Friday, February 25, 2011


"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth." [111 John verse 4.]

It goes without saying that walking according to what is truth is important. But where do you find the truth? Truth, as I'm using it here, [There are at least nine legitimate definitions in the English language.] would be best thought of as a statement that describes reality. Whether a statement is referring to something that exists or something that has happened or even the truth about an idea, that statement must correspond to reality for it to be truth according to my definition.

It is a simple fact that the purpose and value of truthful statements is that they are intended to reveal reality. An inaccurate statement is false, not truth, and would lead one away from any comprehension of what is reality. But truth, by definition, is an accurate statement that describes what is actual reality.

It is also important to remember that truth is NOT the reality itself. It is simply an accurate statement of the reality. So you can see I'm making a distinction between "truth" and "reality."

Does the world in which we live present us with reality? There are various voices in the world that are making statements which claim to be declaring truth about what is real. But are they truthful? Should we believe them? Are those human voices making statements accurately presenting reality in this world in which we live? I think not!!

My reasoning is based on the simple fact that none of them were there when it all started and the only knowledge any one person can have of reality is what they have by virtue of simply being a human being. That means they know only what they have experienced through their encounters with the world as they have gathered data, sought it's meaning, and assumed a conclusion. That is limited from the outset.

Then, add to that the fact that their own motivations, biases, and other things of a personal nature, highly influence their understanding regarding the reality of the world they've encountered. So one must conclude, it seems to me, that all human sources for truth are limited in scope and highly subjective. Knowing this makes it vividly clear, to me at least, why fallen humanity has produced only self-centered false statements while trying to describe a reality that that winds up being totally inaccurate at the very best.

I read where someone said.."Like the Matrix, in the movie by that name, sin has created a virtual reality for our world to live in. But it does not describe the reality which God created." That says it all when speaking about human ideas of reality in my judgment. We wind up as the scripture puts it.."The blind leading the blind."

Well, if human sources for truth are subjective and unreliable, creating a virtual reality about this world, where does one find a RELIABLE truth? This is the reason I personally believe the Bible to be worthy of consideration as a source of truth concerning reality. If it is, as I believe it to be, God’s Word, then we have a source of truth that is from the Creator Himself.

Who better would know what this world is like than the One who was there at it's making? And should He chose to reveal truth in the scriptures, [Which are His statements about His Son and how life relates in reality to Him.] it would be, for me, a needed and reliable source of truth about reality.

However, I do believe God has warned us as to the nature of His truth about reality and it is not something that is easy for us to comprehend. After all, our minds have been programmed by the world’s view of reality since birth, and when we are convinced that what we've heard from the world is truth, it’s hard to consider it to be, in fact, lies. You see the problem.

Here's how God Himself says it. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isa. 55:9)

To understand this verse it would be helpful, as I once read, to think of the thoughts of a people as being the source of their values and the ways of a people as being the methods by which they implement those values. It could be said then that the sum total of values and methods make up the given culture of a people.

Accepting this concept, what God is saying in the above quoted verse is that He has a totally different culture (values and methods) than that of human beings and it's radically different from any culture you will EVER find in this world. Our hope as fallen humanity is in recognizing there is a Kingdom culture that exists that is beyond our comprehension until we hear, understand, and embrace the truth from God as stated in the reality of Jesus Christ, His Only Begotten Son.

When Kingdom people begin to see this, our minds will give up on the world's understanding of how to live life and embrace the truth from God about it all. Gone will be slick management skills, psychological ploys and financial techniques that are said to really be the way to experience life and what will arise will be a biblical wisdom that will radically change the way we relate to even our enemies, much less each other. This will enable God's people to be a radical people of "The Way" in REALITY instead of just another variation of the cultures of the world. It's called Real Christianity.

So you can see that once we've given up on the truth of the world and decide to walk according to God’s truth, we will discover and personally encounter a biblical description of reality that is vastly different from the reality being described by Man’s truth. It is that kind of truthful thinking that will lead to TRANSFORMED lives as opposed to just another religious belief system that occupies the minds of fallen human beings and creates a set of values and methods that are really simply a variation of other religious groups.

It is not easy to walk by God’s truth because it is so different from this world’s truth. It centers on that One Person that transforms every thing and every one He genuinely touches in reality. For the one walking in this truth it gives place to a grace-filled servanthood that is hilariously free of a fear of death and is, at the same time, seriously committed to the living of life to it's very fullest. That life is characterized by a love that defies logic and crosses every established boundary of fallen man.

To then love the world would be to miss reality and this they will not do. This chosen submissive way of thinking about His statements concerning REALITY will bring about a lifestyle that was intended from the very beginning for mankind.

We will delight the Father because of the truth of His Son who is real to us and we WILL, in reality, walk in that truth.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


It seems to me that it is a simple biblical fact that God does not hold America in any higher esteem than He does the other nations on the earth. It is true that God sends His rain upon the just and the unjust, [Common Grace referred to in the last post]] but America is no more "just" than is England, Germany, or China. We may have a better system of government. [We do IMHO] We may have more fairness in our laws. [Ditto] We may have more religion in our national life. [Hmmm maybe] But none of these things are the basis of being “Justified" before a Holy God.

In fact, I tend to think all the righteousnesses [Good deeds] of ANY nation are viewed before a holy God the same as the righteous deeds of all the human race which are scripturally said to be as "filthy rags." To be justified biblically [Declared Just] takes a faith relationship with Christ. So it is true that Americans can be Christian by the biblical definition of Christian. But a Nation, even America, cannot. [This because "Christian" speaks of relationship NOT Institutions or beliefs or even deeds.]

May I say parenthetically...This same reasoning is why I believe it would be fair to ALSO say there is no such thing as Christian music or Christian literature and the like. There are Christians who sing or write literature just as there are Christians who are citizens of America. But I repeat, being a Christian has to do with a personal relationship with Christ, NOT a system of beliefs held or a system of laws based on a belief in God or even good deeds done. The fact that we don't seem to know this may indicate that we are perhaps more engaged in our day in "Christian Institution building" than we are "Kingdom building."

It is also true that we Christians are to be light and salt to any national community [Even America] in which we may live. But, and here is an important but, that is NOT to be in a politically confrontational way. Our calling AS CHRISTIANS is clearly to NOT have our faith placed in better laws, the correction of injustices through the courts or even through the election process. Fair and just laws are good for ANY nation and as a citizen we should vote for them and OBEY THEM. But as Christ's ambassadors, our hope is in the One who is above all governments and we have NOT been called to heal the moral wounds of a society that has been fatally wounded from it's beginnings as all societies are. But we ARE called to proclaim the gospel which speaks of every person's need to be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20).

There is only one hope that we as believers have that can possibly bring about a correction in any moral collapse of any society in which we may live, including America, and that is to trust that God will work through our witness by saving those with whom we share the gospel. Changing an unbeliever's political views or bringing about a moral revolution in a community does not improve anyone's standing before God. It is certainly not a means to His special favor or blessing on a nation as a whole. It is the heart that needs regeneration and changed, not one's political or moral views, even if those views embrace the Preamble and Constitution of the U. S. of A.

I said earlier that fair and just laws are good for ANY nation and as a citizen we should vote for them and OBEY THEM. The passage of the civil rights act of 1964 [Enacted July 2, 1964] was a landmark piece of legislation in the United States that outlawed major forms of discrimination against blacks and women, including racial segregation. It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and of the facilities that serve the general public. Our history up to that point evidenced the need of such legislation. But our history since then shows the failure of even that just and needed legislation. Things may be a bit better but as a nation we still have and will always have much work to do in battling evil because it is a losing battle actually.

The battle is truly won in those who DO respond to the gospel as they discover themselves to be united with another nation of people which is of a heavenly order. They then can live as such REGARDLESS of the failures or successes of ANY laws of ANY present culture or society. True citizens of the true "Holy nation" [The true Church] will actually be what scripture calls "salt and light" which are both needed in any nation on earth.

As citizens of this new "Holy Nation," [The Church] I believe that we certainly will do battle against all kinds of evil. But our ways and weapons are different. To show how we might wage warfare as we live in our own American culture I'm going to make three statements about present day issues we face nationally that I think indicate a presence of evil and how we might face them as salt and light. [It will ALWAYS be important to remember our weapons of warfare as Christians are not carnal but spiritual]

To do battle against racism...we would lead the way with concrete acts of kindness, inclusion, and love. All the time building relationships with every kind of person regardless of their race or color. I am speaking of things such as a refusal to recognize any limitations on marriage or church membership locally BECAUSE of skin color. This way of living was forgotten by many Christians as I was growing up as evidenced by local churches taking African-Americans into their fellowship, not as members, [Even if membership roles were to be biblical which I doubt] but under a dubious term called "Watchcare." Real Salt and light living would not have permitted that. All the time being mindful of the gospel being shared effectively with life and words. [We won't at present deal with the failure of light and salt people prior to and even since the Civil war.]

This would be regardless of the civil laws for or against racism.

To do battle on behalf of the poor... The Church would support the GENUINE needs of widows, orphans, and others who CANNOT provide for themselves, such as women being abused, and we would take seriously such things by making certain they are not permitted to exist unchallenged legally, morally, AND spiritually. We would open our hearts, wallets, and even homes to care for the poor and needy, [James 1:27] spending time with those who are unable to provide for themselves. All the time being mindful of the gospel being share effectively with life and words.

This would be regardless of the civil laws for or against the poor and needy and the abused.

To do battle against abortion... we would open our hearts and homes to pregnant women who don't need a "pro-life lecture, but a roof, a meal, and prenatal care, as well as become homes where adoption is a reality. The Church's concern would address the protection of our children even AFTER their womb experience is over by making certain that ANY child abuse is taken seriously by the people that make up the Church. All the time being mindful of the gospel being shared effectively with life and words.

This would be regardless of the civil laws for or against such abortion.

These are but a few of the practical ways believers are to demonstrate the love of Christ instead of our becoming objects of ridicule by constantly engaging in negative rhetoric about how bad our society is and thinking our government is the answer to any and all human needs. This is recognizing our weapons of warfare that go beyond the making of laws and confronting a culture. We are to "be" something different regardless of the cultures or laws that exist.

What has just been described would truly be light and salt to ANY nation. THEN trying to decide if America IS Christian would be a moot issue. Are there any Christians in America would be the question!! If the answer is "yes" they would be what salt is, a preservative which can keep decay from spreading and they would also be light which can show the way to go in the midst of darkness. That's always the result of being REALLY Christian.

Paul B.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


I write what I'm about to say with a great deal of sensitivity to the fact that many people may disagree with my conclusions. I recognize that and respect those who do disagree. Some of those will be members of my own family. This was true in the post before as well. I believe friends and even family members may disagree respectfully and lovingly and that is certainly the desire of my heart on this issue.

Patriotism is by it's very nature a bit emotional and I wish to "tread lightly" here because of that fact. I hope what I say will be heard as personal, respectful, and open to opinions that differ with mine. I'm no scholar, theologian, or even an historian for that matter. I'm just a guy with a blog who has studied to some degree the bible, history, and people with much to learn about all three. That all said, I think I'll just dive in.

There is a widely held view of America today that says she was founded as a "Christian nation." This is generally said because of the belief that our nation was founded on biblical principles originally and most of the Founders had a faith in God at the time. And, as a result of our beginning, America holds a special place in the heart of God. His blessings have been upon us in the past in a greater way than perhaps any other nation with the possible exception of Israel.

In the mind of those who hold this view, America has indeed lost her way and needs to return to the God upon on whom she was founded. His blessings will not continue to be upon her if she doesn't. Returning to God would cause America to thrive, but a failure to do so would be her downfall.

Now here is the hard part. I have to say, from the outset, that I disagree with this view completely. Remember, I’ve already talked of my genuine love for America as a citizen in the previous post. What I will say today will only enhance that I hope and will show that my love for her cannot be legitimately questioned.

I DO believe our beginnings were founded upon a belief in God and our Founders sought to fulfill the views of Sir William Blackstone (The Eminent English Jurist) who said. "Man must necessarily be subject to the laws of his Creator. This will of his Maker is called the law of nature. This law of nature is of course superior to any other. No human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this: and such of them as are valid derive all their force from this original." But is this the Christian faith? That is the question to be answered.

Our Founding Fathers sought to establish a system of government and a society that reflected the reality of that "law of nature" [Natural Law] spoken of by Wm. Blackstone. Our Constitution undergirds the idea that those rights natural to all men are not "granted" by a government or society but they established our government of laws (not a government of men) in order to "secure" each person's Creator-endowed rights to life, liberty, and property in this country. I, for one, most certainly have a desire for our country to continue to be a free society that respects the dignity and the rights of all citizens in that free society.

I'm further grateful that America was founded BY the people and FOR the people with the people always in mind and said so in those fabulously special words that take their form in the Preamble to the Constitution..."We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

This somewhat simple yet profound introduction to the Constitution of this country says it all. The Constitution then explains how the Preamble will be accomplished with the division of government and the guidelines for our society. This nation IS nothing short of special. But she is not a "Christian" nation and certainly is not SPECIAL to God because of that.

If one's definition of "Christian nation" is simply that our Founders recognized the bible as a source book for the existence of the Creator who established natural law..then one could say America is a Christian nation. But that neither correctly defines Christianity nor clearly states the intent of out founders. America is not special to God BECAUSE she is "Christian" by a truly biblical definition of "Christian."

It is true that there once WAS a special nation to God. Once, Israel enjoyed God's special favor over all other nations. This was NOT because she was more righteous than the other nations, but so she could provide a lineage that would ultimately produce the Messiah Himself. When Jesus Christ appeared, Israel, having fulfilled that purpose, was then replaced with another very special nation.

That new very “SPECIAL” nation in the present day is not ANY nation that has geographical boundaries, including America. It is, as Jon Zens says, “The aggregate of believers who have been called out by the gospel FROM ALL NATIONS and are now identified as a chosen race, a royal priesthood, A HOLY NATION, [My emphasis] a people for God's own possession. (1 Peter 2:9)

In this NEW and FAVORED nation that exists today there are no differences among her citizens along national, racial, gender or social lines. The scripture says it this way speaking of her citizens... "They are neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female...” Her citizens are not divided along political parties either. Her citizens can found in EVERY nation on earth and are united as brothers and sisters together because of their relationship to Jesus Christ. “All are one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).” You may biblically call her the "Church," the "Bride of Christ," The Body of Christ" and even a "Holy Nation" as does the Apostle Peter. But she is the ONLY Christian NATION that has existed over the past Two thousand years.

A fact that is difficult to understand sometimes is that, according to the scriptures, ALL of God’s "special" blessings are reserved only for those who are part of this new "Holy Nation.” This is because they have been "accepted in the Beloved." (Ephesians 1:6) That verse reveals that God only "accepts" people who are said to be "In Christ."

It is true that His grace is given to some degree to all people of the earth in what was called by the Puritans "Common Grace." This "common grace" is indeed extended to all peoples of all nations in many incredible ways by a gracious God. This has been especially true, it would seem to me, of America. But His SPECIAL favor and blessings are reserved for those who have accepted Jesus Christ because of what He did on the Cross of Calvary.

It is THIS that brings about a true relationship with God. That relationship is neither based on things that are on earth nor things done politically or socially on the earth. That is simply not the basis for knowing and relating to God. Paul said it this way, "We have been blessed with All spiritual blessings in heavenly realities in Christ Jesus." [Eph.1:3] It takes something that is real BEYOND this world and it's political systems whatever those may be for God to be involved in relating to fallen human beings. This story of the need all men and the nature of Christ and His work at Calvary is what the gospel is all about.

I say again, it IS historically accurate to say that in one sense America was founded on what could be called a Theistic world-view [Natural Law] and that Christianity was, in fact, the major religious influence in that world-view at that time. Pointing this fact out is not a bad thing and is historically correct. But to call it "Christian" does a disservice to both Christianity and some of our Founding Fathers.

Some would argue using valid historical moments such as the United States Supreme Court when in 1892 that court made an exhaustive study of the supposed connection between Christianity and the government of the United States.  After researching hundreds volumes of historical documents, the Court concluded...”These references [The studied historical documents] add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of other utterances that this nation [America] is a religious people...a Christian nation.”

Then there was the time when our Supreme Court Justice George Sutherland reversed an 1892 decision in relation to another case and, as he did, he is quoted to have said, "Americans are “a Christian people.” Even Justice William O. Douglas came close to saying that with a similar idea when in 1952 he said... “We [Americans] are a religious people and our institutions presuppose a Supreme Being.”

But I would remind us all that what was quoted from history in the last two paragraphs is speaking to a RELIGIOUS DISPOSITION and is not a reflection of biblical Christianity at all. Biblical Christianity is based upon a personal faith in the person and finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Even many of our Founding fathers were far from that biblical reality personally. But they assisted in the founding of our great country too. light of all this, There are four things I wish to say to summarize what this means for believers who are also earthly citizens. but it will be done in the next post. These four things will bottom line how I view the way we as believers are to be different BECAUSE we are citizens of this new and "Holy Nation" [The Church] while at the same time citizens of America.

I would be saying the same thing were I to be writing for an audience of Christians located in Germany, Iran, China or any other nation on earth. Biblically, it is described as being Salt and light to whatever society or culture or nation in which we find ourselves as believers. We shall see this next time.

Paul B.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Now for something different.

I need to admit from the outset that I’m writing here as a citizen of the good old USA and not as a minister. In other words, this post is political in nature and I recognize that. [I never use the pulpit for political purposes.] I recognize also that we all have differing views about political issues. I’m not sure there is a “right” or “wrong” in such things, but I do believe civility in disagreement is both Christian AND a requirement for comments to remain up on this blog. Now that the needed disclaimers are stated, I’ll begin with my somewhat tentative thoughts.

Multiculturalism is a problem in this country and many modern countries that now face immigration problems. It may perhaps be the biggest problem any pluralistic society can face. How a society resolves the difficulties associated with...1) The desire to maintain a distinction some cultural minority communities might obviously have..and.. 2) our encouragement to and need for them to socially integrate with us all as a society... is not an easy thing to resolve. But it is a tension we must face and talk about whatever the difficulties.

It is my firm conviction personally, that, as one Educator of note put it, “The former [A need to maintain a distinction] is a private matter for the individuals of communities involved and the latter [Our need for them to socially integrate] is the only legitimate concern of public education in this country.” It is that conviction which produced so much anguish when the before mentioned Educator spoke those words over twenty years ago in England and was, subsequently, forced to retire and was charged to be a racist, among other things.

In giving a report for “The Telegraph” concerning that Educator, a UK paper a group of reporters jointly produced a lengthy article about a Mr Honeyford, the Headmaster of Drummand Middle School, and I quote...“He [Mr.Honeyford] thought that schools, such as his own, where 95 per cent of the children were of Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin, were a disaster both for their pupils and for society as a whole. He was a passionate believer in the redemptive power of education, and its ability to integrate people of different backgrounds and weld them into a common society. He then became notorious for, among other things, his insistence that Muslim girls should be educated to the same standard as everyone else.” The reporters went on to say..."Mr. Honeyford seems to have been vindicated this week by what British Prime Minister David Cameron said last weekend in Munich...'Multiculturalism has failed,"

My opinion only, but I’m not so sure but that “multiculturalism” has taken root in different societies because people have been led to believe that it is really synonymous with multiracialism and/or pluralism. [It is not, as I think of it.] So, for obvious reasons if that's true, anybody who criticizes "multiculturalism" is immediately held to be a "racist" and has been thought of that way for the past twenty-five or so years.

I am personally opposed to and would not stand for the promotion of a racially discriminatory society. Racism is evil and anti-scriptural for me. I would oppose any societal laws that would promote/permit it in any fashion. At the same time an ethnically pluralistic society is a very good thing as I see it. I believe it enables us to celebrate our roots, when they are known, and is very important for a healthy lifestyle. But being opposed to "multiculturalism" as it is being practiced today is, as I said, neither "racism" nor "antipluralistic" for me.

I mentioned a moment ago that the British Prime Minister [Mr David Cameron became the PM on May 11th 2010] recently spoke out against "multiculturalism." I read Mr. Cameron's speech and it looks to me like he clearly articulated the basic problem with present day “Multiculturalism.” He said it this way... "Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream. We have failed to provide a vision of a society to which they feel they want to belong. WE HAVE EVEN TOLERATED THESE SEGREGATED COMMUNITIES BEHAVING IN WAYS THAT RUN COUNTER TO OUR VALUES." [Emphasis mine]

I want to give an example which will demonstrate the problem. In England a Muslim bus driver stopped the bus and required the passengers to wait as he rolled out the his prayer rug and, facing Mecca, prayed for five minutes. His employers said that he was due a ten minute break therefore he was not disciplined and retained his job.

But my problem with him retaining his bus driving job is that, adapting to his requirement to pray five times a day, which seems to run counter to the job of bus driving, is the EMPHESIS instead of the socially significant legal rights of the passengers. And, the fact that racial or religious profiling was the claim that ultimately led to that society's inability to require that he cease driving the bus. Further, no laws could be enacted that would restrict that job to those who can drive uninterrupted. There we have it. The problem that must be faced.

Lest you think I’m picking on Muslims, let me get closer to home. Say a Southern Baptist family holds to a patriarchal system in the home. [The man is boss and women cannot lead men as it violates scripture.] But they have sons in High school. They COULD, on what they would see as biblical grounds, REFUSE to allow their teenage boys to be under a female teacher in the high school they attend. Or, for that matter, were that high school to have a female Principal, since there would be male teachers that would be under her authority, it would ALSO create a situation that would be less than tolerable. This is a problem not unlike praying five times a day facing Mecca. What principle rule the day?

My illustrations are ONLY for the purpose of pointing out how difficult it is to create a society that allows for individual freedoms and cultures [Pluralism] But ALSO be able to have workable laws that do not allow for one small [Or even large] group to control the freedoms that have been recognized under the unique culture [America] already created. This is true however, whether the society is England, Germany, Chile, or America.

This is why I believe things like a common language, [English] a common flag, [Old Glory] a common set of societal laws, [State and Federal] an educational system, and a court system [State and Federal] are so important. This is the reason I believe much debate and thoughtfulness must go into what we face as an American society in the days ahead. But our conversation must major on what we are to be as Americans based on our Constitution and heritage culturally with due respect and openness to people of other cultures joining us. But when they CHOOSE to join us it must be seen as more than a new geographical locale. It must be seen as a willingness to become ...."An American."

Paul B.

Update...I just read this significant statement by Douglas Murray of The Wall Street Journal. I believe it speaks to my post.

"Multiculturalism is a deeply misunderstood idea... But the true character and effects of the policy could not be permanently hidden. State-sponsored multiculturalism treated European countries like hostelries. It judged that the state should not "impose" rules and values on newcomers. Rather, it should bend over backwards to accommodate the demands of immigrants. The resultant policy was that states treated and judged people by the criteria of whatever "community" they found themselves born into."

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Christians and Conflict

Civility is what I always wish for on this blog. Wade Burleson, our son, posted an EXCELLENT post a long while back on this subject that I'm reposting here. Read carefully and enjoy the wisdom of what is said.

Pursue the Greater Graces and the Greatest Gifts

Dr. Molly Marshall, a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and former professor at Southern Theological Seminary, is now the President of Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Shawnee, Kansas. Dr. Marshall has a blog entitled Trinitarian Soundings. Recently, Dr. Marshall wrote the following insightful blog:

"The Apostle ends 1 Corinthians 12 with the following exhortation: “But strive for the greater gifts.” As summation of his discussion of how the many members of the Body of Christ can work together and as prelude to the beloved next chapter on love, St. Paul knows that sustained unity amidst diversity taxes even the best among us. At the first hint of conflict persons nervously move away from one another, fearful of what might damage the relationship. Yet they ensure that the relationship will be damaged by refusing to enter into transformative conflict. The most mature relationships are characterized by conflict, not forced unanimity which subjugates one party to another.

Richard P. Olson, Distinguished Professor of Pastoral Theology at Central, has recently published Love Letter to a Conflicted Church. He offers distilled wisdom from over 40 years in pastoral ministry on how to engage conflict constructively. He writes: “…there are redemptive and transforming possibilities in conflict. Through conflict a person can become more self aware, articulate, and personally empowered. Not only that—one can learn to see the other as a human being, a child of God, one with struggles and needs much like one’s own. Indeed, redemption can happen in conflict when one obeys Jesus to love both neighbor and self” (p. 21). These are words to live by, indeed to “fight” by. I commend his insightful work.

Another scholar I respect, Mitch Carnell, a Baptist layperson in Charleston, S.C., has issues a clarion call for a different kind of discourse than what populates the varied radio and cable news talk shows. In his book Christian Civility in an Uncivil World, he suggests that a challenge greater than the political arena may be in bringing people of faith together to practice the way of civility. The purpose of his book is “to explore ways for people of faith to talk to and about each other in a way that glorifies God and advances God’s kingdom” (p.14). Our stewardship of words matters.

While I am not sure what all the Apostle had in mind when he referred to the “greater gifts,” surely he was urging the Corinthians (and those who listen to the epistle today) to learn how to live with others respectfully. In Pauline theology, one of the functions of the Spirit of God is to assist persons in bearing the strains of their differences in a constructive way. Learning to “speak the truth in love” and not “to think too highly of oneself” are grace gifts worth striving for in our day."

Excellent article! I long for the day when we conservative inerrantists, particularly those in positions of strategic leadership in the SBC, will write similar articles.

Nobody is saying we shouldn't take strong stands for truth. We should. But we should pursue the greater graces and the greatest gifts more than any other.

In His Grace,