Philip | Andrew | Meade

Vox Scriptura Vox Dei

Author: Philip Meade (page 1 of 46)

The Storytelling of George Lucas

*This article contains minor spoilers for The Last Jedi

Here’s my thesis:  The Last Jedi will have a surprising, unintended consequence of increasing appreciation for the storytelling of George Lucas in Episodes 1-3 (the prequels).

The nearly universal consensus is that Lucas displayed storytelling genius in the first three Star Wars films, episodes 4-6. The character development and plot progression seamlessly wove together into a “believable” science-fiction masterpiece.

And then Lucas did something crazy. He resisted the temptation to create three identical movies as he directed the three prequels. Lucas veered into dangerous territory by providing a glimpse of scientific explanation behind the force, he built episode 1 on the less-than-inspirational concept of a trade federation, and he relied on the maturity of the viewer to follow an intricate plot development connecting the Clone Wars, Palpatine/Emperor, and the Jedi Order. This was all happening while the Skywalker family remained central to not only the saga as a whole, but also to each individual film.

And that, to me, is the beauty of the prequels that goes unnoticed. Lucas managed to keep the main thing the main thing while presenting a rich and complex story that felt quite different than the original trilogy. The fans, however, were for the most part apathetic at best.

The Last Jedi is a good movie with an emotionally rich subtext. Many of the scenes are breathtaking and the film certainly answers a significant number of questions that were raised by The Force Awakens. The problem is that the film’s most glorious moments are captured by utilizing nostalgic elements from Lucas’ films, and the times the film ventures off to establish new material, there is a silent emptiness that seems to hover over the screen.

The Force Awakens was a powerhouse blockbuster the fans loved. Why? Because it was Lucas’ original trilogy repackaged. The best moments in The Last Jedi? Better give thanks to Lucas for those too. I found the story progression to be, at times, absurd in The Last Jedi. Without giving away too many details, a significant portion of the film depends on low fuel and a bunch of Star Destroyers and First Order ships “keeping their distance” from a Resistance ship.  It’s almost as if the story had to come up with some kind of structure in order to provide room for the cool visual moments, and more often than not, that structure failed. A notable exception was the relationship between Kylo and Rey. That, by far, was the strongest aspect of the film.

I may be (and deeply hope) I am wrong, but Star Wars Episode IX has the potential to be horrible, largely because there is so little left of Lucas to rely on. If the standard continues to move downward, then the stock of Lucas’ prequels will begin to rise. And in my opinion, rightfully so.

 

Trump and the Judiciary

Pro-Trump conservatives rallied behind two key campaign pledges during the 2016 presidential election:  Pro-life legislation and judicial appointments. While many conservative Christian voices were expressing disgust at Trump’s repugnant moral character, Trump supporters would faithfully return to these two concerns. How could a conservative, especially a conservative Christian, vote for Hillary Clinton when her extreme pro-choice rhetoric was unlike any the country had heard before? Additionally, the potential for the courts to be filled with radical liberal ideologies through Clinton’s judicial appointments was used to garner support for Trump.

Almost a year into President Trump’s administration, the pro-life emphasis has been less than stellar. A Republican Senate funded Planned Parenthood and initially cut the tax credit for adoptive parents (they have since reversed that decision). Where the pro-life promises might have been absent, the commitment to conservative judicial appointments is in full effect.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, could confirm his ninth federal judge the week after Thanksgiving.  As a reference, President Obama appointed three federal judges his first year in office. But what I find to be fascinating is….no one seems to care.

In my news feed, virtually every article highlights a recent Trump tweet or the ongoing problems with the tax reform bill. You would think at this point the former would be a loser for the media; the election seems to confirm that the larger conservative population does not care what Trump does on Twitter, no matter how unpresidential he may come across. The latter is certainly newsworthy, but individual pieces of legislation and public policy initiatives pale in comparison to the long-term impact of judicial appointments. These are appointments to federal courts of appeals and the appointments are for life.

In very simple terms – the long-term impact on the shape our country is determined more by the judiciary than a short-term piece of legislation, such as tax reform. Delaware Democratic Senator Chris Coons said concerning the judiciary, “This will be the single most important legacy of the Trump administration.” The federal court of appeals has influence over virtually every area of policy, from social policy to gun rights to Presidential executive orders. It is impossible to comprehend how the Trump presidency will impact the future of our country. But it ultimately comes down to the courts.

Should Trump continue on this path, certain conservatives will support him in the 2020 election regardless of his future shortcomings. The courts have become the battleground. But no one seems to care.

The Verse I Just Read To My Kids About Las Vegas

How do we explain and discuss things like the horror and heartbreak of the Las Vegas shooting to our children? How do we discuss them with our Christian friends? How do we discuss them with our non-believeing friends?

I know one clear way not to discuss them. We should never pretend to understand the mind of God when God has not revealed it to us. In other words, if our temptation is to say, “God allowed this to happen because ___________________________,” then we should pause, erase, and start over.

For family worship tonight, I wanted to address the sadness of the senseless killings that have left so many people in shock and in disbelief. I obviously did not want to scare my children or reveal things to them beyond their ability to grasp. But I also did not want to pretend the loss of life did not happen.

So, I opened my Bible to Romans 12:15 – “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”

I explained how Christians will not have all the answers all the time, especially when difficult and scary things happen. But when other people are hurting, we are to hurt along with them. When other people are crying, we can cry along with them. When other people are broken, we can be broken with them. That’s how I want my children to respond to the tragedies of life; not by offering an explanation. Not by giving unwanted pieces of advice.  But by being present, offering a broken heart to match the one across from us, and offering a shared tear.

The other thing I know for certain is this – God hurts when we hurt, and the gospel of Jesus Christ demonstrates how much love the Father has for the world. There is a time for systematic theology discussions concerning the problem of evil. And there are times not to have those discussions.

For now, it is a time to weep. To be broken. And to be prayerfully hopeful that the Lord Jesus will come soon.

Even so, Lord Jesus come.

My Thoughts on the Nashville Statement

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) released a statement this past Tuesday consisting of fourteen articles concerning human sexuality. Unsurprisingly, the statement was met with strong support from many leaders and pastors within the evangelical community and equally strong disapproval from a variety of pastors, church leaders, and civic leaders who denounce the statement as harmful to the LGBTQ community.

I process statements like this in two parts: first, the content and second, the call to action. In other words, what does the statement actually say and how should I respond?

The Content
I support the fourteen articles of the Nashville Statement and have added my name among its signers. My support is nothing revolutionary or surprising, it is simply an affirmation of what I believe the Scriptures teach on sexuality. In addition, the content of the Nashville Statement should not be surprising to those who are opposed to it. Nothing in the fourteen articles contradicts what the church has historically believed and taught about sexuality. One of the authors, Denny Burk, said, “It was our aim to say nothing new, but to bear witness to something very ancient.” Likewise, political commentator Ben Shapiro said, “Did I miss the part of the #NashvilleStatement where any serious Christian doctrine changed in the slightest?” Thus, the content of the statement is not groundbreaking and simply clarifies in one unified declaration what the church has proclaimed for centuries.

Call To Action
So what? Those are the two words that cause preachers and bible teachers to lose sleep at night, and in this context, cause us to consider how the Nashville Statement should help us not only think correctly about human sexuality, but also respond correctly. Why is this statement necessary and what should we do in response?

I believe the most significant reason the Nashville Statement is a necessary summary of biblical truth as it relates to human relationships and sexuality is because the church today is forced to address questions the church of yesterday would never have needed to ask. There are unique and difficult challenges pressing in on the church related to biblical sexuality that have arrived in just the past few years and these challenges are too great for generalized assumptions about the church’s position on a variety of ethical and moral relationships, including homosexuality and transgenderism. The church must not underestimate the power of societal influence. If we do not remain clear on the ways in which a biblical sexual ethic, along with a host of other issues, stands in contrast to the spirit of the age, then we will fall to its mounting pressure. And although the honest thing to do at that point would be to throw our bibles into a pile of rubbish, the more common and deadly reaction is to turn our bibles into a defense of the very thing it denies….sin. That is precisely where we find churches today who once held to a strong biblical sexual ethic. It can happen to us all.

With that being said, there are things about the statement I’m not thrilled with, the most obvious being the timing of its release. I don’t think there is necessarily a perfect time to submit a statement of this kind, but it seems there are better times than others. It has not been a good year for evangelical Christianity, and in my case specifically, the Southern Baptist Convention, at least when it comes to outside perception. Evangelicals are viewed more skeptically than ever before, and in some ways we deserve the skepticism. With the lingering issues concerning racial reconciliation, the ongoing controversy of evangelicals and President Trump, and the immediate turmoil following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, it seems a better time could have been found to go public with the Nashville Statement.

Also, I would have appreciated a greater sense of response in the articles, helping the church see the way of compassion and grace even while standing firm on biblical truth. There is mention of the grace, power, and hope of the Lord Jesus to save all sinners, but more could be said about the human response. Granted, that was not the primary purpose of this statement, but I believe follow up work needs to be done in its absence. For example, I was glad to see Denny Burk post this article on his blog about how to form relationships with those who have a different sexual ethic.

For me and my church, if this statement causes us to separate from our gay or transgendered neighbors or express feelings of moral superiority, then we would be reading it in a harmful way that does not honor the gospel of Jesus Christ. Likewise, befriending gay and transgendered people for the sole purpose of “fixing them” is equally harmful. No, our response is to be the same as it is for everyone else – invest in people in order to show them the transforming grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. If we believe God is love, and if we believe God is the author of Scripture, then there is nothing loving about wavering on biblical truth. And yet, we patiently point our neighbor to this good news of the gospel without condemnation, without guilt, without oppression, and without excuse.

The ability to hide from the issues in front of us today is no longer a possibility. The Nashville Statement returns to the historic Christian teaching on what it means to be created in the image of God, to be male and female. There is certainly an alternative, one that is quite persuasive and influential. Each Christian must decide where they land. As for me, I will stand on the former.

 

The Pulpit And Political Speech: Why I Won’t Take The Bait

President Trump made a promise at the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast to repeal the law that prohibits political endorsements from the pulpit. The law is known as the Johnson Amendment and was established in 1954 to restrict tax-exempt churches and other entities from engaging in partisan politics. The language under the Internal Revenue Code reads, “all section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.” Trump signed an executive order today that, in part, focused on adjusting the Johnson Amendment in order to lift restrictions on churches and pastors.

On the surface, this sounds like a win for evangelicals. And there are some positive aspects of this executive order to be thankful for as a Christian, or as a person of any faith. Religious liberty is a non-negotiable bedrock of our democracy and is in my thinking one of the clearest non-partisan issues in front of the American people. Furthermore, for Baptists, religious liberty has been one of the pillars of our identity and our history. So, an executive order to re-establish a commitment to religious freedoms for every person of faith is welcomed, needed, and appreciated.

But as for me and my church, we will continue to refrain from political punditry and partisan endorsements as a church, regardless of the status of the Johnson Amendment. Here’s why:

The Misson of the Church
Although we tend to use the word “missions” when discussing the command Christ gave to his church, the reality is that the church has a singular mission – to make disciples. God’s redemptive decision before the foundation of the world to rescue rebellious sinners through the sacrifice of his only begotten Son is not merely one of several narrative threads woven into the biblical story. It is the story. And it is this story of Christ crucified that directs the church both in her remembrance of who she is, and also who she is not.

Politics, although designed for the social good of the people, is nevertheless a pursuit of power in order to realize a particular approach or theory for how a country should be managed. It’s an important mission. Just not the mission of the church. And entangled in the political mission of our government is an unavoidable trap to out-negotiate, to out-wit, to out-con, and to out-maneuver an opponent for the purpose of achieving greater power. This ever-present agenda of the political world simply does not mesh with an institution who is to be known for our humility, self-sacrifice, love of enemies, servanthood, and allegiance to a different kingdom. The church is to pray for those who are involved in the political game. The church is not to play it.

The Issues of the Church
The Johnson Amendment has no power to regulate the most important ecclesiological responsibility:  preach the word. There is no law on earth that would keep me from preaching the holy scriptures, and if the church is faithful to exposit the Bible, then the issues will be addressed. And if the issues are addressed, then the congregation will be shaped and formed by God to wisely choose the best candidate at any given time. Legendary pastor Adrian Rogers said, “if [a pastor] has done his job, his members will prayerfully and correctly use the standard of God’s Word to select the right candidate.”

And remember, the Johnson Amendment concerns a 501(c)(3) institution. It obviously has no power over the lives of individual Christians, even those who are most committed to the church, to support, endorse, debate, and oppose any candidate they choose. What we are addressing here are the actions of the church as a whole.

We do not need the Johnson Amendment lifted in order to speak to the most pressing issues of our time as a church. We need only the word of God and people who are called to preach it and teach it.

The Purity of the Church
Pastors and churches are human. I believe in the integrity of most churches to pursue only what Christ has established for his people and to hold to his moral authority alone. But we are human. And the purity of the church, both from within and the perception from without, would be open to attack like never before if we embraced a political agenda. The Johnson Amendment is designed to protect the interests of both the state and the church. Without those protections, political heads will quickly attempt to funnel money through our churches in return for a particular endorsement or plug. Need a new church van? No problem, just oppose Senator Smith and support Senator Jones and it’s yours. And by the way, ease up on the sexual purity rhetoric right now – Senator Jones is dealing with a few things and we don’t need that pressure on him right now.

You see? We might scoff at these ideas now as unrealistic. But within our own Southern Baptist Convention, we have already felt the power of political leanings in ways that have not only embarrassed us, but harmed the pursuit of our mission.

The Future of the Church
What kind of legacy do we want the church to have in 25 years? Surely it is to be like the apostle Paul, who would boast only in Christ alone. Our children and grandchildren need a church committed to the counter-cultural, risk-taking, gospel-centered message of a risen Christ without the dilution of a secondary political agenda. The church is not alienated from the political sphere, but the work she does carries an eternal future hope that extends well beyond the mere endorsement of a political party or piece of legislation.

Coram Deo
To live coram Deo is to live one’s life in the presence of God, under the authority of God, for the glory of God. And that is my approach to the church and politics. When our churches lead our people to “seek first the kingdom” and devote themselves to the undivided, unrelenting glory of God, then their influence in the world, including the political world, will be known and felt. And it will be felt in ways that are true to the church of Jesus Christ. Ways that are lasting. Ways that are commendable.

Christians should be thankful for any action that seeks to strengthen religious liberty in our country. I hope President Trump, and future presidents, will not stop pursuing, defending, and increasing the freedoms of religious people. But we must be careful to properly discern what true religious liberty looks like. And when churches walk through the door of political engagement in the name of religious liberty, they might find themselves on the verge of losing both.

 

 

 

A Quick Update On My Health

On Sunday morning, April 23rd, at approximately 3:00 am, I woke up to severe pain in my left ear. I had not been feeling well the week before and just assumed an ear infection was part of the problem. At 9:00 am, I was waiting for the doors to open at the Frankfort Urgent Care to receive a quick diagnosis and hopefully some treatment before worship began. The doctor described a “pretty messy looking” ear and gave me a shot of antibiotics along with a Zpack.

I followed up with my primary care doctor on Monday afternoon who immediately referred me to an ENT. Tuesday morning I awoke with severe vertigo and nausea. On Tuesday afternoon I was at the Community ENT seeing Dr. Hawkins, who I very much appreciate. He told me I have a condition called Labyrinthitis – a nasty middle ear infection had spread to my inner ear causing inflammation. He let me know at that first meeting that he was concerned for my hearing and that the recovery process would be slow. I was sent home with steroids, a stronger antibiotic, nausea and pain medication.

The next couple of days were spent sleeping and watching Bob Ross. Any head movement at all led to either vomiting or extreme motion sickness. The ear pain was manageable at this point.

Today, Friday the 28th, I returned to Dr. Hawkins. After a hearing test, he performed a treatment option called Intratympanic Dexamethasone which consists of pumping a high concentration of steroids into the inner ear. He also prescribed ear drops that contain a combination of antibiotics and steroids; he is calling this the “full court press” to restore some of my hearing. Dr. Hawkins told me this was the worst case of Labyrinthitis he has seen in 25 years. He does not expect my hearing to return in my left ear…unless there was “divine intervention” (he knows I am a pastor).

So, that is where I am. I have another follow-up visit next Wednesday to receive another hearing test and to check on the condition of the ear. The vertigo could last for “a couple of weeks to a couple of months.” Let’s pray it is the former.

My blessed wife has never left my side and has been a continual reminder of God’s grace to me. My children have been so patient; I’m so proud of them. And my family and friends have been praying without ceasing. Thank you so much for the many calls, texts, and messages. I apologize that I cannot get back to you sooner, but I am usually asleep or have my phone away from me.

The joy of the Lord remains with The Meade 5. Pray for patience as I just want to be able to get back to my work and to my family. Thank you, again, for the incredible love.

Colossians 3:3

 

Is Genesis History? – A Review

“Is Genesis History?” is a two-hour documentary examining the origins of the Earth. I was present at the one-day showing on February 23 and was intrigued to see how this particular film would handle the difficult nuances of creation history. Here are my brief thoughts.

The documentary supports a “young Earth” view of the Earth’s origin, meaning that instead of the 4.6 billion-year-old age of the Earth that is standard in textbooks and museums, the young Earth view estimates its age to be closer to 10,000 years old. In order to support their position, the filmmakers travel to a host of visually stunning locations and interview creationist experts in the fields of microbiology, astronomy, geology, archeology, marine biology, paleontology, philosophy, and so forth. I found the film to be engaging, informative, challenging, and worthwhile. Here are a few things I liked about the documentary, followed by a few weaknesses.

Describing the Problem
The strongest aspect of the film was the early establishment of the overall problem when studying the Earth. Del Tacket, our host, and all the accompanying experts used the same language to describe the conflict between two competing paradigms and this ran consistently throughout the movie. In other words, we knew the framework from the beginning of the documentary and they never waivered from their starting point.

The conflict was labeled as the “conventional paradigm” vs the “historical Genesis paradigm.” The former employs the use of “deep time” to understand the origins of the Earth, while the latter begins with the historical credibility of Scripture to provide the framework for scientific inquiry. I appreciated how in every segment of the film, these conflicting paradigms were revisited to demonstrate how the current topic would be viewed differently depending on the model. Dr. Robert Carter, a marine biologist and contributor to the film, has said in a separate teaching series that, “facts are not independent. Facts are always interpreted according to the framework that a person has.”

Using the Present to Date the Past
One effective segment described the problematic use of present day geological “decay” times as a standard for dating the history of the earth. These processes, which were largely over my head, were described as lacking uniformity throughout the ages, thus creating an unreliable dating mechanism.  Geologist Andrew Snelling says, “What we see in the present is really only minuscule by comparison with what was seen in the past. … We can’t use present-day rates of these processes to understand how quickly and how majestically in terms of scale the geological record accumulated.”

The film attempted to demonstrate how the evolutionary position is heavily dependent on long amounts of time. The 19th-century geologist Charles Lyell proposed the possibility of the Earth being billions of years old, and it was on this Lyell framework that Charles Darwin crafted his famous scientific contribution we know as evolution. Thus, scientists operating in the conventional paradigm are required to use the scientific measurements from today to create the billion years necessary for the paradigm to work.

To challenge this, microbiologist Kevin Anderson presented a four-foot long horn of a Triceratops. Woven into the bone was soft, flexible tissue that still had cells and proteins, creating an obvious problem for the conventional paradigm. When asked how the larger scientific community responded to this finding, Anderson responded by saying they “said the findings were wrong.”

Four-Dimensional Human Genome
Probably the segment that had me giving the biggest fist pump was Robert Carter’s discussion on the four-dimensional human genome. Carter says, “”Life is so complex that small changes can’t explain it, just like you can’t take a computer operating system and look at it, and say, ‘Oh yeah, this was built up one digit at a time over any length of time.’ No, it took an intelligent person to sit down and put it together. … The number of changes [required for evolution], and the types of changes [we see in nature] are not something that you can do one change at a time.’’ He compared this to a four-dimension computer program, explaining how the fourth dimension must be in place for the first demension to work properly; they are all inter-related. Thus, adding changes one at a time over a period of time cannot explain the complexity of life.

The Personalities
As you would expect, the personalities of these brilliant scientists were all over the map. Some were dry, some were funny. Most were easy going, but a couple were hardcore. One of my favorite was Steve Boyd, a Hebraist. His straight forward approach was incredibly fresh, and he essentially says, “listen, if you read a million years into the Hebrew word for “day”, you’re just wrong.” I was laughing during his segment.

A Few Weaknesses…

Diversity
Of the thirteen (13) experts interviewed for the film, not a single person was female or a minority. For a documentary that is going to be destroyed by the secular community (and faith community for that matter), why give even more fuel to their fire?

Too Much Material
I felt that the film bit off more than it could chew. We moved from one segment to the next fairly quickly and the content was so overwhelming that we were left scratching our heads quite often. In addition, the film could have eased us into the material instead of throwing us into the deep end by immediately discussing the various geological layers of the Grand Canyon.

Gap Theory & More
One of the more telling aspects of the film was its unwillingness to consider creation science that still holds to an old earth. I felt this was the biggest weakness because it tended to undermine their main point. Let me explain…

The primary thesis of the movie is that God is a better teller of history than science. But the film seems to dismiss the possibility that the historical reliability of Genesis 1 and 2 does not require a young earth scientific conclusion. The film rightly demonstrates how the conventional paradigm is dependent on the Earth being billions of years old, thus all data must be forced into that presupposition. But once we insist that the historical reliability of Genesis demands a young earth view, then we are also forcing our present day conclusions.

Now, I think the film would respond by saying, “science cannot do history. We have a reliable historical document that provides a framework more dependable than the conventional paradigm, thus our conclusions are not coerced in the same way.” Nevertheless, I would like to have seen this fleshed out a bit more. At the end of the movie there was a 17 minute follow up discussion with Del Tacket and three of the experts. They briefly, in two or three sentences, address the possibility of holding to Genesis as history but denying a young earth.

Paul Nelson, a Christian philosopher who is an outspoken young earth creationist, was featured in the film. After viewing the final cut, he has written an article describing his uneasiness with what he is calling a “false dichotomy.” Although not identical, his concerns echo my own.

Overall, I am glad I took the time to watch “Is Genesis History?” and it was well worth the money. I doubt any conventional paradigm folks will be convinced, but it is a strong contribution in the ongoing discussion of the Earth’s origins.

 

What You Need To Know About Russell Moore, the SBC, and the ERLC

Russell Moore is the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. This entity of the SBC is one of the most important ministries supported by the Convention due to the increasing threats to religious liberty in the United States. The ERLC “is dedicated to engaging the culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ and speaking to issues in the public square for the protection of religious liberty and human flourishing.” The second part of that purpose statement, “speaking to issues in the public square for the protection of religious liberty and human flourishing,” is where we currently find some tension within the Convention.

I am an unapologetic Russell Moore supporter. He was Dean of the School of Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary during my studies there for the Master of Divinity degree. Dr. Moore has had a tremendous impact on the way I think about theology, church life, and even pop culture. Although thoroughly evangelical and conservative in his faith and politics, Dr. Moore is not shortsighted when it comes to how the faith of Southern Baptists, and more importantly the news of the gospel, can flourish in a world hostile to religious liberty. Thus, Dr. Moore has been consistently outspoken for the liberty of all people of all faiths in order for the power of the gospel to be freely spoken and transformative to all who will hear and believe.

Russell Moore came under fire from some SBC leadership during the recent 2016 Presidential campaign, being accused of speaking and writing in a condescending tone toward Southern Baptists who were voting for Trump. He wrote a clarifying article on his personal website, apologizing to those who interpreted his remarks as a rebuke or ridicule. The fact is, many SBC leaders were outspoken in their concerns for a Trump presidency, but Dr. Moore received most of the media attention due to this role in the more political branch of the SBC.

But that is not the end of the story. Another lingering issue has only served to increase concerns toward Moore’s leadership.

In May of last year, the ERLC and the IMB (International Mission Board) signed an amicus brief along with several other religious groups arguing that contradictory standards cannot be applied to Muslims, or any faith-based group, who wish to construct a place of worship. Specifically, the brief was signed in support of the construction of a New Jersey mosque. The brief had an impact. A federal judge ruled in the mosque’s favor on December 31, 2016.

David Platt, president of the IMB, has since apologized for the distraction associated with the brief. But some push-back has already happened. Dean Haun, pastor of First Baptist Church in Morristown, TN and a trustee of the IMB, resigned his IMB position due to the signing of the amicus brief. He said, “When I look at our IMB mission and purpose statements, I cannot see how this action meshes with them.”

As difficult as Haun’s resignation is to hear, the worst possible scenario is just now starting to play out – some churches are escrowing their Cooperative Program funds until a better understanding of the Convention’s leadership is reached, including a Dallas megachurch who sends upwards of $1 million annually to the CP.

Now, if you are not a Southern Baptist, it might be difficult to appreciate how brutal this is. The Cooperative Program is the means through which the SBC funds its agencies and its mission. Every Southern Baptist Church designates a percentage of their budget to the Cooperative Program. That amount is sent to the state convention that keeps a portion and the rest is sent to the SBC.  North American Mission Board missionaries, IMB missionaries, church plants, state missions, the SBC seminaries, and a host of other entities are dependent on the CP for their existence.

Here are a few points of my personal commentary:

David Platt and the IMB
I believe Platt was right to apologize. Although the IMB, NAMB, and any other SBC entity might feel a certain way about an issue taking place in our country, it is not for every entity to take action on those issues. Staying focused on the mission at hand is essential, and the ability for a group of Muslims to build a mosque in New Jersey is probably not what the IMB is called to support. However, the same cannot be said for the ERLC. These are precisely the kinds of issues the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission is funded to engage. Remember their statement of purpose? That they exist for the “protection of religious liberty and human flourishing.” So, I affirm Platt’s apology but equally affirm Moore’s action on behalf of the mosque’s construction.

Speaking for the SBC
One consistent complaint I have heard concerning Dr. Moore’s leadership is how he does not speak for Southern Baptists. But what does that even mean? Should Dr. Moore simply do and say whatever the churches tell him to do and say? Or is there room here for us to be challenged and led by our SBC leadership to think critically about difficult issues? And on top of that, save for the exclusivity of Jesus Christ as the means to a relationship with the Father, I know of no other single clarifying issue in the history of Baptists than the issue of religious liberty.

The Gospel
Rejoicing in the inability of a religious group to build a place of worship does not win hearts for the gospel. To be clear, I do not want mosques being constructed for the purpose of teaching and spreading a false gospel in our communities. But do we believe in the greater and truer and better power of the gospel? The way we win people to the Lord is not by eliminating every other religion and place of worship, but by believing that the true gospel is bigger than any other religion or place of worship.

Common Sense
If they will prevent a group of Muslims from building a mosque, how long until they prevent a group of Christians from building a church? That, of course, would not stop the church from flourishing (Matthew 16:18), but we do not want to be active participants in the oppression of Christianity in America! And to deny the religious liberty of all faiths is to do precisely that.

Dr. Russell Moore
What is going to happen? Disagreements among trustees and leadership and church members are one thing. Holding back Cooperative Program dollars is quite another. There is an inevitable point where, no matter how supportive a large number of SBC members and leaders are of Dr. Moore, the losing of enough CP dollars will leave the Convention with little choice. But my biggest fear is that Russell Moore, being the kind of person I think he is, would probably preempt something ugly by gently stepping away. Which would be devastating. Absolutely devastating. Pray with me that it doesn’t come to that. That SBC churches will remain committed to the Cooperative Program even when they are in disagreement with a certain leader or action. That Dr. Moore will be comforted by Christ during this incredibly challenging time for him and his family. That we may all as a Convention continue to do the work of making disciples without distraction or division.

 

And Then The Booing Started

On February 8 I was pleased to make my way to the Kentucky State Capitol to show support for Governor Bevin and his historic signing into law two pro-life bills. Senate Bill 5 prohibits the termination of a pregnancy after 20 weeks of gestation. House Bill 2 requires physicians to offer an ultrasound to women before having an abortion (this is not required, women can opt-out). These are two laws that seem, at least in my child-like thinking, non-controversial for pro-life and pro-choice advocates alike.

I was impressed and thankful for the large turnout of Kentucky Baptists and pro-life Kentuckians; the Capitol rotunda was filled. We all were waiting for Governor Bevin to make his appearance, make a speech, and ceremonially sign the bills into law. I saw a few Kentucky Baptist pastors at the Capitol and it was a terrific day.

One small incident, however, made me uncomfortable. About five minutes before the governor appeared, a female emerged from the second floor and quickly draped a long black banner over the balcony that unfolded three-quarters of the way down to the first floor. The sign said something to the effect of, “these laws hurt women.” The lady was wearing a surgical mask and raised her fist high in the air. It was a typical protest.

I was interested to see how my fellow pro-life citizens, including many Kentucky Baptists, would respond to the protest. I didn’t have to wait long. A very quick and very loud orchestration of boos filled the Capitol rotunda. Shouts of “you’re wrong” rose up from the crowd and one lady near me shouted, “go away, you’re not welcome here.” I couldn’t tell what happened, but the banner eventually fell all the way down to the floor and the lady disappeared.

I really didn’t know what to think. My first thought went to the protester. She was on the second floor and I was in a small hallway on the first floor. I wondered where she went, if anyone spoke to her, and if anyone expressed kindness to her. Then I thought about the booing itself. I wasn’t entirely sure how I should feel about what I just witnessed. I thought about the American democratic process. If, for example, a different governor was signing a different set of legislation into law that advanced the pro-choice agenda, I’m assuming some of us would want to arrive at the Capitol to express a different viewpoint. And my hunch is we would not want to be booed or shouted out of the capitol building. Maybe I’m too naive or too ideological. Maybe I need to understand how the world really works. But I don’t think so.

I think Christ called his followers to, in most cases, do the opposite of what seems normal. To do the opposite of our instinctive human response. Because the normal, expected, instinctive response would be to boo this lady out of the building. But isn’t it difficult to love your enemies while booing them? And is this even our enemy? I certainly do not understand how a Christian can affirm a pro-choice position, but I certainly do not think only pro-life people are Christians.

I believe evangelicals should be actively engaged in the political process. But as soon as our political activism corrupts our personal evangelism, we lose.

Kentucky Baptists and pro-choice Kentuckians won a great victory on February 8. I hope there is more like it to come. But for a moment – a brief moment – the sweet taste of victory turned just a bit sour.

 

 

 

 

Worth A Look 2/4/17

The FAQs: President Trump’s Executive Order on Immigrants and Refugees
Joe Carter is a level-headed author who will occasionally do these “FAQ” series on current events. Like always, this one is incredibly helpful and honest.

Failure is not a Virtue
This is an older post I recently came across, but Jen Wilkin hits a homerun with her concern for the celebratory spirit these days surrounding failure.

Myths of Multiplication
Here are a few helpful reminders for churches who do not see the benefit of multiplying and planting.

Steps Toward Evangelism
Chuck Lawless provides a few simple but helpful reminders for cultivating an evangelistic spirit.

Why Update a Beloved Translation?
This interview with Tom Schreiner will shed some light on the revision to the Holman Christian Standard Bible.

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