeal open to him. He would be in a much stronger legal and moral position if he had obeyed the order of the federal court and then appealed by every means available. Then--and only then--would Christian civil disobedience be justified. Even then, civil disobedience would not be automatic.
Sixth, Chief Justice Moore and his stalwart defenders had better think long and hard about the justification for Christian civil disobedience. The Apostle Paul points to the Christian’s responsibility to obey the magistrate as a critical function of Christian witness [see Romans 13] . Similarly, Peter called for Christians to “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.” [1 Peter 2:12] Let’s remember that Peter and Paul addressed their admonitions to Christians living under the pagan rule of Rome. We cannot possibly wiggle out of these words in the context of contemporary America. Or can we?
For centuries, Christians have argued that civil disobedience is lawful only in defense of human life, Christian witness, and Christian ministry. Christians were willing to die--and countless Christians have been martyred--because they would not bend the knee to Caesar [or Stalin, or Mao, or Castro, or the Taliban] and deny Christ. Christians in Nazi Germany risked their lives to save Jews. Christian pastors languish in jails around the world even today because they will not cease preaching the Gospel. No serious Christian would doubt their justification to resist the regime and disobey its laws. We do follow a higher law than the laws of men--but only when to do otherwise is to deny the faith or allow the innocent to die.
We must support and defend the right of the State of Alabama--or any other state--to erect a monument featuring the Ten Commandments. Judge Moore is right in his insistence that his monument is lawful. He should press that case in every court until all appeals have been exhausted. But he should also obey lawful orders of the federal courts until that point is reached. Even if he ultimately loses at the U. S. Supreme Court, we should work through the democratic process to remove the judges and reassert legal sanity.
Otherwise, we are effectively arguing that the American system of government is completely corrupted, and that no remedy can be found through the legitimate political process. Those who are ready to make that case should take full measure of what they are proposing. I know of no responsible Christian leader who is even close to making that argument. We are indeed living in a season of peril for our nation. The federal courts have twisted the Constitution to push a radical social and moral revolution. This is why concerned Christians should push for the confirmation of federal judges who will uphold the rule of law--and the original meaning of the Constitution. But we cannot simultaneously deny the courts’ authority and seek to correct their direction.
Seventh, we must learn to choose our battles wisely. The court-ordered removal of Alabama’s Ten Commandments monument would be a national tragedy and a travesty of law. But thoughtful and responsible Christian leaders must ponder whether this is the place to take our stand in a court-defying, go-for-broke effort. The recovery of a culture requires the stewardship of strategy as well as firmness of conviction.
Eighth, we should seize this moment as an opportunity to awaken the conscience of the American people to the peril we face. Unless the direction of the federal courts is corrected, religious liberty will be negotiated into nothingness. Courts and legislative bodies at every level threaten basic religious liberties and precious freedoms. The secularists really do want to expunge Christianity from the public square. We must educate Christians to engage the culture and the political system, or it will one day be too late.
Ninth, Christians of deep conviction must learn that we will at times disagree over tactics while standing united in a strategy to defend religious liberty and Christian witness. No one has motivated more Christians to engage these issues than has James Dobson. We all stand in his debt. Richard Land has transformed the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC into a trusted and powerful voice for righteousness. Jay Sekulow has represented us all before the highest courts of the land as he has won many of the most important victories for religious liberty and the sanctity of human life in our times. This is not a time for division, but for unity.
Last, we must pray for Chief Justice Roy Moore as he sets the course for how he will deal with this crisis in the future. He brought this case to national prominence because he is a man of deep Christian character, conviction, and principles. May God grant him wisdom to lead us out of this crisis in keeping with those same principles.
Taken from Dr. Mohler’s weblog at: http://mohler.crosswalk.com.
Theological journal examines Roe v. Wade 30 years later August 12, 2003
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--It is clear 30 years later that the U.S. Supreme Court’s fateful decision in the 1973 Roe v. Wade has bequeathed to America a culture of death, writers in the latest edition of the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology conclude.
Four professors from Southern Seminary and three other scholars contribute articles analyzing the theological and ethical fallout that has ensued in the three decades following the ruling.
In his editorial, journal editor Thomas R. Schreiner shows the faulty thinking behind abortion which views the autonomy of self as taking precedent over the life of the child. Schreiner is professor of New Testament interpretation at Southern Seminary.
“Whether we think of euthanasia or of cloning, the moral vacuity of our generation is depressingly evident,” Schreiner writes. “Some defend ardently the lives of snails and whales, and would hesitate to crush the eggs of birds, and yet they insist that killing unborn human beings is legitimate.
“Compassion for the baby being formed in the womb is absent, even though ultrasound technology enables us clearly to see life in the womb. We can see the marvelously crafted little fingers and hands, hear the heart pulsate with life, and watch the baby suck his thumb. Still, many demand that the mother has the right to snuff out the life of the baby.”
In his essay, Russell D. Moore shows how evangelical theology at first embraced the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe, but quickly did an about-face upon further investigation of abortion in light of Scripture. Moore is assistant professor of theology at Southern Seminary and director of the Carl F.H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement.
Once evangelicals began to understand that the Bible does not place a sharp separation between body and soul and that humans are created as the bearers of God’s image, they rejected Roe and began to fight for the unborn, Moore recounts.
“The creation mandate of Genesis grants the primeval humans as the vice-regents of God’s dominion over nature in all of its forms (Gen 1:26; Psalm 8) -- but it does not grant them ‘godlike’ dominion over human life,” Moore writes.
“Indeed, evangelical theology and its interface with the ‘theology’ of abortion rights has marshaled a compelling biblical case against such views of human autonomy in life-and-death decision-making, views that are essential to the case of Roe.
“... [E]vangelical theology has reasserted the biblical concept that the imago dei (image of God) that establishes the uniqueness of humanity is itself that which renders the murder of innocent human life unthinkable,” Moore writes.
The journal also includes a sermon on Psalm 139 by Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. Mohler argues that abortion is an egregious sin ultimately because it undermines the dignity humans have as persons created in the image of God.
“Christians must be defenders of human dignity and human life because we know the value of every single human being -- born or pre-born -- made in God’s image,” Mohler notes. “We are stewards of the gospel of salvation through faith in Christ Jesus to all who believe. Thus, we are advocates for life and ambassadors of the Gospel. There is no time to waste.”
Kenneth Magnuson, associate professor of Christian ethics at Southern Seminary, analyzes the connection between contraception and abortion. His article focuses on the view of church father Augustine, who considered the attempt to prevent conception to be immoral on par with the destruction of the fetus.
Augustine argued that contraception sinfully separated sexual relations and pleasure from the openness of procreation. While most evangelicals reject Augustine’s view, it can serve as something of a corrective in our own day, Magnuson writes.
“We may be in some need of Augustinian correction,” Magnuson writes. “For instance, it is not quite right to say that Augustine has a negative attitude towards sex. Rather, his view is that sex (and even sexual desire), as part of God’s creative purposes, may be affirmed as good, but that fallen sexual desire is hopelessly tainted by concupiscence or lust.
“Augustine’s concern with birth control is at least partly that sexual desire aimed at pleasure as an end in itself either stems from or leads to lust, to the extent that not only is the attempt made to prevent conception, but if necessary, to kill what is conceived. Sexual pleasure is made to be an idol. Such is ‘cruel lust,’ in Augustine’s words.”
C. Ben Mitchell, associate professor of bioethics and contemporary culture at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and Baylor University professor Francis J. Beckwith also contribute articles. The journal includes a panel discussion on abortion along with a number of book reviews.
GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)--Husbands are to be the leaders of their families and love their wives as Christ loves the church; wives are to submit to their husbands; and children are to obey their parents -- commands straight from the Bible. But popular culture’s influence on the church has skewed those clearly defined roles, said Danny Akin, vice president for academic administration and dean of the school of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“We need to understand the Bible and the practical application of it,” Akin said as the featured speaker for Christian Family Weekend at LifeWay Glorieta Conference Center, July 25-28 in New Mexico.
“Men abdicate their roles as leaders because it is often not politically correct to say they are to be the head of the family. As for submission, pop culture has highjacked the word and given to it the connotation of inferiority.”
Akin said he chose Ephesians 5:21-6:4 as his text for the weekend because it clearly defines what a Kingdom family looks like.
He spoke three times throughout the weekend and divided the passage into three parts, addressing the roles of men, women and parent-child relationships. The word “submission” has drawn considerable attention since its adoption into the Baptist Faith and Message at the 1998 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Salt Lake City.
“Many people do not realize that the Ephesians passage is only correctly understood when seen as what God intended families to be from the beginning, before the fall of man,” he said. “Those types of family relationships are only possible through a redemptive relationship with Jesus Christ.
“But because we have allowed culture to impose upon us the definition that submission means servitude and inferiority, we think we have to take that passage out or water it down. What we need is a biblical balance. We need to see these Scriptures from the perspective of how God defines the roles of men and women and not from our fallen, selfish perspectives.”
Critics of the BF&M article on the family seldom mention the emphasis of the beginning paragraph that “the husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God’s image.” These critics also fail to note what the BF&M states about the role of husbands.
“A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church,” Akin said. “He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect and to lead his family.
“If you look at Ephesians closely,” Akin said, “there are actually more verses that relate to the role of the husband and his responsibility than ... the wife. My responsibility is not to make my wife submit to me. It is to love her as Christ loved the church. He died for the church. Do I love my wife that much? That is an awesome responsibility. I‘m certain that few wives would have trouble submitting to their husband’s God-given leadership if they were loved like that.”
Women should take their example from Christ regarding submission, Akin said.
“The Bible says over and over again that Jesus and the Father are one,” he said. “But Jesus said the Son does nothing apart from the will of the Father. We can conclude that if all parts of the Trinity are equal, then Jesus is in every way God. However, when He came to earth He determined to do the will of His Father. He submitted to the Father. It didn’t make him inferior or subservient to God.”
Akin said a man’s leadership in the family should not be autocratic, but one that creates an environment in which family members grow spiritually. That environment is developed through unconditional love.
“Make it an act of your will to love your wives,” he told husbands during his opening message. “It is an imperative. God does not give you a choice. Can you say that your love for your wife is helping her to grow spiritually? She is to be loved in such a way that she knows that God is the only person in this world who loves her more.”
He said husbands could demonstrate their love by meeting the following seven basic needs of their wives:
-- The need for him to be the spiritual leader.
-- The need for personal appreciation (“Do you verbalize it and demonstrate your appreciation through your actions?”).
-- The need for romance and personal affection (“Guys, sex is not romance to a woman. She wants you to connect with her heart, her emotions.”).
-- The need for intimate conversation.
-- The need for honesty and openness.
-- The need for home support and stability.
-- The need for you to commit to your family first (“Not work or recreational sports.”).
Akin said wives could honor their husbands through their submission to his leadership and by their admiration of him as a godly man.
“Ladies I can assure you that a great woman can take a mediocre man and make him good,” he said during the second session, “and a mediocre woman can take a great man and bring him down to the level of mediocrity. That is how important your admiration of your husband is to him.”
Five needs a husband has of his wife are:
-- The need for her admiration and respect.
-- The need for sexual fulfillment.
-- The need for home support.
-- The need for an attractive wife (“Ladies, this flows from your inner beauty.”).
-- The need for you to be his best friend.
Akin said in his third message that it is much easier for spouses who love each other in this way to love their children as defined in Ephesians 6:1-4.
Twelve ways parents can demonstrate their love for their children are:
-- Enter into their world.
-- Love you spouse.
-- Give children discipline.
-- Look them in the eyes.
-- Touch them physically.
-- Spend time with them.
-- Listen to them.
-- Bless them with words rather than cursing them.
-- Have fun with them.
-- Nudge them out of the nest when it is time.
-- Admit to them when you’re wrong.
-- Introduce them to Jesus Christ
“If we are going to have Kingdom focused churches, we need Kingdom-focused families,” Akin said. “Sadly right now the divorce rate within the church is nearly identical to that in the secular world. I‘m convinced that we will have healthy, divorce-proof families if we’ll follow God’s defined roles for members of the family.”
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--The approval of a homosexual bishop within the Episcopal Church would represent a “tragic turning point” in church history as well as an abdication of biblical authority, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said on CNNfn Aug. 4.
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president appeared on the cable network’s “Market Call” to discuss the possible approval of open homosexual Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire.
His approval at the ongoing Episcopal Church General Convention could lead to a split in the worldwide Anglican Church, of which the Episcopal Church is a member. Robinson, a divorced father of two, was elected bishop of New Hampshire in June but needs the approval of the national body. A vote in the denomination’s House of Bishops Aug. 4 -- which would have been the final hurdle -- was delayed because of allegations of pornography and inappropriate conduct.
“For a church to move to ... elect a homosexual bishop is to abdicate biblical authority in such an extreme way that it raises questions about the whole integrity of the church,” Mohler said.
He called it a “tremendously tragic turning point” in both American and worldwide church history, adding that Robinson’s approval could lead to “schism not only in the Episcopal Church” but also to splits “across many denominational lines.”
Mohler appeared via satellite alongside Susan Russell, director of communications for Integrity USA, an organized group of Episcopal homosexuals.
Robinson’s approval by the national body would represent the “church compromising to the currents of the day,” he said.
“This is exactly what the Scripture itself warns that the church must not do -- to be tossed to and fro by every passing wind of cultural change,” Mohler said. “In this case, the culture has [been] set against the Word of God. Most tragically, we see a church moving to join the culture over against clear biblical authority.”
The Bible is “absolutely clear” that homosexuality is a sin, he added.
“[F]or a church to endorse homosexuality it has to turn its back on Scripture [and] it has to set itself against biblical authority,” Mohler said.
Russell, though, said she believes that Robinson’s approval would help grow the denomination. According to studies, the Episcopal Church lost 5.3 percent of its members in the 1990s and approximately 28 percent of its members from 1961 to 1998. Saying the Episcopal Church has always been “a people of compromise,” she acknowledged that she approaches Scripture differently from Southern Baptists and other conservative denominations.
“I think the Episcopal Church is poised on what we call a kairos moment, offering to the world a vision of a progressive inclusive gospel, which is another step forward,” she said, asserting that a schism is not imminent. Russell pointed to the threat of schism in the 1970s when the Episcopal Church approved women priests.
“The same threats of schism were all around, and in my experience as an ordained woman in this church, the ordination of women has only strengthened our ministry and enhanced our ability to proclaim the good news of God in Christ Jesus to those yearning to hear it,” she said.
“I believe this step forward on behalf of gay and lesbian people will do the same thing.”
But Mohler said the two issues -- women’s ordination and homosexual bishops -- are related.
“An argument can be made that the decision to ordain women and the decisions the church has made concerning divorce have led very, very clearly to this decision concerning homosexuality,” he said. “I do not believe those issues are unrelated. They are tragically related in this case, and I think what we see is a breaking down of this church’s defenses against compromise on biblical authority.”
It is “very sad” as an outsider to watch what the Episcopal Church is doing “in the name of Christianity,” Mohler said, adding that “millions” of Christians are watching with “great concern.”
“This is a tragic break, not only with the moral and theological tradition of this church, but with Christian teaching based in scriptural authority throughout 2,000 years of Christian history,” he said.
Southern Seminary president launches new “blog” July 31, 2003
LOUISVILLE, Ky.—A new weblog at Crosswalk.com features regular analysis of theological, ethical and cultural issues from R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The weblog or “blog” as it is commonly called, allows Mohler to engage issues immediately as they arise during the course of a day. Mohler, who regularly appears on television, radio, and in print, said the weblog is a particularly valuable forum because it offers the opportunity for immediate response to breaking issues.
“Those who know me know that the issues that really concern me are theology, the great ethical issues of the day, the intersection of Christianity and culture and the responsibility of Christians to develop a Christian worldview,” said Mohler.
“We are living in a fast-paced society in which response really can’t wait days, weeks, or even 24 hours. That is what makes the blog an exciting way to communicate, analyze, think, and even think out loud in print.”
Mohler plans to provide at least one major posting per day. Some days there will be multiple postings as events of particular days demand.
Mohler calls the weblog the “Mars Hill” of the Internet, referring to the apostle Paul’s sermon delivered before a gathering of Greek philosophers on the famous hill in Athens, Greece. That is, the weblog is rapidly becoming a pivotal forum within the contemporary marketplace of ideas.
Not only will the blog allow Mohler to help Christians think biblically about the issues of the day, but it also gives him the opportunity to minister to a new audience as a writer and cultural analyst.
“I’m excited to have this opportunity because it will allow me to post, for immediate publication, the ideas and responses and analysis of what is going on in the world today,” he said.
“It is an extension of my ministry in the media and in writing and in public speaking. Through the blog, I can speak to people who I would otherwise never be able to reach.”
To access the Mohler weblog, please see:
LOUISVILLE, Ky.—The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn a Texas sodomy law will eventually be seen as one of the profound moral turning points in American history on par with the Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion on demand, R. Albert Mohler Jr. told a radio audience last week.
Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said the court’s June 26 ruling in the Lawrence vs. Texas case is a frightening landmark because it establishes homosexual practice as a constitutional right.
Worse, according to Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion, it establishes a fundamental right for each person to define his own existence, Mohler said. The result of a legally protected right to self-definition will be that no behavior will ultimately be deemed immoral, he said.
Mohler discussed the ruling on the July 23 broadcast of his weekly radio show “Truth On the Line.”
“I think we are going to look back to June of 2003 and say that that was when America began to lose all moral sanity on the issue of sexuality,” Mohler said. “And if you have no moral clarity on sexuality, then eventually, you have not moral clarity on anything. Because, if sexuality isn’t moral, nothing is.”
“I am claiming that this decision will be remembered as being of the same significance as Roe v. Wade in 1973. I realize that is quite a claim, but I’m not alone in making it and I believe I am on pretty solid ground in making that claim because, in terms of America’s moral character, nothing is more fundamental than sexuality.”
Mohler said the decision underpins a doctrine that is at the heart of the gay rights agenda: the right of persons to constitutionally define their own existence.
Though the U.S. Constitution nowhere sets forth such a right, Mohler pointed to the language in Kennedy’s majority decision as establishing by fiat this new “constitutional law.” In penning the majority decision Kennedy argued that human liberty presumes “transcendent dimensions,” that allow absolute self-definition, Mohler said.
Mohler applauded Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote a scathing dissent. In it, Scalia warned that the logical conclusion of the court’s sweeping action will in time “take root in America’s constitutional traditions [so] that eventually nothing is immoral.”
“Justice Kennedy says that [self-definition] is a fundamental right,” Mohler said. “If you have the fundamental right to determine your own existence, then you can certainly have a fundamental right to sodomy, because you can define yourself as a homosexual, of which sodomy is the logical expression.
“Does that seem like nonsense to you? It did to Justice Scalia as well. But this is now the law of the land.”
The Texas decision overturned a 1986 precedent in which the Supreme Court ruled that homosexual conduct is not a constitutionally-endowed right. In that case—Bowers vs. Hardwick—the court upheld the right of the state of Georgia to forbid sodomy.
Mohler said the fact that the court abruptly overrode this precedent only 17 years after it was set is a clear signal that the court sees morality as having evolved.
“That (‘evolved’) isn’t a word they used, but that’s exactly what they argued,” Mohler said. “The majority of justices said, ‘listen, there once was a time when basically everyone thought that homosexuality was wrong, but we’ve outgrown that, we’ve moved beyond that.’
“This court, in its majority, even went on to quote the European court of human rights to make that case. That raises the interesting constitutional issue, and that is whether the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted in light of European courts. God help us from that. Look at the chaos of Europe.”
The entire broadcast of “Truth On the Line” is archived and can be heard at http://www.truthontheline.com/listen.html.
Seminary’s Hispanic conference offers training, networking to enhance leader effectiveness July 24, 2003
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--If anyone doubts that God is moving among Hispanics, just look at the numbers.
In 1999, 29 people of Hispanic heritage served through the International Mission Board in global missions, according to records kept by Jason Carlisle, who works with Hispanics at the IMB. Today there are 80, including 22 new workers in 2002.
A conference July 18-19 at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., is another indicator. More than 175 people -- mostly church members rather than pastors, and an equal number of men and women, participated in the two-day event.
They drove in from as far away as South Carolina, New York and Michigan as well as states near Kentucky. And they weren’t all Southern Baptists.
Rene Disotaur brought 10 members of the Christian congregation he pastors in Louisville.
“We know this seminary has a great reputation and we want to learn more about Jesus,” Disotaur said.
The Hispanic Leadership Conference was a low-budget, grassroots event built on relationships.
Twyla Fagan, a former IMB missionary journeyman in Argentina, organized the conference. She is now director of Great Commission ministries in the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth at Southern Seminary.
“This conference was a dream for many years for many people,” Fagan said. “Dr. [Thom] Rainer knew of the need for more Hispanic leaders.” Rainer is dean of the Billy Graham School.
Many Hispanics don’t have the educational background to pursue an M.Div. degree, Fagan said. She and Rainer talked about leadership training that would be effective; the idea for a Hispanic leadership conference grew out of their discussions.
“We hope to do this on an annual basis,” Fagan said. “We hope to grow it into a weeklong event and that people would know to set aside the third week in July for training.”
Starting last January, Fagan drew on people she knew in the Hispanic community to help with and attend the conference.
Plenary speaker Guillermo Montalvo was a longtime friend, holding several university degrees in Mexico and now a doctoral student at Southern as well as pastor of Crossroads Community Baptist Church in Ann Arbor, Mich. He spoke on characteristics of biblical leadership, the process of training leaders and Hispanic leadership in the 21st century.
Juan Sanchez, Ruth Salazar, Carlos De la Barra and Fagan led workshops on prayer, and on ministry to men, women, youth and children.
The worship team came from Fagan’s church, Iglesia Bautista Getsemani in Bloomfield, Ky.; her pastor, Carlos De la Berra, led workshops on men’s ministry.
Participation was nearly double what she had anticipated, Fagan said.
“It’s obvious there’s a pent-up need for training in the Hispanic community,” she said. “We had to add extra sessions of some workshops in order to accommodate everyone.”
Those who came had roots in many nations -- Mexico, Cuba, Guatemala, Nicaragua and more.
Bibiano Librado of Woodruff, S.C., came with his wife, Josefina, and three young daughters as part of his training to be a pastor, he told translator Molly Sills. Because of his limited formal education, he has much to learn, he said, before he goes back to Mexico to pastor there.
Librado is an assistant to his pastor, Ponciano Acevedo of Mision Bautista Calvario in Lincolnton, N.C., who had brought him to the Hispanic Leadership Conference in Louisville to learn more of what he needed to know to help his pastor more effectively and to become a pastor himself, Librado said in Spanish.
Baltazar Alonzo Pables, born in Guatemala, was one of many sponsored by the Kentucky Baptist Convention to attend the conference.
His street punk appearance, with pants slung low and hair slicked back, masked what he said was a strong interest in the ways of the Lord.
Two years ago, he explained, he was bored, so when a woman he’d passed on the street invited him to church, he went.
“It was good to hear about God,” Pables said. “It was interesting.” He was in the habit of drinking, but God took that from him, he explained to translator Sills, and now he is studying his Bible all the time though he doesn’t know what his future holds.
“I come [to the conference] to learn,” he said.
Florencia Naranjo of Louisville said as a child in Mexico, whose father took her to an evangelical church, she had heard many of the things she was hearing at the conference, but she disregarded them years ago and life took a downward turn.
Now, three months back in church after a long absence, she is absorbing all she can of the Bible and the ways of God and His people. The training she was receiving at the conference was to help her learn; not until she learns more will she be able to teach a Sunday School class and help her church in other ways, she acknowledged.
In Fagan’s opening remarks at the Hispanic Leadership Conference, she explained the purpose of the event.
“This conference is about methods and strategies, but most of all, it’s about learning to be like Christ,” she said. “We need leaders who search for God’s face.
“I think God is going to use Hispanics to reach out to the United States and hopefully to revive all the churches,” she added. “This conference is to help everyone participate in the Great Commission.”
Carlisle of the IMB talked about missions in the United States and around the world.
“Now is the time for the Hispanic people,” Carlisle said. “Where is God in the midst of all these Hispanics coming to the United States? As he did with Israel in Egypt, God is preparing Hispanics to reach the nations. He brought you here to bless the nations.”
A missionary movement among Hispanics is growing, Carlisle said. One example is the adoption of a city in Iraq by Hispanics, who work through a similar relational culture to spread God’s love to people who have never felt it before.
Mexican soap operas are popular the world over, and evangelistic television programs in that style are being dubbed into a local language to reach into a restricted-access country, Carlisle said, adding, “People love these!”
More Hispanic missionaries are working outside the Spanish-speaking world than are working in it, the IMB strategist said. He spoke of Hispanics with unusual ministries in regions unnamed for security reasons.
A Hispanic man from Los Angeles skilled in graffiti now is a muralist with a ministry in an artist’s colony in one of the Last Frontier countries.
A woman called to missions felt thwarted because she thought she had no skills and cried out to God, “All I can do is cook!” She now has a thriving Mexican restaurant in another country where about 20 believers worship.
In the conference’s closing session, Montalvo spoke on the challenges and opportunities for Hispanic leadership in the 21st century.
The world is changing, he said. Social, moral, family, cultural and religious values all are declining in the secular world.
For Hispanic churches, the problem lies in making people realize the relevance of God’s Word to their lives, Montalvo said.
“We need to change the strategies or messages to make them more applicable to the public that we are trying to reach,” he said. “We need to study the culture and social dynamics.”
The message doesn’t change, but just as Jesus spoke of easily understood illustrations meaningful to the people of his day, so should today’s pastors and leaders, Montalvo said.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — John Divito has a passion for proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to Mormons and it is a passion driven by an insider’s perspective.
For the first 19 years of his life, Divito—a master of divinity student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary—was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).
Late last month, Divito spent one week passing out Gospel tracts and discussing the Gospel with Mormons at the church’s annual Mormon Miracle Pageant in Manti, Utah. Divito worked with Mormonism Research Ministry (MRM), an apologetics group for which he serves as a staff member.
MRM is one of many Christian groups who attended the 37th annual pageant with a mission of converting Mormons from a false gospel to the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The pageant is essentially a two-hour Mormon play during which 2,000 years of the church’s history is played out on stage. The drama runs nightly for two weeks each June and draws thousands to the small town of Manti, the site of the Manti Temple, a giant castle-like structure completed in 1888.
Though the message of MRM and other Christian groups was not warmly received, 11 persons made professions of faith in Jesus Christ.
“Quite frankly, many of the Mormons were not interested in taking the literature, and many refused to talk,” Divito said. “There were periodic announcements coming out of the sound system, one of which warned people about reading the information not published by the LDS church.
“The Mormons I did talk to believed they were Christians, so they wanted to understand why we were out there saying that they were not true believers. I would show them that our understandings of who God is is different and our gospels are incompatible.”
Divito learned the difference between the false message of Mormonism and the true Gospel of Jesus Christ after spending much of his life as a Mormon.
He completed many of the steps necessary to progress in the Mormon faith. He was baptized in the church at age eight, received the Aaronic priesthood at 12, had a temple recommend, and was baptized for the dead in the Mormon temple. Much of Divito’s family remains within the Mormon church.
When he turned 18, Divito faced a difficult choice: go on a mission expected of men his age or go to college. He opted for college, which turned out to have profound eternal implications.
While attending Southwest Missouri State University, Divito began to date an evangelical Christian. He sought to convert his new girlfriend to Mormonism, and to shore up his missionary efforts, Divito decided to read Christian materials designed to refute Mormonism.
Soon, Divito’s studies took a strange turn: he began to see the fallacies of Mormon doctrine alongside the veracity of Christian teaching. He began to attend a campus ministry and regularly heard the Gospel.
Before long, he was convinced of the truth of Scripture, convicted of his sin, and converted by the grace of Christ.
“The evidence they gave me was well documented and easily verifiable,” Divito said. “As a result, I began having a crisis of faith. Was everything I had ever been taught through the Mormon church wrong? After my studies, I found out what I believed was indeed wrong.
“Over time I came to realize that I was a sinner and that Mormonism did not have the answer. I could never be good enough to make things right with God, even by keeping the ordinances of the church and the law of the Gospel. Worst of all, I knew that I deserved punishment for my sins.”
He was converted in 1996. The next year, Divito married Jennifer, the girlfriend who had been pivotal in his pilgrimage into the marvelous light of Christianity. Divito is a second-year master of divinity student and is one of the first enrollees in a new apologetics track at Southern Seminary.
Divito hopes to continue dialoguing with and ministering to Mormons and other groups who are following false gospels.
There are several pivotal issues that Christians need to address when witnessing to Mormons, Divito said. Unlike orthodox Christianity’s Gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Christ, Mormonism stresses gaining eternal life through works.
Mormons believe that Christ’s atoning work purchased sinners’ resurrection and ability to be saved, but the sinner must appropriate eternal life through his own works. Divito said it is important to stress God’s standard as given in the law—that God demands perfection, but this is a perfection we ourselves cannot accomplish.
Because of this truth, Christians need to point out Christ’s imputed righteousness to Mormons, Divito said. That is, in biblical salvation, a transaction takes place in which Christ’s perfect righteousness is credited to sinners.
Said Divito, “After all, the book of Mormon itself says that ‘no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of God?’ This is where the imputation of Christ’s righteousness is essential.
“All true believers in Christ are perfect because they are in Christ and He is perfect. This perfect righteousness is not our own, it is Christ’s. Christ took not only our sins upon Himself on the cross; He also accredited us with His righteousness. This is the glorious truth of His Gospel.”
Divito said Christians should avoid chasing “rabbit trails” on Mormon doctrines such as baptism for the dead, preexistence, and historical church issues. Instead, they should focus on the Gospel.
Most Mormons are not well-versed in their faith’s history or theology, Divito said. Many of them know little about the Scriptures and base their faith on practical and moral issues, he said.
A Mormon’s foundational beliefs rest primarily on subjective feelings, because members of the LDS church are taught that the Book of Mormon’s validity is established by the “burning of the bosom,” which is said to be the inner witness of the Holy Spirit.
“As a result, when speaking with a Mormon, it often will not be long before they will start to bear their testimony,” Divito said. “They ‘know these things are true’ because they think they have had feelings given by God.
“We are dealing with two very different truth claims. This is one of the most difficult and important hurdles to overcome in witnessing to Mormons.”
Dealing with Mormons can be challenging, but believers must finally trust in the Gospel, he said. Divito points out that his own conversion is a testimony to the Gospel’s inherent saving power.
“I get the impression that some individuals believe Mormons are harder to win to Christ than others,” Divito said. “But all unbelievers are dead in their trespasses and sins, as Ephesians 2:1 says, and the salvation of Mormons is no more difficult for God than that of any other believer.
“We should trust in Christ and in the power of His Gospel, boldly proclaiming God’s truth to all people, including Mormons.”