Tuesday, January 07, 2014


2014 is before us. I've decided to write afresh about some of the things I've come to believe are in scripture and are a bit different than I have held to in the past. To anticipate the surprise some may have with some of my theological positions, I will have to trace a bit of my journey for understanding.

You may not be convinced you need to go along with this read and I certainly understand that. If you do desire to go with me however, I welcome you, and I trust the review of my journey thus far, can be of some help.

Over the past fifty years I have served as Pastor to several great churches, not the least of which was Southcliff Baptist Church in Ft. Worth Texas. It was while there that a profound moment came to my life and ministry at the age of 40. You can see I'm going back some 33 years but this moment is needed for real understanding. So permit me this excursion in the past first, if you will!

Having been born into an alcoholic family with little or no church ties at all, you can understand my lack of biblical knowledge of any kind during my first ten years of life. My sister then started dating a Baptist preacher and all that changed for the good. It was off to church with some regularity. At age 13, under deep conviction and great childish fear, I responded to the gospel and was converted, baptized, and well on my way to a different kind of life.

My sister and that preacher she had started dating, married, and he quickly became my role model, the only real one I'd ever had, and just like him I wanted to be. At age 15 I "felt called to preach" and told him so. He wisely accepted my leanings and tested them in September of 1955 by asking me to preach for him on a Wednesday evening. I did and the rest is history, you can do the math.

Ordained at 16, called to my first church as pastor at 17, three weeks before my 18th birthday, and married by then to a 17 year old girl whom I loved deeply, and still do, I was young, immature, but at the time, in my own mind at least, on my way to being the best Baptist preacher/pastor Southern Baptists had ever seen.

My hero in the faith, my brother-in-law, and my sister had long since gone to Chile as missionaries, where they served for over 35 years, so I had lost the one pointing the way. I found another. He was my father-in-law. Fred was a SBC evangelist who had been working in the oil industry and the planning and resources board for the State of Oklahoma. All that changed after he was fired for witnessing on the job. So he began to preach and, after I met him, assisted him in some meetings, and then met his daughter, he quickly replaced my need for a direction setter spiritually.

It was at this time I began reading not only J.M.Carroll's book "Trail of Blood," but the reformed writers both old and new. It was A.W. Pink, with whom my father-in-law carried on a personal correspondence, that carried the day theologically for me. I now had my pace setters again. You can see the pattern setting up already.

I wound up being a rabid Landmarker, a Calvinist, a dispensationalist and having many other systems firmly in place as well. I eventually came to the place of a "Christ in me/Holy Spirit life" being as real to me as any system of thought and theology could possible be.

Don't misunderstand me here, please. All of this was genuine to me and I was learning to preach while developing sermons and reading all of this time. But it was, unfortunately, a dependence on the regurgitated thoughts of others in which my confidence lay. My preaching was Truth, as I heard it and knew it at the time, and, if people were to be believed, I did a fair to middling job of presenting it Sunday after Sunday. Add to that all the seminars and movements that capture preachers, and I must admit that I was one of the captured, I knew a lot of doctrinal truth for a kid. I'm not condemning them or me, just setting the background for what I want to eventually say.

Before my friends jump to my defense and tell me how much I helped them during those years, I've seen this happen on occasion when I share this, I want you to know that I'm aware God did some extraordinary things in me, through me, in others, and through them to me. He takes us where we are and I, along with several churches, was hungry for God to be God and He said "Okay" at the time.

But in the late seventies a life-changing event took place.

A couple, a woman whose husband had abandoned her twenty years before leaving her to raise her daughters which she did marvelously, and a man, whose wife had died of cancer, met. It was true love for them both. Marriage was decided upon.

When I heard about it, I was their Pastor remember, the first thing I did I'm ashamed to say was think of protecting my theology. I couldn't do the wedding because of my then held view of divorce and remarriage, which I had embraced from a seminar teaching that I had jumped into with both feet, and I had to let them know quickly that I couldn't perform their marriage ceremony.

The funny thing is they hadn't asked me to and didn't want me to, as a friend in Houston was going to perform the ceremony. But I blurted out one day, nonetheless, there was no way I could. That's when they told me about the friend in Houston.

Well, they married. They also graciously continued to love me, their somewhat self centered pastor, as evidenced by them serving on my Board of Directors for my ministry for years as lifelong friends.

But that did give me pause. Why had I been so quick to react and to protect my theology?  The answer came to me rather clearly. It was because my theology wasn't mine at all. It was someone else's and my fear of being challenged was to the level of my ignorance of it not being my own at all.

So in 1980, at the age of 40 years, I began a journey. No longer would I teach anything in the pulpit that I had not found for myself. Whether it was divorce and remarriage or any other point of theological, my belief would have to come from my understanding and seeing in in the text of scripture FOR MYSELF which launched me on an incredible personal theological journey.

I did not then and do not now, discount Baptist tradition at all. I simply believe it is NOT my guide for belief or behavior as an absolute standard. I do not hold the BF@M as an absolute standard either. While I greatly appreciate the effort to catalogue our uniqueness as Baptists into a confession, I do believe we really are to be a people of the Book. So I can affirm a confession, but it will always be with a caveat of the need for me to see it clearly in scripture so what I teach and believe will be because I see it for myself in the text.

Out of all this there has come some clarity about some things theological that will be a bit different than what I saw in those early years. It will be some of those things that I will attempt to make clear in this year's post writings. I'm not asking anyone to agree with me, but rest assured, it will be what I think BECAUSE I've come to see it in the text of scripture and not because it's what Baptist believe or culture desires it to be so or my heroes have taught to be so.

This exercise is probably of little significance for anyone but myself and a few friends, but it will be my attempt to share what I see as really important to my journey. If it is of interest or help to anyone else, that will be a special blessing to me personally.

More to come.

Paul B.


Victorious said...

Looking forward to the next "chapter" of your journey. I find personal testimonies to be very powerful. I do believe God meets us where we are at the time of our salvation and our growth and maturity are a matter of the heart. I, for one, can relate to your decision to search out scriptural truths for yourself and go from there.

Thanks for sharing this part of your journey, Paul! I've been blessed by reading it.

Mary Ann

Paul Burleson said...

Mary Ann,

What a quick, positive, and completely encouraging comment to come first on this new post. I sincerely thank you for it.

Aussie John said...


This is an exercise that should be diligently, and honestly (!!!) done by every man/woman who stood before a congregation!

" It was because my theology wasn't mine at all. It was someone else's and my fear of being challenged was to the level of my ignorance of it not being my own at all".

How hard it was to blithely continue echoing the thoughts of another, when I was convicted that Scripture was saying something else. I was doing exactly what you describe, which, by the way, contradicts the Baptist understanding of Soul Competence!

"I do believe we really are to be a people of the Book". The very reason I became a Baptist.

"I'm not asking anyone to agree with me, but rest assured, it will be what I think BECAUSE I've come to see it in the text of scripture and not because it's what Baptist believe or culture desires it to be so or my heroes have taught to be so."

Hear! Hear!

Your "exercise" is of great significance to this old brother, and ought to be required reading for all those who have preacher/theological gurus whom they emulate week after week.

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

Every time I write something that is a bit unflattering about myself at present or the way I once was in some area, I've confidence that you not only understand what I'm saying, but are free enough and honest enough to confess where you were or are in that area as well.

I think you and I both have learned, and won't quickly forget, that we are all too often testimonies of the correctness of a quote I once read. It said, "Beware of no man more than yourself; we carry our worst enemies within us."

Then you and I freely celebrate together the newness that is ours in Christ. Ours is a shared journey for sure. For that I'm grateful my friend and brother.

Garen Martens said...

I appreciate your honest testimony and look forward to reading more.

Paul Burleson said...


I appreciate your words.

I count this past year as one of my best ever and a large part of the reason is because of my being able to spend time getting acquainted with you and your wife on that trip to Turkey and Greece as we followed the footprints of Paul's second missionary journey.

What a hoot that was.

Anonymous said...


Your 'journey' reminds me of the words of John Robinson to the pilgrims leaving on the Mayflower. He told them to still expect much light and life to break forth from God's word.

Keep moving, brothers and sisters, upward and onward !


Paul Burleson said...


THAT is a good word. Thanks.

Steve Miller said...

Brother Paul,

We have had this discussion before since I am one of those who has been the benefactor of your early years in ministry as well as richly blessed by your updated comments. Thanks for sharing the journey and reminding us in example that growing in the journey is actually more important that just going through it. I appreciate so much you sharing with a conviction of Spirit and resoluteness in purpose to God's Word. Can't wait to hear what you will share next.


Paul Burleson said...


You WOULD know my journey because you've been a part of it for so long. If I ever get sick and can't write, I may call you and request that you tell as Paul Harvey used to say, "The rest of the story." LOL

Have a great NEW YEAR and tell your sweet wife that Mary and I love both of you.

Ken Colson said...

Paul, thanks for sharing your heart. We were the beneficiaries of your ministry at Southcliff BC during the period you talked about and I remember a Sunday when in the pulpit you made the statement concerning preaching and teaching only what you had experienced and learned from God. Thanks for so much that we learned, absorbed, and benefited from in your ministry. We count our time in Ft Worth as wonderful and full of great teaching.Still look forward to hearing you again someday.
Ken Colson

Rex Ray said...

You mentioned the book, Trail of Blood by J.M. Carroll. This is a link to that small book:

At his death, his library of history books was given to the Seminary. It was one of the greatest collections in the world, and Carroll’s picture was displayed at SWBTS. After ‘fundamentalists’ took over the SBC, Carroll’s picture was taken down.

On my computer, the small book takes 33 ‘page down’, and on the sixth ‘page down’ is why I believe his picture was removed because Carroll wrote:

“These great churches… began to claim authority over other and smaller churches. They, with their many elders, began to lord it over God's heritage (III John 9). Here was the beginning of an error which has grown and multiplied into many other seriously hurtful errors. Here was the beginning of different orders in the ministry running up finally to what is practiced now by others as well as Catholics.”

The NLT states “3 John—This letter is from John, the elder.”

The Living Bible states III John 9: “I sent a brief letter to the church about this, but proud Diotrephes, who loves to push himself forward as the leader of the Christians there, does not admit my authority over him, and refuses to listen to me.”

History records that John the Apostle was put in boiling oil, but tradition says the oil didn’t kill John. Duh

Do not the bold die first? Jesus called the two brothers “Sons of thunder”, it wouldn’t surprise me after the king killed his brother that John shook his fist in the king’s face and called fire from heaven…could be why the king boiled him in oil. Their deaths are in keeping with the prophesy that Jesus told them; that they would indeed drink of the cup which he drank.

Anonymous said...

It's good to read how we as Christians, progress in the faith. Isn't it wonderful we don't stay in place but God does indeed move us along.
Looking forward to reading the next installment. Oh, and for what it's worth, don't know you, just happened upon your blog.
Happy New Year.